THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
National Office 1800 Johnson Street Baltimore, Maryland 21230 NFB Net BBS: (612) 696-1975 Web Page address: http://www.nfb.org
Letters to the President, address changes, subscription requests, orders for NFB literature, articles for the Monitor, and letters to the Editor should be sent to the National Office. Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per year. Members are invited, and non-members are requested, to cover the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to National Federation of the Blind and sent to:
National Federation of the Blind 1800 Johnson Street Baltimore, Maryland 21230
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
ISSN 0006-8829 THE BRAILLE MONITOR PUBLICATION OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
CONTENTS March, 1997
Lighthouse for the Blind Closes Sheltered Shop and Feels that It Got a Bum Rap by Kenneth Jernigan
Carnival, Life Go On Despite Blindness by Rhonda Nabonne
Needed: Blind Individuals for University Training as Orientation & Mobility Instructors by Ruby Ryles
If Only We Could See Through the Eyes of a Child by Sue Drapinski
Content Validity of the National Literary Braille Competency Test by Carol B. Allman and Sandra Lewis
A Nonacademic Plea for Common Sense by Barbara Pierce
Making Other Arrangements by Bruce A. Gardner
Federation Spirit on the Internet by Marc Maurer
How I Became a Park Ranger by Lynda Boose
Possibilities by Carol Castellano
From the Electronic Mail Basket: Teaching Braille Online by Curtis Chong
Lionizing Around New Orleans: Good Food, Good Times, and All That Jazz by Jerry Whittle
The Metal Pole by Homer Page
Federationists, Fund-Raising, and Free Enterprise by Marie Cobb
Dialysis at National Convention by Ed Bryant
Copyright 1997 National Federation of the Blind
LEAD PHOTO #1. Six people are pictured here. The four on the left are wearing costumes and headdresses which prominently include musical notes. The woman on the right is wearing a coat and a crown. Three canes can be seen. #2. A parade float is fringed at the bottom and decorated with musical notes. Centered at the front of the float is a large record player turntable and needle arm, angled so that it can be seen by parade watchers. CAPTION: In New Orleans February means one thing--Carnival, which now fills the week before the beginning of Lent and ends with the celebration of Mardi Gras. This year the National Federation of the Blind was invited to ride float #17, The World of Music float (below), in the Bards of Bohemia Parade. Four of the Federationists riding the float and throwing plastic NFB cups to the crowd were (left to right above) Marilyn Whittle, Joanne Wilson, Harold Snider, and Pam Dubel. Pictured with them are Julie Russell (far right), a Federationist invited to be a member of the Bards of Bohemia Court, and her escort Billy Petrino, a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. #3: A crowd of people in the foreground is watching a parade float pass. Some hands are raised to catch trinkets thrown from the floats. CAPTION: The crowd watches the Bards of Bohemia Parade. #4: In this picture eight people stand on a stage. Julie Russell holds her bouquet in one hand and her white cane in the other. The four women are wearing floor-length dresses and crowns. CAPTION: Members of the Bards of Bohemia Court.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kenneth Jernigan]
Lighthouse for the Blind Closes Sheltered Shop and Feels that It Got a Bum Rap by Kenneth Jernigan
In the fall of 1995 The Lighthouse, located in New York City, decided to close its sheltered workshop and try to help able-bodied blind employees find work in the regular competitive market. Even though it would seem hard to quarrel with this action as a basic concept, some did.
In its December, 1996, issue, The Braille Forum, a publication of the American Council of the Blind, raked The Lighthouse over the coals. In an article titled, "Choice: Not Just for the Chosen Few," the Forum accused The Lighthouse of everything from robbing workshop employees of their right to make choices to a deliberate effort to try to prevent them from getting work in another sheltered setting. As will be seen from the article, which we reprint here in full, the language is anything but dispassionate.
We have never hesitated to criticize agencies doing work with the blind when we have thought it necessary. But we do not publish inadequately researched, politically motivated, biased articles, which (though they fit the classic definition of "muck-raking") try to disguise themselves as investigative reporting. Such tactics do nothing but create strife and ill will.
Before turning to the text of the Forum article, it might be worthwhile to examine some of its specifics. In the third paragraph from the end, there is a sentence which reads: "The Lighthouse said that the only choice these workers had was to give up their jobs and collect a benefit check--or to accept work in substandard conditions." Regardless of what The Lighthouse management might have felt, is it really reasonable to believe that a Lighthouse official would have said what is alleged? This speaks to the tone and flavor of the Forum article.
And so does a passage close to the beginning. The second paragraph reads as follows: "There is a controversy raging inside agencies serving the blind regarding the merits of operating facility-based employment for blind people." Regardless of how often one meets politically correct language, it is always just as distasteful as it was the last time. It attempts to deceive by using high-flown language.
As to the present instance, in case you are not familiar with it, "facility-based employment" is simply the latest way of trying to sugar-coat the term "sheltered workshop." Let me not be misunderstood. Sheltered workshops may be good or bad. But we shouldn't try to pretend by terminology that they are what they are not. A sheltered shop is a sheltered shop, and it must stand or fall on its own merit without the prop of a linguistic crutch.
By way of background, The Lighthouse was established in 1906 by two sisters, Winifred and Edith Holt. Its purpose was to help blind persons get opera tickets, and The Lighthouse still runs a music school. Later it established a sheltered workshop, and somewhere along the way it began to recruit volunteers to do reading and recording for blind persons. Barbara Silverstone, the president and chief executive officer of The Lighthouse, says that in addition to its New York City operation The Lighthouse is expanding its scope to the national and international stage. Among other things, this includes training of professionals to work with people with low vision.
But back to the article in the December issue of The Braille Forum. Here it is in full:
Choice: Not Just for the Chosen Few by Donald Moore
(Editor's Note: The author is a former president of the American Council of the Blind of New York. He currently serves as vice chairman of the board of Industries for the Blind in New York state.)
There is a controversy raging inside agencies serving the blind regarding the merits of operating "facility-based employment" for blind people.
While the goal of integrating blind workers into the mainstream sounds good, the reality can be much different and should raise serious questions among those concerned with the continued employment and independence of blind workers. With 70 percent of all blind working-age people unemployed, mainstreaming today is more of a wish than a viable option, especially for those without a college education. As you'll see, it all comes down to the question, "Who should choose what's right for blind workers, the workers themselves or the people holding executive positions at blindness agencies?"
Having just passed the anniversary after The Lighthouse, Inc. in New York City chose to close its workshop, thus displacing fifty-five blind workers, it seems fitting to look at what "choice" really can mean.
The Lighthouse decided that its workshop facility should close so that workers could be retrained and integrated into the mainstream job market. That was the reasoning of its leaders. The workers had virtually no say in the decision. The Lighthouse was also facing a need to quickly raise cash because of additional expenses incurred in paying for what some considered unnecessary and extravagant expenditures on The Lighthouse headquarters building on East 59th Street in Manhattan.
The Lighthouse's answer to its cash-flow concerns? Firing the blind people and selling the land and building in Long Island City in which they worked.
The employees were given notice and told it was for their good. This despite the fact that they clearly wanted to work, and those who had been in charge of the former Lighthouse facility wanted to continue working as well. Furthermore, the operation had been generally operating at break-even or profitable levels.
This was a clear example of how a blindness agency's pursuit of theoretical ideals can run roughshod over a blind individual's right to choose what is best for him or her. Being blind or becoming blind does not--and should not--rob a human being of the ability to determine where, how, and if one will work to support oneself.
The Lighthouse workers were very concerned about their loss of employment and ultimately contacted Jean Mann, president of the American Council of the Blind of New York, with their concerns. Jean contacted The Lighthouse, asking that it reconsider its decision to shut down the manufacturing operation, but to no avail. Jean then spoke with Steven Ennis, the president of Industries for the Blind of New York State, and, with me in my capacity as the vice chairman of the Board of Industries for the Blind, and-- together with National Industries for the Blind--helped to form a new organization to employ these displaced blind workers.
The first meeting with the former Lighthouse employees was held last fall after work in a modest diner in Queens, New York, where several of us involved with the new enterprise tried to give them some hope. We told them of our plan to start a new shop--from scratch, if necessary--and told them what we'd done so far to get the shop off the ground. After listening to different employees tell their stories, I felt really good knowing that we were trying to offer them the option of employment rather than unproductivity and unemployment. I feel good knowing we were working to give them what they wanted--jobs.
Dr. Barbara Silverstone, CEO of The Lighthouse, Inc., promised her board of directors that she would find competitive employment for all the former Lighthouse employees. However, employment never materialized for most of them. Several received training, but that was for jobs that would have paid them less than they could earn at the former workshop and with worse hours.
The negotiations with The Lighthouse were really difficult. Dr. Silverstone apparently felt that her reputation would be tarnished if a new blind workshop--which the former Lighthouse employees wanted--were to open and operate in New York City. Rather than allowing for a smooth transition of the Lighthouse's former blind employees to a new workshop employer, The Lighthouse created one obstacle after another to try to prevent the new workshop from functioning.
Even though The Lighthouse was shutting down its workshop and selling the property, it determined not to sell some essential equipment to New York City Industries for the Blind that the facility would need to function appropriately. NYCIB has since purchased some of that equipment from those to whom The Lighthouse sold it.
New York City Industries for the Blind, Inc., is open and has already been able to re-hire all the former Lighthouse employees who wanted employment, plus some additional people. Last June Jean Mann and I visited the workshop and were flattered to receive plaques from the employees thanking us for ACB of New York's help in getting the workshop off the ground.
Today New York City Industries for the Blind is celebrating its successful progress as a new employer of blind people under the dynamic leadership of Rick Bland, the former Lighthouse workshop director.
The moral is that blind people are no different from anyone else when it comes to their right to choose how they will live their lives and that they are willing to fight to be able to make their own choices. The Lighthouse said that the only choice these workers had was to give up their jobs and collect a benefit check--or to accept work in substandard conditions.
If blind social workers and blind agency executives have the right to choose where and how they work, why not blind workers? As one NYCIB employee put it, "Not every blind person can go to college, but that doesn't mean we should be told we're not entitled to work."
New York City Industries for the Blind is living proof that choice is important for every blind person, not just the chosen few.
That is the article as it appeared in the December, 1996, Braille Forum. And as might be expected, The Lighthouse was not amused. Under date of January 2, 1997, Barbara Silverstone wrote to Nolan Crabb, Editor of The Braille Forum. She said in part:
Recently I received two communications in the same mail from the American Council of the Blind: the first, a request for a donation from The Lighthouse to support The Braille Forum; the second, the December, 1996, issue of The Braille Forum with an article on page 18 that includes grossly distorted and incorrect information about The Lighthouse. I am bewildered that you did not choose to check out the facts before printing this article...
I am enclosing an article entitled "Facts from The Lighthouse," which I am requesting be printed in its entirety in the next issue of The Braille Forum.
So said Barbara Silverstone, and at the time of this writing (late January) I don't know whether her request will be granted. Be that as it may, here is the full text of what she asked the Forum to print:
Facts from The Lighthouse, Inc. by Barbara Silverstone, President
Donald Moore's article in the December, 1996, issue of The Braille Forum contains inaccurate information about The Lighthouse, Inc., and the circumstances surrounding the reorganization of its career services program over the past two years. The following FACTS are presented so that the readers of The Braille Forum can be fully and accurately informed.
FACT #1. After lengthy study and as part of its strategic planning, the Lighthouse Board of Directors decided in the Fall of 1995 to phase out its sheltered workshop for fifty-seven able-bodied, legally blind workers in Long Island City and to move its work activity program for fifty workers who have multiple disabilities to The Lighthouse facility in Woodside, Queens. Now, one year later, Lighthouse Industries has been closed, the work activity program, as an enhanced therapeutic employment program, is thriving in its new quarters, and Lighthouse consumer and professional product catalog operations have been reorganized and expanded under the banner of Lighthouse Enterprises.
FACT #2. Training and career placement opportunities were offered to all fifty-seven able-bodied, legally blind workers. All workers who accepted The Lighthouse's career- placement assistance have been kept on the payroll until internships could be provided, and their former salaries were maintained through their internships. All others received comprehensive severance or retirement packages. Each worker made his own choice. A number of workers declined training and placement assistance and opted to wait for employment with New York City Industries for the Blind, which was in formation. Fifteen workers chose retirement. Four have completed training and/or internships and are now working in competitive jobs at salaries higher than their pay at Lighthouse Industries. Eleven other individuals are in various stages of training for competitive jobs.
FACT #3. The closing of Lighthouse Industries was a philosophical, not a financial, decision. In short, the Lighthouse commitment to a philosophy of inclusion in the workplace for all able-bodied legally blind workers cannot, and does not, support the sheltered workshop concept.
The Lighthouse subsidized Lighthouse Industries for many years so that a workshop option could be available for unemployed, legally blind workers. The Lighthouse decided to end this subsidy and devote its financial and personnel resources to career training and placement in competitive jobs for the following reasons: - Passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and accompanying increased receptivity of employers. - Increased job opportunities in the service and information industries offering better pay and benefits accrued from working in the mainstream. - Advances in adaptive computer technology. - Marked growth in the Lighthouse career training and placement capacity.
FACT #4. The Lighthouse did consider the desires of able-bodied legally blind workers--the workers of tomorrow. Consultations with representatives from all secondary schools in the New York City area which serve students with impaired vision, and the job goals expressed by applicants for placement, revealed that the youth of today are not interested in workshop employment or workshop training opportunities.
FACT #5. The demand for competitive employment opportunities by legally blind adults is increasing, as is the receptivity of employers. In the last two years Lighthouse career staff have placed 160 individuals in competitive employment in a wide range of jobs in the industrial, service, and office sectors. Only a fourth of the positions required college preparation. The demand for training and internships is growing, and The Lighthouse is expanding its career-training and placement staff. The Lighthouse also recently opened a customer service training program at its Queens facility and continues to offer competitive employment opportunities at its newly opened Lighthouse Enterprises and in SPECTRUM, The Lighthouse Store, located in Manhattan.
FACT #6. While Lighthouse Industries had always been subsidized by The Lighthouse (in FY 1995 the subsidy was $238,000), it was not closed for financial reasons (i.e., "a cash flow problem"). The resources of The Lighthouse, however, are finite, and all programs are examined not only from a philosophical perspective but in terms of their outcomes and cost effectiveness. The Lighthouse has chosen to devote its resources to services for the many hundreds of visually impaired youth and adults seeking employment in the competitive marketplace.
FACT #7. The recently renovated Lighthouse headquarters building in Manhattan was financed by a tax-exempt revenue bond issued by the New York City Industrial Development Agency. The bond issue enabled The Lighthouse to protect its endowment and expand its programs to meet the rehabilitation and training needs of a growing population of people with impaired vision.
The new Lighthouse facility is recognized as a national model of universal accessibility and has tripled the organization's training and classroom space.
FACT #8. In closing its own sheltered workshop for able-bodied legally blind workers, the Board of Directors of The Lighthouse chose to direct its resources to training for competitive employment and not to subsidize other sheltered workshops for able-bodied legally blind people.
However, inventory and equipment were sold for approximately $750,000 to the newly-established sheltered workshop, New York City Industries for the Blind. As of January 1, 1997, The Lighthouse is still owed a considerable amount of money from that sale.
FACT #9. The Lighthouse mission, philosophy, and advocacy efforts are carried out through regional, national, and international programs to enable people who are blind or have partial sight to lead independent and productive lives. Headquartered in Manhattan, The Lighthouse provides rehabilitation services to adults and children with impaired vision through eight regional offices in the greater New York area. It also offers a broad range of educational opportunities for the public and health and human service providers and conducts major research studies on the impact of vision impairment and its amelioration.
The Lighthouse is a staunch advocate of full inclusion and equal access for people who are blind and partially sighted and for full health insurance coverage of basic vision rehabilitation services.
The Lighthouse is a not-for-profit organization and depends on support from individuals, foundations, corporations, government, and the proceeds from Lighthouse Enterprises, which comprises its catalog operations and SPECTRUM, The Lighthouse Store.
[PHOTO: This picture is of two people in formal attire. The woman wears a floor lengthdress and carries a bouquet and a white cane. She is wearing a crown. The man is wearing white tie and tails. CAPTION: Billy Petrino and Julie Russell.]
Carnival, Life Go On Despite Blindness by Rhonda Nabonne
From the Editor: New Orleans is a city that knows how to throw a party. On almost any occasion New Orleanians can put together bands, floats, throws, and a crowd and voila, an irresistible parade. Walking between two of our hotels one day during the 1991 convention, a group of us found ourselves caught up in a parade. Gradually we noticed the sound of music coming toward us; then suddenly floats were passing us, and the people on them were throwing pirate gold at the crowd that materialized as traffic came to a stop. The jazz had everyone dancing as the band went by. It was impossible not to smile and grab for the coins being tossed. We clapped and waved, but too soon the little parade was gone. We never did know what the special occasion had been, but we went on our way energized by our brush with this wonderful city at play.
