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Braille Monitor

Vol. 51, No. 10                                                     November 2008

Barbara Pierce, editor

Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by

The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, president

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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES

        ISSN 0006-8829

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Contents


Vol. 51, No. 10                                                     November 2008

 

Lead Photos  

World Blind Union Meets in Geneva       
by Marc Maurer

Breaking the Mold:
The Power of the Unpredictable
by Marc Maurer

Structured Discovery Learning: Its Historical Origins
by Allan Dodds

Protecting the Rights of Blind Individuals in the United States     
by Dan Goldstein

The Two-Party System   
by Seville Allen

No Such Thing as Blind Culture   
by Barbara Pierce

On the Value of NFB Center-Based Training       

Feeding Our Future     
by Barbara Loos

Optical Character Recognition and High-Volume Book-Scanning   
by Clara Van Gerven

The Wall-to-Wall Thanksgiving        
by Barbara Pierce

A Tribute to Twenty Years Leading the Way        

More Than Just Money for School
The 2009 NFB Scholarship Program        
by Anil Lewis

Ask Miss Whozit          

Recipes

Monitor Miniatures 

Copyright 2008 by the National Federation of the Blind

 

In the early to mid eighties the NFB built a large dining room and professional kitchen in the far northwest corner of our Johnson Street headquarters. For well over twenty years Thanksgiving dinners for the NFB staff and board of directors and hundreds of other meals for division meetings, leadership seminars, national and international groups, and other Baltimore chapter and Maryland affiliate events have been prepared and served in this space. We have used the kitchen hard, and by this year it was pretty well worn out. So last summer, when we returned from the national convention, workers began swarming over the kitchen, tearing out equipment, counters, and storage space. A few weeks and thousands of dollars later, the NFB took possession of a state-of-the-art professional kitchen, which is now in almost constant use. Among other amenities it boasts both a walk-in freezer and refrigerator, two warming ovens, two convection ovens, a large combination convection and conventional oven, a gas four-burner stovetop, and an industrial-strength restaurant dishwasher.

 

World Blind Union Meets in Geneva

by Marc Maurer

The seventh general assembly of the World Blind Union (WBU) met from August 15 through August 23, 2008, in Geneva, Switzerland, at the International Conference Center. Meetings of the World Blind Union are customarily uneasy gatherings of delegates from throughout the world. The organization’s history contributes to the uneasiness.

In 1949 the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind (WCWB) was created, consisting of agencies for the blind established to provide blind people with services. I do not know how many countries were represented in the WCWB, but the United States, Canada, and a number of European nations had delegates who attended.

In 1964 the International Federation of the Blind was formed. It took its direction from the National Federation of the Blind of the United States. Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, the founder and first president of the National Federation of the Blind, was the first president of the International Federation of the Blind (IFB). Its purpose was to create organizations of blind people throughout the world that could come together in international meetings to cooperate in creating greater opportunity for the blind, to exchange information, and to serve as a collective force for change for blind people.

These two organizations merged in 1984 to create the World Blind Union. Consumer organizations of blind people and service agencies for blind people came together in a single organization. In those nations in which aggressive, independent organizations of blind people existed, conflict with service delivery agencies for the blind had often occurred. However, in many countries no independent organizations of the blind had ever been established. A number of service agencies for blind people proclaimed that they spoke on behalf of the blind. In such countries, when organizations of the blind came into being, conflict was the inevitable result.

Furthermore, the underlying governing structure of the newly created organization was supposedly democratic. However, delegates from some nations had very little experience with democracy, and delegates from other nations had tremendous suspicion of the electorate. Although the policy of the organization declared that all meetings would be open to all members, the practice of the World Blind Union throughout its history has been to hold some of its deliberations in secret and to justify this behavior with the argument that the electorate is not competent to manage all aspects of an organization. Disruption and chaos might be the result if complete openness and democracy were to be adopted as the standard, it was argued. Some people felt that some things are too delicate to be handled by anybody except the officers.

Dr. Kenneth Jernigan served as the delegate from the National Federation of the Blind to the World Blind Union from 1984 until almost the end of 1997. He was president of the North America/Caribbean region from 1987 until near the end of 1997. His work created the policy within the World Blind Union that all meetings would be open. In the renegotiation of the WBU’s constitution, which occurred in 2004, this policy of openness came under attack. Although the policy remains, sometimes the openness does not. The officers have held closed meetings from time to time as a matter of course. Especially the delegates from Europe have felt that this was the only prudent course to take for any substantial organization. All of this reflection suggests why meetings of the World Blind Union have ordinarily been characterized by strife, argument, confrontation, uneasiness, and sometimes chaos.

I first attended a World Blind Union general assembly in Madrid, Spain, in 1988. The expectations of the delegates from various parts of the world were substantially different from one another. Many of the European delegates believed that they should be in charge. Many of the delegates from developing countries believed that delegates from industrialized nations had plenty of money and should give it to those from developing nations. A number of delegates hoped to build a worldwide community of cooperating countries to create greater opportunity and to bring pressure to bear for positive change in the legal systems throughout the world. A few delegates attended because somebody else was paying the bills and they could get a vacation. Some delegates arrived figuring that it was an opportunity to sell their wares from back home and that they would use the general assembly as a sales department. Considering the enormously different expectations, it is not the least bit surprising that one of the major results of the meeting was frustration.

In Geneva in the summer of 2008, chaos was noticeably absent. William Rowland had been elected to the WBU presidency at the sixth general assembly, held in South Africa in 2004. Following his election William Rowland convened the officers of the World Blind Union and a number of leaders of the blind from throughout the world to devise a strategic plan. The WBU constitution requires an election for president every four years and prohibits the current president from being reelected. Consequently, the leadership of the World Blind Union changes every four years. The six officers elected are president, first vice president, second vice president, secretary general, treasurer, and immediate past president.

Under the European model of nonprofit service organizations, the secretary general is frequently the principal administrative officer of an organization. Under the model familiar to many in the United States, the president is the principal administrative officer of an organization. In the World Blind Union the secretary general can be reelected. For as long as I can remember, the Spanish National Organization of the Blind has run a candidate to serve in the office of secretary general, and that candidate has been elected. In 1988 the Spanish delegate said that the Spanish were running a candidate for secretary general, that a substantial sum of money would be available to the World Blind Union if that candidate won, and that no money would be available if that candidate lost. Some of the maneuvering in the election process was less blatantly connected with financial promises of support, but a great deal of what occurred appeared to be collecting votes in exchange for promises of funding. The Spanish organization did put substantial amounts of funding into the World Blind Union by paying the expenses of the secretary general and by supporting the activities conducted through his office. This method of contribution has been a characteristic of the WBU.

William Rowland caused a strategic plan to be crafted for the World Blind Union. One of its major planks was that an administrative office for the World Blind Union be created. This office has been established at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind headquarters building in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The person serving as director of this office is Penny Hartin. She has worked for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and she is familiar with many of the programs for the blind established throughout the world.

A restrictive pattern of contributions from member organizations of the World Blind Union has hampered the development of the organization. This pattern is that organizations have been willing to provide financial support only if they may specify exactly how those contributions would be spent. The example of the Spanish National Organization of the Blind is a case in point. This organization did not give money to the World Blind Union to be spent at the discretion of the officers and members. It provided financial support for the office held by the secretary general, a member of the Spanish National Organization and that organization’s candidate. Consequently, the World Blind Union has had very little financial capacity to carry out its own programs and develop its own policies.

The NFB has long argued that member organizations wishing to support the WBU should make unearmarked donations to carry forward the general work of the union. Some years ago we offered a substantial challenge grant of unearmarked funds to the World Blind Union treasury on the condition that a number of other member organizations agree to do the same. Unfortunately, at that time others were unwilling to participate in this type of funding, and the challenge went unmet. During his administration William Rowland joined with us in advocating strongly for this funding mechanism, which finally became a reality at the meeting of the World Blind Union officers held at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore in April of 2006. It is hard to overstate the significance of this paradigm shift in the thinking and action of member organizations of the World Blind Union.

The seventh general assembly met in plenary session from August 18 through August 22, 2008. Delegates from 132 countries participated. A substantial spirit of cooperation prevailed during the course of the meetings. Delegates appeared to be focused upon creating long-term solutions for urgent needs felt by the blind throughout the world.

One of the primary efforts of the World Blind Union during the past several years has been the adoption by the United Nations of an international convention to protect the rights of disabled people. This convention became effective in May of 2008. Although it protects the rights of disabled people only in countries that have adopted it, the convention also serves as a recommendation to all countries in the world to consider and recognize the importance of civil rights protections for disabled people. Substantial parts of the World Blind Union general assembly program considered the provisions of this international convention. Plans were established to promote efforts to have this international convention adopted in nations which had not previously passed it.

Maryanne Diamond, a leader of the blind from Australia, was elected to the presidency for the quadrennium beginning in 2008. Others elected were Mr. Arnt Holte of Norway serving as first vice president, Ms. Frances Candiru of Uganda serving as second vice president, Mr. Enrique Pérez of Spain serving as secretary general, Mr. A.K. Mittal of India serving as treasurer, and Mr. William Rowland of South Africa serving as immediate past president.

William Rowland is a soft-spoken, gentle human being. He has served as a primary leader of the blind of South Africa and of blind people on the African continent for decades. He was a prominent member and leader of the movement to end apartheid in South Africa. He has written extensively about the need to recognize the rights of blind and otherwise disabled people. He is the proponent of the slogan, “Nothing about us without us.” His work has helped to insure the rights of blind and otherwise disabled people to full participation in the activities of South Africa.

Dr. Rowland recognizes that in many cases self-appointed individuals have declared that they represent the blind or the otherwise disabled without having been elected to do this, and he understands that democracy in the disabled community is essential. Although he is soft-spoken and gentle, he is also a true revolutionary, with all that this implies. He has been in the midst of demanding, creating, and sustaining change in the political thought in his own country, in countries throughout Africa, and in a number of places around the world. His administration of the World Blind Union will probably be remembered most for creating stability in the governance of the organization and for establishing a mechanism for long-term, sustained growth. He spent much of his time during the preceding quadrennium at the United Nations arguing for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and he insisted that blindness-specific language be incorporated in the convention. The specialized needs of blind people must be recognized as a fundamental element of civil rights, and William Rowland made this clear at the United Nations.

One other characteristic of the World Blind Union during this general assembly meeting was worthy of note. In the past heavy emphasis has been placed upon service-delivery programs for the blind in many parts of the world. Although the necessity and value of these programs continued as a theme for this general assembly, a broader emphasis was the purpose of the World Blind Union to serve as a stimulating force to create in every nation organizations of the blind capable of speaking on behalf of blind people. The coordination between organizations of the blind and programs for the blind at this general assembly has become less chaotic and dramatically more harmonious. This is also part of the legacy of William Rowland and those who work with him.

 

Breaking the Mold:
The Power of the Unpredictable

by Marc Maurer

From the Editor: The afternoon of Tuesday, August 19, 2008, NFB President Marc Maurer delivered the keynote address at the opening session of the quadrennial meeting of the World Blind Union in Geneva, Switzerland. Here is the text of his remarks:

The scientist Stephen Hawking tells us that scientific systems fall into two categories—the predictable and the chaotic. No matter how complex the system may be, if the outcome is determinable in advance, this system is closed, predictable, and repetitive. If the outcome is not determinable in advance, the scientific name is chaos.

In the not too distant past, those things that might be expected of blind people were almost entirely predictable and repetitive—known before they occurred. However, some of us have broken the old system, and we intend to break it further. Some of us intend to embrace chaos—to create results that have never been imagined until we put our minds and our hearts to the effort. The name that I have for these intrepid individuals is “the organized blind movement.”

The history of blind people is largely unrecorded, but that which has been written has two elements. Prior to the time that the blind began to write their own history, a few blind people were recorded as possessing inspiring characteristics of courage, perception, and endurance. Some of these blind people were said to have extraordinary extrasensory powers, but the blind as a group had no history.

One of the books about phenomenal blind people is entitled, From Homer to Helen Keller. Homer was the Greek poet who composed The Iliad and The Odyssey. He was blind. Helen Keller was the deaf-blind woman from the United States who learned to speak and to write despite her disabilities. The best-known documentary about her life is the movie The Miracle Worker. That Helen Keller learned to speak and to write is regarded as a miracle. Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller’s tutor, created the miracle. The remarkable story of Helen Keller is remarkable not because of her capacity, according to the movie, but because of the extraordinary ability of Annie Sullivan, who is the miracle worker.

Let it be said that I am glad Helen Keller did the things she did. I am sorry that her accomplishments were belittled in the movie and that her success was attributed, not to her ability, but to the extraordinary sagacity of Annie Sullivan. However, the assertion that the story of success is not attributable to the deaf-blind person but to her miracle-working teacher is consistent with the myth of incapacity that has been a part of the history that has bedeviled the lives of the blind.

Sighted people begin with the belief that they could not perform competently if they were to lose their vision, and they write history to reflect this belief. Successful blind people must have extraordinary powers, they think, because the blind are incompetent. Any blind person who manages to exhibit success is, according to this formulation, magic or miraculous. This is the legacy of The Miracle Worker.

In 1999 the National Federation of the Blind in the United States contemplated the construction of a new building that would house programs of research and education for the blind. In this new building we planned to conduct research and education based upon the experiences of blind people. Most of the research about blindness has been conceived and directed by sighted people, and much of it has had no basis in the experiences of blind people.

