_______________________________________________________________________________

Braille Monitor

Vol. 56, No. 3                                                      March 2013

Gary Wunder, Editor

Distributed by email, in inkprint, in Braille, and on USB flash drive (see below) by

The National Federation of the Blind

Marc Maurer, President

National Office
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, Maryland  21230
telephone: (410) 659-9314
email address: nfb@nfb.org
website address: https://www.nfb.org
NFBnet.org: http://www.nfbnet.org
NFB-NEWSLINE® information: (866) 504-7300

Letters to the president, address changes,
subscription requests, and orders for NFB literature
should be sent to the national office.
Articles for the Monitor and letters to the editor may also
be sent to the national office or may be emailed to gwunder@nfb.org.

Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation about forty dollars per year. Members are invited,
and nonmembers are requested, to cover the subscription cost. Donations should be
made payable to National Federation of the Blind and sent to:

National Federation of the Blind
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998

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

        ISSN 0006-8829


Each issue is recorded on a thumb drive (also called a memory stick or USB flash drive).  You can read this audio edition using a computer or a National Library Service digital player.  The NLS machine has two slots--the familiar book-cartridge slot just above the retractable carrying handle and a second slot located on the right side near the headphone jack. This smaller slot is used to play thumb drives. Remove the protective rubber pad covering this slot and insert the thumb drive. It will insert only in one position. If you encounter resistance, flip the drive over and try again. (Note: If the cartridge slot is not empty when you insert the thumb drive, the digital player will ignore the thumb drive.) Once the thumb drive is inserted, the player buttons will function as usual for reading digital materials. If you remove the thumb drive to use the player for cartridges, when you insert it again, reading should resume at the point you stopped.

You can transfer the recording of each issue from the thumb drive to your computer or preserve it on the thumb drive. However, because thumb drives can be used hundreds of times, we would appreciate their return in order to stretch our funding. Please use the return label enclosed with the drive when you return the device.


Orlando Site of 2013 NFB Convention

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

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
2013 National Convention Preregistration Form

Please register online at <www.nfb.org/registration> or use this mail-in form. Print legibly, provide all requested information, and mail form and payment to:

National Federation of the Blind
Attn: Convention Registration
200 East Wells Street
Baltimore, MD 21230

Please register only one person per registration form; however, one check or money order may cover multiple registrations. Check or money order (sorry, no credit cards) must be enclosed with registration(s).

Registrant Name ______________________________________________
Address _____________________________________________________
City ______________________ State _____________ Zip ___________
Phone ____________ Email ____________________________________

___ I will pick up my registration packet at convention.
or
___ The following person will pick up my registration packet:
 Pickup Name ______________________________________

Number of preregistrations                                                           x $25   = ____________
Number of pre-purchased banquet tickets                                x $50   = ____________
                                                                                                              Total = ____________

PLEASE NOTE:

  1. Preconvention registration and banquet sales are final (no refunds).
  2. All preregistration mail-in forms must be postmarked by May 31.

 

Contents

Vol. 56, No. 3                                                       March 2013

 

Illustration: The Fully Accessible Interactive Bulletin Board
in the Betsy Zaborowski Conference Room

The 2013 Washington Seminar in Review
by Gary Wunder

Legislative Agenda of Blind Americans: Priorities for the 113th Congress, First Session

The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act 2012

The Technology, Education, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act

Equal Access to Air Travel for Service-Disabled Veterans (HR 164)

Blindness and the Message of Dr. King
by Ed McDonald

Oh Where, Oh Where, Oh Where are the Braille Books?
by Jan A. Lavine

Reading, Reading, Actually Reading the News
by Nijat Worley

Accessible Astronomy
by Glenn Chaple

NHTSA Proposes Rules for Automakers to Add Sound to Hybrids
by Gabe Nelson

Blind Community Calls Plea Bargain for Blind Thief from Rumford ‘Outrageous’
by Terry Karkos

My Dream, My Business, and My Life
by Vincent M. Tagliarino

Intern’s Efforts Broaden Access to Vital Historical Documents
by Doug Moore

The Role of Labor in My Life and in the Progress of the Organized Blind Movement
by Ivan Weich

My Experiences in the National Federation of the Blind
by Janice Toothman

Convention Scholarships Available
by Allen Harris

Recipes

Monitor Miniatures

 

Copyright 2013 by the National Federation of the Blind

 

The Fully Accessible Interactive Bulletin Board in the Betsy Zaborowski Conference Room

The Betsy Zaborowski Conference Room in the NFB Jernigan Institute features a fully accessible, interactive bulletin board. Developed by the Institute's Education team, the bulletin board serves two purposes: to showcase what the NFB Jernigan Institute is doing and to demonstrate for teachers how to make a fully accessible and attractive bulletin board.

This quarter the title of the bulletin board is WE LOVE BRL; YES WE DO! WE LOVE BRAILLE; HOW ABOUT YOU? This quarter’s board proclaims our love for Braille to the world. The title for this display is a spinoff of a ditty President Maurer frequently sings which begins, “I love Braille: yes I do!/ I love Braille….” The associated audio clip, which visitors can hear by pressing the button to the right of the board, features Dr. Maurer singing his Braille ditty.

The board’s valentines theme featurs red, white, pink, and purple hearts of all sizes. The plain black background of the board allows the hearts to take center stage. Each phrase of the title appears on its own large heart. The four large title hearts are clustered somewhat randomly in the center of the board. Scattered around the title are twenty-six hearts featuring the letters of the alphabet in raised print, standard Braille, and simulated Braille, with small tactile hearts representing the dots in each letter. The alphabet hearts are diverse in construction. The red, white, pink, and purple base hearts are made from craft foam or balsa wood or small cardboard heart-shaped boxes. The simulated Braille dots of each letter are foam and rhinestone hearts and heart-shaped brads. Scattered around the alphabet hearts are other tactile hearts of various sizes made from the materials mentioned above. The heart theme is carried all the way to the border, where multi-colored tactile hearts frame the display.

A message on the board invites guests to take a heart-shaped card from the supply provided at the bottom of the board to write (in Braille or print) a message about why they love Braille, and pin it to the board for others to read.

The 2013 Washington Seminar in Review

by Gary Wunder

From the Editor: Gary Wunder’s writings are sometimes found in the pages of the Braille Monitor, but his unfortunate tendency to turn exciting meetings into dull prose frequently shortchanges the national events that represent the best of our history and tradition. Lacking anything else to substitute as a lead for this month, we reluctantly give readers of the Monitor the following:

I frequently talk with my school-age children and grandchildren about school; they are excited about science, like reading, and enjoy English. Unfortunately history and civics are two classes they don't like, and, when asked to describe them, they use words such as “boring,” “stupid,” and “a waste of time.” How different might those classes be if some part of them were devoted to the study of blind people and the formation and work of the National Federation of the Blind?

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s some in society openly questioned the right of the blind to create their own organizations. Didn’t professionals already speak for them? Was it healthy to let defectives try to speak for themselves? Wasn't it obvious that the blind would always fall into that class of unfortunates who would require the care and supervision of their family, friends, and government?

Consider the change today’s students would see, from the days of arguing for the right to speak for ourselves to the days when our annual visit to Capitol Hill is anticipated by the 535 most powerful elected men and women in the nation. What a contrast they could observe between the pitiable and helpless wards we were once considered to be and the people we are today. Today the blind have formed a group which has compiled a legacy of legislative accomplishments that rival those of any group of citizens in America: the White Cane laws that exist in every state, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the inclusion of the blind in the Voting Rights Act, and most recently the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act. How could anyone be apathetic or long entertain the thought that personal responsibility and collective action don't matter? What better example could we find to convince our children that they can influence their future and the future of those around them through citizen involvement and participation in our representative democracy?

But it is not enough to recite the history of the blind when so much remains to be done if the equality of opportunity America proclaims and seeks to deliver is to be more than words. With this in mind blind people from every state in the nation converged on Washington, DC, for the NFB’s annual Washington Seminar. So long have we met at the Holiday Inn Capitol that it seems like our second home. "Welcome back,” the bell captain said. “I have been here twenty-five years, and you were coming even before I started working with this hotel." Tell the staff what the blind will need? Forget it! They already know. Occasionally there are those little glitches, like not having the traditional peanut butter pie on hand, but these problems are soon handled, and off to the Hill we go to take on larger issues.

On the weekend preceding our work on Capitol Hill, the legislative directors or presidents of state affiliates met with our national staff responsible for advancing the legislative priorities of the Federation on Capitol Hill. Members were taught how to help draft bills, find senators and representatives to sponsor them, create brief but effective presentations, develop a state legislative agenda, use legislative technology, and make effective use of the media.

The Washington Seminar began on Monday, February 4, 2013, with meetings of the National Association of Blind Students, the state presidents of the National Federation of the Blind, the cash and caring committee, and finally the great gathering-in annual meeting at 5 p.m. To understand the mood and feeling of those attending, remember that on the previous day the Baltimore Ravens had beaten the San Francisco Forty-Niners in Super Bowl XLVII. The many who were elated frequently mentioned this victory, and those who favored the Forty-Niners responded with groans and a promise that next year things would be different.

After the falling of the gavel and the roar of the crowd, President Maurer began the great gathering-in by saying: "We come to Washington; we come to the Capitol of the United States; we come to the place where power is located because we intend to participate in that power. We come to talk about things that matter." As the evening would soon reveal, the things that matter included fair wages for blind people, access to usable technology in our colleges and universities, and the right of disabled veterans to fly on military aircraft under the Space Available Program.

Before addressing these three issues, President Maurer began by announcing an agreement between Monster.com and the National Federation of the Blind that will result in the accessibility of the nation's primary website for listing and finding jobs. The long-term benefits for blind people will be immense, and those needing skilled employees will benefit significantly from the people they will find.

The proposed regulations to implement the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act have been published. They will implement the law passed in 2010 to ensure that vehicles generate enough sound that they are not a hazard to pedestrians, blind or sighted. It took a tremendous effort to create public awareness of the danger posed by vehicles too quiet to hear, to gain the support of the automobile industry, and to get the attention of a Congress opposed to creating any new regulations; but the National Federation of the Blind promised we would do it, and we did.

In 2008 amendments were added to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act proclaiming that Braille would be the presumed reading medium for blind students. Sometimes, however, legislation is not enough, and the rights declared must be established by precedent and enforced by binding agreements. For three years the National Federation of the Blind has been fighting to see that Hank Miller, a blind student from New Jersey, will receive Braille instruction. At our meeting President Maurer read an announcement which said: "‘The New Jersey affiliate will meet in this room immediately following the great gathering-in meeting.’ This note, written in Braille, was signed by Hank Miller.”

Last year the National Federation of the Blind worked to defeat legislation that would have devastated the Randolph-Sheppard program that gives blind people priority in running vending businesses on federal and state property. The amendment that would have significantly eroded that priority was defeated in the United States Senate by a vote of eighty-six to twelve. In recognition of the Federation's work to preserve these business opportunities, the National Association of Blind Merchants presented a check for $40,000 to the national organization. The applause from the audience was not only for the money but for the working relationship the donation represents and the desire of the merchants division to give back part of what has so willingly been given in support of blind entrepreneurs.

At last year's great gathering-in meeting Parnell Diggs announced that he was running for a seat to represent South Carolina in the nation's House of Representatives. He did not win that election, but his influence as a representative of blind people brought his opponent to speak to the National Federation of the Blind. The Honorable Tom Rice, from the Seventh District of South Carolina, said he was honored to be a part of our meeting and that he recognized a bond between us. He said that people who run for congressional seats are often characterized as fighters because they have to deal with the unexpected and do what is required to win, but Congressman Rice believes that the blind of the nation truly deserve the title "fighters" for the flexibility we demonstrate in meeting each day's challenges and our determination to show the world that we can compete on terms of equality. Before being elected to Congress, Representative Rice practiced as an attorney in South Carolina, and he said it was an honor for him to know a fine and honorable colleague, Parnell Diggs (who is also a lawyer). The Congressman concluded by saying he would see all of us on the Hill and pledged to do everything he could to help us.

John Paré was welcomed to the podium to introduce the legislative agenda of the National Federation of the Blind for 2013. He said that, in keeping with the traditions of the Federation, we would explain to the political leaders of America what the blind needed and would do so with our characteristic resolve to be persistent, professional, and polite. He emphasized the need to be clear but concise, to structure presentations so that they would take no longer than fifteen or twenty minutes, and to lead with the issues in which the member of Congress is likely to have the most interest and influence, based on their committee assignments.

Anil Lewis addressed the gathering and began his remarks by asking the crowd to join him in the message we want to send about Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act: "That's not work; that's not training; that's not right!" For almost seventy-five years labor law in this country has allowed the payment of subminimum wages to disabled people, assuming that we are innately less productive than our coworkers. The system that has developed to take advantage of this exemption from the minimum wage defends its practice of paying low wages by saying that a primary focus of its work is training. When statistics clearly demonstrate that fewer than 5 percent of those employed in sheltered workshops transition to other employment, a poor training record for any institution, the workshops change the argument and say they are not primarily for training but for production and that the majority of those they serve are not trainees but workers. When asked why they do not pay their workers at least the minimum wage, though they pay no taxes, are the recipients of preferential government contracts, receive state and federal subsidies, and solicit direct contributions from the public, the shops revert to the argument that they are not places of employment but institutions dedicated to the training of their disabled consumers. We have heard these arguments for almost three quarters of a century, and the National Federation of the Blind and fifty other disability organizations intend to tell the Congress that Section 14(c) has to go!

Last year we had eighty-one cosponsors of the Fair Wages for People with Disabilities Act; this new session of Congress means we start over with a new bill number and the need to find a lead sponsor and cosponsors once again.

Lauren McLarney was introduced to talk about the Technology, Education, and Accessibility in Colleges and Higher Education (TEACH) Act that we are seeking to have introduced. After some humorous banter about the victory of the Baltimore Ravens, Lauren began her remarks by saying the following:

"In 2008 the National Federation of the Blind went to Congress, and we said that technology has altered the landscape of postsecondary education. Traditional instructional materials are being replaced with digital books, courseware, online library databases, web-based content, and mobile applications. We said that, while innovations in accessibility may be evolving and nonvisual accessibility may be available, manufacturers are not embracing these solutions. The lack of supply is compounded by the fact that colleges and other institutions of higher learning are not demanding that educational technology be accessible. This is creating barriers for blind and other print-disabled students, and something has to be done about it. Congress listened to us and amended the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Opportunity Act to create the Advisory Committee on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities. That's a really long title, so we just call it the AIM Commission. This commission brought together government leaders, representatives from institutions of higher education, the Association of American Publishers, and the National Federation of the Blind.

“In 2011 the AIM Commission issued its report, and guess what it found? It found that inaccessible technology permeates higher education, that blind and other disabled students have to bear the burden of going to their school and asking it to buy a separate and therefore unequal technology, while the mainstream students use inaccessible devices. The report also found that blind students don't have to be treated differently from mainstream students. Manufacturers need guidance on how to make their equipment accessible, and schools need to demand that the marketplace provide accessible products. This demand should be accompanied by a commitment to buy only those devices that are accessible.

