Vol. 54, No. 10 November 2011
Gary Wunder, editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, president
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 54, No. 10 November 2011
Quiet Cars, Pedestrian Safety, and Protection for
the Environment: A Panel Discussion
by John G. Paré Jr., David Strickland, Douglass Moore, and Kevin Ro
Fair Wages for People with Disabilities
by Anil Lewis
Driving Change: The 2011 NFB Youth Slam
by Natalie Shaheen
Student Has No Trouble Visualizing
a Doctorate in Chemistry
by Ed Fletcher
The Accessible Campus in California:
An Example for the Nation
by Peter M. Siegel
Louder and Prouder:
Two More States Added to the BELL Choir
by Jackie Otwell and Natalie Shaheen
Growth and Innovation in Louisiana and Beyond
by Joanne Wilson
The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards
by James Gashel
Using Pipe Cleaners and Clay,
Classmate Helps Blind Student
See Geometry Lessons
Crippling Condition Associated
Often Misdiagnosed and Misunderstood
John Nagle: Friend of the Blind
by Anna Kresmer
In late September a new sign took its place on the skyline of South Baltimore. Measuring 39.5 feet in length and 12 feet in height, this illuminated giant computer screen announces the presence of the National Federation of the Blind. Drivers on I-95 can read our name alternating with other messages of our choice along with the time and temperature. In recent weeks the sign has announced that October was Meet the Blind Month, and it has welcomed groups to the National Center. The display pictured here depicts Whozit in full color striding across the letters “NFB” in black on a white field on the left side and on the right the words “National Federation of the Blind” in white on a black background with the time and temperature underneath. When this photo was taken, a beautiful blue sky was visible behind the sign with the American flag flying above, symbolizing the opportunity in this great land and the encouragement she gives to her people to unite in making the world a better place.
by John G. Paré Jr., David Strickland, Douglass Moore, and Kevin Ro
From the Editor: For eight years we have been working to see that safe and independent travel by the blind can coexist with the ever-changing propulsion systems used in motor vehicles. On Thursday morning of the 2011 convention, experts conducted a panel discussion featuring consumers, auto manufacturers, and regulators. Here, in significant part, are the remarks made by each member of the panel, beginning with panel moderator John Paré, executive director for strategic initiatives for the National Federation of the Blind:
John Paré: Good morning, fellow Federationists. On July 4, 2003, almost eight years ago today, we passed Resolution 2003-5 regarding the danger posed by silent hybrid vehicles. The following year Dr. Maurer created the committee on automobile and pedestrian safety to explore the quiet car issue. On February 20, 2008, Dr. Maurer spoke to the working party on noise in Geneva, Switzerland. This group reports to the world forum organization of vehicle regulations, which in turn is part of the Economic Commission for Europe. On April 8, 2008, the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2008, HR 5734, was introduced by Congressman Ed Towns and Cliff Stearns in the 110th Congress, second session. Many people underestimated us. They said that we would not be able to convince car companies, the Department of Transportation, the United States Congress, and the American public that these cars pose a danger to all pedestrians, especially blind pedestrians. But did the National Federation of the Blind give up? No. We ended the second session with eighty-eight cosponsors. We kept advocating, and on January 28, 2009, Ed Towns and Cliff Stearns reintroduced the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, HR 734, and on April 21, 2008, Senators John Kerry and Arlen Specter introduced the Companion Senate bill, S 841.
We kept advocating, and, at the end of the first session of the 111th Congress, the bills had 171 cosponsors in the House and eighteen in the Senate. We kept advocating, and on September 23, 2009, the Washington Post ran a front-page story regarding the work being done in this area. We kept advocating, and on May 18, 2010, after weeks of intense negotiations, we obtained the endorsement of the Association of Automobile Manufacturers on a revised version of the bill. We kept advocating, and on December 9, 2010, the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation sent S 841 to the Senate floor for unanimous consent votes. That day it was passed by the Senate and sent to the House. We kept advocating, and on December 18, 2010, the House voted on S 841 and passed it 379 to 30. We kept advocating, and on January 4, 2010, the president of the United States signed the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act into law. [Applause]
Now there is much work yet to be done. The Department of Transportation must determine just how much sound a vehicle needs to make to be safe. The department must also determine the characteristics of the sounds. We are honored to have the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration here to speak to us today. David Strickland was sworn in on January 4, 2010. Prior to his appointment he served for eight years on the staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. As the senior counsel for the Consumer Protection Subcommittee, he was responsible for oversight of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. He is dedicated to the implementation of measures improving the safety of all roads and especially the implementation of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act. Fellow Federationists, please welcome the United States Department of Transportation administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, David Strickland. [Applause]
David Strickland: Good morning, NFB. Dr. Maurer, thank you so much for your leadership and your kind invitation to have me here. I know that we have come a long way together on this issue in making pedestrianism and individual mobility better for the blind and by basically making pedestrianism safer and better for every person in America. It's all because of you and your leadership.
I want to take a moment to depart from my prepared remarks to talk about bravery, tenacity, and leadership. Things like the Pedestrian Enhancement Safety Act--they don't happen very often. In the world of vehicle regulation, having a single stand-alone rule to apply to every car made in America is usually tied to a much bigger initiative that usually has funding for highways or something of a larger scope. To do what you did, building a case based on what you recognized early on as a significant risk, not only building your case with the stakeholders and manufacturers but making it to the Congress and making it to the Department of Transportation: this is really breathtaking. I can think of only one other instance in the past thirty or forty years when we've seen a piece of legislation succeed like this: it was also a pedestrian safety issue. The issue was rearward visibility (or back-over protection) to help people see behind them so they don't run over their toddlers. This piece of legislation and this rule is of the same magnitude and scale. It would not have happened without the leadership of NFB and the leadership of all of you. Thank you so much for staying with us and getting this thing done. [Applause]
I had the distinct honor of working on this policy issue in two places. I started, as John said, working for the United States Commerce Committee, which worked on Senator Kerry’s legislation. I remember when John visited me for the first time and how he explained this issue. I admit I am a hybrid vehicle owner, but I've always known that I have to be more careful because people cannot hear me when I am driving at slow speeds in parking lots. So I had to drive not only for myself but for every pedestrian around me. Now, being a person who works in transportation safety, you know that makes me a little more careful than most. There is a risk out there, and so, when John and the representatives with him from the NFB talked about this risk, I said to John, "You have to build a case. If you build a case, you're going to get support; you're going to get the leadership; you're going to get member buy-in; you're going to get it done." You know something? I give that advice to a whole lot of people, but frankly, NFB is one of the few in the crowd to actually make it happen. [Applause]
So here we are. Now, as a former staffer who helped on the legislation and supported you in this effort, I've been blessed with the opportunity to implement this rule, make this a federal motor vehicle safety standard for every vehicle in the United States. I have had the honor and pleasure to see it at its beginning and now, I hope, to shepherd it to its conclusion. It's a really special honor for me; for the secretary of transportation, Ray LaHood; and the entire team of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to be here.
In addition to thanking all of you for your hard work, your effort, your leadership, and your tenacity, I have an announcement to make today. We've had a number of folks in a number of meetings. I know that Deputy Administrator Ron Medford made a presentation to you about the work that's been going on since 2008: the public hearings, the outreach to the stakeholders, to the Society of Automotive Engineers, and to all the automakers. You know, our study showed there was an increased risk from silent hybrid vehicles to all pedestrians. This is true whether you're blind or sighted, young or old. All of that work led to the passage of the Act, and, luckily, because my agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was already well underway to take action on its own, we had the background research done. When the Act passed, we were well ahead of the game, which was a really good piece of news.
But today I want to announce our first official milestone in making this rule a reality. Today the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent to the Federal Register the scoping notice for the environmental impact of adding sound to vehicles. It is a thirty-day public notice for comment, but it is the first step on the road. The second step, a year from now, will be the proposal for the rule, and in 2014 we'll be issuing the final rule. We will add the right sound to every silent vehicle produced in the United States and make you and your family safer. Frankly, we will take what we've learned in the United States and, working with the international community and taking leadership, will add sound to silent vehicles around the planet. That's where we want to be. Frankly, this vision, this hope, and this dream would not have happened if it wasn’t for that brave step you took with your resolution back in 2003. NFB, thank you not only for making every pedestrian in America safer but for building the foundation for making every pedestrian around the planet safer. Thank you so much, and God bless all of you. [Applause]
John Paré: Mr. Doug Moore is responsible for vehicle noise regulatory compliance at General Motors and is a recognized expert on vehicle sound. He is the chairman of the ISO Standards Committee, responsible for international standards for exterior noise test procedures. He is also the chairman of the SAE Taskforce on Minimum Vehicle Sound. He serves as a technical expert to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Mr. Moore visited the National Federation of the Blind to find out what it would be like to walk around with a long white cane. He was blindfolded and walked around the streets of Baltimore with Ron Brown as his instructor. As each car passed by, he not only noticed it but would tell Ron, "Oh, that was a 2005 Chevy Camaro," or maybe, "I think that car over there, that's a 2009 Cadillac Escalade." Mr. Moore is absolutely expert on sound. Please welcome, from General Motors, Mr. Doug Moore. [Applause]
Doug Moore: Thank you, and good morning, delegates, officers, and guests of this convention. As was said, I'm Doug Moore, and I would like to thank President Maurer and the organizing committee for this kind invitation to speak to you on behalf of GM. GM and the NFB have cooperated on this issue for almost three years. GM appreciates the commitment of the NFB on this issue, not only in the U.S., but also internationally. I want to speak to you about what GM's history has been on this subject, what we're doing now, and, most important, what we plan to do in the future. I do hope you plan to do some work today, because I have some sounds for you to hear.
With that, GM has recognized this issue of pedestrian interaction with advanced propulsion vehicles for almost twenty years, since the dawn of our first electric vehicle, the EV1, in the 1990s. Even at that time GM realized this vehicle needed new ways to alert and interact with pedestrians. Therefore the EV1 was equipped with a feature to allow the driver to communicate acoustically with pedestrians. The Chevrolet Volt, which you can now buy, has built on this experience and includes an acoustic pedestrian alert feature as the EV1 before. This feature is standard equipment on every Chevrolet Volt GM will build. [Applause] GM has built on this successful collaboration with the NFB to help contribute to the development of our second-generation pedestrian alert feature. This feature will be an automatic system, which will fulfill the expected regulatory criteria in the U.S., Japan, and Europe.
Next I'd like to talk about what GM is doing today. The first question people usually ask me is, "What should it sound like?" Well, from the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, we know it needs to meet some of the following criteria. It needs to tell people the vehicle's presence, location, direction, and operation. Since I'm an engineer, I'm going to talk to you a little bit about engineering. GM's work on this has led us to sort of learn the following things: when it says, "Discern vehicle presence," what does that mean to us? It means, I can detect the vehicle. I know something is there in an environment where I can usually hear an internal combustion vehicle today. The second is recognition. The sound I hear, I associate with a vehicle: it's not a duck; it's not a mobile phone or whatever else it might be; it's a vehicle.
The second main criterion is that I need to discern the vehicle's location and its direction. Given I've already had detection and recognition satisfied, location and direction--a lot of it--is provided naturally by the human auditory system. Why? You can turn your head to help you localize the sound, and your binaural hearing improves your ability to know where it is. Both of these things in combination really help you to figure out--where is it.
Last, from the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, is "discern vehicle operation." Operation, in my mind as an engineer, means: is the vehicle moving, is it speeding up, is it slowing down? Movement can also naturally be detected by the human auditory system as the sound moves relative to the pedestrian. Information on whether the vehicle is speeding up or slowing down can also be provided by the sound changing in frequency or modulation as a function of speed. Think of this as what you recognize now when any machine speeds up or slows down. You know this same characteristic from a motor vehicle.
So, as I said, I need you to do some work. Well, let's do that. Audience, you are now part of our research. I want you to raise your hand if you think the sound I am about to play would, in any way, shape, or form, remind you of a motor vehicle. Mr. Sound Technician, queue up sound number one, please. [The sound played was a clip from a Three Stooges television cartoon.]
Okay, Mr. Paré, I see one hand over there, so take note of that person. [Laughter] Alright, Mr. Technician, sound number two, please. [The sound was a musical chord that was constant in pitch but varied in amplitude at the rate one would expect to hear from an idling vehicle. Imbedded in the sound was a small rhythmic knock or tap.]
Alright, anyone think that's a motor vehicle? A few more.
Mr. Technician, sound number three. [This sound was a chord that started with a fixed pitch and a change in amplitude like the previous sound, but the frequency of the pitch and amplitude increased in the same way a motor vehicle's sound would increase with acceleration.]
Any hands there for that one? A few more, yeah. Okay, Mr. Technician, sound number four. This is the last one; it's a little bit long. [This sound was a chord that started with a constant pitch but with a variation in amplitude that sounded very much like a mechanical knocking sound in a traditional combustion engine. With that sound were some outside sounds, including a singing bird. Gradually the sound increased in pitch, the rhythmic change in amplitude increased, and eventually tire and air noise could be heard. The pitch and rhythmic tapping decreased to simulate a slowing vehicle.]
Okay, how many thought that was a car? [Applause] Here's the interesting thing: except for the first sound of Larry back there [one of the Three Stooges] all three of those were the same sound. What's important here is listening in context. When you hear the sound only in isolation, as if you were in some laboratory, you really don't have the full information that all of you have when you are on the street and that I experienced when I was in the O&M training in Baltimore. Therefore it's really important that we make decisions about sound with the full vehicle sound, which is what we listened to. So you get there the full realistic information because in a lot of cases there is sound you get for free. It doesn't have to be added.
Let's talk about future work. What have we at GM learned? What we've learned is that discerning the vehicle presence requirement of the 2010 Safety Act can be established by having a lower vehicle emission that says all vehicles need to make some level of sound that's really comparable to what they make today. We can also add some corresponding frequency information that says, Okay, about in this range is where we need to have this sound. We have the measurement tools available to determine this level in this frequency content. We have baseline data for existing vehicles to make sure that the sound emission and frequency content are set appropriately. We can further make sure that bystanders are not annoyed, by setting a corresponding maximum level. The last thing we want is for people to experience this and try to figure out how to cut the wires on their car.
The next part is, when discerning the vehicle operation, we can include in the sound some frequency or modulation change as a function of vehicle speed. That's what you heard in there with the sounds going up in frequency. When you hear that, you know that's what the vehicle is doing. This is the natural way that any vehicle communicates with you now. GM, in cooperation with the NFB, has found this characteristic to be extremely valuable in providing information to pedestrians on what the vehicle is doing. So, from this research GM has conducted with the help of NFB, we are confident that NHTSA (National Highway Transportation Services Administration) will be able to bring forth a regulation that enhances motor vehicle and pedestrian safety, while simultaneously respecting noise pollution and driver annoyance. [Applause] Thank you very much.
Last, I'd like to conclude by saying that the bottom line is really that we think our research has shown that a wide range of sounds can meet all the criteria and still be detected, be recognized, and provide the information you have today. And, even better, the sounds are similar enough to what you have that they will not require extensive retraining for what you know from your O&M training. GM looks forward to bringing our second-generation systems to market.
I'd like to conclude by thanking President Maurer and the organizing committee for the kind invitation to speak with you today. I wish you a good day and a good convention. Thank you. [Applause]
John Paré: Our next panelist is Kevin Ro from Toyota Motors North America. Mr. Ro joined Toyota in 1997 as the company's liaison to the federal government on issues related to vehicle safety. He is now national manager of technical and regulatory affairs for Toyota Motor North America. Mr. Ro recently demonstrated a Toyota Prius with sound for us at the National Center. Toyota was the first mainstream car that did not make enough sound, but they are now committed to having sound on future vehicles and are working closely with the National Federation of the Blind. Please give a warm welcome to Mr. Kevin Ro from Toyota Motor North America. [Applause]
Kevin Ro: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here. I thank Dr. Maurer for inviting us and also John Paré for all his cooperation over the last few years. I don't debate anything that GM has said; in fact, you are going to find a lot of things I have to say are going to repeat what they have said.
I was here for the general session yesterday, and I was rather moved by the president's report. I wanted you to hear a perspective from someone that sat on the other side of the table from the NFB. At your organization's headquarters in Baltimore, Dr. Maurer and John Paré and the rest of the team were very gracious at our first meeting, and of all the nineteen years I've spent in D.C. working for auto makers, meeting with lots of advocacy groups, your leaders and staff actually opened their doors, invited us in, were very friendly, took the time to listen to us, and we took the time to listen to them. We had a lot of discussion about what our differences are; and, as Doug experienced, and several of us from the industry experienced, they took the time to have us experience half a day of what it's like to walk around Baltimore with a white cane and a mask over our eyes to experience a little bit of what we have to listen to, the characteristics of the traffic, and experience these issues for ourselves. That's the kind of advocacy group you have here that really tries to listen, tries to teach us, and I want you to know that they are probably the best group I've actually ever dealt with in my nineteen years. [Applause]
For today, what I was going to do was let you know what Toyota has been doing in the last few years. The Prius was one of the first global hybrid vehicles in the market. We've sold over a million worldwide now, and four or five years ago we started trying to develop a solution to the problem. For many years we spent a lot of time on pedestrian safety, working on craft worthiness so that our cars are a little more safe when they do hit pedestrians, worked on systems where the cars will brake for pedestrians; then we heard your concerns about pedestrians not being able to hear our vehicles. We started listening to different sounds; we created our own criteria, focusing on a lot of things that GM has already talked about: detectability, recognition, environmental acceptance, making sure the bystanders aren't going to reject the sound, working to ensure that customers buying our cars aren't going to reject it, or that they will go off and buy a vehicle that doesn't have the sound. We also wanted driver acceptance so that the drivers, as Doug mentioned, do not try to cut the wire.
