THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 41, No. 5 May, 1998
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, on cassette, and
the World Wide Web and FTP on the Internet
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
Marc Maurer, President
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE
BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION SPEAKING FOR THE
BLINDIT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES.
Table of Contents
Opening of Two New Newsline Centers
Reporters Look at Technology for the Blind
Microsoft Promotes Accessibility
by Curtis Chong
Deaf-Blind Woman Wins Lawsuit Against Continental Airlines
by Douglas Parker
A Sad Reminder
The Optacon: Past, Present, and Future
by Deborah Kent Stein
Raising the Bar: First Time at National Convention
by Dan Burke
by Elizabeth Campbell
by Michael Baillif
by John A. Gardner
The Hollow Nature of Political Correctness
by Noel Nightingale
Introducing Music Education Network for the Visually Impaired
by Richard Taesch
EEOC Charges Filed against Virginia's So-called Disability Rights Agency
by Charles Brown
National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities
Copyright 1998 National Federation of the Blind
Opening of Two New Newsline Sites
Two new NEWSLINE® Local Service Centers have opened in recent weeks, bringing prestigious newspapers into the list of national publications available to blind people through NEWSLINE®. The Montgomery County Public Library site officially opened on March 16, 1998. It will serve much of the greater Washington, D.C., metro area.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Loyal NFB friend and fan of NEWSLINE® Helen Thomas, UPI White House Bureau Chief, chats with guests before the Montgomery County ceremony begins.]
Douglas Duncan, Montgomery County Executive, and Diane Frankel, Director of the Institute of Museums and Libraries (the federal agency whose funds assisted the Library in establishing NEWSLINE®), were also among the dignitaries present. Ted Lutz, Vice President of Circulation for the Washington Post, announced the availability of the Washington Post nationwide on NEWSLINE®.
Then, on April 8, the NFB of California in partnership with the Los Angeles Public Library and with the support of Mr. Dwight Baum, a generous contributor to the NFB for many years and an avid reader of NEWSLINE®, conducted the official opening of the L.A. NEWSLINE® site at the Los Angeles Central Library in downtown Los Angeles. The guests included Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, thirty-third District; Susan Kent, Director of the Los Angeles Public Library; and special guest Jim Murray, Pulitzer-Prize-winning sports writer for the L.A. Times. Also Marilyn Lee, Vice President Public Affairs for the Los Angeles Times, helped us announce the availability of the Los Angeles Times to any NEWSLINE® site around the country.
NEWSLINE® is an ever-expanding network delivering more and more news to the blind. Now blind people in thirty-eight communities in this country and Toronto, Canada, can read both national and local newspapers using touch-tone phones. [PHOTO/CAPTION: James Gashel, NFB Director of Governmental Affairs, does a sound test at the library podium.] [PHOTO/CAPTION: Left to right Harriet Henderson, Director of the Montgomery County Department of Public Libraries; Helen Thomas, UPI White House Bureau Chief; and Betsy Zaborowski, NFB Director of Special Programs.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Tim Cranmer]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Deane Blazie]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ted Henter]
Reporters Look at Technology for the Blind
From the Editor: In recent weeks several prestigious newspapers and one distinguished magazine-format television news program have taken a considered look at various aspects of technology for the blind. The first to address the topic was the Louisville Courier Journal, which did a profile of long-time Federation leader Tim Cranmer in its Sunday, February 15, 1998, edition. Here is the story as it appeared:
Visionary in a Sightless World
Blind Inventor is Working on a Touchable Language
by Bob Deitel
Ideas and information literally whirred around Tim Cranmer as he sat in his small at-home office in Louisville.
From a desktop scanner the pages of a book on physics were being methodically transferred to computer and then reprinted in Braille for Cranmer to read later. On the computer's screen flashed Cranmer's morning e-mail, the words being recited aloud by software that instantly converted the text into speech.
Most ear-catching of all, however, were the thoughts Cranmer himself was offering.
So much of science, he said, has involved turning the unseen into the visible. Microscopes and telescopes reveal incredible detail. Machines convert brain waves to drawings. All aim at uncovering new information by enhancing sight, he said.
But what if science also could devise a way to represent images in a touchable, or tactile, way for people with impaired vision, Cranmer suggested. By starting with raised forms representing common objects, blind people might learn a new language to help them observe and understand the untouchable from distant stars to tiny atoms.
Like sight, touch is a unique window to the brain, Cranmer explained. What's needed are new tools to enhance that window.
"I know what a dog, cat, rubber ball, and chair look like, but they aren't visual imagesthey are tactile images that I have acquired over the years. We have to find a way to invoke those memories that blind people have stored...and then go from there and begin to teach about other things," he said.
"I think that's where we're going in the next millennium. I don't know that we'll be done by the end of it, but we're going to start. We are starting."
And Tim Cranmer will rank high among the pioneers.
He already has that distinction for many other innovations. Now seventy-three, Cranmer has spent much of his adult life thinking up or promoting technological advances, big and small, to help people wholike himselfare visually impaired.
His earliest contributions date from 1952 to 1982, when he guided various Kentucky state services for the blind.
Nearly forty years ago he devised the Cranmer Abacus, a variation on the ancient Oriental tool for using beads on wires to solve math problems. Cranmer's idea: add a felt backing to keep the beads from moving accidentally. Thousands are sold annually to blind people worldwide.
In the early 1960's he came up with the Say When, a compact, battery-operated device that hangs over a drinking cup and signals when poured liquid nears the top.
Around 1970 he devised a Braille display pad that could provide readings from electronic medical thermometers, timers, and calculators.
In the mid-1970's Cranmer thought of modifying a computer to search a database of phone numbers and read out the numbers in sound and Braille. He had engineers work out the details, and the result was a talking telephone directoryfirst used by blind switchboard operators at the Universities of Louisville and Kentucky.
Cranmer took the same tack to promote what eventually became the Cranmer Modified Perkins Braille Writerthe first electronic desktop Braille embosser. It did for blind readers what the dot-matrix computer printer did for the sighted.
"My main interest has been in learning how things work and how we can change the way they are to make them serve a better purpose," said Cranmer, who shies away from being called an inventor. "I think the most important thing I do is to influence the work of others."
And influence others he certainly has, said Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, the nation's largest advocacy group for the visually impaired.
"Dr. Cranmer may be the best-known inventor dealing with blindness in the U.S.," Maurer said. "I think he is certainly the best-known blind inventor."
His reputation may soon spread further. He was interviewed last month by the CBS News program "60 Minutes" for a planned segment about technology that helps people with disabilities.
Although Cranmer officially retired sixteen years ago, he never has stopped working. He first persuaded the National Federation of the Blind to start a research departmentwhich he then volunteered to head, at no pay.
That in turn led to global conferences on technology for the blind. It also gave Cranmer a budget to pay for engineers to work on new ideas, including his own. One of Cranmer's early acts, Maurer recalled, was to convince the Federation that a talking computer could be developed for only $4,000. The ultimate cost neared $20,000, but the result was "the best technology for computers that existed anywhere," Maurer said.
Cranmer's work duties today involve voluntarily heading the International Braille Research Center. Some travel to headquarters in Baltimore is necessary, but e-mail, phone, Internet, and fax let him handle most chores from his home.
Married for forty-eight years, Cranmer and his wife Thelma live in a small house just outside St. Matthews. They raised one daughter Linda, now a school counselor in Scott County.
Cranmer's talent for tinkering dates to his boyhood in Louisville's Portland neighborhood.
He was the kind of kid who would dismantle clocks and locks to see how they worked. He would happily slice open a golf ball to learn how it bounced. At fourteen he sent away for books on chemistry after hearing that rust on an old pocket knife came from oxygen and iron.
A combination of eye problems left him blind after he turned nine, and a lack of opportunity for blind people steered him away from his dream of being a scientist.
Instead, he first made his living by playing piano for pay, making costume jewelry, and tuning and rebuilding pianos. He still plays piano and loves music, especially classical.
His hair is white and wispy-thin, but his voice remains youthfully enthusiastic, and he flashes a wry and playful sense of humor.
Educated at the Kentucky School for the Blind, Cranmer in 1979 received an honorary doctorate in applied science from the University of Louisville. But of many honors through the years, he most cherishes two: when his name was attached to a National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky award given to people who enhance the lives of the blind and when he received the NFB of Kentucky's Susan B. Rarick Award for Servicean award named after one of Cranmer's first teachers.
"I think recognition by blind people has meant more to me than anything else," he said.
His lack of formal university training still astounds some of his friends, one of whom recalls having many a conversation with Cranmer about calculus before learning that Cranmer never took a calculus class.
To encourage future blind scientists, Cranmer in recent years has helped lead an ongoing effort to standardize and consolidate the various Braille codes used in English-speaking countries. Different codes cover non-technical writing, computer notation, and math-science notation. Those Braille divisions create education limitations, Cranmer said.
Which brings him back to his push for a new, touchable language to convey more knowledge and information.
Much of what people learn is said to come from vision, Cranmer said, "but that's not true for blind people. So tactile image is an alternative. I think much of what is now passed on to sighted people, through sight, can be communicated through touch."
It's a different way of looking at and making sense of the world, he said.
Which is exactly how Tim Cranmer has pursued most of his seventy-three years.
That was the Cranmer profile. Then, on March 26, the New York Times weighed in with its story about access to the World Wide Web for blind people. The reporter came to the National Federation of the Blind and spent a good bit of time in the International Braille and Technology Center at the National Center. She interviewed a number of people. Here is the story she wrote:
Bringing the Visual World of the Web to the Blind
by Debra Nussbaum
Curtis Chong has been using the World Wide Web for three years to look up topics like music, fund-raising, and medical research. He also uses it as a way to teach and encourage other blind people to get on the Web.
How does someone who cannot see the screen navigate the computer and Web, which is full of glitzy graphics and icons?
Chong communicates all his commands through the keyboard. His printer prints in Braille. He uses the Internet Explorer 3.02 with a piece of software called a screen reader and a speech synthesizer to turn the written words on the screen into words spoken in a computer-generated voice.
"We want to use the Web, and we want to use it like everybody else does," said Chong, director of technology for the National Federation of the Blind, based in Baltimore. "We don't believe the computer is the great equalizer for the blind, but it's one way to make our lives better."
For the more than half-million blind people of working age in the United States, getting on the Web may not only mean being able to research topics of interest but may also be a necessary skill for staying employed.
It certainly affects the jobs of thousands of blind people," said Gary Wunder, a blind man who is a senior computer programmer at the University of Missouri Hospitals and Clinics. He is required to use the Web in his job for project assignments and updates. "It isn't just optional anymore."
While current statistics on the use of computers and the Web by blind and visually impaired people are hard to find, technology companies and advocacy organizations say the numbers are rapidly increasing. Tens of thousands of blind people are on computers, and every year more of them are learning to use the Web, Chong said.
A 1991 study published by the American Foundation for the Blind in New York found that 43 percent of blind and severely visually impaired people were using the computer for writing, said Emilie Schmeidler, senior research associate for the foundation. Her impression is that more visually impaired people are using computers and the Web now, she said, and "more and more jobs require the computer."
Being able to use the Web is critical to thousands of employed blind people.
A screen reader or screen-access program like the one Chong uses is the translator that tells a speech synthesizer what to say when the visual icons are accompanied by a text description. "It's my white cane that helps me know what's on the screen," Chong said.
Henter-Joyce, a company in St. Petersburg, Florida, that manufactures the popular screen reader called JAWS (Job Access With Speech) for Windows, has between 15,000 and 18,000 customers, said the company's president, Ted Henter. He said the customer base had increased four to five times since 1995.
At least seven companies make the screen readers. Henter-Joyce's JAWS is one of the top sellers and costs about $795; the company's new version, to be released this spring, will include a speech synthesizer. The National Federation of the Blind Web site includes a computer-resource page that has information on how to get in contact with the companies that sell the readers.
But getting the technology right is only one piece of the package. If Web pages do not have text that identifies graphics or if they have moving type, they will not be accessible. The World Wide Web Consortium, made up of universities, corporations, and research organizations and based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, started a three-year project in 1997 called the Web Accessibility Initiative that is creating guidelines to make technology and Web pages more accessible to blind, deaf, and disabled users.
The National Federation of the Blind has eight accessibility guidelines for Web pages that can be found on its Web site.
The Center for Applied Special Technology, a nonprofit research and development organization in Peabody, Massachusetts, has a free service in which it analyzes Web sites and offers suggestions for their accessibility.
The change from DOS, a text-based operating system, to Windows, a graphics-based operating system, was a setback for the blind.
"The world enthusiastically embraced Windows, and we were left out," said Wunder, who is also President of the Missouri chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. But in the last two and a half years, Microsoft "has shown concern and responsiveness" to the blind, Wunder said.
Version 3.02 of Microsoft's browser, Internet Explorer, includes a component called Microsoft Active Accessibility, a layer of codes that are compatible with accessibility aids like the screen reader. In addition to aiding blind users, these codes also hook into software that helps users who are deaf or have other disabilities.
But a newer version, Internet Explorer 4.0, was released on October 1, 1997, without the Active Accessibility component. Angry letters, phone calls, and e-mails let Luanne LaLonde, Microsoft's accessibility product manager, and others at Microsoft know that this was unacceptable.
"We got a lot of e-mail," she said. In early November, about thirty-five days after the release of Explorer 4.0, Microsoft released Explorer 4.01, including Active Accessibility.
Web page design, of course, is an element of accessibility. Vito DeSantis, manager of field operations for the southern regional office of the New Jersey Commission for the Blind, uses the Web to find research on the eye condition that has made it impossible for him to see the computer screen for the past three years. He also likes to read newspapers on the Web.
For visually impaired Web users like DeSantis, the vertical columns on the Web present the biggest problem because screen readers pick up the information horizontally.
"You have to really know how to navigate around the screen," DeSantis said. "I imagine quite a few people might get frustrated. Sometimes it's just not worth the effort."
While screen readers help, Wunder said, "no screen reader has made the Web as easily accessible for the blind as for the sighted."
Even with top-of-the-line screen readers, Web pages have to have text explanations for graphics and icons or the visually impaired computer user cannot move.
"You get a screen, and it says, 'Image, image, image,'" Schmeidler said, quoting the sound her screen reader makes when the cursor hits an icon without accompanying text. "You have no idea how frustrating it is."
In addition to the advice on making a Web page accessible from the National Federation of the Blind and the Center for Applied Special Technology, the World Wide Web Consortium has a group of volunteer computer experts who are leading the Web Accessibility Initiative. The group's goal is to write guidelines for Web page authors who want to make their pages accessible for all disabled users. A rough draft of the recommendations can be found on the consortium's Web site.
"Everything is voluntary, and the documents are called recommendations," said Professor Gregg Vanderheiden, director of the Trace Research and Development Center at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a member of the group. But for businesses and government agencies, making sites accessible may not be voluntary, he said.
In a policy ruling in September, 1996, the Department of Justice said the Americans with Disabilities Act did cover access to Web pages.
"A Web site is an electronic front door," Vanderheiden said. "But blind users often have to let individual Web page authors know that they can't understand their pages.
"Sometimes people instantly go and fix it, and sometimes people don't care."
Blind users say they want basic instruction on how to navigate the Web and get what they want. They do not need long descriptions that are intended to help them see pictures or other graphics.