“This year the American Association of Publishers said it wanted to partner with us on the very first recommendation made by the AIM Commission: to establish accessibility standards for instructional materials used in postsecondary settings. The partnership thus established has resulted in the TEACH draft bill. It does not seek to preclude manufacturers from building and selling inaccessible technology; it does seek to ensure that any technology that colleges and universities procure meets the accessibility standards proposed in the AIM Commission report.

"Congress undoubtedly has questions we will need to answer. Will this proposal result in additional expense for colleges and universities? The answer is that this act will lower the cost of accessible technology by creating a market that has not existed before. The expense to colleges and universities will be far less than what they incur now as they continue to duplicate accessible instructional materials for blind students one college or university at a time." Lauren concluded by urging that we go forth and teach about TEACH.

Jesse Hartle was next introduced. He amused the crowd by saying that for several weeks he had been feeling ill and presumed he had some form of the flu, but he has finally come to understand that his physical discomfort comes from being around so many Ravens fans. After all of the previous references to the awesome Ravens, Forty-Niner fans enjoyed this quip immensely.

The briefing Jesse came to provide was about H.R. 164, an act to amend Title X of the United States Code, “to permit veterans who have a service-connected, permanent disability rated as total, to travel on military aircraft in the same manner and to the same extent as retired members of the Armed Forces entitled to such travel.” This issue, brought to us by the NFB’s National Association of Blind Veterans, would let those who left the service as a result of blindness or some other disabling condition take advantage of the Space Available Program operated by the Air Command within the Department of Defense. This bill is being sponsored by Congressman Gus Bilirakis, and the chance to show our support for and help blind and disabled veterans was one the crowd clearly embraced with enthusiasm. At the time of our meeting the bill had nine cosponsors. That number would change significantly by week’s end.

Jesse concluded his remarks by saying: "At one time in their lives they answered the call of Semper fi or Hooah; sometimes they said `Anchors Aweigh’; and sometimes they said `Off We Go’; and off they went to defend the rights of all Americans, blind and sighted. Ladies and gentlemen, it's time that off we go to defend the rights of disabled veterans."

Chris Danielsen, the director of public relations for the National Federation of the Blind, emphasized that the job of promoting our legislation must not only focus on Senators and Representatives but come to be a part of the public's consciousness. This is done by sharing our proposals with family and friends and then by making sure they get out to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. He concluded by saying, "Let's really make it known to the world that we're in Washington, that we're fighting against separate-but-equal, and that we're going to change the lives of blind Americans."

President Maurer next introduced former Congressman Tom Allen, who now serves as the president of the Association of American Publishers. Mr. Allen noted that this is not the first time the Federation and the Association have worked together. "Our first collaborative effort culminated in the passage of the Chafee Amendment, but that was seventeen years ago. We next worked together on the IDEA amendments of 2004, which accelerated the ability of K-12 students to get instructional materials. That legislation created the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standards (NIMAS) to ensure uniform standards of accessibility for students with print disabilities. ... AAP and NFB next worked on the Higher Education Amendments of 2008, which authorized the AIM Commission that produced the Consensus Report we've talked about this evening."

Mr. Allen went on to say that the issue is no longer how to convert print books into something blind people can read, as it was seventeen years ago, but how to deal with the digital technology that is coming to dominate the publishing industry. He said that during the long and sometimes laborious process followed by the AIM Commission, the major stakeholders, including the National Federation of the Blind and the Association of American Publishers, agreed on the goal that published products should be available in the marketplace and accessible to the print-disabled at the same time they are to others. The publishers not only support this goal, but they have concerns of their own. “Some of the Association's members still have the concern that a system which allows for the reproduction of copyrighted material in specialized formats could allow the diversion of materials intended for the blind and print-disabled to be made more broadly available to the larger public free of charge, thus weakening publisher markets. The sooner accessible materials are readily available in the marketplace, the sooner publishers can cease to worry about the diversion of their materials to others without special needs. We have the same goal, you and I: As soon as possible, make materials available and accessible to the print-disabled when they are first sold to the public at large.”

Our particular challenge, yours and ours, is to bring along the software and hardware industries, including those which manufacturer e-readers and similar platforms without which our products cannot be fully accessible." Mr. Allen concluded by noting that we share a vital common interest during this Congress, and that interest will continue as long as there is a need to make materials accessible to and therefore purchasable by the blind.

President Maurer next introduced Representative Gus Bilirakis, the primary sponsor of H.R. 164. The Congressman said, "It is an honor to join you in promoting initiatives that ensure a high quality of life for all disabled persons. I want to tell you that I am visually impaired—the font has to be very big here for me to see. I am also hearing impaired, but, you know, we can do anything if we put our minds to it.…I would especially like to recognize the efforts of your president, Dr. Maurer, whom I met with last week, and Dan Hicks, your president in my home state of Florida. I wish all of you an enjoyable trip to Washington. Enjoy yourselves, let's get some work done, and let's go get ‘em!"

Jim Gashel, the secretary of the National Federation of the Blind, talked with us about the Jacob Bolotin Awards that are presented each year in recognition of the pioneering efforts of Dr. Jacob Bolotin. This year we intend to award more than $50,000 to deserving individuals and organizations who have made a significant contribution to advancing the cause of the blind. Nominations will be accepted until March 31 and can be submitted online at <https://nfb.org/bolotin-award-main>. Though the committee prefers that applications be made online, they can be sent using email by writing to <BolotinAward@nfb.org> or through the U.S. Postal Service by writing to Bolotin Award Committee, National Federation of the Blind, 200 E. Wells Street, Baltimore, MD 21230.

Mark Riccobono came to the microphone to say that, while he didn't want to mention the Baltimore Ravens specifically, he did want to observe that the National Federation of the Blind is different from either of the teams who played in the Super Bowl because we keep marching, even when the lights go out. Of course this was a reference to the power outage that took place at the Superdome in New Orleans and temporarily halted the game.

Mark said, "We are powerful! We are powerful because we imagine a future full of opportunity; we are powerful because we imagine a future in which every blind child gets Braille; we are powerful because we imagine a future in which we have the same book at the same time and at the same price as everybody else. We imagine a future in which blind parents don't have to worry about retaining custody of their children simply because those parents are blind; we imagine a future in which technology is designed from the beginning to be accessible to all of us; we imagine a future in which every person is guaranteed the minimum wage; we also imagine a future in which a blind person can win a Nobel Prize in physics." He went on to observe that, not only do we dream of and imagine a future full of opportunity for blind people, but we actively work to build that future. One of the greatest investments we make is in our youngest blind members. Despite the funding difficulties we now face, we are going to have a program for young people that focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It is really exciting to realize that some of the first beneficiaries of our STEM programs are now teaching them.

To fund these innovative programs for young people, we must find a way to increase our contributions from the public. Each affiliate is being asked to contribute something of value from its state that can be used in a Cyber Monday auction following Thanksgiving.

Mark closed with a plea to help the student division with the fundraiser that was taking place during the seminar. He encouraged contributions to President Sean Whalen's fundraising bucket. He then reluctantly revealed that his plea to help Sean was as much personal as financial; the person whose bucket contained the most money would get a pie in the face later in the evening, and President Whalen's two competitors were Anil Lewis and Mark Riccobono.

President Maurer next introduced Scott LaBarre to say a word or two about the Preauthorized Check Program. He reported that PAC pledges and contributions are at an all-time high but that this might be the last time he appeared at the Washington Seminar on behalf of the Preauthorized Check Program. This is so because we need to change its name to reflect the way financial transactions now occur. Most are now electronic, and, though we have grown attached to this name and have even honored it with a song, the word “PAC” is too often thought to mean that the National Federation of the Blind sponsors a political action committee. Scott and his committee will soon be announcing a contest to come up with a new name for the most successful membership-financed tool in our history. Please look for contest rules in an upcoming issue of the Braille Monitor, and help us come up with a fitting name for the successor to the Preauthorized Check Program.

The great gathering-in meeting concluded with announcements about the upcoming national convention, a generous donation of doughnuts by the District of Columbia affiliate for those trudging off to Capitol Hill in the early morning, and some logistical information about the hotel from Diane McGeorge. For the first time in the history of the great gathering-in meeting, we adjourned before 7 p.m.

On the first day of meetings with the 113th Congress, Federation members had significant progress to report, and this they did at the 6:00 p.m. meeting. Ramona Walhof began with an announcement from the cash and caring committee. One way we may be able to generate some badly needed funds for the Federation and have a good time while doing it is to take the quiz on blindness which can be found at <http://www.quizonblindness.blogspot.com>. In addition to teaching people about blindness through this graded quiz, it will give participants the opportunity to make a donation to support the programs of the National Federation of the Blind and will be a part of a drawing to win $100. Not only should all of us take the quiz, but we should tell our friends and neighbors about it, including those who follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Congressman Greg Harper, representing the Third District of Mississippi, has agreed to sponsor the Fair Wages for People with Disabilities Act in the United States House of Representatives. Several affiliates reported being greeted by their Senators and Representatives with the comment, "You are here to talk about fair wages, aren't you?" Before our march to Capitol Hill, H.R. 164 had nine cosponsors. By the end of our first day we had more than doubled that number.

The Honorable Thomas Petri, representing the sixth district of Wisconsin, came to express his support for the principle that educational materials used by colleges and universities should be as usable by the blind as they are the sighted. Congressman Petri serves on the Education and Workforce Committee, was the sponsor of the Accessible Instructional Materials Act in 2003, was a significant player in 2008 in getting language included in the Higher Education Reauthorization Act which created the Accessible Instructional Materials Commission, and has been a longtime supporter of the National Federation of the Blind. He reaffirmed his commitment to accessibility, his determination to involve all of the major stakeholders in arriving at a solution that will provide accessible hardware and software for the blind, pledged to do his best to keep this from becoming a partisan issue in which the merits of the legislation can become secondary in the fight to get the bill enacted into law, and pledged his support to do whatever he could to get the ball across the goal line for the blind.

At the end of our second day on Capitol Hill, Federationists gathered for our 6 o'clock meeting. When Diane McGeorge gaveled the meeting to order, those assembled applauded with vigor and yelled her name in recognition of her long years of service in coordinating the logistics for the Washington Seminar. Diane acknowledged the appreciation but said that she would be remiss were she not to mention the stellar work of Lisa Bonderson, who takes calls several months before the seminar to make sure that the reservations get made and that roommates are found for those who want them.

Lauren McLarney reported that our day on the Hill generated more interest in the TEACH proposal, and the search for cosponsors is encouraging. Of course there can be no cosponsoring until the bill is dropped, but Congress seems to understand the imperative that equality of opportunity for blind students include equivalent access to the technology used by their peers. One congressional staffer said that many proposals are prematurely brought to the Congress before all of the parties involved have tried to work out a resolution. She said that too often the assumption is that Congress should tell business what to do, when business has never been afforded the opportunity to speak to the issue. She asked whether we had been involved in negotiations with providers such as Amazon, and, when she realized that collaboration had been ongoing since at least 2008, her support for our cause and admiration for our work were quite evident.

Two more cosponsors were added to include disabled veterans in the Space Available Program, H.R. 164, and two of the representatives who pledged their support serve either on the Armed Services Committee or on the Veterans Affairs Committee.

As the seminar concluded, I was reminded of the question I so often get about what part of the blind population the National Federation of the Blind represents. Sometimes the question is asked in all innocence; at other times it is asked with the intention of asserting that our organization represents only the super blind, the elite, and that, in so doing, it shuns those who have multiple disabilities, are less educated, are more economically disadvantaged, or are nontraditional students. It is hard to make that case when one reflects on the Federation's legislative agenda for 2013. Our concern for blind students at all levels is undeniable; our concern for those who work in the sheltered shops and our willingness to champion their cause is unmatched by any organization of or for the blind in the nation; our concern for blind veterans goes beyond honoring them for their service, by affirmatively embracing one of their issues and making it our own. The legislative agenda of the National Federation of the Blind does not begin to encompass all of the programs and activities we undertake, but it clearly shows our commitment to all of those who are blind and to their aspiration to make the most of their God-given assets in the America we call the land of opportunity. For thousands of blind people we are making the dream come true. And for thousands upon thousands of sighted people we are demonstrating that the course of history can be changed and the theories contained in the civics books are just as vital and relevant as the framers of our Constitution envisioned. With willing hands, willing hearts, and an unquinchable desire to better our lives, the blind of America concluded our Washington Seminar and vowed to travel the long and winding road that leads to equality.

Legislative Agenda of Blind Americans: Priorities for the 113th Congress, First Session

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is the nation’s oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind people. As the voice of the nation’s blind, we represent the collective views of blind people throughout society. All of our leaders and the vast majority of our members are blind, but anyone can participate in our movement. There are an estimated 1.3 million blind people in the United States, and every year approximately 75,000 Americans become blind.

The NFB’s three legislative initiatives for 2013 are:

This legislation phases out Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which allows employers to pay disabled workers subminimum wages. If Congress ends this exploitative practice, disabled Americans will receive equal protection under the law to earn at least the federal minimum wage and reach their full employment potential.

Electronic instructional materials and related technology have replaced traditional methods of learning in postsecondary settings. Although it would be inexpensive to create e-books, courseware, applications, and other educational devices and materials in accessible formats, the overwhelming majority of these materials are inaccessible to disabled students. This bill calls for minimum accessibility standards for instructional materials, ending the “separate-but-equal” approach to learning.

The Space Available Program allows active-duty military, Red Cross employees, and retired members of the armed services to travel on military aircraft if space is available. HR 164 reverses the exclusion of 100 percent service-disabled veterans who were discharged before retirement and entitles them to the program’s privileges.

The real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight; it is the misunderstanding and lack of information that exist. Given the proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to a physical nuisance. Blind Americans need your help to achieve these goals and reach economic security and full integration into society. Supporting these measures will benefit more than just the blind because promoting our economic welfare increases the tax base. We urge Congress to hear our demands for equality and support these legislative initiatives.

The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2013

Current labor laws unjustly prohibit workers with disabilities
from reaching their full socioeconomic potential.

Written in 1938, Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) discriminates against people with disabilities by allowing the secretary of labor to grant Special Wage Certificates to employers, permitting them to pay workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage. Despite enlightened civil rights legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, this antiquated provision is still in force, with some disabled workers making only three cents an hour.

The subminimum wage model actually benefits the employer, not the worker. Subminimum wage employers receive taxpayer and philanthropic dollars because the public believes they are providing training and employment for people with disabilities. The executives use the substantial proceeds to compensate themselves with six-figure salaries on the backs of disabled workers they pay pennies per hour. People who raise their own standard of living while taking advantage of those who do not have the same rights as every other American are engaging in discrimination, not charity.

This discrimination persists because of the myths that Section 14(c) is:

Myth 1…a compassionate offering of meaningful work. Although the entities that engage in this practice demand the benefits that come from being recognized as employers, subminimum wage work is not true employment. These so-called employers offer days filled with only repetitive drudgery for which workers are compensated with third-world wages, leading disabled employees toward learned incapacity and greater dependence on social programs.

