Vol. 55, No. 5 May 2012
Gary Wunder, Editor
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The 2012 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Dallas, Texas, June 30-July 5, at the Hilton Anatole Hotel at 2201 Stemmons Freeway, Dallas, Texas 75207. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with the Hilton Anatole staff only, not Hilton general reservations. Call (214) 761-7500.
The 2012 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins $63 and triples and quads $68 a night, plus a 15 percent sales tax. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2012. The other 50 percent is not refundable.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2012, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold our block of rooms for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.
Guestroom amenities include cable television; coffeepot; iron and ironing board; hair dryer; and, for a fee, high-speed Internet access. The Hilton Anatole has several excellent restaurants, twenty-four-hour-a-day room service, first-rate meeting space, and other top-notch facilities. It is in downtown Dallas with shuttle service to both the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport and Love Field.
The schedule for the 2012 convention will follow our usual pattern:
Saturday, June 30 Seminar Day
Sunday, July 1 Registration Day
Monday, July 2 Board Meeting and Division Day
Tuesday, July 3 Opening Session
Wednesday, July 4 Business Session
Thursday, July 5 Banquet Day and Adjournment
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
2012 National Convention Preregistration Form
Please register online at <www.nfb.org/registration> or use this mail-in form. Print legibly, provide all requested information, and mail form and payment to:
National Federation of the Blind
Attn: Convention Registration
200 East Wells Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
Please register only one person per registration form; however, one check or money order may cover multiple registrations. Check or money order (sorry, no credit cards) must be enclosed with registration(s).
Registrant Name ______________________________________________
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Vol. 55, No. 5 May 2012
Illustrations: Saudi Arabian Visitors at the
National Center for the Blind
Print and Braille: Evolving Codes
to Meet the
Needs of a Changing World
by Jennifer Dunnam
by Maxine Schrader
Retrofitting Accessibility: The Legal Inequality of After-the-Fact Online Access
for Persons with Disabilities in the United States
by Brian Wentz, Paul T. Jaeger, and Jonathan Lazar
by Ann Cunningham
A Taste of Dallas
by Elizabeth Campbell
An Important Step in My Life
by Angela Marin Rivera
The United States Association of Blind Athletes
Affects Lives through Sports and Recreation
The NFB Teacher Leader Seminar 2012
by Emily Gibbs
Fun with Fashion
by Ron and Jean Brown
The Struggle for Minimum Wage: 1968
by Anna Kresmer
Copyright 2012 by the National Federation of the Blind
Often on presidential releases and in the annual presidential report we hear about the number of people who have visited our national center. The numbers are impressive, but what do they mean in human terms?
In January Khaled Suleiman Abdullah, executive director of the Charity Society for the Visually Impaired (Ibsar-Insight) in Saudi Arabia, and Ahmed M. Alammar, Ibsar-Insight board member and translator (a graduate of George Mason University), made a day-long visit to the National Center for the Blind. They had learned about the National Federation of the Blind by doing a search of the web and were intrigued at the thought that a handful of members could come together to form a movement that would eventually represent 50,000 blind citizens. They decided they wanted to visit the largest organization of the blind in the United States and were particularly impressed with our programs for young people.
Mr. Abdullah has two blind teenage sons. They use Braille and computers with screen-reading software, but cane travel is not taught in the Kingdom. So impressed were our visitors with the comprehensive training we offer that they changed their plans, flew to the Louisiana Center for the Blind for several days, decided to send someone to learn how to provide cane travel training in their country, and plan to attend the national convention in Dallas with four or five teens. So the next time you hear those visitor statistics from the podium, consider what they mean in changed lives and enhanced opportunities, and take pride in knowing that all of us are a part of the National Federation of the Blind.
by Jennifer Dunnam
From the Editor: Few things upset people as much as trying to change the things they love. Change the logo of the National Federation of the Blind, and a chorus of voices shouts that the older one was better. Change the convention schedule, and we are absolutely certain that the convention will never be the same. Tear down one of our buildings at the 1800 Johnson Street location to make way for the Jernigan Institute at 200 East Wells Street, and some are saddened by the loss of a smokestack.
But none of these outcries compares with the emotions that arise at the prospect of changing Braille. It is all too easy to say “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” or “Leave my Braille alone,” but, as folksy and comfortable as these heartfelt statements are, it has become clear over the years that print is changing, and, if Braille is truly the closest tactile equivalent, the code blind people use can no more be set in stone than the visual representation it purports to express accurately.
Jennifer Dunham represents the National Federation of the Blind on the Braille Authority of North America Board. She helped to draft our resolution in 2002, but she has concluded that a decade of changing software and hardware has forced her to reevaluate the recommendations she would make to us about our primary means of reading and writing. Here is what she says:
Since 2004 it has been my honor to serve as the National Federation of the Blind's representative on the board of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA). In this capacity it is my responsibility to express and support the views of our organization to the best of my ability, which I am honored to do. It is also my responsibility to do all I can to ensure that members of the organization have full and complete information with which to formulate their views.
The three-part article by BANA entitled "The Evolution of Braille: Can the Past Help Plan the Future?" communicated a great deal of information about the changing nature of print and Braille in the May, October, and December 2011 issues of the Braille Monitor. I urge readers to read that essential information in order to understand the larger context of where things stand today regarding Braille codes in the U.S. In what follows, speaking only for myself, I will describe the process by which I am coming to understand these issues as well as the conclusions I have reached. Before I do so, I should address my background—not to hold myself out as an expert with all the answers, but to explain what informs my opinions.
First and foremost for this discussion, I am a Braille user. I began learning Braille in kindergarten, and I was fortunate to have all the books I needed through high school transcribed into Braille on paper. All of the books and tests for my mathematics classes were transcribed in the Nemeth code, and, although I was not a math genius, I was a competent math student. In high school I took basic computer programming classes in which the books were transcribed in computer code. I also studied music and foreign languages using Braille. During college, however, in the late 1980s, the stream of Braille dried up. None of my textbooks were available in Braille, and most of the Braille I read was of my own creation (generally the copious notes I took using a slate and stylus). In time, as Braille translation software, refreshable Braille displays, and sources of downloadable Braille books became more common, like many other Braille readers I have gained more access to Braille than I could have dreamed of during college. These days most of my Braille is in refreshable rather than paper format (although at times nothing beats full Braille pages on paper). In my job and in the rest of my life, I read and write Braille practically all day, every day, for all sorts of purposes. With a refreshable Braille display and a mobile phone, for example, I can have the previously unimaginable experience of reading the daily newspapers in Braille during my commute to work. I see firsthand the advantages and the limitations of machine-generated Braille translation and backtranslation.
Next, I am a Braille transcriber. Some ask how it is possible to be a transcriber if one is unable to see standard print. I would be glad to elaborate more on that another time, but for purposes of this discussion, suffice it to say that in addition to the other rigorous training needed to become a good transcriber, a blind transcriber must be skilled in the use of many different tools for discovering the exact content and format of the print (including pictures) and must clearly understand the limitations of every tool in order to use all of them to best effect. In the early 90s, perhaps as a reaction to the dearth of Braille available to me during college, I became very interested in learning to use Braille translation software (which is one of the tools a transcriber may use), and over the last twenty years I have become experienced in working with several different translation programs. I was also certified as a literary Braille transcriber by the Library of Congress and have detailed familiarity with the formats required for producing textbooks. For almost ten years I transcribed and taught others to transcribe materials into Braille for the University of Minnesota. That work familiarized me with the complex nature of today's textbooks and the problems of transferring the print contents onto a Braille page in a way that gives the blind reader the same information that the sighted reader gets. It also exposed me to the advantages and challenges of working with publishers' files as opposed to print on paper. In my current job I coordinate courses for those seeking certification as Braille transcribers and proofreaders.
I have also taught Braille to blind students. For four years I worked as the Braille instructor at BLIND, Inc., teaching Braille to adults—some who were newly blinded and some who did not receive the Braille instruction they should have received as blind children. I learned much from working with these students through their struggles and successes.
Since the late 90s I have followed the discussions about the unification of the Braille codes with interest. I was not part of BANA at the time, but I read everything I could get my hands on about the origins and progress of the development of a unified code and the controversy surrounding it. Keeping an open mind, I attended the workshops, evaluated the samplers, and talked to as many people as I could who knew something about the issues. Ultimately I reached the conclusion that, although a code bringing together the literary, math, and computer codes was a good idea in theory, the benefits of doing so were not as great as the problems it would cause. I therefore agreed wholeheartedly with the resolutions we passed in 2002 opposing any drastic changes to Braille.
Since that time more access to refreshable Braille, the changes in communication technology for everyone, further developments in Braille unification efforts, and my involvement with the work of BANA have caused me to revise my view. During the late 90s and into the early 2000s, many of us had little experience with reading dynamically generated content in refreshable Braille. The Braille notetakers at the time were only just beginning to include mainstream connectivity features, so most of what we read with these devices, if we had access at all, was content we had written ourselves or which had been created specifically for use in Braille. Fast forward ten years—it is now possible for us to read the screens of some mainstream mobile devices in Braille, and we can type in contracted Braille on these same mainstream mobile devices and computers. What we type using six keys is no longer just for ourselves to read—we of any age can email it, text it, or even Braille into a document on which we are working together with a sighted colleague. These technological developments have tremendous potential to boost the support for Braille literacy of blind children and to increase the utility of Braille for all of us. It is more apparent to me now that some changes to our Braille codes would help us realize that potential more fully.
Knowledgeable Braille transcribers are essential, but much of the Braille available today is not produced by transcribers. Teachers of blind students must often spend significant time preparing Braille for their students. Any number of people who know how to operate a computer but are not trained in Braille are called upon to prepare Braille materials.
Although the words, numbers, and punctuation in an electronic book or other document may look perfect when reviewed in print format, many errors are usually introduced when the same document is electronically translated into Braille. If a person is preparing the document, he or she must manipulate certain details to eliminate these errors. In reading contracted Braille on a refreshable Braille display, such as when downloading an eBook from a mainstream bookseller or even reading the web, human intervention is not part of the equation, so these same errors find their way right to our fingertips. For example, without human intervention, email and web addresses usually do not display in computer code, so it can sometimes be unclear which characters are intended. If a symbol does not exist in current literary code, like the bullet or the "greater-than" symbol, that symbol is either written in words, skipped entirely, or displayed as a random unrelated Braille symbol. Dashes often show up as hyphens. The indicators required by Braille rules to show footnotes and end notes do not appear, and the usual print superscripting of the numbers is ignored, so the numbers show up at the ends of sentences without spaces. The current method used to deal with punctuation occurring in the middle of words creates some ambiguity for the reader about the actual symbol intended.
I could go on and on with these examples. It is true that experienced Braille users can figure these things out and work around them (often by relying on speech output to clear things up). The work-arounds pose more problems for children dealing with educational materials or other communication which is more frequently on the web or in other electronic format readily available to the student without the intervention of a trained transcriber. A teacher who often does not spend much time directly reading from a Braille display unless he or she is also blind may not be aware just how often errors and ambiguities appear in on-the-fly translation. Frequent exposure to such errors can undermine the process of learning correct Braille and of learning the material being read in Braille. Some changes to Braille itself would reduce the time and effort needed by people preparing Braille and by Braille readers themselves to deal with these fussy code details. Simply tweaking the current codes here and there would introduce different errors. The problems will just become worse, as they have over the last twenty years.
Problems in the current literary code--which, by the way, is officially called English Braille, American Edition (EBAE)--become even more apparent when a Braille user types Braille into a document and the Braille is backtranslated to print. Two categories of problems contribute here. First, even if the user follows the Braille code rules correctly, errors in backtranslation may still occur because of ambiguities in the code. Will the "dot 4 e" I typed translate as an accented e of some sort or as a euro symbol? If I type a word like "FanNation,” will the "dot 6 n" backtranslate as the intended capital N, or as "ation?" What about "k4"—will it come out as "kbled?" If I want to send a text mentioning the performer Will.I.Am, how do I avoid having my text say "WillddIddAmdd" or even just "WddIddAmdd?" The developers of backtranslation software work hard to keep the programs as accurate as possible, but, because of the state of current code, they often have to create a programming exception for each new brand name or word, since there is no systematic way to handle the problems. Yes, one can go through certain contortions to ensure that these and similar items turn out right in backtranslation, but one must first be aware of a possible problem and must be familiar with the work-arounds. One could also just do the typing on a QWERTY keyboard. However, writing is as important for developing literacy as is reading it. Braille-reading children need to type much of their schoolwork in Braille while at the same time letting their teachers or peers read it in print. The potential exists for anyone to work entirely in Braille while communicating with non-Braille-readers; it would go much better if we eliminated unnecessary reasons for errors.
The second category of backtranslation trouble occurs if the user does not know and apply the rules of the code perfectly. When we wrote Braille primarily for our own use, exact observance of the rules mattered much less. Now the user must have a better grasp of the rules and the exceptions. I have been involved in the judging of a number of Braille contests in which fluent Braille users put forth their best work to try to win the prizes. Although these Braille users obviously knew Braille well, in a surprising number of instances they did not follow the rules, and, if the work had been backtranslated, errors would have resulted. For instance, confusion sometimes arises over spacing between the words "in" and "the." In correct Braille, there is no space between the words "into" and "the,” and no space is left between words such as "and" and "the." In a number of cases Braille readers omit the space between the words "in" and "the," which is not permitted; a backtranslation would therefore also omit the space in print. For another example, certain contractions, such as the one for "con," are permitted to be used only at the beginning of words—with a few exceptions. Some Braille users, observing that the "con" contraction can be used within "O'Connor,” sometimes use the "con" contraction after a prefix such as in "inconvenient," yielding "inccvenient" in backtranslation. Again these are relatively small matters by themselves, but, if these things occur with fluent Braille readers, how much more must they occur for people still developing their Braille skills and working to apply what they are learning?
Some say that, if the Braille codes were made simpler, that might help teachers learn Braille better and be more inclined to teach it. I am fairly skeptical that code complexity has been a major barrier to Braille education. The negative attitudes about Braille in the education system (and in society in general) run much deeper. Of course I would love to be proven wrong in this belief and to see code changes cause more children to learn Braille, but I do not think we have enough evidence to assert improved Braille education as a reason to make code changes. However, some simplification of rules would be helpful to anyone who needs to write Braille that will be read in print.
