Vol. 56, No. 4 April 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
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
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.
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 ______________________________________________
City ______________________ State _____________ Zip ___________
Phone ____________ Email ____________________________________
___ I will pick up my registration packet at convention.
___ 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 = ____________
Vol. 56, No. 4 April 2013
Illustration: Read Across America 2013
Technology, Law, and Culture
by Marc Maurer
An Ordinary Sort of Courage
by Shawn Mayo
The Courage to Fight for Chocolate Cake
by Haben Girma
Independence: To Have and to Hold
by Christine Boone
Blindness and the Value of Life
by Gary Wunder
Change Our Lives—Why I Go to National Convention
by Chris Kuell
My First Flying Pig Half Marathon
by KathyMaria Badalamenti
Meeting Life’s Challenges
by Emilie Gossiaux
The Passing of Russell Kletzing
by Marc Maurer
Obituary of Russell Kletzing
Russ Kletzing Honored by Newel Perry Award
What Makes an NFB Affiliate?
by Anna Kresmer
NFB Camp Convention Adventures
by Carla McQuillan
Convention Scholarships Available
by Allen Harris
Each year an event called “Read Across America” is conducted near the time of Dr. Seuss’s birthday. In 2013 it was held on March 2, and, as part of the nationwide event to highlight literacy, the National Federation of the Blind participated by highlighting Braille. For this event a special poem was written by the participants in the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) program seminar:
by the NFB BELL Team
I am Dale and I read Braille.
I am Gale. What is Braille?
Braille is dots, lots and lots.
Each dot has its special spot.
“Why read Braille?” inquires Gale.
“I’d rather climb a mountain trail.
Dale, these dots are hard to see.
Large print is fine, so let me be.”
“I do not have vision, Gale.
That is why I must read Braille.”
“Would you read Braille here or there?”
“I could read Braille anywhere.
O dear Gale, I love my Braille.”
“Would you read it in a house?
Would you read it to a mouse?”
“I do read it in my house.
I do read it to my mouse.
I do read Braille here and there.
I do read Braille anywhere.
O dear Gale, I love my Braille.”
“How about that silly print?
Could you read it in a tent?
Could you read it in the night?
Could you read it without light?”
“I could read Braille at the park!
I could read Braille in the dark!
I do read Braille here and there.
I do read Braille anywhere.
O dear Gale, I love my Braille!”
“Would you read Braille in a box?
Would you teach Braille to a fox?”
“I could read Braille in a box.
I couldn’t teach Braille to a fox.”
“Why can’t you teach it to a fox?”
“He couldn’t feel it through his socks.
I could teach it to a girl.
Hey, look at that, there goes a squirrel.
We could read it in a tree.
You could read Braille, don’t you see?
I do read Braille here and there.
I do read Braille anywhere.
O dear Gale, I love my Braille!”
“My darling Dale, I think I see.
Won’t you teach that Braille to me!
They tried to teach me in the school.
But I told them it wasn’t cool.
But I was wrong and don’t want to fail!
I think it’s time I learned my Braille!
We do read Braille here and there!
We do read Braille anywhere!
Bumps and dots are cool to read.
With this Braille we will succeed!”
by Marc Maurer
From the Editor: On February 20, 2013, President Maurer addressed the First International Conference on Technology for Helping People with Special Needs (ICTHP-2013) at the Al-Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His was the keynote address for the two-day conference, and here is what he said:
An important element of American life is literacy, the ability to read. The foundation document for the legal system in the United States is the Constitution. This document contains provisions that guarantee to people in the United States many rights, but the right to read is not among them. The right to have and to maintain property is covered in several places, and rights to life and liberty are enumerated more than once. The Constitution does contain a reference to copyright, the protection of written material against unauthorized taking. However, the people of the United States are not guaranteed the right to be able to read the documents that are of such value that they are offered copyright protection in the most basic document created to govern our country.
At the time of the founding of the United States, part of the population was enslaved. In many places teaching slaves to read was prohibited. If slaves learned to read, they could communicate with each other over long distances and over long time periods. They could learn of the promise contained in the Constitution that persons in the United States had rights. They could plan effective campaigns to change the circumstances in which they lived. Reading was considered a means to power, and the thought process of those who controlled slaves was that they should be kept powerless. The United States Constitution has now been amended to prohibit slavery, and at least one provision of the Constitution has been employed to declare that equality in educational opportunity for people with different identifiable characteristics is required. However, the implications inherent in slavery have not been completely eliminated. Assigning people to different classifications in the legal structure of American law with only the most minimal demonstration that the classifications are relevant to the restrictions or privileges associated with them is still permitted. For example, in 1938 the Fair Labor Standards Act became law in the United States. This act declared that all workers were entitled to receive no less than the statutory minimum wage. However, a provision of this law exempted individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, in 1927 and in 2001 the Supreme Court of the United States declared that provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution do not apply to disabled individuals even though the plain language of the amendment declares that the rights enumerated are for all persons. In other words, disabled individuals are not persons for purposes of interpreting the Constitution and laws of the United States in quite the same way that nondisabled persons are. The notion that arbitrary classification can be tolerated—the pernicious assertion that some classes of individuals are somehow superior and some are inferior that came from the practice of slavery—remains an element of American law today. In addition, the right to read is not protected in American law.
In the past in my country education was often provided to boys but not to girls. Men could vote, but women could not. Because men were often expected to participate in politics and business, they needed the power and the skill that came with literacy, but women (it was thought) did not. It seems ironic to me that a woman, Jeannette Rankin, was elected to Congress from the western state of Montana prior to passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which guarantees women the right to vote.
Among the most important resources of a country are its people. Some cultures encourage productivity by individuals from groups identified by widely-varying characteristics while others do not. When slavery was being encouraged in the United States, most enslaved individuals were prevented from developing their intellectual capacity. Furthermore, when slavery came to an end, this group of people who had been prevented from getting an education could not easily exercise the rights and privileges of freedom. Not only did the denial of an education diminish the intellectual capacity of an entire class of people, it also crippled economic development for the United States. It created a system of thought damaging to the society. If a misguided effort had been undertaken to provide an education to slaves, it was thought, they would not be able to benefit from it because their intellect was inferior to that of others. Furthermore, denying them an education was a positive benefit to them because they would be pathetically out of place in educational institutions. Sometimes this attitude of mind is plainly evident in conversations involving education for the blind.