"Don't try to tell me how wonderful the Mona Lisa is," Wunder said. "You can't do that, but you can tell me how to get the picture and print it out for my daughter."
Then on March 29 the CBS program, "60 Minutes," devoted a segment, narrated by program co-host Lesley Stahl, to technology innovations assisting the disabled. Parts of the story dealt with various new wheelchair designs developed by users, but the largest portion was devoted to technology for blind people. CBS is nothing if not thorough. The three minutes or so devoted to Tim Cranmer's work and life were culled from more than three and a half hours of tape, much of it recorded at the National Center for the Blind. Tim's rather acid comment about the experience was that, if he had realized they were going to filter out all references to the National Federation of the Blind and eliminate his clarifications of simple statements, he would never have agreed to submit to the interview. Here is the transcript of the relevant segment of the story:
STAHL: (Voiceover) A blind person can't see when his coffee cup is filling up. But Tim Cranmer can, thanks to his own invention...
TIM CRANMER: It's a Say When.
(Footage of Cranmer with Stahl)
STAHL: (Voiceover) ...the Say When.
CRANMER: It lets you know when to stop pouring. So we put this over the thing.
CRANMER: And then we pour. (Beeping sound) There you are.
STAHL: Before you invented this...
STAHL: ...how would you know when you had gone to the top?
CRANMER: You dip a pinky over the top, and you burn your finger.
(Footage of Cranmer; Cranmer with Stahl; Braille 'n Speak;
Cranmer using Braille 'n Speak)
STAHL: (Voiceover) Tim Cranmer, blind from the age of nine, has come up with scores of inventions over the last forty years. Call him the Thomas Edison of devices for the blind. His crowning achievement is the Braille 'n Speak.
CRANMER: Open a file.
Computerized Voice: (From Braille 'n Speak) Option zero, one...
STAHL: (Voiceover) It's a powerfulbut very light, less-than-a-poundportable computer with a Braille keyboard that blind people carry with them everywhere.
STAHL: What have you stored in there? This is something you use. This is your own machine.
CRANMER: I use this every day, yes. I have my database in here, all the telephone numbers and addresses since 1976. (Footage of Cranmer with Stahl; Cranmer using Braille 'n Speak)
STAHL: (Voiceover) And his calendar, and a month's worth of reading.
STAHL: You could store a whole book in there, for instance?
CRANMER: Yes. I could store a novel. Right now I have the poetry of John Keats. That's just temporary. I'll erase that one of these days and replace it with War and Peace or something.
STAHL: (Voiceover) Anything he puts into the Braille 'n Speak can be retrieved instantly, either in a computer-generated voice...
CRANMER: I'll have it read that back.
Computer Voice: (From Braille 'n Speak) My name is Lesley Stahl.
STAHL: (Voiceover) ...or, with this advanced model, in Braille. These dots pop up and down on a display bar to form Braille letters.
CRANMER: Now, you see, there is your name spelled, L-E-S-L-E-Y, right there.
(Footage of Millicent Williams using Braille 'n Speak in class)
STAHL: (Voiceover) From home, to the business world, to the classroom, the Braille 'n Speak is erasing a lot of the You-can't-do-thats for the blind. Without it Millicent Williams would have a hard time keeping up with her classmates at Georgia State University. With it she's probably taking better notes than anyone else.
CRANMER: (Voiceover) They just type away in class.
STAHL: What? And then they go back to their room...
STAHL: ...and play it back?
CRANMER: They play it back. They search for things so that they can listen to specific items.
STAHL: This has to have made a...
CRANMER: That'sthat's right.
STAHL: ...an enormous difference...
CRANMER: An enormous difference.
STAHL: ...to people inin holding information.
CRANMER: I think it will be regarded as the most significant technology in the twentieth century for the blind. That's my feeling about it.
(Footage of Cranmer; Ted Henter water-skiing)
STAHL: (Voiceover) What Tim Cranmer has done with the Braille 'n Speak is helping blind people accomplish things society never expected of them. Ted Henter is another blind inventor who's demolishing stereotypes. Water-skiing is just his hobby, though he was world champion a few years back. His breakthrough invention is something called JAWS.
TED HENTER: JAWS is software that makes the computer talk.
(Footage of Henter with Stahl)
STAHL: (Voiceover) Ted was blinded twenty years ago in an auto accident. What did you do before?
HENTER: Before I was blinded?
HENTER: I was a motorcycle racer.
(Vintage footage of Henter's racing motorcycle.)
STAHL: (Voiceover) Clearly Ted Henter needed to find something else to do.
HENTER: (Voiceover) I was a sighted kid; I grew up with dreams. But once I was blinded, Inone of those were relevant anymore. Theythey weren't going to work for me. So I had to think up new dreams. So I had a few minutes of despair, but II got over it real quick. Ten minutes. And I realized...
STAHL: Ten minutes? No.
HENTER: Ten minutes of despair. Because then I realized, well, there have been blind people around for centuries. And I knew that what happened to me was for my own good. I knew something good was gonna come out of it. (Footage of Henter using computer with Stahl watching)
STAHL: (Voiceover) The good that came out of it was that Ted began studying computers. And before long he developed software that read computer text and turned it into speech.
COMPUTER VOICE: (From JAWS program) I have several other questions.
(Footage of man using computer)
STAHL: (Voiceover) With JAWS reading the computer screen, suddenly blind people, with a 70 percent unemployment rate, could compete for all kinds of jobs that used to be unthinkable.
HEATHER STUBBS: (On phone) FedEx. Heather Stubbs speaking, may I help you?
(Footage of Heather Stubbs; Stubbs using JAWS program for customer service call at FedEx)
STAHL: (Voiceover) If you call FedEx, you might get a blind customer service agent.
STUBBS: (On phone) Is this on a shipment that you're about to make?
STAHL: (Voiceover) You're in one ear of her headset asking her to track a package. The JAWS voice is in her other ear...
COMPUTER VOICE: (From JAWS program) Nine-one-three...
(Footage of computer screen)
STAHL: (Voiceover) ...telling her what's on the computer screen.
COMPUTER VOICE: (From JAWS program) T-R-A-C-E-apostrophe...
(Footage of FedEx employees)
STAHL: (Voiceover) FedEx has about a dozen blind employees working the phones using JAWS.
HENTER: You don't have to be limited by your blindness. You can go out and do these things. You can go to college. You can get a Ph.D. You can get a job as a computer programmer, as a software designer, as an attorney.
(Footage of computer screen using Windows)
STAHL: (Voiceover) Ted's biggest challenge has been Windows with all those icons and graphics. It's made computers much easier for most people, but how in the world can a blind person point and click?
HENTER: Windows was very, very difficult. When=FEwhen Windows came along andand companies started switching to it, blind people were losing their jobs. And we were getting calls all the time that "Hey, if you don't come out with a Windows product soon, I'm gonna lose my job." And a lot of people did.
STAHL: What you're saying is thatthat when the computer does something to make it easier for me, it's a disaster for blind people. I mean, the very progress that helps me hurts you.
HENTER: In many cases, yeah. And you have all these people that are creating vision-oriented systems, sight-oriented, then we have to come along andand make it work for someone who can't see.
(Footage of Henter; computer screen; man using computer)
STAHL: (Voiceover) Ted figured out a way to make Windows work for blind people. Now he's making the Internet accessible. But every day he and his team of programmers have to overcome new obstacles the sighted computer world throws their way. How often do you have to change your software 'cause there's a new problem out there?
HENTER: Wewe change it weekly.
HENTER: Allalmost daily, depending on the week. So we're constantly working on it.
(Footage of Henter's employees)
STAHL: (Voiceover) The "we" includes twenty other blind employees.
Unidentified Man #1: Open a start menu.
STAHL: (Voiceover) So if you're a blind customer using JAWS and you have a question; you're likely to get a blind technical support guy to answer it.
Unidentified Man #2: We just wanna really stay on fixing problems.
STAHL: If you were to choose a word to describe what this does to help a blind person or what your goal is, what would it be?
HENTER: I think "equality" is a good word.
This broadcast created quite a bit of comment in cyberspace. The Blazie listserv fielded a good deal of traffic, including some inquiry about the precise origins of the Braille 'n Speak. Deane Blazie, who certainly should know what happened and when, wrote the following e-mail explanation, which we include with an eye toward history. Here it is:
Monday, March 30, 1998
Subject: Who Invented the Braille 'n Speak?
I knew this would start a lot of discussion, and you'll probably hear a lot of replies from others about this.
The Kentucky Pocket Braille device was developed in the Kentucky Department for the Blind by Fred Gissoni. Without putting words into Fred's mouth, it was intended to be a reasonably priced, VersaBraille-like device. Fred noticed that, if you removed the keyboard circuit board from this device, you would have a notetaker without any output device. He and I and Tim Cranmer discussed this while I was at Maryland Computer Services, and we all agreed that, if you just added speech output, you could have a really nifty notetaker. When Maryland Computer Services was sold in 1986, I left and did consulting work. But I really wanted to get back into this industry, and I began developing the Braille 'n Speak in my basement. I took the Kentucky PocketBraille documentation, added speech, and changed the processor and memory circuits, and in July of 1987 I introduced the Braille 'n Speak at the NFB convention. Before that I consulted a lot with Tim and Fred on what it should look like. The first model was wedge-shaped because us sighted guys thought that Braille keyboards should be sloped like typewriter keyboardsDumb old sighted guys. So I fixed the case to be smaller and flat. I also sat with Fred and Tim, and we worked out the navigation chords so that they were mirror images. That was very significant, and it made the Braille 'n Speak a much better product.
By the way, Phil Hall was also instrumental in helping with the Braille 'n Speak. He did some of the speech programming. Another fellow, Bill Ashcraft, did the reverse Braille translator.
So you decide who invented the Braille 'n Speak. I certainly have no problem with Tim and Fred saying they invented it. Also don't forget that "60 Minutes" did more than four hours of interviews with Tim and only published about three minutes of it. I'm sure, if we heard the whole thing, it would be much clearer.
I'm just glad we are all around to have done it.
The concluding media examination of technology for the blind in the current go-round was a story that appeared in the Washington Post on Saturday, April 4. The story was apparently supposed to be a look at the Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) Web site, which the reporter seems to have been told was the only accessible one on the Internet. The reporter, Paul Valentine, had previously done stories about the NFB, so he contacted us for background information and got several fairly substantive interviews and demonstrations.
Despite the more balanced comments of Curtis Chong, director of the NFB Technology Department, and Richard Ring, director of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, the notion that the BISM Web site is something special has been spread fairly widely, both by BISM PR and by the Post article. When asked for a clear and objective description of the BISM site, Mr. Chong provided the following statement to the Braille Monitor:
I have looked at the BISM Web site, and I find it no better or worse than many others I have come across. I appreciate the description of pictures and the meaningful labels for hypertext links, and I think the text is formatted reasonably well. Web page designers would do well to adopt the BISM Web design approach.
However, for BISM to portray its site as anything unique or extraordinary (implying that many other sites are not as accessible), is both misleading and irresponsible. It is unfortunate that the Washington Post article which appeared on Saturday, April 4, characterized the BISM site as a "rarity in the cyber world." In point of fact, sites such as BISM's are not as rare as the article would lead one to believe. I have always maintained that good Web design should incorporate graphics and text in a meaningful way to everyoneblind and sighted alike. BISM has simply followed good design principles in developing its Web site.
With Mr. Chong's statement to provide perspective, here is the Washington Post story of April 4:
Helping the Blind Handle Computers
Technology Allows Greater Accessibility
by Paul W. Valentine
Washington Post Staff Writer
Richard Ring sat at his computer, tapping at the keyboard. He nimbly logged onto the Internet. A few more keystrokes and a query box popped onto the screen. Ring typed in the words "coral snake." Moments later the screen announced 738 hits.
Routine Net surfing? Hardly. Ring is blind, and his Internet voyage was accompanied by a voice synthesizer that talked him, keystroke by keystroke, through each step.
Ring, forty-seven, chief of international Braille and technology for the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore, is one of a growing number of the estimated 535,000 blind people nationwide who regularly use computers for work, education, and pleasure.
With technological breakthroughs occurring almost daily in text-to-voice scanners, Braille printers, and specially designed software to help overcome the barriers of icons and other graphics of the visually oriented World Wide Web, blind users are finding it increasingly easier to get on the information highway.
"There are lots of bumps on the road, but we're getting there," said Curtis Chong, the Federation's director of technology. "There are a lot of things on the Internet we still can't use, but more are becoming available."
Traditionally confined to books and other documents published in Braille or recorded on audiocassette tapes, the blind are being encouraged by the Federation and other organizations to develop computer skills, not only to enjoy the fruits of the Internet but also to enhance their employability in an increasingly computer-dependent work world.
Despite training and work facilities designed specifically for the blindsuch as Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, with manufacturing plants in Baltimore, Salisbury, and Cumberlandnationwide unemployment of the blind stands at 70 percent, according to Federation estimates.
Making computers user-friendly for blind people involves several mechanical and electronic adjustments. Fundamental among them is elimination of the mouse and replacement of all mouse functions with keystrokes.
The user then tabs up, down, and across the screen, using the directional arrow, enter, and other keys to manipulate the cursor. As the cursor moves, an electronic screen reader scans any text it encounters and sends signals to a synthesizer that converts the written words to voice. If the cursor is moving through a blank area of the screen, the voice synthesizer says "blank" with each keystroke until the cursor comes to a block of text, where it starts reading.
When Ring called up "coral snake," he tabbed to a document called "Everglades Coral Snake," and the voice began, in a steady monotone: "A coral snake has a black head with alternating red, yellow, and black stripes . . . ."
Ring and others say there are two major stumbling blocks in converting written language to voice on the computer screen: graphics and any text arranged in columns.
The device cannot read a graphic, such as an icon or photograph, and simply calls it a graphic, or it reads a coded image file name assigned to the graphic by Web site designers that sounds like gibberish, such as "pic-dot-gif."
To get around this, blind users can electronically label icons with brief descriptions that can be scanned by screen readers. With photographs and other more complex pictures Web sites must be specially designed with additional captions, or text descriptions, that translate image file names into simple terms such as "green globe of earth" or "Orioles logo." Few sites are designed with that feature.
Similarly, text arranged in columns is a problem because readers scan horizontally from left to right across the entire screen, rather than down one column at a time before going to the next. However, a small but growing number of sites are being designed to permit column-reading. Others have reformatted columnar texts to read left to right.
Still another feature helping the blind is a text-only button, which, when activated by the user, instructs the screen reader to skip graphics and send only text to the voice synthesizer.
To encourage the spread of special sites, the World Wide Web Consortium, a network of academic and computer-industry specialists based in Boston, recently started forming guidelines for Web page designers to make sites more accessible not only for the blind but for deaf and other disabled users.
Chong, of the National Federation of the Blind, hopes the word will spread. So many Web sites, especially commercial ones, he said, are cluttered with graphics that "make them look pretty and sell lots of products . . . but blind people can't use them."
Blind Industries and Services of Maryland in Baltimore recently opened a fully accessible site including graphicsa rarity in the cyber world. It contains information for both blind and sighted people, ranging from job openings and vocational training for the blind to lists of products manufactured and sold by Blind Industries, such as paper notepads, tote bags, floor care chemicals, and washcloths.