Earlier I mentioned that some common print symbols currently have no representation in literary Braille. It seems baffling that, after all this time, we still have no consistent way to represent the + sign in EBAE. The reason is that the addition of any of the acceptable possibilities for this and other such symbols into the code as it currently exists would simply increase the conflicts and backtranslation problems we have just been discussing. For decades the BANA committee charged with updating the literary code—made up of Braille readers, teachers, and Braille producers with expertise in code development—has put in enormous amounts of time working to ensure that the literary code is adequate to express today's literary material without creating more conflicts within the literary code or with other codes currently in use. Since being more involved in BANA, I have been able to observe the struggles more closely. Their task is tremendous, and the current state of affairs remains unresolved, not because of the lack of effort and expertise, but because we have a code right now that is in a state much like a Scrabble board at the end of a game in which few if any openings are available to fit in new words.
While working on the literary code and various other projects such as tactile graphics guidelines, BANA has also continued to observe the development of Unified English Braille (UEB) as well as of the Nemeth Uniform Braille System (NUBS). Please see the BANA article mentioned earlier for more on the origins and history of these efforts. During the last ten years Braille readers from around the world have worked to make refinements and improvements to UEB. For example, the technical sampler that was distributed in the U.S. in the early 2000s is now out of date because of updates and improvements. On the website of the International Council on English Braille, the rule book for the code and guidelines for presentation of technical material are available for download by anyone. Although these publications are full of illustrative examples, remember that they are books about rules and are therefore not particularly compelling reading—just as is the case with our current EBAE rule book.
The basic characteristics of UEB were discussed in the BANA article. Another important feature, the misunderstanding of which has sometimes given people a negative impression of UEB, is its ability to show different typeforms, such as boldface, underlining, and the like. A common misconception is that these indicators would appear in everything, creating much distracting clutter. In fact, the UEB rules, like our current rules, call for most typeface indication in print to be ignored in Braille and used only when needed for emphasis and distinction. The different types of emphasis are needed for transcribing textbooks and other specific materials. These typeform indicators are also present in NUBS, with similar restrictions.
UEB is also capable of handling many types of technical material, even to the advanced level. The representation of these materials is, however, very different from what we use in the U.S. When the work was basically completed on the Nemeth Uniform Braille System two years ago, I eagerly studied the sampler and the rule book, hoping that the Nemeth Uniform Braille System would be the answer we had been seeking—a way to minimize the difficulties with the current literary code while preserving our tried-and-true system for working with math and science material. The basic features of NUBS are also discussed in the BANA article, and I will not repeat all of them here. NUBS is not simply our current literary Braille with lower numbers. It is my view that, although NUBS takes a systematic approach to addressing the problems and would offer some real benefits for working with technical material, it introduces some possible difficulties into material Brailled for everyday use.
As discussed in the BANA article, most Braille codes, including our current ones, use "modes,” in which a given Braille character has different meanings depending on which mode is in use. Mostly the everyday Braille reader need not pay much mind to modes because their application is quite intuitive. NUBS has two modes, narrative for normal literary material, and notational for numeric and technical material. Punctuation is different in the two modes—the comma, period, and colon are completely different, and the other marks of punctuation require an extra indicator in notational mode. The Braille learner must grasp the concept of these two modes right from the very beginning, because notational mode is not used just for math and technical material. It is used anytime a number is present—in a numbered list of spelling words, in references to time of day or money, in the mention of a year. It is also used in cases where no numbers are present—email addresses and middle initials, among others. The Braille user must be mindful of the two modes when writing, or backtranslation errors will creep in. To have two sets of punctuation throughout all texts creates more complexity for everyone. Additionally, NUBS uses a method for indicating accented letters that requires a special symbols page in order to give the reader information about the accents while avoiding a great deal of clutter in the text. The code therefore misses an opportunity to improve the experience of students learning foreign languages as well as providing the general reader better information about the accented letters used in English.
As we look for the right path forward for Braille readers in the United States, we need a solution that addresses the problems of current codes as much as possible but provides the flexibility to allow for agility and precision in the representation of both technical and non-technical material. Each of the challenges with current codes discussed above may not seem like a major issue by itself, but together they make it clear that some change is necessary. The conversation about code change has been going on for more than twenty years now, while mainstream technology, speech-based solutions, and print in general continue to change and grow. We all want and need for Braille to remain a vital part of this equation, and, if we can lay the right infrastructure, it will do so. We need a balance between universality and flexibility in the Braille codes, and we need a solution that moves us to a better state of affairs than currently exists. We must try to improve what can be improved without disrupting what need not be disrupted.
Given all the complex issues to consider in this decision, the path that seems the most reasonable to me would encompass these three elements: 1) adopt Unified English Braille to replace English Braille, American Edition and the computer Braille code as the standard for general-purpose materials; 2) maintain the current Nemeth Code for use in mathematical and technical material; and 3) develop a gradual implementation plan involving a minimum of disruption to the education of blind children, taking into account the needs of Braille users of all ages and walks of life and providing clear guidance to Braille producers and teachers about when to use which code.
It may be tempting to reject this solution out of hand because it seems to undermine most of the original goals for unifying the codes. It may be easy to think of reasons why it would not work. Yet, imperfect as it may be, I think it worth careful consideration. Even with two separate codes, if the general purpose code was optimized to meet the demands of today's "general purposes," and if the code optimized for math and science was maintained, we would be in a far better position than we are now. It would allow for time and space to learn more about the things we do not know while fixing some known problems and maintaining things that are known to work well. This strategy would allow us to develop and use every tool to facilitate blind students and professionals in STEM subjects.
Lest it seem that the current Nemeth Code would be left behind in the digital age, note that at least one Nemeth backtranslator is now in use. Also, regardless of the code used for technical materials, transcribers are still very much needed. Our technology and work with publishers' files has simply not advanced enough to eliminate the need. The educational materials produced for children must be accurate. We must still push to get school districts to understand the importance of certified transcribers.
I will not try to propose here what the implementation plan should look like, but the input of teachers, parents, transcribers, Braille readers, and others with an interest in Braille is needed. For a transcriber who has been trained in all the Braille rules and how to manipulate those dots on the computer screen to get them into print, the perception of these issues will be vastly different from that of a student working with a Braille display, trying to type her assignment for French class so that the teacher can read it, or even just trying to type an email address into her mobile phone. The perception will be different for a person who reads mostly books and magazines from the library, does not have a refreshable Braille display, and writes most Braille on paper or labeling tape. Parents and teachers of a child in a school district with plenty of access to Braille transcribers may experience these issues differently from a child in a district where the resources are few. Yet all of these perspectives are very important in making the decisions and crafting the implementation plan.
Let us not allow fear of change to hold us back but rather let us work together to use our energy to move Braille forward so that it remains an integral part of the work and lives of blind people for generations to come.
by Maxine Schrader
From the Editor: This informational and inspirational piece about Braille is taken from the Minnesota Bulletin, Winter 2012. It is a wonderful piece. Enjoy:
My six-year-old great granddaughter A’mya is the inspiration for this article. Whenever she sees Braille—in elevators, on doors, signs, ATM machines, and so forth—she loudly and proudly announces to the public “that’s Braille; my great grandma can read it!” What a little advocate she is.
Eighty-one years ago at the age of five, I touched my first Braille dots, and the magic began and will never end. Just like A’mya, I said, “That’s Braille!” At her age I could read, and the whole neighborhood knew it. The kids gathered on my porch, and I read the book, Old Mother Westwind and the Seven Little Breezes. After all these years I can recall that book and wonder if it still exists. I made sure that everyone on my block knew about Braille and its importance to my education.
Back in those days the textbooks were all Braille—no tapes, computers, CDs or any of this modern stuff, so there was no question or fuss about teaching Braille in the schools. Everyone learned to read and write Braille and was all the better for it.
As a teenager I read Gone with the Wind, the big book of that time. Because of Braille, I could stay current on the latest books and magazines and never miss a beat.
Now at eighty-six, I continue to be independent, and people kid me about all the Braille-marked things in my home: appliances, files, clothing, canned goods, albums, even lipsticks for their various shades. You name it; Braille is there.
Now when A’mya says “that’s Braille; my great grandma can read it,” I say “You betcha!”
Making a charitable gift can be one of the most satisfying experiences in life. Each year millions of people contribute their time, talent, and treasure to charitable organizations. When you plan for a gift to the National Federation of the Blind, you are not just making a donation; you are leaving a legacy that insures a future for blind people throughout the country. Special giving programs are available through the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).
Points to Consider When Making a Gift to the National Federation of the Blind
Benefits of Making a Gift to the NFB
Your Gift Will Help Us
Your gift makes you a part of the NFB dream!
by Brian Wentz, Paul T. Jaeger, and Jonathan Lazar
From the Editor: The following article is reprinted from the online journal First Monday, Volume 16, Number 11--7 November, 2011. The authors are all distinguished researchers. Dr. Brian Wentz is an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Information Technologies at Frostburg State University. His research interests include human computer interaction, accessibility, user-centered design, social computing, policy implications of accessibility and usability, and making business practices more accessible. His doctorate is in information technology from Towson University. Dr. Paul Jaeger is assistant professor and co-director of the Information Policy and Access Center in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. His research focuses on the ways in which law and public policy shape information behavior. He is the author of more than one hundred journal articles and book chapters, along with seven books. His research has been funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Science Foundation, American Library Association, Smithsonian Institution, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Jaeger is the Associate Editor of Library Quarterly and co-editor of the Information Policy Book Series from MIT Press. Dr. Jonathan Lazar is a professor of computer and information sciences, director of the Undergraduate Program in Information Systems, and director of the Universal Usability Laboratory at Towson University. He teaches and does research in human-computer interaction—specifically, web usability, web accessibility, user-centered design methods, assistive technology, and public policy in human-computer interaction. He has published five books. He serves on the editorial boards of Interacting with Computers, Universal Access in the Information Society, and ACM Interactions Magazine and serves on the executive board of the Friends of the Maryland Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Dr. Lazar was a winner of the 2011 University System of Maryland Regents Award for Public Service, and a winner of the 2010 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award from the National Federation of the Blind. For general readability we have removed the bibliographic citations and the notes and references. You can read the complete text at <http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3666/3077> by using the archive search box.
A warning to readers seems in order: this article is long and in parts somewhat technical. Understanding that articles must first and foremost be interesting, that technology issues seem hardly relevant to some, and that understanding the law can be almost overwhelming to those not trained in the profession, we nevertheless print this article and urge that all advocates who are serious about confronting the civil rights challenges of this decade and perhaps this century read carefully what is here. Take breaks when you must; reread things that don't at first make sense, but please consider the warning here that, if we fail to address the technological challenges facing us and the underlying attitudinal problems that allow them to persist, we risk becoming a permanent underclass. The best insurance against this catastrophe is the National Federation of the Blind, you and me. Here is the article:
For people with disabilities equal access to information, communication, and related technologies defines many of the civil rights concerns in the age of the World Wide Web. With Internet and web-based content now central to education, employment, entertainment, socialization, and civic engagement, unequal access to the content and technologies necessary for social participation results in very significant virtual segregation. Despite the fact that the Obama administration began the federal government’s first concerted effort to enforce online accessibility in 2010, those with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities face significant differences in levels of access to and on the Internet due to the widespread inaccessibility of its content and of the software and hardware necessary for online access.
Issues of electronic accessibility for people with disabilities have meaning to a large part of the population. In the United States 54.4 million people have a disability (18.7 percent of the overall population in 2005), while the number of persons with disabilities worldwide is more than 550 million. Disability does increase with age—13 percent of people age twenty-one to sixty-four have a disability, but 53 percent of those over seventy-five have a disability. The number of Americans age fifty-five or older is increasing rapidly as a percentage of the total population; as a result the number of persons with disabilities will grow significantly in the next few years as the baby boom generation ages.
Technologies that are inherently designed to be inclusive of all users regardless of ability are known as accessible technologies or universally usable technologies. For a technology to be accessible, it needs to be usable in an equal manner by all users regardless of specific senses or abilities. It should also be compatible with assistive technologies, such as narrators, scanners, enlargement, voice-activated technologies, refreshable Braille, and other devices. The use of different assistive technology varies widely between individuals based not only on type and scope of impairment, but also a range of factors related to personality, environment, support, and nature of the technology itself. However, even when assistive technology is an available and functional solution, it is an extra cost faced by people with disabilities that other users do not face.
Nothing about technology makes it inherently accessible or inaccessible. Most of today’s technologies are digital, meaning that they are made up of zeros and ones, and there is nothing inherently visual or auditory about zeros and ones. Digital information is not inherently accessible or inaccessible, but the choices made by those developing and implementing technology determine whether a technology will ultimately be accessible or inaccessible. This is particularly true online, given the rapid pace of technological change and introduction of new web-enabled technologies, since online technologies are often obsolete before they are made accessible.
Online accessibility has been most commonly studied in websites since they have been around far longer than social media or mobile devices. However, the growing use of these newer technologies by governments, schools, and corporations makes the focus on born-accessible technologies more important, as the online environment becomes more communication-based and more central to everyday information behavior. While most of the research has been focused thus far on websites, this paper examines the range of technologies and tools related to online environment because policy changes will need to address all of these technologies to create an inclusive and accessible online environment.
Over the brief history of the web, access to and use of the Internet by people with disabilities has been consistently approximately half that of the rest of the population. In 2011 54 percent of adults with disabilities used the Internet, while 81 percent of other adults did. People with disabilities who do regularly use the Internet also lag behind in quality of access, with 41 percent of adults with disabilities living in homes with broadband access, in contrast to 69 percent of the rest of the population. A 2010 study similarly found that broadband adoption by persons with disabilities was two-thirds the national average and that people with disabilities who have broadband engage in a much smaller range of online activities as a result of accessibility issues. People with disabilities who live in nonmetropolitan areas have the lowest Internet use of any population in the United States.
Given the importance of the Internet in education and employment, such differences in access have serious ramifications for the opportunities available to people with disabilities. A 2011 study found that 46 percent of adults with disabilities live in a household with U.S. $30,000 or less in annual income, in contrast to 26 percent of the rest of the population. Similarly, 61 percent of adults with a disability had only high school education or less, while only 40 percent of other adults did. Those with disabilities also face unemployment at levels three times higher than the rest of the population and suffer similar gaps in educational attainment.
