Vol. 56, No. 1 January 2013
Gary Wunder, Editor
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SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
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The 2013 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Orlando, Florida, July 1-6, at the Rosen Centre Hotel at 9840 International Drive, Orlando, Florida 32819. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with the Rosen Centre staff only. Call (800) 204-7234.
The 2013 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins, $79; and triples and quads, $85. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 13.5 percent. No charge will be made for children under seventeen in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $90-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 May 28, 2013. 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, 2013, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold our room block for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.
Guest-room amenities include cable television; in-room safe; coffeemaker; hairdryer; and, for a fee, high-speed Internet access. Guests can also enjoy a swimming pool, fitness center, and on-site spa. The Rosen Centre Hotel offers fine dining at Executive Chef Michael Rumplik’s award-winning Everglades Restaurant. In addition, there is an array of dining options from sushi to tapas to a 24-hour deli. The hotel has first-rate amenities and shuttle service to the Orlando airport.
The schedule for the 2013 convention is:
Monday, July 1 Seminar Day
Tuesday, July 2 Registration Day
Wednesday, July 3 Board Meeting and Division Day
Thursday, July 4 Opening Session
Friday, July 5 Business Session
Saturday, July 6 Banquet Day and Adjournment
Vol. 56, No. 1 January 2013
Illustration: Parents and Blind Children at an Adventure Camp
Ten Million Books and Counting
by Gary Wunder
Serving in His Shadow
by Anil Lewis
A Colleague’s Salute to Jim Omvig
by Jim Kesteloot
by Bob Deaton
Crying My Eyes Out
by Kate Smith
Do Diabetes Companies Have a Blind Spot?
by Mike Hoskins
Equal Access for the Blind: Airfare, Hotels, Cruises--Savings With Travelocity
by Steve Dumaine
Court Orders DCA to Accept Prisoner’s Braille Filing
by Jan Pudlow
Bitten by the Space Bug
by Chelsea Cook
The Secret to Winning a National Federation of the Blind Scholarship
by Patti S. Gregory-Chang
Ask Miss Whozit
Newel Perry: Teacher of
Youth and Leader of Men
by Jacobus tenBroek
An Appeal from the Past
by Anna Kresmer
Convention Scholarships Available
by Allen Harris
Believing as we do in shattering the limiting conceptions about what blind people can do, the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri periodically sponsors a weekend-long adventure camp. Mission Believe brings together children and their parents for concurrent sessions featuring educational activities for the parents and fun and adventure activities for their children.
In August of 2012 students experienced the necessity of teamwork; learned to walk on a plank bridge; felt the exhilaration of rock climbing; and thrilled at the challenge of traversing ladders, climbing poles, and walking along a thin wire, all for the joy of getting thirty-five feet above ground, then gliding back to earth on a zipline.
by Gary Wunder
When I was growing up, one thing that irritated me about being blind was that I could not pick up the newspaper delivered to my father or the magazine that came for my mother and just read them. I loved reading Braille, but it was in short supply, and what I got through my fingers was far from current news or celebrity news that provided for good conversation.
Even today, with all of the technology we have to make more books accessible, what is readily readable by blind people is about 7 percent of the material available to the sighted. We now have a better chance of getting a best-seller before history decides it is a classic or a trashy fad, but ninety-three of every one-hundred books are impossible for us to read without some significant effort on our part, such as hiring a human reader; scanning the book; or asking that some agency transcribe, scan, or record it.
In 2004, Google, the company best-known for its search engine, declared its intention to digitize every book in the world. This mammoth undertaking required taking a picture of each page, storing the image, and then extracting and storing the text. Only if the text has been extracted from the picture of each page can the material be searched electronically for words and phrases.
Google began by building partnerships with publishers and libraries, predominantly university libraries. What Google offered was to digitize every book in the library’s collection, provide the libraries with a digital copy, keep another copy on Google's own computer equipment, and return the original print volume.
So how did this lofty goal of digitizing every book in the world benefit the various stakeholders? The advantage to Google was that people could use its search tools to locate material heretofore available only on paper and therefore not searchable electronically. Although the Google project did not envision providing a link to the material searched, it could give the location of the book, the library where it could be found, and the pages on which the search terms were found. Google's search engine would be enhanced by having searchable material no one else in the industry could match.
The libraries had much to gain by partnering with Google. The dream of digitizing books has been widely shared, but the physical task of doing so ensured it would remain only a dream for some time to come. The University of Michigan, with a longtime commitment to digitizing books for its blind students, estimated it would take well over a thousand years to scan all the books in its collection with the current technology and staff available. What Google offered was the resources to see this project completed, not in ten centuries, but in less than ten years.
Other advantages accrue to the libraries. While we usually think of what is written as timeless, books are printed on paper, and paper degrades, ink fades, and important works disintegrate. Controlling temperature and humidity helps to slow this process, but the acidity of paper means that even in the most suitable environment, age will destroy the best-kept papers and books.
If a work is rare, a library may have only one copy. If it is handled and used, there is always some risk it will be damaged—a torn page or pages that come lose from their binding. As reprehensible as it is, competition to get into and do well in medical school and other competitive fields has sometimes meant the willful destruction of required reading. Digitization does away with the problem of having only one fragile copy, and the ability to store several digital copies at different sites further protects against the loss of a work due to a natural or man-made disaster.
Libraries also realize that having lots of information is of little value if it is hidden away where people can't find it. What pearls of wisdom were offered by Benjamin Franklin? If something he said has been captured by a popular biographer in a best-selling book, many know about it, but what about the quotation that made its way into a scholarly book long since published but never embraced by a large segment of the reading public? Digitization allows for searches, and these can identify the location of long-hidden treasures.
When Google made its offer, several interested libraries partnered to create a repository for the digital treasures they would soon inherit. They created the HathiTrust, an organization charged with collecting material, working out procedures for its secure storage, and devising policies for the way the digital books would be used. A good deal of the material digitized is covered under the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. Protecting the rights of publishers and authors and the reputation of the institutions making contributions to the HathiTrust is of the utmost importance. In Michigan procedures to comply with the spirit and letter of the copyright laws were so strenuous that, when someone borrowed a digital copy of a book, the physical copy would be removed from the shelf until the electronic copy was returned. This ensured that, when only one copy of a work had been purchased by the library, only one copy was being used.
In response to the creation of the HathiTrust, the Author's Guild, Inc., similar associations in other countries, and a dozen authors filed suit in the Southern District of New York. Defendants included the HathiTrust; Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan (UM); Mark G. Yudof, president of the University of California; Kevin Reilly, president of the University of Wisconsin System; Michael McRobbie, president of Indiana University; and Cornell University. The case was assigned to Judge Harold Baer Jr.
The claim of the Authors Guild and other plaintiffs was that digitization by Google was unlawful because it created at least two additional copies of each book held by the libraries and that digitization posed a substantial risk to authors because their intellectual property would be shared in ways that would prevent them from being compensated. The cooperating university libraries and the HathiTrust countered by saying that materials were stored securely, that institutions and even individuals have the right to make a copy of materials they own, as long as the copy is not used commercially, and that, in making the copies, Google did not intend to share the digitized texts but only to search them and point interested people to the location of the books they might need.
So how do blind people emerge as interested parties in this struggle? When a book is digitized with text extracted, it is readable using devices that convert information into Braille, large print, or audio. The work done by Google and the HathiTrust in creating the Hathi Digital Library (HDL) would make millions of books available and would create a unique opportunity for the blind. Typically, a blind person had to request a book and then someone had to find the resources to transcribe it, usually with significant delay; the mass digitization project (MDP) by Google would mean that these books would be available when we wanted them and not at some time in the future after we had requested their transcription. This would bring us one step closer to the immediate access sighted people enjoy when using a university library. The operative word in the last several sentences is “would,” for, if the Authors Guild and the other plaintiffs had their way, the digital copies made by Google would be impounded and perhaps destroyed.
It is possible for interested persons or organizations to ask the court for permission to intervene by filing a friend of the court brief as a way of getting the court to take notice of information the organization considers important. In the action between the Authors Guild and the HathiTrust, the National Federation of the Blind did not ask to submit a brief as a friend of the court but to become involved as a defendant. This is rather bold and unusual because filing as a friend of the court does not make one liable, but being a defendant certainly does. If the Authors Guild prevailed, they might be awarded attorney's fees, for which all of the defendants would be liable. On the other hand, the NFB’s intervening as a defendant meant the court was required to decide the arguments made on behalf of the blind and print-disabled, and submitting the Federation to this risk indicated to the court the importance we attached to this matter and strengthened our ability to ensure that our arguments would be heard and could be forcefully advanced.
An argument that proved central in this case was that blind people and those who are print-disabled have a right under the fair use provisions of the Copyright Act to have access to print information that is digitized. Moreover, the court held that under the Chafee Amendment, the universities can choose to make their digitized copies available to all blind Americans, not just the students and faculty at that institution. Federationists will remember that in 1996 an amendment was made to the Copyright Act, allowing authorized entities to make copies of copyrighted material in formats the blind and print-disabled could use. The Chafee Amendment, as it was known when we fought for its adoption, was revolutionary because if someone wanted to reproduce and distribute a book in an accessible format exclusively for the blind and not take the risk that a court might not call that fair use, the entity would first seek permission from the copyright holder before printed material was converted into an accessible format. Sometimes, though, the copyright holder could no longer be identified. The Chafee Amendment freed up entities like the National Library Service and Bookshare to provide accessible copies without fear of being sued. When a case is filed, much of the preliminary paperwork focuses on whether the court has the right to make decisions about the issues under discussion. If it decides it has jurisdiction, it then must decide whether the parties bringing the case have standing. If someone steals a dollar from me, I have standing to sue that person to reclaim my property, and he has standing to make arguments asserting he didn't steal it. If a friend sees a dollar being taken from me, the court considers her an uninterested party in as much as she cannot bring suit to recover my dollar. I may call her as a witness, but she cannot initiate activity the court will consider. In lay terms, she has no dog in the fight.
Once the court concludes it can decide a case and the parties that will be involved, the participants file briefs with the court outlining their arguments. Responses from each side to what the other has written are advanced. Before a trial is scheduled, one or both sides may make a motion for summary judgment. In this request the court is told that the case made by one side is so persuasive that the outcome of the trial is a virtual certainty. The argument is also made that the evidence offered by the other side is so wanting that the court will reach the same decision. The motion for summary judgment suggests that the court may as well save its time and the time of the plaintiffs and defendants by making a ruling on what has already been submitted.
The language used isn't anything like what you see here. Instead, both sides outline their arguments, relying heavily on previously decided cases. The plaintiffs, the persons or organizations bringing the suit, argue that a case similar to theirs was decided in the affirmative and assert that the cases cited by the defendants are different from the defendant's interpretation of them. The defendants make the same claims about the arguments advanced by the plaintiffs. After a review of the motions and arguments submitted, a judge may set the case for trial or may award summary judgment.
In the case of the Authors Guild vs. the HathiTrust, the judge ruled, among other things, that the Americans with Disabilities Act and the United States Copyright Act certainly permit the digitization of books for the use of the blind and print-disabled. The arguments supporting the requirements of the ADA relating to access to information will be straightforward to most readers. Arguments supporting the mass digitization project under the laws governing copyright protections may be less clear. At the heart of the copyright argument is the concept of “fair use” and whether the books digitized represent a “transformative use” of the works. Making digital copies to share with those able to read the printed volumes would not be transformative because the copies would serve the same purpose as the original volume. Making a copy available to the blind and otherwise print-disabled is transformative in that the material as created was not intended to serve this population. Similarly, the intent of the hardcopy books was not to make possible an electronic search or to allow data mining, an interesting concept that explores the use of words and the way phrases and concepts evolve over time. An example of data mining cited in the judge’s opinion would be searching texts in order to compare the use of the verbs “is” and “are” when used to refer to the United States—one nation or a group of states which, for specific purposes, are united.
Returning our focus to concerns of the blind, the judgment further stipulates that university libraries are authorized entities which can convert and distribute digitized information in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act. Although many if not all universities have realized they have an obligation to convert print to something that can be used by the blind, many were uncomfortable assuming that the library might undertake digitization beyond the specific and identifiable needs of blind students matriculating there.
In his ruling Judge Baer singled out George Kerscher, Dan Goldstein, and Marc Maurer for convincingly describing the essential role of information in the lives of the blind and their struggle to get meaningful access to printed materials. Short excerpts from his opinion, edited to remove citations and other material relevant only to the court, follow:
In an eloquent oral argument by Mr. Goldstein as well as in Mr. Kerscher's declaration, Defendant Intervenors spelled out where blind scholars stood before digitalization: Prior to the development of accessible digital books, the blind could access print materials only if the materials were converted to Braille or if they were read by a human reader, either live or recorded . . . Absent a program like the MDP [Mass Digitization Project], print-disabled students accessed course materials through a university's disability student services office, but most universities are able to provide only reading that was actually required. Print-disabled individuals read digital books independently through screen-access software that allows text to be conveyed audibly or tactilely to print-disabled readers, which permits them to access text more quickly, reread passages, annotate, and navigate, just as a sighted reader does with text. Since the digital texts in the HDL became available, print-disabled students have had full access to the materials through a secure system intended solely for students with certified disabilities. Many of these works have tables of contents, which allow print-disabled students to navigate to relevant sections with a screen reader just as a sighted person would use the table of contents to flip to a relevant portion. In other words, academic participation by print-disabled students has been revolutionized by the HDL.
This is what the judge came to understand as a result of this case and a part of what he recorded for the legal practitioners who will further clarify how technology, with its ability to copy and transform material, will shape copyright law. The part played by the National Federation of the Blind is unquestionably significant, given how much of the judge's decision relies on fair use, the transformative nature of the digitized material, and its value to the print-disabled. The University of Michigan's leadership in asserting the rights of the print-disabled is impressive, and the work of Jack Bernard, their counsel, is courageous and significant. George Kerscher's longtime leadership in creating electronic books readable by the blind is a testament to his exceptional work to address the deficiencies he found in the books available to him in the pursuit of his graduate degree, and his service in the cause of making the printed word accessible is nothing less than stellar. All of the libraries, universities, and those who lead them deserve credit for their commitment through participation in this project to meet the spirit and the letter of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
This judgment has been appealed, but the arguments articulated in our filings and in the judge's decision will serve us well. We know that the distance traveled on the road to equality is seldom traversed in one step. We have been a part of a marathon that began in 1940 and will continue until blindness becomes as insignificant as the color of one's hair or the length of one's stride.
Through this case the National Federation of the Blind has made it clear that, not only do we insist on the same book at the same price and at the same time it is available to others, but we also insist that the libraries of the world be open to us, that our access to information be timely, and that one day soon we live in a world in which we no longer have to ask for a book and wait for its transcription but can decide to read it and then check it out just like anyone else.
We know that poor design can sometimes result in technology that limits our independence: household appliances that are unusable unless one can see a visual display provide just one example. But we also know that, when designed creatively and with the needs of the blind in mind, technology can transform the way we interact with the world. On both fronts, expanding access when information is not accessible and preserving access when someone tries to take it away, the National Federation of the Blind continues to be the strongest force pressing for equality of opportunity and the recognition that we are and shall be treated like the first-class citizens we are. We should demand nothing less from our society, and it should demand nothing less from us. This is the contract we share, the blind and those who help us, and this is the way we will make the future we dream of become reality.
by Anil Lewis
From the Editor: Anil Lewis is director of strategic communications at the Jernigan Institute for the Blind. Recently his efforts have focused on the rights of people who work in sheltered shops and specifically on the fact that it is legal to pay them less than the minimum wage. His work has earned him a seat on the federal AbilityOne Commission, where he follows in the footsteps of another Federationist we commemorate in this issue. Here is Anil’s tribute to a colleague, a friend, and a loyal soldier in our movement:
Every day members of the NFB formally and informally contribute their time and talent to assist others in reaching their full potential. One man who has committed his life to this service is a man it has been my pleasure to know and work with now for several years. I am proud to have gotten to know one of our most outstanding members, James Omvig, and to follow him in a part of his work that has meant much to him and to blind people throughout the nation and the world.
