ISSN 0883-3419

Volume 20, Number 3          Barbara Cheadle, Editor                    Fall 2001


Braille Is Beautiful

by Dr. Betsy Zaborowski

Dear Parent of an Adult Child

Anna’s Long Road to Braille Literacy

by Sally Miller

Please Pass the Manners

by Barbara Pierce

Labeling Clothing

by Dana Ard

Developing Skills for Social Success

by Ann Hicks, MSW

Include Peer Interaction Goals for your
Students with Disabilities

Toy Ideas for Blind Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers     

by Terri Connolly and Jill Brody

The Need for “Pre-Canes” Fact or Fancy?

by Joe Cutter M.A.

Deaf-Blind Teen Feels the Rhythm

by Ann L. Kim

Teacher Recognition Letters

Teachers: Stephanie Leigh and Jackie Rief

The Slate Book: A Review

Review by Doris M. Willoughby

Understanding the Special Education Process

Testing, Testing

by Peggy Elliott

My Outlook as a Dad of a Blind Child

by Mark McClain

The Role of Fathers

Family-Owned Restaurant Employs Blind Teen

by Bart Ripp

A Few Notes on Buying a Computer

by Curtis Chong, Director of Technology, National Federation of the Blind

2000 - 2001 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest Winners

Join the Club! Braille Readers Are Leaders
Club for 2000 - 2001 NFB 2002 Scholarship Program

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Braille Is Beautiful

by Dr. Betsy Zaborowski

Editor’s Note: Over the past year I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Zaborowski on one of the most innovative, exciting Braille projects since the Braille Readers Are Leaders National Contest was launched about 20 years ago. The Braille Is Beautiful program could, I think, do more to promote the cause of wide-spread acceptance and integration of blind kids into their schools and communities than any other single program that has come along in decades. The key to its success, however, is implementation. I urge readers to contact local schools and ask them to get a Braille Is Beautiful Curriculum kit and USE IT! Several organizations around  the  country – NFB state affiliates, schools for the blind, libraries, instructional resource centers, and so forth – have already purchased the kit and will make it available to teachers and schools who want to implement the program.

The following information about the program is the text of a colorful brochure we have published to disseminate information about this unique, one-of-a-kind curriculum kit. If you want brochures and/or other information about the program (including information about kits that are available for loan in your state), contact:

Dr. Betsy Zaborowski
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
(410) 659-9314


Dr. Betsy Zaborowski presents the
Braille Is Beautiful program to the
2001 NFB Convention.

To promote Braille literacy among the
blind and to increase awareness of the capabilities of blind and visually impaired people the National Federation of the Blind has released “Braille is Beautiful,”
Braille awareness curriculum program
for grades four through six.

Building Braille Literacy

Braille Is Beautiful is an engaging experiential learning program for developing basic skills in reading and writing in Braille. Combining language arts and social studies skills, Braille Is Beautiful helps sighted and blind students to understand Braille as an important tool of literacy while developing a greater and accurate understanding of blindness.

Using the Program

Braille Is Beautiful was designed for use with sighted children in grades four through six. However, the program can be used effectively with younger or older children and community youth programs as well as by schools. The Teacher’s Guide is structured in five learning units and is highly flexible. Teachers may implement the full program or use select units while maintaining the overall purpose of the program.

In School and the Community

The primary objective of this program is to create environments where blind children can be proud of using Braille and be easily integrated into classrooms with their sighted peers. The more sighted children, their families, and their teachers understand Braille and blindness, the easier it will be for blind children to learn and flourish in school and the community.

The Braille Is Beautiful
Curriculum Kit Includes:

The Braille Is Beautiful Video Set contains the videos Jake and the Secret Code©,  2001, and That the Blind May Read©,  1994. Jake and the Secret Code (15 minutes) is an engaging video depicting a mother and her ten-year-old son, both sighted, visiting the National Center for the Blind. While at the Center, the two get separated, and Jake has a set of experiences that expands his and his mother’s understanding of Braille and blind people.

That the Blind May Read (18 minutes) is a video designed to familiarize adults with issues related to Braille literacy among the blind. It is included as background information for teachers and parents and will be appropriate for older or accelerated youth working on independent studies.

These videos are accompanied by a presentation discussion guide packaged in an attractive case.

The Teacher’s Guide includes all the background information, lesson descriptions, and exercises necessary for the five instructional units. Included with the Teacher’s Guide is a select guide to high-quality resources, and a letter to parents informing them about Braille Is Beautiful. The curriculum is designed to establish a basic knowledge of Braille, then move the student toward an accurate awareness of blindness through learning to read and write basic Braille. 

The program also includes:

ť 30 instruction and 30 student workbooks

ť a service learning guidebook

ť a ream of Braille paper

ť 6 sets of slates and styli AND

   6 decks of UNO cards to Braille


ť 10 sets of slates and styli AND

   2 decks of UNO cards to Braille

ť 30 copies of Braille Under My Fingers, a paperback book that contains stories written by blind persons about Braille

ť 6 copies each of The Seeing Summer, What Color is the Sun, and I Can Feel Blue on Monday for small-group reading

ť 30 Braille alphabet cards

ť plastic sheets for creating Braille labels

ť a teacher’s slate and stylus instruction manual

ť an index of Braille and Braille contractions

There are a variety of learning formats within this diverse curriculum, including Full Group Discussion, Small Group Work, Fact Sheets, Quizzes, Interactive Games, and Applied Projects. Topics covered in the program include:

3          Biographies of famous blind people

3          Questions students frequently ask

3          Adaptive technology used by the blind

3          History of Braille

3         The uses of Braille in daily life

3          Learning to read and write Braille

3 Story writing

3 A service project beneficial to the blind

What You Will Help Accomplish
with Braille Is Beautiful

Sighted and blind students can learn together how this tactile method of reading and writing is interesting and fun.

Blind and visually impaired students will be more motivated to learn and use Braille as their peers find Braille interesting.

Sighted children will learn to view the blind as normal people who use other methods to live independent, happy lives.

The National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind is the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind individuals, parents of blind children, and professionals working with blind and visually impaired persons. Founded in 1940, the NFB is organized in every state with over 50,000 members participating directly in the over 700 local and state affiliates. Each year approximately 3,000 persons attend the National Convention of the Federation – the largest gathering of blind people in this country.

Braille Monitor Sample Issue Request

Mail to

Braille Monitor Sample Issue Request
National Center for the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230

Fax: (410) 659-9314   *  Email: nfb@nfb.org

Note: The Braille Monitor is also available by email subscription. For more information please go to “publications” on the NFB Web site at


Please send sample issues to:

1. Name


City                               State          Zip

Phone and/or email

Format: [  ]Braille [  ]Tape [  ]Large print

[  ] Yes, please send me contact information about my local or state NFB affiliate

2. Name


City                               State            Zip

Phone and/or email

Format: [  ]Braille [  ]Tape [  ]Large print

[  ] Yes, please send me contact information about my local or state NFB affiliate

Dear Parents of an Adult Child:

So, your child is now grown up. Congratulations! It seems amazing that we have been publishing Future Reflections long enough that the children of some of our readers are now ready to leave home and go out on their own.

This means that most of you will no longer need or want to receive Future Reflections. That’s understandable. I’m glad that you and your child have outgrown Future Reflections. However, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) still has much to offer your family – most especially your grown-up son or daughter. For example, the NFB publishes a monthly magazine, the Braille Monitor, which addresses the multitude of issues facing blind adults. The Braille Monitor takes over where Future Reflections leaves off. It is the kind of publication that will give your son or daughter the information, encouragement, and resources necessary to meet the problems commonly encountered by blind persons in our society. In your new supportive role, you may also find the Braille Monitor a helpful publication.

To help you and your young adult son or daughter decide if you would like to get the Braille Monitor, the NFB will send either or both of  you some sample issues in the format – large print, tape, or Braille – of your choice. (By the way, a subscription to the Braille Monitor is one of the benefits of membership the NFB. We will be glad to send membership information, too.) To get the free sample issues of the Braille Monitor, and/or find out whom to contact in your area about membership, just fill out and send in the following request form.

We are glad that you allowed us to be a part of your lives, and we wish all the best to you and to your adult son or daughter!

(Mrs.) Barbara Cheadle, Editor


Braille Monitor Sample Issue Request

Mail to

Braille Monitor Sample Issue Request
National Center for the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230

Fax: (410) 659-9314   *  Email: nfb@nfb.org

Note: The Braille Monitor is also available by email subscription. For more information please go to “publications” on the NFB Web site at


Please send sample issues to:

1. Name


City                               State          Zip

Phone and/or email

Format: [  ]Braille [  ]Tape [  ]Large print

[  ] Yes, please send me contact information about my local or state NFB affiliate

2. Name


City                               State            Zip

Phone and/or email

Format: [  ]Braille [  ]Tape [  ]Large print

[  ] Yes, please send me contact information about my local or state NFB affiliate



Anna’s Long Road to Braille Literacy

by Sally Miller

Editor’s note: How long does it take a child to learn to read? For thirteen-year-old Anna Miller, who is blind and multiply disabled, the road to literacy has been a long road, indeed. Was the struggle worth it? The final chapter is not yet written – most of Anna’s life is still before her – but Anna’s mom, Sally Miller, has no doubts in her mind about the worth of literacy. Here is Sally’s inspiring account of the triumph of patience and persistence:


Anna Miller (left) with mom, Sally Miller,
at the 2001 NFB Convention.

I believe every child should receive a good education with reading as the foundation. Whether I believe this because I am a teacher, or simply because I am a mother and reader myself, I don’t know. At any rate, I am convinced of the value of literacy for all children.

When I was young I loved to read. I carried a book with me wherever I went. I read at every chance I got – while riding the bus, waiting in line, eating lunch, before I’d go to sleep at night. Later, when I had a family of my own, I read at every opportunity – when my babies were sleeping in my arms, and while the clothes were in the washer. And I read to my children. I wanted to ensure that they would have a good foundation for wanting to be readers, too.

  My oldest son took to reading with enthusiasm. At 26 he’s still an avid and excellent reader and writer. Our second child enjoyed having others read to him; but didn’t master it as readily as his brother had. After he was diagnosed with a form of dyslexia, and once it was addressed, he too, learned to read. Recently, my husband and I were reflecting on how difficult it had been to help our now 21-year-old son achieve this important milestone in his life compared to our first son’s ease in learning to read. We finally decided that God had a plan – to prepare us for the struggle that would be the journey toward literacy for our third child.

  When we  adopted our daughter there was no doubt in our minds that she would learn to read. After all, we were readers; we had helped our first two children learn to read; Anna would also be a reader. Therefore, there was never any question about when or how she would learn to read. It was just understood that SHE WOULD READ! Unfortunately she had a mountain of obstacles in her way. Let me explain.

 Anna came to us as a foster child at the age of four. She was born blind – totally blind. Her birth family considered this a severe handicap, and they mistakenly believed she was unable to learn at all. Because they had no expectations, they did not provide her with even the basic stimulation all babies need in order to learn. When she came to us, she was depressed and really didn’t have any skills.

Fortunately, she had been referred to, and tested by, the local school district at the age of three, which led to her inclusion in a pre-school program for the visually impaired. It was difficult for her teachers to deal with her because of her behavior problems; but they did begin pre-Braille skills when she was four. It was an uphill battle. Anna was tactually defensive. This isn’t unusual for a child who can’t see; but in this case her defensiveness was compounded by past abuse at the hands of both children and adults. She fought like a little tiger because she was so afraid. And she was a biter. Oh, was she a biter! Few people could get near her, let alone touch her. Our first hurdle to reading was gaining her trust.

While we worked daily to love her we were also teaching her that she could trust both those at home and those at school. It was a combined effort and one that eventually paid off. Pulling her out of her private little world inside her head –  feeding her regularly, potty-training her, and even bathing her – were daily challenges. Getting her to touch Braille letters or words on a page were excruciating tasks. She didn’t want us to hold her hands where they needed to be and she couldn’t abide the feel of the raised dots on her fingertips. We devised all sorts of alternatives. We had her touching and playing with marshmallows, JELL-O, flat plastic disks, whipped cream, candies of every flavor, and different textures. Eventually she began to trust us, and by age seven she was finally learning the letters of the alphabet.

Can you imagine a five-year-old not knowing how to crawl or use her hands? We couldn’t either. But there she was on our living room floor with our two teenage sons, one in front and one in back, moving her hands and feet to simulate the crawling motions. Her tendency was to use the backs of her hands to push her body up from the floor and was quite indignant that we insisted on her using the palms of her hands for this task. No matter how stubborn she was about doing it her way we were more stubborn and determined that she do it our way. It was always a test to see who could be stronger. We didn’t always win; but then, neither did she.

Gymnastics classes and occupational therapy helped with body awareness and to show her the possibilities of moving her body for fun. She didn’t know at the time that it also helped strengthen her hands as well as her whole body. Her gross motor skills continued to develop and become second nature to her. All the while she was learning to recognize the alphabet in Braille, and finding out that they could be put on paper to tell stories about her.

Then came the Braille writer. Oh, the Braille writer! First of all, Anna considered it work. That is, WORK, spelled with capital letters. She hated it. And when she was told that she had to use her fingers independently – well, that just made it worse than anything we’d had ever asked of her. It was more than she was willing to confront. However, we were more stubborn than she was. One letter at a time, one reward after another (Okay, so they were bribes!), one day after another day, on and on…. By the age of nine she was writing the alphabet on the Braille writer.

Reading and writing. All schoolchildren learn to do it. Anna was destined to read and write. Right? Well, not if she could help it. She did everything in her power to keep it from happening. Papers were torn from the Braille writer, the raised letters were scratched out with her fingers, and she would refuse to read. She definitely didn’t pay attention to what she was reading and asking her what a story was about was impossible. The lessons were turned into confrontations. Meanwhile, whether she liked or not, she was learning to read. We marked the milestones as we went along. We congratulated her on the smallest of victories, made celebrations of mastering a new word or contraction. Reading the letters were good, reading a whole word was terrific, making it all the way through a sentence (even if it was only three words) was magnificent. Slowly but surely she was getting the words from her fingertips to her brain, the electrical sparks were flying and she was learning to read paragraphs and stories – “Pam and Tim were playing on the seesaw.” Spelling words were being read from the page and spelled back out through the Braille writer. By the age of eleven Anna was grudgingly reading short stories.

   Braille literacy doesn’t come easy; well, not for some people. You name it, we’ve tried it: library books, constantly looking for new ways to make reading and writing an adventure, summer reading programs, Dr. Seuss books, rhymes, the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest, jokes, teachers who never give up, pen pals through the Slate Pals program, poems, big brothers who read stories with lots of inflection and the silliest voices. It hasn’t been easy. It’s been one of the hardest jobs we’ve ever taken on. But, through perseverance, hard work, and just plain being more stubborn than Anna, we think we’re winning the battle for Anna to learn to read.

One of the library books that came from the South Carolina State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped this summer was Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham. Her big brother had read it to her using marvelously silly voices, describing the looks on the characters faces, showing as much humor as he possibly could. As a result, Anna also enjoyed reading Green Eggs and Ham, to herself and to others. She enjoyed it so much that she asked for her own copy. Fortunately, we were able to buy a copy in the exhibit hall at the NFB National Convention in Philadelphia. She read it again and again and again. She read it because it was FUN. She ENJOYED reading to us! She read on the bed, and in a train, and in the rain. She read it to those who wanted to listen; she read it to those who didn’t want to listen.

Guess what? At the age of thirteen, Anna has learned to read!

Please Pass the Manners

by Barbara Pierce

Editor’s Note: If you’ve been to an NFB National Convention, then the name Barbara Pierce probably rings a bell. Despite her busy schedule – Mrs. Pierce is editor of the Braille Monitor, president of the NFB of Ohio, and serves as the NFB Public Relations Chairman – she has, year after year, conducted workshops for parents at the convention on the topic of social skills. And every year parents tell us to “Do it again – Mrs. Pierce is great!” After the 2001 workshops – which, again, were packed – Barbara was inspired to put some of her thoughts about social skills on paper. Here is what she has to say about table manners:


Barbara Pierce


My earliest recollections of conversation at the dinner table include a periodic but continual commentary by my mother: “Hold your fork properly.” “Keep your other hand in your lap.” “Take the first piece you touch.” “Sit up straight and bring the fork to your mouth.” “Chew with your mouth closed.”