In 2005 81 percent of individuals without disabilities were employed full or part-time, compared to only 32 percent of those with disabilities. A 2008 study found that the employment rate of working-age people with disabilities was 39.5 percent, and the full-time employment rate was 25.4 percent. For some types of disability the gaps in employment are even higher—for people considered to have a severe disability by the Census Bureau, 69.3 percent are unemployed and 27.1 percent live in poverty, more than three times the national average. Yet 75 percent of people with disabilities who are not employed want to work. Only 30 percent of high school graduates with disabilities enroll in college, compared with 40 percent of the general population; one year after high school graduation, only 10 percent of students with disabilities are still enrolled in two-year colleges, while only 5 percent are still enrolled in four-year colleges. While accessibility is well served by designers who are motivated to include or focus on accessibility in their product designs (whether physical or electronic), this article primarily focuses on the impact that laws and regulations can have on encouraging or even discouraging accessible design.
An accessible web offers potential opportunities to shift these disparities significantly because the promise of telecommuting and telework, online courses, and social networking includes the ability to get an education, be employed, and engage in social activities, regardless of the barriers of the physical world. In light of these considerable potential benefits, the federal government has passed a series of laws and regulations—most notably the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, the E-government Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)—that promote online accessibility for people with disabilities.
However, since the advent of the World Wide Web in the mid-1990s, equal access to information and communication technologies has grown increasingly untenable for people with disabilities because the introduction and evolution of technologies has accelerated to the point that most new technologies introduced are obsolete before they become accessible. Ironically, the reasons that most technologies are born inaccessible to people with disabilities can be found in the very legislation designed to promote access. Key components of disability rights laws—levels of proof of disability, means of pursuing claims of inaccessibility, options for parallel versions, and exceptions for undue burden—all perversely perpetuate barriers to online accessibility, making the web a separate but unequal environment for people with disabilities.
Due to these components of the laws, existing disability laws empower a culture of retrofitting rather than early planning or even long-range planning, much in the way long-term zoning is done with building and land development in order to reach a goal that may seem to be in the distant future. As a result the accepted approach seems to be to satisfy the minimum requirements only after attention to the inaccessibility is noted, usually in the context of active discrimination against people with disabilities. If the Internet is to fulfill its promise of providing new levels of inclusion for people with disabilities, the barriers to equal access need to be eradicated. Otherwise the opportunities for social inclusion that people with disabilities have fought so hard to win over the past half century will recede as participation in education, employment, government, and society as a whole become less possible due to technological barriers. The failure to address issues of accessibility for those with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities ultimately threatens to segregate people with disabilities as the permanent second-class citizens of the information age.
This article will examine the components of disability rights laws that perpetuate a separate but unequal environment online. Against the backdrop of the current enforcement activities of the Obama administration, the paper will examine the underlying access assumptions of disability rights law in contrast with the access assumptions of other forms of civil rights laws. The paper will then examine the legal mechanisms that result in after-the-fact accessibility, retrofitting accessibility—not always successfully—into products that would have been better for all users had they been accessible from the outset. Finally, the article will offer a set of policy recommendations that should be considered in light of the Obama administration’s engagement with online accessibility.
In many ways 2010 stands as a watershed year in the struggle for equal online access for people with disabilities. The Departments of Education and Justice took the unique step of issuing a joint statement to educational institutions to say that the use of inaccessible e-book readers and similar devices by elementary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions (without providing any accommodations) was a violation of the ADA and Section 504. This statement followed a series of settlement agreements in which universities agreed to desist from the use of inaccessible e-book readers for course readings, such as the agreement that ended the lawsuit filed by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB) against Arizona State University (ASU), which had been using the inaccessible Kindle e-book reader in courses.
In March 2010 the U.S. Access Board released a draft version of the new Section 508 guidelines and made them available for public comment. The intent was to harmonize, update, clarify, and refocus the requirements by the functionality of technologies, instead of by product type, to account for the range of features in many products. The guidelines will also expand the ADA requirements to include self-service machines used for retail transactions and will incorporate the principles of the WCAG 2.0. If these guidelines are implemented as intended, the principles of accessibility will be strengthened considerably under the law, though they continue to focus primarily on sensory and mobility impairments.
In the fall of 2010 President Obama signed into law the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. Among other qualities the law requires:
At the same time the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it would be engaging in efforts to promote Internet access for persons with disabilities, including the very worthy goals of increasing accessibility of government and educational websites. The DOJ also began pursuing a series of revisions to the ADA to account for changes in technology and society since the passage of the law. These updates include accessibility of movie theaters, design of furniture, access to 911, and website accessibility. The last is the most significant change, because it clarifies ADA coverage including the websites of all entities covered by the ADA: local governments, state governments, and places of public accommodation. As far back as the 1990s, the DOJ had stated that the ADA applied to websites of state and local government and public accommodations. However, no technical standards or guidance were provided within the ADA regulations. These strengthened regulations will be of value only if they are actually complied with, monitored, and enforced.
All of these efforts to effect more accessible content, software, and hardware are important steps in advancing equal access online. And such advances are needed. In studies of the top 100 companies and the top 100 nonprofit groups in the United States, only 6 percent of corporations and only 10 percent of nonprofit organizations were found to have accessible home pages. In 2009 fewer than 10 percent of leading corporate and e-commerce sites were found to be free of accessibility barriers, while similarly low percentages of government sites are accessible for people with disabilities. However, these efforts do not challenge the underlying issues of the construction of disability rights laws that perpetuate unequal access online. As a result, even if all of these efforts are successful, they are not likely to correct the larger problems that promote and enable an unequal online environment. Schmetzke has compiled a noncomprehensive listing of other similar studies in the U.S. and throughout the world. Table 1 includes a sample of studies in the U.S. concerning the lack of website accessibility that are referenced throughout this paper.
Table 1: Sample of Studies on Website Accessibility Referenced in this Paper.
Percentage of inaccessible sites found
50 Government website home pages
Loiacono, et al.
Government, nonprofit organizations, and corporate websites
77%, 89%, 94% respectively
Olalere and Lazar
Rubaii–Barrett and Wise
State government websites
People with disabilities are treated with greater differences under the law than any other minority group in the United States. These differences are the primary driver of the levels of inaccessibility that individuals with disabilities face online, creating challenges in the law to enforcement of equality that no other minority populations must attempt to navigate. As a result of these differences, civil rights laws have been considerably more effective for other disadvantaged populations in creating enforceable rights and, perhaps more significantly, in cultivating belief in the validity and importance of those rights. Conversely, the legal approach taken thus far toward accessibility for people with disabilities reinforces the notion that equality of people with disabilities is less important than equality for other traditionally disadvantaged populations.
For much of the law establishing the rights of various minority populations, the rejection of the separate-but-equal mentality, articulated in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, serves as the core foundation of protection for being included. As a result, under most civil rights laws, the expressed goal is the creation of environments, services, and technologies that equally include of all populations. All civil rights laws in the United States—with the exception of disability rights laws—are based on an anti-differentiation approach, meaning that anyone has protections under the law if he or she is being discriminated against. Thus laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, or age protect all citizens from any of these forms of discrimination and give all citizens standing to identify and challenge such discrimination, regardless of whether they are the direct victims of the discrimination.
In contrast, disability rights laws in the United States have been built on an anti-subordination approach, meaning that rights are available only if one is a member of the legally defined class of people protected and can prove that one is a member of the class. Thus people with disabilities are the only group that has active responsibility under the law to enforce their own rights and petition for equality when it is not already available. This difference means that disability rights laws are much harder to enforce, since people with disabilities must first prove that they have standing under the law, something no other population must do under civil rights laws.
In most cases the main recourse for people with disabilities is to file a discrimination claim in the court system. For discrimination claims against private entities, the cases enter the civil court system, while discrimination claims against federal government agencies enter the administrative law courts. Claims against state and local governments can go straight to civil court or can be filed with an enforcement agency for investigation. This approach places a curious burden on people with disabilities to be able to afford legal counsel and have the time to file a case to assert their rights. People with disabilities are also the only population required to prove their qualifications under the law to file a disability discrimination claim. Many cases filed under disability rights law are actually dismissed because the courts have taken a very narrow perspective as to who should be covered by the law, frequently not allowing cases to be heard because the court decides that the plaintiff is not “sufficiently disabled” or something similar. Although “discrimination law has a weak history of enforcement” due to budgetary, bureaucratic, and administrative constraints, these issues are particularly prominent in disability rights. Another barrier to enforcement is the fact that people with disabilities cannot receive damages against private entities under the ADA.
Given these requirements, courts have not been generally receptive to disability discrimination cases. Cases filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act are lost up to 96 percent of the time. The only litigants less successful in court than people claiming disability discrimination are prisoner plaintiffs, who rarely have representation by counsel. Perhaps more significantly, the U.S. Supreme Court has spent the last two decades significantly limiting the disability rights laws passed by the U.S. Congress, and many state courts and state legislatures have followed the lead of the Supreme Court. Many states have changed state disability rights laws to mirror the limitations imposed by the Supreme Court on federal laws, while other states have strengthened state laws to counter the rulings of the Supreme Court. Most distressingly, the majority opinion in a 2001 Supreme Court decision on disability dismisses the history of discrimination against people with disabilities as exaggerated and inconsequential.
This anti-subordination approach to disability rights also results in many laws allowing or directly encouraging the creation of separate versions in many contexts. Under various disability rights laws, buildings, public services, educational settings, and technologies—along with many other examples—can occur in separate versions for people with disabilities and for everyone else. The result of this approach is the creation of two separate versions of ways to do the same thing, such as stairs and ramps or the creation of an after-the-fact accessible version available perhaps years after the inaccessible version. This approach serves as an acceptance of separate but equal, a concept Brown seemingly rejected for all populations. While this situation raises numerous concerns for disability rights, the example of technology provides an example in which the significant problems of this approach are made extremely clear.
Over the years higher education has provided many examples of users with disabilities being forced to lobby for changes that are needed. In 1996 a complaint was filed at the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education against California State University (Los Angeles) for the failure to provide blind and low-vision students access to library, publications, computer labs, and accessible testing. This was, of course, a result of these students bringing these issues to the surface and in this case even then not immediately receiving proper satisfaction. Another example, in 1999, is the class-action lawsuit brought against the University of California Berkeley and Davis campuses concerning the lack of accommodations for students with hearing impairments. More recently Pennsylvania State University made headlines when the National Federation of the Blind filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education alleging that blind students and faculty were unable to access resources, including the library website, many departmental websites, the course management system, “smart” podiums in the classrooms, and student banking through PNC Bank. Once again these known accessibility problems would have continued without correction if individuals with disabilities were not proactively advocating for their own rights. Problems like those seen at Penn State are likely to be common today at many other colleges and universities as well.
E-commerce websites and other providers of commercial technology products often take the same approach to accessibility. An example from the late 1990s is that of AOL and the lawsuit brought by blind individuals concerning problems with the accessibility of its products. In 2004 Priceline.com and Ramada.com made a settlement with the State of New York regarding the lack of accessibility of their websites. The settlement between the National Federation of the Blind and Target is another well-known example. In this case the commercial website Target.com was noted to be inaccessible to individuals with visual disabilities.
The transportation industry has been a notorious example of this problem. As early as 2002 Southwest Airlines was involved in a lawsuit over the accessibility of their website in a case which was eventually dismissed. Also in 2002 the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority was sued because its website was inaccessible to individuals with visual disabilities. This case, rather than being dismissed like the Southwest Airlines case, became early proof that the ADA applies to website access for individuals with disabilities. More recently (in 2010) United Airlines was sued over the inaccessibility of its airport kiosks (Standen, 2010), and this was again because of advocacy by individuals with disabilities. Even after this series of cases, however, many airlines do not comply with regulations related to disability, and some apparently remain unaware of the relevant regulations.
The notion of parallel versions and after-the-fact fixes can be found in the first major disability rights law. Having a tremendous positive impact on the accessibility of construction in the United States, the Architectural Barriers Act in 1968 set standards for accessibility in future construction and retrofitting requirements for existing buildings. However, it also established the basic approach in which changes to existing structures are generally made only after complaints have been filed.
The disability rights laws that have followed over time, including Section 504, IDEA, ADA, the Telecommunications Act, and Section 508, all take a similar approach to accessibility, allowing for parallel versions and after-the-fact accessibility in different contexts, from classroom education to mobile phones. IDEA promotes integration of students with disabilities but allows for segregation of many students with disabilities into separate classes or schools. Some interpretations of Section 508 seem to allow government agencies to have a separate, accessible website for people with disabilities and a primary website for everybody else, but Title II of the ADA specifically mandates integration of people with disabilities. Though there are exceptions—for example, the Library Services Construction Act (LSCA) tied receipt of funds to making library buildings and services more accessible—the overall canon of disability rights law is built on the notion that making things accessible is a process of parallelism. Even if this approach successfully results in parallel versions for persons with disabilities and for everyone else, the goal is one of separate but equal. The oblique but inherent truth of disability rights law is that it allows, even endorses, a separate but equal approach to accessibility.
Separate, however, is still not equal. In practice this parallelism does not always occur, much less occur successfully. In the case of information and communication technologies, the speed of change in the creation of new technologies and in the change between versions of existing technologies demonstrates the inherent problem in a parallelism approach. “The introduction of new technologies sees people with disabilities overlooked, omitted, neglected, and not considered.” The distance between writing and writing systems for people with visual impairments can be measured in millennia. The gap between typeset printed books and Braille and Talking Books was nearly half a millennium. More recent developments, like TTD/TTY services and closed captioning, came decades after mass production of the telephone and television. Even when separate websites are created, the version for people with disabilities is frequently far inferior in content and functionality to the standard version of the site.
The federal government itself is a prime example of these delays. In 1998, then President Clinton signed into law Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which mandates accessible online materials and the use of accessible technologies by federal government agencies. The law was to have been fully implemented by 2001. A wide range of studies has shown low levels of compliance with the law, often with single-digit percentages of the websites studied compliant. Both the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s “National Broadband Plan” and the National Council on Disability’s “National Disability Policy: A Progress Report” noted the continuing widespread failure of the federal government to comply with Section 508 requirements. The report equates noncompliance with Section 508 and the common inaccessibility of commercial websites. As noted above, in the summer of 2010, DOJ announced it planned to query the government agencies as to the accessibility of their sites. They did not plan actually to evaluate the accessibility of the sites, but instead to ask the agencies to tell them how accessible the sites are.
While this is a bit surprising, this is the same method used to evaluate Section 508 compliance when compliance activities were actually being done in 2001. The regulations require the DOJ to evaluate compliance with Section 508 every two years, starting in 2001. While the 2001 compliance survey was completed and data posted on the Web, the DOJ indicated that a compliance report was done in 2003, but never posted that data. No further compliance activities have been done since then. The summer 2010 memo on 508 compliance noted that the compliance activities required by the law will commence again in September 2010, but the survey was actually sent out in February 2011. These efforts are the first attention given to Section 508 compliance since 2003, many years after agencies were supposed to have been in compliance.
