We are approaching double digits, for this is the ninth volume in the Kernel Book series. The first of the Kernel Books, What Color is the Sun, appeared in 1991. Since that time, we have produced two each year, this being the second for 1995.

The Kernel Books are a departure from what is usually written about blindness. They attempt to take the mystery out of it by giving firsthand accounts of how blind people live on a daily basis. Other firsthand stories about blindness have been written, of course, but not in such large numbers and not in this format. What we are trying to do is to take advantage of the cumulative effect of story after story year after year coming in a steady stream.

The details differ, but the theme is the same. In effect, the people who are writing in these pages are saying:

"Blindness is not as strange as you think it is, and it need not be as terrifying. This is how I lead my life, and not just in generalities but in detail. Here is how I work and play, brush my teeth and cook my meals, go to school and meet friends, raise a family and deal with my children, and handle all of the other activities that occur between the time I get up and the time I go to bed. By and large, my life is just about like yours. I am neither especially blessed nor especially cursed. My existence is more routine than dramatic, but it can be filled with meaning and joy■and sometimes, of course, it has pain."

This is the substance of what the authors in this book are saying. They are people I know■former students, colleagues in the National Federation of the Blind, and personal friends. I think you will find their stories interesting, and I believe you will recognize in them a reflection of your own experiences, differing somewhat in detail but following the same overall pattern.

One thing that brings those of us who have written these stories together is our membership in the National Federation of the Blind (The NFB). Established in 1940, the National Federation of the Blind is the oldest and largest organization of blind people in the United States. We have chapters in every state and almost every community of any size.

We come together to discuss common problems and to provide mutual assistance and self-help. We also carry on programs of public education, and we seek assistance and understanding from members of the sighted public like you. The National Federation of the Blind is one of the biggest success stories in twentieth-century America, for we and our sighted friends are truly changing what it means to be blind.

All you need do to prove the truth of this statement is to read this book. And why is it called Tapping the Charcoal? The first story will tell you. We hope you will find it and all of the others interesting and worthwhile. Sometimes you build a bridge or climb a mountain by "tapping the charcoal"■especially if you do it quickly and lightly.

Kenneth Jernigan
Baltimore, Maryland 1995


The type size used in this book is 14 point for two important reasons: One, because typesetting of 14 point or larger complies with federal standards for the printing of materials for visually impaired readers, and we wanted to show you what type size is helpful for people with limited sight.

The second reason is that many of our friends and supporters have asked us to print our paperback books in 14-point type so they too can easily read them. Many people with limited sight do not use Braille. We hope that by printing this book in a larger type than customary, many more people will be able to benefit from it.