The difference between much of the research about blindness conducted in the past and that which we intend to conduct is that we would incorporate within it the individual daily experiences of blind people. In the course of discussing the impact of a research and training facility operated for the blind and by the blind, I talked about the need to ensure that the blind have access to information, to programs and activities of society, to training programs that teach the specialized techniques used by the blind, and to virtually all places of employment and almost every job. In making my presentation about this need, I indicated that a new method of thought is an essential element for programs of research and training for the blind. This element is the need to take account of the talent possessed by the blind, the alternative methods that blind people use to gain and use information, and the daily experiences that blind people have. Among other things I said that, if a new technology were needed to assist the blind in getting at information, we would build it.

Working with Ray Kurzweil, the inventor and futurist, we now have assisted in the development of the KNFB Reader Mobile, the cell phone that reads. Taking information that exists in one form and changing it to another is a vital part of the future for all human beings in society. Today we take a printed page and make it audible. Within a very few days we will be taking the language of a printed page and making it auditory in another language. Automatic translation from one language to another is now possible because we who are blind needed to transform a written pattern into an auditory one. Ray Kurzweil’s inventive genius began with the recognition of our need to change one pattern of information to another—the printed page to a spoken page. The same pattern of basic information can be transformed in multiple ways—from print to speech and from print to speech in more than one language. The reading machine benefits reading-disabled people—the blind, the dyslexic, and those who find it difficult to read for other reasons. The translation software will benefit hundreds of millions.

Despite all of the evidence that blind people possess ability, the capacity of the blind has routinely been written off. Decades ago, when I was studying law, I found myself one evening in a class on American tax law. The portable talking calculator had just been invented, and I had one of them to use for tax calculations. I decided to show it to my professor. I thought he might find it of interest since it was the newest breakthrough in technology for the blind.

As I placed the talking calculator on the professor’s desk after the class had been dismissed and then performed a calculation, he said in an offhand way, “That’s interesting.” Then he added, “By the way, what are you doing in this class?” I was startled by the question. I had imagined that students sign up for classes to learn about the subject matter being taught. I recognize that taxation is not a course of study that would stimulate everybody, but I have always thought that the management of money is a useful thing to know. Consequently, when the professor asked the question, it took me by surprise. However, he did not let me answer. He said, almost without a pause, “Oh, some of this will be useful in your divorce cases.”

In the vernacular in the United States, it was a put-down. The professor did not expect me to be able to handle more than the rudimentary elements of the taxation course. He did not expect me to be an expert in the subject he was teaching. He did not expect me to be able to handle complex legal matters. He assumed that the noncomplicated, routine portions of the law would be all that I could do. This comment is one of the elements that caused me to concentrate on advocacy and civil rights. It made me believe that I should challenge the assumptions of those in society who think that the blind have little ability and less will. It helped me decide that I should fight back.

Another time, many years ago, a group of my blind friends and I tried to enter a restaurant in a small town in Middle America. The owner of the restaurant refused entrance to us saying, “I don’t want all those blind people in here; what will the rest of my customers think?” I was a much younger man in those days, and I had not been schooled in the thought process of advocacy. I did not take immediate action, and I have always regretted my passivity. However, I participated in a demonstration later, and I changed my method of thought. I decided that I would not tolerate discrimination on the basis of blindness, and I learned about the laws of the United States and about the methods of changing those laws. I have been heavily involved in creating legal principles prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability for many decades, and I have been supporting challenges in court to discriminatory action for more than thirty-five years.

The laws in the United States to protect the rights of blind people are better than they have ever been, but they are not adequate to meet the need. They do not assure access to educational materials, they do not protect the right of the blind to the use of technology that others take for granted, they do not assure equal opportunity to use educational testing facilities and systems, and they permit educational testers to flag test results if they are taken in nonvisual ways. In many instances manufacturers of devices may knowingly produce them in inaccessible ways. Universities do not provide equal access to education, and the computers used in elementary schools are unusable by blind students. Fewer than 10 percent of blind children are being taught Braille in my country, and automobiles are being manufactured that are so quiet that the blind cannot hear them. Near misses and collisions have occurred, and the manufacturers have been very slow to take our complaints seriously.

If blind people have ability, and I believe they do, this implies that we also possess power. Untrained, unfocused, undirected power has little practical use. However, the beginning of power is the recognition by blind people that this characteristic is ours.

In 1985 airline companies in the United States were following a set of practices that became anathema to the blind. Blind people were having their canes forcibly removed from them. They were being assigned seats in various parts of the plane (including the exit row) and then being ordered to move either without explanation or in the name of safety. Only a limited number of blind people were permitted to board a specific aircraft—sometimes two, sometimes three, sometimes four. Maybe airline officials thought that too many blind people on a single airplane would be infectious to the other passengers. Blind people were ordered to sit on blankets because some people thought we could not control our bowels. When blind people objected to these belittling treatments, they were either thrown off the plane or arrested. We filed discrimination complaints, but much of the time they were ineffective.

We asked the Congress of the United States to introduce legislation to protect the rights of the blind in air travel, and eventually the Air Carrier Access Act was adopted. However, some of the provisions that we believed were necessary to protect the rights of blind travelers were eliminated at the last minute. I led a demonstration of several hundred blind people in the Capitol outside the Senate chamber to demand that the rights of blind people be recognized. Before we were finished, fifty-eight members of the Senate had voted with us.

When one of our members was thrown off a plane at National Airport in Washington, D.C., we put together a public demonstration seeking to board the aircraft and take the seat that our member had been assigned, whether the airline liked it or not. We were almost aboard the plane when airline personnel locked us out. So we put a picket line around the airline’s customer service check-in desks. Our protest was also mounted in other airports around the United States. The attempt to board the plane and our picket line at National Airport were carried on nationwide television. The airlines agreed not to have us arrested, and discrimination in most aspects of air travel was prohibited by law.

Can blind people be farmers, factory workers, lawyers, teachers, business executives, warehouse workers, college professors, scientists, political activists, or shoemakers? The answer is undoubtedly yes. Can blind people be medical doctors, or, if we build the right type of technology, can the blind fly planes or drive automobiles? I have met a number of blind doctors, and I have faith that they perform in the medical profession with skill and effectiveness. Would I hire a blind doctor? Indeed I would. I would hire the doctor who possessed the ability to understand and treat whatever medical condition was then to be addressed.

Not long ago a blind woman with several college degrees, one of them in biology, sought to enter nursing school. The school told her that she was prohibited from applying because no blind person could safely perform the duties of a nurse. The nursing school said this despite the reality that a number of blind nurses are working in the medical profession today. The school said this without giving the blind applicant the opportunity to demonstrate her ability or show officials in the school the techniques she intended to use to perform the essential tasks of nursing. The school said this without making any inquiries within the medical profession about the performance of blind medical professionals. We in the National Federation of the Blind fought the discriminatory rejection of this applicant’s request to become a participant in the nursing class. The student in question was admitted to the nursing school, where she successfully performed during the first year of class work assigned to her.

Although some blind people have performed some of the tasks in driving a car and flying a plane (I myself have done both), the technology has not been perfected to permit blind people without assistance to operate these vehicles. However, we believe that the basic form of the technology to do both things has been invented. Object avoidance systems are currently installed in robots. Pattern recognition systems have been built into the guidance equipment in the most modern aircraft. Global positioning technology is now accurate to within a few feet. If all of this technology were built into an automobile, it could be used to travel safely using an operator with no vision at all. All that remains to be done is to develop the interface that can be used by blind people and to modify the legislation that exists to permit the blind to use it. In my opinion the second part of this challenge is bigger than the first. Compared with the fear of permitting a blind person to slip behind the wheel, building the technology to permit the blind person to drive the car will be simple.

The beginning of the possession of power is the assertion that it belongs to us. I want us to have power. Furthermore, in my own country I face challenges that cannot be solved within the borders of my own nation. I need the cooperation and the power of others around the world to bring equality to the blind of the United States, and I believe that those of us in the United States can help bring equality to the blind of the world. I want cars on our streets that are safe for us. I want technology that all of us can use. I want educational programs that acknowledge our talent. I want laws that recognize the value that we have and uphold our right to participate fully in all of the activities in the communities in which we live. I want support for the value of blind people in the infrastructure of every nation. This means recognition that we deserve top-quality education and the best rehabilitation training that can be devised.

We cannot take advantage of these educational programs unless we have a minimum amount of support to ensure that we have the means to live. It is hard to learn when you are hungry.

The standards for manufacture of products are becoming global; the regulatory systems that determine access to information are also becoming global. If we are to accept the role of powerful people, we must gain this status from each other. First, we dream about making the world that will include all of us and will be more productive for us and for others than it has ever been. Then we demand that others share this dream. Power takes many forms. Sometimes it is financial; sometimes it is political; and sometimes it possesses other characteristics. However, one element is vital to the acquisition of power: the blind must behave in ways that are spectacularly different from those that other people predict. We will assert our right to positions of authority. We will assert our right to equal access to information and programs that use it; we will assert our right to be paid for the talent we possess; we will assert our right to use that talent and to be incorporated fully into all aspects of daily life.

This will create misunderstanding and annoyance. Many will believe that we should stay in our places, accept the gifts (however meager) that others offer, and remain the unseen, unwanted burden that they have always regarded us to be. But this is not the role for us. Despite the unpredictability of the behavior here described, despite the uncertainty it will create, despite the upheaval inherent within an altered pattern of living, we will demand our equal place. With the increase in this unpredictability comes chaos, but also inherent within unpredictability is the value of individual freedom and the joy of creation.

This, Mr. President and members of the World Blind Union, is what I recommend. Not peace but activism, not acceptance but an insistence on our right to full participation, not isolation and custody but freedom.

 

Structured Discovery Learning: Its Historical Origins

by Allan Dodds

From the Editor: In the 1980s I remember reading in the Braille Monitor about a remarkable researcher from the United Kingdom who had come to the United States to observe travel instructors. He had watched NFB members at work teaching travel at the Nebraska Services for the Visually Impaired and recognized that something astonishing was going on. That researcher was Dr. Allan Dodds.

At the time he was employed as a research psychologist at the Blind Mobility Research Unit at the University of Nottingham, where he worked from 1975 to 1995, latterly as director of the unit. He appeared as an expert for the plaintiff in the case of Fred Schroeder v. the State of New Mexico, which represented the first legal challenge to discrimination against blind O&M instructors. He is currently employed as a consultant neuropsychologist and expert witness dealing with brain-injury assessment, rehabilitation, and employment matters. In recognition of his outstanding contribution to psychological knowledge, Dr. Dodds was elected a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and received the title of Chartered Scientist. He is the author of over fifty scientific publications on blindness and visual impairment and has written three textbooks for trainee O&M instructors.

Recently Dr. Dodds rediscovered some of his notes from that period spent in Nebraska. In the following article he describes what it was like to observe and talk with early students being taught to travel using the structured-discovery-learning method.

When Dr. James Nyman, former director of the Nebraska Services for the Visually Impaired, said in 2001, "We did not discover structured-discovery learning in Nebraska; structured-discovery learning discovered us," he was no more engaging in false modesty than he was speaking tongue in cheek. Dr. Nyman was simply telling the truth, i.e., that in Nebraska they had independently of any learning theory evolved a way of instruction that was as much a statement of their philosophy as it was an empirically proved method of fostering independent travel and living, but that they had no name for it until I happened to coin the term.

What Dr. Nyman meant by his carefully chosen words was that, although structured-discovery methods had been developed in-house, the term “structured-discovery learning” itself had not. As Dr. Nyman put it: "By the time Dodds arrived in 1984, blind individuals like James Walker, Fred Schroeder, and Christine Boone had refined those principles into a method of teaching that received the honorific title of structured-discovery learning.”

So how was it that the practice had become so well established and yet had not received a name? One answer is that it sometimes takes a fresh eye or ear to notice something that has become the norm within a culture. Another is that, because so much of independence training is practically based on trial and error, those practicing the method may not have had the luxury of standing back sufficiently from their practice to perceive its unique features and to categorize them.

That was a luxury afforded to me when Dr. Nyman invited me over to Nebraska after hearing that I was an advocate of blind persons’ helping themselves and others, a position that almost ended my professional research career in the United Kingdom and that was to lead me into great conflict with the sighted establishment. As well as providing me with the finest hospitality during my stay, Dr. Nyman and his colleagues allowed me to make tape-recordings of mobility lessons, in which I donned sleepshades and received tuition, and of seminars held with the students attending the current program.

Reading the many articles recently appearing in the Braille Monitor relating to structured-discovery learning rekindled my interest in the field which I had left some twelve years ago, and, after a brief rummage through some long-forgotten archives, I discovered in a somewhat unstructured way transcripts of the seminars that took place some twenty-four years ago. This material has never been published, and I believe that now it should, serving as a reminder of just how much self-belief lies at the root of successful independence.

Although I did not personally have the time to evaluate objectively the effectiveness of structured-discovery learning under blind instruction, the recipients of it had already done the job for me. One student expressed the problem of being taught by a sighted instructor.

People pick up on attitudes as on anything, and the underlying attitude that you are communicating to this blind person is, do you want to get around in the world? Do you want to travel just as effectively as a sighted person? And that's the sort of goal you want to reach. Well, what kind of message are you giving to the client when you are allowing only perfectly sighted people to do that?

Another student expressed a problem with the credibility or authenticity of a sighted instructor with the following comments.

You can train a mobility instructor under sleepshades so that they have an empathy for all kinds of problems, but you are still on a psychological out with these people. Whatever real frustrations they have about being blind, they'll develop an empathy for, but you've always got something nagging at the back of your mind: five o'clock comes, and they can whip off the sleepshade: wow, glad that's over! But a blind instructor is living with the blindness just the same way the client is. And those problems, those frustrations, those irritations--they don't go away at five o'clock.

