Vol. 54, No. 6 June 2011
Gary Wunder, editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, president
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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. 6 June 2011
Belling the Cat: The Long Road to the Passage
of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act
by Deborah Kent Stein
Leadership and Advocacy in Washington, Round Two
by Barbara Pierce
Getting and Keeping a Job
by Stacy Cervenka
What to Do in Orlando
Youth Leadership Program
by Brianna Lillyman
The KnfbReader Mobile:
Concepts, Misconceptions, and the Future
by Michael Hingson
Ask Miss Whozit
A Guide Dog Consumers’ Bill of Rights
Shifting Paradigms in the Guide Dog Movement
by Marion Gwizdala
What's in a Name?
by William D. Meeker
What Is the NCLB?
by Deja Powell
Featured Book from the Jacobus tenBroek Library
by Ed Morman
Copyright 2011 by the National Federation of the Blind
When the fourth annual tenBroek symposium was gaveled to order by President Maurer on Thursday morning, April 14, 2011, disability advocates, law students, lawyers, legal scholars, and governmental officials began discussing how to further the cause most dear to Jacobus tenBroek: gaining equality for the blind and other people with disabilities and providing them the same civil rights granted to the nondisabled in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The day-and-a-half symposium consisted of general sessions and breakout discussion groups. In addition to the NFB Jernigan Institute, symposium cosponsors included the American Association for People with Disabilities; the American Bar Association Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law; Ferleger Wealth Management, LLC; the American Bar Association Section on Employment and Labor Law; Brown, Goldstein, and Levy, LLP; the Maryland Department of Disabilities; Rosen Bien and Galvin, LLP; and Thomson Reuters, the providers of the WestLaw service.
The Symposium included two keynote addresses. The first was presented by Chai Feldblum, commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Ms. Feldblum was appointed by President Obama and has been in her current job just over a year. Her central message was that now is the time to capture the attention of the public, particularly employers, using the newly authorized regulations to propel the ADA into the news and put it on the radar for American businesses. The president has appointed officials particularly concerned about the needs of people, and it is time to make the law do, in the next ten years, what it has not done in the twenty years since its passage. The attitude, isn’t it fantastic you have a job, must be replaced with one that expects the disabled to have a job, a home, and all the other things Americans have as they live the American dream.
The keynote speaker for the luncheon was former Senator Christopher Dodd, who now lives in California and works for the Motion Picture Association of America. He flew most of the night to address the Symposium but said he couldn’t think of anywhere he’d rather be. In his moving remarks Senator Dodd talked about the civil rights battles he had the pleasure to join and about his sister, who has been the inspiration motivating much of his work for the blind and other people with disabilities. The senator has been a leader in championing every piece of legislation dealing with the blind since he was first elected to Congress and began serving on January 3, 1975, as a member of the House of Representatives. He was elected to the Senate in 1980, where he served for thirty years, making him the longest-serving senator from the state of Connecticut.
The first panel of the Thursday morning session, introduced by President Maurer, addressed the subject “Lessons Learned: Translating What Worked for the Civil Rights Movements to the Disability Rights Movement.” The first presenter was Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. He said he was honored to be a part of something sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind and proud to do something associated with the name of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. The Leadership Conference, which Mr. Henderson chairs, has two mottos: "we are trying to build an America that is as good as its ideals," and "If you want a friend, you must be a friend." Mr. Henderson emphasized that, though achieving civil rights has been long in coming, had there been no NAACP in 1909, there could have been no Dr. Martin Luther King speaking on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963; if there had been no Martin Luther King making his speech in 1963, there would have been no Barack Obama accepting the Democratic Party nomination forty-five years to the day later.
Shannon Price Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, talked about the struggle for equality, noting that disability rights efforts have been more successful in getting protection for the disabled through legislation than have people with sexual differences, but, in true acceptance, sexual difference is more accepted by the public. He noted that Dr. King observed that laws declare rights but they don’t deliver them and no law is self-executing. Legal advocacy is not enough to achieve lasting social change. The public has to come to embrace the message for the spirit of the law to be realized.
Near the conclusion of the panel, President Maurer noted that, while many in the country saw the beginning of civil rights as the 1954 Brown versus Board of Education ruling by the Supreme Court, the legal arguments made there owe much to the lectures and writings of Dr. tenBroek as early as 1951. This makes the celebration of his life and work all the more appropriate.
The balance of Thursday morning was filled with workshops focusing on “Disability as a Protected Class for the Purpose of Seeking Political Asylum”; “Disability Law 101: Everything You Wanted to Know about the Principles and Doctrines of Disability Law”; “Advocating for People with Disabilities in the Criminal Justice System”; and “When and How to Use the Broader Civil Rights Laws when Representing People with Disabilities.”
Following the luncheon address by Senator Dodd, Andrew Imparato, senior counsel and disability policy director, U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, provided attendees a legislative update and some history surrounding the passage of the ADA, changes to the Voting Rights Act, and other legislation affecting people with disabilities.
The Thursday afternoon plenary session began with a discussion of “When the Messenger Is the Message: How to Portray Disability to Judge and Jury.” The discussion focused on how lawyers with disabilities are perceived when they appear in court and how their legal work affects their clients, including people with disabilities. This panel featured Scott C. LaBarre, LaBarre Law Offices P.C.; Larry Paradis, executive director, Disability Rights Advocates; and Michael Waterstone, J. Howard Ziemann Fellow and professor of law, Loyola Law School.
Following this presentation, the breakout workshop topics included “Using Social Science to Influence the Jury's Perception of Disability”; “How to Overcome Stereotypes and Misconceptions to Win a Child Custody Case for the Disabled Parent(s)”; “The Disability Rights Model and Guardianship: Mutually Exclusive or Compatible Concepts?”; and “High-stakes Standardized Testing and the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
The afternoon session wrapped up with a seventy-five minute discussion on the topic “The Effect of Diversity in the Disability Rights Movement on Court Decisions.” Both NFB President Marc Maurer and Howard Rosenblum, chief executive officer of the National Association of the Deaf, made presentations and then engaged in a discussion about differences and similarities in the needs of the two groups in order to play a meaningful part in society. One interesting similarity is that professionals in work with the deaf and professionals in work with the blind all too often resist American Sign Language and Braille, while an overwhelming majority of deaf and blind people favor these tools and see them as absolutely imperative in their successful integration into society. Both groups struggle with the issue of integration in early education, and both groups are challenged to find qualified teachers who know the curriculum they are to teach and the special skills their students must master in order for them to compete.
“Disability Rights as Constitutional Rights” was the topic that began the Friday morning session. Presenters were Ruth Colker, holder of the Heck Faust Memorial Chair in Constitutional Law, Ohio State University Moritz College of Law; and Robert Dinerstein, professor of law, American University, Washington College of Law. While the Constitution clearly speaks to the rights of all citizens of the United States, interpretations of this vital document by the courts of this land clearly do not provide for equality of opportunity for people with disabilities. Since the Constitution does not directly address the rights of people with disabilities, too often court decisions reflect the bias and prejudice brought to the courtroom by judges and the justices of the Supreme Court. Particularly insightful comments from the previous day suggested that we need a large majority in our nation to make a fundamental reassessment of the capability of people with disabilities in addition to language in the statute books.
The final series of workshops addressed “The Impact of Reasonable Accommodation on the Employment Rate of People with Disabilities”; “Discrimination against People with Disabilities at the Polling Place”; “Working with the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division”; and “Challenges to Institutionalization.”
The last plenary session focused on “Disability Rights in the Obama Administration” and key presentations from Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary, Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, and Kathleen Martinez, assistant secretary, Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy. Both emphasized the president’s commitment to increase employment of people with disabilities and their shared goal of seeing that the federal government is a model employer. Businesses should be able to look to the federal government both to measure our country’s commitment to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce and to see how it is done using assistive technology, reasonable accommodation, and an emphasis on using the unique strengths of each person.For a more detailed analysis of the material covered during the symposium, visit the tenBroek Symposium Website at <http://www.nfb.org/nfb/Law_symposium>. As a Federationist familiar with Jacobus tenBroek’s work on behalf of the blind, this lay writer was impressed to see how his work has shaped the views of so many citizens committed to the concept of equality. Attendees and their causes were diverse but were united by tenBroek’s demand that this country live up to the bold words of her Constitution and to the promises made to all of its people to be everything they can be.
by Deborah Kent Stein
From the Editor: The name Debbie Kent Stein is associated with many things. She is a professional writer, a leader in the NFB of Illinois, a winner of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award, and the person most closely linked with the recognition of the dangers posed by quiet cars. Beginning with a firsthand experience in 2003 that convinced her that the blind were up against a change in the world that could threaten our independent mobility and even pose a deadly threat to us, she has been one of our most articulate spokespersons. Her work as chair of the committee for automobile and pedestrian safety has required that she take on many roles. She has had to be a prophet in the wilderness, shouting out a message that the diverse audiences she has had to address were reluctant to hear, let alone embrace. Blind people did not want to be told that some cars were too quiet to hear. Being bothered by disgruntled blind people was the last thing car companies wanted as they created the next generation of vehicles, moving from traditional internal-combustion engines to something that could make better use of fuel, create less pollution, and meet the demand for an ever-quieter car. Environmental groups bristled at the notion that anyone could object to a generation of automobiles that would attempt to address many of their concerns. Debbie had to be a conference organizer, a negotiator, and a builder of bridges between organizations that competed for sales, membership, and governmental influence. But for all of the high-level work her job entailed, the most impressive work required of Debbie was managing the follow-up and making sure that this uncomfortable and difficult issue didn't get placed on the back burner. She knew the problem would not go away, and she let everyone involved know, in her courteous but firm way, that she wasn't going away either. Here is what Debbie has to say about the journey of the blind to ensure safe passage on the streets of the smallest town or largest city.
On the afternoon of January 4, 2011, a flurry of anxious emails tumbled into my inbox. Had I heard any news? Was I sure the bill had reached the president's office? How much time was left for him to make his decision? Suppose the unthinkable happened—suppose he refused to sign, or simply lost the bill amid his other priorities?
At last, when it was nearly midnight, I received a triumphant message from Jesse Hartle in the NFB's Office of Governmental Affairs. Just forty-five minutes before, President Barack Obama had signed S. 841, the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act. The bill that the Federation had sponsored and nurtured for the past three years was now the law of the land.
The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, generally known to Federationists as the Quiet Cars Bill, grew out of our realization that hybrid vehicles operate almost silently when in electric mode. As blind people we travel safely and independently by listening to the sounds of traffic. With nearly silent "stealth vehicles" on the road in greater numbers every year, our safety and independence were in jeopardy.
The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act will not solve the problem overnight. It grants the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) thirty-six months to determine a level of sound that will give blind pedestrians, and pedestrians in general, ample warning of the approach of a hybrid or electric vehicle and to establish regulations for the automobile manufacturing industry. The manufacturers will then have three years to achieve full compliance with NHTSA's regulations. It will be the year 2017 before all new hybrid and electric cars sold in the U.S. meet the safety standard based on audibility. (There is no requirement that existing vehicles be retrofitted.) Nevertheless, there is wisdom in proceeding with care. Once rules are in place, we will be living with them for a long time. We must be sure that the solution truly meets our needs.
The passage of S. 841 resulted from the united efforts of Federationists across the country. It is a shining example of what we can accomplish when we work together. Like a snowball, our effort grew and amplified until it gained an unstoppable momentum. And, like a snowball, it started out feeble and small. As I look back on the events that led up to that night, I remember the way it all began and the long journey that finally brought us to the signing of our bill on January 4, the 202nd birthday of Louis Braille.
About thirty years ago I read that developers had built the first all-electric vehicles, cars that would operate cleanly and would free us from our dependence on fossil fuels. The news sounded wonderful to me until I heard that the new electric cars would be utterly silent. I recall talking with a few blind friends about the danger that such cars would pose for us. They assured me that we had no need for concern. The manufacturers wouldn't be so foolish as to put silent cars on the road. They would certainly add a warning sound of some kind so that we could hear the cars coming.
Over the decades that followed, I didn't think much more about silent cars. Then, on a November morning in 2003, a family friend dropped by to visit. He parked his new Toyota Prius in front of the house. "It's completely silent when it's running on its battery," he explained. "No kidding—you can't hear a thing."
I had great confidence in my power to listen and discern. I couldn't imagine a car so quiet that I would fail to hear it. I decided to put it to the test. I have told this story many times, and it has often been repeated by others. In the history of the Quiet Cars Bill it has almost taken on the status of legend. I stood at the curb and listened as our friend climbed into the driver's seat and slammed the door. I waited to hear the Prius hum into life and move forward. I heard the chatter of sparrows; the distant roar of a leaf-blower; and, after a minute or two, the opening of the car door.
"When are you going to start?" I asked.
"I did start," our friend answered. "I drove down to the end of the block, and then I backed past you and drove up in front of you again." I felt a cold sense of dread. I thought, we've got a real problem.
Clearly my friends and I were naïve years ago when we decided it was unthinkable that silent vehicles would someday glide down our streets. The auto industry had not considered our needs and our safety. The unthinkable was now a reality. My mind leaped ahead to a world where blind people would be prisoners in their homes, unable to travel to school, to work, or to the store without a sighted escort. I remembered all the days when I walked my daughter back and forth to school and ached for the blind parents who someday might not dare to go out on the streets alone with their children. I thought of the tireless work we have done in the Federation to ensure that future generations of blind people can live active, independent lives as respected members of the community. I realized how swiftly our efforts might be undone by this new technological development.
After a few days of fruitless worry, I called Gary Wunder, a longtime friend and a member of the NFB's national board. Gary had not yet encountered a hybrid car, but he listened carefully and promised to bring my concerns before the board at its next meeting. Before the meeting he approached President Marc Maurer, who arranged to have a Prius on hand so that the board members could listen for themselves and draw their own conclusions.
As Gary explained to me later, a number of the board members were highly skeptical. They were convinced that they would be able to hear the sound of tires on pavement and the rush of air against the windshield, even if the engine of a hybrid was operating silently in battery mode. Not all of the board members chose to go outside and listen to the Prius as a staff member drove it past the National Center in Baltimore. However, those who took part in the demonstration were startled to discover what I had found weeks before. When the hybrid was moving at slow speeds, its tires were soundless, and there was no wind rush. With no sound from the engine, the vehicle crept along in silence. When crossing a driveway or side street, it would be easy for a blind person to step unaware straight into the path of an oncoming vehicle.
I was not the first Federationist to express concern about silently operating cars. At the NFB convention of 2003, Noel Nightingale had drafted a quiet cars resolution. Resolution 03-05, passed unanimously, stated "that the safe and free travel of blind pedestrians and all pedestrians may be significantly and increasingly impaired by quiet vehicles."
Early in 2004 Dr. Maurer appointed me to chair a new committee. The committee on automobile and pedestrian safety (CAPS) was established specifically to investigate the matter of quiet cars and come up with recommendations. "I don't have any idea what should be done," Dr. Maurer told me, "but I charge your committee with figuring that out for us." I had no idea where to begin, so I started by thinking about the composition of the committee itself. I decided that we would need people with a foundation in technology and engineering. We would need attorneys to think about the legal aspects of dealing with a potential safety hazard. We should have orientation and mobility instructors, people with a firm understanding of independent travel. Finally, we should have people with media experience. To get anything done, we would have to spread the word to the public.
A group of dedicated Federationists agreed to serve as CAPS members, and we began a series of exchanges using email and conference calls. For most of us the quiet-car issue posed a wrenching conflict. All our lives we had believed and insisted that as blind people we could live in the world as we found it. We had shunned the idea of asking society to adapt the environment to meet our needs. We had found ways to use the information that the existing environment provides and to go on about our business. Years ago, in the sixties and seventies, that philosophy served us very well. However, technology was transforming the world as we once knew it. Many of the changes brought us riches beyond our wildest imagining. Yet, in addition to downloadable books, newspapers over the telephone, and global positioning systems, technology had now delivered cars that we could not hear. None of us CAPS members could conceive of a way for us to identify the presence and movements of vehicles without sound. Blind people could eventually lose the freedom for which we had fought so long and hard. We had to call for the addition of some kind of sound cue in order to preserve our freedom of movement, even though that meant altering our previously-stated and unambiguous statements favoring training instead of environmental modifications.
As we pondered aloud at one of our meetings, Barbara Pierce recalled the old story of an intrepid band of mice. For a while, a new cat in the neighborhood made their lives a misery. Finally, while the cat was asleep, the brave little mice crept from their hole and fastened a bell around its neck. Like the mice in the story, we needed a sound to warn us of danger. We had to find a way to bell the hybrid cat.
In the course of our discussions, we grasped another crucial aspect of the issue. Blind people were not the only ones who would be affected by silently operating vehicles. Sighted pedestrians and cyclists also counted on their hearing to detect cars that were out of their line of sight. We were not dealing strictly with a blindness issue. We were perhaps the first to identify the problem, but quiet cars posed a threat to everyone.
For more than a year we reached out in every imaginable direction. We searched the labyrinthine Websites of corporations and government agencies for the names and addresses of officials. We sent fruitless emails and left phone messages that were never answered. We talked to friends of friends who worked for this company or that, and we followed up every lead and suggestion.
At one point I spoke with the head of a grassroots consumer protection organization that had a strong history of advocacy on safety issues. "How many people have been killed so far?" he asked bluntly. I said we didn't know, but we didn't want to wait for a body count. "You won't get anywhere until you have statistics," he told me. "You've got to have casualties before you can get anything done."
Even when we talked to our own friends and relations and to our colleagues in the blind community, we met with surprise and even skepticism. "Gee, it never occurred to me that quiet cars would be a problem," people would say. "The quieter the better, right? But now that I think about it, I guess you've got a point." Then they offered suggestions. Perhaps the fan belt could run when the car was operating in electric mode. Maybe they could put on a device that ticked as the wheels turned, like the old trick with the card in the bicycle spokes. Perhaps blind people could carry a device that would signal when it detected a hybrid car in the vicinity.
