Vol. 54, No. 1 January 2011
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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National Federation of the Blind
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
The 2011 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Orlando, Florida, July 3-8, at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort at 9939 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32819-9357. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with the Rosen Shingle Creek staff only. Call (866) 996-6338.
The 2011 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins, $63; and 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. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $75-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2011. The other 50 percent is not refundable.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2011, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold our room block for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.
Guestroom amenities include thirty-two-inch flat screen television with NXTV; two telephones; laptop safe; coffeemaker; hairdryer; and, for a fee, high-speed Internet access. The Rosen Shingle Creek Resort has a number of restaurant options, including two award-winning restaurants, and twenty-four-hour-a-day room service. It has first-rate amenities and shuttle service to the Orlando airport.
The schedule for the 2011 convention will follow the dates of last year’s:
Sunday, July 3 Seminar Day
Monday, July 4 Registration Day
Tuesday, July 5 Board Meeting and Division Day
Wednesday, July 6 Opening Session
Thursday, July 7 Business Session
Friday, July 8 Banquet Day and Adjournment
Vol. 54, No. 1 January 2011
A Brief History of the Braille Monitor
by Gary Wunder
One Summer, Fifty Blind Children, Five
States, and Six BELLS
by Natalie Shaheen and Jackie Otwell
Architect Chris Downey Finds Second Sight
by Peter Slatin
Blindness: That's How it Is at the Top of the Stairs
by Kenneth Jernigan
NFB Teacher of Tomorrow Program:
Partnerships for Success
by Rosy Carranza
Making Cell Phones Accessible:
Computers in Our Pockets Must Talk
by Curtis Chong
UI Eyes More Accessible Website
by Max Freund
The Top Ten Benefits of Tactile
Reading for the Sighted
by Father Ephraim
A Plan That Works for Me
by David Marrero
Jacobus tenBroek and Kenneth Jernigan:
The Letter That Started it All
Technology Aids Lives of two Blind St. Cloud Women
Lifelong Friends Talk of Many Changes
by Kevin Allenspach
Sales Soar as Talking Books Mark 75 Years
by Emily Dugan
Convention Scholarships Available
by Allen Harris
Copyright 2011 by the National Federation of the Blind
This aerial photograph of part of South Baltimore shows railroad tracks in the foreground, row houses and neighborhood shops, then Federal Hill, and at the top the skyscrapers of downtown. The most prominent feature in the foreground is the National Center for the Blind, covering an entire block, beside Riverside Park. We can see the south face of the Jernigan Institute on Wells Street. Byrd Street can be seen on the west side of the Institute. Embracing the JI are the two wings of the NFB’s original building, one along Johnson Street on the east and the other along Barney Street on the north.
by Gary Wunder
From the Editor: I delivered the following speech on October 30, 2010, at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. I did not believe that we should include it in the Monitor, but Barbara Pierce assured me that our readers would find it interesting. In the hope that she knows what she is talking about, here it is:
When President Maurer announced that I was taking over as editor of the Braille Monitor, a number of people came to offer congratulations and ideas for articles and to find out what changes I envisioned in our magazine. This started me thinking that perhaps change was what was expected, so I began looking for new and untried ideas to use.
People are always saying that they don't understand statistics, so, when I came across a statistic I hadn't heard before, I thought, "This might be my first big break to make an impression as the editor." So what was the statistic? It was this--try not to miss it now: one out of three Americans weighs more than the other two. That thought really sent me. If it's true for Americans in general, is it also true for the blind. If not, why not? If one out of three blind Americans doesn't weigh more than the other two, why not? Have we been discriminated against yet again? Either way there should be a story here, and I'd make it happen.
Working closely with Barbara Pierce as I do and respecting her long years of extraordinary service, I tried passing the idea to her--you know, the editor giving an assignment. It felt so good. Her reaction went something like this: "You know, I don't think I really see a story line here, but President Maurer appointed you as editor, so, if there's an article in this, I think you ought to get the credit for it." I thought this very generous of Mrs. Pierce, though her motive was transparent. She could have taken this idea as her own, used its full potential, and left me out completely, but no, she put me first--I could trust her to look out for me, and what a vote of confidence she had given me.
Still I felt I needed more guidance. This time I turned to another friend. I ran my idea past Diane McGeorge, who listened patiently and then said: "Well, Gary, I just don't know. Now it may be that numbers just aren't my strong suit--never have been--but I just wonder if there's really enough here for an article." Realizing she was trying to mask her excitement and not spoil whatever was to come, I next talked with Mrs. Maurer. She was busy tabulating donated services forms, but she seemed to be flattered that I had consulted her. I pitched the story idea, and she didn't take long to think it over.
"You know, Gary, I think you should give this some thought because it seems dangerous to me. When you say one out of every three blind Americans weighs more than the other two, you can just bet that two out of three of our Monitor readers are going to think you're talking about them, singling them out, and they're not gonna like it much." I thanked her, said I'd be cautious about how I phrased things, and finally went where I should have gone all along--straight to the boss.
He had already gotten wind of my story idea--I think there's a little more than interoffice communication between those two—so, when I came to report that I was trying to spread my wings and make the Monitor even more interesting, he was ready. "Gary, how long have you been thinking about this numbers story?"
"Four or five days, sir," I said. "I'm finding it elusive. Maybe I just need to give it a bit more critical consideration and apply a little more mental machinery to it--what do you think?"
Missing not a beat, he said, "Now Gary, I think that, if you've been thinking about this story line for four or five days, I'm afraid you've probably given it all the time it deserves, and I'm even more afraid you've already exhausted all the mental machinery you have."
Now, even though the vote whether or not to run with this story idea was close, I decided to go another way. For the first issue with my name on it, I decided we would more subtly innovate. So subtle was the change that few noticed it. Our innovations included a convention roundup and carrying the presidential report and the banquet address. Then we focused on awards and other convention speeches. In October we did a tribute to Ray McGeorge, a feature on the law entitled, "SWEP and the Bars of our Prison," and in November we focused on the fight to bring Baby Mikaela home and printed a part of a brochure entitled "Parenting Without Sight: What Attorneys and Social Workers should know about Blindness." People seemed to like this just fine, but I can't help grieving still for the story that never was and perhaps never will be. Maybe it will be the gift I give to our next editor.
In truth I find our Monitor's history absolutely fascinating. When I came to the Federation, our magazine was clearly the largest, most talked about, and most controversial publication in the field. When I read those Braille volumes and heard those recordings which captured the words and sounds of conventions I hoped one day to attend, it never occurred to me that the Monitor actually began, not as a magazine belonging to the blind speaking for the blind, but as a magazine to print stories for the reading enjoyment of blind people. The magazine was the All Story Magazine, and, though we do not have a complete set, our best guess is that it started sometime in the early 1930s. Certainly it was around when Dr. Jernigan attended the Tennessee School for the Blind. The All Story ran until July of 1957 and was published by the American Brotherhood for the Blind.
As the Federation grew and we made progress in changing the lives of blind people, we decided we cared less about a magazine that would tell us a story and more about creating one that would let us write our own story. The facts we would begin reporting in August of 1957 would chronicle the progress of the blind as we moved from spectator to active participant in the game of life. Other programs and magazines could help us get stories, but only this one could help us spread the message of the Federation and write the story we wanted life for blind people to be.
When Scott LaBarre asked me to come to talk about the history of the Monitor, I realized that I knew only a small part of it because I didn't subscribe to the magazine until 1972. Flashing back to my training as a student, I saw that the only way to deliver what Scott wanted was to act like a student and study. This speech would be my book report, my chance to stand before the class and show how smart I was. If I was invited to stay for lunch, it would be clear that my report had gotten a passing grade.
Enthusiastically I scanned the table of contents from every issue beginning in 1957 and coming forward, went to the Internet to get all of the magazines we had already made available online starting in 1987, and then found that our work with the Internet Archive has made available every issue of the Monitor dating back to August of 1957. I downloaded each and every magazine from 1957 to the present and started to read like the wind.
Now think just a moment about the absolute absurdity and sheer stupidity of this. In three weeks I was going to give a twenty minute speech and in preparation somehow thought I could read most, if not all, of the material it took more than fifty years to compile. Thank goodness I came to my senses, decided what I was trying to do was foolishly impossible, and was overcome by an epiphany. The trouble with an epiphany is that you can't control when it comes: mine came the day before yesterday.
Let me just give you a brief taste of what has been chronicled in the Monitor since 1957. I have to crow a bit about my state’s having the largest delegation at the 1957 convention in New Orleans. We got to be number one by bringing forty delegates to the meeting--a far cry from what it takes to be number one today.
If you look in the Monitor produced in April of 1958, you will find an article about a member of the NFB's executive board who had just been appointed to head the Iowa Commission for the Blind. There was faith that young Ken could do some good there and make the programs espoused by the Federation real, but there were also agencies that were downright gleeful at the prospect of one of these Federation dreamers actually having to work with real blind people in an agency setting.
In a later issue you can read about Dr. tenBroek's tribute to his mentor and teacher, Newel Perry. Did you know that the reason Jacobus tenBroek got through school was that, when Social Security and the Rehabilitation Services Administration could not agree on whether a blind person should have sufficient means to better himself and get an education, Dr. Perry helped to pay Dr. tenBroek's college expenses? Did you know this battle, for Dr. tenBroek and many blind people along with him, was a primary reason for the creation of the National Federation of the Blind--the need for a national organization to deal with programs that more and more were coming from the national government?
Our magazine tells the story of how, at one time in this country, blind people could not buy life or health insurance. The idea of insuring us was considered so foolish that the industry said it was just common sense that no reasonable company would insure "this class of people." Through long negotiations, legislation, and changes in regulation, this policy has changed as a result of our work, and the reason for the change is captured in our history.
A reader of our history will learn about the creation of what is called the Twin Vision® book, which got its start back in 1961. Our reader will find that much of our work in the late fifties focused on the Kennedy Baring bill and will see that our very right to organize was questioned by the agencies when we became a threat to the way they did business. The confidentiality we all take for granted today came only after our people were publicly persecuted and punished by the agencies whenever they did anything to indicate interest in or support of our organization.
As the strength of the Federation grew, the Monitor records that the agencies banded together against us, and, in addition to fighting our efforts to organize, created a weapon they would attempt to use against us. That weapon was accreditation, but not the kind you and I think of when we look for good hospitals and schools. This accreditation was created by the very agencies from which we were demanding change. These regressive agencies would create their own accrediting body and dress it up with a name, a staff, and some fancy letterhead. They would write the standards; they would appoint the teams to review compliance; but more important than their standards or their teams was the fact that they had already decided that standards and reviews didn't matter. All they wanted was a shield to use against the National Federation of the Blind, so the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) was created. For years we fought to expose NAC--both for what it was and, equally important, for what it never could be.
Our magazine tells the story of blind sheltered-shop workers seeking our help in going before the National Labor Relations Board asking to be considered as part of America's labor force with all the rights and responsibilities that implies. The Monitor shows how the government at first embraced our arguments and said we were workers, but, when challenged by the big money from the shops and the lobbyists they employed, this same government less than a decade later would declare we had no rights, were not employees, and simply existed because of the charity of the donors, the managers, and those who contracted for our work. If you didn't give up in despair but kept reading, the Monitor would tell how we lived to fight another day and how the NLRB would reverse itself once again and we would fight to organize the shops in working to see that every blind worker would receive at least the minimum wage.
Our history shows that, when I was ten years old, our country was still in the middle of a fierce debate about whether blind people were entitled to some form of public assistance or whether we were to remain the responsibility of our families for our food and shelter.
The reader of history will find familiar names--names like Jim Gashel, who headed the student division in 1970 and thought members should again get together at the convention. History also records a gentleman named Marc Maurer, who would cut his teeth as a student leader and later emerge in our magazine as a primary writer of articles involving blind people’s pursuit of our rights in the courts. Today he is a major force in shaping our debates and the challenges we undertake and orchestrating the events of the day which will become tomorrow's history.
The Braille Monitor was around before our Model White Cane Laws came to the country state by state, and it is full of reasons why these laws were needed. It was around before there were Sections 503, 504, and 508 in the Federal Rehabilitation Act, and in its pages you can read about how these sections came into being. The Monitorwas around before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed and put forward the concerns of blind people about it that had to be addressed before the legislation could become the law of the land.