The first organized efforts at education for the blind in the United States occurred in 1829 with the establishment of an institution now known as Perkins. However, a federal law declaring that all disabled people (including the blind) are entitled to an education was not adopted until 1975. Although some educational experiences for blind people in the United States have been good, many others have not. At the moment fewer than 50 percent of blind students in high school graduate, and approximately 10 percent of blind students in school are being taught to read Braille. Why are the numbers so low?
If teachers and administrators in a school system think that the students they are teaching are likely to make a significant difference in the world, the students will get enormous attention and substantial resources. If, on the other hand, the teachers and administrators think their students are likely to fail, the educational experience will be approached in a most undemanding and unproductive way. Unfortunately, many administrators and teachers expect almost nothing from their blind students. Sometimes they get exactly what they expect.
In 1940 the National Federation of the Blind was created by a blind professor, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, and a handful of others. Prior to the establishment of this organization, such programs for the blind as existed were directed largely by sighted people. When the National Federation of the Blind came into being, an increasing number of blind people themselves began to take action to alter the patterns of participation and acceptance for the blind that existed.
In the early 1970s computer technology was becoming familiar on college campuses. The computer had been known in earlier decades, but the technology was complex and expensive. Nevertheless, computer classes were being taught at most universities by the time I entered college in the early ’70s. The method of approach to these machines was to type commands on punch cards. When the stack of cards had been created, they were run through a card reader that read the computer commands. The output was created on a piece of paper that came from a printer—sometimes a large sheet but sometimes a paper tape.
Blind students who were part of the National Federation of the Blind and who were attending one of the universities wondered if the computer could be directed to create results in Braille. A paper tape printer was modified by placing a piece of elastic under the paper tape. The computer was programmed to create dots on the paper by making the period strike heavily upon the paper tape. By controlling the pattern of dots, the result could be displayed on paper tape in Braille.
It is common today to imagine that computer programs must display information on a computer screen. However, the screen came after the computer. The results of a calculation for a computer application may be displayed in print on a screen, or they may be displayed in tactile form using a refreshable Braille display or a Braille printer. They may also be produced in audible form.
In the mid-1970s the National Federation of the Blind supported an effort by Ray Kurzweil to build a reading machine that would make print material hearable. The project came to fruition in 1975 with the development of the first optical character recognition system that would read most fonts and produce speech in a computer voice. The device to do this was about the size of a washing machine. Today the reading machine is a program that will operate on a cell phone. Ray Kurzweil and the National Federation of the Blind created a company to produce and distribute the knfbReader Mobile, which has been developed for a number of Nokia phones, the Android operating system, and (soon) the iOS platform.
At the very beginning of the 1980s, the first screen readers were being developed—computer programs that could read aloud information from some specialized applications on the computer. The National Federation of the Blind built a piece of hardware, the Speaqualizer, that captured digital information from the computer bus and made it audible. The Speaqualizer was not limited to any specific application. It could make most computer information accessible to the blind. The personal computer began to appear in offices, and screen reading software to make the digital information in such products hearable was developed.
In the early 1980s a member of the National Federation of the Blind from Kentucky, Tim Cranmer, invented a device called the Pocket Braille. This was a tiny digital machine that could accept and reproduce information from a set of Braille keys. The prototype had a space bar and six keys, one for each dot in the Braille cell. Deane Blazie, an engineering friend of Tim Cranmer’s, examined the device and decided that he could build a portable data assistant for the blind with this design. His first product was the Braille ’n Speak. With its invention, Deane Blazie created the notetaker industry for the blind.
In 1988 George Kerscher, a blind person living in the western part of the United States, had trouble getting all of the information he wanted in classes at the university. He noticed that books were being produced by first having them drafted using computers, but he could not read the material in the computer formats then being used. To address this problem, he developed digital books. A digital book is writing contained in a file that can be presented auditorily or with Braille—either on paper or in refreshable form—and that can be navigated with accessible commands so that the blind person using the book can find headings; read by sentence, paragraph, word, or letter; identify and read footnotes; and annotate the text. A refreshable Braille display is a device with moving pins that represent Braille.
In the 1990s the National Federation of the Blind created NFB-NEWSLINE®. This service currently provides three hundred newspapers in digital form each morning to blind people by telephone, by computer, or by portable device such as the iPhone. NFB-NEWSLINE® also makes available dozens of magazines and a substantial amount of other content—job listings, a guide to television programming, and other material.
The Americans with Disabilities Act became law in my country in 1990. This law declares that disabled people in the United States must be accepted on terms of equality in government programs, public accommodations, and employment. However, it does not require manufacturers of products to build them with accessible controls or programs. One of the results of the adoption of this law is that bank machines must be accessible to the disabled because they fit the definition of a public accommodation. Although the legal structure creates a peculiar result, the banks that deploy bank machines must install accessible ones. However, the manufacturers of the devices are not required to build them. A public accommodation (in this case I mean a bank machine) must be accessible to the user. But a product manufactured for sale to a bank (in this case I mean a bank machine) is not required to be accessible. If a bank machine is a product, it need not be accessible. If it is a means to provide a service to the public, it must be. Despite the legal provision requiring bank machines to be accessible to the blind, such machines were not being used by the banks. When we asked banking officials to use accessible bank machines, they told us that they would do so, but bank machine manufacturers did not sell them. When we asked the bank machine manufacturers why they didn’t build accessible machines, they said that they would do so but no banks ordered them. A dozen years ago we discovered that, in a limited number of places, manufacturers were deploying their own bank machines. We demanded that these be usable by the blind, and the shift in building accessible bank machines began. Today I am told that all manufacturers build accessible machines. Not all banks deploy these machines with accessibility enabled as the law requires, but all machines manufactured in the United States can be deployed in this way.
In 2002 Congress adopted the Help America Vote Act, which requires accessible voting machines that can be used nonvisually. This law applies only to federal elections, but in each voting district at least one voting machine must be usable without requiring sight.