The site was specifically designed to include graphics, said Blind Industries spokeswoman Angela Hartley. "We didn't want just a plain boring screen because sighted people use the site as well," she said.
Creating the graphics-friendly site required "a lot of major revisions" of conventional Internet design concepts, said Steven Crawford, chief executive of Columbia-based Shore Studios, which designed the site at no cost to Blind Industries.
The Blind Industries site, though far outnumbered by more conventional ones, "helps to make a level playing field for everybody," said Daniel K. Woytowitz, head of Blind Industries' computer technology center.
Jennifer Cocnavitch, twenty-six, a student undergoing an eight-month computer course at the center, spoke hopefully of becoming an English teacher as her fingers glided over a classroom keyboard.
"Knowing how to use a computer and getting on the Internet are important" to getting a job, she said.
Organizations with blind-related Web sites and their
Internet addresses include the National Federation of the Blind,
<www.nfb.org>; Blind Industries and Services of Maryland,
<www.bism.com>; World Wide Web Consortium, <www.w3.org>; Trace
Research Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, which does
research in Internet accessibility for the disabled,
There you have a report on what the media have been saying in recent months. It hasn't always been accurate, but all in all, a lot of Americans know more today about the challenges facing blind computer users than they did at the start of the year, and that fact is bound to be constructive.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Curtis Chong]
Microsoft Promotes Accessibility
by Curtis Chong
From the Editor: In mid-February Curtis Chong, Director of the NFB's Technology Department, took part in a meeting organized by Microsoft. Here is his report:
On February 19 and 20, 1998, Microsoft, a key player in the personal computer software industry, hosted two days of activity dealing specifically with the subject of accessibility by persons with disabilities to its many software products. The first day, called Accessibility Day, was a concentrated effort to educate Microsoft employees about the value of accessibility. Employees and guests, including advocates from the disabled community, heard from Bill Gates, Microsoft's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, who talked about the importance of accessibility in a speech which was widely aired throughout the company. Microsoft employees were educated through panel discussions and direct contact with vendors of accessibility-related software and disability-community advocates. The advocates were introduced to Microsoft's five-point plan for accessibility.
The second day, called Advocate Day, consisted of in-depth discussions between key Microsoft product developers, consumers, and independent software vendors of access technology. Microsoft revealed some of its plans for future Windows operating systems; advocates had an excellent opportunity to talk with key product developers; and Microsoft received some feedback which it perhaps did not expect.
These are the bare and unadorned facts. However, readers of the Braille Monitor know there is a great deal of history behind the two-day event. Ever since Windows began to achieve prominence in the operating system marketplace, the blind have been very concerned that we would, in effect, be relegated to the technological backwaters of society. Screen-access technology for the blind was working quite well with the Disk Operating System (DOS) and with many popular text-based programs such as WordPerfect, dBASE, and the like. Because of this technology it became possible for blind people (in the late '80's and early '90's) to perform a greater variety of jobsparticularly those in which the computer was used for most of the work day and for which hiring a sighted reader was cost-prohibitive. However, as more and more companies began adopting the Windows operating system and the graphical applications which were supposed to increase productivity and reduce training costs, blind employees found themselves in a position where advances in technology for their sighted peers meant less access and lower productivity for them.
When Windows was first released, Microsoft did little to allay the justifiable concerns that were expressed at the time. In fact, Microsoft was regarded by many of us as a large part of the problem. It was not until 1995, when Microsoft conducted its first Accessibility Summit, that it became clear to the most die-hard skeptic that perhaps the company really was taking some small steps to deal with the accessibility problem for Windows and graphical applications.
From the summer of 1995 until the fall of 1997, it appeared that things were proceeding in a positive direction. Microsoft released its Active Accessibility application programming interface (a way for access technology and application programs to communicate more easily) and began promoting this interface to its own employees and to other companies in the computer industry. Then, in the fall of 1997, Microsoft released Internet Explorer Version 4.0. Because this program could not be used by the blindwe were able to use Internet Explorer Version 3.02 quite nicelya lot of people expressed sharp criticism of Microsoft for its failure to give proper attention to accessibility. All of the trust and good will that had been developed so painstakingly since 1995 seemed to evaporate, and overnight Microsoft became a target for frustration, criticism, and outright anger.
The company responded quickly by releasing Internet Explorer 4.01, but this newer release would not work with existing screen reading software because of a significant change made by Microsoft to the Active Accessibility component. It became clear that, unless significant changes were made to our screen-reading programs, we would not be using Internet Explorer Version 4 anytime soon.
When viewed in this context, it is easy to understand why it was highly desirable, from Microsoft's point of view, to sponsor a two-day accessibility event. To put it simply, its image within the community of the disabledparticularly the blindwas badly in need of repair.
Microsoft invited more than twenty individuals representing various constituencies within the disability community to the event. I myself attended, representing the National Federation of the Blind. Interestingly enough, of the more than twenty advocates attending the event, over a third were representing various aspects of the blindness field.
From my perspective there were four highlights of the two-day accessibility event at Microsoft:
1. The precedent-setting speech on accessibility by Microsoft
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bill Gates;
2. The unveiling to disability-community advocates of
Microsoft's five-point plan on accessibility;
3. The excellent opportunity for disabled advocates to engage
in frank discussions with key Microsoft product developers;
4. The unprecedented opportunity for Microsoft product
developers to meet with vendors of screen-access technology for the blind.
Bill Gates, Chairman and CEO of Microsoft, delivered a thirty-minute speech during Accessibility Day. The speech was presented live before several hundred employees, disability advocates, and other guests; and it was also viewed by more than a thousand other Microsoft employees, who were able to see and hear it using their desktop computers. Mr. Gates's presentation, which is a real first in access issues for the disabled, will doubtless be used by Microsoft supporters and detractors alike to demonstrate that the company either strongly supports or is only paying lip service to accessibility. The fact is that Mr. Gates did deliver a company-wide speech and that the sole topic of that speech was access to Microsoft products.
From my perspective what is perhaps most significant about Mr. Gates's remarks are his admissions that Microsoft (1) did not pay enough attention to the impact of the graphical user interface on the visually impaired and (2) took a step backward by releasing Internet Explorer Version 4.0 with fewer accessibility features than its predecessor, Version 3.02.
Mr. Gates made a couple of statements which may give credence to a more cynical interpretation of Microsoft's interest in accessibility. He said:
I think there's no doubt that legislation and regulations are going to be looking at these areas [accessibility]. We want to make sure we get out there with solutions way, way before that happens.
Saying that "accessibility is important to Microsoft," Gates summarized his remarks as follows:
And I think the basic message here is the one that's really at the core of what Microsoft believes in, and that's this idea that PC's will benefit everyone.
Mr. Gates alluded to Microsoft's new plan to deal with accessibility. The plan was discussed at a dinner meeting with the disability-community advocates. Here are the five major elements of the plan:
1. Enhance accessibility requirements in the Design for the
Windows Logo program.
2. Create an accessibility checklist for product groups.
3. Improve the accessibility of key products.
4. Establish an advisory council.
5. Allocate additional resources.
At this stage no one knows precisely how the plan will evolve. Advocates were told that the Microsoft Accessibility Team would be almost tripled in size and that, once a checklist was established, every single product review would deal with the question of accessibility. We were told that the position of Director of Accessibility would be established and that Greg Lowney, a long-time champion of accessibility issues within the Microsoft organization, would fill that position.
Advocates from the disability community were told about the product-access review boards which Microsoft was attempting to organize. We were told that a product-access review board had already been set up to review new releases of Microsoft software to determine their accessibility to blind persons or persons with low vision. Interestingly enough, none of the major blindness organizations were asked to participate on these boards. We later learned that the chairman of the blindness-product-access review Board was Mary Otten, a blind person working in the Washington, D.C., area. However, we could not learn the names of other Board participants. As it turned out, when Microsoft wanted to organize the blindness-product-access review board, it turned to Jamal Mazrui, who is a policy analyst for the National Council on Disabilitya governmental agency which has made no secret of its desire to subsume separate and identifiable programs for the blind into the general rehabilitation system.
Microsoft representatives stated on more than one occasion that these review boards were neither organized nor controlled by Microsoft and were serving as independent entities in their own right. From my perspective Microsoft may have been well intentioned when it set about the task of creating the product-review boards, but it failed to understand and take into account the politics in the blind community. For one thing, its failure to solicit the participation of the major players within the blindness community only heightened the level of cynicism and mistrust toward the company. For another, its appointment of an employee of a largely discredited governmental agency will cast doubt upon the efficacy of the board. One cannot help wondering if the company will make similar grievous mistakes when it tries to organize its advisory council.
Turning to the second day of the event, Advocate day, we spent most of the time conducting serious, in-depth discussions with key product developers. We talked about future versions of Windows (Windows 98 and Windows/NT Version 5); future releases of Microsoft Office (word processing, spread sheet, and office-application development software); and Internet Explorer. Often we were told that it was difficult to retrofit what some people called "legacy code," but that programmers were working hard to solve the problems and issues we raised. In many instances we were told that, if we would just wait until 1999 or the year 2000, this or that problem would be taken care of in a future release. We heard about the development cycle and were told that a good ideaeven if it were accepted todaycould take as long as eighteen months to be turned into live code that would run on a user's personal computer.
Some of the plans in the works for future versions of Windows are worth mentioning here. If things go according to plan, Windows 98, which everyone expects to come out some time this year, will have a built-in screen magnifier and something called an Accessibility Settings Wizard (a way to simplify setting up the computer with some features that will make it more accessible). The next version of Windows/NT, probably Version 5, will have all of these features plus a basic speech-output screen reader and an on-screen keyboard capability.
Neither blind consumers nor the screen-access vendors for the blind were enthusiastic about the screen magnifier and speech-based screen reader. Companies such as Artic Technologies, which sells Magnum screen enlargement software, and AI Squared, maker of Zoomtext for DOS and Windows, expressed strong concern about the plan. Apparently there is a strong concern about Microsoft's encroaching on the disability market. Many of the advocates did not like the term "screen reader" when used to refer to what is actually a very limited-function talking utility which doesn't read the screen at all but receives its data through the Active Accessibility interface. It was clear, however, that despite what was being said, Microsoft's plans in this area were already well formed. I was left with the distinct impression that we were not going to cause any significant changes by the comments we made.
Disability-community advocates, many of them blind, made some pretty frank statements during the wrap-up session. A lot of people said that Microsoft had not done enough and had not produced concrete results as soon as it should have. Some people alluded to the Accessibility Summit, which took place more than two years ago and opined that things really hadn't changed much since then. As with the previous meeting, most people said that they were leaving with two distinct feelings: major frustration and very cautious optimism.
Before concluding this article, I think it would be worthwhile to try to convey my overall impression of the accessibility event at Microsoft. When I first went to Redmond, I was fully prepared to participate in a well-orchestrated public relations exercise in which Microsoft would put forward some of its ideas for accessibility and then gauge the reaction of key advocates in the disability community. Indeed Microsoft met all of my expectations in this regard.
Unfortunately, I did not get any answers to the very real problems of today. As of this writing Internet Explorer Version 4 still doesn't work with screen-access technology for the blind. Although we can use Microsoft Word to write basic text and even to perform spell checking, the fact is that Word is still not our word processor of choice when compared to some of the older software we used in years gone by and sometimes continue to use. Unfortunately every new Microsoft application we hear about is more likely to be a barrier to access than something exciting and worthwhile.
Of course all is not gloom and doom on the Microsoft front. Although it is not as much as many of us might like, some real progress has been made within the company to further the accessibility agenda. As I hope I have explained in this report, recognition of the importance of accessibility has moved up the corporate hierarchy. The company now has a formal plan and a higher level position dedicated to promoting accessibility efforts; it is not a vice presidential position, but it is better than anything that the company has had before. Key products are planned to be more accessibleif we can wait for a couple of years. Bill Gates himself has underscored the importance of accessibility to Microsoft products. And blind people today can and do use Windows 95.
From the perspective of the blind person struggling with today's software to keep a job, this is scant comfort. What comes to mind is the age-old question, "Oh Lord, how much longer must we wait?" If the Microsoft Accessibility and Advocate Days of February 19 and 20 are an indication, we will have to wait for another couple of years at least before the average blind computer user sees any real progress.
Deaf-Blind Woman Wins Lawsuit
Against Continental Airlines
by Douglas Parker
From the Editor: The National Federation of the Blind was instrumental in persuading Congress to pass the Air Carrier Access Act in the mid-eighties. Although the regulations finally promulgated by the U.S. Department of Transportation were not all that we and members of Congress had intended them to be, the act has provided protections for disabled people in the years since its passage. The following article was written by one of the attorneys who argued a recent case in which the right of a deaf-blind woman to travel independently was upheld by a jury. It is good to know that this law we fought to pass is doing some good and that airlines are being forced to learn again the lesson that they cannot make up rules concerning the disabled just because they find it convenient not to deal with us. Here is what Mr.
Winnie Tunison, a Silver Spring, Maryland, resident who is deaf-blind, recently won an important victory in a lawsuit against Continental Airlines. The lawsuit was filed under the Air Carrier Access Act (49 U.S.C. Section 41705) (the ACAA); it establishes an important civil rights precedent for persons with disabilities.
Mrs. Tunison, a recent grandmother and communications major at Gallaudet University in Washington, is an experienced airline passenger who has frequently traveled alone. She is fluent in English and ASL and reads Braille. In August of 1996 she flew alone from Washington, D.C., to Newark, New Jersey, on Continental Airlines en route to visit her daughter in Providence, Rhode Island. At Newark she was met by an airline employee who knew some sign language and who assisted her in getting to the gate for her connecting flight. There was no suggestion that she needed to have an attendant or have anyone else accompany her during the flight. Once she boarded her connecting flight, however, she was approached by an airline employee and told that the airline's policy prohibited her from flying unattended. The airline wanted her to get off the plane and wait at Newark until she could get someone to fly with her. After an hour's delay, and over Mrs. Tunison's protests, the airline found an off-duty flight attendant to sit with her (but not communicate with her) for the duration of the flight.
When she got to Providence, she called the airline and was told that she would not have to have an attendant when she flew back to Washington. After a two-week visit in Providence, however, Mrs. Tunison went to the airport for her return flight, only to be told that an airline attendant must travel with her on the flight back to Washington. The airline also told her that in the future she would have to have an attendant and that she would not be able to fly alone.
Upon returning home, she sent a letter to the airline discussing the legal regulations that the airlines must follow and asking the airline to clarify its policies. When she received no response to that letter, she filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington.
The lawsuit raised an important question about the rights of deaf-blind persons, and persons with disabilities generally, under the Air Carrier Access Act. Under the ACAA regulations adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 1990, an airline can require a person with a disability to travel with an attendant only under certain narrow circumstances. Specifically the regulations (14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Section 382.35) permit an airline to require a passenger with both "severe hearing and severe vision impairments" to travel with an attendant only if the passenger "cannot establish some means of communication with carrier personnel, adequate to permit transmission of the safety briefing" required by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules. If the airline and the passenger disagree over the need for an attendant, the airline must pay for the attendant.
After the case was filed, Continental Airlines took the position that, even if a deaf-blind person can communicate well enough to understand the initial FAA-required safety briefing, the crew can still find that they might have difficulty communicating in an emergency and can therefore require an attendant. In short, the airline said that it could ignore the specific requirements of the regulations wherever it was concerned about a passenger's safety in the event of an evacuation.
