Vol. 11, No. 4
Barbara Cheadle, Editor
From the Editor
The Parent's Role in Changing What it Means to be Blind
by Barbara Pierce
Fun, Friends, and Fitting In
How to Make a Braille Wave
by Bonnie Simons
Black BeltWhite Cane
by Jody Ianuzzi
Cane Travel and Young Students
Reprinted from: Handbook for Itinerant and Resource Teachers of Blind and Visually Impaired Students by Doris M. Willoughby and Sharon L. M. Duffy
All the World's a Stage for the Blind and Sighted Alike
by Jerry Whittle
Language Development: Ideas for Young Children
Braille Bill and Beyond: A Report from South Dakota
by Marjorie Kaizer, Superintendent, S.D. School for the Visually Handicapped
Braille Team Nears Diploma
Katie Goes to First Grade
by Suzie Hanks
Slate-Mates: Braille Is the Medium for Youngster's Messages
Braille Storybook Resources
A Day at the Playground
by Mary Ellen Thompson
New Committee Organized for Parents of the Deaf-Blind: Open Letter and Questionnaire
by Julie Hunter
Let's Talk Shop
by Doug Boone
Blindness: Is History Against Us?
by Kenneth Jernigan
Hear Ye! Hear Ye!
1992-1993 Gus Gisser Memorial Braille Readers are Leaders Contest
Copyright National Federation of the Blind 1992
FROM THE EDITOR: This year's back-to-school issue begins with a self-examination and ends with a history lesson. The lead article by Barbara Pierce challenges parents to do some soul-searching. She gently, humorously calls on parents to consider the consequences of simple actions and expectations. For example, who washes your blind pre-teen's hair? Simple actions, small expectationsbut day by day, week by week, year by year they will either add to, or subtract from, your blind son's or daughter's emerging independence.
Another element contributing to independence is, of course, skills. If you read the table of contents you may have noticed that a large number of the articles (about a third of the total) have the word Braille in the title. The National Federation of the Blind tackled the problem of Braille illiteracy when others would not even admit that a problem existed. Today, the Federation continues to lead the fight, but we are no longer alone. Most major agencies and organizations of and for the blind have acknowledged the importance of Braille and have joined the struggle to combat Braille illiteracy. About a dozen states have passed Braille bills (legislation guaranteeing blind students the opportunity to learn Braille); legislation is under consideration in about a dozen more states; and the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is on the brink of introducing a Braille certification program for teachers. Many of these changes have not yet trickled down to the teachers and students in the classroom, but they are coming.
Finally, the issue endsmost appropriatelywith a history lesson. In the Federation we often emphasize the importance of blind adult role models for blind children and their families. But pride and inspiration can also be built upon role models from the past. And much inspiration and perspective can be derived from Dr. Kenneth Jernigan's 1973 NFB Convention Banquet address, "Blindness: Is History Against Us?" (page 42). This speech has long been a favorite of mine, and I believe you and your blind youngster or student will enjoy it, too.
Here now is Mrs. Pierce's article to lead off our 1992 back-to-school issue.
THE PARENT'S ROLE IN CHANGING WHAT IT MEANS TO BE BLIND
by Barbara Pierce
Editor's Note: The following article was the keynote address at the 1991 NFB Parents of Blind Children Seminar in New Orleans. The seminar was sponsored, as it is every year, by the Parents of Blind Children Division of the National Federation of the Blind and chaired by the president of the divisionBarbara Cheadle.
With Barbara's unerring wisdom, she has called me forward to be an expert. My last child just graduated from high school, which means that, for better or worse, I've done what I can as a parentexcept for paying the college bills and worrying. I'm in effect finished with what I can do to shape my children, which in turn means that I will necessarily begin to forget all the tough times. This makes me an expert, but I hope you will take what I have to say seriously, despite my now lofty status.
One of the most important jobs that parents have to do is to set standards and to communicate those standards to their children. We do that all the time. Probably the most frequently used and least effective method we employ as parents is precept. "Tuck in your shirt." "Keep your mouth closed when you chew." "Have you written that thank-you note?": those kinds of things. Far more pervasively and more effectively, we establish standards in our children's lives by example and by expectation. This is certainly true in every area of life, but it is nowhere more evident than in teaching blindness-connected skills and attitudes. For after all, your blind children, whether they be your students or your own youngsters, are surrounded by some pretty lousy attitudes and some pretty low standards.
Your job is to wave the flag and to make sure that the expectations and the standards they adopt as their own are high. What your attitudes are will, in significant measure, determine what your children think about blindness and think about themselves as blind people. So you've got to be careful and watchful and mindful at all times about what it is that you are doing and saying and demonstrating and communicating to your child.
You should keep a close eye on what sighted children of your youngster's own age and ability level are doing. Are they choosing their own clothing in the morning? Then your child ought to be learning that stripes and plaidswhatever those aredon't go together, that red and orange are not a happy combination, that Bermuda shorts are not the appropriate thing to wear to church on Sunday morning. Blind children need to learn those things, and they don't learn them by having the clothes plunked down on the bottom of their beds every morning for them with the instruction to climb into them.
Do you expect your other children to do chores around the house? Then don't give the blind child the easy ones. The way to make siblings dislike a blind child is always to give him or her the easy things to do or always to let the blind kid off:
"But it's hard. I didn't get the window clean because I can't see it."
"Go back and do it again, kid." As a parent or a teacher, you've got to keep your standards high.
I remember being twelve. My mother didn't know other blind children. It was I who discovered that my friends all washed their own hair. At that time we set our hair and slept on curlers. Remember? They were all doing that for themselves. I wasn't, and I brought this to my mother's attention. I hope that, as alert parents, you would be the ones to notice this and bring it to your child's attention. She simply didn't have any way of recognizing that gap, but she had the wit and the good sense to say, "Here's the shampoo. I think it'll be easier for you the first time to go wash it in the basement than in the bathtub. Shout when you think it's clean, and I'll check you." That was the last time she had anything to do with washing my hair. You've got to be alert to that sort of situation.
I'm going to give you some notions about principles that you can apply in helping yourself to establish good, healthy standards and expectations for your youngsters. The first, I would say, is to make sure you understand and live out the distinction between explanations about blindness and using blindness as an excuse. For example, when a sighted person walks down the street and bumps into parked tricycles, garbage cans, an individual looking at store window displays, or parking meters, one assumeswith some reasonthat the person has probably had two or three too many to drink. When a blind person using a white cane brings the cane tip in contact with objects immediately in his or her path, that is an appropriate use of the white cane. He does not need to feel apologetic about it. This does not mean, by the way, that a blind person shouldn't apologize if she taps the cane on somebody's ankle. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't attempt to alter the technique of a child who uses a cane like a scythe, trying to cut people off at the ankles, or like a lance, attempting to impale people. You certainly need to discourage that kind of cane use. It is appropriate to use a cane and to move it in an arc adapted to the density of the crowd in front of a child or an adult, for that matter. That is a reasonable explanation of the cane technique used by blind people.
When a blind or low vision person drops something and doesn't see where it lands, it is appropriate for that person, in an orderly, efficient way, to search the areato listen for where the thing fell and then to quarter the area, seeking it tactilely. It is no more inappropriate to search with the hands in an orderly fashion for something than it is to glance around and survey an area to see where the thing landed and pick it up. You do not benefit the child by always handing back things that have been dropped. A kid will not be discouraged from dropping a stylus on the floor constantly if you always retrieve it. It doesn't help anyone for you to think of such an activity or to describe it to the child as "groping around" for something. It certainly does not help for you to say to a child with limited vision, "If you just stand there and look for it, you'd do better." If the child has seen where it fell and can go and pick it up, that's fine. Otherwise, the most effective way is usually to hunt for it tactilely.
That is very different from allowing a child, yourself, or anybody else to use blindness as an excuse. It is simply not appropriate to say, "The child is blind and doesn't know where the speaker is standing and therefore shouldn't be expected to face him or her." In this society it is courteous to look at the person speaking. It is appropriate for you to give information to the child who hasn't figured out where the speaker is. Quietly say, "Turn around and look behind you," or "I'm over here. Look at me when we're talking." These are important pieces of information for a child who hasn't figured out where the speaker is.
I was at an end-of-the-year school banquet this spring, and the principal spoke from one side of the room without a microphone to start parents through the dinner line. I thought, "Aha, that's where the head table is." When the program began and the amplified voices were sounding a little bit further off to my right from there, I thought, "Oh well, he wasn't at the microphone. He's now moved to the podium. It's there at the head table." I therefore looked in the direction from which I heard the voices. It was halfway through the dinner when my husband said, "The speaker is on the other side of you." In reality, the podium was very close to me and on the opposite side from the direction I had been facing. A public address system speaker was at the back of the room, and that is what I was hearing. The school had bought a new PA system, and I had made assumptions. I was annoyed with my husband because he hadn't given me the information earlier, and I was furious with myself for not checking on where the speaker was. My performance was simply not acceptable.
Worry when your kid comes home in the fifth grade and says, "Teacher says I don't have to take spelling tests. If I work with the V.I. teacher on the spelling, it'll be okay." Since when was it okay for your child to have fewer grades in spelling than everybody else? The message given is that spelling is not important for a blind child. Object.
Worry when your high school sophomore dreads for an entire semester the assignment of the research paper and then comes home higher than a kite because she's just been told by her English teacher that he realizes research would be extremely hard for her, and therefore if she will do a little bit of research and then sit down and tell him about it on a cassette tape, that will be sufficient. That child has just lost seventy-five percent of the value of a research paper. As an old English teacher and as the wife of an English professor, I can tell you that the discipline of organizing your thinking, shaping it into paragraphs, finding the right words, spelling them accurately, punctuating them correctly, and then figuring out a way of getting them legibly presented for consideration by the teacher is a significant measure of the discipline. Since when did your child not need that kind of practice in order to succeed in life?
Be careful when you see your child trying to use blindness as an excuse for getting out of punishment. Now it's confession time. I hadn't thought about this story in years. I was in the seventh grade when somebody in my home room sent a spitball toward the homeroom teacher, and he didn't know who the offender was. The guy didn't stand up and confess. Nobody would rat on him, so the teacher said, "All right, you all stay in for detention until somebody tells me who did this." Whenever I missed my school bus, I had to take the streetcar unless I worked it out with my mother that she'd pick me up from school. I wasn't certain of the route home on that streetcar. I was nervous about it. I didn't want to have to stay after school for detention. It wasn't convenient or helpful to me.
I walked up to that man and said, "I don't think that I was guilty of doing whatever it was, but would you tell me what a spitball is?" The man should have known that any twelve-year-old knows what a spitball is, even if she's not certain about how to propel it through the air at the speed with which that one had come at him.
He should have said to me, "You'll stay a week longer than everybody else does," but he didn't. His eyes misted over, and he told me that I certainly didn't have to stay. I am ashamed to admit this to you.
I also recognize that if your kid has any sense you will be the last to hear such stories, but you have my permission to use this story in a sort of prophylactic way: "You try something like that, kiddo, and we'll have home detention." That is not appropriate behavior for anybody, and what does it do to a child's image in the classroom? It is horrible to contemplate! It took me years, I'm sure, to recover in the eyes of my classmates from that particular episode.
Well, I've given you the easy examples for distinguishing between right and wrong behavior. Unfortunately, when the problems really arise, they tend to come in shades of gray, not black and white, and they tend to come at about ten o'clock at night when everybody's exhausted. What do you do when your youngster announces at 9:30 that there are twenty-four math problems to be done by tomorrow and then brightly points out that the math teacher has said that it would be all right for him to do every other problem?
If that child cannot manage to stay up to do all twenty-four problems, it will be more salutary to take the lowered grade on the homework assignment for having done the first twelve than to get full marks for having done the even-numbered problems. What you really have to teach that child is that maybe he ought to start the math before 9:30 at night. "If you're having trouble with it, let's work on it together. Let's find a way of solving the problem, but let's not get out of the assignment." Since when are blind people so much better at math that they don't need to get all the exercise and practice that everybody else does?
Here is an even harder one. Your youngster brings to you the English assignment that has just been laboriously typed on the typewriter, and you discover that the two-year-old was messing with the keyboard and flipped the stencil key or that the typewriter ribbon ran out. What do you do then? You don't say, "I'll write a note tomorrow telling the teacher that you really did it, but that, because you are blind, you didn't notice that the print wasn't on the page."
I think of a time when I was a dinner guest in the home of a family with a blind youngster. The mother was busy entertaining the guests, preparing the meal, and supervising the homework process going on downstairs in the basement, where the computer was. The youngster did the homework with some grumbling. He has a tidy mind and doesn't like to have extra things left on his directory when he finishes with assignments. When he gets out of a document and is finished with itlike a homework assignmenthe, as a matter of reflex habit, erases the document. He meant to send this one to the printer; instead he sent it into oblivion. What did Mom say"Oh, poor child. I'll fix it with the teacher" or "I'll help you with it after dinner?" Maybe it was easier to do the right thing because there was a guest present, and she had no alternative. She sent him back down with the cheering news that "It will be easier to do the second time around because you'll remember some of the answers, and maybe you'll also remember not to send it into oblivion before you've printed it the next time around."
It's a hard way to go, but you are shaping your child's character. You are building self-respect and the implicit knowledge in your youngster that he or she is as good as everybody else. There are times when, from a parent's standpoint, it seems easier to give in and take some of the perks that are offered. You'll see signs some places, "Disabled people half price" or "Disabled children free." It's tempting when it's an $8.00 fee to line right up and take advantage of that sort of thing. It's very tempting when you see a long line at an amusement park, and people are willing to let you cut in at the front because you have a blind child. But there isn't any privilege that doesn't have its repercussions, and there is no such thing as a free lunch.
If people give freebies to blind people, it is because they think they are pitiable. If they let youas my children used to saytake cuts in a line, it's because they think that a blind child is fragile, can't stand up, can't wait in line. They feel sorry for the child and for you for having such a child. Is that really the message you want to give about competence?
I was talking to the parent of a disabled youngster, who said, "You know, I just don't understand why you fuss about pre-boarding aircraft. We have always been invited to pre-board, and it saves such a hassle."
I said to him, "Look, all parents with young children are invited to pre-board. It's easier to stow an infant, diaper bags, toddler, and Teddy bearsall of the paraphernalia that goes with young childrenwithout people standing in the aisle behind you mentally or literally tapping their feet, waiting for you to get out of the way. That is appropriate. It is also appropriate, if with an older disabled child you genuinely require more time to get down the jetway or into your row, to take that invitation to pre-board. But if you don't need the time, if the child really can move along as fast as anyone else, then do you really want to give your child the message that he or she has to go first, has to be singled out, has to endure being stared at with a lump in the throat and tears in the eyes, has to have different rules applied to him or her?"
Let me be clear. One of the most important things you need to do is to help your child come to an accurate understanding of the amount of help he or she really does need. Last fall I was on an international flight alone. When you are up at forty-thousand feet, they pass out these forms that you have to fill out before you can get through Immigration. I was in a row with no other people. There was nobody I could charm into volunteering to help me fill out this form. I stopped a crew member and said, "Unless you think that I can fill out this form in Immigration, I think probably a crew member, at a convenient time, could help me a great deal by filling out this form to my dictation." She came back when she had a moment and filled out the form. That was an appropriate request for assistance because I really did need the help.
It is important that your child learn to understand what is a legitimate and appropriate request for additional assistance. Part of your job is to help your child define for himself or herself what constitutes independence. I once learned of an elderly gentleman who had lost his sight late in life. He made the comment that he loved to go grocery shopping since he had gone blind, because his daughter walked along in front of the cart pulling it, and he walked along behind it with his hands on the cart handle and he didn't have to use his cane. His definition of independence was not looking blind. That was the only time in his life that he didn't look blind. He wasn't independent. He wasn't traveling alone; he didn't even have a cane with him. If his daughter had wandered off, he would have been stranded. That was not independence. He was seventy-five, and there was no changing his point of view. But your children are young.
Independence is going where you want to, when you want to, and doing what you want to by yourself, organizing what you want to do and getting it done. If you can do that, whether you're using readers or taxis or canes or a dog, you're independent. It is important that you understand that that's what constitutes independence. Your job is to teach your child and the people around your child the value of some of the things that are so very important about blindness: why it is necessary for a blind youngster to master Braille and to be able to use a slate and stylus efficiently, rapidly, and effectively; why it's important for your child to be doing all of the schoolwork; why it's important not to jump ahead in line; why audible traffic signals, for example, are a dangerous and lousy exchange for good cane travel training.