Myth 2…an employment training tool for disabled workers. Fewer than 5 percent of workers with disabilities in subminimum wage workshops will transition into integrated competitive work. In fact data show that they must unlearn the skills they acquire in a subminimum wage workshop in order to obtain meaningful employment. Therefore Section 14(c) is a training tool that perpetuates ongoing underemployment.

Myth 3…a controversial issue among the disability community. More than fifty disability-related organizations and counting support the repeal of Section 14(c) of the FLSA, and many former subminimum wage employers have abandoned the use of the Special Wage Certificate without terminating anyone. Only entities profiting from this exploitive practice refuse to acknowledge that it is discrimination.

The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2013:

Discontinues the practice of issuing Special Wage Certificates. The secretary of labor will no longer issue Special Wage Certificates to new applicants.

Phases out all remaining Special Wage Certificates over a three-year period. Entities currently holding Special Wage Certificates will begin compensating their workers with disabilities at no less than the federal minimum wage, using the following schedule:

Repeals Section 14(c) of the FLSA. Three years after the law is enacted, the practice of paying disabled workers subminimum wages will be officially abolished, and workers with disabilities will no longer be excluded from the workforce protection of a federal minimum wage.

STOP THE DISCRIMINATION.
Create opportunities for real work at real wages.

Cosponsor the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act.

For more information contact:
Anil Lewis, Director of Advocacy and Policy
National Federation of the Blind
Phone: (410) 659-9314, Extension 2374 email: <alewis@nfb.org>

The Technology, Education, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act (TEACH)

Inaccessible technology in the classroom creates a separate-but-equal
approach to learning that discriminates against disabled students.

The evolution of technology has fundamentally changed the education system. The scope of instructional materials used to facilitate the teaching and learning process at institutions of higher education has expanded. Curricular content comes in the form of digital books, PDFs, webpages, etc.; and most of this content is delivered through technology such as courseware, library databases, digital software, and applications. These advancements have revolutionized access to information, but the majority of these materials are partially or completely inaccessible to students with disabilities.

Barriers to access for disabled students create a separate-but-equal approach to learning. According to a 2009 Government Accountability Office report, approximately 10.8 percent of students enrolled in postsecondary institutions had some disability. The mass deployment of inaccessible electronic instructional materials creates barriers to learning for millions of disabled students. When a website is not compatible with screen-access software, a blind student is denied access to online course information; if nondisabled students are using an inaccessible e-reader, a student who cannot read print has to petition the school for an accessible device and thus potentially different content. This approach to access is discriminatory and places unnecessary barriers in the way of students with disabilities.

Technology exists to remedy this discrimination, but postsecondary institutions are not investing in accessibility. Innovations in text-to-speech, refreshable Braille, and other technologies have created promise for equal access for disabled students; yet an unacceptable number of postsecondary institutions do not make it a priority to purchase accessible technology. Schools are buying inaccessible instructional materials and then separate, accessible items on an ad-hoc basis for students with disabilities. Some resort merely to retrofitting the inaccessible technology, which sometimes makes accessibility worse. Until postsecondary institutions harness their purchasing power, the market for accessible instructional materials will remain limited, and disabled students will continue to be left behind.

Equality in the classroom is a civil right. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. The deployment of inaccessible instructional materials violates these laws.

Technology, Education, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act:

Develops accessibility guidelines for instructional materials. The Access Board will consult experts and stakeholders to develop technical specifications for electronic instructional materials and related information technologies so that those materials are usable by individuals with disabilities.

Establishes a minimum accessibility standard for instructional materials used by the government and in postsecondary academic settings. The Department of Justice will implement the guidelines developed by the Access Board as enforceable standards applicable to all departments and agencies of the federal government and institutions of higher education covered in Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Promotes competition while ensuring equality. The guidelines provide guidance to manufacturers on how to develop products that are fully accessible to disabled users, and the required standards will ensure that all colleges, universities, and federal agencies procure and deploy only fully accessible instructional materials, ending the separate-but-equal approach to learning.

PROTECT EQUALITY IN THE CLASSROOM.

Cosponsor the Technology, Education, and Accessibility
in College and Higher Education Act (TEACH).

For more information contact:
Lauren McLarney, Government Affairs Specialist
National Federation of the Blind
Phone: (410) 659-9314, Extension 2207 email: <lmclarney@nfb.org>

Equal Access to Air Travel for Service-Disabled Veterans (HR 164)

The Space Available Program denies 100 percent of
Service-Disabled Veterans the opportunity to participate.

Discharged service-disabled veterans are not entitled to air travel privileges to which other members of the military have access. The Space Available Program allows members of the active military, some family members, Red Cross employees, and retired members of the armed services to travel on military aircraft if space is available. However, members of the military who are 100 percent service disabled do not qualify for this program because they do not fall into one of those categories.

This unintentional exclusion denies discharged service-disabled veterans a privilege to which they would be entitled had they not been disabled during service. Those service members who are disabled during active duty and are medically discharged do not have the chance to stay on active duty or fulfill the twenty years requirement to become qualified for this program. Had they not been medically discharged, 100 percent service-disabled veterans are likely to have served until retirement. These men and women have earned the right to space-available travel just as others have because they have defended our country.

Equal Access to Air Travel for Service-Disabled Veterans would:

Provide travel privileges to totally disabled veterans. This bill amends Title X of the U.S. Code, to permit veterans who have a service-connected, permanent disability rated as total to travel on military aircraft in the same manner and to the same extent as retired members of the Armed Forces entitled to such travel.

HONOR OUR SERVICE-DISABLED VETERANS WITH
PRIVILEGES THEY ARE ENTITLED TO.

Cosponsor HR 164.

To cosponsor the bill, contact:

Mirium Keim, Legislative Assistant
Office of Congressman Bilirakis (R-FL)
Phone: (202) 225-5755 email: mirium.keim@mail.house.gov

For more information contact:
Jesse Hartle, Government Affairs Specialist
National Federation of the Blind
Phone: (410) 659-9314, Extension 2233 email: <jhartle@nfb.org>

Blindness and the Message of Dr. King

by Ed McDonald

From the Editor: Ed McDonald is a past president of the National Federation of the Blind of West Virginia and a former member of the National Federation of the Blind board of directors. He is kind, thoughtful, and reflective. He has been a keen observer of the times in which he has lived, remembering his reactions as a child to historic events and weighing them now as an adult.

In January of 2006 the Braille Monitor printed remarks Ed had made a year earlier for a Martin Luther King Day observance. The following remarks are different enough that we think readers will benefit from reading them. They were made on the day before the first black president was inaugurated in the United States; and, given this month’s focus on activism, speaking about the truth of our lives to those in power, and the inauguration of our forty-fourth president for a second term, they seem quite appropriate to appear in this issue.

Fellow Federationists: Martin Luther King Day has always been a special day for Karen and me. Each year I do a radio show featuring music that I hope reflects the message of Dr. King. This year Karen sang with and accompanied a community choir which presented a special program for the occasion. In addition, on Martin Luther King Day I am always reminded of how much we as Federationists share with all of those who have struggled for civil rights.

With that in mind I thought I would share with you some remarks I presented four years ago at another MLK Day program in our community. It was the eve of President Obama's first inauguration, so perhaps that gives the remarks a bit more relevance today. Some of you may have read them before, and I apologize if they become long and boring. Nevertheless—at the risk of personal grandstanding—I hope a few of you may find in them some renewed reasons to celebrate Martin Luther King Day.

Tri-Towns Ministerial Association
Westernport, MD

Today is the day we observe a national holiday to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King. I am sure that for some the occasion may be little more than a day off from work or school, but for many—including those of us who are gathered here this evening—it's a significant occasion. This year it's especially significant because four score years have passed since Dr. King was born. Adding to the significance is the fact that tomorrow we will experience a landmark event in the fulfillment of the dream that we often associate with Dr. King.

Today, no doubt, we have celebrated this day in many different ways. Perhaps the media have reminded us of the basic facts of Dr. King's life, and we might even have heard a few seconds of that magic voice talking about his dream. Many of us will sing songs and say prayers together, and a few of us will stand up and make speeches that try to give some meaning and perspective to the occasion.

I won't even pretend to offer new insights or understandings about Dr. King, his life, or the spirit of the holiday. I can only share with you a few personal thoughts about how the principles that he talked about and lived by make sense to me as a member of a social minority.

Unlike Dr. King, I am not African American, so I really don't know how it feels to be rejected for a job; to be denied the opportunity to live in the home of my choice; to be taunted, scorned, feared, or hated because of the color of my skin. However, as a blind person I do know something about what it's like to be regarded as virtually helpless; to be denied educational opportunities; or to be turned down for jobs that I know I'm qualified to do, simply because I happen not to see.

Just like the people Dr. King inspired to take a firm stand for freedom and human dignity, I too am a member of a minority group within American society—a minority whose members have often been denied the rights of first-class citizenship, not because we are inferior, but simply because of a personal characteristic over which we have no control.

With that in mind it has become increasingly clear to me over the past four decades that what Dr. King had to say, the principles that he fought for, and the strategies he used to bring about change were as relevant to me as they were to those who marched in Montgomery or Selma. But I must admit that's not something I have always understood.

When Martin Luther King was killed in April of 1968, I was a high school senior preparing to graduate from the West Virginia School for the Blind. Like the rest of America, I listened to the news accounts of the assassination and its aftermath. But, having grown up in what I realize now was a rather racist family environment, I really didn't feel as though the death of this black leader—I may have even regarded him as a troublemaker—had any real impact on me.

A few months later I went off to college and discovered people my own age embracing the civil rights movement, protesting the Vietnam War, and expressing all sorts of other radical ideas that sounded foreign to me. Some of my most fundamental values and beliefs were being challenged by new ideas. In the midst of all of this I was invited to a meeting of a group called the National Federation of the Blind—men and women who were trying to create an organization of blind college students in West Virginia. Until then I didn't know there was any kind of organization of blind people and really didn't know why there should be, but they persuaded me to become secretary of this new student division, and thus began my lifelong involvement in the organized blind movement.

The following summer I attended the state convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Incidentally, that was forty years ago this summer, and I haven't missed a convention since. The featured speaker was the national president of the Federation, a man named Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. I didn't understand it all right away, but that convention introduced me to a man who was intelligent, articulate, successful, and blind. As I read more of his essays and listened to more of his recorded speeches, I realized that Dr. Jernigan's role in the lives of blind people was a lot like that of Dr. King in the lives of African Americans. I learned from Dr. Jernigan that the real issues we faced as blind people had little to do with our physical lack of eyesight and a lot to do with the myths, misunderstandings, and prejudices about blindness and blind people that have existed for centuries. I learned from Dr. Jernigan that, if we as blind people wanted to break down the barriers that keep us from first-class citizenship, we needed to join together and do what we could to change public attitudes about blindness. Dr. Jernigan helped us understand how much we had in common with the civil rights movement in which African Americans were most prominent, and he encouraged us to respect ourselves and not be afraid to stand up for the things we believed in.

That sounds a lot like Dr. King, doesn't it? Like Dr. Jernigan, Dr. King understood and articulated the barriers that relegated most African Americans to something less than first-class citizenship, and he was able to inspire large numbers of people to join together to destroy those barriers forever.

I am sure that, as a result of Dr. King's life, many other black Americans were inspired to remain involved throughout their lives in the struggle for justice and equality for themselves and their brothers and sisters. In much the same way Dr. Jernigan's message has inspired me to stay involved for the past four decades in an organization that remains dedicated—as we often say—to changing what it means to be blind. As a result I have written resolutions and press releases; carried banners and picket signs; raised money and raised cane, so to speak; chaired meetings and conventions; and met with lawmakers in Charleston and Washington as a member of the National Federation of the Blind. Twenty-five years after he spoke at my first convention, Dr. Jernigan asked me to serve on the Federation's national board of directors, and it was a privilege for me to do so for three years.

The issues and problems, the solutions and strategies, the tactics and of course even the leadership of the organized blind have evolved over those four decades, but the basic purpose of the movement remains the same—security, equality, and opportunity for all blind Americans. Surely the experience of black Americans over those same forty years has been very much the same.

Public education is just one example of an area in which black people and blind people have shared a similar experience. Until 1954 segregated education was the norm for African Americans, and we know that segregated schools usually meant an inferior education for a variety of reasons. Thus integration into the educational mainstream offered African Americans a better chance of becoming integrated into the social and political mainstream as well. But the court decisions outlawing segregated schools were not absolute victories. African Americans are still working hard to ensure equal treatment and equal opportunity in the nation's education system, and I understand further that the elimination of all black schools may have contributed to the erosion of some of the solidarity that unified and strengthened the African American community. So it has become necessary to find new ways to nurture that sense of community.

Similarly, until the early 1970s, segregated institutions were the norm for the education of blind children—state-run residential schools, where blind kids lived in dormitories, often separated from their families for months at a time. The education offered by these institutions was based largely on the use of Braille as the means of reading and writing, and without them most blind people would have remained illiterate and otherwise uneducated. Both my wife Karen and I attended such a school, and, if we hadn't done so, the two of us would never have met. So I have no real complaints about my segregated education. It is true, however, that these schools for the blind were, simply because of their relatively small size, unable to offer the breadth and diversity of educational opportunities that most kids would experience in the public school mainstream. Thus it was a major step forward as more and more blind children were integrated into the public school system, but I believe this trend has also contributed to the loss of some sense of community. What's more, since Braille in the public schools is the exception rather than the rule, the rate of Braille literacy among blind children has actually declined over the past three decades.

This year of 2009 is the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille, the young Frenchman who invented the system of reading and writing that I'm using right now. As part of the bicentennial celebration, we're not just telling the story of our hero, Louis Braille, but we're launching a long-term campaign to make sure blind people of all ages are not denied the opportunity to learn to read and write. This is of course yet another example of a group of people identifying a real problem and then working together to solve it.

So what's the point of talking about these parallels and commonalities between black people and blind people? Well, in many ways it seems we live in a time when division and polarization have come to dominate our society. However, as a blind person, taking time to recognize the many common experiences that I share with my African American brothers and sisters—not to mention my two African American step-sons—reminds me that more things unite us than divide us. What's more, I know that black people and blind people are not the only two minorities that share these common experiences. Whether we face injustice resulting from race, ethnicity, disability, gender, or any other characteristic, we can all gain knowledge, understanding, wisdom, strength, courage, and commitment from the words and the example of Dr. Martin Luther King. His message was simple yet universal, but the business of really believing it, understanding it, and living it is not always easy.

In a few minutes we'll join together and sing a song that thousands, indeed millions of people have sung together over the years in their struggle for freedom and human dignity. In the words of that song we find the fundamental truths that guided Dr. King and that continue to guide and inspire all of us who really care about matters of justice, equality, and opportunity. We shall organize; we'll walk hand in hand; we're not afraid; and someday we will all be free because deep in our hearts we really do believe that we shall overcome. It's important for us to sing these words together. The more we repeat them, the more we know they're true.