An aspect of sighted instruction that came as a surprise to me was expressed well by another student.

Sighted instructors are really unique. They don't think you can bail yourself out. They can't stand there for thirty minutes or an hour whilst you're crying or if you get absolutely enraged. They step in real quick to bail you out. They are uncomfortable. They don't want to let you work it out on your own.

The use of visual occlusion as an essential part of mobility training was also commented upon by another student who had previously received instruction with the emphasis on using low-vision aids.

I did not learn the echo sounds and I didn't learn confidence from other people. In fact, I finished at the school for the blind, and they hadn't given me any help. I went to an adult rehabilitation program, where I had a sighted travel instructor. They used visual aids like binoculars and stuff. I still couldn't hear--I thought everyone was crazy when they told me buildings echoed and that there was a difference in the echo of small objects as opposed to large ones. And so I started using my sleepshades, and, when I came to this program, although I couldn't hear anything to begin with, now I do. Those sounds I gained from my sleepshades.

The early fostering of solo travel, which traditionally takes many weeks of instruction, was commented upon by another student who had been unsuccessfully trained by a sighted instructor before commencing the Nebraska course.

This is one of the biggest problems I'm having adjusting to this program, because in the past every travel teacher I've had has been right there, and my instructor and I have been going through this problem of me wanting to have her right there and not being confident to take a step on my own. And I'm going to get to that point. I think I was really inhibited by going through programs in the past where the instructor was there all the time.

Another student jokingly commented on the difference in course duration between training courses in the UK (twelve weeks) and that in Nebraska (nine months).

Cane travel teaches technique, certainly, but cane travel here teaches reasoning and thinking. That's what takes nine months, especially with me!

The presence or absence of an instructor during travel was commented on by another student, who pointed out the value of being allowed to learn from mistakes.

I've a tendency to go off and daydream if I'm not really concentrating on things. I remember one day last week I was coming up on what I thought was the parking lot here, and I was just tapping along, and I heard this car coming up behind me. I thought, aha! I'll just step out of the way and let this person park. And I stepped aside and this car went right on down past me. I was walking in the middle of the street. You know, when you realize what's happening and there's nobody there to save you except yourself, boy you should pay attention a lot more.

It is now almost a quarter of a century since I recorded these comments of students undertaking instruction at Nebraska, often with blind instructors. Back in the UK my impressions were unfavorably received by the sighted establishment, and a seminar was hosted by the Royal National Institute for the Blind to which I and a blind instructor from Nebraska were invited to counter the skepticism of those in charge of training instructors in the UK. Chaired by a distinguished blind academic, the symposium firmly laid to rest the myth that blind instructors could not be relied upon, and the RNIB undertook to admit visually impaired students on their official mobility instructor training course: a landmark decision.

Structured-discovery learning has now come of age, representing a true paradigm shift in rehabilitation thinking. To have played even a tiny part in its development will always remain a great source of pride and satisfaction to me, especially when I think of other areas of research that I engaged in for twenty years that only resulted in printed words in scientific journals. But the ultimate tribute must go to those blind pioneers who had the belief in themselves and the courage to practice in the face of opposition from the sighted establishment with a vested interest in their position. I conclude by offering my final thoughts on the subject: in matters of blindness, blind people know best, and the best thing that sighted people can do is to respect that fact.

 

Protecting the Rights of Blind Individuals in the United States

by Dan Goldstein

From Dan Frye: Dan Goldstein, longtime legal counsel to the NFB, addressed our 2008 convention on Friday morning, July 4. Using personal anecdote and historical fact, he examined and compared the state of the civil rights movements of the blind community and other minorities in the United States. Ultimately he concluded that members of all minority groups have much in common and ought to empathize and support one another’s issues where possible. When Dan completed his remarks, the audience spontaneously broke into several choruses of “We Shall Overcome.” His remarks follow:

Thank you, Dr. Maurer, thank you very much. Good morning, fellow Federationists. What a pleasure to get to speak to you on the day that celebrates our independence. I grew up two hundred miles south of here, in Austin, Texas. And I have very fond memories of Austin, but, when Dr. Maurer said to me that he wanted me to talk today about the state of the disability rights movement compared to the state and the history of the other civil rights movements, it brought to mind, unfortunately, an unhappy memory from Austin, Texas: Miss Pruitt.

In the fall of 1964 Miss Pruitt was my high school civics teacher. Miss Pruitt complained more than once during the semester, with considerable resentment, that African American men had gotten the right to vote more than fifty years before women did. She thought it was a great injustice that her rights were recognized later. And mind you this is four years before the passage of the Voting Rights Act, so the right of African Americans to vote in parts of Texas was more theoretical than real anyway. But Miss Pruitt, nonetheless, felt slighted. And I certainly knew that what Miss Pruitt was saying was racist and offensive and wrong, and I wasn't shy about getting sent to detention for my smart mouth. In fact I still owe McCallan High School four hundred hours, but I could never articulate my response to Miss Pruitt in a way that satisfied me.

Jump ahead four years to the summer of 1968, and I'm in Washington and volunteering for the SCLC, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, in planning the Poor People’s March (I had, by the way, the important job of figuring out how many port-a-potties and where on the march route). There was a new phrase going around that summer, “women's liberation movement,” or “women's lib.” In preparing to talk to you today, it occurred to me that maybe it was just new to me, so I checked on the Internet, and it turns out that the February 1968 issue of the Ramparts magazine was in fact the first time that the phrase “women's liberation movement” was used in print, so it was new at that time. And, starting that summer and going forward the next few years, I sat in on many arguments where veterans of the civil rights movement were saying that this women's rights movement was a distraction and would take away resources and take away supporters from the fight for racial justice. That didn't sit right with me either. The reverse of Miss Pruitt was just as wrong as Miss Pruitt. And, although I was slow to understand all of the things that the women were talking about, I could understand that this approach too was wrong, but I still didn't quite have the right way to articulate it.

Ten years ago I read an extraordinary book, All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery. The book describes how in the 1840s Garrison was getting criticized heavily by his fellow abolitionists for allowing women like the Grimke sisters to address mixed audiences and to advocate, not only for abolition, but for the right of women to vote. Some of his critics said that people who might support abolition but not women's rights would be lost. And, in any event, women addressing that as a public concern in public was an activity foreign to their sex. Garrison's response to these critics was always the same: it's all one issue; it's all the same issue.

So Ms. Pruitt, wherever you are, it's all one issue, ma'am. We're not free, any of us free, until all of us are free--all of us. Whether the discrimination is based on stereotypes, bigotry, or anything else other than one's own merit, we all deserve to be free of it. And it is worth remembering that, after all, these categories don't exist in mutually exclusive ways. There are blind African American women in this room. A victory or a loss on any one of three fronts is a victory for each, and the problem is, if you are a member of more than one minority, then you have to win three out of three to be a winner; two out of three won't cut it. That's why we have to all be together.

Now I'm not proposing we all join hands and start singing "We Are Family." There are critical differences among the civil rights movements. I know there are people in this room who are uncomfortable and even angry that I might suggest that we have common cause with the people who are disabled by mental illness or developmental delays, that we have common cause with people who are excluded because of their sexual orientation, but a bad decision on deaf rights hurts us. And a bad decision on race rights or any other rights hurts us. And we've seen and we should remember from the past that, when there has been fighting and suspicion among different groups, the folks who get hurt are the people who were already the victims of discrimination. Growing up in Austin, I watched Latino and African American communities sometimes battle each other for who was more deserving of the table scraps when they should've united to insist on having seats at the dinner table. So what we have in common despite all our differences is that the majority regards us as outside the norm and regards us as people who can be denied equal opportunity and who can be excluded.

In Nazi Germany being a gypsy, a gay person, or having a disability was every bit as much a ticket to the crematorium as being a Jew. In 1934 between three hundred thousand and four hundred thousand mentally and physically handicapped Germans were forcibly sterilized. In 1939 the Nazis adopted a secret plan to euthanize the disabled, but, as people became aware of this, protest grew, so the program was supposed to have been ordered ended in 1941. Nonetheless, people with disabilities continued to be killed by Nazi doctors from starvation, poisoning, or lethal injection. Homosexuals not only suffered the same fate, but in the camps they had to wear pink triangles and were beaten and tortured by fellow inmates who shared the Nazis’ hatred of gay people. So, as far as I'm concerned, even though I rarely encounter anti-Semitism in the United States, as a Jew I’m not safe till everybody’s safe. As each discriminated-against minority makes strides, it has educated and prepared the general public and the judges to be receptive and understand the arguments of the next group.

So where are we; what are the pieces for progress? A significant milestone in any civil rights movement is the establishment of legal protections and enforcement of those protections by the court. By itself legal protection is not enough. For example, in the wake of the Civil War, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, guaranteeing rights to equal treatment under the law, equal rights in contract, and by 1868 the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments had been enacted. But eight years later, in 1876, to guarantee the election of Rutherford Hayes over Samuel Tilden, the federal government ended Reconstruction and withdrew its support for immigration, and things were bad for a very long time. So just having the laws on the books doesn't do it. But in 1909 the NAACP was founded and in 1940 the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. With a national group poised for collective action, the combination of laws, court cases, and mass demonstrations created meaningful, sudden, and dramatic changes even though it didn't conclude the battle.

Consider how fast change can come. In the spring of 1962 I was in the eighth grade, and I worked as a page in the Texas Senate. If you went down to the basement of the Texas Capitol--and most of us would have no reason to do it if we weren’t going to fix the boiler--but if you went down to the basement of the Texas Capitol, you would find--and this is the word I’m assigned, not my word--you would find the “colored bathrooms” and the “colored water fountain.” In front of the Capitol stretches beautiful Congress Avenue. The lunch counter at the Rexall Drug Store on Congress Avenue was segregated, as were the two movie theaters on Congress Avenue. And not far away was the campus of the University of Texas, but the few African American students admitted to UT were housed in old World War II housing miles from campus with no public transportation. When I left for college in the fall of 1965, only three years later, none of those horrors was still true.

Statutes are an expression of the national consensus, even if they are just aspirational when they are passed. Statutes make equal access a right and not dependent on the whims of the majority. When statutes are coupled with a national organization (can anybody think of one?) with the resources to bring cases to enforce the laws and with organizations who are prepared to take action to focus the attention of the nation, rapid change can occur.

There is another, harder piece, though, and that’s the question of social integration. Social integration is the key to the speed with which we get our rights and our ability to hold them. Consider this. After women won the right to vote in the United States in 1920, there was little national debate over women’s rights for nearly fifty years. In 1964 Congress passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. That’s the act that forbids discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, national origin, or sex. It was not until the next year though that the National Organization for Women was founded. So gender discrimination did not come in as a result of a national consumer organization supporting the law.

How did the women get included? Southern legislators, in an attempt to kill the EEOC provisions, added sex in an attempt to make the law look ridiculous. When the law went into effect on July 2, 1965, a reporter asked Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr., the first Equal Opportunity Employment Commission chairman, “What about sex?” “I’m all for it,” he answered. The Wall Street Journal speculated that now the Playboy Club would have to hire shapeless, knobby-kneed male bunnies to serve drinks to stunned businessmen. The New Republic urged the EEOC not to take seriously a mischievous joke perpetrated on the floor of the House of Representatives by seven Congressmen, while the New York Times suggested that Congress might just as well try to abolish sex as sex discrimination. The first staff director of the EEOC said, “There are some people on this commission who think that no man should be required to have a male secretary, and I’m one of them.”

Well, that was not that long ago, 1964, but, although the battles for equal pay and appropriate working conditions and equal rights and hiring promotion are far from over, I suggest to you that the barriers in this area have fallen with unprecedented speed. I think there are both social and economic reasons for this. First, women are nearly half the population. But, second, there is intense social integration. Men in this country have wives and daughters or other significant social interactions with women, and thus there is an intense personal interest by many men in the equality of women in the workplace. Moreover, given that the economy increasingly demands two-earner households, men have a strong economic incentive to see that their spouses can maximize their economic contribution.

When you look at employment numbers, though, the disability rights movement, especially for the blind, are far further from equality than those who have been discriminated against on a basis of race or gender. I once had the nerve (and the person was very gracious about it) to ask somebody in this room whether he’d encountered more significant discrimination because he was black or because he was blind. He said, “Well I’ve been black longer than I’ve been blind, and maybe that’s the reason, but I think I’ve encountered more discrimination because I’m blind.”

Another way to look at this question of social integration is that, in the early stages of each rights movement, members who succeed are considered by the majority to be exceptional or amazing by a majority who utterly lack awareness of the condescension inherent in their reaction. I no longer leave a meeting with a black or female professional and hear a white male say to me, “Isn’t he or she amazing?” But I’ll know we’re closer to the Promised Land when I can go through an entire year of meetings with Dr. Maurer and sighted persons from outside the NFB and not hear once after the meeting, “Isn’t he amazing?” He is, by the way, but not the way they mean it!

So we have the statutes and we have the court cases and we’re beginning to break down the barriers, and progress in social integration is slow because so many employable blind people are unemployed and therefore not meeting sighted people in the workplace, maybe partly because blindness is a low-incidence disability. But I think there’s also a lack of progress because of fear. I’m not going to wake up tomorrow a different color than I am today, and, unless I don’t want to go through a whole bunch of painful operations, I’m always going to be a male. But I may someday lose my sight or use a wheelchair. And, while that should make me more empathic about disability rights, for many still, the sight of a blind person or the sight of a wheelchair user disturbs their state of denial, reminds them that their status can change; and they really wish the disabled people would be invisible.