How do you know? How do you know what the most important things are? I've told you a number of them today. I guarantee you there are ten thousand more and at least seventy-three times every single day when you have got to know what it is that blind people need to have and do and how they ought to be thinking about themselves and what is the right choice for your child today. There aren't any absolute black-and-white, yes-or-no answers that can be laid down. Otherwise, we could print them all up, and everybody would then know. It doesn't work that way.
How do you know? You look around you. You find blind adults who are the kind of people you would like to see your child grow up to be. And you can be sure that if that person is the kind of person that you hope your child will be, then the standards and the attitudes that person has are probably the ones you want to instill in your youngster. You read the Braille Monitor and Future ReflectionsI might say that the summer issue is absolutely smashing; it's just wonderful! You read the articles and ponder them in your heart. We try to include things that help people to develop good attitudes about blindness. These should be of some real help and instruction to you so that gradually your reflexes will become good and solid, and you will begin to teach your child.
You will find, as your child grows in the normal natural progression that happens with all children, that your child will begin to assume the responsibility for initiating the explanations of why it is that he or she has to submit the English paper in print rather than on cassette, for explaining to the college professor why, although the map drill isn't very useful, he or she expects to be held responsible for all the geographic information that the other students will get from drawing maps. Your child will begin to have the solid, strong attitudes about blindness that will result in his or her living a full and productive life, and your job will be complete.
FUN, FRIENDS, AND FITTING IN
From the Editor: One of the agenda items at the 1992 NFB Convention parents seminar this past July was a panel of five blind youngsters speaking on the topic, "Fun, Friends, and Fitting In." The kids, as you may guess, stole the show. They were articulate, personable, bubbly, funny, and self-assured. It was easy to see that these children's self-confidence was grounded in healthy attitudes about blindness and a good grasp of alternative techniques. For example, all of them spoke from their own Braille notes. The smooth, confident delivery of each panelistincluding the second grader (Brian Watts) and the partially sighted print/Braille reader (Adam Emerson)was an eloquent testimony to the effectiveness of Braille.
The panel speeches were also a testament to the effectiveness of the National Federation of the Blind and to those parents who put the Federation philosophy into practice. These kids, including two panelists with multiple impairments (Lauren Hunter is hearing impaired and Noel Romey has a brittle bone disease which severely limits physical activity), have grown up with parents who have told them and demonstrated to them in a thousand different ways that it is respectable to be blind. Through their parents they have had opportunities (such as attendance at state and National NFB Conventions) to meet blind adults who are successful, productive, and independent. All of this has had an impact on these young lives.
Here, in their own words, is what five blind youngsters have to say about "Fun, Friends, and Fitting In."
ADAM EMERSON Michigan
Hello, my name is Adam Emerson. I come from a large family, and I am the youngest of four boys and one girl. We live in Michigan, "The Warm Weather State". Some of the things I do for fun are messing around with computers (some people call it programming), reading, using chemistry sets, and traveling. Personally, I don't like sports, the only really physical things I do like are swimming and the kind of wrestling you might do if you ever go to sports camp. I really don't like goal ball.
I really think it is fun to come to the NFB conventions. I get to see old friends and meet new people, see new developments, see new places, and other things. It's a new learning experience, and I get to travel. Some of the best seminars are the computer seminar, the Research and Development seminar, and the Braille`n Speak seminar. I usually carry a book around with me wherever I go (except when my parents tell me to "Leave it in the car") in case I get bored, like when someone starts giving a one-hour lecture on the IBM-PC (the reason is that I like the Apple IIGS).
It really isn't that hard to fit in. I'm not really sure how; I just do it.
I enjoy getting textbooks on tape from RFB, and I can also get interesting books from Talking Book. Some of the books I like are: Abraham Lincoln's World, Asimov on Chemistry, From Quarks to Quasars, Great Expectations, and This Present Darkness. I appreciate all the people who donate their time to record books.
I have many friends from the NFB. There are many friendly people. Most of them, if not all, are very nice. I also have friends from church and my old school. I like to go rollerskating and on field trips with a home school support group. Also the young people at our church have many activities.
When this session is over I plan on having a lot of fun with my friends here, and I know I fit in.
BRIAN WATTS North Carolina/Arkansas
Hello, my name is Brian Watts. I'm 8 years old. I will be in the 3rd grade next year. Some of the things I do for fun are goal ball and beepball. I also like movies, Cub Scouts, bowling, and reading books on tape.
I invite my friends over to spend the night. We like to skate. I'm always very friendly to them. We talk and laugh and have a good time. My friends are very nice to me.
Some of the things I do to fit in are using my cane whenever possible and trying to use a sighted guide as little as possible. At home I do many things for myself. I do my homework; I help my Mom with dinner; I cook in the microwave and on the stove; I help babysit my little brother; and I sometimes stay at home by myself.
I try to face my fears. The first time I rode my bicycle, I rode it straight into a rose bush. But I got right back up on it and tried again. I went water skiing (even though I was a little afraid, I tried anyway).
When I first started roller skating I fell down a lot, but I kept on practicing until I got pretty good. So, I guess what it boils down to is that I fit in basically the same way that all kids fit in.
JENNIFER R. ESPINOZA New Mexico
Hi! my name is Jennifer Espinoza, and I'm from Albuquerque, New Mexico. I'm 11 years old, and I'm going to be in 5th grade next year. One of my favorite things is racing down the street during mobility with my friend Louise and leaving Mr. Binder [the mobility instructor] in the dust. Last year we kept saying we were going to send him to Saudi Arabia!
My friends and I like to play pretend games, and make music lots of different ways. We really like wild pajama parties. I've been playing piano for 5 years and this year competed in the New Mexico Junior Music Festival. I love to read Braille, and have won prizes twice in Braille Readers are Leaders [contests]. I really like to type in the talking computer at school and wish I had one at home. At school my favorite subjects are English and reading. In the summer, Parents of Blind Children has a summer program taught by my teacher, Mrs. Gail Sweich [which I attend]. My friend Ernie and I wanted to make a deal where I'd do his academics and he'd do my cooking, but Mrs. Sweich wouldn't go for it.
I like playing board games, softball, and riding bikes and camping with my family. I'm not much for helping around the house, but I do it anyway. I am really happy that this convention is in North Carolina, since my aunt, uncle, and grandparents live here.
Thank you for inviting me to speak to all of you and I hope you enjoy the convention.
NOEL ROMEY Arizona
Hello. My name is Noel Romey, and I am 12 years old. I am from Phoenix, Arizona. I will be in seventh grade next year. Today I will be talking about "Fun, Friends, and Fitting In."
I have fun in many ways. One of the ways that I have fun is playing on the computer. I enjoy the computer because I can make noise and music. I also like to program the computer, play computer games, and make it do things. Computers are an important part of my life. I have a Braille 'n Speak and a Kurzweil Personal Reader that not only make my life easier but make it more fun to communicate using these items. It is also fun to play in the yard and other places. I also have fun doing bus travel because you can go many places that you have never been. I also have fun in the NFB convention shopping and looking at all the technology. My favorite things to do are reading and playing computers with friends.
There are many ways that blind people can make friends. One is to strike up a conversation instead of just waiting for a person to talk to you. For instance, when I went to Alaska, a man sat by me on the train. I started to talk to him, and we became friends. Also, you should come up to a person instead of letting them always come up to you. You can have much more success and have many more friends this way.
I met my friend in Phoenix, Fred, who is sighted, at a summer camp. He and I enjoy talking about science and computers. Those things are my interests and because of my interests, Fred and I are everlasting friends. Because of this, you need to pick a friend with the same interests as you.
The next thing that I am going to talk about is fitting in.
One thing you can do to fit in is to do things that other people are doing. My Mom or my sister helps me pick the color of my clothes and what hair style most of the kids in my school wear. Even though it is hard, I think that if I try I can fit in easily. I think that I am normal even if I am blind. I think that I can do anything that other kids can do. If I think I cannot do something, I try it. Sometimes I fail to do it, but sometimes I surprise myself and do it.
The National Federation of the Blind is important to me because I have been to the conventions and been in the Braille reading contest. I have met [blind] role models who told me that being blind is not a big deal. That is how I am successful.
LAUREN HUNTER Colorado
I am in my sophomore year of high school. Basically, I have been blind all my life. Right now I am the only blind student in my high school, and I have been using an itinerant teacher for my freshman year. She comes and works with me at my school. At this time in my life I don't have much problem making friends, but when I was younger it was difficult for me. There weren't many children in my neighborhood. Also, I was shy. When I went into elementary school the other kids treated me like I was helpless, and I let them because I didn't know any better. I didn't know how to deal with that. In my fifth-grade year our teacher worked with the whole class on communications skills. I started to be more outgoing. Then in my middle school I started moving from class to class. I also had to start informing my teachers of what I needed. There were still some people who treated me like I couldn't do anything, but I was getting better at letting people know that I didn't need to be taken care of.
The more skills I developed, and the more outgoing I became, the easier it was to make good friends. In class I find that I talk more to the people around me. I ask them their names. I try to get to know them first, so that it is not always they who have to try to know me. The more they see me and get to know me, the more comfortable they become. It takes work on my part as well [as theirs]. I don't expect people to always come up to me and talk to me. I try to talk to them and make them comfortable.
The NFB has had a big part in this. In fact, the NFB gave me my first lessons in cane travel when I was about eight years old. Since then I have been involved in the Parents of Blind Children Division of Colorado. Last year I was in the NFB Colorado Center for the Blind junior high program, and I also became part of the Student Division in Colorado. This summer I am in the NFB high school program. All these experiences have helped me become more self-confident. Self-confidence and independence are needed to make sighted friends. It's also important to have other blind people to talk to about your frustrations and to get advice.
In conclusion, even though I am not the most popular person in school, I stay optimistic and observe myself so that I can make changes and improve.
HOW TO MAKE A BRAILLE WAVE
by Bonnie Simons
From the Editor: Sighted children are fascinated with Braille. Whenever my blind colleagues in the Federation or I have demonstrated Braille to groups of childrensuch as school classes, Cub Scouts, Brownie Scouts, and so forthwe can always guarantee, without fail, that the Braille will be a big hit. Many of us have often wondered if this natural curiosity and enthusiasm for Braille could be put to a better use. Of course, even one demonstration promotes a better understanding of blindness and a respect for blind persons, but couldn't more be done? Some high schools and colleges, for example, offer sign language courses to their students. Not only does this increase the number of hearing persons who can communicate with the deaf, but some of these students are undoubtedly inspired to go on to become professional interpreters for the deaf.
What would happen if groups of sighted children and youth had the same opportunity to learn Braille? Would some of them be inspired to go on and become professional or volunteer Braille transcribers? Would some of them become teachers of blind and visually impaired children? And even if they never used their Braille skills in a professional manner, wouldn't there be other kinds of positive results? Until recently, I could only speculate on what the benefits might be. I knew individual sighted children who learned Braillemy own sighted daughter, Anna, began to read and write grade I Braille when she was 5 (she is now 10)but had never heard of a group of sighted children learning Braille. That changed last Spring when the following article appeared on my desk. I no longer had to speculate. Here was a woman teaching Braille to sighted children in an after-school Braille club, and the results, as she reports them, were every bit as good as, or better than, anything I had dreamed possible. I hope that Mrs. Simons's experience, as she describes it in this article, will inspire others as it inspired me.
This is a story about a good friend made because of Braille and how I came to be a better teacher through this friendship.
I first met Abigail Granger in Joan Kennedy's second-grade classroom at Kiva Elementary School in Scottsdale, Arizona. Abbe was a sweet, occasionally shy eight-year-old, with a sharp intellect and keen interest in language. Abbe loved learning. Her good humor, winning smile and outgoing manner all combined to make her a persuasive force. Abbe was a natural leader, one who would lead me into an experience I will never forget. In the space of one year, this young girl would have me committed body, soul, and pocketbook to teaching Braille to sighted students in first through sixth grades at our school. You will learn more about other people responsible for promoting and supporting this project through telling of this story. I believe that running this class, and letting it run me, has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my career.
Abbe's second-grade teacher had created a remarkable learning environment for the extraordinary group of children assigned to her that year. I was there to help integrate my blind student into classroom activities, but it soon became evident that I would be working with other students as well. They were bright, sensitive, self-assured, and endlessly curious. The children watched in fascination as I worked with my student using a variety of Braille and tactile materials. They were spellbound by the Braille writer, and begged me to teach them how to write their names. Luckily, their teacher encouraged curiosity, allowing them to explore the tactile world with us. They thought they left this world behind in preschool when they exchanged clay, finger painting, button-and-snap books, and blocks for textbooks. When I brought in my play-dough maps and Braille storybooks with tactile illustrations of felt, buttons, and beads, I must have struck a homey chord in their second-grade hearts.
My clearest memory of the beginning of my interest in teaching Braille to sighted students was of a warm April afternoon, my Braille writer sitting on a picnic table outside the school cafeteria. Although I had planned to attend a teachers' meeting, Abbe persuaded me my presence there wasn't required. She showed me the Braille writer set up with paper in a sunny, comfortable place, and I was convinced. A gentle Arizona breeze easily lifted the heavy manila paper that was halfway out of the Braille writer. On the paper were the names of Abbe's family she had Brailled with my help. Next, Abbe wanted to learn how to Braille numbers and capital letters. I loved teaching Braille to blind children and remember thinking this would be a pleasurable way to end the day, tutoring students like Abbe in Braille. Abbe had quickly learned the basics of using a Braille writer and was also very interested in creating tactile designs using Braille dots. The Braille Wave was one of our favorites, originally tapped out by her four-year-old sister when she came to visit my resource room. It can be made by Brailling dots three, two, one, four, five, six across the page, creating a tactile wave.
Abbe persevered in her goal to learn everything about Braille that she knew about print. We designed an independent study in Braille with the encouragement of her classroom teacher. At the close of the school year, Abbe asked if she could continue studying Braille in third grade. I agreed, on the condition the plan was approved by her new teacher. That August, Abbe met me in the hall on the first day of school and introduced two friends who were interested in learning Braille. We decided it would be fun to have an after-school class for the three of them. That was the start of it all.
This weekly class of three students quickly grew into two classes of twelve students thanks to Abbe's publicity. The Kiva teachers and staff were extremely patient as our class struggled getting organized. Teachers invited me to their classes to speak about Braille. I developed cartoon storyboards that helped tell the story of Louis Braille, explaining the various systems blind people have used before and since the development of Braille. Students were fascinated by the knotted string and wooden letter alphabets, as well as the "talking" electronic Braille keyboard my sixth-grade student used to take notes in class. They stopped me in hallways to ask me when they could take Braille classes.
Classes soon turned into everyday, standing-room-only events. I begged and borrowed Braille writers for our newly named Braille Club. Soon we had twelve in my resource room. Students came in after school and during their lunch recess to learn Braille. Approximately 125 students have attended Braille classes over the past two years. I've bought a gross of notebooks for students to keep their papers and have watched in amazement as they have decorated them with fabric paints, creating delightful tactile pictures and designs.
Cooperative learning techniques were used to teach Braille. My blind Braille students became student teachers in the Braille club. They, of course, had separate Braille reading instruction and therefore came to Braille club with advanced skills. Even the younger blind student teachers (my youngest was Julie, age eight) could teach basic Braille reading and demonstrate the mechanics of using a Braillewriter. (Believe it or not, putting paper into a Braillewriter was one of the most difficult skills for the sighted club members to learn). Older student teachers, such as sixth-grader, Chris, would teach club members advanced Braille math and science notations as he learned them in his Braille class with me.
After students learned the basics, they were asked to come up with ideas for Braille projects. They have developed some extraordinary ones. They have worn blindfolds and tested each other to see how many Braille letters they can read with their fingers. They designed Braille alphabet cards for teachers to give students when reading about or discussing blindness. They wrote twin vision storybookswonderfully imaginative stories in print and Braille, made using ink stamp setsfor the teachers of primary age children to keep in their reading centers. They have copied tactile concept books designed for preschool blind children by a parent group in California, and donated them to our local preschool for blind children. A group of older students who are good artists has designed a dictionary of tactile pictures for Braille storybooks. They have also Brailled the children's menu for a local fast food restaurant. Lunch recess has become a time for students who have learned the basics to work on projects or bring their friends to teach them Braille.