Our Monitor describes how we came to tangle with the airlines and had to fight to keep our canes on the airplane.
Time dictates that I stop before long, so let me tell you about some thoughts I have about the future of the Monitor. I want our Braille Monitor to be true to its tradition of telling the story of blind people. I want it to continue to be the place to share our hopes and dreams, the place we share our successes and the way we achieve them, the place we expound on our problems, and a forum for figuring out how we will solve them. The Monitor should be the place where the blind learn about new technology and where we balance our enthusiasm for it with a respect for the old, time-tested attitudes and techniques that are the foundation of success for blind people. It should ring out loudly with the words that explain our philosophy and our view of life as blind people, while it continues to reflect the ever-changing world in which we live.
Let me close by saying that the Braille Monitor wants and needs you. We want you as a subscriber, whether you want your copy of the magazine in Braille, in print, in a recorded form, or through email. The Monitor wants your contributions as you work day by day to change what it means to be blind. The Monitor is the way we share our message; our message is life-changing, and the best way to get that message out is to see that people get and read our flagship publication.
I thank you for your time, for your commitment to read and learn, and for your commitment to help in carving out and writing about the future of blind people. For, you see, fifty years from now people will read your words and know that your work has brought them ever closer to living lives as people who are treated equally and who enjoy first-class status in America. In doing this, we will all grow.
by Natalie Shaheen and Jackie Otwell
From the Editor: Since our primary goal is to change the lives of blind people for the better, it makes sense to become involved with them as early as possible and to model and teach the skills necessary for living full and productive lives. The article that follows describes one of the successful programs sponsored by the NFB Jernigan Institute, the way it has grown, and the way it can be expanded. Here is what Natalie Shaheen of the Jernigan Institute Education Team and Jackie Otwell, BELL core teacher, have to say about the BELL program:
In 2008 the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) program--an intense two-week program that introduced low-vision children to Braille through engaging activities--reached children in Maryland after members of the affiliate identified a need and developed the program. In 2009, after being adopted by the NFB Jernigan Institute, the NFB BELL Program doubled in size, improving the lives of children in Georgia and Maryland. This year the program grew by another three states. The 2010 NFB BELL Program was held at six sites in five states and reached fifty blind children.
The excitement of the NFB BELL Program is not limited to the summer. Members of the five affiliates who hosted NFB BELL Programs this year have been ringing BELLs since the first of the year. Representatives from each state attended a seminar at the NFB Jernigan Institute last winter to learn more about facilitating a successful NFB BELL program. To come to a better understanding of the logistical aspects of running a children’s program, less experienced BELL ringers teamed with veterans to develop plans for funding, transportation, food, and facilities. Educators working in the field and at the NFB Jernigan Institute presented the NFB BELL curriculum to participants. These teachers aren’t the chalkboard-addicted lecturers you may have encountered in school; they believe learning is fun and like to showcase that to their students. Seminar attendees learned about the curriculum by participating in the lessons they would eventually teach their BELL students. The seminarians put on a fabulous rendition of the “Captain Whozit Saves the Day” skit, participated in beach ball Braille, and even played a few games of goalball.
After a successful seminar everyone returned home to continue planning for state programs. Coordinators organized affiliate members who could help plan and facilitate the program. Members of each state’s BELL team had monthly conference call meetings with Natalie Shaheen (member of the NFBJI Education Team) and Jackie Otwell (NFB BELL core teacher) to discuss progress and to brainstorm about how to overcome challenges.
Planning and organizing programs for children is exciting, but nothing is more fun than executing them and watching the children grow. On June 14, 2010, the first batch of youth began their journey into the exhilarating and engaging world of Braille offered in the NFB BELL Program. Jackie Otwell and the NFB of Utah team facilitated this first 2010 NFB BELL Program, which ran through June 25. The Monday after the NFB national convention NFB BELL Programs kicked off in Atlanta, Georgia, and Houston, Texas. Jackie Otwell joined the NFB of Texas team to help facilitate its program. Being veteran BELL ringers, the NFB of Georgia team ran its program without the support of a core teacher. Jackie Otwell traveled to Virginia to assist members of the NFB of Virginia with their program. The last two programs ran from August 2 to August 13 in Maryland and Savannah, Georgia. These states ran their programs without the assistance of a core teacher since they already had BELL Program experience.
There are many memorable moments from the 2010 NFB BELL Program that span the country. A program tradition is to have a birthday party for Louis Braille. One of the teachers in the Utah program asked who was turning two-hundred and one this year, and one of the younger students exclaimed, “It’s your birthday?” Robert, who traveled from Virginia Beach to Arlington to be in the Program, rang his bell loud and clear. Before this program he was not a cane user, but by the end of the program volunteers spotted him using his cane at the grocery store and when touring DC with his mom. This is a prime example of how the positive and upbeat nature of the lessons in the NFB BELL Program become irresistibly attractive to students exposed to the alternative techniques of blindness while having fun with teachers and students who are positive.
The NFB Jernigan Institute will be facilitating the NFB BELL Program again in 2011. We are looking for three new states to host the program. They will have the support of a core teacher in running their programs in the summer of 2011, just as Utah, Texas, and Virginia did this year.To learn more about the 2011 NFB BELL Program, contact Natalie Shaheen by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or call her at (410) 659-9314, extension 2293. You may also wish to visit <www.nfb.org/BELL> to learn more about the program. If your state isn’t quite ready to host an NFB BELL Program, you may find the program curriculum useful in planning other Braille-related activities. Contact Natalie Shaheen to request an electronic copy.
by Peter Slatin
From the Editor: The following story first appeared in the Architect’s Newspaper. It was published online September 23, 2010. The author, Peter Slatin, is associate publisher and editorial director at Real Capital Analytics, a commercial real estate research firm.
Chris Downey was a mentor at the 2009 NFB Youth Slam. Those of us who got to know him that week found his conversation about design and architecture fascinating. We think you will agree. The article begins with the publication’s headnote. Here it is:
In 2008 surgery to treat a brain tumor left San Francisco-based architect Chris Downey blind at the age of forty-five. Soon after returning to work, Downey’s loss of sight proved an unexpected strength, leading to a niche as a specialty consultant on projects for those with sensory impairments. Veteran real estate and architecture writer/editor Peter Slatin, who has experienced a gradual loss of sight since his teens and is now almost completely blind, recently spoke to Downey about his approach to the world of practice, his design tools, and the full sensory experience of architecture.
Q. How did you get here? What kinds of projects were you involved in before you lost your sight, and what was your role?
A. At the start of January 2008, I joined Michelle Kaufmann Designs (MKD) as the managing principal. MKD was a design/ build company specializing in green, prefabricated, modular homes. My role was broad, including design direction, firm management, and client relations. The work was all residential, primarily single-family. Two-and-a-half months into the new job, I reported for surgery to remove a brain tumor that was discovered a month earlier.
Q. The surgery left you without sight. What projects have you worked on since you resumed practicing?
A. I resumed work exactly one month after losing my sight. It was a little crazy, as I had not started any of the rehabilitation training for sight loss, and there I was back in the office. But the leadership and staff were all incredibly encouraging and supportive. Eventually the rehabilitation services started, including the orientation and mobility skills that I needed and the computer skills that I needed to engage in our technology-driven profession. It was all coming together late that fall when the economy tanked. As layoffs mounted, I too had to go in December 2008. Starting 2009 unemployed as an architect who had been blind for less than ten months was not particularly auspicious. Within a month, however, I was connected with the Design Partnership in San Francisco, which was working on a Polytrauma and Blind Rehabilitation Center for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Palo Alto, together with SmithGroup out of San Francisco. The project was in design development, yet the client and the team were becoming aware that they really didn’t understand how space and architecture would be experienced and managed by users who would not see the building. When I showed up as a newly blinded architect with twenty years of experience, there seemed an opportunity to bridge that gap. The fact that I was a rookie at being blind was even better, as I was not that far removed from the experience of the veterans who were dealing with their new vision loss.
The project quickly illuminated a spectrum of practice where my blindness could be harnessed as a strength. I started to focus my professional interest on projects for the blind such as schools, service providers, and rehabilitation centers. Along with the continuing VA project, I’m working with Starkweather Bondy Architecture in Oakland on an expansion of the Guide Dogs for the Blind school in San Rafael, California. I’m also consulting with Magnusson Architecture and Planning in New York for the renovation of the Associated Blind Housing project, a 220-unit residential building on West 23rd Street in Manhattan.
I’m also exploring work on other project types that can be difficult for blind users, such as transit centers, airports, and museums. These places can be made accessible in ways that are not simply a band-aid or an applied adaptation. At cultural and science centers accessibility codes have removed barriers to independent physical entry and mobility, yet for the blind that simply gets us into the space where we are free to roam around. Little has been done to provide further guidance to those with sensory impairments.
Q. What are your new tools? And how many of your old tools are still usable?
A. Everyone assumes that architects draw and that it is a very visual profession. I tend to disagree. Architecture is first and foremost a creative endeavor. We think, we consider, we research, we study, and we take it into form via tools like drawing and modeling.
Q. If you can’t see the paper or the monitor before you, how else can architectural design be created?
A. Most of us walk down the street relying heavily on our sight, yet those with visual impairments find nonvisual techniques for getting around. The same is true with most other things, including architecture. I do still draw occasionally by drawing on a raised-line drawing kit. It consists of a rubber clipboard with thin mylar. As you draw with an inkless Teflon-tip pen, the line rises behind the stroke. The challenge is that it does not provide a way to sketch on top of another image. This took a while to figure out. But I have been working with a large-format embossing printer that provides a tactile form of the drawing by converting the linework into a series of dots. It even creates line weights. The drawings do need to be slightly simplified, as too much graphic information easily results in lost time and confusion. Reading a drawing with your fingers is a totally different process than seeing it with your eyes. With sight you immediately see the whole and you drill deeper into the detail. When reading with my fingers, I read from the detail toward the full image. It took a while to make this work, as I needed to create the neurological connections between fingertips and brain. To do this, I started to study Braille, which was important for me to learn anyway.
In the summer of 2009, I participated as a mentor in a program for blind high-school students from around the country at the University of Maryland, sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind. One of the tools they worked with was a product called Wikki Stix, which are just thin wax sticks that you can easily bend, curve, or stick together. I now use them to sketch on top of the embossed plots. I can generate all sorts of options by just peeling off sections and trying again.
Q. How has your understanding of space, light, and materials changed? And has being blind changed your approach to design?
A. Becoming a fully actualized blind person doesn’t happen overnight. It is commonly understood that 80 percent of the architectural interface is through vision. When sight is lost, the mind starts to rely more heavily on the remaining senses. In my case I also lost all sense of smell, so it’s down to acoustics and touch, as well as muscle memory and other more subtle sensory cues. I rely on a cane for mobility and not a dog, in part because I appreciate the acoustic feedback of space. The cane helps me discover things around me. Quite often, when I am walking through town, people try to steer me around obstacles, yet that's exactly what I'm looking for. If I don't hit it with my cane, how do I know where I am? You quickly learn to catalogue a lot of stuff, and it becomes quite surprising when you realize that you know exactly where you are with a simple tap of an object or a wall with a cane. You can often tell how high a ceiling is by listening for the reverberation of a tap or a clap off the ceiling or the bounceback off a distant wall. These aren't supersensory levels but rather the product of the mind not overwhelmed with visual inputs. The brain simply processes the same impulses with a different bias.
Light, however, is a very poetic part of architecture that brings space to life. The rules and the calculations are all the same, and I still build mental models using images from forty-five years of sight.Materials have taken on new significance for me. Traditionally, material palettes are developed for their visual composition. I now like to expand choices to a textural, tactile palette. I like to think of the front-door handle as the handshake of the building—the feel of the grip speaks volumes. Handrails at the stair or ramp are the same. There are so many places in a building that are meant for touch, yet architects are so inundated with drawings and production that they can forget what it’s really like to inhabit a building. With all the technological development around us, architecture remains a full sensory experience. You can’t get it on your iPhone or on the Web. Perhaps that makes it nostalgic—or perhaps it actually makes it more vital and alive.