Mrs. Tunison's attorneys argued that the airline's position flew in the face of the very carefully drafted regulations concerning attendants and would expose deaf-blind persons to arbitrary and irrational treatment. They were also concerned that, if an airline can apply a generalized concern about safety to undercut a provision as specific as Section 382.35, it might be able to do so in interpreting other provisions as well. If the airline had prevailed on this point, many of the protections built into the ACAA regulations would unravel.
The case was tried before a jury in federal court in Washington, D.C., last November. After a four-day trial the jury found that the airline had violated the ACAA regulations. Consistent with instructions on the applicable law provided by the judge, the jury upheld Mrs. Tunison's position that an airline cannot ignore the specific language of the regulations and substitute its own speculation about what might be safe. Her position was reinforced by the U.S. Department of Transportation itself, which agreed with her interpretation of the regulations and began an inquiry into Continental's policies. As a result of that inquiry, we understand Continental has now revised its training materials and staff manuals.
While the jury did not award Mrs. Tunison any monetary damages, the case established an important point of law: airlines must comply with the ACAA regulations and cannot substitute their own judgments about safety for the requirements imposed by the government regulations. The case also showed that deaf-blind people have important rights when they travel, that they do not have to accept demeaning treatment from airlines, and that they can use the federal courts to enforce their civil rights.
For further information about this case or about the Air
Carrier Access Act, contact Mrs. Tunison's attorneys, Sunil
Mansukhani and Douglas L. Parker, at the Institute for Public
Representation, Georgetown University Law Center, 600 New Jersey
Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001, (202)662-9535, voice, and
(202)662-9538, TTY, or by e-mail at <email@example.com>
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Laurel Buck]
A Sad Reminder
From the Editor: All of us have had the painful experience of having someone dismiss us as unimportant or insignificant or incompetent simply because the person didn't bother to focus sufficient attention on us to see the truth. It happens to blind people all the time, but it occurs to other people as well. Because it is such a common experience for us, it seems to me that I should be less inclined to dismiss other people out of hand than those who rarely have to fight to be taken seriously themselves.
At last summer's convention I conducted several meetings in which a woman named Laurel Buck took part. Once she even called and left a message on my hotel room telephone, but I never returned the call. She spoke haltingly and with little inflection to her voice. I found it difficult to listen to her words long enough to catch her meaning. I knew nothing about her, not even where she came from, and I didn't take the time to find out or even answer her questions with attention.
As it happened, Laurel was dealing with massive problems stemming from head injuries she sustained in a car accident. She had already adjusted to losses I can't even conceive of, and just to go on with her life, she had to muster courage and determination every day that I can only imagine.
I did nothing to compound Laurel's problems, but neither did I extend myself to get to know her or offer her encouragement. Now it is too late to do so. But it is not too late to remember her whenever I meet someone else who is carrying a particularly heavy load. Laurel committed suicide on New Year's Eve. There are many others in our Federation family and beyond who deal with problems every day that would stagger me. I for one have been reminded to be more alert to both the needs and abilities of those I meet. Here is the moving story about Laurel Buck by Susan Levine that appeared in the February 4, 1998, edition of the Washington Post:
Ending the Struggle To Rebuild Her Dream
Laurel Buck Saw Life as an Adventure, But a Car Crash
Forced an Uphill Journey
by Susan Levine
At 10:35 p.m. on New Year's Eve, miles away from the pricey hotel party for which she and her boyfriend had paid weeks before and an eternity away from the future that had held such promise, a Rockville woman named Laurel Buck was pronounced dead at Suburban Hospital. She was thirty-four.
On his report the medical examiner wrote "suicide." Sometime the previous day Buck had swallowed forty-five shiny blue-and-yellow capsules of Verapamil, a drug often used to lower blood pressure. Each was 240 milligrams strong and built to detonate round-the-clock. By the time she confessed her action and handed her boyfriend a note saying that "nothing particular happened," the pills had been in her body for hours.
Of course something had happened, although it had occurred nearly a decade earlier as Buck made an ill-timed left turn and was broadsided just two miles from her parents' home in Prince George's County. Those who knew her well wonder now if suicide was the inevitable, tragic consequence of that moment, which fractured her face, destroyed much of her vision, and led to major brain injury. At the least her overdose became the final chapter of her struggle to rebuild her damaged body, to prove she still had value.
"She really, really wanted to participate in society, and she wanted to be productive," said a friend, Judy Rasmussen. What Buck apparently saw as her inability to do so should be a lesson for others, her brother Rick believes.
"Society," he said, "must do more to let marginal people live non-marginal lives."
Once she had been far different, an independent, adventurous spirit who delighted in the experience of life. She spent her junior year of high school in Japan and scaled Mount Fuji. She moved on to Bryn Mawr College, tried her hand at both wrestling team statistician and radio deejay, and graduated as a smart but unfocused geology major.
In 1985 she joined the Peace Corps, teaching in the parched land of Botswana. For two years a hut was her home, a washtub turned upside down her table. When she wasn't with her students, she hitchhiked across that country and much of southern Africa, lugging a village chieftain's chair all the way to Cape Town so she could take it to her parents one Christmas. She laughed generously. She could tell a joke in four languages.
But on July 23, 1988, having finally returned from her far-flung wanderings, the world shattered as she turned her beloved '67 Mustang off Indian Head Highway on the way home from the library. With only a lap belt for protection, her head smashed violently against the dashboard. The damage would be tremendous and largely permanent.
There was the loss of her right eye, of any sense of smell and taste. She stumbled often with a badly unbalanced gait; her rapid-fire speech became laboriously slow and slurred.
And though she eventually recovered speed and clarity, unnatural pauses between her words prevented them from flowing smoothly, which many people took as a cue to finish sentences for her. Even worse was when they listened too briefly and, Buck felt, concluded that she was stupid. As a final cruelty last year the already minimal vision in her left eye began deteriorating rapidly.
Yet, through more than six months of hospitalization and nearly two years of special rehabilitation, her humor remained intact; her intellect survived; and, according to friends and family, so did her matter-of-fact way of dealing with adversity and her dogged determination to be part of life. In the early '90's, Buck pushed herself to move out on her own. She maneuvered the Metro alone and tried white water rafting and skiing. Despite her arrhythmic speech, she went with the local chapter of the Federation of the Blind to lobby legislators in Annapolis.
She also held a job as a computer assistant at the National Naval Medical Center, a position that meant much more to her than a paycheckperhaps too much, as it turned out.
"She didn't let herself off the hook," Noreen O'Grady, a friend from Peace Corps days, reflected last week.
There'd been nothing dark or brooding about her before the crash, and until she came home from work on the afternoon of December 30, few saw any hint of a well of despair. "It's almost as if I had a daughter who was quite unique," said her mother, Nancy Buck, "and then I had another daughter who was also unusual. And now they're both gone."
Two memorial services were held in January for Laurel Susan Buck, one at a small country church not far from where her parents now live in Anne Arundel County, the other at the medical center chapel in Bethesda.
"It is not my place or yours to judge the heart of another person," the minister told her family and the nearly five dozen men and women gathered at the church service two Saturdays ago. They'd traveled from Vermont, California, Nebraska, and New York, friends from college, from the Peace Corps, from the Federation. Her Braille teacher came, as did another head-injury victim Buck had once encouraged.
The distance of time was reflected in the stories shared, but nobody appeared surprised by any of the tales. One person recalled how Buck had gotten her pilot's license and soloed over the Chesapeake Bay the summer after finishing college. Tina Vine drew laughter when she described Buck's sense of style in Botswana. "Who else would even think of taking fishnet stockings, lace gloves, and a clutch purse?" Vine asked.
Memories also were volunteered at the other service, but most people at the Naval Medical Information Management Center knew far less about the woman who had tried to work alongside them for nearly six years. They were not aware of Buck's deepening frustration over how little she seemed to be given to do. In the absence of other tasks she tried to take charge of certain responsibilities. Every morning in the kitchen for her section, she would practice making the coffee and refilling the ice trays.
She sensed that some employees shied away from her. Some were more polite than others. Lieutenant Commander Andrew Porter acknowledges painfully conflicted feelings about her extreme disabilities. He was the administrative officer whom Buck approached last fall for help in getting some computer equipment designed for the visually impaired. The order accidentally got set aside and then forgotten, and not until mid-December was it delivered to her office. It is unclear whether it was ever installed at her desk.
"I felt terribly guilty," Porter said last week. "In the back of my mind I'd like to think you have a chance to really change someone's life, to really give them hope, to really inspire them. I had that chance with Laurel, and through my...failure to take up her cause, I contributed to the mess."
Certainly she had several close colleagues, who were stunned by her suicide. Her supervisor, Zahur Alum, describes her as a "very special person." Her friend Alice Barkley says she misses Buck terribly. Nearly every morning Buck would stop by Barkley's cubicle for confirmation that her clothes looked all right. She joined Barkley's Wednesday lunchtime Bible study, and many evenings Barkley gave her a ride to her Grosvenor high-rise.
"She made me learn to listen," Barkley said. "I don't know of anyone who could have reconstructed her life as many times as she had." Maybe, Barkley suggests finally, "she just got tired of the fight and the battle."
In a corner near the front door of the condo Buck shared with Sean Sullivan, the long and slender opaque wand with which she made her way in the world still leans against the wall. On the floor, neatly paired, are her low black suede pumps, exactly where she put them when she walked in from work December 30.
"It's like I'm waiting for her to come home," he said.
The two had been together since 1992, and the forty-seven-year-old Sullivan, a country club groundskeeper, asked Buck to marry him on more than one occasion. As it was, they frequently struck friends as a comfortably married couple. He was solicitous, protective. "I accepted her for what she was," he explained. "To me she was complete."
Sullivan feels certain that suicide had been an option, however remote, for years. Although Buck never voiced any bitterness or complaintsno regrets about the Foreign Service career she might have pursued"it was so painful and so difficult [for her] to accept what life had become," he said. At the same time he wants to believe that her overdose was a rash impulse and that a remark she made in the hospital emergency room about changing her mind meant, too late, that she wanted to pull back. If his crosscurrents of thought sound contradictory, he says, well, conflicting emotions and agendas run through many lives.
Still, like the others grieving Buck's death, he is haunted by questions. Why or, more specifically, why now? In the last few weeks she had seemed even more beaten down by day's end. She had worried aloud to her mother recently that her memory seemed shakier.
On the other hand, the night before she had gone shopping at White Flint Mall for a sweater to match jewelry that Sullivan had given her for Christmas. She was looking for something in green cashmere. She was excited about their New Year's Eve plans.
Then he picked her up at work that Tuesday, and within an hour the world collapsed.
"She kept on pushing and pushing and pushing." Richard Buck, a pleasant but reticent man, views the youngest of his three children as a kind of Sisyphus. "She kept on pushing the rock up the mountain...and the rock finally rolled back on her."
Ultimately his daughter must have assessed her limitations in similarly bleak terms. In the contents of her desk at work five years of hopes and disappointments that were returned to her parents that afternoon of their memorial service for herher mother found a poem. She is sure Laurel is its author.
I saw the end of the world
On my TV last night;
It preempted the National Anthem.
I watched it half dazed
Through popcorn and beer;
Stunned by the color of death unfurled.
When the time was over,
No announcer came on
To tell me what was not left to feel.
So I smiled a tear;
And saluted the heroes
Who evolved to make gods.
Jesus, why did You forsake me when the power went off?
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Deborah Kent Stein]
The Optacon: Past, Present, and
by Deborah Kent Stein
From the Editor: Several times in recent years we have published articles lamenting Telesensory's decision to discontinue production of the Optacon. Here is Deborah Kent Stein's discussion of this essential tool in her life. The article first appeared in the September issue of DIGIT-EYES: The Computer Users' Network News, published by the Blind Service Association of Chicago. It is reprinted here by permission. Debbie Stein is First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. This is what she says:
Like most blind people of my generation, I grew up with the futuristic dream of the "reading machine." I had no idea what this magical invention would look like or how it would work its miracles. But somehow it would grant me entrance to the bookshelves of the world. I would have the freedom to read whatever I wanted and needed without waiting on the whim of some busy human intermediary.
For me the dream came true in the summer of 1977, when I obtained my first Optacon through Associated Services for the Blind in Philadelphia. I spent two weeks in Optacon training at ASBthe standard time required by Telesensory Systems, Inc., the machine's manufacturer. A special grant obtained through the dedication of ASB's Fred Noesner covered 75 percent of the then-astronomical $3,400 cost, bringing the purchase price within the range of most consumers. My dream machine proved to be compact, lightweight, and highly portable. The main unit contained a template or "array" with 144 tiny pins. Connected to the main unit by a slender cable was a camera lens the size and shape of a mini-flashlight. I learned to track the lens across a printed line with my right hand while resting my left forefinger lightly upon the array. The pins of the array vibrated to create a tactile image of each letter viewed by the lens. I could literally feel everything on the printed page.
As soon as I began using the Optacon, I made startling discoveries. I learned that italicized letters are slightly tilted, that chapter titles are sometimes offset with wavy lines or curlicues, that Penguin Books uses a tiny penguin logo while Borzoi Books marks its title pages with a running dog, that the first letter of the first word of a chapter is usually so large it reaches down to the second or third line. I had survived very nicely without knowing these things. Still such details are an integral part of the world of printthe world from which most people gather so much information and pleasure.
Without a doubt reading with the Optacon was slow. Through steady practice I built my speed to about 100 words per minute, compared with my Braille-reading speed of 250 words per minute or more. But reading speed was not the issue. What mattered was access, and the Optacon provided that. Books, newspapers, magazines, catalogues, bills, record jackets, and the recipes on boxes of cake mixthe barriers were down, and suddenly everything was within reach. For the first time friends lent me their favorite books, sent me clippings, and dared to share their private thoughts in typewritten letters.
"So what's the first thing that machine helped you do?" my aunt asked when I brought the Optacon home from Philadelphia.
"I cleaned out my purse," I told her. It was true. I didn't plunge straight into the latest bestseller. I emptied my purse onto the couch and sorted through several weeks' accumulation of receipts, theater programs, ticket stubs, and random scraps. In the past I would have had to wait for the opportune moment with some patient friend or paid reader who could help me weed out the debris. Perhaps I might simply have taken the matter into my own hands, dumping everything into the wastebasket and hoping I wasn't losing some crucial phone number or appointment slip. Now, with the Optacon, I could check each questionable paper and dispose of it as I saw fit, on my own time, without having to let anyone else glimpse the rat's nest my purse had become.
I have had a Kurzweil scanner since 1990. I no longer use the Optacon for reading full-length books as I often did in the past. But the scanner has never replaced the Optacon in any other regard. They are both tools for accessing print, but each has its own unique strengths and limitations. The scanner can read quickly through large blocks of standard print. It enables me to store material on diskette for future reference, thus building up a small library of books and articles. But the scanner has strong views on what standard print really is. Poor to moderately well-xeroxed copies, most newsprint, all faxes, print that is unusually small or exceptionally largeall call forth the maddening message: "Page too difficult, may be upside down!" Pages with more than one column may be read accurately, as long as the space between the columns isn't too narrow. Italicized words often turn into strings of "unrecognized characters." And anything handwritten, no matter how clearly, is totally out of bounds.
