Vol. 41, No. 11 December 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
NFB Net BBS: (612) 696-1975
Web Page address: http//www.nfb.org
Letters to the President, address changes,
subscription requests, orders for NFB literature
articles for the Monitor, and letters to the Editor
should be sent to the National Office.
subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five
dollars per year. Members are invited, and non-members are
requested, to cover the cost. Donations should be made
payable to the National Federation of the Blind and sent to:
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION SPEAKING FOR THE
BLINDIT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES.
Table of Contents
Convention Bulletin 1999
A Jurist Who Happens to Be Blind in the Federal Courts by Richard C. Casey
An Organizational Approach to the Evaluation of Rehabilitation Outcomes: Assessing Three Private Rehabilitation Agencies by C. Edwin Vaughan, Ph.D.
The Blind in the Teaching Profession by Cheralyn Braithwaite
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award for 1999 by Sharon Maneki
The 1999 Blind Educator of the Year Award by Stephen O. Benson
A Trip to Remember! by Tim Day
Facing Windows of Lost Opportunity by Steve Alexander
The Fifth Generation Speaks Out
The New Job Opportunities for the Blind by Peggy Chong
A Little Child Shall Lead Them by Father Patrick Martin
Of Generosity and Independence by William Payne
The Whole Truth about Partial Sight by Christine Faltz
Seeing Chances to Conquer by Susan Kreifels
Creative Cookies by Robert Parrish
Children, Fruitcake, and Rectangles by Barbara Walker
Social Security, SSI, and Medicare Facts for 1999 by James Gashel
LEAD PHOTOGRAPH DESCRIPTION: Three photographs appear on this page. The first shows the fireplace in the Harbor Room with a wreath above it. The decorated tables ready for the Christmas party can also be seen. The second picture is of the National Center staff seated at the tables and looking toward President Maurer, who is speaking. The third picture is of Dr. Jernigan sitting in a rocking chair in the Harbor Room and reading aloud from a Braille book to people who are obviously listening.] CAPTION: The Christmas party at the National Center for the Blind is always an evening filled with fun and good food. The Harbor Room (left) is where everyone gathers after work. Each family brings a dish or two to pass, and President Maurer (middle) briefly addresses the group before dinner begins. In past years Dr. Jernigan (bottom) often read 'Twas the Night before Christmas, and then the small gift exchange took place amid much laughter. Dr. Jernigan will not be among the merry- makers this year, so the laughter may be a bit subdued, but the love and good wishes that circulate will be every bit as heartfelt as in past years. So too our hopes for a blessed holiday season and the very best in the New Year come to each of you with this issue of the Braille Monitor].
Convention Bulletin 1999 ********** It is time to plan for the 1999 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Last year's convention in Dallas was one of the best we have ever experienced--a great hotel staff, a truly impressive program and exhibits, and fellowship of the highest order. The year before, 1997, we set an attendance record in New Orleans. Atlanta in 1999, however, promises to bring not only a bigger and better program but also likely a record attendance, as we gather to celebrate the life and work of Dr. Jernigan and to continue our march to equal opportunity and full participation through the movement he loved and led.
We will meet at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta, a truly beautiful and spacious world-class hotel. Rooms have been reserved for us at both the Marquis and the Atlanta Hilton and Towers, a short walk away. The Marquis, with its 120,000 square feet of meeting space and over 1,600 guest rooms, will be perfect for our convention. The Hilton and Towers has over 1,200 elegantly furnished guest rooms and a number of special guest services.
Once again, our hotel rates at the Marquis are the envy of all. For the 1999 convention they are singles, $57; doubles and twins, $59; triples, $61; and quads, $63. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 14 percent. There will be no charge for children in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested.
For 1999 convention room reservations you should write directly to Atlanta Marriott Marquis, 265 Peachtree Center Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30303, or call (404) 521-0000. Marriott has a national toll-free number, but do not (we emphasize not) use it. Reservations made through this national number will not be valid. They must be made directly with the hotel. The hotel will want a deposit of $60 or a credit card number. If a credit card is used, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $60 check. If a reservation is canceled prior to June 4, 1999, $30 of the $60 deposit will be returned. Otherwise refunds will not be made.
The Marquis is a beautiful, fifty-story atrium hotel with a panoramic view of this bustling city in the heart of the New South. It is twelve miles north of the Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport. Those driving to the convention will find the hotel conveniently located off of Interstate 85, by taking Exit 96, International Boulevard, turning left onto International Boulevard, going to Peachtree Center Avenue, and turning right. The hotel is on the right in the second block. There are three excellent restaurants in the Marquis: Allie's American Grille, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; Atrium Express, open for breakfast and lunch; and Marquis Steakhouse, open for dinner only. Champions Sports Bar is open until 2:00 a.m. and serves lunch and dinner. The hotel features indoor and outdoor pools, a solarium, a health club, whirlpool, and sauna. Rooms provide voice mail, telephone data ports, and complimentary in-room coffee.
The Hilton and Towers combines a convenient location right across the street from the Marquis with superb accommodations and amenities. Rooms are newly renovated, spacious, and luxurious, with rich cherry furnishings and a warm atmosphere.
Since both hotels are in the heart of downtown Atlanta, Federationists attending the convention will have access to a wealth of restaurants, shops, and other attractions like Martin Luther King Center (1.5 miles), Underground Atlanta (0.8 mile), and World of Coca-Cola (0.8 mile). See later issues of the Monitor for information on tours and other outings into the Greater Atlanta area.
The 1999 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be a truly exciting and memorable event, with a program unparalleled, an exciting city to explore, and a rededication to the goals and work of our movement. Make plans now to be a part of it. The schedule this year is a little different from the one to which we are accustomed. Pre-convention seminars for parents of blind children and other groups and set-up of the exhibit hall will take place on Wednesday, June 30, and adjournment will be Tuesday, July 6, at 5:00 p.m. To assure a room in one of the convention hotels at convention rates, you must make reservations early. Convention registration will begin on Thursday, July 1, and both Thursday and Friday will be filled with meetings of divisions and committees, including the Friday morning annual meeting of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, which is open to all. General convention sessions begin on Saturday and continue through the afternoon of Tuesday, July 6. The annual banquet will take place on Monday evening, July 5.
Remember that as usual we need door prizes from state affiliates, local chapters, and individuals. Once again, prizes should be small in size but large in value. Cash, of course, is always appropriate and welcome. As a general rule we ask that prizes of any variety have a value of at least $25. Drawings will occur steadily throughout the convention sessions, and you can anticipate a grand prize of truly impressive proportions to be drawn at the banquet. You may bring door prizes with you or send them ahead of time to Roger Womble, 3966 Wildwood Lake Drive, S.W., Atlanta, Georgia 30331-4361.
The best collection of exhibits, featuring new technology; meetings of our special interest groups, committees, and divisions; memorable tours arranged by the host Georgia affiliate; famous Southern hospitality; the most stimulating and provocative program items of any meeting of the blind in the world; the chance to renew friendships in our Federation family; and the unparalleled opportunity to be where the real action is and where decisions are being made--all of these mean you will not want to miss being a part of the 1999 National Convention. Hotel reservations are now being accepted. Make yours right away, and we'll see you in Atlanta in 1999! ********** ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: Judge Richard C. Casey] A Jurist Who Happens to Be Blind in the Federal Courts by Richard C. Casey ********** From the Editor: Tuesday afternoon, July 7, delegates to the 1998 convention of the National Federation of the Blind heard a stirring address by the Hon. Richard Casey, District Judge in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. He spent several days at the convention, and his fine mind and probity were evident. But those who met him were particularly impressed with both his dedication and his humanity. This is what he said: ********** Dr. Maurer, Dr. Jernigan, Congresswoman Johnson, and members of the National Federation of the Blind: I'm extremely honored to be asked to speak to you this afternoon. I must say, however, I do it, as I told the National Association of Blind Lawyers yesterday afternoon, with a bit of anxiety because I only lost my sight eleven years ago. I stand before you feeling somewhat inadequate realizing all that you have accomplished and all that you have done. It makes me feel like I am just beginning.
I'd like to start my talk this afternoon by telling you a little story. Eleven years ago, right after I lost my sight, I was traveling in Europe, and some friends of mine took me to a religious shrine in southwest France called Lourdes. I was walking across the esplanade in front of the Basilica, and a man approached me and started to speak to me. I couldn't understand a word that he was saying. Fortunately a friend was with me who was from Rome, and he listened intently and finally said: "Well I'm not doing much better. He's speaking Italian, but he lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and he's Mexican and Portuguese, and we're having a hell of a time. He said however, the best I could make out of it is that he admires your guide dog, but he would like to take the two of us up the hill and show us something, I'm not quite sure what." In any event, we accompanied him up the hill, and he took us to a little tiny grave yard. We entered the graveyard, and he took us over to a tombstone and said: "I'd like to tell you the story behind the woman who is buried here. Many years ago a young Italian blind girl was brought to Lourdes by her parents. She resisted because she was an atheist, and this was a religious shrine. But she acquiesced, and, of course, her parents brought her there in hopes that through prayer she might receive the miracle of sight." He told me that she never received that miracle, but she did receive the miracle of faith in God.
She went back home to Italy, and many years later, when she was an old, old woman and was dying, she asked that her body be brought back to Lourdes and buried there. A tombstone was erected with an inscription which we were standing before. The words on the tombstone were, "What is important is not to see but to understand."
For me, who am very new, I feel, to your world, these are words that have lived with me ever since. They are words that are very profound; they contain many layers. They make you think: why was I born, why am I here, where am I going, and how am I going to get there? It encompasses, I think, the philosophy of the NFB- -that, if you have that understanding, if you have the attitude, if you have the talent, there is almost nothing you cannot accomplish.
Now I don't know if the story of the little Italian girl is true. I know the tombstone is there, and as they say in Italian, "Si non e vero, e ben trovato." [literally, "If it is not true, it is well discovered."] I like that. I think I'll give the rest of the speech in Italian. (In all seriousness, don't worry; I have difficulty ordering dinner in an Italian restaurant.)
Every day since 1987 I think about those words. It's been a long road from my early education to this point. I graduated from Holy Cross in 1955, before most of you were born, and I graduated from the Georgetown University Law School in 1958. After that I went on and was appointed Assistant United States Attorney in New York and was assigned the criminal division, where I tried many different cases from narcotics to mail fraud to securities fraud to tax evasion. In 1960 I was appointed the head of the internal security unit, and again, for you younger people in the audience, that was a period known as the Cold War. I had the privilege of representing the United States in prosecuting three Soviet spies: two for espionage and one for perjury. After that I went on and was counsel to a state commission investigating public corruption. Then I went on to private practice, where I engaged in commercial litigation, mostly securities litigation on the civil side with a touch of criminal work--you never seem to get away from it.[laughter] Not that I committed it myself, but represented people, for those in the audience who are laughing. I often have to admonish my law clerks these days that when they answer the phone, please don't tell people that the judge is on trial; he's in trial.
In any event, after a long career in private practice, in 1991 I was approached by one of the judges on the United States District Court in New York who asked me if I would like to join them on the court. Of course I was very honored; however, I really didn't feel quite adequate to assume the job. I had recently lost my eyesight. But after much conversation he convinced me to make a stab at it. He, together with a bipartisan group of judges, recommended me to both Senator D'Amato and Senator Moynihan of New York, and I was recommended to the White House and nominated in 1992 to the District Court. The nomination was sent to the White House, and President Bush acted on it and sent it to the Senate. But unfortunately I learned my first lesson in judicial process. It was election year, they cut off confirmation hearings, and my nomination lapsed with fifty-four others. We were left at the judicial altar so to speak.
In any event, time went by, and last year I was invited by the Moynihan judicial selection committee as well as the D'Amato judicial selection committee to appear before them to be considered again for the United States District Court. In May of last year Senator D'Amato sent my name to the White House for nomination, and Senator Moynihan joined in the nomination. In July I was nominated and confirmed by the Senate in October. I was sworn in in November of last year. I am very pleased and honored with the job I have, but, although Dr. Maurer was quite laudatory in his introduction, I am going to confess to you that my real ambition is to be the first blind nose tackle in the National Football League. [laughter] Since I told you when I graduated from college, I think it is unlikely.
As I told the National Association of Blind Lawyers, with the appointment of David Tatel to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (I'm sure many of you heard him when he spoke at your convention last year) and with my appointment to the United States District Court, we have come a long way in the federal judiciary. For those of you who may not be familiar with the federal court system, basically the federal system has three courts: the basic trial court is the United States District Court, of which I am a member; the intermediate court, the appellate court, is the Circuit Court of Appeals, where Judge Tatel serves; and the Supreme Court of the United States. As I told the lawyers yesterday afternoon, we have made inroads; we have members on both courts; the door is wide open. [applause] I assure you that, sometime in your lifetime, a blind lawyer will be appointed to the United States Supreme Court. [applause]
I think we have made great strides in my profession and in the judiciary, primarily due to two reasons. One is developments in technology, and the other is the change in attitudes in society. I will always be grateful to the Federation for the help they gave me last summer when I was trying to assemble the package of technology we would use in my chambers. I went to Baltimore, and the staff couldn't have been nicer--Dr. Maurer, Richard Ring, all the wonderful people who helped me and the blind engineer who was working with me, who adapted all this material for me. Today I am using things that many of you use, an optical scanner with synthetic voice, a computer with synthetic voice, steno masks, and tape recorders. By September we will have real-time reporting with synthetic voice in my courtroom. It will allow us simultaneously to record, search, and call up testimony. Moreover, it can be remotely transmitted into my chambers. When we have non-jury cases, my law clerks can almost simultaneously with testimony prepare findings of fact and issues of law.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the second point that allows us to succeed and achieve in my profession and in others-- the changes in society. Much of this you have brought about. In touching on this point, I have to commend Senators D'Amato and Moynihan. Not just because of me, but they were the first Senators who had the guts to nominate a blind lawyer to a federal court in over two hundred and eight years. [applause] There is no longer an excuse for any politician; they no longer have to ask "Can it be done?" "Has it ever been done?" It has been done, and they should do it.
There is still a lot that can be done to change society even more. I listened to the Congresswoman speak and the way you brought up issues. Yes, there is much to be done. I think, frankly, that we should all work at it. We can bring it about by example; we can help society change.
At lunch Peggy Elliott asked me to mention that, when I was called before those committees last year, I thought long and hard about it. (I listened to lots of discussion yesterday about how to approach the question of blindness in job interviews. I don't have a patent on it because I am still new at blindness. But I pass along a little story for your consideration.)
I approached my interview just as I used to prepare for trial. I would ask myself, "What are the weaknesses of my witnesses?" Thinking about the committee, I asked myself what my weaknesses--even my perceived--weaknesses were. The answer seemed obvious. I was talking to a group of sighted people, half lawyers and half laymen. When I became blind, I didn't know a single blind person; there's a good chance they don't know one either. So when I walked in the door and sat down, I said, "Before you start, may I say a word? The word is `blind.'" [applause] I said, "Let's not pussyfoot around it; let's put it on the table. What you are all thinking is `Can he do it?'" I then said, "I love this profession; I have great admiration for this court. I would not do anything to damage either one. I am here because I know in my heart that I can do the job." I told them that I did not wish to be recommended to the Senators because I was blind; I wished to be recommended because I was a lawyer who could do the job who happened to be blind. [applause and cheers]
I told Peggy at lunch that at my swearing-in last November a woman who was on the committee but not a lawyer came up to me. She said, "I had to come today because I wanted to tell you that, when I came to the interview nine months ago, I came with the pre-disposition to vote against you because I thought it was impossible. We were not mean-spirited people, but you explained to us how it could be done. I wanted to tell you that, had you not taken the bull by the horns and made it comfortable for all of us, it wouldn't have mattered that you had the credentials. But once we understood, we were happy to give you the highest rating we have ever given a candidate." [applause]
So I humbly suggest that, although we have come a long way and the door is wide open, there is still more to be done. I suggest that you continue to keep that door open by example. Show the world that you can do things that heretofore were never dreamed possible. Show the world that you as a blind person are not solely on the receiving end; give of yourself. The greatest givers, as the Biblical story has it, are those who give from their want to those who have even greater need. You will destroy erroneous stereotypes by showing how much you can give. [applause]
This was beautifully expressed a couple of months ago when I was listening to a broadcast of the Masters Golf Tournament, they did a tribute to the late, great golfer Bobby Jones. To many Bobby Jones was the greatest golfer ever to play the game. Kids, he was the Tiger Woods of his era. He won every golf tournament there was, and he never turned pro. He was also a lawyer-- probably why I like him. But perhaps the thing he did better than anything else was that he devoted a lot of time to teaching young boys to play the game. Even when illness confined him to a wheelchair, he continued to teach young people to play. The commentator said that Bobby never stood as tall as when he stooped to help a boy.