So with all these considerations we look for key elements of sound that need to be in the system so that it's detectable, recognizable, and acceptable. One of the challenges is that a lot of our sound engineers really work to reduce noise, deal with city ordinances, and for marketability try to make certain vehicles sound a certain way. It was a new challenge for them to try to increase the sound levels in vehicles. The other challenge was that different age groups have different hearing capabilities. I actually sat through a demo once where the speaker played different sounds and had each of us raise our hands if we could hear it. I was amazed. I am forty-two years old, and I have the hearing of a fifty year old. I can't hear the sounds I'm supposed to hear. I guess that's too much rock and roll in my younger years.
Some of the challenges for us to consider were fluctuation and periodic shifts; fluctuation so that the person hearing doesn't get bored with the sound and doesn't tune it out. Also, we wanted to make sure that there are shifts so that you can recognize whether or not the vehicle is accelerating, decelerating, or going at a constant speed. It gets louder as the vehicle speeds up. We also did some focus group studies to try to understand what both blind and sighted people can detect. I want to play some of these tracks for you. If we can play track four here, please.
That was a noise kind of like ice cream truck bells. It seemed to be the one that people could identify the easiest and say they could hear. The problem is you don't feel that some type of danger is around. You just listen to it, hear it, and indentify it, done. Actually, that's also the sound I use for my cell phone alarm to wake me up every morning. For some reason that works for me. I can hear it, and it wakes me up.
Another sound on the other end of that spectrum is track number five, please.
This is basically a mechanical sound. It might be something like the hum of a refrigerator or air conditioner. It is a sound that people said they could hear, but over time they tended to tune it out. This was a sound that drivers actually liked because they said it didn’t really bother them.
We took some of the information we got back, looked at high frequency and low frequency sounds, and created a synthesized sound that will both provide some sense of a mechanical sound, but with low and high frequency sounds that are easily heard. Our sound is designed to mimic a vehicle accelerating from zero to fifteen miles an hour. Track 6, please.
That's a synthesized sound we've come up with. We've actually had a booth here and have been playing that sound. I think about a thousand people have stopped by so far, and we've had 999 people say that it is fine. I had one person that commented he didn't like it. It's a little futuristic sounding for the Prius, and this sound is going to be on the Prius V, which is going to be introduced this fall as standard equipment. There will be no switch for the driver. Just so that you can hear the sound of the vehicle slowing down, track 7.
We've got the sound that can tell you whether the vehicle is accelerating or decelerating, and, if it's going at a constant speed, it generates a constant hum. We'd appreciate it if you would stop by our booth. We've got copies of the CDs with the sound on them. We also have an email on there so that you can give us your comments or tell us what your thoughts are on the sound at our booth. We'd appreciate it. We're at E35. Thank you. [Applause]
John Paré observed that, as good as these sounds were in the hall, they sound even better when heard on vehicles in the environment for which they are designed. He concluded by saying that it is clear that our work with the Department of Transportation, specifically David Strickland, with GM, and with Toyota will make travel safer for blind people both in the United States and throughout the world. Our courage, our persistence, and our hard work are something we can be very proud of, and they are what makes us the force we are for changing what it means to be blind.
by Anil Lewis
From the Editor: For many years the National Federation of the Blind has fought to secure the payment of at least the minimum wage for blind people working in the sheltered workshops of our country. We have carried on this fight, recognizing that a law passed seventy-five years ago allows subminimum wages for the disabled, but appealing to the good sense and the moral outrage of shop managers, encouraging them to ignore the exemption by paying a livable wage. Now we are turning our attention to the law itself that permits paying less than the minimum wage. We are attacking its fundamental assumptions and arguing for our competence and the necessity for rehabilitation professionals to help us train for those jobs that play to our strengths rather than assuming that manufacturing is the best fit for anyone working inside the highly subsidized not-for-profit sheltered-shop system. Here is what Anil Lewis, the coordinator of our effort to eliminate subminimum wage exemptions from United States law, has to say:
It has been legal to pay people with disabilities subminimum wages since the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in 1938. Specifically, for more than seventy years Section 14(c) of the FLSA has allowed the secretary of labor to grant special wage certificates to entities that provide employment to workers with disabilities, permitting them to pay their disabled workers at rates that are lower than the federal minimum wage and excluding people with disabilities from the workforce protection of the federal minimum wage enjoyed by all other Americans.
At the time backers argued that this exemption was necessary because people with disabilities could not be competitive employees, and supporters of the minimum wage exemption still make this argument today. However, the overall nature of the job market has changed, the use of assistive technology has made it possible for people with disabilities to perform any number of competitive jobs, and the rehabilitation system has developed new job-training and placement strategies to employ workers with even the most significant disabilities. Yet people with disabilities continue to be employed at subminimum wages. In fact, hundreds of thousands of Americans with disabilities are currently employed at wages less than the federal minimum wage. If provided the proper training, support services, and opportunities, these employees could be employed in competitive, integrated work environments, receiving competitive wages that would allow them to leave the rolls of social programs like welfare, Social Security, and Supplemental Nutritional Assistance (formerly the Food Stamp Program).
Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act is an anachronistic provision that is contrary to the progressive disability legislation for which we have fought and which has now been passed. The proper focus of disability policy is to move Americans with disabilities beyond what President George W. Bush called the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” America has acknowledged the vocational capacity of people with disabilities through the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The nation supports the provision of a quality education through the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, passed in 1975, now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990 and hailed as the Civil Rights Act for people with disabilities, prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. Yet the law still allows the exploitation of workers with disabilities through the discriminatory payment of subminimum wages.
To correct this injustice, the National Federation of the Blind has long fought for the phasing out of the subminimum wage exemption. Recently another battlefront emerged as the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (the HELP Committee) considered reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). In an ill-conceived attempt to deter the placement of young people with disabilities in subminimum wage employment, a proposed amendment to the Rehabilitation Act, Section 511 of Title V of WIA, was put forward by the HELP Committee. As quoted in Resolution 2011-17, passed unanimously by the 2011 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind, The language neither changed the status quo nor meaningfully prevented the placement of youth with disabilities on the subminimum-wage employment track, and would have resulted in enormously negative, though unintended, consequences. On July 26, 2011, members of the National Federation of the Blind made our position clear to the Senate and the public by conducting a total of twenty-one informational protests in sixteen states: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, and Wyoming. The protests were held on the twenty-first anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act at the primary district office locations of United States senators serving on the HELP Committee. As a result of our action, consideration of Section 511 has been indefinitely postponed.
We are now leveraging the debate surrounding Section 511 to address the true root of the problem--Section 14(c) of the FLSA. We recognize the difficult political climate in which we are operating, but we choose to create our own political reality. We will deal with this problem by working toward the passage of the recently introduced Fair Wages for People with Disabilities Act, H.R. 3086, to phase out Section 14(c) of the FLSA. Here is the press release announcing the introduction of this historic legislation:
(October 4, 2011): Congressman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Congressman Tim Bishop (D-NY) today introduced the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2011 (H.R. 3086). The bill would phase out Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which allows employers holding special wage certificates to pay their workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage.
Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act is a long-overdue effort to correct an injustice written into a law meant to protect all American workers from abuse and exploitation. Workers with disabilities were excluded from the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act because of the false belief that we cannot be as productive as Americans without disabilities. Courage and creativity are required to replace the misguided benevolence that has historically shaped policies toward people with disabilities with real opportunity for our equal employment and full participation in the workplace. We applaud Representatives Stearns and Bishop, and we hope that a significant majority of their colleagues possess the courage and creativity to end over seventy years of exploitation of people with disabilities.”
“Simple fairness and decency require that workers with disabilities receive equal pay for equal work,” said Congressman Stearns. “I am asking all of my colleagues to join me in this historic effort to end wage discrimination against workers with disabilities once and for all.”
“Ensuring that Americans with disabilities receive equal pay for equal work is more than a matter of basic fairness; it’s a long-overdue acknowledgement of the value disabled Americans contribute to our workplaces every day,” said Congressman Tim Bishop. “I hope all of my colleagues will support this bipartisan effort to correct over seventy years of injustice.” For more information about the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act and the National Federation of the Blind, visit <www.nfb.org>.
Altering more than seventy years of institutionalized and fallacious thinking about the capacity of people with disabilities will not be a simple task. Allowing the legal payment of subminimum wages is a de facto assertion that people with disabilities cannot be productive employees. This incorrect assumption is a self-fulfilling prophecy that makes it nearly impossible for society to accept the truth that even people with the most significant disabilities can be competitively employed. But in the National Federation of the Blind we specialize in making the impossible possible.
Many are asking, “What will happen to those with disabilities who are currently employed under these special subminimum wage certificates?” The real question to be answered is, “What should happen to those people with disabilities currently being exploited under this unjust provision?”
The fundamental fallacy is in considering subminimum-wage work as true employment. The entities that engage in this practice are not employers. They are daycare providers for people with disabilities, offering days filled only with repetitive drudgery for sometimes third-world wages and leading nowhere for their workers but toward despair and greater dependence on social programs and public assistance. Imprisoning these workers in this adult daycare environment keeps them from acquiring the necessary training and opportunity to identify the skills or job that could lead to their competitive, integrated employment at the federal minimum wage or higher. If social supports are necessary for some of these people to sustain themselves, then society should be developing methods that will make it possible for them to gain real skills, to identify appropriate jobs, and to contribute in a meaningful way to the system that supports them.
Many of these sheltered workshops could be more accurately described as prisons, albeit without bars, than as actual workplaces. The data show that fewer than 5 percent of the prisoners escape. This means that 95 percent of the people currently toiling in subminimum-wage work will spend their entire working lives in these facilities. They will never receive the needed services, training, or support to become real workers, doing real jobs, and earning real wages.
We must eliminate this legalized wage discrimination in order to shift the paradigm from one maintaining that people with disabilities cannot perform jobs competitively to one that recognizes that, with the proper training, opportunity, and supports, even people with the most significant disabilities can be competitively employed—contributing to an employer's bottom line and adding value to the American economy.
Many businesses have successfully made this paradigm shift by employing people with disabilities at competitive wages in quality work environments. They have demonstrated (contrary to the convictions of those who would have this exploitation continue) that they can maintain employment of people with disabilities at the federal minimum wage or higher while still maintaining their own profitability. The public and private dollars they receive are spent to increase the maximum employment opportunity for people with disabilities so that all employees can take pride in becoming beneficial participants in society, not beneficiaries.
Rather than adopting a new business model that values each employee by paying at least the federal minimum wage, other employers prefer to continue exploiting the productivity of workers with disabilities. In addition to artificially padding profits by exploiting subminimum-wage labor, these entities generate further revenue through soliciting philanthropic donations and obtaining federal funding. It should be obvious that any business unable to remain lucrative with public and private money constantly flowing into its coffers while paying the employees at least the federal minimum wage should not be in business at all. The failure of such an entity is likely to be the result of poor management, not the payment of competitive wages or the incapacity of its workers with disabilities. Such shoddy operations should not be subsidized by a federal law that allows them to exploit workers with disabilities by using them as a fundraising resource, as a justification for the lavishing of federal largesse, and as sweatshop laborers.
As we have repeatedly demonstrated throughout the history of the National Federation of the Blind and the disability rights movement, when employers set high expectations, creative strategies emerge. When proper training is provided, proper supports are available, and proper job match has been identified, even people with the most significant disabilities can contribute to the workplace and to society.
The Employment First movement is a prime example of what can be done when the proper expectations are set. Employment First is founded on the principle that all people with disabilities should have the freedom, support, and opportunity to achieve competitive, integrated employment first. This means that those with developmental disabilities work and receive minimum wage or greater commensurate with other employees.
One of the strategies that have been successful in assisting people with disabilities to obtain gainful employment at a competitive wage is the Supported Employment Program. Supported Employment is rooted in the premise that all individuals, including those with the most severe disabilities, can and should be an integral part of their communities—productive and valuable. Benefits of Supported Employment for people with developmental disabilities can be extraordinary—the right job can quite literally change someone’s life.
Customized Employment is another tool that has resulted in competitive placement of those with significant disabilities. Customized Employment is a flexible process designed to personalize the employment relationship between a job candidate and an employer in a way that meets the needs of both. It is based on an individualized match of the strengths, conditions, and interests of a job candidate with the identified business needs of an employer. Customized Employment uses an individualized approach to employment planning and job development—one person at a time, one employer at a time.
Employment First, Supported Employment, and Customized Employment are innovative job placement strategies that are present in almost every state in the union. Unfortunately, these innovative approaches are competing against an entrenched system founded on the belief that people with disabilities are defective, a belief supported by a billion-dollar industry exploiting subminimum wage labor and perpetuating negative stereotypes about Americans with disabilities.
People with disabilities want the opportunity to contribute toward making America a better nation, just like every other American citizen. Rather than allowing the labor of people with disabilities to be devalued, America needs to incentivize the development of the progressive employment tools, strategies, and supports that make it possible for every American citizen, regardless of disability, to earn a fair wage. Congress must pass the Fair Wages for People with Disabilities Act, and the National Federation of the Blind will work tirelessly until we achieve that goal.
by Natalie Shaheen
From the Editor: Anyone who has participated in Youth Slam, the NFB’s biannual, week-long summer program for high school students that focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) activities, understands firsthand the level of energy and excitement that scores of teenagers can generate when they are learning new things. The following report of the 2011 Youth Slam attempts to communicate this buzz by including a lot of the tweets generated by staff and students during the week. Readers for whom the term “social media” describes a life complication they are hoping to duck should remember that Twitter provides very brief bits of Internet communication. Whether you want to follow the tweets on a given subject or you intend for your tweet to be part of the discussion, you have to use the hashtag for that topic. In the case of Youth Slam, the hashtag is “#NFBYS11.” Parents, teachers, and interested Federationists who wanted to stay in touch with Youth Slam activities searched Twitter using NFBYS11 to find the tweets. Those contributing to the conversation included the hashtag in their messages. We have retained the hashtags in the tweets below. In a few places we have also included links to additional information that tweeters put in their messages. Natalie Shaheen has provided the commentary around the tweets. She is the director of education in the Jernigan Institute, so she was in the thick of activity during Youth Slam. Now hold onto your hat; here is Natalie’s 2011 Youth Slam report:
Time was when turning on the radio or television was the best way to get breaking news. Today news hits Twitter--a social media site--long before it hits any other media stream. During the week of the NFB Youth Slam, July 17 to 23, this principle held true. Students, volunteers, staff, visitors, celebrities, and even people across the country who couldn’t make it to the program were tweeting about #NFBYS11 (Twitter talk for the 2011 NFB Youth Slam).
The best way to learn what was happening from one minute to the next during the week of Youth Slam at Towson University is to look at Twitter. A query for #NFBYS11 on Twitter yields many tweets, including the following, which, taken together, provide a window on the events and energy of the program.
NFBScience: “Students arrive today! Let the fun, learning, and empowerment begin. #NFBYS11”
Maryann Migliorelli: “#NFBYS11 Second morning at Youth Slam. Eagerly awaiting our mentees. Yesterday was full of fun and learning. Much preparation for kids.”
Angela Dehart: “Students will start arriving soon! Let the fun begin! #NFBYS11”
After a day and a half of training and preparation at Towson University, staff and volunteers eagerly awaited the arrival of the students. As the 136 students traveled to Baltimore by plane, train, and automobile, volunteers excitedly reviewed the events of the week and the things they had already learned about the students they would soon meet.
NFBScience: “The first students have arrived! #NFBYS11”
The students arrived at the dorm by the busload from the airport and train station. The symphony of luggage rolling down the sidewalk, students talking excitedly about their travels, canes tapping, marshals directing traffic, old friends embracing, and new friendships forming was reminiscent of the first days of national convention.
NFBScience: “Mentors are talking with students about the long white cane and how to use it effectively--expanding their horizons. #NFBYS11”
Since the program took place on a college campus, students got extensive travel experience throughout the week. To ensure that students were ready for the week of traveling, volunteers saw that each student had a cane and gave students who came in with traditional canes the opportunity to try a long white cane for the week. These initial conversations about cane travel were instrumental in setting the tone of independence for the week. As the week progressed, volunteers found time to talk more with students about independent travel as they walked from class to class.
Kriss McCall: “Assuming my own Slammer made it in one piece. Eagerly following your tweets to live the excitement from a distance. @NFBScience”
Students traveled to and experienced the entire Youth Slam without their parents by their sides. This was more difficult for the parents than it was for the students. Parents recognized that their teens would grow and learn so much over the week that they wanted to be there to observe the growth firsthand. Since they couldn’t be with their children, parents stayed in touch through modern technology like cell phones and social media,
Mark Riccobono: “The biggest group of blind people ever doing the marshmallow challenge is #NFBYS11.”