With the Optacon, on the other hand, the only limits are my time and patience. With a bit of both I can read virtually anything. Cursive handwriting is the only holdout; I can usually read handwriting if people print. I can also examine charts and tables and can puzzle out simple line drawings and maps. The underlying fact is that the scanner interprets what it perceives, often in its own idiosyncratic fashion. The Optacon shows me what is on the page and allows me to interpret for myself.
When I got the Optacon twenty years ago, I believed it would be available to blind people for as long as civilization endured. I never imagined that the company that created and marketed this extraordinary instrument would one day renounce it as obsolete. But by the mid 1980's TSI (the descendant of Telesensory) had moved on to other, more lucrative products. It promoted the Optacon, even the newest model, with waning enthusiasm. In 1996 came the dreaded proclamation. The Optacon would no longer be manufactured. Old machines will be serviced "until the turn of the century," unless the parts run out sooner. The Optacon is an essential part of my life. In my work as a freelance writer I turn to it a hundred times in the course of the dayto check a page number for a footnote, to make sure the margins are correct on a printed page, to check whether my printer needs a fresh ribbon.
Beyond my working life the Optacon is just as important. I can browse through gift catalogues before Christmas and birthdays. I can sort the mail and read the pieces that are addressed to me. I can use the dictionary, the encyclopedia, and even the Yellow Pages. Without the Optacon I could not do any of these things independently. Each of these small but necessary tasks, plus dozens and dozens more, could be done only with another person's assistance.
The Optacon has given blind people a level of autonomy and flexibility unparalleled in history. Yet that gift is being withdrawn. That sense of freedom, that knowledge that print poses no barriers, may be lost to future generations. As a devoted Optacon user I belong to a minority within the blind community. We spend a lot of time worrying, raging, strategizing, and mourning. We stockpile used machines, buying them up at every opportunity. With renewed hope we pursue each rumor that another company will buy up parts, will service old machines, will build new ones. We tell each other that something has to be done. We try to carry that message to the world.
For the most part the response is not encouraging. We are told that the Optacon brought blind people into the age of technology, but its day is done. It will be remembered fondly, like the party line and the wind-up Victrola. After all, no company wants to invest in a dead-end productin technology without a future.
Right now the blind community is focused upon another technological crisis. Looming before us is the growing use of graphics in household products that were once accessible with easemicrowave ovens, tape decks, VCR's, clocks, and even telephones. How can we continue to compete in this increasingly icon-oriented world?
Programmers are employing all their wizardry to make these new gadgets talk to us. They're struggling to turn each new icon into speech. To some extent they have been successful. But every new gadget requires tampering; each manufacturer must be bargained with. The struggle looks to be endless. According to the proverb, a picture is worth a thousand words. At best speech is an awkward medium with which to represent graphics. One often needs to know the layout of the screen, where the image appears, and how it changes when a button is pressed.
Surely there is another approach to the whole problem, one that does not depend on speech at all. Why not develop a device to enable blind people to read the screen tactually? Why not turn visual graphics into tactile images?
This notion is not as farfetched as it may sound. For more than two decades Optacon users have been reading computer screens with a specially-designed lens attachment. The Optacon has proved highly useful for navigating in Windows and other graphically-based environments. Couldn't this technology be enhanced to meet the challenges before us? Instead of trying to make each new gadget talk, we could carry a simple hand-held device that would enable us to read any screen we encounter, whether on an ATM machine or the new clothes dryer. The Optacon was at the cutting edge of technology when it appeared in the early 1970's. Instead of tossing that technology onto the rubbish heap, let us carry it forward and see what the future may bring.
For my part, I just want to go on reading my mail and cleaning out my own purse. Those may seem like small things, but they have a lot to do with large issuessuch as privacy, dignity, and self-respect.
(Deborah Kent Stein is a nationally-known freelance writer. Among her more than fifteen books available through the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped are Belonging, Jody, Ohio, One Step at a Time, and Te Amo Means I Love You.)
Raising the Bar: First Time at
by Dan Burke
From the Editor: People who have attended National Conventions know what an astonishing impact that first experience can have on a life, but it's hard to convey to those who have never taken their courage in both their hands and decided to go what a difference that week of inspiration, information, and friendship can make in their lives. They can easily conceive of all sorts of problems, real and imagined, that might befall them: lost luggage, masses of strangers, inability to find meetings or restaurantsyou know the list. It doesn't matter how many times experienced Federationists explain that luggage gets found, that there are no strangers at an NFB convention, and that anyone who isn't lost will stop and help those who are. One simply has to go and experience it all firsthand.
These are logistical matters that can at least be discussed. What such people cannot begin to understand is the impact they will feel from the challenge and inspiration they find at a convention. It changes lives and brings hope and determination where they were absent. We stand a little straighter, try a little harder, set our goals a little higher.
Dan Burke is one of the leaders of our Montana affiliate. He attended his first National Convention in 1997. He wrote about the experience in the spring issue of The Observer, the organization's newsletter. This is what he said:
In New Orleans last summer the National Federation of the Blind broke its own convention attendance record: well over 3,000 blind people from across the United States, from Canada, and from around the world came to New Orleans. That was an organizational best, setting the bar a bit higher for future conventions to better. But I embraced a personal challengeraising the bar of what I expect of myself as a blind person.
As I left high school and moved through college more than two decades ago, the wisdom spoken around me was to take the safe route, forget about childhood dreams, ignore the heart. Both my parents and my counselor for the blind in Colorado truly wanted the best for me, but my discussions with them left me with the distinct impression that the rules were different for me because I was blind, or rather because I would become blind. At the time I didn't know any better. It would be a long time before I began to realize that what needed to be different was what I thought about being blind, not about what I wanted for myself.
I struggled through college in four years, passing as a sighted person, but always afraid of being discovered and feeling the embarrassment of inadequacy at my inability to function as a sighted student. After college I put my sheepskin in a drawer and set off aimlessly on what turned out to be a downward-spiraling series of unsatisfying jobs. I skipped my ten-year high school reunion. Though I was bound for graduate school the next fall, I felt my life was at an all-time low and just beginning on its upward turn. The facts were, as I saw it that summer, that I had accomplished nothing, was on Social Security, had just become a father, and was more broke than I had ever been in my life.
I was finally heading into a rehabilitation career, but by default. Frankly I didn't have the confidence to attempt anything else, and like so many who feel little personal power to help their own circumstances, I decided the thing I needed to do was to help others.
The attitude that I must accept less than I wanted began to change, though. And by the time I landed in New Orleans last summer, I was hungry for confirmation that blindness need not mean giving up on dreams, giving up on achieving beyond the expectations of family, friends, neighbors, and rehabilitation professionals. And I found what I was looking for.
I was impressed with many thingsthe many divisions, such as Braille, merchants, lawyers, scientists and techno-geeks, writers, and journalists. The many professions introduced in general sessions or smaller division meetings made the greatest impression on me. The scholarship winners especially intrigued and excited me because among their many academic disciplines were several I had ruled out when I was younger as closed to a blind person. We heard from a surgeon (who once lived in Missoula!) who found his way back into employment after becoming blind, working as a consultant. I talked to a woman working on her master of fine arts in creative writing and teaching courses as well. One of the scholarship candidates was completing study as a dinosaur paleontologist. The vocational rehabilitation program in Nebraska helped a blind man fulfill his dream of becoming a truckernot to drive, but to begin a successful trucking company.
Admittedly there was a time in my life when hearing about such successful blind people would have terrified me. It would have made me confront my own feelings about my blindness and the insecurity I felt. It would have raised the bar, the level of expectations for achievement, that didn't fit with my lack of confidence in myself. Now, however, I am tickled pink to carry my white cane. The news carrier can hear my Perkins Brailler thunking away at 5:30 in the morning as I compose poems in Braille.
In the end the talk I had with a man from Iowa, a scholarship finalist who was working on his doctorate in clinical psychology, summed it up best for me. His chief area of interest, he told me, was in examining how the way we feel affects the way we think. Of course, I thought to myself, if I feel depressed or embarrassed or useless because I can't see, then I will think there is little open to me because I can't see. But when I can begin to feel that blindness isn't the problem, I can begin to think in terms of possibilities, begin to expect more and work harder for what I want. I can raise the bar higher and higher for myself.
So since the convention last July that's what I have done.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Elizabeth Campbell]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The Fort Worth skyline]
by Elizabeth Campbell
From the Editor: The following article is the last pre-convention offering from the Texas affiliate. In just a few weeks we will be gathering for the 1998 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, and you don't want to miss it. President Maurer is hard at work on the convention agenda, and you already know from recent Monitor articles just how much activity is planned around official agenda items. So if you haven't yet made your hotel reservation, do it today. Call the Hyatt Regency DFW at (972) 453-1234; do not call the Hyatt's national toll-free number because reservations made through it will not be honored. Convention room rates are singles, $41; doubles and twins, $43; triples, $45; and quads, $47. As far as we now know, the tax will be 12 percent. The first full day of pre-convention activities is Saturday, July 4, and the closing gavel falls at 5 p.m. Friday, July 10.
Liz Campbell is the President of the Fort Worth Chapter of the NFB of Texas and a reporter for the Fort Worth Star Telegram. As you will read, she knows a good bit about the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area. This is what she says:
Howdy y'all! This is how native Texans and transplants alike welcome our friends to a state which many say is like visiting a whole other country.
Indeed, the state has everything from beaches along the Gulf Coast to mountains in west Texas. You won't have time to travel to other parts of Texas, though, because your visit to the bustling Dallas/Fort Worth area will give you so many choices that it will be difficult to decide which local attractions you, your family, and friends should choose during your free hours. So we'd better get started on our journey.
The Dallas/Fort Worth Hyatt Regency Hotel sits in the midst of the busiest airport in the world. From our convention headquarters hotel fascinating museums, restaurants, amusement parks, and other attractions are not far away.
Most of the sprawling airport is in Grapevine, a city founded during the 1850's. Now much of Main Street is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. Main Street boasts a collection of unique shops including a German bread store and a doll maker's shop. Behind Main Street artisans demonstrate the almost-forgotten skills of glass blowing and blacksmithing. Walking tours of the Main Street area are also available. Main Street is also the home of the Cotton Belt Depot, where a nineteenth-century train called the "Tarantula Steam Train" takes passengers from Grapevine to the Fort Worth Stockyards. We'll talk about the Stockyards later in this article. The "Tarantula" train gets its name from the maze of railroad tracks that crisscross Fort Worth. The railroad map looks like a tarantula. The depot is also the home of a free museum that features the history of the city.
Grapevine got its name from the wild mustang grapes that grew there, and the city hosts the popular festival celebrating Texas wines called Grape Fest. Several Texas wineries have tasting rooms in Grapevine. For more details on things to do in Grapevine, call the Convention and Visitors Bureau at (817) 481-0454.
You won't want to pass up a chance to visit Grapevine Mills Outlet Mall, a new attraction that promises shopping bargains and good food. Two particularly interesting places at the mall are Dick Clark's Restaurant, complete with rock-n-roll memorabilia, and the Rain Forest Cafe. As this name implies, this eatery will transport you to the tropics for food and adventure. NFB shuttle busses from the hotel to Grapevine will run at various times each day from Friday, July 3, through Friday, July 10. For more details about the mall and its restaurants call (972) 724-4910.
Irving, another city close to our hotel, features upscale shopping in Las Colinas. This exclusive community is also home to the movie studios featured in our convention tours. (See the April, 1998, Braille Monitor for tour details.)
While in Las Colinas, don't pass up a chance to see the
sculptures of wild mustangs near the Four Seasons Hotel. The
horses are standing in a reflecting pool. Irving is also home to
the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Stadium. For more details about
Irving call the Convention and Visitors Bureau at (972) 252-7476
Now, let's head west to Fort Worth, the best spot in Texas. Okay, I might be just a little prejudiced. Will Rogers coined the saying: "Fort Worth is where the West begins, and Dallas is where the East peters out."
Fort Worth, founded after the Mexican-American War, grew up around railroads, the Stockyards, and cowboys; it was an important stop along the Chisholm Trail before cowboys headed north to Kansas City and Chicago. You can still find these aspects of the West today, but now the Stockyards, in north Fort Worth, is a historic tour attraction complete with Billy Bob's Texas, the largest honky-tonk in the world, and the Tarantula Steam Train. The train departs from Stockyards Station, which is also the home of many shops and restaurants, including the Ernest Tubb Record Shop.
Fort Worth has its cultural side, too. It is often referred to as the "museum capital of the southwest." Four museums are located in an area known as the Cultural District, just west of downtown. The Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, the Kimbel Art Museum, the Museum of Science and History, and the Modern Art Museum attract many visitors.
Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth is another fun place to visit with a coffee bar, restaurants, movie theaters, and shops. It is also adjacent to the Outlet Square shopping mall. For more information about Fort Worth attractions, call the Convention and Visitors Bureau at (817) 336-8791.
Now let's head east! If you're looking for baseball and amusement parks, Arlington, which is between Fort Worth and Dallas, is the perfect place.
The ball park at Arlington, which offers tours daily, is the home of the Texas Rangers baseball team. The ball park also features a baseball museum. Six Flags Over Texas, with rides of every description and shows for children and adults, is a must for amusement park enthusiasts. For more details contact the Convention and Visitors Bureau at (817) 265-7721.
Last but not least is Dallas, about thirty miles from Fort Worth. Don't worry; it's closer than that to our hotel. The city is famous for many attractions, including art museums and the Neiman Marcus Department Store. It is also the site of the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy. The sixth floor of the Dallas County Administration building is a popular tourism spot.
Dallas is also known for its eclectic selection of restaurants and clubs. A well-known area for dining is Greenville Avenue, which features everything from Thai to southwestern cuisine. The West End, located in downtown Dallas, is another popular night spot. Find out more about Dallas by calling the Convention and Visitors Bureau at (214) 571-2000.
Now that we've whetted your appetite for a visit to Texas, there is no excuse for missing a great convention where you will see old friends and meet new folks.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Michael Baillif]
by Michael Baillif
From the Editor: In the years since Michael Baillif first won an NFB scholarship in 1984, he has frequently contributed to the Braille Monitor. Often his articles are reflections on experiences he has had during trips to other countries. The following article is no exception. Here it is:
Our van had been bumping, thumping, and skidding over the nearly impassable road for what seemed like an eternity. Finally we had reached our destinationa village of a tribe known as the Masai Mara located in the Serengeti plain in Kenya, Africa. As part of a family vacation we had ventured to Kenya and spent the last several days traveling from Nairobi to Mount Kenya and now to the Serengeti plain. As one of the final stops before beginning the interminable homeward trip to the United States, we had decided to seek out a village which, but for the malign influence of tourists like us, was functioning more or less as it had for thousands of years.
After digging out my cane from between the van seats, where it had become almost immovably wedged, I stepped out of the van and breathed a sigh of relief. It was almost my undoing. I inhaled a cloud of dust particles that sent me into a paroxysm of coughing. When I had recovered sufficiently, I asked our guide, "What is all of that dust blowing around?"
"Oh, that's dry camel dung," he said. "The villagers use it to plaster their houses."