In this connection I asked my partner Andy Levy, whom some of you may know, and Andy’s a wheelchair user, I said, “Andy, do you think that wheelchair users are more integrated in society than blind persons?” He said, “Well, there’s an easy scientific test.” He said, “Go to a series of restaurants half the time with somebody in a wheelchair and half the time with a blind person and bring a decibel meter. That way you can measure, when you’re with the blind person, does the waitress say more loudly, ‘What would he like?’ to you when you’re with a blind person than when you’re with a wheelchair user? And that’ll tell you who’s more integrated.”

I’ve been working with the NFB for more than twenty years. We have some statutes in place, but they’re not adequate to the task, and they may never be. We have court cases, and we have made real progress, and we will continue to do so, but by themselves they will never be enough. The great battlefield today, our Brown v. Board of Education, is that we live in the information age, and the blind are not given equal access to information. Without that we will not have meaningful employment, we will not have social integration, and we will not have equality of opportunity. That is the great battle that ten years or so ago Dr. Maurer asked me to help with. We are further ahead than we were ten years ago, but I will not pretend that it’s time to pat ourselves on the back, and the speed with which technology develops makes it hard not to fall behind.
We have tools we have only begun to use to make the case that discrimination is bad business. We need to use Section 508 to make sure that companies selling hardware and software to the federal government have to make their products accessible or lose business. We have to use the damage provisions of state anti-discrimination laws, like those in California, so that businesses know that discrimination costs money, and you’ll take a hit to your pocketbook. When a company believes that its existence in cyberspace immunizes it from the ADA, but it provides services to schools and universities, then we’ll sue the schools and universities under the Rehab Act to let the businesses know that, if they want to discriminate, we can destroy their business. And we must make the positive economic case in access to information and employment that money spent for accessibility is money well spent. But most of all we must help each other in our battles without regard to our religion, gender, race, sexual preference, or disability. Ms. Pruitt, it’s all the same issue. “And deep in my heart, deep in my heart, I do believe we shall overcome someday.”

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The Two-Party System

by Seville Allen

From the Editor: Seville Allen is a leader in the NFB of Virginia. She often contributes her reflections about blindness to these pages. In this election year here is her unexpected take on the two-party system:

Life often takes twists and turns just when we don’t expect them. Sometimes these events leave us bewildered, amazed, exhilarated, or just plain exhausted. At times we have an aha moment or, as some would say, an epiphany, after which we know exactly what happened and exactly what to do next.

My most recent moment of pure clarity occurred while I sat eating curried chicken at the second of two back-to-back parties. As I ate, I listened to the people around me exchanging memories of the person for whom the celebration had been held. How different, I thought, from the party the evening before. At the first one I had felt part of the group. I circulated throughout the house, greeting those who came in and making sure I saw all the invited guests. In fact I had been responsible for making sure the guest of honor arrived without knowing that it was a surprise birthday party for her. When I was hungry, I went to the food table, filled my plate, and went to the deck to get hotdogs and burgers, not just for me, but for others also. Sometimes I sat while chatting with other guests, and at one point, when there were no more chairs, I sat on the floor quite comfortably.

The second event was much different. While I knew I wouldn’t know other guests, I also knew that the other guests wouldn’t know each other. This second gathering, while also a celebration, was a memorial instead of a birthday party for a man who requested that, in lieu of a funeral, his friends gather at his home and enjoy food and fellowship. The man had many friends, but they hadn’t met until the day of his memorial celebration. So why me? Why was I sitting on the fringes of a party in which the guests were all mingling and engrossed in conversation just as I had been the evening before? Like me, they didn’t know the other guests. What was so different? Was it because I’m not really an extroverted person? I don’t jump into unfamiliar groups and make small talk easily. I tend to stand back and observe more than participate. However, I’m not shy and will engage in conversation with strangers without feeling self-conscious. No, I knew it wasn’t my personality; it wasn’t that I was a stranger; it wasn’t that I wouldn’t be able to mingle. It was that I am blind. In fact, the reason I was at the memorial celebration was that a friend had asked me to accompany him because he too is blind. When he asked me to go along, he said: “I want someone to talk to that I know won’t care that I am blind.” As we rode to the memorial celebration, we talked about the invisible barrier that Kenneth Jernigan spoke of in his 1970 banquet address. As we discussed it, however, the thought kept running through the back of my mind that surely this wouldn’t be the case now, not today after we had taught the public so much. Surely we would be equals, and the other guests would be preoccupied with the loss of their friend, not attempting to insulate us out of their fear of blindness.

But I was wrong. The invisible barrier smacked us in the face the moment we entered the property. As we approached the porch, I heard people talking quietly. As I listened to their voices, I thought, gee, it’s a bit warm to be on the porch, but… Then as our canes touched the steps and we began our ascent, the voices fell silent, and we passed into the house under wordless stares. No response to our “good afternoon” greeting. We were met at the door by a well-meaning gentleman who immediately took us to chairs. A woman immediately offered food and drink. It was all quite polite. The food was placed in front of us with a long description as to where on the clock each item had been placed although we both explained that the description wasn’t necessary.

Then the two of us chatted as we ate, and the others moved around and passed us. People did speak to my friend who had been invited to the memorial celebration since he was a friend of the man who had died. However, their conversations were brief, with no one lingering. Toward the end of the celebration my friend wanted to go into the room where he and his friend had spent many hours sharing food, drink, and music. As we started down the hallway, the groups parted like the Red Sea leaving the entire hallway empty. The gentleman in charge of the home memorial accompanied us to the downstairs room because he had the key to unlock it. As we started down the stairs, two people grabbed my arms several times, pulling me up and preventing me from placing my foot on the next step. I kept saying, “It is okay; I won’t fall.” Finally, after turning around and asking my volunteer helper please to let go, I was free to go down the stairs.

We were at the celebration about two hours. The other guests were always polite, although quite solicitous. All were well intended, but the two things that stood out the entire time were, first, what a neat celebration as people enjoyed meeting one another, appearing to be warm and friendly and having a variety of talents and interests matching the complexity of the man they were saying goodbye to. And the second was how high that invisible barrier was, preventing my friend and me from getting to know some of the other guests. The barrier was constructed of fear, fear of everything that blindness is not—fear of the dark, fear of helplessness, fear of something so buried in the primitive portion of the human brain that we don’t have words for it, only an overwhelming emotion of fright so strong that people lose rationality and react by treating blind people like delicate glass or brainless automatons. The two hours were exhausting, unlike the five hours the evening before that had left me exhilarated and satisfied.

The contrast between these two events was clear. The whole reason for the stark contrast was the attitudes about blindness. The first party consisted mostly of members of the NFB along with other friends of the birthday honoree. We knew that blindness is a nuisance and life isn’t limited by it. The second party participants appeared to view blindness as something tragic that renders its victims helpless, deserving assistance finding chairs and filling plates, but not warranting the contact that would destroy the invisible barrier of immobilizing fear. So what do we do? We keep being ourselves, refusing to internalize the idea that we can only sit in a chair and eat the food brought to us at a party. We get up and go to the room where we last spent time with the friend who has died. We keep moving around our communities, waiting for the bus, boarding the trains, doing our jobs, raising our families, weeding the yard, and arriving at airports and making our way through the TSA lines--gathering our belongings, retying our shoes, picking up our canes, finding water for our water bottles, and locating our departure gates. Yes, we continue living and, by our living, educating those around us that it really is okay to be blind.

 

No Such Thing as Blind Culture

by Barbara Pierce

From Dan Frye: Occasionally someone asks whether or not a defined or distinct blind culture exists. Generally the people raising this question want to educate themselves or others about blindness; the query is generally made in good faith. We recognize that this question is subject to some debate and disagreement among the blind community across America, but mostly we find that blind people reject the notion that a distinct blind culture exists. Certainly this is Barbara Pierce's perspective. We reprint below a thoughtful email reply that Barbara sent to a high school student assigned to report on some particular subculture for a multicultural class project. He and several friends decided to conduct research on blind culture. He found the NFB of Ohio Website and contacted her with a request that she send him the name of someone who could tell them definitively about blind culture. Her letter offers a clear and concise explanation defending her view that blind culture does not exist. Her argument may provide food for thought for others struggling with this question. Here it is:

Dear Zak,

I certainly would be happy to talk with you and or your group about blindness and blind people. As the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio, I certainly am the most knowledgeable person in this state to speak with you. However, I feel compelled to raise a question about whether or not there is such a thing as "blind culture," analogous to "deaf culture," a term that deaf people use pretty often and widely. I think that a separate culture develops when barriers exist interrupting the communication between members of the group in question and the larger society. Hispanic people, or any group using languages other than English as their preferred tongue, often draw together and communicate in their own language. They may have a distinct cuisine, literature, music, even religion. They may function in the larger society, but they naturally gravitate toward others who share their life experience. Deaf people frequently use American Sign Language as their preferred method of communication. They recognize this as a distinct language. Even the written communication of profoundly deaf people is often characteristic of their culture and quite different from standard English composition. For this reason and because they frequently have difficulty communicating with hearing people at all without an interpreter, they talk about the "deaf culture." It is not uncommon for deaf parents to be relieved when they learn that their baby is also deaf so that they will not have to live constantly in two cultures.

Blind people have no problem communicating with other English speakers. Braille is not a language since it is used to write any language. It is merely a tactile method of writing. And, as you can see, blind people have no difficulty using a computer to communicate in written English. Blind people do not congregate in living groups or in order to enjoy a shared lifestyle, religion, political outlook, or any other similarity of experience that holds a cultural group together. Today you will find blind people in every walk of life and at every social and economic level of American society.

It used to be that blind people were relegated to only a handful of occupations: piano tuning; broom-making; basket-weaving; and, for the very bright, teaching other blind people some of the skills they need to know, like reading Braille. But this is no longer the case. Think of an occupation and, unless it actually requires vision (like driving or doing surgery), I probably know a blind person doing that work. Blind people used to congregate in segregated housing because they were discriminated against in renting apartments or buying homes, but laws now make such enforced segregation illegal.

Blind people do, however, still share the fallout from certain kinds of discrimination. We have a 74 percent unemployment rate, not because we are unable to work, but because people presume us unable to do so and will not give us the chance to prove them wrong. Only 10 percent of blind children are taught to read Braille, not because 90 percent of them are unable to learn it, but because many parents of these youngsters don't want to admit that their children would benefit from being taught to do so, and many teachers, even teachers trained to instruct blind children, do not know Braille or do not know it very well and avoid teaching it as often as they can do so. When you consider that about 85 percent of the blind adults who are employed are fluent Braille readers, you can see that not teaching blind children to read and write Braille is close to criminal and discrimination of a fundamental kind.

Blind people have created consumer organizations to fight these injustices and to try to protect blind children and their parents and newly blind people from suffering the impact of such discrimination. We often enjoy each other's company, and we certainly spend time together working on the problems that face what we often call the "blind community," but I would argue that this community is different from an actual culture.

Having said all this, I will be happy to speak with you if you still wish to discuss these or other matters.

Cordially,
Barbara Pierce, President
National Federation of the Blind of Ohio

 

On the Value of NFB Center-Based Training

From Dan Frye: Email exchanges on our NFB-sponsored lists occasionally reflect the thoughtful deliberations of list subscribers on topics of current philosophical, political, social, or cultural interest to our membership and the blind community in general. Correspondence among Federationists Bruce Sexton, Joe Orozco, and Mike Freeman from August of this year on the value of NFB-sponsored residential rehabilitation training and the question of whether instruction at one of our centers specifically is essential for success as a blind person may represent a discussion of potential interest to many Braille Monitor readers.

The selected excerpts for this piece begin with remarks from Bruce Sexton, an NFB student leader from California, in which he offers some autobiographical background and attests to the positive influence that training at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, one of our three NFB-sponsored training centers, has had in his life. While Bruce's comments did not directly address the issue of whether attending an NFB-sponsored training center is absolutely required for a blind person to be successful, his writing inspired posts from Joe Orozco, a Federationist currently living and working in Washington, D.C., and Mike Freeman, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington, in which they agreed that, though receiving services from one of our Federation centers is likely the ideal way to acquire high-quality, Federation-oriented training, it is not absolutely essential to achieving success in life. They refer to the harmful and divisive consequences that may emerge in the blindness community when a sense of training elitism develops among those privileged to attend an NFB center, and they point out that, with some discipline and a healthy attitude, useful training can be obtained from other sources.

Since the resources of our NFB training centers are finite and since for a variety of reasons not every blind person in the country who may want or need high-quality adjustment-to-blindness training can attend one of our programs, this practical discussion seems valuable. Taken together, these three perspectives offer a reasonable and healthy point of view. Edited slightly for space and clarity only, here is what they said:

Bruce Sexton

Hello Jessica and List:

Blindness training is important, and it is different from college study skills. I believe acquiring good blindness skills should be a prerequisite to life. Unfortunately college study skills are not taught to blind children nearly as much as they are to nonblind children. I now find math fascinating even though I used to be afraid of it. In the end, proper blindness skills and confidence are the recipe for success.

Proper blindness skills to me means going to one of the top centers in the country. If you ask most blind people who have gone, they will tell you that an NFB training center gave them enough skill and confidence to be determined enough to carry out their life goals. If you ask rehab counselors, they will ask you to go to an in-state center. Many intelligent people like Mariyam Cementwala, who just graduated from UC Berkeley's law school (BOLT Hall) in international law; Nathanael Wales, who went to UC Davis and is now a civil engineer; and my very own sister, Brook Sexton, who has her master’s, each took time from their undergraduate programs at prestigious universities to go to the Louisiana Center for the Blind.