I suspect that most adults have similar memories. But I am not at all certain that people who were blind as children have the same set of memories. Blind people certainly miss the chance to observe other people’s behavior at the table in order to model our own on what we see.

The result is unfortunate. With real distress a sighted friend told me of having lunch with a young blind professional whose table manners were so disgusting that my friend entirely lost her appetite. I might have disregarded such a story as the reaction of a finicky observer if I had not remembered Eva. When I was in high school, one of my best friends moved away. She and I had eaten lunch together for years, so she called me in some distress shortly after the new school year had begun. She found a blind student in her class, so her instinct was to see if they might become friends. She noticed immediately that Eva sat alone at lunch. She soon discovered why. The girl’s table manners were so appalling that no one wanted to sit across the table from her while she was eating. High school students are not known for the delicacy of their manners, so the mind boggles at trying to conceive of the behavior that would revolt kids that completely.

One wonders how such situations come to pass. I suspect that the answer is that a combination of influences shaped these two people and thousands more like them. Obviously, good parents don’t want their blind children to be socially unacceptable, but they don’t have any good way to teach the child how to do things correctly when “Do it like this” is an insufficient instruction.

Anyone who has ever spoon‑fed a baby knows what a messy business that can be. But we rapidly get used to the process and the mess. As most children get older, the extent of the disaster area gradually shrinks, and eventually civilization dawns. But the parents of a blind child may never quite notice that other kids of the same age are making substantially less of a mess. These parents are so happy to have the child begin to use a spoon that they forget to insist on graduating to a fork. They assume that fingers are the only way for the child to recognize the contents of the plate or bowl or get difficult items to stay on the utensil. If the child huddles over the plate, much less food falls onto the table or floor. And there you are.

Then there is the matter of time. It is easier and faster to cut the child’s meat than to insist upon and struggle through an unwanted lesson on how to do the job for himself.

I don’t know that I have any particular light to shed on the subject of table manners specifically or social skills for blind people in general. I do know that this subject keeps coming up and people ask me to talk about the subject. So I have decided to see what happens if I try to organize the things parents and I have talked about in the hope that it may be of some encouragement to other parents and their children. I have no lock on the right way to do things. I have found some tricks and techniques, but others probably work just as well or better. Look around and observe the blind people you spend time with at NFB functions. Choose someone who handles himself or herself well in social situations or at meals and ask that person questions about how to assist your child. Federationists are usually happy to help.

Making Distinctions

Before you can effectively help your child to become a poised, confident adult in all sorts of social situations, you must learn to distinguish between arbitrary social conventions, which should not be imposed on people for whom they are meaningless, and behavior that avoids offending or distracting other people. Consider the general rule that one looks at the person speaking or to whom one is speaking. Even totally blind people find it valuable to adhere to this convention because sighted people find it difficult to pay attention to what a person is saying when he or she is looking in some other direction or has lowered his or her head.

On the other hand, the convention of slicing a loaf of bread beginning at the end nearer the slicer’s dominant hand seems to me completely arbitrary. I am right‑handed, but I cut from the left end of the loaf so that I can guide the path of the knife with my left hand. When I cut bread at a restaurant table, people sometimes comment that I am doing it backwards, but I see no reason to develop another technique since nothing about my method is offensive or distracting. Perhaps I do some things that are distasteful to sighted people watching, but no one has mentioned anything like that to me since I was about twelve. And that is the kind of honest feedback blind people count on good friends to give them in private. It is certainly a service you can always provide your blind child, assuming that you balance tact and honesty to fit the circumstances—dinners in public are no time to call reminders down the table to an older blind child.

Mapping the Place Setting

I am a great believer in teaching a blind child to set the table. If he or she can arrange the flatware, napkin, glasses, butter plate, and cup and saucer correctly, the child is already well on the way to managing a complicated place setting in an elegant restaurant, at Great Aunt Sue’s Christmas dinner, or at your boss’s wedding reception buffet.

When I sit down at a restaurant table, I begin with discreet exploration of my setting. Finding the napkin can be an adventure. I check to see whether the silverware is rolled up in the napkin, laid out in a group on one side, or actually lying with forks to the left and knives and spoons to the right. If I have not found the napkin to the left or wrapped around the silver, I begin an inconspicuous search for it while reorganizing the utensils. While adjusting these, I make sure that the sharp edge of the knife faces the plate. I check the service plate, if there is one, for the missing napkin. If it isn’t there, it might be on the butter plate or fanned out on the table above the service plate. When all else fails, I check the water glass.

All this reconnoitering should be done as inconspicuously as possible. I keep my hands low and adjust the plates, glasses, and implements just a bit even if they do not require repositioning. This is the time to check the size and number of glasses. A child can move wine glasses back so as to avoid picking up an empty glass when hoping to find water or milk. Teach your child always to notice the weight and temperature of any glass to confirm that it holds what the blind person expects to sip.

Surveying the Plate

I gather from what people report to me that far too many parents through the years have allowed their blind children to establish the location of food on a plate by touching it. This is a hard habit to break, so you would do better never to allow your child to begin. The fork makes a fine divining rod. I admit to having little patience with finicky eaters who refuse to eat anything they don’t care for. Blind people are far better off if they are not indulged in preferences not to have two foods touch each other or to insist on eating all of one food before beginning the next. I recognize that insisting on mature behavior in this respect may open you to some battles, but teaching a young child to behave graciously will pay off in the long run.

By and large a blind person can figure out what is on the plate without receiving a clock‑face description. I firmly refuse this rigmarole from well meaning wait staff. After all, I ordered the meal, so I know what should be on the plate. Experience will guide an adult in identifying lemon wedges, orange slices, or other partially inedible garnishes. But I do think it is appropriate and sporting to mention to a blind child that a lemon wedge is at eleven o’clock or parsley is at six. One can then either use the lemon, eat it when it arrives at the lips, or set it aside on the butter plate.

As for identifying which food is where, a quick circuit with the fork will usually identify large things like baked potatoes, small vegetables like peas, and firm things like chops or slices of meat. Mashed potatoes and vegetable purees have a slushy feel that cannot be confused with firmer objects. I survey and begin tasting the things that are clearly easy to pick up on the fork. One taste confirms the accuracy of my conclusions about what I have found. I then note that location: one thing identified. I make my way around the plate, tasting and probing with the fork. At a restaurant, or anywhere I may expect garnishes or other efforts to present food beautifully, I keep in mind that something unexpected may appear on my fork. I am not above asking a sighted companion what I have captured before I raise it to my lips, if the weight and balance of the fork suggest that a nasty shock may be in store for me.

Learning to cut meat is not difficult, but it does take practice, so trying to master the skill should not be undertaken in public. To begin with, a blind person must learn what a bite of appropriate size feels like on a fork or spoon. (I encourage you to insist on your child’s using a spoon only for soups, sauces, ice cream, and the like; too many blind people arrive at adulthood without having mastered the fork. With practice the fork is actually easier to use than a spoon for most things.) With practice your child will learn how a forkful of the correct size feels. Your job is giving impartial feedback: that bite was too big.

All blind people occasionally bring an empty fork to the lips, especially when the weight of the fork is unfamiliar or the food is hard to spear. In my view such mistakes should be ignored. The blind person knows perfectly well what has happened and certainly has no motivation to repeat the error. So the less notice you take of the occurrence the better, unless you can make a constructive suggestion. Such advice should be given in a low voice in public or at home.

The secret to cutting meat is to find an edge or an end and insert the tines of the fork at a bite-size distance from the edge in order to cut the bite. The knife can then be laid along the back of the tines so that the fork provides a directional guide for cutting. When the cut is complete, the knife is laid across the back of the plate and the fork switched to the dominant hand. This is the moment to lift the fork slightly to determine the weight and balance of the piece cut. If it is too large, pick up the knife again, reposition the fork by holding down the piece with the point of the knife to release and reposition the fork if necessary and make a second cut. All this sounds simple, and it becomes second nature, but it takes practice. Tough meat is always a struggle, and chops, steaks with bones, and small poultry are particularly tricky. I don’t know any blind adult who hears with delight the news that cornish game hen is on the menu.

Here are some suggestions that you may find helpful in assisting your child to master this important skill. Begin with meat that she likes and that is fairly easy to cut: ham, turkey, fish filets, pot roast. All these have no bones and should not be tough. Be sure that your child is hungry when you begin. If he is having trouble cutting the meat, leave the potatoes and vegetable off the plate till he can cope with the meat alone. You can try cutting your meat with sleepshades on and provide a running commentary on how well you are doing. Let your other children try to cut their meat without peeking. The object is not to demonstrate that mastering this skill is impossible. It should give family members an appreciation of the challenge and may help you suggest useful techniques.

Bread, Butter, and Backstops

The rule for everyone is that bread should be broken and buttered bit by bit as it is eaten. At home this usually means taking a roll or slice of bread and putting it on the edge of the dinner plate unless you are using butter plates. If the blind child has set the table, he or she will know whether butter plates are present and whether each person has a butter knife. Usually the family passes a stick of butter or container of spread. The common butter knife is passed with it, or each person is expected to use a personal butter or dinner knife. Help your child anticipate what is being done at the meal. As an adult she will have to learn to draw her own conclusions, but you can help to guide this learning process by asking leading questions or providing information directly.

A tub of spread is easiest to use, but do not do so always, or your child will gain no experience with a stick of cold butter. Restaurants make this process particularly challenging because one never knows whether wrapped pats of butter, unwrapped pats, a large shaped block, or a bowl of soft spread is coming. Here is where I break my own rule of never touching. I take the container in my non‑dominant hand, just touching the butter with the edge of my thumb so as to determine what I am dealing with. Then I use my butter knife with my dominant hand, making sure to include the part I have touched in the portion I take. Obviously, if I contact paper wrapper with my thumb, I just take one pat and pass the rest immediately.

I use the same sort of maneuver to butter the bread. I hold the piece I have broken off and am preparing to eat in my left hand and move it so that the edge of my thumb is just touching the butter on the plate. I can tell pretty precisely how much butter I am putting on my knife without obviously measuring it with my finger. Once the butter is on the knife, it is fairly easy to transfer it to the bread. Spreading it to the edges is a matter of practice and the temperature of the butter. I suggest that you begin with soft spread and progress to pats and sticks of butter. The suggestions for having the family help your child to learn to cut meat work as well for bread- and roll-buttering.

One of the hardest things for your child to learn to do efficiently will be to clean his plate. The temptation to use that non‑dominant hand as a backstop is nearly irresistible. A piece of bread solves this problem very neatly. Even if he does not then eat the bread, it has provided an acceptable wall to gather food with the fork and push against.

Salads, Desserts, and Sauces

I have never conducted a survey, but I would guess that most blind adults with good table manners would report that salads have provided a large number of their most embarrassing moments. Being a lady, I will refrain from saying what I think of people who use very large salad-green leaves, over‑size cherry tomatoes or tomato wedges, and large onion rings to compose their salads. But your child will have to learn to cope with such hazards. If I can do so conveniently, I remove onion rings. I don’t particularly like them, so avoiding them is no disappointment to me. If I liked them or when I cannot remove them to a butter plate before beginning the salad, I handle them as I do large lettuce leaves: I cut across the salad several times before beginning to eat. (This is my solution to eating long pasta as well.) If I manage to spear a cherry tomato, I can usually decide by its weight if it is going to be too big to fit into my mouth. Having it on my fork already makes it easy to cut. Olives, croutons, radishes, and other rolly or skittery salad items are easier to deal with in a bowl than on a flat plate. You might start salad-eating lessons with the easy things and build up your child’s skills to cope with the more difficult.

Salad dressing is like syrup, sauces, or cream. When possible I prefer to serve it with a spoon or use a small packet of the liquid. I think it is fair to say that without a ladle or other way of measuring the liquid, there is no reliable way for a person with no useable sight to serve a liquid like this without touching the stream. That is what I would do if I were faced with the necessity. I drink my coffee black, and I often eat a salad undressed if I cannot control the dressing or have it served in a cup on the side. A weight-watcher trick works well for blind people who don’t want to use all the dressing provided by most restaurants. Ask for the dressing on the side. Dipping the tines of the fork into the dressing before spearing a bite of salad provides a little dressing, but not too much.

What I have already said applies as well to desserts. Using the fork, one can usually locate the point of the pie slice or the shallow end of a piece of layer cake. Perhaps the biggest challenge with an unknown dessert is to decide whether to pick up a fork or spoon before beginning. One must learn to check for dessert fork or spoon across the top of the place setting or on the plate. I will admit frankly that angel food cake and sponges are very hard to cut; they mash flat and lose all their volume before I can get a piece to my mouth. I don’t serve them. Maybe someone else has mastered these cakes, but I avoid them. Your son or daughter will learn to make such judgments if you help him or her understand the importance of managing food gracefully and competently. People who can eat most foods neatly usually prefer to dodge the ones they cannot, and that is how it should be.


I have not bothered to talk about using low vision in eating. I was a low‑vision child, and it got me nothing but trouble until I learned to ignore what I thought I was seeing. As with so much else in mastering the skills of blindness, children are better off learning how to manage dining without vision so that, if the lighting is not good or the color contrast is not great enough to allow for accurate use of vision, the child is not rendered helpless or foolish. Leaning over to inspect the plate looks strange to other people and can result in gravy in the hair or on a tie or necklace. The child who depends on seeing the plate will find it hard to sit up straight or keep his or her head up for conversation between bites.

Dining is essentially a small part of all social interaction. The blind person who puts off other people with poor manners or bizarre contortions in order to see what is on the plate or serving dish will eat alone or only with those too gauche to object. In short, it is never too early to begin teaching your child the techniques of gracious dining, and it is never too late to begin breaking bad habits.

Labeling Clothing

by Dana Ard

Reprinted from the Winter 2000 Gem State Milestones, the newsletter of the NFB of Idaho.

Editor’s Note: Learning to dress oneself is an important milestone in the independence of a child. Most kids then move to the next stage of independence in dressing – choosing their own outfits – without too much fuss. Blind kids can make this transition smoothly, too, if parents put a little advance thought and planning into a clothes labeling system.

Dana Ard, a rehabilitation counselor with the Idaho Commission for the Blind, shares some helpful tips about labeling clothes in this nifty little article. In her job, Dana works mostly with newly blind adults, however, she has a lot of personal knowledge about independence for blind children. Born with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and mild cerebral palsy (CP), she was the first totally blind child to be educated entirely in the public school system in Boise, Idaho. Although the CP limits the use of her right hand, she is a good, fast left-handed Braille reader, and, as secretary of the NFB of Idaho, regularly takes notes with a slate and stylus. She and her husband have 6 dogs, including her guide dog, Fringe, and a deaf-blind Dachshund they rescued. Dana is an active member of her church and community choirs, a 20-year member of the Toastmasters Club, and she loves to read, cook, and take walks. Here, now, is what Dana has to say about “Labeling Clothing.”


Dana Ard

Recently a newly blind client told me about a very embarrassing situation that happened to her. She and her grown daughters were meeting for lunch. When she arrived at the restaurant, they told her that she was wearing two different colored shoes, one black, and the other white. She was humiliated and told me that she was waiting for her daughters to coordinate her clothing before she dared to go out again. 

Certainly, both blind and sighted people alike can report such embarrassing moments, but if you’re blind and have no method for identifying the colors in your wardrobe, you risk having such moments more often.

Obviously, the simplest way to keep clothing straight is never to buy two items that are exactly the same except for their color. This approach is not always practical. I have a favorite brand and style of shoes, which I like because they fit my hard-to-fit feet. To keep them from getting mixed up, I place the pairs together in a shoe bag. I attach a stick-on Braille label on the side of each shoe where it will not bother my foot. I use Braille letters such as “nb” for navy blue, “br” for brown, “bl” for black, etc. I also use such stick-on Braille labels to identify my belts that are similar. I have two brown belts; one is designated “lbr” for light brown, and the other “dbr” for dark brown. If you don’t know Braille, you can buy a package of stick-on raised shaped adhesive markers, which you can use in the same way as the dymo-tape labels. You might use a raised rectangle for navy blue and a raised circle for black, for example.  Of course, you need to keep track of which shapes represent which colors.