After everyone enjoyed dinner, the program started with a kick-off event that included the marshmallow challenge. Each pod (one blind adult and three blind students) received twenty pieces of uncooked spaghetti, one yard of string, one yard of tape, and one jumbo marshmallow. The object was to build the tallest free-standing structure possible, ensuring that the entire marshmallow sat at the very top of the structure. The pods had eighteen minutes to complete the challenge. The tallest tower built at Youth Slam was twenty-eight inches tall and was built by a pod of women. This activity got the students’ problem-solving juices flowing and allowed the pods to come together as teams.
Mario Armstrong: “Looking forward to giving a presentation to young students at the national NFB Youth Slam tomorrow—see y’all soon. #NFBYS11”
Mario Armstrong, a TV and radio personality whose segments air regularly on CNN, NPR, and The Today Show, is a resident of Baltimore. In advance of coming to the program to speak with students in the journalism track, Mario was following all the buzz about the Youth Slam on Twitter.
Shanae Bethea: “This is awesome! We are at Youth Slam. #NFBYS11”
Even early morning wake-up calls couldn’t dampen the students’ enthusiasm. Everyone was off to breakfast by 7:00 a.m., if not earlier, and the students still found time to tweet first thing in the morning!
NFBScience: “Dr Maurer, president of the NFB, just finished speaking to the students at the #NFBYS11 opening ceremony.”
NFBScience: “Now Mark Riccobono is talking to the students about the #NFB Blind Driver Challenge™. He was the first blind man to drive a car! #NFBYS11”
NFBScience: “Students say they want to ride in the blind drivable car. So we are setting it up. Students will ride in the car on Friday. #NFBYS11”
Monday morning’s opening ceremony was packed with a line up of impressive speakers. The students welcomed everyone with applause; but, when President Maurer and Mark Riccobono were introduced, the ballroom erupted in cheers, chants, and applause from the students. The young people couldn’t wait to hear what these two influential men had to say. As the students learned about the history and current status of the NFB Blind Driver Challenge from Mark Riccobono, the energy was palpable. As Mark wrapped up his comments, the students started chanting that they wanted to ride in the car. Mark then told them that they would have that opportunity on Friday at the NFB Jernigan Institute. The students could hardly believe what they were hearing. As Mark left the stage, the students cheered “Ric-co-bo-no, Ric-co-bo-no.” The program was off to a great start!
NFBScience: “#NFBYS11 participants in their first track sessions: chem, robots, space, bio, engineering, news, cs [computer science], nanoscience, forensics, and geoscience.”
Pumped up from the opening ceremonies, students headed off to their first track sessions. Before the program, students chose from one of ten STEM disciplines (referred to as tracks throughout the program) to study throughout the week. The students spent fifteen to seventeen hours learning and engaging in activities related to their chosen disciplines over five days.
Amy Lund: “Enjoying the teacher track at Youth Slam 2011. #NFBYS11”
In addition to the ten STEM-focused tracks for the students, this year’s Youth Slam also featured a track for teachers of the blind. In this track teachers learned about best practices in teaching blind students in various subjects, particularly how their blind students can function nonvisually in the STEM classroom. Teachers received direct instruction from fellow educators and also spent a good deal of time observing the students’ learning activities.
Angela Dehart: “Students in the journalism track are learning all about social media. #NFBYS11”
James Bybee: “CNN's Mario Armstrong talks to the journalism track at youth slam. #NFBYS11 http://boo.fm/b415724, via Audioboo app”
The journalism track started its week with a bang; having a celebrity guest speaker on day one was pretty exciting. Students spent the rest of the week learning about the various media available to today’s journalists: print, television, radio, and social media. Each pod picked a medium and a subject and created a news piece by the end of the week.
NFBScience: “In the nanoscience track students are doing a mini me activity to learn how small the nano scale really is—it’s nonvisual. #NFBYS11”
Before students in the nano track could start doing science at the nano scale they needed to know how small these objects are. To do this, students measured their bodies and then created models that were one tenth their size. These models were called “mini me.” The students then made a model that was one tenth the size of their mini me, a “mini mini me.” They then pondered how many more times they would have to divide by ten to get the dimensions of a mini me at the nanoscale with the knowledge that a nanometer is equal to one billionth of a meter.
NFBScience: “Students in the forensics track are currently looking at skeletons and learning to tell the difference between the bones of males and females. #NFBYS11”
Throughout the week forensics track participants learned how to interpret and identify various forms of forensic evidence. They worked extensively with real bones, determining the age and sex of a skeleton based on the features of the bones. By the end of the week the students were able to solve a mock crime.
NFBScience: “The space and engineering tracks are working together to build a geodesic dome. #NFBYS11”
NFBScience: “The dome is complete. #NFBYS11 http://twitpic.com/5s8hcy”
The space and engineering tracks collaborated throughout the week to build a Mars habitat equipped with a building--the geodesic dome, roads for hovercrafts that would deliver supplies, and much more. The dome they built on the first day became a cornerstone for their work the rest of the week.
NFBScience: “The robotics track is building sumo bots. Later the robots will fight. #NFBYS11”
The robotics students programmed LEGO Mindstorm robots to do all kinds of crazy things. They had robots fighting and playing dodge ball. Nope, it wasn’t magic; it was all in the programming.
NFBScience: “Day two. Today students attend short sessions in addition to their tracks: recreational math, mineralogy, Blind Driver Challenge, and others. #NFBYS11”
To provide the students a diverse STEM experience, the teens attended four short sessions throughout the week when they weren’t in their tracks. In these sessions students got a quick and exciting introduction to various STEM disciplines. The mineralogy session was run by Dr. David Vanko, the dean of the College of Science and Math at Towson University. Dr. Cary Supalo also ran a short session, which the vast majority of the students attended. In this session, Dr. Supalo guided the students through several experiments in which they collected data using the LabQuest, a product of Vernier Software and Technology that has been made accessible with JAWS through Dr. Supalo’s work.
NFBScience: “Students in the journalism track are picking topics for audio and blog documentary productions: life at Youth Slam, minimum wage, education, technology, YS tracks. #NFBYS11”
Angela Dehart: “In the journalism track pod 30 has decided to do its documentary project on education of blind students. #NFBYS11”
Day two, and the journalism students are already picking the topics they will use for their documentaries.
NFBScience: “Biology track is learning how to use micropipettes to measure accurately for their experiments. #NFBYS11”
The biology track performed genetic transformations as part of a genetic engineering investigation. To complete these experiments successfully and nonvisually, the students used various techniques, including micropipettes. This piece of mainstream lab equipment is great for measuring liquids very accurately. Though not designed for blind students, micropipettes work well nonvisually.
NFBScience: “Forensic track cleaning footprints with toothbrushes so they can match the prints to shoes. #NFBYS11 http://twitpic.com/5sm3ip”
The students in the forensics track always had their hands in something messy. Learning is a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.
NFBScience: “Nano track experimenting with the nanomanipulator, a haptic interface connected to an atomic force microscope (AFM)--really cool stuff! #NFBYS11”
Things at the nanoscale are so small that no one can see them. Scientists who work at the nanoscale use atomic force microscopes to gather data about samples they cannot see. The AFM has a probe that scans the surface of the sample to collect the information the scientist is looking for. With the nanomanipulator demonstration students were able to interact with pre-programmed samples of nano materials through a haptic device. Students held a stylus that was connected to the computer by a multi-jointed arm. As the students moved the stylus around, they could explore the sample and feel the same forces the probe of the AFM encounters. The students couldn’t wait to share this extraordinary learning experience with people who visited their class.
Jeffrey P. Bigham: “Youth Slam CS track: great chat with @vick08 [apparently one of Jeff’s friends] on computing and accessibility, and first real-world navigation test with students' code. #NFBYS11”
Students in the computer science track (CS) worked with Mac computers and iPhones to write accessible iOS applications that directed them to landmarks and people. They used their applications to play games, including scavenger hunts and GPS tag. Whoever said, “Geeks don’t know how to have fun”?
Natalie Shaheen: “Some good #goalball here at the YMCA... Back to Towson. #NFBYS11”
The learning and fun didn’t stop at 5:00 p.m. when classes adjourned. Students spent each evening participating in lots of exciting and challenging recreational activities. Some of the options were familiar, like goalball and yoga, while others were unique: minute to win it, murder mystery, and rec-x.
James Bybee: “Just got to watch a bunch of blind people in chemistry mix dangerous chemicals. Youth Slam is so cool! #NFBYS11”
The young people in the chemistry track handled all sorts of chemicals and learned how to do so safely from Henry Wedler, a blind chemist. Students learned the science behind making artificial flavors for common foods. Students also worked together to make bio fuel to power fans.
NFBScience: “Engineering track just ran a hovercraft on a thirty-ft track with sensors so blind drivers know to turn and stop. #NFBYS11 http://twitpic.com/5t05we”
One of the many projects the engineering track worked on was creating roadways for hovercrafts to travel on to get supplies to the geodesic dome they built earlier in the week. The students built these roads using PVC pipe. They used standard window alarms as sensors to alert the blind driver of points along the track where he would have to turn or stop.
NFBScience: “Blind forensics instructor talking about alternative techniques she uses in field. She says slate and stylus is best for taking notes because of dirt. #NFBYS11”
The blind instructors at Youth Slam impart all kinds of wisdom to the teens, the most important of which is how they do their jobs as blind people. Cheryl Fogle, a blind archeologist, told the students that she uses a slate and stylus in the field to take notes because she doesn’t want dirt getting into her electronics.
Tyler: “In journalism listening to a guest speaker, really interesting, talking about media stuff and how twitter is useful as a news feed. #NFBYS11”
Tyler, a student in the program, joined Twitter after learning about it in the journalism track and used it to report on the program throughout the week.
NFBScience: “Biology track testing bacteria grown last night. #NFBYS11”
After genetically modifying a colony of bacteria, the students in the biology track let it grow overnight. In the morning they examined their samples to see if their experiment had worked. When the experiment did not work, the students had the opportunity to learn what had kept the bacteria from doing what they had expected.
NFBScience: “Dr. Don Thomas, professor at Towson University and former astronaut, is speaking with the space track. #NFBYS11”
Students and instructors listened intently as they learned about life aboard a shuttle from someone who has actually been to space. Students wondered aloud if they might be the first blind people in space.
Tyler: “I’m about to use Mark Riccobono’s, the blind driver’s, guitar for a talent show. Awesome! #NFBYS11”
David Brown: “Just sittin’ in the talent show at the NFB National Center. #NFBYS11”
Wednesday afternoon and evening the Youth Slam came to the NFB Jernigan Institute. In the afternoon students attended the Slam Seminar. Sessions at the seminar included NFB training center panel, blind science professionals panel, accessible math, question and answer with Dr. Maurer, blindness advocacy, and an Apple products talk. As the two students above mentioned in their tweets, after dinner students and volunteers showed off their gifts in a talent show.
James Bybee: “Dissecting a shark was cool. #NFBYS11”
NFBScience: “Students are dissecting dogfish sharks in Smith 373. This morning pods 11, 13, 23, 24, 27, 30, 33, 34, 35, & 38 were cutting up. #NFBYS11”
NFBScience: “This afternoon pods 1, 5, 8, 20, 39, 40, 43, 44, & 47 will be exploring the dogfish with Mark Riccobono. #NFBYS11”
Thursday was shark dissection day. A number of the pods participated in a short session in which they dissected a dogfish shark. The session was co-taught by a biology professor from Towson University and Mark Riccobono. Mark instructed the students on the nonvisual techniques blind people can employ to dissect specimens safely and efficiently, and the professor explained the biology of the dogfish shark. The students, the instructors, and Smith Hall smelt like dead fish long after the dissections were over.
Friday, the last day of the program, was jampacked with exciting events. Participants spent the morning at Pit-Row. In the afternoon students once again visited the NFB Jernigan Institute, but this time the event was Driving Change: The Final Lap.
NFBScience: “Tracks are setting up their booths in the Pit Row, an event in which they get to teach their peers what they learned all week. #NFBYS11”
NFBScience: “Students in the nano track are walking around Pit Row in bunny suits like those worn in clean rooms. #NFBYS11 http://twitpic.com/5tz8w4”
NFBScience: “People are being interviewed live at the journalism track booth. #NFBYS11”
NFBScience: “People are crawling into the geodesic dome built by the space and engineering tracks... Once they get in, they can stand up inside. #NFBYS11”
NFBScience: “iPhones in hand, students in the CS track are explaining how they used GPS apps to play tag. #NFBYS11”
NFBScience: “It sounds like learning here at the Union. Students are having fun learning from each other.#NFBYS11”
At Pit Row each track set up and staffed a booth where they got to share with their peers all of the knowledge they had acquired through the week. The tracks didn’t pull any punches; they brought all sorts of interesting and snazzy material to show their friends. The tweets above describe just a few of the exhibits that were available for the students and volunteers to view. The students had a blast learning from and teaching their friends. The adults who wandered into Pit Row were astounded by all the knowledge the students managed to acquire in just a week.
NFBScience: “Volunteers just led the students in singing 'Glory glory Federation’ #NFBYS11”
NFBScience: “Tracks are doing chants. The students are pumped up. #NFBYS11”
After Pit Row the energy level of everyone in the ballroom was through the roof. An impromptu pep rally seemed in order. Volunteers led the students in singing Federation songs, after which the tracks started a cheering competition to see who could cheer and chant the loudest for their track. The students could be heard throughout the Union.
Mark Riccobono: “I am about to take my first drive on city streets. The NFBJI is the center of innovation. #NFBYS11”
NFBScience: “Students are getting rides around the block in the blind drivable car. The young folks are having a blast. #NFBYS11!”
David Brown: “The full force of the week just hit me. In the USA it is legal to pay people with disabilities subminimum wages, and we don’t like that. #NFBYS11”
Friday afternoon’s Driving Change: The Final Lap was the event the students had been looking forward to since Mark announced on Monday that they would be riding in the NFB BDC car. In addition to riding around the block in one of the Blind Driver vehicles, an enormous enough opportunity to constitute a whole event in and of itself, students also participated in several other activities indoors: bumper cars, tire-changing, car art, constructing rubberband cars, and watching a blind bikers’ stunt show. The event wrapped up with inspirational remarks from Federation leaders, after which David Brown, a student, tweeted about how powerful the program had been for him.
Amy Lund: “Leaving Towson University. Great experience! #NFBYS11”
David Brown: “Don’t you hate it when you have to say good-bye to everyone you met and go home? #NFBYS11”
On Saturday morning exhausted and tearful students and volunteers boarded buses for BWI and Penn Station. Everyone was already talking about the next Youth Slam and what they would be doing then. Until next time, “Slam That!”
Making a charitable gift can be one of the most satisfying experiences in life. Each year millions of people contribute their time, talent, and treasure to charitable organizations. When you plan for a gift to the National Federation of the Blind, you are not just making a donation; you are leaving a legacy that insures a future for blind people throughout the country. Special giving programs are available through the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).
Points to Consider When Making a Gift to the National Federation of the Blind
Benefits of Making a Gift to the NFB
Your Gift Will Help Us
by Ed Fletcher
From the Editor: The following article is reprinted from the September 12, 2011, edition of the Sacramento Bee. It is about our own Hoby Wedler, a 2011 tenBroek Fellow in the NFB Scholarship Program. This is what it says:
Even the most adept chemistry student will spend an evening hopelessly staring at models of double helixes, polypeptides, and ribonucleic acids. Not Henry Wedler. Blind from birth, Wedler, who is working on his doctorate in organic chemistry at the University of California, Davis, sees these complex structures in his mind and occasionally with his hands.
You might think Wedler faces a significant disadvantage in learning a complex subject that leans heavily on visual representations of things too small for the human eye to see. But Wedler, twenty-four, says his lifelong reliance on using his mind to visualize street grids and campus layouts aids in this intellectual pursuit. "I feel like blind people have an advantage in organic chemistry over their sighted peers. I've been visualizing things my entire life," Wedler said.
Last week he received the latest of numerous awards honoring the Petaluma native's ability to overcome obstacles. Wedler, popularly known as "Hoby," is one of six students honored by Learning Ally, a nonprofit organization that makes specialized audio books for people with visual impairments or reading disabilities. The award offers a $6,000 cash prize and trip to Washington, D.C., where the winners will meet with lawmakers.
"People who are disabled need access--that may mean a ramp instead of stairs or an accessible audio book," said Doug Sprei, communications director for Learning Ally, which was formerly known as Recording for the Blind.
Using volunteer readers, the nonprofit gives a human voice to a library of textbooks that aren't available in Braille. In addition to reading the text, readers describe photos, graphics, and diagrams. The audio books open up materials that would otherwise require blind students to hire someone to read aloud. Sprei said Wedler exemplifies what blind students can do.