I remember, when I first heard Dr. Jernigan say that it was respectable to be blind, that with proper training and opportunity blind people could compete on terms of equality with sighted people, and that we really could achieve first-class citizenship, his words made more sense than anything I had ever heard before about blindness; but deep in my heart I'm not sure I really believed it. I had to hear and say those words over and over again, and with time I have come to believe them at a much deeper level. Even after forty years I'm still learning and understanding more and more about what it means and, for that matter what it doesn't mean, to be blind. And each of us can have a similar experience.

Those who marched with Dr. King did not do it because they took some pleasure in fighting a losing battle. Similarly my commitment to the organized blind movement has not been a forty-year walk through the wilderness with no hope of reaching the Promised Land. Like Dr. Jernigan and Dr. King, I know and you know deep in our hearts that we can and we shall overcome.

Dr. King gave us not only a dream to believe in but also the tools to help make it come true. During recent years we've come through some hard times in pursuit of that dream, but the historic event that the entire nation will experience tomorrow should remind us that the dream is still very much alive. Of course we all know that the inauguration of a black man as president of the United States will not bring about a sudden and immediate solution to all of our problems. Nevertheless it should be for every one of us an occasion for hope, inspiration, and a renewed commitment to pursue and fulfill the dream.

Thank you for the opportunity to share this evening with you. As Dr. Jernigan often said at the close of a speech, and I know Dr. King would agree: "Come, join me on the barricades, and we will make it come true!"

Oh Where, Oh Where, Are the Braille Books?

by Jan A. Lavine

From the Editor: Jan Lavine received the 2011 Braille Student of the Year Award from the Hadley School for the Blind. She loves Braille so much that she became a National Library Service patron, a certified Literary Braille transcriber, and a certified Braille proofreader. Jan was asked to help provide hands-on Braille instruction to adults at the Edmond Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma starting in the spring of 2010. She continues to teach and mentor new Braille readers. Here is what Jan has to say:

I was a print reader until things changed in my life on March 27, 2006. After a day filled with working on house projects, I jumped into the shower and was giving my eyes a good rubbing, when I heard and felt a "pop," and it was not a champagne bottle. The next day I noticed my vision had started to deteriorate rapidly due to leaking blood vessels behind my retina, filling the pigment epithelial detachment (PED), which was the "pop." Within seventeen hours I could not read those huge highway signs on the interstate, and within weeks I could not make out the golden arches. All I had was a small area of clear undistorted vision in which I could see only three small print letters at a time while reading. There was no way I was going to be reading print competently at that rate. I knew at some point that even that small window would disappear; would I really have to give up reading?

Although I had never known any blind people, I did know they used Braille to read. What I didn't know was where to find Braille instruction. The NFB has a brochure, "New Approaches to Consider: Suggestions for Individuals with Recent Vision Loss," by Ramona Walhof. What a great brochure for people like me! In this brochure the Hadley School for the Blind is listed as a resource offering correspondence courses in Braille reading and writing. I contacted Hadley for a catalogue and learned that its courses were all free.

With over ninety years of experience Hadley definitely knows how to create and teach Braille correspondence courses. I had taken correspondence courses years ago for my job, so I knew I could do this. First I had to fill out an application and get my eye doctor to sign the Hadley eye report. Then I was ready to start to learn Braille. For its students without any Braille or tactile experience, Hadley offers six easy lessons providing practice for hand movements and to start the brain-hand tactile awakening. This is part one of a four part series called "Braille Literacy."

All the Hadley Braille literacy courses arrive with Braille workbooks and audio cassettes, which contain all the information and lessons. Since a tremendous advantage of correspondence courses is the ability to work through them at your own pace and in the privacy of your own home, I would sit down comfortably in my recliner with a Braille workbook in front of me and put on a cassette. It felt as if the Hadley Braille instructor was right there with me, providing hints, suggestions, and encouragement to improve my Braille skills. With the tapes I could stop the lesson temporarily when I needed to think or rewind it whenever I wanted to hear something again. It was easy to complete sections in approximately fifteen minutes. Success often depends on making things bite size, and fifteen minutes each morning to learn Braille was quite doable. This was easy.

After I finished a lesson, I had to complete a short assignment to send off to my instructor for grading. One must submit an assignment at least once a month, but it was so easy that I could get many done in thirty days.

In no time I was ready for Braille Literacy 2, the class in which you learn the Braille alphabet and how to make Braille labels to use around the house. This was tremendous, but I wanted a real Braille book that I could search through to find the letters and words I was learning. Where could I find Braille books? I went to our public library: no Braille books. I went to new and used bookstores in our city and in larger ones nearby: no Braille books. We even took a trip over to the city that housed the school for the blind: no Braille books there either. Okay, I hear you laughing, but keep in mind I was new to blindness and to Braille. I was accustomed to finding print anywhere I went; why would Braille not be the same?

Finally I found our state library for the blind. After another application signed by my eye doctor, I registered to get access to Braille books from the National Library Service (NLS). Concurrent with working through Braille Literacy 2 I requested an uncontracted Braille book. NLS sent me Cinderella, but at the time I sat down to read it I didn't yet know its title. I had just gone through the first lesson in Braille Literacy 2, learning the Braille letters l, c, a, and d. With the NLS book on my lap, my fingers were on the search for those first letters. Lo and behold, my fingers found a c, d, and lla. It was almost certain that this word was "Cinderella." I was ecstatic to find my first word but then shocked to find that the Braille word "Cinderella" filled most of a Braille line.

Braille Literacy 3 is the class in which the real work of reading and writing uncontracted Braille occurs. And here I was, getting ahead of myself by trying to read, though I hadn't yet learned more than twenty letters of the Braille alphabet. It didn't take me long to see that most Braille books are published in contracted Braille. Now I needed to take the Hadley Braille Literacy 4 course in order to learn the 189 Braille contractions. This course has thirty lessons. It might sound like a lot, but it wasn't—it was fun.

I found that my instructor would grade three assignments at a time. It took ten days for the assignments to make the round trip: leave my house, travel in the mail, get graded, and finally be returned to me. Within ten days it was easy to complete another three lessons.

When I began this course, I found that NLS had my favorite cookbook in Braille, so, inspired, I spent my mornings doing my Hadley lessons and my afternoons brailling recipes. I Brailled enough recipes to fill five volumes. Braille consumed my every waking moment. I fell in love with Braille and with Hadley.

But I still wanted my own Braille books, books I didn't have to Braille myself or borrow from the NLS and then return. I attended my first NFB national convention in 2008 in Dallas. The Hadley School for the Blind had a booth in the exhibit hall. Who was at the Hadley booth? Why, it was my first Braille instructor. It was exciting finally to meet her in person. What was even more amazing was the high percentage of people passing by the Hadley booth who also turned out to be her Braille students. Had they all read Ramona Walhof's brochure?

The biggest draw for me to attend my first NFB national convention was the Braille Book Fair presented by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB). Why, it was just what they advertised it would be: an opportunity for me to obtain "free, gently used Braille books," to read. I would have Braille books all to myself.

Waiting in the long line to get into the Braille Book Fair seemed to take forever, but, wow, was it ever worth it. Adult books were on one side of the room, children's books on the other. I went on a mad dash for the cookbooks. Oh do I love cookbooks; I happily picked up one for preparing recipes using a Crock-Pot®. At the adult book area I found a Sudoku puzzle book by Will Shortz and an all-time favorite, The Bridges of Madison County. My arms filled with books, I headed over to the volunteers who packed up my new treasures for shipping.

About thirty minutes later when the crowd around the children's book area was gone and so too were most of the books, I made my way over there and managed to pick up yet another armful. Oh, the joy of having my very own Braille books and all those pages to turn.

During the national convention I attended the meeting of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille. At this meeting I learned about <www.sharebraille.org>, the NFB website for exchanging Braille books. As soon as I read one of those books I had gotten at the Braille Book Fair, I decided to share it, and no sooner had I posted it on the site than a person wanted it. What a great way to exchange and keep those Braille books moving into other people's hands.

Through Hadley I obtained Braille skills. Through the NFB I obtained Braille books to satisfy my thirst to read in Braille. Braille allows me to keep reading and keep turning those pages, albeit in a different format. Someday I hope to find a copy of that first book, Cinderella, at the Braille Book Fair or on <www.sharebraille.org>.

Over 10,000 students annually take courses from Hadley, ranging from art to container gardening. And, if you missed the chance, you can even get your high school diploma through Hadley. But guess which courses are the ones with the highest enrollment? You got it, Braille.

For more information contact the Hadley School for the Blind, 700 Elm Street, Winnetka, Illinois 60093. Call toll-free at (800) 323-4238 or visit the website at <www.hadley.edu>.

Reading, Reading, Actually Reading the News

by Nijat Worley

From the Editor: Nijat Worley is a recent college graduate who now works at the National Center for the Blind as the manager of marketing and outreach for sponsored technology. He was born in Azerbaijan, and his appreciation for a free press and the importance of journalism is instructive for those of us who take them for granted or malign them when they make us uncomfortable. Here is what Nijat has to say, not only about the virtues of a free press, but also about the service that helps him enjoy it:

I have always been somewhat different from my peers. I don’t like loud parties; I don’t like to go to bars to drink; and I avoid getting into dangerous and rash situations such as slacklining (walking on a rope similar to tightrope walking, except that there is less tension on the line, so the rope bounces and makes the task more difficult), skiing, snowboarding, or any other dangerous sport for that matter. This may be unusual to hear from a guy in his early twenties, but I am disappointed to say that these are some of the activities that people my age enjoy the most. I wish more of my peers would spend a Sunday afternoon like me, reading the news and becoming informed about the political and environmental happenings in the world.

Before you make comments about ivory towers, please let me explain. I have always been a bit different from my peers. While most of the kids my age sat in the other room and played video games, I would sit with the adults as they drank coffee and discussed politics, international relations, and the rules of war and peace. I don’t know why, but I have always enjoyed philosophy, politics, history, and social studies. These interested me the most, and they still sustain me in my free time, which is why I love reading news and current events. This is why NFB-NEWSLINE® has come to play such a big role in my life.

I have been an NFB-NEWSLINE subscriber for over ten years now, and I use it religiously every day to read my favorite publications because I enjoy knowing about politics and events taking place all over the world. Did you know that there was an attempted coup by the military in Eritrea yesterday? How many of you even know where Eritrea is? No, it is not a de facto independent region on the eastern tip of Canada. Well, you get my point. NFB-NEWSLINE makes it very easy for me to have up-to-the-minute access every day without even thinking about it. Unlike my older colleagues who once complained that the lack of access to quality news was a significant problem in their lives, I simply take it for granted that I should be able to wake up in the morning and listen to the New York Times while I am exercising, eating breakfast, or riding the bus to work.

Some might say, “You don’t have to use NFB-NEWSLINE to get news and information. There are many other methods for accessing them through television, radio, the Internet, and thousands of applications and programs on mobile devices. NFB-NEWSLINE is not the only way for a blind person to receive news in the twenty-first century.” These people are right, but none of those other methods of accessing news reports provide me with as many choices and as much flexibility as NFB-NEWSLINE. This versatile service gives me one place to go to access content from over three hundred publications, all guaranteed to be readable from my home phone, on my iPhone connected to a Braille display, or using my home or laptop computer with the screen reader of my choice.

Half an hour of broadcast news on television provides the listener with only half a page of newsworthy information, because in the thirty minutes devoted to a news broadcast, two or three commercial breaks interrupt the news segments. Don’t even get me started on the opinions and commentary of the reporters and news anchors that get slipped in between the news reports! I find it impossible to make sense of the important issues and the relevant material I should know to really comprehend them given the sensational celebrity gossip and thirty-second sound bites that precede every segment of a news report.

Anyway, before I rant about the deficit of professional journalism in the media culture of the twenty-first century, let’s return to the importance of reading printed news from highly regarded publications such as the New York Times. I value excellence in journalism and the painstaking process that journalists go through to bring us valuable news reports from the center of the action. Whether it is from the midst of the violent protests in Tahrir Square in Egypt, the frontlines of the war in Afghanistan, the boiling political inquiries of the White House press room, or the center of the Occupy Wall Street Movement in New York’s Financial District, real live journalists put themselves in danger every day to bring us information from every corner of the world about the events that matter the most. This is why I owe it to them to honor their work by taking the time to read what they have gathered and synthesized.

One of the tenets of democracy that we hold dear in this country is a free press, which is more than the Eritreans can say. The purpose of a free press is to provide unrestricted reporting of the issues that concern us as citizens and allow us to have a public discourse on those issues and come to some consensus. I cannot tell you how thrilling and emotionally moving it is for me to read public responses to an editorial on an important political issue such as gun control in the Sunday edition of the New York Times. I believe that I fulfill an important duty as an active citizen when I closely read and analyze well-written news reports by intelligent professionals trained in providing accurate reports right from the heart of the action.

Perhaps the most subtle and yet the most important benefit of reading newspapers and magazines on NFB-NEWSLINE for me is the ease with which I am able to navigate through thousands of different articles from hundreds of different publications right from my telephone or my iPhone. I would not find the experience nearly as enjoyable if I had to read the same material while tied to my desk by a desktop computer or was limited to reading on a laptop while sitting in a chair. Instead I read what I want to read while eating breakfast at the table or while lying in bed with the earpiece of my phone pressed against my pillow. Sometimes the way one reads and the environment in which he reads can make all the difference in whether the experience is arduous or pleasurable.

NFB-NEWSLINE gives me the freedom to choose from hundreds of publications and to move effortlessly among their sections. It gives me important information on images and the captions for those images; it allows me to read every detail of an article from the funny spelling of a word to the playful placement of a punctuation mark for emphasis; nothing escapes me when I am reading newspapers on NFB-NEWSLINE. Therein lies the true value of NFB-NEWSLINE. It allows me, a blind person, fully and independently to access enormous amounts of information at the simple touch of a few buttons on a home phone or a few taps on a touchscreen at my leisure. I don’t have to be in a specific location; I don’t have to read the news according to somebody else’s time; I can easily and fully independently read all my favorite print publications from the comfort of my armchair, the waiting room of my doctor’s office, or the noisy cabin of a Boeing 747 cruising at an altitude of 35,000 feet.

Thanks to the work of the National Federation of the Blind and the work we do in this organization to improve the lives of the blind in America, I am able to participate actively in the public discourse in this country. The NFB has promoted the rights of the blind in America for seven decades now, and bringing access to printed media is just one small part of that effort that has drastically changed the lives of blind people like me. Can I live without NFB-NEWSLINE? Of course I could, but my life would not be as enriched and as fulfilling without this excellent service bringing me so much information every day. NFB-NEWSLINE allows me to gain knowledge and have intelligent conversations with the people that I interact with on a daily basis. That is why I am so thankful for it and cherish it.

Oh, and just so you know, Eritrea is a small country about the size of Pennsylvania in eastern Africa bordering the Red Sea, between Djibouti and Sudan. It has a population of six million and no political freedoms whatsoever: hence the lack of a free press. So the next time you want to talk about international affairs or have an intellectual political discussion, feel free to call on me. Thanks to NFB-NEWSLINE, I can be certain that I will be ready to go toe to toe with you. Just do me a favor; don’t try to entice me to go water skiing or mountain climbing. I’d rather spend my Sunday afternoon reading editorials and writing responses. Although I have to say that going skydiving does sound like fun.