In June 2005 the Braille Monitor published an article about the quiet car question called "Stop, Look, and Listen." In it I urged readers to contact me if they had had a collision or frightening close call with a car they could not hear. At the 2005 NFB national convention, CAPS held an open meeting to expand the discussion. The room was packed, and opinions were heated. Some doomsayers foresaw a day when the law might forbid blind people from walking the streets alone because we posed a danger to ourselves and others. Some argued that drivers would simply learn to be more watchful and insisted that we had no need for alarm. Between these extremes we heard a broad range of ideas and concerns. We also heard the first chilling reports of canes being snapped by cars that never made a sound and blind pedestrians being rescued from unheard danger in the nick of time.
After the discussion portion of the meeting, everyone moved outdoors to a hotel parking lot for a small, uncontrolled experiment. After considerable persistence NFB staffer Jeff Witt had secured the use of a Toyota Prius for the afternoon. Participants in the test were asked to raise a hand when they heard the car drive past. Some twenty-five blind people waited on the curb, asking each other when Jeff's car was going to start moving. As we wondered and speculated, Jeff sat behind the wheel, circling the lot again and again.
Two months later I received a call from Kara Platoni, a reporter with a weekly paper in California called the East Bay Express. On September 21, 2005, the paper ran an article with the audience-grabbing title, "When Silence Equals Death." Platoni pointed out a painful contradiction—people purchased hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius in the belief that their choice would benefit the environment. By using electric power part of the time, they would save at the pump while cutting down on noise pollution and greenhouse gases. Now, it turned out, they would also create a hazard for blind pedestrians. The article clearly recognized the safety issue as an unforeseen consequence of the new hybrid technology.
A spate of articles appeared in the months that followed. The Toronto Globe and Mail, the San José Mercury, and several other papers reported on the unanticipated safety concerns created by silently operating vehicles. In every interview with the press, NFB spokespersons emphasized that the Federation did not oppose the manufacture of hybrid and electric vehicles, nor the development of energy-efficient fuels. We simply wanted the automotive industry to find a way to give pedestrians an audible warning of the approach of an otherwise inaudible car.
As the discussion widened, anti-noise advocates pitched in with their concerns. They reminded us that noise is a serious environmental problem. For decades the automotive industry worked hard to make cars quieter, they argued; adding noise to quietly operating vehicles would reverse all the gains that had been made. In response the NFB explained that we did not want the addition of a loud, irritating noise like the backup beep of an eighteen wheeler. Surely the manufacturers could add an inoffensive sound that would alert pedestrians to the presence and movements of quiet vehicles without disturbing the peace.
On November 4, 2006, the NFB sponsored "Quiet Cars and Pedestrian Safety: Problems and Perspectives," the world's first conference on the quiet car issue. The conference was an attempt to open an exchange of ideas among the widest possible group of stakeholders. Invitations went out to blindness organizations, cyclist and pedestrian groups, consumer safety organizations, alternative fuel proponents, electric vehicle advocates, and acoustical engineers. All of the major automotive manufacturers were invited, as well as representatives of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
Altogether forty people from thirteen states, representing fifteen organizations and academic institutions, attended the conference. The diversity of their backgrounds and perspectives was impressive. Among those in attendance were electric car advocates, representatives from pedestrian advocacy groups, acoustical engineers, and members of several blind consumer groups and blindness-related agencies. However, despite our best efforts, the automobile manufacturing community was notably absent.
The conference agenda included presenters from the blindness field, an expert in marketing and engineering, and representatives from the Federal Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (known as the Access Board). The meeting began with a direct experience of quiet cars. Approximately thirty participants nonvisually observed two hybrid vehicles, a Toyota Prius and a Honda Civic. Through hearing they tried to determine how detectable the vehicles were while in motion and while stopped at a street crossing. Participants were asked to respond upon hearing each of the vehicles approach, first at an intersection close to the conference site and later at an alley nearby. Observers generally heard the approach of the Civic (although at a dangerously close distance of about thirty feet) and missed the Prius altogether at the intersection. The Prius was somewhat more audible at the approach to the alley, but only at a range of about fifteen feet. When we convened indoors, everyone agreed that something had to be done. The looming questions were what and how?
The conference continued with presentations on engineering solutions and a panel from the Access Board. The attendees then broke into groups for brainstorming and returned to report on ideas. Several participants raised the suggestion that blind people might carry a device that would beep or vibrate to warn of the approach of a silent vehicle. Most of the blind people present felt strongly that this solution was unsatisfactory. Who would pay for such a device? How many people would be willing to carry it? Plenty of blind and visually impaired people don't even carry canes—could they be persuaded to use a device to warn them of inaudible vehicles? Besides, sighted pedestrians and cyclists were also at risk. Would every member of the population have to be outfitted with a warning gadget? Furthermore, a beep or vibration on the hand could never give us the rich range of information we gather by listening to the sounds emitted by standard combustion vehicles. Engine sounds tell us the location, speed, and direction of a car and indicate whether it is speeding up or slowing down. The sound of a car idling at an intersection alerts us to its presence and warns that it may start up at any moment. And we can collect all of this information about several vehicles at once. By listening we create a mental picture of the entire landscape around us.
After the idea of a handheld warning device was largely put to rest, other suggestions emerged. Surely a sound-emitting device could be designed for quiet cars that would give pedestrians and cyclists the information they gather from the sounds of standard combustion vehicles. Of course a multitude of questions arose: what sound should such a vehicle make? How loud should it be? When should the sound kick in and when should it stop?
Suddenly one of the acoustical engineers spoke up. He pointed out that laws have established a maximum sound level for cars and other vehicles. If a vehicle makes too much noise, it is in violation of the law. Why not establish a minimum sound standard at the other extreme? If a vehicle were so quiet that it fell below the minimum standard, then an artificial sound would have to be added. It was a revolutionary idea. We came away from the conference with a new sense of direction and focus.
In the fall of 2006 the NFB launched a Website that attempted to consolidate the existing information and thinking about the quiet cars issue. At <http:quietcars.nfb.org> visitors could find resolutions, articles, and conference notes. Webmaster Milton Ota poured untold hours into maintaining the site and keeping it up to date. For the first time concerned Federationists and members of the general public could gather information about the quiet car issue at a single location. When we began to think about the problem of silent vehicles, a Google search on "quiet cars" brought up pages about railroad coaches where noise is kept at a minimum so passengers can read or sleep. Now Google offered a list of articles and blog posts on silent vehicles, plus the Website sponsored by the NFB.
"Blind Pedestrians Say Quiet Hybrids Pose Safety Threat" announced the Wall Street Journal on February 13, 2007. The feature article by Raymund Flandez included quotations from several blind pedestrians. John Osborn, a guide dog user in California, reported a frightening close call. "Half an inch and it would have hit us," he said. "It wasn't making any noise." The Journal also quoted Sev MacPete, founder of the Toyota Prius Club of San Diego, who insisted that blind pedestrians are easy to spot because they usually have a special white cane with a red tip. "And, if you could say anything about hybrid drivers, they are more aware of their surroundings than other drivers," MacPete stated. (We often heard variations on this theme. Prius owners frequently claimed that people who drive hybrids are more careful and more sensitive than the average driver.) The article also referred to an interview with Toyota spokesperson Bill Kwong: "[Mr. Kwong] says he wasn't aware of the issue and believes that the responsibility lies with drivers and pedestrians to watch out for each other." Mr. Kwong did not suggest how blind pedestrians were supposed to do their share of the "watching out." It was hard to understand how he remained unaware of the issue after our repeated efforts to contact Toyota.
Recognition by the highly respected Wall Street Journal planted the quiet car issue on the media radar screen. Raymund Flandez's article was quickly followed by several more newspaper columns and a piece on National Public Radio's news program All Things Considered that included an interview with NFB board member Dr. Fred Schroeder. The topic even received air time in Jay Leno's monologue on The Tonight Show. Leno commented that blind people were concerned that they couldn't hear the approach of quiet hybrid cars. He suggested that the drivers should roll down their windows so that pedestrians would be warned by their holier-than-thou diatribes about going green.
Meanwhile, CAPS continued to search out contacts in government agencies, consumer organizations, and the automotive industry. At last, in April 2007, we made a major breakthrough. Gary Wunder and I were invited to meet with members of the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) outside Detroit. The SAE is a think tank that brings together engineers from throughout the automotive industry. Although the members do not represent their individual companies, the society pools their expertise and ingenuity to tackle selected challenges. CAPS had been working on the quiet car issue for three years. At last we had a channel of communication to some of the people involved in designing and making automobiles.
Gary and I went to Detroit prepared for a tough sell. The fact that we had been invited to discuss our concerns did not mean that anyone was willing to work with us. We planned and rehearsed our presentation, explaining how blind people travel and emphasizing the critical importance that sound played in our orientation and mobility. We kept our presentation brief to allow plenty of time for questions. Unless we could spark a discussion, the visit might be a futile exercise.
To our surprise and delight, we found ourselves seated around a table with a group of people who greeted us with sincere interest. Everyone listened carefully and asked questions. One piece of constructive criticism they offered was to change the language we used to describe what we wanted. "Do not tell us you want our cars to make noise," they said. "All of our professional lives we have been told to eliminate noise. It is as fundamental as motherhood and apple pie is to America. You do not want noise. You want usable audible feedback; this will better communicate your need and not automatically turn off people who will want to help you."
I realized at once that these guys (yes, nearly all of the SAE members I came to know were male) were highly creative. They loved to solve problems, and they were intrigued by unexpected challenges. The SAE took our issue seriously and made a firm commitment to explore it further. However, everyone warned us that the automotive industry moves slowly. If we wanted to bring about change, we would have to be very patient and determined.
To examine the quiet car issue in greater depth, the SAE established a subcommittee which later became a full committee. The Committee on Vehicular Sound for Pedestrians (VSP) began to meet monthly using WebEx and teleconference and occasionally face to face at SAE headquarters outside Detroit. Members of other organizations became involved, including some staff members from the NHTSA. The committee asked some key questions. Who was affected by quietly operating vehicles? Under what circumstances were these vehicles most likely to pose a hazard? What measurements could determine a safe level of sound?
It was evident that we needed to gather information about the population affected by quiet cars and the situations in which problems might occur. We set out to find pedestrians who had had accidents or close calls involving vehicles that operated with very little sound. An SAE task force designed a short survey to collect information about the pedestrian and driver involved and the circumstances of the incident.
In no way could we claim to be conducting a random survey. Some people responded to inquiries on NFB listservs, listservs for guide dog users, and other blindness channels. However, word of the NFB's work was starting to reach beyond the blind community. Occasionally a sighted pedestrian found our quiet cars Website and contacted us to report a disturbing incident. A sighted auto salesman described how he was hit and seriously injured by a silent all-electric car in the parking lot of a dealership. A sighted woman from California reported being hit by a Prius as it silently backed out of a driveway. The mother of an eight-year-old boy told us how her son was hit by a Prius while riding his bicycle. He was not hurt, but he was thrown onto the hood of the car and was badly shaken. "My son didn't stand a chance," the mother stated. "You absolutely could not hear that car coming." The interviews supported our conviction that not only are quietly operating vehicles a hazard for blind people, they pose a safety threat to all pedestrians and cyclists.
The involvement of the SAE helped to awaken the automotive industry to our concerns at last. Engineers and others from General Motors visited the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore for a day of discussion. Several Federationists even took the visitors from GM on a walk under sleepshades to help them understand more fully how blind people use sound to navigate safely. The NFB also made important contact with the American Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers (AAM), an organization to which most of the major auto companies belong. The tone of our meetings with the manufacturers was nearly always friendly, and all parties seemed eager to learn from one another. Instead of the adversarial exchange that might have developed, we found ourselves engaged in animated discussion, trying our best to work together. Our work also revealed that, despite initial protestations to the contrary, people in the know in the auto industry had some inkling of the problem caused by cars that made next-to-no noise. Some engineers admitted that in the development and testing of hybrid-electric cars, there were near misses as cars were moved from bay to bay. Auto workers themselves depended on sound for their safety, and soon everyone acknowledged that what we were discussing was the question, what should we do rather than the question, is it really necessary that we do anything?
Meanwhile, at the affiliate level Federationists went into action. They introduced bills about quiet cars in Maryland, Virginia, New York, Hawaii, and several other states. Some bills called for the addition of a warning sound to quietly operating vehicles; some prohibited state agencies from purchasing hybrid or other silently operating vehicles. Although no state passed a law requiring regulations, the proliferation of state bills was visible proof of our strength and determination.
The possibility of separate regulations in individual states filled the manufacturers with dismay. Automobiles and other vehicles are sold in every state of the Union and in each of the world's nations. If a variety of regulations was established from state to state or country to country, manufacturers would face a daunting set of problems. A car loud enough to operate legally in New York might be too quiet for the roads of California. An add-on sound approved by the legislature in Oregon might be voted down in West Virginia. Ideally any safety regulations regarding quiet cars should be national or even international in scope. Once the need for sound had been acknowledged, the fear from the industry was that someone would come up with a harebrained noise that would sour the public on vehicles making any sound at all, and the manufacturers would then be confronted with a public dead set against vehicles making any kind of usable sound.
Early in 2008 Carl Jacobsen, president of the NFB of New York, contacted his former orientation and mobility instructor, Edolphus (Ed) Towns, who had left the O&M field for a career in politics and now represented Carl’s New York district in the U.S. Congress. When Carl talked to Mr. Towns about quiet cars, the former travel instructor immediately understood our concern. He agreed to sponsor a bill about quiet vehicles in the House of Representatives.
Ed Towns is a Democrat, and we knew that a bipartisan bill would have the best chance of passage. We approached Florida Representative Cliff Stearns, a Republican, and asked him to be the bill's cosponsor. Stearns was hesitant at first and said he needed time to consider. Then one day he and his wife were nearly struck by a silently operating hybrid car in the parking lot of a supermarket. Stearns got the message. He cosponsored H.R. 5734, the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act. The bill was introduced on April 9, 2008, during the second session of the 110th Congress.
Like the version of the bill that became law in 2011, H.R. 5734 called upon NHTSA to conduct a study that would determine a solution to the safety issue posed by quiet hybrid and electric vehicles. The automotive industry then had a stipulated period to implement the solution. In the original bill each phase would last two years; these periods were extended to three years in the version that finally passed.
Across the country Federationists rallied around the campaign to win sponsors for our bill in Congress. Meanwhile, awareness of the hazards posed by quiet cars was spreading to the international community. On February 20, 2008, NFB President Marc Maurer delivered a speech called "The Dangers Posed by Silent Vehicles" to the Working Party on Noise (GRB) in Geneva, Switzerland. GRB reports to the World Forum on Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP-29), which is part of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Dr. Maurer explained how blind people use traffic sounds to help them travel independently. After explaining how soundless vehicles pose a hazard to blind and sighted pedestrians, he concluded, "The promise of new automobile technology is a safer, cleaner, and healthier environment. It will be a sad irony if, through mere oversight, new cars become instruments that destroy life instead of protecting it. If these cars are not made safe for pedestrians, then their promise of a better life for us all will simply be a lie. But if you act now to ensure that vehicles continue to give adequate warning to all pedestrians, both blind and sighted, the objections of the blind to this new technology will have been met, and the world will be safer and better for all of us. Please join the National Federation of the Blind in ensuring that the streets of the world are places where those who drive and those who do not can move with safety and freedom."
On June 23, 2008, NHTSA hosted a day-long conference on the quiet car question. The conference brought together a variety of stakeholders, including spokespersons from NFB, ACB, NHTSA, the Access Board, and environmental organizations concerned with noise reduction. Researchers in the fields of orientation and mobility, acoustical engineering, and perceptual psychology presented their findings. There was uniform agreement that cars have become much quieter since the 1970's due to concerns about noise pollution. Anti-noise advocates argued that adding sound to quietly operating cars would reverse this positive trend. They contended that pedestrians would hear silent vehicles more easily if background noise were kept to a minimum. Participants viewed a video made by Dr. Lawrence Rosenblum of the University of California at Riverside. The video was based on a study of the response of subjects to the sounds of hybrid vs. standard combustion vehicles. In a laboratory subjects listened to approaching vehicles through highly sophisticated headsets. Dr. Rosenblum found that people were much slower to recognize the approach of a hybrid in battery mode than the approach of a vehicle using a combustion engine. The difference was as much as 75 percent. In some instances subjects did not recognize the simulated hybrid vehicle until half a second after it had passed.
Following the conference, NHTSA made a serious commitment to gather data about the safety hazards of hybrid and electric vehicles. NHTSA statisticians analyzed data on vehicular accidents involving pedestrians. Only twelve states reported whether a vehicle involved in an accident was a hybrid; California and New York, two of the states where hybrids are most popular, were not among them. Reported in 2009, NHTSA's findings showed that, when vehicles are moving at slow speeds, pedestrians are twice as likely to be involved in accidents with hybrids as they are with standard combustion vehicles. The figures were undeniable. They strongly supported our premise that silently operating vehicles are a threat not only to blind people but to all pedestrians.
Despite the positive press coverage, partnerships for automakers and their associations, and a recognition by the United States government that pedestrians were facing a real problem, there was a disturbing buzz on the Internet to the effect that all of this fuss about cars too quiet to hear was just one more symptom of an America with an out-of-touch press and a misdirected government which paid far too much attention to the whiners, gripers, and habitual complainers. How many blind people were there? Why in the world would they be on the streets anyway? Depending on one’s point of view, some of the posts candidly or caustically asked, how much is the life of a blind person worth compared with the cost of fixing what really isn't broken? Some of us who worked hard to make quiet cars emit usable sound did a double take. We had always assumed that on our side we had the goodwill of the American people who would do anything they reasonably could to let us take our place in the world. Now some were suggesting that our lives could be measured in dollars and that by their measurement blind people were worth less than a modification to keep the roads safe for pedestrians, especially ones who were blind.
By the end of 2008 H.R. 5734 had accrued eighty-eight cosponsors in Congress. It did not have enough supporters to be given a Congressional hearing or to be put to a vote. On January 28, 2009, soon after the 111th Congress was sworn in, the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act was introduced for a second time, again sponsored by Ed Towns and Cliff Stearns. The new bill was H.R. 734. By sheer coincidence the number of the new bill was very similar to the number of the earlier one. We hoped that the coincidence was a good omen.