Braille students love competitions, so children were frequently put in teams to compete against each other in Braille language games, and a translator's contest was designed to help students learn Braille contractions. This lively competition runs in four-week cycles. Students were given sentences containing unknown contractions and used the context of known letters and words in the sentence to guess them. Awards were presented to the winners in their classrooms so they could receive recognition before classmates. The principal has also given certificates of achievement in Braille at honors assemblies so outstanding successes can be acknowledged.
The first year of our Braille Club, before our school's winter holiday, it became evident that we needed financial support in order for the class to continue. I could no longer afford to buy supplies, so students were asked to come up with ideas on how to raise money. Many said their parents would be willing to pay a fee so they could take the class. We are fortunate to be part of a school community in which parents are interested in doing everything they can to help blind students feel that they belong. Children reflected their parents' beliefs when coming to Braille Club, learning to see beyond external differences when making and working with friends.
Students had good ideas for money-raising projects and a strong determination to follow through on them, so it was decided to try them first. To raise money, the children decided to create Braille notions to sell at the school's holiday boutique in December. They worked long hours after school and during lunch to produce Braille Christmas and Hanukkah cards decorated with tactile pictures of bears, bells, candles, and Menorahs. They made decorative magnets with names in Braille, and Braille bookmarks, and then set up a booth, advertising customized items students would Braille and decorate as a buyer wished. Our first day netted a surprising $78, enough money to continue Braille Club for the remainder of the school year. That spring, the Braille Club was featured in an article on mainstreaming in our local newspaper, and the school's parent group decided to fund us for the following year, alleviating what could have become a serious financial drain on my bank account, or more likely, the end of Braille Club.
At this point, there were as many as 25 students coming in during lunch recess, working on projects needing supervision. Students were working in teams to make the campus more accessible to blind people; one team put Braille number labels on campus doors, while another created a large tactile map of the campus. Abbe and her friends decided to put together a videotape to introduce new students to the Braille Club so I wouldn't have to spend time orienting them. The blind students, Abbe, and two other advanced sighted students became my student teachers, helping teach Braille basics.
I'm not able to relate all the activities and outcomes of our club here. What is shared are some of the moments that gave me the most pleasure in my Braille Club experience. In particular the uniquely positive effect Braille Club had on the integration of blind students at Kiva was unexpected and welcome. One day, a student left a sign on my door: "Braille is cool." I realized then how the school's attitude toward Brailleand vicariously toward the blind students who use Braillehad altered over the months. People on campus were no longer ignorant or shy of Braille but knowledgeable and interested. Students and teachers asked me questions about Braille and blindness with an ease that amazed me. People were talking more to the blind students, giving friendly greetings in the halls, stopping to talk. Blind students who had resisted Braille were now excited about learning it. Their Braille skills gave them status among their sighted peers. I began to notice a tremendous increase in confidence, assertiveness, and self-esteem in my blind Braille students.
In Braille club, the blind students were involved in everything. Because we were in a relaxed, cooperative learning situation, several interesting social interactions between blind and sighted students were observed. Misunderstandings, based on ignorance of either the sighted or blind student's perspective, were frequently able to be explained with regard to how the other was thinking or feeling. These explanations were accepted as help, not criticism, as they might have been in a different learning environment. We all began to understand one another better, and students developed satisfying friendships.
These positive effects became more evident to me when the mother of my youngest blind student mentioned that her child's new friend had described her by name only to her mother. It wasn't until she was invited to this friend's party that the mother learned her child's friend was blind. She was amazed her daughter hadn't told her this important fact. It didn't surprise me, because I had seen this difference between the children become unimportant as they got to know each other. In Braille Club, friendships are formed on the basis of common interests, not physical differences.
Over the past year, I have developed Braille learning modules that continue to be used, modified and supplemented as Braille Club continues. Each day, students come to me, interested in joining our club, and each day I say "yes" to their ideas. Students who come to Braille are as diverse as students in any classroom. They're interested in learning, achieving, laughing and belonging. Each is welcomed with an open mind and heart. They have given meaning to my work that didn't exist before, opening my eyes to the endless opportunities we have to learn from one another. Our endeavor couldn't have flourished as it did in another environment or under different conditions. So, I thank the teachers, the office and custodial staff, and the principal for the help and unconditional support they gave us. I thank our school parent group for their generosity in funding the club. Other groups, I know, would not have seen the benefits of this for their children. I also owe thanks to my superviso,r who gave me an itinerant caseload that didn't require I work many extra hours after school. This enabled me to sponsor Braille Club, which I believe is the most successful mainstreaming technique I have used in 18 years of teaching. I owe a heartfelt thanks to my friend Abbe, who, whether she becomes a Braille teacher or not, will always remain my friend. She was the original Braille wave in my lifea welcome, dynamic, tidal wave.
I hope this may encourage others interested in teaching Braille to sighted students to try such an endeavor. I recommend it highly as one of the most pleasurable and exhausting experiences of my life and would be happy to share materials and resources with other teachers. You can contact me at Kiva Elementary School, 6911 East McDonald Drive, Scottsdale, Arizona 85253. Just send it to the attention of "The Braille Teacher." It will reach me.
BLACK BELTWHITE CANE
by Jody W. Ianuzzi
Reprinted from the February, 1992, Braille Monitor, the monthly publication of the National Federation of the Blind.
A blind woman is traveling alone down a dark, deserted street. There are some people who might consider her helpless and vulnerable. I would like to change that image. That blind woman just might be me on my way to teach my judo class.
As we all know, the challenges of blindness can be overcome by learning alternative techniques, but some situations can be a bit more challenging than others. As a child in public school, I remember the schoolyard bully, who tested my vision by punching me in the face. My gym teacher gave me a permanent waiver from class after years of sitting on the sidelines while the rest of the class played a variety of ball games.
Eventually I found a solution to these challenges as well. Judo became my ultimate alternative technique. When I first heard about judo classes, I was hesitant. Based on my past experience, I didn't think the judo instructor would consider me as a student. Happily, I was wrong! The instructor didn't care that I couldn't see. He was more interested in what I could do, and I could do judo. I sincerely mean it when I say that my life hasn't been the same since that day.
It is now twenty years later. Life has come full circle. I am the instructor, and I am recruiting blind and sighted members to my judo club. I want to give to my students what judo has given to me.
Unlike some other martial arts, judo needs no adaptation for blind players, who have been active in judo for many years, practicing with sighted players on an equal basis. For blind children judo can provide an opportunity to be just one of the kids, both at practice and during club activities. This is as it should be, because it benefits both the blind and sighted players and embodies the philosophy of judo as well.
Judo is a full contact form of self-defense that includes throwing techniques, pins, chokes, and joint-locks. A basic principle of judo is that a small person can throw a larger by using that person's motion to complete the throw. In this way, if a person pushes you, you pull him or her into a throw.
The physical benefits of judo practice include self-defense training, weight control, and physical fitness. With regular practice there is a noticeable improvement in balance, coordination, and orientation. Judo can be enjoyed by men and women of all ages from small children to adults. It is a great way to get back into shape and stay there while having a lot of fun, too. One enjoyable aspect of judo is that it challenges the mind as well as the body. Other forms of exercise can be boring, and it is easy to lose interest in them.
My students and I have attended many tournaments and clinics, both large and small, and we have never been excluded or shown any favoritism. I remember one tournament we attended at West Point. One of the club instructors wanted to present my student with the Best Player trophy, based on her blindness. The tournament director's reaction was to say, "It's no big deal that she's blind; I'll give her the Best Player trophy when she comes here and wins." She won a lot more than a trophy that day. On the way home from the tournament she told me that it was the first time in her life she felt like she was just one of the kids. And for the first time I began to realize that I was giving back some of what judo had given to me.
There is a philosophical benefit to judo training. As you challenge yourself, you gain a feeling of accomplishment that carries over to all aspects of life. The knowledge that you can handle a physical conflict makes a verbal conflict much less threatening. You will find that you develop a strength of mind to stand up for what you believe in, but also a strength of mind that will allow you to step back when that is the wise thing to do. You actually become less defensive and more relaxed. In twenty years it has never been necessary for me to use judo for self-defense, but I have used the strength of judo every day in all types of situations.
Part of this strength comes from a feeling that you are in control. You carry this control with you in confident body language, in the way you walk and communicate with people. When you project confidence, you are less likely to be confronted.
The self-confidence that can be gained from judo is very important to children. The blind child who is frustrated by his or her limitations in mainstreamed gym classes or who is segregated in classes for disabled students can feel less capable than classmates. Judo gives the blind child the opportunity to participate in mainstreamed activity on an equal basis with his or her peers. When the other kids are talking about their sports and club activities, the blind child can join in with talk of personal accomplishments. This equality is important to blind children, but it is also very important to their sighted peers as well. The focus is on what you can do, not on what you can't. It becomes less important that you can't play baseball when there is something unique you can be proud of. "I can" is the concept that becomes important.
Self-defense is important to everyone nowadays, but as blind people we are perceived by some as more vulnerable than others. Judo gives a balance to this misconception. All of us should learn to defend ourselves, not just for our own benefit, but as a means to change society's image of blindness.
Self-defense can be as simple as being sure of who is at your door before you open it, or as involved as defending your life. You should avoid shortcuts through less traveled areas and stay in places where there is safety in numbers. Also avoid walking next to buildings since doorways and alleys are places where someone might hide. Stay in the center of the sidewalk so that you can be clear on all sides. When I walk down the street, I try to identify the age, sex, number, and location of the people around me. This is kind of a game, but it is also a way of training yourself to be more aware of everything around you, so you can anticipate a situation before it develops.
Judo classes are usually taught in a club setting, which includes men, women, and children of all ages. Judo is often a family activity. There are judo clubs all over most states. Judo instructors usually teach at no charge. This might seem surprising, but we enjoy judo, and we teach because we love it. Class fees are usually minimal and include club dues, a uniform, and United States Judo Association membership. The United States Judo Association has been very active in encouraging instructors to recruit blind players, and the instructors are already familiar with the benefits of judo to blind players.
As you learn judo, your skills and attitude will develop. The school bully will be less of a threat. You can walk down that deserted street and be a lot less vulnerable than some might think. Those people who attempt to dominate you will not be successful. The unsolicited helper who attempts to take you across the street or the airline employee who attempts to load you into the wheelchair will both be surprised to find that you are in control of the situation. Judo is a way to even the odds and change what it means to be blind. I have made judo my ultimate alternative technique, and I hope you will make it yours as well.
I hope I have sparked an interest in you to learn judo. It can change your life as it has changed mine. If you would like more information or if you would like to locate a judo club near you, contact Larry Lee, Executive Director, United States Judo Association, 19 N. Union Blvd., Colorado Springs, Colorado 80909, (719) 633-7750. He is waiting to hear from you!
CANE TRAVEL AND YOUNG STUDENTS
Featuring excerpts from the Handbook for Itinerant and Resource Teachers of Blind and Visually Impaired Students by Doris M. Willoughby and Sharon L. M. Duffy
From the Editor: You are a parent of a blind child age eight or younger. Your youngster is supposed to get cane travel lessons this year. Maybe you had to fight to get the service; maybe you had an enlightened school district which routinely provides cane instruction as soon as blind youngsters enter the system; or maybe you are in the middle of negotiations to get cane instruction added to your child's IEP. Whatever the circumstances, you know you need more information. You're sold on the benefits of early cane use, but you don't know what specific skills your child should be learning.
The following excerpts from the Handbook for Itinerant and Resource Teachers of Blind and Visually Impaired Students by Doris M. Willoughby and Sharon L. M. Duffy provide an excellent outline of goals and expectations for the young cane student. What is reprinted here is only a small portion of the four chapters in the book which cover the topic of orientation and mobility for blind and partially sighted students of all ages.
The Handbook has 54 chapters, 7 appendices, and a reference sectiona total of 533 pages. The print edition is $20 plus $3.00 shipping and handling (the Braille and four-track cassette editions are $30.00 plus $3.00 shipping and handling.) To order send request and check, money order, or purchase order to: Materials Center, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. *Note: Discover, MasterCard, and Visa are also accepted if the order is accompanied by credit card name, number, expiration date, and card holder's signature.
Most students over eight, and some who are younger, can grasp the entire basic technique in a lesson or two. Lessons become a matter of keeping basic technique consistent, adding new techniques such as those for escalators, and applying the skills to an ever-widening environment.
Very young students, however, often cannot grasp very much at once. It may be necessary to spend several lessons in teaching the basic position and motion. Nevertheless, actual travel with the cane should be begun while the technique is still imperfect, with more and more elements of the standard form being gradually added.
Suppose, for example, that a beginner is still learning how to hold the cane and keep the tip down. She should nevertheless walk with the cane and find obstacles, even if she is not yet tapping in an appropriate arc. Part of the time the teacher might take hold of her and move her through the standard motions. But part of the time the child should move on her own, however imperfectly, as long as the cane is finding obstacles. If this is not done, the child probably will not understand the purpose of the cane and lessons will also be impossibly boring.
She Can't Learn It All At Once
I use the following sequence of skills when the child is too immature to learn them all at once:
(1) Begin to understand the purpose of the cane.
(2) Keep the tip down.
(3) Hold the handle with one hand. (Note: See exceptions.)
(4) Keep the cane hand centered at waist levels with the arm against the body.
(5) Use correct grip and finger position.
(6) Tap cane from side to side.
(7) Make the arc consistent on each side.
(8) Keep in step.
Note that this is a process of refining and improving techniques which are very imperfect at first. Some instructors say that this is wrongthey believe the cane should never be used except with perfect form. Their concern is inconsistent with the way other developmental tasks are handled. Recall the analogy to using silverware: The progression (for a sighted or blind baby) ordinarily is something like this:
(1) Begin to understand the purpose of silverware.
(2) Hold the handle.
(3) Insert spoon into mouth (with food having been loaded onto spoon by someone else).
(4) Lift the food to the mouth, keeping the bowl of the spoon upright (again, spoon having been loaded by someone else).
(5) Direct the bowl of the spoon into the food and proceed (receiving some help in loading the spoon).
(6) Scoop some food from the bowl and proceed independently.
(7) Consistently use correct grip and finger position.
(8) Avoid messiness.
Build On Experience
Any number of other skills are gradually refined and improved with maturity and experience: drawing, writing, walking, bathing, etc., etc. Withholding a cane completely from a young child is no more logical than totally withholding the washcloth because she flops it around.
"Improving and refining" includes developing more and more independence. At first we place the child's hand on the cane in the proper position. Later she holds the handle correctly when reminded. In time she will remember by herself.
Some beginners are better off using two hands on the cane for awhile. They may center the handle better, and overcome a tendency to reach out with the free hand.
Similarly, very young beginners may find it easier to slide the tip back and forth rather than tapping it.
As the child progresses introduce new elements of technique. Simply proceed for awhile with a given level of skill, and then say, for example, "Now you're going to learn how to move the cane just the way a grownup does." Avoid waiting unduly long between refinements lest the immature technique become too established. The ultimate example of "waiting unduly long," however, is to delay starting with the cane at all. Then the habits to be changed include shuffling feet, outstretched hands, slow motion, irregular gait, and crippling fear.
With a student in junior high or high school, the basic stance is quickly learned, and it is almost immediately possible to work on routes suitable for an adultwalking throughout the building, going up and down steps, crossing streets, etc., and proceeding into routes several blocks in length. For a youngster of nine or ten, the same is true but at a slower pace. But what about the very young child who would not be going far alone if she were sighted and who seems to need several lessons before even crossing the room?
Expectations By Age
First of all, let us consider what skills are reasonable to achieve at various ages. A rough guide for the average student is:
Under age 5:
* Use correct hand position.
* Arc the cane while walking on flat terrain (Keeping in step may be too hard at this level.)
* Detect obstacles and go around them.
* Use cane up and down stairs. (Adult may warn of presence of stairs.)
* Cross streets with assistance (not independently), and pay attention to traffic sounds.
* Detect major differences in surface underfoot.
* Walk toward a sound, including following a person who makes a sound while walking.
* Tell left from right, with one hand marked tactually if necessary.
* All above skills
* Detect stairs, even when unexpected, and proceed up or down.
* Keep in step when arcing.
* Begin to interpret echoes made by cane tip (when passing a side hallway, a parked car, etc.)
* Find open doorways and closed doors with cane.
* Walk independently (with cane, as always) to classroom, rest room, office, etc.
* Travel on playground, with assistance at times.
* Stay on sidewalk in non-complicated environment.
* Recognize when a street is being crossed.
* Independently cross uncontrolled intersection with little traffic.