An Address Delivered by Kenneth Jernigan
President, National Federation of the Blind
At the Banquet of the Annual Convention
Miami Beach, July 5, 1979
From the Editor: One of the many resources to be found on the NFB Website is the collection of speeches that have been delivered at Federation events over the years. Even though they are easy to listen to or download, many of us forget about this resource. Here is one of the most powerful of those addresses. Then NFB President Kenneth Jernigan delivered it at the 1979 national convention. He had just moved from Des Moines to Baltimore and had reassumed the NFB presidency after unbelievable personal and professional attacks that nearly broke his health but not his spirit, as is powerfully evident in this message. Here it is:
The noted British historian Arnold Toynbee has a sweeping theory of human development called "The Cycle of Challenge and Response." According to this theory every civilization faces a constant succession of challenges and confrontations, and its viability and soundness can be measured by the vigor and nature of the response. It may meet the challenge head on, emerging stronger and healthier for the encounter; it may react defensively, desperately, leaving the struggle exhausted; or it may, at the first sign of threat, simply lie down and die. As it is with civilizations, so it may be with movements. For that matter, so it may be with individuals. Our vitality, our spirit, and our very capacity for survival can likely be measured not only by the vigor of our response to challenge and confrontation but also by the pattern and the nature of that response.
When the National Federation of the Blind came into being in 1940, there were certainly both challenge and confrontation; but neither the professionals in the field nor the public at large understood the full implications of the challenge or anticipated the ultimate fury of the coming confrontation. 1940 was another time and a different climate. Barely a scattering had the faith to believe and the courage to hope. They were the founders of the National Federation of the Blind. Those original Federationists were not the powerful force of concerted action which we know today, not the united voice of the nation's blind. All of that was still a generation ahead, in the promise of the future and the fullness of the years.
It is only when we look back that we realize how far we have come. In 1940 the blind were universally regarded as inferiors, and there was a general feeling that it was inappropriate for them to organize and take a hand in their own affairs. It was an atmosphere which broke the spirit and quenched the hope and killed the dream. But the resistance to the notion that the blind should organize (the challenges and the confrontations) did not, for the most part, come from hatred or viciousness or a wish to hurt. It came, instead, from pity, misunderstanding, misplaced kindness, or (at worst) apathy and a desire to maintain the status quo.
That was 1940. This is 1979. What has happened to us in the intervening years? What challenges and confrontations do we face today? How do these challenges and confrontations differ from those of 1940? In short, as a movement and a people, where are we—and where are we going?
In broad outline the story of the past four decades is easy to read and quickly told. At first the Federation was small and largely ignored. It had few members and little influence. The governmental and private agencies tried to treat it as if it were not unique at all but simply another provider of services (one among many), a miniature duplicate of what already was—in other words, a newcomer but one of themselves. The public (to the extent that the public knew about the Federation at all) took its lead from the professionals.
But the blind knew otherwise. They knew of the need which only the Federation could fill. They knew it in the yearning for freedom, in the lack of opportunity, in the rejection by society, and in the exclusion from the rights and privileges of full participation and equal status. They knew that the Federation was theirs. For whatever successes it might achieve or whatever failures it might make, it was theirs. Its primary purpose was not to provide services but to monitor and hold to account those who did provide services. And there were other purposes: to change social attitudes, fight discrimination, eliminate prejudice, create self-awareness, instill hope, touch the conscience, and (above all) establish a means by which the blind could discuss common problems, reach decisions, and make their voices heard. The Federation was unique. It was (and is) the collective voice of the nation's blind—the blind thinking for themselves, speaking for themselves, and acting for themselves.
Our battle for freedom and recognition parallels to a striking degree that experienced by the blacks, for we are (in every modern sense of that term) a minority. We have our ghettos, our unemployment, our underemployment, and our Uncle Toms. We have our establishment (composed of society as a whole and, particularly, of many of the professionals in the governmental and private agencies). That establishment condescendingly loves us if we stay in our places and bitterly resents us if we strive for equality. Above all (through our own organization, the National Federation of the Blind) we have discovered our collective conscience and found our true identity. We have learned that it is not our blindness which has put us down and kept us out, but what we and others have thought about our blindness. Yet they tell us that there is no discrimination and that we are not a minority. We want no strife or confrontation, but we will do what we have to do. We are simply no longer willing to be second-class citizens. We have said it before, and we say it again: we know who we are, and we will never go back!
No group ever goes from second-class status to first-class citizenship without passing through a period of hostility. Several years ago I made the statement that we had not even come far enough up the stairway of independence for anybody to hate us. I believe I can safely say that that problem has now been solved. We have enemies enough to satisfy even the most militant among us. We have actually progressed to the point of creating a backlash. However, we must see the situation in perspective. The hostility and backlash which we are experiencing are not due to mistakes on our part or to radical behavior or to over-aggressiveness or to any of the other trumped-up charges which have been made against us. Just as with the black civil rights movement and Martin Luther King, the hostile reactions and backlash are an inevitable step on the stairs which lead from the depths of rejection and custody to the upper level of freedom and first-class status. The bottom steps of that stairway are often paved with condescension and pity; the middle steps are sometimes paved with goodwill and the beginnings of acceptance; but the top steps are always paved with resentment and fear. We have come a long way up. We are approaching the top of the stairs, and we are experiencing our full measure of fear and resentment.
The fear and resentment come from those who have a vested interest in keeping us down: the sheltered shops, with their subminimum wages, which were the subject of the recent Wall Street Journal articles1; the New York agencies, which we have helped expose through damning audits; the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC), which we oppose for its phony standards, its meaningless accreditation, its lust to manage our lives, and its desperate effort to gain public support and respectability; the Cleveland Society for the Blind, which we have taken to court because of its wrongful seizure of the earnings of blind food service operators and its attempt to control the smallest details of their daily existence; the American Foundation for the Blind, which we call to task for its drippy publicity and pseudo-professionalism; the insurance companies, which (by court action and administrative regulation) we seek to prevent from charging us extra rates and denying us coverage; the airlines, against whom we demonstrate for trying to tell us where we can sit, that we cannot keep our canes during flight, that we must travel with an attendant, and sometimes that we cannot even board the plane at all; and all of those other public officials and private individuals who have an economic interest in keeping us from achieving independence or who boost their egos and show their insecurity by the need to feel superior, to custodialize, to condescend, and to treat us as wards.
Whether we finish the climb up the stairway to freedom and social acceptance (leaving behind the hostility and backlash) will be determined not by the actions of others but by our own behavior. This is our challenge and our confrontation. It is also the strongest possible proof of how far we have come. For the first time in history, the choice is ours. As other minorities have discovered, the final steps are the hardest.
There are several reasons why this is so. For one thing, the degradations and deprivations at the bottom of the stairs are (once they are pointed out and clearly delineated) so obvious and unjust that they are easily understood; and large groups of the general public can be touched in their conscience and enlisted to help, still keeping intact their sense of superior worth and special status. The minority is a long way down and poses no apparent threat, even by climbing a few steps up. At the top of the stairs things are different. The discrimination is more complex and subtle, the prejudice less obvious, the threat to vested interest more real, and the violations of tradition more imminent.
There is also the fact that the members of the minority group are part of the larger society. They tend to see themselves as others see them. They tend to accept the false views of their limitations and, thus, do much to make those limitations a reality. I can offer a personal example. On February 11, 1979, an article written by R. H. Gardner appeared in the Baltimore Sun. It was headlined: "Ice Castles a little hard to swallow," and this is what it said:
Several years ago, I was at a party when a friend, for reasons I cannot recall, bet me I could not stand on one foot fifteen seconds with my eyes closed. I had been quite an athlete in my youth (ten years old), during which period I could stand on practically any part of my anatomy—head, hands, ears or toes—for an indefinite length of time. I accepted the bet.
To my astonishment, at the count of five I began to waver. At seven, the waver turned into a stagger; and at ten I was lost. It was a great shock for a former athlete (even a ten-year-old one), and I have never forgotten it. For something happens to your balance when you close your eyes. And how much worse it must be if you're blind!
Being blind, a scientist-friend once pointed out to me, cannot be compared to closing your eyes. When you close your eyes, you still see. You see the undersides of the lids with the light behind them. But what you see when you're blind is what you see out of the back of your head. There's neither light nor sight of any kind.
I was reminded of all this while watching Ice Castles, a film about a blind figure-skater .... I'm told there is a blind figure-skater upon whose career the film is loosely based. But it's hard to believe, in view of my experience trying to stand on one leg....
When I read that article, I pooh-poohed it and laughed it to scorn. So did one of my sighted associates. Then, just to show how silly it was, she closed her eyes and stood on one foot. But the laughter stopped, for she wobbled and fell. Then, she opened her eyes and tried it again. There was no problem. She kept her balance without difficulty.
"Nonsense!" I said. "Let me show you"—whereupon, I stood on one foot—and immediately lost my balance. That was three months ago. Was I shaken? I certainly was.
Then, I began doing some thinking. We know that the tests which are made by blindfolding sighted people to determine what the blind can do are totally invalid. I have been among the most vocal in pointing that out. I knew (or, at least I thought I knew) that balance is a matter of the inner ear, not the eye. Why, then, did my associate fall when her eyes were closed but keep her balance when they were open? Perhaps the fact that she was accustomed to seeing things around her as part of her daily life made the difference, or perhaps (even though she is well versed in our philosophy) the matter went deeper. Perhaps (reacting to social conditioning) she subconsciously expected to fall and was tense. I suggested that she practice a few times with her eyes closed. And what do you know? It worked. In four or five times she could stand on one foot as easily with her eyes closed as open.
But what about me? I have never had any problem with balance. So I tried it again—and I could do it with perfect ease. If anybody doubts it, I will be glad to demonstrate. Then why did I fall the first time? I reluctantly conclude that (despite all of my philosophy and knowledge to the contrary, despite all of my experience with this very sort of situation dressed out in other forms) I fell into the trap of social conditioning. I hope I won't do it again, but I can't be sure. There is probably not a blind person alive in the world today who has not, at one time or another, sold himself or herself short and accepted the public misconceptions, usually without ever knowing it. Prejudice is subtle, and tradition runs deep. That's how it is at the top of the stairs.
Which brings me back to Mr. Gardner and his newspaper article. He was not trying to hurt us, but just make a living. Nevertheless, based on his single false experience as a simulated blind man, he makes sweeping generalizations about our lacks and losses. Do you think he would believe we are capable of equality—that we can travel alone, get off an airplane in time of emergency, or compete with others for a regular job—that we deserve insurance at the same rate as the sighted—that we are capable of full and normal lives? Of course not. And his opinions count. He is a member of the press, a molder of thought. And how do you think he will react if one of us brings all of this to his attention?
Probably with defensiveness and resentment—probably as part of the backlash. Perhaps he will even help stimulate unfavorable publicity against us, not realizing or admitting why he is doing it—or even, for that matter, that he is doing it. But we have no choice. The alternative is to slide back toward the bottom of the stairs. We will say it as gently and as courteously as we can—but we will say it. We want no strife or confrontation, but we are simply no longer willing to be second-class citizens. We will do what we have to do. We intend to take the final step on the stairs.
You will remember that Ralph Sanders in his banquet speech2 last year quoted as follows from a gimmicky ad by a company employing blind persons to smell its perfumes: "Why," the ad asks, "do people close their eyes when they kiss? Because by cutting off one sense, they heighten the other four. They are completely immersed in the taste, smell, sound, and touch of the kiss.”
Blind people have the "most highly attuned sense of smell possessed by man." What an ad! Such beliefs are widely held, but even a moment's reflection will demonstrate their absolute insanity. If a kiss is really made better by closing the eyes, think what a charge you could get if you put corks in your nose and plugs in your ears. The taste would go all the way to your toes, and the touch would drive you right up the wall. I would not expect the perfume company to appreciate our objection to its ad, but that will not keep us from objecting. That's how it is at the top of the stairs.
Sometimes the public misconceptions about blindness are used as a shield to avoid responsibility or hide from punishment. Consider, for instance, an article which appeared in the March 8, 1979 Minneapolis Star. It reads:
Jerome M. Bach, Minneapolis psychiatrist and a founder of the Bach Institute, a psychotherapy center, has been placed on probation by the Minnesota Board of Medical Examiners for engaging in sexual activities with four of his female patients....
The board's ruling reversed the finding of a state hearing examiner, Howard L. Kaibel, Jr. Kaibel recommended no action be taken against the doctor....
Bach, who suffers from tunnel vision from a degenerative condition of the retina, is legally blind. Because of this, Kaibel said, Bach “depends on physical contact as an additional means of communication and of obtaining information about his patients”....