On a recent afternoon Wedler sat down at his desk to demonstrate how he uses audio books and an electronic Braille notetaker simultaneously to read and take notes. While audio books play a big role, Wedler is quick to point out that Braille is still an essential learning tool. "In my opinion we totally need Braille. You don't want to pull out a recorder to learn everything," Wedler said. Wedler said he can process more words per minute using an audio book, but Braille books allow users to process more details without having to constantly back up a recording.
While some parents of blind children question the value of learning Braille, there is no debate within the blind community, said Stuart Wittenstein, superintendent of California School for the Blind in Fremont. Wittenstein, who has known Wedler for years, called him a great role model for youngsters. Society has seen examples of blind people succeeding in rigorous careers for decades, but technology is making it easier, Wittenstein said. Wedler is also proving that blind people can follow their passion, even if it's a career path that hasn't already been plowed.
Concerned that he might not be able to work in science, in addition to his degree in chemistry Wedler also finished an undergraduate degree in history, as well as a minor in mathematics. He graduated in June with a 3.83 grade-point average. He found his interest in science early. He said a National Federation of the Blind summer camp solidified that passion and his belief that he could succeed in science. While there--with the help of blind NASA scientists--he and fellow campers launched a ten-foot-long rocket.
This summer he paid it forward, returning to the camp to teach chemistry. The lesson was carefully devised so that his blind students could smell the chemical reactions relating to naturally and artificially created compounds that make fruit smell. "Chemistry is cooking," Wedler said. He noted that cookie dough smells a lot like the final product, though a sensitive nose can tell the difference.The first classes in the five- to six-year PhD program at Davis start in a matter of weeks. Wedler's focus will be unlocking chemical secrets behind wine.
by Peter M. Siegel
From the Editor: Peter Siegel is the chief information officer and vice provost for information and educational technology at the University of California, Davis. He addressed the convention on Friday afternoon, July 8, 2011. His approach to access for disabled people and the accomplishments of his university provide hope in a sometimes discouraging world. This is what he said:
Good afternoon, NFB. It’s an honor to participate. I’m really the student here, and I thank you so much for providing me the opportunity to learn. What I want to do is take back what I am learning here to my colleagues at the University of California, including our president, Mark Yudof, who is a strong public supporter of accessibility, very committed to accessibility and very knowledgeable. It’s especially fitting to be here. The NFB’s founder, Dr. tenBroek, was both a student and a professor at the University of California.
I want to start by sharing with you two brief stories. Each illustrates a simple message that an imperfect university, the University of California, is developing a great vision for universal accessibility. Our approach is inextricably linked with our aspiration for academic excellence and our strong commitment to diversity. It calls for sustained cultural change. We believe that, by challenging deeply held assumptions and established practices, we can support new ways of embracing all perspectives. As I hope to show you today, I share your mission and believe that information technology will help us turn blindness beyond a physical nuisance into a mere physical difference. To reach that goal we must make the same technologies equally usable by everyone, regardless of age, ability, or situation.
A number of years ago a group working for me did phone and walk-in consulting for scientists around the country. Those scientists were creating complicated scientific visualizations--black holes, earthquakes, and epidemics--that type of thing. And they were a very picky lot. The best of our consultants was a fellow named Ray Kajowski, a blind person whom we had hired as one of our senior visualization specialists. Many of his sighted colleagues were distracted by the glitzy colors, the bouncing boxes, and all those things; but Ray systematically analyzed how the software worked and what tools worked best explaining the subtle details of the science. I recall this vividly because several individuals laughed--politely, yet they laughed because how could a blind person be a visualization consultant, much less the best visualization consultant? In fact, getting the best advice to the scientist was all Ray was concerned about. Through his expertise and insight my colleague quietly trumped prejudice.
Some of our blind students are also challenging the traditional idea that vision is the best way to convey knowledge. At a very young age Hoby Wedler, who is in the audience today, developed a passion and enthusiasm for chemistry--one of the so called visual fields. Despite signs of early talent, he was discouraged by a teacher who shared the general prejudice, but, if you ask Hoby, he’ll tell you that the spatial visualization skills and other nonvisual techniques he developed as a successful mobility traveler actually gave him an edge over his sighted counterparts.
Hoby is also making significant contributions to this highly demanding field. Some of you may have heard about the chemistry camps he leads with young blind and visually impaired students, where they experiment with polymers, bottle rockets, and liquid nitrogen. He’s still in his opening chapters; Hoby is just getting started. His story exemplifies one of the University of California’s most fundamental aspirations, to pursue excellence and inspire others to reach their dreams, regardless of the odds. What you may not know is that Hoby recently graduated with honors in history and chemistry, and he is now a PhD student in theoretical and organic chemistry at UC Davis. I only wish I had studied chemistry as hard as Hoby did.
The stories I just shared illustrate how fundamental assumptions and cultural attitudes can be both barriers and springboards to great academic accomplishments. It’s in that context that I want to underscore the profound role that information technology must play in insuring that all individuals have the same access to a good education and the same opportunities to succeed in an increasingly digital world. In the next five years most of our entertainment systems will be completely digital. We all know that. Soon electronic textbooks will be the norm for all students, and paper the exception. All students will routinely use their accessible smart phones to register for classes, turn in their essays, and check their grades. Every faculty member will use technology to do real-time research with colleagues across the world or teach students at multiple campuses.
So, if we are getting ready now, what kind of educators are we? With the incredible rise of technology comes greater pressure for educational online environments to be used effectively by all. That need is growing as adults of all ages seek new degrees and veterans return from recent wars, often with disabilities. Most critically, this greater need for accessibility comes at a time of high underemployment in the blind community, widely reported at 70 percent. This staggering statistic must be addressed. But it’s not solely to be addressed by accessibility advocates, it’s something that has to be a priority for university presidents and senior administrators as well.
So with these factors in mind our goal is to create a University of California where accessibility is so natural that many talented individuals like Hoby Wedler will climb the academic ladder, become full professors (go Hoby), give back to their fields, and inspire the next generation of UC students to excel and, yes, become our university presidents.
Some of you may not be familiar with the University of California. In brief, it was founded in 1868. It has ten campuses throughout the state. It’s a diverse place with 222,000 students. Thousands of our students have disabilities, though many choose not to disclose them. Even today some faculty say they have no students with disabilities in their classes, which obviously isn’t accurate, so it’s a place we have lots of work to do. We have over 121,000 faculty and staff working hand in hand to educate our students and carry out research that can literally change the world. Many of our faculty live with disabilities, and, even if many choose not to self-identify because of the stigma that may create, they contribute more and more as technology becomes increasingly accessible.
The University community also includes almost 1.5 million alumni around the globe and millions of state residents whose livelihoods are tied to the university. If we think of them as potential donors (and I remind the folks who do fundraising that, if these people can’t get to our websites, they can’t access our experts), they’re not going to feel connected to our campus, and they’re not going to donate. So it’s not just the right thing to do, but it’s clearly a critical benefit to the University to engage all of our community members. So no matter what part of the community they live in--student, faculty, staff, alumni, or citizens--we want them to feel they are part of the great University of California, and we need to make sure they have the same quality experience.
Clearly, if we hope to reach the estimated 300,000 members of our community, of our family, who would benefit from accessible technologies, we have a big job to do. So how well are we doing it? The University of California as a flagship public research university system is building on the work of amazing pioneers, pioneers in accessibility in higher education around the nation, around the world.
We have a bold philosophy regarding accessible information technology, and it’s based on four key elements. The first, as I said, is accelerating cultural change. That is changing how people think, how they feel in their gut about accessibility. We have a team of electronic accessibility experts across our ten campuses. They focus on creating a spirit of accessibility, nurturing in our faculty, staff, and students a kind of immersion in accessible culture. In order for people to really embrace this change, they must understand that the concept of the world as separate but equal has no place. There is a great spirit of camaraderie already developing, a conviction that we’re all in this together, and it is really exciting to watch people as they change from saying, “Yes, I understand the rules,” to saying, “Yes, it matters to me that we’re doing this.” This is an exciting thing to see.
We often say that technologists are focused on technology, but this can be a great asset. Once they understand that technology properly applied can convert disabilities into assets, they’re onboard, they’re excited, and they’re committed. So, as an example, the University of California is beginning to use its economic, political, and cultural clout as a major educational system to influence vendors and even product development--many of the things that Dan [Goldstein] talked about earlier. We are moving to strong advocacy within our purchasing division. Imagine what our millions of dollars, even in drastic budget times, can do to inspire equally hungry publishers and software companies. We’re no longer wringing our hands, saying, “Sorry, but the vendor doesn’t provide that accessibly.” Today we ask early and systematically, “How is your software accessible? What is your plan to make your product even more accessible?” And, as Dan reminds me, “Put that in writing.”
So, while I am proud of the progress we are making in changing attitudes and practices, do we get an A+ today? No, not at all. There are still areas where not a single vendor has shown any commitment to accessibility, and some of our departments need to go back to school. But we know exactly how to create this kind of cultural and technologically driven change because we’ve done it before in a number of areas. Some areas may seem mundane, like information security, but in a short number of years we’ve changed so that we will not, and most universities will not, buy a single piece of software that is not secure. They won’t even consider talking to the vendor unless it provides that capability. So, if they can do it for information security, we can use the same approach and make the same requirements for accessibility, and we’re doing that.
At UC Davis we have something called our principles of community, which is posted everywhere on the campus. One of the things it says is, “If it isn’t respectful, we don’t do it.” For me it says, “If it isn’t accessible, we won’t buy it, we won’t build it, we won’t use it, or expect you to use it.”
The second element of our approach is what is often referred to as universal design. That is changing how people develop technologies, online applications, and the like so accessibility is built into those designs and not bolted on as an afterthought. This is something I am really passionate about. The concept started with the focus on physical spaces and tools, and it has already made a difference in many ways for every one of us: things like curb cuts, automatic doors, speaker phones, ergonomic keyboards, motion sensor lighting, even potato peelers. But the electronic world, as in daily life, is a place where, when you make things more accessible, they work better for everybody. A great example is the smartphones of today with those built-in accessibility features. This type of technology offers a new and different paradigm for accessibility. You don’t need to carry around a variety of expensive assistive devices with battery chargers that are all different. We can turn on the smartphone’s accessibility feature and get access to a broad range of information from bus schedules and maps to course materials, textbooks, and so on. This is where we are going—building those into the tools and services for our students, our faculty, and our staff.
When they follow universal design principles, webpages are more accessible; they’re easier to navigate; they load faster; they’re easier to update; and they get to your target audience faster. As a result they lower the number of help-desk calls, which means they lower the overall costs. I don’t know why this is a problem for some of my colleagues to understand. Everyone benefits. So I say to our vendors out there that there is no forced choice here. There’s no forced choice on cost, no forced choice on innovation and accessibility. Blindhow.com from the NFB of Utah is both accessible and cool. So there’s a lot more that I am going to learn about this.
My third element focuses on the notion of dispelling the myth that accessible technology is prohibitively expensive. Let me drill into that for a second and then keep moving along. Our experience is that accessible software costs about the same to develop and less (that’s less, not more, not the same) to maintain than inaccessible software. Even if accessible software were to cost more, we would argue that the money is well spent, because universal design again and again has been demonstrated to improve the user experience for everyone.
So in reality we know that it is not about cost at all for the vendors or the universities. Time and time again we see the root of the problem is ill-considered economic strategies like disabling effective screen readers so as not to threaten the consumer online book market. These gains at the expense of accessibility are clearly intolerable. There are better ways to achieve the same goals. By our saying we won’t buy their products unless they provide accessible software, I think some of these vendors are starting to get it.
At the University of California we are committed to insuring that the next generation, the new generation of services and the pages we provide, the information, are highly accessible. Otherwise this is just economics here: we can’t compete for the best students, the best staff, and the most talented faculty, people like Hoby and Ray. Of course, like every public institution, we face challenging budget times, but, by making modest and judicious new investments now in training our IT staff in accessibility, our staff can become better programmers and build cool innovative systems that are accessible to all. So, doing the right thing makes us more competitive at less cost—sounds straightforward to me. [Applause]
Finally, the fourth element is the notion that real diversity matters. In short, if we’re going to create cultural change and provide effective user experiences, we must have real experts working with us. For visual accessibility this means we need blind students and blind staff to lead us, and we need our blind faculty and researchers to be primary participants in helping us create an environment in which everyone can compete on equal terms for excellence. So for that--this is very important--our campuses have to remove the obstacles that have prevented many blind people from joining our community. In many ways the barriers have only just begun to crumble, since 1954 when the NFB’s own Kenneth Jernigan challenged the California school system to hire qualified blind teachers and demanded equality, the right to work and to live as free citizens in a free society, the right to succeed or fail according to their individual abilities. So it’s time to get that done.
We know that blind students like everyone else benefit greatly from working with mentors and role models who have demonstrated their ability to turn their disabilities into just a physical nuisance, and they can help with the enduring and deplorable assumptions within our universities that the separate-but-equal experiences are generous. More than that, as universities unleash the power of diversity, there is a critical perspective that only individuals with disabilities provide. For example, bring a blind person into a discussion of a famous painting, and everyone will come away with greater knowledge of that painting--same for medicine, same for architecture, and same for every field. My colleague at UC Davis, Professor Catherine Kudlick, is a national leader in understanding how ideas about blind people are shaped by history and culture. Beyond that, Cathy, who is vision-impaired, has articulated a bold thesis: history and disciplines like it must be re-imagined through a disability perspective. Diverse perspectives create understanding. Cathy applies the same philosophy of diversity in leading the UC Davis Committee on IT Accessibility. Without her inspiration I wouldn’t be here today, but--and Cathy gave me permission to say this--not everyone in her professional environment understands the tremendous opportunity of mixing in accessibility issues with history and other fields. Some even say that serious scholars don’t have time for this kind of political issue. Well, we’ll make time. [Applause]
So, as we look to the future, more than the technology itself we expect these three key elements to alter our university environment for the better: cultural change, universal design, and real diversity. The NFB is showing us the way with its demonstration of the first blind person driving an automobile, not a car driving itself. It’s not about replacing people with technology; it’s about empowering people through technology.
So, before closing, I want to share two final examples of recent University of California projects that illustrate our commitment to accessibility. The first relates to online instruction. By 2014 we expect that over twenty-two million students nationally will take some or all of their classes online. It’s up from almost twelve million in 2009. To prepare, the university has begun a system-wide online instructional project. By bringing accessibility to online learning early in the planning phase, we’ll have more effective courses. We will reach more students, and we’ll lower the cost for instruction for everybody.
The second example relates to moving to a digital publishing world and bringing the publishers along in the largest shift in information sharing since the Gutenberg Press. UC California’s Digital Library and the University of California Press have launched projects with Haute Trust with over 8.8 million digitized volumes and Bookshare.org, the largest searchable online library of accessible materials. Together these organizations are developing ways to improve access to electronic books and to produce high-quality paper or Braille materials on demand. This is really cool.Let me conclude. We have much to look forward to. That includes creating an environment where more extraordinary individuals like the NFB founder and beloved University of California Professor Dr. tenBroek have become full participants in higher education. I’d like to think he would be proud of our efforts at the University. Just as the NFB and individuals like Hoby, Cathy, and Ray are changing what it means to be blind, we intend to change the face of the University of California and indeed the face of higher education itself by making the promise of true accessibility a reality. Thank you very much. [Applause]
by Jackie Otwell and Natalie Shaheen
From the Editor: For three years now a few groups of lucky children in several states who have not received the Braille instruction they needed during the school year have gathered for two weeks to have fun with the code and learn all sorts of valuable lessons about being blind. Natalie Shaheen has led the Jernigan Institute team that has organized and supported these programs, and Jackie Otwell has been the teacher who has worked with the affiliate members conducting them. What follows is Jackie and Natalie’s report on BELL 2011, followed by firsthand reports from Colorado and Virginia about their experiences. Here are the reports:
The NFB BELL (Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning) Program has done it again. The choir has grown. Colorado and North Carolina joined the fun this summer. Several veteran states participated again, and some programs even grew. Utah and Maryland held one program each, Texas and Virginia held three programs, and Georgia held two. In total we conducted eleven NFB BELL Programs in seven states.
Gary Ray, president of the NFB of North Carolina and coordinator of the North Carolina BELL program, saw the possibilities of this program back in September of 2010 and wanted to bring this opportunity to children in North Carolina. But he was a bit apprehensive at the training seminar in February. He realized that the program was going to be a lot of work, and he wasn’t quite sure he was cut out to work with kids. But, when he got back home and started tapping into resources like the Friends of the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and fellow Federationist Debbie Jackson, he began to feel that his team just might be equipped to accomplish the task.
Once the program ended, he proudly announced that he would be happy to coordinate it again. He described his involvement with this program as one of the three best experiences he has ever had with the National Federation of the Blind. At the conclusion of the program he had come to recognize that children are the future of the Federation, and, by helping the children be as independent as possible and to have positive attitudes about blindness, Gary and the North Carolina BELL team were building the Federation. At the end of the program everyone on the North Carolina team was ringing a bell for Gary. He was great with the kids, and, if it hadn’t been for the BELL program, perhaps he never would have realized he had such skills.