* Cross simple intersection with traffic light (possibly with some guidance).
* Correctly identify the four compass directions, in a familiar place.
* Follow directions for a simple route of three blocks or less in relatively familiar territory.
* Attempt to correct errors or miscalculations before expecting help.
* Know left and right without aid.
* All above skills
* Make continual use of echoes from cane tip, indoors and outdoors. Use this as one method to find open doorways.
* Follow directions to schoolrooms where student does not ordinarily go.
* Travel independently on playground, selecting play activities.
* Stay on sidewalk despite some complications.
* Independently cross simple intersection with traffic light
* Begin to understand variations in arrangement of intersections.
* Expand ability to correct errors.
* Correctly name the intermediate compass points: NE,SE,NW,SW.
* Follow directions for a simple route of up to six blocks, in an area which may be unfamiliar but is not difficult.
What Is Independence
Let us pause to discuss the term independently. This has a different meaning for a young child than for an adult or even a teenager. When we say that an adult "crosses streets independently," we mean that she can choose, at any time, to proceed to any intersection and cross it. If we say that a twelve-year-old "crosses streets independently," the interpretation is not quite as broadher parents will exert some control over where she may go and when, but she will cross without necessarily having a helper nearby.
In contrast, consider what we mean when a six-year-old "crosses a street independently." At that age, sighted or blind, parents place tight guidelines over where the child is permitted to roam. If traffic makes safety dubious, someone will watch her. This prevents the young child from attempting to cross an intersection of unknown complexity without assistance. However, there is no reason why she cannot walk to a neighbor's house alone, over a simple and safe route, while someone is prepared to look for her if she is late.
Similarly, the adult uses self-discipline to extend correct procedure outside of lessons. But the child needs to be reminded often very firmly, if necessary. If the eight-year-old walks to the drugstore while merely carrying her cane (rather than actually using it) or crosses the street carelessly, the valued privilege of going alone can be temporarily withdrawn. The five-year-old who waves her cane around can be told, "You have to hold my hand until you keep the cane tip down."
Fit The Lesson To The Child
Yes, the little child can learn to use a cane with great advantage. No, she can't learn just like an adult. For a five-year-old, ten minutes is usually long enough for any one activity. Change the pace frequently, with the entire travel lesson probably not exceeding 20-30 minutes. A typical lesson outline might be:
* 10 minutes: Walk on sidewalk, trying to stay off the grass.
* 10 minutes: Go up and down stairs.
* 10 minutes: Walk around in the schoolyard. When an obstacle is found correctly with the cane, the child may examine it (and play on it if appropriate).
In the above sequence of activities, note that the most "fun" is last.
Making Lessons Interesting
A young child has limited stamina and a short attention span. If he has a lot of difficulty, he will cry or balk if the lesson is too easy or repetitive, he will "clown around," make irrelevant remarks, complain, etc. Since he cannot yet articulate feelings clearly he may even say the work is "too hard," when he actually is not challenged enough.
The following ideas provide variety and a positive approach for early lessons in cane use: [Note: The ideas listed below are only a sample of the 33 given in the Handbook.]
(1) Set a specific length, appropriate for the level of skill, to a given task. With a four-year-old beginner you might say: "Walk straight ahead and find the wall with your cane," or "Make the cane go from one side to the other side, for ten steps." A six-year-old might walk to the end of the block or to the far side of the playground.
(2) Emphasize praise over criticism. Often correction should be nonverbalsimply take hold of the child and move him into the correct position, while praising his efforts.
(6) The use of sounds especially lends itself to "making a game" of a lesson. For example: -Hide and Seek: Place a beeping object within earshot. The child must use good cane technique to walk to the object and pick it up. -Howdy Do: Direct the child to keep still while you walk away. (You may or may not choose to move silently.) Then tell the child to walk toward you and keep on talking as he approaches. Shake hands ceremoniously when he arrives and finds your foot with his cane.
(12) When a child is careless in a familiar area, deliberately provide some unexpected obstacles (chairs, boxes, etc.).
(13) Take the child to a safe, interesting area and have him explore it independently.
(17) Work on part of a skill before expecting the child to do it all alone. For example, at first physically move the student through the motions of looking for a doorway with his cane, while he merely announces when it has been found. Later the child can move the cane himself, knowing how it feels to accomplish the task.
(22) Whenever possible, have a genuine purpose for the trip: - Buy the teacher's lunch ticket -Deliver a message. - Get the art paper.
(27) Work with two students together. If one is more advanced, he can help teach the other one. Two students who are equal in skill will pick up ideas from each other. Everyone will be stimulated by the change of pace.
ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE FOR THE BLIND AND SIGHTED ALIKE
by Jerry Whittle
From the Editor: As soon as I read the following article in the May, 1992, issue of the Braille Monitor, I immediately thought of Gunot Bunot. I never met Ms. Bunot, and all I know of her came from a letter she wrote me about ten years ago. (Her letter was coincidentally written the same year Jerry Whittle begins his narrative in this article.) Something she had read in a Future Reflections article had triggered memories of stifled childhood dreams. She wrote to me to share some of these memories and dreams in the hopes of helping others.
Here is some of what she had to say:
We blind people are not expected to be good at doing house repairs, advanced cooking, or making things aesthetically appealing to the eye....In Sweden, where I lived until two years ago, things are no better and no worse as far as attitudes [about blindness] go. As a child I was told, "You can do almost anything you want. You can become a secretary, a translator, or a teacher even." (I was considered good in languages). "Yes," I thought to myself, "but what if I want to become an actress or a hairdresser?" I always felt drawn to professions involving manual skills, or things that were beauty-oriented, artistically or gastronomically creative. But I was told, "You are so intelligent, you would be bored." The real message was: you'll only waste your time and cause trouble. Why would anybody want to hire you in a position like that if they can get a sighted person that can do it twice as fast?...So I stayed within the accepted boundaries, and so do (unfortunately) the students where I work (Disabled Student Services, San Francisco State University). You will find most of them in special education and social sciences. Where are the drama, P.E., and home economics majors? All following common prudent sense....Can we do anything for them?
My answer to Ms. Bunot was to put her in touch with the National Federation of the Blind in her state. I do not know if she ever did anything about her dreams for herself or for others, but Jerry Whittle did. Here is his story.
It all started in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina back in 1983. Perhaps the love of acting had started before that year for some of us who had performed in plays in high school or college before we lost our sight. A small band of Federationists from South Carolina decided to produce a play at a mountain camp near Clemson University. The camp had a very large assembly hall that could seat well over two hundred persons, and it also had a small stage with two tiny rooms on each end that could serve as dressing rooms. We did not have any lighting; however, a mechanical friend, Jerry Darnell, said he could build a lighting panel, install some lights, and use a remote control to switch on and off the stage lights as needed. We were set.
With the full cooperation of Donald C. Capps, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, we chose the popular Tennessee Williams play, The Glass Menagerie. After the four blind actors met together, we decided to do three performances as a fund raiser for the state affiliate. None of us had any experience as blind actors. We had heard about blind actors in New York who did readings (no stage movement), but we wanted to act it with blocked movements on stage and without our canes so that we could play sighted characters convincingly. It was much easier than we anticipated. Each of the actors simply learned his or her way around the sets as if walking around a familiar room. One of the actresses, who had some residual sight, requested that a white line be painted across the front edge of the stage so that she could see it and not wander too near the edge. No other special aids were needed in the performance of this play; however, some very memorable moments related to blindness occurred during the three performances.
One came when Suzanne Bridges Mitchell, who played the crippled girl Laura, was supposed to trip and fall on some steps. When Suzanne did this scene, some members of the audience almost ran forward to pick her up, thinking she had fallen because she was blind. All in all, the play was great fun. The South Carolina Commission for the Blind radio station recorded the performance and played it to the statewide blind radio network. Also the South Carolina Education Television Network videotaped it and broadcast it over its television network. We proved to ourselves and to many others that we could move about a stage and perform with very little difficulty, and some members of the cast got hooked on the theater.
When I came to work at the Louisiana Center for the Blind in October, 1985, I set myself a goal of getting some of the students and staff at the center involved in doing a play. After I convinced some of them to give acting a try, we started learning lines for Look Homeward, Angel, at a local community theater in Ruston as a fund raiser for the Louisiana Center for the Blind, but more important, we wanted to do it to build confidence and poise in our students and to show the local community that we could produce and act in a legitimate play. Having no one on staff with experience in directing, we enlisted the help of some graduate students in the Theater Department at Louisiana Tech University. We borrowed some costumes from the Theater Department of Centenary University in Shreveport, and we did three performances with little difficulty.
The acting space we used was divided into three levels. We entered at the ground level, where the audience sat, and at the stage level. To get the third, a local building contractor constructed a porch for us across the entire front edge of the stage. To assure that the actors could find the different steps, doormats were placed in front of each set. That was the only special accommodation needed to assist mobility. At one point in the performance, my wife Merilynn had to make an entrance into a puddle where some water was standing on the ground level from the previous night's downpour. Before the performance, we discovered that one of the electrical cords was also lying in this puddle. Merilynn crossed her fingers, stepped before the audience, and began sloshing through the water while I mentally went over all the insurance policies I had on her, searching for electrocution clauses; but fortunately, nothing happened. The rest of the actors in the scene entered behind her, making what was potentially the most electrifying entrance of their lives. Over eighteen actors appeared in the playfifteen of whom were blindand several more blind people got hooked on the theater.
Perhaps the most personally rewarding time of my life as a would-be actor came as the result of an accident. One of the instructors at the center, who had performed in Look Homeward, Angel, decided that he wanted to audition for a play being produced by the Louisiana Tech University Players. He persuaded Merilynn and me to go with him to audition so that he would not feel so uncomfortable trying out for a play with a predominantly sighted troupe. The play was William Saroyan's The Time of Your Life, a play that I had seen at the Warehouse Theater in Greenville, South Carolina, many years before and one that had impressed me greatly. So Merilynn and I acquiesced and ventured to the theater with our friend. We had obtained a copy of the script about a week before, and I had spent much time memorizing the lines the director wanted us to recite.
When we arrived at the audition, the director seemed very nervous in our company. He did not expect to see two blind men walk in to audition for his play, but he asked us to come up on stage to read our lines. Merilynn was also asked to do some lines in (of all things) an Italian accent. All three of us gave it our best. Since I had memorized my lines, I was able to give them added emphasis. The director thanked us for coming and told us that he would post the list of those who would be in the play outside the auditorium the following day.
We left the audition feeling that there was no way that any of us would be chosen. The next day we went by the auditorium after work and discovered to our delight and surprise that Merilynn and I were on the list. I was to play an Arab and Merilynn was to be an Italian mama. Our friend was not selected, but he took the disappointing news good-naturedly.
What we didn't realize was that this particular play would be in the American College Theater Festival competition. In addition to the five performances in Ruston, we would act in Hammond, Louisiana, as part of a statewide competition. We did the play before sellout crowds in Ruston and in Hammond, and it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. We won the competition in Hammond and did one performance in Lubbock, Texas, competing against universities from New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas. We did not win the competition there, but we did perform before an audience of more than four hundred. Needless to say, I was the only blind actor there, but everybody saw my long white cane and knew that I was blind.
The next year I got to play old Adam in William Shakespeare's As You Like It for the Louisiana Tech Theater by merely making a phone call to the director. I did not have to audition for it.
Recently a director from the Ruston Community Theater came to the Louisiana Center for the Blind and asked some of our students to audition for a play he was producing. Jennifer Dunnam, President of the Student Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana and a former student at the center, auditioned and got the part in Wait Until Dark. She did a superb job and plans to be in other plays in the future. She has already performed in four of our plays.
Since that time the staff and students at the Louisiana Center for the Blind have produced at least one play per year. We did one production for an outdoor theater, and we have done three at state conventions and one at a national convention. Many blind people have gained confidence and much stage presence from these performances.
What started in South Carolina has certainly grown into a success story, one greater then we could ever have imagined when we began doing plays at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Since the center opened in 1985, we have had over sixty students participating in plays and gaining confidence and poise as a result. Blind people can act and do it with enough grace and ease to be invited to do other plays by local community theaters. If any blind person has an interest in trying out for a play in his or her local community theater, I would strongly recommend that he or she obtain the lines ahead of time and memorize them so that greater expression can be used. Most important, have the confidence to audition; you may gain a whole new experience from such a venture, and a whole new segment of the sighted community may be better educated about the talents and abilities of blind persons.
LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT: Ideas for Young Children
Reprinted from the VIP Newsletter.
The process of developing language is influenced by several factors. Two important factors for the young child who experiences blindness or visual impairment are: (a) the child's experience with the objects in his/her world and (b) the methods of communication that others use to encourage a verbal response from the child.
The first factor often influences whether the child has a meaningful vocabulary. Are his/her words purposeful in their ability to communicate? Often young children who experience a visual loss talk abundantly about items that they may never have been in contact with but have heard about in songs and rhymes or have only experienced in fragmented fashion.
It is important for all children to experience their world; to, for example, sit in a variety of types of chairs so they might learn that all of the different styles still equal chair. This concept, called generalization, is important in language as it provides the child with an opportunity to label the objects of the world into categories. To truly experience chair the sight-impaired child must have the opportunity not only to sit in many different types of chairs, but to explore chairs from all angles.
Another component of experiential learning is to provide the child with a full process sequence in his/her daily care routines. This is intended to assist the child in avoiding a fragmented viewpoint about the environment and the object within it. An example of a full sequenced experience is: Travel with the child to the refrigerator to take out the milk, then to the cupboard to get a glass, then to the table where the milk is poured into the glass, and after the milk has been drunk, take the glass to the sink with the child. This sequence (as compared to always handing the child a glass of milk) helps the child learn that things do not automatically appear, that there is an order to life. It also provides a participation model that will be important for later independence.
The second factor addresses the methods adults use to elicit and reinforce a verbal response. Research indicates that the following frequently utilized strategies may have negative influences on a sight-impaired child's language acquisition:
* Fewer responses to non-linguistic (non-word) vocalizations
* More labels but fewer descriptions of the attributes of objects
* More child-focused topics
* More routine-bound language
Strategies that enhance language-specific communication on behalf of the child are:
* Cue into the child's non-linguistic vocalizations; praising the efforts or acting upon what appears to be the intended meaning: "Ba." "You want your bottle?"
* Expand descriptions of common objects, e.g. "You're holding the small blue cup" versus "You're holding the cup."
* Promote conversations that bring in other people and/or use others to model a language request, e.g. "Dad, please pat the dog." (This encourages the child to learn about this activity.)
* Provide change in the language involved in familiar activities. The sudden switch from a rote dialogue causes the child to stop and think about new vocabulary and meaning.
**By Tanni Anthony....from AVIS, Association for Visually Impaired Students in BC Newsletter. Original title of article: "Language Development: Ideas for Young Children Who Experience A Sight Loss."
BRAILLE BILL AND BEYOND: A Report from South Dakota
by Marjorie Kaizer, Superintendent South Dakota School for the Visually Handicapped
It all began with a bill introduced to the 1991 South Dakota legislature on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota. Now, one year later, the rules are in place to ensure Braille will receive full consideration as a reading medium for blind students and that it will be taught by people who have appropriate knowledge and skills.
Under the Braille bill all students whose vision is 20/200 or less as corrected (the definition of legal blindness) must be evaluated to determine whether Braille instruction should be started or continued. The evaluation must look at such things as reading readiness, functional reading skills, reading rate and stamina, functional writing skills, communication skills, eye condition and prognosis, functional vision, and tactile discrimination skills. The South Dakota School for the Visually Handicapped was given a grant by the state office of special education to develop a Braille assessment. These assessment elements have been included in the evaluations done at the SDSVH since last fall.
The information from the evaluation must be considered by the child's IEP team to determine whether Braille instruction would begin or continue. The SDSVH evaluation team will help interpret the data and make recommendations for reading medium, but the decision rests with the IEP team.
When a placement committee determines that a student's instruction in reading and writing must be accomplished through use of Braille, the district is required to provide instruction by a certified Braille teacher. A Braille teacher endorsement my be issued to someone with less than a bachelor's degree who meets the following requirements: certification as a Braillist, completion of six semester hours of course work including an introduction to working with students who are blind, reading methods, introduction to educational aids and appliances, and proficiency at reading Braille.
The rules distinguish between a Braillist who produces materials in Braille by the use of a manual Braillewriter, slate and stylus, or computer, and a Braille teacher who may work directly teaching a student to read and write Braille.