I use different shaped craft beads attached to safety pins to identify colors of clothing items that are similar. I pin these beads to the inside label of the item. A very small bead symbolizes red or pink, a rough-textured bead is used for white, and a bead with little projections around it is used for black. I use a safety pin in the label for blue, and cut the label down the middle if the item is green. You can be as creative as you want to with your labeling system, as long as it meets your needs.

I am aware of three commercially available tactile labeling products: Braille aluminum clothing tags, Do Dots, and Matchmakers. The aluminum tags can be sewn onto the label of the garment. Do dots are Braille identifiers that attach to the item like a tie tack. They have Braille that signifies both the color and whether it is light or dark.  This product seemed very bulky to me when I tried it on my pants. Matchmakers are labels with different dot designs on them. They can be pinned in a garment, and like the craft beads, you determine which design of dots will symbolize which color.

Editor’s Note: State or local public or private agencies for the blind will often carry clothing labeling products as a convenience to clients, students, or patrons. However, there are national resources, too – national non-profit organizations, such as the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), and for-profit catalog companies – which specialize in products for the blind and visually impaired. Here are a couple:

3M Braille Label Writer: This is a hand-held device with Braille and print letters on a wheel. It includes a tape cutter, the alphabet, plus 18 additional Braille symbols. To make Braille labels on the tape, align the letters and squeeze the handle. It uses 1/2-inch labeling tape. Label Writer and labeling tape is available from the Materials Center, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. For more information about prices and how to order contact the Materials Center by phone (410) 659-9314; fax (410) 685-5653; online  at <www.nfb.org>; or by e-mail  at <nfbstore@nfb.org>.

Matchmakers, Aluminum Braille Labels, and other tactile labeling systems are available from LS&S Group, Inc. For more information or to request a catalog contact them by phone (800) 468-4789; fax (847) 498-1482; or e-mail <lssgrp@aol.com>.

Developing Skills
for Social Success

by Ann Hicks, MSW

Reprinted from In Touch, the newsletter of the New Jersey Parents of Blind Children, February 2000.


Playing pretend games together helps these kids (one of whom is blind) develop social skills. And they thought they were
just having fun!

To develop successful relationships with peers, parents, and teachers, children must develop good social skills. For most children, social skills develop naturally as they mature, and they learn from their daily interactions with others. However for other children, social success is more of a challenge. A child’s own physical abilities, attitudes, and communication skills, as well as the behavior of his/her family members and peers influences this interpersonal, social process. Most importantly, it has been shown that all types of children, given all types of challenges, can learn better social skills.

The term “social skills” is an all-encompassing one. It includes:

3 Friendship-Making Skills, e.g., joining in a game, giving a compliment, sharing.

3 Skills for Dealing with Feelings, e.g., expressing your feelings, dealing with anger.

3 Skill Alternatives to Aggression, e.g., using self-control, responding to teasing.

3 Skills for Dealing with Stress, e.g., dealing with being left out, reacting to failure.

3 Classroom Survival Skills, e.g., following instructions, asking for help.

For children who show a weakness in one or more of these skill-based areas, there are many ways to help them. Teachers, parents, and other professionals such as social workers can all help to promote skill acquisition in either a group setting or individually. They can do this by modeling the desired behavior; coaching when things go wrong; role playing in a structured, protective situation; and/or by social problem-solving, which uses the child’s cognitive abilities to help self-correct undesirable behavior.

As the development of social skills is dependent on many variables and is such an individual process, each child’s needs in the end are slightly different. For example, blind children are presented with unique physical challenges and their ability to receive visual cues from others is limited. However, there is no reason why they should be any less adept in social situations because of this. Their visual impairment may preclude them from discerning visual cues; however, they can learn to become more attuned to auditory cues from others and can develop superior verbal skills to communicate. It therefore becomes the job of the teacher, parent, or social worker to identify each child’s strengths and to design an intervention that can reinforce strengths while overcoming any disability and/or weakness.

Teaching better social skills and achieving improvement is not only attainable for all kinds of children, it is highly recommended. Studies have shown that children who are continually rejected by others exhibit more sadness and anxiety and tend to withdraw from interacting with others. Conversely, those children who have or develop strong social skills receive the nourishment from others that builds self-esteem and even better academic performance.

To learn more about social skills and how to teach them, the following books may be useful:

Social Skills Intervention Guide by S. Elliott and F. Gresham, Published by American Guidance Service, Inc., Circle Pines, MN 55014-1796 (1991).

Social Skills Activity for Special Children by D. Mannix, Published by the Center for Applied Research in Education, West Nyack, NY 10995.

Skillstreaming the Elementary School Child, by E. McGinnis and A. Goldstein, Published by Research Press Co., 2612 North Mattis Ave., Champaign, IL 61821.

To speak to a social skills trainer, call Ann Hicks, MSW, at the Family Service and Child Guidance Center (New Jersey), (973) 564-5244.

Include Peer Interaction Goals for Your Students with Disabilities


These three preschoolers have a teacher who encourages active peer interaction among all students in the classroom.

Editor’s Note: This little article has been making the rounds. I found it in the MCIE Update, a publication of the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education, and before that it had been published in Inclusive Education Programs, Volume 5, Issue 12. It is a nice companion piece to the discussion of social skills in two other articles in this issue: “Please Pass the Manners” by Barbara Pierce, and “Developing Skills for Social Success” by Ann Hicks.

The full text of the study, “IEP-Specified Peer Interaction Needs: Accurate but Ignored,” was published in Exceptional Children, Volume 65, No. 1. Lynn M. Glezheiser and Robert M. Pruzek of the State University of New York at Albany, Margaret McLane of the College of Saint Rose, and Joel Myers of Georgia State University conducted the study.

         Providing explicit opportunities for social interaction for students with disabilities in your general education classroom can help them improve their communication levels with their peers, according to a recent study. The study evaluated how well instruction in inclusive classrooms fostered the peer interaction skills of students with disabilities.

The study had several purposes. One was to determine if social skill levels of students with disabilities were correctly assessed before their goals for social competence were written into their IEPs. The second goal was to evaluate teaching practices that may enhance peer interactions for the students and how they were used. The study also sought to find which classroom interventions worked best to foster peer interactions, and whether teachers in inclusive setting used teaching activities that worked toward peer intervention IEP goals.


According to this study, some basic factors seems to surround the success and failure of students with disabilities to make peer connections in inclusive settings. Teachers and the rest of the IEP team can consider several measures to ensure better social interaction for students with disabilities:

1. Minimize the presence of one-to-one aides.

This does not mean eliminate them entirely, the researchers stressed. Rather, if a student requires a one-to-one aide, it is up to the student’s teachers to find activities that the students can participate in without the aide. Enlist the aide and especially the student’s family members to figure out what school activities the student is most comfortable doing alone. For example, does the student love music, or is he or she capable of participating in group music class independently, or with another student’s assistance? Does the student have many friends to meet with during lunch period? If so, it might be possible to give the student time without the aide, to interact on his or her peers’ level. In many instances, the presence of an aide with a student with disabilities hindered other students for getting to know the student better, the study concluded.

2.          Review students’ IEPs for their goals on social interaction.

Every student will have different goals for their social growth and peer interactions. Review carefully what types of social interaction goals are spelled out on each IEP. Some students might be outgoing, but require more social settings to interact with their peers. Some students have access to peer group interaction often, but are more introverted or withdrawn, and have to be encouraged to participate. These details should be identified in each student’s IEP, so that reaching social interaction goals is easier.

3. Remember that it is participation in activities, not just a presence in the general classroom, which creates peer interaction.

Many students whose IEPs identified peer interaction needs didn’t necessarily receive greater access to teaching activities that afforded the interaction, the study found. Make it a point to include students, who show a greater need for peer interaction, in your classroom activities which foster group work. Don’t create a “special treatment” for students with disabilities, like special seating arrangements or letting those students do their work privately, when you engage the class in a group work opportunity. If the student is isolated, yet doing the same activity as the other students in the class, it does not mean he or she is receiving the peer benefits your class activity offers.

Toy Ideas for Blind Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers

by Terri Connolly
and Jill Brody


Mohamad Hashash discovers the Dizzy Disk Jr. from Quantum Toys at the 2001 NFB Convention Family Hospitality night.

Editor’s Note: A special thanks to Terri Connolly of the VIPS program in Louisville, and Jill Brody of the Blind Children’s Center in Los Angeles for responding to my request for toy ideas from those who work professionally with our very youngest blind and visually impaired children. The material they sent, which I edited to eliminate duplication and to ensure better flow and readability, is presented below. By the way, I urge all readers to send me toy and game ideas and resources so I can share them with our readers in future issues. Please don’t assume I already know about them. You can send suggestions or articles to me by mail or email:

(Mrs.) Barbara Cheadle, Editor
Future Reflections
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230


Terri Connolly, Early Interventionist, Visually Impaired Preschool Services, Louisville, KY:

Every child is unique, so I can’t say that any particular toy is the most wonderful for all children who have a visual impairment. More important than a specific toy are the qualities of a toy and how it is used.

Gaining balance in movement is especially important for our youngest ones as they prepare to explore their environment. Vision certainly can entice a child to move out into the world, but sounds can also be motivating. Toys can help.

Music boxes or wind‑up toys coming toward the child from a distance may help perk-up attention to an approaching object. In the same way, a toy that rolls away should have a sound so the child can remember where it went. There are several balls with electronic sounds that don’t roll very far. A ball with a sound that continues to play is very helpful for seek-and-find.

The following are also fun: textured balls, high back toddler swing (outdoors), electronic Hasbro® Sit‑n‑Spin with music and lights, large push and bump toys like cars, trucks, and walking push toys. Lots of climbing (under close supervision) and sliding is also great.

Many of the VTech toys available through Toys “R” Us and other specialty toy stores are wonderful for reinforcing visual awareness with music and lights activated by the simple push of a button. There are several with themes such as nursery rhymes, environmental sounds, and animal sounds. The nice thing is that you can choose to activate music or words depending on the interest of the child. Some of my favorites are: Little Smart Learning Center, Nursery Rhyme Land, and voice-activated Crib Kaleidoscope with short or long play.

Slumbertime Soother by Fisher-Price® is a crib toy that activates lights and sounds by remote control. This can be very helpful for a child whose movements are restricted or weak. With this toy you can reinforce looking for, or at, the toy by activating it yourself. All young children with some vision enjoy mirror play, but watch out for glare. Use in diffused lighting.

Some decorative items for a room are helpful for increasing visual awareness. For example, consider slowly spinning lamp-lights that reflect designs on the wall or ceiling in a dimly lit room.

Other toys I recommend are: Fisher-Price® Kick ’n Play piano, the Child Guidance® Lullaby Lambs, Tyco® Musical Starlights, Snake Light by Black and Decker®, Select-n-Go RC Car by Little Tykes, the Sparkling Symphony Gym, Toddler Piano, Fischer Price Sparkling Symphony Stacker, the Dancin’ Jitter Bug, and Baby TOMY® Happy Shapes.


Jill Brody, M.A. OTR,
Blind Children’s Center,
Los Angeles, CA:

The right toy for any child should be interesting, exciting, and fun. A child will be encouraged by the right toy to explore its many properties – touch it, listen to the sounds it makes, use it to produce other sounds (by banging for example), watch what it does, play with it with another person – and learn many things from interacting with it. The wrong toy can be boring; if it does not match the child’s developmental level it will not provide enough positive feedback to hold the child’s interest. If it is too difficult for him or her to manipulate or to process in a meaningful manner, it can be frustrating as well.

When a child has a sensory loss, it can be challenging to find toys that are both appealing and functional. Many manufactured toys rely on visual properties, such as color, design, or lights to provide interest for children. These kinds of toys are often quite appealing to adults as well. However, for children with significant visual impairments, a toy with an appeal which is primarily visual, is not going to be motivating for extended play, although it may be manipulated briefly.

When choosing toys for children with visual impairments it can be helpful to ask the following questions:

3 Does this toy have an appeal that is not primarily visual?

3 Can it be manipulated by the child?

3 Is it the right size for a preschooler to pick up and/or play with?

3 Does it make any sound (especially important for young children)?

3 Can the child make something happen by playing with the toy independently?

3 Can the toy “grow” with the child and still be interesting in a year?

3 Does the child have any functional vision, and if so, does a particular toy have lights or color contrasts that would be meaningful to him?

3 Can the play value of the toy include more than one person (rolling or throwing a ball back and forth, taking turns activating a sound, or putting different parts together)?

3 Does the toy have different textures for tactile appeal?

3 Is the toy safe for the child?

3 Is The Toy appropriate for the child’s developmental (not chronological) age?          

After determining the appropriate developmental level and value of a specific toy, one might assess the purpose of introducing this toy to a child:

3 Can she learn something by playing with it?

3 Does it target specific skills?

3 Does it help develop stage‑appropriate play skills?

3 Can it be adapted so that it can be used for more than just a short time?

It is also important to remember that toys should provide pleasure and be FUN!

There are many great toys (and some playthings which are not really toys) available to parents and professionals. A few which have been particularly motivating and valuable to use in a therapeutic setting are listed below. They have been categorized according to approximate introductory developmental age levels, although each child’s readiness must be individually determined. There are, of course, many more which are not listed. Several of the following toys and activities can be utilized through several developmental levels.

Birth to 6 months:

Lightweight rattles which make noise easily when activated by the child. Crib mobile with movement, light, and sound. Clutch balls and balls with bells inside (safely sealed). Plastic “slinky” toys. Baby “gyms” from which toys can be hung for exploration. Wrist and ankle “bracelets” for babies.

6 to 12 months:

Wind‑up musical toys. Soft blocks. Easily- activated cause‑and‑effect sound/light toys. Fisher-Price® Sparkling Symphony stacking stars. A variety of different-sized and -shaped blocks to grasp and bang together.

12 to 18 months:

Vibrating toys: soft ones such as Tickle Me ElmoTM and plastic vibrating animals. Plastic containers for in‑and‑out play with small toys. Blocks. Pop‑up toys. Toy pianos and xylophones. Push and pull toys.

18 months to 24 months;

Riding toys (not tricycles). Toy “shopping carts” or wagons to push or pull. Dolls and stuffed animals. Medium-sized cars that make noise when wheeled on the floor. Nobbie® and Koosh® balls, which are easy to grasp and throw. Books with textures, sounds, or Braille text. Talking books for young children. See-’n-Say toys with animal sounds or words.

2 to 3 years:

Dramatic play toys such as play dishes and silverware, pots and pans, brooms, telephones. Sponges, cups, and funnels for water and sand play. Beads and string. Beginning puzzles with easily defined shapes and knobs for grasping. Put‑together construction toys, such as Duplos, Lincoln Logs, and blocks. Rapper Snappers – bendable, stretchable tubes that link together and provide proprioceptive input as well as bilateral coordination practice. Riding toys, tricycles, “Big Wheels,” and other child-sized play-cars with pedals. Play dough (commercial and homemade). Tactile materials in large containers such as dry rice, cornmeal, dry oatmeal, Cheerios, etc. Peg boards and pegs. Shape sorters. Art materials such as paints, finger paint, crayons, chalk, markers, etc.

3 to 5 years:

Many of the above toys, in addition to the following: Music Blocks, which provide both auditory and visual stimulation as well as opportunities for tactile discrimination of basic shapes. Form board and interlocking puzzles. Domino games with raised dots. Tactile Lotto games, either purchased or homemade. Musical instruments. Tape recorders and CD players which children can operate. Interactive games such as “Candyland” and “Chutes & Ladders” adapted for children with visual impairments. Magnetic shapes and letters. Mini-trampolines.