The author of Freedom for the Blind: The Secret is Empowerment, Mr. Omvig has helped me to understand that I must recognize that it is OK to be blind; I must master the alternative skills of blindness; I must effectively cope with public attitudes about blindness; I must successfully blend in as a productive member of society; and I must freely and generously give back to others. He has integrated these five elements of success into the core of his being, and as a result he is a recognized trailblazer in securing the rights of blind people throughout America. I am honored to serve in his shadow, embracing these elements of success as I continue blazing the trail toward our full participation in society.
A longtime leader of the National Federation of the Blind, James Omvig was Dr. Kenneth Jernigan’s student at the Iowa Commission for the Blind in 1961. He has amassed a legacy of personal and professional accomplishments and has dedicated his life to fighting for equality and full participation of the blind. The first blind student ever accepted into the Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, Mr. Omvig was the first blind attorney ever hired by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). He worked for the NLRB, where he learned about and became expert in the federal processes of employee unionization before becoming deeply committed to vocational rehabilitation and residential orientation and adjustment centers for the blind.
Today we take for granted that a blind man like Jim Omvig has capacity and is able to compete on terms of equality with the sighted. However, despite personal and professional success, Mr. Omvig has never been a stranger to the plight of those paid subminimum wages. In 1964 he was paid 75 cents an hour as a production-line worker at the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind. Without acquiring the essential elements of success, James Omvig could have spent his remaining years toiling away at pennies an hour, and the Federation would have lost a champion for justice. Fortunately, with his personal experience of the way that limited opportunities, lack of training, and managerial perceptions of incapacity can lead to the overwhelming underemployment of the blind, Mr. Omvig accepted the challenge of improving the work environment of blind workshop employees. As a member of the NFB, he fought from the outside to change the discriminatory practices of the sheltered workshops for the blind. He was instrumental in the efforts of blind sheltered shop workers to unionize. The following is an excerpt from the June 2009 Braille Monitor article, “More Progress in the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Program.” That briefly describes, in his own words, how dogged persistence and collective action secured rights, privileges, and protections for the blind workers of the Chicago Lighthouse:
On the issue of unionization in Chicago, I told the blind employees that the struggle would be hard and long and that it would also be complicated. They would first have to select a union to represent them. Then they would have to request a National Labor Relations Board election so they could vote as to whether or not they wanted union representation…. The sheltered shop employees did decide to form an NFB Division, and the Chicago Lighthouse employees did decide to seek union representation. And, happily, in late June of 1976, the ruling came. The Board overturned the old 1960 decision and ruled that, henceforth, blind workers would enjoy the same rights, privileges, and protections as those enjoyed by sighted workers [working for the same lighthouse]. The Chicago action also encouraged blind workers across the country, and before long several of the agencies were unionized. I believe it is fair to say that from then on management began to view blind workers differently.
Not only did management begin to view blind workers differently, blind workers began to view themselves differently. More and more blind supervisors, managers, and executives obtained employment through the AbilityOne program than ever before. Through persistent advocacy by the NFB, blind workshop employees made significant progress toward the goal of equal employment, but many hurdles remained. Mr. Omvig realized that in order to effect systemic change, a blind person must be at the table where policies are created. So in 2002 he accepted a presidential appointment and took his seat at the table of the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled.
Known today as the AbilityOne Commission, this fifteen-member, presidentially appointed committee administers a program under the Javits-Wagner-O’Day (JWOD) Act, in which specific products and services are procured by federal agencies from businesses in which 75 percent of direct labor is performed by qualified people with disabilities. The nonprofit agencies of the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and NISH (formerly National Industries for the Severely Handicapped) manage the activities between the federal agencies contracting for supplies and services through the program and the community rehabilitation programs employing workers with disabilities to produce the products and provide the services.
Mr. Omvig eventually became the vice chair of the AbilityOne Commission, and in that role, through a strategy of rational instrumentalism, he has been able to effect significant positive change in the program. Along with the development and implementation of several management training programs, he has been a champion in the development of the quality work environment initiative that improves working conditions, job opportunities, and wages for employees with disabilities under both the NIB and NISH programs. His success was chronicled in the February 2007 Braille Monitor article, “It’s Not Your Grandfather’s NIB Anymore,” in addition to the June 2009 Braille Monitor article, “More Progress in the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Program.”
James Omvig has left his mark on the JWOD program and has the respect of every member of the AbilityOne Commission, the AbilityOne Commission staff, and the staff of both NIB and NISH. Now, as his term on the AbilityOne Commission comes to an end, he will pass the torch on to another to continue his good work. I am honored and a little intimidated to have been chosen.
Both my personal and professional lives have allowed me to focus on the competitive integrated employment of people with disabilities. I have come to know that, when provided the proper training, opportunity, and support, people with all types of disabilities can be competitively employed. In my current role as director of advocacy and policy for the NFB, I am primarily responsible for our efforts to repeal the unfair, discriminatory, immoral provision in Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act that allows employers to pay workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage. I am grateful to have a mentor like James Omvig in this work.
My personal experience with the subminimum wage workshops is through my brother and sister. They both worked for the Georgia Industries for the Blind (GIB) and were paid subminimum wages. In fact, when I became blind, I thought that would be my future as well. Although my brother and others were successful in their efforts to require GIB to pay their blind employees a competitive wage, he never received the training and encouragement to secure gainful integrated employment in a career that capitalized on his unique skills, talents, and abilities. I often consider the impact he would have had on the self-esteem and self-confidence of students if he had capitalized on his athletic talents and people skills to become a coach or physical education instructor. I also think of how many more otherwise successful individuals we have lost to the disabling low expectations of the subminimum wage workshops. I am thankful that my sister was successful in her career transition and is currently working as a supervisor for the General Services Administration. However, far too many others have been unsuccessful, and as a nation we are diminished as a result. Think of how much we would have lost if Mr. Omvig had succumbed to the workshop’s claim of incapacity masked as compassion and therapy.
Mr. Omvig and others have provided me encouragement and support. President Obama recently appointed me to serve as a member of the AbilityOne Commission. This is a five-year-term, part-time position that allows me to maintain my dream job as a member of the staff of the National Federation of the Blind. Now it is my turn to sit at the table, and, thanks to the National Federation of the Blind, I know that I am well equipped for the challenge. As Jim Omvig’s term as a member of the AbilityOne Commission ends and mine begins, I take great honor in serving in his shadow. I will work to usher the JWOD program into the new era of Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities. We work diligently in the shadow of many leaders in the Federation, and, although they have made our path a little easier, we must work just that much harder to be sure that our own light shines bright.
by Jim Kesteloot
From the Editor: Jim Kesteloot, a former director of the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind, made a presentation at the 2011 national convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando, Florida. He spoke about the need to change the law permitting payment of less than the minimum wage to people who are blind or otherwise disabled. He also talked about his service on the AbilityOne Commission and about the fine work of one of his colleagues, James H. Omvig. In July of 2012 Mr. Omvig retired from the AbilityOne Commission, and here, lightly edited, is what Mr. Kesteloot had to say in honoring James Omvig at that ceremony:
When I think of Jim, I think of three things: he's tall, handsome, and brilliant. Jim, did I say that the way you told me to? Seriously, the three things I think of are: 1. Here is the AbilityOne annual report that was just handed out this morning. Its front cover says "National Treasures." On the cover is a picture of the Statue of Liberty. When I think of Jim, I think of Jim as a national treasure; no one knows more about adjustment to disability, rehabilitation, and motivation than Jim Omvig. As he leaves AbilityOne, he will be hard to replace. Oh sure, another good person will be appointed, but there will be only one Jim Omvig. In our industry, he's like a priest, minister, and rabbi all rolled into one. In my own service I have always sought his counsel and guidance.
My wife Barb told me that Jim is like the Dalai Lama. Jim has wisdom. He is a philosopher. You know, Barbara Walters interviewed the Dalai Lama in early July on ABC's 20/20. Walters asked the Dalai Lama whether he thought he was God. The Dalai Lama said, "No. I don't think I'm God. I am not God. I'm a teacher." That's Jim, a teacher. In my service here I have so often found myself thinking, “What would Jim do; what would Jim say; how would Omvig handle this?” Jim Omvig, a teacher and national treasure!
2. When I think of Jim Omvig, I think of QWE, a Quality Work Environment: CRP employees being paid not just minimum wage but living wages, employee satisfaction; a safe and comfortable working environment; opportunities for advancement/upward mobility; employees provided decent benefits; having opportunities for a career rather than just a job; access to further training and so much more.
You know, in the late nineteenth century and twentieth century there were some great civil rights leaders: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and others. In our industry Jim Omvig is this caliber of leader—Jim Omvig, a national treasure!
3. When I think of Jim, I think of love. Jim loves Sharon. Sharon and Jim love each other. In our industry you need to know how to love. If I have learned anything over my forty-five years in the field of rehabilitation, it's that love is the most important ingredient in rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is gaining or regaining the capacity to live independently: independently to one's maximum potential. It's hard enough to adjust to the onset of a severe disability. How can you adjust if you are not loved and lacking such support? I always feel this sense of love when I'm around him. Jim Omvig, a national treasure!
by Bob Deaton
From the Editor: This article originally appeared in the fall edition of Expressions in Independence, the newsletter of the Nebraska Orientation Center for the Blind. Bob Deaton, an assistant director of the program, offers real insight into his adjustment to blindness. Here is what he says about losing his self-worth, his struggle to regain it, and his journey in coming to see himself, not as a broken person, but as a person with much to give:
I was twenty-two years old when an ophthalmologist told me that I had retinitis pigmentosa (RP). I was slowly going blind, and probably in another fifteen years or so I wouldn’t see at all. I knew that I had tunnel vision and couldn’t see well at night, but I had no idea that my vision was slowly changing for the worse. All at once my world changed and the future looked bleak and uncertain.
The year was 1972. I thought I was the only blind person or going-blind person in all of northern Wisconsin. What I thought I knew about blindness was frightening and disturbing. Blind people were helpless, unable to do anything for themselves; they certainly didn’t work. Blind people were to be pitied and taken care of. That’s how I thought others would come to regard me.
I look back on those times with considerable detachment now; it’s as if it happened to someone else. There was the feeling that everything was changed forever, my personal self-concept shattered. At first I dealt with it by not dealing with it. I could still read with the central vision I had, recognize faces, and get around pretty well, at least during the day. Most people didn’t realize I had problems seeing, or so I liked to think. Maybe the doctor was wrong. Maybe my vision wouldn’t get any worse. I could deal with that.
Before long reality intruded. Things that were once easy for me became more difficult. Traveling at night or in dark places provoked anxiety. Things looked blurry, particularly at a distance. Colors were not so bright. It was with great dismay that I finally gave my tennis racket away, realizing that I would never play the game again.
By the time I finished college and began working towards a graduate degree in social work, life seemed pointless. I was working toward a career with no confidence that I could make it work. I suppose I felt some anger with my situation. Maybe I considered medical solutions; I think that there was supposed to be some remarkable treatment for my kind of problem in Russia. What I clearly remember is sinking into a deep depression that settled in for the long haul.
I don’t believe anyone who has been spared chronic depression can know what it is like. The sense of powerlessness is pervasive, persistent, and relentless. Each day is as empty of purpose as the day before, and there is no reason to believe that things will get any better. I couldn’t concentrate on graduate school, dropped out, and went to work in a local factory. If you ever want to stop the world and get off for a while, try working on an assembly line. As long as you show up for work and do your job reasonably well, you don’t have to engage your mind much. That’s exactly what I wanted, but the depression continued. I was drifting with no destination in mind.
After a couple of years the oppressive, unchanging regularity of what had become my life proved too much for me, and my thoughts turned to suicide. It seems incredible to me now to think that I once had a suicide plan, but it’s true. For me that was the low point of my life. As I thought about how I would end it all, I scared myself badly enough to want to do something about it. Life was pretty bad and didn’t look much better down the road, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet.
I had slowly withdrawn from most of the people I knew, but fortunately a few friends wouldn’t let me slip away. One in particular helped me get back on track. He convinced me to join him on a ten-speed bike trip through northern Wisconsin and Michigan. The bike trip lasted seven weeks. It was an amazing experience. Each new day had to be negotiated. What did we want to see? Where did we want to eat? Should we find a campground, or did we want to stay in a motel? Everywhere we went people were interested in who we were and where we were heading. For the first time in a long time I had the sense that I was in control of where I was and what I did.
In many ways that bike trip never ended. My life opened up to possibilities I had thought unthinkable a short time before. Instead of the day-to-day decisions of the trip, I began to consider longer-range perspectives. I decided then that I would never again let circumstances dictate my course in life. And just what did I want out of life? I decided that I did still want to work with people. I resolved to finish my graduate degree in social work, and I did, earning almost straight A’s in the process. I was still not sure about how I would deal with future vision loss, but until that happened, I would do the best I knew how.
The job search came after I graduated. In the late 1970s it seemed that every social work position I applied for required a driver’s license, to say nothing of experience. I had no driver’s license, of course, and the internship and practicum experiences during graduate training were my only experience. But more than that, I really did not believe in myself. When I interviewed for a job, I did not project the kind of confidence employers expect of job applicants. I knew that I was visually impaired and would only become more so. I saw myself as damaged goods. If I was truthful, I would not have hired myself.
It is said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. After two years of a fruitless job search, I enrolled in a graduate program of vocational rehabilitation counseling with a focus on vocational evaluation and work adjustment. This time I chose a field of study in a career that was less likely to require extensive driving. I was determined to graduate at the top of my class and did pretty well, getting nearly all A’s once again.
My vision continued to worsen, of course. In fact I knew I should have started using a white cane long before I did. The decision to begin using the cane was not easy. I did not look forward to explaining to everyone why I was using the cane when I was “not blind.” The day I started using the cane was the same day I started graduate school. My classmates and instructors did not know me from before and so acceptance was immediate. I still had to deal with my family and friends when I went home on weekends, but this was manageable. Before long everyone seemed comfortable with the new order of things.
I was using a magnifying glass to read regular print, but I started thinking about what I would need as a blind person, not a high partial with pretty good functional vision. I wanted to prepare for what was sure to come. My vocational rehabilitation counselor referred me for a week-long assessment at the Visually Impaired Program (VIP) at the technical college in Wausau, Wisconsin. From the start I said I wanted to prepare for blindness, and I wanted to know how I could engage in a professional career as a blind person.
To assess my cooking skills, I was given a TV dinner. I read the instructions on the box (without the magnifying glass), put it in a microwave, and set the controls. After removing the cooked meal from the microwave, I ate it. My skills in this area were deemed adequate for survival, and no training in compensatory skills was indicated. Braille was not recommended since I could read print with magnification if needed. For mobility I was taught to hold the cane diagonally in a fixed position across the front of my body. I was advised to travel at night only in well-lit areas or with assistance. Essentially the instructors at VIP believed that compensatory skills training would be a waste of time since I would only have to be retrained later when I experienced more vision loss. Needless to say an assessment like that was not only a huge disappointment, it was an abysmal waste of my time. It also made me think that there was not much I could do to prepare for the future until I actually lost more vision.