The students in North Carolina also experienced great success during the BELL program. After listening to the Captain Whozit skit, a story about a young girl who uses her cane at camp after receiving a surprise visit and advice from Whozit, a cane-tapping superhero, Emily used her cane at a swim meet for the first time. She even showed it off to a few friends.
Wesley, an eleven-year-old who was new to Braille, blossomed over the two weeks and developed a can-do attitude about Braille and nonvisual techniques. Before BELL he was receiving only thirty minutes a week of Braille instruction. All the positive feedback and intriguing lessons, like drawing with a Perkins Braillewriter, playing Braille Bingo, and making candy Braille, helped get Wesley pumped up.
To add to the fun, the North Carolina BELL program took a field trip to the Marbles Kids Museum. Elijah surfed and experienced ice hockey on a simulation rink, where you wear socks instead of ice skates.
Out west in Colorado, Michelle Chacon and Diane McGeorge used their expertise from coordinating other youth programs to make BELL a success. Michelle found the curriculum resources to be helpful and the lessons a fine springboard for her own creativity. She also reported that the conference calls leading up to the program provided useful information. Conference calls gave Michelle and her team opportunities to learn what other states have done for field trips, lunches, transportation, and other logistics. The NFB of Colorado team also found the conference calls to be good milestones for reporting progress on tasks and regrouping for the next wave of work.
The Colorado program tapped into one of its members, Ann Cunningham, to add art to their program curriculum. For many years now Ann has taught art to blind people and has been creating beautiful tactile artwork of her own. She provided students with opportunities to create pen and ink drawings using a raised-line drawing board and clay. Braille labels were added to the students’ pieces. After that they had an art show, where students explained their pieces to one another. Sculptures included the solar system, Lightning McQueen from the Cars movies, and a princess. Not only did students walk away with improved Braille skills, they also came to the understanding that blindness doesn’t prevent a person from being artistic.
Affiliates who host NFB BELL Programs have access to several resources and supports to ensure that they are able to run a successful program. Interested in joining the Braille-teaching BELL Choir? We will be looking for three new host states for the summer of 2012. If your affiliate is interested in enriching the lives of blind youth in your area through increased access to Braille instruction, contact Natalie Shaheen ([email protected]) or visit www.nfb.org/BELL.
Diane McGeorge: The NFB of Colorado conducted our very first BELL Program this summer, and what a great experience it turned out to be! I want to begin by saying that, if you are thinking of doing BELL in your state, jump in in 2012. The first thing we did was to go to the Jernigan Institute for a weekend training session, which was absolutely one of the best I have ever participated in. Some of us were just starting to do BELL Programs. Veterans gave us much good information from their past experiences, and the folks from the Jernigan Institute were top of the line. We came home with great ideas and a book full of everything you could ever want to know. There is no way to fail doing BELL in your state with all the help and support you get from the Jernigan Institute.
Now on to the program itself. I could write pages and pages about it, but I promise I won’t. We had seven children: six who were ages five, six, and seven, and one girl who was eleven. We were a little worried about the eleven-year-old since the others were considerably younger, but it worked out fine. She became everybody’s big sister. She also came away with the most important thing we can give in our programs: more confidence in herself as a blind person after getting to meet and interact with adult blind role models. Her feeling of accomplishment came from increasing her own blindness skills and from helping the two children who had not even started kindergarten yet.
All of the children came in with white canes, which surprised me. They also came in with some Braille skills, even the littlest ones, who were not yet in school. But while we were with them during that two-week period, they all developed better skills and certainly an appreciation of how helpful Braille will be, not just in a textbook, but every day. That was one of our goals.
We incorporated Braille in everything we did. One example was our bus trip. Our eleven-year-old called our transportation service, got the route and time schedule for the bus we needed, and wrote the information in Braille. And that was what we used. We wrote out Braille directions for the lunch foods they prepared for themselves--every way we could use Braille we did. Our curriculum included the basic skills, including journaling, travel using a longer white cane than they came in with, and, one of my favorites, blindness skills. Yes, it's all about blindness skills, but in this center we had the kids do things like identifying coins, talking about what people should expect from the public, and how we should deal with the public when we are offered too much help. When you read this, you might think that those things are far too advanced for a five-year-old, but believe me they are not. Those kids jumped in and were terrific.
I promised not to write a book, but we did one particularly interesting thing. At the time BELL started, the Colorado affiliate was holding a demonstration at the office of Senator Michael Bennet about the minimum wage issue. All of us who were working in the program believed that we should be contributing. So we discussed with the children what the minimum wage is and the fact that blind people can be paid less than minimum wage. Then we asked them what they thought. Each one wrote a letter in Braille to Michael Bennet expressing in their own words how they felt. Then we had Buna Dahal, an NFB member who was going to be at the demonstration, present all the letters to his staff. We also got the letters transcribed into an accessible format for the sighted. I thought that was one of the most fun-filled and educational things we did.
It was a great two-week program. One last thing I want to emphasize is the importance of getting the seven families involved with the NFB, which we certainly did. Two families already knew about us, but five did not, and now they do. One parent has called me to go with her for her daughter's IEP next month. Another parent called because the school her child was entering told her they couldn't provide the services her child needed. Neither family had known about us, and we were able to help in both cases.
If you are thinking of doing BELL in your state, go for it. Any of us who helped with it will be glad to talk with you about details, but Natalie Shaheen and her crew will also support you. Are we doing BELL next year--Why not? I cannot say enough good things about the experience. All our chapter members were happy to help out and did. Good luck to you all. It is the best two weeks you can have.
Sandy Halverson: The NFB of Virginia conducted our first BELL Program in 2010, and I, the coordinator, was as skeptical as a person could be. The biggest challenge was finding a location, which took us so long to do that I feared we would not have time to recruit students, obtain materials, choose lesson plans, etc. All of those things came together, and our program was so successful that this year we conducted three programs.
Each was funded from a different source. We were fortunate to be awarded a $5,000 Imagination Fund grant, which, supplemented with affiliate funds and funds received from parent registrations, met the costs of two of our programs. The Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI) has an endowment fund, and its board liked our request for $10,000 for a BELL program in one of the most rural parts of the state.
Bells began ringing in Virginia on Monday, July 11, 2011, and continued through Friday, August 12. Our northern Virginia program had four students (ages four to eleven); our Exmore program (very rural) had four students from seven to ten; and our six Virginia Beach participants ranged in age from five to twelve.
The first-day and closing ceremonies were probably the only similar elements in the three programs. All the students enthusiastically celebrated with Louis Braille birthday parties, decorating their canes (NFB, of course), and decorating their journal folders. However, the expectations in all three programs were the same with each child using his or her cane (sometimes under sleepshades) to walk to the designated snack spot and going to a serving window or separate room at lunchtime, carrying his or her lunch tray with food and drink to the tables where the other students were sitting, and cleaning up afterward--properly disposing of trash and returning the trays. Some students were given the opportunity to make their lunches independently for the first time. A seven-year-old who became upset at the idea of putting mayonnaise in tuna and initially refused to eat it because it wasn’t the way his mother made tuna sandwiches decided after tasting it that it really was all right and in the end concluded that it was the best lunch ever. Another child, who became hysterical when she missed the trash can, dumped her tray on the floor and then learned the techniques we use to clean up after ourselves.
Braille was in everything—lots of hands-on reading, writing, craft projects, slate pictures, Perkins Brailler pictures, games, and body Braille, where your left arm raised high is dot one, left hip out is two, and left leg out is three; and the right side of your body represents the right side of the Braille cell in identical fashion.
Group lessons designed to teach coin- and paper-money identification were implemented with field trips to a farmer’s market, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s (where the students individually placed their orders, paid for them, and took their trays to tables, cleaning up afterwards, of course), the zoo, and the Virginia Air and Space Museum. We used public transportation where we could and other conveyances when there was no public transportation, and using sighted guides was not acceptable. When walking outside, a blind adult held the hand of every blind child as any parent would do, with each person using a cane. For the trip to Wal-Mart to purchase closing-ceremony supplies, each student had a card with the item to be purchased written in Braille, used shopper assistance to find the item, and then paid for it.
In the beginning the parents weren’t sure what to expect, regardless of how much we told them. One of our students was a four-year-old autistic girl who screamed the minute she heard her mother’s voice because she knew her mother would pick her up. Mom agreed to follow the bus we took to the farmers’ market and observe from a distance to get some ideas for getting her daughter to use her cane and interact in a more positive and constructive way. The mother was awe-struck.
The kids enjoyed building friendships, and the parents were thrilled that their kids were using canes, which they had resisted before, and wanted to try things in the kitchen at home that they had done during the day. As the program progressed, the parents began to think differently about the idea that their kids should be doing age-appropriate chores at home.
Our teachers were phenomenal, and it was exciting to see their passion on display—convincing kids that Braille could be fun, sleepshades weren’t used just because you might become completely blind, they should take pride in their accomplishments, and even the blind mentors and role models can grow in confidence too.The curriculum provided by the Jernigan Institute staff, parent referrals generated by our NFB website, excellent BELL team training, and availability to help each state run a successful program are some of the best things we do. All our parents will be invited to our upcoming state convention and added to our Braille Monitor, Future Reflections, and local chapter lists; but none of that is as valuable as our ongoing personal contact with these families.
by Joanne Wilson
From the Editor: Tributes take many forms. A tribute may recount the accomplishments of an admired human being with little reference to the person writing or reciting it. It may say little about the accomplishments of the person being honored but relate the way in which the personal example of the beloved person caused the writer to do whatever he or she has done. The best tributes combine the story of the one being honored with the way he or she has changed the life of the person crafting the tribute.
Joanne Wilson has beautifully intertwined the life and accomplishments of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan with the message she received from him and the way she has tried to adopt that message as her life's work. Here is her tribute, her story, and the power of two human beings determined to make the world a better place for blind people.
The year was 1966; I was a young college student struggling with the problems of how to function as a blind person. I was dragged to my first encounter with blind people, a student seminar held at the Iowa Commission for the Blind.
After the day's events the students were invited to a fancy restaurant to relax and enjoy each other. I was seated next to Dr. Jernigan. I sat in awe listening and knew that something important was about to happen. As I was leaning over the candle in the middle of the table trying to read my bill so I could pay, Dr. Jernigan suddenly asked me, "Joanne, are you blind?"
I said, "No, no, I'm not blind--I just can't see very well."
He held up his hand and said, "How many fingers do I have up?"
I said, "Well, I can sort of see your hand there, but I can't exactly tell how many fingers you have up."
He said, "Joanne, you're blind." The talk that followed was like nothing I had ever heard. That night and in the months and years to follow, he put a voice to all the confusion and funny notions about blindness that I had in my mind. I was taught to define philosophy. I was given knowledge, belief, and most of all hope.
I was a student at the Iowa Commission for the Blind, and I learned many things. I learned skills. I learned a philosophy about blindness, but I also learned how to get political influence and how to build an organization, how to be a leader, how to get elected and stay elected, how to give a speech, how to be an advocate, how to have discipline, and how to work hard. I learned how to play, I learned how to love, and I learned how to give.
Dr. Jernigan was always teaching. Everything that he did--from the ordinary to the spectacular, from ordering a meal to giving a banquet speech--always seemed to have a purpose and to be a part of something bigger. It was all a part of building a great movement. All of Dr. Jernigan's actions and all his works were directed toward large accomplishments.
He taught me how to make my day-to-day activities count and to be a part of a bigger cause as well. I remember one day, when we students were sitting in our discussion group, Dr. Jernigan came into the room and started telling us about a legislative banquet that we were going to have in a couple of weeks. He started assigning jobs to us--explaining how we were going to help set up the tables and get things organized and mix and mingle with the legislators. Then he told us we needed to buy our tickets and pay for another person's ticket. We said, "What? We don't have any money--why, we ought to get our meal free. We're going to do all this other work." Well, a discussion ensued. It was the first time I heard the words, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." At that legislative banquet we all stood with pride and dignity when Dr. Jernigan got up and said to the legislators, "Your meal has been bought by a blind person."
I remember another time. It was about 5:30 in the morning. I was sound asleep in my dorm room at the Iowa Commission for the Blind, and suddenly there was a rap at the door. My heart pounded, and I heard Dr. Jernigan out there saying, "Hurry, hurry, Joanne: come to my apartment immediately. It's urgent." I heard him go up and down the hall, knocking on other students' doors, saying, "Hurry, hurry, come immediately to my apartment." We all rushed down there. We had our robes on, and I had big rollers in my hair and my flip flops on, and night cream was dripping from my face. We ran in there with our hearts pounding. He gathered us in his living room and said, "Surprise, come as you are party."
We learned, and we began to live what we learned. Where were you when you heard of the death of Dr. Jernigan? On that October 12th, I was in a fancy restaurant in Little Rock, Arkansas, relaxing after a hard day of rock climbing with the students at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. My cell phone rang; I went to a quiet part of the restaurant and heard the news. On my way back to my table I felt confused and sad. I felt empty and uncomfortable. What should I do next?
I sat down and looked around. There at my table were college students and others struggling with the problems of how to function as competent blind people. I thought, "Dr. Jernigan, even at this moment you are teaching me a lesson." I had a flashback to my first dinner with him, and I knew he was telling me to pass it on. We had made the full circle. I was there to give the knowledge, the belief, and the dreams to these blind students. I was there to be their guide and to give them a defined philosophy about blindness. As Dr. Jernigan did for me, I did my best to help my students set their sights high and learn the skills and confidence to reach their goals.
The NFB had come a long way in Louisiana since I first arrived there in 1978. I was proud of what we had accomplished, and I think Dr Jernigan was proud too. I could not have done what I did without the foundation he gave me in Iowa. I was thrilled to be able to carry it across the country to yet another generation of blind people, both young and old.
When I was in Iowa, working in the NFB was safe and comfortable because there were so many people involved. Dr. Jernigan had been building there for eight years before I ever met him. He had found and trained a great many people--those who worked in the blindness field and blind people who lived and worked all over the state. I was president of a new chapter and for a time vice president of the NFB of Iowa, but my activities and actions did not seem critical to me.
My husband got a job in Ruston, Louisiana. I had three children, including a brand new baby. I knew I had been fortunate to live in Iowa because things were better for the blind there. But I had no way of really knowing how fortunate until later.
When we moved to Louisiana, I received a dramatic dose of reality because of the differences. The NFB in Louisiana was both weak and fragmented internally. I did not find a national focus; no one was really dedicated to the organization; there was no depth of commitment, nor even the understanding of blindness that I had learned in Iowa from Dr. Jernigan. In Louisiana blind people were not using white canes or traveling independently, and most were not employed. I realized that the blind here were years behind and lacked positive leadership.
At my first state convention Dr. Jernigan was there and asked the hotel manager to donate to the national organization. In order to motivate the members of the affiliate, Dr. Jernigan told them that he had asked for and received this contribution. The majority of the members were embarrassed that he had done that. They actually voted to return the donation to the hotel manager.
The NFB of Louisiana was receiving some gambling money from the state, and most of its time was spent arguing about how to spend the money. I started going to state board meetings which lasted an entire weekend. Most of the time was spent fighting. I decided to try to bring new members into the organization, so I volunteered to recruit new people in Ruston. The old-timers thought I couldn't do it; however, we had forty people at an organizing meeting. The leaders of the NFB of Louisiana came to the meeting, and they were shocked.
Before long Dr. Jernigan asked me if I had considered running for office. I had learned in Iowa that you have to count the votes before you run. I got the old leadership to permit me to organize new chapters. They thought they knew all the blind people, but I was able to find new members and organize chapters in other parts of the state, just as I had in Ruston. I made phone calls during my kids' nap time. When I went to meetings, I took the kids with me, even to the first meetings of new chapters. I had no one to leave them with. I brought toys and books for them, and many of the blind people seemed glad to meet them. I mentored the members in these new chapters, mostly by telephone. Of course my manner was different from Dr. Jernigan's, but I didn't even think about it. The blind people I met understood that I cared and that I understood something about blindness that they needed to know.
I also worked on making friends with some of the long-time members. At the next convention we were able to make some changes in the constitution of the NFB of Louisiana, changes that required a two-thirds majority vote. And I was elected president. The people I wanted on the state board were also elected. Not everybody was happy about all this change. One of the large old chapters from Lafayette walked out shouting and cursing, and they never came back.
After I was elected, we still had too many fights. I had to lead a series of expulsions of people who were stealing money. Those people took this problem to court, and it was hard on both old and new members. Unfortunately some racial prejudice was involved, but that was not the primary issue. I was proud of many who made sacrifices to help the blind move forward.
It took about two years for us to have peace, unity, and loyalty to the NFB in the Louisiana affiliate, and it has been peaceful ever since. We also experienced phenomenal growth. The members were ready to focus on progress for the blind. We kept organizing new groups--a student division and a parents of blind children division were two of the first groups we organized. Then we kept organizing new chapters in new cities. All the time we were also working to strengthen the existing chapters.
