Photo of Nikki's hands with 

a slate and stylus.

		  Nikki Zimmerman uses a slate and stylus to write

	 notes during class at Carl Traeger Middle School in Oshkosh.

 		    	Picture of a smiling Nikki Zimmerman 

and her white cane.

 		Nikki Zimmerman. (Note: In the August/September

	Braille Monitor a picture of Nikki Zimmerman at the Dude 

        Ranch was incorrectly identified as Nikki White of Maryland. 

        We regret the error.)



         The Fifth Generation Speaks Out

     From the Editor: What impact can the NFB's National

Convention have on a newly blind twelve-year-old? What impact can

that twelve-year-old in turn have on the world around her? Nikki

Zimmerman and her family fought against glaucoma and the fear of

blindness for eleven years. When they lost that fight a year ago,

they might have concluded that in significant ways Nikki's life

was over. But the family heard about Bonnie Peterson, then

President of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin,

and Bonnie helped them acquire funding to attend last summer's

National Convention in Dallas. Nikki and her mother were both

optimistic and open to the possibility and promise of the NFB's

philosophy of hope and high expectation.
     But it wasn't enough for Nikki to get the instruction in

cane travel and Braille that she needed. When Nikki heard talk of

the NFB of Wisconsin's annual walk-a-thon, she wanted to

participate. She began signing up sponsors and recruiting walkers

among her friends. But no other blind people near Oshkosh were

planning to walk. How ought she to conduct the walk-a-thon?

Nikki's mother Patty called Bonnie for advice. The solution was

simple: several hikers from Milwaukee would drive over to Madison

to join Nikki, her friends, and members of the school board who

had decided to participate in the walk. That way the kids and

school officials could all learn from the blind adults taking

part in the hike, and the experienced Federationists could help

Nikki conduct the event.
     But the Zimmermans weren't finished. Patty Zimmerman

recognized that publicity for the hike would help, so she set out

to interest the local newspaper in doing the kind of story about

Nikki, an ordinary sixth-grader, that would tell the world what

she and the National Federation of the Blind thought about

blindness. The following article is reprinted with permission

from the September 29, 1998, edition of the Oshkosh Northwestern.

It demonstrates just how well Nikki has understood the NFB's

philosophy of normality and just how effectively she has taught

her teachers and fellow students to adopt the same notions. Here

is the article:

                           **********

                         Typical Courage

          Oshkosh Sixth-grader Refuses to Let Blindness

                          Be Disability

                         by Gina Mangan

                           **********

     Following eleven-year-old Nikki Zimmerman as she zips

between classes and through the halls of Carl Traeger Middle

School in Oshkosh requires a good pair of walking shoes and a

healthy set of lungs. With an air of confidence she deftly dodges

fellow students and turns corners with ease.
     Once inside the classroom Nikki barely takes a breath while

quietly reading out loud to partner Jessica Pernsteiner from a

teacher handout. She takes notes as social studies teacher Paul

DeShambo writes on the marker board and talks articulately about

economic issues during a class discussion.
     Outside on the playground she chats with friends. She seems

like an average sixth-grader. For the most part she is. Nikki,

whose highlight during her first day of school was a reminder by

science teacher Jim McClowry to return to her desk and push in

her chair, wouldn't want anybody to see anything other than

normal.
     "Being blind isn't a disability unless you make it one,"

says Nikki, who lost her sight last winter after a lifelong

struggle with congenital glaucoma. "There's nothing I can't do,

except ride a bike."
     But because she's blind, being viewed as typical has taken

extra effort, a bit of special training, a lot of determination,

and the right opportunities.
     During the past year Nikki repeatedly struggled against a

societal tendency to pamper the blind, fighting human nature's

desire to force the world to adapt to individual differences.

Instead Nikki has chosen to adapt to the world.
     Nikki uses a long white cane to get around. She's fully

trained in Braille and writes with an embossed-dot-producing

slate and stylus.
     And while her eyes don't work, her mind is as sharp as that

of the next sixth-grader. Her ability to perform in class isn't

an issue. But her family still had to fight to keep her in the

math and English classes they believe are critical to her future.
     In fact, Nikki and her parents have turned down traditional

help offered by well-meaning people within the school system,

insisting that expectations for Nikki be no lower because she

can't see.
     When the school district wanted to hire a teacher aide to

guide and help Nikki--as is done with other blind students--the

Zimmermans said no.
     "She's blind, but her feet work," said her mother, Patty

Zimmerman, noting Nikki's cane.
     When the school offered to let her leave each class five

minutes early, the Zimmermans said no again.
     "Someday Nikki will be married and have children, and if her

child runs into the road, she's not going to have five extra

minutes," Patty Zimmerman said.
     When Nikki began learning Braille, specialists working with

the blind through the Cooperative Educational Service Agency told

the family it would take her three years to function at the same

level as her peers and wanted her to spend valuable class time in

a special resource room.
     But with the help of a private instructor, it took Nikki

only six months to learn Braille, although she's still perfecting

her skills. She's enrolled in all regular education classes.
     Nikki's determination hasn't gone unnoticed by her peers--

many of whom refer to her as the "cool blind girl"--or her

teachers.
     "Her expectations for herself have been greater than

anything I would have held her to, not only because she's blind

but because she's only a sixth-grader," DeShambo said.
     Nikki and her family adhere strongly to the philosophies of

independence and equality embraced by the National Federation of

the Blind, and they hope Nikki will become a role model for other

children. She's a scheduled speaker at the NFB's state

convention, and she's organized a three-mile white cane hike-a-

thon to raise money for the NFB, which promotes the white cane as

a tool of "stature, respect, and independence." The walk-a-thon

will be held Saturday.
     "She lost her sight, but she has her life back," Patty

Zimmerman said. "We hope she can inspire other children to become

more independent."
     This year has been the first full, normal year for Nikki,

whose earlier years were fragmented by sixty-one operations and

countless trips to the children's hospital in Madison. Doctors

tried desperately for years to regulate the fluid that would

build up behind her eyes. That buildup created a constant,

painful pressure on the optic nerve, as well as failing vision.
     After placing two shunts and plates in her eyes last

October, doctors were forced to remove her right eye five days

after Christmas. She now wears a prosthesis and has been relieved

of much of the pain. The shunts remain in her left eye, but the

pressure hasn't stabilized, and Nikki says she can see only

"blobs of color."
     During her fifth-grade year Nikki received tutoring at home.

Despite a string of surgeries, chronic pain, and lost vision, she

successfully completed her fifth-grade year.
     But the prospect of blindness left her depressed and

frightened at first, especially in the months before she learned

white cane and Braille skills. But her life turned around when

she traveled to Dallas, Texas, July 4 to the NFB's national

convention. There she met attorneys, college professors,

accountants, and other professionals who didn't let their

blindness stand in the way of success.
     Bonnie Peterson, president of the National Federation of the

Blind of Wisconsin, said Nikki is like many others who adopt the

NFB's philosophy. "We look at blindness as a physical condition,

like baldness or shortness or anything else," Peterson said.

"With the proper training and opportunity, that condition will be

reduced to nothing more than a physical nuisance."
     McClowry, Nikki's science teacher, said Traeger's sixth-

grade teachers are well aware of Nikki's desire to be treated the

same as her peers.
     Although they recognize she has a special learning need,

they see her as a confident, articulate sixth-grader who's eager

to learn.
     "I'm impressed with her in the way I'm impressed with any

sixth-grader who is in a new environment, is confident, and has

taken ownership of her learning," he said. "I don't have any

gripping statements to make. She's a normal sixth-grader."

                           **********

                           **********

     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

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.