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.
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:
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