When choosing toys for any child, remember that playing should first be fun. If a particular toy promotes learning new skills or making new associations, then that’s a terrific bonus!

The Need for
Fact or Fancy?

Joe Cutter, M.A.


oe Cutter, left, gives a cane lesson to a parent and toddler team at a National Federation of the Blind Convention.

Editor’s Note: Joe Cutter is an orientation and mobility specialist with a unique approach to independent movement and travel for children. Mr. Cutter approaches O&M from a child-centered, or pediatric, perspective promoting independent movement and travel at an early age. An advocate for parental involvement, he encourages parents to believe in themselves as their child’s first teacher.

Mr. Cutter has presented many professional workshops around the country and in Canada. He developed the Early Childhood Orientation and Mobility Program for the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and was involved in the development of statewide early intervention programming in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. His credentials include over 25 years of experience as an O&M instructor, certification as a teacher of the blind and visually impaired, and a M.A. in Teaching the Developmentally Handicapped. Here are his thoughts on the topic of pre-canes:

          Professionals who each have the same creativity, dedication, energy, and interest of their blind students at heart can come to different conclusions about what tool to give their students for travel. The alternatives, however, are not like choosing a Cadillac versus a Volkswagen, but rather choosing a car versus a wheelbarrow.

“Pre-canes,” the term used by some schools for Alternative Mobility Devices (AMDs), implies that the structure and function of the device fits into some continuum of progression for using travel tools, and that once the child has mastered this device, the cane would be the “next step.”

After more than two decades of experience as an O&M instructor (also as a certified Teacher of the Blind and Visually impaired with a M.A. in Teaching the Developmentally Handicapped), I believe that this notion of a “pre-cane” is more fancy than fact. We know far less about children in general than we realize. Blind children are particularly vulnerable to assessments that do not develop from observations of children, but rather are imposed upon them by an adult-centered model. My personal experience does not support the notion that some tool must be used prior to a cane or as an alternative to it, and I am aware of no research that validates or substantiates that claim.

I have personally used a variety of tools to experiment with the facilitation of movement in blind children, including the hula hoop, Connecticut Pre-Cane, and the T-shaped cane with roller tip. The components of movement needed to use many of these devices are actually more complex and may demand more sophisticated motor schemes and planning than does the simple design and function of the cane. Certainly, a blind child’s gait is negatively affected by an inappropriate travel tool.

Over the years I have also introduced the cane without an AMD to many children as early as 20 months of age. As they matured, these children engaged in higher levels of prehension and technical skill, and in time learned appropriate “adult” techniques. My experience tells me that introducing a cane much later in a child’s life presents a barrier to independent movement and the grace and poise that is within them.

All too often the cane is the “tool of last resort.” Many professionals choose other tools and skills to address the assumed readiness skills. I did this for a while, and I know the price blind kids pay for a late start with the primary tool that will be their buddy through adulthood. How the child learns is really the central question; how we teach is secondary. We follow their lead.

If we follow the child’s lead, the simple design of the cane will afford opportunities for movement that, in my experience, AMDs do not. Characteristics such as light-weight, ease of movement and use, and auditory feedback (resonance) are built into the cane more than any other travel tool. Auditory feedback from the cane is used by blind cane users of all ages.

An essential question is: “Does the cane facilitate movement when the child is exploring the object world and safely moving about in it?” The best way to know is to follow the child’s lead. The child who takes to a travel tool “like a duck to water,” as many blind children take to the cane, is telling the adult what is best. When a child’s travel tool promotes the sense of security and autonomy in free movement, then much more brain-power is available for orientation and enjoying the feeling of the movement itself.

All too often when we give the child an AMD, we send a message to the parent: “Your child is not ready for the cane.” Are our assumptions so solid and based upon fact that we should be sending this message? The cane, however, presents a positive, can-do approach. This approach is lacking in our remediation activities, forever targeted at the perceived “limitations” of blind children.

Some professionals advocate the use of AMDs because they feel that the child who hasn’t mastered appropriate “adult” techniques will be unsafe while moving and exploring with the cane. Of course the young child (two years of age and up) who is being introduced to the cane will be under adult supervision when moving about the world – what child that age isn’t? All children are supervised in their early movement. The type and amount of supervision will vary with child, family, or school care-taking practices, and the environment. Sighted toddlers often do not initially scan visually or link cognitive and motor plans efficiently, so they will fall and bump into objects. Blind children will do this too with the cane. That’s why both sighted and blind children need developmental guidance and exposure to the process of developing appropriate usage of skills and tools. By giving the AMD to a child, are we sending a message that it is safer and more reliable and that therefore less supervision would be needed? That’s not the kind of message I would choose to send to parents and school teachers.

In my years of teaching O&M, my thinking has changed about the “readiness” of blind children to travel with a cane. What changed over time was not the blind child, but my perception of the child’s abilities and readiness. It is this area of “what we think we know” that shifts over time. Twenty-five years ago, if I had followed and observed my students more carefully, many more blind children would have had the opportunity to develop independent travel concepts and skills much earlier in life. I now know that the cane, more than any other tool, facilitates the movement of the walking blind child.

Deaf-Blind Teen Feels the Rhythm

by Ann L. Kim

Reprinted from Newsday, November 21, 2000.

Editor’s Note: The following article was passed on to me by Sheila Amato, Michael Conlon’s teacher of the visually impaired. The original title was “Teen Feels the Rhythm.”


Michael Conlon (center, with glasses)
and teacher, Sheila Amato (right), in band uniforms and ready to march.

                 When the music swells during the East Islip High School band’s holiday concert next month, Michael Conlon will crash the cymbals together and prove that a student who is blind and hearing-impaired can join in collective harmony. He’s made this point numerous times already, playing the conga drums and marching in step with the band at pep rallies and football games. The dark sunglasses and hearing aids he wears are the only clues to the limits he’s overcome.

“The thing I’m most proud of is that I played well in the marching band,” the 17-year-old said. “And I knew I played well because I could hear everybody clapping.” Michael, who was born blind and can hear only sounds made immediately next to him, signed up for the band this year as much out of an interest in music as for more practical considerations: He needs an arts credit to get his high school diploma.

The sophomore attends the Cleary School for the Deaf, which leases space from East Islip High and integrates its students into regular classes there when appropriate. Michael is one of 13 Cleary students who take regular high school classes, and his course load this year includes algebra, global studies, and English.

There are about 1,200 students who are deaf-blind in the state, and only around 40 take mainstream classes for part or all of the day, said Madeline Appell, director of the New York State Technical Assistance Project. Michael is accompanied through the school day by Sheila Amato, a teacher of the visually impaired, who translates materials into Braille and keeps him aware of what’s going on around him in class.

It was Amato who first suggested that Michael join the band. And Michael, who already took private piano lessons, agreed. “I thought it was a great idea to try something new and play other instruments,” he said.

Ronald Fox, one of the school’s band directors, said he initially wasn’t sure where Michael would fit in with the band. “My first reaction was, ‘How can it be possible for him to be in a marching band?’“ Fox said. “Our initial thought was that he would stand on the sidelines and play while the band was on the field.” But it didn’t seem right to isolate Michael and have him singled out on the sidelines, Fox said.

Joseph Vassallo, the other band director, thought that if the drums could be pushed around the field in front of Michael, he could march along with the rest of the band.

So Vassallo and Amato went shopping for plywood and wheels and put together some prototypes that proved useless, getting stuck in the mud during practice.

Vassallo finally rigged a contraption made from a cart for carrying music stands, attaching the conga drums that Michael would play in Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5.” Amato pushed the cart around the field during halftime shows and had to don a high school marching band uniform to blend in.

When asked, Michael says he can hear all the other instruments in the band, but Amato guesses he can really only hear those instruments closest to him and is unaware of the others. Yet he can hear enough to stay with the beat.

“When I hear everybody playing a song, I listen to the rhythm they’re playing and follow the rhythm,” Michael said. “I have a good memory, so I memorize the music.” Watching Michael navigate through a school day is a lesson in the things that can be taken for granted with sight and hearing.

He uses a cane to walk down the hallways, sweeping it in front of him as he goes. Toting a red backpack and wearing jeans, T-shirt and sneakers, he almost blends in.

With all the noise in the hallways between classes, he doesn’t hear passing friends when they call out, “Hi, Mike.” While Amato can translate Michael’s tests and assignments into Braille, materials such as maps and photographs can be tougher to handle.

Technology also plays a large part in Michael’s education. His teachers use a special system, about the size of a beeper with a clip-on microphone, that sends their voices directly into his hearing aids. During class discussions, students pass the microphone around the room. He takes notes and completes homework assignments in Braille with a machine that looks like a typewriter with nine keys. Before submitting his work to be graded, Amato pens Michael’s answers over the Braille he typed at home. A computer program translates text into Braille to print out tests and worksheets. Another program reads aloud the contents of Web pages and prints them out in Braille. One of Michael’s favorite jokes involves his talking calculator. After showing how the digital voice reads out numbers and tells the date and the time, he says, “And it also tells the weather.” Then he pushes the “Clear” button.

Now that football season is over and the band has moved on to preparing for its holiday concert, Amato is helping Michael learn his parts in the “Nutcracker Suite” and several other pieces.

Michael says he doesn’t lament his vision and hearing impairment and doesn’t wish he could see.

“It’s not that hard to be blind,” Michael said. “Since I can’t see with my eyes, I touch things with my hands. So it’s really not that hard.”

Teacher Recognition Letters

Stephanie Leigh


Jackie Rief

Editor’s Note: I am delighted to introduce not one, but two, teacher recognition letters in this issue. The first letter is from Mary Beth and Robert Phillips of California, and the second is from Sharon Gordon of North Carolina. The primary purpose for publishing these letters is to spotlight hard-working professionals who deserve public recognition. But the letters are more than that: they are blueprints for parents, teachers, and administrators who are often unsure about the role of the specialized professionals who work with our blind kids.

If you know a teacher, O&M instructor, Braille transcriber, teacher’s aide, etc. who deserves a public “thank you,” please send your Teacher Recognition Nomination Letter (with, if available, a photo of the teacher and/or the student) to: Future Reflections

Teacher Recognition Letters
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230

You may also send it by email to: <Bcheadle@nfb.org>. Be sure to include: the name and address of the sender, the teacher’s name, the student’s name, the name of the school district, and specific details about why this professional deserves national recognition. The letters should be no less than one typed page, and may be up to three pages. If your letter is published, we will send you extra copies of the issue free of charge at your request.

Stephanie Leigh:
She Makes a Difference

Teacher: Stephanie Leigh

Student: Elizabeth Phillips

School: Oakland Unified School District at the College Preparatory School

May 16, 2001

Dear Future Reflections Editors:

We are writing this letter to publicly thank and recognize Ms. Stephanie Leigh for the difference she has made in our daughter’s life.

Ms. Leigh has been Elizabeth’s teacher of the visually impaired for the last four years and has provided Elizabeth with a firm foundation from which she can spring forward into college and a career.

When Elizabeth first started as a freshman and as Stephanie’s student, we were quite discouraged. We had been told by previous teachers that Liz was “difficult,” that she should not continue in mathematics because she would be a writer anyway, and – most destructive of all – that she was an over‑achiever who should stop putting so much pressure on herself to do well academically.

Elizabeth had many requests and many questions for her teachers. Elizabeth expected much of herself and she wondered why others she looked to for education and support didn’t expect much from her, too. The dynamics were not helped by a system that proposed (seriously!) to fax Elizabeth’s Braille to her.

I can still remember Stephanie’s calm statement to Elizabeth when they first met: “Elizabeth, I will take you as far as you want to go. But you will have to work with me, not against me.” Stephanie and Elizabeth became a team. Elizabeth was given Braille, computer, and note‑taking skills that kept pace with her academic pace. For the first time, she was given all of her Braille and books‑on‑tape at the beginning of the year along with the rest of her peers. For the first time, Elizabeth was given basic access to information (graphs, charts, test‑taking strategies) that allowed her to participate fully in her academic program. Liz was gifted with a professional, personally-invested teacher who believed that all children deserved to go as far as they could go.

There were academic and organizational hurdles to work through at Elizabeth’s new school because the school had never had a blind student before. Stephanie handled these issues and, over time, taught Liz to handle these issues as they came up. But there were other challenges that Elizabeth faced related to, but not caused by, her blindness. Socially, Elizabeth needed some help to adjust to her new school and to learn how to manage groups of peers. Much of her life had been in the classroom, with after school tutors, and in special pullouts from class. According to Elizabeth, she was “Adultized.” Ms. Leigh and another teacher developed a Social Skills class at Liz’s school where a small group of students, including Elizabeth, learned how to better relate to one another in a semi‑structured setting. Stephanie was called upon to educate staff and students about what equal access means. For example, for the freshman retreat, Stephanie worked with the organizers to find out what activities were being developed and was able to provide Brailled note cards for a communications game so that Elizabeth could fully participate. She consulted with teachers about the best way to adapt materials, including charts and graphs and methodologies, many of which benefited all students. Teachers learned to consult with her and, later, felt comfortable going directly to Elizabeth to solve adaptation issues. Stephanie actively pursued new technology so that when Elizabeth’s curriculum included material such as how to conduct research on the Internet, Stephanie knew what technology was available and how it worked and could teach Elizabeth so that she was able to do her own research with the class. Perhaps this doesn’t sound so remarkable to you, but I can tell you, it has been our experience that it is quite exceptional for a professional to be so dedicated that he or she is willing to learn countless new things in order to meet a student’s academic needs. If we expect our children to keep pace as adults in the world, then it follows they will need to keep pace with their peers. Teachers like Stephanie do a great service to our children when they teach to the educational moment and experience rather than behind the moment. Giving Liz the Braille symbol or adaptive computer skill she needed to fully participate in the educational program at her school put her on par with the other students so that Liz could do her best.

Elizabeth absolutely detested mobility training when she first entered the high school. Mobility meant failure, stupidity, and inability to her. Stephanie was not Elizabeth’s actual mobility teacher, but the aspects of mobility that meant the most to Elizabeth, those “teachable moments” in a day that motivate and provide context for mobility skills, were not going to happen during mobility instruction time. Stephanie provided the mobility training necessary to meet Elizabeth in the moment. Elizabeth sang in the chorus and needed to learn all about risers, facing the audience, bowing with a group. Elizabeth wanted to participate in chemistry labs so Stephanie provided access to equipment and materials outside class so that Liz knew what she was getting into and how to get into it. Liz wanted to take the river‑rafting interterm trip, so Stephanie helped her talk through the adaptations she could make on a totally rustic river setting where the group would stop and set up camp along the river as they made their way down the white‑water for five days. No fuss, no trauma. No thoughts of “pushing the river” of “over‑achieving.” No remarks about any limitations at all. The key word is facilitation. And the response from all that have taught and learned with Liz, and from Liz herself, has been cooperation.

I have to credit Stephanie with supporting the biggest mobility stretch for Liz, as she became more confident and wanted more and more independence. Stephanie encouraged Elizabeth to get a guide dog. First, however, she took a grueling training class to see if it would be appropriate and to learn more about the experience. Elizabeth received her dog, Bonds, last summer and her sense of independence has increased greatly. There continues to be adjustment to the partnership between Liz and Bonds, and Stephanie is more than willing to provide additional time during the school day to help the two learn how to work better together in the school setting.

With Elizabeth, the challenge is to help her balance her enthusiasm and curiosity with the reality of living. This year, Liz would have been content to take an extra class, to write a book, to continue to focus on the academics. Liz got so good at getting around the Internet that she found an on‑line Physics class and is doing it “for fun.” But Stephanie has been able to focus Liz on the future in another way and has structured, with Liz’s input, time to learn some basics to prepare her for dormitory life. These lessons have included supporting Liz as she set herself up with the Department of Rehabilitation, teaching Liz how to order textbooks and pleasure books for herself, encouraging Liz to order Braille labels to be placed on her yearbook page, making a visit to a university cafeteria, and so forth. These are pragmatic life lessons that will allow Liz to hit the ground running when she starts college next fall at Stanford University.