Bach had become widely known among patients and other therapists for an unusual ability to diagnose emotional problems and for his use of physical contact in therapy.
According to Kaibel's findings, Bach's use of “physical psychotherapeutic intervention...(is) widely known, accepted by literally hundreds of his colleagues, and even coveted by some who ... are unable to utilize them as effectively.”
That is what the article says—and the mind is boggled at the madness. Did Dr. Kaibel really mean it? Dr. Bach had never identified with the blind before, and, so far as anybody knows, he has never done so since; but when the heat was on, he tried to hide behind the stereotypes. For once we did not speak out alone. The medical profession, the women's movement, and others joined with us. We did what we could to make something positive out of the situation—attempting to educate the public and show unaligned blind persons why they should join us. Constant vigil, battle, hostility, and backlash--but also growing efforts to inform the public, achieve concerted action, and heighten self-awareness. That's how it is at the top of the stairs.
Blind vendors and food service operators constitute one of the largest groups of the employed blind. They work for their money and earn what they get, but some of them fail to recognize their common bond with the rest of us, their need for the organized blind movement. Those who have such attitudes should read a novel3 about the CIA published in 1978. It is called Ballet, and it is written by Tom Murphy. Although it speaks directly to blind vendors, it speaks just as falsely and just as insultingly to all of the rest of us. The following passage occurs on page 51 and introduces chapter three:
Dave Loughlin had the rough bulk of a longshoreman and the ambling shuffle of a geriatric bear. Dave was thirty pounds heavier and more than thirty years older than he'd been in the Army OSS days, the last happy time he could remember. And now, as Dave made his way down the long green-asphalt-tiled corridor that always reminded him of a hospital, of death, he felt every minute of those years and every extra ounce weighing on him like an unserved sentence. And he felt the effects of last night's boozing, which didn't help any either. He passed the blind lunch counter and shuddered, even though he'd known it would be there, creepy as ever, even if it was the Old Man's idea, even if it did make some kind of perverted sense.
Where else in the world would you have blind men and women cheerfully handing out wrapped sandwiches and cartons of coffee so bad it could have been made only by the blind? Where else but in the ever-vigilant atmosphere of CIA headquarters out in dear old Langley, Virginia?
That book is circulating by the tens of thousands throughout the nation. It approaches genius in its ability to malign and misstate. It manages to lump almost all of the stereotypes into a couple of sentences. The blind are cheerful. We are creepy. It's perverted to have us about. We can't make sandwiches but must get them prewrapped. We can't even make a decent cup of coffee. Here is no kindness (or even condescending pity)—only meanness and contemptuous dismissal. Each one of us (vendor and non-vendor alike) should think carefully about this book and the others like it which blight our opportunities and poison the public mind. We have no choice. The alternative is to slide back toward the bottom of the stairs. We will say it as gently and as courteously as we can—but we will say it. We intend to take the final step on the stairs, and we must take it together. We know who we are, and we will never go back!
The meanness of the Murphy novel is by no means universal, but it is certainly a sign of the times—an evidence of backlash and a proof that we are close to the top of the stairs. Southwest Airlines, which proudly proclaims that it spreads "love around Texas," recently initiated a policy of refusing to transport the blind or the mentally retarded unless they are accompanied by an attendant; and a Southwest official a few months ago wrote the following bit of disgusting gibberish to our Texas president, Glenn Crosby: "In regard to your question about canes being taken away from passengers, this is a security measure. Obviously, we have no way of knowing what a passenger will do with such an object; therefore, as a precaution, all such articles are taken away during flight.”
Not much love in that, is there? Nor are the Southwest officials likely to feel any kindness toward the Federation—especially since we are picketing their counters and exposing their behavior to the public. Backlash, yes. But also (hopefully) breakthroughs to reason and public understanding. That's how it is at the top of the stairs, and (regardless of the cost) we intend to take those final steps.
In Iowa (where the progress has probably been greatest and the backlash strongest) not only have we suffered sustained, vicious, unfounded, and unscrupulous attacks from the Des Moines newspaper; but we are also engaged in a battle in the courts. As the blind of the nation know, Herbert Anderson (Iowa's enlightened insurance commissioner) ruled a couple of years ago that insurance companies could not discriminate against the blind in rates or coverage. As could have been predicted, the insurance companies (even those which had always claimed that they were, as they put it, most "sympathetic to the blind") suddenly turned hostile. When one of them (Federal Kemper) was fined a thousand dollars and ordered to mend its ways, it decided that the blind were ungrateful and unreasonable and took the matter to court.
On March 23, 1979, Judge Theodore Miller, who will not be remembered as one of the more enlightened spirits of the age, stated as follows in his "Findings of Fact": 9. The Court takes judicial notice of the fact that the blind have only four of the five senses, consisting of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Common knowledge provides that one with less than all the common senses operates at a disadvantage and is more susceptible to be unable to function as an able-bodied person than one with all his senses. Federal statutes recognize by implication the disabilities which blind people suffer and have provided tax exemptions for them.
When you sort out the garbled language, the Judge is clearly saying that no proof is necessary—that the blind can't cut it on terms of equality with others. It is a matter of "common knowledge." In number 17 of his "conclusions" Judge Miller takes the astounding position that, if blind persons are denied insurance, no discrimination has occurred since they have all been denied to the same degree and, therefore, have received equal treatment. Not much love in that—and not much intelligence either. But that's how it is when you deal with vested interest, threats to tradition, and backlash. Commissioner Anderson and we are appealing this case to the Iowa Supreme Court. Whatever the cost or the backlash, we intend to take those final steps. That's how it is at the top of the stairs.
Today I have said very little about the professionals in the field of work with the blind, but the picture would not be complete without their inclusion. Increasing numbers of them are working with us and taking joy in our progress. But there are others: NAC4, the American Foundation for the Blind, and their allies have tremendous wealth and broad contacts. They could do much, if they chose, to hasten the day of the liberation of the blind, but they seem to feel that they have a vested interest in our continued dependence and subjugation. Perhaps Louis Rives (blind himself and the President of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped) has summed up the philosophy of inferiority and defeatism as well as it has ever been put. It is certainly the opposite of everything we believe and have experienced. Last year at the NAC meeting he said that there are only two ways of making the blind and the sighted equal: either the blind can regain their sight, or the sighted can have their eyes plucked out. With such "professionals" in the field is it any wonder that the public is not yet informed? But (with or without the NAC professionals) we will take the final steps. We will reach the top of the stairs.
As president of the Federation I receive many letters. Some are encouraging; others heartrending. But I think I have never received a more expressive and revealing letter than the one I am about to share with you. It was written by Edgar Sammons, who lives in Mountain City, Tennessee, and speaks with the language and the clarity of Elizabethan prose. I have never met Edgar Sammons, but I have thought long about his letter and have come to feel a deep affection and a high respect for him. He is not a complainer, not a whiner—but he has known custody, terrible loneliness, blighted hope, and real deprivation. Yet he has made a life for himself. His letter is as significant for what it does not say as for what it says. I have his permission to use it. Otherwise I would not do it. Here it is:
I thought I would try to give you a little history of my life. I was born October 30, 1913. They said I lost my sight at three weeks old. I grew just like the rest of them. I think a blind person should be brought up just like a sighted person but most of them are not. Most of them would learn a lot more if they would let them. We just had an old boat house and a little land. Not enough to make a living on. My father always rented corn ground for half of it. My mother put up a lot of stuff, and we always had plenty to eat.
My father worked on the first highway that come through here. They blacktopped it in 1924. [I interrupt the letter to point out that he is now eleven years old, and this is the first thing that has happened to him that he feels worth noting. But let me continue]:
My father rented a little farm, and we moved to it. It was not very far from here. We lived there a year and moved back.
My mother always wanted to send me to school, but my father never would give up for it. My grandmother and my mother and little baby sister all died in 1924. There were five of us children left. Some people wanted to put us in a home. We had a hard time, but we made out. If the family could have had their way I don't guess I would have been allowed to get off of the place without some of them with me. They couldn't watch me all of the time.
My grandmother Sammons was still living, and they would send me down there when they would go to work in the corn. That suited me just fine. My grandmother would be doing her housework, and I would go down the road about half a mile to my aunt's and stay a while. Sometimes some of them would find it out and tell on me, but I didn't care what they done about it. I would run off every chance I got. There was just mud roads, but I got along. They would take me places with them at night. They went a lot of places that I would have like to have went, but they left me at my grandmother’s. I think the blind should be allowed to get out and learn to get around just like the sighted when they are growing up. A lot of us don't have that chance. My brother and father went to work in a cotton mill at Johnson City, and we moved down there in 1927. [He was born in 1913, so he is now fourteen years old.] The mill closed down in 1928, and we moved back. [Now, he's fifteen.] In 1933 [He's now twenty.] all of the children got off over at Ashville, North Carolina, and got jobs. (You notice that he didn't get a job.] My father married again in 1933. I stayed at home most of the time. After that my job in the summertime was pasturing the cows in the road. I had bells on them so I could tell where they was at. I set on the banks with the cows, wondering how I could get a little money to get me some tobacco. I was a young man then.
The welfare started in 1937. [He's now twenty-four.] I got a little. A lot of the blind didn't get any. There wasn't very much work for the blind then. I would go to Ashville and stay a while and come back here and stay a while.
In 1944 [He's now thirty-one.] I went to Ashville and got me a job sorting mica. [Remember: This is his first job. It was the Second World War, and manpower was scarce. But back to his letter]: They said we could do that job better than the sighted people. I just got to work nine weeks, and our part of the job closed down. I stayed a while longer over there to see if it would start back up, but it never did.
That was a good job, but in one way I didn't like it. I stayed with my sister and her husband. They was as good to me as they could be, but they wanted me with them all the time. They would come after me at night and take me to work in the morning. I didn't want that. I wanted out on my own like other people. I wanted to get out and get me a girl just like other people.
Well, I come back home and stayed around here most of the time. My stepmother died in 1951. [Now he's thirty-eight.] Grady Weaver started teaching me to read and write Braille in 1951. I can't spell very good, but that helped some. I stayed at home with my father until 1957. [His life is passing. He's now forty-four.] My father got so bad sick that they had to put him in a rest home, and I went to Morristown and got me a job in the sheltered workshop. Mattie Ruth was working there at that time. She told someone, 'the Sammons has come; the bass will be here next.' Sure enough in a few days a man did come by the name of Bass. Just a little while after I went to work, Mattie Ruth got sick and went home. She like to have died. She didn't come back any more for about three years. She worked for a while, and her father got sick, and she went home to take care of him. He died in 1962. [Now he's forty-nine.]
After that I went up and got Mattie Ruth. Her mother said she ought to have run me off the first time I ever come up there. She said I took the last girl she had.
I was forty-three years old before I got out on my own, but it has been the best part of my life. If I had stayed with my people, I don't guess I would have been living by now. I didn't have anything to live for.
That is the letter. It requires no comment, and it tells us what we have to do. In a very real sense Edgar Sammons speaks for us all. The imprisonment and lack of opportunity were just as cruel as if they had been deliberately imposed. They were just as degrading, just as blighting, and just as painful.
We must see that it never happens again. That is why we have to strengthen the Federation, why we have to speak out, and why we have to disregard the hostility and backlash.
Our climb up the stairs to freedom has been slow and difficult, but we are nearing the top. We carry with us a trust--for Dr. tenBroek, for Edgar Sammons, and for all of the others who went before us. We also carry a trust for those who will follow—for the blind of the decades ahead. Yesterday and tomorrow meet in this present time, and we are the ones who have the responsibility. Our final climb up the stairs will not be easy, but we must make it. The stakes are too high and the alternatives too terrible to allow it to be otherwise. If we fail to meet the challenge or dishonor our trust, we will fall far down the stairs, and the journey back up will be long and painful—probably as much as another generation.
But, of course, we will not fail. We will continue to climb. Our heritage demands it; our faith confirms it; our humanity requires it. Whatever the sacrifice, we will make it. Whatever the price, we will pay it. Seen from this perspective, the hostility and backlash (the challenges and confrontations) are hardly worth noticing. They are only an irritant.
My brothers and my sisters, the future is ours. Come! Join me on the stairs, and we will finish the journey.