I suggest and humbly urge that you who have done so much and inspire me so much, as you climb the hill and step over the obstacles on your way to the top, look over your shoulder and help the one behind you to get over the fences. [applause] If you do that, I promise you real success. Be good; stay well; God bless. ********** ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. C. Edwin Vaughan, Professor of Sociology at the University of Missouri at Columbia] An Organizational Approach to the Evaluation of Rehabilitation Outcomes: Assessing Three Private Rehabilitation Agencies by C. Edwin Vaughan, Ph.D. ********** From the Editor: The following pilot study was conducted in 1997 and early 1998 by Professor C. Edwin Vaughan for the U.S. Office of Education. Those who have attended annual conventions of the National Federation of the Blind or who are long-time readers of the Braille Monitor are familiar with the many personal stories and anecdotes told by blind people lucky enough to have been students at one of the three private adult rehabilitation training centers conducted with Federation philosophy as the basis of the program. Here, however, is a look at these three programs and the ways in which they differ from traditional training facilities. Dr. Vaughan also suggests additional areas for fruitful investigation. This is what he says: ********** 1. Background
There are approximately one hundred residential programs for persons who are blind in the United States that provide vocational, pre-vocational, and independent-living services to consumers of the Title I Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program. A conservative estimate would suggest that in the last decade at least 30,000 clients participated in these residential programs--ranging from three- to nine-month enrollments. The most frequently stated goal is preparation for competitive employment. Other goals include preparation for additional education (including higher education) and independent living. These residential programs are relatively expensive, frequently costing from $2,700 to $3,000 or more per month for each student. Despite the economic cost and the human effort, there is little evidence that these programs have produced a significant improvement in the level of blind people's participation in the labor force.
During the period 1984 to 1988 three new residential rehabilitation centers were created by members of the largest consumer organization of blind people--the National Federation of the Blind. The reasons for developing these three residential rehabilitation centers was an awareness of the limitations of existing programs. Existing agencies were not, in the opinion of the members of this consumer organization, educating their students adequately for a life of independence, self-reliance, and full participation in society. These three agencies have flourished and are attracting clients from all over the United States and from several other countries.
Those in the field of blindness rehabilitation frequently discuss program evaluation; a fairly complete bibliography was commissioned by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped. Most traditional approaches to evaluation consider the staffing and other agency features and examine client progress in learning particular skills. No research has been done, however, comparing agency effectiveness. No evaluation procedures have effectively studied the holistic effects on the individual in terms of alterations in his or her subsequent life career.
Because of the public monies expended and the wasted human resources, it is important to learn whether these three agencies are more effective than others. As a first step this pilot study will analyze the philosophy, curriculum, and staffing that are all ingredients of the comprehensive rehabilitation experience which these agencies claim is quite effective. In this pilot study I interviewed representative graduates to learn, from the client perspective, the strengths and weaknesses of these programs. ********** 2. Objectives
1. Describe the three residential programs in terms of their philosophies, goals, curricula, personnel practices, services, and consumer outcomes.
2. Identify organizational features (philosophies, goals, curricula, personnel practices, and services) associated with high levels of consumers' vocational/educational success and independence.
3. Analyze the relationships between agency goals and personnel practices.
4. Analyze the relationships between organizational goals and the curriculum provided to the consumer.
5. Establish baseline data for judging the future success of these agencies. ********** 3. Procedures
1. I visited each of the three centers--the Louisiana Center for the Blind (Ruston, Louisiana); the Colorado Center for the Blind (Denver, Colorado); and BLIND, Inc.--Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (Minneapolis, Minnesota).
2. I reviewed relevant documents at all three locations, including annual reports and contract proposals.
3. I interviewed each director, almost all members of the staff, and several members of the boards of directors of the three agencies.
4. As a participant/observer I visited several classes, including mobility, independent living, computer skills, industrial arts (woodworking), and group discussions about the philosophy of blindness.
5. Throughout my site visits I talked informally with clients.
6. From lists of graduates within the last twelve months, I selected nine students for extensive open-ended, unstructured, in-depth telephone interviews. They comprised a purposive sample- -generally reflecting the gender, ethnic, and economic diversity of the client group. From these interviews I tried to learn, from the client's point of view, aspects of the rehabilitation experience associated with the clients' subsequent occupational success and their overall satisfaction with the rehabilitation program.
7. From information gathered in conversations and interviews with students and site observations, I conducted a second round of interviews with the three directors. ********** Philosophy
The philosophy behind the programs of the three centers, for the most part, is similar.
(1) None of the three is associated with a sheltered workshop. This physical separation from sheltered workshops allows students to explore all employment options thoroughly without the appearance of being directed into a sheltered environment.
(2) All three centers address what Diane McGeorge (Director of the Denver Center) referred to as "the real issues" of blindness. These issues include what a person thinks of himself or herself and what ordinary people and some professionals think about blindness. To repeat a slogan frequently heard at these agencies, "We are changing what it means to be blind." Most students come from backgrounds of overprotection and have seldom reflected critically on their own goals and potentials. All three organizations provide experiences to challenge limiting self- concepts.
(3) All agree that programs must be extensive and comprehensive. Everything from attitudes to required skills must be addressed before an individual can participate fully in society. Students do not come to these residential rehabilitation programs to learn only a particular skill such as mobility or computer use.
(4) All three programs require sleep-shade training. Residual vision is to be used, but only after the skills of blindness have been mastered.
(5) All three continually stress positive images of blindness--"There is nothing wrong with being blind." If a student becomes skilled at alternative techniques to vision, blindness can be reduced to an inconvenience. You should make the best of what you have and reject society's negative images about blindness.
(6) Whenever possible, alternative techniques should be taught in real-life situations. For example, to teach cane travel as technique is not enough; the student is learning cane travel skills in order to go somewhere. The goal for students is that when they have become proficient in the use of alternative techniques and develop a positive self-concept, they move on to pursue vocational training, post-secondary education, employment, or a greater degree of independence.
(7) A wellness model is stressed. Students should focus on their potential, not their limitations. There is the expectation that with appropriate training most blind people will succeed in their chosen fields.
(8) Rehabilitation is viewed as part of a lifelong process, and students are expected to begin a long-term involvement with consumer organizations. In the case of these three agencies the preferred consumer organization is the National Federation of the Blind. The purpose is twofold: 1) to give the blind person an ongoing support group which will continually reinforce a positive philosophy about blindness and provide encouragement when difficulties emerge and 2) to involve the students in a commitment to pay back or contribute to the ongoing organization and to the lives of other blind people. The staff even refers to the desire of student outcome as a spiritual experience; rehabilitation will be so transforming you will want to share with others the aspects of your newly found independence and more positive self-image. One staff member in Louisiana mentioned that the staff communicates this urgency to getting on with the transforming of one's life.
Joanne Wilson, Director of the Louisiana Center, expanded the religious theme, describing the rehabilitation experience as somewhat like a traditional "religious revival." After the initial intense transforming experience some people "backslide." By becoming involved in an ongoing organization with positive role models and a positive philosophy, the individual can continually renew the original experience. The traditional community-based attitudes about blindness are so pervasive that it is easy once again to internalize negative self-images or to accept traditional low expectations of what a blind person can achieve. To quote Ms. Wilson again, "We have to teach the students to give back to something else--if we are going to be whole people, we cannot just take from this world, but we have to give back. This is particularly important for blind people; it is so easy never to give anything back because people have so often given everything to you--paid for your coffee or taken care of you through family, welfare, etc. The involvement in the consumer organization helps sustain the social movement which produces public education, legislation, litigation, new employment opportunities, etc., which may in turn help the individual in additional ways." Although encouraged, students are not required to join the National Federation of the Blind. ********** Curriculum
The three centers attempt to link philosophy to rehabilitation outcomes through both curriculum and staff involvement. For this discussion I have included the physical environment as part of the environment.
(1) All students in the residential rehabilitation program are encouraged to live independently. Furnished apartments are provided for students, usually two students sharing a two-bedroom unit. Students are responsible for cleaning the apartment and for cooking and preparing their own food. In all cases these apartments are considerably removed from the main rehabilitation facility. Students are required to work out their own transportation--usually public busses.
(2) All instruction is linked, as much as possible, to real life situations. If a student needs to open a checking account or make an appointment with a beauty shop, the task becomes part of mobility instruction. Students will not simply learn to cook; they will learn how to prepare a meal for all their fellow students at the center.
(3) All three centers include at least four hours each week in what is referred to as business seminars--the business of living. These are discussion groups involving both students and staff. They are intended to help students examine their own attitudes about blindness and to understand the reasons for the social and instructional arrangements they are experiencing. The intent is to change attitudes and broaden perspectives.
(4) There is a distinct approach to mobility instruction. Cane travel instruction is extensive throughout one's time at any of these three rehabilitation centers. At some traditional centers cane travel will be taught only one to four months. Only the basic techniques can be learned in this brief period; becoming a confident and safe traveler takes much longer. Russell Anderson is a travel instructor at the Minnesota Center. He prefers the word "travel" to "orientation and mobility." To him, travel means learning to go out, to go somewhere safely and on your own.
All three centers strongly recommend the use of the long lightweight, carbon-fiber cane. Not only is this cane a symbol of freedom, but it also enables the traveler to explore the travel surface one stride in advance of traditional shorter canes. According to the instructors this cane has many other advantages that go beyond the scope of this report.
(5) The curriculum includes social experiences that most students have never imagined. All three centers encourage their students to attend state and national conventions of the National Federation of the Blind. In this context students learn social skills, self-reliance, and independent travel in quite diverse settings. In 1997 all three centers sent students to attend the NFB convention at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Orleans, a five- day event with more than 3,200 registrants. To avoid criticism from funding sources, the Colorado, Minnesota, and Louisiana affiliates of the NFB provide scholarships for student attendance. Funds from the state agencies sponsoring each student are not used for this purpose.
(6) The student experience is based on more than an eight- hour day. The positive philosophy is taught and lived in a twenty-four-hour environment. Students learn from positive role models: roommates, instructors, citizens in the community, and board members. The staff accompany the students on a wide array of field trips. These field trips are intended to provide students with experiences they had never imagined or thought possible. These include wilderness camping, rock climbing, white water rafting, cave exploring, skiing, and attending festivals such as Mardi Gras. The intent is to increase self-confidence and promote a more positive self-image.
(7) Except for discussion groups much of the instruction is one-on-one. Typically between eighteen and twenty-four students are enrolled in the residential rehabilitation program. The staff-to-student ratio is usually around 1.5 to 1. All three centers thought twenty students to be the optimal number. These numbers are approximate, but below twelve students is less desirable because the number and variety of positive role models is restricted.
(8) All students are taught Braille without regard to residual vision. I met one student at the Louisiana Center who was excited about learning to read--at age twenty-three. He had experienced two rehabilitation centers in California, which did not instruct him in Braille. They tried to use his residual vision without success. Research has demonstrated that students who become literate in Braille are far more successful in employment and independent living than visually impaired students not learning Braille. Braille is an important feature of the curriculum for education, as is the long white cane for traveling. Proficiency in both is essential and required.
(9) Students also participate in several additional curricular areas, including computer skills, cooking, and woodworking. These are subjects important in their own right but also teach independence and self-reliance and provide a broader perspective on the capabilities of blind people.
(10) As previously mentioned, sleep shade use is required throughout the curriculum. Students are told this before they arrive, and it is clearly communicated in most brochures and informational material. All three directors agreed that there is no better way to teach the skills of independent living. Although programs are individualized for each student, all are told before they arrive that these programs teach a distinct philosophy about blindness.
(11) Students do not pick and choose preferred aspects of the curriculum; the training is both intensive and comprehensive. One staff member likened the experience to boot camp. Students must follow all specific rules, or their training will be discontinued. Students with problems other than blindness, if too disruptive, will be sent home. ********** Staff
(1) All staff members must have been competitively employed before being considered for employment in these three agencies. This is an additional dimension to the positive role modeling; students learn from their competent blind instructors about other employment opportunities that might be available.
(2) Blindness is not a requirement; however, most of the instructors are blind. If a competent blind instructor is available, this makes role modeling even stronger. At BLIND, Inc., Joyce Scanlan, Director, observed that many students come to the program initially having more confidence in the sighted members of the staff. This quickly changes and bonding occurs. Negative opinions of the sighted staff do not grow, but new levels of appreciation and respect develop concerning the qualities of the blind staff.
(3) All employees must share in the positive views reflected in the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind-- otherwise they will not be retained. The agency in Louisiana is the only one of the three that requires all employees to participate in the National Federation of the Blind.
Such personnel policies differ dramatically from those frequently seen at larger private agencies. Sometimes it is difficult--if not impossible--for staff members from more traditional agencies to express in their behavior their philosophy of independence. They may encounter resistance in larger agencies dominated by sighted or blind individuals with traditional philosophies or practices involving custodial care. The effort of a teacher to become more effective and be a positive role model can become a threat in the traditional agency. In fact Scanlan observed that workers in larger centers are sometimes rewarded for their willingness to be dependent upon other staff members. They are rewarded for being led around rather than traveling independently because the former maintains the status quo. Also in more traditional agencies there is the additional problem of the accumulation of minimally competent people because it is difficult to remove them. According to the people I interviewed, learning from teachers who often appear to have little confidence in other blind people is one of the most deadening experiences a student can encounter. Staff members who demonstrate unnecessary dependence or anything less than the highest levels of accomplishment are not acceptable in these three agencies, where the example and contribution of each person is critical.
(4) Sighted employees undergo extensive sleep-shade training as part of their new-employee orientation program. For example, the sighted industrial arts teacher at BLIND, Inc., of Minnesota spent three months at the Louisiana Center learning the skills of blindness with the use of sleep shades. Sighted employees frequently use their sleep shades as part of the educational effort to teach a particular skill to a blind student.
(5) Although stated in several different ways, I frequently heard employees characterize themselves as believing in blind people. The intent of the staff is to accomplish more than teaching a particular skill. According to Diane McGeorge of the Colorado Center, a strong component of success is the commitment of each staff member to the success of each student, along with high expectations of what blind people can achieve. The program tries to communicate that clients can take control of their own lives.
(6) The staff expect self-reliance. Students are expected to learn to solve individual problems as they arise. At many more traditional residential rehabilitation centers things are done for students that are not even considered at these three centers. At some traditional centers I have observed students eating in cafeterias rather than preparing their own meals. At one of the other centers blind students raise their hands in the cafeteria and receive prompt assistance. At another center students can even request that meals be delivered to their rooms. To the staff of the three NFB-oriented centers, such behavior would be viewed as custodialism. Custodial treatment is detrimental to the acquisition of a positive self-concept and the expectation that a blind person can live independently. ********** Social Organization
All three of these agencies began during the period 1984 to 1988. Each was established without the assistance of the others. Each is closely linked to the state affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). Each was started by individuals active in the NFB.
The NFB has affiliates throughout the fifty states and also in Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. Each state affiliate is formally linked to the national organization. Each state can pursue its own way of promoting the interests of blind people and the education of the public about blindness.
Each of these three agencies was begun with the financial assistance of the state affiliates--the NFB of Colorado, Minnesota, and Louisiana. The reason for developing these three residential rehabilitation centers was an awareness of the limitations of existing programs. Existing agencies were not, in the opinion of these members of consumer organizations, preparing the students adequately for a life of independence, self- reliance, and full participation in society. They decided to create new agencies that would address these concerns by developing a curriculum and recruiting a staff that would embody a more positive view of blindness. I have mentioned these values, curriculum, and staffing patterns earlier in this report.
Each of these centers is a not-for-profit organization, and each is governed by a Board of Directors. In all cases at least half of the board must be comprised of blind people. The blind members of these boards must be competitively employed and active in local consumer organizations of blind people.
For most of the several hundred private blindness rehabilitation agencies in the United States, board memberships are based on wealth and social status--to help legitimate the agency in the local community and assist in fund raising. These are important issues to these three agencies as well; however, the overriding concern is to have a governing board that is sympathetic to and knowledgeable of the philosophies of these agencies. All board members are expected to be involved in some aspect of the agency's programs. ********** Assessing Outcomes
Data to judge one agency or to compare the performance of different agencies are rare. In a 1991 report BLIND, Inc., reviewed the subsequent experience of students graduated in the previous year. This agency focused on outcomes. This helps avoid wasting scarce resources and places emphasis on the frequently stated goals of the rehabilitation process. In the short run this means determining whether or not students have learned valued skills and attitudes. In the longer view it refers to the consequences the required skills and attitudes have for vocational success and independent living. For example, BLIND, Inc., in its annual report for 1991 listed the outcome of its rehabilitation efforts. **********
Twenty-six students participated in the comprehensive training program in 1991. Of those, three had not completed training. Those who have left the program are doing the following:
10--attending high school or college 6--employed 4--seeking employment 3--living independently (BLIND, Inc., 1991, pp. 2-3) Whatever else the future holds for these individuals, the report suggests that they have not become dependent on the agency and are living independently and continuing their education and employment. ********** Agencies Compared in Minnesota
Data comparing agencies on student outcomes are also rare. The Department of Jobs and Training, State Services for the Blind, contracts with three private agencies in Minnesota to provide alternative techniques for blind people to pursue their vocational and rehabilitation interests more efficiently. These are Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND, Inc.), the Minneapolis Society for the Blind (MSB), and the Duluth Lighthouse for the Blind (DLB).