New Orleans has been honing its talent for throwing a party for over a hundred years. The famed Mardi Gras celebration during the days preceding Ash Wednesday each year is perhaps New Orleans's most famous event. The city prepares all year for Carnival and the celebration of Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras. The idea is to eat, drink, and be merry before facing the rigors of Lent, the forty days leading to Easter.
Many different parades take place during Carnival. Each one is organized and conducted by a Krewe, really a club, comprised of prominent citizens. Each krewe, and therefore its parade and ball to follow, has a name: Rex, Endymion, Orpheus, Bacchus, etc. A king and queen and a court of maids and their escorts are invited to preside over the festivities, and organizations or groups are also invited to ride on a series of floats behind the two carrying the royalty.
This year the Bards of Bohemia Krewe invited the National Federation of the Blind to ride on float seventeen of their parade, which took place on Monday, February 10. In addition, Julie Russell, a member of the NFB of Louisiana, was invited to be a maid in the court presided over by this year's queen, the daughter of nationally known magician Harry Blackstone. Billy Petrino, a current student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, served as Julie's escort and rode on the escorts' float. Julie rode with members of the court, and six other Federationists took part in the festivities. They threw plastic cups emblazoned with the NFB logo.
The participation of the National Federation of the Blind was noted by the media. The Cable News Network, National Public Radio, and Associated Press carried stories about our participation. The Times-Picayune, the most important newspaper in New orleans, placed the story on the front page of the Metro Section of the February 10, 1997, edition. It speaks for itself. Here it is:
If someone had told Julie Russell two years ago that she would lose her eyesight yet finish college, take charge of her life, and toss Carnival throws from a float, she would have laughed in sheer disbelief.
The unthinkable began to unfold in January, 1995: Russell, a Tulane University senior in the middle of final exams, suffered a mysterious illness that attacked her optic nerve and in a matter of days left her blind. The scariest part, she recalled, was not knowing what the rest of her life would be like.
As it has turned out, life has not been much different than what she had expected all along. She recently earned a bachelor's degree in English and is searching for a job in the hotel, tourism, and hospitality industry.
Nor has blindness cut down on her Carnival merriment: tonight she will be a maid in the royal court of the Bards of Bohemia and toss Carnival trinkets along with the other riders.
It was Mardi Gras 1995 that she learned that she need not be sucked into a cynical existence after meeting with students and staffers who had come from the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston for Fat Tuesday.
After joining the group for breakfast and getting an impromptu lesson in travel by cane, Russell realized that their lives weren't much different from hers before her illness and that options seemed endless. She did have one question.
"I wondered how they would catch throws," said Russell. Two years later Russell boasts she's as good as if not better than the most seasoned bead snatcher and has a pile of loot from Endymion to prove it. And tonight she'll ride above the sea of hands, tossing cups and trinkets from Float No. 3.
The daughter of Tim and Heather Russell, she and about thirty of her fellow members of the National Federation of the Blind will be part of the parade, to be followed by a ball at the Marriott.
Russell, twenty-three, attributes her bright outlook to the Federation, which operates three training centers for the blind in Louisiana, Colorado, and Minnesota.
Russell, whose family relocated to New Orleans from her native Fairbanks, Alaska, when she was twelve, is a product of the Federation's training center in Ruston, where students gain self-sufficiency and get a chance to go deep- sea fishing, rock climbing, and bargain shopping in Mexican border towns.
Computer classes and woodshop are part of the instruction. To meet graduation requirements, Russell prepared a breakfast, complete with blueberry bread, for forty people.
"The National Federation of the Blind gave me all this wonderful knowledge and a perspective that blindness is really no big deal," Russell said Sunday at her tidy Mid- City area home, where she lives alone.
"With proper training and skills, blindness can be reduced to a physical nuisance," Russell said.
Russell became part of Carnival royalty after the krewe's executive director, Terry McIntosh, invited her longtime friend Harold Snider to ride in the parade.
Snider accepted, and Russell was invited to fill a slot in the royal court.
"There are very few people who have done what Julie has done," said Snider, director of the International Braille Research Center. "Adjustment is usually a more difficult process."
Snider, who'll ride in the parade with his wife Linda, said he's always heard so much about Mardi Gras while growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, and will finally fulfill a long-held ambition to ride in a parade.
"We're doing this to show the public that blind people can take their place in the mainstream of life," said Joanne Wilson, president of the Federation's Louisiana affiliate, which will meet in Metairie from April 11 to 13.
The National Convention, expected to draw 3,000 participants, will be in New Orleans June 28 through July 5.
"In New Orleans the mainstream of life right now is Mardi Gras," Wilson said. "We want to show that blind people can ride on floats, throw stuff off floats, and take their place in society."
PHOTO/CAPTION: Ruby Ryles]
Needed: Blind Individuals for University Training as Orientation and Mobility Instructors by Ruby Ryles
From the Editor: Most people who know Ruby Ryles think of her as a sensible and intuitive teacher of blind children. Some of us have become familiar with her research on the importance of learning Braille as early as possible in elementary school. Now she is using her expertise in visual impairment to tackle the serious problem of too few good instructors in the field of orientation and mobility. This is what she says:
The Louisiana Center for the Blind, Louisiana Rehabilitation Services, and the Louisiana Department of Education, in cooperation with Louisiana Tech University and Grambling University, proudly announce an exciting, long- overdue program created specifically to train qualified blind and minority adults as orientation and mobility (O&M) instructors. Ruston, Louisiana, home to both Louisiana Tech University and the Louisiana Center for the Blind, promises to be an especially hot spot in June because classes are scheduled to begin in the nation's first university O&M training program specifically recruiting blind applicants.
As most Federationists know, many of the nation's most competent orientation and mobility instructors have been denied professional training and/or certification solely because they were blind. This program marks the beginning of a new era. The Louisiana Center for the Blind, the Louisiana Rehabilitation Services, and the Louisiana State Department of Education are now developing certification standards which are fully inclusive of qualified blind persons. The certification currently being designed is an alternative to the prohibitive certification of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation for the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). Applicants completing the prescribed course of study will earn either certification in orientation and mobility or a master's degree, which will include certification. Both will be awarded on the basis of meritorious achievement rather than vision.
Classes will be held at Louisiana Tech University, one of Louisiana's major universities. The university is located within easy walking distance of the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB), one of the nation's premier training centers for the blind. Known for its highly successful rehabilitation program, the Louisiana Center for the Blind will serve as host for internships; practica; seminars; and liberal doses of down-home, southern-style fun and friendship with students and staff. University courses in the program will incorporate the theory and best practices of both the "guided-learning" model which dominates traditional university-based O&M programs, and the progressive agency-training model grounded in structured- discovery learning.
If an innovative, model program conducted at a state university with an acclaimed training center for the blind situated in lovely northeastern Louisiana isn't enough to whet your appetite for learning, there's more! Financial assistance with tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and travel is available. Classes will start in June, and interest in the program has been heavy, so don't waste time. Call now for more information. Interested blind adults who have completed an undergraduate degree are encouraged to contact Ruby Ryles at (318) 251-2891. Come join us as we begin a new era in the orientation and mobility field. Note: This grant is funded through the U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration, under Experimental and Innovative Training Programs. We welcome sighted applicants as well, but they must meet the same high standards expected of blind students.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sue Drapinski]
If Only We Could See Through the Eyes of a Child by Sue Drapinski
From the Editor: As spring rolls around again, this little reminder of the importance of the work that we all do every day may be helpful. Sue Drapinski is the Treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan. This is what she says:
The importance of the NFB of Michigan's tutoring program and the ongoing education of our blind children is immeasurable. However, the education of the general public about blindness issues and the capabilities of those who are blind must also be a high priority. Today's blind and sighted children are the best teachers. The following tradition in our family demonstrates how easy it would be if only society could see things through the eyes of a child.
Each year our family has a barbecue on Memorial Day weekend. We invite friends and family and enjoy outdoor games, food, fellowship, and the local carnival games and rides just a block away. Each year new friends join us. Last year, Sid and Dawn Neddo and their children came. Kyle Neddo, who is an eight-year-old blind child, was one of the twelve children under the age of ten. He ate with the rest of the kids, played with the rest of the kids, and went to the carnival with the rest of the kids. Because Kyle and his family are a part of our Federation family and because they believe in and live our philosophy, Kyle has never been excluded from children's activities.
During the barbecue never once did any of the children question Kyle's abilities. Never once did they treat him differently, and most important never once did they assume there was something he couldn't do. The same is not true for the adults watching the children play. Some wondered if Kyle should be running; some worried that he would get hurt; some marveled at all of the exceptional things he was able to do (such as playing like any other eight-year-old).
One by one, the concerned adults realized that neither Kyle's parents nor those of us who knew Kyle were concerned. They began to understand a little bit of NFB philosophy-- Kyle is no different because he is blind, and he doesn't need to be treated any differently because he is blind. The next step is for these same adults to realize that Kyle is not exceptional, nor has he overcome great adversity. Kyle, like all of the other children, was just having fun being a kid.
As we meet new people and try to spread our philosophy, our ultimate goal is for everyone to understand the truth just as simply as the children do--blindness does not make a difference in who a person is, what he or she can do, or how he or she should be treated. We have a long way to go, but if each of us takes advantage of the opportunities presented to us, our philosophy will prevail.
Content Validity of the National Literary Braille Competency Test by Carol B. Allman and Sandra Lewis
From the Editor: Because Braille users and those who wish they had been taught to use it have such strong convictions about the importance of effective teaching of the code to children, members of the National Federation of the Blind have worked to ensure that teachers of the visually impaired know the code well themselves so that they can teach it. Unfortunately, a number of teachers have opposed our efforts. They offer a variety of arguments in support of their position, but we have been made skeptical through the years by transparently poor teaching of Braille and, too often, a rigid determination to teach print if at all possible. In short we have become convinced that insecurity and fear underlie a large part of the teacher resistance to the movement toward demonstrated competency in Braille reading and writing for teachers of blind students. A few months ago word began to circulate about an astonishing article that had appeared in the Fall, 1996, issue of RE:view, the journal of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). Here is the article by Carol Allman and Sandra Lewis as it appeared:
Criticism of teacher competence in using and teaching Braille contributed to the start of a Braille literacy movement in the 1980's. Because of the Braille movement and the general agreement that Braille is a literary code of importance for some people with a visual impairment, twenty- five states [now twenty-eight], including Florida, have passed "Braille Bills" (Turco, 1993; personal communication, B. Pierce, April 13, 1994). Such legislation reiterates the importance of Braille for some students with severe visual impairments and, in most cases, requires testing the Braille competence of teachers of students with visual impairments.
As a result of the Braille literacy movement, the Braille section of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Impaired (NLS) of the Library of Congress has developed the National Literary Braille Competency Test (NLBCT), a criterion-referenced test that assesses skill in reading and writing (transcription) Braille. No other test of this kind exists, and states that have passed Braille legislation have considered using the test for one aspect of certifying teachers of students with visual impairments. If the test, which has not been used as yet, is to be considered for partial use in teacher certification, its content must be determined to be valid.
In 1989, national organizations for the blind (American Council of the Blind, American Foundation for the Blind, Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Blinded Veterans Association, Canadian Council of the Blind, Canadian National Institute for the Blind, National Federation of the Blind, and the NLS) formed the Joint Organizational Effort (JOE) in part to promote Braille literacy. The group chose the NLS to devise a competency test because it had expertise in Braille codes and no affiliation with teachers, universities, or other education or rehabilitation organizations (National Library Service, 1993).
An editorial committee of eleven professionals involved in education or rehabilitation for blind and visually impaired persons was formed in 1991 to advise on test development. The committee recommended limiting the test to literary Braille (excluding math or music codes), including slate and stylus writing, and not testing Braille teaching methodology. It recommended that university training programs assure proficiency in teaching methodology testing through certification standards.
In the spring of 1992, the editorial committee reviewed a trial test, which NLS revised on the basis of that evaluation. Subsequently, thirty-two peer reviewers (64 percent return rate) in fifteen states evaluated the test. The editorial committee or NLS selected those reviewers from a list of individuals who had expressed an unsolicited interest in reviewing the test. Their responses were positive; most agreed that slate writing was important, although a few thought it unnecessary. Most recommended more multiple-choice questions. NLS revised the test based on these recommendations (Stark, 1993b).
The NLBCT is described in news releases (National Library Service, 1992, 1993, 1994) as a three-part evaluation of general knowledge of the Braille literary code. The test assesses (a) the ability to write by using a slate and stylus to Braille one medium-length paragraph, and a Braillewriter to transcribe one full print page, and (b) the ability to identify Braille errors in four medium Braille paragraphs. It also requires the candidate to answer twenty-five questions on the use of Braille rules. Candidates can use a dictionary, but not Braille reference materials, to complete the test within four to six hours. NLS will grade the tests and set passing scores. NLS has set prerequisites for taking the test the first time and guidelines for subsequently retaking it.
The Braille literacy concerns of JOE indicate that professionals and consumers in the field generally support the concept of a Braille competency test. However, the NLBCT has not been rigorously validated, and testing and measurement specialists agree that assessments used to obtain teaching certification should have psychometric characteristics that include assurance that the instrument used has job relevance (Gorth and Chernoff, 1986). The measurement literature on validation of teacher certification tests, although limited (Schmitt and Borman, 1993), supports the need for content validation, particularly for tests like the NLBCT that are criterion-referenced tests of skills used in teacher certification (Shimberg, 1981).
Unfortunately, the current development of the NLBCT consists of expert judging and peer review based on personal expertise (Stark, 1993a) and not of job analysis data. The recommendation by peer reviewers to assess only knowledge of the Braille code and not methodology raises particularly the question of the need for teachers to demonstrate ability to transcribe materials using a slate and stylus. There is agreement in the literature that teachers should teach slate and stylus to students. However, if the NLBCT is designed to assess demonstration of the Braille code and not teaching of Braille and related communication skills, the requirement of slate and stylus writing is questionable.
Issues Surrounding Content Validity
Technical adequacy of any test through the use of psychometric techniques is considered standard procedure as outlined in the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, and National Council on Measurement in Education, 1985). Primary standards include evidence of validity. Validity of criterion-referenced tests is widely discussed in the literature, but content validity is generally recommended as the primary validation of interest. For teacher certification purposes, test content validation is generally determined through an investigation of practitioners who either report or demonstrate the skills tested while on the job.
As prospective teachers are tested for competency, it is critical that the competence be based on the knowledge, skill, and ability that is demonstrated by practicing teachers. The job relevance of testing for certification purposes is upheld by Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (American Educational Research Association et al., 1985) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's overview of the Adoption by Four Agencies of Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 1978).
The assessment of skills through performance rating of demonstrated skills has traditionally been focused on occupational areas that lend themselves to completion of a product through simulated performance of specified skills, such as secretarial (typing exams) and mechanical functioning (car repair, building construction, or assembly-line skill)(Fleishman, 1982; Hambleton and Rogers, 1991). Typically, teacher skills are not defined in ways that allow their simulation for skill performance assessment. However, Braille transcription competence is a skill that lends itself to a performance rating on a criterion-referenced test.
Legal opinions support the critical nature of content validity for teacher certification testing. In a 1971 case, Griggs v Duke Power Company, employees of Duke Power Company challenged the legality of an employer's using general ability tests to hire and advance employees. That landmark case in personnel testing established the concept of job relatedness in finding that the general ability tests were not validated by correlation with job relevant tasks (Bershoff, 1981). In a 1975 case, Albemarle Paper Company v Moody, an employer's method of determining validity of an employee test was found defective. A psychologist hired to validate an employee test compared test scores of current employees with supervisors' judgements of competence. The court stated that the validation did not analyze attributes or particular skills needed in the job and thus was defective methodology. (Bershoff, 1981).
Two cases in 1981 further addressed the validity of employment testing. The United States v City of St. Louis case challenged multiple-choice questions and simulation exercises on an employee test developed by a panel of experts. The court concluded that the items were based on opinion rather than actual observation of correlation between mastery of knowledge and abilities measured by the test. Although the test assessed reading and writing skills that were dissimilar to those needed in the work situation, it threatened the use of simulated situations in the testing situation. In Guardians Association of New York City v Civil Service Commission, perhaps the most sophisticated opinion on employment test validity, the court found the functional approach of job relatedness for content validation to be appropriate. The court upheld the city's use of content validation strategies, supporting further use of job-relevant content validation for tests of teacher certification. (Bershoff, 1981).