1. Jonathan Kwitny and Jerry Landauer, "Sheltered Shops Pay of the Blind Often Trails Minimum Wage At Charity Workrooms," The Wall Street Journal, January 24, 1979, pp. 1 and 35 and "Sheltered Shops How a Blind Worker Gets $1.85 an Hour After 20 Years on Job," The Wall Street Journal, January 25, 1979, pp. 1 and 31.
2. Ralph Sanders, "The Continuing Challenge of Change," Braille Monitor, October 1978.
3. Tom Murphy, Ballet! (A Signet Book, New American Library, 1978), p. 51.
4. National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped. NAC was the successor to and was appointed by the Commission on Standards and Accreditation. COMSTAC, in turn, was appointed by the American Foundation for the Blind, which has always provided more than one-half the budget—first for COMSTAC and now for NAC. In other words the so-called objective "Accreditation Council" is owned by the American Foundation for the Blind.
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.
Seize the Future
The National Federation of the Blind has special giving opportunities that will benefit the giver as well as the NFB. Of course the largest benefit to the donor is the satisfaction of knowing that the gift is leaving a legacy of opportunity. However, gifts may be structured to provide more:
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Your gift makes you a partner in the NFB dream. For further information or assistance, contact the NFB planned giving officer.
by Rosy Carranza
From the Editor: Although many of us talk about school pride when we relate our experiences in elementary and secondary education, we know that often what is more important than our school is the teachers who gave us something special. The system may be less important than the committed professional who offers a love of learning, a love of children, and an unshakable belief in his or her ability to impart the magic transformation that can occur when knowledge, confidence, and determination are joined in pursuit of a goal. To help train teachers who will bring blind students this passion and belief, the National Federation of the Blind has created the Teacher of Tomorrow Program. Here is what Rosy Carranza, manager of program services for our Affiliate Action Team, has to say about it:
This spring we began the search for the initial cohort of participants for the first-ever NFB Teacher of Tomorrow Program. The program mission is to connect enthusiastic students who are preparing to teach blind children with the support, resources, and positive blindness philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. This partnership represents a unique opportunity for growth and innovation. Emerging teachers and the organized blind movement will work jointly to provide blind students a high-quality education that draws on proven professional practice from the vast expertise and mentorship available through the organized blind movement.
Dozens of students competed for a spot in the 2010 cohort. The sixteen applicants who demonstrated the most enthusiasm, passion, and readiness were offered a position in the program. All of these students bring a unique blend of talents, interests, and competencies that they will use to transform the educational experiences of their students. Importantly, they also recognize that their teaching can support the work of the National Federation of the Blind and that together we can serve as a catalyst for systemic change to improve the lives of countless blind people.
The Teacher of Tomorrow Program consists of several in-person workshops, online mentoring opportunities, and participation in various NFB events. Our first session in September introduced the teachers to many Federation leaders who provided accounts of their own educational journeys. Aside from holding candid discussions about blindness philosophy, the first session addressed blindness technology and methods for adapting the curricula, and even taught the students to use a chainsaw while wearing blindfolds. During the second session in November the teachers became a part of our fall NFB Youth Leadership Academy. This Academy brought forty-two high school students to our headquarters. The teachers spent the entire weekend learning about blindness attitudes and blindness education from blind students themselves. We have many other experiences in the works for Teacher of Tomorrow students, including attending our car demonstration in Daytona, joining us on Capitol Hill during Washington Seminar, and attending national convention in Orlando, Florida.
We are thrilled to welcome these talented and passionate educators to our organization and are dedicated to supporting them as they enter the field of blindness education. Here are the names, current states, and university affiliations of our 2010 Teacher of Tomorrow cohort:
Kina Blackburn, Washington, Portland State University
Alethea Chisholm, Pennsylvania, Salus University
Cindi Eskew, Louisiana, Louisiana Tech University
Aaron Fallon, Louisiana, Louisiana Tech University
Krystal Gable, Virginia, Missouri State University
Brooke Jensen, New York, University of Louisville
Grace Katolas, Montana, University of Northern Colorado
Oluyomi Koya, Pennsylvania, Salus University
Neil Maxwell, Georgia, West Virginia University
Tara McCarthy, Ohio, Ohio State University
Kathy Michielsen, Washington, Portland State University
Kelly Newsom, Missouri, Missouri State University
Gillian Pilcher, Virginia, George Mason University
Mary Robinson, Nebraska, University of Northern Colorado
Katie Russell, Maryland, Salus University
Megan Rutschilling, Ohio, Ohio State University
by Curtis Chong
From the Editor: if you were playing a game of word association as a blind person, it is very likely that the word “Microsoft” would trigger the response "accessibility," as the next word spoken. This is so because in Microsoft's history it has posed some of the most immediate accessibility challenges faced by blind people, has made high-level commitments to addressing the problems its software has created, has at times made remarkable progress in working with assistive technology companies, but has more often than not said accessibility would have to wait.
When Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 first came out, we were told that Microsoft had to establish a market for the graphical user interface, and only after that was done could they concentrate on the blind. When Windows 98 and Windows XP came out, Microsoft and the screen-reader manufacturers bragged that they had working products that were only months away from release at the time the new operating systems became available to the public. With Windows Vista and Windows 7, they argued that their commitment to accessibility was so great that the blind had access to these new operating systems on the day they became available to the public.
As you will see in the article that follows by Curtis Chong, president of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, Microsoft is trying to catch up in a market in which it has fallen dreadfully behind its competitors. For all of its success in desktop computing, it now holds less than 5 percent of the pocket computer market. Clearly computing is moving from the desktop and the laptop to the shirt pocket, and the cellular phone is the most popular pocket computer available. If Microsoft cannot turn its performance around in this market, it will be shut out of the really important advances in computer technology for the foreseeable future.
It is a sign of progress that through our organizations blind people have been invited to participate in a roundtable conference to discuss Microsoft's future plans, but, as Curtis makes amply clear in his article, we still have a very long way to go before we will find out-of-the-box support for most mainstream products. Here is what Curtis has to say about the conference:
On October 26, 2010, the Microsoft Corporation convened a day-long Mobile Accessibility Roundtable at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington. A number of blindness organizations were represented, among them the National Federation of the Blind, the American Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (from the United Kingdom), Vision Australia, and ONCE (the organization of the blind in Spain). As president of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, I was pleased to attend this roundtable with Anne Taylor and Gary Wunder as representatives of our organization.
The central issue was nonvisual access to Microsoft's newest entry into the mobile phone market, Windows Phone 7. Before the roundtable, press releases and email messages had been circulated to the effect that Windows Mobile 7 would not be accessible to the blind. It was said that the predecessor to Windows Phone 7, Windows Mobile 6.5, had been made accessible to the blind with the help of the Mobile Speak and Talks screen-reading programs, and word was out that these programs would not work with Windows Phone 7. Accessibility advocates wanted to know what Microsoft was going to do about the situation.
While the news about nonvisual access to Windows Phone 7 was not what many of us would have liked (it is not really accessible to the blind today), my natural skepticism was somewhat mitigated by Microsoft's level of executive commitment to the roundtable. Andy Lees, president of Microsoft's Mobile Business, spent a lot of time at the roundtable and said several times that he was personally committed to ensuring long-term nonvisual access to the Microsoft mobile platform. This commitment was reaffirmed by Rob Sinclair, Microsoft's chief accessibility officer; Chuck Bilow, Microsoft's senior program manager responsible for Windows Phone accessibility; and Richard Suplee, a senior product planner in Microsoft's Mobile Communications Business.
Windows Phone 7, we were told, is a "fundamental top-to-bottom rewrite from previous Microsoft mobile operating systems. It is a completely new operating system and user interface." No applications from earlier Microsoft Mobile operating systems will run on Windows Phone 7. No cell phone that can run Windows Mobile 6.5 can run Windows Phone 7. Microsoft told us that it was not technically feasible to build the infrastructure needed to support screen-reading software--no multi-tasking capability, no inter-process communication, and no user-interface focus.
Some will want to know why it was necessary for Microsoft to engage in a total rewrite at all. The answer, simply put, is that Microsoft has concluded that its mobile business was not doing as well as it would like and that an entirely new strategy was required. Hence Windows Phone 7. It is regrettable that nonvisual access was one of the first casualties of this effort, and it is also unfortunate that we are not likely to notice any improvement for at least a year. However, during the roundtable Microsoft did commit to working more closely with the blind community as it continues to work toward the development of a nonvisual access solution. Perhaps more significant was the apparent recognition by Microsoft that, in order to address issues of accessibility in any meaningful way, the company has to do more to build accessibility into its products directly instead of relying on outside parties to furnish the solution, and, in so doing, it must not shut out companies like Nuance and Code Factory. These and other companies can play a vital role. They can develop add-on products that will improve the efficiency with which we can operate Microsoft Mobile products.
Can Microsoft build a mobile product that is truly accessible to the blind? If past history is any guide, the answer to that question is still in doubt. There is little disagreement that over the years Microsoft has done a lot to improve nonvisual access to the Windows operating system and to some of its more widely-used applications--Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer in particular. However, it is equally true that the blind can point to more Microsoft products that are still not truly accessible to us than those that are; some of these products run on Windows-based desktop and laptop computers, and others run on other platforms. Moreover, the text-to-speech engine that Microsoft provides at no cost with its Windows operating system is not regarded in the blind community as the best available. Some of us remember that, in the mid-nineties when Microsoft first unveiled its text-to-speech engine, we were less than enthusiastic about the poor quality of the speech and even less impressed by the extreme sluggishness of the speech itself.
If Microsoft follows through on its commitment to work more closely with organizations of and for the blind to build an accessible mobile product, it is possible for a useful and truly nonvisually accessible product to emerge. However, if our history with the company has taught us anything, it is that consumers must continue the pressure for nonvisual access to Microsoft products and regard with cautious optimism the company's assurances that it will do the right thing on our behalf. We must not forget that, in our past dealings with Microsoft and other large commercial information technology companies, nonvisual access has traditionally been the first item to cut when tough business decisions need to be made. Somehow we must help Microsoft to come up with viable business reasons to build nonvisual access into its mobile product line and to keep it there.
Andy Lees, president of Microsoft's Mobile Business, has said publicly that "Microsoft's goal is to deliver platforms, products, and services that are accessible. We recognize that there is more we can do in this respect, and our goal is to develop Windows Phone into a compelling option for people who are blind or visually impaired." Our challenge as consumers is to ensure that Microsoft achieves this goal.
by Max Freund
From the editor: Often the news stories of the day focus on confrontation and controversy, but sometimes, when the case has concluded, the benefit of the litigation we bring goes far beyond the initial victory. In the article below, which appeared in the Daily Iowan on November 29, 2010, we see a university looking for a compelling reason to do what it believes is right and finding that reason in the work of the National Federation of the Blind as we work to change the accessibility of technology at Penn State University. Here is the article:
Universities have been put on notice: Have accessible technology or face the consequences. And the University of Iowa is paying attention. The UI is in the midst of a massive overhaul of its Web accessibility guidelines, and officials said a recent complaint against Penn State University has shed light on how important the issue is.
"We have been waiting for that shoe to drop for quite a few years," said UI Web developer Joshua Kaine. "We knew it was a matter of time until an educational institution was essentially sued over this issue."
On Wednesday approximately fifty Webmasters from various UI departments will meet to work on the first step of making the university Websites more accessible to people with such disabilities as blindness or limited motor skills. Officials have not yet determined how many UI pages have poor accessibility. For example, many sites aren't coded to be properly read by screen readers—the standard software to help visually impaired users navigate the Internet. "If you can put your head around reading a Webpage with your eyes closed, that gets you to about 90 percent of understanding why Web accessibility is important to people with limited vision," Kaine said.
The first step is to create an accessibility policy that all UI Websites must adhere to, and this week's meeting should ensure many departments have a vested interest in the new guidelines, said Mark Hale, a research and development project leader for Information Technology Services. "We can make a policy at the top and do nothing about making it work, and that would be pretty ineffective," he said.
The next step will be to provide departments with easy-to-use Web development tools and a new Web-accessibility coordinator to provide expert support and to ensure the standards are met, Hale said. The coordinator's salary will be at least $40,700 but will likely be higher, he said.