The following charts were based on data collected by the staff for the Minnesota State Services for the Blind. For the question concerning what students did with their lives after leaving the training facilities, the first chart shows that the difference in the outcomes for those involved in the three agencies was great. ********** [CAPTION: Activity after Training: This bar chart represents the percentage of graduates from each agency engaged in each activity: Employment, BLIND 14 percent, MSB 5 percent, DLB 6 percent; Student, BLIND 43 percent, MSB 14 percent, DLB 11 percent; Planning, BLIND 28 percent, MSB 23 percent, DLB 6 percent; Looking for Job, BLIND 14 percent, MSB 5 percent, DLB 0 percent; Homemaking, BLIND 0 percent, MSB 10 percent, DLB 27 percent; Retired, BLIND 0 percent, MSB 5 percent, DLB 17 percent; Nothing, BLIND 0 percent, MSB 37 percent, DLB 33 percent] ********** Concerning the use of Braille, BLIND, Inc., reported more than twice the percentage of students using it every week. More than 55 percent from BLIND, Inc., reported weekly use, while only 12 percent from the Duluth Lighthouse for the Blind did so. Activities for daily living included grooming, upkeep of clothing, cooking, housekeeping, sewing, shopping, etc. Similarly, for these tasks there were pronounced differences among agencies. The Duluth Lighthouse for the Blind was the weakest on all measures, according to the NFB of Minnesota analysis of the data. ********** [CAPTION: Daily Living After Training. This bar chart shows the percentage of graduates from each agency engaged in the various activities charted: Banking, BLIND 79 percent, MSB 51 percent, DLB 50 percent; General shopping, BLIND 79 percent, MSB 51 percent, DLB 50 percent; Grocery shopping, BLIND 85 percent, MSB 42 percent, DLB 40 percent; Personal organization, BLIND 70 percent, MSB 56 percent, DLB 56 percent.] ********** I have no ready access to additional data that would permit additional comparisons of the type mentioned above. It would doubtless be a sensitive issue in most states. However, the differences describing agency outcomes in Minnesota were so great that additional research is justified. ********** Interviews with Individuals
I conducted more than thirty brief, casual interviews with currently enrolled students in the three agencies. I also conducted nine open-ended, in-depth interviews with individuals who had completed the residential programs within the previous twelve months. Of this group comprised of four women and five men ranging in age from nineteen to forty-two years, three were continuing their higher education and six were competitively employed.
Disclosure: I am a member of the NFB and am sympathetic to its previously mentioned general goals. I am aware of my own values and likely biases. I think my level of self-understanding and critical reflection enables me to look at these agencies and interview these individuals in a balanced manner. ********** Self-Selection
Before beginning site visits, I presumed the likelihood of a social network which might recruit clients to these three agencies. Some critics have argued that these agencies exist primarily to recruit members for the NFB. New members may be one outcome, but it does not appear to be an explanation for the level of staff commitment and the nature of student responses.
Of the approximately thirty informal interviews, only six individuals had previously been involved in NFB local organizations before attending these three centers. Only one of the nine individuals in the in-depth interviews had previous involvement in the NFB. Many of them had never heard of the NFB or the state affiliates where these three agencies are located. In all cases current clients are likely to come from the state where the agency is located. However, approximately one third come from other states scattered across the United States. Incidentally, there are occasionally students from other countries; staff from these three agencies have also been involved in transporting their programs and philosophies to other countries, most recently to Poland.
I repeatedly inquired why individuals selected these three agencies. The answers were quite varied. Some were referred by their local rehabilitation counselors. Others had heard of these programs from acquaintances who had either attended or had some knowledge of the agencies. One of my conclusions is that individuals do not come to these agencies through an NFB network. Any self-selection process biasing assessment outcomes is minimal. ********** In-depth Interviews
Based on my observations at the three sites and my informal conversations with resident clients, I was not surprised that the nine former students I interviewed by telephone were positive about their recent residential rehabilitation experience. All stated that the programs had helped them reach their individual goals. These goals included greater independence, preparation to pursue higher education more effectively, and employment. Those currently employed had received placement assistance from their rehabilitation center.
In various ways all nine indicated that they had left the programs with greater confidence in themselves and a more positive philosophy about their situations as blind people. Seven of the nine spoke in different ways of the importance of the "unusual things we did." They mentioned doing things that they never would have thought of previously, such as rock climbing, white-water rafting, and traveling to a distant city to participate in a national convention.
Although they expressed it in different ways, all of them thought that the stress on a positive philosophy (through staff example, other students, and the regularly scheduled discussions concerning a positive philosophy) were an extremely important feature of their experience. Two individuals stated that, however good they were, the specific techniques they learned were not as important as the overall impact of the programs on their lives.
Four of the nine students had different levels of residual vision. All valued the sleep-shade aspect of the training. They valued cane-travel training from a blind instructor. This was even the case for the two individuals who had encountered blindness within the previous two years.
All of the students valued the independent-living experience associated with their residence--having a roommate, being responsible for their abode, preparing their food, and having personal responsibility for things affecting their lives. One mentioned that the "bar was placed very high." The staff set high expectations and worked with each individual to this end. Other individuals mentioned the importance of informal group activities--the way in which students learned from each other's successes. Eight of the nine had become active in local chapters of the NFB. They developed ongoing friendships with their teachers as well as with other students. They had not been a part of a supportive social network before they came to these agencies, but following their graduation they continued their association with other blind people sharing a similar philosophy about blindness.
I had to look hard to find complaints. Some felt that the challenges in the early part of the rehabilitation process had been too great. However, as they worked through their fears, they retrospectively felt their anxiety to have been part of an old self-concept that they had left behind. I have no doubt that these nine individuals felt their lives had been permanently and positively changed. They had not only reached their specific goals in an important sense but felt that they had become different people.
Not every person attending these programs will have the same experience as these individuals. In my sample I tried to assure that the nine individuals did not have obvious personal or physical problems other than blindness. I obtained this information from the directors.
These agencies do accept students with physical and other problems as long as their behavior is not disruptive and as long as the individual has a possibility of benefiting from the rehabilitation experience. For example, one of the students I met was recently blinded at age twenty-five--injured by a shotgun blast while individuals disputed a drug transaction. While beginning his rehabilitation towards independent living, Braille, and mobility, he was required to attend programs to help him become free from drug and alcohol dependency. Relapses in chemical dependency would mean dismissal from the program. Other students have various levels of mental ability, determination, and ambition. They may not aspire to higher education and may have limited employment goals. Clear progress is more difficult to determine in these cases. ********** Repeat Visits to Residential Rehabilitation Centers
One of the unexpected findings of my informal interviews with students at the three centers was the number of clients who had previously attended one, two, or even three other residential rehabilitation centers. With hindsight and their obvious appreciation of their present situation, all of them said that their earlier residential rehabilitation experiences had been inadequate. They complained about various shortcomings, including failure to teach cane travel properly and short programs that were too brief to permit mastery of the skills of blindness.
If there is a national pattern to sequential visits to different rehabilitation programs, it merits further study. The costs of these visits are considerable; $3,000 per month is a commonly quoted figure. Assuming the earlier visits were inadequate, there may be unnecessary months and years when potential workers are not in the labor force. There also may be unnecessary months and years of individuals' living restricted lives and being unnecessarily dependent on others.
To obtain a broader perspective on this issue, I spoke with Ms. Suzanne Mitchell, Executive Director for Blind Services, Department of Social Services/Louisiana Rehabilitation Services for the Louisiana Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She confirmed that the sequential visits do frequently occur, although she did not know of any research specific to this issue. She mentioned several possible reasons:
1) Some clients enjoy these experiences and request additional opportunities.
2) Some counselors easily grant requests or themselves suggest additional visits--it is something for the client to do.
3) Some visits are too brief to make significant rehabilitation possible.
4) Some visits may be for a specific technique such as to learn to develop computer skills or perhaps to train for a specific occupation.
5) Frequently those who are gradually losing eyesight receive rehabilitation services appropriate to their level of vision loss. A year later a new round may be deemed necessary to add additional skills of blindness.
I suggest other possible explanations. The first is the politics of spending public money. Residential rehabilitation centers are highly dependent on cash flow resulting from client fees. In some cases some rehabilitation counselors, through normal social networks, may be responsive to the needs of particular agencies to receive more clients. Second, some residential rehabilitation programs are not as effective as others. Even after many months, some other graduates may not have learned independent living skills or other skills necessary for employment (see data comparing the Minnesota agency presented earlier).
Finally, some blind individuals may have multiple problems as do others in American society. These additional problems may prevent significant progress. If some of these can be solved in another context, it may make sense to send the person for another session at a residential rehabilitation center.
The frequency of these sequential visits and the reasons for their occurrence merit further research. ********** Summary
My observations, reading of documents, and interviews persuade me that the three agencies--BLIND, Inc., of Minnesota; the Colorado Center for the Blind; and the Louisiana Center for the Blind are offering remarkably effective residential rehabilitation programs at this time. Main ingredients of this outcome include able leadership; careful staffing; a broad, positive, and yet realistic philosophy about blindness; and a curriculum that links philosophy to student development. The setting, including student residences, is also integrated into the overall rehabilitation program. There is a pervasive upbeat atmosphere which would be hard for any student to ignore. From the board of directors, director, staff, and students there is a strong commitment to the values and importance of these rehabilitation centers. Almost everyone sets high expectations, and everyone wants each student to succeed.
By the information these agencies present, the graduates of these residential rehabilitation programs are successful as measured by student goals for attending one of these centers. Many current students and a small sample of former students speak very well, almost without qualification, of these programs. Some present and former students speak of their experience as "life- transforming." In addition to particular skills, they have acquired a self-concept, a guiding philosophy, and a social network enabling them to sustain their ability to conquer future challenges.
In general I have a critical attitude toward almost everything and would have readily exposed any problems, discontent, or failure in performance that I observed or learned about. More research should be done in order to compare these three agencies with other not-for-profit private agencies or the few state-operated residential rehabilitation centers. Additional research should be conducted on the issue of why students frequently attend residential rehabilitation centers on multiple occasions. Is it because some centers are ineffective? Are the other reasons justified? Which reasons and why? ********** ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: Cheralyn Braithwaite] The Blind in the Teaching Profession by Cheralyn Braithwaite ********** From the Editor: The first item on the Thursday morning agenda at the 1998 National Convention was a presentation by Cheralyn Braithwaite, a special education teacher from Bountiful, Utah. Her story was familiar, but she told it with compelling honesty and heart-warming enthusiasm. This is what she said: ********** I was born to a family of ten children. When I was one year old, my mom noticed that I held books close to my face and that I watched TV with my chin on the TV table--there are still teeth marks on the edge of it to prove it. My dad and some of my brothers and sisters dismissed it as a bad habit. None of them wanted me to visit an optometrist for fear we'd find out I was going to be different, need glasses, and be made fun of. As well intended as my family was, they were afraid of my vision or the lack of it.
I fell into that fear by pretending I was no different from anyone else. We found out that I had "extreme myopia, a lazy eye, and astigmatism." I got glasses when I was almost two and contact lenses at four. They helped, but just hid the problem. When asked if I could see a deer at the side of the road, I pretended I could. I endured backyard vision screenings, playing catch with a brother who was convinced that the harder he threw the softball, the more likely I'd be to see it. When watching a movie or play, I laughed on the cue of the rest of the audience, pretending I knew the punch line without admitting I needed an explanation. It goes on and on.
My scheming worked for years--or so I thought. In school I pretended to read as all the other students did in class. I pretended I could take the quiz written on the chalkboard or overhead projector. Although I was a relatively hard-working student, I allowed my grades to slide and allowed myself to accept being less than I am.
One experience I had during this period of pretending to be normal still haunts me. I had just proved my ability to perform in an advanced English class in the seventh grade. The transfer was made, and soon I was involved in a group presentation on The Red Badge of Courage. My turn to present came. It was accompanied by an all too familiar anxiety attack. I looked at my notes and then at my peers and decided it just wasn't worth the humiliation of holding the paper at the necessary reading distance, the end of my nose. Instead, I chose an alternate route to humiliation. I attempted to read my notes at the normal distance. The student next to me (as well as the teacher and the rest of the class, I'm sure) sensed my difficulty. This student began whispering my notes to me like a parent to a timid child performing for an audience. I dismissed my frustration with a laugh here and there between my disjointed prompts. Finally it ended. I hoped I could now put the experience behind me. But that wasn't possible. The adolescent devastation was there to stay. My teacher didn't let it go either. She called my parents to find out if I was able to read. She thought I wasn't intelligent enough for her class. Dad made the necessary excuses, and I was able to remain in the class. Unfortunately the memory also remained. Trying to be normal wasn't worth the pain.
This faking continued until my vision decreased significantly in my eighth-grade year. The issue could no longer be ignored. I saw a specialist and was finally given a label. "I have cone dystrophy," and soon thereafter I was able to say, "I am visually impaired." The second label came after being introduced to special education and a dear friend named Carol. She helped me face my fears of admitting there was a problem and helped me to make adaptations. This was a huge step in my life. I no longer allowed anything to keep me from getting straight A's.
I still had a lot of learning to do by way of admitting to myself that I couldn't do things the same way as others around me. I even got a driver's license. (I guess legally I could drive, but realistically I was crazy to try--especially when I cheated on one of the vision tests.) Driving lasted for only a few years until I'd put myself and others in danger too many times. Giving it up, as much as I needed to, was devastating. I remember other periods of devastation, sitting in classes and other situations with tearful eyes, wondering why I was so stupid and why couldn't I do things the same way as the students or friends around me could. All of this in an attempt to be normal. It too wasn't worth the pain.
College wasn't a huge adjustment. I entered Brigham Young University as a special education major with two scholarships and the same old insecurities. I learned quickly that I couldn't depend on Support Services for Students with Disabilities. Classes weren't easy, so I had to start developing my own adaptive techniques. With each semester I learned techniques that would make the next one even easier. I got my own readers; I learned to rely on descriptions while using binoculars to distinguish objects in slides or on the board. I figured out that I can read print on certain colors more easily than on others, so I began using colored transparency sheets to lay over the page I was reading. Through this I gained confidence, but I still avoided computers at all costs.
This confidence greatly increased when I came in contact with Norman Gardner, Ray Martin, and their wives. They introduced me to the National Federation of the Blind just over two years ago. They came at just the right time. Relationships, my choice of major, and other serious decisions in my life left me doubting myself as I never had before. I was dragged to Anaheim, California, by Norm and Ray for the 1996 National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind.
It really was quite an ordeal getting me there. I was very scared. I had never traveled alone; I never did anything alone. (I went out of my way to plan for family members or friends to be with me wherever I went. I couldn't even walk into church alone for fear I wouldn't find the pew where my family sat.) Now this! Flying alone, navigating an airport alone, claiming baggage alone, coping with possible transfers alone. My dad never really liked the idea of my going places alone, and I knew I hated the idea myself. But I finally consented because there would be other people whom I had met once before on the same flight, and they were willing to help me.
Although overwhelmed, I soon came to know many people who have become some of my best friends and role models--Kristen Cox, Ron Gardner, Robert Olsen, their spouses, and Bruce Gardner. I began to learn that I had potential that I'd never given myself credit for and never let others see. I knew I didn't have to be afraid anymore of who I was. I knew I would be more honest with myself and be able to let others see the real me. All of these feelings culminated at the banquet. I had heard all the incredible plans of the scholarship winners, and I realized I didn't want to live any of the misconceptions that President Maurer referred to. Most of all, I knew my life could never be the same. The pretending and the fear had to end. I went from doubting my identity, my career choice, and even my self-worth, to craving independence that I'd never experienced before.
In fact, I was accepted to go on a study abroad program to London. This is where the craving began. By the end of the program, I was navigating and using the Underground or Tube (the subway system) independently. I loved the freedom of getting from place to place, experiencing the culture, etc., with the group or on my own if I wanted to.
Just one year after Anaheim I had school schedule conflicts that caused me to have to leave a few days late for last year's National Convention in New Orleans. This meant flying alone, transferring alone, claiming baggage alone, and getting to the hotel alone. This time, however, I had a much different experience. I looked at it as an opportunity and adventure to test some of my new travel skills and self-reliance. My friend Norm described it as an example of personal triumph and independence. What a contrast to the previous year. That convention only reinforced and intensified the feelings from the year before.
Back to school now. As required at BYU, I had opportunities to volunteer and later to teach in different classroom settings each semester in the special education program. I encountered frightening, stressful, and even dangerous situations. But, as my mom likes to remind me, a thought hit me one day near the end of my college career. I realized that I was capable of handling any one of these classroom situations. My traveling experience as well as experiences in my education, soon helped me realize that I didn't want to be the average blind person with the average job. . . (I think most of us have heard the quotation). I wanted to be the best! Doing the best job!
Before I found this determination, I had been terrified. I was convinced that I was crazy to think I could be a teacher. I dreaded applying for jobs because I just knew I would be a joke, walking into any interview. I had begun to talk myself into settling for a teacher's assistant position. That way I wouldn't have to be as responsible and could just follow in someone else's footsteps.
But, as I said, my introduction to the NFB came at just the right time. I began using a cane (after leaving my lasting impression in college when I missed the barricades and stepped into fresh cement on campus), and I also began learning how to be up-front about my blindness in professional situations. I absolutely hated the interviewing process, but I kept at it. Suddenly the terror ended when I interviewed with some very open- minded people. I was amazed to find that I wouldn't be turned down because of a disability but instead that I was hired, not only because of my accomplishments, but also because of the determination and sensitivity my blindness has given me. Soon I found myself tearfully saying good-bye to my parents (both natural and in the Federation) to accept a position an hour away in a junior high intellectually disabled unit. Here was the independence I'd longed for.