There was an effort in the state to build a huge building to house all programs for blind children and adults. The NFB knew that the people in charge of this project would not provide the kind of services that blind people needed. I got people all over the state to help write letters and talk to their legislators about what was really needed, which was a high-quality rehabilitation center modeled after the one in Iowa, where I had received training. Our members also traveled to Baton Rouge to meet with legislators in the capitol. We made friends with state senators and representatives, such as Mary Landrieu, who later ran for governor and now serves as U.S. Senator from Louisiana. When Senator Landrieu was new in the Louisiana legislature, she went with a bunch of Federationists to Governor Edwin Edwards's office to tell him what we needed. When we left, she stayed with the governor a little longer. When she came out, she told me that we needed to write an amendment to the governor's budget, which we did immediately. At the NFB convention in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1985, I received the message that Governor Edwards was recommending more than a quarter million dollars for the establishment of a training center for the blind in Louisiana.
Then I looked for a center director, but no one wanted to do it because we had funding for only one year and we would not be able to pay large salaries. I was not going to let this opportunity pass. I had taught elementary school, but I didn't think I had the administrative experience needed for the job. Still I decided to start the center myself, just until we could find somebody else. We had learned about the money in July. Less than three months later, on October 1, we opened the center. By the end of October we had five students. I hired teachers from South Carolina, California, Iowa, and Louisiana. The staff saw the opportunity, and the students soon understood as well.
We knew we were breaking ground and doing something important for both the blind of Louisiana and the whole country. The support of the National Federation of the Blind gave us the strength and determination to do what we had to do. We really believed that we were making a difference and expanding the dream of making rehabilitation better in Louisiana and far beyond. Our mission was to carry forward the dream first articulated by Dr. tenBroek and Dr. Jernigan, the dream of putting Federation philosophy and ideas into a training center that would ultimately improve all rehabilitation for the blind everywhere. And I think what we did in Louisiana and what continues there today has made a difference to blind people. It has helped to set a higher standard for programs in other states.
We all made sacrifices. At times I had to ask the center staff to do what nobody should have to do. Salaries were not large, and our teachers often worked day and night. Sometimes I had to ask for volunteers to take a delay in getting their paychecks, because state officials were dragging their feet in getting money to us, money that was already authorized. Students also had to make sacrifices. We had to drive two-hundred miles to hearings in Baton Rouge numerous times in the process of securing second-year funding. That meant leaving Ruston at 4:00 a.m. to be at hearings by 8:00 a.m. We called ourselves the pioneers because we knew that our sacrifices would be a part of changing rehabilitation. For us it was a cause, a mission of the National Federation of the Blind. We felt we were a part of the nationwide effort. Louisiana just happened to be where the effort was needed at that moment.
Directing the Center was one kind of activity that had its own crises and accomplishments. It is extremely rewarding to help blind students become more competent, learn to believe in themselves, learn new skills, learn to think differently about blindness, and sell themselves to employers. Dealing with the budget and legislators was another kind of activity, important and intense. There were criticisms and threats from people who did not understand the value of what we were doing, people who did not want us to succeed.
On Mother's Day of 1986 I remember NFB members from all over Louisiana sitting at an appropriations hearing in which they were discussing our second-year budget. One of the representatives asked, "Where are our critics?" They were not there, because it was Mother's Day. We were there, and they voted eleven to one to give us the funding. This kind of thing happened over and over again. With a few hours’ notice we would manage to let people know, and we would gather NFB members in large numbers at appropriations hearings.
By the third year the reputation of the Louisiana Center was good enough with many of the rehabilitation counselors that payment for the training was authorized by their agency. Payment by rehab then covered our costs. We took our students to the various rehab offices, where they told their stories about how the center had helped them. I was following what Dr. Jernigan had done when I was a student. I knew that people would be impressed by hearing what the students had to say, not just from me or other staff members, and they were.
After we rented facilities for the first two years, the governor helped us get funds to buy an office and classroom building that is currently the headquarters of the Louisiana Center for the Blind. The city of Ruston loved having us. The more they learned about what we were doing, the prouder they were to have us. They saw the students learning to travel independently with their white canes, and they came to visit when we had open houses. The community became valuable to the Louisiana Center for the Blind.
It was also from Dr. Jernigan that I learned to sell the program to the community and the state. Dr. Jernigan gave tours of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, invited groups to have banquets in the commission building, and sent students and staff out to make presentations for all kinds of groups. We did the same thing in Louisiana. Then the community would help us with the governor and the legislature. Local senators and representatives in the Ruston area wanted to help us. Dr. Jernigan was a master at building this kind of support, and I learned the strategy from him.
At the Ruston Civic Center we had the largest banquet ever held in the city. Governor Edwards was there. Before he spoke, I had all the students talk about their experiences. The governor threw out a prepared talk and wrote a new one on a napkin. He said the things we wanted him to say. This helped us get funds for the classroom and office building. Then we got money to buy apartments where students could live during training, so we did not have to rent living space for them. Once we asked the community of Ruston for help to build an activity center for meetings and social get-togethers, people from the community volunteered and donated their expertise and materials to build an entire building.
When I left Louisiana, the Center included a large classroom and office building; another classroom building, including a shop; a career center; the activity center; and two apartment complexes. One day one of our students, Barry Adkins, came in with a big old school bell and a cross-stitched plaque that said, "When the bell sounds, all of us have gained new ground." Starting that day, whenever a student would achieve something he or she didn't believe a blind person could do, we would ring what we dubbed the Freedom Bell. We would ring the bell when someone crossed the street, finished the first Braille book, cooked a meal for forty, graduated from college, or got married. We did this for current students. Past students would call us and ask us to ring the bell and announce their accomplishments. Not only was this a great way to share information, it also gave hope to the new students who heard about the achievements of their predecessors. We heard when our graduates traveled across Europe, had babies, got new jobs, bought their first homes, and more. Ringing the Freedom Bell became an important way to congratulate those who made progress.
Then we started giving a smaller version of this bell to each of our graduates engraved with their names and date of graduation, followed by the words "Louisiana Center for the Blind, Together we are changing what it means to be blind." All of these small accomplishments together are opening doors and changing what blindness is like for this generation. Other NFB training centers liked this practice and inaugurated it as well. Now these bells sound across the country and symbolize what we are doing whenever the blind accomplish something new.
Governor Buddy Rohmer came to one of our banquets. When he got up to talk, he said that he had diabetes and expected to be blind one day. He was very supportive of our center. We gave him a Freedom Bell, which he displayed in his office. I believe it remained there as long as he was governor of Louisiana.
The Louisiana Center expanded into summer programs for blind elementary school children and another program for blind teenagers. We sought and received a grant for the early intervention programs for blind infants and toddlers throughout the state. Every blind infant and toddler in Louisiana is supposed to be referred to the Louisiana Center. Half a dozen staff members contact parents and work with blind and visually impaired children throughout the state. That work also continues today.
Then we did the same thing for blind seniors. We got a grant and hired people to go to the homes of seniors who were losing vision, and there are a great many more seniors than children. These newly blind people now receive instruction in the techniques and attitudes that will make it possible for them to live more productively and independently.
Louisiana was the first state to set up newspaper accessibility by telephone through a service called NFB-NEWSLINE®. The NFB created the service, and we were able to start it in Louisiana. Now three-hundred newspapers and two dozen magazines are accessible to the blind by touchtone telephone in most parts of the country. Dr. Jernigan worked hard to build this program in the 1990s. All we had to do was to find a little money to provide the service.
We started the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. It began with two master's degree programs, one degree in O&M (orientation and mobility) and the other in teaching blind students. The center was well enough established in Ruston that I called Dr. Dan Reno, president of Louisiana Tech University, and I got an appointment. I proposed starting a degree program there. He liked the idea. We agreed to seek funding and to get it started, which we did. We both liked building new programs and reaching out to people who needed them. Dr. Reno's background was in medical programs, but he was glad to help and to offer these new degrees. He understands that this is an important way to change rehabilitation for the blind. Every year between five and fifteen people, both blind and sighted, receive degrees in orientation and mobility. The graduates are employed at training centers around the country. Some of them work for programs that were already doing work the way the NFB does it. Other graduates are employed where the NFB approach has not been popular. The graduates of Louisiana Tech are effective teachers. Their travel students become more independent than those who are taught by teachers with degrees from other programs. This is another very exciting way to help blind people become independent and employed.
After George W. Bush was elected president in 2000, I received a phone call from NFB President Marc Maurer asking me if I would be interested in applying for the Rehabilitation Services Administration Commissioner position in the federal Department of Education. This is a political position appointed by the president of the United States. It had been formerly held by Federationist Fred Schroeder. The thought of such a thing had never entered my mind. I was shocked at the very idea. I told Dr. Maurer that I would think about it. Then I received phone calls from other Federationists, including Mary Ellen Jernigan, who also urged me to apply. I talked to my family and thought about what would be necessary to get appointed and how it would benefit the Federation and the blind, and I decided to apply. All this took a week or two.
I began to gather support from other organizations of people with disabilities, congressmen and senators whom I knew, the governor of Louisiana, state legislators, and prominent contributors to President Bush's campaign. Federationists around the country were helping in their own states to gather support for my nomination. I learned in April that President Bush intended to nominate me, but I could not say anything about it. Bush actually announced publicly that he would send my name to the U.S. Senate for confirmation in July. The Senate confirmation occurred early in August. I had been looking at houses in Virginia and after the confirmation had to finalize the arrangements and move as quickly as possible. My youngest daughter Jennica had one more year of high school to complete, so she needed to be enrolled in Arlington, Virginia. My husband Harold found employment in Virginia as well.
August 27 we had a swearing-in ceremony attended by Federationists and Senator Mary Landrieu and Representative John Cooksey, both from Louisiana. I would be working under Secretary of Education Rod Page, who conducted the swearing-in. That was the first time that I met a lot of the RSA staff and other top officials of the Department of Education. It took a little time for me to learn to know the people I would be working with and the processes I would need to follow in this position. Lots of different organizations and rehabilitation agency directors from around the country came to meet with me and to share their priorities and agendas.
My philosophy was that my most important opportunity was to offer to the rehabilitation field a strong message--the one that Dr. Jernigan taught me. He stressed that, if you want a strong agency, you need to have strong consumer organizations. Many of the directors were worried about the continued existence of rehabilitation. I insisted to them that, if they gave service to their consumers, those consumers would in turn support and protect the agencies when that was necessary. Most of the directors had not really understood the value of strong organizations of consumers. I wanted to put in place a pattern that rehabilitation personnel would work closely with consumers and consumer organizations of people with disabilities. I started talking about this with everyone I met from the very beginning of my work in Washington.
We faced pressure to submerge all of rehabilitation in the Department of Labor. That would have been a great disadvantage for the blind. In the Rehab Act there are provisions for assisting blind seniors and blind businessmen and women. It calls for specialized training for the blind in Braille, independent travel, and adaptive computer technology. It is possible to have two rehab agencies in each state, one for the blind and another for general rehabilitation. It is difficult enough under the current system for the blind to receive the assistance that makes it possible to have the kind of life I have had and the kind of life I have worked so hard to help my students achieve. Putting the federal vocational rehab program under the Department of Labor would definitely make it more difficult for the state programs to offer what is needed. In the long run it would cost a lot of money if blind people were not self-supporting, a huge step backwards. Now I was a federal official. I could not lobby publicly, but I knew consumers could and would support the program.
I had learned long ago from Dr. Jernigan that good-quality training includes mentoring and being exposed to positive role models. This was a missing element I found in most rehabilitation agencies. I was successful in getting grant funding to set up mentoring programs that allowed people with disabilities to be mentored by successful and competent role models who had the same disability. Organizations of the disabled and rehab agencies all over the country could apply for grants to establish this program. During my tenure as RSA commissioner, there were two different requests for proposals for these grants. I know that the agencies that received these grants were strengthened by them, and so were the services they provided.
Another project I created was a national conference for administrators and staff who run residential training programs for blind adults. The first three-day conference was in Albuquerque and was well attended. Immediately after it, I began receiving requests for another one that occurred in Nashville a year and a half later. There are about ninety residential training programs for the blind in the country, and all were invited. About 200 people participated in each conference. Many of the participants were members of the NFB, who led quite a few of the discussions. This was another chance for us to pass on Dr. Jernigan's concepts about good rehabilitation training and high expectations for the blind. Our speakers talked about independent travel with a long cane, which we have come to call the “structured discovery” method. We discussed the need for philosophy class to explore students' needs and expectations about blindness.
The tone of the conferences was that expectations of blind people should be higher than they have traditionally been. Use of blindfolds for people with partial vision was a major topic. Another popular topic was techniques for adults who are new Braille readers to use so they can become effective in Braille reading and writing. Dr. Jernigan proved the value of this approach in Iowa, I proved it in Louisiana, and it is now believed and practiced more widely than ever before. A controversial issue was training staff under sleepshades (blindfolds) in order to help them be more effective teachers. We discussed the role of confidence-building activities outside the classroom such as rock climbing, whitewater rafting, waterskiing, and cutting wood with chain saws.
Each day at the conferences there were multiple workshops and general sessions to explore all the components of training centers for the blind. I welcomed participants to the conferences and gave a presentation at the beginning. Former RSA Commissioner Fred Schroeder made the final presentation for both. The feedback I got was very positive.
In 2005 at the NFB headquarters, Dr. Maurer decided to establish a Department of Affiliate Action. He offered me the opportunity to direct this department. It sounded very exciting to me because I would have the freedom to help the Federation grow. I felt good about what I had done for the federal government, but I was tired of the processes I had to follow. My husband and I moved to Baltimore in 2005. Now I have the opportunity to continue to develop and find new ways to help blind people grow and become integrated more completely into society.
I appreciate what I learned from Dr. Jernigan, and I have done my best to pass it on to the next generation. If I have added to it, I am glad to have done so. My outlook for the blind in the future is very bright. We still need time to reach more people and to train more staff to work in more places. But we are making progress, and I am fortunate to know well many younger people who are ready and eager to continue the work. Dr. Maurer is a wonderful leader, but he cannot do it by himself, just as Dr. Jernigan could not. The National Federation of the Blind is bigger and stronger now than ever before, and I believe that our momentum will continue to increase as it has for the last half century or more.
by James Gashel
From the Editor: James Gashel is secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and chairs the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards committee. Here is his announcement about the 2012 Bolotin Awards program:
The National Federation of the Blind is pleased to announce that applications are now being accepted for the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards. These prestigious awards, granted each year as funds permit, recognize individuals, corporations, organizations, or other entities for outstanding work of excellence on behalf of the blind in the United States. The public recognition ceremony will be held during the 2012 annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Dallas, Texas. Each recipient will be given a cash award in an amount determined by the award committee and will also be honored with an engraved medallion and plaque to commemorate the award.
Dr. Bolotin was a pioneering blind physician who practiced in the early twentieth century, and the awards which now bear his name are made possible through the generosity of his late nephew and niece. Their bequest, the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust, allows the National Federation of the Blind to recognize and support the most outstanding individuals and projects working to improve opportunities for blind people in the United States, consistent with Dr. Bolotin’s pioneering example.
As chronicled in his biography, The Blind Doctor by Rosalind Perlman, Bolotin fought ignorance and prejudice to gain entrance to medical school and the medical profession. He became one of the most respected physicians in Chicago during his career, which spanned the period from 1912 until his death in 1924. He was particularly known for his expertise in diseases of the heart and lungs. Bolotin used his many public speaking engagements to advocate for the employment of the blind and our full integration into society. Interested in young people in general and blind youth in particular, Dr. Bolotin established the first Boy Scout troop consisting entirely of blind boys and served as its leader.
Jacob Bolotin’s wife Helen had a sister whose husband died suddenly, leaving her to raise a son, Alfred Perlman. The Perlmans moved in with the Bolotins when Alfred was eleven, and for four years (until Jacob Bolotin's untimely death at the age of thirty-six), "Uncle Jake" became Alfred's surrogate father. Alfred later married Rosalind, and the couple worked on a book about Dr. Bolotin's life. After Alfred's death in 2001, Rosalind dedicated the rest of her life to completing and publishing the book. In her will she left a bequest (the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust) to the Santa Barbara Foundation and the National Federation of the Blind to produce Dr. Bolotin's biography and establish the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award program. Her book, The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story, has been published by and is available from Blue Point Books <www.BluePointBooks.com>.
The National Federation of the Blind will again recognize individuals and organizations that have distinguished themselves in accordance with the criteria established to receive the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. While the committee will determine both the number of awards and the value of each award presented, the total cash amount of the awards made in 2012 is expected to be approximately $50,000. The Federation determines the total amount to be distributed each year based on income received from the trust supporting the award program. Each year one or more awards are presented to individuals and one or more to corporations, organizations, or other entities. Both blind and sighted people may apply. The committee may also accept nominations made by third parties.
Who Should Apply?
Individuals: Only individuals over eighteen years of age may be considered for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. Applicants must demonstrate that they have shown substantial initiative and leadership in improving the lives of the blind. Examples of such initiative include but are not limited to developing products or techniques that increase the independence of the blind, directing quality programs or agencies for the blind, or mentoring other blind people. All individual applicants or third-party applicants applying on behalf of an individual must demonstrate that the work to be recognized has been conducted within the twelve months preceding the application and/or that the work is continuing. Applications by or on behalf of individuals must include at least one letter of recommendation from a person familiar with or directly affected by the work to be recognized.