Even as developers work to improve the UI's accessibility, technology officials nationwide are considering the effect of a seven-page federal complaint the National Federation of the Blind filed with the U.S. Department of Education against Penn State on November 12. The complaint cited numerous issues with accessibility on campus. Daniel Goldstein, whose Baltimore-based law firm filed the complaint on behalf of the Federation, said many technological shortcomings led to the situation at Penn State. For example, even after the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice deemed the Amazon Kindle inaccessible, Penn State used the similar product Nook from Barnes & Noble in a study. "That Penn State took no guidance from two federal agencies certainly made it worth taking a look at," Goldstein said.
Numerous attempts to reach Penn State officials for comment were unsuccessful. UI officials said the complaint will reinforce accessibility nationwide. "I do think it strengthens the case for the importance of activity among people on campus," Hale said. "Just as no president wants to be sued, it is easy for other administrators to say, `I do not want to be the cause of a lawsuit.’ So from the top it heightens the emphasis."
by Father Ephraim
From the Editor: Father Ephraim is a sighted teacher of Braille Byzantine Music Notation who taught himself to read Braille by touch. He has created an online tutorial for this music notation at <www.stanthonysmonastery.org/music/BrailleByzantineMusic.html>. After discovering the Braille Monitor online, he offered us his thoughts on the advantages of tactile reading for sighted people. This is what he says:
Learning a challenging new skill such as tactile reading boosts self-confidence, stimulates the growth of neuron connections, and may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Tactile reading enables one to read in the dark—a skill with innumerable practical applications. To list a few:
a) For married couples: The freedom to read in bed without bothering one’s spouse with the light.
b) For people with difficulty falling asleep: Studies have shown that a person is less likely to fall asleep without complete darkness. Therefore, reading at bedtime with one’s eyes (requiring light) inhibits the onset of sleep, whereas reading with one’s fingers does not. Besides, in order to read with one’s eyes comfortably, the head must be in an upright position (which further delays the onset of sleep), whereas tactile reading can be done while completely supine.
c) For people who wake up in the middle of the night the presence of even small amounts of light disrupts the production of melatonin in the brain (an essential hormone produced only at night). Therefore people who suffer from insomnia will also suffer from a melatonin deficiency if they wake up and pass the time by using their vision to do something. However, if they were to pass the time by reading Braille, their lack of sleep would not be compounded by a melatonin deficiency. This can be quite serious, since recent studies have demonstrated a link between melatonin deficiency and cancer.
d) For people outdoors reading with light can attract unwanted insects, whereas reading without light does not.
e) Last (and probably least, as well): A tactile code affords the ability to read and write messages in the dark during wartime when light would attract enemy gunfire—which of course was the historical catalyst for the invention of Braille.
The ability to read without using one’s eyes enables one to use any time when the eyes or head are occupied but the mind and hands are not. To list a few possible situations: during an appointment with the dentist or the barber, having an MRI or CT scan of the head, waiting for someone or something that must be detected by the eyes as quickly as possible, and working as a security guard watching monitors. Tactile reading provides a more intense connection with the text than visual reading or listening. This difference is especially pronounced for sacred texts.
If one should become visually impaired, being already able to read without one’s eyes reduces the potential for grief over the traumatic change and enables one to adapt to a new lifestyle more quickly and easily. Proficiency at tactile reading increases one’s understanding of the visually impaired by experiencing one of their challenges. More important, it also engenders greater love both for and from the visually impaired. Braille literacy can empower one to bring one’s expertise in some fields to the visually impaired.
Braille literacy enables one to keep private notes in a format that more than 99 percent of the population cannot decipher. Staring at a computer monitor or a television for hours is a common cause of eye redness and discomfort. The ability to read without one’s eyes enables one to rest them while still doing something productive.Finally, tactile reading is fun.
by David Marrero
From the Editor: Whether we are trying to avoid diabetes or live with its consequences, one of the harsh realities is that we have to decide what goes in our mouths and in what quantity. Food isn't something we can swear off like alcohol or addictive drugs. Even though we remove ourselves from the places where food is found, no matter how much willpower we have, the constant press of temptation will sometimes overcome our best defenses.
In the article below the author points out that occasionally we will succumb to temptation and suggests a strategy for figuring out a way to deal with it. Dr. David Marrero is associate editor of Diabetes Forecast. This article appeared in the January 2009 issue. Here is what he says:
Thirty years ago, after my diagnosis of diabetes, I found myself confronting the many rules about diet: in other words, what I should and should not eat. Back then the rules were fairly rigid, and the exchange list was the norm. One thing was clear: sweets were not on the list, yet I had a very developed sweet tooth. As a result I often struggled with my desire for foods that I loved yet thought were bad for me. Naturally I did stray on occasion and paid the price of too high blood glucose.
Luckily modern thinking about the diabetic diet is much less rigid and more flexible about incorporating a wide variety of foods. But some things are still the same. My previous experiences did teach me that, while I could be pretty good about following a healthy diet, I couldn’t do so all of the time. This led me to learn about ways to adjust my insulin, and I quickly found that I could take enough bolus insulin to minimize the impact of various foods on my glucose. From these experiments I learned two things. First, if I miscalculated my insulin adjustment, my blood glucose would run too high, which in turn would be reflected in an elevated A1C, not good. Second, if I successfully covered a large calorie load too often, I gained weight, also not good.
After some experimentation (and recognizing that I was likely to give in to temptation) I created the “three-to-one” rule: Every time I indulge in a food that is rich and high-calorie, I have to follow with three meals that are more modest in calories. I treat my indulgences as units and adjust them to fit the situation. Thus I might follow one nonstandard meal with three predictable ones; one day of indulgence with three days of more sensible eating; or even one weekend with six days of eating in a predictable fashion. I still carefully adjust my insulin and test frequently to see how accurate I am in selecting the correct dose.
How effective is this strategy? I find that, if I follow the three-to-one plan carefully, I have a good A1C while maintaining my weight. I feel much less guilty about the occasional indulgence knowing that I will balance it out. Oh, and why three-to-one? Through experimentation I have found that this is the ratio that seems to work best for me. You may find that a different ratio is more effective for you. What is essential is to pay attention to all the adjustments you try and then use self-monitoring to determine their effectiveness.
Let’s face it, diabetes is not a game of perfection; it’s a game of averages. Your blood glucose is not always going to be perfect. This does not mean that you should throw caution to the wind. The key is to adopt a lifestyle that you personally can live with while maintaining the best possible health. For me the three-to-one rule lets me enjoy myself, while ensuring that I keep in good health.
From the Editor: Here is another in our series of historical letters in the Jacobus tenBroek Library:
In this letter twenty-four-year-old Kenneth Jernigan introduces himself to the man he would eventually succeed as NFB president. Although already displaying the energy and leadership qualities that continue to inspire the blind of America, Kenneth Jernigan was not yet the clear and incisive writer we know from his mature writings. What we can see in this letter is his growing devotion to the work of the NFB, his admiration for Jacobus tenBroek, and his instinct for diplomacy. As you read the following letter, remember that in later years Dr. Jernigan was fond of recalling that he decided not to attend the 1951 convention and instead to send the woman whom he had defeated in the election for affiliate president. While there she volunteered to have Tennessee host the convention the following year. Here is the Jernigan letter to President tenBroek:
2108 Ashwood Avenue
July 2, 1951
Dr. Jacobus tenBroek
2652 Shasta Road
Berkley 8, California
Dear Dr. tenBroek:
Allow me, even though somewhat belatedly, to introduce myself to you as the new president of the Tennessee Association for the Blind. Almost up to convention time I had planned to come to Oklahoma City as Tennessee's delegate to the national convention and meet you face to face; so I did not write, feeling that personal introductions are always more satisfactory than those achieved by letter. At the last minute, however, unavoidable circumstances prevented me from attending the convention, and so here at last is the letter.
To tell you a little about myself, I attended the school for the blind in Nashville; did undergraduate work at the Tennessee Polytechnic Institute in Cookeville, Tennessee, majoring in English and the social sciences; received my master's degree in English from George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville; did additional graduate work there; and now lack three quarters on my doctor’s degree in English. For the past two years I have taught high school English at the Tennessee School for the Blind, and my plans are to return there in the fall. I write poetry and short stories, did a little semi professional wrestling at one time, and build furniture. On April twentieth of this year I was married to a very lovely young lady, who is therapeutic dietitian at the General Hospital in Nashville. Last year I was first vice president of the Tennessee Association for the Blind, and this year I was elected to its presidency.
Now to leave the personal and to come to official business, first let me say that we in Tennessee consider it an honor that the national convention is coming to our state. Mrs. Bertha Wells has turned the letter which you wrote her over to me, and it will be very helpful to me in making preliminary arrangements. Even before I saw your letter, however, I had already begun to set up the necessary organizational machinery to get things in motion. Hotels are now being investigated, and I should be able to give you a report as to what is available in no less than two weeks time. As to prominent people for the banquet, I hope and I believe that we will be able to do well. When I went to see the governor concerning his letter of invitation to the National Federation, he seemed most cordial. I talked with him at length, as I have done on other occasions, and I am sure that he will attend. The same is true with the mayor of Nashville; he seemed very friendly to our organization and will be happy to attend at least some of the meetings. I know two college presidents in the state personally and feel sure that I can rely on their cooperation. Arrangements are now being made for contacting United States senators and representatives, and other prominent men in the state will be contacted and brought to the convention.
I have thought that it might be well for the Tennessee Association to sponsor a reception for the convention delegates on Sunday afternoon. There would be a receiving line consisting of national officers, state officers, and prominent guests--the governor, representatives, etc. Girls from a local sorority would be used to assist the delegates to maneuver through the receiving line and be served. The Tennessee Association would, of course, finance this reception; and my wife, who as I have already said is a dietitian, would help prepare the refreshments. Since I am somewhat unacquainted with the precedents of the national convention, I do not know how this idea will strike you; but, if there is no objection, the state association will carry forward plans for the reception.
You will doubtless have other suggestions and ideas to pass on to me, and let me assure you that I will do my best to carry out the wishes of the national association and to make this the best convention which has ever been held. Since I am president of the state association, I will be in full charge of all arrangements here. The full resources of our organization will be at your disposal, and I will do everything within my power to cooperate with you.
President of the
for the Blind
by Kevin Allenspach
From the Editor: In October Federationists work especially hard to bring our message of what it means to be blind to the public during Meet the Blind Month. The effort doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated; it needs to be genuine, friendly, and appealing to people looking for a little good news amongst all the controversy and discontent that fill our daily news. The following article appeared in the St. Cloud Times on October 31, 2010:
Mary Beth Moline and Gail Gruber-Bengston have been friends for nearly fifty years, so they know one another about as well as can be, considering neither can really say what the other looks like. Moline and Gruber-Bengston are blind, virtually since birth. Moline said she was told her eyes stopped developing even before she was born. Gruber-Bengston was also born with defective optic nerves, though she later has been able to see basic shapes and outlines with the help of very strong glasses.
They grew up in St. Cloud and met in grade school at the former Washington Elementary, where Gruber-Bengston was in the sixth grade and Moline was in the first. They learned Braille from Freda Showalter, who taught them a lot more too.
"She had these squeaky shoes–think she wore them on purpose–so we always knew where she was or when she was coming," Gruber-Bengston said. "She taught us to listen. There is so much you can be aware of if you concentrate and listen. We used to have this ball we'd play with. It beeped, and we'd pass it around the circle. I used to call it the 'green satellite.' There were nine of us in class, and we were playing, and it got lost. We asked her to find it, and she said, 'No, you find it.' It was one of the first instances where she was trying to teach us independence."
Gruber-Bengston and Moline have been pursuing it ever since, and the rapid expansion of technology in the past fifteen years has helped them achieve it like never before. It's something they celebrated during October, which is Meet the Blind Month–sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind. Gruber-Bengston and Moline are active members.
Moline worked two stints at Fingerhut, most recently from 1985-2002, answering phones, transferring calls, and taking messages. She started out on an electric typewriter. “I typed messages and lay them out on my desk, and people would walk by, and the air current would sometimes blow messages onto the floor and all over the place," Moline said. "Then in 1994, I got my first computer."
Compared with the software today it was archaic, but it was a breakthrough. Before long, text-to-speech technology became available, and now Gruber-Bengston and Moline can communicate with each other as well as anybody else on the planet via email. A program, Job Access with Speech, nicknamed JAWS, is integral to a blind person’s working in the sighted world. And the opening of the Internet to the blind has led both to a vast array of information that otherwise would've been unavailable to them unless they got it in Braille or had someone read it.