I am fortunate enough to have a boss who is very sensitive to the needs of his teachers. He knew there was a possibility that I'd need some adaptive technology. So for Christmas he gave me a request form for the things I needed. Now I have a large computer monitor (my jumbo tron), with speech and enlargement software on the way (I can't survive without the one thing I hated and dreaded in school--I'd die without my computer), and I also have a lighting system in my classroom that dims above my desk to make my reading and paper work more bearable.
I am also fortunate to work with amazing teachers who are willing to support and help each other whenever needed. They aren't condescending in their offers to help. But I think they are still learning about me as an individual and about blindness in general. (I really confused them when I won the turkey at the Thanksgiving faculty free throw contest.)
It's hard to believe I ever considered being merely a teacher's assistant. I now have two full-time assistants and one part-time assistant working under me. I also supervise several students who get credit for being peer tutors in my classroom. My assistants understand my limitations (not seeing problem behaviors at the back of the room, etc.) and are able to follow my cues to deal with such situations. They know that I'm in charge, and I'm able to give them unique responsibilities that they might not have in a sighted teacher's classroom. I find that this brings accountability and consistency to my classroom.
I can even recognize ways that my students benefit from my blindness. I'm sensitive to their feelings of inadequacy. I'm able to come up with alternative ways of learning the same thing. The concepts they learn are practiced and reinforced since I have to ask them to read or tell me what they are working on or what their answer is. I'm not afraid to admit, and even laugh, when I make a mistake.
I absolutely love my job! I never expected to enjoy being a professional so much. It wasn't an easy road getting to this point, and I know the journey continues. I know I owe much of this to my involvement in the National Federation of the Blind. It was this organization that helped me gain confidence, self- respect, initiative, and courage to do the things I've mentioned. I was strengthened by the philosophy, the history I learned from reading Walking Alone and Marching Together, the leadership, the political influence I witnessed at Washington Seminar, etc. I will forever be grateful for what I have gained and will continue to gain from the NFB and the people and philosophy that make it what it is. I now hope to bring it to others so that it can dramatically change their lives too. Thank you. ********** ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: Sharon Maneki] Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award for 1999 by Sharon Maneki ********** From the Editor: Sharon Maneki is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. She also chairs the committee to select the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 1999. ********** The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind children at our 1999 convention June 30 to July 7, in Atlanta, Georgia. The winner of this award will receive an expense-paid trip to the convention, a check for $500, an appropriate plaque, and an opportunity to make a presentation about the education of blind children to the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children early in the convention.
Anyone who is currently teaching or counseling blind students or administering a program for blind children is eligible to receive this award. It is not necessary to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind to apply. However, the winner must attend the National Convention. Teachers may be nominated by colleagues, supervisors, or friends. The letter of nomination should explain why the teacher is being recommended for this award.
The education of blind children is one of our most important concerns. Attendance at a National Federation of the Blind convention will enrich a teacher's experience by affording him or her the opportunity to meet other teachers who work with blind children, to meet parents, and to meet blind adults who have had experiences in a variety of educational programs. Help us recognize a distinguished teacher by distributing this form and encouraging teachers to submit their credentials. We are pleased to offer this award and look forward to applications from many well-qualified educators. ********** NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHILDREN AWARD 1999 APPLICATION **********
City: State: Zip:
Day phone: Evening phone:
City: State: Zip:
List your degrees, the institutions from which they were received, and your major area or areas of study.
How long and in what programs have you worked with blind children?
In what setting do you teach? residential school classroom
special education classroom itinerant program
other, please explain.
How many students do you teach regularly this year?
What subjects do you teach?
How many of your students read and write primarily using:
Braille large print closed circuit television
recorded materials regular print
Please complete this application and attach the following: a letter of nomination from someone who knows your work, one additional recommendation also from someone who knows you professionally and knows your philosophy of teaching, and a letter from you discussing your beliefs and approach to teaching blind students. You may wish to discuss topics like the following: * What are your views on the importance to your students of Braille, large print, and magnification devices; and what issues do you consider when making recommendations about learning media for your students? * When do you recommend that your students begin the following: reading Braille, writing with a slate and stylus, using a Braille writer, learning to travel independently with a white cane? * How should one determine which children should learn cane travel and which should not? * When should typing be introduced, and when should a child be expected to hand in typed assignments?
Send all material by May 15, 1999, to Sharon Maneki, Chairwoman, Teacher Award Committee, 9736 Basket Ring Road, Columbia, Maryland 21045; telephone: (410) 992-9608. ********** ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: Steve Benson] The 1999 Blind Educator of the Year Award by Stephen O. Benson ********** From the Editor: Steve Benson is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Illinois. He also chairs the committee charged with identifying each year's Blind Educator of the Year. Here is what he has to say: ********** Several years ago the Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by the National Association of Blind Educators (the teachers division of the National Federation of the Blind) to pay tribute to a blind teacher whose exceptional classroom performance, notable community service, and uncommon commitment to the NFB merit national recognition. Beginning with the 1991 presentation, this award became an honor bestowed by our entire movement. This change reflects our recognition of the importance of good teaching and the impact an outstanding blind teacher has on students, faculty, community, and all blind Americans.
This award is given in the spirit of the outstanding educators who founded and have continued to nurture the National Federation of the Blind and who, by example, have imparted knowledge of our strengths to us and raised our expectations. We have learned from Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and President Marc Maurer that a teacher not only provides a student with information, but also provides guidance and advocacy. The recipient of the Blind Educator of the Year Award must exhibit all of these traits and must advance the cause of blind people in the spirit and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.
The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Honorees must be present to receive an appropriately inscribed plaque and a check for $500.
Nominations should be sent to Steve Benson, 7020 North Tahoma, Chicago, Illinois 60646. Letters of nomination must be accompanied by a copy of the nominee's current resume and supporting documentation of community and Federation activity. All nomination materials must be in the hands of the committee chairman by May 15, 1999, to be considered for this year's award. ********** ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: Tim Day investigates the Braille Lite in the exhibit hall at the 1998 NFB Convention.] A Trip To Remember! by Tim Day ********** From the Editor: Tim Day is one of the young people whose parents comprise the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. In many ways he has grown up in the NFB, but everyone has to discover the truths the Federation has to offer for him or herself. The following story first appeared in the Summer, 1998, edition of the Blind Washingtonian, a publication of the NFB of Washington. Here is Tim's story: ********** Blind Washingtonian's note: Tim Day is the teenaged son of Debbie Day, active member of our Parents of Blind Children Division. Here is what he had to say during the parents lunch meeting, held in conjunction with our State Convention. ********** The past few years I have enjoyed going to a regular old summer camp where you have lots of fun goofing off with other kids and no responsibilities. I loved it! But then I graduated from the camp, due to my age, and my mom started talking about something different. She started talking about sending me to the Buddy Program that is held each summer at either the NFB Center for the Blind in Colorado or Louisiana.
I did not want to go. First of all, it meant possibly flying alone to one of these states, staying a month, and then, instead of just doing nothing but have fun, I was expected to learn skills to be independent! No way!
Independence sounds great, but the fact is that it's hard. Maybe for people who are just blind it's easier, but for me it's hard, and I certainly did not want to go to a summer program where the fun was going to be replaced by work! I could not believe that my mom was even suggesting it--but then again she was big on this idea of independence.
Even though she kept mentioning it from time to time, I did not really think she would send me, but then the official word came--I was going! I imagined all sorts of things, like maybe they would let me starve to death if I didn't prepare my own meals, or maybe I'd get lost because I wouldn't know my way around. I could not believe my parents were really going to do this to me!
But on July 12, I boarded a plane alone for Denver, Colorado. While there, I lived in an apartment off campus with my counselor Alan and Robert Riddle, a kid from Vancouver, Washington. All of us were blind.
Well, I am going to tell you that it was hard, but it was also fun--more fun than hard, too! Most weekdays we had to be up early, shower, eat, make a sack lunch, and catch the bus to campus for classes. We took classes in daily living skills, Braille, computer, and orientation and mobility. All my teachers except one were blind, and they talked about what it meant to be blind.
We did some job shadowing out in the community, learned to rock climb, went to movies, and went out to dinner. We shopped for our own food, cooked our own meals, and cleaned up after ourselves. Instead of using a car as we do at home, in Denver we used public transportation for everything.
They have two programs. One is for the younger kids, nine to fourteen, and it's a month long. That's the one I attended. The program for the high school students is eight weeks long and includes attending the NFB National Convention for one week. The younger kids do job shadowing while the older kids actually hold paying jobs in the community.
One of the things I enjoy most is foreign languages, so I was very fortunate that Robert, my roommate, knew Spanish. We often would spend the entire bus ride each morning talking with each other in Spanish, much to the delight of the others on the bus.
Dan Wenzel, the director of the Buddy Program, told my mom a funny story. One day he and I were out walking on a mobility lesson when we passed a couple of teenaged boys talking in Spanish. Well, I came to a complete halt, turned, and then started talking to them. After a few moments of complete silence, they responded, and soon we had a conversation going. Dan knows very little Spanish, so he had no idea what we were saying, which made him a bit nervous. He kept gently mentioning that we should continue on, but these kids and I kept right on talking. We were just chatting, so I thought it was pretty funny when Dan told my mom that he was secretly praying that we weren't setting up some kind of drug deal as he silently stood there smiling!
The staff at the Center recognize my skill with other languages and know that I want to become a translator. So as I continue to attend the program, they will work to provide opportunities to help me reach that goal.
But probably Dan is going to have to learn a bit more Spanish if he wants to relax when we're out together!
Learning skills to be independent is hard, and it was not that I learned so many new skills while I was in Colorado that's made such a difference. It was getting the feel of being an independent blind person by living it every day with other blind people that has changed me. Before I left, I resisted every attempt my mom made to make me do things for myself. When I returned, I shocked her (and maybe me too!) with my new attitude.
I have been cooking my own breakfast and lunch, using the microwave every day since I returned, and soon I will be working on using the stove and adding more complicated stuff. I no longer fight my mom when she introduces a new skill or increases my chores. I cannot wait to surprise the staff at the Center next summer with all the new things I am able to do independently.
It's funny, I did not want to go to Colorado, but once I was there, I did not want to go home! I really liked all the counselors, teachers, and other students. It was great fun living in the apartment and making our own decisions.
Everyone is just really nice there. They are patient and helpful as they work to teach you new skills and always make you feel good about yourself. I am really, really glad I went, and I definitely plan on returning next summer. ********** ********** Facing Windows of Lost Opportunity by Steve Alexander ********** From the Editor: The following article is reprinted from the November 2, 1998, issue of Computer World. Steve Alexander is a free lance writer in Edina, Minnesota. Clear and honest discussions like this one are a significant help in educating the programming world to the real problems facing blind computer programmers. This is what Mr. Alexander said: ********** Blind programmers could compete quite nicely in the IT [information technology] work place when the mainframe was king. But today, as graphically oriented Windows tool kits displace the text-based mainframe development, blind programmers are facing an uncertain future. Nonstandard graphical components in many new tool kits can't be read by the blind. That's true despite the help of screen translating devices that traditionally have enabled them to work alongside their sighted information technology co-workers. To a large extent this is shutting blind programmers out of new client/server development projects. And it's hampering their careers more than co-worker attitudes about blindness ever did.
"Most of the new applications right now are coming from tool kits that blind people can't use," says Janina Sajka, director of information systems at the American Foundation for the Blind in New York. "While there is some hope on the horizon that we can get tool kit companies to be more responsive to serving all people ..., the prospects today are fairly bleak."
It isn't that people don't care, says Gary Wunder, a senior computer programmer/analyst for mainframes at the University of Missouri in Columbia, who is blind. "But everything these days has to be justified with a business case. If there aren't enough programmers who are blind who want to do something, why do it?"
At the same time blind programmers must face stereotypical ideas about the limitations of blind people, says Curtis Chong, president of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science. Chong, who is blind, is director of technology at the organization in Baltimore.
"IT workers at some companies have learned that blind people can compete. But lots of others have never worked with a blind person before, and attitude-related barriers apply," Chong says. ********** The Friendly Mainframe ********** Chong says blind programmers have long been able to do their jobs in the mainframe world. After all, mainframe languages such as Fortran, Cobol, and assembler are text-based. Using screen readers--software that converts text on the screen to speech-- blind programmers were able to read what was on the screen and do the same development work as sighted colleagues.
When PC's arrived in the 1980's, blind programmers could still do their work because the DOS operating system was text- based. The text could be read with screen-reader software, Chong says.
But with the arrival of the Windows graphical user interfaces, which couldn't be converted to text, blind programmers were initially locked out of the newer PC and client/server worlds, Chong says. That door was partially reopened for blind programmers when screen-reader software was adapted to convert some, but not all, Windows graphical interfaces into screen-readable text. But there was a catch. Screen readers could convert graphical interfaces to text, only if certain programming conventions were followed. And as Windows interface technology raced ahead, software companies increasingly took nonstandard programming shortcuts in their software developer tool kits--shortcuts that rendered some items on the screen invisible to screen-reader software. ********** Barring the Windows ********** That has left blind programmers at a severe disadvantage because they are in effect barred from developing in some new Windows environments, Chong says. "I know blind programmers who work in C and Visual Basic in addition to mainframe languages, because as long as they can get at a text file, they can do programming. But if the graphical tool kit you are using requires you to drag and drop items on the screen, you can't do it," Chong says.
Crista Earl, a technology resource specialist at the American Foundation for the Blind, agrees. "There sure haven't been very many blind programmers who have broken into the Windows world. In our database of 130 blind programmers, maybe a dozen have gone into Windows development. The majority are working on mainframes," Earl says. ********** Progress or a Problem? ********** The problem faced by blind programmers boils down to technological progress in Windows, says Michael Freeman, a computer systems programmer in Vancouver, Washington, who is blind. Freeman works at the Bonneville Power Administration, a government agency that manages electric power generated by federal dams in the Western U.S. "You can't stop people from innovating, and I don't see that our screen readers will be able to keep up with that," Freeman says. He programs Digital Equipment Corp. minicomputers because they use a text-based operating system. "I still think it's worthwhile for a blind person to try a career as a programmer, but I do fear how well that person will do in the long term."
Although none of the blind programmers interviewed said he believes he is in immediate danger of losing a job, there is concern about whether they will be needed in the future. Freeman, who is fifty, says he hopes there will be enough text-based work for blind programmers to last until he retires. "Up to now I've been able to avoid Windows NT because the computers that control the power system are for the most part VAXes. But as more things we use, such as time sheets and discrepancy reports, migrate to the NT network, I'll need to do NT. I don't know what will happen; all I can do is try."
Wunder is also concerned about whether he can adapt to Windows in the future. "With Windows, it's not only how do you write a program, but, once you do, how do you make sure that the buttons line up on the screen? How do you make it visually attractive? I don't know the answer to that yet. . . . I'll either be able to do my job here, or I won't. And I think the jury is still out. That's not very comforting because my daughter is still going to need food."
Brian Buhrow, a senior systems engineer at the University of California at Santa Cruz, who is a blind Unix programmer, says he is comforted that Unix is much in demand these days. "And there also are opportunities for doing things outside the mainstream of end-user programming, such as doing networking stuff that's not inherently visually oriented," Buhrow says. "These opportunities may diminish, but they'll be there for a while."
Perhaps the most ominous aspect of the Windows problem for blind programmers is that they are being barred from truly mainstream development, Sajka says. ********** Seeing-eye Programmers ********** Some blind programmers have dealt with the tool kit situation by trying to shift the Windows development projects they couldn't handle to others, Chong says. "If you were lucky, you could delegate that kind of work away. But if not and you couldn't get at the underlying text of what you wanted to do, you were out of luck. And that was the frustration many blind people ran into," Chong says. "Then the only way a blind person could do the work was to hire a sighted person as a reader to help run the machine." That represented big change for blind programmers, who had long used special devices to make themselves competitive with sighted people. Chong says the principal devices are screen-reading software; a Braille embosser, which accepts text from a computer and prints it out in Braille; refreshable Braille displays, which are tactile devices that convert a single line of screen text into Braille in real time; and special speech synthesizers that convert text to speech and stop and start very quickly.
Another challenge for blind programmers: "Who will pay for all this expensive adaptive technology, given the fact that when the employee leaves, someone else may not find it useful?" Sajka asks. Cost may not be an issue for the employer when it comes to screen-reader software, which costs as little as $500. But that could change when it comes to the purchase of a Braille display for $3,000 to $14,000.
There are other technical obstacles for blind programmers in their everyday work. Something as routine as the project management software used in some IT shops can pose a problem. Many assign priorities to IT projects with a color-coding scheme. "A sighted person instantly sees the priority of critical to not-so-critical projects," Wunder says. "But how do I get that same information? Sure, somewhere in the program is a number that represents what the color scheme ought to be, but my screen reader can't read that. So I still write down my IT projects on three-by-five cards and work with my boss on priority." ********** Attitude Adjustments ********** And there are nontechnical challenges for blind programmers as well. "The problem is one of attitude," Chong says. "What is it that an IT professional expects from somebody who is blind--do they think that a person will be able to do work, function as a normal human being, socialize and get along with people in the work place? Or do they think a blind person is weird and can only pick up a phone? IT professionals should examine their thinking about blindness and root out the typical stereotypes." Do attitudes about blind programmers restrict their opportunities to be promoted? There's no easy answer, Chong says. It depends on whether management "has a positive acceptance of a person who is blind," plus whether the blind person can overcome society's tendency to undervalue the blind and push hard to be promoted based on merit, he says.