In the age of the Internet, the average time between the introduction of a new information technology and the availability of a version that is accessible to people with disabilities is three years. This may sound like a tremendous improvement over previous technologies, but technological change happens so rapidly that the gap might as well be measured in millennia. The accessible versions of information and communication technologies are often made available long after a technology is current or are never made at all, since the cycle of change is faster than the cycle of creation of accessible versions. As a result, retrofitting accessibility into technologies frequently never occurs. When it does happen, it often does not work as well as it would have if the technology had been born accessible.
Some products are intentionally made inaccessible when introduced as a commercial decision. For example, though portable e-book readers can easily be built with the capability to verbalize the text of the e-books, often they are not. Amazon’s Kindle reader has the capability, but, when it was launched, the speech function was blocked in most of the titles available for the reader, and the navigation options were limited for users with visual and mobility impairments. And, as newer versions of the Kindle were introduced, they included text-to-speech capabilities for book content, but the menus and controls themselves were not accessible. A number of major universities planned to start using Kindle for textbooks, and that number continues to grow without consideration of the implications for students and faculty with visual and mobility impairments. Threats of lawsuit from a number of disability rights groups were required to change the attitudes of Amazon and the universities, though people with disabilities were mocked on technology blogs and websites—and on Amazon’s own website—for fighting for equal access to the Kindle. Educational institutions were even more enthusiastic to adopt the Blackboard online course software, which was predominantly inaccessible when it was launched and only became disability-friendly ten years later. The e-reader barriers stubbornly persist. Even after the letter was sent out by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice in 2010, the newest version of the Kindle, the Kindle Fire, is not accessible for people with visual impairments.
The launch of an inaccessible product and then a later accessible one, even if it ultimately results in a universally usable product, is still a glaring form of inequality, since people with disabilities are excluded during the time gap between inaccessibility and accessibility. Another approach is the creation of parallel versions—one accessible and the other inaccessible. This approach can be seen in the creation of two versions of the same website or in the creation of a fully functional product and a light version of the product with fewer capacities for people with disabilities to use.
Yahoo Mail Classic, Outlook Web Access 2007 Light, and the “basic HTML” version of Gmail are good examples of this. Yahoo recommends that users of assistive technology use the Yahoo Mail Classic version of its web-based email interface rather than the current version of the Yahoo Mail interface, even though the two web-based interfaces do not have all of the same features. Due to accessibility problems with its standard web-based interface for accessing corporate email, Microsoft recommends that users who are blind, have low vision, or require screen magnification use a different interface called Outlook Web Access “light.” This version of the web-based email interface is not consistent with the features provided by the standard version of Outlook Web Access. Google recommends its “basic HTML” version of Gmail as the best version that has compatibility for screen readers, yet it is missing features, including spell check and the ability to manage contacts.
Another common example is maintaining a separate, text-only version of a website. Many organizations select this as a way to avoid maintaining a single, accessible interface, and the current version of Section 508, as well as the previous version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the W3C (WCAG 1.0), seem to permit this. However, Section 508 notes that separate, text-only pages are an alternative only as a last resort and must be updated consistently with the primary webpage. Also the newest version of WCAG (2.0) no longer provides an allowance for separate, text-only interfaces. Some examples of separate, text-only websites include the MTA, New York City Transit, some government websites, and some university websites. Some universities and other organizations rely on products like Usablenet Assistive from the company UsableNet, which attempts to convert current website content dynamically into a text-only format.
Another pathway in separate but unequal can be found in what might be called an accessible-upon-request approach. Once again, higher education provides painfully apt examples. “Colleges that wouldn’t dare put up a new building without wheelchair access now routinely roll out digital services that, for blind people, are the Internet equivalent of impassible stairs.” For example, the new Facebook-based virtual student union at Arizona State University that was made to increase a sense of community among students is inaccessible for students using screen readers, but the developers would apparently be willing to make it accessible if there are sufficient complaints. As mentioned previously, in late 2010 Pennsylvania State University had a complaint filed against it with the U.S. Department of Education, stating that the University engaged in “pervasive and ongoing discrimination” against students and faculty with disabilities due to inaccessible websites, library catalogue, departmental websites, and course management software that were often adopted with the notion that they might be made accessible at some undetermined point in the future.
But other universities have had success in addressing technology accessibility. For instance, the California State University system had an Accessible Technology Initiative, in which it refused to adopt software or hardware products systemwide until companies such as Apple, Google, and Blackboard made their products accessible for students with disabilities. Because of the large procurements involved (the CSU system has an estimated 430,000 students), the system was able to pressure the technology companies to make their products more accessible. Unfortunately, the status of the California Accessible Technology Initiative is unclear now due to state budget cuts. Due to all of the attention being paid to technology accessibility on campus, perhaps it should not be a surprise that the U.S. Department of Justice has recently begun to focus greater attention on the inaccessibility of postsecondary education websites.
The largest driver of inequality, however, is probably the concept known as “undue burden.” Under all of the disability laws, covered entities, both public and private, can claim that the requested accommodation is not financially or practically reasonable and thereby an undue burden under the law. If the accommodation is an undue burden, then the entity does not need to provide the accommodation. Corporate and public entities both tend to make very wide claims about what constitutes an undue burden, and courts tend to believe pretty much any claim of an undue burden. Corporations in particular have employed this exemption liberally as a defense against making any accessible versions of information technologies, including both the means to access the Internet and the websites on the Internet. Yet reliance on industry standards is insufficient to promote accessibility, and disability rights laws cannot be revised fast enough to match technological change at this point. As a result, the passage of Section 508 did not lead to major changes.
A potential reason why government technology did not become accessible, despite the Section 508 law, is that the focus on enforcement tended to be in procurement procedures, which is an indirect approach, and most websites are developed in-house, not acquired through contractual procurements. Furthermore, a piece of hardware that is procured is accessible or inaccessible upon purchase and generally does not change status until someone takes an action, whereas a website is a living, breathing information source that changes on a daily basis and therefore may be accessible one day and inaccessible another day. The procurement approach to monitoring accessibility simply does not work for websites, which need to have regular, ongoing evaluation for compliance with Section 508.
The burden-of-proof statements in IDEA and Section 504 certainly may contribute to the chronic lack of accessibility and proactive measures to address it at colleges and universities. Two examples illustrate this attitude. A quote from the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) on a webpage that discusses disability services states the following: “civil rights laws and the reasonable accommodations they call for are in no way intended—nor are they able to guarantee success. At most, a student can expect a more equal chance to do the same work as their peers ... . In higher education—as well as in employment, public services and public accommodations—the individual with a disability bears the burden of proof.” During the legal controversy over the accessibility of the Amazon Kindle and afterward, representatives from Cornell University have also voiced a similar attitude. When complaints were raised by blind students regarding the inaccessibility of websites and email at Cornell, although the University agreed to address the problems, the statement by the associate university counsel implied that Cornell had a responsibility to provide accessibility only upon request, rather than preemptively.
Essentially individuals with disabilities are expected to request accessibility, wait for it to happen, and then potentially be granted access to resources at a later time, which would inherently provide an unequal advantage to individuals without disabilities. This often happens to students when it comes to access to textbooks. Students with print disabilities need to have access to course textbooks at the same time as their fellow students. However, they often receive an accessible version of their course textbooks (e.g., an electronic version of their textbook or a large-print or Braille version), in the middle of the academic semester (such as seven weeks into a 15-week semester) or sometimes after the semester ends. Clearly students with disabilities are then at a disadvantage compared to their classmates who do not have disabilities. A delay in access to information is automatically discrimination.
There are many examples of the expense involved in retrofitting physical structures to address accessibility. The cost of accessibility when carefully planned and designed is almost zero. However, extreme challenges and significant expenses are often involved in the process of retrofitting an existing website for accessibility. To illustrate the challenges and potential costs, retrofitting a simple Tic-Tac-Toe computer game for accessibility resulted in the lines of code growing from 192 to 1,412. This type of retrofit would be time-consuming and costly, compared to a project started with universal access in mind. If the application were designed with accessibility in mind, the design could have done it with fewer statements of code.
A good example of the problems raised by retrofitting is the London subway system. While newer stations on the system are designed with accessibility in mind, older stations that were not so designed are not yet all accessible due to the technical difficulties and costs involved. Another example is the Singapore metro system. A report in 2004 noted the growing population of individuals with disabilities and the need to retrofit the metro system to accommodate them. The report noted that the cost of incorporating accessibility into new construction was minimal compared to the astronomical costs associated with retrofitting the system years later. For technology the pattern is very similar. The cost of retrofitting inaccessible design can sometimes be difficult, resource-intensive, and costly compared to the cost involved in creating accessible designs from the onset. Accessibility and usability have also been shown to add other value to products—as much as a 100-fold return on investment, according to early research.
People with disabilities, in fact, can serve as an excellent customer base for accessible products. They control discretionary funds that are more than twice those of teens and more than seventeen times greater than those of tweens, the two demographic groups currently most coveted by businesses. E-commerce use demonstrates the impact of accessible shopping options. While 53 percent of Internet users with disabilities engage in e-commerce activities—far lower than the 68 percent of other Internet users who shop online—online shoppers with disabilities are more loyal to a smaller number of sites.
Generally, industries have reacted to online accessibility requirements with “outright opposition, passive ignorance, acts of omission, or unwillingness to embrace required change.” In many cases corporations view people with disabilities as a niche market that they are not interested in or do not think it worth the effort to design for. Sadly, few businesses view people with disabilities as an important market or see public relations benefits from meeting the needs of people with disabilities. Developers and business owners are therefore unlikely to make changes unless they are legally bound to do so. With a minority of exceptions, providing accessibility is ignored in favor of faster market entrance for a product or simply because of long-standing assumptions regarding the need for accessibility and the cost of creating accessible products.
The most frequently cited reasons for not providing accessible technologies are that incorporating accessibility into the technology will:
While none of these claims are accurate, these stances are made possible, if not indirectly encouraged, by the federal laws that provide exemptions for undue burden, promote the creation of parallel versions of products, and embrace the anti-subordination approach to disability rights. Because born-accessibility is not required, retrofitting for accessibility has become the default approach for most in the private, nonprofit, and public organizations.
While the discussion above reveals many of the gaps in online access—equal or at all—for persons with disabilities that have resulted from the current approach of retrofitting, a more tangible example may help to illustrate the resistance to accessibility that individuals with disabilities often encounter. Shopping centers built before a certain time did not have the curb cuts that facilitate access for wheelchair users as well as people with carts or luggage, parents with strollers, bicyclists, and many other unintended beneficiaries. The placement of curb cuts added to older shopping centers often reflects a lack of interest in making them effective, such as placing them far from the designated parking spaces that wheelchair users would likely use, reflecting the fact that retail associations consistently oppose disability rights legislation.
This same obstructionist spirit is often reflected in the resistance to accessibility online. Retrofitting for accessibility often occurs only begrudgingly, after sufficient complaints are made, normally many years after the accessible version is made available. If a parallel version is created to provide for accessibility, it often has fewer features and capabilities, offers far less content, and is frequently out of date. The combination of these attitudes and the approach of the law has resulted in disastrous consequences in equal access online for persons with disabilities.
Despite the fact that the focus of this discussion is on legal and policy approaches and adjustments necessary to prioritize equitable accessibility, we would be remiss in not mentioning that regardless of the policy framework and legal environment, it is still incumbent on our society as a whole to educate developers to incorporate and understand accessibility better. Lack of training and tools has been a rationale of developers for excluding accessibility, so the computing and educational communities must continue both to publicize training and tools and make them widely available. We also need to encourage a culture of such social responsibility that corporations no longer feel rewarded for prioritizing early technology advancements over innovative yet accessible technology. It has also been suggested that a corporation’s attitudes and actions towards web accessibility may be a strong indicator of its commitment to other areas of corporate social responsibility and that a lack of commitment to accessibility can actually overshadow other positive efforts toward social responsibility. The dream of born-accessible technology motivated by social responsibility is, however, dependent upon the virtues of both developers and corporations, which may not always have social responsibility as part of their bottom line, and this is where strong public policies are of utmost importance.
Social responsibility can be fostered by other groups as well. Educators that work with students training to become developers—such as computer science faculty—could work to incorporate accessibility into curricula, so that all developers are prepared to make accessible products and understand that accessibility is the socially responsible approach to development. Researchers in fields related to accessibility—such as computer science, information science, sociology, public policy, and communication—could also support a culture of online accessibility by producing more research to show the impact of inaccessibility on people with disabilities, to support the development of accessible products, and to study policy options related to accessibility.
The greatest driver of increasing focus on and attention to the social responsibility of accessibility would likely be the federal government. Significant conceptual changes to policy approaches to accessibility would demonstrate a greater commitment to online accessibility that would be a major statement to developers and corporations. The next section proposes policy changes that could help foster a culture of social responsibility in accessibility.
It has been suggested that the most effective Internet accessibility policy might focus on one of the core principles of the online environment--equity. For people with disabilities the policy approaches thus far have served more to reinforce inequality than to create equal access online. Because the social impacts of disability are closely tied to the choices society makes about disability, equal access online will be achievable only when federal government policy unequivocally asserts guarantees for accessible websites, social media tools, mobile devices, and all other aspects of the online environment. Better efforts to mitigate controllable risks can reduce the impacts of disability, but the failure to address systematic barriers to people with disabilities will result in ever-increasing social costs.
Unfortunately, the way that the disability rights law currently stands allows the practices of private, nonprofit, and public entities to undermine the overarching goals of the law concerning accessible technology. By permitting the general approach of retrofitting for accessibility through the combination of the anti-subordination approach, the exemptions for undue burden, and the acceptance of parallel versions of products, the law encourages the creation of inaccessible information and communication technologies that may eventually become accessible, but often do not. The current state of the law allows for separate but equal, but usually results in simply unequal.
The resulting current levels of Internet accessibility for people with disabilities are the direct result of policy choices made in the levels of accessibility expected, the ways in which the policies can be enforced, and the levels of effort put into enforcement. If people with disabilities are to move from being the most disadvantaged population online to equal residents of cyberspace, the philosophical approach of disability rights law needs to evolve. This evolution hinges on a rejection of the mentality of retrofitting and separate but equal, incentivizing instead a philosophy that emphasizes born-accessible technologies that are designed to be inherently inclusive of people with disabilities.