Both the Braillist and Braille teacher will make application through the SDSVH for certification from the division of education. Certification must be in place by July, 1993. Reaccreditation will be required every five years.
Throughout the process there was ongoing support for and involvement from the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, South Dakota Association of the Blind, State Board of Education, Office of Special Education, State Library, Library for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Northern State University, and the South Dakota School for the Visually Handicapped as well as input from local school districts, parents, and Braillists.
The SDSVH and Northern State will be involved with the Office of Special Education to ensure that the required course work will be available to those who need certification.
BRAILLE TEAM NEARS DIPLOMA
From the Editor: Although we tend (with good cause) to focus on the importance of skilled Braille teachers, there is another professionalthe Braille transcriberwho is vital to the academic success of the Braille reading student. Although the Braille teacher often doubles up in the capacity of teacher and Braillist, this is not an ideal arrangement unless the teacher has an unusually low caseload and is also a certified Braille transcriptionist. The following article by Cindy Carson, reprinted from the Muncie Indiana Star, February 20, 1989, demonstrates how this professional contributes to the educational success of blind youth. (The reader should note, however, that the kind of close, personal relationship described in this article is by no means necessary for a successful Braille transcription service. It does highlight, however, the kind of commitment many transcribers have toward Braille and the people they serve.)
Christine Foy and Ann Oliver have proven that a good team can accomplish almost anything. For 10 years, Foy has been instrumental in helping Ann demonstrate that a blind student can be a top student in the Muncie school system. Foy, 46, is a Braille transcriber.
She and her husband, Douglas, and children, Brent and Amy, came to Muncie from Michigan about 16 years ago. Foy's work as a transcriber began almost 20 years ago when members of a women's group at her church in Michigan were asked to help blind students in the local school system. Foy signed up to take a class in Braille taught by a certified teacher. To pass the year-long course and become a certified transcriber, Foy had to transcribe a manuscript into Braille without error. The manuscript was registered with the Library of Congress.
"When we moved to Muncie," Foy said, "I called Ball State and Muncie schools and asked if there was anything I could help them with. They really did not know what I was talking about." So Foy packed away her materials and her Braille machine.
Meanwhile, Ann and her parents, Gay and Julie, were set on a course that would bring Foy into their lives. When Ann was 2 years old, she was found to have a rare malignant cancer of the eyes. Treatment put the disease in remission but left the girl blind.
"My parents went through a lot," Ann said. "At first they were told, 'No problem. Send her down to the blind school.'"
Although that was not necessarily a bad suggestion, Ann said, her parents decided to fight for a place for their only child in the Muncie school system.
"They started to work when I was 3 to make sure there was a program here for me when I was ready for kindergarten," she said. "I certainly think a lot of people have benefited because they were willing to stand up."
When Ann started school, there was a teacher at West View Elementary trained to work with the visually impaired. But the teacher left the school system as Ann was entering the third grade. It was then that Foy heard about a newspaper article concerning Ann's need for a transcriber.
"It's kind of funny. When this all first started, I was kind of floundering, looking for something. And when it was there....well, I knew I was supposed to do this. It was kind of like a brass ring. You'd better grab it right now because if you don't, you're going to miss something really important.
Muncie Community Schools hired Foy, and together she and Ann moved from West View Elementary to Storer Middle School to Northside High School to Central. Although Foy worked with another blind student for 2 or 3 years, it was her relationship with the Olivers that became increasingly important. Foy's job was to transcribe from English to Braille all classroom assignments, parts of textbooks not available in Braille, and tests for Ann to take with other students. She and Ann's teachers developed a system: Ann learned to print the letters A, B, C, and D so that she could take multiple choice tests.
For the Olivers, an education for their daughter did not end at the schoolhouse door. Music lessons and horseback riding lessons were part of her curriculum. During one summer, Foy transcribed musical notes to Braille.
In the seventh grade, the cancer reappeared, and Ann again fought and beat the disease. During the long months that she was hospitalized for treatment, Foy carried her classroom assignments to the hospital in Indianapolis. But Foy is reluctant to take credit for any part of Ann's success. Foy said Ann received a lot of help from teachers who accepted the challenge with enthusiasm once they realized how hard their pupil was willing to work.
"We have some really great teachers in this system," Foy said. "We have had nothing but the best of help."
And not just from teachers, Foy added. Custodians who were on hand when Ann occasionally got lost in the building, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, "and administrators who always found the money needed for the materials we needed" all helped give Ann her chance to shine.
Foy's "public relations work" to show that a blind student could compete has paid off for Muncie schools. Two years ago, officials at the Indianapolis public school system called Muncie asking for advice on how to integrate blind students into regular classrooms.
Foy and Ann reminisced about their years together during an interview in Foy's "office," a small storage room off the library where Foy has space for a tiny desk and a stand for her coffee pot. At one point, a Central High School teacher walked into the room with a copy of a test to be translated into Braille.
"They know where I am, and they come in here and bring me the assignments," Foy said. "Working this way means extra work for the teachers. They have to be prepared, and they have to give me tests and assignments ahead of time so that I have enough time to get it back to them. There have been a lot of parts to the team. That's what I've been talking about."
That Foy was unwilling to take much credit for her work with Ann came as no surprise. Ruth Danglade, assistant director of special education, called Foy an unsung heroine, but she warned that Foy would not be comfortable in the spotlight.
"Every day, all day long, she sits in a little back room with a Braille machine and types anything that is necessary for Ann to have that day or the next," Danglade said. "Think of a blind person's taking geometrytranslating that into something a blind person could read.
"Well, we could not get the Braille textbook," Danglade said. "Chris had to literally redo the geometry textbook. She had special instruments that we had to get so that she could do the lines and the angles and the special symbols."
For biology classes, Foy became an artist. The stiff sheets filled with Braille included Foy's detailed line drawings of flowers and stems and leaves with a tracing of dots laid along the lines for Ann to study with her fingertips. Fortunately, textbooks usually are available in Braille. A single text for English or math, Foy said, requires Braille translations filling 35 volumes.
Had Ann been an average student, Foy said, her job would have been easier, although less fulfilling. Ann has taken German for 4 years, Spanish for 2 years, and French for a year. Her scores on college-equivalency tests in English and German were so high that she would require few college classes to earn a degree in German.
Ann has been accepted by several universities, including Indiana University and Carleton College in Minnesota, a school Foy called "the Harvard of the Midwest." Ann's acceptance as a Carleton scholar came just last week.
The teacher and student view the end of their partnership with mixed emotions. Without Foy, Ann said, her academic success would not have been possibleeven though having two mothers was often a pain in a young neck. But the future beckons, and Ann is excited about the chance to test her wings at Carleton.
For Foy, pride is mingled with grief at the thought of parting. Her children are grown and away from home. Ann, Foy said, has been a second daughter. When Ann graduates from Central, Foy's job with Muncie schools will end.
"It wasn't a job," Foy said. "There is just too much that I've gotten out of it to think of it as anything like a job. I don't know what I'll do. I'll probably always keep my fingers in Braille."
KATIE GOES TO FIRST GRADE
by Suzie Hanks
Reprinted from the Fall, 1991, GEM State Milestones, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho.
Suzie and Gardner Hanks are upbeat parents with a delightful six-year-old daughter who is totally blind. They have been successful in working out good support for Katie from the Boise schools. In many school districts in Idaho it would not be possible for a blind child to receive this much support in school. Furthermore, we believe it is not possible for any family with a blind child in Idaho to receive the kind of assistance the Hankses were given in Minnesota.
In this article, Suzie shares with other parents her excellent philosophy about how to work out an appropriate program for a blind child, and her experiences with and knowledge of legal requirements and procedures.
When we moved to Idaho three years ago (Katie was three), we were concerned about her receiving an adequate program. In Minnesota, Katie had a twice weekly visit from her teacher for the visually impaired, a twice weekly visit from her mobility and orientation instructor, and once a week visits from an occupational therapist and an infant stimulation specialist. These services were provided through our local school district.
In Idaho, we quickly realized that the three- to five-year-old program in the public schools was just starting and we had to be innovative and creative. We enrolled Katie in the Child Development Center and asked the School for the Deaf and Blind to provide consultation services. The Boise school district agreed to provide orientation and mobility instruction as well as consultation with the staff.
Creativity and flexibility have been the key to Katie's program ever since. She is now in first grade at Liberty Elementary, and we have been pleased with her program. Katie attends the regular school program except for her Braille lessons which are held in a resource room. The school district provides the services of an instructor for the visually impaired for an average of ninety minutes a day. In addition, he provides weekly mobility lessons. Three teacher's aids are starting Braille lessons so they can adapt material and teach Katie.
Though Katie does not read Braille at this time, her school books are Brailled, and the classroom aid adapts and Brailles handouts and art projects. Katie's classmates have an opportunity to be introduced to Braille.
We think of Katie's teachers, the administration, and us as a team. We work fairly well together because we share a vision of Katie's futureone of independence. We may disagree on how much emphasis one part of her school program should receive or when certain skills should be introduced, but the team shares a common goal of helping Katie become an independent, happy adult. This allows us to treat each other's ideas and feelings with respect and allows for compromise. We believe that Katie's blindness should not limit her future. Her school program, as for all other students, should help her reach her full potential.
I believe the following ideas help when dealing with school districts:
1. Be sure you and the school personnel see the same future for your child.
2. Prioritize those skills you want your child to achieve.
3. Prioritize services you wish the school to provide.
4. Focus on those at the top of the list. This is a long-term relationship. Don't battle over the trivial.
SLATE-MATES Braille Is The Medium For Youngsters' Messages
Editor's Note: The following article is written by C. L. Rugenstein and is reprinted from a fall, 1991, issue of the McComb Suburban Sunday newspaper, McComb county, Michigan.
Pen pals. The term evokes images of far-away places with strange-sounding namesDubuque, Kankakee, Moose Jawand new, far-away friends with whom to share experiences via letters.
Children especially seem to delight in such correspondence. Among them are 11-year-old Adam Emerson of Sterling Heights, and Nicholas Wilcox, a 15-year-old who lives in Ann Arbor. Although both young people are blind, they can reach out and touch someone by letter through a program called Slate-Mates. It's a New Mexico-based pen-pal matching service specifically designed for blind youngsters.
Wilcox, a sophomore at Ann Arbor's Pioneer High School, has been writing Braille letters to his friend Melody in San Francisco for about a year. Their mutual interests include computers.
Emerson, a seventh grader at Rochester Hill Christian School, has written "short letters to younger kids who don't know Braille that well. I also Braille dymo tape (clear tape with Braille characters overlaying regular letters) for my mom." (Sunny Emerson puts out a newsletter for the Michigan Parents of Blind Children organization.)
Emerson, who is legally blind but can read with the aid of a powerful magnifying glass, says "I am not very good at it (Braille)I only started (writing Braille) in the fourth grade. I am more used to printing."
To correspond with one another Slate-Mate kids use a portable Braille-writing device called a slate and stylus, which is similar to a pencil or pen. The slate is a 12" by 4" hinged metal or plastic frame that fits on sides of a sheet of paper. The writer uses the stylus to push Braille dots into the paper, using the slate as a guide. According to the National Federation of the Blind, the process takes about the same length of time as printing by hand with a pen or pencil.
"Blind children want pen pals for the same reason that other kids want themfor support and encouragement" says Barbara Cheadle, President of the Parents of Blind Children division of the National Federation of the Blind. "It's a way to share."
It also gives children who are blind "someone to talk to about things only another blind person could understand" says Fred Schroeder, founder-coordinator of the Slate-Mates program, which he started in 1984. "Braille is an important skill. We felt this program was a way to stimulate kids to use it," says Schroeder, who is with the New Mexico Commission for the Blind.
Thus far, some 150 youngsters from elementary through high school age have joined the Slate-Mates program, whose primary goal actually is to promote Braille literacy.
Wilcox routinely uses a slate and stylus for taking notes in school but says writing to a pen pal has helped his proficiency in reading and writing Braille.
Blind children interested in joining the free pen pal program may request the Slate-Mate profile (application) by writing to: Slate-Mates, c/o Fred Schroeder, New Mexico Commission for the Blind, PERA Building, Room 205, Sante Fe, New Mexico 87503.
Reading with the fingers
The Braille writing system was developed in 1820 by a very young Frenchman named Louis Braille. Braille completed his modification of the system of night writing used aboard ships by the time he was eighteen years old.
Students in the school for the blind that Louis Braille attended found that reading and writing the system of raised dots was easier than reading raised letters which they could not write at all. But it still took more than a century before Braille was accepted as a better way for the blind to learn to read and write. Experienced Braille readers can read at a speed comparable to that of a sighted person, about 200400 words a minute.
Adam Emerson, 11, of Sterling Heights, uses Braille to do his math and hopes to become a particle physicist and a chemist.
BRAILLE STORYBOOK RESOURCES
The following is a list of organizations which either sell Braille storybooks for children or operate Braille storybook lending library services. Organizations are listed alphabetically.
LENDING LIBRARY SERVICES
American Action Fund
for Blind Children and Adults (AAF)
Kenneth Jernigan Lending Library Service
18440 Oxnard Street
Tarzana, California 91356
The free lending library has about 30,000 books in Twin Vision® and Braille for ages preschool through junior high. The age, sex, reading level, and interests of the child are registered with the library, and then 3-4 books are selected and mailed to the reader. The loan period is 2 months. Records are kept to avoid duplication.
Braille Circulating Library, Inc.
2700 Stuart Avenue
Richmond, Virginia 23220
Religious (some fiction) books are available. Generally limited to one title for six weeks. Catalog is available.
Braille Institute of America
741 North Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90029
Once a year publishes Expectations, an anthology of current children's literature. It is given free of charge to blind children in grades three through six.
Christian Record Braille Foundation, Inc.
4444 South 52nd Street
P. O. Box 6097
Lincoln, Nebraska 68506
Has a limited number of general and religous Braille books and magazines. Provides lending services to blind parents of sighted children, schools serving blind children, and older blind youth.
National Library Service for the Blind
and Physically Handicapped
1291 Taylor Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20542
(202) 707-5100 or (800) 424-9100.
Primary source of Braille and recorded books and magazines for the blind. Books are loaned through a national network of regional and subregional libraries for the blind and physically handicapped. Catalogs of Braille books for children, youth, and adults are available. Contact the Washington, D.C., office (see address above) for the address of the library which serves your area.
Very Bumpy Stories
Volunteer Braille Service
730 Toledo Avenue, North
Robbinsdale, Minnesota 55422
Print/Braille books for children from preschool through elementary levels. $10.00 annual membership fee.
BOOKS FOR SALE
American Printing House for the Blind
1839 Frankfort Avenue
P. O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206
Limited number of Braille books from kindergarden to adult reading levels available. List of books is available.
Guild for the Blind
180 North Michigan
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Offers some children's books at different reading levels. Selection includes books giving instructions on how to make picturesBraillablesin Braille. Catalog is available.
National Braille Press
88 St. Stephen Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02115
National Braille Press offers a Braille Book-of-the-Month Club. Books are regular print and picture books with Braille pages added. The grade level (preschool to third grade), cost, and type of book or books vary from month to month. No membership fee, no minimum purchase required. Also offers a Braille manual for parents who wish to learn Braille.
Seedlings: Braille Books for Children
P. O. Box 2395
Livonia, Michigan 48151-0395
Print-Braille-and-Picture books, print-and-Braille books, and Braille-only books are available for ages 1-12. A few titles are also available in Grade I Braille. Catalog is available.
Sense-Able Braille Books
P.O. Box 333-S
Ludington, Michigan 49431-0333
Produces Braille books for youth, 7th grade to high school. Catalog is available.
Braille International, Inc.
Attention: Jeri Brubaker
3142 South East Jay Street
Stuart, Florida 34997
Braille International operates a walk-in and mail-order bookstore for the blind. A catalog of Braille books for children of all ages and grades is available upon request.
Naperville Area Transcribing
for the Blind (NATB)
670 Eagle Street
Naperville, Illinois 60563
Contact: Gloria Buntrock, Coordinator
The NATB publishes a catalog of titles of miscellaneous Braille bookssuch as cookbooks, children's literature, knitting and crocheting patterns, music, etc.transcribed by various agencies and individuals around the country. NATB does not loan or sell these books. The purpose of the catalog is to help transcribers avoid duplication and to assist agencies and individuals in locating Braille material not registered with APH. (Currently, there is no central registry of all Braille books and materials transcribed in the U.S.). About 20 agencies list Braille titles with NAPB, and over 250 children's books have been registered. The catalog is $4.00. There is no fee for agencies or individuals who wish to register Braille books with the service.