Buhrow says administrative jobs represent an opportunity for blind programmers. "Blind programmers could do product management that involves making decisions about people and products rather than about where to put code statements. I am a programmer. But I'm also a systems administrator, so I do a lot of things that are not programming but rather hardware installations and configurations." Debunking Myths and Stereotypes ********** Blind programmers still often face a variety of stereotypes. According to Curtis Chong, president of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, the challenges that blind programmers face include beliefs that: - Blind people aren't mobile and sit in a chair all day. "It's not uncommon for me to be asked to go to class for a week in a different town, plus check into the office every night and get E-mail," Chong says. "And when we did disaster recovery exercises, I was expected to go along." - Blind people can't handle printed information. "I hire a human reader for twenty hours a week or use optical character recognition technology to convert text to speech or to Braille." - Blind people who can do programming work must be incredibly smart. "If the basic techniques are in place to deal with blindness, it shouldn't require any more genius for a blind person to do programming than it does a sighted person." ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: Nikki Zimmerman uses a slate and stylus to write notes during class at Carl Traeger Middle School in Oshkosh. PHOTO/CAPTION: Nikki Zimmerman. (Note: In the August/September Braille Monitor a picture of Nikki Zimmerman at the Dude Ranch was incorrectly identified as Nikki White of Maryland. We regret the error.)] The Fifth Generation Speaks Out From the Editor: What impact can the NFB's National Convention have on a newly blind twelve-year-old? What impact can that twelve-year-old in turn have on the world around her? Nikki Zimmerman and her family fought against glaucoma and the fear of blindness for eleven years. When they lost that fight a year ago, they might have concluded that in significant ways Nikki's life was over. But the family heard about Bonnie Peterson, then President of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin, and Bonnie helped them acquire funding to attend last summer's National Convention in Dallas. Nikki and her mother were both optimistic and open to the possibility and promise of the NFB's philosophy of hope and high expectation.
But it wasn't enough for Nikki to get the instruction in cane travel and Braille that she needed. When Nikki heard talk of the NFB of Wisconsin's annual walk-a-thon, she wanted to participate. She began signing up sponsors and recruiting walkers among her friends. But no other blind people near Oshkosh were planning to walk. How ought she to conduct the walk-a-thon? Nikki's mother Patty called Bonnie for advice. The solution was simple: several hikers from Milwaukee would drive over to Madison to join Nikki, her friends, and members of the school board who had decided to participate in the walk. That way the kids and school officials could all learn from the blind adults taking part in the hike, and the experienced Federationists could help Nikki conduct the event.
But the Zimmermans weren't finished. Patty Zimmerman recognized that publicity for the hike would help, so she set out to interest the local newspaper in doing the kind of story about Nikki, an ordinary sixth-grader, that would tell the world what she and the National Federation of the Blind thought about blindness. The following article is reprinted with permission from the September 29, 1998, edition of the Oshkosh Northwestern. It demonstrates just how well Nikki has understood the NFB's philosophy of normality and just how effectively she has taught her teachers and fellow students to adopt the same notions. Here is the article: ********** Typical Courage Oshkosh Sixth-grader Refuses to Let Blindness Be Disability by Gina Mangan ********** Following eleven-year-old Nikki Zimmerman as she zips between classes and through the halls of Carl Traeger Middle School in Oshkosh requires a good pair of walking shoes and a healthy set of lungs. With an air of confidence she deftly dodges fellow students and turns corners with ease.
Once inside the classroom Nikki barely takes a breath while quietly reading out loud to partner Jessica Pernsteiner from a teacher handout. She takes notes as social studies teacher Paul DeShambo writes on the marker board and talks articulately about economic issues during a class discussion.
Outside on the playground she chats with friends. She seems like an average sixth-grader. For the most part she is. Nikki, whose highlight during her first day of school was a reminder by science teacher Jim McClowry to return to her desk and push in her chair, wouldn't want anybody to see anything other than normal.
"Being blind isn't a disability unless you make it one," says Nikki, who lost her sight last winter after a lifelong struggle with congenital glaucoma. "There's nothing I can't do, except ride a bike."
But because she's blind, being viewed as typical has taken extra effort, a bit of special training, a lot of determination, and the right opportunities.
During the past year Nikki repeatedly struggled against a societal tendency to pamper the blind, fighting human nature's desire to force the world to adapt to individual differences. Instead Nikki has chosen to adapt to the world.
Nikki uses a long white cane to get around. She's fully trained in Braille and writes with an embossed-dot-producing slate and stylus.
And while her eyes don't work, her mind is as sharp as that of the next sixth-grader. Her ability to perform in class isn't an issue. But her family still had to fight to keep her in the math and English classes they believe are critical to her future.
In fact, Nikki and her parents have turned down traditional help offered by well-meaning people within the school system, insisting that expectations for Nikki be no lower because she can't see.
When the school district wanted to hire a teacher aide to guide and help Nikki--as is done with other blind students--the Zimmermans said no.
"She's blind, but her feet work," said her mother, Patty Zimmerman, noting Nikki's cane.
When the school offered to let her leave each class five minutes early, the Zimmermans said no again.
"Someday Nikki will be married and have children, and if her child runs into the road, she's not going to have five extra minutes," Patty Zimmerman said.
When Nikki began learning Braille, specialists working with the blind through the Cooperative Educational Service Agency told the family it would take her three years to function at the same level as her peers and wanted her to spend valuable class time in a special resource room.
But with the help of a private instructor, it took Nikki only six months to learn Braille, although she's still perfecting her skills. She's enrolled in all regular education classes.
Nikki's determination hasn't gone unnoticed by her peers-- many of whom refer to her as the "cool blind girl"--or her teachers.
"Her expectations for herself have been greater than anything I would have held her to, not only because she's blind but because she's only a sixth-grader," DeShambo said.
Nikki and her family adhere strongly to the philosophies of independence and equality embraced by the National Federation of the Blind, and they hope Nikki will become a role model for other children. She's a scheduled speaker at the NFB's state convention, and she's organized a three-mile white cane hike-a- thon to raise money for the NFB, which promotes the white cane as a tool of "stature, respect, and independence." The walk-a-thon will be held Saturday.
"She lost her sight, but she has her life back," Patty Zimmerman said. "We hope she can inspire other children to become more independent."
This year has been the first full, normal year for Nikki, whose earlier years were fragmented by sixty-one operations and countless trips to the children's hospital in Madison. Doctors tried desperately for years to regulate the fluid that would build up behind her eyes. That buildup created a constant, painful pressure on the optic nerve, as well as failing vision.
After placing two shunts and plates in her eyes last October, doctors were forced to remove her right eye five days after Christmas. She now wears a prosthesis and has been relieved of much of the pain. The shunts remain in her left eye, but the pressure hasn't stabilized, and Nikki says she can see only "blobs of color."
During her fifth-grade year Nikki received tutoring at home. Despite a string of surgeries, chronic pain, and lost vision, she successfully completed her fifth-grade year.
But the prospect of blindness left her depressed and frightened at first, especially in the months before she learned white cane and Braille skills. But her life turned around when she traveled to Dallas, Texas, July 4 to the NFB's national convention. There she met attorneys, college professors, accountants, and other professionals who didn't let their blindness stand in the way of success.
Bonnie Peterson, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin, said Nikki is like many others who adopt the NFB's philosophy. "We look at blindness as a physical condition, like baldness or shortness or anything else," Peterson said. "With the proper training and opportunity, that condition will be reduced to nothing more than a physical nuisance."
McClowry, Nikki's science teacher, said Traeger's sixth- grade teachers are well aware of Nikki's desire to be treated the same as her peers.
Although they recognize she has a special learning need, they see her as a confident, articulate sixth-grader who's eager to learn.
"I'm impressed with her in the way I'm impressed with any sixth-grader who is in a new environment, is confident, and has taken ownership of her learning," he said. "I don't have any gripping statements to make. She's a normal sixth-grader." ********** ********** Planned giving takes place when a contributor decides to leave a substantial gift to charity. It means planning as you would for any substantial purchase--a house, college tuition, or car. The most common forms of planned giving are wills and life insurance policies. There are also several planned giving options through which you can simultaneously give a substantial contribution to the National Federation of the Blind, obtain a tax deduction, and receive lifetime income now or in the future. For more information write or call the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653. ********** ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: Peggy Chong] The New Job Opportunities for the Blind by Peggy Chong ********** From the Editor: Peggy Chong is the Targeted Jobs Program Manager for Job Opportunities for the Blind. This is what she says about our new JOB Program: ********** By now readers of the Braille Monitor have heard that the Job Opportunities for the Blind program has gone through some major changes. At our National Convention last summer in Dallas, Texas, we heard Dr. Maurer tell us at the JOB seminar that as of July 1, 1998, Job Opportunities for the Blind will no longer exist as it has for the past twenty years. The Department of Labor changed its funding requirements, allowing us to take JOB one step further, so we now focus on training and placement for qualified legally blind individuals who have been out of work from four months to five years. In addition, they must be job- ready, in other words, able to function independently as blind people on the job and eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
This program is designed by blind people for blind people. Eligible blind individuals are referred by the state rehabilitation agency or other sponsoring party to the Targeted Jobs Initiative. Once one is accepted for services, there is no cost to the sponsor or trainee for the initial strategies-and skills-training, lodging, or daily breakfast here at the National Center. Sponsors underwrite transportation to and from Baltimore, meals other than breakfast, and incidentals. To the extent the grant allows financially, we also provide job referrals, follow- up, and technical support at no cost.
As we all know, there is no substitute for good blindness training. Those who are interested in the JOB Targeted Jobs Initiative Program but have not learned the strategies and skills of blindness should seek adjustment-to-blindness training before obtaining training at our National Center. Some skills can certainly be learned or brushed up in the program orientation training phase, but all participants must at a minimum have the means to communicate effectively with themselves and their co- workers and the ability to travel independently inside and outside their work sites. They must also know the layout of the computer keyboard as well as independent living skills that demonstrate capability and confidence to prospective employers.
Every day, all over this country, decisions are made around the office coffeepot. Therefore, knowing how to contribute socially at work often makes or breaks a promotion, and that means adjustment-to-blindness training must address more than physical skills. If trainees reveal a need for further work in any of these skills of blindness or realistic and positive attitudes about blindness, our training centers will offer it on a fee-for-service basis paid for by the sponsor. These centers are the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB) in Denver; the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB) in Ruston; or Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND, Inc.) in Minneapolis.
The first orientation class, held at the National Center for the Blind from September 21 through October 2, 1998, was made up of six eager students from five states. Curtis Chong, Director of Technology at the National Center for the Blind; Richard Ring, Supervisor of the International Braille and Technology Center (IBTC); and others worked with the participants on a wide variety of equipment in the National Center's IBTC. Nowhere else in the world can one find such a complete collection of access equipment. These students took full advantage of this opportunity, working late into the evening to master the techniques they had learned.
Much of the class agenda centers on JAWS for Windows. In most offices around our country, Windows 95 and similar products are used to conduct daily business. Currently JAWS seems to be the speech program most compatible with the applications run at the work sites of our targeted employers. Having a good working knowledge of the nonvisual access tools before the first day on the job puts the new blind employee on equal footing with other new workers so that he or she can concentrate on learning the requirements of the job.
Trainees also receive a thorough grounding in work incentives provided by the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. Even after blind people get jobs, they often feel that the Social Security rules tie them in knots. Many times blind recipients even report that, when they have called the Social Security Administration for work-incentive information, they have received conflicting information from different SSA employees. By the time the students leave training, they know how to determine when their benefits will cease, what their rights and responsibilities are under the programs, and how to get the assistance to which they are entitled from SSA.
When the graduates left for home on October 2, they took with them many tools for a successful job search. Some found that they had not allotted enough room in their luggage for the many handouts they had acquired during the previous two weeks. They had to scramble to get them mailed home before they left.
Those successfully completing the orientation and Information Access Technology Training will be referred to job openings for which they are qualified with our targeted employers. All trainees are strongly encouraged to continue doing research and to follow-up on any job lead they discover. Job announcements still come to the National Federation of the Blind from all over the country, and staff members check these for possible employment matches. When potential matches appear, the employers receive copies of resumes that successful graduates have left with us. This program therefore becomes one more valuable tool in each trainee's job-seeking kit.
If at the end of the two-week initial training participants conclude that they need additional adjustment-to-blindness training, they will be referred to one of our three training centers. National Center staff may also recommend specific training as a prerequisite to placement with our targeted employers.
The Gallup Organization, which conducts the famous opinion polls, and ManTech, a high-tech engineering company, are in the process of joining United Parcel Service as targeted employers, raising the possibility of jobs for graduates of this program in several more states. These are, however, only the first companies seizing the opportunity to employ qualified blind people. Arrangements are being made with several other large multi-state businesses to come on board as Targeted Employers.
Although the focus of JOB has changed, the goal is still the same: meaningful employment for blind people. Our new JOB program will now provide training and direct employment opportunities for those who accept the challenge.
If you would like more information about the JOB Targeted Jobs Initiative Program or would like an application, call the National Center for the Blind at (410) 659-9314. We will be glad to help you get started on the road to success. ********** ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: Three UPS executives: (left to right) Jim Liggett, Employee Relations Manager; Mel Smith, Human Relations Manager, Baltimore District; and Ron Foster, Vice President for Public Affairs] Abilities Count ********** From the Editor: The following excerpt is part of an article that appeared in the October, 1998, issue of Inside UPS, a publication of the United Parcel Service. We reprint the portion devoted to the National Federation of the Blind's JOB Program. Here it is: ********** The Challenge Was Before Them
All that stood between the National Federation of the Blind and a much-needed $500,000 grant from the Department of Labor was a corporate sponsor willing to consider hiring qualified blind candidates. The question was what corporation would be the first to step up to the plate and make such a commitment?
Failure, at least according to Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, Federation Director of Special Programs, was not an option. The Federation aimed to recruit "job ready" blind individuals from across the country and provide them with additional training in adaptive technology, enabling them to be fully integrated into the work force.
"There's no doubt in my mind," Dr Zaborowski emphasizes, "that through technology and training, blindness can be reduced to a mere inconvenience."
Nor was there doubt in the minds of UPS people who agreed wholeheartedly to support the Federation's efforts and identify job opportunities, guaranteeing grant approval. "We're pretty excited about the possibilities," she says.
UPS is no less excited. Its partnership with the Federation of the Blind isn't just a one-time gesture of kindness, but part of the company's ongoing commitment to ensuring diversity among its work force. "We've tried to get away from the thought process of limitations," comments Fred Fernandez, UPS Director of Equal Opportunity and Diversity. "UPS prefers focusing on abilities, the skill sets individuals bring to the table, instead of disabilities." ********** A Clear Message
Fred believes that focusing on abilities has helped employees of all ages, races, and abilities work better together. "When people realize what they can accomplish when they work together, I think they learn not only to value themselves more but to value others. I think our policies regarding diversity also send a clear message that opportunity exists for every UPS employee." ********** ********** A Little Child Shall Lead Them by Father Patrick Martin ********** From the Editor: Picking up and using a white cane is difficult, sometimes to the point of impossibility for many newly blind or increasingly visually disabled people. Yet properly considered, the white cane is the most fundamental instrument of independence ever put into the hands of a blind person. Mary Brunoli, a Federationist from Connecticut, sent the following article because it is such a joyful discovery of the possibilities one man discovered when he went to New York City armed with his white cane and the conviction that it was the only tool he needed to move safely through Manhattan. The article first appeared in the Winter, 1997, newsletter of the Ave Maria Place Retreat Center. The author, Father Pat Martin, is a member of the center's staff. This is what he says: ********** How would you define adventure? For me it was taking the number seven train from Main Street, Flushing, New York, to 74th Street/Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights, New York, and there transferring to the E train to Lexington Avenue and 53rd Street in Manhattan all by myself. St. Michael's Parish in Flushing had brought me back to my favorite city, and now they added to their gift by giving me a day off in the middle of their mission in order to accommodate a particular parish celebration. I was really excited as I planned that day off weeks in advance.
I love New York. In the early 70's I had lived there and had mastered the subways, buses, Long Island Railroad, and even the taxis. My day off would be a trip down memory lane. Besides the two decades since I had tramped the streets of the city, the only other major difference for me was that now the pinpoint vision that used to let me read the subway and street signs letter by letter was quite deteriorated. Instead of using that pinpoint, tunnel vision as my traveling aid, now I used the white cane. I wondered, as I embarked on my adventure, how my new aid would come through.
"Are you really going to ride the subway alone?" an anxious priest in the parish asked me.
"Sure!" I said remembering with excitement the thrill of independence and grown-up-ness that subways had given me decades earlier. I was like Hansel and Gretel, carefully noting distinct landmarks, counting lefts and rights, etc., so I could find my way home at the end of my adventure day. I stopped at one street corner to look for the old familiar subway entrance. It was absolutely amazing. I didn't even have to ask for help. Someone saw me and promptly offered, "Can I help you, Father?"
My white cane that adventure day was just about as marvelous for me as Moses' staff! His staff parted the Red Sea before the Israelites--my white cane parted the sea of New Yorkers wherever I went that day. I recalled with a certain nostalgia how many times on a similar trip decades earlier I would bump into people because I didn't see them coming and they couldn't see that I was blind. My cane brought me down the subway stairs, and another offer of help led me right to the subway token booth, where I discovered another change that the two decades had accomplished-- instead of paying twenty-seven cents for a token, I now paid one dollar and fifty cents.