Attempting to breathe as shallowly as possible, I followed our group into the village. We were given a tour by one of the villagers who, with the aid of our guide, explained how the village operated and described a normal day in the life of a Masai Mara tribesman. He told us of how they cultivated maize and talked of occasional expeditions to hunt water-buck and gazelle.
We were even able to walk through one of the houses, a hut really, and watch as an elderly grandmother prepared the evening meal over an open fire. As we were observing this, the tribesman who had been showing us around approached one of my family members and asked if I were really blind. He shook his head sadly and said, "Can't see, too bad, too bad."
I wanted to explain that blindness really wasn't much of an issue for me because I had been lucky enough to acquire the attitudes and skills I needed to do pretty much whatever I wanted. But, given the language barrier, the best I could do was to point to my cane, make a dismissive gesture, and say, "It's okay."
As we walked out of the hut, I reflected that one can travel the world and be confronted with astonishingly consistent views regarding blindness. Be it an American university, an English pub, or an African village, the odds are high that one will encounter the same types of attitudes about blindness. People tend to look upon blindness as awful and upon blind people as sometimes worthless, sometimes admirable, and not uncommonly both at once.
Of course the reality is much different. Blindness, like any other characteristic, is no more and no less than what we, and our larger society, make of it. Given good training, positive attitudes, sufficient opportunities, and a community that doesn't get in the way, blindness really need not be a big deal.
But until these elements of equality become the norm, the social outlook and occasional reality will be that blindness is a terrible thing. Of course this perspective will be expressed in different ways depending upon the context, the culture, and the language. But make no mistake, it is every bit as universal as a Jungian archetype and every bit as long-lived as a Masai Mara village.
I was pondering how these threshold negative stereotypes regarding blindness could best be overcome when my musings were interrupted by the villager who had been leading our tour. He offered to sell me an African war club, hand-carved out of a single piece of teak wood. It really was beautiful and packed a whollop that would knock the recipient into next Sunday. All of a sudden, at least superficially, he had apparently come to terms with my blindness and now was cheerfully endeavoring to sell me the same products that were being offered to others in the group.
I asked the price of the club, and he quoted me a price of 250 shillings, but said that, since I was his good friend, I could have it for 100 shillings. I told him that I would think about the deal and went to confer with other members of my group. As it turned out, someone else had purchased a similar club for 100 shillings as well.
I returned to the villager and asked, "If I'm your good friend, how come I don't get a better deal than those guys?" We negotiated some more, but he held firm at 100 shillings.
Finally admitting defeat, I agreed to purchase the war club at his price. In order to complete our transaction, all that remained was to calculate the exchange rate between Kenyan shillings and U.S. dollars. This task took a bit longer than expected, though, because my friend kept trying to shave a few cents off of the exchange rate to his benefit.
What he did not know was that by trade I am a tax attorney. While tax attorneys may possess innumerable shortcomings, one thing we can do is keep track of the money flowing into and out of our pockets.
As I left the Masai Mara village carrying my newly acquired war club, I was quite pleased. The negotiations in general and my friend's attempted larceny in particular had made me feel good. The very man who had pitied me and genuinely felt sorry for my fate was, only a few minutes later, prepared to treat me as the equal of any sighted person when an economic transaction was concerned. Once the villager realized that I had something he wanted, he saw me in a much different light from the person for whom only sorrow and pity had been appropriate a few minutes before.
Whether or not the villager's actual perceptions of blindness changed on the spot I couldn't tell, but in a certain sense I didn't particularly care. What mattered to me more than what he might have thought about blindness was how he treated me as a blind person. Judging by that standard, I had been the recipient of equality safari-style.
Note: Michael Baillif reports that he has made a gift of the war club to the Louisiana Center for the Blind, where Jerry Whittle has it available to inspire inattentive Braille students.
Planned giving takes place when a contributor decides to leave a substantial gift to charity. It means planning as you would for any substantial purchasea 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: Dr. John Gardner]
by John A. Gardner
From the Editor: John Gardner is professor and director of the Science Access Project, Department of Physics, Oregon State University. In mid-November of 1997 something of a media flap occurred when Senator Ron Wyden objected loudly and publicly that the Department of Education had rejected a grant application from a blind physicist in his state merely because the proposal was not submitted in a double-spaced, large-print format. The rejection apparently had nothing to do with the merit of the project in question; the reviewers seem to have glanced at the proposal, noted that it was incorrectly formatted, and tossed it into the reject pile.
Neither Senator Wyden nor Dr. Gardner, the physicist in the case, thought this was appropriate behavior. The project, according to Curtis Chong, Director of the Technology Department at the National Center for the Blind, has value and clearly needs funding if it is to demonstrate its possible usefulness.
Yet Federationists who have heard about this rather public difference of opinion have been united in our conclusion that the Department of Education was correct to apply the same rules to all the applications it received. We have always demanded the right to compete on terms of equality with our sighted peers, and that necessarily means abiding by the rules governing our work. We cannot afford to start down the path of demanding that exceptions be made because we didn't read the rules or have someone check our final product.
Our position certainly does not excuse employers, for example, from their responsibility to provide reasonable accommodation to blind employees. And we would certainly fight for the rights of a blind person who had been prevented from learning the requirements because they were not accessible and no one had bothered to mention their existence.
Regardless of the merits of the treatment of Dr. Gardner's grant proposal or the appropriateness of Senator Wyden's efforts to reverse the Department of Education's decision, everyone with an interest in tactile access to graphic symbols for blind people must applaud Dr. Gardner's work and his effort to find funding for his project. This is the way he describes his work:
Senator Ron Wyden recently made DotsPlus a household name when he complained to the Department of Education about their rejection without review of my proposal for a major DotsPlus study because I had overlooked the requirement that it be double-spaced. Let me explain, more accurately than the press coverage did, what DotsPlus is and why I feel the study is so important.
DotsPlus is a tactile font set. It is a critical first step needed to make possible a true computer printer for blind people. One cannot print standard Braille directly from the text in a word processor, let alone print a tactile image equivalent to anything containing graphics or exotic symbols such as plus or equals signs. Standard Braille is a code that must be derived by a translation process and has no way of representing exotic symbols.
By contrast, DotsPlus permits virtually any kind of text as well as line and block graphics to be printed in tactile form with nothing more than a font change. Anybody who can use standard applications on a computer can make tactile diagrams, charts, graphs, even math by simply writing it on a computer, changing the font to DotsPlus, and sending it to a computer that can print images that can be felt instead of just seen. The revolutionary potential of DotsPlus on educational and professional opportunities for blind people seems obvious.
DotsPlus has been enthusiastically endorsed by a number of blind educators and scientists. It has been used successfully by several Oregon middle school, high school, and university student volunteers for difficult scientific materials. But it has previously been too difficult and expensive to produce DotsPlus materials to permit the kind of widespread testing necessary to learn whether it is something that most blind people can learn easily.
A new robust, potentially inexpensive embossing technology now makes such a widespread DotsPlus test feasible. The Tactile Graphics Embosser prototype introduced by the Oregon State University Science Access Project early in 1997 is capable of printing line and block graphics DotsPlus or any computer Braille code (for printable ASCII only). It is the first true printer for blind people.
DotsPlus letters are standard Braille. Users have a choice of a six- or eight-dot font to represent capital letters and other symbols having a Braille cell representation. Text consisting of words and punctuation marks reads very much like Grade I Braille. The Braille representation for numbers is familiar to blind Europeans but will initially feel strange to Americans.
Most of the thousands of other symbols that occur in modern literature are represented as tactile images having a shape similar to the printed symbol. For example, a plus sign, equals sign, parentheses, and square brackets are tactile images shaped like the print symbols. The symbol size is large, corresponding approximately to a twenty-four-point font in order to be easily recognizable tactilely.
Before the development of the tactile graphics embosser, DotsPlus could be produced only with swell paper or by a wax jet printer that had been modified to pile up thick wax. The original DotsPlus research used a wax jet printer that was available commercially for about a year before it was withdrawn. Very recently a modified version of the Tektronics Phaser wax jet printer has been introduced.
Most major organizations concerned with Braille and with educational and rehabilitation issues for blind people, including the Braille Authority of North America, the National Federation of the Blind, and the American Council of the Blind, are aware of DotsPlus research. All have taken a wait and see attitude pending adequate information on its ultimate usefulness, readability, and ease of learning. These organizations would have been invited to participate in a test of DotsPlus using all three presently-available technologies had the proposal been funded instead of being rejected on a technicality.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Noel Nightingale]
The Hollow Nature of Political
by Noel Nightingale
From the Editor: Noel Nightingale is a Member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Blind Lawyers and First Vice President of the NFB of Washington. She is an attorney in the Environmental Practice Group in the law firm of Heller, Ehrman, White, & McAuliffe in Seattle. This is what she says:
There are several problems with the late twentieth-century notion of political correctness, in which euphemistic words are used to communicate meanings with which people are otherwise uncomfortable. We are all familiar with the evolution of the labels placed on us as blind people. Over a relatively short period we have linguistically mushroomed from "the blind" through several stages to "individuals who are visually impaired." The primary problem with the notion that it is not politically correct to call us "blind" is the clear implication that blindness is not quite respectable, that it requires apology or disguise. It implies that blind people are inferior because of our blindness.
That aspect of political correctness is the subject of a 1993 resolution passed by the National Federation of the Blind. We ourselves accept the label of "blind" because we know that blindness is just one of our characteristics and that nothing about it is inherently demeaning. Consequently it is the official policy of the Federation in the words of Dr. Jernigan that:
We believe that it is respectable to be blind, and although we have no particular pride in the fact of our blindness, neither do we have any shame in it. To the extent that euphemisms are used to convey any other concept or image, we deplore such use. We can make our own way in the world on equal terms with others, and we intend to do it.
Another problem with political correctness is that it is the most hollow of philosophies. When tested, the politically correct person's attitude about the abilities of blind people frequently crumbles to dust. Take the case of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Along with other government agencies it has adopted a policy of equal employment opportunity. DSHS uses the right words when it talks about hiring disabled individuals, but when actually put to the test, its words lack substance.
John Herring was hired in 1989 by DSHS to work as a Social Security Insurance facilitator. He is blind and has a master's degree in social work. In November of 1990 DSHS notified Herring that it was terminating his employment because Herring's supervisor found his work unsatisfactory. After Herring sued DSHS for employment discrimination, DSHS told the court that, even with reasonable accommodations, Herring's blindness prevented him from performing the job. DSHS's expert witness, an ophthalmologist, testified at the trial that Herring's disability of blindness was so severe that he could not perform the essential functions of his job. Herring's job primarily consisted of reading, writing, and analysis.
The jury who heard Herring's case didn't buy it. After a six-week trial the jury found that Herring had been discriminated against and wrongfully terminated. The jury awarded Herring $55,000 for past economic damages, $500,000 for future economic damages, and $550,000 for non-economic damages. The trial court awarded attorneys' fees of $299,931 and costs of $18,715. DSHS refused to give up and appealed the judgment, again arguing that blindness in and of itself made Herring unqualified for the job. The Court of Appeals didn't buy it either and affirmed the jury's award.
The solution of the problems associated with blindness is not to dress up society's vocabulary but to change society's beliefs about how blindness affects (and does not affect) people's abilities. We know that, when equipped with self-confidence and the skills of blindness, blind people can do virtually anything we set our minds to, whether we are referred to as "blind," "legally blind," "visually impaired," or "partially sighted."
Because I do not know him, I do not know whether John Herring possessed the skills for his job, adequate training in the skills of blindness, or confidence in himself as a blind person. The jury who sat through his trial found that he was indeed qualified to do the job. However, it is not Herring's talents on which I am commenting; it is the false creed of a government employer, DSHS, and others like it, which is the mere shell of a philosophy about blindness. While DSHS knew the politically correct language to use with regard to blind people, its knowledge extended no further. Even in the face of its own equal employment opportunity policies and programs, DSHS was willing to make blanket assertions about the inability of all blind peoplenot just allegations about John Herringwhen it was attempting to justify its actions.
Herring's case and many others remind me of the protagonist Winston in the novel 1984 by George Orwell. The poor soul had the mental faculty to remember what Big Brother had proclaimed the day before and knew that what was being said by Big Brother the following day was entirely contradictory. Winston looked around him and wondered if he was the only person left on earth who had a memory. The person who uses politically correct language today, without having simultaneously adopted a positive philosophy about the abilities of blind people, cannot be relied on tomorrow. Words in and of themselves do very little good unless along with them comes an understanding of our true abilities.
Introducing Music Education
Network for the Visually Impaired
by Richard Taesch
From the Editor: In general education circles in recent years, people have become increasingly aware of the importance of music education to the entire child, particularly with respect to developing skills in mathematics and logic. This discovery or rediscovery has obvious implications for blind youngsters as well. (See the article "Music Education: Not Just a Frill" in the Summer, 1997, issue of Future Reflections, the quarterly magazine of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children.)
The following article first appeared in the MENVI (Music Education Network for The Visually Impaired) Fall/Winter, 1997, newsletter. Richard Taesch is the director and founder of the Braille Music Division of the Southern California Conservatory of Music near Los Angeles and has chaired the conservatory's Department of Guitar since 1976. He also serves as Music Specialist for CTEVH (California Transcribers and Educators of The Visually Handicapped) and writes for their journal.
MENVI is a coalition of parents, educators, and students. Its advisory committee is made up entirely of blind musicians and teachers. MENVI exists for and is managed by blind musicians. It is committed to the principle that the needs of blind students of music are unique. Parents have a right to know what is available for their children in music education, and educators must have access to specialized materials and know how to use them. Not all teachers of music know the Braille music code. They should, however, encourage Braille music literacy at the earliest opportunity. MENVI provides a network of information as well as a resource guide to Braille music and the teaching of blind children and adults. Here is Mr. Taesch's article:
Teaching For Tomorrow
We have learned much about academic development through the teaching of music. At the Southern California Conservatory of Music, Braille Music Division, we have seen youngsters begin new lives in the world of literary Braille by means of their own natural musical gifts. We must, however, continue to look well beyond the obvious advantages of providing music to our children and beyond merely providing the opportunity to play a musical instrument.
Whether a youngster will plan to pursue music studies in college or simply to play a band instrument in middle or high school, we have a serious obligation to see that proper groundwork is done at the most basic levels. Care must be taken to see that music fundamentals are established as real academic skills that can be built upon by future teachers. Perhaps no subject is more difficult to re-teach than music. It is for this reason that music classes are the one subject area in which most universities and conservatories will not allow direct transfer of credits. Normally students must either test out of a subject or re-take it. In music, unlike other academic subjects, you must be able clearly to demonstrate skills requiredyou can't simply fake it!
The SCCM Braille Music Division has the opportunity to advise about and serve the music-transcription needs of at least eight middle schools and several universities. From this vantage point we are able to observe the weaknesses in Braille music disciplines. Schools are becoming aware that blind students can use written music just as sighted students do and are requiring these skills at an accelerating rate. They are no longer forced to treat VH students differently, other than procuring the specialized media required.
We must, therefore, insist on requiring and providing specific approaches and good pedagogy for even the youngest children. The educational consequences of weak fundamentals for a musical blind child can be just as devastating as the inability to read or write.
