Braille Monitor                                                 August/September 2011

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Convention Miniatures

Cassette Production of the Braille Monitor to End in December:
For over forty years the Braille Monitor has been produced as an audio recording. One of the ways this audio is currently distributed is on cassette, but digital recordings have now made the cassette obsolete. Cassettes are increasingly hard to find; the equipment to duplicate them is becoming scarce; parts to keep existing equipment operational are no longer available. The December 2011 issue will be the last to be placed on cassette. Alternative ways of getting our magazine to those who now receive cassettes are being considered. Placing the Monitor on NEWSLINE® is likely to happen. Having the Monitor available from BARD is also likely. If we can figure out a way to do it economically, we will put the Monitor on compact discs or on thumb drives that can be played on the machines distributed by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

Options for cassette subscribers will appear in the October issue. After carefully considering these, please contact us to let us know how you wish to receive this magazine. We value you as a reader of the Braille Monitor and want you to continue receiving your copy of the magazine. You will not, however, automatically be transitioned to a different format; you must contact us to let us know your format preference. Otherwise your name will be removed from the mailing list.

2011 Division Election Results:
We have received the following results from the elections conducted at the Orlando convention. This is not a definitive report since we can pass along only the results we received.

Diabetes Action Network
            Elections were conducted during the 2011 business meeting of the Diabetes Action Network during the Diabetes Seminar, which took place on the afternoon of July 5: president, Michael Freeman (WA); first vice president, Bernadette Jacobs (MD); second vice president, Minnie Walker (AL); secretary, Diane Filipe (CO); treasurer, Joy Stigile (CA); and board members, Mindy Jacobsen (NY), Wanda Sloan (OH), Maria Bradford (WA), and Travis Moses (MT).

The Writers’ Division
            The following officers and board members were elected to serve two-year terms: president, Robert Leslie Newman (NE); first vice president, Chelsea Cook (VA); second vice president, April Enderton (IA); secretary, Lori Stayer (NY); treasurer, Atty Svendsen (NE); and board members, Bob Gardner (IL), Allison Hilliker (AZ), Eve Sanchez (UT), and Myrna Badgerow (LA).

National Association of Blind Students
            The student division officers and board members for the coming year are president, Sean Whalen (VA); vice president, Karen Anderson (NE); second vice president, Darian Smith (CA); treasurer, Shelby Ball (GA); secretary, Cindy Bennett (NC/MN); and board members, Candice Chapman (MS), Meghan Whalen (WI), Briley Pollard (VA), and Domonique Lawless (LA).

National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
            On July 5, 2011, the NOPBC conducted elections at its annual meeting. The officers were not up for election this year and remain president, Laura Weber (TX); first vice president, Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway (GA); second vice president, Carlton Walker (PA); secretary, Andrea Beasley (WI); and treasurer, Pat Renfranz (UT).  The following board members were elected: Jean Bening (MN), Jim Beyer (MT), Wingfield Bouchard (MS), John Fritz (WI), Pamela Gebert (AK), Amber Hall (IN), Zina Lewis (VA), Barbara Mathews (CA), Holly Miller (NJ), and Trudy Pickrel (MD).

National Organization of Professionals in Blindness Education
            The officers of the newly formed National Organization of Professionals in Blindness Education (NOPBE or PIBE unofficially) are president, Eric Guillory (LA); first vice president, Denise Mackenstadt (WA); second vice president,  Michael Fish (VA); secretary, Emily Gibbs (MD); and treasurer, Krystal Guillory (LA). Congratulations to our newest division, and good luck in your important work.
 
National Association of the Blind in Communities of Faith
            The following officers were elected to serve until July 2013: president, Tom Anderson (CO); vice president, Rehnee Aikens (TX); secretary, Linda Mentink (NE); and treasurer, Sam Gleese (MS).

NFB Krafters Division
            Officers in the Krafters Division are elected in even-numbered years, and board members in odd. Because the secretary has resigned, the division elected Ramona Walhof (ID) to a one-year position as secretary. Board members elected were Cindy Zimmer (NE) and Linda Anderson (CO).

Travel and Tourism Division

            Elections were conducted during the Travel and Tourism Division business meeting. Officers and board members for the year are president, Cheryl Echevarria (NY); first vice president, Maurice Shackelford (GA); second vice president, April Scheppe (WI); secretary, Mary Donahue (TX); treasurer, Milton Taylor (UT); and board members, Nelson Echevarria (NY), Jamal Powell (IL), and Anahit LaBarre (CO).