Bob and I have always believed that Liz should reach for the sky but we seemed to have to fight each and every year for basic services, respect, and dignity for our child. When we finally situated Liz in the Oakland Unified School District at the College Preparatory School with Stephanie, we found a partner, a true professional, who valued our daughter and what she was capable of, who allowed Liz to push and pull herself to where she wanted to go. We realize how fortunate Liz is, how fortunate Liz’s high school has been to have Stephanie on site. We believe that by acknowledging Stephanie’s commitment to students who are visually impaired, by acknowledging her commitment to the profession, through her emphasis on Braille literacy, on accessible technology, on mobility, and on independence skills, we underscore what we can expect for our children. We challenge teachers to refrain from status quo thinking, from minimizing potential and curiosity to keep education comfortable. We believe that by honoring Stephanie, we will encourage other teachers to be like her: a teacher who partners with her students as they reach for the stars.


Mary Beth Phillips


Robert Phillips

Jackie Rief: Braille Technician

Braille Technician: Jackie Rief

Student: Erica Gordon

School: McDowell High School, Marion, North Carolina


Erica Gordon (left) and Jackie Rief

Hi. My name is Sharon Gordon. I have a 17‑year‑old daughter who is blind. Her name is Erica. When she was born, we lived in Marion, North Carolina. This was where she started school in a Head Start Program when she was three years old.

When she was four years old, we moved to Spartanburg, South Carolina where she attended the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind. She attended there until she was ten years old. At that time, we found out that she could only get a certificate of graduation. Erica would have to be mainstreamed to get a high school diploma. She attended public school in Spartanburg the next school year. That was when we decided to move back to Marion. She had learned all of her Braille skills while at the school for the blind, so she didn’t need a Braille teacher; just the Braille materials. I contacted Pleasant Gardens School in Marion and let them know Erica would be starting 5th grade the following year. They had a Special Educational Needs office that we also contacted. These people would be in charge of getting all her Braille books that needed to be ordered. They also supplied her with the computer and any other devices she needed.

This is where she met Jackie Rief, a lady who would be going through to 12th grade with Erica. They asked Mrs. Rief if she would be interested in working with Erica for just a few hours in a day (this turned into all day). When asked if she would be interested in staying with Erica until she graduated, Jackie said “Yes.” Jackie did not know Braille before she met Erica, so she taught herself Braille. Now she Brailles novels or anything else Erica cannot order in Braille. Most of Jackie’s job consists of Brailling materials for Erica’s classes. Jackie makes sure Erica has all her worksheets, or anything else the class is working on, in Braille. Jackie spends hours making maps for history class. She uses different kinds of tactile material that Erica can feel.

Erica is in the 11th grade now. She has been on the A‑B honor roll all through school. Jackie is still with her. She has been a very big influence in my daughter’s life. If this article is published we would like to say, “Thank you Jackie for all that you have done. You have been a blessing to our whole family, and we feel like you have become part of our family.”

Erica and Family

The Slate Book
A Review

by Doris M. Willoughby

[Book Cover]

Reprinted from the Braille Monitor, the monthly publication of the National Federation of the Blind.

Barbara Pierce: For years Jennifer Dunnam has collected ideas for a book teaching effective use of the slate and stylus to write Braille. She has two excellent credentials for taking on such a project: she is herself an experienced Braille reader and writer, and she is a gifted Braille teacher. She says that much of the book was first jotted down using a slate as she thought up ideas for exercises or collected information on different slates and helpful techniques. Many people contributed to the book, and Jennifer’s own students helped her spot mistakes.

Doris Willoughby is herself a widely respected writer and educator of blind children. Here is her enthusiastic review of The Slate Book:

The slate is the basic, universal Braille writing tool and is equivalent to the pen or pencil for writing print.

This is the first sentence in the excellent new book by Jennifer Dunnam. Topics include loading the slate, holding the stylus, keeping the place, increasing speed, hints on taking notes, specific techniques, and practice exercises.

Detailed, sequential practice exercises are provided. Practice sentences are interesting and varied but avoid exotic and unusual words. Extensive suggestions address various barriers – real and perceived – that often deter people from using the slate. The heading “101 Topics” lists suggestions for short compositions. (Example: Describe your worst shopping nightmare.)

Jennifer Dunnam is a skilled slate user and a Braille teacher with extensive experience. She has made this book appropriate for adult students, teachers, parents, and children. Several helpful photographs appear; however, everything is also clearly described verbally.

In all, there are sixty-one pages of helpful information and suggestions. Many things, such as the composition topics, are useful for areas of study other than the slate itself. The book’s focus, however, is clearly on the slate: “It is assumed that the student either already knows how to read Braille or is currently learning with the help of instructional material and/or a teacher.”

Reading this book is like having a nice, long visit with a very good teacher, with opportunities to observe actual classes. The Slate Book is available for $14 from the National Federation of the Blind (see order form below). At this time it is available only in inkprint; however, Braille and recorded editions are planned. Note that the Grade II signs are introduced in the same order as in The McDuffy Reader: Braille Primer for Adults which is an excellent instruction book for learning to read Braille and is also available from the National Federation of the Blind. The McDuffy Reader is $15 for the student book (print or Braille, same price for either) and $10 for the Teacher’s Guide (available in print, Braille, or tape).

The Slate Book is a labor of love, and it fills a real need in Braille instruction. We now have no excuses for failing to teach or learn the use of the Braille slate.

The Slate Book Order Form

Send to

Materials Center

National Center for the Blind

1800 Johnson Street

Baltimore, Maryland 21230

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Understanding the Special                                                  
Education Process

© 2001, PACER Center, Inc.

An Overview for Parents

The chart below offers an overview of the special education process. It is not designed to show all steps or the specific details. It shows what happens from the time a child is referred for evaluation and is identified as having a disability, through the development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

The process begins when someone (school staff, parents, etc.) makes a referral for an initial evaluation. An explanation of each numbered area follows the chart.­

Parents or school district staff or others request an evaluation;
parents agree in writing  (1)

Evaluation completed
Eligibility decision  (2)                       Not eligible    (3)

a) IEP developed
b) Placement determined
(May be two meetings)  (5)                  Parents disagree (6)

Parents agree  (7)

Annual IEP meeting  (8)                   Parents disagree (9)

Parents agree (10)­

How the Process Works

1. Parents, school personnel, students, or others may make a request for evaluation. If you request an evaluation to determine whether your child has a disability and needs special education, the school district must complete a full and individual evaluation. If it refuses to conduct the evaluation, it must give you appropriate notice and let you know your rights.

You must give permission in writing for an initial (first-time) evaluation and for any tests that are completed as part of a reevaluation.

2. A team of qualified professionals and you will review the results of the evaluation, and determine if your child is eligible for special education services.

3. If your child is not eligible, you will be appropriately notified and the process stops. However, you have a right to disagree with the results of the evaluation or the eligibility decision. If you disagree with the results of an evaluation, you have a right to an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). Someone who does not work for the school district completes the IEP. The school district must pay for the IEE or show at an impartial due process hearing that its evaluation is appropriate.

4. If you and the school district agree that your child is eligible for services, you and the school staff will plan your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), at an IEP team meeting. You are an equal member of this team. Some states may have a different name for the IEP team meeting.

5. The IEP lists any special services your child needs, including goals your child is expected to achieve in one year, and objectives or benchmarks to note progress. The team determines what services are in the IEP, as well as the location where these services and modifications take place. At times, the IEP and placement decisions will take place at one meeting. At other times, placement may be made at a separate meeting (usually called a placement meeting.)

Placement for your child must be in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) appropriate to your child’s needs. He or she will be placed in the regular classroom to receive services unless the IEP team determines that, even with special additional aids and services, the child cannot be successful there. You are part of any group that decides what services your child will receive and where they will be provided.

6. If you disagree with the IEP and/or the proposed placement, you should first try to work out an agreement with your child’s IEP team. If you still disagree, you can use your due process rights.

7. If you agree with the IEP and placement, your child will receive the services that are written into the IEP. You will receive reports on your child’s progress at least as often as parents are given reports on their children who do not have disabilities. You can request that the IEP team meet if reports show that changes need to be made in the IEP.

8. The IEP team meets at least once per year to discuss progress and write any new goals or services into the IEP. As a parent, you can agree or disagree with the proposed changes. If you disagree, you should do so in writing.

9. If you disagree with any changes in the IEP, your child will continue to receive the services listed in the previous IEP until you and school staff reach agreement. You should discuss your concerns with the other members of the IEP team. If you continue to disagree with the IEP, you have several options, including asking for additional testing or an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE), or resolving the disagreement using due process.

10.Your child will continue to receive special education services if the team agrees that the services are needed. A reevaluation is completed at least once every three years to see if your child continues to be eligible for special education services and to decide what services he or she needs. ­

Due process protects the right of parents to have input into their child’s educational program and to take steps to resolve disagreements. When parents and school districts disagree with one another, they may ask for an impartial hearing to resolve issues. Mediation must also be available.­

Mediation is a meeting between parents and the school district with an impartial person, called a mediator, who helps both sides come to an agreement that each finds acceptable.


An impartial due process hearing is a meeting between parents and the school district. Each side presents its position, and a hearing officer decides what the appropriate educational program is, based on requirements in law.

School districts must give parents a written copy of special education procedural safeguards. This document outlines the steps for due process hearings and mediation. Parents must be given a copy when their child is first referred for an evaluation and each time they are notified of an IEP meeting for their child.

If you would like more information about special education or about your rights, call your state Parent Training and Information Center. If you do not know the number, call PACER Center at our national toll-free number (888) 248-0822. We will be happy to connect you with someone who can help you.­

© 2001, PACER Center, Inc.

 “Understanding the Special Education Process,” is reprinted with permission from PACER Center, Inc. The publication was developed as part of the Families and Advocates Partnership for Education (FAPE) project. FAPE is one of four projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education to reach parents, administrators, service providers, and policy makers nationwide with information about implementing IDEA ’97. The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) is a Community Partner in the FAPE project. For more information, contact FAPE Coordinating Office:

PACER Center, Inc
8161 Normandale Blvd.
Minneapolis, MN 55437
voice: (952) 838-9000  *  TTY: (952) 838-0190
fax: (952) 838-0199  *  toll-free: (888) 248-0822
Web site: www.fape.org  *  email: fape@pacer.org­

Testing, Testing

by Peggy Elliott

Editor’s Note: Mrs. Elliott, a practicing attorney, is the Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind, and President of the NFB of Iowa. Her interest in the knotty issue of testing goes back to her own experiences when she was a blind college student and a leader in the National Association of Blind Students. Mrs. Elliott often speaks on this topic to groups of blind students, blind professionals, and to parents of blind children, and is on the leading edge of those within the organized blind who seek to find resolutions to the problems standardized testing presents to blind students. Here is what she has to say on the topic:


Peggy Elliott

           Testing is an issue. That’s the first step to grappling with something – to define whether it is an issue or not. In the case of blind people, testing is an issue and will continue to be into the foreseeable future. I’d like to state some facts to begin the conversation.

Standardized Testing. Most of the really hard testing issues revolve around standardized testing. Most of us know the testing hurdles one must vault to get into college, graduate school, or a profession. More and more, standardized testing of one sort or another is moving into the nation’s kindergarten through high school classrooms. It is the “standardized” part of standardized testing that causes the problems for blind people.

Validation. Before mentioning some of the problems, I should note the fundamental problem with standardized testing of the blind: it doesn’t exist.

Blind test-takers will be awarded scores after taking a test. But that score will be accompanied with a letter “flagging” the score. Standardized testers take the position that anyone who takes the test under “non-standard” conditions acquires a score that is not “valid.” In other words, the score is flagged as meaningless because for some reason the tested person is different.

It’s useless to get all worked up about this injustice; the reason is imbedded in testing theory which is based on the law of averages. As nearly as I can tell, the law of averages trumps the United States Congress, and the Americans with Disabilities Act will never overturn testing theory.

So what? The score is invalid. It’s still given to the college or graduate school. Here are some reasons why it matters: first, the school is looking at a flagged score. They’re not supposed to discriminate, but, then, they don’t know why it’s flagged. They just know it is. Will they be fair in considering the applicant? Probably, but not necessarily.

Second and more important, we have evidence that the scores of blind persons under-represent the ability of the person being tested. If the score is lower than other performance records and indicators of the person’s knowledge, it nevertheless exists and is in the person’s record. For my money, this vicious circle of non-standard scores being invalid should always be raised whenever a blind person is seeking to enter something score-based. We should all be complaining, not to the testers but to the users, and demanding fair treatment despite under-representative scores. The users of scores like colleges are under a duty not to discriminate, and it’s those users we should hold to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Preparation. One of the reasons our scores are under-representative is that we have all too often been exempted from formative experiences. Blind kids need more than words and descriptions, they need hands-on experiences. It doesn’t cut it, for example, to tell a blind kid about stop signs. To gain a complete understanding she needs to get her hands on a real one. But this all too often doesn’t happen. Blind kids also need well-rounded educational experiences. It is hard to do well on tests if you have been exempted from big chunks of the curriculum, such as units on using the library and reference materials, or even whole subjects, such as physical education and chemistry. Because it can be difficult, time-consuming, and costly to accommodate blind students – especially Braille readers – blind students seldom get as much experience as other students do in taking tests, preparing for tests, or practicing test-taking strategies. Weak educational and experiential backgrounds will tell in standardized testing.

Method. One of the favorite tricks of fate is to test the blind person’s ability to deal with adversity instead of his or her knowledge.

In standardized testing for higher education, for example, it is repulsively common for test-takers to be assigned a reader not of their choice whom they meet at the door of the testing room. All of us who use readers regularly know that serving as a human reader for a blind person is not the same thing as reading to oneself or reading aloud occasionally. Most people don’t commonly read out loud, and the act is acutely uncomfortable to most. Moreover, human readers are serving as an interface to the printed word, and this interface needs to be defined and guided by the user, the blind person. Human readers should not be tutors, interpreters, or helpers. They are voices with sight, available to the blind person to achieve access to the printed page. In other words, blind person and human reader are in a two-person personal relationship. The reader learns what the blind person commonly wants, how to pass information to this particular blind person according to his or her desires, and short cuts to common tasks. They come to understand the whole range of signals and preferences that are just as unique to each blind person as is every sighted person’s approach to acquiring information in print.

Then the standardized test comes along. Owners and administrators of these tests have a very high opinion of the value of their product and a very low opinion of its users. In other words, they think everyone will cheat if given half a chance. So, test security is tight. I have heard more than one administrator say that, if the blind person brings his or her own reader, the reader in effect is cheating, will give the answers for the blind person, will basically take the test since the reader is sighted and obviously smarter. When I have protested this as unfair and countered that the tester is welcome to “proctor,” that is, sit someone in the room to observe the testing process, I have been told that a proctor won’t be effective since the reader will figure out signals to queue the blind person to answers. Nonsense! Either they proctor or they don’t. If there are special signals, they identify them and throw the blind person out.

Anyway, the growing trend is to assign readers unfamiliar with this blind person and, often, unfamiliar with reading to a blind person at all. The blind person meets the assigned reader for the first time at the commencement of the high-stakes situation and essentially trains the reader while taking the test. The result is that the blind person is really being tested on how quickly he or she can train a reader under stressful conditions. It’s remarkable that so many of us do so well.

Another version has recently cropped up: computerized test administration. We blind people use a variety of speech or Braille output devices and are as accustomed to our own devices as we are to our own readers. I recently heard of someone writing instructions for a blind person to take tests by computer. The instructions, the person proudly said, would cover both the test itself and how to use the computer. These same instructions weren’t needed for sighted persons whose visual access to the computer is achieved by icons and the mouse. But, for the blind person, the result very well may be testing how quickly a blind person can learn a new computer rather than his or her knowledge of the subject matter.

Method will always be important for blind persons in testing situations to be sure that the blind person’s knowledge and not extraneous skills is being tested. This should be a job for the IEP team in the kindergarten-through-high school context, but it is a task very often taken over by the owners or administrators of a standardized test. This adds to the high rate of under-representative scores among blind students.