When I got my graduate degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling, nine years had passed since I had learned of my eventual blindness. It pleases me to say that I took the white cane with me to my first job interview after graduation. I got that job, and I worked there for nearly three years. Let me say that self-confidence goes a long way in a job interview. I knew that all sheltered workshops in the state of Minnesota had three years to become CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) certified. I knew that the Achievement Center (TAC), where I interviewed, was not CARF certified. If TAC did not achieve standards acceptable to CARF, it would not receive state funding. This knowledge served me well in the interview. I said that I could help TAC get ready for CARF and that I knew what would be required. Later on I learned that I was the only applicant who knew anything about CARF, and that was why I was hired.
I did well at TAC; my graduate training was put to good use. Still vision loss continued inexorably. I went through a series of different devices with higher magnification and lighting. I thought I might prepare for encroaching blindness while still on the job. I became a client of the Minnesota Services for the Blind, and a mobility instructor came out to work with me using the white cane. She thought my method of holding the cane diagonally across my body was fine; that didn’t need to change. However, she thought impaired hearing created a safety problem. I have 50 percent bilateral hearing loss, and I was advised not to cross any busy streets, except intersections with traffic lights. She also recommended that I not travel unattended at night or in dark places. She thought I would do well to make more use of sighted guides. I listened to what she had to say; she was the expert after all.
The time for making decisions was not far off: visual ways of doing things were breaking down, and it was taking longer and longer for me to get things done. I asked my VR counselor what I should do since I didn’t believe visits by my O&M instructor would be enough. He told me about the Minneapolis Society for the Blind (MSB), and I sent away for more information. I also inquired about training programs in other states such as Lions World in Arkansas and a new program in Idaho. My VR counselor, however, did not encourage this exploration. If I pursued training anywhere outside the state, I would lose any assistance I might otherwise get. In other words, it was MSB or nothing.
I met the newly hired director of an independent living center for people with disabilities during this time of uncertainty and indecision. She was totally blind and the first positive role model I had met since being told that I would be blind myself. This was not because I avoided contact with blind people; in fact my VR counselor in Wisconsin knew I wanted to meet other blind people and arranged for me to meet some of her clients. There was the man who had lost all his vision in a plane crash three months before. He was very angry and believed life was over for him. The strength of his despair blew me away. Then there was the blind housewife. She also had RP and was totally blind. She had a woodshop in the basement of her home, and the tools she showed me for measuring were intriguing; however, she did very little outside the home. She gave effusive thanks for her husband, without whom she said she would be completely lost. These encounters did not encourage me, and I didn’t ask for any more introductions.
My new friend was a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota (NFBM). With her encouragement I attended an NFBM state convention in Minneapolis. The experience was stunning. More than a hundred blind people were at that convention engaged in all manner of endeavor. I heard the message that blindness was in fact manageable. If I wanted to continue my career in rehabilitation, there was no reason why I shouldn’t--provided I had the proper training and opportunity. I asked about MSB and heard very little positive about it.
As it turned out, my friend was once employed as the home management instructor at the Nebraska Orientation Center for the Blind in Lincoln. It sounded like just the sort of program I was looking for. My friend and I arranged for a tour, and I quickly concluded that this was where I needed to be. I told my VR counselor of my plans, and my case was closed. My resignation from TAC was bittersweet, but I knew it was time to move on. By the way, TAC earned CARF certification the month before I left.
The training at the Orientation Center for the Blind was without a doubt a life-changing event. After years of experience in the field, it is now possible for me to compare the Orientation Center with other training centers for the blind. Many training centers provide basic skill instruction in the alternative skills of blindness over a period of three months or so, but that is as far as it goes. If the purpose of training is simply to teach the basic alternatives needed for travel, communication, and activities of daily living, the case can be made that three months of training is enough. It is my contention, however, that many graduates of centers like this do not go on to complete vocational training or obtain high-quality employment. In fact many return for more training in the skills of blindness, particularly if they lose more vision.
Center training is successful if the trainee has gained the basic alternative skills of blindness, problem-solving skills adequate for managing situations faced by blind people every day, and a positive understanding of blindness and belief in oneself as a blind person. The approach to training is called “structured discovery.” Through exposure to a series of gradually more complex learning situations, trainees develop confidence in their ability to apply the alternative skills of blindness and come up with solutions. Seminars during center training provide frequent opportunities for trainees to examine their personal attitudes and beliefs about blindness. As skill levels rise, trainees often change their ideas about what is possible after center training.
To realize success, training is longer than it is at most other centers. It has to be. If alternative skills are to be applied with confidence in a way that promotes full participation in the life of our communities, more time is necessary. An intellectual understanding about what blind people can do is not enough; it needs to be experienced at a gut level; it needs to be lived.
I could go on about the value of each class I participated in during my center training, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that every class contributed significantly to my personal growth. I was finally getting what I needed in preparation for life as a totally blind person. At that time I was still what some people referred to as a “high partial.” As such, my training was completed under sleepshades. Sleepshades were never a problem for me. There were enough times when my diminishing vision simply did not work well, and nonvisual alternatives were the way to go. I could still read print with a magnifying glass, and I could still recognize faces, but I knew that wouldn’t be the case in another few years. As long as my vision worked for some things, I used visual strategies, but I didn’t want to repeat center training if my vision got worse, as I knew it would. Sleepshades made sense.
I quickly got with the program, as my fellow trainees would’ve said back then, and my progress was rapid. The ten months I spent in training in 1984-1985 were the most important time of my life. I owe the center a great deal, but center training was not the most important thing that happened to me then. The connections I made with other blind people, at the center and through the NFB-Nebraska local chapter, did more than anything else to help me realize my own potential and grow as a blind person.
Fourteen years had passed before I could connect with positive blind role models, something that should have happened when I first learned I was becoming blind. I can’t say enough about how important this was to me. In fact, even though I had been a client of two different state vocational rehabilitation agencies, my real rehabilitation as a blind person did not begin until I came to Nebraska and joined the society of other blind people, people who were not extraordinary or exceptionally advantaged, people I could relate to. The range of possibilities became much wider, and I came to feel more secure about myself and where I was going.
I want to say one other thing. During the years I struggled with blindness, my family and friends felt my pain, sometimes more than I did myself, or so it seemed. They wanted to help but didn’t know how. Since I hated the idea of being dependent on others, I resisted any of their attempts to do things for me. This created an awkward situation. Whenever I was clearly experiencing difficulty, no one knew exactly how to act. At other times I would begin some undertaking only to encounter expressions of disapproval or even fear. That was the situation I faced when my family learned of my plans to begin the bike trip mentioned above. They thought I would have an accident for sure, probably on the first day—never mind that I had been biking around town for years.
After center training I was much more relaxed around people—family, friends, or strangers. I conducted myself differently, and those who knew me appreciated the difference. I had more confidence, more self-assurance. Once my family realized that I was not an accident waiting to happen, they relaxed and became less nervous. My relations with friends also improved. Not everyone I thought of as friends stuck by me; some bailed out pretty quickly, and that hurt. Maybe that was for the best. The friends that hung in there, however, will be dear to me for as long as I live.
I didn’t really think about how my relationships with the people closest to me would change as a consequence of training. It was a benefit totally unexpected. In fact, I didn’t anticipate just how much training would change my view of the world and what it had to offer. It came as a pleasant surprise—and a revelation. What we do in life is up to us. That’s true. But we are social animals after all. My journey would not have been possible without the people I met along the way. I owe a lot to a lot of people.
I worked a temporary position as an outpatient social worker at a Veterans Administration Hospital in Wisconsin after my center training. That might have led eventually to a permanent job in the federal government, but then a position for a vocational rehabilitation counselor opened at the Nebraska Services for the Visually Impaired (now the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired). That was twenty-five years ago. I am totally blind now, but that’s okay. I am comfortable with who I am and where I am. More important, I can now give back to others as others gave to me when I needed it most.
by Kate Smith
From the Editor: Kate Smith is a middle-aged woman from Alabama who is currently receiving training at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Here is her story about what many experience in making a successful adjustment to blindness:
Anyone who has experience with visual rehabilitation as a rehabilitator or a rehabilitatee knows that professionals disagree about whether people with low vision should be trained to use methods to optimize their vision or trained to do what they have to do without vision. I think the person who is living with low vision should be the one who makes this choice. But many people with low vision resist training methods that require them to wear a blindfold and work without sight. I am here to convince everyone with low vision to try training under a blindfold a few times before making a decision.
I have struggled for many years with fading vision. Like most people I know with low vision, I mostly tried to ignore my limitations. Whenever I found a task that I could no longer do efficiently or optimally, I searched for magic glasses or a magic surgery or a magic machine that would allow me to keep on pretending that I was still able to function visually in a visual world. My method worked for quite a while. But then it didn't. At some indefinable point I crossed a visual line and stepped into a confusing world of shifting shadows, glaring light, and fuzzy, diffuse edges. I started having conversations with coat racks. I visited men's rooms. I spilled fine wine in posh restaurants. I tripped and fell too many times to count. In short, I lost control of my life.
So by the time I recognized I needed vision rehabilitation, I was fed up with my vision, and I was fed up with vision aids. I was desperate to learn how to get along without my eyes. I eagerly accepted the opportunity to work with a blindfold. I was ready for the darkness—or so I thought. I cried uncontrollably the first time I put on a blindfold; I cried the second time too. I was surprised the first time I cried, and equally surprised the second time. Now, knowing what I know, I think the most surprising thing is that I actually thought I wouldn't cry. You see, I thought this was a rational decision, and I am pretty good at rational decisions. I am a rational, educated woman. So, once I had accepted that I needed to learn how to function without my vision, the next rational step was to blindfold myself and get a teacher to show me how to function that way. Isn't that the rational thing to do? But the rational, educated woman had failed to consult the rebellious, terrified child within; I had been ignoring her for years. She was still sure she could see if she tried hard enough. She was pretty sure there were monsters in the dark. She was scared, and she was having none of this blindfold business.
So there I was, educated woman and terrified child, crying in front of my brand-new cane travel instructor, crying on a public street, crying my eyes out. This wasn't new—this public humiliation--I'm the woman who hangs out in men's restrooms--but it was still surprising. Because this time I had decided; I had taken control of my destiny. Me, the grown-up—rational, educated woman—and I couldn't figure out why I was crying. My instructor, Chantal, allowed me to continue my first cane travel lesson without the sleepshade. But the second time, when the tears surprised me again, the sleepshade stayed on. We both just pretended the tears weren't there. By the third lesson the tears were gone and the grown-up was firmly in control. The worst was over, or so I thought. I started a new phase of rehab training—the independent living class. The teachers, Carol and Sue, told us we would spend part of each class day working under sleepshades. I smugly informed them that I had already worked under a blindfold and I was comfortable with the experience. I grandly announced to the class at large that, in my opinion, structured discovery was the best form of rehab and the blindfold was the best teaching practice available. We were lucky, I said, to have teachers willing to guide us through the process. I assured everyone who could hear me that the fear would subside quickly. And then another student, Janet, started to cry, and then I cried—again. So much for the grown-up, rational, educated woman.
But, as I write this, we are almost finished with the independent living class. Janet and I don't cry anymore. We ironed shirts under sleepshades, and we didn't cry. We cooked spaghetti under sleepshades, and we didn't cry. We have even been able to laugh some days—almost every day. So here's what I learned under the sleepshade: I learned to walk with a cane; I learned to eat without spilling; I learned how to cook spaghetti. The blindfold helped me to turn off my eyes and learn things in a nonvisual way—important stuff.
But even more important was the stuff my terrified inner child learned from the blindfolds. She learned that I can still do the things I need to do; she learned that I am still going to laugh; she learned not to be afraid of the dark; and she learned that sometimes you just have to cry your eyes out.
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by Mike Hoskins
From the Editor: On September 27, 2012, Tom Ley, a former president of the Diabetes Action Network of the National Federation of the Blind, was interviewed by Diabetes Magazine. The interview set the stage for him to attend a summit in November when he would pose the question “Do Diabetes Companies Have a Blind Spot?” The magazine staff appeared to be delighted with Tom’s message and his hope that the industry would wake up and take notice that blind diabetics have needs that their products should address. The questions asked by Diabetes Magazine are prefaced with DM and Tom Ley’s answers with TL. We hope to follow up after the summit to report on Tom’s progress to eliminate this blind spot. Here is the interview:
Welcome to the latest in our series of interviews with the ten winners of the 2012 DiabetesMine Patient Voices Contest, who were announced back in June. This time we're chatting with Tom Ley, who has a unique story in that he's not only been living with type 1 diabetes for most of his life but has also been blind for much of his life. Despite his inability to see, Tom's visionary thinking on D-innovation has the potential to impact many in the diabetes community. Not only is Tom a PWD [Person with a Disability] himself, but he also has a young son who was diagnosed at age four.
His winning contest video was titled "Access Denied" to illustrate how PWDs with vision impairments aren't offered the same access to tools like insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) as everyone else. To Tom these twenty-first-century D-devices should be offering the same availability to the blind as ATMs and blood pressure meters. A catchy line in his video that we can't get out of our minds: "Do diabetes technology companies have a blind spot?" Great point, Tom. Now we're wondering that ourselves...
Before we get to the DiabetesMine Innovation Summit in November, where we can ask vendors that question directly, Tom takes a few minutes to share his story and what's led him to this point in his life:
DM: Tom, can you start by sharing your unique diagnosis story?
TL: Actually my diabetes story consists of one diagnosis after another. I developed diabetes when I was seven, lost my vision from diabetic retinopathy during my senior year of high school, experienced both kidney failure and a successful kidney transplant while in college, and developed mild gastroparesis in my mid-twenties. Thankfully my heart, hands, and feet are great.
DM: What was it like being diagnosed so young?
TL: I think my T1D [type 1 diabetes] diagnosis story is typical. I first learned that I had diabetes in July 1974. During that spring my second-grade teacher complained to my parents that I was leaving class frequently to go to the bathroom. The first time I recall realizing something was wrong was during a family day trip to Toledo Bend. I was incredibly thirsty. I can remember gulping down large glasses of lemonade and still being thirsty. I had to ask my dad to stop the car several times so I could go to the bathroom. Of course it was summertime in Shreveport, Louisiana, so no one was surprised or concerned about my thirst. But my parents noticed my dramatic weight loss. They could literally see my ribs. Finally, I was so weak, tired, and nauseous that I could hardly move, so my parents took me to the emergency room. By then I was in ketoacidosis; my blood sugar was 550 mg/dL.
Back then diabetes management was rather minimal. My pediatrician's goal was that I never experience hypoglycemia. I would go to the pediatrician twice a year for glucose testing and insulin adjustment, and I monitored my urine daily for sugar. I never experienced low blood sugar as a child.
DM: You mentioned in your video that you are completely blind and that your wife has low vision. Can you tell us more about how your blindness affects your life with diabetes?
TL: Blindness doesn't really change the tasks one does. Rather it changes how one goes about accomplishing them. I have a wonderful family life and professional career because I got the training I needed to succeed as a blind person. Shortly after losing my sight, I received world-class blindness rehabilitation from the Louisiana Center for the Blind. There I developed the inner confidence and practical skills of blindness, skills like Braille literacy and independent cane travel. These allow me to live a full and productive life. I have a challenging and rewarding career as a business analyst at UPS. I am married and have two children. I met my wife Eileen at the National Federation of the Blind annual convention. She was born blind but has low vision. Together we work on diabetes and disability rights advocacy and consult on the development of the only completely accessible and affordable glucose meter for the blind—the Prodigy Voice.
