Future Reflections

The National Federation of the Blind Magazine for Parents and Teachers of Blind Children

Vol. 23, No. 1                                                                                            Spring/Summer 2004

Barbara Cheadle, Editor

[PHOTO/CAPTION: On January 30, 2004, approximately 1,500 members and guests celebrated the Grand Opening of the NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. Exhibits at the Gala challenged guests to Imagine a Future Full of Opportunity. That's what seven-year-old Jason Polansky (pictured above) must have been doing as he examined a model rocket from the NASA exhibit. Looking on are his parents, Susan and Ed, and NOPBC president, Barbara Cheadle (right).]

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ISSN 0883-3419

Future Reflections

The National Federation of the Blind Magazine for Parents and Teachers of Blind Children

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Vol. 23, No. 1                                                                                 Spring/Summer 2004

As the Twig Is Bent

Atlanta 2004 NFB Convention Site

NFB Camp: It’s More Than Child’s Play

by Carla McQuillan

A Brief Look At The Education Of Blind Children

by Carol Castellano

Blind Kids Lost in the Educational System

by Caroline Rounds

Donations Needed for 2004 Braille Book Flea Market

A Brighter Future for Blind Children

The 2003 NFB Summit on Education Helps Shape

Programming for the NFB Jernigan Institute

by Mark A. Riccobono

National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute

NFB Jernigan Institute Director Named

by Barbara Pierce

Let the Freedom Bell Ring!

by Kathy Kennedy

Jen’s Story

by Jan Lyon

New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped

Adopts a New Orientation and Mobility Policy

by Dianna Jennings

Customize Your Cane

by Jody W. Ianuzzi

Slate Pals

Appropriate Use of the Electronic Notetaker in School

by Curtis Chong

Exploring the Universe by Touch

by Bernhard Beck-Winchatz

How to Use a Popular Game as a Teaching Tool—and Still Have Fun!

by Sally Miller

Refrigerator Art

by Susan Povinelli

Listening to the Script; A Blind Professor’s Passion for the Theater

by Patrick Healy

Clothing, Grooming, and Social Acceptability: Part 2

by Stephen O. Benson

Convention Tours

by Anil Lewis

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Free Braille Books Program

For more information about blindness and children contact

National Organization of Parents of Blind Children

1800 Johnson Street

Baltimore, MD 21230-4998

(410) 659-9314, ext. 2360

www.nfb.org/nopbc.htm    [   [email protected]   [   [email protected]

Copyright © 2004 National Federation of the Blind

As the Twig Is Bent

National Federation of the Blind 2004 Convention

Schedule of Activities for Parents, Teachers, and Kids

sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC)

Marriott Marquis Hotel

Atlanta, Georgia

June 29 - July 5, 2004

This year’s NOPBC seminar theme is taken from the title of one of the early Kernel Books: As The Twig Is Bent. In the preface of that book, Dr. Jernigan begins by saying, “There is a well-known saying that, as the twig is bent, so grows the tree. What is true of plants is also true of people.” He goes on to say, “Every day all of us are, at least to some degree, bending the twig that will determine the final shape of their [blind children’s] lives.” We hope that parents who attend the NOPBC activities and participate in the many other 2004 NFB convention programs will leave with greater confidence in their ability to shape their children’s lives so that they will grow into active, productive, independent, and valued members of their communities.

Social skills will be the primary focus of the seminar and workshops on Tuesday, June 29. Barbara Pierce, who over the years has become one of NOPBC’s most sought-after workshop leaders, will give a major presentation on that topic during the morning general session.

Also on the morning agenda will be guest speaker Joel Snyder from National Captioning Institute, Described Media Department. Joel, a trained actor with many years of experience in audio-description, will talk about the value of accessing the popular media for knowledge about social skills critical to functioning in our culture.

As in recent years the first part of the program will be kid friendly with a kid talk between Dr. Maurer and the children in the audience, and a youth panel. We will take a brief break before 10:00 a.m. to allow parents time to take the kids to the annual Kenneth Jernigan Braille Carnival, coordinated this year by the three M’s: Melody Lindsey, director of a rehabilitation program in Michigan; Maria Morias, a blind mother and educator; and school counselor Melissa Riccobono. The morning session will end at 11:30 p.m., giving parents enough time to pick kids up from the Carnival or NFB Camp and get lunch before hitting the afternoon workshops.

In the afternoon, parents and children ages eight and up will have several delightful workshop choices. These workshops and the rest of the line-up of NOPBC sponsored activities throughout the convention week are described in the agenda below:

Tuesday, June 29

* 8:00 a.m. Registration

Note: please see the preregistration form with information about fees, etc., at the end of this article. The form will also be available through June 10 on the NOPBC Web page at <www.nfb.org/nopbc.htm>. For more information, you may also contact NOPBC President, Barbara Cheadle, at (410) 737-2224. If you leave a voice mail message requesting a packet, please spell your name and give your mailing address and phone number.

* 9:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m. As the Twig Is Bent—NOPBC Parents Seminar (General Session)

Childcare or NFB Camp. This is not a service provided by NOPBC. Please see information elsewhere in this issue about how to preregister for NFB Camp (childcare).

*10:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Kenneth Jernigan Braille Carnival

Children, blind and sighted, ages six and up, are invited to attend this popular program filled with two hours of games, crafts, and other fun Braille-related activities. The carnival booths are sponsored by NFB affiliates and other organizations that come to participate in the convention. Volunteer carnival buddies are recruited from within the NFB membership. All children must be accompanied by a Braille Carnival buddy or other adult.

* Lunch 11:30 - 1:30 p.m.

On your own. There are two good restaurants in the hotel that serve lunch and numerous fast food restaurants in the nearby attached mall. However, we will also give you the opportunity before the morning session adjourns to meet parent leaders that are from your region and/or that have a child close to your child’s age so that you may, if you wish, make arrangements to join them for lunch.

* 1:30-5:00 p.m. NOPBC Parent Workshops

1. Beginning Braille for Parents

Two sessions: 1:30-3:00 and 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Learn how simple and fun Braille can be! By the end of this seminar, participants will be able to write a simple sentence in un-contracted Braille. Conducted by Caroline Rounds and Nancy Burns. Nancy is the president of the NFB of California and Caroline is a Braille teacher with the San Bernardino school district. She is also a blind Braille user and a former NFB scholarship winner. This workshop is an adaptation of the highly successful model developed by the NFB of California.

2. Movement, Music, and Play: The Connection to Early Socialization Skills, 0-7

Two sessions: 1:30-3:00 and 3:30-5:00 p.m.

This is a MUST session for all parents of little tykes. Conducted by early childhood O&M specialist, Joe Cutter, and Australian-born, award-winning musician and special education professional, Heather Field.

3. Body Language, Gestures, and Facial Expressions: How Much Do Blind Kids Really Need to Know? How Much Do Visually Impaired Kids Miss?

Two sessions: 1:30-3:00 and 3:30-5:00 p.m.

The title just about sums it up. Panels of socially competent blind adults will share their experiences and provide insights and suggestions to parents. Older blind children and youth are welcome to attend at the discretion of parents.

4. Friendships In and Beyond the Classroom

Two sessions: 1:30-3:00 and 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Fostering friendships between blind and sighted youth requires more than attending class together in the same school.  This seminar will explore a variety of strategies and ideas for promoting friendships between blind and sighted peers in a variety of social settings— school, the religious community, clubs, etc.

5. Socialization, Blindness, and Additional Disabilities: There Is Hope

Two sessions: 1:30-3:00 and 3:30-5:00 p.m.

This session focuses on the special challenges in helping blind children with additional disabilities develop appropriate social skills.

6.  Tactile Graphics: A Touching Experience

One session: 1:00-2:30 p.m.

This is cosponsored by the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC) and NOPBC for parents, teachers, and all who are interested in learning about specialized graphics technology intended for the blind. 

* 1:30-5:00 p.m. Youth Programs

* 1:30-5:00 p.m. Audio Description: The Visual Made Verbal

Cosponsored by the NOPBC and the National Captioning Institute, Described Media Department. Sighted high-school-age students will learn the principles of audio description. They will view segments of videotaped programs, learn how to analyze them to determine what text to add, and break up into teams to write a description for a segment, practice it, and be prepared to give the description live later that evening. From 7:00 to 8:00 p.m., blind middle and high school students will be invited to review the described segments, critique them, and cast their votes for best audio-described script, best voice, best use of language, and other superlatives. All students (describers and reviewers alike) will receive certificates from the National Captioning Institute, Described Media Department.

* 1:30-5:00 p.m. Exploring the Solar System: Youth Scavenger Hunt

Imagine that you could squeeze the solar system into the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. Travel to the moon, pick up artifacts from Mars, and explore the rings of Saturn—all within the confines of the hotel. Young people, blind and sighted, ages eight and up, will learn about the earth’s solar system as they explore the Marriott Marquis through a scavenger hunt. Sighted youth will also have the opportunity to travel this universe-in-a-hotel with a white cane under blindfold as part of this educational and fun afternoon. Federationists Mildred Rivera, Melissa Williamson, and astronomers Noreen Grice of the Hayden Planetarium in Boston, and Dr. Dennis Dawson, chairman of the Astronomy Department at Western Connecticut University, will conduct this lively, educational program. Mildred Rivera is a civil right lawyer who has conducted many of these scavenger hunts in past years. Melissa is a mother and an elementary school teacher. (Both are blind.)

* 7:00-8:00 p.m. Audio Describers Review and Judging

Blind and visually impaired middle school and high school teens are invited to sign up to review the afternoon work of the amateur teen audio-describers. Teens may sign up in advance or at the door. For fairness and impartiality all reviewers will be required to wear sleep shades (blindfolds).

* 8:00-9:00 p.m. Teen Discussion Groups

As in previous years, experienced, sensitive blind leaders will conduct two talk sessions, one for young men and one for young women, ages fourteen to eighteen, on the all-important teen topics of dating, relationships with parents, social interactions with peers, and more.

*  7:00-10:00 p.m. NOPBC Family Hospitality

Relax and chat in an informal atmosphere with other parents, teachers, and blind adults while your kids roam and play around the tables. There will be some door prizes and a few mixer games, but mostly this will be an unstructured evening in which you can network with others. While parents will be responsible for supervision of their children at hospitality, again thanks to Heather Field, a Discovery Toys® display with a play area for children will be in the room.

Wednesday, June 30

* 8:30-1:00 p.m. Cane Walk

Session 1: 8:30-10:30 a.m.

Session 2: 11:00-1:00 p.m.

This workshop will begin with a brief discussion of why the NFB promotes the use of the long cane with the metal tip, early use of the cane, and the value of blind instructors. It will conclude with an overview of the difference between the discovery method and traditional O and M instruction. After the introduction parents, teachers, and kids will be issued canes and sleep shades (blindfolds) and then teamed with a volunteer instructor for a cane walk through the hotel and, for those who have not yet registered, to the NFB registration area. Volunteer instructors are recruited from current and former students of the Louisiana Tech/Louisiana Center for the Blind O and M program as well as other experienced volunteers at the convention. Coordinated by Christine Brown and Joe Cutter.

* 1:00-5:00 p.m. Teen Get-Acquainted Party

Sponsored jointly by NOPBC and Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM). All teens are invited to drop in anytime at this room for games and music or just to hang out with other teens. Supervised at all times by BISM counselors.

Thursday, July 1

* 1:00-3:00 p.m. NOPBC Parent Power—Annual Meeting

Keynote address by the 2004 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children, roll call of POBC affiliates, updates on educational issues, committee reports, and elections.

* 3:30-5:00 p.m. Braille: It’s More Than Dots

A workshop for parents and older youth. Internationally known Braille expert Dr. Sally Mangold will discuss the versatility of Braille in a variety of life settings for a diverse population of students, including those with partial vision or additional disabilities. The workshop will include a breakout session to provide children and parents a hands-on demonstration of the Braille educational learning tool, SAL (Speech Assisted Learning).

* 5:30-7:30 p.m. Braille Readers Are Leaders Annual Reunion and Braille Book Flea Market

Cosponsored by NOPBC and NAPUB, and made possible through a grant from the UPS Foundation and the efforts of UPS volunteers from the Atlanta office.

Come and help celebrate Braille and the accomplishments of the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest and Literacy Program. You will find lots of free food, great fellowship, Braille mentors for the kids, and, best of all, a chance to browse and pick up some great Braille books at the flea market. Donations from the Braille book flea market will go into the newly established Braille Readers Are Leaders Reunion and Mentorship Fund.

Bring the whole family. Stay for the NAPUB meeting at 7:00 p.m. All Braille enthusiasts are invited, but former contestants and winners are extended a special invitation. All current or former Braille Readers are Leaders contestants are eligible for a special door prize: a refurbished, just like new, Braillewriter!

Friday, July 2

* 7:00 a.m. NOPBC Board Meeting

Evening—NOPBC Parent and Youth Workshops

* 6:30-8:30 p.m.  Drop-In “Discovery Time” with Heather Field (Discovery Toys®) and Joe Cutter (early childhood cane travel and movement). This informal drop-in session is for parents of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Bring your child with you.

* 7:00-9:00 p.m. Astronomy Is for Everyone

Drop in anytime; everyone is welcome. Children must be accompanied by adults. Look at hands-on models and tactile maps. Astronomers Noreen Grice and Dr. Dennis Dawson will answer your questions, describe the materials, and demonstrate that everyone can access astronomy.

* 7:00-8:00 p.m. The Benefits of Sleepshade (Blindfold) Training for Partially Sighted Children and Youth

Does it really help? Why do the NFB training centers use sleepshades? Are sleepshades effective for young children in school settings? Can parents use them effectively? Should

parents learn techniques under sleepshades? Come with your questions and an open mind, and we will honestly explore a topic frequently shunned or dismissed by traditionally trained O and M instructors.

* 8:00-9:30 p.m. Standards, Accountability, IDEA, and No Child Left Behind: What Do They Mean for Blind Students?

An update on the status of significant education legislation and trends in education policy and practice with an emphasis on their impact on the education of blind students. Moderated by NOPBC second vice president Marty Greiser. Speakers will include Mark Riccobono, Coordinator of Educational Programs, NFB Jernigan Institute, and NFB Director of Governmental Affairs, James McCarthy, who will give an update about the IMAA and IDEA.

* Childcare for the above NOPBC workshops will be available courtesy of NOPBC.

Saturday, July 3

* Tour Afternoon

The NOPBC encourages parents and children to take the afternoon off and enjoy Atlanta. We especially recommend the Fernbank Science Center and Planetarium Touch the Universe tour. NOPBC has collaborated with the NFB of Georgia to bring astronomers Noreen Grice and Dr. Dennis Dawson to Atlanta to assist with this special activity.

* 7:00 p.m. Audio-Described Family Night at the Movies

Movie title to be announced. Presented by NOPBC and the National Captioning Institute, Described Media Department.

NOPBC 2004 Activities Preregistration

Mail to:

Sandy Taboada, NOPBC Preregistration

6960 South Fieldgate Court

Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70808-5455

Email: [email protected]

Fees: $10, one adult, no children

$15 one adult, children   *     $25, two adults, children

Adult Name(s). Please include first and last name of each adult and indicate if the adult is a parent, grandparent, blind parent, teacher, other relative, etc.




City ___________________________State__________________  ZIP_______________

Telephone (     ) __________________________________________________________

Email __________________________________________________________________

Fee enclosed (make checks payable to NOPBC)  $ ___________


The fee includes at-large membership in the NOPBC and it covers all NOPBC workshops described in the “As the Twig Is Bent” 2004 convention article about NOPBC activities. It does NOT include the NFB convention registration fee which is $15 per person (including children) and must be paid in person at the convention on June 30 or at other designated times throughout the convention. It also does NOT include cost for NFB Camp (childcare), see elsewhere in this issue.

Will you be bringing children? [ ] Yes   [ ] No   [ ] Undecided

If yes or undecided, please list names and birth dates of child(ren); reading mode (Braille, print, large print, non-reader); and brief description of characteristics of which Carnival Buddies and other volunteers should be aware. Examples: Mild autism; wears hearing aid; has ADHD; shy—doesn’t talk to strangers.

Finally, in order to help us plan to have enough materials and volunteers for the children’s activities, please check the program your child may be interested in attending. Please note the age restrictions. Please copy this form or add a sheet of paper if you need space to register more children.