Versions. Another common blow from fate is the version problem. All large-scale standardized tests will have several different versions. Most testing agencies will offer only a few of these versions in an alternative format. This means that more often than not, a blind student – in order to get the format of their choice – will have to take a different version of the test than their peers are taking. Sometimes a version will be offered in large print, but not in Braille or on tape. The blind student using a particular format may also be limited in choices of when or how often they may take a large-scale standardized test.

Scheduling. And then there’s scheduling: refusing to let the blind student take the test at the same time as other kids. This one completely baffles me. It almost always results in the loss of yet another school day, and it’s unnecessary. Yet growing evidence suggests that large national testing agencies for no apparent reason feel very strongly about this. In my book, it’s stupid and harms the kid.

There is also another scheduling problem for high school students that often results in kids getting bumped from test-taking opportunities. Testing agencies have rules about how far in advance a disabled student must register and make a request for accommodations. If you miss the deadline – which can be literally months in advance of the deadline for other students – and if that test is only given once, or if the format and method you choose is only available on one specific test-taking date, then you’ve missed your chance for that year. The problem is knowing who in your school is responsible for getting those orders, registration forms, and accommodations requests in on time. The testing coordinator? The counseling office? The teacher of the visually impaired (TVI)? What if the TVI thinks the counseling office is doing it, and the counseling office assumes the TVI handles all the blindness accommodations? What if they all agree that the TVI will do it, but the forms come to the testing officer, and the testing officer doesn’t know what it is and they get thrown out? I could go on and on about the “What if’s” but you get the picture.

Another tip. Higher education and professional testing is now being hugely impacted by the presence of persons with other disabilities. These are sometimes called invisible disabilities, such as learning disabilities and autism. Much of the paperwork now required to define accommodations for standardized testing comes from the tester’s need to identify and verify invisible disabilities. So they make us prove we are blind – which is plain to anyone and a hassle for us – and then make up questions for everyone seeking accommodations, even though their real target is the invisibly disabled.

For example, we are required to specify what type of accommodations we need. Well, as far as I know, the types are pretty clear when it comes to blindness. But that’s the rule we now have to follow.

Here’s the deal. More and more testers are ruling that blind persons cannot bring their own readers. However, more and more testers are also requiring that the disabled test-taker specify their accommodation routine. Imbedded in this routine is a request for a list of the accommodations the blind person commonly uses. And another request is for several educational officials to verify that those are the blind person’s usual accommodations. As I say, these are really aimed at other disabilities, but they pretend they’re being fair by putting us through the same set of pre-test production of proofs. I’m thinking that we may be able to use the one stick to poke the other out of the way.

If we use readers and list that as an accommodation, and then get school officials to verify it, so that everyone is saying that readers chosen and trained by the blind person him/herself is one of the usual accommodations, then perhaps we can begin to get back the reader of our choice in these high-stakes situations. I know of one case where it’s worked. It also helps if parents and students have had this accommodation listed in the IEP in middle or early high school. This is important to do even if the student is a strong Braille reader. (As I said earlier, it isn’t always possible for the student to get the format of their choice for specific tests.) Of course, blind and visually impaired students really should be learning to train and use readers beginning, in some cases, as early as middle school but certainly no later than high school.

Agile and Persistent. The bottom line in testing is that we have to be prepared. We must be agile in making our arguments, and persistent in our advocacy. And then we have to be willing to complain when we are tested unfairly. When a test is given unfairly and the blind person still passes, that’s a credit to the blind person but it’s still a violation of his or her rights under the law. So, let’s get to it!

My Outlook as a Dad of a Blind Child

by Mark McClain

Reprinted from Advocacy In Action, the newsletter of the Ohio NFB Parents Division.

When we found out that
          Macy was blind, my first thought was “Oh my God, what in the world will she ever do! What a pathetic life she will lead, and we will be saddled with her till the day we die.” This wasn’t what I envisioned in becoming a parent.

At first, my wife Crystal dealt with the education requirements, early intervention, reading about blindness, issues concerning the legal requirements, and so forth. I really didn’t start helping with the blindness issues until after I attended my first National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Convention in Dallas in 1993. I quickly learned that there is so much information available to help parents. Unfortunately, that is also part of the problem; you get overwhelmed and start to feel “where do I start now?” Luckily I had a wife who found the NFB. We soon discovered that you learn a lot by just observing blind adults and talking to them to learn information. Blind adults in the NFB have also pointed us in the right direction regarding attitudes; we now believe that Macy can do whatever she wants to do. We not only believe that philosophy, we preach it and try to live it as well. Macy’s sighted twin sister, Madison, is our measuring stick to monitor her performance to her sighted peers at this young age.

It hasn’t been that long ago that I was teaching Macy how to ride her bike with training wheels. Madison was able to do it, so come hell or high water, Macy was going to ride her bike, too! Unfortunately she didn’t pick it up nearly as fast as Madison, but finally after yelling, soul searching, and use of duct tape, she rode her bike. She didn’t like this experience because when she began to tip over she couldn’t catch herself since her sadistic father had duct-taped her feet to the bike pedals. But she did learn, and the duct tape came off. Now she has a blast!

Earlier I stated my fear that we would be saddled with our “poor helpless blind daughter” for the rest of our lives; but now Macy operates under the new McClain program entitled “Eighteen and out.” When she graduates from high school she is out of the house without a choice – college! Good Luck and see you later – maybe we’ll help pay for school (just kidding – about the “pay for school” part, that is)!

I am certainly not saying that Macy can learn everything as fast as her sighted sister, but with a lot of repetition and some creativity, she can do it. We as parents need patience, patience, patience. When Macy accomplishes the task, the sweet reward is knowing that all the hard work was worth it.

I am not a card-carrying fanatic about organizations, but I will certainly say that I have learned a lot from the NFB. I would never have had these lofty goals had it not been for this organization. I am willing to take risks with her – riding her bike, playing teeball, jumping on the trampoline, helping around the house, and so forth. Anybody who knows me, absolutely knows that I don’t baby her. Our neighbors probably think that we are crazy parents, since we expect so much from her. I now believe that Macy is capable of competing with her sighted peers, and I intend to do my part as her Dad to see that she lives up to that expectation.

The Role of Fathers

Reprinted from Leep Network News, a newsletter from the LSUMC Department of Child & Family Services, Shreveport, Louisiana.

Editor’s Note: Although not directly related to blindness, the following little piece seemed to fit well with the preceding article by Mark McClain. Although mothers most often take the lead role in the education and IEP process, the role fathers play – though often less visible – is no less vital to a blind child’s development of skills and self-esteem. I think you’ll agree, after you read the two articles, that Mark is a good example and model of an effective father. He clearly plays an important role in the life of his blind daughter, Macy. I don’t know about other moms, but I know as a mom I would have never had the nerve to use duct tape to teach my child to ride a bike! Mark McClain, by the way, has taken on a more visible role; he is currently a board member of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). Here, now, are some thoughts about effective fathers and the important role they play in their children’s lives:


Mark McClain and daughter, Macy, explore the stuffed animals at a
Sensory Safari display.

How to be an Effective Father

A key difference that separates effective fathers from all other fathers is that they really know their children.

Effective fathers know what hurts and haunts their children as well as what brings them joy and pleasure. These fathers know what makes their children different from every other child in the neighborhood. They are aware of the various shades, colors, and hues of their children’s personalities.

Ken R. Canfield, author of The Seven Secrets of Effective Fathers, surveyed 4,000 men to determine what contributes to effective fathering. As a result of his studies he discovered that good fathers knew the following specifics about their children:

3 When his child had a difficult day;

3 When his child was upset about something;

3 The names of his child’s best friends;

3 What encouraged his child the most;

3 When he had hurt his child’s feelings;

3 His child’s strengths and weaknesses;

3 When his child was embarrassed;

3 What motivated his child;

3 Most of his child’s recent disappointing experiences.

Effective fathers aggressively pursue knowledge about their children for two important reasons, notes Canfield. “First, so that they can help create the conditions under which this unique personality (their child) can best blossom and prosper; and second, so that by recognizing danger signals, they can alert themselves to situations where their children need guidance and intervention.”

 Good fathers look, listen, and learn. They are always on the lookout for healthy role models. They listen to other successful parents, seeking to learn from them better and more effective ways to father their own children.

“Effective fathers know they need support and aren’t afraid to ask for it,” says Paul Lewis, author of The Five Key Habits of Smart Dads. They talk to other fathers and perhaps choose one as a model or mentor. They consult with their children’s teachers, coaches, neighbors, and relatives. They read books about fathering and attend workshops. Effective fathers put fathering high on their agendas and use all the resources available to them.

The Role of Fathers Is Important

Although much past psychological research was devoted to investigating a mother’s impact, new research reveals that a positive and active involvement by the father results in children who are better adjusted socially, who experience healthier sexual development, and undergo greater intellectual growth.

“Everything we know shows that when men are involved with their children, the child’s IQ increases by the time they are six or seven.” says pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton.

He points out that with the father’s involvement “the child is also more likely to have a sense of humor, to develop a sort of inner excitement, to believe in himself, to be more motivated to learn.” On the other hand, a father’s emotional distance can have profound negative impact.

Dr. Louise B. Silverstein of New York University says: “Research clearly documents the direct correlation between father absence and higher rates of aggressive behavior in sons, sexually precocious behavior in daughters, and more rigid sex stereotypes in children of both sexes.”

Clearly the role of the father is vital and should not be diminished.

Source: Growing Together, Nov. 1999

Family-Owned Restaurant Employs Blind Teen

by Bart Ripp

Reprinted from The News Tribune, Tacoma, Washington, Sunday, July 15, 2001 (Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News).

Jun. 22–When Chris Bickert turned 16 recently, he  achieved his loftiest goal. He got a job at Frank’s Family Drive-In. He rides a Pierce Transit bus to work. He takes orders, makes drinks, slices cheese, washes dishes, cleans tables and takes out trash at Frank’s, 4008 S. 12th St., Tacoma.

At Frank’s, and in the restaurant business, an employee like Bickert exceeds rarity. Chris Bickert is totally blind. He doesn’t know black. He never has seen colors.

“Understanding that this is a very bright young man, to walk into a restaurant, present himself, get a job – and then succeed – is highly unusual,” said Alan Garrels, child and family services consultant for the state Department of Services for the Blind. “It’s not very common to have blind people (working) in the front of a restaurant.”

Only a few other Puget Sound restaurants employ blind workers, Garrels said. They include Jerome’s Place at the County-City Building in Tacoma, Delcambre’s Ragin’ Cajun in Seattle’s Pike Place Market and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cafeteria at Sand Point in Seattle.

Christopher Charles Bickert was born with a congenital condition called persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous. He was the 11th person in the United States diagnosed with this condition in both eyes, said his mother, Betsy Bickert.

She has a 9-year-old son, Sean Adix, who also suffers from the condition. So far as she knows, they are the only two siblings both affected in both eyes by this condition. And Sean is developmentally disabled.

“Chris and Sean are the only siblings in ophthalmologic history with this condition,” she said. “It’s congenital and carried silently in my family. If I had a daughter, she would have vision. But there is a chance her male children would be born blind.”

Betsy wants to write a children’s book about a kid who’s scared of the dark. That makes Chris laugh. “I’m in the dark all the time and I’m not scared,” he said.

Chris Roney, one of 700 visually impaired residents in Pierce County, has taught visually impaired students in Tacoma Public Schools for 16 years. Roney has taught Chris Bickert 13 years, since he was enrolled in a preschool part of TPS’ Sensory Impaired Program.

“Chris interacts well with people, especially adults,” Roney said. “He has dealt one-on-one with adults since he was young.

“Chris is enthusiastic. He is extremely confident and articulate. He works hard in school and values what he learns and he enjoys performing. He loves it.”

Bickert plays classical piano. He has acted in school plays. He loves going places. One fond memory involves riding in a 1996 Cadillac, owned by his grandmother, Juanell Stedman, in Grand Coulee, Douglas County. A buddy named Sam Madsen took Chris for a long ride in the Cadillac on a hot, sunny day.

“We drove almost to Wenatchee,” Chris said. “There weren’t any adults around. I just went for a ride. I can’t drive, but I can be driven. That was something I love to remember.”

Three years ago, Chris became a teenager. He pestered his mother and stepfather, a Boeing manager named Ed Robinson, with questions about what teenagers do. One answer was that teens eat burgers and drink milkshakes at drive-ins.

“I remember the first day Chris came in,” said Dale Frank, grill cook and former owner of Frank’s Family Drive-In. His daughter, Marti Fote, became Frank’s owner in January.

David Maywalt, Chris’ orientation and mobility instructor, was showing Chris how to cross streets. Chris asked if he could get a burger and Coke. Later visits came with Mary Ann Frigeri, who was Chris’ Spanish teacher at McIlvaigh Middle School.

Independent drive-ins like Frank’s, with hand-cut french fries, and fresh fruit milk shakes, have become rare in a fast-food industry dominated by franchises. The drive-in opened in 1968 as Carl’s, became Trop’s, then was acquired by Dale Frank five years ago.

“When Chris told me he would like to work here when he turned 16, I said, ‘Yeah, sure,’ and never thought he was serious,” Frank said.

In April, Chris came to Frank’s to order a triple cheeseburger, large fries and a large Dr. Pepper, announce he was 16 and wanted to apply for a job.

“I wasn’t quite sure about what Chris could do,” Fote said. “ But he’s doing really good. He loves to do the prep (food preparation). He loves to make drinks. “He loves all of us. The customers ask if he’s fully blind. Everybody is amazed.”

Chris earns $6.75 an hour. He types orders on an electric typewriter. He hands the typed card to a grill cook. He uses a gadget called a bill identifier for telling the denomination of currency. He can identify coins. Garrels hopes to use $1,800 in funds from the department for the blind for a Towa Talking Cash Register, to be loaned to Frank’s while Chris is employed.

Chris has bigger plans. He hopes to attend Washington, Central Washington, Washington State, Pacific Lutheran or the University of Puget Sound, earn degrees in education and teach seventh-grade English.

“People say seventh-graders are the worst students,” Chris said. “I want to show that they aren’t.”

Chris wants to live in a condominium without a lawn. He wants to take car rides all over Washington, maybe even to Wenatchee. He wants to play piano for people, act in plays, and be a guy who does his job.

“Just because you’re blind,” Chris said, “doesn’t mean you don’t have a vision. I want to be a normal person in the world. I’m independent as I can be. I’m working. I’m somebody.”

Chris Bickert reads Shakespeare and science fiction in Braille. He listens to Elvis, Garth Brooks, and Faith Hill. He enjoys old radio programs such as “Boston Blackie” and “The Green Hornet.”

“In my mind, I’m this regular person, even if I can’t see,” Chris said. “I’ll go out for a burger, fries, and a Coke, and I want it to be at Frank’s. I’ll never quit going there. When I head someplace, I’m thinking that I’m always going to Frank’s.”

A Few Notes on Buying a Computer

by Curtis Chong
Director of Technology
National Federation of the Blind

Editor’s Note: The following article is an update of an article published in the January, 2001, issue of the Braille Monitor, the monthly publication of the National Federation of the Blind.


Curtis Chong

The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC), which is operated by the National Federation of the Blind, receives thousands of calls each year from blind people who want to buy a computer. Most of our callers want a computer to write letters, keep records, send and receive email, and surf the Web. Some people want to use their computers as reading machines, which can scan and speak printed material. While most people will want voice output from their computers, others would prefer screen magnification. People who need to read highly technical material or who are deaf-blind might prefer reading their computer screens using refreshable-Braille technology. As a totally blind computer user I find that voice output works well for me. Many of my friends with enough vision to read print prefer to have both voice output (to save on eyestrain and dramatically increase reading speed) and screen magnification (to provide visual verification when desired).

If you cannot read your computer screen because of your vision, in addition to the basic computer you will need to add software called screen-access technology. You should start by purchasing a computer that runs the Windows operating system. The following specifications can be used as a guide to determine which built-in features you should get for your new system: at least 128 megabytes of RAM (random access memory), at least 8 gigabytes of hard-disk space, an internal 56K modem with V.90 capability, no less than a 500-megahertz processor speed (nothing slower is sold these days), and a Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live card. While almost any video card will work with screen-access technology for the blind, the blind person using speech output should bear in mind that the more sophisticated, three-dimensional card used for video games is not necessary.