 

2010-2011 Race for Independence
Medallion Winners:
The 2011 Race for Independence contest year ended on July 31, 2011. By that date the following Federationists had raised $1,000 or more for the NFB Imagination Fund:

Lindsay Adair
Pamela Allen
Jennifer Applegate
Julaine Arient-Rollman
Denise Avant
Robert Barbera
Carolyn Baron
Denice Brown
Dan Burke
Debra Canty
Don and Betty Capps
Patti Chang
Anthony Cobb
Beth Debus
Kim Diggs
Parnell Diggs
Kimberly Flores
Angela Frederick
Ever Lee Hairston
William O. Jacobs
Carl and Mindy Jacobsen
Mary Ellen Jernigan
Kayleigh Joiner
Scott LaBarre
Ann-Marie Laney
Kevin Ledford
Marc Maurer
Patricia Maurer
Ed Morman
Jack and Pat Munson
John Paré
Barbara Pierce
Mark Riccobono
Joe Ruffalo
Dwight Sayer
Fredric Schroeder
Garrick Scott
C. Edwin Vaughan
Kevan Worley
Gary and Debbie Wunder

The 2012 contest began August 1, and already some people are hard at work. It’s time for you to enroll as an Imaginator. Go to <raceforindependence.org>. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!

Highlights of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science
Convention Meeting:
Division President Curtis Chong reports that Caroline Ragot, managing director of Code Factory, talked with the group about Code Factory's work to develop a suite of nonvisually accessible applications for the Android platform. Because the accessibility API (application programming interface) provided by Google was not sufficient for the task, Code Factory decided that the most effective way to solve the problem in today's environment was to develop a set of fully accessible applications for the blind--hence Mobile Accessibility, which consists of a suite of fully accessible applications that enable the blind to make and receive phone calls, send and receive text messages, send and receive email (through Gmail), browse the Web, and determine one's physical location (through GPS). Mobile Accessibility also comes with a generic screen-reading program that provides access to some Android applications. Inasmuch as the Android platform is used by every cell phone provider in the United States, Mobile Accessibility offers a solution that can work regardless of the cell phone provider.

Adobe is known primarily for two things: the portable document format (PDF) and Flash. Nonvisual access to these two formats requires that Adobe software work well with screen-access technology for the blind and also that publishers of PDF and Flash content follow the specifications that Adobe has published. Matt May, an accessibility evangelist from Adobe, told the division that Adobe has been working hard to ensure that it is easy for people using its software to produce accessible documents and information. This has taken years to achieve, but according to Mr. May the end is nearly in sight. Some listeners expressed skepticism, and some communicated more than a little frustration with Adobe because, by and large, there are more examples of software and content that are not accessible to the blind than examples of accessible content and programs. For example, from time to time Windows users have been presented with the Adobe Flash Player Updater, which presents the nonvisual user with a number of unlabeled buttons. Mr. May assured us that a new, more accessible update program would be released soon.

For the first time in the history of the NFB in Computer Science, the division had an opportunity to hear from a representative from Yahoo!, in the person of Victor Tsaran, senior accessibility program manager. Yahoo! has a team of people working full time on accessibility, but not too many people seem to know about it. The team is working on a new and improved Web email interface that uses ARIA, the Accessible Rich Internet Application specification. If things go according to plan, this interface will feel to the blind person as if he or she is operating a desktop email client. Mr. Tsaran did point out that best results will be achieved if the blind computer user is running the free NVDA screen-access program and the Firefox Web browser. The group pointed out that it would be extremely regrettable if Yahoo!'s good work in this area is not recognized because the majority of blind computer users today are running the JAWS for Windows screen-access program and Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser. After the meeting Curtis and Mr. Tsaran had dinner together. He was engaging, insightful, and dedicated to his work. Although he never said it directly, apparently Victor Tsaran is himself blind--or at least has limited vision.

Mike Calvo and Joe Steinkamp from the Serotek Corporation talked with the group about the cloud. Serotek has a number of cloud-based applications used by the blind--including its DocuScan product, which performs optical character recognition in the cloud instead of in a local computer. Mr. Calvo expressed a conviction that future advancements for the blind are likely to take place in the cloud. Witness Google's Chromium computer, which has a very small electronic footprint. All of its functions are executed over the Internet, and there is the beginning of a talking solution for the Chromium computer, which should be of interest to the blind.

Overall the 2011 meeting of the NFB in Computer Science demonstrated in microcosm the current state of affairs with respect to nonvisual access for the blind. A number of positive efforts are under way that promise to be quite exciting in the future, but in the main the struggle for full access will never completely end.

NAGDU Launches Hotline:
On July 3 at its annual business meeting, the National Association of Guide Dog Users announced the launch of its new hotline. The NAGDU Information and Advocacy Hotline not only offers information about the legal rights of individuals who use service animals, it offers the option to speak with an advocate who is trained to resolve access denials. According to the new federal guidelines that took effect on March 15, 2011, a service animal is “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.” (28 CFR Part 35.104 & 28 CFR Part 36.104).