In my video I explain some of the challenges blind diabetics face. In diabetes self-management the biggest obstacle I have is insufficient access to information. For example, consider food labels. When I need to calculate carbs, I either have to have someone read a food label to me, or I need to check an online resource using assistive technology like an accessible computer or my VoiceOver-enabled iPhone.
(DM Editor's Note: Eileen also submitted a great video for the Patient Voices Contest, but alas, we could only choose one from the family.)
DM: Besides the Prodigy, are there other good diabetes tools designed for the blind?
TL: Most diabetes technology is not particularly accessible to blind users. Sometimes I can access a limited set of features nonvisually. But, so far the Prodigy is the only meter I can use. For dosing insulin there are a number of accessible methods for those not using a pump. Insulin pens are accessible, and there are gadgets that allow blind people to fill insulin syringes from a vial.
Consider my insulin pump. I can't use the meter remote for my pump because it is not accessible. I have learned to change my pump set independently: I can prime the pump, use the audio bolus features, and even suspend my pump. But I need a sighted person to change my basal rates, set a temporary basal, use the built-in bolus calculator, determine IOB (insulin on board), check the battery status, read error messages, figure out how much insulin remains in the cartridge, or take anything other than a simple bolus without sighted assistance. Basically the advanced features that make pumps so wonderful are not accessible to me.
The same goes for my CGM. I can insert and start the sensor. I can hear the alarms, so I can take action when I rise above or sink below targeted ranges. However, I cannot independently enter the twice daily calibration BG readings. Nor can I access my current CGM BG reading or determine if my numbers are rising or falling. Nor can I enter events into the CGM (ate 25g, exercised, etc.) or access any of the trend graphs without sighted assistance.
DM: There have been some exciting new advancements in diabetes technology overall, like the iBGStar, which you received. What did you think of the iBGStar?
TL: I think the iBGStar is a brilliant innovation. I gave mine to my eleven-year-old son, JonCarlos, who developed diabetes when he was four years old. (Like other parents with diabetes I watched for diabetes symptoms like a hawk, so we caught his diabetes fairly quickly.) He loves the meter because of the coolness factor. He also likes the app for logging his numbers.
DM: How accessible is the iBGStar for you?
TL: So far the iBGStar is not particularly accessible to blind users, but it has great potential. Obviously I cannot use the iBGStar at all as a standalone device. I did, however, test the iBGStar for several days in conjunction with my CGM. The iPhone has built-in accessibility features such as VoiceOver, so with enough persistence I was able to test my BG with the meter when it was attached to the phone. I was also able to enter some data into the meter when it was connected to my iPhone, but as a blind person I found the meter rather tedious to use. The interface for the iBGStar iPhone app leaves much to be desired in usability for someone using the iPhone's accessibility features. However, these are likely software barriers that an accessibility consultant could help the company effectively address quite quickly and cost-effectively.
DM: What kind of diabetes device would help you the most as someone with vision loss?
TL: Like most every other diabetic, I am looking forward to using the artificial pancreas currently under development. As a blind diabetic I long for equal access to the same state-of-the-art technologies sighted diabetics are using and will use in the future. In my mind, separate is not equal. The only cost-effective way to create access for everyone is to build it into the products as they are developed. This principal is called "universal design." One great example of universal design is the iPhone. Every single iPhone comes with built-in accessibility features that can be activated right out of the box. Now all iPhone users can activate accessibility features whenever they encounter a temporary or permanent visual disability. This should be the case for all diabetes technology too.
Accessible diabetes technology is sorely needed. The sad truth is that diabetes is still a leading cause of blindness, and, as the incidence of diabetes soars, so does the incidence of diabetes-related vision loss. Moreover, as the population ages, the incidence of vision loss from other conditions also grows. It is clear the world needs diabetes technologies that everyone can use.
DM: What are you most excited about going in to the DiabetesMine Innovation Summit?
TL: It seems as though the feedback from PWDs is very important to the Summit attendees from industry and government. And it also appears as though there may be people in attendance with the power to influence decisions. If this is true, then I'm excited to be able to tell our story, with the hope that positive change will happen. Blind diabetes advocates have shared our stories for decades with industry representatives in sales and marketing at national diabetes events, but, although the reps listen, nothing has ever changed. The chance to talk directly to decision-makers is truly exciting.
DM: What would you most like to see the Summit achieve?
TL: I have now been blind from diabetes for around thirty years. During all this time I, and thousands of other blind and low-vision diabetics, have never had access to the diabetes innovations available to other diabetics. For decades we have been advocating for equal access to diabetes treatments. Our hope is that my participation will help persuade decision-makers to commit to ensuring equal access to care for all blind diabetics. This means that we would have access to the same technological advancements everyone else gets to use and have them at the same time. We are tired of feeling like second-class citizens.
DM: We couldn't agree more, Tom! We are excited to have you as a part of the Summit and look forward to hearing more about universal design.
by Steve Dumaine
From the Editor: Steve Dumaine is senior vice president of global strategy and product innovation at Travelocity Global. He addressed the national convention on Wednesday afternoon, July 4, 2012, and pledged to partner with the NFB to see that the travel experiences of blind people are as good as those for the sighted, beginning with booking and continuing throughout the trip. As advertised on NFB lists earlier in the year, the company offered convention-goers a promotion code good until September. The code is no longer valid, but the gesture was meaningful enough that it has been left in these remarks. Here is what Steve Dumaine said:
On behalf of Travelocity's twenty-seven hundred employees around the world and the four hundred and fifty based here in our DFW headquarters, welcome to North Texas. Thanks to all of you for spending your Independence Day with us here at the Anatole, one of Dallas's premiere convention hotels. Like the NFB, Travelocity is fortunate to count Hilton as a partner, and we've really enjoyed the atmosphere here and appreciate the attentiveness of the Hilton team.
Over the next few minutes I'm going to tell you a few stories. My overarching objective with this opportunity today is to share with you why our team believes travel is such a foundational element, and we want everyone to have the opportunity to play a role in its ecosystem. At Travelocity, simply stated, we believe everyone deserves life-enriching travel experiences. Having spent my career in the military and in the travel industry, I've had the good fortune to see the world over. So I want to begin with a personal story of what travel means to me.
Back in 1999 my son, who was eight years old at the time, and I backpacked across Indonesia. Many of you know that Indonesia is an archipelago, and our plan was to work our way over land and water from the island of Tamar to the island of Komodo, which is famous for its Komodo dragons. This island is, however, very remote. We had reached a place called Lara Tuba, which is on the far end of the island, just to the east of Komodo Island. In planning the trip, I had looked at the map, and it appeared to be approximately sixteen miles by bus to our next stop. I had interpreted this as a relatively short ride, a couple of hours at most. The once-daily bus was scheduled to depart at 8:00 a.m., and so we arrived at the bus stop, and we waited. Then we waited, and then we waited some more. Finally a bus that looked like something pulled right out of the movie Back to the Future pulled up. The bus, as it were, appeared to be a Winnebago with cutouts for windows and a steel bar exoskeleton. We piled in and were able to get the last two seats in the back. The bus was packed with locals, and we were seated next to the live chickens. Now, after picking us up, the bus circled around town, picking up more passengers, who were climbing on that steel bar exoskeleton. Our lesson that morning was that in Indonesia the bus leaves when it's full, not when it's scheduled.
As we left town, the driver picked out a cassette tape—hopefully some of you will remember what those are—and popped it into the player, and this is what we heard: “I'm a Barbie girl, in the Barbie world; Life in plastic, it's fantastic,” a Danish pop band called Aqua with their big hit, "Barbie." Needless to say, dance pop music was not part of my expectations for the trip. While we felt like we were riding in the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine, as the ride progressed, we met three Dutch nationals who had been traveling in Indonesia for several months, and we made fast friends. For the rest of our trek they taught us a lot about how to navigate the country, and to this day my son and I fondly remember that ride, a sixty-mile ride that incidentally took more than twelve hours due to road conditions.
So this anecdote encapsulates much of what we believe at Travelocity. First, travel opens doors to unforgettable experiences. We like to say that life isn't about acquiring possessions; it's about collecting memories. Every day we help millions of customers connect with thousands of travel suppliers so that our customers can have new experiences and collect new memories. Second, the Travelocity team firmly believes travel is an inalienable right. Everyone, regardless of circumstances, should have the opportunity to experience something as unforgettable as riding a bus across Indonesia. [Applause]
Third, we acknowledge that travel can be very challenging, and being able to take advantage of others' expertise can improve the experience. At Travelocity we live these beliefs every day by being the traveler's trusted guide. It revolves around a philosophy deeply ingrained in our company's DNA. We aspire to be the customer's champion twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. As a traveler's trusted guide Travelocity empowers its customer service team to make it easy for shoppers to find the right trip that's right for them at any time. We market this through our Travelocity guaranty, but I can assure you that this is not just some slickly worded ad copy. Rather, it is something that every one of our employees around the world believes is part of the job.
A couple of proof points for your consideration: Travelocity ranks number one in 2012 among its peers in customer satisfaction by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. The ACSI survey showed that Travelocity led the pack in quality, loyalty, and expectations. Travelocity is a full-service travel agency and not just a website. We are staffed twenty-four/seven with experts on hand to help customers book their dream vacations to destinations like Las Vegas; Orlando, Florida; New York; Mexico; the Caribbean; and Hawaii.
So how do we personify this? Several examples come to mind. As you know, we are currently in the throes of hurricane season. Each year these storms wreak havoc with the travel plans of thousands of our customers who book summer vacations to the Caribbean, Mexico, and the Gulf Coast. When these storms pop up, we don't wait for those affected to come to us for help with their travel plans. We instead take it upon ourselves to contact them proactively and advise them of their options. For some no action is required. For others it may be more complex and involve changes to flights, hotels, and/or car reservations. Anyone who has ever travelled knows that such a sequence of events can cause headaches. What we've learned, however, is that, when we anticipate our customers’ needs in such times, the headaches are far less severe.
Of course some situations test our ability to go above and beyond the call of duty. I am sure all of you will recall the tragedy involving the cruise ship Costa Concordia near the island of Giglio in Italy earlier this year. Sadly, not only were the travel dreams of thousands thrown into complete and utter disarray, lives were lost. We had two of our customers traveling together on the Concordia who made it off the ship safely and ended up in Paris following the accident. Our customer care team tracked them down and found out that they had reached the City of Lights with nothing. At that point our team on the ground in Paris stepped in and delivered a thousand Euros to help cover any short-term expenses. We also contacted the hotel where they were staying and gave them authorization to charge meals and other sundries. Needless to say, our customers were very thankful for the assistance we provided. Once they had regained their bearings, they actually continued their tour of Europe. [Applause]
While we know our future success will be grounded in excellent customer service, we also know that part of being a great retailer means offering competitive pricing and great deals. As a traveler's trusted guide, Travelocity makes it easy for shoppers to find the trip that's right for them and at the best value. There are several ways we do this. First, Travelocity guarantees that customers will not find lower prices anywhere else, and, if they do, the company will refund the difference and provide the customer with a $50 promo code for a future booking. Booking a dynamic flight plus a hotel vacation package with Travelocity can save customers up to $525 compared to booking the flight and the hotel separately, while also giving them added convenience and flexibility.
With Travelocity’s top secret hotels, consumers can save up to 55 percent off three- to five-star hotels. Above and beyond everyday great deals, I have a special exclusive deal for all of you here today. [Applause] Between now and September 4 we are offering the three thousand attendees of the NFB conference a special promo code for $200 off a three-night flight and hotel vacation package. You'll want to take note of this. The code is NFB2012. It can be entered in at checkout. If you have any questions about the code, feel free to let me or another Travelocity team member know. Remember, it's redeemable for a three-night flight, hotel, and vacation package, $200 off, and the code expires September 4 . We hope that many of you can take advantage of this offer. [Applause]
Hopefully you now have a better idea of why I am here today, why members of my team have been attending sessions here at the Anatole over the past few days, and why we deemed it important to engage with the NFB in such a meaningful way. We are passionate about travel, and we want everyone to be able to enrich their lives through its wide lens. Making travel fully accessible is completely consistent with these values. You see, we want the amazing experience of travel to be accessible and available to everyone, whether young or old, sighted or not sighted.
With that, I'd like to give an update on our Road to Accessibility full disclosure. When we first started working with the NFB in 2011, our site wasn't accessible. While we're not quite where we want to be, we have made significant progress, and we are very close to becoming fully accessible, unlike the other major online travel companies. Throughout the entire process we've worked hand in hand with Dr. Maurer, Anne Taylor, and the entire NFB staff. In just eighteen months we have transformed Travelocity. I am proud to say that Travelocity is the only major online travel company and one of the first e-commerce companies committed to making its website fully accessible to blind people. [Applause]
Our project started with the simple milestone to ensure that our home page and each of the home pages for our major travel services, particularly hotels, flights, and vacation packages, were accessible. We completed that effort last year, but then the real work began. We spent the first half of this year making our hotel, vacation package, and flights paths accessible, from the time you search, all the way through to the booking. Our site is a large and complex one, and the project called for us to change hundreds of web pages. Additionally, Travelocity has an accessibility coordinator who reports directly to me and an accessibility committee in place within our company so that it receives the constant attention that it deserves from key stakeholders.
Finally, and in my opinion, most important, a wide range of our team members in customer service, technology, and design have undergone hours of accessibility training. Many of them have been here at the conference this week. But we still have more work to do. As we head into the second half of the year, here is what we are planning to achieve. As I speak, we're in the midst of completing and releasing accessibility changes to our site. Once those changes are in place, we anticipate that our hotel, vacation package, and flight shopping will offer an accessible path for you to plan and book your next vacation using screen readers. So, if you are thinking about travelling this summer or over the Labor Day weekend at the end of summer, please think about shopping at Travelocity, and don't forget about that $200 promo code. [Applause]
Our next milestone calls for cruise shopping and booking to be accessible by the end of 2012, just in time for the beginning of next season's wave season when the cruise lines offer up their best deals of the year. We also plan to have our other high-traffic transactional and promotional pages accessible in that same timeframe. Again, when all the work is completed, we will be the first and only online travel company to make its site fully accessible to blind people. [Applause]
I hope you find all these developments as exciting as we do. Before I wrap up, I thought you'd like to know that our work with the NFB is making an impact on our team. Here's a quote from Fernando, one of our developers: "After listening and learning in more detail about the aspects of travel that worry or impede blind travelers or travelers with low vision, I understand now how many different things can make travel feel difficult or take the enjoyment out of the experience. There are so many more factors that blind people need to account for when going through each of the steps to plan, book, and take a trip. The best thing we at Travelocity can do is to make the booking process as easy and fast as possible. I don't think I would have really understood this had I not attended the conference this week. Up until now I didn't really have a good sense of the different people who wanted to use our site. This week has definitely changed my perspective and will help my work on this important project moving forward." [Applause]
I want to reiterate that we would not be where we are today without the collaborative spirit of our counterparts at the NFB. They have provided an immense amount of feedback and direction on matters like testing tools, coding best practices, and even implementation solutions. Working so closely with them has made us better and of course helped solidify our commitment to accessibility. As evidence of our commitment, I have some additional breaking news for you. First, as a token of our goodwill, we are giving away a hotel stay in Miami at tomorrow's banquet, so be sure and make it. [Applause] Second, Travelocity will be a platinum sponsor at next year's conference in Orlando. [Applause] We will have a team onsite, providing a series of training workshops and break-out sessions for conference attendees. [Applause] We look forward to demonstrating our site to the NFB members next year when the entire site is accessible.