 Why do you need the Sound Blaster Live? You will need a multi-channel sound card that will allow screen-access technology and other Windows applications to generate sounds at the same time. Without a multi-channel sound card, sounds generated by Real Audio or by Windows often conflict with your screen-access program’s ability to talk to you through your computer’s speakers, and one or the other will generate an error message. In our experience the Sound Blaster Live works well as a multi-channel sound card. However, you can acquire another multi-channel sound card if you wish.

As for software, I would first recommend the Windows 98 Second Edition operating system or Windows Millennium. Email and Web-browsing software (Outlook Express and Internet Explorer, respectively) come free with the Windows operating system, but you get only a fairly simplified free word processor (WordPad for Windows). While you can use WordPad to write letters and other simple documents, you may want to consider buying Microsoft Office if you are interested in spell-checking your material. A word processor that works fairly well with screen-access technology is Microsoft Word. We recommend Word 2000, if it is available.  Word XP is the version being sold today, but it is more complex than Word 2000. Some computer dealers will try to bundle a package called Microsoft Works with your system. While we cannot say for certain that Microsoft Works is not compatible with screen-access technology for the blind, we can say that our experience with it is limited and that we are more confident in the ability of Microsoft Office to work with access technology than will Microsoft Works.  Corel Office, including WordPerfect, is another popular, less expensive software bundle.  WordPerfect is a full-featured word processing program which works well with screen readers.

The next software item that must be given serious consideration is a screen-access program. Most blind people would prefer to acquire one which converts the information on the screen into speech. Others will want screen magnification software, and many will want a combination of speech output and screen magnification. See the last page of this article for information about how to contact the appropriate screen-access technology vendor.

If you want your computer to be able to read and speak printed material, you will need to buy a piece of hardware called a scanner (for about $200) and a software product which actually speaks the text on the page. You should be prepared to spend at least a thousand dollars to acquire the blind-friendly systems – especially if you do not consider yourself a relatively sophisticated user of Windows. There are two noteworthy products to consider: Open Book from Freedom Scientific, and Kurzweil 1000 from the Kurzweil Educational Group of Lernout and Hauspie. Both of these programs come with their own speech and can thus operate without screen-access technology.

The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind welcomes questions regarding screen-access technology and other technology for the blind.  You may reach our Technology Answer Line at (410) 659-9314; choose option 5 from the automated greeting.  If you prefer assistance on the local level, the NFB has thousands of members willing and able to answer your questions. I urge you to call the president of the NFB affiliate in your state and introduce yourself to him or her. If you do not know how to reach your NFB state affiliate president, call the NFB’s general information staff in Baltimore at (410) 659-9314 (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time).

Now for those who want large print. We are not experts on low vision software but have heard good things about Zoomtext from a company called Ai Squared. This software is particularly helpful if you want to use screen magnification as your primary means of reading information displayed on the computer screen. For those who want speech output most of the time but need some visual verification every once in a while, the combination of JAWS for Windows and the MAGic magnification software (available from Freedom Scientific) seems to work well. There are many other possibilities, so you would be wise to start networking with other blind people.

Sometimes people new to using computers hire someone to build them a system. This can include lessons which teach the buyer how to get started once the computer is assembled and ready for use. Such experts often know how to buy good basic equipment during sales or at a reduced rate on Internet Websites. If you know some blind computer experts, I would suggest you ask what fee they would charge for assembling a system in addition to the cost of the computer parts. Remember that sighted experts may help to build a computer but are unlikely to know how to instruct you to use keyboard commands instead of the mouse. Again, I highly recommend locating local blind computer users to help you through the frustrating early days of learning to use your new system.

Ordering a computer from a direct marketer such as Dell is also a popular option.  Finding a reader or friend to assist you with the first time setup of the machine is a good idea. 

At present the average cost for a full system can be broken down like this:

$900 to $1,200 Intel-based computer with Windows operating system

$1,000 Reading Software (Optical Character Recognition software) will let you use your commercial scanner. First, it scans any typeset print you’ve placed on the scanner; then it will recognize the document and read it aloud to you.

$600 to $800 Screen-access Technology, such as Jaws for Windows, Window-Eyes, Window Bridge 2000, or outSPOKEN for Windows will see your computer screen and articulate what is there.

$200  A typical commercial scanner.

$150  A typical commercial color printer.

$300  Estimated: state tax, an electrical power surge protector, computer supplies (printer paper, disks, and computer application programs), computer user manuals in Braille or on cassette, Internet service provider fees, ($100 to $200 per year), and other such incidentals.

$3,300 Best estimate (October, 2001).


John Pastorius of Virginia learns about computer access at the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind.

Screen-Access Technology – Top Four Vendors List

While JAWS for Windows from Freedom Scientific appears to be the best known screen-access program for the blind, we should call to your attention three other programs. Each program has its own unique set of features. The decision as to which screen-access program to buy is based partly on the features which are important to you and partly on the amount of money you have to spend. You should consult with the screen-access vendor to obtain the most current information about features and prices.  Each manufacturer maintains a Web page.  There you will find descriptions of the programs, dealer lists, and current release information.  Demonstration versions of screen-access programs are also available for JAWS and Window-Eyes.  If you already have a computer, you may want to try one or more of the popular screen-access programs before deciding on one.

JAWS for Windows  ($795)
by Henter-Joyce, a division of
Freedom Scientific

11800 31st Court North
St. Petersburg, Florida 33716-1805
(800) 444-4443  *  (727) 803-8000
Fax: (727) 803-8001
e-mail: info@hj.com
Website: http://www.freedomscientific.com


JAWS for Windows Provides speech and Braille access to Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows Millennium. Another version of JAWS for Windows ($1,195) provides access to Windows NT and Windows 2000. JAWS for Windows is shipped with the Eloquence software speech synthesizer, meaning that it can generate speech through your computer’s sound card.

Window-Eyes ($595)

by GW Micro
725 Airport North Office Park
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825
(219) 489-3671   *   Fax: (219) 489-2608. BBS: (219) 489-5281
Website: Http://www.gwmicro.com

Window-Eyes provides speech access and Braille access to Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows Millennium.

Window Bridge 2000 ($695)
by Syntha-Voice Computers, Inc.

800 Queenston Road, Suite 304

Stoney Creek, Ontario L8G 1A7, CANADA (905) 662-0565  *   Fax: (905) 662-0568 BBS: (905) 662-0569

Website: http://www.synthavoice.on.ca

Window Bridge 2000 provides speech and Braille access to Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows Millennium. (This was the first program that allowed access to Microsoft Windows.)

OutSPOKEN for Windows ($595)
by the Alva Access Group, Inc.
5801 Christie Avenue, Suite 475 Emeryville, California 94608
(510) 923-6280.

Website: http://www.aagi.com

OutSPOKEN provides speech- and Braille-access to Windows 95, and Windows 98.

2000 – 2001  Braille Readers Are
Leaders Contest Winners

School for the Blind
Outstanding Participation Award

Kansas State School
for the Blind

School for the Blind
Honorable Mention

Louisiana School for the
Visually Impaired

Excellence in Promoting
Braille Literacy

Patricia Schonlau, Braille Teacher
Missouri School for the Blind


First: Nathanial Holman, Ohio

2,952 pages, grade 5

Second: Mirranda Tucker, Georgia

2,467 pages, grade 10

Third: Kayla Bentas, Massachusetts

2,451 pages, grade 4

Honorable Mention

Alyxa Conlee, Washington.
1,024 pages, grade 9

John Story, Jr., New York.
931 pages, grade 5

Kindergarten – First Grade

First: Josiah David Hearn, Tennessee

2,637 pages, grade K

Second: Morgan Budreau, Minnesota

2,282  pages, grade K

Third: Alison Utter, Colorado

1,424  pages, grade 1

Honorable Mention

Alexander Follo, Florida
1,360 pages, grade K

Kyra Sweeney, California
1,327 pages, grade 1

Second – Fourth Grades

First: Tyler Kavanaugh, Kansas

8,490 pages, grade 2

Second: Jennifer Wing-Proctor, Michigan

5,406 pages, grade 3

Third: Lindsay Upschulte, Illinois

4,987  pages, grade 2

Honorable Mention

Michael Wassel, Maryland

4,508  pages, grade 4

Tim Peters, Ontario, Canada
4,452 pages, grade 4

Fifth – Eighth Grades

First: Casey Burns, Wisconsin

14,886 pages, grade 5

Second: Allison Passino, Oregon

8,511 pages, grade 8

Third: John Miller, Indiana

8,305 pages, grade 8

Honorable Mention

Desiree Oudinot, Pennsylvania
7,850 pages, grade 5

Danielle Shives, Maryland
7,281 pages, grade 8

Ninth – Twelfth Grades

First: Angela Leigh Hubbard, Virginia

15,227 pages, grade 12

Second: Carissa Rutherford, Tennessee

12,322 pages, grade 11

Third: Shelly Christner, Minnesota

11,658 pages, grade 11

Honorable Mention

Jaymee Lynn Strickler, Pennsylvania

6,059 pages, grade 11

Reina Brown, Maryland

5,617 pages, grade 10

Most Improved

Kadi Logan, South Carolina, age 15

Jordyn Castor, Michigan, age 7

Chance Cumbo, Florida, age 10

Samantha Weisenbach, Indiana, age 9

Tabatha Wilkerson, Kentucky, age 16

Josh Sisson, Missouri, age 15

Joshua Pearson, Massachusetts, age 8

Dominique Williams,
South Carolina, age 9

Ethan Bloodworth, Georgia, age 8

Andrew Nantz, Oregon, age 10

Join the Club!

Braille Readers Are Leaders Club for 2000 – 2001

          The Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest is not just about winning prizes. What it’s really about is encouraging kids to work hard to achieve the goal of becoming the best Braille readers they can. Although all students have a chance to win in our Most Improved Category, this still isn’t quite enough to motivate many of them to keep trying to do better year after year. We know that, once children reach a certain level of fluency and speed, reading itself becomes the reward (which is the ultimate goal of the contest), but achieving that level can be a long and slow process for many kids. They need lots of reinforcement along the way.

As a way to inspire students to keep striving to do a little better each year, the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille established the Braille Readers Are Leaders Club. This “club” is simply a way to recognize and reward the contestants who achieve certain reading milestones. The first time a contestant reaches one of these reading milestones, he or she receives a Braille and print gold embossed ribbon, and his/her name is published prominently in Future Reflections, the NFB Magazine for Parents of Blind Children. The reading milestones are 500 pages (500 Club yellow ribbon); 1,000 pages (1,000 Club green ribbon); 4,000 pages (4,000 Club orange ribbon); 8,000 pages (8,000 Club red rosette ribbon); and 12,000 pages (12,000 Club blue rosette ribbon with three streamers).

We are delighted to announce that in the first contest year (2000-2001) of our new “Club” program, we had:


63 yellow ribbon “500 Club” recipients,

101 green ribbon “1,000 Club” recipients,

25 orange ribbon “4,000 Club” recipients,

4 red ribbon “8,000 Club” recipients, and

3 blue ribbon “12,000 Club” recipients.

Here, now, is the list of the 2000 – 2001 Club members. Congratulations to all, and welcome to the Braille Readers Are Leaders Club!