Such a change would not be a minor policy adjustment, however; it would necessitate a comprehensive, across-the-board reevaluation of the language of all disability rights laws. To alter the philosophical approach to accessibility, the changes to the laws should be based on a strong and clear legislative mandate that discourages retrofitting and instead shifts significantly more weight toward planning for accessibility and implementing accessibility early in the design and beyond only the minimum that will satisfy the law for today.
Specific changes would need to include:
These would clearly be significant changes to existing laws and regulations. However, as the current state of accessibility demonstrates, major changes are needed if people with disabilities are to have an equal role in the age of the Internet.
Such policy changes would likely face resistance in the quarters that have traditionally fought against increases in rights for people with disabilities. Industry organizations, government agencies, and certain conservative members of Congress previously argued against the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA, primarily on economic grounds. Similar concerns were raised against online accessibility when the requirements of Section 508 were supposed to have been implemented. However, people with disabilities have overcome resistance to previous increases in their legal rights through organized support of changes to the law, and there is no reason to believe that they would be unable to support further changes to the law actively. Given that online inaccessibility disadvantages most people with disabilities in one way or another, large numbers of people with disabilities would have strong incentives to support these policy changes actively.With the enormous potential benefits that an accessible Internet could provide to people with disabilities—online education offering greater opportunities for higher education and better jobs, telecommuting and telework offering meaningful employment options, and social networking offering new ways to engage in social activities regardless of the barriers of the physical world—it is possible that no population could benefit more from the Internet than people with disabilities. These benefits will remain in the realm of the potential, however, until disability rights laws shift from a philosophy of retrofitting to a philosophy of born-accessibility.
by Ann Cunningham
From the former Editor: On Sunday morning of last summer’s convention my husband and I wandered past a meeting room in which a handful of people were doing something with art. It was early in the day, and I was just getting a feel for what was happening on this first day of the convention, so we stepped in for a moment and tore ourselves away an hour later. I was not personally tempted by the creative opportunities to make art that were going on in the center of the room. My focus was the tactile artworks on display around the edges. I am always fascinated by what seems to me the disproportion between elements of tactile art as I touch it and what looks right to a person examining the piece visually. Part of the puzzle, I recognize, is the visual conventions that convey depth and perspective. But simply identifying the elements of the composition—falling leaves, a girl on a swing, the moon shining down on the scene—is endlessly interesting to me.
Ann Cunningham and Debbie Stein, who organized this experience, were satisfied with the number of visitors who stepped into the room to make art or learn about it, but I can’t help thinking that lots of people who missed the whole event would have been as happy as I was to experience even a little of this extraordinary opportunity. Therefore I asked Ann and Debbie to write something about this exhibit so that this year’s convention attendees will know about it ahead of time. Here is what Ann Cunningham has to say about the opportunity awaiting Federationists in July:
"But how do you do it?" people sometimes ask me when they learn that I teach art to blind people. Then comes an even bigger question: "What can art mean to people without sight? Art is mostly a visual thing, isn't it?"
"Not necessarily," I explain. "Mostly art is about imagination and the creative process."
In my years teaching art at the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB), I have met many students who are convinced that they can neither understand nor create art. In nearly every case an hour or two of art class is enough to dispel their doubts. As they experiment with drawing using raised lines, students begin to understand how the three-dimensional world is rendered in two dimensions.
Last summer, with the help of Debbie Kent Stein and one of my students from the CCB, Amelia Dickerson, I set up a drop-in art room at the NFB convention in Orlando. In the art room visitors had the chance to examine art by touch and, if they chose, to create their own drawings or sculptures. Early on the morning of Sunday, July 3, I got to work setting up the room. My lifesaver, Pat Davis of Minnesota, began cooking up the first of many batches of homemade clay. I unpacked the nearly two dozen sculptures that I had sent to Orlando via UPS. We arranged art pieces on tables around the perimeter of the room. Most were bas reliefs I had made in slate or plastic, most of them original pieces and some inspired by paintings at the Colorado Center for the Arts. We also displayed an assortment of books with tactile illustrations that had been donated to us by National Braille Press and Touch Graphics, Inc. On tables in the middle of the room we spread drawing boards for making raised-line pictures, along with clay and sculpting tools.
The room was open all day Sunday and again on Monday afternoon. Visitors were welcome to drop in at any time and stay for as long as they wished. Volunteers were on hand to show people around and answer questions. Some visitors asked volunteers to explain the art on display, while others preferred to explore on their own.
The art room drew people of all ages and backgrounds. We met parents with blind children and teens, adults who had been blind all their lives, and seniors who were losing their vision. Teachers and other professionals came by to observe and quickly got caught up in the fun.
Most people made a thorough investigation of the artwork arranged around the room. They took their time to examine each piece, not wanting to miss any detail. After they studied the sculptures and books on display, many of the visitors sat down to draw or work with clay. On average visitors stayed for about two hours, which was quite impressive, considering the number of competing events. We were thrilled that so many people felt comfortable experimenting with their own creative expression. The enthusiastic response to the art room reveals how seldom blind people are allowed to have hands-on experiences with art and shows how much they hunger for such opportunities.
Look for the art room in the agenda for convention 2012. We will be back this summer with works by more artists and with some new ideas to inspire your creative efforts. Please drop in and let your imagination run free!
by Elizabeth Campbell
From the Editor: In a busy convention schedule, going to dinner can be one of the only relaxing times of the day. In the following article Elizabeth Campbell gives you a sample of the dining possibilities in the area around the Anatole. This is what she says:
Texans enjoy bragging about the great things we have to offer, and what trip to the Lone Star State would be complete without the best barbecue around or delicious Tex-Mex cooking? While you are here for the convention, take time to venture out and let your taste buds do some exploring.
A short cab ride from the Anatole are a number of restaurants with reasonable prices and terrific food, including steakhouses and barbecue and vegan cuisine. Enjoy and have fun y’all!
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
2525 Wycliff Ave.
Phone: (214) 780-0999
Store Hours: Mon.–Sun. 11:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Founded in 1941, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit still smokes its meats at each restaurant location. According to Dickey’s website, when spicy cheddar sausage was added to the menu, it was the first change in fifty years. Today Dickey’s serves up beef brisket, pulled pork, ham, Polish sausage, turkey breast, and chicken, with an extensive array of home-style sides from jalapeno beans to macaroni and cheese. Buttery rolls are served with every meal along with complimentary ice cream and dill pickles.
Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse
2202 Inwood Rd.
Phone: (214) 357-7120
Restaurant hours: Monday–Sunday 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
This famous restaurant features vintage school desks and photos of famous folks who have enjoyed the barbecue over the years. Sunny Bryan’s also has a gluten-free menu.
Dunston's Mesquite Grilled Prime Steaks
8526 Harry Hines Blvd.
Phone: (214) 637-3513
Restaurant hours: Monday through Thursday: 11:00a.m. –10:00 p.m.
Friday: 11:00 a.m.–11:00 p.m.
Saturday: 4:30 p.m.–11:00 p.m.
Sunday: 4:30 p.m.–10:00 p.m.
Dunston’s features prime beef at a reasonable price, and the restaurant is famous for its mesquite-grilled steaks. The restaurant has the look and feel of a high-end steakhouse with reasonable prices. Make sure to check out some of the favorites such as a chicken-fried rib-eye or fried catfish.
Texas Land and Cattle Company
3130 Lemmon Ave.
Phone: (214) 526-4664
Call for restaurant hours.
Known for its signature smoked sirloin and Texas rib-eye steaks.
Mama's Daughters’ Diner
2014 Irving Blvd.
Phone: (214) 742-8646
A quote from the website: “Mama’s been home cookin’ breakfast and lunch for the good folks in the Dallas area since 1958, baking our own pies, cornbread, and rolls.”
Original Market Diner
4434 Harry Hines Blvd.
Phone: (214) 521-0992
Restaurant hours: Monday–Wednesday 6:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Thursday/Friday 6:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Saturday 6:30 a.m.–9:00 p.m., and Sunday: 7:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
The diner features homemade pies, daily specials, and burgers.
Note: the menus are in PDF form and don’t appear to be accessible.
El Fenix Mexican Restaurant
1601 McKinney Ave.
Phone: (214) 747-1121
Open seven days a week: Sunday–Monday 11:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; Tuesday–Saturday 11:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.
Serving the best in Tex-Mex cuisine since 1918.
Ojedas Mexican Restaurant
4617 Maple Ave.
Phone: (214) 528-8383
Restaurant hours: Sunday–Thursday 10:00 a.m.–9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 10:00 a.m.–10:30 p.m.
Note: this site is written in Flash, and it is very difficult to navigate because music is playing in the background, making it difficult to listen to a screen reader.
A quote from a review on the City Search website: “The original location on Maple Avenue opened in 1969, and not a whole lot has changed in forty years. Everything about the place is comfortable, from the sincere waitstaff to the old-school decor to the endless number of combo plates. We like Ojeda's dinner: guacamole salad, tostada with queso, two beef enchiladas, puff taco, and rice and beans. Countless famous faces have dined at Ojeda's, including President Bill Clinton, Owen Wilson, and Dr. Phil.”
4436 Lemmon Ave.
Phone: (214) 528-0200
Hours: Monday–Sunday from 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.–10:00 p.m.
Acrylic murals in rich gold, purple, and orange tones adorn the concrete walls of this former Pizza Hut turned Indian food favorite. Throbbing Hindi dance music and a polite turban-wearing owner and his wife greet you at the door. Regulars favor the inexpensive buffet, which includes salad with fresh chutney and raita, naan, and basmati rice as staples. Hot and spicy dishes include tandoori chicken, creamed spinach, cauliflower and potatoes, and creamy tikka masala sauce.
3917 Cedar Springs Rd.
Phone: (214) 528-9999
From the website: Late-night Oak Lawn hangout serves authentic Hunan and Szechuan delicacies to starved bar-hoppers and businessmen alike.
Delivery till 4:00 a.m.
Full bar, great desserts.
2912 Oaklawn Ave.
Hours: Monday–Thursday 11:00 a.m.–10:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m.–11:00 p.m.
Sunday: 12:00 noon–10:00 p.m.
Check out one of the restaurant’s signature dishes made with tofu, grilled asparagus, bell peppers, and onions.
We hope you enjoy your stay in Dallas and at the luxurious Anatole Hotel. At the convention look for the restaurant guide that will have more information and restaurant listings.
by Angela Marin Rivera
From the Editor: Ashley Bryant from the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange submitted this article. The Community Solutions Program is a professional development program for community leaders from around the world to contribute to U.S. community projects. In her mission to increase opportunities for people in Peru who are blind, Angela Marin Rivera sought an opportunity to do professional development with a U.S. blind organization, while expanding her own independent living skills. Here is Angela’s story:
I was born in Lima, Peru, and I have been blind since birth, due to cytomegalovirus, a condition caused by rubella, which affected my mother when she was pregnant. I have lived with my parents, Fernando and Carmen, and my sister Daniella for most of my life.
My parents have always cared about my education and helped me to grow up like any other child. I first went to a school for the blind called San Francisco de Asis, a primary school, where I learned Braille and all the academic subjects I needed. For high school I went to Hector de Cardenas, which was a regular school. I was the only blind student there, but the teachers helped me to take regular classes. Being included in a regular environment made this a wonderful experience.
After high school I applied to the National Women's University (UNIFE) to study languages and translation. I did well and finished my college career successfully. During that time I took some cane travel classes so that I could travel to and around the university. After I graduated from college, I worked as a computer teacher, translator, and switchboard operator, which helped me to be useful and gain more confidence in myself.
One day I was doing some research on my computer, and I read about the Community Solutions Program managed and funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and implemented by IREX. This program searches for good leaders around the world who want to promote development in their communities. So, after thinking about this interesting opportunity, I decided to apply to the program. I know several organizations of the blind in Peru, and I had experience teaching computer courses to blind people, so I decided to continue helping others to be successful in life. One of my main goals is to help blind people to have more opportunities, as I do myself.
I later received an email from a staff member of IREX which said that I had been accepted to participate in the Community Solutions Program on a fellowship to come to the U.S. This would be a four-month fellowship to work with a host organization. After the training I would do a project in my home country.
I was told that my host organization would be the National Federation of the Blind. I was excited and nervous at the same time, since I knew it would be a challenge for me to live in another country without my family and friends, but I decided to go ahead with this opportunity to learn to be a good leader.
When I first arrived in the U.S., all the CSP fellows got together in Washington, D.C., to receive general training from the IREX staff about our four-month fellowships. After three days of training all of the participants went to their host organizations. I went to Baltimore and stayed at the National Center for the Blind for a week. There I met Mrs. Joanne Wilson, a great and powerful woman. I talked with Joanne about my goals and the project I wanted to accomplish. She helped me to understand the philosophy of the NFB and told me about training centers for independent living in the country. She suggested that it would be great if I had the opportunity to attend one of these centers, and I thought it would be very helpful in reaching my personal and professional goals. We talked to staff from the Nebraska Center for the Blind to see if I could become a client in the following months.
Within a few days I arrived in Lincoln to start my training. The center's rehabilitation program director and the apartment resource counselor showed me my new apartment, and I felt more comfortable. After my first interview we decided that my program would emphasize developing home-management and cane-travel skills because these are what I most needed to learn. I was already quite comfortable with computers and Braille.
My home-management instructor helped me to learn a lot of cooking skills and made me feel comfortable in the kitchen. I tried some new recipes that turned out well. The most amazing thing was that I could prepare meals for other people by myself. I also tried some of my mom’s recipes, and all of my family was impressed that I was learning how to cook and manage my own apartment. I truly thank my instructor for all the time she spent with me and all of the knowledge I acquired.
In cane travel class, I learned how to use the cane properly and how to travel independently. I also learned how to cross the streets on my own, explore different places, and ask for directions. It was very important that the cane-travel instructor had a lot of patience, knowledge, and experience. As a blind instructor he really understood our needs.
I appreciate all the support they and the entire staff gave me during my program. The instructors at the Nebraska Center for the Blind are the best I have ever met and are a great example of what we can make out of our lives.
I have new friends in America, and I will always remember the time I spent with the clients at the center, at the apartments, and during social gatherings. All of these friends helped me to change my life and be a better human being. I now feel strong enough to achieve my personal and professional goals.To apply as a professional or a host organization in the Community Solutions Program, visit <www.irex.org/project/community-solutions>. The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and administered by Mobility International USA. For more information about people with disabilities participating in international exchange programs, visit <www.miusa.org/ncde> or contact <[email protected]>.