During the first decade of this century, books and other teaching material began to move rapidly to digital form. The Apple company built computers, but they also made portable devices that play music and other recorded matter. iTunes was the music distribution system created by Apple. When iTunes U began to be used to distribute course material for college, the National Federation of the Blind sounded the alarm. If inaccessible technology could be used in college, blind students would no longer have the ability to get an education. The first digital books had been created by blind people, but the Apple company was presenting digital information in an inaccessible way. The digital content is created in computer machine language that can be represented visually, audibly, or tactually. Although the computer machine language is, at its most fundamental level, made up of ones and zeros, the interpretive programming employed to present the digital information that was added to the computer machine language made the presentation available only in visual form. In my capacity as president of the National Federation of the Blind, I wrote to the presidents of 285 universities to tell them that their use of this inaccessible technology on college campuses violated the nondiscrimination provisions of the law.
When the level of complaint became sufficiently great, we entered into an agreement with Apple to make iTunes and iTunes U accessible to the blind. We also indicated that we wanted accessibility to Apple products. Within a short time an accessible iPhone was produced. The method for achieving accessibility was to create gestures that could be used on flat screens. With the appropriate gesture and with a speech program included in the flat-screen device as part of the manufacturing process, the information contained in the product can be spoken aloud or presented in Braille on a refreshable Braille display. Appropriate gestures may include a one-finger, two-finger, or three-finger tap, upward or downward swipe by one or more fingers, and similar movements. The cell phone, which was once used only to make telephone calls, became the device to provide access to the Internet, access to banks, access to libraries that had been digitized, and access to the credit and investment markets of the world. You could also read books with it or study course lectures. Hundreds of thousands of applications have been built for the iPhone, and many of them are accessible to the blind. Although standards have been created to assure accessibility, no system for enforcing these standards has been created. Some estimates say that only half of the iPhone apps are accessible to the blind.
I have been informed that the method of providing equal access to the content of Apple’s products is being challenged in Europe. A competitor to Apple is claiming that the access system used by the Apple company violates a patent. Having accessibility built into devices that can be implemented out of the box is highly desirable. Consequently, it is important to protect this level of accessibility.
Google has created an operating system which has not been accessible until recently, and the level of accessibility is not yet adequate. However, Google is telling us that it is working to “bake in” accessibility to its operating system and to its other products.
A number of book producers have recently decided to make their books digital. When Amazon created the Kindle, we pointed out that the device would be much enhanced if it included text-to-speech technology. Reading could be accomplished auditorily as well as visually. Amazon accepted this suggestion, but, when the text-to-speech program became a part of the Kindle, the blind could not use it. Amazon had neglected to make the controls for the text-to-speech program accessible to the blind.
On the other hand, the digital book reader produced by the K-NFB Reading Technology Company, the Blio, is accessible. Blio is a multi-platform digital book reader that operates on desktops, laptops, handheld Android devices, and products using the iOS program. Blio works with a library digital access program called Axis 360. More than 750 thousand books are currently available through the book store associated with Blio, and the information presented through Blio can be heard or read through touch using a refreshable Braille display.
The iBooks offered by Apple are also hearable using VoiceOver, the screen-reading program included in the Apple products. Apple offers support for refreshable Braille as well.
In 2008 the Higher Education Opportunity Act became law, which incorporated amendments requiring the Department of Education of the United States to establish a commission for the purpose of determining how accessible instructional materials could be produced for students in college. The National Federation of the Blind had sponsored these amendments, and one of our members, Mark Riccobono, served on the commission. The report of the commission was issued in 2011. Unsurprisingly, it found that accessible higher education materials were not readily available to blind students and professors. It found that such materials could be produced with modern technology, and it recommended that Congress consider legislation to ensure that blind students had access to course materials, books, course management software, journal articles, and other matter used for classes in college. A draft proposal for legislation to authorize a government entity in the United States to create enforceable standards for instructional materials in college is now being circulated in Congress by the National Federation of the Blind. The Association of American Publishers has worked with us to create such draft legislation.
In 2002 the Google company embarked upon the Google Books Project. Libraries at major universities throughout the United States and in some other nations offered Google copies of their printed books for digitization. In return for the loan of these books, Google offered to return them to the libraries along with scanned copies of the books. Of course, Google would keep a scanned copy. Google’s stated purpose was to permit scanned copies of the books to be used in Google searches. Google would not sell the books or give them away. Instead, it would let individuals seek snippets of information contained in the books, and it would inform those individuals where the books could be found. The National Federation of the Blind sought urgently to be a part of this project. Our stated objective was to gain access for the blind to the content of all the books. Digitized books can readily be presented in print, in audible form, or in a tactile representation.
When much of the Google content had been created, the Authors Guild sued Google. It said that it wanted the content of the scanned material destroyed or permanently restricted from use because creating a digital version of a printed document violated copyright. Eventually an agreement between the Authors Guild and Google was reached. Google would be authorized to sell the books. It would pay the Authors Guild 69 percent of the funds received for sales. Google would have two years to make the digital material accessible to the blind and print disabled. Before the agreement became final, the United States Justice Department became a part of the lawsuit because it said that Google might be creating a monopoly. If Google created a monopoly, this action might violate the antitrust laws of the United States. The agreement was modified to satisfy the Justice Department’s concerns about the antitrust laws. However, when the agreement was presented to the court for approval, the judge rejected it. The reason for the rejection is that some books in the digital collection have been written by individuals who cannot now be found. These are known as “orphaned books.” Because there is no recognized owner of the orphaned books, there is no recognized person to receive the 69 percent of the revenue that would be collected and distributed by the Authors Guild. Consequently, a violation of copyright has occurred because somebody is being enriched without paying the author.
In the meantime a number of the libraries with scanned material from the Google Book Project created an entity called the HathiTrust. This entity planned, on behalf of the university libraries, to manage the scanned material. The Authors Guild once again sued the HathiTrust over copyright. The National Federation of the Blind intervened in the lawsuit. We argued that, if the books have been digitized, these materials can be presented accessibly to blind students and professors at the universities where they are located. Either the fair use doctrine incorporated in copyright law or the special exception to copyright provided by the Chaffee Amendment authorizes the HathiTrust to make digitized materials available to blind students and professors. The Chaffee Amendment, adopted in 1996, declares that government or nonprofit organizations may make books available to blind individuals in formats other than print without seeking copyright permission. If the HathiTrust wished to do so, it could provide digitized materials to blind individuals throughout the United States, not just to blind students in college or blind faculty members. The decision of the court, which was issued in October 2012, declares that these books can be distributed to blind people under the provisions of copyright law. How the distribution is to take place is not yet determined, but recognition that it can be done has now been established.