1. Name/birth date__________________________  Reading mode__________________

Characteristics (please be sure to tell us if your child is blind or sighted): _____________ ___________________________________________________________________

Please check the activities you think your child might attend:

[ ] Braille Carnival (age 6 - up)  

[ ] Exploring the Solar System: Youth Scavenger Hunt (age 8 - up)

[ ] Audio Description: The Visual Made Verbal  (sighted high school students)

[ ] Audio Describers Review and Judging (blind middle and high school students)

[ ] Teen Discussion Groups  (teens ages 14 - 18)

[ ] Teen Get-Acquainted Party (all teens, blind and sighted)

[ ] Astronomy Is for Everyone (all ages, children must be accompanied by an adult)

[ ] Audio-Described Family Night at the Movies

    (all ages, children must be accompanied by an adult)

2. Name/birth date__________________________ Reading mode__________________

Characteristics (please be sure to tell us if your child is blind or sighted): _____________ ________________________________________________________________________

Please check the activities you think your child might attend:

[ ] Braille Carnival (age 6 - up)  

[ ] Exploring the Solar System: Youth Scavenger Hunt (age 8 - up)

[ ] Audio Description: The Visual Made Verbal  (sighted high school students)

[ ] Audio Describers Review and Judging (blind middle and high school students)

[ ] Teen Discussion Groups  (teens ages 14 - 18)

[ ] Teen Get-Acquainted Party (all teens, blind and sighted)

[ ] Astronomy Is for Everyone (all ages, children must be accompanied by an adult)

[ ] Audio-Described Family Night at the Movies

    (all ages, children must be accompanied by an adult)

Atlanta 2004 NFB Convention Site

The 2004 NFB convention will take place in Atlanta, Georgia, June 29 through July 5 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, 265 Peachtree Center Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. The overflow hotel is the Hilton Atlanta and Towers, just across Courtland from the Marriott Marquis. Room rates are singles, doubles, and twins $59 and triples and quads $65 a night, plus tax of 14 percent at present. The hotels are accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent will be refunded if notice of cancellation is given before June 1, 2004. The other 50 percent is not refundable. For reservations call the Marriott Marquis at (404) 521-0000 and the Hilton Atlanta and Towers at (404) 659-2000.

Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, assuming that rooms are still available. After that the hotels will not hold their room blocks. So make your reservation now.

Both hotels are twelve miles north of the Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport and are conveniently located off Interstate 85. Take Exit 96, International Boulevard, turn left onto International Boulevard, go to Peachtree Center Avenue, and turn right. The Marriott Marquis is on the right in the second block. To get to the Hilton, turn left onto International Boulevard, go to Piedmont Avenue, and turn right. The Hilton is on the left. Guest-room amenities in both hotels include cable television, coffee pot, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, and dataport.

The schedule for the 2004 convention is as follows:

Tuesday, June 29                         Seminar Day

Wednesday, June 30                    Registration Day

Thursday, July 1                          Board Meeting and

                                                     Division Day

Friday, July 2                               Opening Session

Saturday, July 3                           Tour Day

Sunday, July 4                              Banquet Day

Monday, July 5                             Business Session

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Carla McQuillan]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: These kids discover that there is always something fun to do at NFB Camp.]

NFB Camp: It’s More Than Child’s Play

by Carla McQuillan

Programs and Activities

During convention week children six weeks through ten years of age are invited to join in the fun and festivities of NFB Camp. NFB Camp offers more than just childcare; it is an opportunity for our blind and sighted children to meet and develop lifelong friendships. Our activity schedule is filled with games, crafts, and special performances designed to entertain, educate, and delight. If you are interested in this year’s program, please complete and return the registration form provided at the end of this notice. Preregistration with payment on or before June 15, 2004, is mandatory for participation in NFB Camp. Space is limited, and each year some families have to be turned away.

About the Staff: NFB Camp is organized and supervised by Carla McQuillan, the executive director of Main Street Montessori Association, operating two schools, parent education courses, and a teacher-training program. Carla is the mother of two children, the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, and a member of the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind.

Michelle Ros, NFB Camp’s activities director since 1999, will not be available this year because of the birth of her second child, due mid-June. Michelle regrets her absence and promises to be with us next year, babe in arms. Instead Alison McQuillan—camp worker and teacher since 1998—will be our activities director this year. Over the years we have recruited professional childcare workers from the local community to staff NFB Camp. Recently we have determined that recruiting from our Federation families results in workers with proper philosophy and attitudes about our blind children. Carla and Alison will be supervising camp workers and all related activities.

Activities and Special Events: The children are divided into groups according to age: infants and toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged children. Each camp room is equipped with a variety of age-appropriate toys, games, and books, and we will have daily art projects. In addition school-aged children will have the opportunity to sign up for half-day trips to local area attractions.

The planned events include trips to underground Atlanta for ice cream, a tour of the Coca Cola museum, a visit to the Atlanta Center for Puppetry Arts, and more. Our field trip supervisor this year will be 2002 scholarship winner Nicolas Crisosto. Dates, times, additional fees, and sign-up sheets for field trips will be available at NFB Camp. Space for special events is limited to enrolled NFB Campers only, on a first-come, first-served basis. On the final day of NFB Camp we will conduct a big toy sale—brand new toys at bargain prices.

Banquet Night: NFB Camp will provide dinner and activities during the banquet. The cost for banquet activities is $15 per child in addition to other camp fees.

NFB Camp will be open during general convention sessions, division and committee meeting day, and the evening of the banquet. Plenty of teens are always available to baby-sit during evening and lunchtime meetings.

Please use the NFB Camp registration form included.

NFB Camp Schedule

NFB Camp will be open during general convention sessions, division and committee meeting day, and the evening of the banquet. Times listed are the opening and closing times of NFB Camp. Children are not accepted earlier than the times listed, and a late fee of $10 will be assessed for all late pick-ups. NFB Camp provides morning and afternoon snacks. You are responsible to provide lunch for your child(ren) every day except Tuesday.

Date                                          NFB Camp Hours

Tuesday, June 29                      8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, June 30                 Camp is closed.

Thursday, July 1                       8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Friday, July 2                            9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

                                                  and 1:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 3                        8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Sunday, July 4                          8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

                                                 and 1:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.

                                                 Banquet: 6:30 p.m.

Monday, July 5                        8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

                                                and 1:30-5:30 p.m.

You are required to provide lunch for your child(ren) each day except Tuesday.

These times may vary, depending on the timing of the actual convention sessions. NFB Camp will open thirty minutes before the beginning gavel and close thirty minutes after session recess.

NFB Camp Registration Form

Completed form and fees must be received on or before June 15, 2004

Parent’s Name____________________________________________________________

Address ________________________________________________________________

City _____________________ State ________ Zip ________ Phone ________________

Child(ren)’s Name(s)

______________________________________________Date of Birth _________ Age

______________________________________________Date of Birth _________ Age

______________________________________________Date of Birth _________ Age

Include description of any disabilities/allergies we should know about: ______________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Who, other than parents, is allowed to pick up your child? _________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

Per Week:         $80 first child; $60 siblings     # of children _____        $ ________

         (Does not include banquet)

Per Day:         $20 per child per day     # days ____ x $20/child        $ ________

         (Does not include banquet)

Banquet:         $15 per child          # of children _____ x $15             $ ________

Total Due        $ ________

We understand that NFB Camp is being provided as a service by the NFB to make our convention more enjoyable for both parents and children. We understand the rules we were given and agree to abide by them. We will pick up children immediately following sessions. We understand that if our child(ren) does not follow the rules or if for any reason staff are unable to care for our child(ren), further access to childcare will be denied.

Parent’s Signature __________________________________ Date ____________

Make checks payable to NFB Camp.

Return form to National Federation of the Blind of Oregon

5005 Main Street, Springfield, OR 97478, (541) 726-6924.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Carol Castellano]

A Brief Look At The Education Of Blind Children

by Carol Castellano

Editor’s Note: The following article is exactly what the title says it is—a brief, simplistic look at how blind children are educated in the United States today. We know that parents and teachers often have to explain over and over to friends, family members, and even school administrators and other school personnel, about the unique aspects of education for blind/ visually impaired children. We hope this article will make that task a little easier.

How Are Blind Children Educated?

There are approximately 100,000 blind/visually impaired children in the United States (about one child in one thousand), making blindness in children a low-incidence disability. Blind/visually impaired children are educated in a variety of settings, which range from a regular classroom in the neighborhood school to a separate school for the blind. However, about ninety percent of blind/visually impaired children, including those with additional disabilities, are educated in neighborhood schools. Since the 1960s most schools for the blind have specialized in educating blind children with additional, severe disabilities. Some schools for the blind also offer short-term placement programs for students who need intensive instruction in blindness skills, outreach services to students in public school settings, and preschool or early intervention programs.

Among the possible educational settings are the following:

*  The regular classroom

*  A special education classroom that includes children with various disabilities

*  A special education classroom with only blind/visually impaired students (usually in cities, where the population is higher)

*  A special school for children with various disabilities

*  A school for the blind

*  Home schooling

For education purposes, it can be useful to think of the population of blind children as divided into three subgroups. 1. Blind children who are fully integrated into regular classrooms and have the same academic goals as their sighted classmates. The main modifications for blindness for these students are adaptive tools and materials in tactile or enlarged form. These children usually have no other disabilities, or have other disabilities which are minor and do not significantly affect education services. 2. Blind children that have additional disabilities which require modifications to the curriculum and/or supports in the classroom setting in addition to adapted materials. 3. Blind children with severe additional disabilities. These children may require a completely individualized curriculum which may consist primarily of developmental rather than academic goals.

It may surprise some educators to learn that the vast majority of children who fit the legal and educational definitions of blindness and visual impairment actually have some usable vision. Only a very small percentage of blind students are totally or near totally blind (about ten percent). It is not “how blind” a student is, however, that determines a child’s educational placement. In fact, Braille-using students—children who generally have less vision—are often better equipped to keep pace in a regular classroom than their partially sighted peers who do not use Braille. This is because Braille is an effective reading medium; it allows access to virtually all print materials and enables students to read quickly and without fatigue. The law which governs the education of children with disabilities (the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act—IDEA) requires that students be placed not on the basis of their disability or its severity, but on the basis of the setting that can best meet each student’s individual educated-related needs and goals.

What Are The Special Features Of The Blind Student’s Curriculum?

Blind/visually impaired students have the same academic and developmental goals as sighted students of equal cognitive ability. The primary differences in their education are the following:

*  Blind students may require materials in an alternative format, such as Braille or enlarged print, and adaptive equipment, such as a talking computer or a magnification device.

*  In addition to the subjects in the regular curriculum, blind students learn the specialized skills of blindness, such as Braille reading, cane travel (orientation and mobility or O&M), and the use of adaptive technology.

A Few Words About Tactile Illustrations

Many types of tactile illustrations exist for use by blind children, but as a rule, Braille volumes do not contain illustrations. A few Braille storybooks do have tactile illustrations, and raised drawings can be found in mathematics textbooks. In textbooks for subjects like science and history, however, much as they rely on charts and graphs to convey data, illustrations are usually omitted. Added to the lack of tactile illustrations is the fact that there is little standardization governing the creation of these graphics. Although the ability to glean information from illustrations is crucial for many school subjects, most blind children do not receive systematic instruction in this area. Educators therefore may encounter some students who are skilled at interpreting tactile graphics and many who are not.

Use of the Tactile Sense

Since so many blind/visually impaired students are partially sighted, rather than totally blind, there may be many occasions when educators need to decide whether to encourage a child to use the visual or the tactile sense. A good rule of thumb is to see if the child’s eyesight is efficient for the particular task. If it is not, then encourage the child to use tactual techniques. For example, if the child must put his/her head practically onto the desk in order to examine an object visually, then by all means encourage that child to examine the object with his/her hands along with his/her eyesight. It makes sense that supplementing the somewhat impaired visual sense with the completely functioning tactile sense will enable the child to fully see the object in question. Likewise, if it appears that a blind student does not understand a concept being presented, be sure to put a representative or explanatory object into the child’s hands. What can seem to be learning difficulties often disappear when this simple technique is employed.

What Constitutes A Good Education For Blind Students?

Several elements need to be in place in order to make the education process work, regardless of a student’s educational setting:

*  Adequate instruction time from a teacher of the blind in the specialized skills and tools of blindness

*  Timely access to specialized materials and tools, such as Braille or enlarged books, tactile maps, and adaptive technology

*  Appropriate expectations for success

*  Training for classroom teachers

*  Access to social and extracurricular opportunities

Children who have serious multiple disabilities need all the programming appropriate to children of their cognitive or physical ability along with the specialized expertise of  a teacher of the blind who can assist with  materials and ways of presenting items and concepts.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of The Various Settings?

The various settings for the education of blind children offer different advantages and disadvantages.

The regular class in the regular school offers higher academic standards, extracurricular activities; social opportunities with sighted children, and “real world” experience. It can be difficult, however, to get specialized materials on time and to get adequate instruction time from a teacher of the blind. There can be barriers to social interaction with sighted classmates.

Special classes and special schools offer small classes and more individual attention. However, academic standards may be lower than in the regular classroom. There may be difficulty getting materials and adequate instruction time from a teacher of the blind.

Schools for the blind offer good access to specialized teachers and materials. They can also offer social opportunities with blind classmates. However, academic opportunities may not be on a par with public schools. The setting also inherently limits experience in getting along in the sighted world. In order to attend, some children have to live away from home.

For all these reasons, placement decisions are made on an individual basis.

What Education Challenges Do Blind Children Face And How Can School Staff Help Children Deal With Them?

Assuming that they have access to appropriate specialized instruction and materials, blind students face two significant challenges—low expectations on the part of the adults in their lives and barriers to social interaction with peers.

Low Expectations

Sighted people often hold dismal ideas about blindness and the abilities of blind people. They may not know any competent, successful blind adults and cannot imagine how anyone can achieve good results without eyesight! Sometimes such attitudes are held by school administrators and teachers. When this occurs, blind children are very vulnerable to being placed in lower level classes and having decisions made on their behalf by adults who have low expectations for their achievement. If, in addition, school personnel have not had adequate training in how to make the education of the blind child work, the education process can easily be derailed.

School staff can turn this situation around and help create an atmosphere of opportunity for blind students by making contact with active, competent blind adults, adopting positive attitudes about blindness, acquiring good training, and encouraging independence and full participation on the part of blind students.

Barriers to Social Interaction

Making friends and having normal social interaction with peers is not always easy for the blind child. Sometimes the blind child lacks opportunity or experience. Some children lack social skills. And some face the bias that is still present in our society against people who are different in some way.  Classroom teachers can aid in this challenge in several ways:

*  Foster an atmosphere of friendliness, respect, and acceptance during all activities.

*  Have all necessary materials prepared in advance so that the blind student can fully participate in all activities.

*  When conducting group activities, help the blind student become part of a group and facilitate the child’s participation, if he/she needs such assistance.

What Other Issues Impact The Education Of Blind Children?

One serious issue that affects many blind/visually impaired children is the selection of a reading medium. For a variety of reasons, the teaching of Braille to blind/visually impaired students waned over the past few decades, to the point where in 1998, less than 9.5 percent of blind students were Braille users. By way of contrast, in 1963, 57 percent of students knew Braille. This is of serious concern because partially sighted students who do not learn Braille do not reach literacy levels on a par with sighted peers. Braille-reading students, on the other hand, attain literacy levels equal to and sometimes above those of sighted students. There are far too many blind/visually impaired children who do not have a reading medium that allows them to keep up in class, handle a flow of information, read long passages without discomfort or fatigue, take their own notes, and read for pleasure. Students who are denied Braille often cannot effectively complete advanced classes like algebra and geometry.

The Braille literacy issue extends to life after schooling is ended. Although there is a high unemployment rate for adults with disabilities, of those blind people that are employed, 85 percent are Braille readers! By not teaching Braille to partially sighted students, educators are denying them entry into satisfying jobs and professions.

Another issue that affects the education of blind children is a shortage of specialized teachers of the blind. This shortage means that many students do not get enough instruction time with these specialists to develop and master their blindness skills. This leaves them on a very uneven playing field. With teacher preparation programs turning out very small numbers of teachers of the blind and many teachers nearing retirement age, this shortage is expected to intensify in the years to come.

A third concern is that too often blind students do not have their materials in time for the start of the school year. This, of course, puts them at a great disadvantage in the classroom. (Imagine, for example, starting an algebra course without an algebra book.) There are numerous causes for this problem, among them a shortage of Braille transcribers and an increase in the number of books needed in Braille. A national effort is underway to solve this problem through legislative means, but at present, this endeavor is stalled.

These challenges require more teamwork than ever before in order for the education of a blind/visually impaired child to be a success. Cooperation and partnership among school administrators, classroom teachers, the teacher of the blind, and parents are vital to the process.

Helpful Books, Literature, And Videos

Braille into the Next Millennium

Judith M. Dixon, Ed.

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

1291 Taylor St. NW

Washington, DC 20542

(800) 424-9100



The following five items are available from:

National Center for the Blind

NFB Materials Center

1800 Johnson Street

Baltimore, MD 21230-4998

(410) 659-9314

[email protected]


1. The Bridge to Braille: Reading and School Success for the Young Blind Child

Carol Castellano and Dawn Kosman

2. Handbook for Itinerant and Resource Teachers of Blind and Visually Impaired


Doris Willoughby and Sharon Duffy

3. It’s Not So Different (VHS video)

4. That the Blind May Read (VHS video)

5. Braille Is Beautiful—A Disability Awareness Program for Sighted Children


Beginning with Braille: Firsthand Experiences with a Balanced Approach to Literacy

Ana M. Swenson

American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)

11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300

New York, NY 10001

(800) 232-3044



Discovering the Magic of Reading: Elizabeth’s Story (VHS video)

Opening Doors: Through an Act to Promote the Education of the Blind (VHS video)

both available from:

American Printing House for the Blind (APH)

1839 Frankfort Ave.

PO Box 6085

Louisville, KY 40206-0085

(800) 223-1839



Perkins Activity and Resource Guide: A Handbook for Teachers and Parents of Students with Visual and Multiple Disabilities

Perkins School for the Blind

175 North Beacon St.

Watertown, MA 02472

(617) 924-3434



Early Learning—Step by Step

Are You Blind?