Armed with two tokens, one to go and one to return, I moved with the crowd down to the subway platforms. I had known that my vision had deteriorated somewhat in the last half dozen years, but I never realized just how much it had deteriorated until that adventure day. No matter how I tried, I could no longer see the street signs, even letter by letter, and from the subway cars I could no longer pick up the station signs along the way. I couldn't even make out the signs on the subway trains themselves to be sure I was boarding the correct train, but I didn't have to.
"Watch where I get off, and get off two stops before me," one lady said laughing heartily as I asked about the 74th Street station stop. "I've always wanted to use that line," she said and then proceeded to tell me exactly how many stops it would be to my desired stop. Her laughter was the tone of my entire adventure day. Except for the New York City friends with whom I had lunch that day, I never met one person that I knew from years gone by, and yet it was as though I was with dear, dear friends all day. I never had to ask for help twice; many times help was offered before I could ask for it. I never took a wrong train or got off at a wrong stop the whole day.
Too often we are given the impression that in the city one could die on the sidewalk and people would just walk by unconcerned. Not true. Not true at all, I learned on my adventure day. I had lunch with my life-long friends, and then Justine and I bummed around the city for a while, doing a bit of shopping that one can do only in New York. Finally I hugged my friend goodbye and then, like Hansel and Gretel, began following my landmarks home.
At 53rd Street and Lexington Avenue I was directed without problem to the subway stairway, and my cane got me down safely. A friendly passer-by directed me to the Queens-bound train side, and I began the trek through a long tunnel-like corridor. I had been assured that the corridor would lead me straight to the escalator that would bring me down to the E train platform. I was excited as my cane picked up the metal platform of the escalator and was about to get onto the first step when an arm took me around the waist, and I heard a lady's voice say, "I don't think you want that escalator." With her help I learned that I was at the top of the up instead of the down escalator. She walked me a few feet to my right, and I was back on track. I hadn't asked for help; I hadn't even realized that I needed help at that point, but a New Yorker saw what I didn't see and stepped in to help. No wonder I love the city so much.
The trip home was quite uneventful. I made the train switch at 74th Street and boarded the 7 Train for Main Street, Flushing, with all the help I needed. As I walked the several blocks back to St. Michael's Parish, my heart was filled to overflowing with praise of God for His wonderful gift of people and white canes. In the eight hours or so of my adventure I hadn't known the feelings of fear, worry, or anxiety for one single moment. My day off had been a real day of renewal, rest, relaxation, and peace for me. It had been a day of adventure, of fun, a happy day.
As I went to bed that September night there was one thought that lingered with the memory lane adventure. I couldn't count the number of times I had traveled the subways and buses and taxis in those half dozen years when I myself was a New Yorker. How much more fantastic it would have been, I mused, had I used the white cane even back then. Blindness for me was not seeing enough. Perhaps I made myself see too much, too much to need my fellow New Yorkers' help. Twenty-five years ago my tunnel vision often reminded me, with pain and frustration and embarrassment, that I was blind. Today my white cane told those around me that I was blind and brought me their sight.
When God wished to come as our Messiah, our Savior, our Lord, our King, He came as an infant, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. He came needing us, His creatures, and He did not hide His need. He had to be fed, nursed, diapered, bathed. He had to be taught to walk and talk. Do I still see too much to follow that little child who shall lead them? This Christmas I pray that that little child, with all of His needing, will touch your hearts and lead you to the joy and peace of oneness in His family.
A very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Holy New Year to you and yours from all of us here at Ave Maria Place.--Father Pat ********** ********** Of Generosity and Independence by William Payne ********** From the Editor: A number of months ago Dr. Jernigan sent me an exchange of correspondence that he thought I might wish to publish in the Braille Monitor. I certainly did. The first letter was written to Dr. Jernigan and accompanied a modest contribution to the National Federation of the Blind. It told a touching story whose theme is fitting for this season and for all Americans to take to heart. We are printing Dr. Jernigan's response first because, as usual, he expresses in a few words the value he found in the letter and the impact it had on him. In the hope that we all may open ourselves to greater generosity of spirit and respect for those who walk into our lives, here are the two letters Dr. Jernigan passed on to me: ********** April 7, 1998 Baltimore, Maryland
Mr. and Mrs. William Payne, Jr. Greenville, Mississippi
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Payne:
Thank you for the moving story about the broom. It captures the very heart and soul of what it means to be a true American, a free citizen of a free country. It also captures the very heart and soul of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible.
I was deeply touched and inspired by this story and will certainly use it. Perhaps it will encourage others to reach out to their fellow human beings.
Again, I thank you. You have made my day.
Kenneth Jernigan President Emeritus National Federation of the Blind ********** Dear Dr. Jernigan:
The blind sellers of brooms, a man and his wife, came to our door one night about October 1931. My sister, about six, myself, about four, and my mother and daddy, each twenty-nine, heard the tap, tap, tapping as they came up the sidewalk, up the walk to the front screen door, and then paused, for the screen door was latched.
Daddy went out on the porch, after turning on the porch light. The man stood on the top step, his wife halfway up the steps. He had a single broom in hand--she some ten or twelve.
"Good evening sir, might we interest you in a quality, hand- made straw broom, tonight?"
Daddy hesitated; times were tough as you well know, Mr. Jernigan. "Oh sir," my dad replied, "We just cannot buy one of your brooms tonight."
"Could we give you one then at no cost to you?" That touched Daddy so that he asked the man how much he was asking for a broom. "Anything, anything at all will be welcome; some people pay $1, some less, some nothing at all. And sir, we are not asking for your money; we are not beggars; we support ourselves by these brooms."
Daddy didn't have a paper dollar. By this time Mother and we kids were also at the door. My sister said, "I have fourteen cents," and "I have twenty-four cents" was her brother's reply. Mother emptied her coin purse onto the floor, another twenty- three cents. Daddy dug deep into his pockets, still only ninety- eight cents total.
Mother, as mothers so often do, had a solution. "Mr. and Mrs. Broom Merchants, I have some two-cent stamps. Would one of them do?" "Certainly," came the reply. "We need stamps." One dollar in coin and stamps.
One dollar, hallelujah. Two people, make that six people, were made happy, each caring for the other; dignity and compassion were displayed all around.
So here's my first check. God bless you for all you do and try to do. Angels can do no better.
William Payne, Jr. ********** ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: Christine Faltz and her daughter Samantha.] The Whole Truth About Partial Sight by Christine Faltz ********** From the Editor: Christine Faltz is a 1987 NFB scholarship winner. She has since become a lawyer, has married, and is the mother of a little girl who is also blind. Christine often writes about blindness issues and the challenges of raising a blind child to be a normal kid. Here is an article she wrote last summer: ********** As President of the Long Island Chapter of Parents of Blind Children, I am often contacted by parents in search of resources and information for their children. While I have been aware for some time that blind people with usable residual vision face special problems, I am becoming increasingly conscious of the many negative consequences of the mainstream's handling of partially-sighted people.
Let me be clear. I am not particularly concerned with the individual whose residual vision allows him or her to perform most of life's tasks with age-appropriate skill and efficiency. If a legally blind or low-vision child is using regular print or large type without magnification and without fatigue or pain, and if he or she can travel independently and safely in unfamiliar areas, the alternative techniques of blindness may well not be necessary. However, when I hear that a child cannot read efficiently without magnification and that inability to keep up with assignments in school is accepted as a natural consequence of visual difficulties, I am deeply troubled by the culture of denial, fear, and misinformation which will ultimately result in a young person ill-equipped for college, employment, or community involvement.
Why do teachers, eye-care specialists, and some parents choose to ignore the overwhelming evidence that a blind person without proficient Braille and independent mobility skills is significantly less likely to become gainfully employed? How could an efficient reading system such as Braille and a safe, effective travel tool like the white cane engender mistrust and fear so intimidating and distasteful that thousands of men and women are robbed of the chance to take advantage of their full potential, growing to believe that it is normal for them to be slow, inefficient, uncomfortable, and in need of extraordinary accommodations? What about their inability to read to their children--if indeed they have the self-esteem and wherewithal to create a family--and their avoidance of socializing except in familiar areas because they cannot travel independently?
Part of the problem lies in the definition of legal blindness. Many people are functionally blind, despite having visual acuity above that of legal blindness. Another complication is society's fear of anything it doesn't understand. I often hear "This is a difficult age" or "I tried Braille with him; he didn't want any part of it." A teen-ager who refuses cane instruction because he or she will look different is going to progress from a difficult age to a difficult life of dependency and inability to experience the full range of possibilities for employment and recreation because he or she cannot go wherever the best job interview or the best party is. Is it better to rely on your friends, dates, and colleagues to get you around, or is it better to be a competent, confident traveler, eventually more or less oblivious to your travel tool as it becomes a part of you?
When a child resists learning math because it seems too difficult or because there is something more fun to do at the moment, we don't give in; we should treat students who don't like learning Braille the same way. It is often difficult for parents to envision their children as adults, and it is common to have the not-my-child attitude--after all, if you act as if your child can do anything despite being afflicted with pesky visual problems, won't he or she have the confidence to persevere and succeed? You bet! assuming that child is also equipped with the necessary tools to put such values into practice. You can tell the child of a broken home who attends a poor school in a dangerous neighborhood that with belief in oneself one can surmount any personal obstacles. But if his or her performance is not commensurate with inherent ability and if a lackluster performance is pronounced to be "just fine" and "all one can expect from someone in such a situation," where will all those fine words and good intentions get the student?
It is not acceptable for a child with poor vision to skate by, depending on special allowances and privileges, if he or she is capable of age-appropriate work. A child who is functionally blind and has average to above-average intelligence and no complicating disabilities should be handing in school assignments with everyone else, should not be fatigued by reading, and should be completing reading assignments along with sighted classmates. A child who struggles valiantly to keep excellent grades, suffering with eyestrain and headaches; spending inordinate amounts of time on homework; relying on parents, siblings, or classmates to read to him; unable to read the notes and papers she writes--is not amazing or extraordinary for all those unnecessary, Herculean efforts. That child is a casualty of fear and ignorance, someone losing out on extracurricular and other social activities, someone whose belief in his or her supposed self-worth and equality is being challenged at every level. The lack of normal vision will never be a nuisance, an inconvenience to this person: it will be a lifelong social and employment handicap, a source of increasing frustration and resentment--a recipe for failure at worst and of untapped potential at best.
Parents and teachers must look beyond the here and now. When they are gone, their children and students must be able to live, not merely survive, on their own. Their lives should not be peppered with "If onlys" and "What ifs." They should not grow up with the notion that there was nothing more anyone could have done to give them opportunities equal to those available to their sighted peers. Any skill which has the slightest chance of easing their way should be developed in them while they are young. Isn't it better that they have the skills, regardless of whether they are necessary now? Shouldn't a disabled child be given every reasonable chance to be fully equal, fully independent, a fully contributing, first-class citizen? Legally blind, low vision, partially sighted, practically blind--the lexicon of political correctness, euphemisms, and denial marches on. If your child is not capable of age-appropriate work and play, vision problems by themselves are no excuse. Partial sight should not be allowed to result in a partial life. ********** ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: Nani Fife] Seeing Chances to Conquer by Susan Kreifels ********** From the Editor: The following story first appeared in the April 20, 1998, edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Nani Fife is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Hawaii. this is what the article said: ********** Nani Fife often sees welfare recipients who want to give up their search for a job. But she doesn't let them.
"When they want to quit, I say, 'Wait a minute, if I can do it, so can you,'" Fife said.
Fife knows about obstacles in life, but she treats them as challenges to be conquered. And for that spirit and determination, the Lions Club chose her as Hawaii's Outstanding Blind Person of the Year for 1998.
Fife has been legally blind since birth. But that did not stop her from getting a degree. Nor did age. She started college in her thirties after her third and last child began going to school.
"I wanted to do something different with my life," said Fife, a grandmother of four. "I wanted to help people."
At McKinley High School she attended special education classes rather than being put into regular classes. That made it even more difficult at college, because she had to start with basic classes in math and English. But with the help of transcribed books and students who volunteered to take notes for her in class, she earned a bachelor's degree in public administration in 1986.
"Try listening to Accounting 201 and 202 on a cassette tape," Fife laughed. "I don't know how I ever did it. I couldn't see the blackboard even if I stood right in front of it. But I always looked at life as not having barriers but challenges."
"Once you overcome a challenge, it gives you that good feeling of success."
She passes that attitude along to many in Hawaii. Fife has been with the Work Hawaii Hoala Program for seven years, using a closed-circuit TV, special large-print computer software, and an adapted computer system. The city program provides job-readiness services to welfare recipients.
Outside of her job Fife is the chairwoman for the Statewide Independent Living Council, president for ten years of the National Federation of the Blind of Hawaii, a board member of the Hawaii State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and chairwoman of the Ho'opono Advisory Board.
"Nani Fife is an inspiration to others with visual impairments and exemplifies the commitment that Ho'opono and the Lions have in assisting blind persons in attaining their goals," said Shirley Sasaki, community services coordinator at Ho'opono, a rehabilitation center for the blind and visually impaired at the Department of Human Services.
Fife says she just likes helping people. "I like to make a positive difference in people's lives. It gives me satisfaction that, whenever I can, I help give people a second chance." ********** ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: the Rev. Robert Parrish] Creative Cookies by Robert Parrish ********** From the Editor: Robert Parrish is President of the National Association of the Blind in Communities of Faith, a division of the National Federation of the Blind. The following little story is a reminder of how important small gestures of kindness can be. It is also a fitting tribute to Lorraine Rovig's work for many years in the Job Opportunities for the Blind Program. JOB has recently metamorphosed into an exciting new effort to train blind people to do jobs in the private sector. But here Robert pays tribute to the imagination, common sense, and compassion that always guided the first JOB program and that still characterize members of our national staff. This is what he says: ********** During the past few years Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) taught me many skills in my effort to land a dream job as either a pastor or a hospital chaplain. However, the most precious memory I have of JOB took place when I was doing my first year of residency in Clinical Pastoral Education. The University of North Carolina Hospitals was a very large place. The facility seemed even larger to me because I felt as if I was being held at arm's length by some of the nursing staff.
Not that the staff were bad people: it just seemed that the nurses were not truly willing to support me in my job as a chaplain resident because of their fear of my blindness.
As with doctors, the very backbone of a chaplain's success in a hospital depends largely on the nursing staff. Nurses can give chaplains insight into a patient's medical situation along with pertinent family background. They are also critical in supporting a chaplain to help a patient or family use personal faith to make some sense of the crises they are experiencing. You can see, then, that I was desperate. I had to find a way to win the support of the nurses.
When I thought about calling Lorraine Rovig, who served as director of JOB for many years, I was hesitant at first. I knew that she was in the business of helping people to find jobs. But then I remembered that she was also in the business of helping people keep jobs.
So one afternoon I called her. When she understood my plight, she did not think it was unusual. I remember what she asked me during that conversation as if it were only yesterday. She asked, "Do you bake cookies?"
I responded that I could certainly learn to bake them, and learn I did. You would not believe what a bridge to building a sound and cohesive relationship with the nursing staff those cookies turned out to be for me. Not only did I get the support that I truly needed from them, but I also was able to be a chaplain to them as well. A small thing like baking cookies proved to be extremely powerful in helping me to overcome the barrier of blindness that the nursing staff seemed to struggle with. It also served to help me do my job effectively.
Giving the nursing staff cookies was a very personal touch. The suggestion to do so was also a demonstration of who Lorraine Rovig is. Over the years I have talked with her, and she has treated me with much dignity and respect. Of course her job was to care about blind persons' achieving gainful employment. But she also cares about the people.
The real lesson of life she taught me in this experience in baking cookies was to be creative in reaching out to others. ********** ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: Barbara Walker and her son John] Children, Fruitcake, and Rectangles by Barbara Walker ********** From the Editor: The following story appeared in Wall-to- Wall Thanksgiving, the thirteenth in the NFB's Kernel Book series of paperbacks. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introduction. ********** Barbara Walker is no stranger to readers of previous Kernel Books--her sensitive and thought-provoking stories having appeared in a number of them. Here she reflects on the key ingredients of her own childhood, which enabled her to find her place in the world--as a leader in her community, her church, and the National Federation of the Blind. Here is what she has to say: ********** When my son John, at the age of three, said he wanted some fruitcake that had been in the refrigerator for quite a while, I said: "Just a minute, please. I need to see what kind of shape it's in." His response was immediate: "It's in a rectangle shape, and I want some." Somehow, his response got me to thinking about my own childhood.
I have always been blind. My sister Laurie is also blind. Our older brother Lani isn't. There was, to our parents' knowledge, no history of blindness in our family.
Discussing my sister's case, the doctors said they didn't know the cause of blindness but thought there was probably a one- in-a-thousand chance of recurrence. Since I arrived--blind-- fourteen months later, either I'm one in a thousand, or they didn't know what they were talking about. All of us are now grown, married, and have children--none of whom is blind.
Our parents knew nothing about blindness. They struggled with stereotypes as all of us do, but their hope for us was the same as that for our brother--that we would eventually be contributing and fulfilled adults, no longer needing or wanting to live under their care.