A DAY AT THE PLAYGROUND
by Mary Ellen Thompson
Editor's Note: Mrs. Thompson is a staff member at the National Center for the Blind, and a dedicated member of the National Federation of the Blind. She has a special touch with children and frequently assists with chapter and parent division children's activities. Niki White is the daughter of Loretta White, president of the Maryland NFB Parents of Blind Children Division.
Autumn was in the air as an anxious group of children took their grown-ups by the hand and headed for the playground. The grown-ups slowed things down considerably, but the children were patient. After all, grown-ups are slow movers, and we did have little Fisayo Kuforiji in a stroller. Several young representatives from the neighborhood were already at the playground to greet us. Some kids came right over to say "Hi." Others waited for the opportunity to make friends with us on the jungle gym and swings.
The grown-ups watched as the children ran undaunted first to the swings then on to the sliding board monkey bars. Niki said, "Would you hold my cane?" and handed it to one of the grown-ups as she headed for the jungle gym. No one gave a second thought to Niki or her cane, although a few stopped to look at the grown-up holding a little cane.
Our story girl is Niki White. She is five years old. She is blind, a good cane user, and she is full of fun. Niki took to the jungle gym like a fish to water. After a short explanation of the curved ladder that led to the platform of the lower sliding board, and the back where platform steps led to both sliding boards, Niki decided she liked the curved ladder to the sliding board. She climbed it and slid down the sliding board over and over and over. Without hesitation she climbed to the high sliding board for several slides down the curved sliding board. She needed assistance only the first time or two, then she was on her own. She discovered that laying her cane on the ground in the same place near the ladder every time would be a good idea. She tried it. It worked! She laid her cane down to get on the jungle gym and picked it up after she got off the sliding board. One of the neighborhood kids pointed to the cane and said, "What's that?" Niki said "It's my cane." and ran off for one more trip down the sliding board. The little girl said, "What's it for?" I said, "That's Niki. She's blind. The cane helps her to get around." That was all that was ever said about Niki's blindness or the cane.
The most captivating and exciting piece of equipment on the playground was, indeed, the jungle gym. This huge steel structure was a combination of ladders, steps, platforms, and sliding boards. We were playing a game the kids called Freddie Kruger, where a grown-up would go about "catching the children to eat them for lunch." The grown-up would approach with a vicious growl showing hungry teeth, and the children would scatter. Niki thought that she could get away from Freddy by getting on the see-saw with Dianna Maurer, but it didn't work. Freddy had her in his clutches and was about to have a big bite of her when she wiggled away!
It was a day rich with good times when the kids and their grown-ups filled the fresh air with laughter and shouting. For the neighborhood children, it was a day of learning that blind children are children just like themselves who like to run and swing and climb on the jungle gym and slide down the sliding board. Niki showed the kids how she touched things to learn about them, how she knew who was near by listening, and how she made friends just by being herself.
Niki, the other young members of our group, and their grown-ups are members of the National Federation of the Blind. It was the third Saturday, and the monthly meeting of the Baltimore Chapter was in session inside the National Center for the Blind at 1800 Johnson Street right across the street from Riverside Park. The chapter was busy discussing plans for the next National Convention, and making a list of dinner items to be brought for the Christmas repast. We had plans of our own, however. We were about the business of having fun.
We all enjoyed a happy, fun-filled day at the playgroundNiki and her friends old and new.
Editor's Note: The following article is by Barbara Carmen, and is reprinted from the Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch newspaper. The original title is "Inspired teacher bringing light into dark world of her students."
A morning rain pelts against the windows in a classroom on Columbus's East Side where teacher Ellen Perry works to put the world at the fingertips of children.
Her tiny students cannot see her clearly. Some are blind; other see only fuzzy shapes, but they hear the singsong of her voice, prodding and praising. They study from Perry's homemade booksbooks that are drawing a march of teachers to her room at Leawood Elementary, 1677 South Hamilton Road.
The Columbus Public Schools' program is Ohio's only preschool devoted to children with serious vision problems. Teachers come from as far away as Great Britain to learn Perry's methods.
"My challenge is to get every child ready for school," said Perry, a teacher for 25 years. "Right now, I have a child who is 4 and isn't toilet trained."
Some of Perry's 13 students come from other central Ohio school districts. Most districts do not provide early starts for children with serious vision problems. That is about to change. This fall, the federal government is requiring school systems to provide preschool for all handicapped children starting at age 3.
Word is spreading that Perry's methods are the way to go. Most of her techniques don't come from an ivory tower. They begin in her basement. She has a room at home lined with boxes of tiny toys and everyday items she uses to illustrate her books. One book describes paper. Each sheet is different: newspaper, wax paper, corrugated paper, flocked wall paper, crepe paper.
Another volume teaches the concept of long and short: a long stick next to a short stick, a tall pipe cleaner stick figure beside a short one. She has made another book crammed with doll boots, children's sunglasses, and socks. That lesson is pairs.
"Sighted children can see so much in a picture or on TV and learn, but a vision-impaired child has to feel a toy train and put people inside it to understand," Perry said.
Even her classroom is designed to made her children feel good. Bulletin boards are covered with fuzzy lambs with yarn noses and button eyes. The children's artwork has sand in the paint, and clay items are sculpted using doll-shaped cookie cutters. Clay hair is made through a garlic press.
Perry's ideas spring from experience. Her late husband, a diabetic, awakened one morning blind in one eye. He quickly began losing his vision in the other. That inspired Perry, a high school vocal music teacher, to switch her sights.
"I thought that I would have an empathy, and I do," she said. "I understand when a child comes in and he's 3 years old, and he can't get his coat off by himself. I understand."
"Many times when you're in a hurry, you don't have time to coax and cajole."
Perry works with the parents as well as the child, said Cheryl Boley, a consultant for the visually handicapped with the special education department of Columbus schools. "She keeps data on all her studentskeeping track of them through 18 years," Boley said. "She's just a wonderfully devoted and creative teacher."
One day last week, two girls sprawled on a canary yellow carpet, piling blocks atop Doc the dwarf and Pinocchio. Melody Holloway, 5, sat near Perry and played "the spool game," matching textures of covered spools and giggling.
Perry picked up several stories Melody wrote on the classroom computer. She reads them with pride. "I've laughed and cried a lot over the years," Perry said. "Most of the times I've cried, though, it's been from a child's accomplishing something."
NEW COMMITTEE ORGANIZED<R>FOR PARENTS OF THE DEAF-BLIND
by Barbara Cheadle
Parents of Blind Children Division
National Federation of the Blind
Over the past three or so years, I have noticed that more and more parents of children with dual hearing/vision losses were becoming active in our NFB Parents of Blind Children Division. Someday, I thought, the time will be ripe to organize a committee to address their special concerns. The time and place turned out to be the 1992 National Federation of the Blind Covention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Four dynamic, committed, and hard-driving parents met with me at National Convention to discuss goals and strategies of the new committee. These parents are: Julie Hunter and Chris Jubb of Colorado, both of whom have teenage daughters who are blind and hearing impaired; Sally Ruemmler of Kansas who has a twelve year old daughter who is deaf-blind; and Kathy Andrus of Ohio who is the mother of a lively, curious deaf-blind toddler. The following "Open Letter" and networking "Questionnaire" is the first action taken by the new committee.
Given the tenacity, organizing ability, and other skills of these parentsand in particular the chairperson, Julie Hunteryou can be sure we will be hearing more from this very important committee in the years to come!
AN OPEN LETTER TO
PARENTS/CAREGIVERS OF CHILDREN
WITH SENSORY LOSSES IN
VISION AND HEARING
Hello! I am Julie Hunter, and I am writing to you as a member of the Parents of Blind Children Division of the National Federation of the Blind and as a parent of a deaf-blind child. As the chairman of the newly formed POBC Committee on Concerns of Parents of Deaf-Blind Children, I am anxious to introduce myself to you and my daughter, Lauren, and hopefully to interest you in participating in our effort to network parents whose children have sensory losses in both vision and hearing.
Perhaps you have never thought of your child as deaf-blind. The totally deaf and totally blind child is a rarity in our population. Perhaps, like my child, one of the sensory losses is total while the other is mild. In our case, my daughter is totally blind and has a mild but possibly progressive hearing loss. Because my child's blindness has always been the focus of our educational efforts, we know little about the problems of the deaf. Or, perhaps your child is primarily deaf but has some vision problems. In that case, you have been immersed in the issues of the deaf, but have not necessarily dealt with the blindness. In this area of dual sensory loss in vision and hearing we expect to network with parents whose children represent the entire spectrum of impairments in both areasvision and hearing.
What is the purpose of the Committee on Concerns of Parents of deaf-blind Children? Our mission is basically three-fold:
l. Education and Sharing of Resources
The Committee is in the process of putting together a resource packet of information about deafness and blindness. This will help parents of deaf/blind children become knowledgeable in both areas of their child's sensory loss. By sharing knowledge and resources we can become the best advocates for our children's education and help prepare them for active, independent adulthoods. If you have any information or materials which might be useful for the resource packet, please send them to me at the address below.
2. Networking Parents
Enclosed is a questionnaire. By completing and returning this to the Committee, we can begin to build a support network. Would you like to become acquainted with other parents whose children have close to the same degree of loss as your child? What are their expectations for their child? Is their child learning Braille? Or Sign Language? What are they doing to prepare their child to be an independent, wage-earning adult? How are they handling socialization issues with their child now? Perhaps you have a deaf-blind baby and would like to talk to someone else in your situation. In your own community it may not be possible to find another parent who shares your problems and concerns, but by reaching out across the land we can touch one another and in doing so work together to create a positive future for our deaf-blind children.
3. Networking with Deaf-Blind Adults
The Committee plans to work with the National Federation of the Blind Committee on Concerns of the Deaf-Blind. In this way we can have adult deaf-blind role models for our children and we can keep in touch with the problems and issues faced by deaf-blind individuals as adults. Through this contact we can keep in touch with the reality of what is available to the deaf-blind adult today. Then we can do our part to make changes for our children's tomorrows.
We cordially invite you to become a part of the Committee on Concerns of Parents of Deaf-Blind Children regardless of the degree of sensory loss of your child. Together, and with the support of the National Federation of the Blind, we can make a difference for ourselves and our children.
Julie Hunter, Chairman
The Committee on the Concerns of Deaf-Blind Children
620 Elm Street
Denver, Colorado 80220
(Last, First, Spouse'sif applicable)
City State Zip
(Home and work. Please include area code.)
Date of Birth: Sex: [ ] M [ ] F
(Month, Day, Year)
[ ] Public (Mainstream with no Itinerant)
[ ] Public (Mainstream with Itinerant)
[ ] Public (Resource Room/ Mainstream Combination)
[ ] Public (Resource Room Only)
[ ] State deaf-blind School
[ ] Private (For Children with Disabilities)
[ ] Private (For Children without Disabilities)
Affected Eyes: Right Left Both
Degree of Vision Loss: Right Eye Left Eye
Reading Medium: [ ]Regular Print [ ]Large Print [ ] Braille [ ] Non-Reader
Affected Ears: Right Left Both
Degree of Hearing Loss: <R>Right Ear: [ ]Mild [ ] Moderate [ ]Severe [ ] Profound<R>Left Ear: [ ]Mild [ ]Moderate [ ]Severe [ ]Profound
Communication Method: [ ]Speech [ ]Lipreading [ ]ASL [ ]Pigeon [ ]Exact English
(Name, Date of Birth)
Do you wish to network with other parents? [ ] Yes. I wish to network with other parents. Please send me the name and address of a parent(s) in a like situation. I also give permission for my name, address, and phone number to be shared with another parent(s) in a like situation.
[ ] No.I do not wish to network at this time, but I do wish to be on the committee's mailing list.
Comments or Suggestions:
We are an all-volunteer organization and committee. To help defray costs, we urge parents who want to receive information and mutual support from the Committee on Concerns of Parents of Deaf-Blind Children to join the Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB. Yearly dues are $8.00 per family. This includes a subscription to Future Reflections.
[ ] Please send me membership information about the National Federation of the Blind Parents of Blind Children Division.
Do you receive the National Federation of the Blind Parents of Blind Children magazine, Future Reflections?[ ]Yes [ ]No
Note: Parents of children with deaf-blindness and additional handicaps should contact: Colleen Roth, Chairperson; NFB/POBC Committee on the Blind Multiply Handicapped Child; 1912 Tracy Road; Northwood, Ohio 43619-1307.
LET'S TALK SHOP
By Doug C. Boone
Editor's Note: Doug Boone has a degree in Industrial Arts Education from Wayne State College and has been certified to teach at the Secondary level (grades 7 through 12) in Iowa and Nebraska. For the past 14 years, he has worked in the field of blind adult rehabilitation. In the course of this work, Mr. Boone has taught woodworking and welding and has served as a consultant to numerous employers and educational facilities in this capacity. Mr. Boone has also been a cane travel instructor, a vocational rehabilitation counselor, and director of human resource development.
When the time comes for children to enter junior high or middle school, the entire structure of their school day changes. They no longer spend most of the day in the same classroom but move from class to class for each new subject. In addition, there are different subjects introduced which add diversity to the curriculum such as home economics and wood shop. While these courses are mandatory for sighted students, they are often declared off limits to the blind or visually impaired student. This is particularly the case where Wood Shop is concerned. After all, it is worrisome enough for sighted youngsters to begin using power tools, but for a blind child to do so is beyond comprehension for administrators, teachers, and even parents. But wait, could there be a real advantage in making shop class accessible to blind students? Is such a thing possible? What about costly adaptations, added liability for the teacher and the school? On the other hand, separate is not equal! If a blind child is to receive a truly equal education, shouldn't he or she have the opportunity to take the same classes as his or her sighted peers? If parents want their children to take wood shop and to be safe while doing so, where do they begin?
Let us start by examining the advantages to be found in enabling the blind middle school student to participate, along with his or her sighted peers, in industrial arts classes. First we must uncover the rationale for offering such courses to the general student body.
Young people gain a number of skills and abilities while participating in the shop experience. In the planning and development of a project, they will use their creativity and artistic talent. Learning to use hand and power tools enhances psychomotor skills while also instilling discipline and restraint as they learn to respect the tools and to follow appropriate safety rules at all times. As they put the finishing touches on their projects, students learn patience and attention to detail. The sense of accomplishment in turning out a finished product of their own making fills youngsters with a sense of pride and greatly increases their level of self-confidence. Finally, it is in this environment that many youngsters experience what it means to work and be accountable for what is produced.
In looking over this rationale, it is obvious that each of these skills and abilities is at least as great a benefit to blind and visually impaired students as to the sighted.
The teenage years are difficult for any child. As they enter adolescence, they have a tremendous need to gain acceptance among their classmates. They are trying to fit in, to find their place in the world and the more experiences they can have during this time, the better equipped they will be in determining their likes, dislikes and future plans. Unfortunately, during these critical years, the blind teenager often experiences isolation and ridicule rather than acceptance and opportunity. They feel their difference acutely as sports, wood shop, and many extracurricular activities are prohibited because they are too dangerous or because someone says "I just don't see how you could do it!".
It is within our power to change these attitudes! Blind and visually impaired students have every right to participate fully in ALL areas of education, including: industrial arts, physical education and home economics. No, there is not an added risk when a blind person operates power woodworking or machining equipment. In all of my years of teaching NONE of my blind students has ever had an accident in my shop or, to the best of my knowledge, in the shops of those instructors whom I have trained to teach wood working to blind individuals. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by offering woodshop and other industrial arts curricula to blind students. They will gain tremendous self-confidence, and their fellow students will see them as equals! An overwhelming number of today's successful entrepreneurs have one thing in common: they participated in vocational education (and specifically industrial arts)! According to ERIC, The National Education Information Network, Digest No. 118, "Most entrepreneurs came from trade and industrial education, followed by agriculture, and then business education."
If you have a blind or visually impaired youngster who is in middle school, junior high, or high school and who has been denied the opportunity to take industrial arts courses, I can help! With training, your school's shop instructor can easily become competent to instruct your blind student. It has been my experience that most shop instructors are extremely receptive to the idea of having blind students in their classes after they see how the alternatives to vision are applied.
Blind students must follow the same safety rules as those observed by any sighted woodworker. The difference is that safety distance is checked tactually rather than visually. The following describes one operation of the radial arm saw: During the basic cross-cut operation, after the board measurement is obtained (using a tactile ruler) the student clears the work table. Next the student pushes the saw all the way back on the over-arm.