I took a path different from those of the three people I just described. I went to the Louisiana Center for the Blind immediately after high school. Unlike them, I didn't learn Braille growing up, so I started from scratch. In fact, when I arrived, I had the idea that all I would learn was Braille and a little cane travel. Oh how mistaken I was. I was transformed from a scared, angry blind person into a confident, determined blind person. Of course I have doubted myself from time to time since my training, but it is my active involvement in the NFB that reminds me that I can continue forward.

I went to community college after going to the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Even though I had just left one of the best training centers for the blind in the nation and although I felt confident about my blindness, I was extremely nervous my first and second semesters of college. I now know that these feelings were normal. Had I not been confident about my blindness, I almost certainly could not have dealt with the added pressures of college.

When it came to math, I entered the self-paced classes, which were designed to allow the student to take math throughout many semesters or to finish two classes in one semester. I finished a class each semester. These self-paced courses allowed me to hire a math reader and tutor who would work with me directly from the book outside of the class. A regular lecture math class would not have allowed me that flexibility.

My first semester I got two Cs and a D. I was not discouraged because I knew that these grades meant that I needed to change the way I studied.

While I was learning how to adapt, I took fewer units. Once I figured it out, I began taking more. I took the placement assessments. I passed English and was placed in remedial math.

During my first semester I allowed the disabled student services office to find and hire my readers. The second semester I found them by announcing the job in class. I interviewed them and had a policy never to hire volunteers unless they were completely persistent and dedicated.

I took their information down in my BrailleNote, but I also put the busiest students and those who were not interested in a paid position lower on my list of people I would contact. Even so, I have had success with one or two well-screened volunteer readers. I usually explain that I would rather they be paid so that they can be dedicated to the job. When I phrased it like that and told them that the money was not coming from my pocket, they usually agreed to be paid. Nonetheless, It is good to have an emergency reader contact list.

For various and sundry reasons it took me four years to obtain my two-year degree. When I finished, I had a 3.5 GPA. I started out taking nine units a semester, and during my last semester I successfully completed sixteen units.

Nathanael and Mariyam were the student leaders in the NFB of California, where I was first introduced to the National Federation of the Blind. I attended their seminars in awe. I was struck by their ability to speak at a podium, and I knew that, if I could be half as successful as they, I would be a success in my own eyes. I later became the president of the California Association of Blind Students and enrolled at UC Berkeley. The journey is not easy, but it has been made clearer and better because of those who have fought before us.

My point is you can do it, you can. I know many students who have, without regret, taken nine months out of their school year to go to training. Proper blindness training is for everyone. I heard someone once say that intelligence is the ability to adapt. The NFB centers teach you how to do just that. I got through the community college with honors and transferred to the University of California at Berkeley. All my dreams are coming true because I have used the techniques that have been tested and truly work for blind people. I admit I have not mastered the Berkeley system yet, but I'm working hard to get my degree. I had a very poor education growing up, but I am trying my best not to let that get in my way. It is the NFB and the NFB training at the Louisiana Center for the Blind that has given me the determined attitude that I now possess. I hope you and every other blind person find these truths.

Bruce Sexton

Joe Orozco

Bruce:

I would also like to raise another point that I feel other people are too shy to raise in NFB public forums. Simply put, what would you say to the vast majority of people, like me, who choose not to attend one of the NFB training centers? I do not debate the potential good that can stem from such training, but it has always been my impression that people who choose not to seek out this training are somehow looked down upon for making that choice. I do not think it wrong to learn from experience. I do think it wrong to presume that training at anything less than the NFB-supported model is setting up the individual for a less satisfactory quality of independence. Something should be said for getting out of a program what the individual puts into it, no matter where they go.

Like you, I experienced difficulties with math in college. When I joined the organization, I was told over and over that the only way to resolve my academic standing was to gain the proper training by attending an NFB training center. Had I gone to a center, I would have been doing this to satisfy my mentors. Would I have learned something? I am quite certain that I would have learned plenty, but I also understood that the largest obstacle to my academic achievements and personal independence would always be my own attitude. Despite my struggles with math, I got my act together, and I am sure my professors would be appalled to learn that my current managerial position has so much to do with statistics and balancing budgets.

I sometimes find it hard to believe myself, but in the midst of my undergraduate laziness, I also never anticipated getting good enough to start preliminary steps toward the establishment of my own business either.

What worked for me had more to do with people telling me to get my stuff together and less to do with nine months at any training center, NFB or otherwise.

The reality is that NFB training can only reach so many people at any given time, either because of uncooperative rehabilitation counselors or as a result of simple capacity constraints. So then, what is to be done with the hundreds of people who either cannot go to an NFB training center or, like me, are too stubborn to see the personal benefit? Ample evidence suggests that NFB training can make a great difference in someone's life, but it is my position that people should always understand that they have options.

Success is always dictated by oneself, and there is no greater barrier to that success than when one feels as though there is only one method of achieving it.

Respectfully,

Joe Orozco


Mike Freeman

Joe:

I'm going to surprise you. I agree with you. Certainly NFB training centers are among the best--if not the best--training centers in the country. And there is no question that time at an NFB training center will jump-start one's life journey as a blind person. Those who disagree with us are right in saying that our centers are a boot camp, but it's a boot camp for life as a blind person. Any good rehab center is a boot camp; it just doesn't call itself that. No question but that most of us could benefit from some time at an NFB center.

But NFB centers and the training they provide are not the end-all and be-all of functioning as a successful blind person. That honor goes to having the proper attitude about one's blindness and truly coming to believe that one can and should function as an integral part of society with all that this implies for the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

Put another way, with all due respect to the fantastic training our NFB-run centers and those that espouse a like philosophy of blindness provide, such training, while helpful, is not the absolute passport without which one cannot achieve a successful life as a blind person. Nor does NFB-center training guarantee that one will succeed at life as a blind person. After all, sighted people are often not successful too. Why should it be different for the blind? It's just that blindness makes it harder to function on the margins of society due to the prejudicial attitudes of the public.

So I, like you, get rather irked when we observe people acting as if our centers were the only portals to living successfully with blindness. It is this sort of attitude that breeds intolerance and conceit.

I dare say that Dr. Jernigan, were he still alive, would agree with us, except that he would be in a tough position in that he ran perhaps the best center in the country. But recognition of what independence truly is was one of his lasting legacies, and "The Nature of Independence" is one of the best speeches he ever gave.

Having agreed with you, however, I think those who have graduated from our training centers have a point when they tell students asking about such centers or how to function in college that it's better to get good blindness training first rather than taking it on later in life when one has perforce begun to assume the rights and responsibilities and duties of functioning as a contributing adult in our society. In a sense college is also this--it is the one time students get to spread their wings and show curiosity and are encouraged--nay, expected--to ask questions about life, the universe, and everything. For blindness skills and attitudes, our NFB-operated centers do the equivalent. So going to one is time very well spent. But such centers aren't the only road to success as a blind person.

Remember that (aside from Iowa Center graduates) almost no one in my generation (I'll be sixty at the end of October) went to an NFB center. And I consider myself successful, although I would be arrogant in the extreme were I to opine that I had lived up to my potential; very few people (blind or sighted) really can say they've done that. But we're doing our citizenly thing with about as much success or failure as everyone else. However, looking back, I find that I got far better blindness training than I knew at the time--training that is surprisingly lacking these days.

One more caveat and then I'll get off my soapbox. I think we must be careful to tell those who do not go to NFB-run or NFB-inspired centers that, while many agencies claim to a greater or lesser (mostly lesser) degree to conform to NFB philosophy, it is honored far more in the breach than in fact. So what I tell people is that, if they want to go to our local training center, they can learn some skills. But they'd better be pretty confident of their NFB philosophy in that they will be surrounded by those who say they believe in our philosophy, but, when it comes to action as opposed to verbiage, they don't truly believe in themselves as blind people, let alone the larger capabilities of the blind. And they don't even know or recognize that they don't buy into our philosophy. They truly believe they've got it--all the while expecting less of themselves and expecting special treatment. And it's hard not to pass this on implicitly to their students. After all, it's a truism that the parental refrain of "Do as I say, not as I do" works about as well as a flashlight with dead batteries.

Bottom line, people can succeed--yes, even as blind people--without going to NFB-inspired centers. But the burden is very much on them--the people--to internalize NFB philosophy and integrate it into their daily lives for the world won't expect them to function on  par with their sighted colleagues as our NFB-inspired centers try to do.

Mike Freeman, President
National Federation of the Blind of Washington

 

Feeding Our Future

by Barbara Loos

From the Editor: Barbara Loos is a longtime leader in the NFB of Nebraska. For several years she was part of AmeriCorps, working with blind people in Lincoln, Nebraska. Each quarter she was asked to submit an interesting story arising from her AmeriCorps activities. Here is one of those stories:

As an AmeriCorps member, I have had two opportunities to participate in Kids Against Hunger, a project which provides balanced meals to malnourished and starving children. One was in January of 2007, during my first term, when my team made this part of our response to Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

It was cold in the warehouse as we donned aprons and hairnets, sanitized our hands, and took our positions at work stations. Our job was to prepare a mixture of ingredients (dehydrated mixed vegetables, seasoning, rice, and soy) for shipment to prearranged locations throughout the world. By the end of our two hours, no one was talking about the cold. Just as the knowledge that we had taken a small step toward curbing malnutrition, starvation, and hunger-related diseases among children warmed our spirits, the act of bagging, weighing, sealing, and boxing the rice-soy casserole did the same for our bodies. I don’t remember how many meals we packaged, but it felt good all over to do it.

When Annette, a fellow AmeriCorps member, proposed a repeat of the project at a joint meeting of members and supervisors on June 11 of this year, pleasant memories of that experience washed over me. She encouraged us both to come ourselves and to recruit other volunteers. On our way out the door I heard my supervisor tell Annette that she knew that the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (NCBVI) Center for the Blind’s Director was seeking volunteer opportunities for students. Perhaps this would be an option for them. We continued that discussion as she drove me home.

The center director not only liked the idea, but also agreed to our conducting a simulation of the activity in order to familiarize everyone with what would be expected. Since many of the students intended to take the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska’s chartered bus to the Federation’s national convention in Dallas, we made trail mix for them to snack on during the trip, instead of rice-soy casserole. Before we started, I briefly talked about the purpose of the project and about AmeriCorps in general. While packaging, students used nonvisual techniques such as verbally handing off a task to the next person in line, tapping on a container to indicate its whereabouts, using weight and sound to measure and pour ingredients, weighing filled bags with a talking scale, etc.

On the day of the event my husband, whom I had also recruited, and I rode to the event with another AmeriCorps member. By the time the NCBVI contingent arrived, he and I had already gone through the preliminaries and were part of a bagging team.

This time, June 25, it was warm enough to leave the warehouse door open, allowing an intermittent breeze to cool us as we worked. As NCBVI participants took their assigned places at a table behind me, their presence and the worthiness of the project buoyed me up. I felt especially good considering that a cancer diagnosis, surgery, and chemotherapy treatments had caused me to miss many of this term’s activities. When one of the center students commented, as we were readying to leave, that he wished he could stay and work there all day, while my body (still regaining stamina and retaining some neuropathy) asked respectfully to decline, my spirit said, “Me, too.”

On July 11 I once again went to the NCBVI Center, this time with volunteer satisfaction surveys to be completed. When I had received the form by email, I printed multiple copies and put the document into my PAC Mate Omni, a notetaker with a one-line refreshable Braille display so I could read it to folks myself. Since neither they nor I could see where they were to sign and check their answers, I had asked my reader (someone hired to help access print and other visuals) to make an 8.5-by-11-inch template out of heavy paper with cutouts in appropriate places. After reading through the form, I fielded questions and gave instructions for using the template. Although we could have recruited a sighted person to read the print form and show people where to place information, I wanted them to experience ways of handling this task using alternatives to sight.

Several mentioned how much they had liked having an opportunity to give back to their community. Everyone was glad to have been a part of packaging twenty-six boxes, each containing thirty-six bags, each of which held six servings, totaling 5,616 meals for hungry children somewhere. Many expressed their intention to serve in this or a similar project again. Before leaving, I thanked both students and staff for partnering with AmeriCorps through me, not only to benefit children, but also to educate the other project participants about our willingness and ability to be productive.

Richard Proudfit, founder of Kids Against Hunger, says, "When you feed a child, you feed our future." I agree completely. Without food our bodies cannot function. I also believe that, when we give blind people, who are often marginalized in our society, the opportunity to serve as equals in projects such as this one, we feed our philosophical future, which is also vital. Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, longtime leader of the National Federation of the Blind, puts it this way in a speech entitled “Blindness—Handicap or Characteristic”: “It has been wisely observed that philosophy bakes no bread. It has, with equal wisdom, been observed that without a philosophy no bread is baked.”

I am grateful to both AmeriCorps and my host site, the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska, for multiple opportunities to share physical as well as philosophical sustenance. I am pleased to have participated twice in Kids Against Hunger and was especially glad, the second time, to be joined by fellow blind people developing confidence in themselves. As I complete my AmeriCorps service and prepare to explore other avenues, whatever I do, wherever I go, I intend to continue to engage in feeding our future, body, mind, and soul.