Space and Self

The Comprehending Hand

and other books by Lilli Nielsen available from:

Vision Associates

7512 Dr. Phillips Blvd., #50 316

Orlando, FL 32819

(407) 352-1200


[PHOTO/CAPTION: Caroline Rounds]

Blind Kids Lost in the Educational System

by Caroline Rounds

Editor’ Note: The following article is reprinted from the November 2002 issue of the Braille Monitor, the monthly publication of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).

It is taken from a speech delivered by Caroline Rounds at the NFB of California convention in October of 2001. It also appeared in the spring/summer, 2002, issue of the affiliate’s newsletter. Mrs. Rounds was recently honored as the 2003 winner of the $10,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship Award. Here is what she says about some of the problems she has observed in the education of blind children:

Thank you for allowing me to address you with my thoughts and concerns about the education of our blind children in the public schools today. I taught regular education in a school which addresses the needs of children whom we call troubled readers. I have taught fourth, fifth, and sixth graders who are for one reason or another still emerging readers. In this capacity I have attended many literacy seminars. As I sat there I heard over and over again, “All children should be reading by the age of nine.” I couldn’t help wondering if they really meant “all children,” because I know a group of children who are not reading at grade level. That is when my excitement, passion, and enthusiasm began for working with our blind children.

The definition of literacy is being able to read and write with meaning and purpose. As I sat in those seminars, I heard a lot about how children learn to read and why they need to read. We all know that reading is important. We have reading programs in prisons because we know that if prisoners can read and write their success rate when they get out of prison is much higher.

The state of California realized that children had to do better before graduation. We had children graduating who could not complete job applications. This problem needed to be addressed in public education. As a result the state of California put a lot of money into this area. As a regular education teacher I was a beneficiary. In that capacity I received a lot of training and eventually became a trainer of trainers who would go on to teach other teachers about literacy. I learned about what that really meant and what the research said. I would like to reflect on the way this relates to our blind children.

First of all I learned that reading is learned. Children do not all of a sudden “get it” so that one-day they can read. Reading has to be taught purposefully. However, if you think of how our blind children are educated currently, the delivery system is limited. Most of our blind children are taught by itinerant teachers. This is a good system—if it works. However, in my district it means that our students are visited by an itinerant teacher maybe two times a week for an hour. They get an aide who comes another two or three times a week for another hour. In our case those aides do know some Braille. So now we are talking four, maybe five hours a week. Sometimes the child has a one-on-one aide who knows no Braille. This person is usually learning Braille at the same time as the student. If literacy is learned, who is doing the teaching of our blind children? If our sighted children were taught reading five hours a week including the code, we would be appalled. I couldn’t help wondering who was working with our struggling blind readers.

We learned that the research shows that students need to be fully immersed when they are learning to read. That means print must be everywhere. They need to be exposed, not only to textbooks, but also to menus, newspapers, and magazines. Those are the kinds of things our kids need to see to learn to read. Our sighted children get this immersion; do we really think we are immersing our blind children with Braille during a mere five hours a week?

Another thing the research taught us is that in order for children to learn to read, they need prior knowledge. If you are reading a story about a sailboat, you have to know what a sailboat is or the story has no meaning. Sighted children can look at pictures or videos and develop a concept of a sailboat as they read the story. Who is exposing our blind kids to such information while they are reading about the sailboat? It simply cannot be done in five hours a week.

I want to stop to say that there are some very dedicated teachers in the regular education classes who attempt to address the needs of their mainstreamed blind students. I know what that is like because I was one of those teachers. I had a class of thirty-two students who had thirty-two different learning styles. However, in general what happens is that the most needy child with the most severe needs, who should have one-on-one instruction, does not get it. I wonder if the regular education teacher is handing that blind child a sailboat to feel while the sighted children are looking at a picture? I was really worried about that.

We also learned that when a child is struggling, early intervention is vital. The research shows that if children are not reading on grade level by the third grade or the age of nine, they have lost ground for the rest of their reading careers. They will never be the good readers they could be, no matter how much instruction they get. So early intervention for struggling readers is very important.

However, what I was hearing from some teachers of the blind was that you cannot expect these children to read on grade level because they are blind and they are reading Braille. Therefore they are going to be slower. Already we were losing ground because our children weren’t reading at grade level, and no one thought they needed to.

Just about that time, when I was becoming very frustrated, I learned of a parent in the area who was threatening a lawsuit against the district for noncompliance. This parent knew better. She was not going to accept the poor service-delivery model in place in my area. Shortly thereafter, lo and behold, the district implemented a full-immersion Braille program, which the teachers had been trying to get for the students for three years. The only problem was that no one was available to fill the position. I was asked if I might be interested in applying. I am very happy to tell you that I have proudly started my new job as the teacher of the visually impaired in Apple Valley, California.

I would like to tell you what I saw when I got into my new classroom. The program I was supposed to implement was set up for eight academic blind Braille-reading children. These students ranged in age from first to fifth grade. What I saw was very frightening. They had problems with social development, daily living skills, and other areas of responsibility according to the California Guidelines for Educating Blind and Visually Impaired Children. However, when you visit a child for only two hours a week, what do you focus on?

Everyone assumes that everyone else is teaching these skills. I had ten-year-old children who could not tie their shoes. I had a six-year-old child who could not put on her own coat because she could not find the top. And these were bright children. That was what I saw in my first hour in this new position. All my lesson plans went right out the window. I saw children who pounded away on the Braillewriter for a while and then asked, “Did I do it right?” They had no idea if they were writing the words properly. When I taught sighted children, they checked their own work. These children did not know how to. They were not reading what they wrote. They were functioning significantly below grade level. That is how they became eligible for the Special Day Class Program. They were already in trouble. We also know from research that certain reading behaviors must be taught. I found that my blind students had very poor reading habits. They were not sitting erect, their hands were flat on the page, they read with one hand, their other hand was not trailing, and they read one letter at a time. These reading behaviors would have been corrected if someone had been monitoring the students. In regular education we were constantly nagging students to sit up straight and hold the book upright. No one was doing that for the blind children because the teacher of the visually impaired was there only twice a week. Since no self-correction was going on, the students were not learning to read and write properly. As I have said, literacy means reading and writing.

We have learned through research that children need modeling as they learn to read. Who better to do that for them than someone who is proficient in the reading and writing of Braille? They need deliberate instruction. We must establish standards to determine the specific things that blind children should know as they learn to read. We must all agree on these as we instruct them. They also need background knowledge. Blind kids do not learn from pictures and videos; they learn from real life experiences. So before they read a story, we need to make sure that they understand the concepts and ideas and items mentioned in that story. That requires a teacher who cares enough to see that the blind child is instructed in reading. Teachers need multiple strategies.

When a teacher visits only once or twice a week, she is only teaching a code. This is the first part, but children also need strategies for learning to read, such as using context clues and talking about what the story is about. They also need appropriate feedback. They need someone to tell them how well they are doing, not just giving them a little pat on the back. Our current delivery system does not make that possible. I am not sure what it will take to make the changes necessary, but as we move forward on the passage of our Braille bill, we need to keep these things in mind.

The title of my talk states that our blind children are lost. The opposite of loss is gain. Our children need to be gaining the skills that they need for literacy. The opposite of losing is winning. We need to make sure that our children are winning functional literacy skills so that they learn to read in time to be able to compete equally and be competitive when they are grown up. The opposite of losing is finding. We need to make sure that our children are able to find their full potential. Even our children with additional disabilities need to be getting as much Braille as they can absorb so that they will have a wide range of choices in their future too.

I am very happy that I now get to work with blind children. I hope that what I have said here will challenge you. The passing of the Braille bill is exciting, but our work has just begun.

Donations Needed for 2004 Braille Book Flea Market

Donate your gently used but no longer wanted Braille books to the 2004 annual Braille Book Flea Market, sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille. Books should be in good condition. Cookbooks and books suitable for children and young adults are preferred. Books may be shipped Free Matter for the Blind between April 1 and June 1, 2004, to:

Attn: Christy Davis--NFB Conference Materials

UPS HR Department General Office

215 Marvin Miller Drive

Atlanta, Georgia 30336

Do not mark the packages or boxes in any other way, and use the address exactly as given here. Donations from the flea market will be used to support the Braille Readers Are Leaders expanded literacy program.

[PHOTO/CAPTIONS: Mark Riccobono]

A Brighter Future for Blind Children

The 2003 NFB Summit on Education Helps Shape Programming for the NFB Jernigan Institute

by Mark A. Riccobono

Editor’s Note: Mark Riccobono has recently been appointed to coordinate educational programming for the NFB Jernigan Institute. Last August a number of Federationists with interest and expertise in education for the blind gathered at the National Center for the Blind to do the groundwork on setting educational policy and establishing program priorities for the Jernigan Institute. Mark Riccobono led the discussion and here reports on the work of that group:

The work of the National Federation of the Blind improving opportunities for blind children is very near the top of our list of priorities. With the impact on regular education of the new focus on standards, the changing classroom environment because of technology, and the endless battle over school budgets, is it any wonder that our concern about the education of blind children is growing? But the problems facing us are not as simple as addressing what is new in regular education. In addition we must consider the trends and activities in special education, particularly with teachers of blind students and orientation and mobility instructors. Because of the critical role the National Federation of the Blind plays in ensuring that blind children receive appropriate training and opportunity, and with the coming development of innovative programs in the NFB Jernigan Institute, leaders in the NFB came together to discuss the education of blind children.

On August 22 and 23, 2003, NFB leaders, educators, and parents of blind children met at the National Center for the Blind to discuss the current status of the education of blind children in the United States. This 2003 NFB Summit on Education was part of the effort to address our growing concern that the current educational system is not providing appropriate instruction to blind children and, furthermore, that the system lacks the innovation to attain successful outcomes for these children. Twenty-one Federationists came together for two days of discussion and brainstorming about the education of blind children. This important meeting, however, was simply one piece of the process. Much more must be done to ensure that every blind child receives an appropriate education based on high expectations.

Before reporting some of the highlights of the 2003 NFB Summit on Education, we should review the role the NFB has already played in the education of blind children. After all, we have already made a significant difference. Consider just two examples from the last twenty years or so. First is our successful effort to get canes into the hands of blind children as early as possible. We began publishing Future Reflections in October of 1981, and from the beginning many of its articles focused on the importance of having child-size canes for youngsters to begin using as soon as they could walk. The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children came into being at the 1983 national convention, and shortly thereafter the NFB produced the video, Kids With Canes. Today many professionals have begun to teach blind kids to use the long white cane at an earlier age. Moreover, our literature and expertise on the subject are gaining increased acceptance.

Second is our strong leadership in meeting the Braille literacy crisis in this country, which led to the adoption in thirty-two states of Braille bills based on our model legislation as well as our successful work to pass the 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that provide Braille instruction to all blind students unless, after an evaluation assessing the child’s current and future reading needs, the IEP team determines that Braille is not appropriate. Our efforts have continued to secure timely access to materials (the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act) and at the local level to establish educational programs such as Braille Is Beautiful and to expand the Braille Readers Are Leaders programs. While these examples are significant, they represent only a fraction of the positive impact the NFB has made since 1940. Yet even in these areas, cane travel and Braille literacy for blind children, our work is not nearly complete.

How then do we begin to tackle the problems that still exist in the education of blind children? That is what the participants in the 2003 NFB Summit on Education worked on in late August. We had much lively discussion with a number of themes emerging by the end of the two days. Seven of these, in no particular order, were:

*  Changes and innovations in the delivery system for serving blind children. We spent considerable time discussing the emphasis in the field on the shortage of qualified personnel, which is often cited as the major problem facing the field as a whole. However, with our unique perspective and collective experience of blindness, we disagreed with this analysis. Summit participants concluded that the shortage of trained professionals exists only if one assumes that the current philosophy behind educating the blind and the method of delivering services to blind children are effective and efficient. We agreed, however, that they are not effective and that this appalling shortcoming is the most serious crisis facing blind children today. The philosophy underlying the delivery of instruction and the approach to providing services are the problems that must be addressed immediately.

*  Infusing a positive philosophy as early as possible. Participants discussed their conviction that the profound lack of strong early-intervention programs based on high expectations and positive approaches to blindness puts blind children at a significant disadvantage from the start. All too often parents of blind children are confronted from the beginning with negative stereotypes and low expectations for their children by the professionals with whom they deal. Children who lack opportunities and expectations early on are labeled as slower, and a general acceptance of this lag grows out of the misguided notion that “It just takes these children longer.” The summit concluded that the NFB must stimulate cultivation of intensive, excellent early childhood programs based on our effective philosophy and approach to blindness. We must do everything we can to encourage parents to take an active, even leading part in teaching and enabling their blind children to keep up with their peers.

*  Strategies for demystifying the education of blind children and infusing positive literature and resources into the system. We discussed a number of ideas for specific programs and products to assist parents trying to prepare their blind children for success. Some of these programs, like the science camp which Dr. Maurer announced in his 2003 Presidential Report and which is highlighted later in this issue, are already on our radar screen, but others will need to be developed.

*  Better educational programs for parents, paraprofessionals, and teachers. As the voice of the nation’s blind, we are in a unique position to train others to assist in providing needed support and educational services. Using our knowledge and experience with training programs, we can expand our reach to encourage people interested in providing a truly appropriate education for every blind child. Consistent with the NFB Jernigan Institute’s mission to drive innovation in the field of blindness, the NFB Online Education Program will be central to this training.  The first course in the program, “Introduction to the Education of Blind Children in the Regular Classroom,” was launched as one of the inaugural projects of the NFB Jernigan Institute at the grand opening celebration on January 30.

*  Establishment of standards for blind youth in blindness and life-coping skill areas. Another important discussion occurred around the notion of how we know whether or not blind youth are meeting appropriate standards. Individualized planning for blind students from kindergarten through twelfth grade, as enshrined in federal law, is intended to ensure that every child receiving special education services will be taught according to team decisions made especially and solely for that student. While the intention of federal law is to help each child appropriately and individually, the effect on blind children has been devastating. This practice has resulted in education being provided to each blind student as though this were the first blind student ever taught. The effect is most damaging in the teaching of blindness and life-coping skills. This means no standards by which school administrators, both regular and special education, can assess the progress of the blind student in learning or the effectiveness of the teacher of blind children in teaching blindness skills. On the other hand, those same teachers, particularly those providing good instruction, have no standards to use in convincing their administrators of the appropriate amount of instructional time required to properly teach those blindness and life-coping skills. Worst of all, the blind student has no way of measuring his or her mastery of blindness skills, and most blind students emerge from high school certain that they are doing splendidly until the reality of college and employment shows them otherwise. The NFB’s knowledge and experience and our ability to pool the two in collective, thoughtful analysis as well as our long record of trying to make the current system work, uniquely suit us to provide valid criticism of the status quo and to forge solutions that will change the world for America’s blind youngsters. That means real standards against which age-appropriate progress can be measured. The obvious place to start is to learn what today’s blind students are actually doing in key blindness areas and then use that information to fashion standards for performance against which individual student performance can be measured.

*  Pursuing meaningful research that will drive better instruction for blind children. A number of critical research and data questions were raised. These range from improving Braille literacy to tracking the performance of blind children in order to measure the effectiveness of the services they receive. These research ideas are unlike the research currently being done in the blindness field. The questions we raised are grounded in the unique perspective of blind people and are better characterized, in the words of Dr. Fred Schroeder, as “advocacy research.” Undoubtedly such research questions will be a part of the work of the NFB Jernigan Institute. Certainly the question of effective and age-appropriate use of access technology has already registered concern across the Federation, and more research will need to be done on how and when to introduce blind children to keyboarding, electronic notetakers, and computers with speech and screen-enlargement programs.

*  Developing partnerships with key programs and innovators in education to create model programs and practices based on positive Federation philosophy and the latest research on child development and learning acquisition. Where possible, we need to create relationships and work closely with those in the blindness field and beyond who can assist us to develop new programs for blind children. A number of ideas for accomplishing this were generated and will be incorporated into our future work.

Our discussion was just one step in the process of building an educational program within the NFB Jernigan Institute that will dramatically improve the opportunities and resources available to blind youth and those concerned with their education. The notes from the 2003 NFB Summit on Education have been compiled into a form which will allow the NFB Jernigan Institute to track and update our progress on the strategies identified at this initial meeting. Many of the priorities and concerns discussed at the Education Summit will be incorporated into the Strategic Plan for the Institute, so we will all be able to follow program development in the months and years to come.

We must not stop with the 2003 NFB Summit on Education, and in true Federation spirit readers must not simply follow the progress of our educational programs. As we continue efforts in the Federation and in building the programs of the NFB Jernigan Institute, our innovative ideas, rooted in our experience and understanding of blindness, must be our driving force. In no other place are these innovations being cultivated in the way we will establish them, and this perspective is the critical element that makes the Federation the leader it is in the blindness field.