Federationists worked with tireless determination for the passage of H.R. 734. They made phone calls, wrote letters, and paid face-to-face visits to their legislators, often sharing their personal experiences with soundless vehicles. Meanwhile, members of NFB's Governmental Affairs staff were busy on Capitol Hill. They were on site to meet with members of Congress and their staffers, building connections and helping the bill move forward. We were also strengthening our relationship with the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers (AAM).
As the number of House sponsors climbed, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) introduced a similar piece of legislation into the Senate as S. 841. A member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, as well as a former presidential candidate, Kerry was a powerful sponsor. Senate support mounted slowly, however, while the House bill continued to make dramatic progress. By the close of the first session of the 111th Congress, 171 members of the House had signed onto H.R. 734.
In an attempt to widen support for the bill, the NFB entered intense negotiations with the ACB, AAM, and the Alliance of International Automotive Manufacturers, or AIAM (now Global Automakers). On May 18 all four organizations agreed upon a revised version of the bill. With the support of the automotive manufacturers and both blindness consumer organizations, the bill had real impetus to move forward.
In the meantime a fast track bill concerned with auto safety was galloping through Congress. Inspired by allegations of accidents caused by jammed accelerators in vehicles made by Toyota, the Motor Vehicle Safety Bill of 2010 (H.R. 5381) encompassed a number of new safety regulations. It seemed almost certain to pass. If the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act were added as an amendment, then it, too, would become law. On May 26 the House Committee on Energy and Commerce voted to include H.R. 734 in the Motor Vehicle Safety Bill. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation voted to amend the revised bill language into S. 3302, the Senate's version of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010, on June 9.
The strategy seemed almost foolproof. In July Federationists went to the national convention in Dallas with high hopes. Passage of our bill seemed so certain that many Federationists turned their attention to other, more pressing concerns.
However, it was too soon for elation. Headlines announced the release of a new report about Toyota's acceleration problems. The report presented unequivocal evidence that 100 percent of the so-called accelerator jams resulted from "user error." In addition, the automotive industry strongly opposed several of the new measures called for in the bill, although it raised no objection to our amendment. The Motor Vehicle Safety Act swerved from the fast track to the slow lane and finally stalled altogether. It never came to a vote on either the House or the Senate floor. The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act was bound up with the bill's fate.
As the NFB worked to devise a fresh strategy, the nation elected another new Congress. Time was fast running out. Somehow, while the 111th Congress was still in session, we had to resuscitate our old House and Senate bills and bring them to a vote.
As the 111th Congress counted down its final days, NFB's Governmental Affairs team parried and maneuvered on Capitol Hill. With the AAM as a firm ally, the NFB worked to revive the old stand-alone bills, H.R. 734 and S. 841. The House refused to vote on H.R. 734 but promised to vote on the bill if it passed in the Senate. On December 9, 2010, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation sent S. 841 to the Senate floor for a vote of unanimous consent. The bill, which included the language agreed upon back in May, would pass only if all votes were in its favor. It passed unanimously in the Senate and moved on to the House.
The House had promised to bring the Senate bill to a vote, but time was frighteningly short. Ours was only one of dozens of bills awaiting their fate, and there was no guarantee that it would pass or even be considered. On December 15, 2010, Rep. John Barrow (D-GA) brought S. 841 to the House floor, and the House opened debate. The debate was brief; no one spoke in opposition to the bill. At the conclusion of debate, Congressman Barrow requested a roll call vote. However, it was late in the day. Further proceedings on the motion were postponed, and the motion was considered unfinished business.
The NFB team faced a long, sleepless night. Would our bill be brought to a vote before Congress adjourned, or would it be pushed aside and forgotten? Would we be forced to begin the process all over again with a brand-new Congress in 2011? Fortunately, our fears proved groundless. On December 16, 2010, the House voted on S. 841. The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act passed with 379 votes in favor and 30 opposed. Now all it needed was the president's signature to turn it into law.
That President Obama would veto the bill was highly unlikely. Nevertheless, my mind flew to worst-case scenarios. I imagined the bill lost and undelivered in a pile of folders. I pictured it buried beneath the mountain of mail waiting for attention in the president's outer office. Suppose the time ran out, I asked myself. Suppose... suppose....
When the news came at last on the night of January 4, my first feeling was a rush of relief. The reality came to me slowly. Even now I experience moments of amazement and disbelief. I remember that morning more than seven years ago when I had listened for a car that glided past me in silence. The idea that dawned in that moment on my front sidewalk has become a piece of history.
As blind people we contend with a host of barriers and concerns. There are inaccessible Websites and kiosks, and there are standardized tests with a visual bias. Setbacks and inequities are rooted in a long history of ignorance, prejudice, and discrimination. Furthermore, along with the rest of the world, we face more threats and dangers than we can count, from the fraying ozone layer to the constant menace of war. Before the enormousness of the world's ills I often feel overwhelmed and helpless. Our success in tackling the issue of quiet cars seems a featherweight in the balance.
Yet the passage of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act stands as proof that we as individuals have the ability to make a difference. When we commit ourselves to a cause and win the commitment of others, we harness the power of collective action. When we stand together, we can change the world.
by Barbara Pierce
What happens when twenty-four blind middle-school students, their mentors, and their chaperones gather for five days of activities and touring in and around the nation’s capital? The answer is learning, discovery, and challenge.
For the second year the NFB Jernigan Institute’s Education Department planned and conducted the Leadership and Advocacy in Washington (LAW) Program, April 8 to 13. The students were divided into six delegations of four, each of which had a blind mentor assigned to work with those students. In addition to learning about the NFB’s legislative efforts on Capitol Hill, the delegations learned about NFB history and activities by studying six leaders—Dr. tenBroek and Dr. Jernigan as well as four of today’s NFB leaders. Each delegation created its name by incorporating the name of its leader in its title—Wilson’s Watch and Team tenBroek, for example.
While the students worked together all day Saturday, their parents and teachers met with parent mentors Laura Weber, president of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, and Jim Beyer, NOPBC board member. The seminar provided useful information about a number of rights that blind students and their advocates have or should have. The parents also heard from a panel of blind adults, who told the parents what they wish their parents had known about the rights of the blind.
Meanwhile the students were engaged in several challenging exercises. First they worked with the NFB constitution and a number of source documents. Their job was to decide which article of the constitution addressed the issues raised by each item under consideration. In addition to letters and documents, the tenBroek Library staff had assembled a number of hands-on items for tactile exploration. These included Dr. tenBroek’s cane, a plaque of the original NFB logo, early Braillewriters, and two different baskets woven in sheltered workshops.
In another exercise called “We Want to Work,” the student delegations read a series of primary source brochures, letters, and reports and answered thoughtful questions about the purpose and implications of them for blind job seekers. These documents provided lots of opportunities for the mentors to fill in information and provide additional history of the organized blind movement: the fight for civil service jobs, the struggle for collective bargaining in sheltered workshops, the right to take the Foreign Service qualifying examination, etc. All documents were available in large print and Braille, and the delegations had to decide how best to get them read for the entire group. Print users frequently discovered that the Braille readers had an easier time dealing with the documents.
After lunch the Governmental Affairs staff gave the students a crash course in getting bills through Congress. Then groups of three students each walked their assigned bills through the actual process that the piece of legislation had been subjected to. Mentors staffed tables with such names as Entry into the House (or Senate), House (or Senate) Committee, House Rules Committee, House (or Senate) Again, Conference Committee, and President’s Desk. When a bill had acquired sponsors, a button boasting the cosponsor count with Velcro on the back could be added to the group’s sign. Two of the bills, the Louis Braille Commemorative Coin Act and the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, actually made it to the president’s desk, staffed by NFB of Georgia President Garrick Scott.
Sunday the families had a chance to tour Washington. The weather was cool but fine, and everyone had a great time.
The entire group was back again on Monday in Washington, where everyone went to the House floor to learn about the history of the Capitol and how the pages are hired and how the Senate cloakroom operates. Then it was time for a brief but fascinating tour of the Capitol rotunda. In the afternoon the group went to the Department of Justice to hear from Mazen Basrawi about his job and the workings of the Department.
After dinner back at the National Center that evening, the students got some pointers on talking with members of Congress and their staff members. Then the delegations separated to plan their presentations about the Technology Bill of Rights for the Blind the next day. As practice, each delegation met with three different Senators, played by Center staff members, and tried to keep their attention and the conversation focused on our need for equal access to home, office, and kiosk technology. This was a constructive exercise since Tuesday each delegation visited the offices of its students’ four members of Congress to meet with a staff member or representative. Parents were along to observe and take photos, but they had been urged to keep their participation to a minimum. The mentors could nudge things in the right direction, but mostly the students were responsible for making the case for the Technology Bill of Rights for the Blind Act themselves.
The closing activity of the program was a banquet. In their spare time during the preceding days, the various delegations had been working on brief presentations about their LAW Program experiences. Their charge was to create a presentation that could be used to catch the attention of next year’s potential student applicants. The four living leaders that students had studied were present to have dinner with the students, who had gotten to know them through their biographies and discussions of personal struggles that the leaders had described to them. Mary Ellen Jernigan dined with the Jernigan delegation, and Lou Ann Blake, who has worked extensively with the tenBroek papers, got to know the tenBroek delegation. President Maurer and NFB First Vice President Fred Schroeder, both NFB leaders studied by the students, addressed the group after dinner. The remainder of the program consisted of news programs, skits, and even a brief NFB LAW Program Jeopardy contest.
We will conclude this report by including some of the comments made by students and parents:
“I have also seen many positive changes in Brian. I owe it all to this life-changing experience of the NFB LAW Program. It has given him great confidence and the ability to get out of the house and take back his independence. I tried to provide those skills to him; however, I just couldn't do what so many of you did for him.” Shelly Lowery-Rowan
“This trip was what Emily needed, because although she had a cane and O&M training, she was not using it. From the time Emily received her new cane, she has been using it, and she has become more independent. It was a very positive experience for both of us. Emily told me before we left Baltimore that she would like to stay there for a year, so she should do fine with the seven-week training program.” Angela Woods
"I had so much fun at the NFB LAW program this year! It really opened my eyes (so to speak) about a lot of things going on in the world. I hope the Technology Bill of Rights is passed into law. That would be a huge step forward for us. There were many people who impacted me throughout this entire program. Garrick was soooooo funny. Natalie was a great leader and mentor. Lauren McLarney, government program specialist, prepared us so well for our meetings with members of Congress. I could've never done it without that preparation. Treva, Corbb, Karen, and everyone at NFB, you are awesome!" Gabriel Lopez
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 Stacy Cervenka
From the Editor: As you will read in the following article, Stacy Cervenka spent the last five years working in the United States Senate as a legislative assistant for Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. She recounts her experience but also offers practical tips and encouragement for blind job-seekers that can be applied to almost any employment setting. Reprinted from the Winter 2011 issue of the Student Slate, a publication of the National Association of Blind Students, here is her story as well as advice that will help everyone seriously seeking a job:
For the past five years I worked as a legislative assistant for Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. Throughout my time in his office I advised the Senator and wrote and worked on legislation pertaining to adoption and foster care, child protection, juvenile justice, pro-life issues, disability rights, special education, vocational rehabilitation, Native American issues, Second Amendment rights, Social Security, pensions, labor issues, North and South Korea issues, and, randomly, postal issues. I was also Senator Brownback’s liaison to the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
My time in the Senator’s office was filled with many extraordinary moments. I often felt as if I had once-in-a-lifetime experiences once a week. I co-wrote a bill that is now a law; I sat in my boss’s office and made conversation with Buzz Aldrin; I got a long smoochy kiss from Bono; Senator Ted Kennedy personally introduced me to his dog Splash; and I’m one of the few people I know who have ever actually been inside North Korea.
I’m often asked by blind job-seekers and blind college students what they can do to increase their chances of finding a fulfilling and well-paid job. Although there is no one-size-fits-all secret to success, I believe that blind people can do a few things to enhance their chances of finding the job that’s right for them.
1. Courage (aka Acting Is Believing)
I know that we’re all tired of the worn-out cliché that blind people are so courageous every time we do the simplest little task. However, it does take courage to put ourselves out in unfamiliar situations where we’re not certain whether we’ll be welcomed and how we’ll be perceived. The fact is that negative stereotypes and misconceptions do exist. Prejudice, discrimination, and unfair treatment are very real. Nobody likes to feel rejected, underestimated, or ignored. Therefore it’s understandable that we sometimes shy away from situations that might result in these unpleasant feelings. However, when we avoid situations that carry the risk of rejection, we rob ourselves, not only of many marvelous opportunities, but also of the strength and courage that come from facing our fears.
Applying for any kind of job, internship, or volunteer position carries with it the potential for unfair rejection. However, one way to ensure that you’ll never get hired is constantly to pass up opportunities for fear that you’ll be unfairly treated anyway.
This lesson came sharply into focus a few days ago as I was attending a conference of the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation. The director of human resources at one of the branch offices told me that he’d really like to hire more people with disabilities. The problem, he said, was that Mitsubishi often posts job announcements on Monster.com and other job databases, but no one with a disability ever applies. He further mentioned that Mitsubishi often has booths at college job fairs across the country, and he rarely sees students with visible disabilities at them. He asked me in complete earnestness why, if there were so many qualified unemployed people with disabilities, he never seemed to run into them at job fairs or through the main channels through which Mitsubishi recruits.
I thought about his question for a while. While I understand that there might be many reasons for this, I think that one is that we’re often so fearful of discrimination that we tend to look for jobs with agencies we already know. We wait for job announcements to make their way across the NABS listserv or into the Braille Monitor with the idea that, if people are posting a job announcement directly in an NFB publication, obviously they’re open to hiring blind people.
Seeking out jobs on Monster or Craigslist is sometimes more risky, since the possibility of discrimination is so strong. We reason that the employer probably won’t hire us anyway, so all of our efforts will be for nothing. It takes a certain amount of courage and good faith for a person with a disability to reply to a mainstream job announcement. The fact is that the percentage of jobs that will be forwarded to NFB listservs and published in the Braille Monitor is very small. In order to make ourselves available to the widest variety of jobs, we’re going to have to get out of our comfort zones.
The courage it takes to apply for a job will certainly serve you well once you do enter the workforce. I remember when I first started giving tours of the US Capitol Building to Kansas constituents who were visiting D.C. I was terrified! I wasn’t worried that I would get my guests lost or that I wouldn’t be able to memorize all of the information about the history and artwork of the Capitol; I was nervous about how our constituents would perceive me. Would any of them ask for a different tour guide? More likely, would the entire tour be awkward and uncomfortable as they tried to pretend my blindness didn’t exist?
However, giving tours helped me learn a valuable lesson that has stood me in good stead ever since: acting is believing! I may have felt apprehensive, but I didn’t have to act like I was. Before my first tour, I took a deep breath, said a little prayer, and breezed into the front office to meet our guests. I acted as though I’d been giving tours for years, made no attempt to hide my blindness, but made no big production of it either. The tour went very well. My nervousness did not dissipate right away. However, after a few weeks of playing the role of a confident tour guide, I slowly became one. I can honestly say that within a month, my blindness and other people’s possible reactions to it never even crossed my mind as I went out to greet guests.
As a blind person in an integrated workforce, you will have to venture outside your comfort zone fairly regularly. This takes a certain amount of willingness to look your fear and apprehension in the face, deal with them, but not let them stop you.
2. Have a Little Faith in the Work Blind Activists Have Already Done
While it’s true that discrimination is still an ugly reality, we need to acknowledge that we are making progress and that society has become more and more aware of the employability of people with disabilities.
I learned this lesson my first day in Senator Brownback’s office. I started as an intern, and I was extremely nervous that no one in the office would trust me with any substantial work. I worried that I would have to work very hard to raise their expectations. However, on the first day, our internship coordinator introduced me to one of the legislative assistants and told me I’d be working for him. Without skipping a beat, he asked me to go down to the Senate Printing and Graphics Office and retrieve a chart that the Senator would be needing for an upcoming speech on the Senate floor. Our office was on the third floor of the Hart Senate Office Building, and Printing and Graphics was in the basement of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. I’d been in the office about two hours, and I had no idea how in the world I’d get there. However, I was not about to tell him that I couldn’t do the very first thing he asked me to do. I must have asked directions every ten feet on my way to Printing and Graphics, but I did retrieve the chart, and my heart soared as I realized that my supervisors had higher expectations of me than I had of myself. That can be a really good feeling and one we as blind people don’t always get enough of.
During the first few weeks of my internship, before I was hired fulltime, I wasn’t always greeted by high expectations, and sometimes it was painful. I remember approaching a legislative assistant a few days into my internship and asking him if I could help him with anything. He thanked me but told me there wasn’t. One minute later, I heard him walk into the intern pit and declare, “I need an intern.” I was devastated. How could this guy not trust me? He’d seen me walking around the office and helping other staffers with various tasks. I was angry and hurt.
However, not long after I was hired full time as a staff assistant, this same staffer sent an email around to several women in the office asking if any of us were free on Saturday night to babysit for his children. My heart soared at the thought that this staffer, who hadn’t trusted me to run an errand for him when I first came into the office, now had enough belief in my abilities to entrust me with his children. Although I had no real desire to spend my Saturday night babysitting, I wanted to take the opportunity to assure him of my capability. I took the job, and thus began a warm friendship with both him and his family.
Blind and otherwise disabled activists have worked hard to get laws passed that protect our civil rights, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. And we have worked equally hard to educate our colleagues and other employers by example. You might run into more open-mindedness than you think. A lot of us have been working hard to pave the way for you.
3. You Gotta Have Skills
Regardless of how hard you work to venture outside your comfort zone and how much the disability rights movement has paved your way, when the rubber meets the road, you gotta have skills. If you do land a job and you can’t efficiently perform the same tasks as your colleagues, you probably won’t keep that job very long, and, if you do, you’re unlikely to advance within your organization.
In my situation my job required many different skill sets. I needed to be able to do effective research both online and with print media. I needed to be able to use the computer to communicate with colleagues, constituents, and other stakeholders and to write letters, emails, and memos. I needed to be able to travel independently to meetings both on and off Capitol Hill. I needed to be able to take concise, effective notes in meetings with constituents and lobbyists. I also needed to be able to access the information on the handouts and reports the constituents and lobbyists gave me in these meetings.