Bishop (1993), Harrell and Curry (1987), Heinze (1986), Olmstead (1991), and Torres and Corn (1990) provided descriptions of duties of a teacher of visually impaired and included the transcription of materials into Braille and the interlining of Braille materials with print. Teachers may demonstrate these transcription skills by using a Braillewriter, a slate and stylus, a Braille computer program, or a Braille transcriber aide. Any assessment of these Braille transcription skills must necessarily reflect on-the-job activities as carried out by teachers. Unfortunately there are no quantitative studies or job analyses to suggest how teachers proceed with Braille transcription duties.
The Present Study
In the present study, we address the content validity of Braille transcription on the NLBCT. The need for the test is not at issue. If the test is an instrument for demonstrating "basic competency in literary Braille" (National Library Service, 1994, p.1), then proper validation procedures should show that the test is related to the job performed by the teacher of students with visual impairments.
We designed a Braille Skills Analysis Questionnaire (BSAQ), choosing the questions by reviewing the literature on Braille- related communication skills and by evaluating the purpose, content, and process of Braille transcription skills on the NLBCT practice test. We designed the questionnaire so that the teacher respondents could indicate how and how often they used Braille transcription skills, particularly their use of slate and stylus, Braillewriter, Braille computer programs, and transcriber aides in transcribing materials and transcribing with the use of Braille reference materials.
We asked fifteen visual impairment professionals to review a draft of the BSAQ. Using responses from nine of those reviewers (60 percent), we revised the draft. We then asked ten potential participants to complete the revised test to determine its test-retest reliability. We had established a priori that a test-retest reliability of .85 would be acceptable for ascertaining that the questionnaire would produce reliable information. Eight participants (80 percent) returned the completed questionnaire. Two weeks later we sent a second questionnaire to those participants who returned the first one. Six of the eight participants (75 percent) returned the questionnaires for test-retest reliability computation. We obtained an average test- retest reliability of .87 from those six responses. The field test participants were not part of the initial review, and both groups of participants were deleted from the participant pool.
The participants were 233 teachers of students with visual impairments in Florida, whose names we obtained from the Florida Instructional Materials Center for the Visually Handicapped, which maintains an annually updated list of all teachers of students with visual impairments in Florida. These individuals would be a source of current on-the-job information about skill in Braille transcription. The sample of teacher participants consisted of thirty-two men (14 percent) and 201 women (86 percent).
The Florida Department of Education mailed the test and a return-address, stamped envelope to the 233 teachers. The tests were coded to the addresses of the participants. The coding was accessed only by a research assistant who maintained records on the return of the tests and sent follow-up letters four weeks after the original mailing to those who had not completed the questionnaires.
Eighty-one percent (189 of 233) returned the test. Of those 189, 181 questionnaires (96 percent) were completed in a usable manner. The eight unusable questionnaires were not completed because the recipients were no longer teaching. Twenty-six men (14 percent) and 155 women (86 percent) completed the questionnaire. Seven participants reported that they were tactual Braille readers. Seventy-five percent of the respondents were teachers of visually impaired children; 7 percent were orientation and mobility specialists; 14 percent had dual assignments; and 4 percent gave no identification. Of these teachers, 42 percent served prekindergarten through secondary school children; the remaining 58 percent, in about equal proportion, taught secondary school children only, elementary and secondary school children, elementary school children only, or some other combination of ages. Sixty-seven percent of the teachers reported that they had taught for more than ten years; 59 percent stated that they had taught students with visual impairments for more than ten years. The data in Tables One and Two indicate the locations of teaching assignments and the number of visually impaired children each teacher taught.
Teachers who did not use Braille in their teaching assignments were asked not to answer the remaining questions. Eighty-nine teachers (49 percent) reported transcribing Braille; 96 percent of those used a Braillewriter, 64 percent used computer software, and only 12 percent used a slate and stylus.
We had decided before mailing the tests that to be reported as content-valid a skill had to be used by 85 percent of transcribing teachers. Based on the report of eighty-nine teachers in Florida who transcribe materials for students as part of their current job, the NLBCT skill of producing print into Braille by a Braillewriter can be considered content-valid. The NLBCT skill of producing print into Braille using a slate and stylus is not content-valid based on the Florida responses. Although the skill of using a slate and stylus is described in the literature as desirable for teachers who teach students with visual impairments, the reproduction of materials into Braille by that method is not a skill that many teachers in Florida use. Most teachers who transcribe materials do so with a Braillewriter or computer software.
Of the 104 teachers responding to the question about using Braille transcriber aides to transcribe materials, sixty-five (63 percent) reported not using an aide. However, sixteen (15 percent) reported using an aide for 3-5 hours a week; 16 (15 percent) reported using an aide less than 1 to 2 hours; and 7 (7 percent) used an aide for transcription from 6 hours to more than 10 hours weekly.
One hundred teachers answered the question about using reference materials for transcription, and eighty-five teachers answered the question on using reference materials for interlining Braille with print. The data in Table three show the frequency of reported use of reference materials. Table four contains data on the amount of time teachers spend weekly in interlining and transcribing Braille.
Interpretations of the findings in this study need to consider the following limitations: 1. Participants in this study were volunteers and may not be representative of the population of teachers. 2. Participants were limited to the state of Florida. 3. Participants in this study may have previously participated in some aspect of the NLBCT development. 4. Data from this study are self-reported information and may reflect the participants' biases.
TABLE One. Teaching Assignments of Respondents Assignment Number Percent
Residential School 25 14% Resource Room 24 13% Itinerant Teaching 99 55% Special Class 21 12% Other (supervisor, media spec.) 12 6%
Total 181 100%
TABLE Two. Number of Students With Visual Impairment That Respondents Serve
Program Mode Range M Mode Itinerant teaching 2-32 14.1 10 Resource room 1-65 11.5 9 Residential School 3-100 27.4 27
TABLE Three. Frequency of Teacher Use of Braille Reference Materials Use Always Sometimes Never Transcribing Braille Materials 21 70 9 Interlining Print Materials 14 47 24
TABLE Four. Time Teachers Spend per Week (in Hours) in Transcription and Interlining Skill <1 1-2 3-5 6-10 >10 Slate and stylus 10 1 0 0 0 Braillewriter 18 30 21 11 5 Computer Software 7 21 13 6 3 Interlining Braille 9 27 15 7 2
Conclusions and Discussion
We designed the collection of data in this study to determine if teachers transcribe Braille using a Braillewriter and a slate and stylus without the use of reference materials as assessed on the NLBCT. The data from this survey support the assertion that transcribing Braille with a Braillewriter is a valid skill to assess as a certification requirement for prospective teachers of students with visual impairments. Using a slate and stylus and transcribing Braille without using reference materials are not valid components for certification requirements.
Wittenstein (1993a, 1993b) found that over half of the subjects he surveyed felt that it was not desirable for teachers to be certified transcribers of Braille. Currently, Braille transcribers are certified through a test similar to the NLBCT that requires transcription on a Braillewriter with use of reference materials and with particular attention given to format, structure, and lack of errors on the transcribed document. If teachers are to be assessed on their ability to transcribe Braille for student use, those skills should be assessed through ways typically used by teachers and with attention to lack of errors on the transcribed document. The data from this study indicate that transcribing using a Braillewriter and reference materials is a skill used by over 90 percent of the teachers who use Braille in their classrooms. Unlike the NLBCT, the applicants for the Braille transcriber test may use reference materials and may complete the test in a setting of their choice.
Over half of the teachers using Braille spent one to five hours a week interlining print with Braille. Interlining appears to be a critical skill for a number of teachers and is necessary in the management of students with visual impairments in regular classrooms. If regular classroom teachers are readily to accept students with visual impairments in their classrooms, they need assurance that the materials are accessible. This suggestion is supported by Bishop (1986), who identified factors in the successful mainstreaming of students with visual impairments. This finding supports the suggestion that teacher preparation programs include the skill of interlining in Braille coursework.
The data from this study indicate that 64 percent of teachers using Braille in their classrooms transcribe with computer software. This skill may reflect a future trend and probably reflects teachers' desires to complete needed transcription in a timely, simplified fashion. It does not suggest that teachers are illiterate in the Braille code.
The finding of some use of aides for transcription may indicate a trend in the use of trained transcribers, which is supported by Currey and Hatlen (1989), who reported that teacher "aides are often assigned the job of Braille transcription and that teachers of the visually impaired are assigned the job of training those aides in the fundamentals of Braille transcription" (p.61). This information suggests that a Braille skill that may need to be included in teacher competency in the future is the ability to train teacher aides in the transcription of Braille.
Based on the results of this study, we do not recommend using the NLBCT in its present format in certifying teachers of students with visual impairments. Competence in transcription of Braille on a Braillewriter using reference materials is a job-relevant, content-valid skill expected of any teacher of students with visual impairments. In addition, teachers should be competent in interlining materials.
Teachers must have the opportunity to continuously renew and upgrade teaching skills. In this study, we report that 51 percent of the respondents indicated that they do not currently use Braille, and often teachers go for several years with no Braille-reading students; these teachers require Braille and Braille device updates (Olmstead, 1991). New and improved technology, methodologies, and materials become available and require learning or renewing (Maron, 1983). Commonwealth of Virginia (1991) and Wittenstein (1993a, 1993b) report that although teachers generally feel confident in their Braille skills, they desire some level of inservice training on various Braille-related communication devices.
Based on the findings of this study concerning the content validity of the NLBCT, the Braille Competency Committee of the Florida Department of Education recommended that this test not be used for teacher certification. The Braille Competency Committee established Braille competence standards for teachers and recommended that prospective teachers' competence in Braille be assured through the content of university courses, including passing an examination that allows use of reference materials while (a) transcribing a lengthy passage from print to Braille on the Braillewriter and (b) interlining Braille to print. This committee, recognizing that caseloads of teachers may only sporadically include students who are Braille readers, also recommended that regular inservice training in Braille be initiated for teachers who believe that their skills are rusty. More than 100 individuals participated in four regional two-day Braille refresher workshops in the spring of 1996. Future plans are to provide advanced Braille updating, which would include teacher competence in the use of software for transcription and the training of teacher aides to assist in the transcription of Braille.
NLS has announced that it will proceed with a nationwide effort to validate the content of the NLBCT. Our research, conducted in only one state, can be used as a pilot study for the larger investigation. It will be interesting to see if the transcribing practices of Florida teachers are similar to those of teachers in other states. Should the nationwide validation confirm that teachers primarily use Braillewriters and reference materials when transcribing materials from print to Braille, it seems reasonable that the NLBCT can be made more content-valid by making changes to the testing procedures that reflect these job-related practices.
In the meantime, states that have adopted the current version of the NLBCT for teacher certification may want to reevaluate their decision. If the test lacks content validity, as determined in this study, continued use of the NLBCT as a determinant of employability may not be upheld in the courts.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Barbara Pierce]
A Nonacademic Plea for Common Sense by Barbara Pierce
Anyone who depends on the ability to read and write Braille or who needs strong Braille skills and does not have them undoubtedly finished reading the preceding article frothing at the mouth. To those unused to digging through reports of research findings, the striking point in the authors' argument would appear to be that they surveyed teachers of blind children in Florida and learned that very few of them ever prepare class materials for their students using the slate and stylus. Therefore there is no reason to demand that such teachers learn to use the slate and stylus, and states using the NLS National Literary Braille Competency Test (NLBCT) as part of their certification process for teachers of the blind may eventually be instructed by the courts to throw out this instrument.
A close reading of the article reveals that the argument being presented is actually somewhat more complex but equally disturbing. I do not pretend to comprehend the professional jargon completely, and neither did several academics to whom I showed the article in the hope that they could explain it to me. But I would like to comment on a couple of disturbing things it seems to say.
The authors object to the original decision to construct the Braille competency test to measure knowledge of Braille rather than focusing on the teacher's mastery of teaching methods for working with blind students. They seem to think that assessing teacher mastery of the code somehow means transcription skills are being assessed. Their words are: "The recommendation by peer reviewers to assess only knowledge of the Braille code and not methodology raises particularly the question of the need for teachers to demonstrate ability to transcribe materials using a slate and stylus. There is agreement in the literature that teachers should teach slate and stylus to students. However, if the NLBCT is designed to assess demonstration of the Braille code and not teaching of Braille and related communication skills, the requirement of slate and stylus writing is questionable." Unless I am missing something, this reasoning seems astonishing to me.
The concept of a competency test was first proposed because so few special education teachers of blind students truly knew the Braille code and could use it with any facility. As far as I know, the evidence is anecdotal, but blind people with a good mastery of Braille reading and writing consistently point to a teacher or other adult whose instruction and personal skill enabled the blind youngsters to learn Braille effectively. Teachers who don't know Braille well are typically unenthusiastic about teaching it, avoid doing so as much as possible, and make errors when they are forced to prepare Braille materials.
There is nothing extraordinary about this phenomenon. It pops up in human nature all the time. My children had two different French teachers in high school. One had a beautiful accent, had been to France, and clearly loved the language. Her students were excited about French, spoke it whenever they could, did extra-curricular projects, and enjoyed themselves thoroughly. I suppose the other teacher liked the language well enough to teach it, but no one could ever be certain. Her accent was very poor, and her ability to inspire enthusiasm in her students was nonexistent. When students expressed interest in taking French at the local college, she did what she could to discourage them on the grounds that they would find it too difficult. Everyone assumed that she was really afraid that her own shortcomings would be exposed more obviously if the French faculty saw the results of her instruction. To my mind this is the same set of very human responses at work that we find in the teachers who resist having their Braille skills tested.
The NLBCT was developed, not to predict how successful a Braille teacher would be in teaching Braille reading and writing, but to determine whether that teacher possesses the body of information and skills he or she must teach. A sound knowledge of Braille reading and writing is a necessary, but not sufficient, prerequisite to effective teaching. I am mystified as to why this point seems so difficult for many in education to grasp.
Another place where ordinary common sense and researcher logic seem to part company is in the section titled "Issues Surrounding Content Validity." Specialized terms are discussed in this section, and in the following passage I do not pretend to understand the term "criterion referenced tests," but it's pretty clear the researchers believe that the best way to test the skills of teachers or would-be teachers is to compare their abilities to those of actual teachers doing the work in the classroom, which seems to be content validity. In other words, if you construct a valid test that measures the skills of the test-taker against the job being done in the field, you can predict how well the test-taker is teaching or will teach in the future. Here is the relevant passage: "Validity of criterion-referenced tests is widely discussed in the literature, but content validity is generally recommended as the primary validation of interest. For teacher certification purposes, test content validation is generally determined through an investigation of practitioners who either report or demonstrate the skills tested while on the job."
What follows this foggy little passage is a long discussion, complete with citations of court cases, to support the concept that generalized notions of what should be taught and assessment of the test-taker's knowledge of a body of material are unimportant or at least less important in the certification process than assessment of the teacher's mastery of methodology.
Having conducted no research myself and knowing nothing at all about test theory and test validation, I can only comment based on common sense. Surely no one would argue that anyone who has mastered a body of knowledge can necessarily teach it. All of us have endured teachers who knew their stuff but who could not communicate it to the class. We are not arguing that knowing the Braille code well and having the ability to write it with Brailler or slate guarantee that one can effectively teach a blind child to read and write Braille rapidly and effectively. But it seems self-evident to me that one who does not have those skills and that knowledge will very seldom be able to teach others mastery of Braille and will be unlikely to believe in its importance. One must understand algebra before teaching it. A violin teacher must be able to produce music on a fiddle if his or her students are to learn to play.
Some years ago my local NFB chapter invited the teacher of the visually impaired in our county to come to a meeting and talk to us about the education of blind children. With pride she told us that she had been teaching in the system for eleven years, and never in all that time had a single student in her class needed Braille. She had assured us at the beginning of the meeting that she knew Braille and that, if a student really needed it, she would teach it. What she did not know was that we had been working with the parents of several students in the county who had requested Braille for their children, and all the students had eventually left the school where this woman taught and gone to the school for the blind, where they could receive Braille instruction. When teachers like this one are not teaching what their children need to learn for success in life, how can they possibly provide a reliable reference for determining the standards for teacher competency? This teacher genuinely had not noticed that her prejudice against Braille was actually preventing her from recognizing her students' needs.
Of course, the teachers in Florida surveyed about their teaching do not transcribe much material for their students using the slate and stylus; teachers haven't done much of that sort of thing for fifty years. First grade teachers don't prepare worksheets for their students using pencils either. Yet first grade teachers do use handwriting and are expected to teach their students to write as well as read. The authors give lip service to the concept that slate and stylus instruction should be given to blind students. In their survey, however, the authors did not ask how many teachers taught the use of the slate and stylus, and they certainly made no attempt to ascertain how effective such teaching was. Those questions were beyond the purview of the research, which focused on Braille transcription only.