Organizations: Organizations may apply for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award in order to further programs, services, technology, or techniques of unique and outstanding merit that have assisted and will continue to assist the blind. Applications from third parties submitted on behalf of an organization will also be considered. The organization category includes corporations, nonprofit organizations, or other entities, such as a specific division within an organization. Organizations or third-party applicants must demonstrate that the programs or services to be recognized include substantial participation by blind people as developers, mentors, administrators, or executives, and not merely as clients, consumers, or beneficiaries. For example, an organization operating a program for blind youth might demonstrate that a substantial number of the counselors, teachers, or mentors involved in the program are blind. The organization or third-party applicant must demonstrate that it has substantially aided blind people within the twelve months prior to application and that an award would support efforts to build on previous successes. The application must also include at least one testimonial from a blind person who has benefited substantially from the programs or services.
To qualify for an award, both individuals and organizations must be domiciled in the United States of America, and their work must primarily benefit the blind of the United States.
More information, including an online application, can be found on the National Federation of the Blind website at <http://www.nfb.org/nfb/Bolotin_Award.asp>
Online submission of nominations, letters of support, and other relevant materials is strongly encouraged, but applications sent by mail and postmarked by the deadline will also be accepted. The 2012 deadline for application submission is March 31. Candidate recipients will be individually notified of their selection no later than May 15. Receipt of all complete applications will be acknowledged. Only those applicants chosen to receive an award will be contacted by May 15. All decisions of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award committee are final.
The awards will be presented in July during the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Individuals selected to receive an award must appear in person, not send a representative. Organizations may send an individual representative, preferably their chief executive officer. Recipient candidates must confirm in writing that they will appear in person to accept the award at the National Federation of the Blind annual convention. Failure to confirm attendance for the award presentation by June 1 will result in forfeiture of the award.
Ineligible PersonsThose employed full-time by the National Federation of the Blind may not apply for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award for work performed within the scope of their employment. Students may not apply for both a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award and a National Federation of the Blind Scholarship in the same year.
From the Editor: Because many people learn mathematics visually, blind students are often urged to study other disciplines, and, if they find it hard to grasp a concept, they are quickly assured that their lack of vision is to blame. Couple this with the tendency of Americans to shy away from math and other hard sciences, and it is not surprising that the number of blind mathematicians is quite small. With creativity and motivation blindness need not come between bright people and the key to engineering, physics, chemistry, and the other sciences that bring us inventions both to lengthen our lives and enhance their quality. Here is the account of one blind student as she prepares to master geometry and to take her place in determining the shape of the future. It is reprinted from the Old Dominion University website. It appeared April 11, 2011.
"We have congruent angles and proportional sides. If I can get a couple of these measurements, I can extrapolate." Suzanne Doviak, senior lecturer in mathematics, makes a point about geometry to her math 302 class in Old Dominion University's Constant Hall. It's a large lecture hall, and the fifty or so students dutifully take notes. The final examination is coming up soon, and there's no time to waste.
Meanwhile, two students in the second row hold a quiet conversation. Jeff Abbott takes a piece of modeling clay and folds it into the shape that Doviak is drawing on the board. Mary Carlisle runs her fingers gently over the clay. The whispered conversation continues as Abbott tells, as well as shows, Carlisle what he sees.
Born extremely prematurely, Carlisle suffered severe damage to both retinas in the days after she was born from receiving too much oxygen in an incubator. Her entire life she's had zero vision in her right eye and can see only shapes and colors with her left. But she's on track to graduate in the fall with a degree in education--and getting an A in Doviak's highly visual geometry course, thanks to a system she and Abbott developed after randomly sitting next to each other the first day of class. Carlisle hopes to become a teacher herself.
"It was purely by accident. I was sitting in class, and Mary came in and sat down next to me. We just started casually talking," said Abbott, a retired Navy air traffic controller, who is at ODU on the GI Bill, majoring in special education. "By the end of the class she said she was going to have to go to disability services to get assistance for the class, and I thought, `What can we do together here?'"
The next day Abbott brought pipe cleaners into class. As Doviak drew diagrams, Abbott would shape the pipe cleaners into physical objects Carlisle could touch, replicating the shapes on the board. As the problems became more complex, he switched to modeling clay. Now, after three months in class together, "we've got it down pat," he said.
Doviak was worried when informed by Kate Broderick, ODU's director of educational accessibility, that Carlisle was enrolling in the class. But that worry has turned to wonder as she has watched Carlisle and Abbott work out their system to help her learn geometry. "I really worried about how she was going to keep all those little pieces of information in her head. But having a tactile model is just another way of seeing. It's been phenomenal," Doviak said. "Jeff and Mary worked this out together, and I'm just pleased as punch. They're also both incredibly strong students." Doviak said she barely changes the way she conducts her lectures in class. She doesn't need to.
"She's stopped us in class a couple of times and asked us if we're OK. I looked at her one time and said, 'We're ahead of you,'" Abbott said.
Carlisle had her own concerns about taking the class, despite having tackled physics and statistics previously. She said she's "extraordinarily appreciative" of the help she's received from Abbott. "I've had some tough classes, but I had been dreading this class. I knew that the entire class was visual," she said. "But when Jeff makes the clay, I can feel it tactilely and it just makes sense of what she's saying. Honestly, I probably would be failing if it wasn't for him."
Abbott said he is also benefitting from the process and not just because it's an ideal workshop for a future special education teacher. "It honestly helps me in the class," he said. "As an air traffic controller for twenty years in the Navy, I had to function in a two-dimensional world, but see things in three dimensions. By using the clay, we create that three-dimensional world for Mary. It helps me gain a greater understanding of the problems."
The duo talk quietly through classes, as Abbott makes sure Carlisle is grasping the concepts. Occasionally he will joke with her to break the tension. Doviak said the rest of the class doesn't even notice. "Like me, they're just so proud of these two, and they have so much admiration for everything they've been able to do. It's like taking a course in a foreign language and not being able to hear, but managing to get an A at the end of the course.”
From the Editor: The following article is reprinted from the September 2, 2011, issue of Science News.
Robert Winkler says he limped around on his painful left foot for six months, suffering unnecessarily from a misdiagnosis by a physician who didn't know about the symptoms and treatments for Charcot foot, a form of localized osteoporosis linked to diabetes that causes the bones to soften and break, often resulting in amputation.
When his primary care physician finally agreed to Mr. Winkler's request for an x-ray, they discovered the metatarsal bones in Mr. Winkler's left foot were all broken--a common symptom of this serious and potentially limb-threatening lower-extremity complication.
A new article in the September issue of the journal, Diabetes Care, describes Charcot foot and its treatment, with a goal of educating medical professionals about this painful inflammation of the foot. The article is the product of an international task force of experts convened by the American Diabetes Association and the American Podiatric Medical Association in January to summarize available evidence on the pathophysiology, natural history, presentations, and treatment recommendations for Charcot foot syndrome.
"Even though it was first described in 1883, the diagnosis and successful treatment of Charcot foot continue to be a challenge because this syndrome is not widely known or understood by the broader medical profession," said Lee C. Rogers, D.P.M., co-director of the Amputation Prevention Center at Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, California, and lead author of the Diabetes Care article. "Charcot foot is now considered to be an inflammatory syndrome most often seen in patients with diabetes, which can be successfully treated in its early stages."
The article describes Charcot foot as a condition affecting the bones, joints, and soft tissues of the foot and ankle, which is characterized by inflammation in the earliest phase and is associated with diabetes and neuropathy. The report finds offloading, or removing weight from the foot, is the most important initial treatment recommendation. Surgery can be helpful in early stages involving acute fractures of the foot or ankle or in later stages when offloading is ineffective, according to the article.
In Mr. Winkler's case he was first diagnosed with Charcot foot in 2004 and had already undergone one surgery that relieved the problem for several years. By 2010, though, he was facing the potential amputation of the foot because of complications associated with Charcot foot syndrome. His podiatrist referred him to Dr. Rogers at Valley Presbyterian Hospital's Amputation Prevention Center, an integrated limb salvage center that is one of only a handful in the nation. Since its December 2009 opening, the Amputation Prevention Center's specialized multidisciplinary team of highly skilled professionals has treated patients from all over the country and around the world with leading-edge technology, achieving a limb salvage rate of 96 percent.
George Andros, M.D., the Center's medical director, performed vascular surgery to restore circulation to Mr. Winkler's left foot so that it would heal. Then Dr. Rogers performed surgery to rebuild the bones in Mr. Winkler's foot. Dr. Rogers also implanted a bone stimulator that acts like a pacemaker for bones, which encourages Mr. Winkler's body to rebuild and fuse the broken bones in his left foot. As a result Mr. Winkler is expected to be able to recover the use of his left foot.
"I'm very pleased because I had gone to another doctor, and he wanted to amputate my foot," Mr. Winkler said. "When I found Dr. Rogers and Valley Presbyterian Hospital's Amputation Prevention Center, it's like I found a blessing and an angel in disguise. I have tears running down my face as I describe to you how I will be able to get up out of my chair and walk because of the care I received at Valley Presbyterian Hospital. All the people there are superb. They treat me like a king."
by Anna Kresmer
From the Editor: The following is another in our series of historical documents in the Jacobus tenBroek Library.
John F. Nagle served as chief of the NFB Washington office from 1960 to 1974. During this time he helped shape blindness-related legislation in many areas, including vocational rehabilitation, Social Security, education, vending opportunities, white cane safety, and the right to organize.
Born in Massachusetts in 1915 and blinded at the age of thirteen, Nagle graduated from the Perkins School for the Blind in 1934. After studying journalism for three years, he decided to attend law school and received his law degree from Northeastern University in 1942 and then a bachelor’s degree in public affairs from the American International College in 1946. Nagle practiced law for fourteen years in Springfield, Massachusetts, before going to Washington in 1958 to work for two years under John Taylor, his predecessor in the Washington office. In 1963 he was admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Nagle was an ardent Federationist who served the organization in a number of roles, including recording secretary for the Greater Springfield Association of the Blind and member of the Massachusetts affiliate executive committee and later as president of the Massachusetts affiliate. He was also a member of the national NFB executive committee. In 1958 he married fellow Federationist Virginia Clark of Worcester, Massachusetts.
John Nagle died in 1976, but his work both in the Federation and with the Congress laid the foundation for future legislation for the blind. His accomplishments continue to benefit blind people across the United States today.
In 1962 at the NFB national convention in Detroit, Michigan, after only two years at the helm in Washington, D.C., he was honored by the NFB when the Convention unanimously passed this resolution honoring Nagle for his hard work. Resolution 62-04 reads as follows:
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind through its president and its officers, desires to express its deep appreciation, its sincere thanks, and everlasting gratitude to John Nagle, Chief of our Washington Office, for his dedicated services to the national organization and to the blind of our nation, and
WHEREAS, by his duty and service to our national organization, John Nagle participated in the Third Regional National Rehabilitation Association Convention, took part in a panel discussion on vocational rehabilitation, and presented testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee in support of HR-4222, the Administration's health-care bill introduced by Congressman Cecil R. King, of California, and
WHEREAS, the said John Nagle testified before the Senate District of Columbia Committee in support of proposals to allow blind voters the right to have persons of their own choosing assist them in the voting booth; presented testimony to the House Special Subcommittee on Education on bills concerned with amending the American Printing House Act; independent living rehabilitation; sheltered workshop; teachers of the deaf; and teachers of all disability categories, and
WHEREAS, John Nagle's N. F. B. Curtis Award address given at the banquet of our Kansas City Convention appeared in the Congressional Record with an introduction by Congressman William J. Green of Pennsylvania, and
WHEREAS, the said John Nagle presented a paper on the meaning of disability to the individual before the Conference for Coordinators for Employment of the Physically Handicapped, sponsored by the U.S. Civil Service Commission, copies of which were sent to all coordinators throughout the country, and
WHEREAS, the said John Nagle, by his untiring efforts and devotion to the cause of the National Federation of the Blind, has enhanced and advanced its legislative programs to protect and preserve the rights and privileges of our blind people already acquired and that may be acquired: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind, in Convention assembled, in Detroit, Michigan, July 4-7, 1962, hereby expresses its deep appreciation, its sincere thanks, and everlasting gratitude to John Nagle for his untiring efforts and deepest interest in promoting the social and economic welfare of the blind through legislation.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, as a token of esteem and respect, the name of John Nagle be inscribed in the records of the National Federation of the Blind, with the title of "Friend of the Blind."
This month’s recipes come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado.
Black Forest Cake
by Diane McGeorge
Diane McGeorge is past president of the NFB of Colorado and was the founding director of the Colorado Center for the Blind. She reports that this is an easy and excellent cake.
1 chocolate cake mix, any brand
1 can cherry pie filling, not canned cherries
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 stick butter or margarine
1 6-ounce bag chocolate chips
Method: In a large bowl combine all the cake ingredients and beat well enough to combine thoroughly. Bake in a greased 13-by-9-inch cake pan or two 8-by-8-inch pans in a preheated 350-degree oven until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about thirty-five minutes. Cool in pan on a rack.
Combine sugar, milk, and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat a little and stir in the package of chocolate chips. Cook stirring for one minute. Remove from heat and pour over surface of cake. You can remove the smaller cakes from their pans after ten minutes of cooling and then stack the frosted layers. This cake freezes well.
Red Hot Cinnamon Salad
by Ryan Osentowski
Ryan Osentowski came into the NFB in the Nebraska affiliate and the National Association of Blind Students. He is now living and working in Colorado and is an active member of the NFB of Colorado.
3 packages cherry Jell-O
1 cup red hot candies
1 cup Cool Whip
8 ounces cream cheese, well softened
2 cups cinnamon applesauce
3 cups boiling water
Method: In a medium saucepan bring the water to a boil. Add red hots and Jell-O to the boiling water and stir until everything is dissolved. Let cool; then add cream cheese cut in small pieces, applesauce, and Cool Whip and stir until blended. Be sure that the cream cheese is blended in completely or you will have small pieces of cream cheese in the finished salad. Pour mixture into a mold or individual dishes and chill overnight before serving. If you plan to unmold the salad, loosen edges with a spatula or table knife. Place enough very warm tap water in the sink or a large pan to immerse mold almost to the top. Do not let water slosh over the edge onto the salad. Allow mold to remain in the water bath ten seconds or so; then invert on a serving plate or platter and shake gently to loosen completely. You will hear the top of the salad strike the plate when it unmolds. If this does not happen, repeat the hot water bath for another ten seconds or so before inverting the mold again.
Brie En Croute
by Rita Albright
Rita Albright is a member of the Boulder Valley Chapter of the NFB of Colorado. She reports that this is a wonderfully delicious and simple recipe for an appetizer or a cheese-and-cracker, hors d'oeuvre light dinner gathering. It is too easy!
1 8-ounce Brie cheese wheel
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
1/4 cup jam (strawberry, peach, raspberry, etc.)
Chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc.)
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water (egg wash)
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread jam over the sheet of puff pastry and sprinkle with nuts. Place Brie wheel in center of pastry sheet. Fold pastry over the Brie and press to seal. Flip the Brie en croute over and place seam-side down on greased baking sheet. (Excess dough may be cut into shapes and used to decorate top.) Brush the entire exposed surface of pastry with egg wash. Bake for twenty minutes or until golden. Allow to cool for thirty minutes. Transfer to serving board or plate and serve with crackers.
On March 11, 2011, we were honored to have President and Mrs. Maurer and their children, David and Dianna, participate in philosophy class and have a meal with us at the Colorado Center for the Blind. The home management staff, Maureen Nietfeld and Ixchel Swinehard, and their students worked together to devise the lunch menu and prepare the dishes served. These are the recipes for the meal our students prepared for them:
Sage Roasted Chicken
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 stick melted butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried sage
Juice and zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Method: Arrange chicken on a baking pan lined with foil. In a bowl combine butter, seasonings, and lemon juice and zest and pour over chicken. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty-five minutes or until chicken juices run clear and pieces feel firm when gently pressed.
Fingerling Roasted Potatoes
1 pound potatoes, sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon fresh or dried rosemary
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Enough olive or other cooking oil to coat potato strips generously
Method: In a mixing bowl toss all ingredients except cheese until potatoes are coated on all sides. Arrange potatoes on a baking pan lined with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes or until potatoes feel tender when pricked with a fork. Remove from oven, toss with parmesan cheese, and serve immediately.
Orange Hazelnut Glazed Carrots
1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Juice and zest of one orange
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
Method: Steam carrots until just tender and then toss with remaining ingredients.
Flourless Chocolate Cake
8 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
2 sticks butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
Method: Melt chocolate and butter together. Whisk in the remaining ingredients one at a time. Pour into a buttered and sugared 8-inch springform pan and bake at 350 degrees for thirty to forty minutes. Cool in pan on a rack. Remove side of pan after loosening the cake with a spatula. If you are serving at the table, place the cake (still on the bottom of the pan) on the serving plate.
Ganache for Flourless Cake
8 ounces dark (not unsweetened baking) chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
Method: Melt chocolate and cream together in double boiler over hot water and whisk until smooth. Immediately pour over cake to cover.