From the Editor: The lack of physical activity in our country is often cited as a contributing factor in what is frequently called the obesity epidemic. Weight gain has long been associated with disabling and life-threatening conditions. It has often been observed that man is a growing machine, meaning that the older one gets, the harder it is to keep from gaining weight.
What worries many healthcare professionals, dietitians, teachers, and parents is the alarming rise in obesity among children. Arguably blind children, as part of society, share this problem, but the following article convincingly argues that blind youngsters are even more likely to suffer from obesity because physical education teachers don't know how to make accommodations to allow their blind students to participate. Here is what the United States Association of Blind Athletes has to say:
An estimated 52,000 school-age children are blind or visually impaired in the United States; nearly 70 percent do not participate in even a limited physical education curriculum. The barriers that blind or visually impaired youth face are numerous and primarily the consequence of moving their education from residential schools, where physical educators with a knowledge of blindness deliver specialized services in relatively small classes, to public schools, where educators may have less knowledge, time, and resources to apply to students who are visually impaired.
In 1976 the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) was founded by Dr. Charles Buell to improve the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Since then USABA, a Colorado-based 501(c)(3) organization, has evolved into a national organization that provides sports opportunities to thousands of athletes of all ages and abilities who are blind or visually impaired. A member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, USABA enhances the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired through sports and physical activity by providing opportunities in various sports, including, but not limited to, track and field, Nordic and alpine skiing, biathlon, judo, wrestling, swimming, tandem cycling, powerlifting, rowing, showdown, triathlon, archery, and goalball.
USABA recognizes that sports opportunities allow people who are blind or visually impaired to develop independence through competition without unnecessary restrictions. Like the sighted, people who are blind or visually impaired must have the opportunity to experience the thrill of victory and the reality of defeat.
The benefits of sports and recreation have been shown to continue from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. A recent survey of USABA members revealed that not only do participants benefit academically from their involvement in sports during elementary and high school, but 57 percent of USABA members went on to higher education to pursue a college degree--which is more than double the national average of 23 percent for their visually impaired peers. Helping to increase the involvement in physical activity and the likelihood of higher education, eighteen agencies assisting youth who are blind or visually impaired are working towards a healthier lifestyle with the start of the National Fitness Challenge created by the United States Association of Blind Athletes and funded by the WellPoint Foundation. "Each participating agency submits baseline data and monthly updates that are used to create and modify achievable fitness and weight loss goals for the teens to help them decrease their Body Mass Index," said Mark Lucas, executive director of the United States Association of Blind Athletes. USABA and the WellPoint Foundation are actively working towards a healthier lifestyle by providing talking pedometers as well as fitness and nutrition coaches for each agency. Each athlete has the opportunity to be the top boy or girl from his or her agency and participate in the final National Fitness Challenge. This is a four-day camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 18 to 21, 2012, where they will participate in track and field, goalball, swimming, and strength and conditioning workouts to learn more about fitness and become more involved in their local communities.
Mark Lucas says, "Our goal for the National Fitness Challenge is that the top thirty-six teens will go back to their communities and join sports teams. We want to reward the teens for their hard work and dedication towards leading an active and healthy lifestyle. Each participant will be provided skill development that can lead to national and international competitions."
Participants from each of the eighteen agencies have a special sport they are practicing in order to become more physically fit while having fun. Some are playing goalball, while others have a running league, swim team, ski team, or tandem cycling group. "The WellPoint Foundation is committed to helping children and adults have active lives and avoid the health risks associated with sedentary lifestyles and obesity," said Mike Walsh, president and general manager of WellPoint's Specialty Business, which includes dental, vision, workers' compensation, voluntary, life and disability benefits. "We believe no one should ever be denied the right to enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of exercise, and we are proud to partner with the USABA to ensure that vision impairments do not limit the recreational opportunities afforded to teenagers across the country."
The WellPoint Foundation is the philanthropic arm of WellPoint, Inc., and through charitable contributions and programs the Foundation promotes the inherent commitment of WellPoint, Inc., to enhance the health and well being of individuals and families. These seven hundred teens are taking leaps and bounds to break down stereotypes and become more physically fit by showing how active people with disabilities can be while enjoying themselves. As the National Fitness Challenge year comes to a close, USABA and the WellPoint Foundation hope the athletes meet their goal of a 50 percent total decrease in body mass index (BMI). Not only will these teens lower their BMI, but, through participation in sports and physical activity, they will realize new levels of independence, confidence, and determination.
USABA is dedicated to providing physical activities for everyone who is blind or visually impaired, especially veterans and military service members. Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom resulted in the highest percentage of eye wounds of any major conflict since World War I, so it is particularly important that USABA provide opportunities to returning wounded warriors. USABA began Operation Mission Vision in the summer of 2008. Its goal is to bring normalcy back into the lives of veterans and active duty service members who are blind or visually impaired and to accelerate their rehabilitation through sport, recreation, and physical activity.
Lonnie Bedwell, a forty-six-year-old Navy veteran, lost his sight fifteen years ago and has been a member of USABA for many years. He says, "I want to thank all of you for these opportunities and allowing me to be a part of USABA. USABA and all of you that run it are absolutely first-class. When you give your time to help others, that's something that can never be replaced. It's phenomenal. I just wish I could repay these guys. I feel like the only way I can do that is to pay it forward. It's like I was in front of a huge brick wall--no way around it, no way through it, and they put a door in it, and then they took me through it. The events--a lot of the time I don't know how you put into words what they do for people," Bedwell said.
Participation in physical activity is often the most critical mental and physical aspect of rehabilitation for both the injured person and his or her support network. In partnership with the United States Olympic Committee's Military Sports Program, USABA fully funds veterans and their coaches so they can attend and participate in the USABA summer and winter sports festivals.
In order to help veterans especially, goalball was developed after WWII to keep veterans who had lost their sight during the war physically active. Goalball is a unique ball game played by people who are blind or visually impaired, but many sighted people also play on local teams for fun. Goalball has become a premier team game and is a part of the Summer Paralympic Games. It is played in 112 countries in all International Blind Sport Association (IBSA) regions. In partnership with the U.S. Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee, USABA manages the sport of goalball from the grassroots to the elite level. Goalball is played with bells inside the ball so the players can locate it audibly. For this reason silence at events is vital. Goalball is played on a court with tactile markings so players can determine their location on the court and the direction they are facing. All players wear eye masks to block out light and thus equalize visual impairment between the athletes. USABA's goalball season is starting soon, and teams around the nation will play in tournaments with hopes of becoming national champions. The goalball schedule can be found on the USABA's website listed at the end of this article.
USABA offers many other sporting events for youth such as the IBSA World Youth Championships that occur every two years. In addition, more than 250 athletes ages twelve to nineteen from more than twenty countries compete in sports, including judo, goalball, swimming, and track and field. Team USA is represented by young athletes currently competing on their high school or club teams. USABA also provides regional goalball tournaments, sports education camps, summer sports festivals, annual winter sports festivals, and cycling camps.
Sports and physical activity is the gift that keeps on giving from childhood through adulthood. Regular exercise can help protect us all from heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, noninsulin-dependent diabetes, obesity, back pain, and osteoporosis. It can improve our moods and help to manage stress. For the greatest overall health benefits, experts recommend that we do twenty to thirty minutes of aerobic activity three or more times a week and some type of muscle-strengthening activity and stretching at least twice a week. USABA strives to be an easy access portal for information and events for all blind or visually impaired people who seek participation in sports and physical activity. Parents, teachers, community program leaders, coaches, volunteers, and people who are blind or visually impaired can easily seek out USABA staff and coaches for their expertise. What the United States Olympic Committee is to the Olympic movement, the United States Association of Blind Athletes is to the blind and visually impaired athletic movement.
by Emily Gibbs
From the Editor: Any teacher will tell you that January is usually the hardest month of teaching. It is long, dark, and in most places cold. So, when the education staff of the NFB Jernigan Institute decided to conduct a weekend seminar for teachers of blind students, they settled on late January as the best time to provide participants with a shot in the arm. The idea was obviously a great success. Here is Jernigan Institute staffer Emily Gibbs’s report of the event:
Throughout the country teachers of the blind are often isolated in their schools because blindness is a low-incidence disability. In addition to this isolation, teachers of blind students face various other professional challenges. They have overwhelming caseloads, with one teacher sometimes serving fifty or more students in several districts or counties. Teachers are frequently not provided the resources they need to educate their students successfully. The National Federation of the Blind recognizes these teachers’ struggles and stands ready to support them and provide needed training. The NFB Teacher Leader Seminar was conceived to provide this much needed professional development for teachers of the blind and other blindness professionals. During the last week of January teachers flocked to Baltimore to participate in this brand new program.
The agenda was established with the consultation of experts in the field of education. Planners decided that the Teacher Leader Seminar should consist of four tracks: science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM); access technology; multiply impaired students; and building blocks for successful itinerant teaching. These four tracks offered focused discussions on the topic. Participants could choose to stay within one track for the entire seminar or participate in several tracks throughout the weekend. For example, based on the needs of the individual teacher, participants might attend all three sessions in the multiply impaired students track or attend one session about STEAM and the next about access technology. The flexibility of the agenda allowed teachers to attend the seminars that most closely met their students’ needs.
When teachers were not attending track sessions, they were attending special breakout sessions created by experts in their fields to give them experiences unique to the NFB. They learned about NFB philosophy and the National Reading Media Assessment. They toured the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. Some even used a chainsaw, grilled a steak, or traveled, among many other things—all under sleepshades,. Five breakout sessions were scheduled concurrently, so one could always find an interesting and engaging session.
One feature of the 2012 NFB Teacher Leader Seminar was the way we incorporated social media. Participants were encouraged to communicate with each other using several social media websites on their computers and mobile devices. We used the Twitter website extensively. Twitter uses 140-character messages (tweets) to post status updates to the world. If you aren’t following--connected with--a given user, there is no way for you to see that user’s communications. However, if you include a hashtag, a word with a # sign in front of it, other users can search for that hashtag and read the tweets of all the people discussing that subject.
For example, at the 2012 NFB Teacher Leader Seminar our hashtag was “#TLS12.” Using this hashtag, everyone who wanted to hear about the seminar could participate in the discussion. Teachers used Twitter to post tweets about what they were learning during track sessions and breakouts. They posted pictures of themselves and the new people they had met traveling under sleepshades, grilling, and using adaptive science tools. Teachers interviewed each other on video and uploaded those conversations to Twitter as well. This was a way for people to experience different sessions and keep track of what others were doing. It was the ultimate solution to the age old problem of being unable to be in two places at once.
All of the tweets could be read online or viewed on an eight-foot-tall screen in the northwest corner of Members Hall that constantly updated during the day. For those who didn’t bring a computer, the southwest corner of Members Hall was transformed into a social media lounge. The area was set with café tables and chairs. Here computers were available all day long for people to use to check email and update Twitter and Facebook, as well as access the TLS Forum.
The forum was an online bulletin board accessible only to participants inside the building. It contained information about the building and about Baltimore itself. The forum was where you could find cab or bus information, the names of nearby restaurants, and other information about the NFB and Baltimore. This information was especially important for teachers who weren’t staying in the building and for people who went out on the town to explore Baltimore on Saturday night.
One unique aspect of the NFB Teacher Leader Seminar was the Unconference, an event unlike a traditional conference in every way. It has no agenda. An Unconference is created and organized the day it happens by the participants. The people who attend are the ones who volunteer to run sessions and speak about things they are passionate about.
To organize the unconference, we depended on the TLS Forum. People suggested topics on the forum throughout the first two days. Unconference ideas could be anything. People were encouraged to suggest topics they were excited about and knew enough to run a discussion about as well as topics about which they knew nothing but hoped to learn more. Anyone could run a session or suggest a topic simply by posting it on the forum.
For thirty minutes before the Unconference began on Sunday morning, we conducted a town hall meeting to decide the schedule for the day. The agenda was agreed by consensus of the entire group and was based on suggestions posted on the forum. Sessions were chosen quickly, and in every case someone happily volunteered to lead the discussion. The only rule for the day was the two-feet rule. If you weren’t learning in a session or it wasn’t what you expected it to be, you could walk out.
Unconference sessions covered a wide range of topics. Some sessions, such as “Creative Braille-Teaching Tools,” were led by one person who talked to the group. Others were conducted by the entire group discussing one topic, such as the accessible app session. During this time there was even a philosophy discussion aptly described as “Myths of the NFB.” Participants were invited to discuss honestly what they had heard about the NFB and what they had learned during the seminar.
We asked teachers to fill out an anonymous survey about their experiences. The teachers themselves said it best. When asked if they felt that this conference had expanded their professional learning network, all thirty-two responders said yes. When asked if they would recommend this conference to other teachers, thirty-one of thirty-two people said that they would. One participant exclaimed, “I will definitely recommend this conference to other blindness professionals in future years. It is a great way to share ideas and learn from one another. It is also a good way to introduce people to the NFB's philosophy.” Another responded, “My goal is to get all of my program to come next year.” No matter what topic participants came to the conference hoping to learn about, they all agreed that they had learned a lot about the topic at this seminar.
According to the participants themselves, the inaugural 2012 Teacher Leader Seminar was a huge success. The people who attended offered positive feedback as well as insights and suggestions for the future. Because of the overwhelmingly positive response, planning has already begun for the 2013 Teacher Leader Seminar. We hope to see lots of teachers there.
by Ron and Jean Brown
From the Editor: The way we act and what we say has a lot to do with the way we are perceived, but so do the clothes we wear. How does a blind woman determine the colors that make her look her best? How does a blind man follow current styles to ensure that his wardrobe is appropriate in 2012 and not a classic from the 1990s? To answer some of these questions, we sought out two of the most stylish dressers we know, people who dress appropriately in every situation, both of whom are totally blind. Here is their advice about dressing for leisure, fun, and success:
The fashion do’s and don’ts can be as simple or as complex as we make them, and to the inexperienced blind clothes shopper walking into a mall, it can be a nightmare. Our advice: just determine to have fun shopping and enjoy it for the special treat it is.
We like shopping with people who know the styles we wear, and Ron and I are thankful for family members with good fashion sense and the ability to coordinate clothing. Stand your ground. If someone has no fashion sense, don’t let him or her select your clothes. Some clothing is beautifully designed, but the pattern or the colors are atrocious--don’t make the awful mistake of bringing a piece home just because you like its texture, for everything that’s pleasing to the touch is not necessarily pleasing to the eye, and everything that has a high price tag is not necessarily beautiful.