 

Optical Character Recognition and High-Volume Book-Scanning

by Clara Van Gerven

From the Editor: Clara Van Gerven is an access technology content specialist in the International Braille and Technology Center of the NFB Jernigan Institute. The following article summarizes a presentation she made at the 2008 NFB convention. Here it is:

Few things have become as important in access technology over the years as optical character recognition (OCR). As the primary way to access print, OCR has become an important tool for any blind student or professional, reducing (though by no means eliminating) the need for human readers. The simple function of converting print to text readable by a text-to-speech engine has long since been expanded to include a wide range of editing and formatting choices. This article will describe and compare four of the most commonly used packages in OCR: Freedom Scientific's OpenBook 8, Kurzweil Educational System's Kurzweil 1000 version 11, and ABISee's Eye-Pal and Zoom-Twix. Because my focus is high-volume print processing and editing, I will not discuss mobile devices such as the KNFB Reader Mobile since these are less suited to the task.

OpenBook and Kurzweil 1000 are fairly similar in intent and function; both work with mainstream flatbed scanners and offer powerful editing. Both have two OCR engines to choose from and can save files as audio. Both give users the option of downloading books from Bookshare.org, NLS Web Braille, etc.

The differences between Kurzweil 1000 and OpenBook are in some of the finer points. Kurzweil 1000 saves its audio as DAISY-format files, which can be a significant advantage in documents with good markup. It also opens files from a range of sources (though without the option of saving the files directly in the source technology); PAC Mate, Maestro, BookCourier, Book Port, Road Runner, Braille ’n Speak, and BrailleNote devices are all supported, though the Victor Reader Stream, the most popular book-reading device at the moment, is not.

Kurzweil 1000's optimized scanning function uses both OCR engines and configures other settings (brightness etc.) for best results. This is a helpful function. Settings can then be saved for later use on similar documents. Bookmarks, text notes, and annotations can be added to study material, enhancing this software's use to the student or researcher. Finally, the program also includes an option to recognize forms, though we had little success with this feature since the field-recognition in our tests was not reliable enough to be truly helpful.

OpenBook 8 allows users to save to and open files from PAC Mate, Braille Lite, Type Lite, Braille ’n Speak, Type ’n Speak, BrailleNote, and VoiceNote notetakers. In our tests, however, the BrailleNote files did not open in OpenBook. The highlighting option in OpenBook has three colors, and, when the user exports the highlights, he or she can opt to group them by color or leave them in text order. While the highlighting covers some of the same ground as the bookmarks and annotations in Kurzweil 1000, the highlighting makes creating summaries easy and is a little more intuitive than the parallel function in Kurzweil 1000.

ABISee's Eye-Pal and Zoom-Twix are fundamentally different from OpenBook and Kurzweil 1000, though they cover some of the same ground. Where the two programs discussed above are essentially software solutions using mainstream hardware, the ABISee products use a combination of custom hardware and software.

The Eye-Pal and the Zoom-Twix have the same basic setup, but their audiences differ. The Eye-Pal, with its Braille support and JAWS compatibility, is aimed at blind users, whereas the Zoom-Twix, with its extra camera for distance viewing, is intended for the low-vision user. The basic hardware is the same for both devices--a small camera on fold-out legs connected by USB cable to a computer, which makes it much easier to scan books because one can simply flip the pages rather than having to unbind the book or lift it off the scanner to turn the page. The camera is also a portable solution; unlike a scanner it folds up to fit in a custom bag. The Eye-Pal and Zoom-Twix are designed for fast scanning. The software bears this out; it has an automatic book-scanning function, which recognizes when you have turned a page and have stopped moving, then takes a picture. The camera setup and this automatic scanning yield the best results for fast scanning.

Once the scanning is complete with either of the ABISee devices, some more profound differences between them and OpenBook and Kurzweil 1000 are apparent. The ABISee software lets you save files as text, but any editing has to be done in a full-fledged editing program.

The bottom line for anyone choosing an OCR solution is this: if what you want is to be able to scan fast, the ABISee products will be your choice. If, on the other hand, you need to edit and reformat your files extensively, you are likely to prefer OpenBook or Kurzweil 1000.

The pricing and purchasing information for the products discussed in this article follows:

The purchase price for Kurzweil 1000 version 11 is $995. Contact Kurzweil Educational Systems at (800) 894-5374 or visit <www.kurzweiledu.com>.

OpenBook 8.0 is available for $995 from Freedom Scientific. You can contact them at (800) 444-4443 or visit <www.freedomscientific.com>.

The Eye-Pal at $2,000 and Zoom-Twix at $3,500 are sold by ABISee. Contact the company at (800) 681-5909. You can visit the Website at <www.abisee.com>.

If you have questions, contact me at <cvangerven@nfb.org> or at (410) 659-9314, ext. 2410.

 

The Wall-to-Wall Thanksgiving

by Barbara Pierce

From Dan Frye: During this autumn season of Thanksgiving it seems appropriate to reprint Barbara Pierce’s delightful 1997 piece on her London holiday, which first appeared in Wall-to-Wall Thanksgiving. This story evokes both the spirit of the season and the philosophy of our organization. As you join with friends and family this November, please enjoy Barbara’s account of this memorable Thanksgiving away from her American home and take some time to reflect on the principles of the NFB as the year draws to a close. We begin with Kenneth Jernigan’s Kernel Book headnote.

Barbara Pierce is no stranger to Kernel Book readers, having appeared in these pages frequently. The remarkable thing about her current story is that it records truly unremarkable events—the sort that occur regularly in any typical family. Read Barbara's heartwarming account of her young family's efforts to celebrate traditional American holidays while living in London and see if you don't come to believe that we who are blind are people—just like you in more ways than not. Here is what she has to say:

Almost twenty years ago now my English-professor husband Bob; our three children (Steven, nine; Anne, six; and Margaret, just four); and I packed up and moved to London for the school year. Bob was to teach our college's London semester program during the fall semester and spend the spring doing his own scholarship during his sabbatical leave. The children, including little Margy, would all attend school, and I planned to keep house, try my hand at writing a book, and spend time getting to know the members of the National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom.

We were lucky to find a small house to rent in one of the outlying suburbs. The elementary school was nearby, as were the shops where I would spend a good deal of time and the tube station from which Bob would leave for central London every morning. Best of all, our next-door neighbor had a niece around the corner who was willing to babysit for us during the evenings when Bob and I went to the theater with his students.

We settled in easily, and the shopkeepers became accustomed to my long white cane, American accent, two-wheeled shopping trolley, and occasional gaggle of children. Expeditions to the butcher, greengrocer, chemist, and grocery shop were easier and faster without the youngsters, but so were cleaning the house and writing. Besides, the girls especially loved to "go to the shops" with me, so we quickly became an institution in the neighborhood.

By late October the whole family had become acclimatized to life in London. The children had made friends and were developing English accents. I was resigned to washing school uniforms in the bathtub on the days when I didn't go to the laundromat. And Bob had established a warm relationship with his students. We decided that on the Saturday before Halloween we should invite the whole class to supper. They had tickets to a Saturday matinee performance of a Shakespeare play, so it would be easy for all of them to come back to the house together at the close of the afternoon.

I didn't even consider attending the play that day. After all, somebody had to prepare supper for that crowd, and I didn't think that the babysitter and the children would get very far picking up the living room, much less setting out the food I had prepared.

Steven had been somewhat disappointed at missing Halloween at home with its costumes and trick-or-treating, so we decided to do what we could to celebrate this important annual rite of American childhood with our party. I made a big chocolate cake and let the children tint the butter frosting a shocking shade of orange. We managed to find candy corn and witches with which to decorate our masterpiece.

But the real triumph of the meal was to be the loaf of homemade bread. I had decided that, considering the small rooms of our house, I would have to settle for feeding the students sandwiches and potato chips—crisps in London. I arranged a large tray of sliced meats and cheeses and another of fresh vegetables and dip. I bought several sorts of rolls and small interesting loaves. But in the center of the table was a large loaf of potato bread in the shape of a jack-o-lantern, complete with eyes, eye brows, ears, nose, and mouth full of snaggly teeth. Anne was regretful that I would not agree to make the bread orange or allow her to frost the finished loaf with the leftover icing from the cake. But, despite its shortcomings in the eyes of the children, our pumpkin was the hit of the evening.

Bob and the students were late getting home from the play, and in the interim a glass of liquid got spilled by one of the children, but it hardly dampened the upholstery or the spirits of the party. The students were delighted to be in a home with children to play with. And you would have thought I had prepared a banquet for them instead of a simple supper. When I saw them at the theater during the early weeks of November, they continued to talk wistfully about the fun they had had with our family.

As Thanksgiving drew closer, I began to realize that I was going to have to do something about the holiday. It isn't celebrated in England, of course, and the students were beginning to feel homesick at the prospect of being so far away from family for the holiday. But having sixteen students in for sandwiches and finger food on paper plates and doing a complete Thanksgiving dinner for them were two very different things. For one, we had six plates and about as many sets of silverware. There was almost no counter space in the kitchen, and, though the stove had four burners, the oven was half the size of my oven at home. But it was clear that, problems or no, Thanksgiving was going to be celebrated in memorable style in our home that year. I asked each student to bring a plate and silverware for each person that he or she was bringing to dinner, and I invited them all to bring along some contribution of food.

Meanwhile I had managed to find one of those large foil disposable roasting pans in a local department store. Much to my relief, when I got it home, it actually fit into my oven. I took it off to the butcher and asked him to get me the largest turkey that would fit into the pan. He did so, and he even agreed to keep it in his freezer for me until I was ready to cope with it. The day before the Feast, as the children began calling that Thanksgiving, I stopped to make sure that the butcher had moved the turkey from the freezer into his cooler for me. He assured me that he had and that it would be thawed for me in the morning. Relieved of that nagging worry, I went home to get on with my preparations.

When I went into the kitchen to begin dinner, I discovered to my horror that the oven would not light. Here was a nightmare indeed. Luckily the Gas Board was not about to shut down for a long holiday weekend, so they promised that someone would be around first thing in the morning to see about the cooker.

My dreams were filled that night with catastrophes in which I was trying to roast turkeys over matches. But in the morning we experienced a whole series of miracles. First, the Gas Board man turned up early. Second, he discovered that there was nothing seriously wrong with the stove, and he could and did fix it immediately. The third event took a little longer to resolve itself into a miracle. It began by looking remarkably like a catastrophe.

While I stayed home to deal with the stove and the other preparations, Bob took the children with him to do the last-minute shopping, including picking up the turkey. I was busy finishing the stuffing when I realized that in the distance I was hearing Margy crying as the Pierce parade drew near our house. I raced to the door to see what the trouble was. I could hardly believe the news; the butcher had not in fact transferred the turkey to the cooler as he had alleged; when Bob handed it to me, it was eighteen pounds of rock-hard meat—giblets and neck firmly tucked inside the body cavity. Though Margy was the only one actually in tears, all three children were certain that Thanksgiving had just crash landed in the butcher's freezer.

There are moments when a parent has no choice but to set aside anger, frustration, and anxiety and simply rally all available reserves in the emergency. I dried Margy's tears and assured everybody that the day could be saved. Then the turkey and I retired to the kitchen sink for some close communion with warm water. It was not the correct way to defrost poultry, but I told myself that, if I could just pry the giblets out and pack the stuffing in quickly, I could get the bird on to roast before anything nasty began growing in the meat.

It worked. By late afternoon we were ready for the Feast, and the students began to arrive, bearing an unusual collection of dishes. Including several strays picked up by various people along the way, twenty-three happy Americans eventually sat down to Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, we sat down all over the house. The living and dining room floors were covered with bodies, and six of us sat on the steps to the second story. We had a marvelous time! The food was delicious, and the fellowship was unforgettable. I don't even remember the clean-up.

Everyone had so much fun that we decided to do it again the following year when we were all back in the United States. By then many of the students had graduated, but they returned to Oberlin for Thanksgiving and a reunion of the London semester group. In some ways the two celebrations were very different. There were no crises the second time around. I managed to come up with enough dishes and silver to serve everyone without asking people to bring their own utensils. And the clean-up was a snap with an electric dishwasher on the job.

But the underlying spirit from the year before was still there. The young people were delighted to be in our home and grateful to us for inviting them. My recollections of these happy and deeply satisfying events are filled with remembered warmth and gratitude. They are for me, as they would be for anyone else, the very stuff of pleasant family history.

But there is one element of these celebrations which is uniquely precious to me. My blindness, which to me has become nothing more than one more of my characteristics, went virtually unregarded by the students. I don't mean that they pretended that it wasn't there. They made an effort to move out of my path when I came through carrying food or drink. But the fact of my blindness was as unimportant to them as it had become to my husband and children. I remember times like these and renew my hope that the time will come when all blind people will know the freedom for which I am so deeply grateful.  

 

A Tribute to Twenty Years Leading the Way

From the Editor: In the October Braille Monitor we reported in depth on the programs of the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB). On September 20 the CCB family came together to celebrate twenty years of extraordinary dedication and service to members of the blind community. Here is a brief report of the party:

On Saturday evening, September 20, 2008, Federationists, friends, alumni, and colleagues came together for the Tribute to Twenty Yearscelebration honoring the accomplishments of the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB). For the past twenty years the center has been leading the way in life skills training, providing the opportunity for independence and success to more than five hundred center graduates.

As the sun set over the Rocky Mountains, the lilting sounds of a bagpipe band on the lawn outside the center drew more than 250 guests to the festivities. The evening’s entertainment included music, magic, and origami performed by former and current students and staff. Seven restaurants and caterers provided delectable fare for the palate while partygoers were kept busy checking on their bids at the giant silent auction. A highlight of the evening was the Tribute to Twenty, a special honor awarded to twenty people who have been integral in the center’s two decades of growth.