But I can tell you that very few blind students today are being taught effective and enthusiastic slate use. The Ohio affiliate conducts a Braille-writing contest each year- -or at least we try to. We have just changed the contest rules. We used to present a Braille 'n Speak to the middle or high school student who wrote the best essay about the importance of Braille in his or her life. The essay was to be written using a slate and stylus. Last year we had no contest entrants because, as the teachers told us, their Braille students could write with a Perkins Brailler but not the slate. This year we will award extra points for submissions written with a slate and stylus, but so far none have appeared.
I recently received a report from a Federationist whose affiliate had just completed a daylong trip to the state capital during which teams of Federationists talked with legislators about important bills coming up for action. Six high school students took part in the event, which was wonderful, but not a single one could take notes of the meetings in Braille. It was not that they could not take good notes or make a complete and legible record; these students were unable to take Braille notes at all! It would be hard to assemble a group of six sighted high school students interested in attending and able to take part in such an event who were, to a person, unable to take notes at all.
These are anecdotes admittedly, but they are stories the truth of which I can vouch for, and they have occurred in the past year. In fact, I know only one high school student who is enthusiastic about using the slate and stylus, and she is being home schooled by members of the Parents Division in Ohio and has attended the Buddy Program at BLIND, Inc., for the past three summers. In other words, her exposure to the poor attitudes of many teachers of blind students in Ohio has been minimal, and her absorption of Federation philosophy has been steady and constructive.
Is this little essay of mine merely one more indiscriminate attack on the abilities and attitudes of teachers of blind students? Absolutely not! In my experience no one is more enthusiastic about the importance of Braille reading and writing than those teachers who do know the code well and teach it whenever and wherever they can. They have seen more clearly than the rest of us can how important it is and what a difference it can make to their students at every ability level.
We can only hope that legislators and education officials will depend on their own common sense and the experience of blind adults and those teachers who actually know and effectively teach Braille to their students. If we have our way, most blind students will be learning Braille in the future, and most of their special education teachers will actually be required to know the code they are teaching. We can only work and hope for the best and trust that in the meantime ill-conceived research does not do our children in.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Bruce Gardner]
Making Other Arrangements by Bruce A. Gardner
From the Editor: Bruce Gardner is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona and an attorney with a responsible position. He has a lovely home and a large and happy family. By any measure he is a successful and satisfied man. Bruce's success is not a matter of luck; he has worked hard and struggled to overcome obstacles. In the following story he talks about one of these and the way in which his victory has helped to shape his life. This is what he says:
I have come to understand that the real problem of blindness is not the lack of eyesight but the public's lack of insight about blindness. In other words, it is not the physical disability but the social handicap (society's attitude) that is the real problem. It was Henry Ford who said "If you think you can or you can't, you're right." Given opportunity and training, a blind person with a little initiative, determination, and the conviction that there's a way to do the job can find alternative techniques for doing just about anything sighted people do. Unfortunately the public's notion of blindness is one of helplessness and dependence. The blind are generally regarded as incapable of doing much of anything.
Because blind people are part of society, we often have the same low expectations and negative perceptions about ourselves and thus do much to make those negative perceptions a reality. I certainly grew up with all the usual misconceptions about blindness, never mind the fact that I was blind.
It was not until I was in college that I heard about the National Federation of the Blind and learned the truth about blindness. Therefore it was in college that I first started using my long white cane.
Before that time I had low expectations and low self- esteem. I was ashamed of my blindness because I thought blind people were fumbling, bumbling Mr. Magoos or, worse, virtually helpless dependents who sold pencils on the street corner. I did not want to be thought that, so I tried to hide my blindness and, of course, did not use a cane. But that all changed when I learned the truth about blindness-- that it is respectable to be blind--and started internalizing that truth.
A girl I dated a time or two in college after I began using my cane asked me to Sunday dinner and church afterward. As we left her apartment to walk to church, she turned to me and said, "Why don't you just leave your cane here? You won't need it at church because you will be with me the whole time."
Although she was a nice young lady and I could tell that she quite liked me, I felt like saying, "Why don't I just leave YOU here?" She had now confirmed what I had suspected: she was embarrassed to be seen with my cane. She was not comfortable having others know that she was dating a blind man. I decided to do both. For her sake I left the cane behind when we went to church; then for my sake I left her behind when we got back.
Shortly thereafter I met Becca. Unlike many others I had dated, Becca did not try to deny that my blindness could have an effect on our relationship. In fact, soon after we started going together, she told me that she did not want to get serious until she knew whether she could deal with my blindness. That was refreshing. Because about a year earlier I had learned of the National Federation of the Blind, I was finally beginning to internalize the truth about blindness and come to know in my heart that it is respectable to be blind. Becca was getting ready to leave on a two-week vacation, so I asked her to read a couple of articles while she was gone. I explained that the articles had been written by Kenneth Jernigan, President of the National Federation of the Blind, and that they expressed the way I felt about my blindness. She agreed to read "Blindness, Handicap or Characteristic" and "Blindness, Of Visions and Vultures." When she returned from vacation, her ability to accept and deal with my blindness was no longer a question. Within a few weeks Becca and I were engaged.
Becca's mother happened to be coming to Utah and planned to stop and see Becca, so we took that opportunity for me to meet her and to announce our engagement. She seemed happy for us, but she made a few comments like "Don't worry Becca; I won't say a thing to your father." A day or two later I met Becca on campus after finishing my shift as the supervisor of one of the breakfast crews at the dorm cafeteria.
I asked what her mother had meant. Becca said that her father was a little old-fashioned and that perhaps I should ask him for her hand in marriage. So I said, "I know where the pay phone is; I'll give him a call." Still, I could tell there was more to it. We were going to school in Provo, Utah, and Becca's parents lived in California. Even so, apparently her father had heard that she was dating a blind man.
When I made the call, it was still early in the morning, and Becca's father (a physician) was just getting into his car to go to his office, which was at the hospital. When he came to the phone, I said, "Dr. Loeb, you don't know me, but my name is Bruce Gardner, and I have been dating your daughter Becca. I am asking for her hand in marriage." It would be an understatement to say that his response was less than I had hoped for.
He said, "I do not give permission to marry my daughter to just anyone, and to me you are just anyone. You will have to make other arrangements." He then hung up the phone. I had the distinct impression that what he meant by "make other arrangements" was go marry someone else.
When I hung up the phone, Becca asked me what had happened. In answer I said, "Get the phone book. I need to call the airlines; we are going to visit your parents." Those were the "other arrangements" I chose to make.
The earliest flight we could get was late the next day, which was a Friday, but that gave us time to call Becca's mother back and arrange for me to have an interview with Dr. Loeb at his office Saturday morning and at his request to relay to him all the medical details I could provide about my blindness. Of course I was scared. What was I to do? What could I say to this Pediatric cardiologist that would alleviate his concerns about his daughter's marrying a blind man.
On Saturday morning, when Becca and I arrived at her father's office, we learned that Becca was to have an interview first. Only a few months earlier Becca had graduated from college and begun work as a registered nurse. Her father was concerned that Becca did not really love this blind man but only felt sorry for him and wanted to take care of him as she had done so many times before with hurt or stray animals and birds.
When it was my turn, I discussed with Dr. Loeb the medical aspects of my blindness, and he told me the results of his hasty research and conversations with the ophthalmologists he worked with at the hospital. We then discussed my plans to finish college and attend law school. I also explained to him what my philosophy was regarding my blindness and asked him to read the two articles I had earlier shared with Becca. There were many other NFB speeches I could have given him, but these two articles summarized the issues well and had helped Becca work through her concerns, so I used them again.
After my interview Becca and I went to lunch with her parents and then accompanied them on their Saturday afternoon grocery shopping expedition, which was a weekly tradition. Although I was staying at their home in the guest room, nothing more was said about my blindness or my engagement to Becca. The next morning, which was Sunday, Becca and I were preparing to go to church. At the breakfast table Becca's mother turned to her father and said, "Becca and Bruce are going to church, and she wants to wear her engagement ring. Have you made up your mind yet?"
With that, her father turned to me, cleared his throat, and said "did you have something you wanted to ask me?" I almost fell off my chair. I muttered a lame apology for the abrupt way I had asked the first time and then formally requested Dr. Loeb's permission to marry his daughter. He got a tear in his eye and a lump in his throat as he gave me his permission. He then excused himself and left for work at the hospital.
That was all there was to it. It was clear that he had read the articles I had given him and that he was impressed with the attitude that I had conveyed and that the articles relayed regarding blindness.
I have since made good on my plans to finish college and law school, and for the past fourteen years I have been successfully practicing law. Becca and I now have six bright, healthy, happy children, three of whom are teenagers. Since that interview with Becca's father, my blindness has not been an issue of concern for either Becca or her parents. And since that interview I have grown extremely close to Becca's parents.
I am grateful to Dr. Kenneth Jernigan and the National Federation of the Blind for helping me learn the truth about blindness and enabling me to share that truth with my wife and in-laws.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marc Maurer PHOTO/CAPTION: Mike Freeman PHOTO/CAPTION: John Miller]
Federation Spirit on the Internet by Marc Maurer
As Federationists know, I do not possess a great deal of information about computers, but occasionally I turn my attention to computer technology and equipment. Almost invariably the telephone rings, somebody knocks on my door, or the letters and messages from previous days begin to make me nervous. I know that my prime responsibility is not to understand the computer but to address the broad overall needs of members of the National Federation of the Blind. Consequently I don't spend enough time with computers to become familiar with the way they work. Nevertheless, we in the National Federation of the Blind have placed an increasingly heavy emphasis on technological solutions to information access for blind people. In 1990 we established the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC)--the only facility of its kind anywhere in the world. In 1994 we established a Web site on the Internet. We now distribute the Braille Monitor, Voice of the Diabetic, and a number of other publications by electronic mail. Shortly after we established the IBTC, we also created NFB NET, our computer bulletin board service (BBS), and an increasing number of our communications use our BBS and indeed the Internet generally.
Although I do not know how to use the Internet to communicate, I review many of the documents distributed by members of the National Federation of the Blind through this electronic medium. Recently, Internet communications from Jim Rebman and Christian Harris asked for help in finding ways for blind people to study mathematics. As you would expect, the response of Federation members was immediate and positive. Not everybody will want to master the arcana of advanced mathematics. However, some will. Of course, there are many other topics which we in the Federation might explore. If you want to know something, ask. Maybe we know the answer. If we do, we'll make it available. If we don't, we'll try to find out. Here are some examples of recent questions and responses from the Internet.
Date: Mon, 9 Sep 1996 From: Jim Rebman email@example.com To: Multiple recipients of list firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Introduction
Greetings list members:
My name is Jim Rebman, and I'm sure many of you know me, but some may not, so I'll give a little background.
I lost my sight almost seven years ago as a result of diabetic retinopathy, and just prior to that my kidneys failed. In 1993 I received a kidney-pancreas transplant and am no longer a diabetic.
My formal training was in electrical engineering,and from 1980 to 1984 I was a research assistant/engineer at the Princeton University Plasma Physics Laboratory, where I developed several microprocessor-based instruments and controllers for a 12OKv 100 amp DC power system, as well as several different 12-pulse high-current rectifiers and a multi-pulse cycloconverter that was used to vary the line frequency on the output of a 960 MVA motor/generator set. Big volts, big amps, and an occasional big boom (grin). Since that time I have been working almost exclusively with computers on everything from compiler design/porting, to application-development, to networks and MIS systems. I am planning on going back to school to finish my bachelor's degree and eventually to get my Ph.D. in computer science. One of my big concerns at this point is how I am going to handle the math--I really must learn it all over again from intermediate algebra through at least four semesters of calculus. Any tips on how to approach this would be much appreciated.
Under the heading of miscellaneous: I live just outside of Boulder, Colorado; love outdoor activities like hiking, rock climbing, and backpacking; am a board member of the Boulder County chapter; and am also a graduate of the Colorado Center (1995).
I look forward to participating in the discussions and especially to helping students with the tools, techniques, and support they need to venture into the world of science and engineering as blind people. Of course we can be scientists and engineers--just look around.
Jim Rebman email@example.com
Date: Tue, 10 Sep 1996 From: Mike Freeman firstname.lastname@example.org To: Multiple recipients of list email@example.com Subject: Help: teaching mathematics to visually impaired individuals (forwarded) start of forwarded message: From: Christian Harris firstname.lastname@example.org Newsgroups: misc.handicap Subject: Help: teaching mathematics to visually impaired individuals Date: 07 Sep 1996
Hi, I hope that this group is an appropriate place to ask this question. I am a Teaching Assistant for a course called Discrete Mathematics, which is sort of "mathematics for computer science majors." The subject matter is entirely mathematical; we don't do any programming in the course. The work is all pencil-and-paper, theorem/proof work. It is similar to first-semester calculus in the amount of work that is assigned over the semester, and the subject is very heavy on notation--the lecture consists of about 80 percent board-work. Thus it is highly visual.
I have a person in my class who is blind. I would like to know if there are any people out there who have taught visually impaired people highly symbolic, traditionally visual subjects like mathematics and what methods you employed to convey what was on the board. Also, if there are any visually impaired persons out there who have taken mathematics or computer science courses, I would really appreciate hearing about what methods work the best and your perspective about this subject.
I have absolute confidence in my student's ability to comprehend the material--just in talking to him after the class, I got the impression that he is brighter than the average student, highly enthusiastic, and very proactive about getting help. I'm just worried about communicating the material to him in a way that he can conceptualize. Also I have to strike a balance with the rest of the class--I don't want to be reading formulas off the board like: "OK, what I wrote is open-paren, open-paren, open-paren, negation symbol, x, close paren, . . ." because that will severely limit the amount of stuff that can be covered and hence harm the other students.
I'm a bit out of my depth with this situation, I think. I don't know the first thing about how to teach visually impaired people. My rough plan is just to conduct the class in the way that I would normally do and try to describe what's on the board well enough to get the message across to my student. But that probably won't help him do the homework, or will it? Other than trying hard to be considerate, nice, and communicative about the course, I don't know what else to do. Could anyone help me out? Thanks, Christian S. Harris Graduate Assistant email@example.com Department of Computer Science University at Albany, SUNY
------- end of forwarded message-------
Date: Tue, 10 Sep 1996 From: Mike Freeman mikef@pacifier-com To: Multiple recipients of list firstname.lastname@example.org
Good afternoon, Christian. I am responding to your post to "misc.handicap" requesting help teaching mathematics to a blind student. I have taken the liberty of forwarding your post to the E-mail list of the Science and Engineering Division of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The NFB is the largest organization of the blind in this country, and there are quite a number of NFB members (including me) who have studied higher mathematics and the natural sciences and/or computer science and who can help you. Indeed the inventor of the current Braille mathematics code used throughout most of the world, Dr. Abraham Nemeth, is an NFB member and reads the NFBSE mailing list; I suspect he will have something to say on the subject.
I hold a B.A. from Reed College, Portland, Oregon, in physics and an M.S. in physics from New Mexico State University and have taken numerous computer science courses. I took all the usual higher math courses so can give you some ideas.
First a question: does your student read Braille? If so, is his/her math text in Braille (if you're working from handouts, are these available in Braille)? While not absolutely essential, use of Brailled math texts and notes is highly desirable in that the student has the same material in front of him/her as your sighted students are privileged to have and she or he can peruse the material and ponder it at his or her own pace. (I once took a topology course from taped books alone; and, while I made it through the course, it was tough! Physics texts, on the other hand, were no trouble for me on tape.)
As for a lecture style advantageous to the blind student, I think you can follow a middle ground between the literal "open paren, open paren, open paren . . ." style and saying nothing about the equations. Often, especially in fields such as set theory, Boolean algebra, math logic, number theory, and the like, you can just read the equations as you write them in the same manner you would speak them to a colleague while engaging in a discussion while walking across the campus. In some instances you will have to be precise, but this is not as hard as it sounds. Proofs in, say, linear algebra often go quite well aloud, especially if the student has some familiarity with the material. Let the student be your guide: ask him or her after class if things were clear or not. It is, in the end, his or her responsibility to see that she or he learns the material.
Incidentally, I think you'll find that, if you just relax and start talking the equations as you write them, you won't be wasting much time, and your sighted students will also find your presentations much clearer. I once took an electricity and magnetism course from a very articulate professor (the only person I've ever known who could just read aloud any electronic diagram you put in front of him off-the-cuff). I was late for class one day by five minutes or so. According to fellow students, his presentation became one-hundred-percent clearer the moment I walked in the door.