All of us then have a role in devising ideas and developing the resources to make the ideas work. While the Education Summit generated a number of useful strategies that we can use as a springboard for the Institute, we continue to need discussion and innovation. Members of the Federation working in local communities to improve conditions for blind children are essential. Your ideas and innovations must be part of the NFB Jernigan Institute. These ideas will necessarily evolve and change, but each idea has an important role in shaping our initiatives based on a positive consumer approach to blindness.

As we build our educational programs, we will need to know about successful programs and resources across the country. While the Institute will leverage our experience with blindness, it will also allow us to create powerful partnerships with those professionals who get it. We will welcome learning about any positive efforts in support of blind youth. Our 2004 NFB Science Camps are a perfect example of the partnerships and innovations we will try to cultivate through the Institute.

Will blind children continue to be left behind? Will their parents continue to struggle to receive barely mediocre services? Will valuable educational resources continue to fall through the cracks or be needlessly reinvented? Will general educators learn the truth about blindness and how to deal positively with a blind child in the classroom? Fortunately our answers to these questions based on our experience embody great hope. The positive force for change evident in our work today is the same one that was born in 1940. It led the way to improved expectations and opportunities for blind children, and it is now establishing the research and training programs which will forever change the face of education for blind children. The National Federation of the Blind is not a new trend in education. Rather it is the voice of reason and experience and power with a growing track record of success. Let us work together to ensure that no blind child is left to face life without the confidence and independence he or she can achieve.

Please contact Mark Riccobono with your thoughts, ideas, and information about innovative programs for blind children. He can be reached at the National Center for the Blind (410) 659-9314 or by email at <[email protected]>.

National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute

In 1999, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) commenced the “Campaign to Change What it Means to be Blind.” The campaign goal was to raise $19.5 million to build a one-of-a-kind research and training institute on blindness. In 2001, the groundbreaking ceremony was held at the Institute site adjacent to the headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind. On January 30, 2004, the NFB proudly celebrated the Grand Opening of the Institute with more than 1,400 guests from across the country. That same day, the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind unanimously voted to name it the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute.

Dr. Kenneth Jernigan was the most prominent and effective leader in the field of blindness of the 20th century, and it was his dream to build a research and training facility which would revolutionize attitudes about blindness and promote independence and greater opportunities for blind people. The NFB Jernigan Institute will be the most effective means of developing and disseminating resources and programs for the blind in the 21st century.


The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute leads the quest to understand the real problems of blindness and to develop innovative education, technologies, products, and services that help the world’s blind to achieve independence.


Jernigan Institute Initiatives

*  Research, develop and support the commercialization of technologies for meeting the needs of the blind as articulated by the world’s blind population.

*  Develop innovative training methods and education for the entire blind population with special emphasis on underserved populations, e.g., blind seniors and blind children.

*  Improve non-visual access to and use of information through innovative technologies and Braille education.

*  Evaluate, develop and implement programs to increase employment opportunities for the blind.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Betsy Zaborowski]

NFB Jernigan Institute Director Named

by Barbara Pierce

The following item is excerpted from the January 2004, Braille Monitor article titled “NFB Research and Training Institute Director Named.

For many months now President Maurer has been engaged in a careful search for the right person to supervise the staffing, equipping, and roll-out of programs in the new Institute as its executive director. During the annual meeting of the NFB board of directors at Thanksgiving he announced his appointment: Dr. Betsy Zaborowski.

As soon as the announcement was made, those in the room could appreciate the obvious fit between the job description and Dr. Z. Most recently she has been director of special programs for the NFB. She was responsible for program development and community outreach nationally, concentrating on technology, seniors, and educational initiatives. Along with developing key partnerships with businesses and universities, she established the NFB’s annual celebration and fundraiser, the national Meet-the-Blind public awareness campaign; the Braille Is Beautiful curriculum for sighted children; and the NFB’s annual Seniors’ Low-Vision Resource Fair in Baltimore. But her highest priority during the past four years has been to assist with fundraising and preliminary planning for the NFB Jernigan Institute. Working with the NFB membership throughout the country, she led the effort to secure a funding commitment of six million dollars from the state of Maryland in support of the Institute.

Dr. Zaborowski brings to this new job expertise and experience in education, psychology, program development, promotion, and resource management. For eight years previous to joining the NFB staff, Dr. Zaborowski was a clinical psychologist in Baltimore. Along with maintaining a successful private practice, Dr. Zaborowski taught in the Graduate School of Education at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and lectured at the JHU Medical School and the Kennedy Krieger Institute. Previous to her move from Colorado to Baltimore in 1987, she practiced in the field of health psychology for Kaiser Permanente, served as a mental health and university-based counselor, and worked for six years as a grade-six-to-twelve school guidance counselor.

Dr. Zaborowski received her doctorate in psychology from the University of Denver and her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Menomonie. As a psychologist she served on and chaired the American Psychological Association’s Committee on Disability Issues in Psychology, and for the Maryland Psychological Association (MPA) she served as chair of the Women’s Committee and as delegate-at-large on the MPA executive council.

Dr. Zaborowski was chosen as one of Maryland’s top 100 women by the Daily Record in 1998 and 2000. In 2003 she was recognized again with this award and was inducted, along with a select group of previous top 100 honorees, into the Circle of Excellence of Maryland’s Top 100 Women.

In 1997 the governor of Maryland appointed Dr. Zaborowski to the Maryland Information Technology Board. She was the first chair of the Mayor’s Commission on Disabilities and was appointed to two terms on the Baltimore City Women’s Commission. She also served for several years on the Governor’s Advisory Board on People with Disabilities and has consulted for a number of organizations and companies in time management, stress management, sexual harassment, leadership skills, and disability issues. She recently completed a year in the Baltimore Leadership Program and serves on the board of the YMCA at Stadium Place.

Betsy Zaborowski has a long and active history as an NFB volunteer. She joined the organization in 1979 and has served as treasurer of the Colorado affiliate and president of the NFB Human Services Division. In 2001 we presented Dr. Zaborowski and her husband James Gashel the Jacobus tenBroek Award, our highest national recognition of exemplary service.

We can all be exceedingly proud of this appointment of our own Betsy Zaborowski as executive director of the NFB Jernigan

Institute. She is taking on a tremendously challenging job. It will require all of her many talents and skills. She will also need every bit of commitment and dedication that the entire Federation family can provide to support this new endeavor.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jennifer Kennedy]

Let the Freedom Bell Ring!

by Kathy Kennedy

Reprinted from the Fall 2003 issue of the NFB Buckeye Bulletin, a publication of the NFB of Ohio.

Editor’s Note: It is my belief that, upon approaching high school graduation, blind young people (and yes, I mean “legally blind” and “visually impaired”—you too) should seriously struggle with the question about attending a good rehabilitation training center before going on to college or getting out on their own. There is no one right answer for everyone, but the experiences of other students can be useful and instructive. The author of this article, Kathy Kennedy, is the mother of Jennifer Kennedy, who is a student leader in the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio and a 2001 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship winner. Here is what her mother has to say about Jen’s recent rehabilitation training center experience:

What you are trying to tell me, Doctor, is that “Jennifer is now legally blind and progressing towards total loss of vision.” How difficult those words were for a mother to embrace. The only thing that seemed real to me at the time was fear coupled with tremendous waves of grief. After all, this was not what I envisioned when the delivering doctor had pronounced her healthy just thirteen years before this devastating news was dropped like a ton of bricks on our family. “It isn’t supposed to be like this, God!” I cried out in the privacy of my room that night with tears streaming down my face and my fists pounding. I thought, she has the ability, spirit, and determination to be a leader and excel in life. Without sight she’ll lose her independence, have to settle for less of a career than she is mentally capable of, and forfeit the right to live life fully. I could not answer the simplest questions regarding how blind people function in a sighted world. I’ve never felt so helpless, hopeless, and empty.

That was over seven years ago. During these years Jen has lost more field vision, light perception, and visual acuity. With training funded by the Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired (BSVI), she began using a cane. She was also introduced to Braille and was given some adaptive equipment. She got a CCTV [closed circuit television], a computer equipped with JAWS, magnifiers, etc. Even with this equipment in place, Jen continued to make demands on her eyes. She was in pain both physically and mentally. Blindness began taking a toll on her. Her self-confidence and ability to function independently were slipping away as her vision diminished.

During the spring of her freshman year in college Jennifer bottomed out. Navigating the campus was difficult. Her eyes were no longer trustworthy, and the more she used them the more pain and frustration she experienced. She felt isolated in her journey into blindness, and she knew it was time to get help. “It’s time to head for the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB), Mom,” the desperate voice on the phone cried out. After a call to her BSVI counselor and a visit to her academic advisor, she exited the university and returned home.

Jen had done her homework. She had already been to the Cleveland Sight Center and recognized that they had nothing more to offer her. She researched the programs of other rehabilitation facilities in the state and talked to consumers of those programs. None were as thorough and exhaustive as necessary to make blindness skills second nature. Jen knew she had to be in a program that forced her to deal with blindness during every waking hour. Moreover, it was not enough to learn the skills of blindness; she had to develop a positive philosophy about blindness. She concluded that this could only be done if she was surrounded by people who believed in the inherent normality of blind people. After much investigation, consideration, soul-searching, and agonizing about going so far away from home, Jen determined that she needed the rigorous training offered by the Louisiana Center for the Blind. She had done conscientious research and had carefully compared the confidence and skills of LCB graduates against the attitudes and abilities of Ohio residents who had completed the adult training programs offered by local agencies, and she knew that she was making an informed choice about the services she needed and the best provider to deliver them. She assumed that the funding she needed would be approved quickly by BSVI, but two weeks later came the reply—funding to go out of state for services denied.

She spent the next six months at home, frustrated, depressed, and filled with anxiety. It was agonizing for her father and me to watch this. We knew that the adjustment to blindness was difficult enough that she didn’t need anything else added to it. We agonized about what we could do to help her get to the Louisiana Center. Unfortunately, we knew we did not have the money to help her. It was excruciating to know that help and hope were dangling just out of her reach, but we could do nothing to bring them close enough to her to make a difference.

Through Jen’s determination and the commitment, strength, and dedication of Eric Duffy and the NFB of Ohio, the decision to refuse funding was overturned. At last Jen was (as Jim Gashel said in his banquet address at the NFB of Ohio 2002 convention) beginning to move from the role of victim to victorious.

Once she arrived in Louisiana, it was difficult for us to catch Jen in her apartment in the evening. She was going roller-skating under sleepshades, rehearsing for plays, cleaning her apartment for inspection, or planning and shopping for groceries to complete her cooking requirement for graduation. She had to cook and serve two meals. One was for eight people, and the other was for forty. How many of us have ever cooked and served a meal for forty people? She phoned one night from New Orleans to tell us about sleepshade navigation in crowds. She was at Mardi Gras!

Her father and I could feel her confidence building as each month passed. She told us about all the new power tools she was using in industrial tech and about the original black-walnut jewelry box she was designing and creating for her final project. We marveled as the LCB, which had once seemed so far away from Ohio, became a part of our home through instructor-emailed pictures of Jen using the band saw, router, table saw, and other power equipment. She completed a college class at Louisiana Tech under sleepshades. She took notes with a slate and stylus. She was determined, as Dr. Fred Schroeder once wrote in the Student Slate (a publication of the National Association of Blind Students), to learn “the skills of blindness which, in the final analysis, will allow him or her to truly function on an equal footing with others.”

After eight months at the LCB, Jen invited her father and me to graduation. We were excited about making the trip. We wanted to see the facility and meet the wonderful people who were inspiring her to achieve such independence. We wanted to see where she lived and how she had learned.

She graduated this past June. The ceremony was a true celebration as each student and instructor took the opportunity to talk about Jen’s growth and reminisce about humorous things. We heard stories about the completion of her final travel requirement. She had to complete a 5.6-mile independent walk around the town of Ruston. As we listened, adults of all ages commented on what an inspiration Jen was to them, urging them to strive to be all they could and to forge ahead on days when they’d rather pull off the shades and say, “I can’t do this!” As one student commented, “This is one spunky girl.” We heard how she recaptured her life and was living it fully. The Center was filled with people, warm, supportive, and loving, each more special than the next. Here were adults facing their fears and reclaiming their lives with the help of LCB’s outstanding instructors, all of whom either are blind or can function under sleepshades in their area of instruction.

Jen returned home for a visit, but the week after the national convention she flew to Maryland to work with the NFB Corps. She was excited to have a real job and put her skills to the test. It took no time at all to realize that we no longer had a blind daughter named Jennifer Kennedy; rather our daughter Jennifer views her blindness as a mere inconvenience. It is easy to see why she insisted on the best rehabilitation facility available, with a program unparalleled in its field. She learned the philosophy of blindness and how to handle herself in various public situations. She learned when to accept assistance and when to insist on her right to remain independent. She travels with grace and poise gained from the travel experiences she mastered. Whether she is using public transportation, walking through airports, or exploring new cities, she strides with confidence.

The NFB program worked because she lived it twenty-four hours a day. Sometimes she spent evenings in her apartment memorizing play lines or reading sixty pages of Braille to increase her speed from twenty words per minute to ninety-five. She spent evenings with readers transcribing the autobiography of Michael J. Fox into Braille. She presented the completed book to the LCB library upon her graduation. This fulfilled her computer requirement. Graduation from LCB brought with it far more meaning than graduation from high school. Indeed this was something special she worked very hard to achieve. As part of the graduation ceremony Pam Allen, the director of LCB, presented her with a freedom bell complete with engraved name and graduation date. Jen rang the bell with vigor and a smile that seemed to span a mile. As parents, our hearts and eyes overflowed with tears of gratitude and pride. We also left LCB having been given a gift, freedom from the worries about blindness and the future for our daughter. Instead we were filled with the knowledge that our daughter has a future filled with promise, the skills necessary to succeed, and the NFB there to support her each step of the way.

Jen’s Story

by Jan Lyon

Editor’s Note: Jan Lyons is from New Hartford. A couple of years ago she shared the inspiring story of the importance of Braille literacy to her blind, multiply-disabled daughter, Jenny, with members of the NFB at a state convention in Connecticut. The first part of the following article is an adaptation of her remarks which were published in the July 2002, issue of The Federationist in Connecticut. The second part is an update about Jen’s pending transition from high school to the next phase of life. It is a bitter-sweet time for the family as they celebrate Jen’s successes, but also grapple with the reality that life after high school—college and beyond—requires a much higher standard of blindness skills for the achievement of independence and success. Here is what Jan has to say:

In 1987 I adopted my first daughter, Jenny Kate. A twenty-six week gestation baby, Jen weighed one pound, three ounces at birth. Jen came home at thirteen months having just reached ten pounds.  She was on eleven medications, in an oxygen tent, had leg splints, was hooked up to heart monitors, and was still being tube fed. She had retinopathy of prematurity, cerebral palsy, and was a beautiful animated child. It never occurred to me to be worried about her blindness—I was worried about her survival. But after one major hospitalization and a stomach tube insertion, she gained strength and her character began to emerge.

By age three Jen spun around in space and spoke of herself in the third person. The word autism started floating around. In kindergarten, although she was more animated and vocal, she still usually referred to herself in the third person. She had excellent retention skills and could recite reams of poetry or commercials from television, and she loved to sing her favorite songs.

In kindergarten, Jen was introduced to the alphabet (which wasn’t really new to her because we had often sung the alphabet song to her), phonetics, and large tactile letters. In first grade, her teacher introduced Braille but cautioned us that Jen would probably be unable to learn it due to her cerebral palsy. However, the teacher believed that we should nevertheless try to teach it. Within six months Jen had learned un-contracted Braille (or Grade 1 Braille, as it was then called). Suddenly her world opened up like the petals of a rose. She could hold the words just spoken in her hand. She walked around with these words like a child holds a toy. She read and re-read them. She stopped talking in the third person. These were “Mommy’s words” or they were “My words” and they had meaning.

Spoken words are like snowflakes that fall on your face and melt. They are beautiful, but they do not last. Now they lasted. Braille gave words shape and form and meaning. Words now had permanence for Jenny and they could tell what just happened, what was happening now, or what was about to happen.

Jenny is now a high school freshman, an honor student in her fifth year of Spanish, a published poet, a singer, pianist and songwriter. She is dedicated to world peace, and she reads everything she can get her hands on. She reads and comprehends an astounding 275 words per minute. I am an educator, but I did not educate Jenny—Braille literacy did. The sheer excitement of holding the spoken word in her hands is what motivated my child to learn.

I have a personal theory about why and how Braille—beyond its benefit as a tool of literacy—has been so valuable to my daughter. In graduate school, I took a course in neurology and learned a little about the brain. One of the things I learned about was synapses; you know, the spaces between brain cells where electrical energy jumps to make a connection to another. This is how each thought or piece of information is transmitted. I know that the portion of the brain where sight is processed atrophies over time if not stimulated, and that other pathways need to go through these brain centers to make connections of information. I strongly believe we need to keep as many brain cells open as possible to learn and keep a steady stream of energy flowing. I also strongly believe that tactile/kinesthetic learning—such as Braille—does this. We use much auditory information daily just awakening and going about our daily routines, so this portion of the brain normally gets its share of input. It seems to me that the tactile system, when fine-tuned with Braille instruction, must somehow help to expand and open different pathways of synaptic connections.

So, how important is Braille literacy? I have seen my child grow beyond the darkness of her world to explore and expand her knowledge through reading Braille. That’s my answer.