"Oh, how I wish we'd had this technology when we were growing up," said Gruber-Bengston, fifty-nine, a 1971 Technical High School graduate. "Now I can read “Dear Abby,” I listen to the St. Cloud Times through the Minnesota Radio Talking Book Program, and there are a variety of old-time radio stations out there–including one I listen to, run by blind disc jockeys. In the 1970s and well into the 80s there was no assistive technology like this."
Gruber-Bengston moved through several jobs after she graduated from the Minneapolis Society for the Blind. She worked in the Twin Cities at a law firm, then for the Minnesota Migrant Council. Later she came back to St. Cloud and worked for an answering service. There she met her husband, Jim Bengston, who was sighted. He died two years ago. She keeps busy now as a secretary for the Central Minnesota Chapter of the NFB, by volunteering, and by playing bingo on Wednesday nights with a group of sighted friends. (She uses Braille bingo cards.)
Moline is also an active volunteer. She has collated ninety-five thousand volunteer cards for the United Way, ties yarn on quilt projects at Catholic Charities, and teaches preschool and elementary crafts at her church--Northland Bible Baptist.
"If people meet us, I hope they treat us the same as they would their sighted friends," said Moline, fifty-four. "You should know there are a lot of things we can do for ourselves. We just do them in different ways. But don't be afraid to hire a blind person when they're qualified for a job, and don't be too shy to come up and talk with us. I actually think it's fun when people describe things to me that I might be seeing."
Just don't grab a blind person because you think they need help, Gruber-Bengston says. Ask first. "That can disorient you, and you may fall or lose your bearings," she said, then joked, "Oh, and don't point when you're giving directions."
by Emily Dugan
From the Editor: Many of us treasure the Talking Book but know little about its history in other countries. The same is true for the expanding audio book industry that serves everyone whether or not he or she has a reading impairment that makes reading print difficult or impossible. This article, reprinted from <Independent.co.uk>, Sunday, November 7, 2010, provides some interesting history and a look at the audio book as people perceive it across the pond. Here it is:
They started as an aid for battle casualties and elderly people with failing eyesight. Now Talking Books are a publishing sensation enjoyed by millions as an alternative to the printed word. According to the most recent sales figures from the Publishers Association, downloads of audio books grew by 72 percent between 2008 and 2009. Sales of talking books on CD, cassette, and DVD also grew to an annual £22.4m, according to the sales monitoring company Nielsen BookScan.
It all began very differently. Exactly 75 years ago today, audio books were first produced as a public service for soldiers blinded in the First World War. The Talking Books Service, an audio library run by the Royal National Institute of Blind People, was launched in 1935, when Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was recorded onto LPs and distributed to users, along with a large record player. Modern technology--particularly MP3 players--and a growing roster of high-profile narrators have given the format a dramatic boost.
AudioGO, which took over BBC Audiobooks last year, is one of the UK's largest producers of recorded books, and passed a landmark millionth download last year. Its publishing director Jan Paterson said: "The market is growing all the time. The portability of MP3 players has made more people interested in listening to books. The perception of the audio book as something for older people has changed because people listen to them while doing other things."
The RNIB has been a major beneficiary, with the five audio books it offered in 1935 growing to more than eighteen-thousand titles, which are distributed to 1.76 million Britons. The actor Martin Jarvis, who has narrated hundreds of books, said: "I get letters from people all the time who say they listen to me in their cars or hear my voice coming from their children's bedrooms. When I record, I'm shooting a movie in my mind; I want the listener to forget they're listening and imagine they're there."
Sir Duncan Watson, eighty-four, vice president of the RNIB, said: "I've been using Talking Books since I lost my sight at sixteen. They were on big records then and didn't play for long, but now I've just heard Alastair Campbell's The Blair Years on two CDs. It really gives you a window on the world."
Sue Townsend, author of the Adrian Mole series, said: “After a heavy writing stint, I lay down on the sofa with a copy of Simon Gray's Diaries. I read seventeen pages; then I went to sleep. When I awoke, I couldn't see. Those seventeen pages were the last words I read unaided. The RNIB Talking Books Service lifted me out of the pit of misery. I went on holiday and lay listening to hours of beautifully read books. Talking Books helped me to realize that it was possible to be well read without books.”
Talented Talkers: Voices That Bring Words to Life
Stephen Fry has made a fortune as the official narrator of the audio books for all J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series in the UK. His output pales, however, compared with actors Miriam Margolyes and Martin Jarvis, two of Britain's most prolific recorders of talking books.
Jarvis was described by columnist Christopher Hitchens as like "a company of actors inside one suit" after he listened to his recordings of P. G. Wodehouse's novels.
Roald Dahl recorded several readings of his own children's books, including Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, often beginning tapes with the words: "Read by Roald Dahl, that's me."
The tones of Joanna Lumley have also become ubiquitous on audio books; the actress has narrated everything from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice to war poetry and Dahl's Esio Trot.Gordon Brown used the Talking Books service after an operation on his retina when he was twenty-one meant that he was entirely blind for several days, while Margaret Thatcher also borrowed from the RNIB library after an eye operation. The actor Eric Sykes and poet laureate Sir John Betjeman also used the service.
by Allen Harris
From the Editor: Allen Harris chairs the Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund committee. He has an important announcement for those who would like to attend this year's national convention but find themselves short of funds. This is what he says:
The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund is looking for individuals who can use some financial assistance to attend our national convention in Orlando, Florida. In 2011 our convention will begin on Sunday, July 3, and run through Friday, July 8. The convention ends with the banquet Friday evening.
Who is eligible to receive a Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship?
If you are a member of the National Federation of the Blind, you are eligible to apply. Preference, however, will be given to first-time convention attendees. The scholarship selection committee is able to make an occasional exception, but first-time convention participants are the target group.
What do I have to do to apply for a Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship?
You must do the following and are responsible for these application requirements:
1. Find out who your state NFB president is and get him or her to write a letter of recommendation for you, or you may have a chapter president or other officer write a letter of recommendation, but we must have a letter from a Federation leader who is familiar with you.
2. You must write a letter to the Kenneth Jernigan Fund committee expressing the reasons why you want a scholarship. Describe your participation in the Federation and what you think you would get and give to the convention. Please send all information to Allen Harris, 5209 Sterling Glen Drive, Pinson, Alabama 35126, or email the information to <email@example.com> or <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
3. You must register for and attend the entire convention, including the banquet.
What else must I do to insure that my application will be considered?
We must receive all of the following:
1. Your full name
2. Your address
3. Your telephone numbers (home, business, cell)
4. Your email address (if you have one)
5. Your state president's name and the name of your local chapter, if you attend one
All applications must be received by April 14, 2011.
How do I get my scholarship funds?
You will get a debit card at the convention loaded with the amount of your scholarship award. The times and locations to pick up your debit card will be listed in the notice you receive if you are a scholarship winner. The committee is not able to provide funds before the convention, so work with your chapter and state affiliate to assist by advancing funds you can pay back when you receive your scholarship.
When will I know if I have been selected as a Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship winner?
The committee makes every effort to notify scholarship winners by May 15, but you must do several things to be prepared to attend if you are chosen:
1. You must make your own hotel reservation. If something prevents you from attending, you can cancel your reservation.
2. You will receive a letter with the convention details which should answer many of your questions. It is also helpful to find a mentor from your chapter or affiliate to act as a friend and advisor during the convention. Although you will not know officially whether or not you have been selected until mid-May, you must make plans to attend and then adjust your plans accordingly.
This past summer in Dallas the Jernigan Fund scholarship committee awarded seventy Kenneth Jernigan Scholarships. The average grant was $600. You can include in your letter to the committee any extenuating circumstances which the committee may choose to take into consideration. Above all, please use this opportunity to attend your first convention and join several thousand other blind Federationists in the most important meeting of the blind in the world.If you have questions or need additional information, call Allen Harris at (205) 520-9979 or email him at <email@example.com>. You may also email Joy Harris at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. We look forward to seeing you in Orlando.
This month’s recipes come from members of the National Association of the Blind in Communities of Faith.
Delicious Make Your Own Muffins
by Rehnee Aikens
Rehnee Aikens is from Houston, Texas. She is vice president of the National Association of the Blind in Communities of Faith.
1 box Jiffy Muffin Mix--blueberry, oatmeal, apple cinnamon, or banana nut
1/4 cup margarine or butter, melted
1/2 cup milk or more to desired consistency
1 cup uncooked oatmeal or 2 packages instant oatmeal (any flavor)
3 or 4 tablespoons honey (optional)
1 1.5-ounce box raisins (optional)
Dash of ground cinnamon or ginger (optional)
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl combine oatmeal with muffin mix and milk. Then add egg and remaining ingredients. Add more milk if mixture is too stiff. Grease muffin tin or cake pan with margarine, butter, or cooking spray. Pour batter into pan. Bake for twelve minutes or until golden brown. Let muffins cool for five minutes before tipping up or removing from pan. Muffins are high in fiber. Eat with fruit, coffee, or tea. Fiber fills you up and cleans you out. Enjoy!
Chocolate Chip Cheese Bars
by Chelsea Reilly
Chelsea Reilly is a new member of the division who also serves as president of the NFB of Wisconsin’s student division.
1 8-ounce tube refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
Method: Cut cookie dough in half. For crust, press half of the dough onto the bottom of a greased 8-inch square baking pan. In a large mixing bowl beat cream cheese, sugar, and egg until smooth. Spread over crust. Crumble remaining dough over top. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty-five to forty minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate leftovers. Serves twelve to sixteen.
Note: Two cups of your favorite homemade chocolate chip cookie dough can be substituted for the refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough.
by Chelsea Reilly
1 6-ounce package butterscotch chips
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 cup roasted peanuts
1-ounce can (1 1/2 cups) chow mien noodles
Method: Place chips and peanut butter in a microwavable two-quart casserole dish. Microwave on high for one minute. Stir and microwave on high for another thirty seconds and stir. Repeat intervals of microwaving and stirring until mixture is smooth. Stir in peanuts and chow mien noodles until they are well coated. Form into clusters on wax paper. Allow to harden. Yields thirty-six pieces.
by Linda Anderson
Linda Anderson is the wife of Tom Anderson, president of the division.
1 pound ring smoked sausage
1 2-pound bag of O’Brien’s Hash Brown Potatoes
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 8-ounce carton sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 stick butter
Method: Slice the ring of sausage and line a greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish with the slices. Combine the potatoes, sour cream, and mushroom soup and spread evenly in baking dish. Sprinkle on the shredded cheese and then crushed corn flakes. Drizzle melted butter over the surface. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 degrees for forty-five minutes. Remove the foil and allow the top to brown and crisp. Dish should be heated through and bubbly.
Minnesota Hot Dish
by Linda Anderson
1 pound ground beef
Half of a 24-ounce bag of elbow macaroni
1 16-ounce bag frozen vegetables
Small can of tomato sauce
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with onions and garlic
Method: Brown the ground meat and drain. Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Combine all ingredients in a big pot or Dutch oven and let mixture simmer for forty-five minutes or until it tastes done.
by Susan Murphy
Susan Murphy is division president Tom Anderson’s sister. He remembers these treats from his boyhood.
2 cups pecans or walnuts
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar for rolling the baked cookies
Method: Mix all ingredients except powdered sugar with fork or hands until smooth. Form into balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for twenty minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly before rolling in powdered sugar.
Sesame Seed Cookies
by Charlene Ota
Charlene Ota is a division member who lives in Hawaii.
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sesame seeds, toasted
Method: Cream butter and sugar and then add egg and vanilla. Combine flour with soda and salt and beat into creamed ingredients. Chill well. Form dough into balls and roll in sesame seeds. Place balls on greased cookie sheets, flatten with the bottom of a water glass, and bake ten to twelve minutes at 375 degrees. Remove to a rack to cool.
News from the Federation Family
Announcing the 2011 NFB Leadership and Advocacy in Washington, D.C., (LAW) Program:
Engaging the Voice of America’s Blind Youth
April 8-12, 2011
This four-day experience provides blind and low-vision students in grades six to nine, or ages twelve to sixteen, a unique opportunity to explore the inner workings of our country’s government, its history, and its culture, while staying at the headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland. While they learn about grassroots legislative efforts, passing resolutions, and creating blindness legislation, participants will become familiar with advocacy work for blind people and available resources for blind students and adults. Highlights of the program include visits to historic sites in Washington, D.C., meetings with influential government leaders, presentations by prominent leaders from the largest blindness advocacy group in the country, a tour of the National Federation of the Blind national headquarters, and opportunities to examine technology in the International Braille and Technology Center, the largest lab of Braille and speech products for the blind.