On a more abstract level, but just as important, I needed to be able to walk into a meeting and both put people at ease and get them to take me seriously. That was one of my biggest fears when I first started taking meetings on my own. The first time I walked into a meeting with about ten school superintendents and school board presidents, all very distinguished people in their forties, fifties, and sixties with over twenty or thirty years of experience, I was terrified that they were all thinking, “Who is this twenty-something little blind girl fresh out of college? We have to meet with her?” So besides actual concrete skills, I had to have at least some people and relationship skills.
Furthermore, as a blind person I had to have a good set of self-advocacy skills. Our office had never had a blind employee before, so I had to tell them what kind of technology I needed, where they could procure it, and how I would be able to handle other tasks like reading the huge amount of mail that came across my desk, giving tours of the US Capitol Building, and shepherding VIP constituents wherever they needed to go. The other staffers believed I could do all these things, but they had no idea how. It was my responsibility as an employee to figure out how I would get things done and communicate any needs I had to the appropriate people.
It’s up to you how you choose to acquire these skills and what exact combination of visual and nonvisual techniques you use, but all blind job-seekers need to ask themselves some serious questions and strive to answer them honestly. Do you have good blindness skills, good relationship skills, and good self-advocacy skills? How will you handle it when your boss dumps a stack of papers on your desk and tells you he needs a report on them by tomorrow? How will you deal with traveling to meetings in unfamiliar destinations with little advance notice? Do you get along and relate easily with people? Are you currently able to advocate effectively for yourself without calling on your parents or disabled student services staff? How will you explain your abilities and your needs to your colleagues, supervisors, and clients in a way that is clear and confident but not defensive or confrontational?
Whether you use visual or nonvisual techniques, whether you acquire your skills through a training center or home-based rehabilitation program or you pick them up from your family and friends, you need to make sure that you are physically and relationally capable of handling the day-to-day grind of a typical workplace.
In conclusion, getting and keeping a job takes a lot of work. Acquiring the prerequisite skills, venturing outside our comfort zones, advocating for ourselves and others with disabilities, and educating our employers and colleagues on a personal level can take a lot of time and effort. However, I can honestly say that nothing is more fulfilling than having a job you love.
From the Editor: No one has much free time during NFB conventions, but the Orlando Chamber of Commerce has some ideas of things to do if you are coming early or staying after the convention. We have gathered together some of their suggestions as well as the names and contact information for restaurants in the general area. We also threw in listings for a few transportation companies. We hope you find this helpful.
Blue Man Group Orlando
Now Performing. Come experience the eclectic mix of live music, imaginative percussion instruments, and unexpected humor of Blue Man Group at Universal Orlando Resort.
Bok Tower Gardens
Enjoy the beauty and serenity of 250 acres of Olmsted-designed gardens, majestic 205-foot-tall belltower, sixty-bell carillon. Mediterranean Revival mansion, nature preserve, museum exhibits. National Historic Landmark. Café and Gift shop.
Dinosaur World has over a hundred-fifty lifesize model dinosaurs in lush natural surroundings. Enjoy a picnic, examine real dinosaur eggs, and shop for unique treasures.
Nature-based theme park featuring alligators, crocodiles, and a variety of animals. Florida's best train ride. Three exciting shows. Central Florida's largest wading bird sanctuary.
Holy Land Experience
Visit the gateway to ancient Jerusalem at Orlando's unique destination. Explore the world of the Bible at the Holy Land Experience. Open Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Sundays.
Orlando Science Center
There is something new to discover around every corner at the Orlando Science Center. Explore hands-on exhibits, live shows, and giant screen movies the whole family can enjoy together.
Ripley's Believe It or Not! Orlando Odditorium
Explore an amazing variety of weird and unusual exhibits, artifacts, and displays in sixteen galleries that pay tribute to the odd, bizarre, and unbelievable!
Guided tours led by Captain Smith, Molly Brown, and other Titanic notables. Full-scale recreation of the Grand Staircase and more. Authentic artifact & historical treasures. A brand new interactive dive area and captains bridge.
WonderWorks is an amusement park for the mind with over a hundred interactive exhibits for visitors to experience.
If you need transportation while you are in Orlando, contact one of these companies:
Please reserve our affordable chauffeur driven car, SUV, or van. Our policy is privacy, safety, and professionalism. We guarantee reliable, clean vehicles. We serve 24/7.
Travel in comfort and style with ExecuCar. Our comfortable luxury sedans are your private ride to or from the airport, business meeting, social event, or anywhere else in town, twenty-four hours a day. Or, try Express by SuperShuttle for convenient, affordable, nonstop service to or from Orlando area airports.
Diamond Cab Company
Twenty-four-hour, radio dispatched transportation including taxi cabs, shuttles, or unmarked sedans to and from all destinations, including the Orlando Sanford International Airport.
Associated Transportation of Florida
Orlando is a vacation destination, so it has many restaurants to tempt every palate and pocketbook.
Enjoy breakfast or dinner in a relaxed, comfortable environment with daily breakfast buffet. Prime rib and crab leg buffet on Saturday or choose from a balanced, varied menu featuring the best of innovative contemporary cuisine.
Augustine's Bar and Grille
Located in Wyndham Orlando Resort, this is one of the best dining values in Orlando. Check out our breakfast buffet or dinner specials.
Located in the Peabody Hotel, Orlando. Beautiful diner featuring favorites from years gone by and creations for today's trends. Full take-out window. Four menu changes daily. Open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Brick House Tavern and Tap
Diverse selection, over 70 beers. Elevated American fare. Most important, personalized hospitality that only our Brickhouse girls can provide. Outside patios with firepit.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant
Located at Universal City Walk, the restaurant captures the down-home feeling audiences took away from Paramount Pictures' classic film, Forrest Gump. Enjoy shrimp, seafood, and American classics in a fun, casual, family atmosphere.
Buffalo Wild Wings–International Drive
More than just a NY wing joint with fourteen signature sauces. Sports bar with complete menu. Salads to appetizers to burgers. Come feel comfortable, and stay as long as you like.
Located in the Rosen Centre Hotel. Family and casual dining. Buffet and menu service, three meals daily. Prime rib buffet nightly. Conveniently located near the Convention Center.
Located in the Rosen Plaza Hotel, all-you-care-to-eat buffet and a la carte service. Three meals daily. Sunday Brunch. Conveniently located near the Convention Center.
Copper Canyon Grill
Walking distance from the Convention Center. Semi-private group accommodations including a wine room and huge covered patio with bar. Buyouts welcome. Please contact [email protected] for more information.
Located at the Rosen Centre Hotel, feast on prime steaks and fresh Florida seafood. Explore the incredible flavors of gator chowder, wild boar, venison pepper steak, and other unique regional specialties.
Fuddruckers at Festival Bay
Diners enjoy freshly baked buns and a range of burgers prepared to taste. Booth and table seating. Diner-like feel. Patrons load up tasty toppings including fresh produce, variety of sauces/condiments.
Floribbean outdoor restaurant—the perfect place to relax with an open view of the pool and nature. Oversize salads, sandwiches, and drinks, like "swamp" water are served daily.
Golden Corral Buffet and Grill–International Drive
The largest and best breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet and grill available anywhere. Buffet includes steaks, pastas, pizzas, fresh vegetables, full salad bar, desserts, and hand-carved meats everyday.
Hard Rock Orlando
World-renowned restaurant just outside Universal Studios Florida, featuring the largest collection of Rock 'n' Roll memorabilia and classic American fare. We have group dining and a private room available.
Hooters of Pointe Orlando, Inc.
Let the world famous Hooters Girls show you why Hooters has grown to international proportions. Now serving cocktails, Hooters celebrates twenty-five years of serving up delicious wings, burgers, salads, seafood, and more. Come by, hang with the Hooters Girls, have a cold one, and enjoy the view.
A new theme restaurant serving baby back ribs, Santa Fe style chicken served over linguini, and black angus steak. Excellent jambalaya and hot caramel apple pie. Pleasant service and a stress-free atmosphere.
J. Alexander's Restaurant
J. Alexander's is a casual dining restaurant with a contemporary American menu. Providing our guests with the highest quality food and extraordinary service are the cornerstones of our concept.
Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville
A mecca for "Parrotheads" or for anyone who wants to have a good time and a great meal in the ultimate tropical setting. The signature Volcano Bar features a volcano exploding with margarita mix.
The Kitchen at Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort is home to rock 'n' roll celebrity chefs who dish out one hit after another.
Miller's I-Drive Ale House
The comfortable atmosphere of a neighborhood bar and grill. Eighty-five TV's, three bars, and seventy-five beers. Menu focusing on freshness and value. Group dining available on our 5,000 sq. ft. patio.
NASCAR Sports Grille
NASCAR Sports Grille is a world-class gathering place for the tremendously loyal NASCAR faithful and anyone with a passion for sports, great food, and an exciting action-packed experience.
NBA City, twice voted Orlando's Best Theme Restaurant, is the only place where award-winning food, fan-tastic interactive games, and authentic NBA flavor take you courtside.
O'Charley's is the fastest growing casual dining restaurant in the U.S. with over 230 restaurants known for unsliceably soft rolls, freshly prepared steaks, seafood, chicken, and salads.
Casually sophisticated fresh grill featuring a seasonally inspired menu and international wine list. Groups welcome. Event dining includes family-style or customized menus.
Sharky & Jacks Bar and Grille
Casual dining with a Caribbean flavor. Good food, good drinks, and good friends. Dinner and happy hour specials daily.
Sweet Tomatoes Restaurant–International Drive
Featuring two 55-foot salad bars brimming with vegetables and fresh salads, made-from-scratch soups, freshly baked warm muffins, hot pastas, frozen yogurt with toppings, and much more.
New look, same great food. Still serving favorites such as our Jack Daniels Grill items. Private room accommodates 75-100, special menu available for parties.
Timpano Italian Chophouse by E-Brands Restaurants
Reviving the big city dining experience with award-winning Italian cuisine. Private dining from fifteen to four hundred. Outdoor dining on Lakeview Terrace. Buyouts available. Close to Convention Center.
Uno Chicago Grill
Our legendary pizzas are just the beginning. Enjoy our perfectly seasoned steaks, pastas, seafood, Chicago's Original Deep Dish Pizza, relaxing bar, and much more.
Amura Japanese Steak House & High Definition Sushi
Upscale contemporary restaurant serving traditional Japanese cuisine with French infusion. Pepper steak, largest sushi bar in Orlando, full liquor.
Dragonfly-Robata Grill & Sushi
We are a modern twist on Japanese style tapas, featuring a full sake bar, Robata grill and sushi. Live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights.
Emeril's Tchoup Chop
Chef Emeril Lagasse's seventh restaurant. Featuring Asian and Polynesian food, complemented by Chef Emeril's signature bold flavors. Located at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando. Open daily for dinner from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Also open for weekday lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Sunday brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Kobe Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar
Ming Court–The Art of Oriental Cuisine
Orlando’s most popular Oriental restaurant featuring innovative Dim Sum, sushi, wok, and char-grill cuisine. Live music nightly. Family-style service, value pricing, and casual dress. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Traditional Japanese cuisine with fresh seafood and steaks in a contemporary and upscale setting. Amenities include a full sushi bar, robust wine and liquor selection, and private dining.
Shogun Japanese Steakhouse
For a unique dining experience, join us at Shogun for the best steak, chicken, and seafood in Orlando. Watch as your own personal chef cooks right at your table.
Simple elegance and perfect design. Finest fish from Japan and Hawaii ensures the highest quality of sushi. We give the diner a true taste of Japan's wonderful cuisine.
Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando, A Loews Hotel, immerses guests in the tropical enchantment of the South Pacific. The Wantilan Luau features exciting Polynesian entertainment and new wave Pacific Rim cuisine.
Westgate Smokehouse Grill at Westgate Lakes Resort and Spa
Located at Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa, the Smokehouse Grill serves up cowboy-sized portions of lip-smackin’ good steaks, BBQ ribs, pork, and more.
Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery
Sports Bar Pub & Restaurant with a widely varied menu. Indoor and outdoor patio bar with big screen and plasma TVs featuring all your favorite sports programming.
Emeril's Restaurant Orlando, located at Universal Orlando's CityWalk, specializes in a blend of Creole, Cajun, and American gourmet. We are open for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday to Saturday from 5 to 10:30 p.m. We are also open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Fat Fish Blue
Unique dining: Louisiana-infused, American fare. Live music, walking distance to Convention Center, Pointe Orlando, three meeting spaces, buy-outs, and home to Improv Comedy Club.
Close to Convention Center and area attractions. Highly select gourmet menu featuring rack of lamb and blackened grouper. Casual elegance.
Funky Monkey Wine Company
Local independently owned restaurant that offers a variety of sushi, seafood, steak, amazing wine, beer, and saki selections. Private dining, buyouts, and outside patio.
Contemporary Indian cuisine. Lunch and Dinner daily. Offsite venue w/large outside covered patio can accommodate groups up to 439.
BRAVO! Cucina Italian Restaurant
We offer lunch, dinner, and kid's menu daily along with an extensive Italian wine list and a variety of pizza, pasta, and other Italian specialties.
Italian bistro serving a variety of delicious dinner entrees, featuring a presentation-cooking bar, where guests can watch our chefs skillfully prepare their culinary delights.
Maggiano's Little Italy
Maggiano's Little Italy specializes in Italian-American cuisine made from scratch daily. We offer lunch, dinner, and carryout service.
Casual dining Italian restaurant. Serves lunch and dinner. Private dining space available.
Vinito Ristorante offers fine Italian cuisine at reasonable prices. Located at the Prime Outlet Mall with private room, two exterior patios and inviting bar. Come visit us.
Café Tu Tu Tango
An all-appetizer, multi-cultural eatery resembling an artist loft in Barcelona, Spain. Featuring local artists and spontaneous entertainment. Come in and join the party.
Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar
Open air, tropical ambiance, upbeat Latin music, salsa dancing, and floorshows, traditional and updated Cuban cuisine, signature mojitos, and a selection of over seventy rums.
A concept founded on the premise of simplicity and consistency, Bonefish Grill is a popular destination for those looking for a high-quality dining experience within a manageable price range.
Boston Lobster Feast–International Drive
World famous lobster and seafood buffet. All the lobster, prime rib, sushi, and crab legs you can eat, with over fifty other items on our incredible seafood feast.
Serving excellent quality seafood in a casual, lively atmosphere. Entrees range from fresh fish to over a half-dozen different types of crab to steak and pasta combinations...all-you-can-eat seafood and salad bar.
Lombard's Seafood Grille at Universal Studios Florida®
You can't visit the famous winding street, but you can sample some San Francisco style food. Stop in for a great selection of lobster, seafood, sandwiches, steak, and pasta. Or check out the Pastry Shop for a tasty treat.
Oceanaire Seafood Room Orlando
As sleek as an ocean liner, yet as relaxed as dinner on the shore, the Oceanaire Seafood Room provides the perfect setting to enjoy fresh seafood flown in daily from around the world.
Red Lobster at the Convention Center–International Drive
Red Lobster at the Convention Center–International Drive offers the freshest, best-tasting seafood at a friendly price. It features an award-winning menu with healthy selections, traditional favorites, and an activity booklet/menu for kids.
BB King's Blues Club
Dining, dancing, fun atmosphere with a southern menu and hospitality that can accommodate 700 seated guests. Full restaurant, bar, and live music, seven days a week. Perfect venue for private parties, banquets, and receptions.
A Land Remembered
Upscale steakhouse named after Patrick Smith's novel featuring Florida's historical moments and landscapes, offering Harris Ranch all natural Black Angus Beef and classic American favorites.
Bahama Breeze Island Grille–International Drive
At Bahama Breeze you can leave the cares of the world behind as you enjoy incredible food and tropical drinks in a carefree island atmosphere.
At the Capital Grille enjoy dry-aged steaks, chops, and fresh seafood acclaimed by the nation's toughest food critics and an award-winning collection of over 400 wines.
Located in Rosen Plaza Hotel, dine where celebrities hang around. Signed caricatures of the world's most notable surround you as you dine on aged mid-western beef and fresh seafood.
Morton's The Steakhouse
Award-winning restaurant famous for a signature menu and perfectly broiled USDA prime aged beef, fresh seafood, vegetables, and elegant desserts.
Renowned for its world-famous steaks and jumbo lobsters, the Palm is more than just a great restaurant, it's a celebration.
Ponderosa Steakhouse–International Drive
Featuring our famous all-you-care-to-eat grand buffet. Serving steak, chicken, and seafood in a family-style dining atmosphere.
Ruth's Chris Steak House
We serve only the best U.S. Prime, the top 2% of U.S. beef, as well as the freshest seafood, chicken, lamb chops, and more. Private dining room available.
Sizzler Restaurant–International Drive
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Hand-cut steaks, chicken, fresh seafood. Children's menu. All-you-can-eat fresh fruit and salad bar. Beer and wine. Banquet room and group rates.
Offering an assortment of dishes served family-style or a-la-carte, ranging from seafood samplers to grilled lamb chops and vegetarian stuffed peppers. This unique venue includes nightly entertainment of belly dancing and live DJ.
Texas de Brazil–Brazilian Steakhouse
Texas de Brazil is a Brazilian-American steakhouse featuring a sixty-item gourmet salad area and seasoned cuts of beef, lamb, pork, chicken, and sausage—all flame-grilled to perfection.
More than great ribs. Crispy fresh salads, mouth-watering char-grilled steaks, juicy BBQ chicken, pastas, and delicious seafood make up a menu sure to please every guest. Convenient I-Drive location.
by Brianna Lillyman
From the Editor: The following remarks were delivered by Brianna Lillyman at the NFB of Illinois convention in 2010. They were published in the Winter 2011 issue of the Braille Examiner, a publication of the NFB of Illinois. The NFB Jernigan Institute is raising the expectations of blind young people one student, one program, at a time. If you wonder what difference the NFB is making, read on:
I'm sixteen and a junior in high school. When people hear that I'm sixteen, they typically ask, "Do you have your driver's license yet?" I have to answer no. But now, thanks to the NFB, I have the confidence to say, "Not yet." [Laughter and applause]
Because of the NFB I have had opportunities to travel and have met some incredible people. The most important thing that the NFB has done for me is to instill the belief that I am capable of doing anything I want, despite my blindness. I had my first experience with the NFB when I was eleven years old and attended a summer camp. Since that time I have attended several other NFB camps and programs, the most recent being the Youth Leadership Program at NFB headquarters in Baltimore last February. This is my second state convention.