March 26, 2004:

A couple of years have passed since I was asked to speak at the Connecticut Convention of the NFB in support of Braille literacy. Jenny is now a senior at Northwest Regional 7 High School and about to graduate with honors.  In 2003, she was one of the nine recipients to receive the Discover Card scholarship co-sponsored by the American Association of School Administrators, being offered a coveted $27,500 for college.  But Jen’s story has no end yet, only a beginning and a bit of the middle.  We now face a set of new challenges, a new voyage faced by many other parents and blind young adults. 

Is Jen ready for college? Jenny has had minimal mobility training and even less exposure to the “real world,” having been sheltered in the same school system for six years, with a sighted guide and a tutor. Yes, I understand all colleges have coordinators for access, but is there a school accessible to the blind and also able to accommodate Jen’s other special needs?  Jen is totally blind, has cerebral palsy, a math disability, and epilepsy with grand mal seizures —a relatively new label that we are still getting used to and learning how to manage. I confess that I lie awake at night thinking about the dangers and worrying that Jen may not yet have the skills she needs to navigate, for example, a college campus that is on a busy main road. Should Jen defer the scholarship and attend a rehabilitation training program for the blind before going on to college? If so, which program should she attend?

So our new journey is complex, perhaps more so than the earlier “road less traveled,” or perhaps it just looks less “paved” as we are older, and perhaps no wiser. A new set of challenges lie ahead, a new way to see the world.  Things seem so uncertain at this junction, but there is one thing we will count on:  Where there is a will, there is a way.  Jenny has taught me that and I will follow her lead.  She wants to graduate from college, she wants to become a court recorder or a bi-lingual social worker.  She has dreams and aspirations like every high school graduate should.  The only difference is, Jenny will be creating new pathways to reach her dreams, and God-willing, I will be there to watch her joy, at each cross-road, each new turn. Life is full, not always of what we have planned, but always of what was planned for us. We dream big, but what we have received is even bigger than imaged. A tiny miracle of a child is about to bloom in new soil.  I can smell the flowers from here.

New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped Adopts a New

Orientation and Mobility Policy

by Dianna Jennings, Superintendent,

New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped

Reprinted from volume 7, number 3, of How’s Now, a publication of the Council of Schools for the Blind, COSB.

Editor’s Note: When I visit the campus of a school for the blind for the first time, there are two things I always look for and that forms the foundation of my opinion of that school. Those two things are: will a child in that school encounter lots of Braille throughout the entire school environment—Braille on bulletin boards, coat cubbys, lockers, games, toys, lunch menus, Braille books in every classroom, etc.—and second, do a large percentage of the students use canes confidently and independently as they move about in the halls and on the grounds of the school. I guess you could say I give each school a “Braille grade” and a “cane grade.” Although I have never visited the New Mexico school (NMSVH), I’m tempted, on the basis of the following report alone, to give it a cane grade of A+. Two issues ago, I gave NMSVH kudos for a “forward-looking practice in the support of Braille literacy” (volume 22, number 3, p. 34), and suggested that other schools should emulate it. Well, “ditto” for the NMSVH new policy on cane use and orientation and mobility. Read on:

The 2002-2003 academic year brings some exiting changes for our students at the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped (NMSVH). Our school recently adopted a policy addressing orientation and mobility that will directly impact all our students. This policy establishes benchmarks that are designed to ensure that students will be provided the necessary orientation and mobility tools to assist them to become independent.

Independent movement is critical for all children with visual impairments. Orientation and mobility skills should begin to be developed in infancy starting with basic body awareness and movement, and continuing into adulthood. This will allow an individual to master skills that will permit him/her to navigate the world efficiently, effectively, safely, and gracefully. Students and staff members who are visually impaired will be expected to travel with the greatest possible degree of independence and assume responsibility for their personal safety while on campus or while engaged in school-sponsored activities off-campus.

All students will undergo an orientation and mobility assessment upon arrival at NMSVH, and annually thereafter. Orientation and mobility goals will be determined during the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process. The IEP team will consider current and future orientation/mobility assessments as well as cognitive, psychological, orthopedic, neurological, and other assessments in determining which students need mobility devices (cane or adaptive mobility device—AMD) and which students do not need one. Mobility devices will be used to teach our students how to safely navigate around constantly changing obstacles, elevations, textures, and lighting conditions that will be encountered both on and off campus. Students determined to need a mobility device for independent travel will be required to use their canes on campus at all times with the exception of their dormitory room. They will also be required to use their canes while off campus; especially in places where they may have familiarity with the environment, but will never have control of the environment.

Sighted guide is not considered to be independent mobility and shall be used only in rare circumstances, such as during emergency medical situations, adverse weather conditions, around construction areas, and in high noise environments. In such circumstances, sighted guide will be used as a supplement to the mobility device, not as a substitute for the mobility device.

What does independence mean for our students? It all begins with a positive attitude about blindness, as well as promoting the abilities of people who are blind and visually impaired. Blindness is no reason for an individual to feel second-rate or to diminish one’s self-expectations. Students who are blind and visually impaired can and should demonstrate the same levels of competence as their peers who are sighted.

The ultimate goal of the NMSVH Orientation and Mobility Policy is to have our students achieve the highest degree of independence—to the point where they become fully independent, self-sufficient individuals capable of navigating any environment with safety, skill, confidence, and grace.

As a person who is sighted, please allow me to share what orientation and mobility means to me. I believe in independent mobility for people who are blind and visually impaired. I believe our role at the NMSVH is to provide our students with sound fundamental orientation and mobility training, allowing them to gain the skills necessary to navigate within any environment efficiently, effectively, safely, and gracefully. When students do not have to rely on others to make their way through any given situation and are in total control of their environment, they have greater confidence in themselves and a higher self-esteem.

For more information contact: Dianna Jennings, Superintendent, New Mexico

School for the Visually Handicapped, <[email protected]>.

Customize Your Cane

by Jody W. Ianuzzi

I was one of those low vision people who are convinced that they don’t really need to use a white cane. If I bent over and stared at the ground three feet in front of me, I would only occasionally trip over a miscalculated step. I would bump into people, but I told myself that happened only because I wasn’t paying attention. To quote my teenage son, “Not.” Now I would feel naked if I left the house without my cane.

I will admit that this change in my attitude was not an easy process for me. It took several years and a lot of soul-searching to reach this point. I can thank the writers of the many wonderful articles on cane travel that have appeared in the Braille Monitor over the years for their perspective and encouragement. The simple fact of the matter is that the only person I was fooling by not using a cane was me. It was the same old story that is always true of blind people with a little residual vision—everyone recognizes that you are blind but you.

The breakthrough for me was the realization that I would rather walk tall as a competent blind person than work my way down the street bent over, trying to see where I was going and not giving a very good impression. How much easier travel is now! My problem wasn’t my vision, it was my attitude. This poor attitude was even conveyed to my son. When I first started using my cane, I was self-conscious and my son said, “Mom, put that thing away; everyone is looking at you.” As my attitude changed, so did his. He later said to me, “Hey Mom, everyone is looking at you because you are doing such a good job.” Out of the mouths of babes!

When I talk to blind kids about using a cane, they always object that people will notice them. My answer is, “Sure, people will notice; people notice everything—whether you are thin or fat, short or tall, red-haired or blond. Some people are even dying their hair green to become more noticeable. So what if they notice you use a cane? You don’t have to hide your cane, it is symbol of your independence.”

A proud car owner washes and waxes his car because it is his symbol of freedom and independence. He can’t travel efficiently without it, and he wants it always to look as good as possible. For the same reasons I take care of my canes.

I have never been known to leave well enough alone, so I have customized my canes. I use an NFB telescoping cane. But let’s face it, it is plain white, so why not spruce it up with a fancy handle? I have found a variety of grips that I add to my canes. My favorite one is a steering wheel cover. These are available in a variety of styles and colors and can be found in most discount stores. Other covers you might like to use are golf and tennis racket grips.(These are as close to a steering wheel or tennis racket as I’m going to get.) They look great, and they are practical as a non-slip grip when you are wearing gloves. So you can have a sporty cane or a fancy cane or an elegant cane. You can pick the style you want to match the occasion.

You can now buy reflective tape in most discount or hardware stores (similar to ScotchLite, but easier to apply). You can’t tape the telescoping canes without sacrificing the capacity to collapse the cane when convenient, but I put some reflective tape on my rigid cane for night use. I feel more comfortable knowing it is a little more visible at night. When it snows, I use a rigid cane. I added a red reflective tip to my snow cane because I have heard that a white cane is very hard for people to see in the snow. If it is snowing hard, I increase my visibility by wearing an orange hunter’s hat.

When I first started using my cane, I carried it in an umbrella case so no one would see it. Now I have a cane for all occasions and a few spares. It’s all in your attitude, so have fun!


A pen pal program for blind Braille-reading students who want to write and receive Braille letters from other students.

Mail to: SLATE PALS, 5817 North Nina, Chicago, Illinois 60631 or [email protected]

SLATE PAL PROFILE                                  

Name_________________________________ Age_____ Birth Date______ Grade______

            (circle one)   *male      *female

Address______________________________ City____________ State____ Zip________

Email _____________________________ Phone ______________________________



I would like (fill in the number) _______slate pal(s)

I would like my slate pal(s) to be ___________age (please specify a range)

I would like my slate pal(s) to be (circle one)    *male     *female       *no preference

Sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Curtis Chong]

Appropriate Use of the Electronic Notetaker in School

by Curtis Chong

Reprinted from the January 2004 issue of the Braille Monitor, the monthly publication of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).

Editor’s Note: Curtis Chong is president of the NFB in Computer Science and the former director of the International Braille and Technology Center. He was recently asked to give his views on the exclusive use of electronic notetakers by students to produce their schoolwork in print. His answer was clear and concise and will be of use to many students and teachers. Here it is:

You asked me to comment upon the value of exclusively using an electronic notetaker such as a Braille Lite or BrailleNote for blind children to produce printed work in school. As you know, I have some rather definite opinions on the subject.

First I would like to say that any note-taking technology that uses a Braille keyboard to enter information and a Braille display to review it can be of tremendous value to any blind person who knows how to write and read Braille. The Braille display makes it possible for a person silently and efficiently to read what is stored in the machine, and the Braille keyboard represents an excellent way to enter information quickly with a small number of keys—allowing for a compact design. If a person is going to use an electronic notetaker such as a BrailleNote or Braille Lite, mastery of its operation is essential.

Once mastered, the device can prove to be invaluable. Many proficient Braille users find it more natural to enter information using a Braille keyboard, and for many Braille users it is preferable to read information in Braille as opposed to listening to it. As for me, I find that I write better using a typewriter-style keyboard even though I read Braille very quickly, and I prefer to finish my written work on the computer even though I may have composed a rough draft on my electronic notetaker.

A blind student who knows how to produce printed material with an electronic Braille notetaker only is at a severe disadvantage however, when compared to a blind student who knows how to prepare printed

information with a Braille notetaker and a computer or a typewriter. For one thing, Braille formatting is distinctly different from print; e.g., Braille lines are shorter, and the Braille layout is more compact: a student entering information in Braille is not as likely to take this difference into account as a student who is using a computer and a commercial off-the-shelf word processing program. For another thing, it is highly likely that information entered correctly into a notetaker using correct contracted Braille will produce erroneous results when the material is transformed into print. For example, a double hyphen (—) when entered in Braille could produce “com” in print; “Dear Al” written in Braille would transform into “Dear Also” in print; or that “CD” I was writing about in Braille would be printed as “COULD” in print. To correct this conversion problem, the Braille user must necessarily learn some bad Brailling habits.

As blind people who live in a world designed for those with sight, we must necessarily create documents in print so that our friends, family members, and coworkers can read them. In fact I would go so far as to say that a majority of the documents that a typical blind person generates throughout the course of his or her life are for the benefit of people who can see. This is not surprising given that the blind represent a very small fraction of the total population.

Therefore it is necessary for any blind person who expects to lead a normal life to understand how printed material should be formatted. For example, how is a paragraph indicated in print? I can think of three ways: placing a blank line between paragraphs, indenting the first line of the paragraph, and leaving a blank line before the indented first line of the paragraph. When should a particular heading be centered? When should a heading be aligned with the left margin? What about page numbers? Are they printed at the top right of the page, the bottom right of the page, or are they printed at all? What is the difference between a proportionally spaced font and a mono-spaced font? These are questions that print readers can answer without thinking too hard. I am sorry to say that this is not as true for the blind.

Recently, as director of field operations for the Iowa Department for the Blind, I had an opportunity to chat with a graduating high school senior who was headed for college. I asked her how she prepared her school papers in print. She indicated that she used a Braille ’n Speak. I asked her if she knew how to create a footnote. She said, “No.” I asked her if she knew how to operate Microsoft Word. She said, “No.” I asked her about the formatting of her printed reports. She said that all of her material was aligned with the left margin—no centering, no page numbering, and no highlighting of text. The tragedy of this situation was that the student could not understand why I was concerned about this situation.

What I am trying to say, in a rather roundabout fashion, is that it is critical for blind students (and blind adults, for that matter) to have the knowledge and the ability to produce printed material with a variety of tools. Electronic Braille notetakers are one way to generate print; but just as it is important to master these devices, it is equally important for a blind person to be able to create printed material using a word processing program running on a regular computer.

If a person hopes to work in a professional job or attend an institution of higher learning, this latter skill is not only desirable but essential. College professors and potential employers will not regard with favor anyone who says that he or she can generate printed reports only with a Braille Lite or a BrailleNote. Moreover, the quality of a blind person’s work will suffer if these technologies represent the only way in which a person can produce printed material. I find it highly disturbing that any professional in the field of work with the blind would limit the achievement of a single person by recommending the exclusive use of a Braille notetaker for creating printed work.

Exploring the Universe by Touch

by Bernhard Beck-Winchatz

Editor’s Note: This article began as a simple hand-out resource list of adapted tactile materials and models for the study of astronomy. However, professor Bernhard Beck-Winchatz’s passion for astronomy and his belief in the capacities of blind students would not let him leave it at that. Here is what he has to say to parents:

As a parent of a blind child, it may seem to you that astronomy doesn’t have much to do with the challenges your son or daughter encounters in everyday life. You may wonder whether it isn’t better to spend valuable study time at school and at home on reading, writing, math, and computer skills. In fact, even my own students at DePaul University (who are usually not blind) sometimes ask me why they should care about astronomy. At a time when the economy is not doing well and the job market is tight, many of them are focused on acquiring skills that are valued by their future employers.

There is no doubt that these are valid concerns. As a parent, it is one of your most important responsibilities to help your child develop a solid foundation in basic academic skills that enable him or her to lead a successful life. What you may not realize is that astronomy is ideally suited for this purpose. The nature of astronomy is interdisciplinary, and connections to other areas of the curriculum are easy to make. For example, children can improve their Braille skills when they read about the stars and the planets. They can learn computer skills and how to navigate the Internet when they look for information about the latest NASA missions. They develop language and communication skills when they talk with their friends, teachers, and parents about space exploration. Many children and teenagers think that space is “cool”, so they are motivated to learn. Astronomy can also help boost their confidence. When they realize that they are smart enough, for example, to understand how stars form, the rest of their schoolwork may not seem as daunting to them.

Astronomy is more than a fascinating context for learning basic academic skills. It may seem to you that the distant stars, planets, and galaxies don’t affect our daily lives. But our culture, history, and even our very existence itself are closely connected to the universe. We are not just its observers; we are part of it in a very real sense. When we explore the planets, stars, and galaxies, we learn about who we are. We need to make sure that every single person can be part of this exploration. There are not yet enough Braille astronomy materials for blind children available, but those that do exist cover some of the most fascinating chapters of the story of the universe. In the following I would like to give you a taste of some of these chapters, and, most importantly, tell you about existing educational materials that blind children can use to learn more.

Astronomy Throughout Human History

Constellations like the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, and Orion are groups of stars that are close to each other in the night sky because they are located in the same direction in space. They inspired the imagination of our ancestors long before they even knew what stars were. The Egyptians, ancient Greeks, and Native Americans each had their own interpretation of the stars’ mystical significance. Constellations also had very practical uses. For example, the Big Dipper, which got its name because it looks like a long-handled ladle seen from the side, played an important role in planning escape routes for 19th century slaves. Members of the Underground Railroad, a loosely organized network of people who helped slaves escape to the North, taught the slaves specific escape routes through coded songs that were passed on from plantation to plantation. One of these songs, entitled “Follow the Drinking Gourd”, describes an escape route from Alabama and Mississippi based on the position of the Drinking Gourd, which is the name the slaves used for the Big Dipper.

Noreen Grice’s book Touch the Stars II contains a tactile image of the Big Dipper, including an explanation in Braille and large print of how it can be used to find the North Star. The book also contains tactile images of other constellations and some of the legends that surround them. David Hurd and John Matelock at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania have developed a large tactile chart that shows the part of the sky visible from mid-northern latitudes, including the Big Dipper, the North Star, and other major constellations. The chart comes with explanations and a detailed legend in Braille. A smaller version, showing only the so-called circumpolar constellations, is also available. (Information on how to obtain Touch the Stars II, the Edinboro University charts, and all other resources discussed below can be found at the end of this article.)