For more information; go to <www.nfbnewsline.org>.

Accessible Astronomy

by Glenn Chaple, Astronomy Magazine

From the Editor: This article first appeared in the August 2012 issue of Astronomy magazine. The author dedicated it to Ellie Isaacs, whose pen-and-ink portrait of Stephen Hawking appeared in the May 2012 issue of Astronomy. Chaple makes the point that having any sort of disability shouldn’t prevent anyone from actively participating in astronomy activities. Here is what he says:

“Imagine this. You are standing at your telescope waiting for the next interested person to take a peek, when you notice someone in a wheelchair approaching you. All you can think of is ‘What should I do?’ ” (Noreen Grice, Everyone’s Universe: A Guide to Accessible Astronomy Places, You Can Do Astronomy LLC, 2011)

What would you do? Approximately one in five individuals copes with a disability such as visual and/or hearing impairments, communication challenges, or wheelchair confinement. None of us is immune. An illness, accident, or simply the aging process can leave a once able-bodied person with a disability. And it’s quite possible that such an individual will show up at a public star party you or your club is conducting.

Having a disability shouldn’t prevent anyone from active participation in astronomy. In fact many have overcome handicaps to make notable astronomical contributions. In 1783 astronomer John Goodricke, who was deaf-mute, was awarded the Copley Medal by the Royal Society of England for his work on variable stars. Until 1932 Edwin Frost was both director of the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin and editor of The Astrophysical Journal despite having become blind 11 years earlier. Blindness is no hindrance to modern-day astronomers. For example, Wanda Diaz-Merced, though blind, is an active radio astronomer with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and a PhD student at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom.

But perhaps the most celebrated astronomer (well, physicist) with a mobility and communications disability is Stephen Hawking. Despite being confined to a wheelchair and dependent on a computerized voice system to speak (a result of having contracted Lou Gehrig’s disease), Hawking has used his mathematical genius to probe some of cosmology’s greatest mysteries.

Modern technology has brought research astronomy into our homes—a boon to individuals with disabilities. Computer users with mobility or hearing problems can access robotic telescopes or work on Internet projects like Zooniverse’s Galaxy Zoo, Moon Zoo, and Planet Hunters. To support the upcoming Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer mission, NASA is asking volunteers to make meteor counts using FM radio receivers. Find details of this project, a nice fit for visually impaired space enthusiasts, at <http://lunarscience.nasa.gov/articles/radio-meteor-counts>.

But back to the original question: what would you do should a person in a wheelchair approach you at a star party? Noreen Grice has some answers. She became an advocate of astronomy for visitors with disabilities after a planetarium show she conducted for a group of children who were blind. An assessment of the program according to the kids? “It stunk!”

Spurred by the incident, Grice began to research strategies for presenting astronomy to individuals with a variety of disabilities. Ultimately she established You Can Do Astronomy LLC—a company whose mission is to make astronomy and space science accessible to people of all abilities. Her book Everyone’s Universe: A Guide to Accessible Astronomy Places is a must-read for anyone involved in astronomy outreach and should be in the possession of every astronomy club and science facility.

Everyone’s Universe is designed to educate both astronomy clubs and participants with disabilities. Suggestions for accessible outreach efforts include eyepiece extenders for those using wheelchairs, tactile books like Grice’s Touch the Stars (National Braille Press, 2002) for readers who are visually impaired, picture boards to assist individuals with communication challenges, and simple paper and pen or iPad to interact with a person who cannot hear. Everyone’s Universe also provides a state-by-state listing of accessible astronomy facilities, such as planetariums and observatories.

But why wait for a person with a disability to show up at your star party? Be proactive and organize an accessible star party in your community! In Everyone’s Universe, Grice spotlights Project Bright Sky, developed by the Pomona Valley Amateur Astronomers (PVAA) in California. Through this project, the PVAA conducts private star parties for those who are visually impaired and offers tactile astronomy classes at local Braille Institutes. For more on You Can Do Astronomy and Project Bright Sky, visit <http://www.youcandoastronomy.com> and <http://brightsky.pvaa.us>, respectively.

As we strive to infuse the excitement of astronomy into the public, we mustn’t neglect the 20 percent of the population suffering from some kind of disability. Who knows? That person approaching your telescope might be a potential contributing member of your astronomy club, possibly even a future scientist. You can help make the universe more accessible!

Questions, comments, or suggestions? Email me at <gchaple@hotmail.com>.

NHTSA Proposes Rules for Automakers to Add Sound to Hybrids

by Gabe Nelson

From the Editor: The following story appeared in Automotive News on Monday, January 7, 2013. The wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly, but it appears that pedestrians actually will get the protection from silent cars that we have been fighting for. Here is the story:

Automakers would need to make hybrids and electric vehicles emit sound under rules that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed on Monday. The rules, ordered by Congress three years ago, are meant to protect pedestrians and bicyclists from vehicles that make little sound when using electric power. NHTSA says that designing the vehicles to make noise at speeds below eighteen mph would prevent about 2,800 injuries over the life of each model year of vehicles.

Adding the needed speaker system would increase the cost of manufacturing a car or light truck by about $30, the agency estimates. NHTSA estimates it would cost the whole industry $23 million in 2016, once the rules are in effect. "Our proposal would allow manufacturers the flexibility to design different sounds for different makes and models while still providing an opportunity for pedestrians, bicyclists, and the visually impaired to detect and recognize a vehicle," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in a statement.

Before finalizing the rules NHTSA must publish them in the Federal Register and address any problems that are brought up during a subsequent sixty-day public comment period. The rules would apply to passenger cars and light trucks, as well as motorcycles, heavy-duty trucks, and buses.

Adding Speakers

To meet the requirements automakers would need to add speakers that are audible from the street but still protected from the elements. These speakers would need a digital processor so that they would play the chosen sound--often a humming noise similar to that of a gasoline-burning engine--only at low speeds. Beyond the cost of those components the added weight would increase fuel costs by about $5 over the lifetime of a light vehicle, NHTSA says. That, combined with the $30 in components, means the total cost of a vehicle would increase by about $35.

Automakers have started adding speakers to hybrids and electric vehicles. The 2013 version of the Chevrolet Volt, the best-selling plug-in hybrid on the market, lets the driver activate a warning sound using a button on the end of the turn signal lever. The Nissan Leaf, the best-selling battery-electric vehicle, has a similar system that plays a sound at speeds of up to eighteen mph. It plays automatically, but a driver can deactivate the sound by pressing a button beneath the navigation screen. And, starting with the 2012 model year, all U.S. versions of the Toyota Prius, the best-selling gasoline-electric hybrid, automatically make an electronic whirring sound. The sound plays at speeds below fifteen mph. Toyota does not let drivers disable the sound on its hybrids, as advocates for the blind and the elderly have insisted is necessary.

Compelling Argument

Regulators said on Monday that they find that argument compelling. During a visit to the headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind, NHTSA officials tried to cross city streets while blindfolded. They "found the sound of idling vehicles necessary for determining whether there was a vehicle present at the intersection and whether it was safe to cross," the proposal says. Under the proposal drivers would not be able to deactivate a warning sound while a vehicle is in motion, which NHTSA says "would compromise pedestrian safety." But the proposal says regulators have not yet decided whether vehicles should be required to make noise while idling. Though some drivers have chafed at hearing noise instead of near-silence, automakers have largely recognized the risk quiet cars can present to pedestrians. Yet the rules will require some automakers to add more equipment and others to change how they design their warning systems.

Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said the group had no immediate comment because it is still reviewing the proposal. She wrote in an email on Monday: "We have been working closely with the blind community and NHTSA on this issue for several years and are continuing to do so to achieve a balanced and effective rule."

Blind Community Calls Plea Bargain for Blind Thief from Rumford 'Outrageous'

by Terry Karkos

From the Editor: A major focus of the programs of the National Federation of the Blind is justice for blind people. When we talk about rights, we also talk about responsibilities; when we talk about equality of opportunity, we do not mean preferential treatment, but fair and just treatment under the law. When the blind of Maine heard about a blind man’s stealing more than ten thousand dollars from his neighbor drawing no jail time and being required to pay back less than a tenth of what had been stolen, they reacted by expressing concern to the prosecutor, the court, and the newspaper which originally reported the case.

This article first appeared on the Bangor Daily News website on December 3, 2012. It is reprinted with permission.

An Oxford County Superior Court felony theft case earlier this month has raised the ire of members of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine. They’re incensed that a man considered legally blind by the court would receive no jail time and be required to reimburse the victim only a fraction of the value of her household belongings he admitted stealing.

On November 14 Charles E. Hamilton, forty-seven, of Rangeley Place in Rumford pleaded guilty to stealing items valued at eleven thousand dollars from his neighbor’s house in May. As part of the plea bargain, a felony burglary charge was dismissed. Justice Robert W. Clifford gave Hamilton a two-year deferred disposition. That means he must make restitution of twelve hundred dollars at fifty dollars a month through the district attorney’s office and refrain from committing another crime.

When the case began, Hamilton gingerly approached his court-appointed lawyer Maurice Porter and Clifford, sweeping a walking cane for the blind from side to side ahead of him. Prosecutor Joseph O’Connor acknowledged during the bench trial that Hamilton is legally blind and on disability. Clifford said the restitution amount is based on Hamilton’s financial condition. If he fails to meet the obligation, he faces up to five years in prison and a five thousand dollar fine.
When asked Friday if he had any regrets or had received any reaction from the public since pleading guilty, Hamilton said he couldn’t comment, because his case was still before the court. “I don’t know what I’m allowed to say,” he said. Even though Hamilton pleaded guilty and received a deferred disposition, he is correct. The case is still before the court, Rosemary Reese, legal secretary for the district attorney’s office in Paris, said Friday.

She said that if Hamilton makes the required restitution, commits no further crime, and abides by the conditions of the disposition, he will be allowed to plead guilty to a Class D misdemeanor theft and any other charges would be dismissed. Speaking on behalf of O’Connor, Reese said the plea bargain and deferred disposition were not based on Hamilton’s being legally blind or on disability income.

According to O’Connor Reese said the victim knew Hamilton and let him live in her house. “And she allowed him to take some things, so there was a whole bunch of issues with proof on this case.” Reese said some items were recovered and some were not. “There was insufficient evidence,” Reese said. “Basically, (O’Connor) could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Patricia Estes and Mark Tardif of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine and Steve Hoad, a former member, said they believe blindness did factor into the court’s decision. They contacted the Sun Journal and said they were outraged after learning about the case’s outcome during a discussion about it on November 15 at a Federation meeting. Estes, of Auburn, is the Federation’s vice president. Estes, Tardif of Grand Isle, and Hoad of Windsor are blind. “The outrage that someone can weasel out of felony theft with no time served and next to no compensation is the same outrage anyone would feel upon hearing such a miscarriage of justice,” Estes stated Tuesday by email. “Blindness had no business factoring into the case at all,” she said. “That it did is all the more outrageous.”

“In my opinion Hamilton should have been punished to the full extent the law allows,” Tardif wrote in a letter to the Sun Journal published Tuesday. “Unfortunately, the legal establishment and Hamilton used stereotypes regarding the blind that responsible blind people have been trying to show are just not accurate. Hamilton seems to have the idea that, because he is blind, the consequences of his criminal behavior should be lessened for him,” Tardif said.

“The circumstances may be a real pitfall in the meting out of justice,” Hoad said Thursday by email. Blind people, whether partially sighted or not, can and do work,” Hoad said. “Although the unemployment rate is high among the blind, there are many well-trained and capable individuals ready for the workforce whose reputation may be negatively affected by any inference that pity rather than justice was involved in this case.”

Tardif said the National Federation of the Blind of Maine is a consumer organization of blind people and their sighted supporters whose intention is to empower blind people to live independent, integrated lives as much as possible. Estes and Tardif said they’ve been working for years to change perceptions about the blind.

“Maine, however, is behind the curve,” Estes said. “The pity for this blind thief was not based on fact, it seems to me, and the next potential employer, admissions office, or job training program will find it hard to accept the blind of Maine who have tried so hard to work, to be educated and trained and to be respected as an individual.”

“Most of us are law-abiding, responsible citizens who expect to be treated on an equal basis with the sighted,” Tardif said.

Hoad agreed. “We are not interested in pity,” Hoad said. “We are living in the real world where reality is exactly the type of treatment we expect.”

My Dream, My Business, and My Life

by Vincent M. Tagliarino

From the Editor: Most articles that come to my attention are in an electronic format. Occasionally I get an article in Braille, but less frequently do I get one in print. Never does anything these days come from a typewriter, with the mistakes and strikeovers that are so easily corrected with a word processor. This one did, but I hope you will agree it was well worth the effort to transcribe and edit.

Some of the history we have covered in recent issues has emphasized the importance of a university education, but a valid question that blind people whose strength isn’t found in books repeatedly ask is “What's out there for me?” Vincent's story shows that success comes in many forms and doesn't always require a college education or an advanced degree. What is required is identifying one’s talent, exercising the discipline to develop it, and creating the opportunity to try to succeed in making a dream come true. Here is how it happened for Vincent Tagliarino, a charter member of the Buffalo Chapter of the NFB of New York:

Most of my relatives and friends call me Vinny. I had sight until I was eleven years old. Then I started having problems reading the blackboard at a distance. The eye doctor told my parents that I should not strain my eyes, so a friend who had the same eye condition (retinitis pigmentosa) told me that there was a school for the blind in Batavia called the New York State School for the Blind. My parents applied on my behalf, and off I went.

The school made me repeat fifth grade because I had to learn how to read and write Braille. They said that it would take me about a year to do it well. I am extremely happy they made me learn Braille because to this day everything I do revolves around being able to read and write. Unlike the situation for today's school children, I had no choice; Braille it was.

In addition to the normal subjects one studies in school such as reading, writing, arithmetic, and history, the school gave students the opportunity to learn several trades. It offered courses in music, piano tuning, woodworking, poultry (yes, the care and feeding of chickens), home economics, and others I don't now remember.

I knew what I wanted to be; my dream was to become a musician and own a music store. In elementary school I signed up for piano lessons and band. After I entered high school, I signed up to learn how to be a piano tuner. They offered excellent training, and I was impressed by the fact that my piano-tuning teacher was partially blind. After five years of piano lessons I was able to sign up to learn to play the pipe organ. I stayed in Batavia for two extra years to learn other skills that would help me in starting and running a business: how to keep the books, make out bills, and write business letters.

The year I graduated I had to put on a graduation recital using the pipe organ and the piano. The public was invited, and my family came up from Buffalo to hear me play. After graduation I got a scholarship to a summer music camp and enough money for the first semester at Hartwick College in northeastern New York State. Unfortunately my parents did not have enough money for me to continue my college education, so I returned to Buffalo to live.