As you plan your day, make plans to wear the right attire. Can you divide your clothing into casual wear, business/business casual, sportswear, and evening wear? If so, you have already won half the battle. Be sure that the style you choose compliments your figure, your complexion, and your personality. Ladies, don’t be afraid to accessorize your outfits; add a scarf or a piece of jewelry to give it a touch of class.
Men, let your clothes compliment your physique. For most men selecting the appropriate business wear is a challenge; just remember no written rule says you must wear a tie with a sports jacket. A blazer is also very fashionable with a turtleneck sweater or a collarless shirt and dress slacks.
Many of the rules that apply to men also apply to women. Go ahead--dress up your jeans with a dressy blouse or cowl-neck sweater, your favorite heels, and a blazer. Evening wear has certainly changed over the years; it’s no longer just a flowing gown; it can be a tea-length skirt or dress or an elegant suit. Once again, don’t overlook accessories if needed.
Men, take your pick—a suit, a three-quarter-length jacket, or a basic cut jacket, as long as the shirt and tie colors are coordinated. I am tempted to stop there but should point out that your shoes and socks should match your suit for a finished look--now you’ve got it going on.
Casual wear is what you are comfortable in away from home; it can be the same as sportswear. Clothing in this category should not be mixed with anything in your business casual suits unless it is a weekender. Sportswear is a category by itself, and it seems that the list keeps growing as our fashion designers create more and more looks. Have fun with this category, but keep in mind what is age appropriate and what accentuates the positive.
Don’t hold back by being shy or reserved; ask what the latest fashions are, touch materials so you will know what they are, take someone with you who loves to shop so that you are not rushed; and remember, ladies and gentlemen, that our sighted public can see us coming long before we can hear them speak, so let’s put our best look forward. A central tenet of our philosophy is that it is respectable to be blind, so leave your home with pride, with confidence, and with style.
by Anna Kresmer
From the Editor: The following is another in our series of historical documents in the Jacobus tenBroek Library.
As most readers know, our federal legislative agenda for 2012 includes the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2011 (H.R. 3086). This bill would amend Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to end the practice of government-issued permits that allow employers to pay their disabled workers subminimum wage, a practice often, although not exclusively, used in sheltered workshops. Supporters of the bill believe that, in addition to paying an unfair wage, these permits encourage low expectations and reinforce the stereotype that disabled people are incapable of surviving in a competitive workplace. As of late March the bill was continuing to make progress in the House of Representatives, thanks to the efforts of the NFB and our allies among other organized groups of disabled Americans.
The struggle to attain the minimum wage for the disabled is nothing new to the NFB. Evidence of the Federation’s activism on this issue over the decades is preserved in the archives at the Jernigan Institute. The tenBroek library staff recently encountered one such piece of documentation in the papers of Jacobus tenBroek and is pleased to present it this month. This 1968 unsigned draft of a never-published Braille Monitor article--presumably written by John Nagle, then chief of the NFB Washington office--details the wage situation faced by blind workers of the day. We do not know why this article was not published, but perhaps it was lost in the organizational shuffle surrounding President tenBroek's death on March 27, 1968.
Regardless of why it never appeared in print or Braille, this article provides a solid description of the status of the subminimum wage issue at the time. It points out the victories already won through collective effort on the part of the organized blind, and it highlights the problems still left to solve. It accounts for just one battle in a greater war on employment discrimination. But--even though the road may seem long today and the battle tiring--just as it did in 1968--the Federation spirit is as strong as ever. Today this archival document serves as a historical snapshot, reminding us of how far we have come, showing how far we have left to go, and encouraging us to keep fighting.
On February 1, 1968, 80 cents became the hourly minimum wage rate applicable to the earnings of handicapped workers employed in sheltered workshops. This upping of the sheltered shop wage is in accordance with the second-step federal minimum wage rise provided for by the 1966 amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act. These amendments established the overall federal hourly minimum wage at $1.40 on February 1, 1967, and at $1.60 on February 1, 1968--and they also included the historic action of imposing a wage minimum on sheltered shop hourly earnings, providing that such minimum be not less than 50 percent of the federal hourly minimum wage. Thus, on February 1 of last year, 70 cents was established as the statutory hourly minimum wage in sheltered shops, and, on February 1, 1968, as the federal minimum advanced from $1.40 to $1.60 an hour, the sheltered shop minimum rose from 70 cents to 80 cents an hour.
This sheltered shop minimum wage can hardly be considered as assuring handicapped workers anything approaching a decent standard of living, even when they are able to earn the minimum--and many do not, because of the nature of the work they are offered to do. And then, too, many shop workers are specifically excluded from even the meager minimum wage provided for in the Fair Labor Standards Act. Still, the congressional imposition of any minimum wage at all on sheltered workshops remains a historic milestone in the centuries-long effort to secure equity and opportunity for handicapped people, to secure the same rights and protections for handicapped people which are so generally available to physically fit people.
Nor is the National Federation of the Blind willing to rest on its congressional gains for sheltered shop workers in 1966 and accept 80 cents as the permanent statutory floor for hourly sheltered shop wages. For a time there had been the hope that the study of wages in sheltered shops conducted by the secretary of labor in response to congressional mandate would bring about a recognition of the total inadequacy of the wage structure in sheltered shops and would result in earnings improvements for handicapped workers. But the secretary's sheltered shop study has been issued, and it offers no basis for assuming that sheltered shop wages will be bettered by administrative action. So the organized blind will return to Congress and again plead the cause of all physically disabled employees in sheltered workshops.
A new minimum wage in sheltered workshops bill is now being drafted which will provide for the raising of the sheltered shop hourly minimum wage to the existing federal minimum in two stages--first to 75 percent, and then, a year later, to the federal minimum. The Federation will look again to the same congressional leaders who worked so closely and so successfully with us before, Congressman John H. Dent, Pennsylvania, and Senator Wayne Morse, Oregon. And the Federation will again also look for support and cooperation from the AAWB [American Association of Workers for the Blind] and the AFB [American Foundation for the Blind], who worked shoulder to shoulder with the organized blind in the 89th Congress when, finally, victory was achieved by the enactment of the sheltered shop provisions of the 1966 amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act.(Attention: I think it would be helpful to print the sheltered shop minimum wage provisions of the 1966 Fair Labor Standards Act amendments at the conclusion of this article.)
This month’s recipes have been contributed by members of the NFB of Hawaii.
Fresh Mango Bread
by Nani Fife
Nani Fife is president of the National Federation of the Blind of Hawaii. She is married to Larry Fife, and they have three children and ten grandchildren. Nani lives on the island of Oahu in Nuuanu Valley. Nani works for the City and County of Honolulu as a city manager. She says that frozen mangos may be substituted for the fresh fruit if necessary.
2 cups flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
2 cups mangos, partly mashed, partly diced
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two standard loaf pans and set aside. Combine all dry ingredients. In an electric mixer beat eggs and then add oil and butter and beat for approximately two minutes. Beat in dry ingredients and mangos. Stir in the nuts. Divide batter between the two pans and bake for forty-five to fifty-five minutes. Bread is done when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove pans to racks. Allow bread to cool for a few minutes before removing from pans to cool completely.
by Nani Fife
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 can beer
6 chicken thighs
Method: Combine all ingredients in a pot. Simmer covered until done, thirty to forty-five minutes.
Portuguese Bean Soup
by Ann Lemke
Ann Lemke is president of the aNueNue Chapter of the NFB of Hawaii.
2 or 3 medium-sized smoked ham hocks or ham shanks
3 cups chicken broth
1 pound Portuguese sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced (I use hot sausages, but they make mild ones as well.)
1 large or two small Maui onions, coarsely chopped
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup carrots, in chunky dice
1 cup celery, diced
4 cups cabbage, coarsely chopped
3 15-ounce cans kidney beans with liquid or 1 bag kidney beans soaked overnight
2 cups garbanzo beans (chickpeas), soaked overnight
2 14.5-ounce cans diced organic tomatoes (or one large can)
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch cilantro (Chinese parsley), coarsely chopped
1 bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
5 fresh or 3 dried bay leaves
Method: In large stock pot combine ham hocks, onion, garlic, black peppercorns, and bay leaves. Add chicken broth and just enough water to cover the ham hocks completely. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat. Simmer covered for about two hours. This slow cooking gives the soup its rich flavor. Remove the ham hocks and de-bone. Dice any meat and set aside, discarding fat. Place the pot in a large bowl of ice and after about thirty minutes skim any fat off the surface. Return pot to the stove. To the pot add tomato paste, diced tomatoes, beans, carrots, celery, potatoes, half the parsley, half the cilantro, and all of the cabbage. Simmer soup over low heat for about twenty minutes. Add diced ham and Portuguese sausage. Continue simmering the soup for thirty minutes. Add macaroni and cook until just tender, about ten minutes more. Serve topped with remaining fresh chopped parsley and cilantro and cracked black pepper.
All amounts are approximate. Feel free to add or reduce any ingredient, depending on your taste. I have combined several recipes to make this one. I even think that fresh corn cut off the cob would be a fine addition when it is in season, which is almost all year in Hawaii. This recipe also freezes quite well.
by Gladys Okada
Gladys Okada is a member of the Kauai Chapter and a member of the NFB of Hawaii board of directors.
2 cups quick cooking oatmeal
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
2 1/2 to 3 cups Rice Krispies
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
3/4 cup unsalted peanuts
1 package miniature marshmallows
1 cup raisins (Dried blueberries or cranberries may be substituted.)
Method: Lightly brown the oatmeal in the microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on medium to medium-low setting. In top of double boiler or deep pot melt butter, peanut butter, and marshmallows, cooking at medium-low heat. Stir often. Add dry ingredients to the marshmallow mixture. Mix well. Working quickly, transfer mixture to a greased 9-x-13-inch pan. Cover with a sheet of waxed paper. Press the mixture flat. Turn the mixture onto a cutting board and press down if not packed firmly enough to hold its shape. Cut into bars of desired size while they are warm. Wrap in waxed paper for storage.
by Charlene Ota
Charlene Ota is secretary of the aNueNue Chapter of the NFB of Hawaii.
1 16-ounce box mochico (rice flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk plus enough water to make 2 cups (about 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick butter, softened
1 12-ounce can coconut milk
Sesame seeds, optional
Method: Place all ingredients except coconut milk in a large bowl and beat well with an electric mixer. Then add coconut milk and continue beating until well blended. Pour mixture into a greased 9-x-13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired. Bake one hour at 350 degrees.
Onolicious Chocolate Chip Caramel Bars
by Kyle Laconsay
Kyle Laconsay is president of the Honolulu Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Hawaii. She is a remarkable person. A little over a year ago she had a successful liver transplant. Kyle lives on the windward side of Honolulu. She is married to Michael and has two lovely children. She explains that the word “ono” means yummy in Hawaiian.
4 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, melted and slightly cooled
3 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Method: Generously butter a half-sheet-cake pan (11-by-16 inches). A jelly roll pan (10-by-15 inches) would do. Sift together flour and baking powder in a large bowl and set aside. Whisk together eggs and brown sugar and then add cooled butter and vanilla extract. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Pour mixture into prepared baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for twenty minutes. Sprinkle 1 cup of chocolate chips on top immediately after you remove pan from oven. Let cool, then cut into bars. Makes 18 large pieces or 36 small ones.
News from the Federation Family
Resolutions for Convention:
Here is a message from Sharon Maneki, who chairs the NFB resolutions committee:
Do you think we should change a government policy, take a stand concerning an agency for the blind, or create new regulations? If you do, consider writing a resolution. At the 2012 national convention the resolutions committee meeting will be held on Sunday, July 1. The committee will debate and discuss resolutions on a wide variety of subjects. If passed by the Convention, these resolutions will become the policy statements of the organization.
To ensure that your resolution will be considered by the committee, please send it to President Maurer or to me by June 15, two weeks before the committee meeting. If you send a resolution to me by email and do not receive a response acknowledging your email in two or three days, please call or send it again. If you miss the deadline, you must get three members of the committee to sponsor your resolution and then get it to the chairman before the meeting begins. I will be pleased to accept resolutions by email, <[email protected]>; fax, (410) 715-9597; or snail mail, 9013 Nelson Way, Columbia, Maryland 21045.
How to Pay for Your Hotel Stay in Dallas:
This helpful information comes from Tony Cobb, who has been a fixture in the lobby of our convention hotels for as long as I can remember. Here is his advice about paying for your hotel stay:
Every year at our national convention we have serious trouble with use of debit cards or cash payments at hotel check-in, and, having worked to solve these problems for years, I can tell you they can nearly ruin the convention week for those experiencing them. Planning to attend our national convention should therefore include thinking seriously about how to pay the hotel, and I cannot urge you strongly enough to avoid using cash or a debit card as your payment method. Doing so may seem convenient, but you should not do so. If you do not have a credit card of your own to use instead, prevail upon a close friend or family member to let you use one just for convention. Here’s why:
If you are paying in actual currency, most hotels will want enough cash up front at check-in to cover your room and tax charges for the entire stay, plus a one-time advance incidentals deposit to cover meals, telephone calls, Internet service, and other things you may charge to your room. The unused portion of the incidentals deposit may be returned at check-out or by mail after departure. Understand, however, that, if your incidentals charges exceed the incidentals deposit credited, you are responsible for payment of the full balance at checkout. The total can end up being a very large sum indeed.
If you use a debit card, however, you are really at a potentially painful disadvantage. The hotel will put a hold on money in your bank account linked to the debit card to cover the estimated balance of your stay—that is, for the entire week’s room and tax charges plus a one-time incidentals deposit to cover meals, movies, and so on charged to your room. You should be aware that the hold can therefore be a considerable amount of money and that you will not have access to that amount for any other purchases or payments with your card. (Hotels sometimes also put authorizations on credit cards, by the way, but those are not often a problem unless they exceed your card’s credit limit.)
Holds can remain in effect for three to five days or even a week after you check out. If you have pre-authorized payments from your bank account, for example your monthly mortgage payment, or if you try to make a purchase with your debit card and it's refused, the hold from the hotel can cause you trouble or result in very large overdraft fees for payments you thought you had money in your account to cover. I have seen this hit some of our members in the form of hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees.
This means that, if you use a debit card, you would have to be certain you have a high enough balance in your checking account when you come to convention to cover any debit card holds. This is a perilous practice since charges may exceed your estimate by a considerable amount. (Some frequent travelers even open a separate checking account used only for debits like these.) Remember, a hold is going to be placed on your debit card regardless of how you end up paying the bill, and the hold is not necessarily released right away, even if you pay with a credit card or cash when you check out of the hotel.