Another example of the practical importance of astronomy for our ancestors is the use of celestial events to measure the passage of time. Humans invented calendars because they needed to know when to plant and harvest their crops, and when to prepare for the cold winter season. Some of the earliest calendars were based on the orbit of the Moon. As the Moon revolves around Earth, it goes through a cycle of phases, e.g., New Moon, Waxing Crescent, First Quarter, etc. In a lunar calendar a month is defined as the time it takes for the Moon to complete one full cycle of phases—about 29.5 days. To this day the Chinese, Hebrew, and Islamic calendars are based on the lunar cycle. The phases of the Moon are an important topic in the middle school science curriculum. Many children have misconceptions about what causes them. For example, some think they are caused by Earth’s shadow, while others attribute them to clouds. Touch the Stars II contains a wonderful illustrated explanation of the lunar cycle that can help address these misconceptions. 

Cosmic Connections

The use of constellations by slaves to plan escape routes and lunar calendars are two examples of the practical importance of astronomy throughout history. But there is another less practical but equally fascinating connection between the cosmos and our lives: Humans are not just observers of the distant universe, they are a part of it. Every atom in our bodies is as old as the universe itself. The hydrogen atoms in water molecules, which make up about 70 percent of our bodies, were created in the Big Bang itself 13.7 billion years ago. The calcium in our bones, the carbon in our cells, and the iron in our blood were formed in nuclear fusion reactions from hydrogen in stars that died billions of years ago. At the end of their lives these stars released gases that contained these newly formed atoms back into space, allowing a new generation of stars to form, including our Sun and its planets. Another five billion years from now the Sun too will end its life and return some of its gases back into space. Perhaps in the distant future the very atoms that presently make up your body will again become part of a life form on a planet that orbits a star that is yet to be formed.

Noreen Grice’s book Touch the Universe contains tactile pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and text in Braille and large print that represent many of the stages of the life cycle of stars. The Eagle Nebula is an example of a stellar nursery, where stars and planets are being formed from the gases left behind by previous generations of stars. The Ring, Hourglass, and Eskimo Nebulae are examples of Sun-like stars that have reached the end of their lives. Stars that are much more massive than the Sun end their lives in a supernova explosion. Eta Carina is an example of such a star.

Life on Earth and Elsewhere

Astronomical events, such as the Big Bang and the life cycles of stars provided the building blocks for life. But even the emergence and evolution of life on Earth itself is closely tied to astronomy. For the first few hundred million years after its formation, 4.5 billion years ago, conditions on Earth were not suitable for life. Large meteorites left over from the formation of the solar system constantly bombarded our planet. Only after this heavy bombardment stopped was life able to emerge. Though less frequent, large meteorite impacts continued to play a preeminent role. Mass extinctions caused by impacts of large meteorites frequently killed the dominant species, making room for new species to take over. An example of such an event was the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period, which allowed mammals, and eventually humans, to flourish. Few impact craters exist on the surface of Earth because they are obliterated after a relatively short period of time by plate tectonics and atmospheric erosion. In contrast, many ancient craters have survived on the Moon, which has neither plate tectonics nor an atmosphere.

A tactile map of the surface of the Moon developed at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania shows lunar impact craters and other geological features. The lunar highlands are the most heavily cratered, indicating that they are the Moon’s oldest landform. The maria are relatively smooth regions filled with solidified lava. They were formed much later than the highlands, so there has not been time for many craters to form.

An impact by a large meteorite on Earth could have catastrophic consequences. Near-Earth asteroids pose the greatest threat, because they can get very close to Earth in their orbit around the Sun. There are a thousand of them as large as a kilometer, about a hundred thousand as large as a football field, and many millions as large as a house. Fortunately, none of the known asteroids is likely to impact Earth in the near future. However, many have not even been discovered yet, and scientists are continually searching the sky for objects that may threaten our planet in the future. They also study their physical properties, such as their shapes and compositions, so that we can develop the means for deflecting a potential impactor before it can cause any damage. Their research also provides information that may someday allow us to send robots or even humans to asteroids and mine them for valuable minerals.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Cornell University have developed scientifically accurate three-dimensional scale models of asteroids based on radar observations. To create these models scientists transmit radar waves toward the asteroids and process the echoes into three-dimensional computer models. Real models are then fabricated using a technique called rapid prototyping. It is interesting to note that this method parallels the process by which blind people form mental images of three-dimensional objects: instead of detecting the light emitted by these objects with their eyes, they analyze the tactile feedback from the surface of the object to their hands. Similarly, radar astronomers analyze the feedback from the surfaces of the asteroids via radar waves sent and felt by their radio telescopes.

Astronomy helps us to understand where we come from and where we are going, but it also holds the answer to another fundamental question humans have asked for thousands of years: “Are we alone in the universe?” So far no hard evidence for life outside of Earth has been found, but the search is on, and blind astronomer Dr. Kent Cullers is one of its leaders. Dr. Cullers, who inspired the character of Dr. Kent Clark in the movie Contact, is the Director of Research and Development at the SETI Institute, whose mission it is to “explore, understand, and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe.” NASA is searching for clues for primitive extraterrestrial life in places like Mars, Jupiter’s moon Europa, and Saturn’s moon Titan. Titan is particularly interesting because its thick atmosphere contains methane and nitrogen gas. The conditions on Titan may be similar to those on Earth shortly after its formation. The Cassini spacecraft is currently on its way to Saturn and will arrive in July of 2004. Once there,

Cassini will release the space probe Huygens, which will land on the surface of Titan in early 2005. Because of the harsh environment it is unlikely that life currently exists on Titan, but scientists hope to gain important insights into how life began on our own planet.

David Hurd and John Matelock have created a tactile diagram of the Cassini spacecraft, which shows the orbiter, the Huygens probe and Saturn itself. They have also produced an entire book of tactile images of the planets and other celestial objects entitled Our Place in Space: A Tactile Exploration with Braille. Tactile images of Saturn can also be found in Touch the Universe, Touch the Stars, and on a scale map of the solar system available from the Southeast Regional Clearinghouse in Charleston, South Carolina.

Astronomy provides a rich and exciting context for learning across many disciplines. It can help children improve their Braille, math, and computer skills, and teach them about history and societal issues. At the same time it can give them a sense of their place in the cosmos by addressing questions humans have asked for thousands of years: “Where do we come from?” “Where are we going?” and “Are we alone in the universe?” Clearly, there is a need for more educational materials for blind children in astronomy. Several are already under development by NASA-funded groups. But you and your child do not have to wait for them: even the materials that already exist cover some of the most fascinating chapters of the story of the universe. Happy exploring!

Resource List

Touch the Universe: A NASA Braille Book of Astronomy, by Noreen Grice. ($35.00). Available online at <www.nap.edu/ catalog/10307.html>, by phone: (888) 624-8373), by fax: (202) 334-2451, or by mail: National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street NW, Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055.  A limited number of these books are also available at a discount from the National Federation of the Blind Materials Center. For more information call (410) 659-9314 or look online at <www.nfb.org>.

Touch the Stars II, by Noreen Grice. ($30.00). Available by phone: (800) 548-7323, by fax: (617) 437-0456, by email: <[email protected]>, or by mail: National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.

Our Place in Space: A Tactile Exploration with Braille, developed by the Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Planetarium and Tactile Lab. ($40.00), Available from the Edinboro University Planetarium: (814) 732-2493.

*  Asteroid Scale Models, available from Design Cast Studios by phone: (270) 869-8477 and online at: <www.dcstudios.com/ ast_models.html> ($10.00). The Space Exploration Experience (SEE) Project is currently developing a set of activities based on these scale models, which are (or will be) available online at http://analyzer.depaul.edu/SEE_Project/>. Diagrams of the asteroid orbits have already been designed for use with thermal expansion machines (PIAF, TIE, etc.). An article describing the asteroid models and some of the activities can be found at http://aer.noao.edu/AERArticle.php?issue=4&section=3&article=1>.

*  Tactile Solar System Map, with Relative Planet Sizes and Distance from the Sun, available from the Southeast Regional Clearinghouse by phone: (843) 953-5437, email: <[email protected]>,  or mail: Kathryn Guimond, College of Charleston, Lowcountry Hall of Science & Math, 66 George Street, Charleston, South Carolina 29424.

The following four tactile charts and maps are available from the Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Planetarium by phone at (814) 732-2493.

*  Tactile Full Sky Chart, showing all constellations visible from mid-northern latitudes ($18.00)

*  Tactile Circumpolar Constellation Chart ($3.00)

*  Tactile Map of the Moon ($3.00)

*  Tactile Map of the Cassini Spacecraft ($3.00)

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Anna Miller]

How to Use a Popular Game as a Teaching Tool—and Still Have Fun!

by Sally Miller

Editor’s Note: Sally Miller is the president of the South Carolina Parents of Blind Children, the parent of Anna Miller, and a regular contributor to Future Reflections. Sally is always finding creative ways to turn life experiences into learning opportunities. Here she shares her ideas on how to turn the popular game, Mancala, into a math-teaching tool:

While attending the NFB national convention last year a teenager recommended a great game to my daughter. I’d like to share with you how we learned to play this fascinating game—and how we adapted it to meet my daughter’s math needs.

The game is Mancala, a folk game that helps concentration skills, develops math skills, and is easy to learn.  It can be played by both young and old, blind and sighted. It requires no adaptations or modifications. I started hunting for this game as soon as we got home. Much to my surprise I didn’t find it in an expensive toy store (although I later bought one there, too), but I found and bought a cheap plastic game board and pieces at an outlet store at the cost of $1.99.

To play the game you distribute four small plastic animal playing pieces into each player’s set of six cups, and begin play. The objective is to get more playing pieces in your own Mancala (each player has one of these storage bins at the end of the playing board) than the other player. Sounds simple? Well, it is. Two players take turns picking up all the pieces in one of the cups, distributing one piece in each cup and the Mancala, in a counterclockwise direction. As you move around the board you begin to discover strategies to keep more pieces in your own Mancala than you give to the other player. When one player has moved all of his playing pieces out of his cups, he declares “Mancala,” and the game ends. We found that if Anna placed her hands loosely over the Mancala at each end of the board at the same time she could estimate who had gotten the most number of pieces in his or her Mancala, and therefore, be declared the winner. This is an easy concept to reinforce in this manner.

It was fun, and since each game can be won in a matter of a few short minutes, we played it again and again.

Then the unthinkable happened. We lost one of the playing pieces. That put an end to that game. We needed to find a replacement—FAST! What would it be?

More out of desperation than anything else, we chose pennies. There are usually plenty of them and they would fit in the cups. We gathered forty-eight pennies and began to play again. That’s when we found out what a fortuitous choice we had made. On each turn, as she moved her pennies around the board, my daughter counted the value of the coins.

For example, if there were four pennies she counted 4 cents; if there were 9 pennies she counted to 9 cents. Slowly we introduced a few dimes to help her distinguish between the two types of coins. We advised her to count the coins of more value first (the dimes) and then the coins of lesser value (the pennies). For example, one dime and three pennies would be counted 10 cents, 11 cents, 12 cents, and 13 cents. We reinforced the concept of counting pennies by ones and the dimes by tens. We used different quantities of dimes and pennies to vary the game.

Eventually, we began to add some nickels to the mix, reminding her to count by five’s, and to count coins with the highest value first (dimes), lesser value next (nickels), and the lowest value last (pennies). The more our daughter handled the coins the more confident she became.

Quarters were the last coin we added. We discussed their value (25 cents) and counted up to the four quarters by value (25 cents, 50 cents, 75 cents, 100 cents or one dollar). And then, we gradually added quarters to the dimes, nickels, and pennies. Our daughter was so fascinated by all of this that she didn’t realize she was learning while having fun.

In the future we plan to use this game to work with multiplication. For example: 2 sets of 2 equal 4 (2 playing pieces each in 2 cups) and is the same as 2 + 2 = 4; or 2 x 2 = 4.

Mancala is easy to learn, and people are fascinated by it. As a result, they want to learn to play. Children of all ages can participate: children can play with adults; children can play with children; adults can play with adults. We hope you have as much fun with this game as we have, and that it will help you make as many new friends as it has brought to us.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Susan Povinelli]

Refrigerator Art

by Susan Povinelli

Adapted from the article in the Fall 2003 issue of the Vigilant, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia.

Editor’s Note: Can blind kids color and draw pictures? Can they learn to cut paper with scissors? Susan Povinelli has some thoughts, and some very practical suggestions, about those topics. She also has some pretty impressive credentials for this task. Povinelli is a blind mother, an engineer, and an active leader in the Virginia affiliate of the NFB. Here is what she has to say:

I can remember as a child drawing simple pictures of houses and trees with my crayons. Many happy hours were spent that way. In turn, my daughters created beautiful artwork for me when they were very young. We proudly hung their art with Big Bird magnets in the Povinelli Gallery—the front of the refrigerator or on the metal door leading into the hallway.

This is a simple pleasure that most blind children don’t get to experience. Sighted parents and teachers may think drawing is too visual an activity, or perhaps they fear the children will become frustrated by the activity. This does not need to be true. There is no reason to deny blind youth the simple pleasure of expressing their creativity in this manner. Kids learn many things by drawing. For example, they develop their fine-motor skills, build hand strength, learn to recognize shapes, and better yet, they can do the same thing that everyone else is doing—it’s a social experience. They will be as proud as their sighted classmates to hang their works of art in their own home gallery. What is so wonderful is that you don’t need any high tech devices to make a tactile drawing kit for blind children.

A tactile drawing kit is a system for etching a visual and a tactile image with an ordinary pen or other marking device. Here’s how you can assemble a simple drawing kit. You will need the following items for your kit: a screen board, a box of crayons, paper for drawing, a potato chip bag clip (or something similar), Braille ruler, blunt end paper scissors, cookie cutters (optional), and a glue stick. Most of these items are probably lying around your house. However, you will have to construct the first item, a screen board. Don’t worry. It is really easy to make. Here are the materials you will need: a piece of window screening about 30 inches by 24 inches (you can buy screening at a hardware store, but you may need to cut it to the size you need); one piece of cardboard, poster board, cake decorating board, or very thin plywood cut to about 18 inches by 12 inches; a second piece of poster board or cardboard cut slightly smaller than the first board; glue; and a heavy duty tape, such as duct tape.

Place the screen on a flat work surface and then place your larger piece of cardboard/board in the middle of the screen. There should be an inch or two of screen around the cardboard. Make sure that the excess screen is equal on every side of the board. Next, fold back one of the overlapping edges of the screen and affix it to the cardboard with glue or other adhesive. Do this for all the sides. Then, glue the second (slightly smaller) piece of cardboard over the top of the first board, covering the edges of the glued-down window screening. Use tape to hold it all together and to protect the child from any sharp edges.

Congratulations, you have successfully constructed your screen board. If you have assembled the other items for your kit, you are now ready to start drawing. Place a piece of paper on the side with the screen. Use your clip to hold the paper to the board so that it does not move. Let your child draw or scribble on the paper with a crayon. The window screening underneath will cause a raised line to appear on the paper.

To introduce your child to various shapes, give her a cookie cutter and let her draw around it. Cookie cutters come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. I like the plastic ones because they don’t warp with use. You can make your own tactile picture coloring sheets by tracing pictures from commercial coloring books or graphics from your computer onto sheets of blank paper using the screen board. Your child can practice drawing inside the lines of the images you create. Simple pictures without much detail work well.

You can then hand your child a pair of children’s safety scissors and let her practice cutting along the raised line. Assuming she is right-handed, begin by having her place her left hand finger on the raised line near the edge of the paper as a guide. Then, with her right-hand holding the scissors, show her how to slip the paper between the scissors and align the inside blade of the scissors with her left-hand guide finger. She is then ready to begin cutting as she moves her left-hand finger along the tactile mark. It may take practice before cutting along the line becomes second nature. But don’t worry; sighted kids don’t get it right the first time either.

I use a screen board for myself to make patterns for sewing, quilted artwork, floor plans, and other line drawings used at home and work. I place a straight pin through the paper into the screen board to mark a starting location. I then measure the length of a line with the Braille ruler and place another straight pin into the screen board. Placing the Braille ruler against the two pins enables me to draw a straight measured line between them. (Of course, straight pins are not recommended for small children.)

Now all you need is to apply your imagination and you and your child can make wonderful drawings and artwork to adorn your refrigerator.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Blind people can write plays, direct them, and act in them. Above, blind students from the Louisiana Center for the Blind perform before a sell-out crowd at an NFB national convention.]

Listening to the Script; A Blind Professor’s Passion for the Theater

by Patrick Healy

Reprinted from the Chronicle of Higher Education, July 31, 1998, Durham, N.H.

Editor’s Note: Science, astronomy, visual arts, human services, teaching, engineering, music, cooking, recreation, exploring, travel—there seems to be no end to the careers and areas of interests to which blind people may aspire. Here is an engaging account of one blind man’s passion for theater:

Two decades ago, while learning how to succeed as a director of university theater in spite of his blindness, David Richman realized the importance of trusting his instincts.