I'll leave you with three points. First, we realize that accessibility for Travelocity’s site is a journey, not a destination, and we've committed to making that journey. We're making travel accessible to everyone and look forward to maintaining a strong partnership with the NFB. We would love your feedback on our site, so feel free to contact us at <[email protected]>. Second, a reminder that you have two months to use the promo code NFB2012 to save up to $200 when you book a three-night flight plus a hotel vacation package with us. Finally, should you ever need to catch a bus in rural Indonesia, remember the bus will depart when it's full, not when it's scheduled. [Applause]
by Jan Pudlow, senior editor
From the Editor: This article is reprinted with permission from the Florida Bar News, where it appeared on September 15, 2012. The fight for Braille frequently occurs in schools, sometimes in libraries, and sometimes in businesses and other places where the public is invited. Readers will find this most interesting; perhaps it portends a wider acceptance of Braille by government at the local, state, and federal levels.
It doesn't matter if he's a blind guy locked in prison for life with a penchant for papering the court with pro se filings. He still has the right to equal access to the courts, like anyone else. In this case that means the clerk of the Fourth District Court of Appeal should have accepted his letter in Braille, rather than simply writing on a form: "We are unable to accept your Braille correspondence." That's what a unanimous Florida Supreme Court said in a recent decision in Demetrio R. Gabriele v. State of Florida (Case No.: SC09-993) when it held Gabriele was entitled to mandamus relief.
The quietly released unpublished opinion, ending more than three years of litigation, was discovered by Miami disability rights attorney Matthew Dietz while doing research on cases under Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.540. "This was so brand new. I thought, 'Oh, my God! This is great how the court gave it a huge boost by saying this is not only the rule, but also essential to due process. It's something that we should be proud of. All of the [participating] justices put their names on this decision, which gave it more of a directive that the court was not going to tolerate the denial of due process,’ " Dietz said.
At the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore, Director of Public Relations Christopher Danielsen said, "I would say it's very unusual for a court to do this and not something we would demand as a blanket rule." But, with a pro se litigant stuck in prison, Danielsen said, "His reading and writing medium is Braille, and he doesn't have a way to get his pleadings to court in print, then it is a pretty important accommodation."
Gabriele's case was handled pro bono by Stephen Senn and Timothy Kiley of Peterson & Myers in Lakeland. "Access to the courts is what it's all about," said Senn, a member of the Florida Bar's Appellate Practice Section. "The Florida Supreme Court did what the Fourth DCA should have: they found somebody who could translate the Braille and interpreted it as a writ of mandamus to require the DCA to accept his Braille filings."
At first the pro bono appellate lawyers met with resistance from the Attorney General's Office, who called their client a pesky liar who should be disciplined in prison. "Gabriele has misrepresented his need for accommodations to this court. Gabriele's own hand-written filings have been accepted by the Fourth District Court of Appeals for over twenty-five years. The Fourth District appropriately rejected Gabriele's attempt to amuse himself and inconvenience the court through the use of Braille filings," Special Counsel Lisa Raleigh wrote in the attorney general's response. "Gabriele requires no accommodation to access the courts, and, even if he did, the law does not require the exact accommodation requested by Gabriele. It is sufficient that the courts accept his hand-written pleadings."
Raleigh argued, "the most appropriate remedy is to both request discipline by the Department of Corrections and to bar further unrepresented litigation." But, as Senn and Kiley were able to show through DOC records, Gabriele's eyesight had worsened over time to the point he was deemed "legally blind" in 2007, and prescription glasses provide no help. His most effective way to communicate is by using a Braille typewriter, they said. "Simply because Mr. Gabriele can, with difficulty and using large-lined paper, scrawl out a letter, he is not thereby barred from protection of the ADA," Senn and Kiley wrote in court documents. The AG's office eventually stipulated that Gabriele is indeed blind.
"Because he is incarcerated in state prison, Mr. Gabriele cannot seek other forms of accommodation, such as voice-recognition computer software or other technological accessories," Senn and Kiley wrote in their amended petition for writ of mandamus. "His ability to be heard rests substantially upon the Fourth DCA's acceptance without prejudice of his Braille documents."
The Florida Supreme Court agreed. "The substantive merit or lack of merit in the petitioner's underlying claim does not determine the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] analysis," the justices said. "The Fourth District has refused to provide the petitioner with an accommodation as mandated by the ADA and the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration…. The petitioner has no remedy available other than to petition this court for relief."
Because the Supreme Court had accepted jurisdiction, it exercised its discretion also to address the substantive merits of Gabriele's post-conviction claims, and denied relief. "Therefore, we withhold issuance of the writ because we have resolved this case on the merits and trust the Fourth District Court of Appeal will fully comply with the dictates of this order when presented with similar situations in the future," wrote Chief Justice Ricky Polston, with Justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis, Jorge Labarga, and James E.C. Perry concurring.Kiley, a member of the Bar's Young Lawyers Division, called the ruling fair but not surprising. "I don't think it came as a tremendous surprise, given the court's focus on accommodation issues lately. Justice Lewis spent a lot of time talking about this issue. And Florida's courts have shown an interest that persons with disabilities have access, particularly since the move to electronic filing," Kiley said. "I think the Supreme Court sent a little bit of a message to the courts in Florida--really, any court in Florida--to take these things seriously."
by Chelsea Cook
From the Editor: Chelsea Cook is a blind college student living in Virginia. She read testimony in Braille which was presented to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and a number of his colleagues. She has long been fascinated by space travel and in this delightful article explains how she came to be bitten by the space bug and what she is doing to make space travel for her and other blind people possible.
Before getting to her article, let’s get to know some of the real and fictional characters she mentions. Noreen Grice is an author who has worked to make many objects viewable using only telescope images made touchable for blind people. Jimmy Neutron is a cartoon character featured on the Nickelodeon Television Network. He is a boy genius, but his intellect doesn’t make him popular. With this background, enjoy what Chelsea has to say:
Jimmy was about to go on another adventure. Without his parents' permission. In a homemade rocket. To a galaxy no human had ever visited. And I was coming with him.
To my ten-year-old mind, there was nothing more thrilling than watching Jimmy Neutron. Even without audio description I could still follow enough to be infatuated with the idea that a fictional boy genius the same age as I was could accomplish all these amazing feats. He didn't always fit in, so I could relate to him. His sheer boldness and confidence inspired and showed me that with hard work I could do just as well in math and science. But, most important, he showed me I could go to the stars.
Certainly most kids have the fantasy when they are young of becoming an astronaut. That dream never died for me. At the same time that Jimmy was rocketing around town and galaxy, I picked up Noreen Grice's Touch the Stars II, and read about Kent Cullers, the first blind radio astronomer. As the Braille graphics whisked me off to the constellations, planets, galaxies, and star clusters, it dawned on me that a career in some sort of astronomical field was no longer just a childhood dream. It could become reality--and had for other blind people. I thought, "If he could do that, so could I." Now I had to work to join those ranks.
Once I was bitten by the space bug, it wouldn't let go. I attended NASA workshops for youth, dragging my parents to Saturday morning lectures about Mars, impact craters, and the basic characteristics of flight. I took advanced math in fifth grade, catapulting me into algebra for seventh and eighth. I couldn't get enough of the sciences surrounding astronomy. When the Braille eighth-grade science physics and chemistry book was ordered instead of the seventh-grade biology one, I let no one know that I sneaked three volumes out every weekend, devouring under the covers the inner workings of laser technology and neutron stars. I found a way to get my hands on every book that Noreen Grice produced. When I entered high school, I used to joke that my idea of spending a perfect Friday night was to stay up late watching Discovery Channel documentaries about black holes and dark matter or to surf the NASA website when my parents had gone to bed and the pages loaded quickly. Most of my science education was self-driven. I had to fight to take Advanced Placement calculus and physics my senior year.
People thought I was an amazing blind person for wanting to go into a scientific field. How great it was that I wanted to learn these hard, abstract concepts that sighted peers would have no idea about. But it was much more than that: a drive and a thirst for knowledge propelled me. I am convinced that early Braille reading was the catalyst for all my other adventures. Jimmy Neutron and Noreen Grice came along at just the right time to spark my love of math and science.
For the longest time I thought I would combine astronomy and chemistry...until I took physics in tenth grade. My teacher expected nothing less from me than any other student, though he would give me a fair advantage. Every demonstration we did, I got my hands dirty: pushing bowling balls up for pendulums, having graphs drawn into my hand, playing with slinkies to simulate wave properties, being rolled around in a swivel chair to appreciate negative acceleration. I loved physics so much and felt its absence in junior year so greatly that I had to listen to calculus-based lectures on the Internet. I could generally follow what the professors were saying and would get in a few problems at the lunch table. Even though I hadn't had formal training in calculus, physics, which was connected to astronomy, was all I cared about.
Then came my Sweet Sixteen. Most girls want a party, or boys, or (for the sighted folks), a car. I really didn't know what I wanted, but what I got was beyond anything I could have expected. The NFB national convention was in Dallas that year, and my mom had dismissed the idea of going to Houston early on, so I was not expecting a recording from her on my birthday: "We have a problem. The tickets aren't for Dallas. You're going to Houston!" For two days I toured the Johnson Space Center campus, but another surprise was coming my way. I had a private tour, and one place we visited was Mission Control.
This was not a glassed-in view, nor one from a movie or photograph. This was the actual room used from 1965 to 1995 to control all of America's space missions. Astronauts of all eras, flight controllers of all competencies, and flight directors of all ranks had stood and sat where I currently occupied the universe for the better part of twenty minutes. “Awe-inspiring” was too weak a word to describe the flood of overpowering emotion that took hold while I stood in that large, all-encompassing chamber. I sank down in front of one of the work stations, the cushion accepting that a new occupant had come along. Still not believing my circumstances, I looked out over the darkened consoles to the giant black screen at the front of the room, imagining controllers filling every one of these seats. I thought of myself in Gene Kranz's position and wondered if I had a right to fill his enormous shoes. I had heard his voice many times over the years (Apollo 13 is my favorite mission), but I couldn't fathom the fact that I was actually sitting in his chair.
Now I am in college, pursuing my dreams for real. Freshman year totaled four astronomy courses and a space survey course. I am currently in an astrophysics sequence. I have Braille math and physics books, readers well versed in their fields, and professors who understand that I can learn the material; sometimes all it takes is a different way of presenting. But the connections and influences made when I was ten are still present. I have all five of Noreen Grice's books sitting on my shelf at Virginia Tech, and I have many megabytes on my computer devoted to the boy genius with the ice-cream hairdo (think dipped cone on top of large head). I still listen to his soundtrack when solving especially difficult calculus or physics problems; something about that carefree time when I first realized anything is possible helps the answer come. And I always dream of that day when I will no longer be bound by Earth's gravity; I will be in a place where the scope of the universe is as limitless as my imagination.
by Patti S. Gregory-Chang
From the Editor: Patti Greggory-Chang chairs the NFB’s scholarship committee. She is herself a past scholarship winner. Here is what she has to say about applying for NFB scholarships:
Let me begin with the exciting announcement of a brand new scholarship donated by Oracle. Students can apply for the Oracle Scholarship using the same process as they do for our other twenty-nine scholarships. Special thanks go to Oracle for its belief in blind students.
Each July at our national convention the National Federation of the Blind gives a broad array of scholarships to recognize achievement by blind scholars. We offer thirty scholarships ranging in value from $3,000 to our $12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship, which is the largest. The NFB Scholarship Program is our investment in the future of blind people who demonstrate scholastic aptitude, leadership, and service. I encourage every blind college student to apply. I am sometimes asked what the secret is to winning an NFB scholarship. I am going to tell you the secret.
First of all, applicants must meet the eligibility requirements to receive a scholarship. All applicants for these scholarships must be legally blind; must reside in one of our fifty states, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico; must be pursuing or planning to pursue a full-time postsecondary course of study in a degree program at an accredited United States institution in the fall of the 2013-2014 academic year; and, if chosen, must participate in the entire NFB national convention and in all scheduled scholarship activities.
Many think the key to becoming a winner is a high grade-point average. Others believe it is based on participation in extracurricular activities. Still others think it is one's level of commitment to the NFB. While grade-point average is important because it demonstrates the ability to learn and be successful academically, it is not the only attribute that influences the scholarship committee. Participation in extracurricular activities is important in portraying oneself as a well-rounded person; it is not sufficient in itself to justify a scholarship award. Committed members of the organization recognize the attributes that are important to committee members when determining who wins a scholarship.
The scholarship program is a tremendous tool for us to develop future leaders of the National Federation of the Blind, but scholarship awards are not restricted to members of the organization. The National Federation of the Blind is an organization dedicated to creating opportunity for all blind people. To that end, recipients of NFB scholarships need not be members of the National Federation of the Blind. Many of our past winners were not even aware of the NFB before they applied for our scholarships. When you check the records for past winners, you will see that students of all ages and in widely differing fields have won over the years. The class of 2012 included students entering their freshman year on up to older students who were nearly ready to write their PhD dissertations. The winners of 2012 are currently working toward credentials for employment in diverse fields.
There is truly only one way to win an NFB scholarship, and that's to apply. Each November the new, updated scholarship application form is posted on the web at <www.nfb.org/scholarships> along with important information about the contest, links to information on past winners, and a page of frequently asked questions. The application form for 2013 is already online. It will remain up until March 31st, 2013. The process can be initiated with an online application, which we prefer, or students can ask for a print application by contacting our scholarship office at <[email protected]> or (410) 659-9314, ext. 2415.
A complete application consists of the official application form and a student essay (limited to 700 words or less), plus these supporting documents: student transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and proof of legal blindness. The student must also complete an interview with the affiliate president of the applicant’s state of residence or the state where he or she will be attending school. High school seniors must also include a copy of the results of their ACT, SAT, or other college entrance examinations. Unfortunately, some applications are incomplete, so the committee is unable to consider them fairly.
Applicants should be sure to provide all the requested information along with supporting documentation to our scholarship office either online by midnight March 31, 2013, EST, or by mail postmarked by March 31, 2013. They should carefully consider who can do the best job of writing their letters of reference. Letters should support the application by being full of facts and observations that will help the members of the committee see the applicant as a smart, active student and citizen. Students can write their essays using word-processing software. They should remember to use the spell checker (or a human proofreader) before uploading, printing, or copying and pasting it into the online application form. In an effective essay the applicant will talk about his or her life in a way that gives the committee insight into him or her. The essay should cover the ways in which one lives successfully as a blind person and describe one’s personal goals for the future. Information about positions of leadership is especially helpful. Committee members give the essay a great deal of attention. The NFB scholarship committee is comprised of dedicated, successful blind people who will review all applications and select the top thirty applicants as the scholarship class of 2013. Note that students submit just one application to the program; the scholarship committee will choose the thirty winners from all applications received. These thirty scholarship winners will be notified of their selection by telephone no later than June 1.
Finally, during the annual convention from July 1 through July 6, 2013, in Orlando the scholarship committee will decide which award will be presented to each winner. Attending the entire NFB national convention is one of the requirements to become an NFB scholarship winner. Of course attending the convention with our financial assistance is also a significant part of the prize.
This is the largest gathering of blind people to occur anywhere in the nation each year, with 2,500 or more people registered. Those chosen as scholarship recipients will have the opportunity to network with other blind students, to exchange information and ideas, and to meet and talk with hundreds of blind people who are successfully functioning in many, many occupations and professions. Our past winners often comment that the money was quickly spent, but the contacts they made and the information they gathered at convention have continued to make their lives richer than they ever imagined.