Another manufacturer of book reading technology is Barnes & Noble, which created the Nook, a small hand-held device that presents book text visually. When Barnes & Noble attempted to cause libraries and school systems to use the Nook for reading books, once again the National Federation of the Blind took action. The Nook was created without a program to provide the visual information in any other way. Books could not be heard or read by touch. Consequently, blind people who wanted to get books from libraries or read them in school would be prevented from having equal access to the same information available to the sighted, even though having equal access is readily achievable. Barnes & Noble has been trying to capture the campus bookstore market. Its products are mostly not accessible, its website cannot easily be used by the blind, and the books it sells are almost entirely unusable by blind people although small changes in recent months indicate that Barnes & Noble may be making some changes to provide increased accessibility. This inaccessibility is particularly worrisome because the stated objectives of many chief executives for schools, colleges, libraries, and political jurisdictions in many parts of the United States have indicated that they are going 100 percent digital.
An entity created decades ago called the DAISY Consortium (DAISY stands for Digital Accessible Information System) has worked closely with the National Federation of the Blind and the International Digital Publishing Forum, along with publishers, to create an automated accessible digital publishing standard. This standard, denominated EPUB 3, has been drafted, and the automated computer programs to implement it are being written. This standard will result in the publication of digital materials that are designed from the beginning to be accessible to the blind. The National Federation of the Blind, which has strongly supported this standard, has encouraged publishers to participate in the process. The final product will be good for the blind and beneficial to the publishers because they will not be required to create one product for the sighted and another for the blind and print-disabled.
Of course, no digital publishing system has adequately addressed all aspects of printed representation. Graphs, charts, and pictures must be alt-tagged with descriptive comments. Some of these visual elements—fancy borders, some pictures, and striking or unusual formats—are included in printed material to make it look prettier. However, some of the printed material presents the primary message of the topic being displayed. Although economics books could be written only with words, the custom has been adopted to present information in graph form. The graphs provide information that the words do not. Consequently, it is important to develop a method for presenting this information in standard nonvisual form. Just as a visual image can be displayed with accepted normative elements to demonstrate perspective, a standardized method of describing an image must be developed. In addition, it is highly desirable to seek a method for creating tactile forms of visual images that incorporate the fundamental knowledge contained.
With current memory storage available, creating a dictionary of images identified for nonvisual presentation is practical. However, many new images will be drawn. Consequently, inventing a method for presentation of them that does not rely on previous description is also needed. Plato wrote in the Republic thousands of years ago that forms exist in the mental comprehension of human beings. He asserted that all reality is recognized by human beings because it approaches the mental image of these forms. Whether Plato’s comprehension is universal or not, visual representations have repetition in them. A program to recognize the repetition and present the information is urgently required for the implementation of nonvisual access.
In 2010 the National Federation of the Blind announced that it was in the process of working with engineers to build an automobile that could be operated nonvisually. We speculated that we would be able to demonstrate this automobile publicly in 2011. At the end of January 2011, one of our members, Mark Riccobono, who is a blind man, drove the blind-drivable car on the racetrack at the Daytona International Speedway. In doing so, he demonstrated the ability to avoid both static and dynamic obstacles and to operate alongside other moving vehicles safely and independently. The speed achieved during this demonstration was modest, twenty-seven miles an hour. Further development of this type of technology is required, but the first demonstration has been made. As driverless vehicles are developed, it is of importance that the tools to manage these machines be built in a form that is accessible to the blind. Google has built what has been called a driverless car. I have informed officials at Google that we who are blind want to drive it independently.
In this technical age we the blind are in a race. Technology can be built so that we can use it effectively and independently. However, it can also be built in a manner that will prevent us from understanding it or using it. If the people who build and deploy such technology understand that nonvisual access will help them to sell more products and to engage more people in productive endeavors, then we will be able to use our abilities to enhance the societies in which we live. We will also gain independence. Cultural expectations drive the development of technology. If the culture of a society expects groups of the people within it, such as the blind, to be passive and unproductive, the technology produced in that culture will be made so that blind people cannot use it or cannot use it well. However, if participation, independence, and productivity are demanded, both programs and technology will be built so that all can get at them and use them. The customary name for the plan to build for all is known as “universal design.”
In the National Federation of the Blind of the United States, we expect blind people to be productive, capable, self-sufficient. Consequently, we insist upon a technology that will permit productivity and independence. Technology begins with a thought. That thought is, “How can I use the value of the capability that is inherent in the people for whom this technology is built?” Ray Kurzweil, the futurist and inventor who built the first reading machine for the blind, said that the first thing to do when inventing a technology is to write the advertising brochure. This document will tell you what the device is supposed to do and who the members of the audience are who will pay money to get it. If the inventor believes that the customers are capable of complex thought and behavior, the device will contain characteristics that take advantage of complexity. But it all depends on believing in the people who will pay for the device. The second thing to do when inventing a new product is to employ people to help get it built who will want to use it. When it was time to build the reading machine, we said to Ray Kurzweil that we would assist with financial resources as long as he employed blind engineers to help build the machine. He told us later that this was one of the most valuable pieces of advice he had been given. When he later wanted to build a digital piano, he insisted that the engineers who worked on the project be musicians. Both the reading machine and the digital piano show the advantages of this procedure.
In contemplating the work we have done with Ray Kurzweil, it is well to remember that our efforts have changed technology not just for the blind but for everybody. The optical character recognition system built into the reading machine evolved into the scanning technology that has changed communications systems all over the world. The reading machine took a visual image and altered it so that you could hear it. Reversing this effort, Ray Kurzweil created a dictation machine that would make voice into print. First deployed in hospitals to assist medical staff in keeping records, elements of this system are now part of the Dragon Dictate software that can be purchased in marketplaces all over the world. This is only one example of the change that we caused to occur, bringing greater opportunity first to the blind and then to an entire population.We believe that blind people can handle all of the complexity that has been produced for anybody else. However, the manner of handling the complexity must be managed in ways different from those employed by the sighted. Alternative techniques used by the blind to get to the same place that sighted people reach with visual techniques are not inferior to those used by the sighted, but they are different. We also believe that the intellectual ability of blind people is equivalent to that of the sighted, and we insist that the endeavors that take advantage of intellectual ability be open and available to us. We believe that the physical capacity of blind people is as great as that possessed by the sighted, except for the ability to see. And we believe that the ability to see is not required to manage the tasks that must be accomplished to take advantage of all this ability. For these reasons we have become a participant in the development of the technologies that are used in our country, and to some extent in many other parts of the world, to bring greater opportunity to the blind. I am also pleased to note that, when we expand opportunity for the blind, we also expand it for the sighted, and we enhance the society in which we live. Blind people matter, and we are on the move. We are looking for partners to build a better culture, and we have a great deal to offer to those who accept our partnership.
by Shawn Mayo
From the Editor: The following article is the winner of the NFB of Minnesota’s 2012 Metro Chapter essay contest. It was published in the Winter 2013 issue of the Minnesota Bulletin. Shawn Mayo is the executive director of the NFB of Minnesota’s adult rehabilitation center. This is what she says:
I was in an airport recently, buying a breakfast sandwich to take to my gate, when a woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked, "What is your name?”