At the time an assistant professor at the University of Rochester, Mr. Richman mounted a production of Chekhov’s The Seagull with the help of a colleague. Casting the role of Masha, a loser in love, Mr. Richman fancied an actress who hit the right notes of melancholy in her audition. But his collaborator insisted that the student was too plain, and pressed for a prettier Masha. Mr. Richman took the advice—yet he was not able to elicit the plaintive reading that he wanted to hear.

“I don’t think this girl ever had the experience of being rejected, which is basic to Masha,” he says.

In the future, he decided, he would not let the perspective of a collaborator overrule his gut. Speaking with feeling, with honesty, with clarity, is not only key to Chekhov, it is crucial to Mr. Richman. He has only vague memories of color and objects seen before his vision degenerated completely at age twelve. Around the same time, he began going to the theater, where the lively, witty exchanges in such plays as The Importance of Being Earnest enthralled him. Today he is still guided by the words of Shakespeare and Moliere, Yeats and Beckett, Ibsen and Strindberg.

Vision seems critical to directing the frolic between the fairies and the besotted lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or enlivening the two-character banter in Beckett’s Happy Days. But Mr. Richman has developed techniques that have made him a successful director and mentor for student actors.

“Some directors have to see the play on stage before they themselves can direct it,” Mr. Richman says. “I approach a play script the way Brahms approached a score—you imagine your ideal of the play taking shape in your head.”

An associate professor of theater at the University of New Hampshire since 1988, Mr. Richman draws inspiration from the Braille scripts that line the shelves of his spartan office here. A literary scholar with a B.A. from Harvard and a Ph.D. from Stanford, both in English, Mr. Richman prefers verbally dense plays because the authors provide such rich language and thoughtful plotting.

In the first scene of Hamlet, for instance, tension builds as frightened castle guards encounter one another on a dark night, and then see the ghost of Hamlet’s father. The scene unfolds, Mr. Richman says, largely through the rhythm, timing, pauses, emphasis of syllables, and tonal shifts that are woven through the dialogue. Like other directors, Mr. Richman tells the story through action, too. But he tackles the text more faithfully than an iconoclastic director would.

“The mode these days in theater artistry and in theater criticism and performance theory is to distrust the word,” Mr. Richman says. “Yeats has a line in one of his plays about being out of fashion and out of date. That works for me.”

Mr. Richman directs one play a year while teaching such courses as the history of theater. He has recruited colleagues and students to be “sighted collaborators” for his productions. While Mr. Richman trusts his collaborators, he also trusts that the image of the scene in his mind works on stage as well.

“If my collaborator says, ‘It’s boring David, you’ve got to do something, you’re going to lose your audience,’ I say, ‘No we’re not—if it’s spoken properly, we’re going to keep our audience.’”

Not that Mr. Richman isn’t experimental. With New Hampshire now in the throes of a debate over how the state should pay for public education, his next production will be Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, “set in a nameless contemporary town in a nameless New England state in which taxpaying is a problem.” He plans to depict the fiery group of tight-fisted citizens in the play as anti-tax advocates, a tinker that makes sense to anyone who, like Mr. Richman, has attended Town Meeting here, where advocates for community needs often smack up against people who want to limit government spending.

“It deals with rhetoric and discourse, which interest me, and which I feel should happen more in the theater,” he says. “Audiences are able to attend to the difficult expression of difficult ideas.”

Commercial theater, where difficult ideas have mixed success at selling tickets, has never seemed to Mr. Richman like a good fit with his talents. As a young director he lacked confidence, and, now, he is skeptical that professional actors would value his insight into the makings of a good performance.

“They want to know, ‘Where am I on the stage? Don’t tell me what the character’s thinking about.’”

Many drama majors, on the other hand, have learned from the challenges that Mr. Richman presents. His student assistants are often given responsibility to oversee rehearsals of scenes and develop the physical action, such as the best way to flesh out the comedy when a character crawls across stage. The director has also been heavily involved in university productions of Shakespeare that tour to New Hampshire high schools, where the company performs a truncated script and then fields questions about theater and the university.

“It did what the program should do— Shakespeare became real to the students, and the idea of university became real,” he says.

There are drawbacks to working with a blind director, Mr. Richman acknowledges. “I can’t tell you, ‘You’re looking good.’ Every performer wants to hear that, and it’s the one thing I can’t say.”

Even so, he is known here for his uncanny sense of what isn’t working right on stage, based on what he hears. The same is true of casting: No more upbeat Mashas.

“The verbal and visual passion can mesh,” Mr. Richman adds. But “if someone has the verbals and not the visuals, and it’s a show I’m directing, I’ll go with the verbals.”

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Steve Benson]

Clothing, Grooming, and Social Acceptability: Part 2

by Stephen O. Benson

Editor’s Note: The following item is an expansion and continuation of Barbara Pierce’s article, “Clothing, Grooming, and Social Acceptability: Part 1,” which appeared in the volume 22, number 2, issue of Future Reflections. Stephen Benson, the author of Part 2, is a long-time leader within the Federation. Well-known for his impeccable grooming and professional manner, Mr. Benson tackles some topics of particular importance to young men. Here is what he has to say:

Raising a blind child is in many ways the same as raising a sighted child; however, as Barbara has already pointed out, parents of blind children must recognize several different but important strategies and skills. My mother and the parents of many blind adults today had to learn from firsthand experience. Today’s parents of blind children are in a unique and exciting position because many blind adults who participated in our own parents’ learning process are now willing to help and committed to sharing our experience. I am a firm believer in not having to reinvent the wheel, so I am happy to share some useful information.

Several years ago I addressed the second grade classes in an affluent elementary school in suburban Chicago. I did the usual dog and pony show, demonstrating Braille reading and writing, travel with the long white cane, use of the abacus, and a few routine daily activities. My purpose was to eliminate myths and misconceptions. When I had finished my brief remarks, I fielded questions. The first was: “How do you tie your shoes?”

I demonstrated. Then I said, “When you get home from school today and change into your play clothes, close your eyes and untie and tie your shoes.” Of course I knew what would happen next. I heard a rustling in the classroom as all of the children untied and retied their shoes with their eyes closed. “See,” I said, “it can be done quite easily.”

This anecdote illustrates that all of us grow up learning the same thing about blindness: if you are blind, you can’t . . .; you can’t do even the simplest tasks—tie shoes, dress, comb hair, prepare a meal, care for a child, change a tire—the list is disturbingly long. While blind people certainly cannot do some things, things that by their very nature require sight, mastery of what are called alternative skills or techniques enables us to do the overwhelming majority of day-to-day activities as well as sighted people. Most of these alternative skills are matters of good sense, mostly simple, sometimes innovative, but definitely not frightening, obscure, or mysterious.

It is critical that parents of blind children keep this in mind as they begin the very interesting, exciting, sometimes challenging task of raising a blind child. This anecdote also illustrates that second graders know how to tie shoes. Those kids didn’t learn that routine task the day I met them. Blind children should learn to tie their shoes at the same time sighted children do, despite the ubiquity of Velcro shoe fastenings.

Clean Clothing and Good Grooming

As I say, my mother knew nothing at all about raising a blind child, So her instructions regarding clothing, the need to “look nice,” and everything else that went into steering me through childhood were, at least initially, based on tradition and social convention. I don’t remember precisely when hygiene, appearance, good grooming habits, and physical fitness became of interest or concern to my mother or me as blindness-related issues. It certainly didn’t all sink in at once.

I remember my mother patiently teaching me how to tie my shoes—the same process I went through with my son. The difference was that I used my hands to examine each step in the process while he observed each step visually. I also remember observing my mother wash clothes in a wringer washer and telling her that I wanted to do it too. She was always concerned that I would get my fingers caught in the wringer, and I was certainly a bit afraid of the thing. But, when I grew tall enough to operate the washing machine, she carefully taught me how to operate it, explaining all the parts. She wanted me to use a stick to feed the wringer, but I explained that I wouldn’t know whether I was putting the clothes in the right place. The wringer never captured me. Oh, by the way, I also had to learn how to hang clothes on the backyard lines correctly, which also required that I be a certain height in order not to drag clothes on the ground.

Operating a wringer-washer was a task that could be and was learned by a blind child. Operating a modern washer and dryer is no more complicated. One difference is the necessity to use Braille or some other labeling system to identify various functions and settings of the equipment. This is just one more practical and very effective use of Braille.

Joining Boy Scouts was a kind of turning point in managing my own clothing and grooming. Friday night meetings required appearance in uniform, including polished shoes. I took a genuine interest in polishing my own shoes and in making sure my uniform was clean and pressed. It was probably then that I learned to iron and also learned to detest it. But the important point here is that I learned to iron clothes properly at the age of eleven.

 Now polishing shoes means that you get your hands and the floor around you dirty unless you have the foresight to spread newspapers liberally around and under you. It is most helpful to have all the right tools: applicators, brushes, rags, and of course the shoeshine box. Specific techniques for applying polish and buffing vary according to individual preference. I won’t describe specific techniques because this is not a manual of techniques. It is a clear and perhaps bold statement of the possibility, the necessity, and the desirability of blind children doing this and hundreds of other tasks independent of parental supervision.

Polishing shoes may not be the most important skill to have, but it is one chore that contributes to overall good grooming and the well-groomed appearance our society considers important. By the way, polishing shoes also gets one’s hands dirty if it is done properly. Thorough hand washing afterwards is an essential part of polishing shoes.

My mother and I didn’t have a lot of money when I was a kid, but somehow she always managed to buy attractive, durable, properly fitting clothing and shoes for me. My mother’s admonition, “You always want to look nice,” was and still is sage advice. Because I have hard-to-fit feet, my shoes were always more expensive than those of other kids. They still are. It was important that I take particular care of my shoes, and I suppose that carried over to the rest of my wardrobe. Somehow or other my mother and other adults around me imbued me with the idea that the clothes one wears are a visible statement of who and what kind of person one is, so I paid particular attention to what I wore to school.

When I enrolled in high school, I immediately got into the thick of things socially. I began dating when I was fourteen. It became apparent immediately that looking good—and not just apparel—was important to the opposite sex. Proper use of deodorant, attention to hairstyle, clean hands and fingernails, and oral hygiene were things of which girls were aware. The first time I shaved was a real adventure—I used a straight razor.

Fortunately, I didn’t cut myself, but I never used a straight razor again; the safety razor was my tool of choice until I was in my mid-forties and began using a Microscreen electric shaver. How does a blind man shave? Nobody gave me any formal lessons that I can recall, but I did go to the barber and paid attention to what he did. I then emulated his blade angle and shaving strokes as well as I could remember them. It worked.

Good grooming and proper hygiene are highly valued in our society. Nobody wants to interact socially with some schlump with dirty hair and clothes, shoes that look as though they’ve just come through a swamp, or breath that would start an outdoor grill. In addition to appearance, one’s health is equally affected by proper hygiene. All this applies to blind kids as well as sighted kids, and parents should be no more tolerant of inattention to these details by a blind kid than they would by a sighted kid. It sometimes seems that one spends unimaginable amounts of time reminding kids to brush teeth, comb hair, pick up clothes and properly store them, but when dating starts, it all begins to change. Then a parent sometimes has to take a number to get into the bathroom. Ah well, better that than the alternative.


As a child I always participated in games that involved running, climbing, throwing, strength, and skill. Of course those activities also had application in elementary school classes. Tumbling and calisthenics were added, and all of us were required to participate in gym classes unless we had a doctor’s excuse. Even some of the kids who were excluded for medical reasons participated in the rough and tumble of gym and recess. As I reflect on the gym classes at Alexander Graham Bell School, I realize that they established a very important life lesson and habit, staying fit. Fitness is as essential for blind kids as for sighted kids, and a lot of us have been and probably still are excluded from gym class.

Being involved in kids’ games in my neighborhood was important to me prior to attending Bell School. I was used to action; it was as much a part of my life as waking up in the morning. It was also a lot of fun. While I had a little vision as a kid, it was not enough to follow the path of a thrown or batted ball and not enough to see clearly another player in motion. I relied on my ears and knowledge of whatever game we were playing. One could anticipate how another player would move.

My experience in high school was different. Blind kids were excluded from physical education (PE) classes on the assumption that we would get hurt. I have described elsewhere the experience my blind classmates and I had in high school ROTC. We participated in physical training and every other aspect of the military preparedness program, including swimming in the same pool as the PE classes. We did not get hurt. Today blind kids have greater opportunities than we did; for example, I have recently heard of blind kids participating in wrestling; weight lifting; some gymnastics; and, for kids with a little vision, cross country and track. These are competitive sports.

At about the time I joined Boy Scouts I also began swimming lessons. Not only did I earn a swimming merit badge and initiate work toward the life-saving merit badge, I developed another physical skill that enabled me to participate in group activities, splash parties, beach parties, and the equivalent of sand lot competition. It was fun, but it also kept me fit.

The importance of social interaction and the ability to compete are, for good or ill, enormously important. If a blind person is to be a part of the society in which we live—really a part of it—it is essential that he or she is fit enough to enjoy all of the social opportunities waiting for us. The opportunities are there; it is up to us to seize them. Only early involvement in physical activity can adequately prepare blind children for adult opportunities.

The health issues surrounding fitness and weight control are the very same for blind children and adults as they are for sighted children and adults. Americans spend far too much time passively sitting in front of televisions, computers, and electronic games. Our health depends upon our getting off our chairs and moving. Blind children must be encouraged to do just that, as opposed to taking the easy way out and telling blind kids, “It is easier for Jeff to do that,” or “You could get hurt.” As a matter of fact, as a kid and as a young adult I did get hurt playing one kind of ball game or another, but so did my sighted friends. My rate of injury was no higher than theirs. It is all part of being alive and part of social interaction. I won’t say that getting hurt was fun; however, as the old adage goes, no pain, no gain.

Having said all that, let’s look at the other side of the coin. The stereotype of the obese, slovenly dressed blind person with gravy stains down the front of his shirt is an image that still haunts us. It is hurtful enough as a stereotype, but it is most damaging when it is a reality. This is an image all of us should do everything we can to change. Barbara Pierce’s inclination to dress upward is a very good example to follow. We are changing what it means to be blind, and improving image is an important—no, an essential part—of that change.


Convention Tours

by Anil Lewis

Editor’s Note: The Georgia NFB affiliate has been hard at work planning to fill your free time at the 2004 convention in Atlanta. This is what Anil Lewis, president of the Georgia affiliate, has to say about your choices this year:

The annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind requires a lot of planning by our national office staff, the host affiliate, and every Federationist committed to achieving the goals of the NFB. The national convention is our time to mark milestones, celebrate accomplishments, plan for our future, train Federationists, educate society, and reenergize ourselves. As I say, it requires a lot of hard work by everyone who attends. And we all know the old adage about all work and no play. For this reason many Federationists build in a little time to vacation during convention.

Because our convention hotels, the Marriott Marquis and the Hilton, are conveniently located near Atlanta’s public transportation system, MARTA, many conventioneers will probably choose to explore our lovely city on their own. Underground Atlanta, Centennial Park, and the World of Coca-Cola are a simple train or bus ride away. But for those who would appreciate a more structured exposure to some of Atlanta’s attractions and would like to venture a little farther from the convention site, the Georgia affiliate has developed several tours for your enjoyment. Tour day this year is Saturday, July 3. All tours will depart from the hotel in the afternoon or evening of Saturday, the third.

Gone with the Wind

($25 adults,

$15 children)

The Margaret Mitchell House was built in 1899 by Cornelius J. Sheehan. The two-story, single-family home on fashionable Peachtree Street was converted in 1919 into a ten-unit apartment building. It was here, from 1925 until 1932, that Margaret Mitchell lived in apartment no. 1 and wrote her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Gone with the Wind.

This is a docent-led tour lasting one to one-and-a-half-hours with exclusive photographs and archival exhibits that begin to tell the story of Margaret Mitchell beyond Gone with the Wind. The tour starts in the Visitors’ Center with “A Woman in a Man’s World: Margaret Mitchell, Reporter,” an exhibit of Jazz Age journalism that explores the popular weekly columns Mitchell wrote for the Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine. The tour continues into the house, through the apartment where she wrote Gone with the Wind, and finally to the new Gone with the Wind Movie Museum. This museum, which opened on December 15, 1999—the sixtieth anniversary of the movie premiere in Atlanta—illuminates the making of the movie, the premiere, and legacy with memorabilia from the Herb Bridges collection and the doorway of Tara from the movie set. Your experience at this historic site ends with an opportunity to enjoy the Museum Shop, complete with unique gifts, souvenirs, and Gone with the Wind collectibles and memorabilia.

For specific information about this tour, call (404) 249-7015 or visit <http://www.gwtw.org/>.

Civil War

($25 adults, $15 children under thirteen)

The Gone with the Wind tour can be complemented with a tour of Atlanta by Peter Bonner with an emphasis on the Civil War. Peter Bonner’s Historical and Hysterical Tours began as a dream back in 1996. The tour company combines Peter’s two great loves—history and entertainment. His programs have delighted people of all ages, from the school children who marvel at the heaviness of the black powder gun to the senior citizens who remember similar stories told to them by their grandparents. Peter’s emphasis is always on the human side of the story, which is often as hysterical as it is historical.

This well-orated bus tour of Atlanta’s historic sites will be both educational and entertaining. The tour will last approximately three hours. For specific information about this tour, call (770) 477-8864 or visit <http://www.peterbonner.com/>.