Often students apply more than once before winning a scholarship, so applicants are encouraged to reapply. The NFB may award three or even more scholarships to men and women who have already received one Federation scholarship in the past if enough strong and worthy candidates apply. Individuals receiving a second NFB national scholarship are recognized as tenBroek Fellows. The secret, if there is one, to winning an NFB scholarship is to read carefully the application on our website and then provide all of the required information and supporting documentation before the deadline of March 31, 2013. However, I actually maintain that there is no secret. The only way to win an NFB scholarship is to apply.
From the Editor: From time to time Miss Whozit answers reader questions about etiquette and good manners, particularly as they involve blindness. If you would like to pose a question to Miss Whozit, you can send it to the attention of Gary Wunder, 200 East Wells Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, or email me at <[email protected]>. I will pass the questions along. Letters may be edited for space and clarity. Here are the most recent letters Miss Whozit has received:
Dear Miss Whozit,
I am a sociable fellow, but I feel overwhelmed in a loud crowd. I’ve occasionally tried the bars, but the noise is so loud that conversing is a major effort, no matter how much or little I drink. My hearing is good, but pulling out the conversation from the background noise is difficult. How can I more fully participate in the after-work celebrations and feel included?
Eager to Join in
Miss Whozit sympathizes with your problem. The truth is that most sighted people in loud bars do a lot of lip reading in order to follow the conversation. This is one reason why you will find that most blind people avoid loud social scenes whenever possible.
The solutions are no secret. The most obvious one is to attach yourself to a group planning to go to the party or bar, and be sure to do your share of standing rounds. It is easy to commandeer someone to go with you to the bar to help carry drinks back since you obviously have to use one hand for the cane or dog harness. This will help you return to your table efficiently. If a large group of your acquaintances is together at a bar, do your best to find a couple of interesting people to hang with at the tables.
You may decide that getting to know folks at a bar is a good way for you to strike up friendships. If so, give some thought to choosing a bar without loud music, perhaps even one with carpeting or acoustical tiles to absorb the noise. Then return frequently enough to get to know the clientele and the layout of the room. In this way you will get to know voices and move around confidently. If you are at ease with the general social situation, others will relax and give themselves a chance to get to know you.
Dear Miss Whozit,
In my job attendance at dinner parties is sometimes required. I work in sales and support, so developing relationships is important. The parties our company hosts are meant to provide people like me with a chance to form relationships that inspire trust. As a blind person how can I seek out people with whom to converse? I sometimes walk up to others in conversation, but I am never quite sure when this is socially acceptable and when I may be intruding. How would Miss Whozit conduct herself at such social events, making the most of them as my company intends, but not posing a problem for my coworkers and our current and potential customers?
Nervous in New York
Company dinners can be very different from each other. If someone is organizing the seating, you may be able to speak with him or her about helping you meet the people you need to meet by seating you at the same table. If you discover when you reach the restaurant that a seating chart is posted, grab someone you know to tell you where you have been assigned and who else is seated at the table. When seating is completely unstructured, stake out a place for yourself at a table you like and let other people come to you.
To make a social success of such occasions, it is important to practice the rules of social interaction and etiquette: do not encroach on other people’s space, which in the U.S. means standing no closer than eighteen inches to two feet from the person with whom you are chatting. Try your best to get the other person to talk about himself or herself. Express interest in what other people are saying. Laugh at their jokes. Respond thoughtfully to their comments. Be prepared with amusing anecdotes of your own or interesting facts or stories that you have heard recently. People who are good listeners are usually thought to be excellent conversationalists. You can acquire such a reputation if you work at it. These skills do not emerge fully developed from your mouth. You must practice the art of conversation, including dealing quickly with and then dismissing questions about blindness. If you make it clear that you are not interested in the topic and substitute something that is engaging or humorous, other people will drop the subject, and you can get on with your effort to get to know them. Miss Whozit has often noticed that conversations in groups that include a blind person frequently focus on blindness. She suspects that the sighted people presume that the blind person has no other interests and the blind person stays with the topic because he or she is the expert and so feels confident with the subject. Everyone in such groups needs to discover that blind people can and do discuss other topics.
Dear Miss Whozit,
I love your columns and wish they appeared more frequently. The problem as I see it is that you don’t get enough thoughtful questions from readers. How can I help?
Straw Man in Stratford
Dear Straw Man,
As you imply, the solution is for readers to sit down and write out their questions and send them to the editor. That is the only way for more columns to appear.
Address by Professor Jacobus tenBroek at a Memorial Convocation for Dr. Newel Perry at the California School for the Blind, Berkeley, March 25, 1961
From the Editor: Last month the Braille Monitor concluded the serialization of an oral interview with Dr. Newel Perry. It seems fitting to follow this with the eulogy for Dr. Perry which was delivered by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. Here is his tribute.
I come before you today--indeed we are all gathered here--to discharge a public duty and to honor a private debt. Newel Perry was a public figure. To us he was also a personal friend. We can appraise his public contribution. We can only acknowledge our private obligation and personal attachment. We can detail his public record, define his influential role, itemize his accomplishments, recount his deeds, enumerate his statutes, specify his doctrines, disentangle the elements of his social philosophy, identify the general and the institutional fruits of his life's work, analyze and psychoanalyze the personality traits that made him a leader. Upon the life we shared, we can only dwell in memory, sifting through the loose meshes of the mind the hours, the days, the nights, the months, the years of our common experience; the fears, the travails, the aspirations, the laughter that were ours together.
We were his students, his family, his intimates, his comrades on a thousand battlefronts of a social movement. We slept in his house, ate at his table, learned geometry at his desk, walked the streets interminably by his side, moved forward on the strength of his optimism and confidence.
The boundless devotion to him of his wife Lillie (to whom he was married from 1912 until her death in 1935) spilled over onto us to balm our institution-starved spirits, to lighten with gentle affection the bewilderment of our eccentricity and the unnatural confinement of our segregation. Upon a later generation of us, after the death of Lillie, the same bounty was conferred in her turn by his sister Emma Burnham, who lived with Doctor during the last twenty-one years of his life.
As a forward youngster of twelve, who made so bold as to address him as "Doc," I was once thrown out of a class by Doctor with such a lecture as still rings in my ears. As a somewhat older youngster still forward but now also bored by the slow pace and the unimaginative techniques of high school, I was expelled by him altogether for incorrigible recalcitrance. Eventually, despite these unpromising beginnings, I did graduate from high school. With plenty of ambition but no money I prepared to enter the university. At that point I was denied state aid to the blind, a program then newly instituted as a result of Doctor's efforts in sponsoring a constitutional amendment and a comprehensive statute. The reason was not that my need was not great. It was that I intended to pursue a higher education while I was being supported by the state. That was too much for the administrative officials. Almost without discussion, Doctor immediately filled the gap. Just as Warring Wilkinson had earlier done for him, he supplied me with tuition and living expenses out of his own pocket for a semester while we all fought to reverse the decision of the state aid officials.
It was ever thus with Doctor. The key to his great influence with blind students was, first of all, the fact that he was blind and therefore understood their problems and, second, that he believed in them and made his faith manifest. He provided the only sure foundation of true rapport: knowledge on our part that he was genuinely interested in our welfare.
Aside from these immediate personal benefactions, there were three habits of life--one might almost say three elements of personality--which I formed out of his teaching and example when I was an adolescent in his charge. First, an attitude toward my blindness, a conception that it is basically unimportant in the important affairs of life. A physical nuisance, yes. A topic of unembarrassed conversation, a subject of loud questions by small children in the street as you pass, certainly. But not something which shapes one's nature, which determines his career, which affects his usefulness or happiness. Second, a basic assumption that sighted people generally have boundless good will toward the blind and an utterly false conception of the consequences of blindness. It is their misconception about its nature which creates the social and economic handicap of blindness. Third, public activity as a rule of life, a sense of responsibility to exert personal effort to improve the lot of others. While I was still a lad in my teens, I was attending meetings and doing work that Doctor assigned me in the blind movement. He was a social reformer. He made me one too. Through participation with him, these attitudes and practices became habits of my life. So deeply instilled were they that they have remained ever after an almost automatic behavioral pattern--potent and often governing factors in my outlook and activity. Mature reflection in later years could only confirm through reason what his influence had so surely wrought in my youth.
It is altogether fitting that we should hold this memorial convocation at the California School for the Blind. It was here that Newel Perry came in 1883 as a ten-year-old boy--penniless, blind, his father dead, his home dissolved. Two years earlier he had lost his sight and nearly his life as the result of a case of poison oak, which caused his eyeballs to swell until they burst and which held him in a coma for a month. It was here at the school that Warring Wilkinson first met and took an interest in him, laying the basis for future years of intimate relationship and mutual endeavor. Warring Wilkinson was the first principal of the California State School for the Deaf and the Blind. He served in that capacity for forty-four years, from 1865 to 1909. With his characteristic interest in his charges, he soon saw young Newel's full potentiality. He sent him from here to Berkeley High School to complete his secondary education. It was he who overcame the numerous obstacles to this arrangement, so fruitful in its understanding of education and of the needs of the blind. Newel continued to live here at the school while he attended the University of California from 1892 to 1896. Again admission had to be secured over strong resistance. Again Wilkinson was the pathfinder, Newel his willing and anxious instrument. Wilkinson's role in Newel's life as a youth can hardly be overestimated: father, teacher, guide, supporter—in Newel's own words, "dear Governor."
As this institution was not only the school but the home of his boyhood and the foundation of his manhood, so sixteen years later, in 1912, at the age of thirty-nine, Newel Perry returned here to take up his permanent career as a teacher. He remained in that post until 1947—a third of a century. It was here that his life's work was accomplished. It was from this place as a base that he organized and conducted a movement for social reform. It was here that many of us first met him as his students. It was here that his impact upon us first made itself felt. It was here that our lifelong association with him began. How often in these halls have we heard his footsteps? How often in this chamber, his voice? The sound of those footsteps and that voice have now gone from the world as a physical reality. How often hereafter will they continue to sound in the halls and chambers of our lives?
In the years between departure from the school in 1896 and return to it in 1912, Newel Perry devoted himself to further education and to the search for an academic job. He took graduate work at the University of California, meanwhile serving successively as an unpaid teaching fellow, a paid assistant, and finally an instructor in the department of mathematics. In 1900, following a general custom of that day, he went to Europe to continue his studies. He did this for a time at the University of Zurich in Switzerland and then at the University of Munich in Germany. From the latter he secured the degree of doctor of philosophy in mathematics with highest honors in 1901.
He lingered in Europe for a time, traveling and writing an article on a mathematical topic which was published in a learned journal. He then returned to the United States in 1902, landing in New York, where he was to remain until 1912. He had about eighty dollars in capital, a first-class and highly specialized education, and all the physical, mental, and personal prerequisites for a productive career, save one, visual acuity.
During this period he supported himself precariously as a private coach of university mathematics students. He applied himself also to the search for a university position. He had begun the process by mail from Europe even before he secured his PhD. He now continued the process on the ground in New York. He displayed the most relentless energy. He employed every imaginable technique. He wrote letters in profusion. In 1905 he wrote to five-hundred institutions of every size and character. He distributed his dissertation and published articles. He haunted meetings of mathematicians. He visited his friends in the profession. He enlisted the aid of his teachers. He called on everybody and anybody having the remotest connection with his goal.
Everywhere the outcome was the same. Only the form varied. Some expressed astonishment at what he had accomplished. Some expressed interest. One of these seemed genuine—he had a blind brother-in-law who, he said, was a whiz at math. Some showed indifference, now and then masked behind polite phrases. Some said there were no vacancies. Some said his application would be filed for future reference. One said—ironically, "as an encouragement to men who labor under disadvantages and who may learn from it how much may be accomplished through resolution and industry." Some averred that he probably could succeed in teaching at somebody else's college. Many said outright that they believed a blind man could not teach mathematics. Many of these rejections were, of course, perfectly proper. Many were not. Their authors candidly gave the reason as blindness.
We know about this period of Newel Perry's life from reports of contemporaries or near contemporaries such as Hugh Buckingham, a student at the school from 1896 to 1900 during Doctor's absence, who has prepared a manuscript about Doctor's boyhood and youth. We know about it from what Doctor told many of us in later years. But we know about it in all its poignancy, desolation, and bleakness from Newel Perry's own intimate accounts written at the time to his old mentor and true friend, Warring Wilkinson. These accounts, with copies of many of the letters of rejection, have been preserved by the Wilkinson family through the intervening years. In the last two weeks they have been opened to my inspection by Wilkinson's granddaughter, Florence Richardson Wyckoff, who is here with us today.
I have dwelt on this period and these experiences for several reasons. They reflect, they accurately portray, a phase of all of our lives as blind people. In fact, thirty-five years later I personally received identical letters from many of these same institutions. It was almost as if a secretary had been set to copying Doctor's file, only changing the signatures and the name of the addressee. Yet great progress has been made. Many of us are now teaching at colleges and universities around the country and filling many other jobs hitherto closed to us.
Doctor Perry's reaction to this decade of defeat and privation was remarkable. He did not break. He did not resign. He did not even become embittered. Discouragement, frustration, a sense of wrong and injustice, certainly these; but never collapse. He was not licked. We see in these bitter years of hunger and rejection the source of true knowledge about the real problems of the blind and an ineradicable determination to do something about them. Here was a mainspring of social reform, an ever-flowing motivation to redirect public attitudes and actions toward the blind. To this was added the thrust of an active and restless disposition and the wit to perceive remedies and adapt them to the need.
Out of these elements of mind, personality, and experience were compounded the public career of Newel Perry; and out of these elements also were constructed the programs the initiation of which made that career publicly significant. First of all the distress of poverty must be relieved. The necessities of life must be available. The minimum essentials must be assured. So much in some way had been provided in the Anglo-American system for three centuries before Newel Perry faced near starvation and economic exclusion in New York City. The Elizabethan poor laws did it in one way. County direct relief, instituted in California in 1901, did it in another. The almshouse and the county hospital and poor farm did it in still other ways. At the very minimum it had to be done better. It should be done by a system of cash grants, adequate in amount to maintain standards of decency and health, receivable upon fixed and uniform standards of eligibility, made generally applicable by state participation and control, and expendable by the recipient through a free exercise of self-management and consumption choice. To bring this about, however, prohibitions in the state constitution would have to be removed by the arduous process of a people's amendment, an organic statute would have to be lobbied through the state legislature, faithful administration would somehow have to be secured. Year by year and session by session into the indefinite future, the myriad minor corrections and major improvements made necessary by time and disclosed by experience would have to be worked through the legislature and the administration. And so indeed it came to pass in California.
Secondly, much more had to be done than merely relieve the distress of poverty. Security is a necessity. As an unmixed blessing, however, it is a stultifying concept. An indispensable ingredient of any welfare system is opportunity. One of the objects of public aid must be to stimulate and enable people to become independent of it. Accordingly, their initiative must not be hemmed in. The means of productive activity must not be withdrawn or denied. Independence of action and self-reliance must be encouraged. Legal liability of relatives must be relaxed so as not to spread poverty, increase dependence, and disrupt family life. Economic resources, reasonable amounts of real and personal property, must be devotable to plans for self-support instead of being required to be consumed in meeting daily needs. Incentive to earn must be constructed out of retention of the benefits of earning. And this too presently came to pass in California. The new system took cognizance of the need of the blind for adjustments on the social and psychological as well as the physical level. It permitted and encouraged them to strive to render themselves self-supporting. It applied the democratic principle of individual dignity to an underprivileged class of American citizens. It guaranteed them a fair measure of independence and self-respect in the conduct of their lives. The California system, the Newel Perry system, was thus far in advance of its time. It is still envied and emulated throughout the nation.