The summer camp I attended when I was eleven was the first time I ever met other blind people. It had been a hard year because I had just lost a significant amount of vision. I didn't expect the camp leaders, speakers, and mentors to be blind. I was inspired by their confidence and competence and by the competence of the other campers my age. I was extremely jealous of their ability to read Braille. I realized right away that Braille would be an asset for me. I would be able to read without getting headaches or having to rely on other people to read to me.
I requested Braille instruction at my first IEP meeting when I was a freshman in high school. It was a battle, but after two years I finally began Braille lessons early this year. [Applause] I've put a lot of effort into learning it. I'm still not very fluent, but I like to show off my skills.
My trip to Baltimore this past February was the first time I ever traveled without a parent. I hate flying, and I was really nervous. It was worse still when we were told that our flight had been canceled, and the only way for us to get to Baltimore would be to take a flight to Florida and catch another flight from there to Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. From Dulles, Katie and I would have to be responsible for getting a cab to Baltimore.
It was a very stressful experience, and there were moments when I thought we would never get there. The worst moment came when the cab driver asked me to program his GPS. I told him I couldn't because I couldn't see it. You'd have thought that my cane would tip him off, but I guess he just didn't expect two blind people to be traveling by themselves. He spent an extra thirty minutes driving in circles trying to find the Center. Overall, I'm proud of the way I handled that trip. I knew it would have been easier to stay home, but we finally got where we wanted to go.
Through the NFB I have done a lot of things that have been both challenging and exciting, things I never thought I could do. I have witnessed other blind people doing things I always assumed couldn't be done without vision. Involvement in the NFB has helped me overcome the stigma of blindness. So this past spring, when I went on a trip for blind youth sponsored by a non-NFB group, I was shocked. The sighted chaperones guided my peers around, not requiring them to use their canes. They did not treat them with the respect I believe a blind person, or any person, deserves. All of the kids on the trip were great people, but, because of the way they had been educated, they were not independent or confident in themselves. During that trip I kept hearing, "I can't, because I'm blind." The other kids were shocked when I talked about the things I had done. They were surprised that I have been involved in theater and school plays, but to me that is not a big deal. They couldn't believe that I figure skate. I wonder what their reaction will be when they hear that I'm learning to synchronize skate?
The attitudes of those kids make me sad. I know they just haven't heard about all the opportunities that are out there. After being involved in the NFB over the years, I have come to take that message for granted. I expect all blind people to strive for independence and to demand respect. But the fact is that many blind people view themselves as incapable, and lots of sighted people, a huge number, are ignorant of blind people's capabilities.
On that trip I realized how important it is to get other blind people involved with the NFB. I know that the NFB can be the greatest ally for someone who is struggling with the loss of vision as I was. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had and the things I have learned. Some day I hope I can pay it forward.
by Michael Hingson
From the Editor: It is amazing to me how quickly the newness wears off of the new and how quickly the bar is raised for something to be called truly amazing. I cannot look at a reading machine without marveling at how it does its magic. After many years feeling page after page of undifferentiated smooth sheets and wishing I could determine what they said without waiting for a reader or a family member with enough time to assist me, I can’t help reacting with excitement when talking about the marvelous combination of machine and instructions that together can look at a page, convert its ink shapes into letters, figure out how to pronounce the words made from them, and to do so with speed and accuracy.
The first book I ever read with a reading machine was H. R. Haldeman’s book The Ends of Power, which was written during the Watergate era when the country was in crisis because of a war we couldn’t win and a president driven from office by his own excesses. Going to the library, getting the book, and reading it while it was still being actively discussed at the Student Union building was exhilarating. The problem was that this fantastic machine wasn’t in my home, and, truth be told, for all it did in letting me read that first book, there were many layouts and fonts it couldn’t read.
I moved to another city to finish my degree, and the print was once again invisible without a human reader. When, if ever, would the cost of a machine be within my reach? Given my budget, the answer was two decades, and then came the purchase of a computer, a scanner, and some software that let me back into the public library. I have been a heavy reader of print since then and have scanned nearly a hundred books, some of which appear on Bookshare for any other blind person to read. The freedom to read print was mine when I was at home, but, if I went to a play or concert and they gave me a program, it was still just slick paper with secrets it would not reveal until after the show. Then came the knfbReader, a device costing less than the computer, software, and scanner I had first used, and fitting in my shirt pocket. Suddenly I could read the quickly generated memo that had been prepared for a work meeting but not early enough to send it to me ahead of time. I could go to the shared printer and take away documents, knowing they belonged to me. I could go to a restaurant and read the menu without feeling pressured to make a quick decision so the waitress could go about serving other customers.
The magical and affordable little device that now lets me read anywhere is the knfbReader. Here is what Michael Hingson has to say about how you too can have one in your pocket:
It has been three-and-a-half years since the long-awaited announcement that the world's first totally portable reading machine for the blind, the knfbReader Mobile, was available for purchase. What an exciting time! Not only could blind people take a small device out of their pockets or purses and read virtually any printed material, but they could also use it as a cell phone with some of the leading mobile phone carriers in the United States.
In December 2008 the National Federation of the Blind took a hand in selling this wonderful product. President Maurer asked me to coordinate the sales efforts, and eventually we brought United States sales into my company, the Michael Hingson Group, Inc. Since the inception of our sales efforts on behalf of the NFB, we have sold nearly 500 knfbReader Mobile systems and have become the master distributor for the product in the United States for K-NFB Reading Technologies.
During the past two-and-a-half years I have been and continue to be asked a number of questions which lead me to believe that people still have basic misconceptions about what the knfbReader Mobile is and is not. I thought it was time to set the record straight and to help people understand why I think they should take advantage of purchasing this device. Below are some of the questions and answers I think will help all of us better appreciate why the knfbReader Mobile can be an invaluable tool for us.
1. What is the knfbReader Mobile, and what does it do?
The knfbReader Mobile is an integrated system usually consisting of one of several cell phones, Mobile Reader software, and screen-reading software for use with the cell phone’s other functions. The Mobile Reader software is an OCR (optical character recognition) TTS (text-to-speech) Symbian application that enables the camera to take pictures of printed material, convert those images into text files, and then read them aloud. The software gives the user full control over what is read and how it will be read, including reading word by word, sentence by sentence, and even character by character.
2. Since the knfbReader Mobile software runs on a cell phone, do I need cellular service in order to use the Reader?
Absolutely not. When the Reader software was being written, Ray Kurzweil and his team determined that it would be possible to write the software to operate on some brands of cell phones, thereby eliminating the need to create special hardware. There seems to be, however, a lot of confusion about the fact that you do not need to use the cell phone as a cell phone in order to read. The fact is that the knfbReader Mobile software uses the cell phone’s computer, camera, and speaker, but not its telephone capabilities. Since the cell phones used by the knfbReader Mobile software are not supported on all cellular networks, some people will not have the luxury of taking advantage of the cell phone capabilities of the hardware supported by the Reader while others will be able to use the system as both a reading device and a cell phone.
3. Are there ever updates to the Reader software?
Yes. From time to time K-NFB Reading Technologies releases new software with updates to the Reader. For example, in the middle of last year new software was released that added a "tilt" feature to the knfbReader Mobile. By using this new feature, users can ensure that the phone camera looks straight down at the page during the image capture or picture-taking process. The result is a page that can be better read and understood. From time to time new software is released that has support for new phones that are found to work with the knfbReader Mobile.
4. When will the knfbReader Mobile work with the iPhone?
Given the popularity of the iPhone, we are frequently asked this question. All we can say is that it will happen, but we do not know exactly when. Many other software packages have been released for the iPhone which purport to be able to perform accurate optical character recognition and whose developers say that their products will work for blind people. The fact is that none of these products work well on the iPhone. Some people have purchased and are using these apps on their iPhones, albeit with a great deal of difficulty or with limitations compared to what can be accomplished with the knfbReader Mobile today. Some of the iPhone apps available are extremely cheap, but you get what you pay for. The knfbReader Mobile will be released as an iPhone app only when the product can offer the same level of independent reading enjoyed today by knfbReader Mobile users with supported phones. The knfbReader Mobile is still the only truly portable reading device that provides full independent-reading capabilities for all blind people.
5. Is financing available to purchase the knfbReader Mobile?
The National Federation of the Blind has a technology loan fund that can be used by blind people to fund the purchase of the knfbReader Mobile and, for that matter, other assistive technology they may wish to purchase. The interest rate offered by the NFB Technology Loan Fund is 3 percent. This is vastly better than the interest rate offered by most credit cards. If anyone is interested in exploring the Loan Fund as a way to purchase the Reader, please visit <http://knfbreader.michaelhingson.com>. On the front page of this Website is a link entitled "New Online Loan Application." Simply complete the application form, including answering the security question at the bottom, and then submit it. You will be contacted by a member of the loan committee.
Again this year we will be demonstrating and selling the knfbReader Mobile at the NFB national convention in Orlando. If you would like to purchase the knfbReader Mobile at the convention but can do so only by using the NFB Loan Fund, I urge you to submit an application now and indicate on it that you would like to pick up your Reader at the convention. The loan committee will do all it can to process applications received from people wishing to acquire their Readers in Orlando.
In addition to the loan application, the Website mentioned above contains a number of recordings of conference calls with hints and tips about how to use the knfbReader Mobile. The tutorial and other documentation provided with the Reader can also be found on the Website. Finally, a list of phones and some pricing can be found there.
Speaking of pricing, the cost of the product does change from time to time as we secure new phone pricing. The best way to find out the most current price is to call me or one of the other dealers who are part of the Michael Hingson Group, Inc. I can be reached at (415) 827-4084, or emailing me at <[email protected]>. A list of our current dealers is located on our Website.
Earlier this year the Blind Driver Challenge showed us a new road toward independent driving by blind people. As exciting and trailblazing as this new technology is, we still have quite a way to go before the average blind person can drive a car down the street. Today, however, any of us can take our knfbReader Mobiles into a restaurant, a library, a doctor's office, or anywhere else and read virtually anything that is handed to us. This is as good as it gets. We, the blind of the United States, were an integral part of the development and introduction of the knfbReader Mobile. If you have not yet purchased your Reader, I urge you to join the technology revolution and go totally globally mobile by calling us and getting your own knfbReader Mobile.
From the Editor: From time to time Miss Whozit answers reader questions about etiquette and good manners, particularly as they involve blindness. If you would like to pose a question to Miss Whozit, you can send it to the attention of Gary Wunder, 200 E Wells Street at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, or email me at <[email protected]>. I will pass the questions along. Letters may be edited for space and clarity. It has been several years since we reprinted Miss Whozit’s June 2005 advice about convention etiquette, so here it is again, along with some additional advice on the same subject:
Dear Miss Whozit,
Would you please reprint your article about courtesy rules at convention? I am looking forward to our convention this summer, but I am always scared someone is going to get hurt, especially trying to get on the elevators before everyone has gotten off. We love your column.
Excited about Convention
Miss Whozit would be delighted to reprint the column from the June 2005 Braille Monitor. To prevent confusion about where we are going and what hotel we will occupy, she has brought those references up to date. Happily what Miss Whozit said about etiquette in spring 2005 has not become outdated, and she trusts it never will. Here is the column:
Dear Miss Whozit,
I will be attending my second convention this summer. I am generally looking forward to it because my experience last year was like nothing I had ever imagined, and as a result I have grown and changed this year. But several things last year bothered me. And since these all fall into the area of etiquette and good manners, I thought I would list them for you in the hope that you will give us all some pointers.
The first thing has to do with tipping. I have not traveled much, so I am never sure whom to tip and who is just offering to help me because it is convenient but not part of his or her job. I know to tip a skycap who walks with me out to my gate, but what about cabin crew members who are going my way and offer to walk with me? Unless they mention who they are, I can’t tell these folks from other passengers. I don’t want to insult people, but I also don’t want people who depend on tips to go away thinking I am cheap or an object of pity. I gather that I should tip the skycap who checks me in at curbside, but surely not the clerk behind the desk inside who does the same thing. And how much is enough?
At the hotel I know to tip the bell staff whenever they do anything for me, but what about housekeeping when they bring extra hangers or towels? How about the engineer who fixes the dripping toilet or the air conditioning? Some people tip the staff who clean the room at the end of a long hotel stay. Is this expected, and if so, how much is appropriate? You get the idea.
The other big thing that worries me at convention is the way some conventioneers act in large crowds. I am equally shocked by the way some people use their canes—more like spears or whips than as tools for checking whether the path ahead is clear—and the seeming obliviousness of some dog users. I was told about a dog that snatched a steak off a stranger’s plate with the fork still in the meat, and the handler did not do anything about the situation. My own room was covered in dog hair after a Federationist visited me with a dog who had obviously not been groomed properly. I know that dogs are going to have accidents under the stress that a convention causes them, but don’t users know when this happens? It seems to me that courtesy would demand that the person stand guard over the mess until someone can get there to clean it up.
Finally, Miss Whozit, please talk to us about elevator etiquette. Frankly I am going to see if I can get a room on a low floor this year so that I can walk up and down the steps rather than risking life and limb in the elevator lobby. I talked to a man who uses a wheelchair and who told me that someone once sat down in his lap in an elevator without asking permission. On the other hand I have been in elevator cars in which some people purposely stood close to the front and told people outside that the car was full when it was not, just because they did not want to stand close to other people and figured that the blind people outside the door wouldn’t know that they were lying.
I don’t enjoy being packed in like a sardine either, but at convention we just have to make each elevator trip as efficient as possible. Can you set down some rules of elevator etiquette?
Mystified at Rude Behavior
Miss Whozit is glad to hear that you are planning to attend your second national convention. Perhaps this response will help ease the way for this year’s convention for you and others in the movement.
Knowing what and whom to tip is an ongoing question for many people. Basic rules for tipping should be kept in mind when traveling and eating out. Tipping gives the customer an opportunity to reward those who provide service, and this income is essential to the people who provide those services—waitresses, bellhops, skycaps, and taxi drivers. Remember that your tipping habits not only reflect your professionalism but also contribute to your receiving more attentive service, a cleaner room, or a better table.
Tipping does not have hard and fast rules, but there are some general guidelines: When service is exceptional, tip more. When it is not good, tip less and explain why, either directly to the service provider or to that person’s manager.
Here are some basic guidelines for tipping. The amount can vary by city, region, or country:
As important as tipping an appropriate amount is showing respect for those who help you function more efficiently and comfortably. Smart businesspeople know that respecting and tipping service personnel is a reflection not only of their appreciation of the help they receive but of their own professionalism as well.
Your dilemma concerning the cabin crew member who is going your way and offers to walk with you to the gate is interesting. Initially the person’s role may not be clear. You may be uncertain whether a person is merely going your way or feels compelled to extend service beyond his responsibilities. You can determine his job by asking a few discreet questions as you are walking to your gate or destination. The conversation can begin with some basic introductory information. Initiate the conversation by volunteering your first name and destination and inquiring for the same information from him.
If, during the course of the walk you realize that he is going out of his way to walk with you, you have a couple of options. If you are grateful for the company and you believe your companion is happy to take the detour, accept the assistance graciously and part company at your gate with warm thanks. If on the other hand you are confident of your skills, thank him and assure him that you would hate to inconvenience him by having him go out of his way. Bid him good day and carry on in the correct direction. It is important for the person to know that you are confident. Your actions will underscore this message, which in turn will provide an illustration of your statement.
Often, but not always, this strategy works for Miss Whozit. No matter how confidently we travel or how self-assured we are, sometimes people feel a responsibility to provide more assistance than we either need or want. In such cases Miss Whozit suggests that the overly helpful person be offered a monetary tip, which clearly expresses the blind person’s view of the assistance being offered. Whenever possible, during the walk to the destination, she tries to instill a bit of education about the abilities of blind people, and, because Miss Whozit is never without several Kernel Books, she can present would-be rescuers with a book and hope they will read it and come to understand more fully the capabilities of blind people. The demands of civility always require that we make reasonable efforts not to offend a member of the public who is merely trying to be helpful, so the way we address the issues surrounding blindness is of the utmost importance. At the same time we must be confident in our skills and present ourselves positively. It may help to remember that the way members of a minority population present themselves inevitably has either a positive or negative impact on the way the general public views other members of that group. This truth should inspire us all to be both courteous and clear about what assistance we need.
As for maneuvering through crowds at convention, you are correct that often people do not use their canes appropriately. Proper cane technique is important in order to travel safely and efficiently. If used properly, the long cane will pick up drop-offs, textural differences, steps, openings, closed areas, and so on. The cane should be kept in close contact with the floor. Almost never should it be more than one to two inches off the floor, and it should never be slid along the wall to detect openings or to find a chair or bench. Keeping the cane just above the floor in the two-point touch or tap-and-slide techniques will provide all the information one needs to travel safely and efficiently throughout the convention.
When one is standing in line or waiting, the long cane should be held vertically in front of and close to the user until he or she is ready to stride out. And always remember, when traveling in a crowd, that using the pencil grip is the easiest, safest, and most courteous way to gather appropriate information for the size steps you are taking while not posing a hazard to oncoming traffic. Basic cane etiquette ensures safe travel and allows cane users to be efficient and considerate. If you are not certain about some of these techniques, stop any good traveler at convention and ask for a quick demonstration. We have all polished our skills by observing others and asking their advice.
Ah, the ghost of conventions past rears its head again to whisper the rumor of the missing steak. For many years this has been an oft-told tale, but Miss Whozit suspects it of being an urban legend. She has not been able to verify or deny whether the maid did it with the candelabra or whether the guide dog did it because he too likes good meat. Either way the trusty guide dog often receives a raw deal. So in order to reinforce what we know to be true about good guide dog handling, remember to follow the basic etiquette. A good guide dog handler knows that he or she is responsible for the care and upkeep of the dog. The handler should bathe the dog frequently, groom it daily, and make every effort to see that a trail of dog hair is not left behind. If you receive a visit from someone using a guide dog that leaves more than a few hairs, in the best interests of your friend and other guide dog users you should tactfully bring the problem to the person’s attention. If the information is presented as useful data rather than criticism, it should be well received and Miss Whozit hopes will serve as a reminder to groom the dog regularly.