My sister, from what I remember my mother's telling me, crawled, walked, and talked at about the same time as neighbor kids her age. She ran away from home more than once while still in diapers, handled everything she could get to, was adept with her fingers, questioned incessantly, and insisted on a prominent place in her world.
I, on the other hand, neither walked nor talked until I was about two, showed little visible evidence that I was particularly curious about my environment, and was clumsy and awkward with my hands and body--breaking many things with which I came into contact.
As toddlers and preschoolers, we continued to show contrasts. Laurie, at age two, walked along the piano, reaching up to pick out melodies on the keyboard. She generally chose gentle play--interacting with others, real or imaginary--and was afraid of high slides, going on carnival rides, and the like.
I loved rough play--wrestling, running hard, swinging and climbing high, flipping over and off bars, throwing and catching balls, etc.--and I loved high slides, carnival rides, and the like.
Mom, the more verbally expressive of our parents, said there were many times when she didn't understand how we would or could do things, and it scared her to have us try. But she didn't stand in our way. She learned Braille so that we could correspond privately.
She persistently went to bat for us when we were left out or mistreated--not in ways that made us dependent upon her, but in ways that preserved respect and dignity for everyone and provided us with experience in everything from fielding questions to finding alternative methods for doing things ordinarily done with the use of sight.
Dad showed his acceptance of us in other ways. He showed us how things worked. He pointed out nonvisual qualities of things generally perceived visually, like the contrasting cool and hot pavement where his shadow passed. He made us doll cribs and a playhouse. Dad also took me fishing and encouraged my interests in competitive sports.
My sister and I were given hands-on experiences whenever their availability and our interests coincided. I was a very shy child, and sometimes my self-consciousness prevented me from taking full advantage of these opportunities. If Laurie was along, I generally asked her later about whatever we had seen, and she would explain it in detail--sometimes creating a replica to show me.
Underlying all of these things was our parents' respect for us as people and their encouragement toward our finding a place in society--not a pigeonhole created by them or anyone else, but a place we could earn as others do. That attitude of genuine respect and affirmation of our worth and dignity did more than all the experiences and skills combined in allowing us to grow and become contributing members of society. ********** ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: James Gashel] Social Security, SSI, and Medicare Facts for 1999 by James Gashel ********** The beginning of each year brings with it annual adjustments in Social Security programs. The changes include new tax rates, higher exempt earnings amounts, Social Security and SSI cost-of- living increases, and changes in deductible and co-insurance requirements under Medicare. Here are the new facts for 1999: ********** FICA and Self-Employment Tax Rates: The FICA tax rate for employees and their employers remains at 7.65 percent. This rate includes payments to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Fund of 6.2 percent and an additional 1.45 percent payment to the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund from which payments under Medicare are made. Self-employed persons continue to pay a Social Security tax of 15.3 percent, which includes 12.4 percent paid to the OASDI trust fund and 2.9 percent paid to the HI trust fund. ********** Ceiling on Earnings Subject to Tax: During 1998, the ceiling on taxable earnings for contributions to the OASDI trust fund was $68,400. This ceiling is raised to $72,600 for 1999. All earnings are taxed for the HI trust fund. ********** Quarters of Coverage: Eligibility for retirement, survivors, and disability insurance benefits is based in large part on the number of quarters of coverage earned by any individual during periods of work. Anyone may earn up to four quarters of coverage during a single year. During 1998 a Social Security quarter of coverage was credited for earnings of $700 in any calendar quarter. Anyone who earned $2,800 for the year (regardless of when the earnings occurred during the year) was given four quarters of coverage. In 1999 a Social Security quarter of coverage will be credited for earnings of $740 during a calendar quarter. Four quarters can be earned with annual earnings of $2,960. ********** Exempt Earnings: The monthly earnings exemption for blind people who receive disability insurance benefits was $1,050 of gross earned income during 1998. In 1999 earnings of $1,110 or more per month before taxes for a blind SSDI beneficiary will show substantial gainful activity after subtracting any unearned (or subsidy) income and applying any deductions for impairment- related work expenses. ********** Social Security Benefit Amounts for 1999: All Social Security benefits are increased by 1.3 percent beginning with the checks received in January, 1999. The exact dollar increase for any individual will depend upon the amount being paid. ********** Standard SSI Benefit Increase: Beginning January, 1999, the federal payment amounts for SSI individuals and couples are as follows: individuals, $500 per month; couples, $751 per month. These amounts are increased from individuals, $494 per month; couples, $741 per month. ********** Medicare Deductibles and Co-insurance: Medicare Part A coverage provides hospital insurance to most Social Security beneficiaries. The co-insurance payment is the charge that the hospital makes to a Medicare beneficiary for any hospital stay. Medicare then pays the hospital charges above the beneficiary's co-insurance amount. ********** The Part A co-insurance amount charged for hospital services within a benefit period of not longer than sixty days was $764 during 1998 and is increased to $768 during 1999. Beginning with the sixty-first day through the ninetieth day there is a daily co-insurance amount of $192 per day, up from $191 in 1998. Each Medicare beneficiary has sixty "reserve days" for hospital services provided within a benefit period longer than ninety days. The co-insurance amount to be paid during each reserve day is $384, up from $382 in 1998. ********** Part A of Medicare pays all covered charges for services in a skilled nursing facility for the first twenty days within a benefit period. Beginning with the twenty-first day through the one-hundredth day within a benefit period, the Part A co- insurance amount for services received in a skilled nursing facility is $96 per day, up from $95.50 per day in 1998. ********** For most beneficiaries there is no monthly premium charge for Medicare Part A coverage. Those who become ineligible for Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits can continue to receive Medicare Part A coverage premium-free for thirty-nine months following the end of a trial work period. After that time the individual may purchase Part A coverage. The premium rate for this coverage during 1999 is $309 per month. This is reduced to $170 for individuals who have earned at least thirty quarters of coverage under Social Security-covered employment. ********** The Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductible remains at $100 in 1999. This is an annual deductible amount. The Medicare Part B basic monthly premium rate will increase from $43.80 charged to each beneficiary in 1998 to $45.50 for 1999. This premium payment is deducted from Social Security benefits checks. Individuals who remain eligible for Medicare but are not receiving Social Security benefits because of working pay this premium directly. ********** Programs Which Help with Medicare Deductibles and Premiums: Low-income Medicare beneficiaries may qualify for help with payments. Assistance is available through two programs--QMB (Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program) and SLMB (Specified Low- Income Medicare Beneficiary program).
Under the QMB program states are required to pay the Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance expenses for Medicare beneficiaries who meet the program's income and resource requirements. Under the SLMB program states pay only the full Medicare Part B monthly premium ($45.50 in 1999). Eligibility for the SLMB program may be retroactive for up to three calendar months.
Both programs are administered by the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) in conjunction with the states. In order to qualify, the income of an individual or couple must be less than the poverty guidelines currently in effect. The guidelines are revised annually and were last announced in the spring of 1998. New guidelines will be issued in the spring of 1999. The rules vary from state to state, but in general:
A person may qualify for the QMB program if his or her income is approximately $691 per month for an individual and $925 per month for a couple. These amounts apply for residents of forty-eight of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. In Alaska the income threshold used to define poverty is approximately $860 per month for an individual and $1,151 per month for couples. In Hawaii income must be less than approximately $792 per month for an individual and $1,060 per month for couples.
For the SLMB program the income of an individual cannot exceed $825 per month or $1,105 for a couple in forty-eight of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. In Alaska the income amount is $1,027 for an individual and $1,377 for couples. An individual in Hawaii can qualify if his or her income is approximately $946 per month; for couples the amount is $1,268.
Resources--such as bank accounts or stocks--may not exceed $4,000 for one person or $6,000 for a family of two. (Resources generally are things you own. However, not everything is counted. The house you live in, for example, doesn't count, and in some circumstances your car may not count either.) ********** If you qualify for assistance under the QMB program, you will not have to pay:
* Medicare's hospital co-insurance amount, which is $768 per benefit period in 1999;
* The daily co-insurance charges for extended hospital and skilled nursing facility stays;
* The Medicare Medical Insurance (Part B) premium, which is $45.50 per month in 1999;
* The $100 annual Part B deductible;
* The 20 percent co-insurance for services covered by Medicare Part B, depending on which doctor you go to. ********** If you qualify for assistance under the SLMB program, you will not have to pay:
*The $45.50 monthly Part B premium. ********** If you think you qualify but you have not filed for Medicare Part A, contact Social Security to find out if you need to file an application. Further information about filing for Medicare is available from your local Social Security office or Social Security's toll-free number, (800) 772-1213.
Remember, only your state can decide if you're eligible for help from the QMB or SLMB program. So, if you're elderly or disabled, have low income and very limited assets, and are a Medicare beneficiary, contact your state or local welfare or social service agency to apply. For more information about either program, call HCFA's toll-free telephone number, (800) 638-6833. ********** ********** Recipes ********** The recipes this month come from the National Association of the Blind in Communities of Faith. ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: Priscilla Ferris] New Year's Cake (Vasilopeta Keik) by Priscilla A. Ferris ********** Priscilla Ferris is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of the Blind in Communities of Faith. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the NFB and as President of the Massachusetts affiliate. In addition she is a memorable cook.
Priscilla explains that traditionally a silver coin is hidden in this cake, and at midnight a ceremony is held to begin the New Year. The person who finds the coin in his or her slice will be blessed with good fortune and good health for the coming year. The bread or cake baked for this occasion is in honor of St. Basil on his nameday. You may bake the cake in a loaf or a cake pan as desired. ********** Ingredients: 4 eggs 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened 2 1/2 cups flour juice of 1/2 lemon (freshly squeezed) 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 cup milk 1 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1 coin confectioners sugar for top of cake ********** Method: Separate eggs. In a very clean bowl beat egg whites and set aside. Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored and set aside. In a large bowl cream butter and slowly add sugar; continue beating until creamy. Slowly beat in egg yolks. Then alternately add milk and flour into which you have stirred the baking powder. Last, fold in the beaten egg whites and the baking soda dissolved in lemon juice.
Polish a quarter and wash it thoroughly, or, if you wish, use a Susan B. Anthony coin. Wrap coin of your choice in wax paper. Grease a 10-inch round pan and pour in batter. Submerge the coin in the batter, making certain that it does not show. Bake in 350-degree oven for thirty to thirty-five minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan when cool and save cake until 12 o'clock midnight New Year's Eve. Sift confectioners sugar onto top of cooled cake and serve. ********** ********** Turkey Pilaf by Priscilla A. Ferris ********** Ingredients: 3 tablespoons margarine 1/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup diced celery 1 can (3- to 4-ounce) sliced mushrooms or several ounces of fresh mushrooms, sliced 2 1/2 cups water 2 chicken bouillon cubes 1 cup long-grain white rice 2 cups diced, cooked turkey ********** Method: Melt butter in a heavy skillet or sauce pan. Add pecans, celery, and drained mushrooms. Cook over low heat, stirring often, until pecans are toasted. Add water, bouillon cubes, and salt. Bring to a boil. Then slowly add rice. Cover pan and reduce heat; simmer twenty-five minutes. Add turkey during the last ten minutes of cooking time. ********** ********** Holiday Bread by Priscilla A. Ferris ********** Ingredients: 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped 1/2 cup dates 1 cup chopped walnuts 3 cups flour 3 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1-1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup brown sugar 1 egg, lightly beaten 1 cup milk 1/2 cup maple syrup ********** Method: Cover apricots with boiling water and let stand for fifteen minutes and then drain. Mix together all fruits and nuts. Set aside. Sift together dry ingredients. Add brown sugar and blend well. Add egg and milk, then syrup. Stir together well. Gently stir in fruit and nuts. Divide batter and fill two well- greased loaf pans. Let stand fifteen to twenty minutes. Bake loaves at 350 degrees for fifty minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely. ********** ********** Wassail by Priscilla A. Ferris ********** Ingredients: 4 cups water 2 cups sugar 3 cinnamon sticks 12 whole cloves 6 allspice berries 1/2 teaspoon chopped ginger root (Ground ginger may be substituted if necessary.) 1 6-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate 2 6-ounce cans frozen orange juice concentrate 2 quarts apple cider ********** Method: In a large pan combine and boil for five minutes the water and sugar. Tie together in a small clean cloth cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and ginger, and add to the sugar syrup. Add the frozen lemonade concentrate, orange juice concentrate, and apple cider. Simmer covered to blend flavors. Remove bag of spices. Serve hot. Yields eighteen six-ounce servings. ********** ********** Shortbreads for Robert Parrish ********** In honor of his article elsewhere in this issue, we asked Robert Parrish, President of the National Association of the Blind in Communities of Faith, to contribute a cookie recipe. He confessed that he had prepared slice-and-bake cookies for the nurses at the hospital, and he didn't think that would make much of a recipe for this column. Therefore, for Robert's information and future use here is a very easy but delicious cookie recipe. ********** Ingredients: 1 cup butter or margarine 1/2 cup white or brown sugar 2 cups flour ********** Method: Cream butter and sugar together till thoroughly mixed. Beat in flour. Roll out dough on lightly floured board or counter. Cut into triangles or rounds or shapes with cookie cutter. Transfer to a greased sheet and bake in pre-heated 325- degree oven for about twenty-five minutes. Remove to a rack to cool completely. Store in tightly-covered container. ********** ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: Maureen Pranghoffer] Sarah's Gingersnaps by Maureen Pranghoffer ********** Maureen Pranghoffer is an active member of the National Association of the Blind in Communities of Faith. She says, "My neighbor Sarah makes the most wonderful soft gingersnap cookies. She shared her recipe, which has become a favorite of mine as well." ********** Ingredients: 1-1/2 cups shortening 2 cups sugar 2 eggs 1/2 cup molasses 4 cups flour 4 teaspoons baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons cinnamon 2 teaspoons ginger ********** Method: Cream together shortening, sugar, and eggs. Add molasses. Blend together dry ingredients and add to molasses mixture. Roll into balls or drop by spoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet and bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 8 minutes. ********** ********** Mint Bars by Maureen Pranghoffer ********** These bars are perfect for entertaining. ********** Ingredients: First layer-- 1/2 cup margarine 4 eggs 1 cup sugar 1 cup flour 16 ounces Hershey's syrup Second layer-- 1-1/2 cups margarine 3 cups confectionery sugar 1 teaspoon peppermint extract Third layer-- 1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate pieces 3 1-ounce squares baking chocolate 1 stick margarine ********** Method: Mix all ingredients in the first layer together and spread evenly in a greased 13-by-9 pan. Bake bars at 350 degrees for twenty-five to thirty minutes. Remove to rack to cool. Melt 1 and 1/2 sticks margarine and mix with confectionery sugar and peppermint extract. Spread mint mixture on cooling bars. Cool bars completely. Melt chocolate chips, baking chocolate, and 1 stick margarine. Stir well to mix and spread frosting over bars. ********** ********** Ham and Wine by Maureen Pranghoffer ********** This delicious dish is made in the crock pot and has been a holiday favorite of both my husband and me. ********** Ingredients: 1 3/4-inch-thick ham slice (about 1 pound) 1/2 cup cider or apple juice 1/4 cup sweet red wine 1/4 cup maple syrup 1 small package raisins (1-1/2 ounces) 1 8-ounce can cranberries 1 8-ounce can sliced pineapple, drained whole cloves 1-1/2 tablespoons flour or corn starch ********** Method: Cut ham into serving pieces and place in crock pot. Combine cider, wine, maple syrup, raisins, and cranberries in bowl. Press a whole clove into each slice of pineapple and arrange on top of each portion of ham. Pour wine and fruit mixture over meat in cooker. Cook on low for two hours, then switch to high for another four hours. Or cook on automatic for four to five hours. To thicken sauce, remove 1/4 cup liquid from cooker, and stir flour or cornstarch into it until smooth. Return liquid to pot. Stir in. Yields 3 to 4 servings. Note: Recipe may be doubled for 6-quart cooker. ********** ********** Vegetable Pizza by Maureen Pranghoffer ********** This colorful and tasty dish makes an ideal holiday appetizer. ********** Ingredients: 2 packages crescent rolls 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese 3/4 cup mayonnaise 1/4 cup milk 1/2 teaspoon dill weed 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt 1 cup grated carrots 1 cup chopped broccoli 1 cup chopped cauliflower 1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced 1/4 cup chopped green onion 1/4 cup chopped black olives ********** Method: Unroll both packages of crescent rolls on jelly roll pan and press perforations and seams to produce a solid sheet of dough. Bake this crust at 350 degrees until brown (eight to twelve minutes). Mix together cream cheese, mayonnaise, milk, dill weed, and garlic salt. Spread cream cheese mixture over crescent roll crust and top with veggies and olives. Chill until time to serve. ********** ********** Monitor Miniatures ********** Meet the Amazing Parrot Plus: Would you benefit from a little more organization to your life? The Parrot Plus may be the answer. No larger than a remote control and operated by four AAA batteries, the Parrot Plus combines six and a half minutes of recorded memo space, a telephone directory that finds listings you have previously recorded and can dial the phone, a calendar with reminder beep that works even when the unit is turned off, a clock with alarm, and a four-function calculator. All functions are activated by using voice and a telephone-type keypad of numbers. The Parrot Plus can be set to operate in French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Chinese, as well as English. A Japanese version is in production.