I immediately started worrying that I was supposed to remember her from somewhere and slowly replied, "Shawn.”
But, before I could ask her anything in reply, she said, "Shawn, your courage has inspired me today.” Now I was really speechless. It is not as if I have never been told how amazing I am because I am blind and yet manage simple daily tasks, but to me courage has always been such a large and abstract term, suitable for battlefields and burning buildings, that I really couldn't find anything resembling courage in obtaining a bacon, egg, and cheese croissant. I felt as if I was in one of those Bud Light Real Men of Genius commercials—as if an announcer should be saying: "And here's to you, blind airport traveler," and I had to fight back a laugh.
The woman and I were witnessing the same simple scene--Blind Woman Gets Breakfast, but analyzing it in two totally different ways. To me, even though it was a delicious sandwich, it was the most ordinary thing in the world to stand in line, ask what they have, make a selection, pay for it, and walk away. I do it fifty times a year. Most of the blind people I know do the same. But I may have been the first blind person she ever saw do it. To her this was highly unusual. Maybe she has never met a blind person, maybe she has met only blind people who didn't travel alone. Regardless, we were starting with different preconceptions and therefore getting totally different interpretations.
But, when I got home, I looked up the word “courage.” Here is Merriam-Webster's definition: "mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty,” and I started to understand that her word choice might not have been as overly dramatic as I had thought. Nowadays, more than fifteen years after my adjustment to blindness training at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc., my personal store of courage is tapped for other parts of my life. But back then it did take courage to get on a plane by myself, get up from my seat in the gate area to go find food, and explain to the TSA screener that I am in fact a big girl who goes places all by herself. It then occurred to me that courage is exactly what it takes to put blindness in its proper place. I then looked up the word “encourage,” and realized that this is the definition of what we do at BLIND, Inc.
It's a shame that “courage” is a noun; it really ought to have a verb form. But, since it doesn't, I am going to make one up to describe what our students do. They courage up. It's not unlike the phrase "cowboy up" or "cowgirl up.” It is also not unlike "leveling up" used in role-play gaming.
Let me now go back to the definition of “courage” to show how it plays out. In this definition of “courage” it entails three kinds of strength—to venture, to persevere, and to withstand danger or difficulty. I'm not a fan of the word “withstand” here. I think a better word would be “take on”—it's more active. So let's start with this: "to take on danger and difficulty.” Going out into the world as a blind person isn't inherently dangerous. But a number of the things we do often appear superficially dangerous, which can generate fear that can cause difficulty in its own right. In addition there are practical difficulties such as how to read, how to get around, how to use a computer, how to take care of your home, and how to do a job. Folks take these on in each of their classes. Gradually they reduce each of these things from a difficulty to an ordinary part of life.
The next part of this definition is “to persevere.” Reducing each of these difficulties to the ordinary doesn’t happen overnight. It also doesn’t happen as quickly as anyone wants. It would be wonderful if we could download all of the blindness skills we teach directly into our students' heads just the way Keanu Reeves learned Kung-Fu in the movie The Matrix, but that’s not possible.
We have been working hard to develop methods of teaching Braille faster and more efficiently, but it still takes time and hard work. Our cane travel instructors show students solid strategies for dealing with various situations, but mastery is measured in miles, not feet. Some things come more easily than others, and some things will be more enjoyable than others, but often, when students reach the end of their training, they admit that the most enjoyable accomplishments are those that took the most effort. I think it was Woody Allen who said, “Ninety percent of success is showing up.” I would take this a little further to say that it’s showing up when you don’t feel like it, when you are exhausted or frustrated, or when it’s snowing. It’s putting the miles on your cane and beneath your fingers when you would really rather be watching TV or eating ice cream.
The last element is “to venture; to take a risk.” The biggest risk our students take is the loss of their comfort zones and the likelihood that they will be different people in some ways when they finish. At student graduations people often comment: “When you first started, you were so quiet, but now you are outgoing.” Or “You used never to want to go out, and now you’re going all over the city.”
Usually, when people come to training, it’s because they find that they are in a box that had become too small. They have been limiting their life and activities. And, while they know the box is too confining, it is often a cozy place. It’s comfortable, and there’s actually plenty of room for excuses and justifications, just not much room for anything else. So, when people start working their way out of their boxes, they find new interests and passions. They make new friends. They become more assertive and sometimes more outgoing and social. They change their lives and some really noticeable parts of their personalities. Their core personality remains the same, but they act differently. This is a big change.
It’s a change for them and for their families and friends. It’s a positive change and ultimately a good thing. But everyone has to come to terms with the fact that this blind person doesn’t need the kind of help that she used to: she doesn’t need to take an arm to get through the parking lot. This changes the dynamic of relationships. It is also a risk to your pride to admit that maybe you aren’t as competent, efficient, or great as you thought you were and that you could do better. One of our instructors says that she entered training thinking she would finish in three months and run circles around everyone else, only to be left behind her first night. She found herself standing at an intersection like a lost puppy because she couldn’t keep up with the other students. Of course they came back and got her, and, when they did, she could walk faster since she was carrying a lot less ego. But that was tough to take. It took courage.
So the best way I can describe what we do as instructors and staff at BLIND, Inc., is to say that we encourage. “Encourage” can be seen as an intransitive verb. Not to get too grammatical here, but this means that we aren’t the ones doing the action. The students are couraging up. We are just giving them the time, space, tools, and support to do it. They do the work. Our work is merely to support their work and make ourselves gradually less necessary.