Planning ahead in this area can ensure an untroubled week at convention, leaving you free to enjoy fully the world’s largest and most exciting meeting of the blind. See you as usual in the lobby at check-in—using a credit card, I hope.
Attention All Federationists with Cerebral Palsy:
Come one and all to form a new division of the National Federation of the Blind to help improve the lives of blind people with cerebral palsy. It will be the National Federation of the Blind with Cerebral Palsy Division. If you have cerebral palsy and you are blind, or if you know someone who is blind who has cerebral palsy, this is a good opportunity for networking to develop this division. The purpose of the division is to provide support for blind people with cerebral palsy in pursuing successful and independent lives. If anyone is interested in developing this division, contact Alex Kaiser at <[email protected]>. He can also be reached at (973) 525-8096. Meetings of this group will be held by telephone conference call on the first Monday of each month from August through June from 7:00 p.m., to 8:30 p.m. Eastern in a free Conference Pro conference room. The conference dial-in telephone number is (218) 632-3715. The access code to enter after the greeting is 999999 followed by the pound key. Feel free to contact Alex with additional questions.
The 2012 National Convention Youth Track:
Meleah Jensen of the Jernigan Institute Education Department sends us the following information:
The annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind is always jammed with exciting activities, and this year in Dallas will be no different. If you are between the ages of eleven and eighteen or are bringing a young person to convention who is, you should definitely plan to participate in the Youth Track activities. These activities on the convention agenda are specifically for young people. They will foster positive attitudes about blindness and encourage social interactions between blind youth and successful blind adult mentors.
This year the Youth Track will consist of twelve activities spread across six days. In some of the activities the whole group will stay together. In others the group will be divided into eleven- to fourteen-year-olds and fifteen-to-eighteen-year-olds. All of the activities are interactive and high energy.
The Youth Track will open with a creative problem-solving activity called “Balloon Build or Bust,” first thing Saturday, June 30. Activities will continue throughout Saturday and will include opportunities for creative expression, exploration of NFB popular culture, and our own Federationbook activity, the social media network you may not have heard of. Throughout the rest of the week youth will participate in activities in which they will explore the Federation, socialize, recreate, and put on their creative-writing caps.
We are looking forward to seeing all the youth in Dallas. As we get closer to convention, we will publish an official Youth Track agenda. Watch for it on the listservs and at <www.nfb.org/YouthTrack>. Some of the activities will have limited space and will require prompt registration. For more information and to ask questions, please contact Meleah Jensen at (410) 659-9314, extension 2418, or by email at <[email protected]>.
NAGDU Now on Facebook:
The National Association of Guide Dog Users, (NAGDU), a division of the National Federation of the Blind, is pleased to announce its move into social media. NAGDU now has a Facebook page in which guide dog users, puppy raisers, guide and service dog trainers, and those interested in the training and use of guide and service dogs can discuss and exchange information about these wonderful animals and the human-animal bond. Please check out our page by following these steps:
1. In the search field of your Facebook page type "National Association of Guide Dog Users" or "NAGDU" and click on groups. Please take note of the capital letters and the symbols when searching for the NAGDU group.
2. You can also access the NAGDU group directly by clicking on the following link: <http://m.facebook.com/groups/124908860968667?view=members&status=1&stype=atgs&number=0&refid=0&_rdr>.
3. If the link does not take you to the NAGDU page, copy and paste the link into your web browser and press enter. NAGDU is please to make this forum available to everyone and hopes that you will join in discussions, provide comments, and share information with everyone.
The newly formed At-Large Chapter of the NFB of Illinois elected the following board at its April meeting: president, Leslie Hamric; vice president, Linda Hendle; secretary/treasurer, Charlene Elder; and board members, Sid Weiner and Danny Mandrell.
Rice University and CCB Students in the News:
The following story appeared in the Wednesday, March 7, 2012, edition of the Littleton Independent:
Center for Blind Students Host Visitors from Texas
by Jennifer Smith, Community Media of Colorado
A team of students from Rice University in Houston spent part of their spring break in Littleton [Colorado] on “The Mile High Mission: Overcoming Disability.” Part of the mission was to help Colorado Center for the Blind students move into the apartment building the center recently purchased near Lowell Boulevard and Bowles Avenue. But a larger part was walking in the blind students’ shoes for a few hours, learning that blindness does not equal defeat.
“You’re all to be congratulated,” Julie Deden, the center’s director, told the Rice students on March 2, the last day of their visit. “You’ve learned so much in such a short period of time. ... With good training, being blind does not have to be a barrier at all. It can be very natural.”
The visit was arranged through Rice’s Community Involvement Center, to which students have to apply and be accepted. The beginning of their week was spent skiing with disabled students in Winter Park, in cooperation with the National Sports Center for the Disabled. “The NSCD and the CCB are both so unique in their approach to working with disability and so established throughout the country that the trip is made more effective by going all the way to Colorado to study the social issue,” according to Rice’s website.
Judging from the emotional goodbyes after the going-away luncheon, which everyone helped prepare while wearing sleep shades, the social aspect of the visit was successful. “You guys make it seem like a vacation,” said Rice student Natalie Lazarescou. “You feed us every day and you tell us stories. And we get the pleasure of seeing a different community, of stepping out of the hedges and realizing it’s not all about us. It’s so refreshing.”
The Rice students did, however, use words like “disorienting” and “isolating” to describe their sleepshade experiences. “It’s absolutely amazing what you guys do on a daily basis,” said Rice student Shaurya Agarwal.
The CCB students, in turn, enjoyed teaching their visitors about their lives. “Thank you for the time you took away from your spring break to be with us,” said CCB student Trish Cavallaro. “Now you know we have a great life, and we experience great things, just like you.”
Requests for Accommodations Based on Disability:
The convention of the National Federation of the Blind is intended to be accessible, especially to blind people. Materials are offered in accessible formats, and other nonvisual aids are provided. If you require specific accommodations based on your disability other than the blindness-related accommodations routinely provided by the Federation in order to participate fully and equally in the convention, let us know as soon as possible. Because of the size and complexity of this convention as well as the need to plan for additional human and other resources, requests for specific accommodations must be submitted no later than May 31, 2012. In order to make a request, 1) preregister for the convention by visiting <http://www.nfb.org/registration>; and 2) send your request for specific accommodations in writing to the attention of Mark Riccobono by email at <[email protected]>. Be sure to include your name, the dates you plan to be at the convention, information on the best method of following up with you, and your specific request.
Attention Braille Book Lovers:
Last month we carried a notice entitled “Braille Book Fair 2012.” Here is additional information about the event from Barbara Cheadle:
Last year Peggy Chong announced the Braille Book Flea Market/Fair, and introduced me as the new coordinator. Thanks to our book donors and volunteers, it was a great event. Here are the details about this year's event and information about how you can help.
Date and Location: Monday, July 2, 2012, NFB convention, Hilton Anatole Hotel, 2201 North Stemmons Frthat’s eeway, Dallas, Texas 75207.
Donations: If you can donate Braille books, send them to the address below. As always, we desperately need print/Braille children's storybooks. Ship the books to Vanessa Pena, 10155 Monroe, Dallas, TX 75229. You can ship them Free Matter for the Blind using the Postal Service. Please keep volumes of the same book together if at all possible.
Recognition: If you donate books, please send me a note telling me how many books or boxes of books you are shipping. We want to recognize your donations in our magazine, Future Reflections, after the event. We don't have time to check return addresses when we unpack and sort the books at the event, so sending me a note when you ship the books is the best way to make sure we can recognize your generous donation. Send your information to Barbara Cheadle at <[email protected]> or 230 North Beaumont Ave., Catonsville, MD 21228; home (410) 747-3472; cell (410) 300-5232.
Volunteers Needed: We need print- and Braille-reading volunteers to unpack, sort, setup, assist customers, and clean up. Please contact me if you can volunteer for two or more hours any time between noon and 8:00 p.m. on Monday, July 2, 2012, at the NFB convention. The actual event will occur between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m.
The White Sands Chapter of the NFB of New Mexico conducted elections at its February 2012 meeting. The results are as follows: president, Larry Hayes; vice president, Kay Boyd; secretary, Ray Thomas; treasurer, Soledad Vigil; and board members, Bea Thomas and Larry Lorenzo.
At its April meeting the Chicago Chapter of the NFB of Illinois elected the following officers: president, David Meyer; first vice president, Denise Avant; second vice president, Jemal Powell; secretary, Debbie Stein; treasurer, Steve Hastalis; and board members, Mary Grunwald, Debbie Pittman, Gina Falvo, and Patti Chang.
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.
HeartSight Cards Still Available:
HeartSight Cards has been through some changes. Unfortunately, the HeartSight website is no longer available. However, HeartSight Cards is committed to its current and future customers and will continue to be available to help you celebrate life's special occasions by offering beautiful print/Braille cards. A single custom card will remain only $4.95 (plus shipping and taxes).
When you wish to send a HeartSight card, contact Haley Dare at (269) 779-2216 or send an email to <[email protected]> describing the occasion, your personalized message, and any ideas you have. HeartSight will still design and ship your card within three days. You may pay by debit or credit card, or you can ask to receive an invoice.
Adventures at Oral Hull Park:
How will you spend your summer vacation? At Oral Hull Park in Sandy, Oregon, we challenge the status quo and encourage you to take advantage of an exciting variety of adventures including whitewater rafting, kayaking, rock-wall climbing, jet boats, hiking, bicycling, hay rides, and much more.
Blind and visually impaired people will find plenty of fun and challenges. Our adventures vary with each camp, and we have a few add-ins such as skydiving, windsurfing, and bungee jumping. The camp itself, Oral Hull Park, is twenty-two acres of beautiful green countryside with lots of trees, gardens, a fishing pond, nature trails, walking/jogging track, and a heated indoor pool. The property for the camp was a gift to the Oral Hull Foundation for the Blind. Oregon's summer weather is ideal, with highs in the seventies or low eighties in July and August. Nights are usually just cool enough for a sweater or hoodie.
Adventure camps ($450) and traditional camps ($395) for adults start on July 22, August 1, August 11, and August 21. Complete date information can be found on our website: <www.oralhull.org>. Call for more information, and we will gladly mail or email applications to you.
Many of our campers come year after year, form friendships that stretch across the country and the Internet, and sometimes schedule two back-to-back weeks so they can spend more time with the friends they've made on the rivers and hiking paths of lush, green Oregon at the foot of majestic Mt. Hood. You are invited to join us at Oral Hull Park in this, our fiftieth year of providing recreation and socialization for the blind community.
Attention Illinois School for the Visually Impaired Alumni:
From 3:00 p.m., May 24, until noon, May 27, the ISVI Alumni Association will conduct its reunion. Hotel rates for this event are $66 a night plus applicable taxes. Reservations can be made now by calling (888) 707-8366 or (217) 529-6626 in Illinois and requesting a room in the ISVI alumni block. You can also contact Melissa at the hotel by email at <[email protected]>. For additional information about the hotel and its services, visit the website <http://www.rt66hotel.com>.
The reunion banquet is scheduled for Saturday, May 26, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the school’s dining room. The menu is grilled ribeye steak, cheesy potatoes with crisp topping, seasoned green beans, dinner rolls, cole slaw, assorted fruit pies, coffee and tea. A meatless entree is available upon request. The banquet cost, including transportation from the hotel to the venue, is $30 per person. If you wish to attend, make your check payable to ISVI Alumni Association and write “Banquet” or “Dinner” in the memo line. Mail checks and attendance form to ISVI Alumni Association, P.O. Box 82, Springfield, IL 62705-0082.
For more about the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired visit its website <www.isvi.net>.
Iowa Department for the Blind Gets New Commissioner:
Michael Barber, president of the NFB of Iowa, writes as follows: Our own Jim Omvig, director of the Iowa Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center many years ago, has received a three-year appointment to the board of the Iowa Department for the Blind from Governor Terry Branstad. Jim will be an excellent addition to the Department board, bringing with him a vast knowledge of rehabilitation programs for the blind and a lifetime as a dedicated and committed member of the National Federation of the Blind. We all congratulate Jim on this achievement. The blind of Iowa will all benefit through his service on the Department board.
A Site to Match Tandem Riders:
With Spring in full swing what better way to enjoy the fresh air than on a bicycle? The U.S. Blind Tandem Cycling Connection is a free resource dedicated to matching interested blind participants with sighted tandem captains. Even if you do not own a tandem, there are probably cyclists in your area who have one to share with you. Visit <http://bicyclingblind.org>, create your profile, and use your zip code to search for cyclists in your area. The site provides tutorials to make your first ride enjoyable and safe. You can also communicate with potential riders anonymously through the site. You can keep your contact information safe until you are ready to share it.
If you have any questions about the site, tandem bicycles, or anything related to cycling as a blind person, contact Ron Burzese, NOMC, (916) 716-5400 or email <[email protected]>.
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.
Benjamin Vercellone is selling a BrailleNote Apex QWERTY with 32 cells and with Sendero GPS Version 2011 included. Other accessories are also included. It was purchased in December 2009 and comes in its original box. It includes the latest software, Keysoft 9.2. The Braille dot quality is very good. He is asking $3,050 with shipping included inside the U.S.
Additional items include the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, The Nemeth Tutorial, a GPS receiver with a sleeve and an AC adapter, an extra battery, an 8 GB SD card containing North America maps from New England and Mid Atlantic plus some other points of interest, a leather carrying case for the Apex, an AC adapter for the Apex, a serial-to-USB cord, and a Braille user’s manual for the Apex.
He is also selling an Alva BC 640 with Feature Pack for $2,050, with shipping included inside the U.S. The Braille dot quality is very good. He purchased this item in the summer of 2009. It includes the carrying case, the AC adapter, a USB chord to connect it with a computer, and a CD with the drivers (burned from the Internet). This unit works especially well with Windows. If interested in either item, contact Benjamin by phone at (201) 218-7618 or by email at <[email protected]>.
I have a PAC Mate OMNI QX, with or without its 40-cell Braille display, in excellent condition. The asking price without the display is $500; the asking price including the 40-cell Braille display is $1,000. For more information email Angela Griffith at <[email protected]> or call her at (510) 969-6125.
Intel Reader for Sale:
I have an Intel reader with capture station that has been used once and is about one year old. I am asking $650. For more information call me, Kirk Buzzard, at (810) 845-2404 or email me at <[email protected]>.
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.