Twenty-four students will be accepted in the LAW program. Those chosen must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, teacher, or blind or low-vision mentor from their home states. The fee for student/chaperone pairs is $250. Transportation, room, and board will be provided for students and chaperones.
Apply now by going to <www.nfb.org/LAWProgram>. Applications are due by February 1, 2011. For more information contact Treva Olivero, education program specialist, at (410) 659-9314, extension 2295, or by email at <email@example.com>.
Charlie Brown Honored:
For many years Charlie Brown served as president of the NFB of Virginia and as board member and then treasurer of the national organization. He now works on Federation legal matters. At its convention in November, the Virginia affiliate recognized Charlie and our recently deceased friend and NFB leader, Seville Allen. In honor of Charlie and Seville, we reprint the text of the award presentation made by NFB of Virginia President Fred Schroeder:
It is significant that we are meeting over the Veterans Day weekend. We have a long history of honoring those who have given their lives in defense of our nation. Veterans Day began with an observance of the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918, bringing World War I to an end. Yet more than a half-century earlier, another conflict had threatened our nation’s safety and ultimate survival as much as any struggle on a foreign battlefield.
On November 19, 1863, on the battlefield near Gettysburg, President Lincoln gave the following address:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate--we can not consecrate--we can not hallow--this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
These were Lincoln’s words. He called on all Americans to renew their devotion to those principles on which our nation was founded: liberty, equality, and justice. But Lincoln’s words apply to many more people than those who fight and die on the literal battlefield of war. His words remind us that we have many heroes whose sacrifices must not be forgotten, people who give of themselves every day so that others will have the opportunity to live and work and contribute on terms of equality with others.
Today, November 13, would have been Seville Allen’s sixty-sixth birthday. Seville is one of those heroes who gave of herself freely and without reservation. She gave all she had to expand opportunities for blind people, children and adults, to help free them from society’s low expectations and unwitting prejudice. To paraphrase President Lincoln; the world will little note, nor long remember, what we say, but we can never forget what Seville did. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which Seville so nobly advanced. It is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from Seville’s example we take increased devotion to that cause for which she gave the full measure of devotion. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this--renewing our commitment--continuing in her footsteps until blind people everywhere enjoy the same rights and opportunities as others.
This evening I wish to present an award honoring Seville and her sacrifice and recognizing an individual who, like Seville, has given tirelessly of his strength, time, imagination, and resources to advance opportunities for all blind people. I have in my hands a plaque that reads:
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia
The Seville Allen Award
Presented to Charles S. Brown
In recognition of your dedication to improving opportunities for the blind of Virginia and the Nation. Your giving spirit, commitment to purpose, and tireless advocacy are an inspiration to all.
November 13, 2010
Congratulations, Charlie. I cannot think of anyone more deserving, and I know Seville would have agreed.
New Book by Carol Castellano Available:
Getting Ready for College Begins in Third Grade
Working Toward an Independent Future for Your Blind/VI Child
Pre-K to Middle School
by Carol Castellano
2010 Information Age Publishing/106 pp./$25
Through years of advocacy for families, author Carol Castellano has noticed that the education of many blind and visually impaired children went off track in third or fourth grade. She also observed that as the children fell further and further behind, no one was thinking about a plan to get the child caught up. If a child couldn’t do grade-level math and reading in third grade and he or she kept falling behind, how would that child ever handle algebra and college-prep English?
Instead of accepting a lower standard of education for blind and VI children, Getting Ready for College Begins in Third Grade empowers parents with a plan for getting and keeping the child’s education on track and for teaching the additional life skills necessary for an independent future. Written for parents of pre-K through middle school students, the book’s chapters include High Expectations, Academics, Independent Living Skills, Independent Movement and Travel, Social Awareness and Social Skills, and Developing Self-Advocacy Skills: the Pursuit of a Normal Life.
Highlights of Getting Ready for College Begins in Third Grade include:
Ordering information: Information Age Publishing, 23 Alexander Ave.; Charlotte, NC 28271; (704) 752-9125; <www.infoagepub.com>
Parents of Blind Children-NJ; PO Box 79049; Madison, NJ 07940; (973) 377-0976; <www.blindchildren.org>
National Center for the Blind, 200 East Wells Street, Baltimore, MD 21230; (410) 659-9314, opt. 4; <www.nfb.org>.
Lucky Winners Please Come Forward:
At the 2010 convention Cheryl Echevarria of Echevarria Travel and Maurice Shackelford of Peachtreetravel.net donated gift certificates as door prizes to be used towards travel using their company. These gift certificates are worth $100 and are good through July 4, 2011. The winners must contact the donors well before the expiration date to take advantage of their prizes.
To reach Echevarria Travel, call (866) 580-5574 or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>. To contact Maurice Shackelford of Peachtreetravel.net, call (888) 389-2723 or email <email@example.com>.
The At Large Chapter of the NFB of Ohio had its business meeting at the state convention in Columbus, Ohio, November 6, 2010. The following officers were elected: president, Colleen Roth; vice president, Barbara Fohl; and secretary/treasurer, Tracey Sinkovic.
At its convention 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.
NASA STEM Internships Available:
NASA hopes to increase the number of blind and disabled students pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers through its internship programs. It has a 2 percent hiring goal. Students can apply between November 1 and February 1. They can register for an account and look for internships anytime at <http://intern.nasa.gov/>. Internships run for ten weeks from May 31, 2011, through August 5, 2011.
In order to be eligible to apply, students must at least be accepted as freshmen at an accredited college or university at the time of the internship. NASA has internships for rising freshmen through doctoral students in STEM fields. A minimum GPA of 2.8 is required to apply; however, the competition for internships is keen. The age limit for interns is eighteen years and up.
Internships are available at all NASA centers nationwide. Students can select a particular center by applying for a project or projects at that center. For example, a project having to do with the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) will be at Goddard in Maryland because SDO is here. If students simply apply without choosing any projects, their applications will be available for mentors to view at all NASA centers. However, not applying for specific projects may result in mentors’ not looking at their applications because they have not requested a specific internship.
For more information or help with applying, contact Federationist Ken Silberman at phone, (301) 286-9281; fax, (301) 286-1655; or email, <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Learning More about The Blind Doctor:
In The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story, Rosalind Perlman tells the fascinating story of a remarkable man who was born blind to poor parents in Chicago in 1888. Rejecting the conventional wisdom of his time, he was determined to “be of use” in the world. He learned Braille and developed an uncanny sense of touch and hearing that would later make him one of the top heart and lung specialists in the city. To pay for his education, Jacob sold brushes, matches, and then typewriters door to door. He fought his way into and through the Chicago College of Medicine, graduated with honors at twenty-four, and became the world's first totally blind physician fully licensed to practice medicine.
The voice of Dr. Jacob Bolotin was one of the first to raise the awareness of the world to the plight of the blind, while also showing that, with a positive attitude and a bit of opportunity, blindness did not have to keep those without sight down and out. His speeches about his own life and the need for treating people with disabilities as capable and productive citizens were in such demand that he often gave four talks a day while working fulltime as a doctor and teaching at three medical colleges.
This inspiring biography is based on the memories of the author's husband, Alfred Perlman, who was the nephew of Dr. Bolotin's wife and lived with the Bolotins for several years when he was a boy.
ISBN-13: 978-1-8834213-1, 256 pages, 9" x 6" paperback, $19.95
Large print edition available. ISBN-13: 978-1-8834214-8, 416 Pages, 9" x 6" Paperback, $24.95.
Just out—The Blind Doctor audio book. Dramatically read by actor Ed Giron, The Blind Doctor 7-CD audio book brings this fascinating and inspirational story vividly and unforgettably to life. ISBN-13: 978-1-8834214-8, 7-CDs, $29.95.
Braille Edition Available. A three-volume Braille edition has been expertly transcribed by the Kansas Braille Transcription Institute (KBTI) and is now available from Blue Point Books. The cost for the three volumes is only $29.95. For more information about the Kansas Braille Transcription Institute, go to <www.kbti.org>.
Make Plans Now for National Convention Travel:
Cheryl Echevarria of Echevarria Travel and treasurer of the Greater Long Island Chapter of the NFB of New York would love to help you with travel to and from the national convention in Orlando, Florida. The convention dates are July 3 to 8, 2011. If you need air, bus, train, or even shuttle or limo service, please give her a call.
Since we will be in Orlando this year, you have a chance to visit the Disney facilities, the Kennedy Space Center, and Sea World. She can also arrange package tours before or after the convention since Port Canaveral is one of the major cruise line hubs in the area. Don't wait to get your tickets or book a cruise. Our convention is near a holiday weekend, so good airfares and tours won’t be available long. Call (866) 580-5574.
Blind Woman Engineer Honored:
It is always gratifying to see a blind person recognized for outstanding achievement in a strong and competitive company. International Business Machines (IBM) brought to our attention the recent recognition of Dr. Chieko Asakawa by the Society of Women Engineers and invited us to print information about her award. Here is the article, which we are pleased to print:
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is pleased to announce IBM’s Chieko Asakawa, PhD, as the recipient of the 2010 SWE Achievement Award. She is honored for challenging conventional ideas about how people with visual impairments use technology and for pioneering research and technical advances in Web accessibility.
“Dr. Asakawa is recognized worldwide for her expertise and research in information technology accessibility for individuals with visual impairments,” said Siddika Demir, SWE president. “Her groundbreaking work developing tools and frameworks helps solve accessibility problems, allows those with special needs the same Internet capabilities, and will influence the next generation of cutting-edge technologies.”
Dr. Asakawa is the chief technology officer of accessibility research and technology at IBM Research. In this role she provides technical guidance to the accessibility research team worldwide. Dr. Asakawa is also an international thought leader in the field of information technology accessibility for people with disabilities, the elderly, and others with special needs.
“The tremendous achievements of Dr. Asakawa have opened the wonders of the World Wide Web and other technologies to thousands of people around the world who have vision and other disabilities,” says Linda Sanford, senior vice president at IBM. “As an IBM Fellow Asakawa-san serves as a wonderful role model and inspiration to the next generation of technologists who aspire to make the world a better place.”
Having lost her sight at age 14, Dr. Asakawa has a deep understanding of people with special needs. She began her career with IBM 25 years ago and has focused on accessibility research ever since. In the 1980s she drove development of the first Braille editing system and in 1997 developed the innovative voice browser, Home Page Reader, a program that reads aloud words on a Webpage, opening up the new information resource for the blind. Dr. Asakawa has also managed the development of numerous other accessibility tools and frameworks for developers and users with visual impairments as well as a transcoding technology that improves Webpage readability among the aging population. In 2009 she and her team launched the Social Accessibility Project, a research experiment using a social computing approach to solve real-world accessibility problems.
Dr. Asakawa has received numerous recognitions from her peers and IBM, including being named an IBM Fellow, the company’s highest technical honor. She is one of only 218 Fellows in company history and the first Japanese woman to receive the honor. Dr. Asakawa was also named an IPSJ Fellow by the Information Processing Society of Japan, inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame in 2003, and has been granted 20 patents for her work. She holds a BA in English literature from Otemon Gakuin University and a PhD in engineering from the University of Tokyo, Japan.
The Achievement Award is SWE’s highest award. Criteria are based on the significance of the nominee’s lifetime achievements and on her sustained contributions to the field of engineering. The Achievement Award was presented Friday, November 5, at WE10, the Society’s annual conference, in Orlando, Florida.
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 would like to sell my classic PAC Mate from Freedom Scientific. It is one of the original models. The device has a 40-cell display. It has had very little use, and it will come with the necessary cables and a leather case that was purchased separately. I am asking a thousand dollars or best offer.
You can reach me by phone, by email, or in Braille. My phone number is (480) 615-3347. My email is <email@example.com>, and my postal address is 155 West Brown Road, Apt. 125, Mesa, Arizona 85201.
I am selling an unused I.D. Mate Omni, in original box. Contains case, extra memory card, power adaptor, and extra bar code labels. Asking $800. Contact Renee Abernathy at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or at (704) 263-1314. (Leave a message.)