When our students accomplish a significant task or reach a milestone, they ring the freedom bell, and everyone comes, asks them what they did, and congratulates them. The instructor hands the student the bell, shakes hands, and walks away, leaving the student to explain why he or she rang the bell and to receive the encouragement. Instructors may ring the bell if they earn a new certification, win an award, or something like that, but the students’ successes and failures are their own. They are the ones taking all the risk, and they therefore deserve all the reward.
Our reward comes from knowing we’ve done our job well when they don’t need us anymore. This enables us to push people to break out of their comfort zones, to go farther and do better than they think they are capable of, and to reach their real potential. Nothing is more awesome to us than when a student flies right over what we thought was a high bar, then grabs the bar and sets it higher—turning in eight pages of slate work when they were required to do only three; walking home under sleepshades without being assigned to do so; decorating the lunchroom in the theme of their large meal. This is couraging up, and witnessing it is the best part of my job as executive director of BLIND, Inc.
So I wish I had had the time and presence of mind to explain this to the woman in the airport. I would like her to know that she was right. It did take courage to get from where I was to where I am now, but it isn’t any sort of extraordinary courage. Many people have it, and, if we keep encouraging, more and more people will find it, and it will become more and more ordinary. This is what we are about in the Federation. This is what we are about at BLIND, Inc.—encouraging, striving, and expecting more from others and ourselves. We take on difficulties; we persevere; and we venture. This is how we change what it means to be blind.
by Haben Girma
From the Editor: Haben Girma is currently a law student at Harvard and has just been recognized by the White House as a Champion of Change. She was recently singled out by Justice Clarence Thomas, but let me not interrupt her story. Here is what she said at the mid-winter meeting of the National Association of Blind Students in Washington, DC:
Last week Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas paid a visit to Harvard Law School. During a public talk he gave before the whole school, Dean Martha Minow asked him to name his heroes. He named his grandparents and one of his law clerks, and then he said, "I saw a young woman this morning. What's her name?"
Dean Minow immediately understood. "Haben."
Justice Thomas continued, "Haben. I admire her. I admire that kind of courage."
Justice Thomas was among the first African Americans to go to Yale Law School, and I am the first deafblind student to attend Harvard Law School. I would not go so far as to compare the challenges I faced to those Justice Thomas encountered growing up with Jim Crow laws in Georgia. When he graduated from Yale, he struggled to find a law firm that would hire a black man. By contrast, I have not finished my last year of law school yet, but I already have a job lined up, despite being a woman, black, and deafblind.
While I was fortunate not to have grown up battling blatant and fiery racism, I do agree that it requires courage to become an attorney with disabilities. I have a little vision and a little hearing, but, to avoid perpetuating hierarchies of sight or hearing, I describe myself as deafblind. When I thought about possible careers during my high school years, the prospect of going to law school seemed incredibly difficult, stressful, and downright crazy. I knew there were blind lawyers, but I had never heard of a deafblind lawyer. In order to become an attorney, I would have to pioneer my way through a thousand big and small obstacles.
In the many times I have needed to advocate for myself to get to where I am now, I have relied on courage. As we advocate for blind Americans on the Hill tomorrow, we'll need courage. Being a disability rights advocate starts with self-advocacy. There are two very important components to self-advocacy: the first is being able to educate people about the legal rights of people with disabilities; the second requires creative problem-solving skills to find alternative techniques for accomplishing tasks. I'll use stories from my own life to illustrate each point.
After graduating from high school in Oakland, California, I attended Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. My college experience was good overall, except for some initial challenges with the cafeteria. The college cafeteria had several food stations that served different items each day, and the printed menu hung on the wall by the entrance. I tried asking people to read the menu to me, but, with the noise level in the cafeteria, hearing people read the menu proved nearly impossible. At first I quietly approached a food station, accepted a plate from the staff behind the counter, and then discovered what they were serving only when I sat down to eat. As a student with a busy schedule, I felt frustrated that I did not have access to the cafeteria menus. I then asked the cafeteria's manager to email me a copy of the menu before each meal. Since the cafeteria always had its menus in electronic format, emailing them to me involved only copying and pasting this information.
The manager agreed to email me the menu since it was simple and easy enough. I still remember the excitement of getting those first few emails. Instead of picking a station at random and taking whatever the staff behind the counter put on my plate, I could finally actually choose what I wanted to eat! If the menu said station three was serving fried rice and eggrolls, I could skip stations one and two and go straight to station three. And of course I was thrilled to have choices for dessert! Whenever the cafeteria emailed me the menu, life was delicious.
But every other day the staff would forget. I stopped in their office one day to remind them politely that I needed those emails. They said they were very busy but would try to send the emails consistently. Unfortunately they continued to forget to send the menu nearly every other day. As a busy student with a full load of classes, I found eating well very important. I explained the situation to the heads of the Student Life Department and Student Support Services. They told me the cafeteria was operated by an outside company and was out of their control. So I wrote an email to the manager of the cafeteria explaining that since I paid to eat at the cafeteria like all the other students, I needed access to the menu so I could fully use the services I was paying for. The manager responded saying that the cafeteria was very busy, that they were doing me a big favor, and that I should stop complaining and be more appreciative. I don't know about you, but, if station four has chocolate cake and no one tells me, I'm definitely not feeling appreciative. Remembering a disability rights workshop I attended back in high school, I decided to invoke the power of the ADA. In my email response to the manager of the cafeteria, I cc'd several others in the management team to make sure they learned about the ADA. I explained that Title III of the Act requires businesses to make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities; if the cafeteria refused to do this, I would sue.
To tell you the truth, I had no idea what I was saying. How exactly was I going to sue anyone? I couldn't afford a lawyer. I could file a complaint with the Department of Justice, but what if they thought my issue was trivial? What if a judge decided that emailing me a menu before each meal was not a reasonable accommodation? Part of me was nervous and worried, but another part of me was excited. I had a dream of joining the civil rights movement, a dream of pushing aside barriers for students with disabilities, a dream of eating my chocolate cake.
While I was eating dinner the next day, the cafeteria manager came over to apologize and promise that I would receive menus for each meal in a timely manner. And you know what? He actually kept his promise. I couldn't believe how much he'd changed, how much my life had changed, all because of the phrase, "I'm gonna sue." The threat of a lawsuit seemed as powerful as actually filing a lawsuit. By invoking the ADA, I forced him to set aside his attitude toward blindness temporarily and instead consider whether my request was reasonable. He originally thought providing access for blind students was an act of charity, a favor he could do when he had a free moment and was in the right mood. Slowly the ADA is teaching people to change their attitude so that granting equal access to people with disabilities becomes the normative attitude.