Originally created for sighted users, the Parrot Plus comes with a cassette tape of instructions that teach a blind user how to use each of the functions. Removing out-of-date memos, calendar reminders, or phone listings and their associated information is simple and quick.
Once you try the Parrot Plus, you'll wonder how you managed without it. The NFB's Materials Center sells the Parrot Plus for $200. Write to Materials Center, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, or call (410) 659-9314 between 12:30 and 5:00 p.m. EST. ********** Attention Students: Shawn Mayo, President of the National Association of Blind Students (NABS), has asked us to pass along the following announcement:
Saturday, January 30, 1999, marks the tenth anniversary of the annual NABS Student Seminar held in conjunction with the Federation's Washington Seminar. This year's agenda provides opportunities to hear thought-provoking presentations and to interact with blind students from across the country. The day's events will culminate in an evening banquet, with a keynote address delivered by President Maurer that no one will want to miss. Be sure to arrive at the Student Seminar in time to mingle with other blind students and Federation leaders at the student party, held on Friday evening from 8:00 p.m. until we get closed down!
********** Assistance Needed: Khalid Zakaria Ayd. writes from Egypt to express interest in establishing correspondence with Braille Monitor readers. He prefers Braille but can use tape. He is interested in blindness issues and likes to read Braille books and magazines and to listen to shortwave radio. He is a university student and is totally blind. He and his blind friends are also in need of a Spanish-English Braille dictionary, a Braille watch, a Perkins Brailler, and a typewriter. All but the last of these could be sent Free-Matter-for-the-Blind. His address is Khalif Zakaria Ayd., Postal #32873, Ezbet Abu Yusif, Shatanouf, Ashmoun, Monofia, Arab Republic of Egypt. ********** NFB Key Chains for Sale: The Greater Summit County Chapter of the NFB of Ohio is selling two-inch solid-metal tactile NFB key chains. Many Federationists snapped them up at the convention last summer, and now the chapter offers them to Monitor readers at the same great price. Choose among antiqued gold, blackened silver, or pewter finishes. All key chains have a lifetime guarantee and are made in the USA. The NFB logo depicting the triangle inside a circle with the letters "NFB" appears in print on one side and in Braille on the other. The words "Security," "Equality," and "Opportunity" also appear on the print side. All logo key chains include a split ring on a short chain. The cost is only $10 each plus $1 for shipping and handling. Order today by sending a check or money order for $11 to Greater Summit County Chapter, 991 Young Avenue, Barberton, Ohio 44203. If you have questions, please call Everett Gavel at (330) 745-6414 between 9:00 and 11:00 p.m., EST. Be sure to indicate the finish you want. Quantity discounts are available for chapters that would like to use the key chains in their own fund-raising events. Offer ends March 1, 1999. ********** For Sale: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Beautiful Things: this is Our-Co's first full-color catalog featuring Braille bead necklaces and sponge-painted and screen printed apparel for both children and adults. For more information call (732) 805-1912 or fax (732) 805-3088. Our-Co Industries is a division of the New Jersey Association of the Deaf-Blind, a non-profit organization specializing in meeting the needs of individuals who are deaf, blind, or deaf-blind, and developmentally disabled. ********** Update on Literary Braille Competency test: We recently received the following notice: The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) of Louisville, Kentucky, and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, have entered into a cooperative agreement to work on the revision and ongoing maintenance of the National Literary Braille Competency Test (NLBCT), Frank Kurt Cylke, NLS director, recently announced.
NLS has been administering the test for teachers of Braille to children and adults since May, 1994. It is currently being revised as part of a validation study conducted by Human Research Resources Organization (HumRRO), Alexandria, Virginia.
Mr. Cylke said, "We look forward to working with the Research and Development staff at APH on this project. APH has long been a leader in the development of materials for the education of blind children and adults. Its staff has expertise in testing and test production that will complement the NLS expertise in the literary Braille code and in the certification process."
During the next two years APH will participate with NLS in organizing two committees to facilitate the revision process and to manage and maintain the testing program over time. The Administrative Issues Committee (AIC) will oversee administration of the test and recommend policies and procedures associated with the testing program. The Test Development Committee (TDC) will develop and maintain the test (e.g., introduce new test forms as needed). The Administrative Issues Committee will have members from the American Council of the Blind (ACB), the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The TDC will include a representative group of teachers.
The American Printing House will further assist the effort by producing the print and Braille test materials. For additional information contact Mary Lou Stark, Head, Braille Development Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., 20542; phone (202) 707-9302 or (800) 424-8567; fax (202) 707-0712; e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>. ********** Braille and Audiobooks Available: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: We are a company which offers over 1,000 Braille and audio books for very affordable prices, and we also will transcribe any pocketbook onto cassette for a nominal fee. We have written over twenty speech-friendly computer games and utilities for children and adults, which all work very well on talking computers. For more information please visit our Web site at <www.ncf.carleton.ca/~dr100> or write us for a free audio cassette or computer disk catalog or send $5 for a Braille or print price list. The address is I Can See Books, 88 Captain Morgans Boulevard, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada V9R 6R1. To request an e-mail catalog, contact Danny Faris, President, at <email@example.com>. ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: Careen Bradbury] The Last Word about Magoo: Careen Bradbury, Assistant Editor of Viewpoint, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom and member of the organization's Executive Council, reports that the group discussed the following motion from its Executive Council at its recent annual delegate conference, held in Liverpool, England. As approved, the resolution reads: "This annual delegate conference instructs the Executive Council to encourage the media to portray disabled people in a positive way."
This resolution came about as a direct result of the Magoo struggle. Bradbury reports that the film has been screened once only in Glasgow and that about twenty people paid to watch it. She concludes her note with the comment that "It seems that movie-goers just stay away from the old creep, who I feel sure will trouble us no more." ********** For Sale: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Mindfold is a mask impervious to light, even direct sunlight. It is used as a training aid, in airplanes, in dentists' offices, for meditation, for seminars, for sleep studies, by night workers, and by computer professionals. The mask is held away from the eyes by foam padding with cutouts creating total darkness even with eyes open. Mindfold consists of a durable plastic lens; high-density, soft foam; and an adjustable elastic strap. Mindfold's pricing is quantity-based. Each price includes shipping and handling. For quantities of one to 1,000, the cost is $6.50 per unit. For 1,001 and above, the cost is $5.75 per unit. Call toll-free to place an order (888) 705-3805. Contact Mindfold, Inc., 8043 East 7th Street, Tucson, Arizona 85710, or call (520) 885-3700, fax (505) 298-9157. ********** [PHOTO/CAPTION: Georgia Kitchen] Cookbook in the Making: The Jacobus tenBroek Memorial Fund Committee is planning a cookbook and seeks recipes from members and their friends that are both elegant and simple to prepare. We want recipes from all food categories--desserts, main dishes, sugar-free, vegetarian, salt free, dishes using convenience foods, etc. The book will be published in print and Braille. All contributions should be elegant, simple, relatively quick to prepare, and contain common ingredients found in most pantries. We can accept recipes with one to three less-common ingredients that would need to be purchased. Send your recipes to Georgia Kitchen, Cookbook Coordinator, 2809 Lapeer Road, Flint, Michigan 48503. ********** For Sale: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Perkins Brailler with case and keys, brand new, never used. Asking $400 or best offer. Call Frances Horwitz at (215) 745- 0923. ********** World Series Baseball Game: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: The 1998 baseball season is over, and Version 13 of the award-winning World Series Baseball Game and Information System is ready to be mailed. The big news about Version 13 is that it comes with 124 additional teams, including the 1998 pennant winners and Mark McGwire's 1998 St. Louis Cardinals. This makes a total of 262 teams, including every pennant winner since 1901, many All-Star teams, Negro teams, Japanese teams, etc. Every major-league franchise is represented. The game is being played by sight-impaired baseball fans of all ages in forty-eight states on IBM-compatible computers with screen readers and synthesizers. There are also nine updated information programs and a 1,000- question quiz. There are many improvements, most suggested by users of the game. Baseball action during the game is described in the words of many of the famous radio and TV announcers. The price is still the same as when the game was first introduced in 1986, only $15 to new users, $5 for upgrades. Send your check to Harry Hollingsworth, 692 Sheraton Drive, Akron, Ohio 44319 or call (330) 644-2421, or e-mail <hhhollingsworth@IBM.net>. ********** Correction: The contact information for ordering the new cassette tape recording of the Cane Raisers singing NFB songs was incorrectly listed in the August/September issue. Lloyd Rasmussen's telephone number is (301) 946-8345. His e-mail addresses are <firstname.lastname@example.org> (work) and <email@example.com> (home). The cost of the tape is $5. ********** Correspondence Wanted: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: My name is George, and I live in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. I would like to communicate on a regular basis by cassette tape with readers of the Braille Monitor. I am seventy- eight years of age, fairly healthy, partially sighted (I can still see a little), and a widower. I unfortunately lost my wife nearly two years ago. If there is anyone from the age of fifty upwards who would like to communicate with me, I should be very, very pleased indeed. I will answer all people who respond to this request by return tape. Contact George W. Sutton, 21 Luterel Drive, Swallowsnest, Sheffield, Yorkshire S26 4SY. ********** For Sale: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: I have a Romeo RB-25 Braille printer, just over one year old. It has printed fewer than 100 pages. Price does not include warranty. If interested, contact Tonia Trapp at work (505) 843-7535, home (505) 266-4016, or e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>. ********** Braille Bible Available: I have a New World Testament Bible to give away. It is almost brand new and is in eighteen Braille volumes. If anyone is interested, please contact me in writing (Braille or print). Enclose your telephone number so that I can contact you. Send to Priscilla A. Ferris, 55 Delaware Avenue, Somerset, Massachusetts 02726. ********** Audiobooks Available: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: A number of instructional and educational audio books of interest are available from BFI AudioBooks at (800) 260-7717. Titles include 60 Minutes Towards Computer Literacy, Internet Explained, Short and Sweet, Cat Lovers Only, and Self-Publishing in Audio and Making Money from the Start, as well as cassettes on fund-raising skills and ones for kids that teach how to deal with your own anger and how to resolve conflicts through sensitivity to the other person's feelings. For a complete list and more information ask for a catalog. A percentage of the proceeds from these sales go to the National Federation of the Blind. Contact Julian Padowicz, BFI AudioBooks, 1397 Hope Street, Stamford, Connecticut 06907. The Web site is <www.eldarco.com/audiobooks>. The telephone/fax number is (203) 968-2255. ********** Great News from Clovernook: Most people who know anything at all about the blindness field in the United States have heard of Clovernook. For ninety- five years the agency has provided a number of services and programs to blind and multiply handicapped people in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is best known as one of the largest Braille production houses in the country, printing Braille books, magazines, and other publications for use across the country. On July 16, 1998, Marvin Kramer, President of Clovernook Center for the Blind, issued the following self-explanatory memo: ********** At its June 18, 1998, meeting the Board of Trustees voted to accept management's recommendation that Clovernook change its policy on minimum wage. Effective with the paycheck of July 17, 1998, all regular employees in production jobs will be paid at least minimum wage, currently $5.15 per hour. We will continue to track production as always, and individuals will be paid their piece rate when that exceeds minimum wage.
This decision did not come easily, and it represents a major departure from Clovernook's long-standing practices which permit us to pay sub-minimum wages under our Department of Labor Sheltered Workshop certificate.
The underlying rationale for this decision is that it is in keeping with our mission of promoting independence and fostering the highest quality of life. Clovernook advocates throughout the community that people with visual impairments deserve an opportunity to work and compete with their sighted peers. By embracing this philosophy of paying at least minimum wage, we are practicing what we ask others to do. Clovernook's expectation that employees make a daily effort to be productive and meet the needs of our customers will be more important than ever.
The new minimum wage rate does not apply to individuals in trainee status (i.e., individuals whose employment at Clovernook is provided through a contractual or purchase-of-service arrangement with an outside third party). Their employment status is characterized by its training nature, and services are designed to develop skills, work ethic, and productivity. ********** That is what the memo said, and Mr. Kramer and Clovernook have been as good as their word. This is a giant step forward, not least because the decision was made for the right reasons. Congratulations to Clovernook and to its hard-working employees. ********** Elected: On October 18, 1998, at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin, officers and members of the Board of Directors were elected. Those now serving are Mark A. Riccobono, President; Jim McCarthy, First Vice President; Bill Meeker, Second Vice President; Brad Dunse, Treasurer; Linda Mentink, Secretary; and Board Members, Amanda Durik and Patty Zimmerman. ********** For Sale: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: We have for sale a Papenmeier 2D-lite refreshable Braille display with Windots software. This equipment has had fewer than thirty hours of use. Windots version is current. Comes with all documentation, travel case, and shipping to your location. In addition our center will install the software on your computer if you wish, at no additional charge.
Asking $6,000. Contact Brad Hodges, Assistive Technology and Assessment Center, University of Wisconsin-Stout, Room 101 VRB, Menomonie, Wisconsin 54751, phone: (800) 228-5457. ********** Call for Papers: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: The 9th Interdisciplinary Conference on Blind and Visually Impaired Children, "Here's Lookin' at You Kid 2," will take place September 22 to 25, 1999, hosted by the Alberta/NWT Division of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. Presenters from across Canada and North America will bring the latest in research, educational practices, technological innovation and rehabilitation strategies to some 600 delegates at the Calgary Convention Center.
Keynote speakers include Stephen Kuusisto, author of Planet of the Blind; Terry Kelly, an accomplished musician from Nova Scotia; renowned children's author, Jean Little; Dr. Raymond Buncic from Toronto's Sick Children's Hospital; and Dr. Cay Holbrook from the University of British Columbia.
In addition to announcing the conference, this notice is also a call for papers. Potential presenters are asked to submit abstracts no longer than 200 words and a current vita. All abstracts must be received by February 28, 1999. Notification of acceptance will be by March 15, 1999. Accepted presenters will be asked to submit the full text of their presentations.
To submit a presentation proposal or for further information, contact Sonja Kolacz, CNIB Calgary, 15 Colonel Baker Place, Calgary, AB, T2E 4Z3, Phone (403) 266-8831, fax (403) 265- 5029, e-mail <email@example.com>. ********** Cassette Storage Albums Available: Steve Benson, President of the NFB of Illinois, asks us to carry the following announcement:
The holidays have arrived, and so too, inevitably, have more cassettes. These audio gems seem to multiply exponentially. Before you know it, dozens of cassettes will be scattered all over your living space.
Here's the perfect solution for cassette chaos. Capture and keep your precious cassettes in attractive white vinyl cassette albums, offered to you by the NFB of Illinois. Each album accommodates twelve cassettes. The album's spine is wide enough for a Braille label, and the front, back, and spine also have sleeves for print labels. These cassette albums are perfect for a year's subscription of the Braille Monitor. They fit nicely into your favorite bookshelf.
Each album is $3. Send your check or money order (payable to the NFB of Illinois) to Steven O. Benson, 7020 N. Tahoma, Chicago, Illinois 60646. If you have questions, please call (773) 594-9977. ********** Exhibits by Blind Artists: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: National Exhibits by Blind Artists 25th Anniversary Exhibit will take place at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Fall, 1999. Artwork by legally blind artists is eligible for the juried show. Slides are due by January 21, 1999, to be sent to NEBA, 919 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107. For more information call (800) 222-1754, Monday through Friday, E.S.T. ********** Position Available: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Blazie Engineering seeks motivated individuals for its technical support staff at Blazie headquarters in Forest Hill, Maryland. Applicants must possess the following: 1) complete working knowledge of at least one Blazie Engineering note taker product; 2) excellent written and oral communication; 3) problem- solving skills; 4) interest and talent in helping others; 5) ability to test and analyze new software and hardware.
Benefits include medical and dental plan, tuition reimbursement, equipment loan, 401K plan, and paid vacation. Salary commensurate with experience. Mail, fax, or e-mail a resume to Frank Irzyk, Director of Marketing, Blazie Engineering, 105 East Jarrettsville Road, Forest Hill, Maryland 21050, fax (410) 836-5040, <firstname.lastname@example.org>. ********** Road Runner Is Here: We have been asked to carry the following announcement: ShrinkWrap Computer Products is pleased to announce an exciting new product called the Road Runner. This is a tiny text-reading device which permits you to store up to 3,000 pages of text in discrete files for easy reading on the go. The unit is somewhat smaller than an audio cassette and has a telephone-style keypad for control. It produces clear synthetic speech through a pair of supplied headphones, or you can attach it to amplified computer- style speakers for reading aloud. Road Runner will let you store up to several complete books as well as other shorter documents. While reading, you are able to adjust the volume, rate, and voice continuously. Road Runner will remember where you left off in each document and return you to that spot automatically. It also permits up to ten independent bookmarks per document and provides searching capability and a sleep timer. To use the Road Runner, you will need a PC-compatible computer from which to transfer the text you have scanned, acquired from RFB&D or borrowed from friends or the Internet. Road Runner comes with headphones, two AA batteries, a nine-pin serial cable, and a taped instruction guide. The cost of Road Runner is $349 plus shipping. For more information contact ShrinkWrap Computer Products at (703) 620-4642 or toll-free at (800) 377-0774.
********** ********** NFB PLEDGE ********** 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.
The Braille Monitor, December, 1998 Complete Issue
How to receive the Braille Monitor via e-mail
Copyright 1998, The National Federation of the Blind
homepage braille monitors
Posted December 22, 1998