More than a hundred alumni returned to the center to take part in the celebration, share memories, and renew old friendships. Tour guides showed guests around the center and all were impressed with the new Randolph-Sheppard professional training kitchen, the industrial arts wood shop, the beautiful Braille library, the technology center, and the new senior resource center. As the evening came to a close, guests departed feeling a deep appreciation for the accomplishments of the center over the last twenty years and a sense of excitement for its future.

 

More Than Just Money for School
The 2009 NFB Scholarship Program

by Anil Lewis

From the Editor: Anil Lewis is a member of the NFB board of directors and president of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia. Last year he was appointed to follow Peggy Elliott in chairing perhaps the most demanding committee in the Federation. From the time the coming year’s scholarship form is available on the NFB Website in early November, committee members are busy encouraging their affiliates to promote it widely within the state, answering student questions, interviewing potential applicants, and generally doing what they can to encourage excellent students from seniors in high school through graduate school to complete the NFB scholarship application form and gather and submit the necessary accompanying documents.

In the spring the committee meets for a grueling weekend of work to identify the thirty strongest applicants. When all thirty winners have been reached and confirmed, the committee’s job is to maintain contact with them to answer questions and resolve problems before the convention. During convention committee members try to get to know as many winners as possible so that they can make wise decisions about which student will receive which scholarship.

As we go to press, the 2009 process is beginning. In the following article Anil describes the process and what participating in it can do for students. This is what he says:

Last year was my first serving as chairperson of the National Federation of the Blind scholarship committee. Having been managed under such excellent stewardship since its expansion in 1984, the program presented a tremendous challenge to me. Yet the dedicated collaboration of veteran members of the scholarship committee, along with a few new members, made this challenging task a fulfilling and enjoyable one. In addition, the members of the 2008 NFB scholarship class were accepting of my nervous renderings and gracious through my logistical learning curve. They are indeed an impressive, dynamic group of students, pursuing a diverse array of postsecondary degrees, and I am certain they will accomplish great things.

We set out again, this time to select our scholarship class of 2009. On November 1, 2008, the application process and forms for the NFB Scholarship Program were posted on the Web at <www.nfb.org>. The process can be initiated with an online application, which we prefer, or you can download a printed application from the site. Those who do not have access to the Web can request and receive an application by mail. In addition to providing the application, the Website is becoming a growing resource for information about the NFB Scholarship Program. You can access direct links to information on past scholarship winners, student resources, and lots more. This will expand into a broader resource for general scholarship information in the future.

We offer thirty scholarships ranging from $3,000 to our $12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Scholarship. All applicants for these scholarships (1) must be legally blind (which means both eyes); (2) must be pursuing or planning to pursue a full-time, postsecondary course of study in a degree program at a United States institution in the fall of the 2009-2010 academic year, except that one scholarship may be given to a person employed full-time while attending school part-time; and, (3) if chosen, applicants must participate in the entire NFB national convention and in all scheduled scholarship program activities. In addition to the award, each winner will be brought to convention at Federation expense. The application deadline is March 31, 2009. Students should submit only one application. The scholarship committee will decide which scholarships the winners are eligible for and which each will receive. 

In order to be considered for a scholarship, students must obtain and send proof of legal blindness and the additional supporting documentation required for a complete application. This may be a print copy of our Proof of Legal Blindnessformthathas been completed and signed by a medical doctor or a professional in eye care, such as an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Since other services offered to blind Americans also require such proof, it will be to any student’s benefit to retain a master copy of this documentation. Alternative authoritative proof may be a letter stating the student is legally blind signed by the president of an NFB chapter or affiliate, an itinerant teacher, a rehabilitation counselor, or some other expert in blind rehabilitation.

The scholarships are not restricted to NFB members. There is no requirement for an applicant to be a member of the NFB in order to win a scholarship. In fact, many applicants were not even aware of our organization before applying for an NFB scholarship. However, although there is no requirement for applicants to be members of the NFB, we do expect winners to be committed to the principles of promoting blind people as contributing members of society who can compete on terms of equality with their sighted peers.

The NFB Scholarship Program is our investment in the future of blind people who demonstrate scholastic aptitude, leadership, and service. If you take a look at past winners, you will see that they have a wide range of academic pursuits and professional goals. They are a cross section of race, sex, and age. Winners are selected from around the country. In fact, there is diversity in all demographic areas. However, each person chosen demonstrated the ability to be successful academically, possessed leadership ability, and was committed to community or public service.

My advice to any potential applicant is to read the application information carefully and provide all of the required information and supporting documentation. Many applications are incomplete, so the committee is unable to consider them fairly. Obtain references from individuals that know you as a competent, able individual. Some reference letters are unconsciously negative or condescending; others are unrealistically and inappropriately laudatory. Applicants should choose recommendation writers carefully. Most of all focus on your essay. I recommend that you write your essay in a Word document, edit it, proofread it, then cut and paste the finished essay into the online form or transfer it to the print application form. The essay should be you talking about your life, how you live it, and how you’d like to live it. Committee members give it a great deal of attention.

The scholarship committee, consisting of successful blind college graduates, reviews all applications and selects the top thirty applicants as the scholarship class of 2009. These thirty scholarship winners will be notified of their selection by telephone no later than June 1. Again, you need submit only one application to be considered for all of the scholarships for which you are eligible. The scholarship committee will decide during the annual convention which award will be given to each winner.

The NFB Scholarship Program offers more than just money for school. It is an opportunity for personal growth and ongoing professional development. Each scholarship winner will be brought to the NFB national convention in Detroit, Michigan, July 3 through 8, at the NFB’s expense. The convention is one of the most valuable gifts we give to each winner. We expect you will find, as others have before you, that the NFB national convention is a great deal of fun, offers truly beneficial networking at the highest level, answers questions you have always wanted to ask, and is as big a prize as the scholarship check winners receive. Furthermore, we give our winners an opportunity to participate in the development of public policies that affect blind people by assisting them to attend our Washington Seminar. We offer them the opportunity to give back to other blind people by serving as mentors to future scholarship winners as members of our Scholarship Alumni Program. The NFB scholarship is the gift that keeps on giving and is more than just money for school. This November blind students are invited to go to <www.nfb.org/scholarships>, to begin their quest for this national scholarship award. Questions may be emailed to the chairman at <scholarships@nfb.org>.

 

Ask Miss Whozit

From the Editor: From time to time Miss Whozit answers reader questions about etiquette and good manners, particularly as they involve blindness. If you would like to pose a question to Miss Whozit, you can send it to the attention of Barbara Pierce, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, or email me at <bpierce@nfb.org>. I will pass the questions along. Letters may be edited for space and clarity. Here is the most recent letter Miss Whozit has received:

Dear Miss Whozit,

As I begin to think about and plan for the holiday season this year, I would like to ask your advice about an issue that is a little hard to define and explain. The problem is the way I am treated, accepted, and allowed to participate in various holiday activities and events in my community. I am a blind person, and I assume that most of the negative experiences that I will discuss in this letter are partially the result of my disability. Let me see if I can explain my problem through a couple of examples.

At my church the holiday season is truly a time for giving to those in need. We sponsor dinners throughout the Thanksgiving and Christmas season for poor people, and we provide gifts and other holiday favors to underprivileged families. In addition to simply donating money for these programs, many church members gather to assemble baskets, wrap gifts, and generally deal with the many tasks that need attention. When I offer to help with these projects, I am welcomed, but it quickly becomes clear that people really do not expect or want me to contribute much to our efforts. I'm generally encouraged to sit back and let everybody else manage things for the sake of speed, or I am given some repetitive task that isolates me from the socializing that is part of the holiday preparation. I usually leave these work parties feeling as if I have been unproductive, forgotten, or both. Again, everybody's pleasant enough, but my festive mood and giving spirit are often dampened at project's end because of the way people deal with me.

Another example worth mentioning is my experience with my book club. I participate in a weekly reading group at my local library. Generally I am able to find the books we discuss in Braille, on tape, or from the computer. At the holidays we bring seasonal refreshments and exchange gifts during our meetings. When my turn to bring the treats for our meeting last year came, I was actually told not to bother because it would be too hard for me to transport several trays of cookies along with my bags on the bus. Ordinarily I take public transportation to these meetings in order to save money, but I explained that I'd take a cab for this special occasion. Although I insisted on taking my turn, the dispute over it made the task less satisfying and joyful. The book club leader also told me not to bother bringing a present to exchange because I live on a fixed income and would have trouble doing the shopping anyway. Naturally I ignored this advice, but it took some persuasion on my part to get the book club leader to understand that I could and should participate like everyone else.

When I opened my gift from my Secret Santa, I was a bit dismayed to find a gift certificate to my local grocery store. Please understand that I was grateful for the thought, but honestly the gift struck me as a bit condescending and tinged with charity to the poor more than a gift from a friend. I had hoped to receive something special and representative of the giver. Money for food, while helpful, was not really what I wanted for Christmas. I can’t help suspecting that, if I had been sighted, I wouldn’t have been given the gift of groceries or discouraged from contributing food.

The holidays are an excellent time for giving, and I usually have the seasonal spirit, energy, time, and desire to participate in community activities and events to mark the occasion. I find myself frustrated, though, when public attitudes and low expectations about blindness seem to limit my involvement or prescribe my enjoyment of social holiday traditions. Do I bring this treatment on myself? I would be grateful for any suggestions you may have about what I could do or say when I encounter situations like the ones I have described.

Sincerely,
Willing to Give and Receive

Dear Willing,

It sounds to Miss Whozit as if you have managed pretty well to stand up for yourself in rather trying circumstances. I hope you made as much a point of presenting your gift in the exchange as you did in insisting on bringing cookies. In these situations Miss Whozit has found that the best defense is an vigorous offense.

In fact the holidays are an excellent time to make the point that you are a contributing member of your entire circle of friends and acquaintances. Doing so takes some imagination, especially if you don’t have extra money to throw at the problem. But the truth is that, if they sat down to make a list of the folks who have gone out of their way to help them during the past year, most blind people would have quite a group of people to thank: neighbors who have run errands, church members who have provided rides, work colleagues willing to read a memo or posted notice, not to mention the friends whom you wish to remember during this season of giving.

Such gifts don’t have to be costly; in fact it is much better if they are not. Expensive items can start inflated gift exchanges. Three or four pieces of fudge in a decorative little box or bag, on the other hand, can be passed off as a simple remembrance. A holiday paper plate of homemade cookies sends the same message. If you knit, you could give hand-knitted dishcloths. If you like plants or know someone who does, you could make up pots of spring bulbs or plants to brighten the winter. The point is to dream up inexpensive and simple gifts to give as thankyous or just as tokens of friendship.

Not only will this demonstrate that you are a thoughtful and appreciative person, but it will go a long way toward showing the doubters around you that you have unsuspected talents and skills. If you present such gifts with conspicuous fanfare, you will undermine your effort. The point is to be a bit self-deprecating―here is a little something to say how much I have appreciated your friendship and help this year. This should be said quietly and the gift given inconspicuously.

If you make plans early in the season, you can usually find a way to participate actively in holiday gift-giving. It can be more difficult to find your way into the center of activities like filling baskets or packing bags of groceries for the food pantry. Taking someone in the group into your confidence and asking for help evaluating the situation and finding a useful job that you can do without slowing down the operation may be the easiest way of solving the problem. Other than that, you may just have to stand and listen for a few minutes to decide what is going on. Ask yourself if empty boxes need to be flattened or paper bags opened. Is a bottleneck developing at one point on the production line? Offer to step in to do half of the job that is slowing down the line. Standing around waiting for someone to think of something you can do is doomed to bring you disappointment. Mostly, sighted people don’t know what blind people can do in such a group activity. You will need to take the lead in suggesting things you could do and ways you could help. If you are cheerfully firm about wanting to help, most people will give you a chance.

In the hope that you like the idea of passing out fudge to friends and neighbors, here once again is the recipe for the fudge that Diane McGeorge has taught many Federationists to make and give away:

NFB Fudge

Ingredients:
1 stick margarine or butter
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 large can evaporated milk
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
7-ounce jar marshmallow cream
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
8 ounces Hershey bars
Chopped nuts, optional

Method: In large, heavy pan combine butter, sugar, evaporated milk, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon. Meantime in a large bowl combine chocolate chips, Hershey bars broken into pieces, and marshmallow cream. Set aside. Butter a 13-by-9-inch pan and set aside. When sugar mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low so that mixture is just simmering. Cook, stirring constantly for four and a half minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla and contents of bowl. If you are using nuts, add them at this time as well. Stir the hot mixture until the chocolate and marshmallow cream are completely beaten in. Pour fudge into buttered pan and allow to cool. Cut into pieces before chilling. Remove from pan and store in tightly covered container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

May your holiday season be filled with giving and gifts.

 

Recipes

This month’s recipes were contributed by members of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon.


Chewy Pecan Bars

by Joyce Green

Joyce Green is the treasurer of both the Rose City Chapter and the NFB of Oregon and a longtime leader of the affiliate.

Crust Ingredients:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
************
Filling Ingredients:
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup light corn syrup
3 eggs, well beaten
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pecans, crushed

Method: Mix crust ingredients together until mixture resembles cornmeal. Pat into lightly greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Bake fifteen minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven.

To make filling, place all filling ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Pour hot mixture over crust and return to oven. Bake bars for thirty minutes. Cool pan on rack. Cut into bars while still warm.

Hot Chicken Salad

by Joyce Green

Ingredients:
4 cups cooked chicken, cubed
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup almonds, slivered
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 can condensed cream soup
1/4 cup green or red pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup potato chips, crushed

Method: Combine all ingredients except potato chips and mix well. Place mixture in greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Top with crushed potato chips. Bake for forty minutes at 350 degrees.