Threatening to sue is a very effective strategy for combatting discrimination, but it is really only a last resort. Lawsuits are complicated, long, and expensive. Countless times I have requested and received accommodations through friendly discussions. The college I attended provided nearly every accommodation I needed, and most of the staff was very welcoming.
The second component to self-advocacy is creative problem-solving skills. Once you overcome discrimination, once people have changed their attitudes about disability, you will need a technique for getting the job done. Technology is constantly providing new tools with which blind people can accomplish tasks. While some accommodations require the development of complex software, such as VoiceOver on the iPhone, other times the solution is simple, like using Braille labels to distinguish between similarly sized bottles. Growing up, I had many wonderful teachers who taught me many of my most valuable skills: Braille, cane travel, and an attitude that creative thinking would overcome any obstacle.
Several years ago I was part of a rock-climbing club for blind students. Rock climbing is an accessible sport for blind students; by feeling for handholds and footholds, you can pull yourself up the rock wall. We all learned to climb and belay. The belayer is the person who holds the climber's ropes. To my surprise the instructor told me I could not belay since I would not hear a climber telling me to lower him from twenty, thirty, forty feet in the air. Although I understood his concern for safety, I felt frustrated that the other blind students were allowed to belay.
The instructor could not think of an alternative technique for deafblind belayers, and unfortunately I couldn't think of any either. However, the fact that he and I couldn't figure it out didn't mean someone else couldn't. As in many other areas of life, if you can't solve a problem, you look for an expert in the field. If your bike breaks, you take it to the bike shop. Since I was looking for a rock-climbing technique that would allow a deafblind person to belay safely, I contacted a rock-climbing expert. The solution we came up with was brilliant: when a climber is ready to come down, he tugs on the rope several times to send a clear signal to the belayer. Since the belayer is holding the other end of the rope, the belayer instantly feels the signal.
Finding creative solutions for people with disabilities can be challenging. It's easy to dismiss something as impossible. Many of you live with sighted family members, sighted teachers, and sighted friends; for this reason you may feel pressure to act as the sole expert on blindness. I want to remind all of you that you don't have to be an expert on blindness. When you run into an obstacle, contact an expert in a related field to develop innovative solutions.Once you've learned to advocate for yourself, the natural next step is advocating for others. We are all here to advocate for blind Americans. If the thought of meeting legislators makes you feel nervous, find your inner courage. Advocating for seemingly trivial things like the right to eat chocolate cake develops an inner courage, and that courage will serve you in the quest for greater rights. Remember that advocating for others starts with learning to advocate for yourself. When you assert your dreams, your needs, and your rights, opportunities become limitless.
by Christine Boone
From the Editor: I have been a reader of the Braille Monitor for at least forty years, and many articles it has carried have shaped the way I think about myself and the condition of being blind. This is one of my favorites. It not only talks about the process of gaining independence but describes just how difficult it can be to hold onto it. The honesty and capacity for self-reflection captured here make it timeless. Here is how it was so eloquently introduced in February of 1992 by then Associate Editor Barbara Pierce.
From the Associate Editor: Christine Boone is an independent young wife and mother who has worked hard for the Federation wherever she has lived since she first found the organized blind movement. She has learned the truth of the poet's statement that "Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage." The most formidable limitations that stifle humanity are chains that bind the spirit, and most of these are forged in the human mind itself.
Independence is a subtle and often misunderstood treasure. People who are losing their sight frequently rail at their loss of independence, by which they mean their inability to do things in the same old way. And, if they refuse to master the skills that will enable them to carry out their daily responsibilities using alternative techniques, they are correct, for they will be forever dependent on those around them. We humans don't like change, especially change imposed on us against our wills, so it frequently happens that we focus our dislike on the manifestations of our altered condition: "I wouldn't be caught dead using a cane." "I don't need Braille." And gradually the prison walls rise around us, cutting us off both from what we have been and from what we have the power to become.
But independence is also a slippery thing. Even when we think it is safely and permanently in our grasp, it can ooze away without our having noticed what was happening. The National Federation of the Blind has always expended a good deal of energy breaking down all kinds of prison walls and striking off the chains that bind blind people. Sometimes the job requires that we insist on the right to good rehabilitation training. Sometimes we must fight for legal protections for those demanding equal treatment. And sometimes we are called upon to struggle against the temptation to sit back and let others do things for us. Here is Christine Boone's story of such a struggle:
The first white flakes of winter swept past us on the wind as my children and I hurried along the sidewalk toward home. As we reached the corner, I took a small hand in each of mine, listened carefully above the sound of the wind, and asked my son Edward if he thought it was safe for us to cross. "Yes, Mommy, it's cold!"
I admonished, "Look to your left; do you see that car coming?"
"Oh yes, we have to wait, Mommy. I knew that."
"Well, if you knew that, why did you say we could go?" I asked as the car sped past on the already-damp street.
"I don't know; I just did," he replied in the matter-of-fact tone of a three-and-a-half-year-old.
I bent down and repeated the old "Stop, look, and listen" routine for what seemed like the hundredth time. Then we crossed the street together, hurried the last quarter block, and stepped gratefully into the snug warmth of our home.
Later, as I baked a batch of Halloween cookies while Edward and Katie took afternoon naps, I pondered the events of the morning. Was there anything so unusual about our walk together? Not really, these walks had become something of a routine since my decision to take a year off from work and stay home with my little ones. It was a good routine at that--one which we all treasured. There was a bouquet of fall leaves on the buffet--leaves gathered lovingly by the children and carried carefully home, where I arranged them in a basket which was proudly displayed for all to see. Edward and Katie did not wonder at the ability of a blind mother to make a fall decoration or to keep them out of harm's way during a walk along the highways and byways of Albuquerque. Nor should they wonder about such things. For me, as for countless other blind men and women today, the absence of eyesight is an inconvenience at times but nothing more. But it had not always been that way for me.