Civil Rights

($25 adults, $15 children under thirteen)

Atlanta is home to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. No civil rights tour can compare to a visit to the birth home of Dr. King, a gospel concert at the celebrated Ebenezer Baptist Church, a tour of the Martin Luther King historic site and visitors center, and a stroll down historic Auburn Avenue.

Just past noon on January 15, 1929, a son was born to the Reverend and Mrs. Martin Luther King in an upstairs bedroom of 501 Auburn Avenue, in Atlanta, Georgia. The couple named their first son after the Rev. King, but he was simply called M.L. by the family. During the next twelve years this fine, two-story Victorian home is where M.L. would live with his parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and their boarders. The home is located in the residential section of Sweet Auburn, the center of black Atlanta. Two blocks west of the home is Ebenezer Baptist Church, the pastorate of Martin’s grandfather and father. It was in these surroundings of home, church, and neighborhood that M.L. experienced his childhood. Here M.L. learned about family and Christian love, segregation in the days of Jim Crow laws, diligence, and tolerance. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. returned to Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1960. As co-pastor with his father, Daddy King, Dr. King Jr. would preach about love, equality, and nonviolence.

For specific information about this tour, call (404) 526-8900 or visit <http://www.nps.gov/malu/>.

Touch the Future

($25 adults, $15 children under thirteen)

The NFB of Georgia is working with the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children to develop a tour beyond this world. The NFB, with the cooperation of the Fernbank Science Center, will enhance the visual experience of the Fernbank Planetarium with tactile and audible information that will allow blind children and adults to experience outer space more fully. The planetarium is a celestial theater in the round, using the complex Zeiss Mark V planetarium projector and a variety of special-effects projectors to guide the audience through the wonders of the universe. At seventy feet in diameter, the planetarium is one of the largest in the United States, and is dedicated to teaching and public enrichment. For specific information about this tour, call (678) 874-7102 or visit <http://fsc.fernbank.edu/>.

Stone Mountain National Park

($25 adults, $15 children under thirteen)

On 3,200 gorgeous acres just sixteen miles east of downtown Atlanta, the stories of the South come to life at Stone Mountain Park. The mountain itself is the world’s largest mass of exposed granite. The centerpiece of the park—and one of the true marvels of western engineering—is found on the mountain’s north side, where you’ll see the world’s largest high-relief carving, depicting three heroes of the American Confederacy.

We plan to have one bus leave in the afternoon so that you can enjoy the park’s breathtaking scenery, pristine lakes, forestland, beautiful gardens, and miles of nature trails. The park also features an enormous variety of recreational and entertainment facilities, including family-oriented attractions, tennis, golf, fishing, hiking, and camping. Another bus will leave in the evening, just in time for those interested only in enjoying the spectacular laser show at the mountain. For more information about this marvelous park, visit <http://www.stonemountainpark.com/>.

Agatha’s Dinner Theater

($45 adults, no children)

Agatha’s is a comedy murder mystery dinner theater with audience participation. All shows are original comedy murder mystery plays that take place in the dining room between the courses of the meal. The show currently scheduled for July is Law and Odor: O.P.U. There is no stage; the actors move throughout the audience, so you can see and hear from all seats. Two professional actors carry the show, and the rest is up to the audience. Participation is encouraged but not required.

Agatha’s serves a five-course meal of appetizers, soup, salad, choice of entree, and dessert. Once audience members are seated, the waiters review the entrees, and you make your choices at that time. Wine is served with dinner, beginning with the soup course.

For specific information about this tour, call (404) 875-4321, or visit <http://www.agathas.com>./

Braves Baseball

($25 adults, $15 children under thirteen)

Of course we will have tickets to the Atlanta Braves game on July 3. It’s a night game against Boston, with fireworks on the field and in the air. For specific information about this tour, call (404) 522-7630, or visit <http://www.atlantabraves.com>.

If you are interested in any of the tours described here, please sign up early. Checks or money orders made out to the NFB of Georgia should be mailed to the Georgia affiliate at NFB of Georgia, P.O. Box 6859, Atlanta, Georgia 30343. Payment should include a note listing the tour and number of adult and children’s tickets being ordered.

An adult must accompany all children. Be sure to note that the deadline for preregistration and cancellations is June 18, 2004. Any remaining tickets will be available for sale during convention at the Georgia information table. Also keep in mind that the prices quoted are dependent on guaranteed minimum attendance. The prices for tours include buses, experienced guides, and sales tax and admissions where applicable. Tours leave from the Courtland Street entrance of the Marriott Marquis, which is just across the street from the Hilton.

These are simply the preliminary tours that the Georgia affiliate is coordinating. We continue to work toward more tours, like Six Flags Over Georgia and Cyclorama/Zoo Atlanta. If you have any questions, suggestions, or special requests for places you would like to visit while you are here, please call the affiliate line (866) 316-3242, and let us know.

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

The NFB Bulletin Board

New Items from the NFB Materials Center:

For information about ordering the following items you may view and order online at <www.nfb.org> (click on the Aids and Appliances button on the Home page). You may also call to order or request a print, Braille, or cassette catalog at (410) 659-9314, extension 2216. The NFB Materials Center is located at 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.


Braille Animal Coloring Book, #AIG48B: 10 Brailled tactile pictures to color. $5.00.

Braille Basic Coloring Book, #AIG47B: 10 Brailled tactile pictures to color. $5.00.

Julie and Brandon: Our Blind Friends #LSA55P:  49 page print activity and coloring book (for sighted children) filled with information on blindness through the story of two blind students. $3.00.

Brailled Count & Learn the Shapes, #AIG32B:  The ten frames are a fun way for children to learn recognition and definition of numbers as well as ten basic geometric shapes.  Each frame measures 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches and has a punched out number and corresponding number of a geometric shape(s) with Braille labeling.  This item is made of high-density foam material and it is non-toxic.  For ages 3 and up. $18.00.

Elite Softsense Ball with Bells, #AIG34B: This ball is yellow, very soft, and measures 9-1/2 inches. It is a great playing ball for young children. $26.00.

The Touch Game, #AIG29t: This is a fun game for family and friends to test their sensory perception and memory, You will be timed while you try to find selected items in a covered dome using only your sense of touch. There are 20 theme cards with fun facts for each object and 49 game pieces. $33.00


Children’s Talking Wrist Watch: The plastic watch measures 1-1/8 x 1-1/2 inches and has a LCD face with alarm functions.

Black, #AIW53T; $5.50.

Pink with flowers and stripes, #AIW54T: $5.50.

Silver, #AIW55T: $5.50.

Clear Blue, #AIW56T: $5.50.

Tiny Talking Alarm Clock/Radio, #AIC28T: 3 x 3 x 2 inches; less than 6 ounces.  LCD time display is 5/8 inches and the clock talks you through the setting functions.  A scan button controls the FM station changes.  Antenna included.  It requires three (3) AAA batteries (included). $13.00.

This and That

Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Future Reflections readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.


Adoptive Families Needed for Waiting Vision-Impaired Children:

The World Association for Children and Parents (WACAP) is seeking loving adoptive families for beautiful children from around

the world. Currently we have seventeen children with various form of vision impairment ranging from mild to significant.  WACAP has been placing children in loving adoptive homes since 1976. WACAP has adoption programs in six countries including China, Korea, India, Russia, Thailand, and the United States. Amulya is a baby girl born in December of 2002. She giggles and coos, especially when she is spoken to. She is blind and was born with a club foot, for which she has undergone surgery. Amulya is a delight to her foster family and will certainly delight her permanent family as well. Financial assistance is available for the adoption of waiting children.  For more information about

these seventeen visually impaired children or other waiting children, contact WACAP’s Family Finders Program at (206) 575-4550 or <[email protected]>.

Braille Music Survey:

Most people who use Braille music—as well as those who teach it, produce it, or distribute it—would probably agree that locating and obtaining the Braille music scores they need or want is often difficult or impossible. Serious musicians who use Braille music regard this shortage as a critical problem in need of an aggressive solution.

Last year, in response to these concerns, the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union created a special task force whose purpose was “to examine the status of Braille music transcription in North America and to determine if there is a need to increase the capacity to produce it.”

The taskforce was chaired by Dr. Tuck Tinsley, president of the American Printing House for the Blind, and it included representatives from each of the various agencies and organizations that make up the North America/Caribbean Region. Karen McDonald, second vice president of the National Association of Blind Musicians (the NFB’s music division) represented the National Federation of the Blind on the taskforce.

McDonald reports that the working group has now developed a comprehensive survey aimed at gathering important information about Braille music such as who purchases it; where it is produced; the types of music (classical, popular, vocal, instrumental) that are most widely used; the quality of the product; the timeliness of delivery; and any difficulties that people have experienced in obtaining the Braille music they need.

The next step is to reach as many people as possible who are interested in responding to the survey. The greater the number of respondents, the more accurate and complete the survey findings will be.

The NFB national office is helping to disseminate the survey to members and others interested in completing it. Requests for the survey form in Braille or large print should be sent to Mrs. Patricia Maurer, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. An electronic version is available by sending an email request to <[email protected]>.

Anyone wishing to complete the survey online can go to the Web site of the American Printing House for the Blind at <www.aph.org/brlmusicsurvey.html>. The deadline for submitting completed surveys is June 1, 2004. Blind musicians, parents and teachers of blind children, transcribers, and others with a particular knowledge of and interest in the subject are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to help shape the future of Braille music in North America.

Computer Games:

Denise Melenbacher, a teacher of the visually impaired in Washington state recommends the following:

AllinPlay is a new company that is creating games for the blind on the Internet. They presented their product at the 2003 NFB convention, and I and a blind colleague of mine got to test it out. (The games are designed so that blind and sighted kids can play them together.) We found the games very entertaining. Take a look at <www.allinplay.com> and see what you think.

Hark The Sound: Computer Software for Visually Impaired Kids

The following information comes from Diane Brauner:

We are proud to introduce Hark the Sound—computer software games designed specifically for kids that are visually impaired!  Hark the Sound is groundbreaking software originally developed to introduce kindergarten and first grade students with severe visual impairments to the computer. The original Hark games use motivating sounds and songs to capture the student’s attention. Hark has quickly evolved to include games for multiply disabled students (in conjunction with Intellitools) and games for older students. Hark is designed so that anyone (including people that are computer illiterate!) can make new games or to customize games for specific students.

Dr. Gary Bishop, a computer science professor at the University of North Carolina, heard about the lack of accessible software for young visually impaired students. He generously dedicated his time and energy to developing quality software that uses auditory skills instead of visual skills. This exciting software has been successfully field tested in a variety of North Carolina school systems.

For more information about Hark the Sound please go to <www.cs.unc.edu/Research/assist/Hark>.You may also download your FREE copy of Hark the Sound from this website! Hark the Sound is being distributed (at no cost) for educational/recreational use. Please share this exciting software! The website is being updated regularly with new versions of Hark games. If you make your own Hark game, please send it to us so that we can share the game with others. If you have any questions, please contact Diane Brauner at <[email protected]>.

Braille Alphabet Bracelet:

The following announcement comes from the National Braille Press:

These lovely Braille Alphabet Bracelets (from At First Sight) are made of small individual tiles: each tile represents a letter—Braille on the front, and engraved Roman type on the back—separated by simple, straight spacers on a stretch bracelet. There’s no ornamentation on the tiles—just beautiful Braille! You can leave your bracelet as is, or take it apart and restring it as a bracelet or necklace of your own creation, using different letters for initials, names or words. To see a picture or order online, visit <www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/brace.html> or email your order to <[email protected]>.

Cost: $28.50, ($5 processing fee on all agency purchase orders; no charge if prepaid. Major credit cards accepted).

To order offline, send payment to: National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02115-4302. You may also call and charge it: toll-free (800) 548-7323 or (617) 266-6160 extension 20.

Institutional Membership in RFB&D

This announcement comes from Annemarie Cooke, Senior External Relations Officer RFB&D Learning through listening. Voice: (609) 520-8079. <[email protected]>.  For more details about this offer contact Ms. Cooke or go to the RFB&D Web site <www.rfbd.org> and locate the registration and copyright agreement application for a Level 1 institutional membership. Here is the announcement:

If your school or facility hasn’t enrolled as an institutional member with RFB&D, here’s the chance you’ve been waiting for to enroll for a year FREE! Through June 1, 2004, we’re offering first-time ONE YEAR institutional memberships so you can try digitally recorded textbooks on CD. A Level 1 membership will allow you to borrow 25 books for your students to use. In addition, you’ll receive one copy of VictorSoft playback software that is PC-compatible. With RFB&D’s AudioPlus™ CDs, users enjoy superior navigation—page-to-page, chapter-to-chapter, section to section with just a keystroke or two. And there’s 45 HOURS of listening on a single AudioPlus™ CD.

Independent Living Aids, Inc., Acquires Ann Morris Enterprises:

We recently received the following press release:

Independent Living Aids, Inc., the country’s oldest privately held mail-order business specializing in products for the blind and visually impaired, acquired Ann Morris Enterprises on February 1, 2004. Ann Morris has been in business for eighteen years and is one of the most respected and established mail-order companies in the industry. ILA is in its twenty-seventh year of continuous operation.

ILA intends to maintain the Ann Morris identification by continuing to publish its catalog of unique products for the visually impaired and by maintaining its Web site <www.annmorris.com>. Ann Morris, regarded as the Lillian Vernon of the blind mail-order industry, will assist with the transition and will share her expertise on an on-going basis. The acquisition enhances both companies’ product lines, which ultimately benefits all customers. ILA can now offer a more comprehensive range of CAN-DO™ Products through its catalogs and on its Web site <www.independentliving.com.>

Braille Transcription Service:

The following is from Cathy Zimmerman:

We are a non-profit organization in Hackensack, New Jersey. We offer quick and accurate transcription in literary Braille and Nemeth code of texts ranging from first-grade primers through college-level mathematics and chemistry. We also offer many foreign language transcriptions. Our customers include APH, educational institutions, government and non-profit agencies, corporations, hospitals, theaters, and individuals. If this information could be helpful to any parents looking for publications to be done for their children, we would be pleased to work with them. For more information contact:

Cathy Zimmerman, Certified Braille Transcriptionist, Multimedia Transcription Service (MTS, 131 Main Street, Suite 120, Hackensack, New Jersey 07601. Phone: (201) 996-9423. Fax: (201) 996-9422. <[email protected]>.

Free Braille Books Program

Blind kids want the same things sighted kids do. They want to watch their favorite television shows, go roller-skating with the gang, buy the current fashionable shoes, and read the newest popular book. Children enjoy collecting their favorite books and reading them over and over. Many adults today continue to cherish their Nancy Drew® or The Hardy Boys® book collections. Experts in literacy say that this type of popular literature plays an important role in developing reading skills and a love of reading among children. We at the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults (AAF) believe blind children ought to have the opportunity to enjoy literature, develop literacy skills, and learn to love reading, just like their sighted peers. Through the Free Braille Books Program we are working to make this possible.

In 1997 the AAF started this program to provide blind children a free Braille book every month from a popular children’s reading series. The books are for the children to keep and collect for as long as they want them.

The titles published every month are the same titles that are available in bookstores and public libraries everywhere. In the past six years over one hundred twenty-six titles from popular children’s reading series were distributed to thousands of blind children. These titles were from the following reading series: Goosebumps®, Goosebumps® Series 2000, Animorphs®, Baby-Sitters Club, Baby-Sitters Club—Friends Forever, The Nightmare Room™, Little House chapter books, Nancy Drew®, The Hardy Boys®, A to Z MysTerieS®, and Junie B. Jones chapter books.

Because reading interests and trends change, the AAF periodically reviews and changes the titles offered. Beginning January 1, 2004, AAF will issue six titles each from the A to Z MysTerieS® series (reading levels 2.6 and up), the ever-popular Junie B. Jones series written by Barbara Parks (reading level 2.0 and up), and the Matt Christopher Sports Bio Bookshelf (suitable for preteens). The books will be shipped in alternating months: two titles in January, one title in February, and so forth to the end of the year. Blind youngsters, blind parents, teachers of the blind, schools, and libraries serving the blind are eligible to participate in this program. Participants may enroll in or withdraw from the program at any time. They may also choose to receive one, two, or all three titles, as they like. And the books are free and theirs to keep.

No child should be left out because he or she is blind. Because of this program blind children can now discuss the newest book with their classmates and build their very own collection of books—just like their sighted friends.

Free Braille Books Program


To apply for the program, please send the information requested in the application below to:

AAF Free Braille Books Program

1800 Johnson Street

Baltimore, Maryland 21230

Telephone: (410) 659-9314, extension 2361

Fax: (410) 685-5653

<[email protected]>


Name _________________________________________________________________

Address ________________________________________________________________

City, State, Zip ___________________________________________________________

(check one) [  ] student, [  ] teacher, [  ] library or other institution

If student, birth date __________________________

Name of parent(s) ________________________________________________________


[ ] Yes, send me the Junie B. Jones chapter books (RL 2.0). I understand six books will be issued in 2004.

[ ] Yes, send me the A to Z MysTerieS® chapter books (RL 2.6). I understand six books will be issued in 2004.

[ ] Yes, send me the sports biography books written by Matt Christopher for preteens.

I understand six books will be issued in 2004.