Remaining beside an accident is of the utmost importance. Convention goers who work their guide dogs daily will know their dogs’ movements and habits and will be prepared to take responsibility for any accidents that occur. If the worst happens, the handler should remain at the scene until someone from the relief area comes to clean up. Convention goers should remember that this clean-up is not the responsibility of hotel staff; it is the primary responsibility of the handler with the assistance of the relief area staff. The handler must always be conscious of the relief schedule of his or her dog. Plan your schedule so that you allow plenty of time to accommodate the needs of the guide dog. The guide dog is doing her job, and guide dog handlers should do their jobs by being responsive and responsible to the needs of the dog.
Last but not least is elevator etiquette, which is plain and simple travel etiquette. Whether you decide to use escalators or elevators, common courtesy must be observed. First of all, if you are boarding an elevator, the first point of elevator etiquette is to allow the people on the elevator to exit without having to push through those waiting to board. When the elevator arrives, those waiting to board should step aside, allowing those exiting to leave without fear of losing life or limb or, even worse, not being able to exit the elevator at all. Often convention goers stand, nose to the door, waiting to board, refusing to budge. This only delays the flow of traffic.
When boarding the elevator, use your cane to sweep the area you are about to enter, using the pencil grip to determine whether or not there is room. If there is, swiftly step inside, turn to face the elevator door, press the button for the floor you wish to exit, and wait. If a crowd has filled the elevator, step in as far as you can without crushing the person next to you. Always make sure you turn to face the door. If you are using a guide dog, pull your dog in as close as possible to you. This is not the time to release the harness—allowing your dog to sniff the skirt of the woman next to you.
Miss Whozit wishes all convention attendees a wonderful and educational week in Orlando, and she assures everyone that, if we all practice civility and good manners whenever we are in crowds, the convention will be a more pleasant and gracious experience for us all.
Dear Miss Whozit,
I am beginning to make lists of what to pack for convention in July, so I hope you can resolve a disagreement I am having with another member of my chapter. He maintains that, since ours is a convention of blind people, it doesn’t matter how casually or even sloppily we dress because most people won’t see us. I couldn’t disagree more, if for no other reason than our self-respect. Which of us is right?
On another matter, am I being intolerant by resenting the chorus of talking watches that loudly announce the time during otherwise quiet convention meetings or speeches? I know that Braille and print watch users check the time when they are getting bored or are worried about getting to their next appointment, but they are at least silent when they do so. Is it rude to introduce an audible reminder of the time in a public gathering, or is this merely a reasonable accommodation that we must all resign ourselves to?
Running out of Patience
Miss Whozit applauds your embrace of business dress at convention. And now that she has relaxed her own standards by abandoning her hat and white gloves, you may even be able to hear her decorous clapping for you and your standard of dress. Obviously no one imposes such a code on convention delegates, and some attendees can demonstrate their respect for the organization only by ensuring that their casual clothing is clean and as wrinkle-free as they can make it.
Still, some of us can remember the resentment the entire convention audience felt many years ago when the talk-show host Larry King announced at the beginning of his remarks that he was pleased to be addressing a blind audience because it meant that he could appear in the jogging suit he had been wearing for a cross-country flight rather than changing into coat and tie. Those who could not see him were almost more insulted by that statement than those who could. President Maurer always wears a suit and tie on the platform, and virtually all organization leaders and speakers wear business attire when making presentations of any kind.
In this more informal era and in a vacation city like Orlando, it is acceptable for delegates to attend convention sessions and meetings in business casual attire. But Miss Whozit would hope that everyone would treat the banquet with the respect it deserves by dressing up for the occasion.
As for checking the time during quiet public gatherings, Miss Whozit always does so as discreetly as possible so as not to distract others or insult the speaker. She recognizes, however, that not everyone is capable of feeling the dots on a Braille watch or seeing even an enlarged watch face. These people too sometimes need to know the time and have the right to ascertain it for themselves. She therefore merely urges everyone to remember that invoking that audible announcement of the time is rude and should always be done as quietly and infrequently as possible. Automatic hourly or half-hourly announcements of the time should be turned off. The volume should be as low as possible, and, if another watch has recently announced the time, it is completely unnecessary to check the information against one’s own time piece.
Here’s to an orderly and courteous convention.
by Marion Gwizdala
From the Editor: Marion Gwizdala is president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users. He is eager for everyone in the blindness field to recognize guide dog users’ changing understanding of themselves and their relationship to the institutions that train them and their partners. This is what he says:
In his book, The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale asserted, “The sort of image you hold of yourself is very important, for that image may come to fruition. The thought is the ancestor of the deed.” If we imagine ourselves with thoughts of success, Peale believed, the deeds of success would naturally follow. On the other hand, Peale contended, “If you see yourself as inferior in any way and you hold that image in your conscious mind, it will… sink into the unconscious, and you will be what you visualize.” In my life as a blind person, what Dr. Peale said is true for me. I viewed myself as those around me did: helpless, dependent, and needy. I was grateful for the training I received and felt a sense of indebtedness to the agencies that assisted me. I had received excellent training, but it had been accompanied by subtle condescension and quite a bit of intimidation. This sort of unbalanced relationship is fertile ground for custodial and paternalistic treatment—the belief that the agency is responsible for protective supervision and like a father dealing benevolently and often intrusively with his children.
As president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, I am concerned about such dynamics in the guide dog movement. Some are subtle, such as the prevalence of statements asserting that the guide dog brings a blind person dignity or the description of the guide dog as a gift. Some are more conspicuous, such as Fidelco’s “sole and absolute discretion” over its consumers’ ownership of their dogs.
My description of a guide dog user as a consumer has been challenged by some of my colleagues because most people think of a consumer as someone who purchases goods or services. Although some guide dog training programs charge a fee for their services, this is seen as only a token gesture to fulfill a legal construct known as “consideration”; however, money is not the only thing of value that can be exchanged. In the field of economics a consumer is defined as a person or organization that uses a commodity or service. This definition makes no reference to purchase of a commodity or service, only its use.
In an effort to recognize the fundamental power of those they serve and to emphasize their commitment to dignified, equitable treatment, many organizations are beginning to refer to those who use their goods and services as consumers, regardless of whether or not money is exchanged. These organizations include public entities such as police, fire, public works, parks, and social services departments. In the blindness field state agencies for the blind and rehabilitation centers have also adopted this terminology. The concept of the blind person as a consumer rather than a client empowers blind people by giving us control over our lives.
In the guide dog movement blind people are still treated like clients in many ways rather than as consumers. For instance, every training program I have questioned has told me that their consumers’ files are confidential and that individuals are not allowed to view what is in them. Some training programs forbid the use of the white cane once training has begun, even when people are not working their guide dogs. Some programs require their consumers to submit annual health reports from a veterinarian. Most retain ownership of guide dogs for a period of time after the completion of training and reserve the right to repossess the dog arbitrarily without explanation and without due process. I believe that each of these policies reflects the intrinsic attitude that the blind are incapable of making such decisions on their own and therefore need the oversight of those who are so-called experts in the field. I also believe there is a direct relationship between custodial, paternalistic attitudes and the ownership policies of the training programs.
In an effort to empower guide-dog-training-program users and encourage all training programs to create sound, consistent policies that recognize blind people as responsible adults capable of making decisions in their own best interests and those of their dogs, the National Association of Guide Dog Users has developed the Guide Dog Consumers’ Bill of Rights, which outlines specific guidelines for the treatment of guide dog consumers from the application process and training phase through retirement. It includes such topics as informed consent, confidentiality, access to personal files, ownership, and due process. We hope that guide dog consumers will realize that they have a choice in the type of program in which they participate and make their choices based upon how well a particular program aligns with what is considered fair and equitable in other areas of consumerism. We also hope that training programs will take note of what consumers consider fair and equitable. We believe that this Bill of Rights will be the catalyst for those training programs with antiquated policies founded in custodial, paternalistic attitudes of the past to restructure their policies to reflect the current belief in the blind as consumers. Here is our Bill of Rights:
a. The guide dog training program shall seek input from the consumer concerning the type of dog requested throughout the matching process.
b. Consumers shall expect that every effort will be made to provide dogs in excellent health and with appropriate temperament. Prior to placement the training program shall fully disclose to the consumer in writing and in the accessible format of the consumer’s choice all known issues concerning the dog’s health, temperament, behavior, and training.
c. The consumer shall expect a high level of competence from the training staff to develop sound skills of working a guide dog.
d. The guide dog training program shall correspond with individual consumers in the accessible format of their choice, i. e., large print, Braille, audio recording, or electronic text.
e. Guide dog training programs shall maintain their Websites and online media, including newsletters, press releases, and other collateral materials, in a format accessible to the blind.
2. Equitable Treatment
a. The consumer’s freedom of independent travel with a white cane shall not be restricted by the training program, unless doing so would interfere with the training process or adversely affect other consumers.
b. Consumers shall be free to monitor and manage their personal health independently, including, but not limited to, blood pressure monitoring, blood glucose testing, insulin injections, pain-management regimens, and all other health maintenance routines. Assistance may be offered; however, the consumer has the right to refuse such assistance.
c. The consumer shall have the right to discontinue training at any time with the full cooperation of the training program.
d. Consumers shall be afforded opportunities to travel off campus independently accompanied by their guide dogs prior to completion of training, at the discretion of the training program.
e. With the permission of the puppy raiser, consumers shall be given the option of contacting their dog’s puppy raisers near or after the completion of training. Further contact, such as meetings, phone calls, etc., is at the sole discretion of the consumer and will not be required, expected, or discouraged by the training program.
3. Informed Choice/Due Process
a. All binding contracts, agreements, and other documents shall be available for review in the accessible format of the consumer’s choice before making a commitment for services.
b. Before consumers make a commitment to receive services, they shall be provided in the accessible format of their choice all policies, practices, and procedures governing their behavior while participating in services, e.g., engaging in professional endeavors; use of cell phones, computers, or other technology; and furloughs.
c. Consumers shall have the right to use the services of an advocate of their choice. The designation of a consumer advocate shall be made in writing to the guide dog training program.
d. Specific written due process procedures, including mediation options, shall be developed covering all decisions and actions of the training program that affect its relationships with consumers, individually or collectively. Due process may be initiated by a consumer or his or her designated advocate.
e. All decisions and actions of the training program, such as denial or discontinuation of services, removal of a dog, or repossession of a harness, shall be made in writing in the accessible format of the consumer’s choice with a detailed explanation of the decision made or the action taken.
f. The removal or repossession of a guide dog for reasons of safety shall include an assessment of the working team through direct personal observation by an individual competent to make such an assessment. The specific safety concerns that serve as grounds for the removal or repossession shall be provided in writing to the consumer in the accessible format of his or her choice prior to the removal or repossession, and/or to an advocate acting on behalf of the consumer.
a. All personal information about a consumer, whether oral or in writing, shall be kept confidential. This confidentiality policy extends to all staff and volunteers of the guide dog training program.
b. A consumer’s refusal to allow other training programs to share information during the application process shall not be used as the sole grounds for denial of services.
c. A consumer’s personal information and records shall not be shared with anyone without the express written permission of the consumer to authorize the training program to release information. Only the information that is authorized for release may be shared.
d. No personal information shall be shared with any other person or organization without the express written and signed consent of the consumer. In such cases only the information authorized for release may be shared.
e. Individual consumers shall have the right to access any and all of the information gathered or collected about them by the guide dog training program and contained in their files.
5. Ownership and Disposition
a. The consumer shall be given legal title, ownership, and possession of the dog upon completion of the training program. Such title, ownership, or possession shall not be revoked, suspended, or otherwise interfered with without due process and in accordance with other provisions of this document.
b. Follow-up services shall be optional. Invitations for follow-up services may be made when a representative will be in the area with the understanding that the consumer may decline the offer without consequences.
c. The retirement and disposition of the guide dog shall be at the discretion of the consumer. Training programs may offer advice and guidance but may not impose mandatory retirement, unless doing so is necessary to protect the dog from abuse, maltreatment, or neglect or for reasons of safety as provided for in this document.
6. Abuse, Maltreatment, or Neglect
a. Consumers shall have the right to know the identity of those who file allegations of abuse, maltreatment, or neglect and shall be given the opportunity to answer such allegations before the training program commences any action. Anonymous complaints shall not be accepted.
b. The removal or repossession of a guide dog based upon allegations of abuse, maltreatment, or neglect shall be done only after a thorough investigation by an objective third party of competent jurisdiction over the consumer and the dog. A detailed explanation of the decision to remove or repossess a guide dog shall be given to the consumer or a designated consumer advocate in writing, in the accessible format of the consumer’s choice.
by William D. Meeker
From the Editor: Bill Meeker is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin. Generally he is a quiet person, and you’ll almost never see him taking center stage. He is, however, one of those who, when he speaks, makes it clear that in his silences he has been thinking and has something of import to say. His comments are part of an ongoing discussion on our listservs about blindness agencies and other not-for-profits that seem to be changing their names and, in some cases, clouding what they do. Here is what Bill has to say:
This month in the nonprofit-organizations-serving-the-blind name-change conga line comes Learning Ally, formerly Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic. My screen reader pronounces the final word in its new name as if it were spelled "alley," and occasionally "a lie." Maybe a software program can have a sense of humor after all. But Learning Ally is not unique. It is only one in a spate of recent nonprofit organizations serving the blind who have, with the aid of marketing experts and focus groups, changed their names.
All these changes depict a pattern. In all but two of the name changes I am familiar with, the new names do not contain any reference to the customers they serve or describe their function. That is, the words "blind" or "visually impaired" have been excised and sometimes replaced with the word "vision." This euphemization by use of an opposite reminds me of my mother, who had Alzheimers, being housed in an area insultingly named "The Reminiscence Room."
This is no accident. Years ago our library embarked on its name change quest because potential users, most elderly and newly blind, said that they did not want to be labelled as blind. After lengthy discussion with current blind patrons, not marketing pros, it did eventually change its name. Its new name, the Talking Book and Braille Library, while not containing the word “blind,” satisfied blind patrons because it does tell what the organization is and, indirectly, whom it serves.
Other organizations have not fared so well with their new names. While avoiding the words “blind” or “visually impaired,” their new bland and vague names convey nothing about their purpose. If I were a donor seeking to give money to an organization benefiting the blind, I would have no inkling that these newly named organizations serve blind people.
This is not a trivial dilemma for nonprofit executives. On the one hand they must placate their current and potential customers and donors. It seems that shunning names containing words bearing negative connotations is seen as the solution. On the other hand, to attract donors, it would seem that a name should be specific enough to describe the organization. Those organization names I am familiar with have, with few exceptions, missed the mark. They evoke no interest, pique no curiosity, and convey nothing of their purpose.
And all of this is happening because most people still think that it is not respectable to be blind or dyslexic for that matter. What's in a name? Apparently not so much anymore. Certainly not the word “blind.”
by Deja Powell
From the Editor: To address the Braille literacy crisis in America, the National Federation of the Blind has mobilized to take action on many fronts: public education, advocacy in schools, stimulating the creation of teacher-training programs, and creating what we informally call a Braille competency test. Here is what Deja Powell offers in an attempt to answer questions such as why the test matters, why one should take it, where it is offered, and how you can help to increase the number of testing sites:
Have you heard of this thing called the National Certification in Literary Braille (NCLB)? The National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB) offers the NCLB exam, which provides a certification that says, “I am proficient in literary Braille.” The test has been designed for teachers of the blind, but anyone can take it.
More and more the NCLB is becoming a standard for certification across the country, and people are starting to notice it. We have expanded the number of test locations for this exam and now offer it in many regions of the country, so we thought you’d like to know more about it. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about the NCLB.
What is the National Certification in Literary Braille (NCLB)?
The NCLB is a nationally recognized certification in literary Braille geared specifically toward teachers. It is a five-year renewable certification awarded to those who successfully pass all four sections of the National Literary Braille Competency Test. It is administered solely under the direction of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB).
Who can take the NCLB?
The target population includes pre- and in-service teachers who teach or will teach Braille reading and writing to children and adults. Others interested in demonstrating their knowledge/proficiency in reading and writing the literary Braille code are also welcome. There are no prerequisites, although a good working knowledge of the literary Braille code is assumed.
What is the format of the NCLB test?
The NCLB is a written examination that tests an applicant’s ability to read, write, and understand literary Braille. The examination consists of four sections, including 1) Braille Writing—using a Braillewriter; 2) Braille Writing—using a slate and stylus; 3) Proofreading—identifying Braille errors; and 4) Multiple Choice—correct Braille usage and rules.
Where is the NCLB offered?
As interest in the NCLB grows, so does the number of locations at which the test is offered. Current listings of test locations can be found at <www.nbpcb.org/nclb>. We are offering the test at this year’s national convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando, Florida, on July 4 and 5, so register now.
Why should I, or an employee of mine, take the NCLB?
The NCLB brings an added credential to any teacher of the blind or visually impaired who demonstrates knowledge and proficiency in the Literary Braille code. Holders of the NCLB demonstrate to their profession that they hold the nation's highest credential for knowledge of literary Braille. As certification continues to be sought and even required by employers, holding the NCLB credential will make the candidate for employment highly valuable to prospective employers, while helping employers to demonstrate that they have a highly qualified workforce.
How much does it cost to take the NCLB?
All fees can be paid online at <www.nbpcb.org/nclb> by credit card or PayPal account. Alternatively, they may be paid by personal check, bank draft, or money order. Fees are as follows:
Application Fee: $250
Re-Test Fee: $250
Single Section: $75
Where can I register to take the NCLB?
Registration for the NCLB must be done online at <www.nbpcb.org/nclb>. The online application is simple and easy to follow. You may also pay for the test at this time using a credit card or PayPal account.
How do I prepare to take the NCLB test?
An entire section on our Website, <www.nbpcb.org/nclb> is dedicated to preparing you for the test; sample tests, practice passages, proofreading exercises, and other study materials are available. The official reference for the exam is the 1994 edition of EBAE as revised in 2002, available for purchase from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH).
Whom should I contact for more information if I’m interested in hosting an NCLB test?