You can use other berries as well.
3 cups raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
Method: In a small saucepan bring all ingredients to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Reduce until sauce is of desired thickness, and strain if you don’t want the seeds. This sauce can be ladled over the flourless cake.
Pan-Seared Salmon with Horseradish-Dill Sauce
2 fillets salmon
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 cup half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
News from the Federation Family
Attention Cassette Edition Subscribers:
At the convention and in the August/September Braille Monitor we announced that the December issue 2011 will be the last one produced on cassette. There are, of course, optional ways for cassette readers to continue to get the Monitor. If you have access to the Internet, the Monitor can be read or downloaded in Microsoft Word, as an audio MP3 file, or as a Daisy recording, meaning that it can be easily navigated by article. If you want to read the magazine in print or Braille, we continue to provide it in these formats.
Starting with the January issue, however, the Monitor will also be available on NFB-NEWSLINE®. Just access NEWSLINE using any of the options available, and the Monitor will appear in the magazines section.
If you prefer reading by listening to high-quality human narration, we can still ship the Monitor to you by mail, but instead of a cassette tape, you will receive a USB drive. These are sometimes called thumb drives or memory sticks. The digital player provided by the National Library Service has two slots for playing recorded material. The most familiar one is on the front of the unit. It accepts the special cartridge used by the Library. The second slot is found on the right side of the unit near the headphone jack, and, unless you have removed it or it has become dislodged, the slot is covered by a protective rubber pad. Removing this pad reveals an indentation in the unit where the USB drive is inserted. It will go into the unit in only one direction, so, if you encounter resistance, flip the drive over and try inserting it again. The main cartridge slot used to play books from the Library must be empty before you insert the memory stick in the right side of the player. If the main slot has a cartridge in it, the digital player will ignore the USB drive.
Once the USB drive has been inserted, the player should function just as it does when you are reading a book. Pressing the rewind or advance keys moves back or ahead by five seconds. Pressing the previous element or next element keys moves from article to article or, in some cases, moves to the next section in an article in which divisions are present. If you remove the USB drive to use the player for other material, when you again insert it, reading should resume from the place you stopped reading.
The USB drive will be every bit as functional as the cassettes we have been providing. The audio quality should be improved, along with the navigation, and the drive should last many years. If you think you will want to refer to an issue again, you are welcome to keep the drive, but, because they cost more than cassettes and can be used hundreds of times, readers willing to return the USB drives are requested to use the return address label that will be sent along with your drive. This will save money that we can use for other programs.
Current cassette readers who wish to continue receiving the Monitor after December must contact Marsha Dyer. She can handle subscription requests for print, Braille, email, or USB drive. Call her at (410) 659-9314, ext. 2344. If you do not reach her directly, please leave your information on the Publications line voicemail. Please be assured that all voicemail messages will be received, and your information will be updated prior to each month's issue being mailed out. She can also receive your request by email when you write her at <[email protected]> or by postal mail at 200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, MD 21230. Be sure Marsha has your first and last name (if leaving her a voicemail, please spell both), your address, and the format in which you want to receive the Monitor. If you currently receive the Monitor in another format, you need do nothing; your subscription will continue. But please understand that, if you are currently a cassette reader, doing nothing will mean you will stop receiving the Monitor, so please think about the new options and let us know how to keep you informed.
Washington Seminar Hotel Reservations:
The following information comes from Diane McGeorge, who organizes much of the logistics for Washington Seminar, this year beginning Monday, February 6, 2012, and ending Thursday, February 9.
Please make your hotel reservations as soon as possible. We must have all reservations no later than January 2, 2012. Here is the information you must include when making your hotel reservation:
1. Your dates of arrival and departure.
2. First and last names of roommates sharing the room with you. Please correctly spell first and last names of each person in the room, and please include arrival and departure dates for each person.
3. Specify smoking or non-smoking room and the number of beds you want--two double beds or one king bed.
4. Indicate any special accommodations needed, such as an accessible room.
5. If you request a rollaway bed, expect a $15 charge per night. You need not request refrigerators since they are now standard in each guest room.
6. According to the hotel contract, individual cancellations must be made seventy-two hours before the date of arrival to avoid one night’s room plus tax cancellation charge. You must get in touch with Lisa Bonderson or me to make changes to your reservation as soon as possible to avoid such a charge.
7. If any divisions wish to have space for meetings, e.g., students, parents, merchants, lawyers, I must have your requirements for meeting space no later than December 1, 2011. We want to accommodate everyone, and, in order to do so, we must have plenty of advance notice to work with the hotel.
The room rates are $174 for single, double, triple, or quad rooms, and the tax is 14.5 percent a night. The address of the Holiday Inn Capitol is 550 C Street, SW. Please do not contact the hotel to make your reservations. I will submit all reservations for the Washington Seminar. Call (303) 778-1130, ext. 219, to make your reservation, or email reservations to Lisa Bonderson at <[email protected]>. We will confirm receipt of your reservation either by return email or by telephone, so be sure to give us your telephone number and your email address.
We have just learned of the death of Don Galloway, the longtime president of the National Federation of the Blind of the District of Columbia. Don died on October 4, 2011, after an extended battle with prostate cancer. He spent more than two years abroad serving as director of Peace Corps operations in Jamaica. He was assisted by the Federation when he successfully sued the Department of State for refusing to consider him for assignment as a foreign service officer. His time as the affiliate president witnessed the growth of the affiliate from one chapter with eight people to an organization that boasts two chapters, three divisions, and more than sixty members. Don will be missed by the many people he helped to find housing and by everyone to whom he extended a hand of friendship.
Make your Bid for Excellence:
This year the National Federation of the Blind is conducting our first national online auction, called “Bid for Excellence.” The auction, hosted on eBay, began on November 1 and will be open through December 5, 2011. This is an exciting opportunity to raise funds to support the work of the NFB, which provides programs, encouragement, and opportunities that help blind people all over the nation achieve excellence in their education, employment, and all aspects of their lives.
The auction has many exciting items including luxury accommodations in Cancun, Mexico; an opportunity to watch MSNBC TV’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, with a behind-the-scenes tour; and plenty of gift items just in time for the holidays.
You can help us make Bid for Excellence a success by telling your friends, family, and acquaintances. Please tell everyone in your phone book and email address book and everyone else you come in contact with about Bid for Excellence and encourage them to participate. Another easy way to get the word out is through social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. The more people who know about the auction, the better. For more information on Bid for Excellence, visit <www.nfb.org/Bid>.
New NFB Scholarship Available:
A new National Federation of the Blind scholarship for blind students majoring in secondary education is being established in the memory of a beloved friend and longtime NFB member, Larry Streeter. The scholarship is being established by his wife Sandy and their daughters, Erin and Jennifer. Larry and Sandy were instrumental in furthering NFB principles wherever they lived and served in many leadership positions. Larry earned his doctorate in education administration and worked tirelessly to ensure quality education for blind and disabled children inside and outside the classroom.
Sandy and her daughters hope to offer a scholarship to deserving college-bound blind students in the amount of $3,000 or more if funding allows. She invites family members, friends, and colleagues to contribute to a special fund to make this annual memorial scholarship happen. The Streeter Family values education, and Sandy and her daughters want to carry on Larry's legacy of promoting higher education that will assist blind students to elevate their quality of life, equipping them to be active, productive participants in their families, communities, and workplaces.
Please consider becoming a part of this wonderful opportunity to invest in the future of blind recipients by granting them assistance in reaching their educational goals through the Larry Streeter Memorial Scholarship. Contributions should be sent to Chase Bank, Attn. Jennifer Sydlk, Personal Banker, 1711 South 25th Rd., E., Idaho Falls, ID 83406-5708. Please make it clear that the contribution is sent in Memory of Larry Streeter, and let the bank know if you will need a receipt. The first Streeter scholarship will be presented with the other NFB scholarships at its 2012 convention in Dallas.
Leading Character in Thunder dog Recognized:
We recently received the following note from Mike Hingson. It reflects his pride in the work performed on September 11, 2001, by his dog guide Roselle. While she certainly did the guiding, all of us who understand the role of the dog guide and the kind of man who answers to the name Michael Hingson know that he was the one who was leading. It is a tribute to Roselle that Michael felt compelled to seek acknowledgement for Roselle’s service and a tribute to him that he is secure enough in his capabilities to share the credit for what happened on that bleak day. Here is what he says:
Roselle won the overall title of the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog for 2011 at a gala event in Beverly Hills on Saturday evening. There will be more to follow. You will be able to watch the ceremony on November 11 on the Hallmark Channel. I do not have any information about the time. Watch your local listings. Thanks to all who voted for Roselle. This award helps us show again the power of the human-guide dog team. For more information, go to <www.HeroDogAwards.org>.
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.
Hadley Offers New Business Courses:
As of September 19 the Forsythe Center for Entrepreneurship opened for enrollment. The goal of this new business, entrepreneurship, and technology program is to provide individuals who are visually impaired with the knowledge, resources, and networking opportunities enabling them to advance in their careers or to launch and grow their own businesses successfully.
Ten courses are open for enrollment: Self-Employment with a Minimal Investment, Business Fundamentals, Business Communications, Business Law 1, Business Law 2, Business Writing, Using Excel, Screen Readers: Listening Skills, Screen Readers: Web Browsing, and Screen Readers: Formatting Word Documents.
Six new modules are also open for enrollment: Market Research, the Financial Plan, the Marketing Plan, the Business Plan, Business Insurance, and Forms of Ownership.
Hadley is embarking upon this program, in part, to address the deplorable employment rate among people who are visually impaired. Although statistics vary somewhat, the most reliable data sources suggest that the under- or unemployment rate of people who are blind or visually impaired is 70 to 80 percent. The program is designed to be practical, relevant, and interactive. Courses are open to anyone who is blind or visually impaired, over age fourteen, and serious about starting or growing a business. Coursework is offered free of charge and is mostly online.
To learn more or enroll, visit <http://www.hadley.edu/fce.asp>. If you missed the seminar about the center, you can access it through Past Seminars. Please contact Tom Babinszki at <[email protected]> with questions. You can also reach Hadley at 700 Elm Street, Winnetka, IL 60093, or at (800) 323-4238.
Seedlings Braille Books for Children Offers Holiday Shopping Opportunities:
Shop Seedlings Braille Books for Children this holiday season for Braille books, educational items, and one-of-a-kind gifts. Choose from over 1,100 high-quality, low-cost books in our catalog for your Braille reader, age infant to teen. We have a wonderful selection of baby board books, print and Braille books, and Braille-only books. These books are great for introducing Braille to a visually impaired child and wonderful for blind adults to read with sighted children.
We also offer a unique collection of Braille jewelry, T-shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, and other wonderful gift items. For a preview of these items and more, visit us at <www.seedlings.org>, write to us at 14151 Farmington Road, Livonia, MI 48154, or call (800) 777-8552.
Good News in the Penn State Complaint:
On October 11, 2011, the NFB circulated the following press release:
National Federation of the Blind and Penn State
Resolve Accessibility Complaint
The National Federation of the Blind and the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) announced today that they have reached an agreement that will resolve a complaint filed against Penn State by the NFB with the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights. There was no admission of any wrongdoing.
Penn State has agreed to continue implementing a strategy to make all electronic and information technology systems used on its campuses fully accessible to blind students, faculty, and staff. The information technology systems covered include course management systems, websites, classroom technology, library resources, banking services, and more. University spokesman Lisa Powers said that Penn State strives to maintain strong academic leadership and has a long record of providing equal access to educational information and services for all students, faculty, and staff.
Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Universities must commit to making sure all of the technology that they use is accessible to blind students, or else the blind will be left behind in education and denied opportunity. We are pleased that Penn State, one of the largest and most recognized public universities in the country, has agreed to take additional steps to create an environment of equality in which blind students can pursue their educational and career aspirations without unnecessary barriers. The National Federation of the Blind hopes and believes that the steps that Penn State is taking will set an example for colleges and universities throughout the nation.”
"For more than twenty years Penn State has provided assistive technologies to students, faculty, and staff," Powers said. "We will work with the National Federation of the Blind and the Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, to put in place the additional technologies, procedures, and ongoing policies that will help us continue meeting our strong commitment to access.”
The university has had a number of policies and programs in place to help individuals with disabilities, such as a classroom note-taking service, textbooks and course materials in electronic format, technology assistance, and adjustments in testing procedures, to name just a few. The university has a longstanding policy of providing reasonable accommodations to anyone requesting assistance.
"We can always do more," Powers said. "In addition to any continued adjustments to our policies, we also are working with our outside vendors to see if their products and procedures can be adjusted to meet the needs of our students."
Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights, with the U.S. Department of Education, said: “Colleges and universities have specific legal obligations to provide students, faculty, and staff with disabilities the same benefits, programs, and services. This office is committed to working with complainants and institutions to ensure that the important nondiscrimination provisions of this nation’s laws are enforced and implemented.”
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The twenty-eighth Annual Pacific Rim International Conference on Disability and Diversity (formerly called the Pacific Rim International Conference on Disabilities) 2012, Living to our Complete Potential, will be held March 26 and 27 at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu. PacRim is a top-rated international educational conference for and by persons with disabilities, family members, researchers, service providers, policymakers, community leaders, advocates, and internationally recognized professionals. Become a part of a historic change. For more information contact <[email protected]> (808) 956-7539 <www.pacrim.hawaii.edu>.
Sports Podcast Available:
Are you a sports fan? Do you want the latest news and sports scores weekly? Check out the sports talk podcast. Sports Talk is a weekly sports podcast that gives you the latest sports news, scores, and opinions about what's going on in the world of sports. The podcast is hosted by Hunter Parker and Matt Overstreet, who host shows on HitMeRadio, an Internet radio station. Listeners can also interact with the podcast by email or phone.
For more information or to check out the podcast, visit their website, <www.sportstalkshow.co.cc>.
Elegant Insights Braille Jewelry and Accessories Available:
Elegant Insights is a line of jewelry and accessories for people who are blind or visually impaired. The product line is made in the USA from contemporary metals such as brass, copper, stainless steel, and sterling silver. Each product features one or more charms embellished with Braille.
Elegant Insights also offers purse charms, dog tags, mobility cane charms, and cell phone charms. The products are all handcrafted. Custom Braille embossing is available on many items. Can you imagine how special and meaningful a gift personalized with Braille would be for a visually impaired loved one?
Charms are available in a variety of shapes including hearts, stars, guitar picks, critters, and geometric shapes. Items can be used as identifiers for luggage or laptop bags, stemware charms, and even tags for your four-legged traveling companion.
Laura Legendary, owner of Elegant Insights, is a speaker, author, and educator specializing in accessibility, advocacy, and assistive technology. For more information about Elegant Insights Braille creations, visit her website at <http://www.elegantinsightsjewelry.com/>. You can follow on Twitter @ElegantInsights or find her on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/Elegant.Insights. To place a custom order, call Laura at (509) 264-2588.
Workplace Accommodations Study Participants Needed:
The focus of Georgia Tech’s Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Workplace Accommodations (WorkRERC) is to further the understanding of employment barriers faced by people with disabilities. Our goal is to enable equitable access to employment, enhance employment outcomes, and increase participation in the workplace for people with disabilities.
In a recently completed study we identified a potential barrier for individuals with vision impairments, but we need more information. We invite you to take a fifteen- to twenty-minute survey that asks about how you access printed or digital information. The survey has been approved by Georgia Tech’s Institutional Review Board.
You are eligible to take this survey if you have a vision impairment and are currently employed. For more information visit <http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/641131/Vision-Accommodations>. If you have any questions or would like to arrange to take the survey by telephone, contact Maureen Linden at <[email protected]> or (404) 894-0561.
The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.
I am selling a variety of adaptive products that can enhance independent living, especially for those who live alone. They include an ID Mate by En-Vision America for $600 that identifies and speaks barcodes for household products, CDs, etc; Voice It All by Reizen that identifies colors for $250; Franklin Bill Reader for $250; Olympus digital recorder for $150; and an RCA digital recorder for $100. These recorders can hold hundreds of hours of lectures and personal recordings, which makes them perfect for college students and those employed in occupations that require a lot of recording. Items are in great condition. Contact Allan Golabek if interested—serious inquiries only please. Checks are the required form of payment, and the buyer must cover the cost of shipping. Email me at <[email protected]>, or call my office (203) 743-9238, or cell (203) 770-5211.
I have several professional woodworking machines for sale: one six-inch Reliant jointer, asking $300; one sixteen-inch Reliant band saw, asking $300; one variable speed Delta lathe, asking $350; and one Sears Craftsman electric router, asking $75. These items are like new, used only a few times by a blind woodworking craftsman who can no longer use them. These items have additional blades, chisels, and bits. They would be great for a retired person or future craftsman. Check or cash as form of payment. Contact Allan Golabek, cell (203) 770-5211 or email at <[email protected]>.
Smart View Magnifier, gently used and like new. Read any book or newspaper with ease. Adjustable magnification with twenty-one-inch monitor, includes corded remote. Asking $2,000. New, these cost $2,700. Buyer must pay all shipping costs. We still have the original boxes. Cash or money order only, no checks, please. Call (913) 631-3520.
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.