Barbara Cheadle, President

National Organization of Parents of Blind Children

Nadine Jacobson, President

National Association to Promote the Use of Braille

“12,000 Club” -  Blue Ribbon

Burns, Casey, WI

Hubbard, Angela, VA

Rutherford, Carissa, TN

“8,000 Club” -  Red Ribbon

Christner, Shelley, MN

Kavanaugh, Tyler, KS

Miller, John, IN

Passino, Allison, OR

“4,000 Club” -  Orange Ribbon

Armaly, Ameer, SC

Blaschke, Max, SD

Brown, Reina, MD

Drake, Cathy, WA

Fernandes, Stephanie, OH

Grandstaff, Corey, OH

Jensen, Brawny Clint, UT

Kosten, Kerri, WV

Maynard, Ryan, VA

Mushlock, Aaron, MI

Oudinot, Desiree, PA

Peters, Tim, CANADA

Pracon, Bernadetta, CT

Reiser, Michael, OK

Rodenbeck, Adam, IN

Shives, Danielle, MD

Snyder, Jessica, OH

Strickler, Jaymee Lynn, PA

Toney, Michelle, TX

Upschulte, Lindsay, IL

Varro, Tiffany, KY

Wassell, Michael, MD

Watson, Jessica, MD

Wing-Proctor, Jennifer, MI

“1,000 Club” -  Green Ribbon

Amos, Crystal, MD

Banks, Dejuan, MO

Barr, Jessica, MA

Bauer, Jimmy, MO

Bernard, Ashley, MA

Bloodworth, Ethan, GA

Bloss, Brandi, MO

Bowen, Shannon, TN

Brown, Brianna, WV

Budreau, Morgan, MN

Bueno, Esmeralda, CA

Burch, Quinn M., NY

Cady, Desi, MT

Canada, Jacinda, IL

Canen, Ashley, WA

Castor, Jordyn Marie, MI

Cocanougher, Abigail, KY

Collins, Teisha, MD

Delic, Sead, MA

Despeaux, Courtney, MD

Drohan, Jennifer, CA

Farrow, Frankie Minh, CT

Feinberg, Rachel, OR

Follow, Alexander, FL

Fordyce, Jessica, PA

Forsberg, Sheena, CANADA

Franco, Jetzabel, OR

Garcia, Terese K., NM

Garcia, Francine, NM

Garrett, Terry, CO

Ghebreyohannes, Aron, CN

Guinn, Diana, SC

Hardin, Paige, GA

Hawthorne, Ron, KS

Hearn, Josiah David,TN

Helms, Jared I., TN

Holman, Nathanial, OH

Hummel, Courtney, IL

Hyams, Jennifer, KY

Jones, Chris, MO

Kalinoski, Pamela M., MA

Kelly, Timothy E., PA

King, Amelia, WI

Kitchens, John, KS

Kotsay, Jasmine, CA

Krauth, Alexandra, ME

Lageman, Amy, SC

Lamperis, Joseph N., IL

Larson, Troy, MN

Latessa, Angela, OH

Leahy, Sioban, NJ

Liberty, Erin, MA

Little, Patricia, CN

Lucas, Lakesia, GA

Mansfield, Christopher, NY

McCauley, Rachel, MA

McFarland, Holden, MO

Meyer, Sarah, IN

Meyers, Christina Lynn, PA

Modesitt, Sylvia, MO

Mulkern, Morgayne, MA

Mullins, R. Drew, IN

Nantz, Andrew, OR

Nastoff, Allison, WI

Nowicki, Michael, IL

Ochoa, Adriana, CA

Parks, Alex, ME

Parsons, Christine, MO

Patton, Jon, IN

Pearson, Joshua, MA

Perez, Lee Ann, AZ

Petrice, Cathy Marie, WV

Popillion, Brandon, LA

Raines, Shaleah, IN

Reilly, Chelsea, WI

Rieken, Kayde Dawn, NE

Robinson, Ryne, IN

Royal, Shaketa, GA

Ryan, Cortnie, IN

Schauf, Jacob Joseph, KS

Schwab, Hannah, TX

Sconion, Andre, MD

Sisson, Josh, MO

Spina, Jeremy, PA

Stephenson, Teresa, NM

Stevens, Mikaela, WA

Stevens, Helen Mae, PA

Stogsdill, Amanda, MO

Stovall, Brittany, MO

Sweeney, Kyra, CA

Taylor, Desiree, LA

Tengelsen, Erin, CO

Tucker, Mirranda, GA

Utter, Alison, CO

Valdez, Dion, NM

Wai, Andrew C., PA

Weatherd, Hannah, MT

Weigman, Matthew, MA

Weisenbach, Samantha, IN

Zaldivar, Moises, NJ

Zwick, Tanya, AZ

“500 Club” -  Yellow Ribbon

Almer, Tommy, WA

Anderson, Darrion, MD

Bair, Cody, NY

Barcomb, Jennifer, NY

Black, Thomas, KS

Bogden, Marlena, MD

Brunk, Chris, NE

Bustos, Alex, AZ

Chapman, Travis, KS

Chippewa, Patrick, MT

Claasen, Sam, IA

Cocchiarella, Nicholas, MN

Codigan, Mark, MA

Coleman, Michelle, LA

Collett, Robert, WI

Conlon, Michael, NY

Cumbo, Chance, FL

Davis, Allee, GA

Dean, James, TN

Flatt, Nicolas, KY

Gabry, Jon, NJ

Gilland, Alex, IN

Gorfio, Cindy, AZ

Graves, Gloria E., IA

Gutic, Adnan, MO

Hall, Crystal Faith, GA

Halsband, Benjamin, MA

Hamilton, Jennifer, MD

Henson, Kristen, MO

Herman, Jordan, KS

Hill, Husani, KS

Jackson, Kevin, KS

Johnson, James D., VA

Jones, Chris, MO

Jostad, Brooke Tuttle, CO

Kasbow, Austin, WA

Leong, Adrian, CN

Love, Andy, OH

Martin, Rosemary, PA

Matthiesen, Mitchell, WI

McKinney, Tyler, OH

Meyer, Tabea, IN

Mitchell, Kelly, MA

Natividad, David, TX

Nelson, Takala, SC

Nicolay, Kelsey, CA

Palmer, Jennifer, MO

Parsons, Christine, MO

Potts, Mackensie, WA

Ramirez, Andrea, KS

Ramirez, Olivia, KS

Robinson, Rylie, IN

Schmies, Jesse, MN

Shepherd, Sam, OH

Shields, Jennifer, FL

Stevens, Brett, KS

Story, John, Jr., NY

Suchan, Jennifer, MD

Tenski, Deavon, NM

Travis, Adam, MO

Walker, Chelsea, MO

Walker, Lerone, LA

Whitten, Eric, LA

Wiles, Sarah, MA

Wilkerson, Tabatha, KY

Williams, Laridda, KS

Witbart, Philip, KS

Wright, Chelsea, GA

National Federation Of The Blind
2002 Scholarship Program

Each year at its National Convention in July, the NFB gives a broad array of scholarships to recognize achievement by blind scholars. All applicants for these scholarships must be (1) legally blind and (2) pursuing or planning to pursue a full-time postsecondary course of study in the fall semester of 2002, in the United States, except that one scholarship may be given to a full-time employee also attending school part-time. In addition, some scholarships have been further restricted by the donor.

The scholarship application is now available for downloading from the NFB Website, and forms have been or soon will be mailed to financial aid offices in educational institutions around the country. Anyone can order scholarship forms from:

Materials Center
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230


NFB State Presidents and members of the 2002 Scholarship Committee will also have scholarship forms. These may be copied as long as both sides of the form are reproduced. Completed applications must be received by  March 31, 2002.

Scholarships to be given at the National Convention in 2002 are listed with special restrictions noted:


Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship – Given by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, a nonprofit organization which works to assist blind persons, in memory of the man who changed perceptions regarding the capabilities of the blind in this country and throughout the world. Kenneth Jernigan is viewed by our field as the most important figure in the 20th century in the lives of blind persons. The Action Fund wishes to keep fresh and current in the 21st century the understandings he brought to the field and thus has endowed this scholarship dedicated to his memory and to the continuation of the work he began. No additional restrictions.


Two National Federation of the Blind Scholarships – No additional restrictions.

Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship – Given in memory of Melva T. Owen, who was widely known and loved among the blind. She and husband Charles Owen became acquainted with many blind people through their work in the “Voicepondence” Club. Charles Owen says: “There shall be no limitation as to field of study, except that it shall be directed towards attaining financial independence and shall exclude religion and those seeking only to further general or cultural education.”


Jennica Ferguson Memorial Scholarship – Given to keep alive the memory of a young woman who dealt with her blindness and terminal illness with a grace and strength she frequently assured others she drew from the Federation and from her faith in God. No additional restrictions.

Three National Federation of the Blind Scholarships – No additional restrictions.


Michael and Marie Marucci Scholarship – Given by two dedicated and valued members of the NFB of Maryland. The winner of this scholarship must be studying a foreign language or comparative literature; pursuing a degree in history, geography, or political science with a concentration in international studies; or majoring in any other discipline that involves study abroad. The winner’s file must also show evidence of competence in a foreign language.

Lora E. Dunetz Scholarship – No additional restrictions but preference will be given to those studying to enter the medical field, work in which has meant so much to Lora Dunetz, who intends this scholarship to assist the winner in achieving a lifetime of employment through higher education.

Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship – Dr. Isabelle Grant endowed this scholarship in memory of her daughter. Winner must be a woman.

Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship – Given in loving memory of her parents, Charles Albert Kuchler and Alice Helen Kuchler, by Junerose Killian, dedicated member of the NFB of Connecticut. No additional restrictions.

E. U. Parker Scholarship – Endowed by his wife, who joined him in a lifetime of Federationism, this scholarship honors a long-time leader of the National Federation of the Blind whose participation stood for strong principles and strong support of the Federation’s work. No additional restrictions.

Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship – Winner must be studying or planning to study in the fields of law, medicine, engineering, architecture, or the natural sciences.

National Federation of the Blind Computer Science Scholarship – Winner must be studying in the computer science field.

National Federation of the Blind Educator of Tomorrow Award – Winner must be planning a career in elementary, secondary, or postsecondary teaching.

National Federation of the Blind Humanities Scholarship – Winner must be studying in the traditional humanities such as art, English, foreign languages, history, philosophy, or religion.

Thirteen National Federation of the Blind Scholarships – No further restrictions, except that one may be given to a candidate working full-time who is attending or planning to attend a part-time course of study which will result in a new degree and broader opportunities in present or future work.

Freedom Scientific Awards – Freedom Scientific, maker of many hardware and software products for the blind, will give vouchers to ten students chosen by the NFB to purchase Freedom Scientific products. In addition to their Federation scholarships ten of the thirty NFB scholarship winners will receive vouchers from Freedom Scientific, five for $2,500, and five for $1,500 in Freedom Scientific products. Freedom Scientific voucher winners must first be eligible for National Federation of the Blind scholarships and then be chosen as winners. Applicants for Federation scholarships who wish to compete for these Freedom Scientific vouchers should include a section in their personal letters explaining how a voucher would help them achieve their aspirations.


All scholarships are awarded for academic excellence, community service, and financial need.


The National Federation of the Blind is an organization dedicated to creating opportunity for all blind persons. Recipients of NFB scholarships need not be members of the National Federation of the Blind.

[Hear Ye! Graphic]

Research on Usher’s Syndrome

We have been asked to publish the following information:

Attention: Individuals and families with Usher Syndrome or combined hearing and vision loss.

We are conducting a study to find the genes responsible for Usher’s Syndrome (hearing loss and retinitis pigmentosa (vision loss) in Ashkenazi Jews. If you or a member of your family are an Ashkenazi Jew or of Ashkenazic heritage and have Usher’s Syndrome, or both hearing loss and vision loss that has no other known cause, you and your family member may be eligible to participate.

Participation may be as simple as a phone call and giving blood locally or may involve spending a few hours at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York for vision and hearing tests at no cost to you.

There may be no direct benefit to you as a participant other than the possible medical advances and greater understanding of Usher’s Syndrome that may result if causative genes are found.

For more information please call
Drs. Ness or Willner at (212) 241-6947

Contact us by mail at:

Judith Willner, Department of Human Genetics Box 1497, Mount Sinai School of Medicine One Gustave L. Levy Place
New York, NY 10029
or email Dr. Seth L. Ness, M.D., Ph.D. at <nesss01@doc.mssm.edu>

Braille for Parents

I received the following note and announcement from Lois Wencil:

Dear Ms. Cheadle,

Will you please put this ad in Future Reflections? It is important for parents to share the code that makes it possible for their children to compete with their peers. Many parents have learned to read Braille through using this series. It was written by a Braille reading/mentor for blind adults who needed to know Braille quickly. The average number of lessons of instruction was twenty-three ranging over a period of six months.


Lois Wencil

THE FAST TRACK is a no-nonsense, no frills Braille/tape/print manual for learning to read Braille. It has been successfully used to instruct adults through a Braille mentoring program for four years. To obtain your copy send $39.95 to Lois Wencil, 19 Parkview Drive, Millburn, NJ 07041

Curriculum for Microsoft Word

This announcement comes from Margaret Marston:  

Announcing a Curriculum for Teaching Microsoft Word to Blind Students:

This curriculum was written for teachers to use with blind students in middle school or higher. The students should know how to read Braille and to type. A pre-test and post-test covers the keyboard commands presented in the lessons. The 20 lessons cover 39 keyboard commands. The lessons are written in semi-script form for the teacher. The teacher files are on the included disk in a folder called Teacher Files, and in printed form. Braille worksheets and Microsoft Word files come with several of the lessons. The content covers keyboard shortcuts, formatting shortcuts, paragraph controls, and cursor movement keys. The cost is $45.00 (including shipping and handling). Send checks and orders to Margaret Marston, 1124 Southport Court, Wellington, FL 33414; <http://scis.nova.edu/~marston>. 

Pip Squeakers

We recently received a press release about a product that may be of interest to some of our readers. Here is the information we could glean from the text:

Walking down a busy city street in China, you may hear a toddler or two because their feet squeak. Squeaky baby shoes have been around in China for a long time. Their purpose is to amuse babies. I was fortunate enough to witness this phenomenon during my trip to China while adopting my daughter.

After coming to the U.S., my daughter wore her squeaky shoes everywhere. Anyone who heard her shoes squeak was guaranteed to smile, children and adults alike. As a result I sought out a manufacturer in China and imported several styles. Pip Squeakers began selling baby squeaky shoes in March, 2001, on the Internet at <www.pipsqueakers.com>.

We quickly realized that squeaky baby shoes not only were fun but could actually be of benefit to both parents and babies with vision and mobility impairments. We have received many positive responses from groups dealing with blindness.

Pip Squeakers can serve as motivation for blind and visually impaired babies and toddlers, who learn that moving their feet causes the amusing sounds. As a result they are encouraged to move, explore, and take their first steps. Blind and visually impaired parents use squeaky shoes to track their baby’s movements by sound.

The secret of these shoes is an insole air pocket. As the baby presses a foot against any surface, the air travels through a small squeaker embedded in the rubber sole. The sound is similar to that of a rubber squeak toy. For more information check out the Web site.

RFB&D® Scholarships

The following information comes from a recent press release:

RFB&D® announces its 2002 National Achievement Awards (NAA) program – an annual competition for students with print disabilities.

RFB&D’s Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Awards (SAA) are given annually to nine blind or visually impaired seniors at four-year U.S. colleges or universities. The Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Awards (LTL) are presented annually to six high school seniors with learning disabilities. Additionally, qualified applicants for the SAA award who provide proof of plans for post-graduate studies at accredited four-year U.S. colleges or universities will be considered for an additional award from the Freedom Scientific Technology Scholarship Award program.

The competitions are open to active RFB&D members, meeting the schooling requirements, who have been registered for at least one year prior to the deadline – either individually or through their schools – and who demonstrate outstanding scholarship, leadership, enterprise, and service to others. Award monies total more than $50,000.

RFB&D, a nonprofit volunteer organization, serves people who cannot effectively read standard print because of visual impairment, dyslexia, or other physical disability. Across the U.S., more than 91,000 students in kindergarten through post-graduate school use RFB&D’s audio textbooks.

Award applications can be obtained by calling RFB&D’s Member Services Department toll free at (800) 221-4792, or on the organization’s accessible, award-winning website at www.rfbd.org. The application deadline is February 21, 2002.

Art Competition

This announcement comes from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH):

The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) invites visually impaired or blind artists of all ages to submit artwork for its tenth annual international art competition, APH InSights 2002. Last year, over 500 entries were received. From these, jurors selected eighty-one pieces for the exhibition, which was shown in Louisville in October, and which will be on view on the APH accessible web site: www.aph.org in December 2001.

Artists may enter artwork created in any visual art medium, including (but not limited to), painting, drawing, printmaking, fiber, metal, or wood. Award winners receive a cash award and a ribbon. Entry forms and art pieces (children) or slides (adults) must arrive at APH no later than April 1, 2002. Artists should contact APH to request a copy of the entry form and rules of the competition: Call 1-800-223-1839, 1-502-895-2405, or email Roberta Williams at rwilliams@aph.org. Beginning in February, rules and down-loadable forms will also be posted on the web site: www.aph.org.

Braille Music

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Dancing Dots, developer of the GOODFEEL Braille music translator, has published An Introduction to Music for the Blind Student, A Course in Braille Music Reading to meet the basic need of blind music students to become literate in music Braille.

No prior experience needed: Braille music educator David Simpson of the Braille Institute of America addresses the curriculum’s value to sighted teachers and tutors as well as to students. “Sighted teachers who are not Braille-literate can now guide blind students in their musical education. In the process both the student and the teacher learn the Braille music code,” says Simpson. Bill McCann, founder and president of Dancing Dots, says of the intent of the curriculum, “We’ve tried to take away the barrier that Braille music is ‘too hard to teach or learn’ so that all students can receive music instruction in class with everyone else. This is an effort to advance literacy for the blind. Literacy can lead to independence, which is a key to success.”

An Introduction to Music for the Blind Student has a retail price of $299 for three print and four Braille volumes. Further information on ordering the course in Braille music reading is available by contacting Dancing Dots, Braille Music Technology at (610) 783-6692 or e-mail <info@dancingdots. com>.

Braille Book

We have been asked to announce the following:

With the Help of Love, I Can Do Anything, by Angelo K. Menefee. This Braille and large print book is easy for little ones to read along with parents or older siblings. Larger pictures enhance the story of childhood lessons from tying your shoes to brushing your teeth. Children learn that lessons learned with love are long lasting. Raymond learns the most important lesson all. The book is $20 plus $4.95 shipping and handling. For more information contact Angelo K. Menefee, 307 Wren Court, Newark, DE 19702.

Talking Geographical Map

Hannah Hashash provided the following information in the July issue of In Touch, the newsletter of the New Jersey Parents of Blind Children:

We recently purchased a talking United States geographical map – Geo-Genius II – for our eight-year-old daughter, Shafeka. The map is flat with buttons on each state that, when pressed, states the name of the state. Along the bottom under the map are five buttons which gives information about the capital city, nickname, state wildlife, landmarks, and famous people in each state. Two more larger buttons quiz the player on the information presented. The map and buttons are easy to label in Braille. Shafeka absolutely loves it! It is distributed through Castlesprings, Ltd., and we bought it at a Kay-Bee toy store for $24.99.

For the Kids

Here are some new items from the NFB Materials Center especially for kids. For more information (including shipping and handling costs), contact:Materials Center, 1800 Johnson Street,  Baltimore, MD  21230; fax: (410) 685-5653; phone: (410) 659-9314; or email: <nfbstore@nfb.org>. You may also order online at: <www.nfb.org>.

Braille Alphabet Blocks: 27 embossed wooden ABC blocks (4 complete alphabets plus numbers, math symbols, and colorful animal pictures). $28.00, order number AIB16B.

Braille Math Blocks: 16 embossed wooden block (2 complete sets of numbers based on the Nemeth code; plus, minus, and equal symbols; and colorful animal pictures. $20.00, order number AIG18B.

Feel and Find Braille Puzzle: 20 matching wooden shapes and 3-D textured tiles in a durable, reusable cloth bag (10 geometric and 10 object shapes). A great visual and tactile exercies. $22.00, order number AIG17P.

Kenneth Jernigan Map of the United States. This sturdy, but lightweight, 32-1/2 x 18 inch colorful take-apart topographical puzzle map of the United States has incised state boundaries and state abbreviations in Braille. The major rivers, mountain chains, latitude and longitude lines, and state capitals are all tactile. Excellent teaching tool. Print and Braille reference guides included. $250.00, order number AIG19M.

Future Reflections

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

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