We are always looking for new testing locations. If you would like us to schedule a test in your area, you may contact Deja Powell by phone at (318) 257-2029 Monday through Friday; or by email at <[email protected]>. Many more details about the test can also be found on our Website.
Make the time to consider taking or hosting this important test. It is an essential aspect of our continual goal to promote Braille literacy, which starts with highly qualified teachers of the blind and visually impaired. So, now that you know what all those letters mean—the NCLB administered by the NBPCB—look how smart you sound!
From the Editor: With some regularity we spotlight books in the tenBroek Library. Here is Librarian Ed Morman's description of another book in the collection:
Report on the Insane, Feeble-Minded, Deaf and Dumb, and Blind in the United States at the Eleventh Census: 1890, compiled by John Shaw Billings, M.D., Washington: Government Printing Office, 1895. 755 pages.
At the tenBroek Library we often get statistical questions that we cannot answer satisfactorily. Here are some hypothetical examples:
Why can’t we answer these questions? In some cases no one is collecting the needed data—and, if no one collects the data, no one can tabulate the statistics and publish them. In other cases the statistics are drawn from a sample and not adequately disaggregated; thus we may have a reasonable estimate of the number of disabled people in a given county but not necessarily broken down by type of disability. Beyond this we are often unable to compare data from different sources, because they define “blindness” differently.
The 2010 decennial census, which counted the entire population, did not include a question on disability. Instead, as part of the American Community Survey, the Census Bureau annually collects data on a relatively small number of households. This sample is scientifically chosen and therefore can produce statistically reliable approximations for the entire population of the U.S. It can also produce acceptable results for regions, states, counties, etc., but only for categories that include large numbers of people. If the numbers are too small, the Census Bureau cannot extrapolate from the sample, and it will not provide estimates it cannot stand behind.
In the 1960s the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare established a Model Reporting Area for Blindness. This consisted of thirteen states regarded as exemplary in their collection of data. As it turned out, there were serious problems with the data collected, especially underreporting of blindness among people of low socioeconomic status. There have since been other attempts to provide accurate estimates of the blind population, and a study in the 1980s documented the difficulties involved in a nationwide prevalence study of blindness.
Jernigan Institute staff members are currently working on a new statistics page for the NFB Website, in which we will attempt to provide the most current data that is deemed statistically reliable. We will announce its availability soon.
Meanwhile, let’s look back more than a hundred years, when the world was apparently simpler. The volume at hand was assembled for the Census Office by John Shaw Billings, deputy surgeon general of the U.S. Army.
Billings was an interesting character. He was trained as a doctor and was one of the leaders in bringing the germ theory of disease to the American medical profession. He was also a librarian, having founded the Army Medical Library, which has grown into the National Library of Medicine, the largest medical library in the world. And Billings was enough of a librarian that he later became the first director of the newly formed research division of the New York Public Library.
For those old enough to remember the punched cards we used to use with mainframe computers, Billings was involved with their use decades before they became ubiquitous as computer accessories. The cards are properly known as “Hollerith cards” and are named for Herman Hollerith, who worked under Billings at the Census Office. But that’s another story, unrelated to blindness.
So back to the volume at hand. First, we must recognize that Billings never made clear just what the census counted as blindness. But then, even today, is there a clear definition? There is, of course, the legal definition—but most Federationists prefer Kenneth Jernigan’s functional definition (see “A Definition of Blindness,” first published in the Blind American in November 1962, available online at <http://www.nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/fr/fr19/fr05si03.htm>). As for the Census Bureau, it currently chooses not to use the word “blind” at all and instead, asks respondents if they have “serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses.”
The 1890 volume tells us that the “total number of persons reported as blind in both eyes on June 1, 1890, was 50,568 . . . being 800 per 1,000,000 of the total population.” This was a decrease from 1880, and Billings suggested two possible causes for the decline over the previous ten years: “a real one, corresponding with the decrease which has occurred in England” or a statistical artifact, namely “less complete enumeration of this class of population than was made in 1880.” Even though Billings was not completely confident of the numbers collected in 1890, he tried to provide exact numbers for the blind in each state and even cross-tabulations by race, sex, age, and other variables. To explain differences from state to state, he suggested differences in “proportions of persons of advanced age” or “previous epidemics of eruptive fever in certain localities” or “perhaps . . . heredity.”
A special discussion on the congenitally blind appears to have been intended to confront the question of inherited blindness. We now know that not all congenital blindness is hereditary and that some hereditary causes of blindness do not manifest themselves until well into adulthood. Billings recognized this and tried to deal with inheritance by looking at how many blind people had blind relatives.
In addition to breakdowns by sex, age, race, and place of birth (if foreign born), Billings and his associates provided information on how many of the blind were in “schools or institutions for the blind.” Other tables and charts cover cause of blindness, marital status of the blind, and percentage who “can neither read nor write.” Those reported as congenitally blind were very unlikely to have ever married and were less likely to be literate.
Perhaps the most interesting table lists the occupations of blind men, broken down by age and race. Among the job categories for blind people in 1890s America were artists, bakers, bookbinders, carpenters, cigar makers, editors, engravers, fishermen, lawyers, laborers, factory operatives, miners, physicians, soldiers, and teachers.
After reviewing the contents of this volume, the question remains: why did the federal government, in a pre-computer age, go to such trouble to develop statistics on blindness (not to mention the other categories of disability discussed in this report)? Even with Hollerith cards and machines to tabulate them, this was a massive undertaking. Historians have suggested some answers to this question, and readers of the Braille Monitor might take a minute to consider whether they agree with the explanation provided below.
In 1890 the industrial revolution was in full swing in the United States. Railroads, mines, and factories—with their attendant dangers to occupational health and safety—were spreading around the country. America needed a growing workforce, and government and business leaders wanted to know what factors might contribute to lowering productivity. By breaking down cause of blindness to cover a range of industrial accidents, this report helped feed the growing Progressive Movement’s efforts to improve workplace safety. Counting the blind also enabled reformers, in and out of government, to estimate the cost of resources needed for education and rehabilitation. Even in those days, well before the founding of the NFB, some positive efforts were being made, and even those who encouraged dependency were often well-meaning.
A darker side of progressive reform was eugenics, the attempt to weed out “defective people” by preventing them from having children. Hence the discussion of hereditary and congenital blindness. Americans at the end of the nineteenth century were living in a new world in which science and technology played an augmented role. Reformers were attempting to make best use of the new tools, and sometimes the tools turned out to be dangerous.
This book is available in digital form on the Internet Archive’s Website: <http://www.archive.org/details/reportoninsanefe00bill>. Much of the book consists of tabulated data that did not readily convert to a form suitable for screen-reading software. However, the text portions often describe what is of most interest in the tables.
This month’s recipes come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of California.
Italian Fast Food
by Mary Willows
Mary Willows is president of the National Federation of the Blind of California. She makes this recipe often for easy dinners in a hurry.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 zucchini, sliced thin
1 pound Italian sausage, Sicilian style (Note: This is pretty spicy so, if you want a milder version, use turkey sausage or mild Italian sausage.)
1 jar marinara sauce, any brand
Method: Sauté the onion and garlic in a large skillet with a little olive oil for about 5 minutes. Slice the Italian sausage and add it to the pan. Add the zucchini and mushrooms and cook for 5 more minutes. Pour the marinara sauce over everything and let it simmer for twenty minutes. If you like, serve pasta or garlic bread with this dish.
Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
by Rochelle Houston
Rochelle Houston is president of the Pathfinders Chapter of the NFBC and a member of the Diamond Club Players, a local group of actors. She hopes her creation will find its way into your collection of recipes.
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 16-ounce bag frozen broccoli
1 10-ounce can condensed cream of celery soup
2 cups chicken broth
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon lemon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 roll Ritz crackers (approximately 30 crackers)
Method: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut chicken into small cubes and season with lemon pepper. In a large skillet heat olive oil and cook garlic for one minute over low heat. Add chicken and cook until meat is done, approximately ten minutes. Set aside. Place broccoli in a small microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle with lemon pepper. Then microwave until tender crisp, about 5 minutes, stirring at least once. Spread cooked chicken and broccoli evenly in a greased 8-by-8-inch casserole dish. In a mixing bowl stir together cream of celery soup and chicken broth. Pour mixture into casserole dish and mix thoroughly. Top with parmesan and cheddar cheeses. Crumble crackers in a plastic bag and pour on top of cheese. Bake in preheated oven for twenty minutes or until crackers are golden brown. Remove from oven and let stand for five minutes.
by Tiffany Manosh
Tiffany Manosh, president of the River City (Sacramento) Chapter and a member of the NFBC board of directors, brings us this variation on an American favorite. As a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, she prepared this dish as a meal for forty people with great success.
2 pounds hamburger
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup Ritz crackers, crushed
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 onion, chopped (substitute onion powder if desired)
1 cup water
Method: In a large bowl mix all but the last two ingredients well and pack into a standard loaf pan. Top with 6 more Ritz crackers, crushed, and top that with 6 dabs of butter. Bake for one-and-a-half hours at 400 degrees. Cool slightly before slicing.
Five-Flavor Pound Cake
by Ever Lee Hairston
Ever Lee Hairston is second vice president of the NFBC, one of California’s newest board members, and a member of the national board of directors. This wonderfully rich cake is a family favorite. Not only are her motivational speeches requested for various occasions, but so is her pound cake.
Ingredients for Cake:
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups sugar
5 eggs, beaten well
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 teaspoon rum extract
1 teaspoon butter extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon double-strength vanilla extract
Ingredients for Six-Flavor Glaze:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
1/2 teaspoon butter extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon double-strength vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Method for Cake: Cream together butter, shortening, and sugar in large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until smooth. In small bowl combine flour and baking powder and set aside. Combine milk and extracts. Adding alternately, beat flour mixture and milk and flavorings into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Spoon batter into a greased 10-inch angel food cake pan. Bake at 325 degrees for one-and-a-half hours, or until cake tester comes out clean. Allow cake to cool a bit on a rack before loosening it from sides and center post. Invert cake on rack, remove pan, and allow cake to cool completely.
Method for Glaze: Combine all glaze ingredients in a sauce pan and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Pour glaze over cake and allow to dry before serving or covering.
Easy Chewy Chocolate Cookies with M&M Candies
by Joy Stigile
Joy Stigile serves as president of the Diabetes Action Network of the NFBC. She is well known for her delicious baked goods. Here is a recipe you are sure to enjoy.
1 package devil’s food chocolate cake mix
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 bag M&M’s
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the first four ingredients and drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Leave enough room for cookies to spread out. Press five M&M candies on the top of each cookie before placing sheet in oven. Bake seven to nine minutes. Cookies should be soft in center. Remove to a rack to cool completely.
Editor’s note: Some people form Braille letters with the M&Ms.
News from the Federation Family
National Center staff members Mary Jo and Jesse Hartle joyfully announce the birth of their daughter Kayla Elizabeth, born at 1:00 p.m. April 7, 2011, weighing nine pounds, eight ounces, and measuring twenty-one-and-a-half inches long. Jesse is a governmental affairs specialist, and Mary Jo directed education programs in the Jernigan Institute before leaving to become a mother. All three Hartles are doing well. Congratulations to the Hartles!
With deep regret we must announce the death of Larry Streeter on April 25, 2011. Larry joined the NFB in 1975 and became a leader wherever he lived. He served as president of the NFB of Idaho for five years. He earned five post-secondary degrees, the most recent of which was a PhD. At his death Larry was the assistant superintendent at the Indiana School for the Blind, where he worked hard to encourage and inspire students.
Larry is survived by his wife Sandy, their two daughters, and their families. We extend our sympathy to Sandy and Larry’s entire family.
Tribute to Larry Streeter:
We received the following tribute from Aundrea Moore a few days after Larry Streeter’s death. It seems fitting to include it with his obituary. Aundrea is a member of the NFB of Texas. This is what she says:
I think about Larry Streeter every time I cash my paycheck at the first of the month. If not for him, it would be significantly lower than it is now. In 1987 Larry and I were both unemployed. I wanted to stay in Austin if possible, but Larry wanted to leave Texas and move to a cooler climate. So he would read the newspaper, searching for out-of-state jobs that he could apply for. He had also promised to tell me about anything he saw that he thought might interest me.
“Hey!” voice brimming with enthusiasm, “I found a job that you can do. How would you like to be a skip trace locater for the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office? You would track down people who are not paying their child support.”
I thought that sounded like fun, so I applied for it. Larry filled out my application since such forms were not computerized then. Because of my work with the NFB I knew people, which always helps when you are looking for employment.
I was hired and started work in March of 1988, but not as a skip trace locator. I accepted a position at a lower pay scale to get my foot in the door because much of the case material was not computerized either. But they said, “We promise to hire you a part-time reader in our next budget.” They either lied or changed their minds. So in 1989 I filed a section 504 complaint against the most powerful lawyer in Texas—the attorney general.
Larry Streeter agreed to be my legally designated representative. Back then there was no email to speak of. I would document issues on Braille index cards at work, discuss things with Larry over the phone at night, type up my documentation, and mail it to him. He would then fill out the forms needed to solidify my complaint. In 1990 Larry and I won the following compensations: I was given a full-time reader; I was given a ten-thousand-dollar-a-year raise; I was moved from the Houston child support office to the state office in Austin at the expense of the attorney general; and I had a job title that made me part of middle management. I paid Larry for his time and trouble, but he allowed me to send him checks once a month until I had paid him the amount we had agreed on. He and his wife Sandy used the money to help them attend the convention of the NFB in 1990.
I got several more promotions during my years at child support, and by the time I left fourteen years later, my salary was about three times as high as it had started out being. I work for the Texas Talking Book Program now and will be able to retire next year. But had it not been for Larry Streeter, I might not ever have been hired by the state of Texas at all.
Larry worked in many states besides Texas, and many blind people all over the country have stories similar to mine. While Larry and his wife Sandy lived in Austin, I was a frequent overnight guest at their house. Larry was a great storyteller and mimic. He had a wry wit.
Larry and Sandy Streeter were tireless advocates for blind people all over the country and great friends—endlessly generous with their time, their money, and their love. I was deeply saddened to learn of his untimely death.
We are delighted to report that NFB scholarship winner in 2008 and tenBroek Fellow in 2010, C.J. Fish, and her husband Mike are the proud parents of Gabriel Andrew, born on March 23, 2011, at 12:02 a.m. He weighed 8 pounds, 6.5 ounces and was 19.5 inches long. After some complications at first, mother and son are now doing well. Congratulations to the entire Fish family.
Opening the Doors of Chemistry to the Blind:
Mary Willows and Henry Wedler recently sent us the following short report:
The National Federation of the Blind of California and the California Association of Blind Students sponsored a unique science experience for blind high school students called “California Chemistry Camp 2011,” held April 29 to May 1, 2011, in the serene Enchanted Hills Camp near Napa, California, directed by the San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind.
Ten blind students were invited to spend the weekend with four NFB of California mentors. Several post-doctoral fellows and graduate students from the University of California, Davis Chemistry Department, the UC Davis Chemistry Club, and professors from the prestigious UC Davis Chemistry Department assisted Henry, undergraduate student and treasurer of the California Association of Blind Students, to assemble materials and facilitate hands-on activities that will change what it means to be a blind student. His goal for the two-day academy was not to teach a science class, but to teach blind high school students that a blind person can study chemistry, and there are ways to make the subject completely accessible. Ultimately, when these students get to a science class in which a teacher says that they should be concerned about their safety, they can say with conviction that they want to participate fully in laboratory activities, that they understand the instructor’s safety concerns, and that they know how to work safely with chemicals. If it’s something the students don’t feel comfortable with, they know how to ask for assistance and how to work with an assistant to ensure that they are in charge and not merely letting the assistant do everything for them. One student from Davis even asked Henry if he could do chemistry research during the summer working for a UC Davis chemistry professor. This will most likely happen either this summer or next.
Chemistry is based on observations of various solutions, atoms, molecules, chemical reactions, and reaction mechanisms. In particular, chemistry concentrates on the composition, structure, and properties of matter as well as chemical changes that occur during a reaction. Students at Chemistry Camp got to involve themselves fully in each of these fields.
All of us have taken a science class in school where experiments were performed and students were required to make observations of the changes they observed. But how many of us led the experimental process, played an active role in performing the experiments, or demonstrated that a blind person can and should be a chemist? How many of us were relegated to the end of the lab table to listen while sighted students learned how to create esters; titrate chemicals; or explore thermodynamics, kinetics, natural products chemistry, and combustion? How many of us learned to use a pipette, pour chemicals safely, and observe chemical changes using senses other than vision?
What do chemists do anyway? If you ask Henry Wedler, you will get a litany of career choices that require a degree in chemistry. For instance, you could get a job with a candy company making esters and, using the sense of smell, analyze them as artificial flavorings for candies. As Henry is doing, you could study theoretical chemistry on the computer and then get a job either teaching or working in industry to develop new and innovative theoretical models to understand how organic chemistry reactions actually happen. If you’re good at theoretical chemistry, you could do anything. You could work for NASA developing material for space suits, rocket fuels, etc. Alternatively, you could perform wine chemistry at one of the wineries next door to Enchanted Hills Camp, making some of the finest cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc wines in the world. Henry’s graduate chemistry will revolve around the chemistry of wine and olive oil. With the right adaptations theoretical chemistry is completely accessible to a blind person without assistance. The motivation for the students is that a blind person is capable of embarking on any of these careers.
In addition to having fun with chemistry, Henry made sure there was time for students to get to know each other. The students showcased talents, told jokes, and shared stories about their frustrations with an education system that discourages breaking through their comfort zones. Students got to collaborate during social time with students of the Transition Summit, a program sponsored by the Lighthouse for the Blind of San Francisco, where high school students receive guidance on the transition between school and work. This collaboration proved to be extremely fruitful. Friendships were formed in short order between these budding chemists, their mentors, and other students at camp. The California affiliate will be holding a fundraiser to ensure that similar weekend experiences continue. We will be holding a live auction and pasta feed on June 12, 2011, at the Courtyard Marriott in Fairfield, California. If you would like to buy tickets to the event or make a donation to future Chemistry Camps, please visit <http://www.formstack.com/forms/?1071735-2Hx4MPDim9>.