In making certain concepts conveyed by diagrams come across clearly, it is often helpful to use a raised-line drawing kit (in which thin sheets of plastic are stretched taut on a rubberized board and a ballpoint pen without ink is rubbed along the plastic, stretching it to make raised lines). In multivariate analysis, I once saw a wonderful wooden model showing saddle-points and the like. Let your imagination (and that of the student) be your guide. I got quite good at doing all sorts of proofs in my head, and the chief problem was getting someone who could write them on the board for me fast enough from my dictation!
Dr. Nemeth has invented a way of speaking mathematics precisely and quickly. I do not think it is always necessary, but it really works. You might wish to correspond with him directly on this subject. His Internet address is: email@example.com
Good luck and feel free to ask as many questions as you desire! Cordially, Mike Freeman Amateur Radio Calsign: K7UIJ Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Wed, 11 Sep 1996 From: John Miller email@example.com To: Multiple recipients of list firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Teaching math to blind students
September 11, 1996
Christian S. Harris Graduate Assistant email@example.com Department of Computer Science University at Albany, SUNY
Dear Chris, My name is John Miller. I am the president of the Science and Engineering Division of the National Federation of the Blind. I received a posting of your message to misc.handicap dated September 10. As you have no doubt found from prior correspondence from the Science and Engineering Division of the National Federation of the Blind, the division is full of ideas on how to make learning math a snap for blind folks. I will continue to forward the discussion about teaching math to you as it develops on the nfb-se.nfbcal.org list. I strongly encourage your student to contact me and the members of the science division. The brightest people and the ways they do math are right here. The basic question of what alternative techniques will work best for your student, your student will have to decide for himself class after class and project after project on the job. What has been written down from people's experiences, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. There is nothing earth-shattering about the advice and experiences of division members, but in the big picture I think they will help.
I grew up totally blind since age three. Math has always been my favorite subject. That's why I am doing algorithm design and fixed-point implementation of signal processing speech compression algorithms at QUALCOMM. I received my B.S. and M.S. from Stanford University in electrical engineering and have been taking graduate courses at the University of California at San Diego ever since to stay on the cutting edge. The discrete mathematics course you are teaching sounds quite interesting because it has some useful applications to what I am doing these days. I have been attending similar courses specific to signal processing at UCSD over the past year.
Here are some personal experiences that have given me the most from class participation. Braille helps. If your student knows Braille and needs help getting handouts or portions of a book into Braille, have him give me a call. Places can do it with just a few weeks delay, although more time reduces the cost and effort considerably. Preparation helps. Usually the first day of class I make an announcement requesting a copy of another student's notes. Usually I shop around and keep several people's notes until I find one that gets the details I think are important. That way the details for rote memory I pick up later and only worry about those that are pertinent to the discussion at hand.
To get anything out of a lecture, I need a solid context. I want to know down pat the postulates, the symbol and graphing conventions, the basic framework ahead of time. The best way I learn is to read the relevant material ahead of time. Homework can be a pitfall. The trick is getting the solutions in print. Sometimes I would just read my Braille solutions to a grader line for line. No filling in with "what I meant was." Today I would write solutions in print or use Latex to laser print my solutions whenever possible. I have found reviewing my professor's written comments on my written solutions a useful learning tool. What's more, in print is the way all work needs to be done on the job, so sorting this out up front is a big help.
These are the things I ask my professors to do to help me out in the course: Tell me what in the syllabus will be covered next lecture. Braille books are usually several volumes. I bring the right one with me to class. If it is possible to have raised-line drawings of graphs being used in the course ahead of time, this is helpful too. Then the only additional framework I need is "I'm now drawing figure 8.5 from the text." Speak the key equations as you go and describe graphs as you draw them. The weight of responsibility is on your student to ask when he is confused. There seem to be two kinds of questions about notation. "You lost me when you substituted the second expression into the first," which means backtrack and summarize a bit; and "read the right hand side of the expression again please," which isn't a request to resummarize the lecture. The error most professors make is stopping to summarize here and resenting the interruption, when they never said "the right hand side of the expression" in the first place. Giving specific answers to specific questions helps the flow of the lecture quite nicely. Describe a graphic such as "this is a sampled decaying exponential" as you sketch it.
I have never found that my questions slowed the flow of information in a class. As it turns out, on the heels of my question always comes a related question from another student. I sit in the front of the class. When the professor loses the class, my question is usually the one that brings the class back to where the professor is going.
My learning style is my own. Your student may learn completely differently. Use your own teaching style, the tips that fit naturally with it, and be guided by the requests of your student. I do believe that a good framework will help your student learn the most from your class. I look forward to hearing from both of you and wish you the best with the course. You can reach me at E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sincerely, John Miller, President Science and Engineering Division of the National Federation of the Blind
Date: Tue, 10 Sep 1996 From: Dave Schleppenbach email@example.com To: Multiple recipients of list firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: Help: teaching mathematics to visually impaired individuals (fwd)
Dear Chris, The problem you are facing of teaching mathematics to blind people is not a new one, and fortunately some terrific advances have been made recently in the field. First of all, let me recommend that you e-mail Dr. Nemeth, as others have suggested, and ask his opinion.
Second, I have written a paper, "Teaching Science to the Visually Impaired," which deals with the topics of math and science education for the blind. This, together with other information on our home page, the VISIONS Lab home page, may prove useful to you. The address is http://www.chem.purdue.edu/facilities/sightlab/index.html
Third, we have developed custom software specifically for teaching math to the blind. Specifically, we have written a program that converts print equations into Braille, which is available on our Web page. Version 2.0 of our program, which we have recently finished, includes support for Nemeth Braille output as well as MathSpeak output, which is the spoken form of mathematics also invented by Dr. Nemeth. This should be of great use to you in teaching your student.
Finally, let me mention that Dr. Mike Kress and Dr. Al Blank have developed an AudioTactile beginning Calculus course, which uses sound and tactile graphics to teach calculus. This, along with some of our work in tactile images, may be another route for learning for your student.
Feel free to e-mail or call me if you have any questions.
Regards, Dave Schleppenbach VISIONS LAB director email@example.com http://www.chem.purdue.edu/facilities/sightlab/index.html
Deane Blazie, a member of the National Federation of the Blind and president of Blazie Engineering, also responded with additional information as follows.
Date: Wed, 11 Sep 1996 From: Deane Blazie firstname.lastname@example.org To: Multiple recipients of list email@example.com Subject: Re: Help teaching mathematics to visually impaired individuals (fwd)
There is also a graphing calculator program called Graphit that operates much like the graphing calculators you see at stores. However, it is able to emboss the graphs of up to ten equations on a Braille embosser. It can also display in some fashion the information in an audio format. This audio output is good for single equations.
Graphit runs on any of the Blazie Engineering note takers like the Braille 'n Speak. There is also a PC version of the program. It works with most Braille embossers that have a graphics mode. Deane Blazie
[PHOTO: The picture is of a woman in park ranger uniform holding a peregrine falcon. CAPTION: Lynda Boose]
How I Became a Park Ranger by Lynda Boose
From the Editor: Not long ago I came upon a Talking Book titled A Superior Death. The author was Nevada Barr. The mystery was fun, and the author's ability to evoke the scene and the various characters was certainly above average. But the most memorable thing about the plot was the casual appearance of Sandra, a blind secretary in the Park Service office. She was efficient, funny, and knowledgeable about people and the workings of the programs she carried out. The techniques she used were accurately described, but no particular fuss was made about her competence or her blindness. It struck me at the time that this author had observed a good blind secretary at some time and brought her to life in these pages. Then one day Lorraine Rovig, Director of the Job Opportunities for the Blind Program, sent me a copy of a letter she had received from Lynda Boose. Miss Rovig had learned of Mrs. Boose's work as a park ranger and had asked her to write describing her duties and the ways she had found to carry them out.
As I read the letter, I realized that here must be the inspiration for the character in Nevada Barr's book. I called Mrs. Boose and asked her if she had ever met Ms. Barr. She confirmed my guess. For two years Nevada Barr had worked on Isle Royale, where Mrs. Boose worked. They lived at opposite ends of the island, but they talked often on the radio and telephone. Mrs. Boose assured me that, although Barr had drawn on her observations of Mrs. Boose for the character, there was very little resemblance between herself and Sandra. Here then is a matter-of-fact description of how one blind park ranger does her job:
Before I started working as a park ranger, I was a teacher of severely handicapped children in California. Then I met my future husband, and my life changed drastically. When I met my husband, he was working for Isle Royale National Park, which is located in the middle of Lake Superior, seventy miles from Houghton, Michigan. The Town of Houghton is headquarters for the park. Some park employees live in Houghton year-round, and others live in Houghton six months and are on the island for six months. For the past ten years my husband and I were in the latter category.
So how did I go from teacher to park ranger? I was in the right place at the right time. I did not work my first summer on the island, but the next summer I heard that the park was looking for a part-time dispatcher. I felt I could do the job and went and talked to the chief ranger. We discussed dispatcher duties and talked about how I could do them. The rest is history. I was hired part-time, which was two days a week. The next year the permanent dispatcher left, and I got his job.
My duties were to monitor and respond to park radio traffic, monitor the marine radio and respond to any calls to the park service from boaters, put up the flag, take mail out to the mail boat, which came about three times a week. This boat carried passengers around the island. I also answered the phones and took messages. If there was a medical emergency, I assisted the park EMT's by relaying messages and calling doctors. This was the most stressful part of the job. I kept track of lost-and-found items. I also kept track of case incident numbers and issued them to the rangers when they needed them.
To do my job I had the following equipment: a computer with voice output; a light sensor, which I used for the phones; a tape recorder; and a Braille writer. I also had an Optacon, which I used quite a bit to fill in forms before I had computerized templates.
One of the biggest challenges was organizing the lost- and-found. Each item had to be numbered, so I made a database on the computer, which included everything that appeared on the actual lost form. People would call me on park radio, I would give them a lost/found number, and they would give me most of the information I needed for the computer. Then I would send them an envelope with both Braille and print case numbers on it. I had them put the completed form into the envelope and attach it to the item. This way I could handle the lost-and-found items without much assistance from a sighted person. I made up a phone- message form on the computer and filled it in whenever I took a phone message for someone. I labeled all the mailboxes in Braille so that I could put the messages in the right mail boxes.
My husband and I now live in Houghton year round, and I work in the Houghton Visitors' Center. Last summer was my first summer in Houghton, and there were lots of new things to learn: operating a cash register, taking Ranger III reservations, and answering visitor questions and requests. The Ranger III is the park service boat, which takes passengers to the island. The reservation program is computerized, so it didn't take too long to learn how to use it.
I now have a scanner and a Braille printer and find them both very useful. I am working on getting a talking cash register, which will make me more independent. Right now visitors have to help a lot when I am operating the cash register. They don't seem to mind doing this. I just tell them what I need for them to do, and they do it.
I have been working for the park for ten years now and really enjoy it. I like new challenges and learning new things. I like figuring out how to do things as independently and simply as possible. I'm glad I was in the right place at the right time and that I took advantage of the opportunity.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Serena Cucco]
Possibilities by Carol Castellano
From the Editor: Beginnings and Blueprints is the title of the latest Kernel Book in our series of paperbacks about blindness. The following delightful little piece appears in the book. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introduction. Here it is:
Carol Castellano and her husband Bill are leaders in the National Federation of the Blind's organization for parents of blind children. They live in New Jersey with their children Serena and John. Serena is blind and John is sighted. For both of these children the future is filled with exhilarating possibilities. With sparkle, pride, and belief Carol shares some of them with us. Here is what she has to say:
It took my daughter Serena a long time to decide just what she wanted to be when she grew up. Whereas my son was only four when he decided that he would be a dinosaur scientist, it wasn't until she was seven that Serena realized that her destiny in life was to be a folk singer. She happily played the chords to her favorite song, "Michael Row the Boat Ashore," on my guitar.
Then came the Presidential campaign of 1992. Serena was eight. She sat rapt before the television listening intently to the speeches of both parties. After the summer's two national conventions, she realized that it wasn't a folk singer that she wanted to be after all . . . it was a folksinging Senator. By late fall, having heard all three Presidential debates, Serena was going to be President.
Her barrage of questions about how she could learn to be President and conversations about what politicians do kept up for so long that my husband and I were convinced she really might go into politics when she was older.
In the late spring of this year, Serena went out with her father to pick early snow peas from the garden. Coming inside with her basket of peas, she told me she was very interested in gardening. "That's wonderful," I replied. "You'll be a big help to Daddy."
Overnight Serena's interest must really have taken root, because the next day she asked me if I thought the gardens at the White House were too big for the President to tend, since the President is such a busy person. "Yes," I replied. "I'm sure there's a staff of people who take care of the White House gardens." "Well then, I won't be a gardening President," she told me. "I'll just be a gardener."
The desire to be a gardener was still but a tender shoot when Serena took a piano lesson--just a few weeks after picking those peas--and realized it was a pianist she wanted to be!
Serena is at such a wonderful stage of life! Interested in everything, trying everything out, she sees the world as her plum, ripe for the picking. She believes in herself, as we believe in her. And since what people believe largely determines what they do, it is critically important for parents of blind children (and other adults in the child's life) to have positive beliefs about blindness and what blind people can do.
If we are told (in a journal article or by a teacher of the blind, say) that blind children usually do not or cannot learn how to do a certain task and if we come to believe this, chances are we will not give our child the experience or opportunity anyone would need in order to do this task. And chances are the child won't learn to do it.
Imagine, though, if we--and our blind children--were never told that blind people couldn't accomplish a certain thing. Imagine what the results might be if everyone believed that blind people could do anything they wanted to! Well, I believe this--and attending NFB National Conventions has solidified this belief for me. It is this belief which guides the way I bring up my daughter.
My husband and I know personally or have heard speak a blind high school teacher, a college professor, a mathematician, a scientist, a car body mechanic, an industrial arts teacher, a Foreign Service officer, an engineer, a high-performance engine builder, and a man who has sailed solo in races from San Francisco to Hawaii. This makes it possible for us to glory in the exhilarating feeling of watching a child look toward the future and see only possibilities.
Planned giving takes place when a contributor decides to leave a substantial gift to charity. It means planning as you would for any substantial purchase--a house, college tuition, or a car. The most common forms of planned giving are wills and life insurance policies. There are also several planned giving options through which you can simultaneously give a substantial contribution to the National Federation of the Blind, obtain a tax deduction, and receive lifetime income now or in the future. For more information write or call the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230- 4998, (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Curtis Chong]
From the Electronic Mail Basket: Teaching Braille Online by Curtis Chong
From the Editor: A couple of months ago now, Curtis Chong, President of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, sent me an exchange of comments--can one refer to such exchanges as letters when they were never intended to appear on paper? I found the information interesting and, on the whole, reassuring. It is clear that Federationists are patrolling the Internet and that people of good will from various places are working to increase the number of people who know and like Braille. It is also comforting to see a constructive dialog begin among folks who started a conversation in distrust and unhappiness. Here is the exchange that was first printed in the Winter, 1996, edition of Computer Science Update, the publication of the NFB's computer science division:
On December 12, 1996, an announcement was sent out over the Internet about a new on-line Braille course. The announcement was made jointly by the School of Education at the North Carolina Central University (Durham, North Carolina), the Governor Morehead School for the Blind, and the Shodor Education Foundation, Inc. In a nutshell the announcement promoted something called "BRL: Braille through Remote Learning," a program funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education. Here is part of the announcement:
This program provides teachers, parents, social workers, and current/future Braille transcribers with a series of three integrated, online courses in Braille and Braille transcribing. The program is designed to offer the Braille student the RIGHT INSTRUCTION (almost all aspects of Braille) at the RIGHT TIME (self-paced) in the RIGHT PLACE (home or workplace). By combining electronic technologies, quality materials, and expert instructors, the program has as its goal the provision of a complete Braille instructional program to all types of consumers nationwide who have an interest in some or all aspects of Braille codes.
Blind people who read the announcement took exception to the course requirement for a graphical web browser. They expressed the opinion that this requirement would render the course inaccessible to the blind. I understand that Bob Gotwals, the contact person for the course, received many impassioned notes by electronic mail on this subject. Here is an example of one note, which was posted to the EASI mailing list:
From Jim Rebman [an active member of the NFB of Colorado]:
I would like to point out that the technical requirements and course materials, as you describe them, preclude blind people who depend on speech synthesis and screen reader technology from participating in this course. The requirement for a graphical browser and the use of Java scripts and graphical images (which I assume are not described) are all integral, yet inaccessible parts of your course.
As you are probably aware, blind people can be parents, teachers, social workers, and Braille transcriptionists. By making your course materials inaccessible, you are effectively discriminating against the blind population. I am certain that this was not intentional but nonetheless, that is the result and, as somebody who frequents this list, I would think you would be more aware of these issues. I would also like to remind you that there are laws that protect disabled people from such things.