At this point in the operation, a sighted student is instructed to look down to assure that the left hand is approximately six inches from the blade of the saw. The blind student should also maintain this margin of safety but will use alternatives to vision to comply with this important safety requirement. The blind student will place the little finger of the right hand against the left side of the stationary saw blade (approaching the blade slowly to avoid jamming a finger against a tooth of the blade). Next, the student will spread out the fingers of the right hand and touch the thumb of the right hand to the thumb of the left hand. The right hand is now removed from contact with the stationary saw blade and the space between the left hand and the saw blade is maintained. Just as in the case of a sighted student using the radial arm saw, if the left hand moves prior to initiating the operation, the margin of safety must be reestablished to assure safety for the left hand. From this point forward, the right hand will remain in contact with the over-arm of the saw or the handle (depending on the phase of the operation) and the left hand shall not move until the machine has come to a complete stop, which can be confirmed by tactile contact of the right hand with the auxiliary shaft of the saw motor. Now this example is not complete, but anyone who has used a radial arm saw should get an idea of how some of the alternate techniques work to allow for safe operation! This method of instruction is so successful that it is actually preferable to the visual method in many instances because it requires the student to be an active participant in the compliance with safety rules.
A trained instructor will allow your blind youngster to participate in all areas of woodshop, from the planning, cutting, and gluing, to the sanding and finishing of the project. Cost for tool modification or specialized aids for blind students, in the case of woodworking, falls under $100.00.
Involvement in this area of education is just one more vital step toward achieving equality for the blind.
If you would like more information about this exciting opportunity for your child, I would like very much to talk with you. Please call me at (505) 271-1925 or write to:
10517 San Gabriel Road, N.E.
Albuquerque, NM 87111
FAX (505) 271-1925
BLINDNESS: IS HISTORY AGAINST US?
An Address Delivered by
President, National Federation of the Blind
At the Banquet of the Annual Convention
New York City, July 5, 1973
Experts in the field, as well as members of the general public, have differed greatly as to what the future may hold for the blind. Some, seeking to tell it like it is, see us blundering on forever in roles of economic dependency and second-class citizenship. Others, more hopefully, predict a slow but steady progress toward independence, equality, and full membership in society. My own view is that this is not a matter for prediction at all, but for decision. I believe that neither of these possible outcomes is certain or foreseeable, for the simple reason that the choices we make and the actions we take are themselves factors in the determination of the future. In short, we the blind (like all people) confront alternative futures: one future in which we will live our own lives, or another future in which our lives will be lived for us.
But if the future is open and contingent, surely the past is closed and final. Whatever disputes men and women may have about the shape of things to come, there can be no doubt about the shape of things gone bythe permanent record of history. Or can there? Is there such a thing as an alternative past?
We all know what the historical record tells us. It tells us that, until only yesterday, blind people were completely excluded from the ranks of the normal community. In early societies they were reputedly abandoned, exterminated, or left to fend for themselves as beggars on the lunatic fringe of the community. In the late Middle Ages, so we are told, provision began to be made for their care and protection in almshouses and other sheltered institutions. Only lately, it would seem, have blind people begun stealthily to emerge from the shadows, and to move in the direction of independence and self-sufficiency.
This is what history tells usor, rather, that is what histories and the historians have told us. And the lesson commonly derived from these histories is that the blind have always been dependent upon the wills and the mercies of others.
We have been the people things were done toand, occasionally, the people things were done forbut never the people who did for themselves. In effect, according to this account, we have no history of our ownno record of active participation or adventure or accomplishment, but only (until almost our own day) an empty and unbroken continuum of desolation and dependency. It would seem that the blind have moved through time and the world not only sightless but facelessa people without distinguishing features, anonymous and insignificantnot so much as rippling the stream of history.
Nonsense! That is not fact but fable. That is not truth but a lie. In reality the accomplishments of blind people through the centuries have been out of all proportion to their numbers. There are genius, and fame, and adventure, and enormous versatility of achievementnot just once in a great while but again and again, over and over. To be sure, there is misery alsopoverty and suffering and misfortune aplentyjust as there is in the general history of mankind. But this truth is only a half-truthand, therefore, not really a truth at all. The real truth, the whole truth, reveals a chronicle of courage and conquest, of greatness, and even glory on the part of blind people, which has been suppressed and misrepresented by sighted historiansnot because these historians have been people of bad faith or malicious intent but because they have been people, with run-of-the-mill prejudice and ordinary misunderstandings. Historians, too, are human; and when facts violate their preconceptions, they tend to ignore those facts.
Now, we are at a point in time when the story of the blind (the true and real story) must be told. For too long the blind have been (not unwept, for there has been much too much of that) but unhonored and unsung. Let us, at long last, redress the balance and right the wrong. Let us now praise our famous men and celebrate the exploits of blind heroes. Rediscovering our true history, we shall, in our turn, be better able to make history; for when people (seeing or blind) come to know the truth, the truth will set them free.
Let us begin with Zisca: patriotic leader of Bohemia in the early fifteenth century, one of history's military geniuses, who defended his homeland in a brilliant campaign against invading armies of overwhelming numerical superiority. Zisca was, in the hour of his triumph, totally blind. The chronicle of his magnificent military effortwhich preserved the political independence and religious freedom of his country, and which led to his being offered the crown of Bohemiais worth relating in some detail. Need I add that this episode is not to be found, except in barest outline, in the standard histories? Fortunately it has been recorded by two historians of the last centuryJames Wilson, an Englishman writing in 1820, and William Artman, an American writing seventy years later. What do you suppose these two historians have in common, apart from their occupation? You are right: Both were blind. The account of the career of Zisca which follows has been drawn substantially from their eloquent and forceful narratives.
The Council of Constance, which was convened by the Pope in the year 1414 for the purpose of rooting out heresy in the Churchand which commanded that John Huss and Jerome of Prague be burned at the stake"sent terror and consternation throughout Bohemia...."1 In self-defense the Bohemian people took up arms against the Pope and the emperor. They chose as their commanding general the professional soldier John de Turcznowbetter known as Zisca, meaning "one-eyed," for he had lost the sight of an eye in the course of earlier battles. At the head of a force of 40,000 citizen-soldiersa force not unlike the ragged army that would follow General Washington in another patriotic struggle three centuries laterZisca marched into combat, only to be suddenly blinded in his remaining eye by an arrow from the enemy.
Here is where our story properly begins. For Zisca, upon his recovery from the injury, flatly refused to play the role of the helpless blind man. "...His friends were surprised to hear him talk of setting out for the army, and did what was in their power to dissuade him from it, but he continued resolute. `I have yet,' said he, `to shed my blood for the liberties of Bohemia. She is enslaved; her sons are deprived of their natural rights, and are the victims of a system of spiritual tyranny as degrading to the character of man as it is destructive of every moral principle; therefore, Bohemia must and shall be free.'"2
And so the blind general resumed his command, to the great joy of his troops. When the news came to the Emperor Sigismund "he called a convention of all the states in his empire ...and entreated them, for the sake of their sovereign, for the honor of their empire, and for the cause of their religion, to put themselves in arms.... The news came to Zisca that two large armies were in readiness to march against him.... The former was to invade Bohemia on the west, the latter on the east; they were to meet in the center, and as they expressed it, crush this [rebel] between them."3
By all the rules of warfare, by all conventional standards of armament and power, that should have been the end of Zisca and his rabble army. "After some delay the emperor entered Bohemia at the head of his army, the flower of which was fifteen thousand Hungarians, deemed at that time the best cavalry in Europe. ...The infantry, which consisted of 25,000 men, were equally fine, and well commanded. This force spread terror throughout all the east of Bohemia."4 The stage was set for the fateful climaxthe final confrontation and certain obliteration of the upstart rebel forces. "On the 11th of January, 1422, the two armies met on a large plain. ... Zisca appeared in the center of his front line [accompanied] by a horseman on each side, armed with a poleax. His troops, having sung a hymn,... drew their swords and waited for the signal. Zisca stood not long in view of the enemy, and when his officers had informed him that the ranks were well closed, waved his saber over his head, which was the signal of battle, and never was there an onset more mighty and irresistible. As dash a thousand waves against the rock-bound shore, so Zisca rolled his steel-fronted legions upon the foe. The imperial infantry hardly made a stand, and in the space of a few minutes they were disordered beyond the possibility of being rallied. The cavalry made a desperate effort to maintain the field, but finding themselves unsupported, wheeled round and fled ... toward ... Moravia."5
It was a total rout and an unconditional victory, but, "...Zisca's labors were not yet ended. The emperor, exasperated by his defeat, raised new armies, which he sent against Zisca the following spring.... But the blind general, determined that his country should not be enslaved while he had strength to wield a sword, gathered his brave army "and met the enemy yet again, despite fearsome disadvantages in numbers and equipment. "An engagement ensued, in which the [enemy] were utterly routed, leaving no less than nine thousand of their number dead on the field."6
The remaining branch of the grand imperial army, under the command of Sigismund himself, next met a similar fate, and the mighty emperor was compelled to sue for peace at the hands of the blind general. Then there occurred the final magnificent gesture of this extraordinary human being. As the historian Wilson recounts the episode: "Our blind hero, having taken up arms only to secure peace, was glad for an opportunity to lay them down. When his grateful countrymen requested him to accept the crown of Bohemia, as a reward for his eminent services, he respectfully declined."7 And this is what Zisca said: "While you find me of service to your designs, you may freely command both my counsels and my sword, but I will never accept any established authority; on the contrary, my most earnest advice to you is, when the perverseness of your enemies allows you peace, to trust yourselves no longer in the hands of kings, but to form yourselves into a republic, which species of government only can secure your liberties."8
That is the true story of Ziscamilitary genius, patriot, freedom fighter, statesman, and blind man. Extraordinary as his heroism was, it exceeds only in degree the story of yet another blind BohemianKing John, the blind monarch who fell in the historic Battle of Crecy, which engaged the energies and cost the lives of many of Europe's nobility. This king had been blind for many years. When he heard the clang of arms, he turned to his lords and said: "I only now desire this last piece of service from you, that you would bring me forward so near to these Englishmen that I may deal among them one good stroke with my sword." In order not to be separated, the king and his attendants tied the reins of their horses one to another, and went into battle. There this valiant old hero had his desire, and came boldly up to the Prince of Wales, and gave more than "one good stroke" with his sword. He fought courageously, as did all his lords, and others about him; but they engaged themselves so far that all were slain, and next day found dead, their horses' bridles still tied together.
In the country of the blind, it has foolishly been said, the one-eyed man will inevitably be king. This, of course, is nonsense. In fact, the very opposite has often been true. History reveals that in the realm of the sighted it is not at all remarkable for a blind man to be king. Thus, in 1851, George Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, first cousin to Queen Victoria, ascended the throne of Hanover under the royal title of George the Fifth. That this blind king of Hanover was no imcompetent, but distinctly superior to the ordinary run of monarchs, is shown by the words of a contemporary historian, who said: "Though laboring under the deprivation of sight, this Prince is as efficient in his public, as he is beloved in his private, character; a patron of the arts and sciences, and a promoter of agricultural interests...he has acquired a perfect knowledge of six different languages."9
A strikingly similar account has been handed down to us of the blind Prince Kitoyasu, who reigned as a provincial governor in Japan over a thousand years ago and "whose influence set a pattern for the sightless which differed from that in any other country and saved his land from the scourge of beggary."10
Thoroughly trained in both Japanese and Chinese literature, Prince Hitoyasu introduced blind people into society and the life of the court. In ninth-century Japan, when the blind led the blind, they did not fall into a ditch, but rose out of it together.
Let us turn now from the records of royalty to the annals of adventure. Perhaps the most persistent and destructive myth concerning the blind is the assumption of our relative inactivity and immobilitythe image of the blind person glued to his or her rocking chair and, at best, sadly dependent on others for guide or transport on routine daily rounds. "Mobility," we are led to believe, is a modern term, which has just begun to have meaning for the blind. To be sure, many blind persons have been cowed by the myth of helplessness into remaining in their sheltered corners. But there have always been otherslike James Holman, Esquire, a solitary traveler of a century and a half ago, who gained the great distinction of being labeled by the Russians as "the blind spy. "Yes, it really happened! This intrepid Englishman, traveling alone across the steppes of Greater Russia all the way to Siberia, was so close an observer of all about him that he was arrested as a spy by the Czar's police and conducted to the borders of Austria, where he was ceremoniously expelled.
Here is how it happened. Holman lost his sight at the age of twenty-five, after a brief career as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy; but his urge to travel, instead of declining, grew stronger. He soon embarked upon a series of voyagesfirst through France and Italy, then (at one fell swoop) through Poland, Austria, Saxony, Prussia, Hanover, Russia, and Siberia. His real intention, as he later wrote, was to "make a circuit of the whole world," entirely on his own and unaccompaniedan ambition he might well have fulfilled had it not been for the Czar's police and the Russian spy charges. He later published a two-volume account of his travels and observations, and his own reflections upon his Russian adventure are worth repeating: "My situation," he wrote, "was now one of extreme novelty and my feelings corresponded with its peculiarity. I was engaged ... in a solitary journey of a thousand miles, through a country, perhaps the wildest on the face of the earth, whose inhabitants were scarcely yet accounted within the pale of civilization, with no other attendant than a rude Tartar postillion, to whose language my ear was wholly unaccustomed; and yet, I was supported by a feeling of happy confidence...."11
As Federationists know, there have been other blind travelers in our own time quite as intrepid as James Holman. Yet, Holman's storythe case of the "blind spy"is important for its demonstration that blind people could wear such seven-league boots almost two centuries agobefore Braille or the long cane, before residential schools or vocational rehabilitation, before even the American Foundation for the Blind and its 239-page book on personal management for the blind.
But there is a more basic side to mobility, of course, than the opportunity and capacity for long-distance traveling. There is the simple ability to get about, to walk and run, to mount a horse or ride a bicyclein short, to be physically independent. The number of blind persons who have mastered these skills of travel is countless, but no one has ever proved the point or shown the way with more flair than a stalwart Englishman of the eighteenth century named John Metcalf. Indeed, this brash fellow not only defied convention, but the world. Totally blind from childhood, he was (among other things) a successful builder of roads and bridges; racehorse rider; bare-knuckle fighter; card shark; stagecoach driver; and, on occasion, guide to sighted tourists through the local countryside. Here is an account of some of his many enterprises:
"In 1751 he commenced a new employment; he set up a stage wagon betwixt York and Knaresborough, being the first on the road, and drove it himself, twice a week in summer, and once in winter. This business, with the occasional conveyence of army baggage, employed his attention till the period of his first contracting for the making of roads, which engagement suiting him better, he relinquished every other pursuit.... The first piece of road he made was about three miles ... , and the materials for the whole were to be produced from one gravel pit; he therefore provided deal boards, and erected a temporary house at the pit; took a dozen horses to the place; fixed racks and mangers, and hired a house for his men, at Minskip. He often walked to Knaresborough in the morning, with four or five stone of meal on his shoulders, and joined his men by six o'clock. He completed the road much sooner than was expected, to the entire satisfaction of the surveyor and trustees."12
The story of "Blind Jack" Metcalf, for all its individuality, is far from unique. Rather, it underscores what even we as Federationists sometimes forget, and what most of the sighted have never learned at allnamely, that the blind can compete on terms of absolute equality with othersthat we are really, literally, the equals of the sighted. We have been kept down by the myths and false beliefs about our inferiority, by the self-fulfilling prophecies of the custodial system which has conditioned the sighted and the blind alike to believe we are helpless, but not by any innate lacks or losses inherent in our blindness.
Metcalf's accomplishments in applied science were probably matched by those of a French army officer more than a century before. Blaise Francoise, Comte de Pagan, was blinded in the course of military service, shortly before he was to be promoted to the rank of field marshal. He then turned his attention to the science of fortifications, wrote the definitive work on the subject, and subsequently published a variety of scientific works, among which was one entitled "An Historical and Geographical Account of the River of the Amazons" (which included a chart drawn up by this military genius after he became blind)! Like the sighted, the blind have had their share of solid citizens, namby-pambies, strong-minded individualists, squares, oddballs, eggheads, and eccentrics. The sixteenth-century German scholar James Shegkins, for instance, refused to undergo an operation which was virtually guaranteed to restore his sight: "In order," as he said, "not to be obliged to see many things that might appear odious and ridiculous."13 Shegkins, a truly absent-minded professor, taught philosophy and medicine over many years with great success, and left behind him influential monographs on a dozen scientific subjects.