For more information contact Richard Taesch, SCCM Braille Music
Division, 8711 Sunland Blvd., Sun Valley, California 91352,
Phone: (818) 767-6554, e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Stuart Prost]
EEOC Charges Filed Against
Virginia's So-called Disability Rights Agency
by Charles Brown
From the Editor: Charlie Brown is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia and a Member of the NFB Board of Directors. The following report is reprinted from the Winter, 1998, issue of the NFB Vigilant, a publication of the NFB of Virginia. Stuart Prost is a long-time member of the National Federation of the Blind. His wife Debbie was honored as the NFB's 1997 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children. She teaches in the Tidewater area of Virginia, where they live, so when employment transportation problems began to develop for Stuart, the Prosts did not have the option of moving in order to keep his job because Debbie would then have been faced with the same problem in reverse. Here is Charlie Brown's explanation of the situation:
The Department of Rights for Virginians with Disabilities (DRVD) is the one state agency charged with protecting the civil rights of disabled Virginians. Its mission is to see that blind people and other disabled folks get a fair shake in employment, education, government services, and the like. One would think that the DRVD would want to set an example in employing the disabled, but I'm afraid that's just not so.
On February 26, 1998, Federationist Stuart Prost filed formal discrimination charges with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the DRVD, alleging that he was illegally forced out of his job as a disability rights advocate with DRVD in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Mr. Prost had served the DRVD well for over ten years as an advocate in its former Virginia Beach office. Federationists will recall that we adopted a resolution at our last State Convention which vigorously criticized the DRVD for closing its Virginia Beach office, leaving the residents of Virginia's largest population area without a local office. The DRVD director, Sandy Reen, claimed she just had to close that office, but she did not close the DRVD offices in Richmond, Northern Virginia, and Fishersville. We were not the only ones to criticize Ms. Reen's arbitrary decision to cut services in the Hampton-Roads area; other disability groups, the media, and General Assembly members also complained, to no avail.
Mr. Prost was then ordered to report to the DRVD's Richmond Office. If he had been sighted, he would have had the option of driving up each day from his home in Portsmouth, as his former Virginia Beach Office co-worker decided to do. He checked into possible alternate transportation, but the schedules didn't work. Mr. Prost asked for some reasonable accommodation to his blindness, as called for in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Since it was clear that disabled Hampton-Roads residents would have to be served from the Richmond Office, it was certain that Mr. Prost would have to spend much of his time back in that area anyway, visiting places like the Eastern State Hospital. To cut down on travel time and to make it possible for him to continue to work for the DRVD, Mr. Prost asked that he be allowed to do part of his job by telecommutingtying his phone, computer, and fax machine through the main Richmond DRVD switchboard.
Today telecommuting is becoming commonplace, especially for those responsible for covering large geographic territories. Many businesses and government agencies use this approach effectively, including other Virginia State agencies. I certainly agreed with Mr. Prost that telecommuting would be reasonable accommodation in his case. I discussed this with Ms. Reen on more than one occasion over the phone and even went down to Richmond to meet with her about it. She was adamantly opposed to any such option, period, while offering no suggestions of her own. Frankly I was amazed at Ms. Reen's bureaucratic attitude. In any event, her failure to offer any reasonable accommodation to Mr. Prost's situation resulted in his forced resignation in January.
Filing a federal complaint was obviously a last resort for Mr. Prost. After all, he just wants to continue to work for DRVD. But at this point Mr. Prost and the Federation simply had no other choice.
When Sandy Reen took over at DRVD, she had our organization's full support and that of many others; but she has wasted this good will. During her tenure as DRVD director Ms. Reen has been criticized in the media for DRVD's failure to protect the rights of patients at Central State Hospital, a highly negative evaluation from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services, the closing of the Virginia Beach Office, and more. Now Ms. Reen's unwillingness to provide reasonable accommodation to Mr. Prost as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act has forced out the DRVD's only blind employee. The Prost case is just one more embarrassment for this deeply troubled agency. This case is likely to be long and laborious, but when an agency charged with protecting the rights of disabled people engages in discrimination, what choice do we have but to fight?
National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities
From the Editor: We recently received the following notice which could conceivably affect employment opportunities for blind people in coming years. Here is the text:
THE WHITE HOUSE, Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release, March 13, 1998
Increasing Employment of Adults with Disabilities
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to increase the employment of adults with disabilities to a rate that is as close as possible to the employment rate of the general adult population and to support the goals articulated in the findings and purpose section of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section I. Establishment of National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities.
A. There is established the "National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities" ("Task Force"). The Task Force shall comprise the Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Commissioner of Social Security, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Transportation, Director of the Office of Personnel Management, Administrator of the Small Business Administration, the Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Chairperson of the National Council on Disability, the Chair of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, and such other senior executive branch officials as may be determined by the Chair of the Task Force.
B. The Secretary of Labor shall be the Chair of the Task Force; the Chair of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities shall be the Vice Chair of the Task Force.
C. The purpose of the Task Force is to create a coordinated and aggressive national policy to bring adults with disabilities into gainful employment at a rate that is as close as possible to that of the general adult population. The Task Force shall develop and recommend to the President, through the Chair of the Task Force, a coordinated Federal policy to reduce employment barriers for persons with disabilities. Policy recommendations may cover such areas as discrimination, reasonable accommodations, inadequate access to health care, lack of consumer-driven, long-term supports and services, transportation, accessible and integrated housing, telecommunications, assistive technology, community services, child care, education, vocational rehabilitation, training services, job retention, on-the-job supports, and economic incentives to work. Specifically, the Task Force shall:
1. Analyze the existing programs and policies of Task Force member agencies to determine what changes, modifications, and innovations may be necessary to remove barriers to work faced by people with disabilities;
2. Develop and recommend options to address health insurance coverage as a barrier to employment for people with disabilities;
3. Subject to the availability of appropriations, analyze State and private disability systems (e.g., workers' compensation, unemployment insurance, private insurance, and State mental health and mental retardation systems) and their effect on Federal programs and employment of adults with disabilities;
4. Consider statistical and data analysis, cost data, research, and policy studies on public subsidies, employment, employment discrimination, and rates of return-to-work for individuals with disabilities;
5. Evaluate and, where appropriate, coordinate and collaborate on research and demonstration priorities of Task Force member agencies related to employment of adults with disabilities;
6. Evaluate whether Federal studies related to employment and training can, and should, include a statistically significant sample of adults with disabilities;
7. Subject to the availability of appropriations, analyze youth programs related to employment (e.g., Employment and Training Administration programs, special education, vocational rehabilitation, school-to-work transition, vocational education, and Social Security Administration work incentives and other programs, as may be determined by the Chair and Vice Chair of the Task Force) and the outcomes of those programs for young people with disabilities;
8. Evaluate whether a single governmental entity or program should be established to provide computer and electronic accommodations for Federal employees with disabilities;
9. Consult with the President's Committee on Mental
Retardation on policies to increase the employment of people
with mental retardation and cognitive disabilities; and
10. Recommend to the President any additional steps that can be taken to advance the employment of adults with disabilities, including legislative proposals, regulatory changes, and program and budget initiatives.
D. 1. The members of the Task Force shall make the activities and initiatives set forth in this order a high priority within their respective agencies within the levels provided in the President's budget.
2. The Task Force shall issue its first report to the President by November 15, 1998. The Task Force shall issue a report to the President on November 15, 1999, November 15, 2000, and a final report on July 26, 2002, the tenth anniversary of the initial implementation of the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The reports shall describe the actions taken by, and progress of, each member of the Task Force in carrying out this order. The Task Force shall terminate thirty days after submitting its final report.
E. As used herein, an adult with a disability is a person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity.
Section II. Specific activities by Task Force members and other agencies.
A. To ensure that the Federal Government is a model employer of adults with disabilities, by November 15, 1998, the Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Labor, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shall submit to the Task Force a review of Federal Government personnel laws, regulations, and policies and, as appropriate, shall recommend or implement changes necessary to improve Federal employment policy for adults with disabilities. This review shall include personnel practices and actions such as hiring, promotion, benefits, retirement, workers' compensation, retention, accessible facilities, job accommodations, layoffs, and reductions in force.
B. The Departments of Justice, Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services shall report to the Task Force by November 15, 1998, on their work with the States and others to ensure that the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act is carried out in accordance with section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, so that individuals with disabilities and their families can realize the full promise of welfare reform by having an equal opportunity for employment.
C. The Departments of Education, Labor, Commerce, and Health and Human Services, the Small Business Administration, and the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities shall work together and report to the Task Force by November 15, 1998, on their work to develop small business and entrepreneurial opportunities for adults with disabilities and strategies for assisting low-income adults, including those with disabilities, to create small businesses and micro-enterprises. These same agencies, in consultation with the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, shall assess the impact of the Randolph-Sheppard Act vending program and the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act on employment and small business opportunities for people with disabilities.
D. The Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development shall report to the Task Force by November 15, 1998, on their examination of their programs to see if they can be used to create new work incentives and to remove barriers to work for adults with disabilities.
E. The Departments of Justice, Education, and Labor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Social Security Administration shall work together and report to the Task Force by November 15, 1998, on their work to propose remedies to the retention of people with disabilities from successfully exercising their employment rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 because of the receipt of monetary benefits based on their disability and lack of gainful employment.
F. The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor and the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce, in cooperation with the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, the National Council on Disability, and the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, shall design and implement a statistically reliable and accurate method to measure the employment rate of adults with disabilities as soon as possible, but no later than the date of termination of the Task Force. Data derived from this methodology shall be published on as frequent a basis as possible.
G. All executive agencies that are not members of the Task Force shall:
1. Coordinate and cooperate with the Task Force; and
2. Review their programs and policies to ensure that they are being conducted and delivered in a manner that facilitates and promotes the employment of adults with disabilities. Each agency shall file a report with the Task Force on the results of its review on November 15, 1998.
Section III. Cooperation.
All efforts taken by executive departments and agencies under Sections I and II of this order shall, as appropriate, further partnerships and cooperation with public- and private-sector employers, organizations that represent people with disabilities, organized labor, veteran service organizations, and State and local governments whenever such partnerships and cooperation are possible and would promote the employment and gainful economic activities of individuals with disabilities.
Section IV. Judicial Review.
This order does not create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law by a party against the United States.
This month's recipes have been submitted by members of the National Association of Blind Lawyers. It may be possible to draw some deeply significant conclusion from the facts that 1. five of the six recipes submitted came from members resident in either Washington State or the District of Columbia, 2. three of the recipes are for chili, and 3. two of the remaining three recipes are for fish. In any case, the lawyers are a cautious lot, so they provided the following disclaimer and insisted that it be included as part of this head note:
DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTIES AND EXCLUSION OF DAMAGES
The National Association of Blind Lawyers (NABL) does not make any warranties of taste, texture, or edibility of the following recipes. The NABL disclaims liability for any and all injuries and property damage that may arise from the use of the recipes. Such injuries include, but are not limited to, gastroenteritis, indigestion, or a general feeling of malaise. The NABL also excludes any consequential damages and loss of consortium arising out of the use of these recipes.
Assuming that we are able to understand that bit of lawyerese, we have all been warned.
Ipse Dixit Border Delight
by Les Barr, J.D.
Les Barr is an attorney in Norman, Oklahoma.
1 pound lean ground chuck
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can ranch-style beans (pinto beans, not kidney beans)
1 white onion, chopped
1 can chopped rotelle tomatoes
1 small bottle Pace or favorite picante sauce (hot, medium, or mild), to taste. It is generally prudent to use the mildest picante sauce if you are serving very small children or guests from northern states.
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
large bag of tortilla chips
Red chili pepper, black pepper, and onion salt, to taste
Method: Brown meat in a large skillet, turn off stove, and drain excess fat from meat. Add chopped onion and combine with the meat in the skillet. Cook combined onions and meat in covered skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add corn, tomatoes, ranch-style beans, and picante sauce. Allow to simmer for five to ten minutes over medium heat. Add onion salt, black pepper, and red chili powder to taste. Turn off heat, remove lid from skillet, and sprinkle the cheddar cheese over the top of the food. Place about 1-1/2 cups of tortilla chips in each of four soup bowls. Use large serving spoon or ladle and dip two or three spoonfuls into each bowl, over the chips. Tip: If you enjoy spicy, add hot jalapenos and substitute Creole spices for the onion salt and black pepper. (My mouth is watering now!) Serves approximately four adults.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Bennett Prows]
by Bennett Prows
Bennett Prows is past president of the NFB of Washington. He
is an Equal Opportunity Specialist in the Office for Civil Rights, Department of Health and Human Services and lives in Seattle. Bennett's comment with his recipe is, "Prosecutorial maxim applies: `Make it hot for 'em, and they may spill the beans!'"
One package great northern, pinto, or other tough beans (approximately 12 ounces)
1 or 2 green bell peppers, minced.
1 or 2 large onions, diced
3 to 4 tomatoes, chopped
2 cans tomato paste
2 to 4 teaspoons chili powder
2 to 4 teaspoons cumin
1 to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (depending on the amount of pressure needed or heat to be applied)
2 pounds sirloin tip or other roast (cubed) (Can use ground beef,
but the quality of the chili will be diminished, and remember the
steaks are high)
chopped olives, celery, and mushrooms, optional
salt & pepper to taste
Building the Case: a.k.a. Method: Cover beans with water in a large stock pot and soak overnight. Do not drain the water (if any is left after soaking). Saute the meat and vegetables in small amount of olive oil, add to the beans, and bring the mixture to a boil. Add tomato paste and spices. If you want more liquid, add tomato sauce. Stir the pot for several minutes at rolling boil. Turn down the heat and cover, allowing steam to escape. Simmer for three to four hours, stirring occasionally, and of course tasting. Serves a bunch, and can be frozen for use later.
Ad Hoc Split Pea Soup
by Noel Nightingale
Noel Nightingale is First Vice President of the NFB of Washington, a practicing attorney in the Environmental Practice Group of the law firm of Heller, Ehrman, White, & McAuliffe in Seattle, and a member of the NABL Board of Directors.
16-ounce package of split peas, green or yellow
1 medium onion, yellow
2 medium carrots
4 ribs of celery
5 bay leaves
salt and pepper
Method: Chop onions, carrots, and celery. Place split peas, vegetables, and seasonings to taste in large pot and add two and a half quarts of water. Cook over low heat for one hour or more. Remove bay leaves before serving.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dan Frye]
Squid Pro Quo
by Dan Frye
Dan Frye is an active member of the Lawyers Division and works with the Social Security Administration in Washington State.
Method: Boil the cleaned squid body for a few minutes until it turns a solid white. Cut the body into rounds and let cool. Add olive oil, red wine vinegar, fresh chopped parsley, salt, pepper, and diced red or white onion. The squid should be just covered. This dish is served cold.
Res Ipsa Loxitur (Honey Mustard Salmon)
by Michael Baillif The baillif makes no bones about it.
Michael Baillif is a tax attorney practicing in Washington,
4 salmon fillets (5 to 6 ounces each)
1 ½ tablespoons honey
1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup cornmeal
½ teaspoon dried thyme
salt and ground pepper to taste
Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse the fillets and pat dry; set aside. In a shallow bowl whisk together the honey, mustard, and lemon juice. In a separate shallow bowl combine the cornmeal with the thyme and a few shakes of salt and pepper. Dip each fillet into the honey mustard sauce and then dredge it in the cornmeal mixture to coat both sides evenly. Place the fillets in a sprayed or lightly oiled baking pan and bake, uncovered, for twenty to thirty minutes, or until thoroughly hot and tender.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Charlie Brown]
Superior Quart (Crock Pot Chili)
It's a crock, but it's appealing.
by Charlie Brown
Charlie Brown is a Member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Virginia. He is the Assistant General Counsel of the National Science Foundation.