The first thing I had to do was join the musicians union in order to play in hotels and banquet facilities. The union listed me in the union directory as a piano, accordion, and organ musician. I was also listed as a piano tuner and technician. The latter was a fortunate listing because it helped me meet many piano players who needed someone to tune their instruments.

In my second year out of school and still with no work, I was fortunate to audition for a quartet that played on the road. They knew I was blind and didn't care; all they cared about was that I play well enough to be in their band. I traveled extensively in New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York State. Not only did I earn some money and do some traveling, but I proved that I could sell myself as a blind person and as a musician. This gave me the confidence to keep on trying when times got tough. It confirmed for me what the National Federation of the Blind said about blind people, and I have spent most of my life trying to communicate that message to blind and sighted people alike.

After six months on the road I was offered a job playing piano six nights a week in Buffalo. I took that job because the band did not always have work, and this job let me stay home and avoid the expenses that came with traveling. A blind friend who also graduated from the school for the blind in Batavia was teaching organ and piano lessons in the Wurlitzer Music Store in downtown Buffalo. He was able to get a grand piano to work on and asked me if I could help him recondition it to sell. His idea was that in this way we could both make some money for ourselves. At no charge the store gave us a spot where we could recondition it, and we went to work. While at the store I met the other piano tuners who worked there and also got to know the salesmen. Six months later one of the piano tuners retired, and I was offered a full-time job as the inside piano tuner for this five-floor music store. Needless to say, I was very happy.

In my four years working in the store, I met many musicians and people who wanted me to tune their pianos. These became my private customers, and I handled their business on evenings and weekends. In 1960 I left the store and started my own business doing piano tuning. My mother helped me by driving three days a week, and I hired a part-time driver for the other two days. When I branched out and started to get busy doing repair work, my father let me use his workshop in the basement. Before long I got so much work that I needed more space. The work was starting to take over the house, so I asked my parents if I could build a shop in the back. They said okay, and I immediately went to the bank for a loan. I hired my uncle to do the work. He knocked down the old garage and built a thirty-by-thirty building. With this space I was able to bring in bigger items to work on, and I also started buying used pianos to recondition and sell.

Soon I got into the business of selling new pianos. Before long I once again needed more room. About a block away from my shop, I saw a “for rent” sign on a storefront property. I signed a one-year lease with the option to renew it for a second year. I soon realized I needed more money to buy merchandise and equipment to operate the store and made an appointment with the Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped to see if they could help me purchase these things. After I filled out the paperwork and waited several weeks, the Buffalo office of the agency okayed my application and sent it off to Albany, where the higher-ups had their headquarters. A few weeks later I received disappointing news; my request for money to expand my business had been rejected.

Now what could I do? I had already rented the store and ordered the merchandise to fill it. I and those from whom I had purchased my stock had assumed approval from the district office was sufficient. The warehouse had shipped my showcases and other equipment to the store. This was quite a blow to me, so I went to the owner of the warehouse and described my predicament. He felt very sympathetic and understood my situation. He made a deal with me. He asked how much money I could come up with, and, when I told him, he agreed to make me a loan from his own pocket at no interest. Even with this help I had to borrow more money from the bank, but I was able to open the store.

After a year I decided not to renew the lease. The expenses were a little too high. I moved back into my original shop, but several of my friends were excited about what I was doing and wanted to help me meet other people who might increase my business. I was encouraged to join an exclusive business club that offered me a deal I couldn't refuse. In exchange for playing piano at their parties for no charge, I would not have to pay their membership fees, and I would get drinks and food at no cost to me. What a deal! I met a lot of great business people, and, as my friends had expected, this paid off.

Eventually I was fortunate enough to get a franchise on new pianos. Again I started running out of room, so I asked my parents if I could put a storefront on the house and open the whole downstairs area to the public. They said all right, and again I got a contractor to make the needed modifications to the building. Money being tight, I asked an aunt, with whom I was close, if I could borrow some money to pay the contractor, and she said yes. Once again my business was growing and prospering.

Some eight years later I told my wife that I wanted a bigger store near the University of Buffalo. I found a store for sale on Main Street across from the University. Because of a fire in the building, it needed a great deal of remodeling, both inside and out. My wife joked that only a blind guy would buy it, but I saw visions of what this building could be when I was done with it. So I put in a bid and got the building. To buy the building and remodel it, I went to the Small Business Administration for a loan and eventually got it.

What helped this business grow was the name. I named my business Buffalo Piano Sales and Tuning, Inc., with Tagg's Music as a division of the corporation. I thought that with a big name like that I would get a great deal of business, and I did. Three large school systems, several nursing and assisted living facilities, a number of churches, and many residential customers came to trust me to do their work. My business soon employed three professional servicemen, including me. One tuner worked in the shop, one did the residential calls, and I did the commercial work. Because I could do anything required to service a piano, I did more concert work than any other piano tuner in western New York. I can say this with confidence because I worked with one promoter who sponsored concerts six nights a week, Monday through Saturday, and a different concert on Sunday. Many of these concerts were held in a large tent that held about 3,300 people. I had to tune every Monday before the opening night and Sundays before the evening concert. There were about fifty to sixty tunings in the summer alone. Two other big promoters held their concerts at the football stadium. Working for them meant I met many stars. I came to feel very good about myself, knowing I could compete quite successfully with sighted tuners and still manage to build a successful business.

In my many years in business I have learned that it is essential to know your profession thoroughly and to do anything you must do to satisfy the customer. This I was and still am able to do. In addition to tuning and repair, I write up insurance estimates on damaged pianos and give second opinions to many customers who have problem pianos and have been discouraged from fixing them. Many of these I am able to repair.

Back in 1956 I was involved in starting the Buffalo Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. At that time it was called the Empire State Association of the Blind. I was a charter member, have been a member for fifty-seven years, and have been on the board of directors for most of that time. In 1977 I became president of the chapter and served for twenty-two years until 1999. At that time I asked the chapter to vote in my vice president as our leader; they voted me in as vice president, and I am still proudly serving today.

Since I joined as a charter member, this organization has been very dear to me. I have worked with Dr. Jernigan; Dr. Maurer, for whom I have tremendous respect; and James Gashel, who taught me much about how to work with other people who are blind. When we had a lawsuit against the Blind Association of Western New York, Mr. Gashel and I were on television several times. I was also on the radio for four hours talking about our issues concerning the blind in the sheltered shop. One thing I learned in working with James was that blind people, like sighted people, are quite different from one another, that we all have different wants and needs, and we all bring differing abilities to the world. I learned to understand blind people as individuals.

In the fifty-seven years I have been a member of the Buffalo chapter, the NFB has given me many awards. In 1982 I received my first plaque for distinguished service. In 2006, at our NFB state convention, the Buffalo chapter gave me a plaque for fifty years of service, for being a charter member, and for outstanding service working with the blind. In 2008 the National Federation of the Blind of New York gave me a plaque for my volunteer service.

I have long believed what the Federation says about getting out and mixing with the sighted public to demonstrate that blind people are capable, so I have made an effort to be involved in several activities outside my business. I have belonged to the Lions Club for fifty-six years, and in that time have received awards at all levels from my club, my district, and our International Lions Clubs. I also belong to the Lancaster Depew Chamber of Commerce and was nominated for the businessman of the year award in 2006.

On December 9, 2011, the Herald Tribune magazine and the front page of the New York Times newspaper ran an article about a famous jazz musician, Boyd Dunlop, who is in a nursing facility. He is from Buffalo and played in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other large cities. The nursing home had a piano which was in bad shape, and I was called upon to replace two keys and tune it back to pitch. Mr. Dunlop was so happy that he put my name in the write-up with him. I received calls from friends in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina teasing me about being a celebrity. What fun!

I like the philosophy that the National Federation of the Blind has taught me: as a blind person you can do it. I have often been encouraged by this and have tried hard to give that encouragement to others. When people care enough to help other people, wonderful things can happen. My story demonstrates it; my life is better for it; and because of my work the world is just a little more in tune.

For further information on the profession of piano tuning, contact:
NFB's Piano Technology Group
Don Mitchell, chairperson
Home: (360) 696-1985
E-mail: <donmi@pianotuningschool.org>

Intern's Efforts Broaden Access to Vital Historic Documents

by Doug Moore

From the Editor: Sierra Gregg was a winner of a National Federation of the Blind scholarship in 2012. She is an impressive young woman, as the article that appeared in St. Louis Today for January 6 attests:

Sierra Gregg was excited about her internship at the Office of Presidential Libraries in Washington. Her task in the summer of 2011 was to help beef up the office’s social media presence on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. As the twenty-first anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act was approaching, Gregg, a student at Truman State University, began looking for records to feature but found only two, neither of which was a copy of the law that changed the way those with disabilities are treated in the U.S. And neither was in a format that would allow software or reading equipment used by those visually impaired to be of use.

“I was shocked and kind of mad, I guess, because, of all the events I’d been covering and researching, this was the one I was looking forward to the most,” said, Gregg, twenty-one, who grew up in the small St. Louis County community of Oakland, near Kirkwood. “So I mentioned this to my supervisor, that I wanted more ADA records to be digitized. And we came up with the idea to create a webpage to feature these records.” Gregg’s passion for making more documents accessible to those with disabilities is understandable. She was born with a rare birth defect that left her legally blind.

On July 26, the twenty-second anniversary of the signing of the ADA, the National Archives launched Gregg’s new webpage, which contains fifty-six newly digitized documents. The records include letters Helen Keller wrote to President Herbert Hoover and a letter written in Braille by a thirteen-year-old boy to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, a year before Gregg was born. “I have grown up in a world where my visual impairment is not a hindrance to my success, only a characteristic of who I am,” said Gregg, who went to Ursuline Academy and is now working on a computer science degree at Truman State.

Jeannie Chen, social media coordinator for the Office of Presidential Libraries, a part of the National Archives and Records Administration, said Gregg’s passion brought to light the shortage of documents readily accessible. “We had hoped to find more of those records already scanned and online,” Chen said. “Sierra helped us realize this was an area where we could serve more people.”

Presidential Gems

Gregg began looking through the websites for the thirteen presidential libraries. Documents already online were not always in a format that could be manipulated to be read more clearly. So the office, with the help of other summer interns, began transcribing them so they could be digitally formatted. Doing so allows the text to be greatly magnified online for the visually impaired.

The records Gregg helped collect for the site, archives.gov, go beyond the ADA. For example, there are documents from the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had polio and started what is now the March of Dimes. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn elevated awareness of mental health care. And President John F. Kennedy’s sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, was the driving force behind the creation of the Special Olympics.

“This was a great project because it broadened the types of records we have. Sierra worked on making things more accessible in general,” Chen said. The site explains the highlighted documents this way: “From personal letters to historic legislation, these records provide insight into efforts over the past century to establish programs and to protect the rights of people with disabilities.”

Gregg’s efforts were noted on the White House Blog, where she detailed her internships during the summers of 2011 and 2012. Susan K. Donius, director of the Office of Presidential Libraries, introduced Gregg’s blog entry, saying the college student “recognizes the importance of sharing presidential records related to disability history. She has been closely involved in a project to make a selection of these documents accessible to a wide audience.”

In the blog post Gregg said at least one record from every presidential administration since Hoover is included on the site, including her favorite, a letter from a sixth-grade boy to Eisenhower in 1956, offering advice for his re-election campaign. “Dear Ike,” the letter from John Beaulieu, a student at a Massachusetts school for the blind, begins. “I decided to write you a little speech which might help you to win the election.” Little it was. “Vote for me. I will help you out. I will lower the prices and also your tax bill. I also will help the Negroes so that they may go to school.”

Eisenhower, who won re-election, replied to Beaulieu: “Dear John: It was nice of you to send me a little speech to help win the election.… I wish I were able to write back to you in Braille also, but I am sure that one of your teachers will be happy to read this to you.”

In her blog post Gregg also noted that two letters written to President Hoover by Keller are among the documents on the site. Gregg said Keller wrote letters to eight U.S. presidents, starting in 1903 with Theodore Roosevelt, and met with thirteen presidents, from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson. “I must admit to feeling a twinge of envy when I learned that during a visit to the White House, she investigated her historic surroundings with touch. She even identified a bust of George Washington with her fingers,” Gregg said of Keller.

Culture Shock

John Thompson, president of Lighthouse for the Blind--St. Louis, which provides various services to the visually impaired, said Gregg’s efforts are impressive, especially given her personality. “I remember when I first met her; timid is putting it mildly,” said Thompson. Gregg went through Lighthouse’s three-week residential program for teens, stressing independence, including communication and social skills. “There is a tendency for so many kids who are visually impaired to not go out to get the experiences that sighted kids get,” Thompson said. “As they go through adolescence, they tend to become an island into themselves.”

Gregg said she recalled getting an email accepting applications for the internship and thought it would fit nicely with her plans to go to graduate school for a library science degree. But she admits Washington was culture shock for her. Her commute to work included crowded buses and trains. Using public transportation is something encouraged in the Lighthouse program Gregg participated in. Had she not gone through the program, “I would never have made it in D.C.,” Gregg said. Lighthouse also provided scholarships to help with her housing costs in Washington.

As Gregg works to complete her studies with an eye on library management, Chen says she is glad the young woman from St. Louis spent two summers in Washington. “She brought such a strong interest,” Chen said. As a result “we were able to create a really wonderful resource at the agency that will end up being valuable to the general public.”

If you are interested in reading more blind history, check out the offerings on The Blind Cat at <http://webopac.infovisionsoftware.com/nfb/>.

The Role of Labor in My Life and in the Progress of the Organized Blind Movement

by Ivan Weich

From the Editor: Ivan Weich is president of the National Association of Blind Public Employees and the chapter president of the Kitsap County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington. He also works full-time for the federal government. As part of his job he is a national union representative. Last year he was elected national fair practices and affirmative action coordinator for the American Federation of Government Employees District Eleven, which covers eight states of the Pacific Northwest. His union represents over six hundred thousand federal employees and employees of the District of Columbia.

It is clear that Ivan feels passionately about his union work, an emotion any of us who feel dedicated and passionate about what we do and why we do it will have no trouble understanding. No matter one’s position on the contentious issues that sometimes divide labor and management, all of us can be proud that a blind person has found yet another place to shine in the diverse workforce of America. This is what he says:

Before I proceed, I want to say that this article is about the U word—“union.” I know that some people do not like to talk about unions, but we have to discuss them here. Unions are an institution in this country, and, like the Federation, unions are here to stay. As a matter of fact, the Federation has a great deal to be thankful for from the unions. Dr. Jernigan reminded us on many occasions that we in the National Federation of the Blind have the right to select our representatives to present our views and grievances, and we have the right to assemble peaceably to air them. These are the same rights given to unions.

When I first joined the Federation in the 1980s, the NFB was referred to by some as "the evil ones," "that militant organization," and "that bunch of radicals." Fortunately many have now come to understand what we have known all along: that the NFB is an incredible organization with integrity, clout, and respect.