Thirdly, the reintegration of the blind into society on a basis of full and equal membership could only be achieved if they had a chance to earn their daily bread as others do in the community. Accordingly, action must be taken to eliminate restrictive barriers and legal discriminations. The main channels of opportunity must be swept clear of artificial and irrational obstructions. The public service, private employment, the common callings, the ordinary trades and occupations, the professions must be rescued from arbitrary exclusions based on blindness when blindness is not a factor bearing on competence and performance. Doctor was a prime mover in securing legal, constitutional, and other provisions which protect the right of the blind to enter a number of professions; forbid arbitrary discriminations against us in the state civil service and in secondary teaching; enable blind college students to pursue their studies with the aid of sighted readers hired by the state; bring the blind in an ever-increasing stream into the colleges and universities of the state and thence into the higher callings.
These achievements—legal, social, economic, and political—have been the fruits at once of Dr. Perry's leadership and of the collective self-organization of the blind which that leadership engendered. More than any other person it was Doctor who implanted and nurtured among the blind of California the sense of common cause, the spirit of collaborative effort in seeking solutions to our problems. More than any other person it was he who taught us that the blind can and must lead the blind, and the sighted too, when dealing with the problems of the blind. More than any other person it was he who made us aware that to go on unorganized was to remain disorganized, that only through concerted action can the blind hope to convert and enlist the power of government and to defeat the thoughtless tyranny of public prejudice and opportune ignorance.
Newel Perry was a teacher: a teacher of subject matter and a teacher of men. He taught his specialty of mathematics and taught it very well indeed; but he taught his pupils even better. To be sure, not all the students who came his way during his thirty-five years on this campus were wholly inspired by him. His personality was vigorous and his standards rigorous. But for many of us who attended the school during those three and one-half decades, it was Dr. Perry who furnished the impetus and incentive, the goad and the goal, that would light our later lives and nourish our careers. Our bond with him was not broken when our schooldays ended. We went on to become his comrades and colleagues in the cause which was always his true vocation.
Newel Perry was, in short, both a teacher of youth and a leader of men. These two roles were not, however, quite separate. For the secret of his success in both of them lay in this: that his teaching was a kind of leadership, and his leadership a kind of teaching. In his pedagogical method as well as his social purpose Doctor was thoroughly Socratic. His classroom manner was essentially that of the Platonic dialogue: dialectical, inquiring, insistently logical, and incessantly prodding.
In this Socratic combination also lies, I think, the secret of Doctor's success as the leader of a social movement. Just as in the classroom he taught his students by leading them, so as the pioneer of the organized blind movement he led his followers by teaching them. His power, like that of all leaders, rested in the last analysis upon persuasion. His triumphs, however, were not the product of oratorical or literary skill, although he had a notable gift for trenchant and incisive phrasing, the epigrammatic thrust which distills the essence of a complex issue. His persuasive power was not that of the demagogue but of the pedagogue. And it was not only his followers who learned from him. He educated the blind people of the state to an awareness of their capabilities as individuals and of their powers as a group. He educated the legislators in the state capitol by dint of dogged, relentless, well-nigh incorrigible campaigns of persuasion carried on year after year and decade after decade. He educated the general public, by his preachment and his example, to regard the blind not in the traditional terms of charity and custody but in the realistic terms of normality and equality.
And, most of all, in his role as leader Newel Perry educated, indoctrinated, and persuaded a distinguished group of cohorts to join him in carrying on the struggle and carrying out its goals. Those whom Doctor gathered around him were other blind men and women, mostly former students, whose special talents and professional positions uniquely supplemented his.
Raymond Henderson: By profession an attorney, self-taught, by preoccupation a reformer, with poetry in his soul and literature in his stylus. Born in 1881, he attended this school from 1889 through high school and continued to live here until his graduation from the University of California in 1904. He practiced his profession in Bakersfield, California, from his admission to the bar until his death in 1945. Raymond came to the organized blind movement in his maturity from a long background of experience in other causes. He brought to it a notable array of personal abilities, a high degree of professional skill, a fine spirit of humanity, and the enrichment of wide and intensive activity.
Leslie Schlingheyde: Also by profession an attorney, gentle and religious by disposition, practical rather than reflective in frame of mind, with a brilliant academic record and a liberal outlook. He was born in 1893, attended this school from 1906 to 1913, and thus came under Doctor's influence in the year of his graduation. He received a J.D. from the law school of the University of California in 1920 and from that time until his death in 1957 practiced his profession in Modesto, California, and served the blind movement all over the state.
It was Raymond Henderson and Leslie Schlingheyde who were primarily responsible for handling cases in court, for preparing innumerable legal briefs and arguments, for drafting projected bills and constitutional amendments, for continuous legal counsel during the insurgent and formative years. They were in a real sense the legal arm of the organized blind movement.
Ernest Crowley: Again by profession an attorney but distinguished for his service in another arena. He kept a law office open in Fairfield-Suisun from the time of his graduation from the University of California Law School in 1923 until his death in 1952. To him, however, the law was only a necessary and not a particularly attractive means of earning a living. His law office was a cover for his real love and active life—the practice of politics. He was born in 1896 and attended this school from 1910 to 1916. He was thus under Doctor's tutelage as a student for four years. His significant contribution was made as a member of the state legislature from 1928 to 1952. It was he who introduced and skillfully maneuvered through to passage the memorable bills which are now the statutory landmarks of our movement. In a very real sense he was the legislative spokesman and arm of the movement.
Perry Sundquist: Social worker and public administrator by profession, bringing to his work a sympathetic personality, an unshakable faith in blind people, and skillful management of administrative techniques and devices. He was born in 1904 and attended this school from 1918 to 1922. For exactly twenty years now he has been chief of the division for the blind in the state department of social welfare. During those two decades he has translated the principles of the organized blind movement into concrete administrative action, from legislative parchment into practical reality. Under his direction programs for the blind have multiplied and prospered, services have been expanded, and their benefits spread. Most important of all, the working philosophy of the movement has been transformed into a working practice. In a very real sense he has been the effective administrative arm of the movement.
Through the years this little band grew in numbers and evolved in normal structure. It formed the nucleus of the California Council for the Blind, which came into being in 1934 with Doctor Perry as its first president. For nineteen productive years, until his retirement in 1953 at the age of eighty, Doctor forged and shaped the Council on the anvil of his own will into an instrument larger and more formidable but essentially similar to the informal group from which it originated.
Doctor's social vision in the field of blind welfare outdistanced his time and placed him in the advance guard of thought and planning. His liberality on these matters gains rather than loses in significance when it is placed alongside his broader attitudes toward politics and human affairs; for, in matters unrelated to the blind, Doctor was fully an heir of the nineteenth century, conservative, even reactionary by nature, often inflexible and not without a touch of old-fashioned nationalist-imperialism. When it came to the cause to which he was most committed, he was far less a Victorian than a Utopian, less a standpatter than a restless progressive in search of new horizons.
How shall we sum up a man's life? How capture the essential quality of a human career? How convey the inward meaning, the imponderable and intangible qualities of will and heart and spirit? There are the vital statistics. But they are more statistical than vital. All that they can tell us of a man is that he was born, he lived, he loved, he died. For Newel Perry we must amend the litany at least this much: he lived, and he brought new life to many; he loved, and he was beloved; he died, and he will not be forgotten.On the day following the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Walter Lippmann wrote some words about him which might also stand as an epitaph to the leader and comrade whom we honor today: "The man must die in his appointed time. He must carry away with him the magic of his presence and that personal mastery of affairs which no man, however gifted by nature, can acquire except in the relentless struggle with evil and blind chance. Then comes the proof of whether his work will endure, and the test of how well he led his people…. The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on."
by Anna Kresmer
From the Editor: The following is another in our series of historical documents in the Jacobus tenBroek Library collection.
Since November of 2010 the Braille Monitor has featured a series of special items from the archives at the Jacobus tenBroek Library. These have included documents as varied as Thurgood Marshall’s 1953 letter to NFB founder Jacobus tenBroek, Federationist Margaret Warren’s newsy letter to current President Marc Maurer in 1981, and most recently an endearing letter from a beloved guide dog in 1976 to past President Kenneth Jernigan. Each of these items provides a unique look into the history of the NFB, and each survives to this day because someone sent them to the archives. As a result the tenBroek Library is one of the leading resources on the organized blind movement in twentieth-century America and is undeniably the best resource on the history of the National Federation of the Blind.
Unfortunately, there are some gaps in our records. For decades the NFB Records Center, which was the predecessor of the archives here at the tenBroek Library, dutifully preserved the interactions between the national headquarters and NFB affiliates across the country. However, no effort was made systematically to collect the records that document the grassroots activities of affiliates and chapters until 2009. As a result pieces of state- and chapter-level history have been lost. But with your help we can begin to fill in some of the missing pieces.
The archives at the Jacobus tenBroek Library are committed to preserving the history of the NFB at all levels. Whether your files are from 1955 or 2010, if you have newsletters, announcements, meeting minutes, or significant correspondence that documents the history of your state affiliate or chapter, we ask that you contribute them to the NFB institutional records. Help us to ensure that the legacy of the Federation is well documented for future generations. Please contact NFB Archivist Anna Kresmer at <[email protected]> or call (410) 659-9314, ext. 2310, for more information.
The NFB has always been conscious of its place in history, so gathering and preserving its records and those of its affiliates is nothing new. This awareness is evident in Dr. tenBroek’s plea to NFB state historians in this letter from 1955. In hopes of publishing a comprehensive history of the NFB and the organized blind movement in time for the twentieth anniversary convention in 1960, he turned to Federationists for help. Sadly, the late 1950s proved to be a turbulent time for the NFB, and this book was not published, but the importance of tenBroek’s request is still applicable today. Here is what he wrote:
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
Office of the President
March 28, 1955
2652 Shasta Road
Berkeley 8, California
TO ALL STATE HISTORIANS
The following is intended to indicate the general scope of the state history and the character of data and materials to be collected for use in connection with the preparation of an over-all history of the National Federation of the Blind.
At this early stage of the development of the project, it is of course impossible to tell just how the state histories will be incorporated into the final work. It is believed therefore that we should prepare as complete state histories as possible and, after that has been done and other work on the over-all history has been completed, to determine how much state history to include and how to integrate it into the total work.
Each state historian should therefore:
It is expected that this work will take a good deal of time. We have therefore set as a general target date for the production of the final work the twentieth anniversary of the National Federation of the Blind, namely 1960. It is necessary, however, to begin collection of data immediately if we are to do a thorough-going and solid historical job.
The project has exciting possibilities. If successfully carried out, it will be not only the history of the blind movement in this country but the history of blindness in recent times in this country. It will reveal in ways which cannot be refuted the character of the democratic impulse which lies behind the claims of self-determination by the blind and which supports our organizations. It will be a public educational instrument which can be drawn upon to meet all sorts of Federation needs. It will above all tell the story of the accomplishments which the blind themselves have wrought.
by Allen Harris
From the Editor: Allen Harris chairs the Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund committee. He has an important announcement for those who would like to attend this year's national convention but find themselves short of funds. This is what he says:
The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund is looking for individuals who can use some financial assistance to attend our national convention in Orlando, Florida. At the 2012 convention in Dallas we were able to assist sixty-three people. In 2013 our convention will begin on Monday, July 1, and run through Saturday, July 6. The convention is a day shorter than you might expect, ending with the banquet Saturday evening.
Who is eligible to receive a Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship? If you are a member of the National Federation of the Blind who has not yet attended a national convention, you are eligible to apply.
What do I have to do to apply for a Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship? You must do the following and are responsible for meeting these application requirements:
1. Each individual who applies for a Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship must write a letter to the selection committee. You will send your letter of application to your NFB state affiliate president. A list of state presidents is posted on the NFB website <www.nfb.org>. He or she will forward your completed application, along with his or her recommendation, to the committee at <[email protected]>. You and your state president should make contact by telephone so that he or she is well aware of your financial need and your wish to attend the convention in Orlando. If you have questions, you may also send a message to the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship chairman by addressing your email to the scholarship submission email address.
2. You must write a letter to the Kenneth Jernigan Fund committee expressing the reasons why you want a scholarship. Describe your participation in the Federation and what you think you would contribute and receive at the convention.
3. You must register for and attend the entire convention, including the banquet.
What else must I do to insure that my application will be considered? We must have all of the following information:
1. Your full name
2. Your address
3. Your telephone numbers (home, business, and cell)
4. Your email address (if you have one)
5. Your state president's name and the name of your local chapter, if you attend one.
All applications must be received by April 15, 2013.
How do I get my scholarship funds? You will get a debit card at the convention loaded with the amount of your scholarship award. The times and locations to pick up your debit card will be listed in the notice you receive if you are a scholarship winner. The committee is not able to provide funds before the convention, so work with your chapter and state affiliate to assist you by advancing funds you can pay back when you receive your scholarship.
When will I know if I have been selected as a Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship winner?
The committee makes every effort to notify scholarship winners by May 15, but you must do several things to be prepared to attend if you are chosen:
1. Make your own hotel reservation. If something prevents you from attending, you can cancel your reservation.
2. You will receive a letter with the convention details which should answer many of your questions. It is also helpful to find a mentor from your chapter or affiliate to act as a friend and advisor during the convention. Although you will not know officially whether or not you have been selected until mid-May, you must make plans to attend and then adjust your arrangements accordingly.
Last summer in Dallas the Jernigan Fund scholarship committee awarded sixty-three Kenneth Jernigan Scholarships. Grants ranged from $400 to $500. The amount we can give will depend on the funds available; we attempt to award additional funds to families. You can include in your letter to the committee any special circumstances which the committee may choose to take into consideration. Above all, please use this opportunity to attend your first convention and join several thousand other blind Federationists in the most important meeting of the blind in the world.
If you have questions or need additional information, call Allen Harris at (205) 520-9979 or email him at <[email protected]>. We look forward to seeing you in Orlando.
This month’s recipes are offered by members of the NFB of Kentucky.
Barbecued Pork Chops
by Denise Franklin
Denise Franklin has been an active member of the NFB for forty years and has served on the board of the NFB of Greater Louisville in various offices during that time. She is currently secretary of the chapter and a member of the NFB of Kentucky board of directors. She says that she firmly believes that the best recipes are the simple ones that make people think you've been working in the kitchen for hours. These two recipes are examples of that type.
6 pork chops
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup celery, chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Method: In a large skillet with a tight lid, brown chops in oil over medium heat for five minutes on each side. Pour off fat. Sprinkle celery, brown sugar, lemon juice, and dry mustard over chops. Pour tomato sauce over all and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer over low heat for one hour until chops are tender.
Creamy Corn Scallop
by Denise Franklin
1 can condensed cream of celery, chicken, or mushroom soup
1 tablespoon onion, minced
Dash of pepper
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 cup soda crackers, crumbled
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
Method: Combine soup, onion, and pepper. In a one-quart casserole arrange alternate layers of corn, soup mixture, and cracker crumbs. Dot with butter and bake open at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Serve immediately.
by Nickie Pearl
Nickie Pearl lives in Louisville. She is a lifelong NFB member, thanks to her mother, Cathy Jackson, NFB of Kentucky president and member of the national board of directors. She served as Greater Louisville chapter president for five years and in other board positions for another five years. Nickie reports that she enjoys working for the greater good of blind people and striving to change what it means to be blind. She offers recipes for an appetizer and a dessert although her husband could make a meal of the appetizers!