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.
Job search going nowhere? Tired of hearing that you ought to learn massage, do transcription, or maybe leave home for several months of training to find rewarding work? If you enjoy working with people, won't settle for low-paying, dead-end jobs and don't mind dedication and hard work, a career in sales may be for you.
You don’t have to be a college graduate, have a silver tongue, or even consider yourself the sales type to enjoy a stable, rewarding, and accessible career in sales. Despite the current tough job market, there are openings for business development specialists, inside sales executives, sales coordinators, and account executives.
Access First offers a four-week training program, the Success in Professional Sales Series (SIPS), that teaches the fundamental concepts and skills you need to qualify for, get hired, and enjoy success in a sales career. SIPS training can be taken in person, or online by accessible online Webcast. Tuition includes all training materials, meals, and lodging. Beyond the core training there is a 120-hour paid internship so that you can start making money while practicing what you've learned in class and up to four months employment assistance to help you find the best opportunities, get your foot in the door, and launch your new career.
Registration is open for spring and summer 2011 sessions and are handled on a first-come, first-served basis. To find out more, view the class schedule, or determine whether a career in professional sales is right for you, visit <www.access-first.com>, email <[email protected]>, or call (412) 452-9700.
The College of Education and Rehabilitation at Salus University in Philadelphia is offering scholarships for those interested in obtaining a certificate or master’s degree in orientation and mobility. Candidates must possess an undergraduate degree and express an interest in working with children. Applicants can enroll either part time or full time. The majority of courses are online with several blended and face-to-face courses offered at the university campus in Philadelphia over one summer.
Those interested can apply in several ways: Apply online or download an application at <www.salus.edu/cer/grad_application_process.html>, or request applications by calling (215) 780-1360. For more information contact Lynne Dellinger, M.Ed., COMS, TVI, <[email protected]>, (215) 780-1362.
Fun on the Internet:
First you're a programmer; then you're a wizard; and, before you know it, you're off on an adventure that will enhance entertainment for blind computer users around the world. About two-and-a-half years ago, three blind game programmers and a couple of their buddies wondered if people would be interested in a few more accessible multi-player Internet games. These young men are in college or in high school or are freelancing. They live up north, down south, and in the heartland.
First they tackled Monopoly. For the first time players could compete with each other over the Internet or play with computer-controlled bots. British players wanted their board, and they got it. Park Place is Park Lane, and Boardwalk is Mayfair. The Brits are happy to play with dollars.
Two from this budding techie team envisioned a way to set up a platform which could serve Monopoly and several other games. Then along came Uno. The guys spent lots of last-minute time fixing bugs before they headed back to school. The fall and winter holidays offered a little downtime, so they focused on Yahtzee and Blackjack. Yahtzee came aboard on December 20, 2010, marking the one-year anniversary of the Monopoly launch. Blackjack was their Christmas present to the world. Like many other Christmas presents, it needed some tweaking, but it is reliably tempting peoples' virtual pocketbooks daily. On December 28, 2010, the server achieved a record 157 players connected at the same time. There are over 6,500 registered users world-wide. RSGames received the Blind Bargains Access Award for best game for its adaptation of Monopoly in 2009, then again in 2010 for Uno.
What's next? Who knows? It's up to Michael Forzano, Jayson Smith, Ryan Smith, Andy Smith, and Derek Roberts, members of the RSGames development team. Want to play? Visit <http://rsgames.org> where software is available for Windows, Mac, or Linux. The software works directly with most popular screen readers, and each game has its own set of sounds. However, if you prefer not to download anything, you can play directly from within your Web browser. There is no charge for participation in any of these games.
Hats off to accessible entertainment and these creative young men who love a challenge. Join the fun--you might get hooked!
Accessible Product Manuals Available:
Tired of fighting with another hard-to-scan or read product manual? Custom accessible manuals can be ordered from David B. Lafever, a rehabilitation engineer in Indianapolis, Indiana. Mr. Lafever has provided assistive technology services to blind and low-vision people for almost twenty years. Depending on the original manual, accessible product manuals can be direct translations or partially revised to replace images with descriptions or completely rewritten. In custom manuals the product’s switches and controls are described by location and feel to help orient the user. Also the most important features, such as battery charging, are moved to the first sections of the manual. Custom manuals may also include strategies to make the product more useful for someone with limited vision if the product was not designed for this market. All manuals are designed to help the user work with the product as independently as possible.
Most manuals are available in a wide variety of formats, including plain text, Microsoft Word documents, MP3 audio files, and even microcassette tapes with tactile markings for identification. The accessible manuals are often far shorter than the originals, since unimportant sections can be removed, which also makes them more practical for translation to Braille.
Manuals have been created for sewing machines; digital tape recorders, such as the Olympus DM-520 with the Voice Guide feature; multi-line phones; CCTVs; and other devices. Accessible manuals are produced on request for a fee, which varies depending on the complexity and length of the original manual as well as the final form desired. Dave Lafever can be reached by email at <[email protected]>. More details about his services and contact information are listed at <www.rehabilitationengineer.com>.
Prescription-Reading Device Now Available to All Blind Americans:
All blind people need to do is let En-Vision America know that they are interested in receiving the ScripTalk device and what pharmacy they use. En-Vision America is trying to persuade major pharmacy chains that this program is valuable to blind customers. The pharmacy chains maintain that there isn't enough need for them to spend the money to provide the infrared labels needed to allow the ScripTalk to read prescription labels to blind users. If enough people contact En-Vision America, it can demonstrate that the need exists. Here’s how it works: a blind patient receives the ScripTalk Station unit. The pharmacy provides infrared labels that are affixed to the medication bottles. These infrared labels are then read by the ScripTalk unit in the blind person's home. The labels contain all the information available to a sighted person, including warnings, dosage information, side effects, script number, doctor's name, etc. Here is the text of the press release:
Accessible Prescription Label Program Now Free For Blind Americans
En-Vision America, Inc., has announced a new program to aid the blind and visually impaired to obtain accessible prescriptions. Under its Pharmacy Freedom Program, eligible individuals may obtain a free ScripTalk Station patient reader that will allow them to access their prescription label information. Participating pharmacies attach a small RFID label to each prescription containing all printed information. This provides a safe, private, independent way for the blind and visually impaired to manage their medication regimen, as well as helping pharmacies to comply with ADA regulations in serving their patients. Interested individuals may contact En-Vision America to provide pharmacy details and get their free reader. Pharmacies concerned with meeting the needs of their special-needs patients may also contact the company for more information about the program.
ScripTalk Station is a cutting-edge technological solution for prescription medication information access. It has been adopted by the Veterans Administration for use in its facilities across the country. ScripTalk uses RFID (radio-frequency identification) and TTS (text-to-speech) technologies to allow those who cannot read their prescription labels a way to access the information. It is the only product on the market to provide full label information in a way that meets ADA, FDCA, and HIPAA regulations.
En-Vision America, Inc., provides high-tech products aimed at solving problems for those with visual or print impairments. Located in Normal, Illinois, En-Vision America has successfully introduced several voice-enabled products such as i.d. mate Summit, the talking bar code reader, and ScripTalk, the talking pharmaceutical reader. For additional information contact Anna McClure, En-Vision America, 1845 Hovey Ave., Normal, Illinois 61761; (800) 890-1180, fax (309) 452-3643; <www.envisionamerica.com>.
NFB and Law School Admissions Council Agree to Settlement:
On April 26, 2011, the NFB circulated the following press release announcing that our long struggle with the Law School Admissions Council had finally been resolved with justice for future blind law school applicants. Here is the text of the release:
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) today announced that it has settled a lawsuit with the Law School Admissions Council, Inc. (LSAC) regarding access to the LSAC Website (www.lsac.org) by blind people. As part of the settlement LSAC will provide full and equal access to its Website for blind users by September 1, 2011. Changes will be made to the LSAC Website that will allow blind applicants using screen access technology, which converts what is on the computer screen into synthesized speech or Braille, to read and interact with it. The accessibility requirements extend to all parts of the Website on which services or products are made available to prospective law school applicants or to LSAT and Credential Assembly Service registrants, including, but not limited to, the process of applying to law schools through lsac.org and the documents and practice tests LSAC makes available online.
Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Access to Websites is critical to the full and equal participation of blind people in all aspects of modern life. In this instance access is especially critical, since without it blind people experience significant barriers to entering the legal profession. The National Federation of the Blind is pleased to have reached a settlement with the Law School Admissions Council, and we look forward to working with its officials and technical staff in the coming months. It is our sincere hope that other educational entities and credentialing organizations that provide vital services over the Internet will follow LSAC’s example and take affirmative steps to provide full access to their Websites by blind consumers.”
Deepa Goraya, a named plaintiff in the suit, said: “As someone who has gone through the law school application process and struggled to use the Law School Admission Council’s Website, I am pleased to see that the Website will be made fully accessible and the process of gaining admission to law school will now be easier for all blind people who are interested in entering this noble profession.”
Under the settlement the National Federation of the Blind will perform semi-annual accessibility testing of the LSAC Website until September 1, 2012. The National Federation of the Blind is represented in this matter by Daniel F. Goldstein of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein, and Levy; Laurence W. Paradis, Anna Levine, and Karla Gilbride of the Berkley firm Disability Rights Advocates; and Scott C. LaBarre of the Denver firm LaBarre Law Offices.
NFB Announces Agreement with Ticketmaster:
Here is another press release that our national office recently circulated:
Ticketmaster Makes Website Fully Accessible and Fan-Friendly to Blind Users
The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s leading advocate for Internet access by blind Americans, announced April 26 a cooperative agreement with Ticketmaster, the global event ticketing leader and one of the world’s top five eCommerce sites, to make its Website fully accessible to the blind. Under the agreement Ticketmaster will make its Website (www.ticketmaster.com) fully accessible to blind people using screen access technology by December 31, 2011. Screen-access technology converts what is on the computer screen into synthesized speech or Braille.
Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “An increasing number of goods and services are now offered primarily over the Internet, and Ticketmaster’s extremely popular ticket sales Website is a prime example of this trend. Ticketmaster customers gain many of the company’s valuable benefits and services, including access to special pre-sales and promotions, through its Website. The National Federation of the Blind is pleased that Ticketmaster has recognized the importance of providing equal access to its Website for its blind customers, and we look forward to working with the company to achieve that goal. The National Federation of the Blind will continue to work tirelessly until the blind have equal access to the full range of products and services available to the public through the Internet and other information technologies.”
“For Ticketmaster the future is all about the fans. We want to participate wherever and however so that fans can have the best possible fan-friendly experience,” said Nathan Hubbard, CEO of Ticketmaster. “Partnering with the National Federation of the Blind is enabling us to address the needs of our blind fans so that they can have the same positive experience when purchasing tickets for their favorite artists’ performances or live events. We are committed to working with NFB to enhance the Ticketmaster Website so that it’s accessible and usable by all of our fans out there.”
Pursuant to the agreement, Ticketmaster will develop a comprehensive accessibility program that will include the development of an accessibility guidelines manual, as well as the appointment of both an accessibility coordinator and an accessibility committee.
Additionally, Ticketmaster will continue to work with officials of the National Federation of the Blind to ensure that the Ticketmaster services remain accessible to the blind. Ticketmaster will submit its Website to the NFB Nonvisual Accessibility (NFB-NVA) Web Certification program, a rigorous procedure by which Websites and applications that have made efforts to be accessible to the blind can be identified and recognized. The NFB-NVA Web Certification program continuously monitors participating sites to ensure that they remain compliant with certification criteria. If a site remains accessible, its certification is renewed on an annual or a version basis. If accessibility issues arise, the National Federation of the Blind will work with the site developers to remedy them.
Spiritual Materials Available:
Message of Hope, a ministry of Unity, provides the following services free of charge to the blind and visually impaired:
1. Daily Word Magazine on CD and in Braille and the Daily Word message of the day using email;
2. Nondenominational spirituality-centered books, pamphlets, and literature through an audio lending library, a hardcopy Braille book lending library, and by email in BRF format;
3. Follow-up letters of prayer support on cassette or in Braille.
For more information contact Message of Hope at (866) 421-3066 or send email to <[email protected]>. Follow us on Facebook at <http://www.facebook.com/messageofhope/>. A transdenominational organization located in Unity Village, Missouri, Unity is dedicated to supporting people of all faiths on their spiritual journeys and to helping them apply positive spiritual principles in their daily lives. Unity is on the Internet at <http://www.unityonline.org>.
Contributions from Blind Writers Wanted:
Magnets and Ladders, a literary Internet magazine from the Behind Our Eyes writers with disabilities group, is seeking short fiction, memoirs, poetry, essays, and articles about the writing craft. The deadline for the Fall/Winter issue is August 15. Visit <www.magnetsandladders.org> to read our magazine; find submission guidelines; and join our list to access telephone conferences for workshops, speakers, and camaraderie.
Braille Literacy Scholarship Program:
All parents want the best for their children, and Braille literacy is fundamental to a blind child's success. Starting blind children on the road to literacy as early as they are able and choosing the right tools is key to their success. By using modern and appropriate tools, very young children can start scribbling with dots, should be having fun, and can begin to learn through experimentation and play. Parents can become actively involved in their child's literacy development. Appropriate expectations for children can result from giving them independence to learn and explore.
A Mountbatten Learning System and all associated software and accessories will be awarded to one child in the United States. Entries on behalf of children between the ages of three and eight years who are learning Braille or are assessed as future Braille learners will be accepted. In one thousand words or fewer, tell us why you believe Braille literacy will be key to your child's success and describe the role you think the Mountbatten Learning System will play in his or her future. The winner will receive a Mountbatten Learning System educational pack containing MB Learning System, Mimic Display, keyboard, and MB comm PC to MB communication software. Essays must be submitted with the written support of an early childhood or early intervention professional. Parents and professionals are welcome to provide supporting material to their applications.
All applicants must reside in the United States or its territories. Winners must be willing to participate in promotional events or to attend a public award ceremony. Entries should be emailed to <[email protected]> or sent by mail to HumanWare, 2011 Braille Literacy Scholarship Program, 5128 Oak Point Way, Fair Oaks, CA 95628, United States of America. Entries must be submitted before December 31, 2011.
Attention Camp Wapanacki Lovers:
Many may remember this camp nestled in Vermont’s Green Mountains at the base of Mount Mansfield. It hosted blind campers for over fifty years. Many memories were made, and lifetime experiences still live in the minds and hearts of those who attended.
Currently Seek the Son Ministries, Inc., is seriously considering making this property accessible year-round for disabled people and their families. This would be a dream come true for many. Wapanacki is located in Hardwick, Vermont, and sits on 350 acres of rolling hills and beautiful forests. A twenty-two-acre lake is owned by the camp.
Some of the original buildings, like the recreation hall, dining hall, and the historic Trout Lodge, where Calvin Coolidge stayed when fishing on Lake Wapanacki, are still standing. Some wonderful improvements, including a horse stable and corral, are also functional. Trails wind around the property, including along the lake. The beauty of Vermont can’t get any better than these 350 acres.
If you are interested in helping Seek the Son purchase this property, please go to our Website at <www.seektheson.org>. We would love to talk to you, so please feel free to shoot an email to <[email protected]> or <[email protected]>, or give us a call at (763) 691-9584.
Study Participants Needed:
My name is Jessica Beecham, and I am working toward a master’s degree in exercise science at Middle Tennessee State University. A thesis study is required in partial requirement for completion of this degree. As a member of the National Federation of the Blind and as a blind woman who will soon be seeking full-time employment, I am immensely interested in narrowing the employment gap between people who are blind and sighted. Please consider participating in my study this summer at the national convention in Orlando, Florida. Data will be collected at the Tennessee table in the Exhibit Hall. This study will take only a few minutes but will provide groundbreaking research on the relationship between obesity and employment for blind people.
According to 1999 data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 30 percent of people in the United States are obese, which is a condition defined by the American College of Sports Medicine as having an excess amount of nonessential body fat. Overconsumption of food, poor nutrition, and reduced physical activity have led to the astonishingly rapid increase of obesity in the United States over the last thirty years. Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reveal that blind people exhibit double the propensity for obesity. The long list of serious health risks associated with obesity includes cancer, Type II diabetes, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, gynecological problems, and osteoarthritis. Studies have also shown that obesity is linked to an increase in eye diseases such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, maculopathy, and glaucoma.
Barriers to employment, including poor health, discrimination, and unequal earnings, are common issues which affect individuals who are obese and blind. Obese people, for example, are 34 percent more likely to collect disability payments and disability insurance in their lifetimes and are up to 25 percent less likely to be employed than those who are not obese. Similarly, the percentage of individuals who are blind and employed is approximately 30 percent, a much lower figure than the 84 percent of the general population who are employed. A study concluded that individuals who are blind and report that they perceive their health as good are employed at a level of 60 percent, whereas those who indicate that they perceive their health as poor are employed at a rate of 18 percent. When measured against the current backdrop of high adult U.S. obesity rates, the findings lend credence to the notion that those who are both blind and obese exhibit poor health and may be employed at substantially lower rates when compared to those who are merely blind.
While there is some information about employment trends about those who are blind or obese, relatively little is known about employment trends for those who are both blind and obese. Please stop by the Tennessee table at national convention in Orlando in order to document the relationship between weight and employment in those who are blind. Each participant will be asked to complete a brief survey as well as have height and weight measurements taken. Participant names will be entered in a drawing to win a prize, so please come see us.
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.
We have several great things to sell that are not getting used:
We can accept payment by PayPal or any credit card or debit card or whatever other way you'd like. Contact CJ Sampson at (321) 282-6376 or email <[email protected]>.
ET Braille embosser, five years old, rarely used, single- and double-sided embossing, accommodates wide paper. Asking $1,000. Call Gladys at (480) 472-0678.
Hoping to Buy:
Wanted, classic NFB rigid cane, aluminum, not fiberglass. Any length over fifty inches will do. I will pay $20 towards packing, shipping, and handling—Free Matter for the Blind. I believe the post office has mailing tubes of various lengths. Contact me at <[email protected]>.
KnfbReader Mobile for Sale:
I have a knfbReader Mobile with N-86 phone, never used. Asking $900 or best offer. Call Antonio Guimaraes at (617) 744-9716.
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.