Before my government career I worked in private industry, where we had no unions and where I was treated quite unfairly. Even so, back then my impression of unions was dismal. All I had to go on were the images of union picketers disrupting work, stories about arson and assaults for which they were blamed, and service delays during strikes which of course were the fault of those greedy people pushing for more and more. Sometimes I made legitimate complaints about service delays, only to be told by company representatives that they were because of the union.

On the first day of my federal career, I took my loyalty oath and minutes later was addressed by the union steward. It felt awkward and struck me as ironic that first I had taken an oath not to strike against the government and then I was addressed by the employees' union. It made no sense to me; I didn't think we could have a union because we couldn't strike, which was what I thought the union did. Over time I have learned that we can accomplish a great deal without a strike or work stoppage.

After two years on the job with the government, I went to my union steward to file a grievance because my supervisor and manager had passed me up for a temporary assignment in a field office. After the steward called my manager on it, I got a duty assignment to an office near my home. I was so happy that I started assisting the union and then became a union steward. Six months later I was asked by my local president to prepare an appellate brief to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, since my background and training were in legal research and writing. About ninety days later we received a decision on the appeal, and the Commission ruled in our favor.

In 1994 my local president asked me if I would be willing to serve as a union official. I thought about it and said yes. My family kept telling me that I was making a big mistake. I told them that I had not been getting anywhere without the union, and, if I did not speak up for myself and others, I would always be beaten down, and so would others.

My union responsibilities include meeting with employees, determining their issues, and developing the evidence. I also prepare a reply to any proposal from management. My work is similar to what is done by an attorney, but of course I cannot give legal advice. By 1999 I had become the secretary/treasurer of my local, I was being considered for national representative, and I was doing the full range of union representation. In November of 1999 I had to give all of that up when I transferred to Washington State to care for my father, who was dying of cancer.

In my nine-year absence from union leadership, I still kept up on the laws that affect union representation and federal employment. In 2007 I was elected as a delegate to my new local in Washington State, and I was a unit delegate to the Central Labor Council in my town. In 2010 I was elected as sergeant at arms of my local and resumed union work almost immediately. In 2011 I was asked to run for fair practices affirmative action coordinator for District Eleven. I was surprised because I thought I had to wait five years before I could be nominated for anything. I gave it some thought, ran for the position at the district caucus, and was sworn into service minutes after the results were announced.

My position requires serving as a resource person for equal employment opportunity and affirmative action issues. Doing the job involves teleconferences, meetings, travel, and time away from my usual work. In some cases I make referrals to our union's attorneys for assistance. As part of my job I provide training on basic federal EEO law and representation. My position puts me on the national Human Rights Committee for the union. In this group we focus on issues of human rights, civil rights, and worker rights.

In order to do my job, I have several alternative skills. First, I use adaptive technology. I have an iPhone so I can stay up-to-date on my email. I also have a backup system in case the computer is down and needs its Prozac. That backup is an At-A-Glance 8.5x11 appointment book to keep track of appointments, meetings, and travel.

When I travel to other cities, arrangements are made ahead of time for a local union officer or staffer to pick me up at the train station or the Dog House [the Greyhound station]. When I work out of the national office, I am provided a computer with adaptive software, and, when attending national-office-sponsored training, I am assigned an intern who serves as my reader. Handouts, forms, and worksheets are produced in large print for me. Most of the time I book my own travel through our contracted travel agent.

Since I have been in office, we have made significant strides on behalf of disabled members, staffers, employees, delegates, and representatives. We are introducing two resolutions this year at our national convention. The first one is to establish a disabled employees coalition. The second is to ensure that materials are made available in alternative formats (including Braille) for attendees, delegates, staffers, representatives, officers, and employees when they attend conventions, caucuses, training classes, and national meetings.

Organized labor is like any large organization or employer—we need good people to work for us as employees. Some positions require an advanced degree and/or professional license as in the case of an attorney, accountant, or economist. Some positions require a four-year degree in journalism, finance, labor studies, human resources, or political science. Some positions are program-specific, and an applicant must have both education and experience in a special field such as EEO or health and safety. Unions also need office professionals and secretaries. They hire organizers for membership and mobilization. These are sales jobs requiring one to meet goals for recruiting new members and helping locals retain them.

Like the NFB, our union has national resources that are generously shared with the local labor organizations. National representatives work in each district to help locals with representational issues. These include helping to organize elections to determine whether employees want to join a union and handling disputes that sometimes occur during those elections. Representatives also provide basic steward training, advanced litigation training for seasoned stewards, and leadership training for local leaders. To become a national representative, one must start out as a local officer and then be selected after years of experience in the diverse demands placed on union officials. Just as in the Federation, union employees serve at the pleasure of the national president.

The best way to compete for union work is to master your union job. All employees must have a strong interest in organized labor. No matter what position one occupies, part of the job is selling the union to a prospective member. So sold are we on collective bargaining that even employees of unions are themselves represented by a union.

If you are interested in organized labor and if you are in college and studying labor, law, accounting, journalism, or political science, you can inquire about internship programs at any union’s national office. You can also check with your adviser or school placement office for union opportunities in your area.

Being a union officer is no popularity contest. A good union officer must be able to 1) manage a local in order to represent the needs of all covered employees, 2) lead in a fair and equitable manner (including financial management), 3) be a leader, 4) be a good listener, 5) be willing to challenge questionable decisions of the employer, 6) be willing to sacrifice your time and resources to benefit your covered employees, and 7) be able to sell your union to potential members. The parallel is clear; one could easily insert Federation in place of union in this list and it would be every bit as appropriate.

The National Federation of the Blind has benefited a great deal from organized labor. Aside from the Labor Day holiday, the creation of the Social Security Act, and the overtime law, the Federation has benefited from the traditions the union has established and perfected to communicate with the public. Public meetings, rallies, pickets, and the right to present our views were all made acceptable by organized labor, and, when called upon to take our message to the public, the Federation has made good use of these tools. Labor too has been influenced by the National Federation of the Blind. It has become an excellent career opportunity for talented people, including those who are disabled. As the blind become ever more visible in the work of the unions, we become more integrated into the mainstream of society, demonstrating our energy, our competitive spirit, and our social conscience. I think this is what our founders had in mind, and I am grateful to play a part in our ongoing struggle to gain the equality of opportunity and the security to which we commit ourselves each time we recite the Federation pledge.

My Experiences in the National Federation of the Blind

by Janice Toothman

From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the newsletter of the Washington Metropolitan Association of the Deaf-Blind. It was reprinted in the the summer 2012 issue of the Blind Spectator, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. According to the editor, Janice Toothman is a hard worker and embodies the spirit of the Federation in many ways. She is not afraid to take on new challenges and doesn't give up when the going gets tough. Here is her story:

In 2006 I had been blind for two years. However, I was feeling pretty isolated and alone, not being able to work and not feeling confident enough in my cane skills to go out and walk as I used to do. I learned about the National Federation of the Blind when I received a letter asking me if I would like to meet other blind people to learn independence skills and how the NFB works to benefit the lives of the blind. It was at that meeting that I met the Sligo Creek Chapter president, Debbie Brown, and the vice president, Pauline Johnson. Both of these women were working full-time and supporting themselves. I was glad to meet other blind women whom I could talk to and get to know.

I was overwhelmed when I went to my first national NFB convention in Atlanta in 2006. My parents took me, and we stayed for only the first three days. We went to the technology seminars but did not go to the general sessions. I had not yet become a member of the NFB. In the coming months I went to the Sligo Creek Chapter monthly meetings. By this time I had become a member. That fall I was not confident, so I did not participate in any of the activities or fundraising events. In the spring of 2007 I took my first steps toward empowerment. I wrote letters to senators, delegates, and Congressmen asking for their support for bills that the NFB was trying to pass to benefit the blind. Debbie, the chapter president, was teaching me and three other women from the chapter to read and write Braille. We met once a week on Sunday afternoons for two years. By the time we were finished I had learned contracted Braille.

Since those early years I have blossomed into an active member of the NFB. In 2009 I received the Anna Cable Award at the Maryland state convention for achievement and excellence in acquiring independence skills and encouraging others toward independence. I am now a board member of the Sligo Creek Chapter. I am also the secretary for the deaf-blind division in the NFB. I am also trying to establish a guide dog division in the state of Maryland. I value the friendships that I have with many blind men and women. In particular I appreciate getting to know other deaf-blind individuals within the NFB and helping them get the most out of conventions. I also feel it is imperative that we work toward legislation to improve prospects for the blind and deaf-blind. Fundraising has given me more confidence to go out into the world and show people that despite being deaf-blind I can be independent. Through my association with the NFB I have learned that the deaf-blind are not second-class citizens. The NFB has taught me to ask for the accessibility tools I need in my everyday life activities. In joining the NFB, I recognized that as a deaf-blind person I must advocate for change on both the state and national levels so that the deaf-blind can enjoy more opportunities in employment and greater access to technology.

 

Giving a Dream

One of the great satisfactions in life is having the opportunity to assist others. Consider making a gift to the National Federation of the Blind to continue turning our dreams into reality. A gift to the NFB is not merely a donation to an organization; it provides resources that will directly ensure a brighter future for all blind people.

Seize the Future

The National Federation of the Blind has special giving opportunities that will benefit the giver as well as the NFB. Of course the largest benefit to the donor is the satisfaction of knowing that the gift is leaving a legacy of opportunity. However, gifts may be structured to provide more:

NFB programs are dynamic:

Your gift makes you a partner in the NFB dream. For further information or assistance, contact the NFB planned giving officer.

Convention Scholarships Available

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 <kjscholarships@nfb.org>. 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 <kjscholarships@nfb.org>. We look forward to seeing you in Orlando.

Recipes

This month’s recipes come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine.

Stuffed Rigatoni
by Leon Proctor

Leon Proctor is president of the NFB of Maine. He has been a member for one-and-a-half years. He lives with his wife Suzanne in Lewiston. He says, “I created this recipe about eight months ago. We think it is very tasty.”

Ingredients:
At least 1 pint ricotta cheese
1 1/2 to 2 pounds ground beef
1 large bag shredded mozzarella cheese
1 pound box rigatoni
2 large jars spaghetti sauce

Method: Brown ground beef in a 10- to 12-inch skillet on medium heat. Be sure to separate meat well with a spoon as it cooks to be sure that it is all thoroughly cooked. Drain fat and set aside. In large pot bring water to boil and cook rigatoni according to package directions. While waiting for water to come to a boil, in large mixing bowl mix a pint of the ricotta cheese, two cups mozzarella cheese, and cooked ground beef. Mix till all ingredients are well combined. When rigatoni is just cooked, drain water and return rigatoni to pot. Fill a pastry bag with the cheese and meat mixture and then fill each rigatoni noodle by hand. (This takes some time, so, if you have a spouse or friend willing to help, feel free to ask.) After filling rigatoni, place noodles in a lasagna pan with spaghetti sauce covering the bottom of the pan. Halfway through filling lasagna pan, add more sauce. Stir gently till pan is filled with rigatoni and sauce all mixed together. Top the stuffed rigatoni with remaining mozzarella cheese and bake for twenty to twenty-five minutes at 350 degrees, till cheese is melted and mixture is bubbly. Let dish stand for fifteen to twenty minutes before serving. If you like lots of cheese, use more of either or both.

Italian Chicken
by Leon Proctor

Ingredients:
2 bags of frozen mixed vegetables (wax beans, string beans, and carrots)
2 16-ounce bottles or 1 large bottle of zesty Italian dressing
Family package of boneless chicken breasts, cubed

Method: Place both bags of frozen vegetables and cubed raw chicken in Crock-Pot®. Then pour at least a whole bottle of Italian dressing over the top. (You may need both bottles; use your judgment.) Cover Crock-Pot and cook on high for four hours. Serve over rice or mashed potatoes.

Tourtière, Traditional Franco-American Pork Pie
by Patricia Estes

Pat Estes is first vice president of the NFB of Maine. She and her husband Skip are longtime Federationists and live in Auburn.

Pat explains that tourtière is a traditional French dish that is served to this day in eastern Canada and the many Franco-American settlements in Maine. It is a meat pie, usually pork, served at the feast called "Reveillon," which occurs after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. However, Pat grew up not waiting to feast, and this is the recipe she has settled on over the years. It is most like her Mémère's, who just giggled when Pat asked her for her recipe. Here is Pat’s version:

Ingredients:
One pound lean ground pork and 1/2 pound lean ground beef or all ground pork
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup water
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 to 2 cups mashed potatoes without milk

Method: Combine first five ingredients in pot and cover. Cook slowly for forty-five minutes to an hour. Add cinnamon and cloves and cook for fifteen minutes longer. Add one to two cups mashed potatoes without milk to the meat mixture and simmer very slowly for two hours. Let meat filling cool. Meanwhile, roll out bottom crust and line a nine-inch pie plate. Fill this unbaked pie shell with meat mixture and cover with top crust. Score the top and seal edges of pie. Bake at 400 degrees for forty-five minutes. Remove from oven and brush crust with butter or milk. Serve hot with the following simple side salad.

Side Salad

On each plate arrange two or three bright green leaves of romaine lettuce. place one unsweetened canned peach half on lettuce bed and top with softened cream cheese.

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake
by Pat Estes

This family favorite is mixed, baked, and served in the same pan.

Ingredients:
1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup nuts, chopped (optional)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 3/4 cup hot water

Method: Sift or mix together with fork the dry ingredients in a 9-by-9-inch baking pan. Then stir in milk, oil, and vanilla until smooth. Add nuts and stir to mix. Spread batter evenly over bottom of pan. Mix brown sugar and quarter cup of cocoa together thoroughly and sprinkle over batter. Then gently pour water over entire surface. Do not stir in. Bake cake in preheated 350-degree oven for forty minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.

Spinach Dip in Bread Bowl
by Bobbie LaChance Bubier

Bobbie Lachance Bubier is a romance novelist, and she is the affiliate's queen of door prizes. Bobbie and her husband Richard live in Auburn and have been members for two years.

Ingredients:
1 box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 can water chestnuts, drained
16 ounces sour cream
1 envelope Knox vegetable soup mix
1 cup mayonnaise
1 round loaf bread, hollowed out
Raw vegetables
Crackers

Method: Mix first five ingredients together and chill for at least two hours. Serve in bread bowl with a selection of veggies and crackers for dipping.

Peanut Butter Pie
by Bobbie LaChance Bubier

Ingredients:
4 ounces cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons milk
8 ounces Cool Whip
1 9-inch chocolate graham cracker crust pie shell

Method: Combine and beat together first four ingredients until smooth and well mixed. Fold in Cool Whip. Pile into pie shell and chill for at least four hours.

Bean and Rice Soup
by Faith Armstrong

Faith Armstrong is secretary of the NFB of Maine. She and her husband John Smythe live in Sabattus and have been NFB members for almost a year. John is a Brit, and his dry sense of humor fits right in here in Maine--if he would only stop fighting the war.

Ingredients:
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
4 cups water
1 16-ounce can small white beans, undrained
1 16-ounce can pinto beans, undrained
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup Minute Rice

Method: Cook chopped bacon in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until meat is done. Add chopped onion and celery, cooking and stirring until tender. Add water, beans, tomato sauce, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Add rice and stir. Cover pan again and remove from heat. Let stand for five minutes. Serve immediately.