1 pound ground beef
1 pound sausage meat
1/2 log of Velveeta cheese
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 loaf cocktail rye bread
Method: Cook ground beef and sausage separately. After meat is cooked and drained, combine in a large mixing bowl. Add the oregano, crushed red pepper, and garlic powder to meat and toss together well. Cut Velveeta cheese in small cubes and place in a microwave–safe bowl and microwave carefully to melt. Once cheese is melted, pour it over meat mixture. Thoroughly combine the cheese and meat. I use my hands for this step, but please note that the cheese can be very hot, so be careful.
Now it’s time to build the hanky pankies. Place the desired amount of meat and cheese mixture on a slice of cocktail rye bread. I use about two full tablespoons on each slice. Place the open-face sandwiches on a cookie sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven for ten to twelve minutes. These little treats are still good the next day warmed up again in the oven.
Caramel Apple Salad
by Nickie Pearl
8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces sour cream
16 ounces whipped topping
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
8 to 12 apples
2 to 3 cups seedless grapes
Raisins and pecans, optional
Method: Combine the sour cream and cream cheese. Dice apples to a desired size and cut grapes in half. Mix the brown sugar with the cream cheese and sour cream. Add the apple, grapes, and optional ingredients to that mixture. Finally fold the whipped topping into the apple mixture. Chill and serve.
by Joan Balot
Joan Balot, longtime member of the Louisville Chapter of the NFB of Kentucky, is famous for her culinary talents. She is known around the state of Kentucky for her pimento cheese.
1/2 cup Miracle Whip
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 pounds Velveeta
8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces pimentos, drained and chopped
10 sweet pickles, chopped fine
Method: Bring all cheese to room temperature. Combine cheese, chopped pimento, and pickles and mix well. Add mayo and Miracle Whip and whip until completely incorporated. Spoon into serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until ready to use. Spread will be most flavorful if served at room temperature.
Mom’s Fresh Apple Cake
by Denise Bourne Carnes
Denise is a longtime member of the NFB of Kentucky. Her parents are founding members of the Louisville Chapter.
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups self-rising flour
1 cup dates, chopped
3 cups apples, peeled and diced
Method: Cream oil and sugar together. Fold in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla. Mix together flour, cinnamon, dates, and pecans and then stir them into the creamed mixture. Fold in apples. Batter will be thick, but juice from the apples will thin the batter as it cooks. Grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Pour in the batter and bake one hour at 325 degrees. Note: coating dates and pecans with flour keeps them from settling to the bottom of the cake.
News from the Federation Family
National Federation of the Blind Congratulates Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder:
The National Federation of the Blind recently announced that Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder has been elected as first vice president of the World Blind Union (WBU). Dr. Schroeder, who also serves as first vice president of the NFB, was elected to the position at the Eighth General Assembly of the World Blind Union, recently held in Bangkok, Thailand.
Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “We congratulate our longtime friend, colleague, and leader Fred Schroeder on his election as first vice president of the World Blind Union. Fred will bring invaluable skill, experience, and knowledge to the many challenges faced by blind people throughout the world, as he has done so capably for blind Americans throughout his career.”
Dr. Schroeder said: “I am honored to have the opportunity to represent the blind of the United States within the World Blind Union, and I look forward to helping to advance the WBU’s important agenda to improve the lives of blind people across the globe. I thank the members of the WBU for placing their trust and confidence in me.”
Dr. Schroeder has a long and distinguished career in service to the blind. He served as the first executive director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. His success in making its rehabilitation and employment programs the most successful in the country led to his appointment in 1994 by President Bill Clinton as commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) in the United States Department of Education. Following his service as RSA commissioner, he joined the faculty of the Interwork Institute at San Diego State University. He now works as a research professor specializing in leadership and public policy in vocational rehabilitation and also serves as president of the Virginia affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind.
With deep regret we report the death following a massive heart attack of Indiana Federationist Joe Money. He was a deeply committed member of the NFB of Indiana for forty years. For six years he served as affiliate president, and current Indiana President Ron Brown reports that at one time or another he held just about every other affiliate office.
Joe was a Randolph-Sheppard vendor who was always actively working in the legislature. Single-handedly he fought for and obtained funds for NFB-NEWSLINE in Indiana. He worked on the Braille bill and many other pieces of state legislation, and he missed only two Washington Seminars.
Joe quietly worked for the NFB, wherever the work took him. He helped members of the Federation family physically or financially whenever he saw a need. We offer our deepest sympathy to Joe’s wife Debbie and his affiliate family.
On October 27, 2012, the National Federation of the Blind of Maine elected its new board of directors. Elected were president, Leon Proctor Jr.; first vice president, Patricia C. Estes; second vice president, Roger Cusson; secretary, Faith Armstrong; treasurer, Curtis (Skip) Estes; and board members, David Van Wickler, Lee Ann Nelson, and Walter Woitesek.
Pennies for Pages: Support Braille Literacy:
The National Association of Blind Students (NABS) is proud to be holding our fourth annual Pennies for Pages fundraiser to support Braille literacy. Students and supporters from across the country are reading in the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest and soliciting donations for pages read. If you haven’t yet had the chance to support a reader, it’s not too late. Please go to the following URL and make a pledge for pages read or a fixed donation to the state or student of your choice: <http://www.nabslink.org/pennies_for_pages/pennies_form.php>. We can accept credit cards, checks through postal mail, or cash in person at the Washington Seminar. Your donation of any amount will go a long way toward helping NABS to carry out the important work of the Federation. If you have any questions, please contact NABS President Sean Whalen at <[email protected]> or by calling (608) 332-4147. We are extremely grateful to all who have donated or will donate.
2013 NFB Writing Contest:
The annual youth and adult writing contests sponsored by the Writers’ Division of the NFB opened January 1 and will close April 1. Adult contests, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and stories for youth are open to all entrants eighteen years of age and over.
The youth writing contests, poetry and fiction, are to promote Braille literacy and excellence in creative writing. Entries will be judged on creativity and quality of Braille. The age groups for these authors is divided into grade levels: elementary, middle school, and high school. Prizes for contest winners range up to $100 in adult categories and up to $30 in youth categories.
All contest winners will be announced at the Writers’ Division business meeting during the NFB national convention to be held in Orlando, Florida, the first week of July, 2013. In addition, shortly after convention a list of winners will appear on the Writers’ Division website, <www.nfb-writers-division.net>. First-, second-, and third-place winners in each category will be considered for publication in the Writers’ Division magazine, Slate & Style. For additional contest details and submission guidelines consult the Writers’ Division website.
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.
Message of Hope Ministry:
Unity's Message of Hope ministry, serving the blind and visually impaired, has the following products and services available free of charge:
1. “Daily Word” in Braille--bimonthly, one Braille volume.
2. “Daily Word” on CD. Two CD's, bimonthly.
3. A virtual library of downloadable Braille Unity publications, available free of charge to anyone with access to a computer, Braille notetaker, or digital Talking Book player at <http://content.unity.org/prayer/inspirationalArticles/messageOfHope.html>
4. An audiobook lending library. Contains Unity publications on audiocassette and CD. To request a catalog, call (866) 421-3066 or email <[email protected]>.
5. Hardcopy Braille book lending library. Unity publications in Braille. To request a catalog, call (866) 421-3066, message us on Facebook at <facebook.com/messageofhope> or email <[email protected]>.
Visit the Message of Hope Facebook page at: <http://www.facebook.com/messageofhope> to stay updated on new books and other materials that become available in our various accessible libraries. Visit the Message of Hope website at <http://www.unity.org/>.
News from the Braille Authority of North America (BANA):
BANA circulated the following press release in November 2012:
On November 2, 2012, the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) set a new course for the future of Braille in the United States when it adopted Unified English Braille (UEB). The motion, which passed decisively, specifies that UEB will eventually replace the current English Braille American Edition and that the U.S. will retain the Nemeth Code for mathematics and science notation.
The transition to UEB will not be immediate and will follow a carefully crafted timeline. Implementation plans will be formulated with the input and participation of stakeholders from the consumer, education, rehabilitation, transcription, and production communities. Plans will take into consideration the various aspects of creating, teaching, learning, and using Braille in a wide variety of settings. The plans will be designed to provide workable transitions for all involved in Braille use and production and to minimize disruption for current Braille readers.
UEB is based on the current literary Braille code and was developed with input from many people, primarily Braille readers, who worked to achieve an optimal balance among key factors including keeping the general-purpose literary code as its base, allowing the addition of new symbols, providing flexibility for change as print changes, reducing the complexity of rules, and allowing greater accuracy in back translation.
Letters and numbers will stay the same as they are in the current literary code. There will be some changes to punctuation, but most will remain the same. Some rules for the use of contractions will change. Nine contractions will be eliminated, and some will be used more often. A FAQ providing more detail about changes is available on the BANA website. After implementation the official Braille codes for the United States will be Unified English Braille; Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science Notation, 1972 Revision and published updates; Music Braille Code, 1997; and the IPA Braille Code, 2008.
More detailed information about UEB and the motion that BANA passed can be found on the BANA website at <http://www.Brailleauthority.org/>. The Board of BANA consists of appointed representatives from fifteen member organizations of Braille producers, transcribers, teachers, and consumers.
The mission and purpose of the Braille Authority of North America are to assure literacy for tactile readers through the standardization of Braille and tactile graphics. BANA promotes and facilitates the use, teaching, and production of Braille. It publishes rules and interprets and renders opinions pertaining to Braille in all existing codes. It deals with codes now in existence or to be developed in the future, in collaboration with other countries using English Braille. In exercising its function and authority, BANA considers the effects of its decisions on other existing Braille codes and formats, the ease of production by various methods, and acceptability to readers.
Attention Prospective NASA Student Interns with Disabilities:
NASA hopes to increase the number of students with disabilities pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers through our internship programs. NASA has a 2 percent hiring goal for employment of people with disabilities, and internships are a good way to get experience. Students can apply for summer internships now. The deadline for submitting applications is Friday, March 15, 2013, and we will begin extending offers to students as early as February 2, 2013. We encourage you to apply early because the best opportunities are likely to be filled quickly, and your likelihood of being selected decreases the longer you wait. You can register for an account and look for internships anytime at the One Stop Shopping Initiative (OSSI): NASA Internships, Fellowships, and Scholarships (NIFS) at <http://intern.nasa.gov/>. Summer 2013 internships run for ten weeks for college students and six to eight weeks for high school students, from early/late June through early/mid-August. College students receive a stipend of $6,000 and high school students $1,800. As an intern you are responsible for your own housing. NASA internships for college students are also offered during spring, fall, and year-long sessions.
NASA has internships for high school students and for rising freshmen through doctoral students in STEM fields. A rising freshman is a high school student who has been accepted to an accredited institution of higher learning, i.e., a college or university, at the time of the internship. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, with a minimum GPA of 2.8 for college and 3.0 for high school; however, applicants must understand that the competition for internships is keen. High school students must be at least sixteen years old at the time the internship begins.
Internships are available at all NASA centers nationwide. Students can submit a completed application whether they apply to an opportunity or not. However, applying to opportunities has the advantage of allowing applicants to be considered by mentors who work in disciplines of interest and at a particular center. Applicants may apply to as many as fifteen posted opportunities. For example, an opportunity having to do with the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) will be at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland because SDO is located there. Not applying to an opportunity means that prospective interns will be hoping that a mentor happens to read their applications rather than directing their applications to mentors in fields and at centers of interest.
Students who are selected for summer internships will receive an offer letter by email sometime after February 1, 2013. They will then have five days to accept or reject the offer through their OSSI: NIFS account. The offer will automatically expire after five days if no action is taken.
Please feel free to contact me for more information or help with applying: Kenneth A. Silberman, Esq., U.S. Supreme Court, Maryland, and Patent Bars B.A., M.Eng., J.D., NASA Engineer & Registered Patent Attorney, Office of Education, Code 160, NASA/GSFC, Mailstop 160, Bldg. 28, Rm. N165, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA; Voice: (301) 286-9281; Fax: (301) 286-1655; Email: <[email protected]>
Disney’s The Lion King and Newsies to Offer New Accessibility Services on Broadway:
Supported by funds from the City of New York Theater Subdistrict Council, LDC, and the City of New York, Disney's hit musicals The Lion King and Newsies have joined the Broadway Accessibility/Audience Expansion Initiative, which creates collaboration between producers and accessibility specialists at all stages of production. The Initiative is a partnership between Inclusion in the Arts, a New York-based not-for-profit, and G-PASS, a service company using technology from Sound Associates Inc., in collaboration with Disney Theatrical Productions. This historic initiative provides theater-goers with disabilities a theater experience as complete and captivating as that enjoyed by non-disabled audience members. The services are I-Caption for deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons and D-Scriptive for blind and low-vision patrons.
I-Caption, a revolutionary text-based system by Sound Associates Inc., provides the entire script of the show--including character names--as it unfolds in performance, via a handheld polarized video screen. D-Scriptive provides an extremely thorough audio description of a show on a handheld unit for blind and low-vision patrons. Both services are integrated into the show's light and electrical cueing system so that the commentary keeps pace with the action onstage. These services are provided for every performance and evolved from the Infrared Listening System, for which Sound Associates Inc. won a Tony Award in 1979.
With the addition of The Lion King and Newsies, Inclusion in the Arts and G-PASS expand access to Broadway audiences of all ages in unprecedented ways. The Initiative is particularly proud to showcase Broadway as a welcoming entertainment option for all family members at every show.
New Perkins SMART Brailler® Opens Braille Learning and Teaching to All:
Learning to read and write has just become easier for students who are blind, and that process can now smoothly include their teachers, families, and friends. For the first time since Louis Braille created his namesake writing code more than 200 years ago, people who are sighted can instantly understand the tactile reading system used by people who are blind with the new easy-to-use, portable Perkins SMART Brailler. Until now only specialists or those trained to read the configurations of raised dots could understand Braille. Today the SMART Brailler allows a classroom teacher, a parent of a child who is blind, or a sighted classmate to hear and see what is being Brailled instantly with built-in audio and visual output. Perkins Products, a division of Perkins, developed the new device and is ready to ship to schools, rehab centers, and individuals.
The Perkins SMART Brailler, from the maker of the world-renowned Perkins Brailler®, provides audio and visual feedback coupled with hardcopy output so that everyone can learn Braille together--students, teachers, parents, and adults losing their vision. The new product enables a student to use Braille more independently. A proprietary electronic device displays large-print and simulated Braille images and provides audio output in English and a range of other languages using Acapela text-to-speech software developed by Perkins Products in conjunction with the American Printing House for the Blind. Perkins Products Vice President and General Manager David Morgan says, “We are convinced that this truly levels the playing field and demystifies the Braille code to allow a shared learning experience for all--student, parent, teacher, friend.”
For a child who is blind or partially sighted, learning Braille is equivalent to a sighted child learning to write letters and read back words and sentences. The SMART Brailler is unique in its multi-function, multi-sensory output using the standard Braille keyboard. Because the device is built around a next-generation Perkins Brailler, hardcopy Braille is also generated simultaneously. It not only functions as a mechanical Brailler, it allows a student to save and transfer electronic documents via USB and to edit documents. Even more important, with the audio feedback and the screen which displays what is being Brailled, a sighted classmate or parent can work alongside the student. It makes inclusion of students who are blind into mainstream classrooms far more possible than ever before.
The SMART Brailler comes with a quick start guide and an audio overview. Free training videos will be available online. See the SMART Brailler in action on YouTube: <http://youtube/A41u7XXB4QQ> (90 sec.); for more details: <http://youtube/avA_DOn6gk0> (4 mins.). For more information and to keep abreast of availability of this and other Perkins Products, visit <www.perkinsproducts.org> or email <[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.