Respectfully, Jim Rebman firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S. Do you plan to do anything about this situation?
I myself wrote to Bob Gotwals in my capacity as President of the NFB in Computer Science, asking for clarification. Here is what I said:
December 17, 1996
Mr. Bob Gotwals The Shodor Education Foundation, Inc. Durham, North Carolina
Dear Mr. Gotwals: My name is Curtis Chong, and I am the president of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science (NFBCS). This organization of blind computer professionals and lay persons works hard to ensure that blind people have equal access to computer systems and applications.
I read with interest your December 17 announcement about the Braille-Through-Remote-Learning program. Your announcement says in part:
This program provides teachers, parents, social workers, and current/future Braille transcribers with a series of three integrated, online courses in Braille and Braille transcribing...the program has as its goal the provision of a complete Braille instructional program to all types of consumers nationwide who have an interest in some or all aspects of Braille codes.
In the section which discusses the technical capabilities program participants must have, you mention that a graphical web browser is required. Graphical web browsers imply that some, if not all, of the information that will be presented to the student is non-textual--that is, purely visual. This leads me to ask if your program is intended for persons who happen to be blind or visually impaired? The requirement for a graphical web browser implies that it is not. As I am sure you are well aware, it is not uncommon for blind people to be social workers, parents, teachers, and Braille transcribers. If, as stated in your announcement, the program is intended to provide Braille instruction to "all types of consumers nationwide," how will you make it possible for blind people to participate in it on an equal basis with the sighted? I would appreciate some clarification from you on this point.
Yours sincerely, Curtis Chong President National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science
Mr. Gotwals responded to me and to many others as follows:
December 18, 1996 From: Bob Gotwals gotwals@SHODOR.ORG Subject: Interest in On-line Braille Course To: Multiple recipients of list EASI EASI@SJUVM.STJOHNS.EDU
We are very aware of the fact that the current design of the Braille online folks makes it difficult for blind individuals to participate easily. This is a three-year program. . . . Years one and two are concerned with developing and pilot testing the curriculum and experimenting with the use of current and emerging technologies to try to think of new ways of presenting Braille education. If you read the grant proposal (http://www.shodor.org/Braille/grant/braillegrant.html), younotice that we intend, once the courses are pilot-tested, to ensure that all of the materials are 100 percent accessible. We had asked the granting agency for funding to do this earlier, but this portion of the request was not funded. What was funded was the money to develop the materials and to investigate the use of advanced technologies, such as JAVA and VRML, in the teaching of Braille.
What we are counting on is that the improvements in Web browsers for blind folks by others who are being funded by the Federal government (and other agencies) will make our additional task of ensuring accessibility that much easier. Yes, there are a number of things that we can do early on, such as make liberal and clever use of ALT tags for images. We're not sure yet how we're going to handle the heavy use that we make of screen snapshots, but we're working on it. We think we'll be able to go a long way towards 100 percent accessibility from the early stages.
What are our options? If there is the demand that the course be 100 percent accessible from Day One, our option might be: we can't do that at this stage of the game, either for the amount of money awarded us by the granting agency and/or because of technical limitations. In other words, we don't even try; give the money back. If folks are willing to give us the time we need to develop the course, work on the technological advancements, get bugs out, and wait/work with others who are looking to improve browsers, then perhaps everyone wins.
I've worked in the VI field as a Braillist/teacher for almost thirty-five years. My master's degree is in education of the hearing-impaired from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. I taught at Gallaudet and am fluent in sign language. I am well aware of all the issues concerning accessibility, and we thought a lot about this issue early on (that is why we asked for the additional funding to make it happen!).
This Braille education program is, by the way, part of a larger VI master's degree program that is being developed at North Carolina Central University. The idea is to make a large part of that program accessible over the Net, and the Braille course is the first test of that concept. We sure would like a chance to make it work....again, if there is a demand that the effort be made to ensure 100 percent accessibility in the experimental phase, we can pretty much ensure that the experiment will fail.
Tell us what to do. The Foundation that I work for is a group of computational scientists and educators--we do chemistry and physics on high-performance computers. We want to do this work because we think it's important, because we think we have something to offer, and because we care deeply about the community. Our original budget proposal was half of what we were awarded--the U.S. Department of Education felt so strongly that this work was important that they asked us to look at new technologies as well as design the series of courses. As computational scientists we think we can take some of the techniques that we use on a daily basis to do science to the problem of helping folks understand Braille better. Hopefully, we'll have a chance to figure that out, then deal with the problems of accessibility.
Looking forward to a reasoned and reasonable discussion of these issues.
I wrote back to Mr. Gotwals, and he responded to me fairly quickly. He chose to intersperse his responses within the original text of my letter, which is a common practice these days when communicating by electronic mail. Here is my letter with his responses, which appear in italics:
December 19, 1996 From: Bob Gotwals email@example.com To: Chong99@cris.com, EASI@SJUVM.STJOHNS.EDU Subject: Braille Online
Mr. Chong, Thank you for your very kind and supportive note. Some replies are imbedded in your note. I've taken the liberty of copying the EASI group on this note.
December 18, 1996
Mr. Bob Gotwals The Shodor Education Foundation, Inc. Durham, North Carolina
Dear Mr. Gotwals: I have received your post to the EASI mailing list dated December 18, 1996; and I thank you for your candor on this subject. You acknowledge in a straightforward and no- nonsense manner that the current design of the Braille- Online program makes it difficult for blind people to benefit from the course material. I wish that you had made this clear in your original announcement so as to mitigate some of the criticisms you have doubtless received.
We couldn't agree more and have modified our online announcement to so reflect this. Future mailings will absolutely include the appropriate statement. What a wonderful and useful suggestion. In hindsight this one should have been a no-brainer. We consider ourselves to be intelligent folks, but common sense doesn't always prevail!
Regardless of whether or not Braille Online will be useful to blind computer users, the fact remains that the blind community will be better served if more people become proficient in reading and writing Braille. We, the blind, need teachers of blind children who believe in Braille and who are competent, both in its use and in its teaching. We need more skilled Braille transcribers in order to increase the number of Braille books that we can read. Above all, we need more people who believe in the value of Braille so that all blind children will be schooled in this vital tool of literacy. We cannot know today whether any on-line method of teaching Braille (such as Braille Online) will help to achieve these goals, but this should not stop people from trying to develop new and innovative ways of teaching Braille.
As I may have mentioned, my foundation is not in the business of working for or with the blind or deaf communities. We're doing this work because of my personal interest in Braille and sign language. I've been doing Braille since I was seven, and it's been a love affair that has gone on now for thirty-five years. The opportunity to try to incorporate the work I do as a scientist and technologist with my first academic love was just too good to be true. I'm disappointed that we weren't more careful about the wording, especially regarding accessibility. If there is a Braille fan club, I'm pushing to be at the front of the line!
I am not personally convinced that blind people can learn Braille using audio output alone or, for that matter, any form of on-line, computerized instruction. Braille is, after all, a tactual, hands-on means of reading and writing. Without hard copy Braille material or a refreshable Braille display (which most of us can't afford to begin with), how can we realistically expect someone who is blind to learn Braille?
Concur. We're not sure where technology will take us, so all we can do is keep our fingers crossed that the technology will move us past the audio. We had proposed trying to incorporate a refreshable Braille display capability to the course (with the assumption that prices will go down), but the funding agency didn't or couldn't include that.
Carrying this thinking a bit further, I hope that your instructional program will enable sighted participants actually to feel the Braille they are learning. Instructional programs in which Braille is presented only visually (e.g., printed dots on the screen or page) fail to reinforce the notion that Braille is first and foremost something handled by touch!
Most of the folks locally here who helped us test the intro course this past semester prepared their assignments on Perkins Braillers. Most of them are current VI teachers, so have lots of access to Braille materials in their school (most of our guinea pigs were Governor Morehead faculty). In short, I couldn't agree more. Even as a sighted reader, I use my fingers.
If I were to make some specific recommendations, they would be as follows: 1. I think it is important that your promotional materials clarify that Braille Online is not now accessible to the blind. You might even take this notion a step further and clarify that the target audience for the program consists of sighted people who will be teaching or producing Braille. Done. 2. I would not hold out much hope that web browsers will make the graphical world more accessible to the blind. Although web browsers can and should be made more compatible with screen-reading systems used by the blind, accessibility to the Worldwide Web is more readily achieved if web page designers take the time and trouble to ensure that the design of their web pages meets basic accessibility guidelines too numerous to list here.
We have some of those guidelines and will adhere to them to the maximum extent possible. We'll also be depending on the community to tell us when we fail. Within technological feasibility, we'll fix it. I don't share your feelings about web browsers, however. Perhaps I'm the eternal technology optimist! After all, didn't Bill Gates say (not too long ago either), "640K of RAM memory is all anyone will ever need"? 3. If you haven't considered doing it, provide a way for course participants to deal with hard copy Braille. Based upon what I have read so far, it appears that course participants will be producing Braille with either a Perkins Braille Writer or a slate and stylus. This is eminently desirable. I wonder how you envision having them turn in their Braille assignments?
Folks who did hard copy Braille mailed them to me. Worked fine. Depending on student load, we'll have local teachers here help with grading and evaluation. I did have some folks use a piece of software that emulates a Perkins Brailler. They also had a chance to use a real Perkins Brailler. They were impressed with the similarities in the two. We'll continue to investigate that phenomenon. 4. I think that some research needs to be conducted specifically to determine how on-line computerized instruction courses--specifically, courses to teach Braille--can benefit people who are blind. My initial notion is that no benefit can be truly realized unless the course presents information both audibly (using synthesized speech) and tactually (using a refreshable Braille display) at strategic points. You may have a different concept in mind. If so, I would like to discuss it.
Would love to have that discussion. Again, the current design depends heavily on photographs (screen snapshots) of the monitor. On the monitor is the Perkins-emulator program that I use, which uses a special Braille font. The only way we can think of now to replace those snapshots is with large audio files. Unless the recipient has a high speed line, this may be problematic.
I want to thank you for taking the time to discuss this important issue with everyone. I hope that you will not feel personally offended by some of the comments you may have received. All of us want more blind people reading and writing more Braille, and all of us want more and better Braille instruction and transcription services to be available to the blind community. Where we may differ is in our respective approaches.
I have to admit that the criticism has been difficult. We should have foreseen it better, and I'm mad at myself for that. At the same time, I've been a Braillist and a professional sign interpreter for a long time. A significant part of my life has been devoted to this work, so it has not been easy. We're still excited about the work, however, and are determined to do it right. I concur that we both want more and better Braille instruction, and that is clearly the goal. I'm not sure our approaches are that far apart....but hopefully we've started down the path of making those differences disappear.
Yours sincerely, Curtis Chong President National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science
Many thanks again for your thoughtful, insightful, and instructive letter. Best wishes for a blessed and restful holiday season. After perhaps a rocky start, I'm looking forward to a long, professional (electronic) relationship with you and with other EASI participants.
Robert R. Gotwals, Jr. Computational Science Educator The Shodor Education Foundation, Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org WWW: http://storm.shodor.org/~gotwals/gotwals.html (919) 286-1911
So, there you have it. I don't know how good Braille Remote Learning will turn out to be. I can't even say if it will help to increase the number of people who will know Braille well enough to be of help to us. What I do know is that in its present form Braille Remote Learning is not accessible to the blind--nor is it meant to be. Can blind people benefit from Braille instruction received on-line through the Internet? If the only means of receiving information we have available to us is synthetic speech, then I would say "No." If we have both synthetic speech and refreshable Braille available to us and if different information is communicated through each channel, then my answer is, "Maybe."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The paddlewheel steamer Natchez PHOTO/CAPTION: New Orleans's French Market]
Lionizing Around New Orleans: Good Food, Good Times, and All That Jazz by Jerry Whittle
The National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana is pleased to announce a wonderful array of tours for this year's national convention in the great City of New Orleans. To millions of tourists each year the Crescent City is world renowned for good food, good times, and good music. This year's selection of tours reflects the diversity and charm of the great American city at the mouth of the mighty Mississippi. Federationists interested in these tours will want to make reservations early. If you have not yet made your room reservations for the convention, call the National Center for the Blind and speak to Mr. Cobb. Our block of rooms at the Hyatt is now full, but he can take your registration information and make a reservation for you as soon as we have worked out arrangements with other hotels.
Even though the tours are fabulous and the Big Easy beckons, the heart of the convention is reuniting with old friends, making new ones, enjoying the hospitality of the host affiliate, browsing through the expansive exhibit hall to view the latest technology or purchase a new cane from the NFB store, hearing wonderful and informative agenda items, winning door prizes, and receiving inspiration at our annual banquet. With all of these diversions, the days and nights won't be long enough; however, one thing is certain-- the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana will be working hard to help you have the most wonderful week of your life. New Orleans is the place to be the first week of July, 1997. Where else can you have so much fun this inexpensively?
All tours will be pre-sold. Tour spaces are limited, so book early. The deadline to book tours is May 15, 1997. Tickets will be mailed to you after May 15, but prior to the convention. To make tour reservations, include the following information: name; address; city; state; zip; phone; number of tickets, types (adults or children two to twelve), and tour number for each tour. Send this information with your check for the total amount due made payable to The Life of the Cajun Tours, 4761 Hwy. 1, Raceland, Louisiana 70394, or call (504) 537-3179. Please make your reservations as soon as possible; space is limited on some tours. We must have twenty-five or more people for each tour we sponsor. The following is the complete list of tours:
Saturday, June 28 1. New Orleans Super City Tour. 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., $18 adults, $9.50 children. 2. N.O. City Tour & River Cruise. 12:00 noon to 4:30 p.m., $31 adults, $15.25 children. 3. River Road Plantations (two homes including meal). 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., $54.50 adults, $35.50 children. 4. Oak Alley Plantation (no meal). 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., $29 adults, $15 children. 5. Swamp Tour, Cajun Meal, Cemetery, City Tour of Thibodaux (working sugar cane plantation). 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., $49 adults, $37 children. 6. Global Wildlife Center (with meal). 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., $46 adults, $37 children. 7. Dinner Jazz Cruise & Transportation. 6:00 to 9:30 p.m., $49.75 adults only (must be twenty-one or older).
Sunday, June 29 8. New Orleans Super City Tour. 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., $18 adults, $9.50 children. 9. N.O. City Tour & River Cruise. 12:00 noon to 4:30 p.m., $31 adults, $15.25 children. 10. River Road Plantations (two homes with meal). 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., $54.50 adults, $35.50 children. 11. Oak Alley Plantation (no meal). 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., $29 adults, $15 children. 12. Swamp Tour, Cajun Meal, Cemetery, City Tour of Thibodaux (working sugar cane plantation). 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., $49 adults, $37 children. 13. Global Wildlife Center (with meal). 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., $46 adults, $37 children.
Thursday, July 3 14. New Orleans Super City Tour, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., $18 adults, $9.50 children. 15. Oak Alley Plantation (no meal), 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., $29 adults, $15 children. 16. Swamp Tour, Cajun Meal, 12:40 to 5:40 p.m., $44 adults, $33 children. 17. Global Wildlife Center (no meal), 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., $27 adults, $25 children. 18. Dinner Jazz Cruise & Transportation, 6:00 to 9:30 p.m., $49.75 adults only. 19. Pete Fountain Jazz Club (with 1 drink, twenty-one and older), 9:15 p.m. to 12:15 a.m., $33 adults only. 20. Night Life-Top of the Mart Lounge, Peter Fountain Jazz Club (with three drinks, twenty-one and older), 7:15 p.m. to 12:15 a.m., $42 adults only.
New Orleans Super City Tours, Tours 1, 8, & 14 Travel through three centuries of history and romance as you encounter "the city that care forgot." Absorb the sights and sounds of the famous French Quarter and historic Jackson Square. Your licensed guide presents the history, landmarks, legends, and splendid architecture that made New Orleans famous. Walk through one of our above-ground Cities of the Dead (cemeteries) and marvel at stories of voodoo and piracy on Bayou St. John. Enjoy a ride along Lake Pontchartrain's shore before traveling through Mid-City en route to Uptown New Orleans. Follow the clickety-clack of the St. Charles Avenue streetcars past universities; Audubon Park; stately mansions; and the world-famous, exclusive Garden District. Then follow New Orleans into the twenty- first Century as you pass under the shadows of towering skyscrapers in the Central Business District (CBD). Cost: $18 adults, $9.50 children. Includes bus transportation from the Hyatt for the Super City Tour, 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tour 1, Saturday, June 28; Tour 8, Sunday, June 29; and Tour 14, Thursday, July 3.