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

In Memoriam:

It is with deep sadness and profound respect that we report the death on January 22, 2013, of a longtime Federation leader, the Rev. Robert Eschbach. Here is a tribute written by his friend and colleague, Barbara Pierce:

Bob Eschbach was a musician, social worker, ordained minister in the United Methodist Church, blindness agency administrator in two states, NFB affiliate president, member of the NFB board of directors, and president at one time or another of both the National Association of Guide Dog Users and the Deaf-Blind Division. Wherever he went, Bob was a voice for calm reason and Christian love. Bob’s parents were missionaries in the Philippines when he was born. Because of his blindness and hearing loss, he was sent home to Ohio to attend the Ohio State School for the Blind. After graduating from Otterbein College, he earned an MDiv from the United Theological Seminary, and a master’s of social work from the University of Kansas. He worked in community mental health and pastored five United Methodist churches in Ohio before going into work with the blind. During these years he discovered the National Federation of the Blind and quickly rose to the presidency of a then troubled affiliate. Under his leadership the NFB of Ohio became a strong and committed part of the NFB.

In 1974 Dr. Jernigan called Bob to tell him that an energetic young woman in Oberlin had written to him with plans to organize an NFB chapter in Lorain County, Ohio. Bob called me and offered both friendship and wise advice about writing a constitution. He asked to come visit, arriving in time for dinner. After a meal that he continued to rave about throughout our long friendship, we discussed Federation philosophy and the Ohio affiliate. By the time he left the next morning, I was committed to his vision of the work to be done in the state to improve the lives of blind Ohioans, and I was eager to get started as a member of his team.

Bob served as president of the NFB of Ohio from 1973 to 1984, when he became assistant director of the Ohio Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired. For sixteen years during the late seventies and eighties he was also a member of the NFB board of directors. In recent years Bob and his wife Pat lived in Arizona, where he generously made his years of experience available to the Arizona affiliate. The Eschbachs were planning to return to the Otterbein Retirement Community in Ohio early this year. A week before his death, doctors discovered cancer throughout his body. He died quietly at home with his family around him. Bob is survived by his devoted wife Pat, his children Mary and Fred, and Mary’s two sons Jason and Ian. Also surviving him are a legion of his friends and colleagues, who will miss his wisdom and humor.

Elected:

The Central Idaho Chapter is pleased to announce the results of its most recent elections, held November 26, 2012: president, Chris Jones; vice president, Glade Whiting; secretary, Judy Jones; and treasurer, Jacque Whiting.

Elected:

At its January 2013 meeting the Clark County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington elected the following: president, Betty Watson; vice president, Don Mitchell; secretary, Maurice Mines; and treasurer, Doug Trimble. Congratulations to the new officers. Les Fitzpatrick, who has served as the chapter president for several terms, and the other outgoing officers are to be commended for their outstanding service to the chapter, to the state affiliate, and to the National Federation of the Blind.

Election:

At its monthly meeting on Saturday, January 12, 2013, the Des Moines Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa held its annual elections for officers and board members with the following results: president, Cindy Ray; vice president, April Enderton; secretary, Curtis Chong; treasurer, Mary McGee; and board members, Sharon Omvig, Jill Clausen, and Kasey Walker.

Elected:

The newly reorganized Greater Ouachita Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana has held elections, and the following officers were elected: president, Jerry Whittle; first vice president, Gary Kammerer; second vice president, Don Russ; treasurer, Kristen Sims; secretary, Paula Williams; and board members, Laronica Coleman and Afia Kammerer.

Elected:

During its meeting on January 19, 2013, the Greater Seattle Chapter of the NFB of Washington conducted elections with the following results: president, Marci Carpenter; first vice president, Mike Mello; second vice president, Noel Nightingale; secretary, Mary Helen Scheiber; treasurer, Cindy Bennett; and board members, James Janney and Jacob Struiksma. Congratulations to the new officers and board of directors, and a hearty thanks to the outgoing officers and board members for a job well done.

Elected:

On October 21, 2012, the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan elected its current board of directors: president, Larry Posont; first vice president, Mike Powell; second vice president, Joe Sontag; secretary, Terri Wilcox; treasurer, Mark Eagle; and board member, Mary Wurtzel.

The Ann Arbor Chapter also had elections and called upon the following members to serve and lead: president, Terri Wilcox; vice president, Nick Wilcox; secretary, Gloria Kolb; and treasurer, Larry Keeler.

Deaf-Blind Division Officer Candidates Needed:

The Deaf-Blind Division will be holding elections of all officers in Orlando, Florida, in 2013. If anyone is interested in running for president, first vice president, second vice president, treasurer, secretary, or the two board positions, contact either Scott Davert or Cathy Miller of the nominating committee at <scottdavert@gmail.com> or <guillcat@gmail.com>. The Division will be selling 50/50 raffle tickets for $2.00 a ticket and the Braille alphabet T-shirts at the Orlando Convention in 2013.

NFB Travel and Tourism Division 2013 Las Vegas and National Parks Tour:

We are offering a great rate on a fabulous tour package for Las Vegas and nearby national parks. The tour runs October 9 to 13, and the package covers the tour bus, tour guide, hotels, all meals, entrance fees to the parks, and taxes. Not covered in the package are expenses to and from Las Vegas and the tip for the tour guide at the end of the trip.

If you are totally blind and worried that the tour will be too visual to be worth it, don’t be! We are working with both the owner and the manager of Scenic Tours to make sure that this doesn’t happen. We want everyone to enjoy the trip and will ensure it stimulates all of your senses.

You must pay 20 percent of the cost of the trip at booking. Payment plans are available. The amount of the full deposit is due by 8/1/13, and the final payment is due by 9/1/13. Rates per person are as follows: single occupancy, $860, $172 due at booking; double occupancy, $721, $145 due at booking; triple occupancy, $625, $120 due at booking.

Itinerary:

Day 1: Las Vegas, NV: Fly into Las Vegas. You will be met at the airport and shuttled to your hotel downtown. You will have the evening to explore and catch some sleep before our big trip. Lodging will be at Bally’s Resort.

Day 2: After an early breakfast we will depart at 7:00 a.m. to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. We will cross over the new bridge in front of Hoover Dam and catch the famous Route 66 in Kingman, AZ. After a short break we will continue down Route 66 to Williams, AZ. From there we will enter into the national park. We will make three stops along the rim and view this natural wonder of the world. We will also enjoy lunch inside the park before we move on. After leaving we will cross the Navajo Indian Reservation on our way to Page, AZ, where we will stay the night at the Quality Inn.

Day 3: We will depart Page for Zion National Park. Once we arrive, we will enjoy lunch at the Zion Canyon Lodge. After lunch we will enjoy the Zion Canyon and the picturesque oasis within, as well as seeing the east bench of Zion. It is a unique area that offers a different view of the sandstone cliffs that make up this park. We will then depart and go to Bryce Canyon National Park. In Bryce Canyon we will visit Fairyland, Sunset, and Bryce Points. Afterward we will check into Ruby’s Inn for the evening.

Day 4: After a delicious breakfast, we will depart Bryce Canyon and travel down one of the most beautiful highways in America, Highway 12. This road provides you with a view of the sandstone canyons and the wonders of mountain vistas. We will then travel to Capital Reef National Park. In the park we will visit some petroglyphs, the old school house, and the capitol dome. Once we have finished our tour of Capital Reef and a delicious boxed lunch, we will depart for our return journey to Las Vegas. We will travel through the Aquarius Plateau and then get back to the I-15 corridor. We will stop in St. George, UT, for a final dinner and a pleasant walk in town. After dinner we will travel to Las Vegas where we will spend the night.

Day 5: Breakfast and returning to the airport.

For more information and to book your trip, please contact Cheryl Echevarria, president of the NFB Travel and Tourism Division at (631) 456-5394 or email <reservations@echevarriatravel.com>

Writers’ Division Critique, Now an Ongoing Service:

Have you just written a masterpiece? Would you like a seasoned writer to evaluate your material? The Writers’ Division of the National Federation of the Blind has established an ongoing editorial service to critique your writing. For $10 you will receive a written evaluation of your short story (max of 3,000 words), first chapter (or first twenty pages) of your novel, up to three poems (thirty-six lines max per poem), children’s story (max of 3,000 words), memoir (first twenty pages max), or nonfiction article (first twenty pages max).

The critique will contain feedback on the format, mechanics, and overall quality of your work. Those interested should submit their work by email as an attachment in MS Word format and double spaced. Send it to Robert Leslie Newman, president, NFB Writers’ Division, <newmanrl@cox.net>. Material may be submitted at any time. Critiques will be emailed back within thirty days from when the reviewer receives the material; our pool of qualified editors is small, and sometimes a submission will need to wait for a short time until an editor is free.

Make your $10 check out to NFB Writers’ Division, and send it to Robert Leslie Newman, 504 S. 57th St., Omaha, NE 68106; or use PayPal™ on the Writers’ Division website, <http://www.nfb-writers-division.net>.

A Group in the Planning:

My name is Alexander Scott Kaiser. I'm a young blind adult with cerebral palsy. I am forming a group for blind and visually impaired individuals who have cerebral palsy. This group’s purpose is to provide support, mentoring, and legal advocacy. From problem-solving rehabilitation issues to civil rights challenges unique to those with both CP and visual impairment, this group will provide support from others who understand.

Meetings will be held by conference call on the first Sunday of the month, starting April 7, 2013, at 6:00 p.m. Eastern time. To access the conference, dial (567) 314-1708 and use access code 999999#. If you are interested in joining the group, contact me by postal mail at 3928 Northwest 89th Avenue, Coral Springs, Florida 33065; send me email at <alexander.kaiser@myacc.net>; or call me at (954) 594-2710.

In Brief

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

Help Needed with Software and Accessibility:
I am interested in learning about scoping software. If anyone has learned either Eclipse or Case CATylist with JAWS and would be willing to answer some questions to help me, please email David Faucheux at <Scopist65@gmail.com>.

Asking for Magazines:

I live in Macedonia and am asking readers to help me get several magazines regularly. I find Readers Digest, Ladies’ Home Journal, Newsweek and the New York Times particularly interesting and informative. I would appreciate your help. These magazines would also help my students to practice their Braille skills and would help them with English. If you can send them to me regularly in any format except four-track tape or large print, please email me at <adrijana.prokopenko@gmail.com>.

Monster.com Now Accessible:                                         

Here is a press release distributed on January 31, 2013, reporting an important accessibility breakthrough:

Monster.com First in Industry to Make Website Accessible for Blind Users
Effort a Result of Agreement between Monster Worldwide, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, and National Federation of the Blind; First Job Search Website to Be Fully Accessible

The popular job search website Monster.com will be the first job search and recruitment website in the industry to provide blind job seekers with full and equal access to all of its products and services, including mobile applications, Attorney General Martha Coakley, Monster Worldwide, Inc., and the National Federation of the Blind announced today.

The announcement is the result of an agreement with the AG’s Office and the NFB and provides meaningful benefit to blind or visually impaired people nationwide, including more than 35,000 residents in Massachusetts. As part of the agreement Monster will contribute $50,000 to the Commonwealth that will be used to fund the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind’s job internship program. Monster will also make a $50,000 contribution to the NFB and serve as the title sponsor of the NFB’s annual convention in 2013.

“Unemployment and underemployment in the blind community are significant problems, and, given the extent to which computers and the Internet have become integral to our daily lives, it is essential that websites be accessible to everyone,” AG Coakley said. “We are pleased to have worked with the NFB and Monster to make the company’s valuable products and services accessible and to provide better employment opportunities to job seekers who are blind, are visually impaired, or have other print disabilities such as dyslexia. We are hopeful that with the ability to access written information in an audible text-to-speech format, these users will now have access to jobs, and better jobs, than ever before. We want technology to improve people’s lives, not create obstacles or barriers.”

“Over the past year a team at Monster has been working closely with teams from the National Federation of the Blind and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office to enhance our Monster.com website in a way that will provide more opportunities for blind job seekers to find jobs,” said Mark Conway, chief information officer, Monster Worldwide. “Although portions of our site were already accessible, we all agreed we could do more. Based on the work of these teams, the Monster.com site will be enhanced to make its website and mobile applications accessible to blind job seekers. This has been an enormous undertaking and is an exciting accomplishment for which we can all be proud.”

“The National Federation of the Blind works for full and equal access by blind Americans to all forms of digital information,” said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind. “Access to digital information and applications is critical to success in the twenty-first century in all areas of life, including searching and applying for career opportunities. We are therefore pleased that Monster is making this commitment to full and equal access to its website and mobile applications. We also thank the attorney general of Massachusetts for being such a strong partner and advocate for accessibility.”

“We are excited to partner with Monster and the National Federation of the Blind to provide access to job opportunities available to individuals who are blind,” said Commissioner Janet LaBreck of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. “The MCB internship program gives individuals the opportunity to access early work experience. Using accessible technology available on Monster’s website to conduct a job search ensures that individuals who are blind can independently and successfully perform the same tasks as other job-seeking candidates.”

To make its website and mobile applications accessible to blind job seekers, Monster is making them compatible with innovative technology called screen-access software that renders on-screen information into Braille or speech so that blind people can use keyboard commands to access the same information as sighted users.

In accordance with the agreement Monster is in the process of making its desktop and mobile websites fully and equally accessible and will have its mobile applications accessible within two years. Monster has also ensured that the templates employers use to post job advertisements on its site will be fully and equally accessible within six months.

Monster will also train its customer service representatives to assist blind users and will establish a standing committee to oversee implementation of the agreement and other issues related to accessibility in the future. In addition, Monster has agreed to work with the NFB to encourage higher education programs to incorporate accessible design and assistive technology in their core curricula.

The agreement is the most recent result of collaboration between AG Coakley’s Office and the NFB. Past collaborations have included making Apple’s iTunes services and Cardtronics ATMs fully and equally accessible to the blind. State and federal laws not only prohibit disparate treatment of individuals with disabilities in employment and housing, but also require that all businesses operating places of public accommodation provide people with disabilities with full and equal enjoyment of their goods, services, and facilities.

Monster.com is the worldwide leader in connecting people to jobs and provides a full array of job-seeking, career-management, recruitment, and talent-management products and services in more than forty countries.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Genevieve C. Nadeau and Paralegal Bethany Brown of Attorney General Coakley’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant Attorney General Maura Healey, Chief of Attorney General Coakley’s Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau.

Monitor Mart

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

For Sale:

I have in mint condition an HP netbook with Microsoft Windows 7. The unit has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and has three USB connections, an SD card slot, and a connection for a VBA monitor. Software includes Window-Eyes 7.2, including the Window-Eyes instruction manual, and Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 10. The unit also includes a Logitek wireless headphone/microphone headset, an external USB powered HP CD/DVD reader, and a carrying case. This computer was used for about fifteen hours.

The asking price of $1,200 includes insured shipping by UPS. For more information call Steve at (517) 347-7046.


NFB Pledge

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

 

(contents)