“We find that most access problems are the result of a lack of information,” said Michael Hingson, the Association’s vice president, who serves as project manager for the hotline. “This hotline is an excellent resource for accurate information.”

The NAGDU Information and Advocacy Hotline currently offers general information about service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as specific guidance about restaurants, taxicabs, and health care facilities. Callers needing immediate assistance can connect directly to a live trained advocate. Future plans for the hotline include summaries of each of the state laws concerning service animals, more industry-specific information, and guidance in a variety of languages, such as Mandarin and Arabic. The hotline is available anytime by calling toll-free 888-NAGDU411 (888-624-3841).

The NAGDU Information and Advocacy Hotline was created by a grant from the National Federation of the Blind’s Imagination Fund, as well as with contributions from the California and Florida Associations of Guide Dog Users. The National Association of Guide Dog Users is a strong and proud division of the NFB. NAGDU conducts public awareness campaigns on issues of guide dog use, provides advocacy support for guide dog handlers who face discrimination, supports effective legislation to protect the rights of service animal users, offers educational programs to school and civic organizations, and functions as an integral part of the National Federation of the Blind. For more information about the National Association of Guide Dog Users or to support its work, visit its Website at <http://www.nagdu.org> or send an email message to <info@nagdu.org.

Report of the Newsletter Publication Committee:
The NFB newsletter publication committee met Tuesday evening, July 5. The major accomplishment was the making of an instructive documentary designed to aid any affiliate, division, or chapter contemplating the creation of a newsletter or needing a boost to keep the existing publication fresh. The meeting began with a keynote speech by Gary Wunder on the purpose of a newsletter. Following was a panel of editors who discussed how to create, where to find material, and how to construct a valuable publication.

The second half of the meeting covered how else our organization communicates our message and information. Websites, Facebook, Twitter, and email lists were discussed and encouraged. A copy of the audio recording is available by request from Robert Leslie Newman at <newmanrl@cox.net>; a written transcript is also being developed.

Report of the 2011 NFB Writers’ Division Meeting:
 The division met Tuesday, July 5. Business was conducted, the 2011 writing contest winners were announced, a panel of new authors made presentations, and elections were held. The panel participants were Beth Finke and Linda Goodspeed. Both have recently published new books. Both use their writing skills to make a living--Beth is a radio journalist for National Public Radio, administers a blog, and authors articles and books. Linda is a free-lance writer, authoring articles for magazines and books. They were both inspiring. A recording of the panel is available on the division Website <http://www.nfb-writers-division.net>.

2011 Employment Seminar Recordings Now Available:
On July 3, 2011, the NFB employment committee hosted its annual seminar during the 2011 national convention. We had some great presenters, and for the first time the seminar was recorded. A number of people have requested copies of the recording, so here is how to get one.

Copies of the seminar are available for $10 each on audio or MP3 CDs sent to you by surface mail or in zipped files sent by Internet. If you want your copy of this dynamic seminar quickly, Internet delivery is the way to go. If ordering the seminar on CD, be sure to specify whether you want standard audio CD or MP3 files. Audio CDs will play on any standard CD player, and MP3 files can be played using a wide variety of playback devices and software. If you request Internet delivery, be sure you have software that will allow you to unpack the files, which will be sent as a single zipped archive.

Both CD and Internet copies are available for $10 each. Please specify the number of copies you are ordering. If you submit payment by mail, make checks payable to Peter Donahue and send to him at 8800 Starcrest Drive, Apt. 226, San Antonio, TX 78217. Payment may also be sent using PayPal with the following email address: <pdonahue2@satx.rr.com>.

Save the Date--Web Accessibility Training Day:
The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute and the Maryland Department of Disabilities’ Technology Assistance Program are delighted to present the second Web Accessibility Training Day. On Monday, September 19, we will offer a day-long, in-depth look at how accessible Web content that complies with federal and state regulations is created. Compliance with these regulations and with W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is especially relevant in light of the Department of Justice’s recent confirmation that the Americans with Disabilities Act covers the Web. We will have a variety of general topic sessions, with afternoon breakout sessions on policy and technical topics: the business case for accessibility; how to evaluate and implement accessibility; mobile accessibility; easy accessibility fixes; opportunities to network with developers, vendors, Web accessibility consultants, and experts in nonvisual access technology.

Exhibitors will present their products during session breaks, and participants will have an opportunity to learn more about their services. For more information or to register, please visit <www.nfb.org/webaccessibility> or contact Clara Van Gerven at the NFB (<cvangerven@nfb.org>, (410) 659-9314, ext. 2410). We hope you can join us for this exciting event.

NFB Pledge

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

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