New Orleans City Tour and River Cruise, Tours 2 & 9 This tour combines the steamboat Natchez Cruise (paddle wheel) plus the Super City Tour. After your exciting motorcoach tour through New Orleans, you'll have a few minutes to rest or snack before boarding the historic riverboat Natchez to the delightful tunes of the steam calliope. Experience the sights and sounds of river life that enchanted characters of history and literature like Mark Twain's Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. View the ever- changing skyline of the Crescent City from the sunny decks and climate-controlled comfort of the majestic Steamer Natchez. Cruise past the Chalmette Battlefield where the legendary Jean LaFitte and his buccaneers joined forces with Andrew Jackson to defend our city against the British in the Battle of New Orleans. Cost: $31 adults, $15.25 children. Includes bus pick-up at the Hyatt, City Tour, and Steamboat Cruise, 12:00 noon to 4:30 p.m.; Tour 2, Saturday, June 28; and Tour 9, Sunday, June 29.
River Road Plantations, Tours 3 & 10 Travel back in time to Nottoway and Oak Alley, Antebellum mansions nestled along the banks of the Mississippi River. Leave the modern skyline of cosmopolitan New Orleans behind as you enjoy the panoramic view of Lake Pontchartrain and travel over the Bonnet Carre Spillway. Your narrated motorcoach tour takes you past six Antebellum plantation homes surrounded by massive oaks, sugar cane fields, pecan groves, and Louisiana countryside. Walk through two of these beautifully restored homes while resident guides, many in period costumes, tell the history of the homes and elegant lifestyles of wealthy plantation families. Enjoy an authentic Cajun country lunch complete with charming southern hospitality. Cost: $54.50 adults, $35.50 children; includes bus transportation from the Hyatt, tour of two homes, and meal. 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Tour 3, Saturday, June 28; and Tour 10, Sunday, June 29.
Oak Alley Plantation, Tours 4, 11, & 15 Feel the gentle breeze of southern hospitality on a tour that takes you back to the glory of the Old South. Experience a bygone era in one of the South's most beautiful settings--Oak Alley Plantation, built in 1839. Marvel at the unbelievable view of a quarter-mile-long alley of twenty- eight magnificent oak trees, each over 250 years old. Along the way view the majestic cypress trees in the swamps bordering the Mississippi River. Travel past three other plantation homes, legacies from the past grandeur of historic River Road, from your luxury motorcoach. Cost: $29 adults, $15 children. Includes bus transportation from the Hyatt and tour of plantation homes (no meal), 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Tour 4, Saturday, June 28; Tour 11, Sunday, June 29; and Tour 15, Thursday, July 3.
Swamp Tour, Cajun Buffet, City Tour of Thibodaux, Cemetery & Working Sugar Cane Plantation, Tours 5 & 12 Cajun tour guide will bring you to beautiful Bayou Bouef where you will enjoy a leisurely boat ride into the beauty and serenity of Louisiana's most picturesque regions. You will see alligators, nutria, birds, moss-laden oak trees, and much more. Those who dare can hold a live alligator in their hands and pet the silky nutria. Following the boat ride and history of the region, you will be treated to a Cajun buffet, including gumbo, alligator, and other wonderful dishes. You can visit the Trading Post with a large selection of gifts and crafts. We travel to Thibodaux for a city tour and walk through a cemetery known as the "Cities of the Dead" and visit a working sugar cane plantation, the store museum, and craft shop. The day will be filled with the history, culture, and heritage of the Cajuns. Cost: $49 adults, $37 children; includes bus transportation from the Hyatt; Cajun tour guide; boat ride; buffet; tours of Thibodaux, Cemetery, and sugar cane plantation, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Tour 5, Saturday, June 28; Tour 12, Sunday, June 29.
Swamp Tour & Cajun Buffet, Tour 16 This tour is like the previous one except that there is no tour of a sugar cane plantation. Cost: $44, adults; $33 children; includes bus transportation from the Hyatt, Cajun tour guide, boat ride, and buffet; 12:40 to 5:40 p.m.; Tour 16, Thursday, July 3.
Global Wildlife Center, Tours 6 & 13 Ride across Lake Pontchartrain on the world's longest bridge and take a guided wagon tour of a 900-acre home to many rare, endangered, and extinct-in-the-wild animals from all over the world. Custom-built covered wagons pulled by tractors offer comfortable seating with no obstruction of the scenic view. When the wagons stop, animals will approach to be fed. Come eye to eye with a buffalo and feed a family of giraffe. The group will enjoy a meal at a local restaurant. Cost: $46 adults; $37 children. Includes bus transportation from the Hyatt, wagon ride, and meal. 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; Tour 6, Saturday, June 28; Tour 13, Sunday, June 29.
Global Wildlife Center, Tour 17 This tour is like the previous one except that no meal is included. Cost is $27 adults, $25 children; includes bus transportation from the Hyatt and wagon ride. 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Tour 17, Thursday, July 3.
Dinner Jazz Cruise, Tours 7 & 18 When night falls, we board a riverboat and cruise on a jazz-filled adventure. The sounds of a dixieland jazz band fill the air as diners enjoy a lavish creole meal. Cost: $49.75 adults only (must be twenty-one or older); includes bus transportation from the Hyatt, dinner, and jazz cruise. 6:00 to 9:30 p.m.; Tour 7, Saturday, June 28; Tour 18, Thursday, July 3.
Pete Fountain's Jazz Club, Tour 19 On this unique tour you'll experience New Orleans nightlife as a native would. You'll see and hear one of the great New Orleans jazz musicians, Pete Fountain. Enjoy one complimentary drink while he performs. Cost: $33, adults only; includes bus transportation from the Hyatt, Pete Fountain's Club cover charge, and one drink; 9:15 p.m. to 12:15 a.m.; Tour 19, Thursday, July 3.
Nightlife--Top of the Mart Lounge--Pete Fountain's Jazz Club, Tour 20 From cool to red hot jazz and everywhere in between--on this unique tour you'll experience New Orleans nightlife as a native would. Your evening begins at the Top of the Mart, where you'll relax with two complimentary drinks as you enjoy the revolving cityscape. From there you're off to see a New Orleans institution--Pete Fountain. Enjoy one complimentary drink while he performs. Cost: $42, adults only; includes bus transportation from the Hyatt to the Top of the Mart and Pete Fountain's Club, and three drinks; 7:15 p.m. to 12:15 a.m.; Tour 20, Thursday July 3.
PHOTO/CAPTION: Homer Page]
The Metal Pole by Homer Page
From the Editor: The following story by Homer Page first appeared in Beginnings and Blueprints, the latest in our Kernel Book series. Here is the article, beginning with Dr. Jernigan's introduction:
Homer Page is a leader in the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. When he was six years old, he learned a lesson from a metal pole, and he remembers it well to this day. Here is how he tells it:
I was born seven weeks before Pearl Harbor. As were so many young men of his generation, my father was soon caught up in the war. For a number of years during my early life he was away from home in the army.
My younger brother and I lived with our mother and grandmother on our family farm. My mother and grandmother were blind, as was I. They ran the farm while we waited and prayed for my father to come home. In time he did return safely. But during this time we were rather isolated.
During these years I really didn't understand that I was blind. I enjoyed enormously running in the open fields that made up our farm. I fell off a table and broke my arm. Another time I slipped in the water on the back porch, where my mother was washing clothes. I fell out the back door and broke my arm again. In each instance I hardly slowed down while I wore a cast. Later, when I was nine, I broke my collarbone playing tackle football at school, and still later, when I was fifteen, I broke my arm again in a bicycle accident.
Sometimes my cousin, who was a few years older, would come to visit. He would tell me about going to school. It sounded exciting. I could hardly wait until I was old enough to catch the school bus and go to school. I spent many of my days playing school and dreaming of reading books.
Finally the day came when I could start school. My father was home by then. He and my mother took me to school. No one mentioned that I was blind. When it was time to play that first day, I joined the other children and went outside.
Children who are six years old run. They run without purpose. They run in packs for the simple joy of running. The children began to run. I joined them, and I too began to run.
My next memory from this day long ago is still vivid. I ran into the metal pole that braced the playground slide. In a split second I was flat on my back. My nose had squarely struck the pole. I was in a great deal of pain, and the other children were going on without me. In that moment I realized that I was blind.
I knew that, if I lay there or if I cried, I could not play with the other children. I got up to join my new friends. They never commented, nor did I. I spent my childhood and adolescence with many of those children. We seldom talked about blindness. I just took part in whatever activity presented itself.
No pity or sentimentality was shown to me. When teams were chosen to play softball, I was chosen last. But when teams were chosen for math or social studies competitions, I was chosen first. Those selections were fair, and neither I nor anyone else questioned them. It meant nothing to me to be selected last. What was important was that I played, that I played hard, and that I looked for ways to make a positive contribution to my team.
In the decades since my encounter with the metal pole, I have more than once found myself figuratively lying on the ground. What I learned at six years of age, and have relearned several times since, is that getting up is the best option. The other option is to play it safe and not really play.
In 1981 I was elected to the Boulder, Colorado, City Council. In 1986 I was chosen to be Deputy Mayor of the city. In 1988 I was elected to the Boulder County Board of Commissioners. During all but one of my years as a county commissioner I was either Chairman or Vice Chairman of the Board. However, things were not always easy.
In 1980 I ran for the Colorado legislature. The race was very close. Near the end of the campaign workers representing my opponent began going door to door in the district telling voters that, since I was blind, I could not represent them, that I would only represent the interests of the blind. I lost that election by 120 votes. That metal pole had just blocked my path once more.
I got up and started to run again. I found that I had won the respect of my community. A year later I was elected to the Boulder City Council. Four years later I ran for re- election. As top vote getter in the election, I was in line to be mayor, but once again my blindness became an issue. I was not selected to be mayor. I was, however, chosen to be deputy mayor. Once again, that metal pole had gotten in the way.
In 1988 I ran for the Board of County Commissioners. I unseated a popular incumbent. In 1991 I was unopposed. My blindness had simply ceased to be an issue that could help a political opponent.
On September 1, 1995, I assumed the responsibility of directing the National Federation of the Blind's training center in Colorado. Students at the Colorado Center for the Blind learn the alternative skills they need to live independent and productive lives, and they learn the attitudes that they need to accept and manage their blindness.
As I work with Center students, there is a perspective that I hope to be able to share with them. Perhaps I can state it like this: In the lives of blind persons there are occasional metal poles. Once it was believed that those poles made life too dangerous or too difficult for us to be able really to participate with sighted persons on terms of equality, but now we know that this is simply not true.
However, we also know that, when those poles appear in our paths and flatten us, we must get back up and continue to run without bitterness or self-pity. We must also improve our travel skills through life so that we can avoid as many of those poles as possible. We must be tough enough to play without sentimentality and smart enough to know that in this way life will shower us with abundance.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marie Cobb]
Federationists, Fund-Raising, and Free Enterprise by Marie Cobb
From the Editor: Federationists who have enjoyed meals in the dining room at the National Center for the Blind know that Marie Cobb, who runs the kitchen from which all those meals are served, is a wonderful cook and a gifted caterer. In fact, she has many talents and is always adding something new to her list of responsibilities. Here she describes the latest work she is doing for the Federation:
As many of you know, some of the National Federation of the Blind's traditional sources of funding are becoming less cost-effective each year. In order for us to meet this challenge, we are constantly searching for new sources of revenue. Last spring President Maurer signed the NFB on as a distributor for the American Communications Network, marketer for LCI International long-distance. This project will succeed or fail in direct proportion to the number of people who agree to participate in the program.
There are about ten Federationists who own ACN distributorships under the NFB, and we are all committed to making this relationship between the NFB and ACN a lucrative one. We believe that the combination of excellent service and attractive rates will help to make our commitment a reality. At the same time each of us is working to build a profitable business for ourselves. The more successful we are as individuals, the larger the residual income will be for the NFB.
We want to be certain that everyone understands to whom the commission from his or her long-distance or any other ACN account will be paid, so here is the agreement we ten have with Mr. Maurer. The NFB's ACN representatives will hold business opportunity meetings at Washington Seminars and at National Conventions. We will seek customers and offer those who are interested a chance to examine the business plan. We will also have a booth in the exhibit hall for the same purposes. Any person who wishes to become an ACN customer during the Washington Seminar or at National Convention will automatically be placed directly under the Federation instead of the associate who acquires the account. We, the associates, will be building our personal businesses during this time by recruiting new associates to work with us.
Here is the way you can participate: 1. Fill out a simple form to change your long-distance carrier to LCI. There is no charge for the switch, and LCI provides excellent service at a lower rate than many other long- distance carriers. If for any reason you are dissatisfied with the service after ninety days, you can go back to your original carrier at no cost to you. 2. Ask your friends and family to help the NFB by switching their long-distance carrier to LCI as well. The National Federation of the Blind will receive three to eight percent of every dollar spent on long-distance calls each month on all of these direct accounts, and one quarter of one percent to five percent of all accounts which are generated for our personal businesses.
Long-distance service is just the tip of the iceberg. There is also cellular service through the most advantageous carrier in each area, and pager service through Pagenet. There will soon be voice paging as well. In the near future we will also be able to offer cable access, local dial tone service, Internet access, and utilities. The potential income for the NFB is really exciting.
The bottom line is that this costs you nothing and indeed will save you money each month. It will also help to fund the important work in which we are all engaged. So please contact an ACN representative as soon as possible. If you do not know an ACN representative or wish to explore becoming one yourself, please contact me, Marie Cobb, at (410) 659-9314 or (410) 644-6352. I have volunteered to take calls which come into the National Office or my home and see that those accounts go directly to the NFB. However, I am also building a file of personal accounts on other occasions.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ed Bryant]
Dialysis at National Convention by Ed Bryant
From the Editor: Ed Bryant is First Vice President of the Diabetes Action Network, the diabetics division of the National Federation of the Blind. Here is very important information for anyone planning to attend the convention and needing dialysis during that busy week:
During this year's annual convention in New Orleans, Louisiana (Sunday, June 29, through Saturday, July 5), dialysis will be available. Those requiring dialysis must have a transient patient packet and completed physician's statement prior to treatment. Conventioneers should have their unit contact the desired location in the New Orleans area for instructions.
Individuals will be responsible for and must pay prior to each treatment the approximately $30 not covered by Medicare plus any additional physician's fees.
Dialysis centers should set up transient dialysis locations at least three months in advance. This helps assure a location for anyone wanting to dialyze. New Orleans is a popular tourist destination, and in July the city is very busy. Here are some dialysis locations:
Saint Charles Dialysis, 3600 Prytania, Suite 83, New Orleans, Louisiana 70115; telephone: (504) 895-3992. About ten minutes by taxi from the convention hotel.
Uptown Dialysis has two locations. A: Truro Hospital, on Foucher Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70115. Social Worker is Mary Wendt; contact her for information about either Uptown Dialysis facility. B: Uptown Dialysis, 3434 Prytania Street, Room 200, New Orleans, Louisiana 70115. Use the same phone, 504-897-7946, for both. Both locations are about ten minutes from the hotel.
BMA New Orleans, 2000 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112; telephone: (504) 581-6363. For further information contact Jennifer Wallace, administrator, at (504) 455-5535. About ten minutes from the hotel.
DCI of New Orleans, 1400 Canal Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112; telephone: (504) 593-9895. Although DCI reports itself full now, they may well have a cancellation. About ten minutes from the hotel.
Napoleon Dialysis, 2817 Napoleon Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana 70115; telephone: (504) 891-8176. About fifteen minutes from the hotel. PLEASE REMEMBER TO SCHEDULE DIALYSIS TREATMENTS EARLY TO INSURE SPACE.
If scheduling assistance is needed, contact Diabetes Action Network First Vice President Ed Bryant at (573) 875-8911. See you in New Orleans!
This month's recipes come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington.
Pasta Salad by Judy Croy
John and Judy Croy are active members of the Spokane County Chapter.
Ingredients: 2 tablespoons diced green onion 1 cup sliced mushrooms 1 cup chopped celery 1 cucumber, chopped 1 can black olives, sliced 1 8-ounce package mozzarella cheese, shredded 5 cups rotini (uncooked) 1 envelope dry Italian seasoning mix 1 8-ounce bottle of zesty Italian dressing
Method: Cook rotini about twenty minutes according to package directions; remove from heat and drain while still firm. Combine all but last two salad ingredients and sprinkle the envelope of dry Italian seasoning mix over the salad. Add the bottle of zesty Italian dressing. Gently toss the salad and marinate it at least two hours under refrigeration.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Barbara Freeman]
Frosty the Snowman by Barbara Freeman
Coffee drinks of all kinds are popular in Washington State. Here are several local favorites as prepared by Barbara Freeman, whose husband Mike is President of the affiliate.