The success story of Dr. Nicholas Bacon, a blind lawyer of eighteenth-century France, somewhat resembles that of our own beloved founder, Dr.Jacobus tenBroek. Both were blinded in childhood by bow-and-arrow accidents, and both went on to high academic achievement in law and related studies. The strenuous exertions which Bacon was forced to go through at each stage of his climb are indicated by the following account:
"When he recovered his health, which had suffered from the accident, he continued the same plan of education which he had before commenced.... But his friends treated his intention with ridicule, and even the professors themselves were not far from the same sentiment; for they admitted him into their schools, rather under an impression that he might amuse them, than that they should be able to communicate much information to him." However, he obtained "the first place among his fellow students. They then said that such rapid advances might be made in the preliminary branches of education, but not ... in studies of a more profound nature; and when ... it became necessary to study the art of poetry, it was declared by the general voice that all was over.... But here he likewise disproved their prejudices.... He applied himself to law, and took his degree in that science at Brussels."14
Years earlierin the fourth century after Christanother blind man made an even steeper ascent to learning. He was Didymus of Alexandria, who became one of the celebrated scholars of the early church. He carved out of wood an alphabet of letters and laboriously taught himself to form them into words, and shape the words into sentences. Later, when he could afford to hire readers, he is said to have worn them out one after another in his insatiable quest for knowledge. He became the greatest teacher of his age. He mastered philosophy and theology, and then went on to geometry and astrology. He was regarded by his students, some of whom like St. Jerome became church fathers, with "a touch of awe" because of his vast learning and intellect. Didymus was not the only blind theologian to gain eminence within the church. In the middle of the seventeenth century, at almost the same moment Milton was composing Paradise Lost, a blind priest named Prospero Fagnani was writing a commentary on church law, which was to bring him fame as one of the outstanding theorists of the Roman faith. At the precocious age of 21, Fagnani had already earned the degree of doctor of civil and canon law, and in the very next year, he was appointed Secretary of the Congregation of the Council. His celebrated Commentary, published in six quarto volumes, won high praise from Pope Benedict XIV and caused its author to become identified throughout Europe by a Latin title which in translation signifies "the blind yet farseeing doctor."
These few biographical sketches plucked from the annals of the blind are no more than samples. They are not even the most illustrious instances I could have given. I have said nothing at all about the best known of history's blind celebritiesHomer, Milton, and Helen Keller. There is good reason for that omission. Not only are those resounding names well enough known already, but they have come to representeach in its own sentimentalized, storybook formnot the abilities and possibilities of people who are blind but the exact opposite. Supposedly these giants are the exceptions that prove the rulethe rule, that is, that the blind are incompetent. Each celebrated case is explained away to keep the stereotype intact: Thus, Homer (we are repeatedly told) probably never existed at allbeing not a man but a committee! As for Milton, he is dismissed as a sighted poet, who happened to become blind in later life. And Helen Keller, they say, was the peculiarly gifted and just plain lucky beneficiary of a lot of money and a "miracle worker" (her tutor and companion, Anne Sullivan).
Don't you believe it! These justly famous cases of accomplishment are not mysterious, unexplainable exceptionsthey are only remarkable. Homer, who almost certainly did exist and who was clearly blind, accomplished just a little better what other blind persons after him have accomplished by the thousands: that is, he was a good writer. Milton composed great works while he was sighted, and greater ones (including Paradise Lost) after he became blind. His example, if it proves anything, proves only that blindness makes no difference in ability. As for Helen Keller, her life demonstrates dramatically what great resources of character and will and intellect may live in a human being beyond the faculties of sight and soundwhich is not to take anything at all away from Anne Sullivan.
In the modern world it is not the poets or the humanists, but the scientists, who have held the center of the stage. As would be expected, the stereotyped view has consistently been that the blind cannot compete in these areas. How does this square with the truth?
Consider the case of Nicholas Saundersontotally blind from infancywho succeeded Sir Isaac Newton in the chair of mathematics at Cambridge University, despite the fact that he had earlier been refused admission to the same university and was never permitted to earn a degree! It was the great Newton himself who pressed Saunderson's appointment upon the reluctant Cambridge dons; and it was no less a personage than Queen Anne of England who made it possible by conferring the necessary degree upon Saunderson. Later he received a Doctor of Laws degree from King George II, a symbol of the renown he had gained as a mathematician. Among Saunderson's best subjects, by the way, was the science of opticsat which he was so successful that the eminent Lord Chesterfield was led to remark on "the miracle of a man who had not the use of his own sight teaching others how to use theirs."15
For another example, consider John Cough, a blind English biologist of the eighteenth century, who became a master at classification of plants and animals by substituting the sense of touch for that of sight. Or consider Leonard Euler, a great mathematician of the same century, who (after becoming blind) won two research prizes from the Parisian Academy of Sciences, wrote a major work translated into every European language, and devised an astronomical theory which "has been deemed by astronomers, in exactness of computation, one of the most remarkable achievements of the human intellect."16 Or, for a final illustration, consider Francois Huber, blind Swiss zoologist, who gained recognition as the pre-eminent authority of the eighteenth century on the behavior of bees. The famous writer Maurice Maeterlinck said of Huber that he was "the master and classic of contemporary apiarian science."17
Even after all of this evidence, there will be many (some of them, regrettably, our own blind Uncle Toms) who will try to deny and explain it all awaywho will attempt to keep intact their outworn notions about the helplessness of the blind as a class. So let me nail down a couple of points: In the first place, is all of this talk about history and the success of blind individuals really valid? Isn't it true that most blind people throughout the ages have lived humdrum lives, achieving neither fame nor glory, and soon forgotten? Yes, it is truebut for the sighted as well as for the blind. For the overwhelming majority of mankind (the blind and the sighted alike) life has been squalor and hard knocks and anonymity from as far back as anybody knows. There were doubtless blind peasants, blind housewives, blind shoemakers, blind businessmen, blind thieves, blind prostitutes, and blind holy men who performed as competently or as incompetently (and are now as forgotten) as their sighted contemporaries.
"Even so," the doubter may say, "I'm still not convinced. Don't you think the track record for the blind is worse than the track record for the sighted? Don't you think a larger percentage of the blind have failed?"
Again, the answer is yesjust as with other minorities. That's what it's all about. Year after year, decade after decade, century after century, age after age, we the blind were told that we were helplessthat we were inferiorand we believed it and acted accordingly. But no more! As with other minorities, we have tended to see ourselves as others have seen us. We have accepted the public view of our limitations, and thus have done much to make those limitations a reality. When our true history conflicted with popular prejudice, the truth was altered or conveniently forgotten. We have been ashamed of our blindness and ignorant of our heritage, but never again! We will never go back to the ward status of second-class citizens. There is simply no way. There are blind people aplentyand sighted allies, too(many of them in this room tonight) who will take to the streets and fight with their bare hands if they must before they will let it happen.
And this, too, is historyour meeting, our movement, our new spirit of self-awareness and self-realization. In our own time and in our own day we have found leaders as courageous as Zisca, and as willing to go into battle to resist tyranny. But we are no longer to be counted by ones and twos, or by handfuls or hundreds. We are now a movement, with tens of thousands in the ranks. Napoleon is supposed to have said that history is a legend agreed upon. If this is true, then we the blind are in the process of negotiating a new agreement, with a legend conforming more nearly to the truth and the spirit of the dignity of man. And what do you think future historians will say of usof you and me? What legends will they agree upon concerning the blind of the mid-twentieth century? How will they deal with our movementwith the National Federation of the Blind? Will they record that we fell back into the faceless anonymity of the ages, or that we met the challenges and survived as a free people? It all depends on what we do and how we act; for future historians will write the record, but we will make it. Our lives will provide the raw materials from which their legends will emerge to be agreed upon.
And, while no man can predict the future, I feel absolute confidence as to what the historians will say. They will tell of a system of governmental and private agencies established to serve the blind, which became so custodial and so repressive that reaction was inevitable. They will tell that the blind ("their time come 'round at last") began to acquire a new self-image, along with rising expectations, and that they determined to organize and speak for themselves. And they will tell of Jacobus tenBroek, how he, as a young college professor, (blind and brilliant) stood forth to lead the movement like Zisca of old. They will tell how the agencies first tried to ignore us, then resented us, then feared us, and finally came to hate uswith the emotion and false logic and cruel desperation which dying systems always feel toward the new about to replace them. They will tell of the growth of our movement through the forties and fifties, and of our civil warwhich resulted in the small group that splintered away to become the American Council of the Blind. They will tell how we emerged from our civil war into the sixties, stronger and more vital than we had ever been; and how more and more of the agencies began to make common cause with us for the betterment of the blind. They will tell of our court cases, our legislative efforts, and our organizational strugglesand they will record the sorrow and mourning of the blind at the death of their great leader, Jacobus tenBroek.
They will also record the events of todayof the 1970'swhen the reactionaries among the agencies became even more so, and the blind of the second generation of the NFB stood forth to meet them. They will talk of the American Foundation for the Blind and its attempt (through its tool, NAC) to control all work with the blind, and our lives. They will tell how NAC and the American Foundation and the other reactionary agencies gradually lost ground and gave way before us. They will tell of new and better agencies rising to work in partnership with the blind, and of harmony and progress as the century draws to an end. They will relate how the blind passed from second-class citizenship through a period of hostility to equality and first-class status in society.
But future historians will only record these events if we make them come true. They can help us be remembered, but they cannot help us dream. That we must do for ourselves. They can give us acclaim, but not guts and courage. They can give us recognition and appreciation, but not determination or compassion or good judgment. We must either find those things for ourselves, or not have them at all.
We have come a long way together in this movement. Some of us are veterans, going back to the forties; others are new recruits, fresh to the ranks. Some are young; some are old. Some are educated, others not. It makes no difference. In everything that matters we are one; we are the movement; we are the blind. Just as in 1940, when the National Federation of the Blind was formed, the fog rolls in through the Golden Gate. The eucalyptus trees give forth their pungent smell, and the Berkeley hills look down at the bay. The house still stands in those hills, and the planes still rise from San Francisco to span the world. But Jacobus tenBroek comes from the house no more, nor rides the planes to carry the word.
But the word is carried, and his spirit goes with it. He it was who founded this movement, and he it is whose dreams are still entwined in the depths of its being. Likewise, our dreams (our hopes and our visions) are part of the fabric, going forward to the next generation as a heritage and a challenge. History is not against us: the past proclaims it; the present confirms it; and the future demands it. If we falter or dishonor our heritage, we will betray not only ourselves but those who went before us and those who come after. But, of course, we will not fail. Whatever the cost, we shall pay it. Whatever the sacrifice, we shall make it. We cannot turn back, or stand still. Instead, we must go forward. We shall prevailand history will record it. The future is ours. Come! Join me on the barricades, and we will make it come true.
Wilham Artman, Beauties and Achievements of the Blind (Auburn: Published for the Author, 1890), p.265.
James Wilson, Biography of the Blind (Birmingham, England: Printed by J.W. Showell, Fourth Edition, 1838), p.110.
Artman, op. cit., p. 265.
Wilon, op.cit., p.115
Mrs. Hippolyte Van Landeghem, Exile and Home: Advantages of Social Education of the Blind (London: Printed by W. Clowes & Sons, 1865), p.95.
Gabriel Farrell, The Story of Blindness (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956), p.7.
Wilson, op.cit., p.262.
Artman, op.cit., p.220.
Wilson, op.cit., p.243.
Farrell, op.cit., p.11.
Artman, op.cit., p.226.
Farrell, op.cit., pp.12-13.
Hear Ye! Hear Ye!
WHERE WAS IT? WHAT WAS IT?
This item is reprinted from the Freestate News, a publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas.
James Canaday is a graduate student in psychology at the University of Kansas. While doing his thesis research, he discovered yet another reason for learning Braille. Here is what he has to say:
While doing research in some related topics, I discovered something new about Braille reading which further supports the necessity of Braille competence for anyone who is legally blind.
Braille is typically written and read on paper pages, much like print writing. The shape and flow of a Braille page almost totally mirror those of the printed page. Braille pages also contain margins, a clearly marked chain for reading order, and indentations for paragraphs.
In 1975, a study entitled "Visual memory for place on the page" was published demonstrating that sighted readers typically show a strong ability to remember text locations on the page, or "within page." This recollection of print location has very strong ties to recollection of the text meaning, according to earlier work by Rothkopf ("Incidental memory for location of information in text," 1971). This means reading of pages can give spatial or mechanical cues to help remember what was discussed on those pages. What is true for these sighted readers of printed pages should also apply to Braille readers.
Many other more significant reasons make Braille reading skill vital, as explained in Fred Schroeder's article in the January, 1990, Braille Monitor, "Literacy: the Key to Opportunity." However, this page-reading benefit appears to be a new one.
Free Braille Calenders
One of the many services the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults provides is free Braille calendars. To order a calendar, write to: American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, 18440 Oxnard Street, Tarzanza, California 91356.
We have been asked to make the following announcement:
Since 1983, National Braille Press has been publishing books on computer access technology. Soon to be released is NBP's fifth book in the series entitled Solutions: Access Technologies for People Who are Blind.
Written by Olga Espinola, an experienced access technology user and staff manager at New England Telephone, and Diane Croft, NBP's marketing Director and author of several books in the field, Solutions does more than simply offer information on access technology: It goes deeper into the issues that affect whether or not a computer work station can be adapted successfullyissues like why one type of operating system is more accessible than another, why one piece of software "talks" and another doesn't, why Braille is more accessible than speech, or vice versa, depending on the application and the user's preferences.
Solutions covers every type of adaptive device, from speech synthesizers to Braille printers, from scanners to electronic reading servicesall in nontechnical terms, just right for the beginner or the more experienced adaptive technology user. Solutions contains interviews with savvy users who talk about the realities of using this technology, as well as their dreams for future devices. There is a "Trainers'Forum" where you can evesdrop on what adaptive-technology trainers think about today's training methods and their hopes for helping more people learn about access technology. There are resources aplenty: blindness-related bulletin boards, electronic reading services for the blind, CD-ROM information, technically-minded publications, financial aid for adaptive technology, and more.
Best of all, Solutions is available in Braille (4 volumes), cassette (2, 4-track tapes), IBM disk (please specify 3.5" or 5.25"), or in print (224 pages), for the same low price of $21.95. To order, send a check (prepayment is required) for $21.95 to National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115. (Add an additional $3.50 for postage for print copies or if you prefer UPS shipping instead of "Free Matter.") Please specify preferred medium (including disk size). For Canadian orders, send U.S. currency or $25.95 in Canadian funds. Better yet, call us at (617) 266-6160 and charge it on a Visa or MasterCard.
Tactile Note Cards, Flashcards
We have been asked to print the following announcement:
Attractive, field-tested CAL-tac tactile illustrated note cards are now available through Creative Adaptations for Learning. Perfect to send to your clients, friends, or family. The cards may be decorated by using crayons, colored markers, or glued-on textures. Caltec illustrations are embossed on firm white plastic. White card stock is used for backing, which may be separated to fit into a Brailler, typewriter, or single feed printer. White envelopes are included. Currently available: flowers in a pot; butterfly; and moonlight sailing. Set of 10 Note Cards, $18.00. Individual note card and envelope, $2.00. Discount available on order of 50 or more. Allow 8-10 weeks for delivery.
Also available from CALtac: Haptic Flashcards. These cards reinforce shape identification, spatial relationships, shape and texture discrimination, and pattern sequencing, all of which are components used to aid perceptual development. The six basic shapes used are: circle, square, rectangle, wavy line, oval, and triangle. The set of 25 CALtac Haptic Flashcards includes an activity guide. For information about the note cards and the Haptic Flashcards, write to: Creative Adaptations for Learning, 38 Beverly Road, Great Neck, New York 11021; (516) 466-9143.
Children Learn What They Live
Karen Mayry, President of the NFB of South Dakota, found this in a publication and sent it in:
If children live with criticism,
they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility,
they learn to fight.
If children live with ridicule,
they learn to be shy.
If children live with shame,
they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with tolerance,
they learn to be patient.
If children live with encouragement,
they learn confidence.
If children live with praise,
they learn to appreciate.
If children live with fairness,
they learn justice.
If children live with security,
they learn to have faith.
If children live with approval,
they learn to like themselves.
If children live with acceptance,
they learn to find love in the world.