French Onion Soup (cratinée)

by Carolyn Brock

Carolyn Brock is a member and former president of the Rose City Chapter of the NFB of Oregon. She has been a state officer and taught French for many years. She has traveled and dined often in France. She describes this recipe as very easy and a goody.

Ingredients:
1 large white onion or two smaller ones, thinly sliced
Pat of butter or margarine
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup dry red wine (optional)
2 quarts or liters reconstituted beef consommé (concentrate or in cartons)
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Touch diced garlic (optional)
2 thin slices per serving, French baguette--dried not toasted
Approximately 1/3 pound per person Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated, maybe more—there is no such thing as too much cheese.

Method: Pour consommé into a large saucepan or soup pot and dilute if directed to do so. Bring to a boil. Sauté the onion slices in the butter or margarine, reduce heat, and continue to stir until onions are very soft and almost liquid. Sprinkle flour over the onions and stir it in thoroughly. Add the wine and continue to stir as the alcohol evaporates. Add the onion mixture to the soup stock and stir in thoroughly. Bring the soup to a boil and add the Worcestershire sauce and garlic if desired. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow soup to simmer covered for at least one-and-a-half hours, stirring occasionally to prevent onions from sticking to the bottom. Simmering longer does no harm.

Meanwhile grate the cheese and dry the bread slices. Preheat oven to minimum temperature setting, then turn it off. Arrange bread on cookie sheet and place in oven. Turn over after a half hour.

Just before serving, sprinkle approximately half the grated cheese into the soup, stirring slowly until the cheese almost disappears. Pour the soup into an ovenproof soup pot or individual ovenproof bowls. Set the oven rack so that the top of the pot or bowls will be near the element. Turn the broiler on high. When it is fully heated, quickly float the dried bread on top of the soup, sprinkle the remaining grated cheese on top, and place pot/bowls on a pizza pan or cookie sheet under the broiler. Remove after two to three minutes when the cheese begins to bubble. Serves six―well maybe only four if they like it.

Ice-Box Fruit Bran Muffins

by Corinne Vieville

Corinne Vieville is president of the Jefferson Chapter and the secretary of the NFB of Oregon. Of the following recipe she writes: “It's always a treat to resurrect an old favorite. When I saw my friend scooping out the batter from a large crock, I remembered this hearty, healthy muffin that is always ready. She keeps the ever-bubbly batter in the refrigerator, where it remains ready for the next moment of craving for a warm breakfast bread. This is an easy way to wake up the household with a smile when they smell the muffins.”

Ingredients:
5 teaspoons baking soda
4 cups 100 percent bran cereal
2 cups boiling water, divided
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 quart buttermilk
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups granola or similar cereal
2 cups of your choice of dates, raisins, and nuts

Method: Place baking soda in a cup or small bowl and all bran cereal in a medium bowl. Add a half cup boiling water to the soda and the rest to the cereal. Let both cool. Cream shortening and sugar in a large bowl; add eggs one at a time. Then add soda mixture and mix well. Alternately add buttermilk and flour, stirring after each addition. Add remaining ingredients; mix well, scraping the sides often. Store covered in the refrigerator. Do not stir again. As you need muffins, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour muffin tins or line them with muffin papers and spoon the batter into cups, filling them half full. Bake for twenty-five minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean or muffins feel set in the center when gently and quickly pressed. Makes five to six dozen muffins. You may not believe it, but this batter keeps in the fridge for up to six weeks. The only hard part is resisting the urge to stir the batter as you scoop it into the muffin tins.

Thanksgiving Clean-up Soup

by Elizabeth Rousseau-Rooney

Elizabeth Rousseau-Rooney is now president of the NFB of Oregon, but she has served the affiliate in many capacities. She has also been a member of the Oregon Commission for the Blind for six years, and she will serve as vice chairman of the new school board of the Oregon School for the Blind until 2012. When asked for a recipe, she provided more a pattern than an actual recipe. This is the sort of dish that can make use of all those dabs of leftovers following the holiday feast. This is what she says:

I grew up in a home where my mom was from Austin and my dad from Boston. Thanksgiving was an interesting blend of southern and Yankee ingredients. We always had turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, peas, white pearl onions, stuffing, and plenty of gravy. After the turkey had been served and picked over for sandwiches, Mom would cook the carcass in a soup kettle with enough water to cover.  She added celery, onion, carrots, and herbs and seasoned it all with salt, peppercorns, a few whole cloves, and a good dollop of soy sauce. After it simmered for hours, she strained the stock and removed every bit of meat from the bones. To make the soup, she used the broth and meat, to which she added the Thanksgiving leftovers of potatoes (stirred in to thicken the stock), gravy, peas, onions, and any other vegetables. This made a delicious must-go soup. It was different every time but always delicious and a great way to deal with the collection of odds and ends of leftovers. One thing I have changed over the years is to cook my turkey in apple juice or white wine instead of water. It makes incredible gravy and adds a wonderful flavor to the soup later. This soup is also a great final resting place for the remnants of the relish tray: broccoli, carrots, celery, cauliflower, and green onions.

Hazelnut Chicken

by Tamera Snelling

Tamera Snelling is an at-large member of the NFB of Oregon. This is her favorite dish with which to impress guests. The preparation time is fifteen minutes, the same as its cooking time. A crisp coating of toasted, finely ground hazelnuts covers moist, boneless chicken breasts. A creamy mustard-wine sauce is drizzled on top.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup hazelnuts
2 tablespoons fine dry breadcrumbs
1 egg white
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 whole chicken breasts (about 1 pound each), skinned, boned, and split
Ground white pepper
All-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 tablespoon salad oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
Watercress sprigs for garnish

Method: Spread hazelnuts in a shallow baking pan and toast in a 350-degree oven until skins begin to split (eight to ten minutes). Spread nuts on a clean towel; rub them with towel to remove most of the skins. Let cool slightly, then whirl in a blender or food processor until finely ground. Spread in a shallow dish, mix bread crumbs with ground nuts, and set aside. In another shallow bowl beat egg white with one tablespoon of mustard and set aside. Rinse chicken, pat dry, sprinkle lightly with white pepper, and dust with flour. Dip chicken in egg white mixture to coat lightly, then coat with hazelnut crumb mixture. Melt butter and oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add chicken and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides and no longer pink in thickest part. Cut into a thick part to test after ten to twelve minutes. If not done, chicken will feel spongy in the center; it will also feel a bit soft in the center when quickly and gently pressed with a finger from above. Remove chicken from pan and arrange on a warm serving dish. Keep warm. Add wine, cream, and remaining one tablespoon mustard to drippings in the pan. Boil over high heat, stirring constantly, until sauce is slightly thickened. Drizzle mixture over chicken. Garnish with watercress. Serves four. Serve with colorful vegetables such as steamed snow peas and baby carrots.

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

Elected:
The National Federation of the Blind of Iowa recently elected the following officers and board members: president, Michael Barber; first vice president, April Enderton; second vice president, Darrel Kirby; secretary, Tai Blas; treasurer, Curtis Chong; and board members, Al Bickell, Karen Clayton, Ted Hart, Priscilla McKinley, Miranda Morse, and Bob Ray.

NFB of New Mexico Members March in State Fair Parade:
From the NFB of New Mexico newsletter, Que Passe: On September 6, 2008, approximately eighty blind folks of all ages marched in the annual state fair parade in Albuquerque. We assembled on the fairgrounds, and, when it was our turn, we walked to Central Avenue, where we marched proudly about two miles to Eubank Avenue, where we were picked up to travel to the Manzano Mesa Community Center. Many of us wore NFB T-shirts, and we chanted "NFB, NFB" and "blind vendors rock." We were cheered from the time we left the fairgrounds until the end of our march; it was exhilarating. At the head of our group we had a large banner that read “National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico, Changing What it Means to Be Blind.” Our float was great. It featured blind youngsters in construction outfits, including hard hats. The new preschool at the school for the blind is under construction and should be ready for occupancy in January.

After the parade we assembled at the Manzano Mesa Community Center and had a wonderful chapter interaction meeting. Thanks to Sherry Abraham for coordinating our march and chapter interaction luncheon and meeting. Thanks to Ray Marshall for paying for and coordinating our transportation. Thanks to the students and teachers at the preschool for the blind and visually impaired for putting together the great float. Thanks to Christine Hall, Nancy Burns, Caroline Benavidez, Juan Haro, and others for developing the chapter interaction idea.

Elected:
Charlotte, the historic cradle of Federationism in North Carolina, served as host city for the 2008 state convention, which occurred from Friday, September 19, through Sunday, September 21. Well over a hundred Federationists attended various seminars, general sessions, and the Saturday night banquet. This year’s convention was dedicated to our grand lady, Hazel Staley, for all she has done for the NFB in general and for the state affiliate in particular.

Our guest speaker and national rep was Joe Ruffalo, member of the NFB board of directors and president of the New Jersey affiliate. The Robert M. Staley Scholarships were awarded to Cindy Bennett and Brice Smith by Hazel Staley.

Sunday’s session included the business meeting with elections for officers and board members. Elected were president, Gary Ray; first vice president, Tim Jones; second vice president, Herman Gruber; secretary, Pat Yarbrough; treasurer, Janis Lynn Stallings; and board members, Boyce Locklear, Art Saunders, Patricia Tessnear, and Booker Winn, filling an unexpired term.

In Memoriam:
We recently learned that on August 18, 2008, Jeannette Eyerly, one of the three members of the Iowa Commission for the Blind during the years when Kenneth Jernigan was its director, died on August 18 at the retirement center in Des Moines, Iowa, where she made her home. Mrs. Eyerly was a prize-winning author of books for children and teens. In fact she was the first author to write books about difficult topics like teen pregnancy, early marriage, shoplifting, and alcoholism. Because of her interest in the rehabilitation of blind people she wrote the book, The Seeing Summer, one of the few books for teens demonstrating healthy attitudes in dealing with blindness. She continued her interest in the National Federation of the Blind even after she retired from the commission. In her will she left a bequest to fund the Jeannette C. Eyerly Memorial Scholarship, which will be awarded for the first time at the 2009 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Mrs. Eyerly is survived by her two daughters, six grandchildren, and a number of great-grandchildren.

In Brief

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

Touch the Sun Available:
While supplies last, VIEW has copies of Touch the Sun, the book about the sun that includes tactile photographs,by Noreen Grice. The price is $29.95 with shipping by Free Matter. Other shipping can be arranged for an additional charge. For more information contact Robert Jaquiss, executive director, VIEW International Foundation, 230 Peach Tree Drive, West Monroe, Louisiana 71291-8653; phone (318) 396-1853; email <rjaquiss@earthlink.net>; Website <http://www.viewinternational.org>.

Bell Your Baby in Style with Bumblebells:
Bumble Bells are fantastic audible footwear for the newest human beings. These sterling silver baby anklets have bells mounted on them so that you can tell wherever your baby rolls, crawls, or toddles. Just before I got pregnant, I was in Thailand visiting some cousins and noticed their two-year-old son walking around in beautiful sterling silver anklets with little bells on them. Everywhere he wandered we could hear where he was. Thai mothers have put tinkling anklets on their babies for decades to ward off evil, but they are also darned cute and very practical.

When my daughter was born last year, I had my relatives send a pair of the anklets. We put them on her at two months, and we have yet to remove them. They are amazingly practical (Roll over? The bells jingle. Crawl away? Little bells ring. Toddle around? Bells again.). They also make wonderful gifts. After hundreds of inquiries from passers-by about how cute they were and where they could get a pair, I decided to start selling them.

You can find out more at <www.bumblebells.com>. Order a single anklet for $40 or a pair for $75 by contacting Jill at <baby@bumblebells.com> or calling (773) 885-2016.

Old-Time Radio Shows for Sale:
Old-time radio shows are available for $5 a disk. Choice of either MP3 or audio CD. Contact Jim Holliday for more information by email at <jimbo1970@comcast.net> or by phone (609) 447-4658. My homepage is <http://jimbo1970.com>. Sample shows are provided for listening on the homepage.

Special Offer from En-Vision America:
NFB member Chad Allen, who works for En-Vision America, has passed along the following notice:
From October 1 to December 31 En-Vision America will offer NFB members a Scrip-Talk unit free if they successfully sign up their local pharmacy to implement the Scrip-Talk system. Call En-Vision America at (800) 890-1180 to request printed information on the Scrip-Talk system to give to your local pharmacy. Then visit the store and tell them about Scrip-Talk and your need for nonvisual access to prescription bottle information. The pharmacy must invest $495 in order to get started. This includes a Scrip-Talk Reader/Writer, software, and technical support along with one hundred electronic tags to place on your prescriptions or those of other blind people to make them accessible. Any member who successfully refers a pharmacy to En-Vision America will receive the $325 Scrip-Talk unit for reading the tags, free of charge. Chad Allen can also be reached at (303) 319-6731 to answer any questions you may have.

Monitor Mart

The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.

For Sale:

Used professional keyboard synthesizer, ideal for blind user because it has no wrap-around menus and has numerous dedicated task buttons. Easy to use for beginners, but has many advanced features for professionals as well. The Roland XP10 is lightweight with a standard 61-key, full-size keyboard (five-octave) with editable general MIDI-based synthesizer containing 338 sounds, including ethnic instruments and sound effects and sixteen different drum kits. Advanced features include arpegiator, multiple real-time controllers, split and layer function, and both MIDI and PC compatibility. Instruction manual included. Asking $400, including free shipping. If you leave a phone message, please speak slowly and clearly because of my hearing deficit. Contact Steve Waltke, (517) 347-7046.

NFB Pledge

I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.