2 pounds chuck, cut in small cubes, browned and drained
2 16-ounce cans light red kidney beans, drained
3 or 4 fresh ripe tomatoes, cut into eighths
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 large green pepper, coarsely chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons garlic salt
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin (optional)
2 bay leaves
Method: Combine all ingredients in crock pot, stir once, and cook on low setting for ten to twelve hours. Note: the amount of meat and number of tomatoes used may vary, depending on crock pot size.
Piano Tuning Training:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Piano tuning and related technologies have been viable vocations for blind men for over 150 years. In the last twenty-five years both men and womenmost of them sightedhave been flocking to the profession. Now visually impaired men and women can learn the art and craft of piano technology at the Emil Fries School of Piano Tuning and Technology.
If you would like to learn more about this business opportunity and how you can receive the training necessary to start your own piano-tuning and service business, please contact the Emil Fries School of Piano Tuning and Technology, 2510 E. Evergreen Boulevard, Vancouver, Washington 98661, phone (360)
693-1511, Fax (360) 693-6891, e-mail <email@example.com>
Jim Willows, President of the NFB of California, recently wrote to say: "It saddens me to report the deaths of two long-time California Federation members. Both were chapter presidents when they died. The Reverend Nancy Smith died on February 27 after a brief hospitalization. Nancy was the founding president of our Ventura County Chapter. I met with Nancy at our State Convention in November, and she had many good ideas for building her chapter. Nancy was enthusiastic, and we will miss her greatly. Arlene Johnson died on March 3, 1998. Arlene was President of our Pathfinders Chapter in Los Angeles. Arlene became president in December, following the death of Rosye Manning. Arlene was new to Federation leadership, but she was showing great promise as a chapter president. I wrote in our monthly California Newsletter following my attendance at the Pathfinders' January meeting that I recommended that all chapter presidents attend one of Arlene's meetings for a good lesson in chairing a Federation meeting. We already miss both Nancy and Arlene very much."
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale a Perkins electric Brailler with Dymo tape holder attachment, used very little, $595 or best offer. Willing to negotiate a payment plan if needed. Write to Donna Wilson, 415 North Main Street, Apartment 10R, Greenville, South Carolina 29601, or call (864) 271-7310.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Science and Engineering Division President John Miller (left) and NFB President Marc Maurer (right) at the Division meeting.]
Convention Breakfast Announcement:
A breakfast for scientists, engineers, and those with career
interests in these fields will take place at the National
Convention on Monday, July 6. Please meet promptly at 7:00 a.m.
at the concierge desk in the hotel. We will go from there to a
restaurant. Please make your reservations by sending e-mail to
one of the following: John Miller, President, Science and
Engineering Division, <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Robert Jaquiss, Division Treasurer, <email@example.com>
The Siouxland Chapter of the NFB of Iowa elected officers for 1998 at its January 24 meeting. They are Richard Crawford, President; Dorothy Yockey, Vice President; Karen Clayton, Secretary-Treasurer; and Will Kitto and Greg Hanson, Board Members.
New Talking Thermometer Available:
The Talking Digital Thermometer (marketed by Mabis Healthcare, Inc.) is now available at the National Center for the Blind. It announces temperature; recalls the last reading in memory; is accurate to two-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit; and can be used orally, under the arm, or rectally. It is available in English or Spanish. To place an order, contact the Materials Center, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, or call (410) 695-9314 between 12:30 and 5 p.m.
Producing Tactile Graphics:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
There is an easy and fast way to make tactile graphics. Any image can be drawn or photocopied onto a special paper called capsule paper and then processed by Pictures in a Flash, PIAF.
High-quality tactile graphics can be made in minutes. It is easy
to make Braille directly on the graphic. Call your local
Humanware distributor for more information. Contact Humanware at
6244 King Road Loomis, California 95650, (800) 722-3393, fax
(916) 652-7269 or e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
For Canada, Aroga Technologies, Ltd., 1611 Welch Street, N.,
Vancouver, British Columbia, V7P 3G9, (604) 986-7999, (800) 561-
6222, fax, (604) 968-7070 or e-mail: <email@example.com>
The San Fernando Valley Chapter of the NFB of California held its 1998 elections on February 14. The following are the newly elected officers: Don Burns, President; Tina Thomas, Vice President; Ron Smith, Treasurer; Shari Main, Secretary; and Donna Roysner, Board Member.
Special Museum Tours in Los Angeles:
Natalie Nankin has asked us to carry the following announcement:
As a blind participant in the Los Angeles Arts Community, I have helped institute a new program for the blind at the Skirball Museum. Every other Friday a specially-trained docent will lead a tour of museum exhibits for the visually impaired.
Pass-along Braille wanted:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
As a deaf-blind person, I would appreciate receiving pass-along copies of the National Library Service's new Braille magazines (Harper's magazine, Health newsletter, Rolling Stone, Short Story magazine, and Popular Mechanics. Any other general interest Braille magazines or books are welcome. Send to Gordon Janz, 101-2425 Brunswick Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V5T 3M1 CANADA.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale a Braille twenty-thousand-word dictionary in five volumes for $125, or best offer. Before sending money, please call or write Laurie Marsch, 211 Southbrooke Drive, Number 6, Waterloo, Iowa 50702, (319) 232-1750.
On November 9, 1997, the NFB of New York State elected the following officers: Carl Jacobsen, President; Marie Kouthoofd, First Vice President; Gisela Distel, Second Vice President; Tracy Carcione, Secretary; and Ray Wayne, Treasurer.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Optacon II, in excellent condition, barely used. Accessories include extra battery pack, tracking aid, manuals, and AC adapter. Asking $1,500 or best offer. Contact Diane Hostetler, 100 N. Senate Avenue, Room N103, Indianapolis, Indiana 46204, (317) 233-6302 (days) or (317) 359-3140 (evenings).
GOODFEEL Braille Music Translator:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Dancing Dots Braille Music Technology announces release of
the GOODFEEL Braille Music Translator Version 1.1. To prepare
Braille transcriptions using GOODFEEL, you do not need to know
how to read Braille music yourself. GOODFEEL interprets the
musical information stored in these files, producing the
equivalent music Braille. A GOODFEEL demo is now available on the
Internet. Download from
or a copy can be mailed to you.
The full-featured GOODFEEL Braille Music Translator costs $795. The trial version, which gives you 100 pages of music Braille, is available for $49. Subtract this $49 from the purchase price of GOODFEEL on converting to the full product. Or order GOODFEEL, Lime, and MIDISCAN as an integrated package for the discounted price of $995.
For further information call (610) 352-7607, fax: (610) 352-4582, Dancing Dots, 130 Hampden Road, Third Floor, Upper Darby, Pennsylvania 19082-3110, or visit the Web site at <http://www.netaxs.com/~ddots>.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am selling a Brytech Note Teller. This is a pocket-size device that speaks the amount of any U.S. paper currency. Call Erik Weihenmayer at (303) 778-6822 with your best offer.
The NFB of Pennsylvania's Capital Chapter elected new officers at its January 11 meeting. They are Fred Leader, President; Jerry Handel, Vice President; Anne Leader, Secretary;
Linda Rhinehart, Treasurer; and Cindy Handel, Bob Eschbach, and Norma Flinchbaugh, Board Members.
Talking Watches Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Great American Images Corporation of Burlingame, California, announces the availability of attractive talking digital watches of a sporty style. The one sample that we saw was black. They are fairly easy to set, and they come with an alarm. The price is $13.95 plus $3 shipping and handling. To order, contact Great American Images, 819 Cowan Road, Burlingame, California 94010-1204, or call (650) 697-2900.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Braille Blazer printer, including carrying case, AC adapter, and tape tutorial. No printer cable is included because the machine uses the normal parallel or serial cable. Asking $1,100, excluding shipping and handling. The printer prints text only and is five years old but rarely used. No personal checks will be accepted. Call Denise Avant, (773) 325-1117, all day on weekends and between 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. during the week.
Corel WordPerfect Tutorial Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Crista Earl of CrissCross Technologies announces the new release of Corel WordPerfect tutorial, Speaking of Corel WordPerfect. The cost is $75. Send checks payable to John Harden, Hear and Know, 1741 Decree Avenue, West Columbia, South Carolina 29169.
Election of officers and directors of the Phoenix Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona was held November 8, 1997. The officers are Norma Robertson, President; Fred Rockwell, First Vice President; Shirley Sloop, Second Vice President; Tom Johnson, Secretary; and Donna Silba, Treasurer. Board Members are Paul Wagner and Steve Curiel.
Talking Caller ID:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Full Life Products announces talking caller ID with quick setup; audible call review announcing the caller's telephone number; visual and audible message-waiting indicator; and several other features. For more information or to order, contact Full Life Products, P.O. Box 490, Mirror Lake, New Hampshire 03853-0490, or call (800) 400-1540 or (603) 569-2240, or Web site <http://www.superproducts.com>.
Crocheted Gifts Made to Order:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Graduation and other special events will soon be here, and I am willing to make crocheted items. For large items (such as afghans) a deposit is required. I am a recently diagnosed diabetic and a proud new member of the Diabetes Action Network. I will donate part of the proceeds to the NFB. Please send requests in Braille or print to Karen Mahone-Smith, 4433 7th Avenue, Sacramento, California 95820.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have the following items for sale: Romeo Braille printer
with software, manuals, and all necessary cables, asking $1,200
plus shipping; RCA stereo with dual cassette, AM/FM radio, and 5-
CD player, asking $150 plus shipping; ASAP Windows screen reader,
works well with Windows95, $300; small stereo with dual cassette,
AM/FM radio, and record player, $75 plus shipping. For questions
contact Carol Meeks, 841 N. Main Street, Jacksonville, Illinois
62650, (217) 245-6524, or e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>
VersaBraille Programs Needed:
Federationist Colleen Roth writes: I have acquired a
VersaBraille II and need a calculator program, a communication
program, an ASCII-to-VersaBraille format program, or any other
programs that people have found useful. I can provide disks for
copies of any programs people are willing to share. Contact
Dudley or Colleen Roth, (419) 661-9171 or e-mail:=20
The NFB of New Mexico elected new officers at its March 15 convention. They are Art Schreiber, President; Adelmo Vigil, First Vice President; Vicki Trujillo, Second Vice President; Kay Boyd, Secretary; and Brenda Laurion, Treasurer. The Board Members are Jim Salas, Jennifer Hensley, Patty Harmon, Larry Lorenzo, Larry Hayes, and Carlos Servan.
Naval Memoirs on Tape:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Naval Institute Press announces the production of its latest "Now Hear This" audiobook, Battleship Sailor by Theodore C. Mason.
When first published as a hardcover book in 1982, this memoir was hailed as "one of the best and most readable memoirs of the Navy at the onset of World War II" by the San Diego Union, and it has been one of our most sought-after titles ever since. (Eight 100-minute cassette tapes, unabridged at $44.95.)
And released in April: Trapped at Pearl Harbor: Escape from Battleship Oklahoma by Stephen Bower Young. The true-life story of being capsized and trapped for twenty-five hours in a battleship. The intensity and suspense rival that of any fictional thrillerthe recounting of his escape is particularly spellbinding.
To place an order, contact Naval Institute Press, 118
Maryland Avenue, United States Naval Institute, Annapolis,
Maryland 21402-5035, (410) 268-6110, fax (410) 269-7940, or e-
Old Testament Cassette Recordings Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The "Tales of the Old Testament" audio cassette is a dramatization of the Old Testament with digital audio music, professional actors, professional narration, and sound effects. Twelve volumes, individually recorded, can stand alone for $9.95 per volume. For more information contact David Minor, P.O. Box 185, Loxahatchee, Florida 33470, (561) 790-0149.
Braille and Large-Print Periodicals Needed:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Jamaica Society for the Blind Library needs usable Braille or large-print copies of PC Computing, Tactic, Reader's Digest, The Ladies Home Journal, Guideposts, or other publications on a regular basis. Send to Jamaica Society for the Blind, 111 ½ Old Hope Road, Kingston 6, Jamaica, West Indies, (809) 927-3760, (809) 927-6759, fax (809) 927-6757.
Cassette Albums for Sale:
Steve Benson, President of the NFB of Illinois has asked us to carry the following announcement:
Have you completed your spring cleaning? And have you carefully constructed stacks of cassettes you didn't dream you possessed? And are these columns of cassettes teetering, primed for the slightest vibration to cause cascades of cassettes to crash to the floor and into every imaginable cranny and corner? Well, now capture and keep those cassettes in attractive white vinyl NFB of Illinois cassette albums that accommodate twelve cassettes. The album spine is wide enough for a Braille label, and the front, back, and spine also have sleeves for print labels. Don't wait a minute longer. Send your check or money order (payable to the NFB of Illinois) at $3 each for the number of albums ordered, to Stephen O. Benson, President, NFB of Illinois, 7020 N. Tahoma Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60646. If you have questions, please call (773) 594-9977.
Braille Text on Medical Terminology:
To give away: Understanding Medical Terminology, 4th Edition, by Frenay, in fourteen Braille volumes, excellent condition. This older version of this text gives excellent basic background in medical terminology. Will give to the person who has most need of it. Contact Janell Peterson in Braille or tape at 303 Harvard Avenue East, Apartment 302, Seattle, Washington 98102-5487, or call (206) 328-4778.
The Last Word on the Convention:
Just as we were going to press, Norma Crosby sent us the following summary of information about the upcoming National Convention:
The National Federation of the Blind of Texas is planning a spectacular convention for you. We have lots of great tours on the afternoon of July 8, the evening of July 10, and the morning of July 11. We have great fiddle music on July 4, and on July 7 there will be a party under the stars featuring all the free beer you can drink and lots of great live Texas music.
Throughout the convention shuttle buses will run between the
Hyatt and the new Grapevine Mills Mall, which is located about
two miles north of the airport and features over 200 stores,
restaurants, and entertainment venues. Shuttles will run from
both the East and West Towers from 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. on
July 4, 5, and 6 and from 2:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. on July 8. On
July 7, 9, and 10 the buses will stop at the East Tower only and
will run from noon until 2:00 p.m.only.=20
As you will recall if you attended the 1990 and 1993 conventions, the Hyatt is actually located inside the DFW International Airport, and those who don't have too much luggage should consider riding the airport's train to the hotel. You can ride the Yellow Line from any terminal to the hotel, and, if you arrive at either terminal 3E or 4E, you can also use the Blue Line. You can catch this free people-mover on the lower level of each terminal. When the train announces that it is stopping at the Hyatt Regency, exit and turn left. You will find an escalator which will take you up to ground level. When you reach the top, walk forward a few feet. You will find yourself in a long corridor. Turn left to get to the hotel's West Tower and right to get to the East Tower.
If you have questions about the Mall, the train, or anything else relating to the good time we all plan to have during the week of July 4 to 11, call the NFB of Texas at (512) 323-5444 or (713) 956-4909, or, e-mail us at <NFB Texas@aol.com>. Please note that this address includes a space after NFB, which should be included in all e-mail messages.
I pledge to participate actively in the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.