Ingredients: 2« cups iced coffee 5 tablespoons chocolate syrup 1 pint vanilla or coffee ice cream
Method: Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve in tall glasses.
Chocolate Coffee Sauce by Barbara Freeman
Ingredients: ¬ pound sweet chocolate 1 ounce strong, hot coffee 2 ounces butter
Method: Break chocolate into pieces and melt in the hot coffee. Stir well. Let mixture cool. Then add butter, a little at a time, beating until it is thoroughly blended in.
Caf Vino by Barbara Freeman
Ingredients: 1 cup cold strong coffee 2 ounces tawny port or Muscatel wine 2 tablespoons sugar « tablespoon grated orange peel dash cinnamon
Method: Whip all ingredients in blender at high speed until foamy. Pour into chilled wine glasses. Serves two.
Spanish Rice de Freeman by Barbara Freeman
Ingredients: 1 medium onion 1 clove garlic 2 tablespoons chili powder 3 tablespoons ground cumin Salt and pepper to taste 1 cup rice, uncooked 1 pound lean ground beef or other meat 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce Grated cheese or cubed Velveeta Small amount of oil
Method: Put the rice on to cook according to package directions. Chop the onion and garlic and cook in a small amount of oil until soft. Crumble hamburger into pan and brown. Add the spices while the meat cooks. Mix the warm meat mixture with a can of tomato sauce and the cooked rice. Top with cheese. Turn the heat off and cover the pan for a few minutes so that the cheese has time to melt. Serve. This recipe calls for quite a lot of spice. It is the cumin that makes this recipe so good. You can leave out the chili powder, but not the cumin. Cubed chicken can be used in place of the hamburger. This dish is also good without meat.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Alco Canfield]
Chocolate Zucchini Cake by Alco Canfield
Alco Canfield is a rehabilitation counselor from Olympia, Washington. As a new, enthusiastic member, she travels one-and-a-half hours to Vancouver to attend Clark County Chapter meetings. She is looking forward to starting a chapter in Olympia.
Ingredients: « cup butter « cup vegetable oil 1 3/4 cups sugar 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla « cup sour milk 2« cups flour 4 tablespoons cocoa « teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda « teaspoon cinnamon « teaspoon ground cloves 2 cups grated, unpeeled zucchini ¬ to « cup chocolate chips
Method: Cream sugar with butter and oil. Add remaining wet ingredients while continuing to beat mixture. Stir remaining dry ingredients together, and beat into sugar mixture. Fold in zucchini and pour into greased and floured 13-by-9 pan. Top with chocolate chips. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes.
Green Chili Frittata by Stephanie Yates
Stephanie Yates is a new member from Seattle. She attended her first National Convention in Anaheim. At our state convention in October she was elected to the state board of directors. She is also spearheading the acquisition of NEWSLINE in Washington State.
Ingredients: « cup flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 10 eggs, lightly beaten ¬ pound butter, melted and slightly cooled 2 cups small curd cottage cheese 1 pound Monterey Jack cheese, grated 1 to 2 4-ounce cans diced green chilies
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a shallow 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Mix flour and baking powder. Add eggs and butter, blending well. Blend in remaining ingredients. Place mixture in baking dish and bake 35 to 45 minutes or until set. Cut into squares and serve.
Technology Magazine on Cassette: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Bitstream is a bi-monthly audio cassette magazine that is focused at blind, visually impaired, print handicapped, or other readers interested in accessible high technology. While the primary focus of Bitstream is on personal computers with speech or Braille output, other issues are covered as well. These include access tools of all kinds. Bitstream is a narrated magazine with live interviews, reviews, and demonstrations. The six 90-minute issues cost $22 per year for U.S. and Canadian subscribers while overseas subscribers are charged $32, and the tapes are sent by Air Mail.
All subscriptions must be prepaid by check or credit card. Unfortunately, we can no longer accept purchase orders. Individuals interested in subscribing should contact us at (800) 377-0774.
Prepaid Calling Card Business Opportunity: Flowers Bates, a member of the NFB of Mississippi, has asked us to carry the following announcement: Only $20 to get started. No inventory or costly overhead needed. Earn commissions and hours of free calling time. Call (601) 249-3622 for more details.
Debt Analysis Available: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Want to be debt-free and stop giving your hard-earned money to the banks? Have your debts analyzed and receive a debt elimination plan that will help you get rid of those debts. For example, a $38,000 home mortgage at 10 percent for thirty years will cost $333.48 per month for 360 months. By adding $100 ($433.48) to the current note, you can pay off the mortgage in thirteen years and three months. Call (601) 249-3622 for details and start getting rid of those debts today.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: George Best, 1933 to 1996]
In Memoriam: Hazel Staley, a longtime leader of the NFB of North Carolina, writes with deep sorrow as follows: On December 16, 1996, George Best died following a long bout with cancer. He was just four days shy of his sixty- third birthday. George was a dedicated Federationist. For sixteen years he served as Treasurer of the North Carolina affiliate, during which time he made my job as State President much easier. He loved our state and national conventions and the Washington Seminar and attended all these events as long as he was able. In 1992 he received the Clarence Collins Award for outstanding service to the North Carolina affiliate. The Clarence Collins Award is the state's equivalent of our national tenBroek Award.
George also loved his church. He sang in the choir and was a leading member of the church's drama team. He accepted a role in the 1996 Christmas drama with the understanding that he could have an understudy in case he was not able to perform. George is survived by his wife Nancy and five brothers. The North Carolina affiliate mourns the passing of one of our great leaders.
All of us in the Federation family join with Hazel and the North Carolina affiliate in mourning the loss of George Best and in expressing our condolences to Nancy and to George's family.
Tours with Classical Themes: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: The Campanian Society, Inc., announces two tours designed for blind and visually impaired people. Program One, "The Classical Heritage in America," fall, 1997, will be a one-week program including visits to important sites whose meaning is enhanced by a knowledge of the ancient world (Bunker Hill, Hudson River, Mt. Vernon) and several classical sculpture collections (ancient and neo-classical) in American museums: New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art); Baltimore (The Walters Art Gallery); Washington: (National Gallery of Art, American Museum of Art); and Philadelphia (Museum of Art). This program will be seven days and six nights or eight days and seven nights, starting and ending in New York. Tactile experience, lectures, and special events are planned for each museum. We will include not only the museum but also other sites of interest and importance in the area.
Program Two, "Northern Italy: Lake Como and the Italian Alps." is planned for April, 1998. This program will center in the Lake Como area of Northern Italy, including visits to the many charming and scenic cities surrounding Lake Como, with an excursion to St. Moritz in Switzerland. The area is rich in history. Numerous museums and churches will provide us with wonderful tactile and intellectual experiences. The length of the program will be approximately ten to eleven days.
Please indicate your interest in one or both of these programs by sending your contact information (name, address, city, state, zip, phone, fax, and e-mail) to the Campanian Society, Inc., 5758 Brown Road, Oxford, Ohio 45056, (513) 524-4846.
Elected: Michael and Robin Thorne of the Rock Hill Chapter of the NFB of South Carolina report their chapter's recent election results. The officers for the new term are Lenora Robertson, President; Marcel Rocque, Vice President; Ricky Hinson and Wenn Spears, Secretaries; Lyn Hornbe, Treasurer; Ms. Odom and Ms. Bickle, Social Directors; and Michael E. Thorne, Public Relations Director.
Diabetes Action Network Drawing: The Diabetes Action Network, a division of the National Federation of the Blind, provides support and information to thousands of people. Because operating this valuable network and producing the Voice of the Diabetic cost money, we must generate funds to help cover these expenses. The Network has decided to hold a drawing again this year, which will be coordinated by our treasurer, John Yark.
The Grand Prize will be $500! The name of the winner will be drawn on July 4, 1997, at the annual banquet of the National Federation of the Blind.
Tickets cost $1 each, or a book of six may be purchased for $5. Tickets may be purchased from state representatives of our Diabetes Action Network or by contacting the Voice Editorial Office, 811 Cherry Street, Suite 309, Columbia, Missouri 65201, telephone (573) 875-8911. Anyone interested in selling tickets should also contact the Voice Editorial Office. Tickets are available now. The names of those who sell fifty tickets or more will be announced in the Voice.
Please make checks payable to the National Federation of the Blind. Money and ticket stubs must be mailed to the Voice office no later than June 10, 1997, or they can be personally delivered to Drawing Chairman John Yark at this year's NFB convention in New Orleans. This drawing is open to anyone, and the holder of the lucky ticket need not be present to win. Each ticket sold is a donation helping to keep our Diabetes Action Network moving forward.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Prince George's County Councilwoman Audrey Scott is pictured presenting a White-Cane-Safety-Day proclamation to Southern Maryland Chapter President Ken Silberman on October 8, 1996.]
Elected: Kenneth Silberman, President of the Southern Maryland Chapter of the NFB of Maryland, reports his chapter's January 4 election results. The new officers are Kenneth Silberman, President; Bernetha Mclamore, Vice President; Edward Harley, Secretary; Gerelene Womack, Treasurer; and Jack Darosa and Mary Skattie, Board Members.
Arizona Brailler Repair Service Now Open for Nationwide Business: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: As a mutual support project, the Arizona Instructional Resource Center (AIRC) at the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix and the Mohave Treatment Programs Department at the Arizona State Prison Complex at Douglas (ASPC-D) have jointly opened a new Perkins Brailler Repair Service.
The service got off the ground in August, 1995, and has been working with such tremendous success that it is now ready to go public. The Arizona Brailler Repair Service is now available to anybody in the country. In a small, festive celebration in Douglas last spring, the final details were agreed upon between the two agencies.
The Brailler repair service is administered by the AIRC, with actual repair taking place in Douglas. Top-notch but inexpensive maintenance and repair (a $15 flat fee for labor) with a 6-month warranty is guaranteed as part of the excellent service offered to anyone in the country. Turnaround time is approximately two weeks. Only if unusual parts must be ordered from Massachusetts will the repair time be longer since the more common replacement parts are held in stock at ASPC-D.
For more information or to send your Perkins for service, contact the AIRC at the Foundation for Blind Children, 1235 E. Harmont Drive, Phoenix, Arizona 85020, (602) 331-1470.
Elected: On January 18, 1997, the Greater Seattle Chapter of the NFB of Washington held elections with the following results: Noel Nightingale, President; Rita Szantay, First Vice President; Mark Noble, Second Vice President; Renee West, Secretary; and Gary Deeter, Treasurer. Elected to serve on the Board were Bennett Prows and Stephanie Yates.
New Chapter: The North Greenville Chapter became the fifty-fifth chapter of the NFB of South Carolina on Tuesday, January 8. The following officers were elected: Lydell Gray, President; Joyce Bowes, Vice President; George McKinney, Secretary; and Jack Yearwood, Treasurer. Congratulations to the newest chapter in the South Carolina affiliate.
Affordable Gifts: Nancy Lynn of Pennsylvania has asked us to carry the following announcement: Affordable gifts for all occasions with income potential attached. Call (888) 887-6318 any time, day or night, and leave your name and phone number. You will receive a prompt response.
CD-ROM Catalog of Braille and Recorded Books Available: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: In February, 1997, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped released the first production version of CD-BLIND, a CD-ROM of catalog records completed through December, 1996. Including the entire catalog of Braille and recorded books produced by NLS, CD- BLIND contains approximately 250,000 records of special- format materials from more than two dozen libraries throughout the world. It is searchable by title, author, subject, keyword, and much more. Complete with a revised user manual, this CD-ROM represents the culmination of several years of testing by libraries and consumers.
A subscription to CD-BLIND is available through the Superintendent of Documents. Send your order to Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15250-7954, (202) 512-1800, and request stock number 730-011-00000-8. Payment can be made by check, money order, VISA, MasterCard, or Discover card. The price for a year's subscription (four issues) is $92 in the United States and $115 outside the U.S. The single-issue price is $29 in the U.S. and $36.25 outside the U.S.
For further information, contact Mr. Robert Axtell, Head, Bibliographic Control Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Washington, D.C. 20542, (202) 707-9248.
Elected: During the fourth annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Puerto Rico on November 9, 1996, the following officers were elected: Alpidio Rolon, President; Tomas Cintron, Secretary; and Maria Martinez, Maria T. Rivera, and Jose A. Rodriquez, members of the Board of Directors.
Braille Materials Available: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Mrs. Judith Kramer, a special education teacher at Boonton High School in Boonton, New Jersey, writes to say that she has a number of books and other materials in Braille, which she would be pleased to pass on to high school or college students who could use them. A list of publications is available upon request. Many of these publications, but not all, have to do with creative writing. For more information or a list of books with descriptions, contact Mrs. Judith Kramer, Boonton High School, 306 Lathrop Avenue, Boonton, New Jersey 07005, (201) 335-9700, e-mail: email@example.com
Summer Music Institute, National Resource Center for Blind Musicians: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: The Music and Arts Center for the Handicapped is accepting applications from motivated blind musicians throughout the United States, high school or above, to participate in its second Summer Music Institute for Blind College-Bound Musicians. A three-week program to be held in July at the University of Bridgeport will provide exposure to music Braille, music composition by computer, keyboard, theory, and ensemble and strategies for study and independent living in a college setting. Enrollment is limited to fifteen students, who will be accepted based on their applications and over-the-phone interviews. Cost of the program (including tuition, room and board, and materials) is $2,500. Partial scholarships are available.
The National Resource Center for Blind Musicians provides information to musicians, students, and teachers on music Braille and accessible music technology. The Center can provide advice about music systems or put people in touch with someone in its national network of blind musicians with experience in a particular aspect of the field.
For an application to the Summer Music Institute or to reach the National Resource Center, contact David Goldstein, Music and Arts Center for the Handicapped, 600 University Avenue, Bridgeport, Connecticut 06601, (203) 366-3300, e- mail firstname.lastname@example.org
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Catherine Horn Randall receives her award from Neil Kelly]
Honored: Neil Kelly, Illinois State Library Coordinator of Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, presented the 1996 Alexander J. Skrzypek Award to Catherine Horn Randall, at the time First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, at the Illinois Library Association annual conference, May 16, 1996, at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, Illinois.
The award reads as follows: "For outstanding contributions to the advancement of library services for the blind and physically disabled of Illinois, presented to Catherine Horn Randall, Illinois State Library Advisory Committee and Citizen. Presented by the specialized Library Services Forum of the Illinois Library Association and the Illinois Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped."
Elected: At its November, 1996, meeting the Triangle Chapter of the NFB of North Carolina held its annual election of officers. They are Johnna Simmons, President; Wayne Shevlin, Vice President; Susan Briley, Secretary; and Linda Shevlin, Treasurer. Melissa Orrsick was elected to serve on the Board.
New Catalog Available: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Braille money marker, talking compass, talking microwave, computer games, talking book equipment, and over 500 other items are all part of the 1997 Ann Morris Enterprises catalog. Request your free copy in large print, 4-track cassette, or MS/DOS disk today. Braille is $6. Contact Ann Morris Enterprises, Inc., 890 Fams Court, East Meadow, New York 11554, (800) 454-3175, e-mail: email@example.com
Computer Tutorial for Windows 95 Now Available: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Peter Scialli--proprietor of ShrinkWrap Computer Products, a local consultant, and vendor for accessible technology--has just published an audio cassette tutorial called "Windows 95, Removing the Screen." Presented in an informal style, the tutorial demonstrates how a blind computer user with adaptive equipment can easily understand and learn Windows 95. With examples throughout, Dr. Scialli uses his own speech synthesizer to show blind people the ease with which they can still operate a computer despite the precipitous disappearance of text-based software.
"Removing the Screen" is available from ShrinkWrap Computer Products for $40 and is about five hours in length. It comes on standard audio cassettes and may assist anyone who wants to learn to use Microsoft Windows 95 without relying on a computer mouse or visual output.
Contact ShrinkWrap Computer Products at (800) 377-0774 or on the Internet at Shrink@Erols.Com
Income Opportunity Available: Lonnie and Gail Wagner of New Mexico have asked us to carry the following announcement: We are in the business of offering three gifts: health, hope, and freedom through a wonderful home-based business opportunity. Easy-to-use audio and video tape system to get your business booming. Training and support only a phone call away. Wild grown products great for animals and people. For free information please call (800) 927-2575, extension 02972.
New Division Formed: The SAGE (Senior Action Group Energy) Division of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico became a statewide division in 1996. The elected officers are Christine Hall, President; Verna Lorette, Vice President; Jack Traxler, Secretary; and Ray Baca, Treasurer. Elected to the Board were George Burman and Fern Lawson.
For Sale: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Reading Edge in excellent condition, hardly used, with latest upgrade. Asking $4,000 or best offer. Please contact Teresa Burke, 66 Post Road, Slag Hill, New York 10973, (914) 374-3902.