In 1977 I entered college at the University of Colorado. To say that I was painfully shy would be the understatement of the decade. Julie, my roommate, was also not long on courage, but people seemed to warm to her somehow, while I, in my need to exhibit an independence which I did not feel, tended to push people away without realizing it. At any rate, there we were, both blind but neither choosing to admit it. We shuffled around campus, never of course carrying canes; yet somehow, by the grace of God and our fellow students who occasionally took pity on us, managing to make it to most of our classes.
As the months passed, we grew more accustomed to the layout of the campus and a little less frightened about venturing forth. Then we began receiving phone calls about an organization of blind people which met every month in Boulder. At first we had no intention of associating with "those blind people." But the woman who called us--Anne was her name--was always so kind, and it never seemed to offend her that we didn't attend her meetings. So after a few months we broke down and said yes.
How well I remember that first meeting. It was run very efficiently by a blind president. The books seemed to be well kept by a blind treasurer. The minutes were thorough and were quickly read in Braille by a blind secretary. Most impressive of all, however, was what happened after the meeting adjourned. All of those blind people left for their homes; they just left! It was dark outside, and I, caneless, was feeling a bit nervous about walking the three blocks to my sorority house. And here were these blind people just tapping their canes in front of them and heading off down the street or to the bus stop, without concern or hesitation. That night marked the beginning of a richer life for me, a life full of freedom and adventure.
Julie and I both began to use canes. She was already enlightened enough to use Braille regularly and well, and she encouraged me to use it too. I had learned the system in high school but had never really used it in my daily life. Our other Federation friends taught us the finer points of cane travel, and we soon began taking part in national conventions, Washington Seminars, NAC-tracking, and other Federation activities. Before we quite knew what had happened, we were confident, competent blind people, graduating from college. The year was 1981.
In 1982 I moved to Nebraska to take a job with the Nebraska Services for the Visually Impaired, and before long I was teaching cane travel to blind adults in the Orientation Center there. While in Nebraska, I met and married my husband Doug.
Because Doug is also a cane travel instructor and a truly enlightened sighted person, he expected and demanded that I, as a blind person, live what we taught in the Center; and this belief in me, together with my continued work as a travel teacher, brought me to the pinnacle of my own independence. There was really nothing I thought I could not do and nowhere I thought I could not go. It was a wonderful feeling, one I thought I would never lose.
Then, in the winter of 1987, we moved to the wild Pacific coast of Oregon, where Doug had taken a job with the Oregon Commission for the Blind. For the first time in my adult life, I found myself unemployed and living in a small town with no public transportation. True, Lincoln City did have a cab--one little car, driven by one man who routinely left town for a day or two at a time, taking with him my only transit. Furthermore, though the town was only a half mile wide, it was seven miles long, which meant that walking to most stores and other businesses involved trekking two or three miles each way, usually in the rain--an exercise I did not relish.
Well there I was, watching the cold, gray winter change imperceptibly to the cold, gray summer and wondering what to do with myself. I went to the nearest unemployment office (forty miles away) and filled out applications. I sent out resumes, had some interviews, became pregnant, and volunteered two days a week at the local Chamber of Commerce as a tourist information specialist.
After ten months on the coast, we were transferred to Portland, where I immediately lumbered to the nearest bus stop and rode off in a state of exhilaration to visit my obstetrician. In the weeks that followed, I traversed the hills of Portland, both on foot and by bus. Then Edward was born, and I settled into a routine which did not involve much in the way of independent travel. It was very easy for me to rationalize this new behavior. There were no sidewalks in our part of town, and we lived near a busy street. It would be extremely dangerous for me to wheel Edward in his stroller along Garden Home Road with its speeding drivers, steep ditches, and sharp curves. Of course the bus stop was on our corner, and I did not even need to transfer to reach the grocery store, the mall, or the downtown area beyond. Nevertheless, I generally confined myself to walking the quiet streets of our neighborhood, taking the bus only once to the grocery store, and riding downtown or to the mall only if I had a very pressing reason.
Then it was time for the national convention in Chicago, and we packed up the baby and set out, ready to see old friends and learn new things. When we arrived, I was unprepared for the feelings of insecurity which overwhelmed me as we stepped through the door of the Hyatt into that throng of Federationists. No, it was not my first convention, far from it. I had participated in conventions for years, teaching cane travel seminars, working crowd control, and helping people to learn their way around the hotels and surrounding areas. Yet this year was different--gone was the confidence which I had once taken for granted, and I slipped almost unconsciously into the pattern I had begun to follow at home. I went everywhere with Doug, not using sighted guide technique, of course, but following him or waiting for him to tell me which way we needed to go. Even more startling was the fact that he was as unaware of the change as I and did nothing to encourage me to strike out on my own. The decrease in my independence had occurred so gradually that neither of us recognized the change. You see, it is true: skills which we do not use, we begin to lose. It becomes all too easy to rationalize this loss of independence and, almost inevitably, of the self-worth that accompanies it without realizing the extent to which in so doing we jeopardize our own self-respect as well as the respect of others. Fortunately for me my colleagues in the National Federation of the Blind are the best kind of friends anyone could have. They were not about to let me compromise the independence which I had worked so hard to attain.
It was about the third day of the convention, and I was having lunch with Rosemary Lerdahl. Rosemary had been my supervisor when I taught in the Orientation Center, and she is a dear friend and a wonderful person. She began asking me about the things I had done since coming to Chicago. After listening to my answers, she suggested that I take in the exhibit hall, the Taste of Chicago, and the shopping when convention wasn't in session. I explained how difficult it was to do all those things with a baby along, and she looked over at Edward, who was intermittently watching the waterfall and smiling at passers-by. She calmly remarked that he might enjoy some of those attractions too, and besides, there was childcare. What could I say? I summoned up all of my nerve and asked quietly, "Rose, do you think I'm incompetent; I mean, have I lost my skills?"
"Well I have noticed that they seem a little rusty, and I think you have lost a little of your self-confidence." Her reply confirmed my worst fears. My independence was gone, and everybody knew it. Federationists are not oblivious; they know when a colleague who once traveled independently and well ceases to do so, but neither are Federationists judgmental or critical. We stand ready to lend help and support in enabling one another to be the best we can. In keeping with this precept, Rosemary did not criticize me or ask how I could have let my independence slip and my confidence erode.
The next morning, when we left our hotel room, Doug walked silently beside me, stopping whenever we came to a turn to let me decide which way we needed to go. Lo and behold, we made it to breakfast quickly and without incident. Afterward I found the Oregon delegation, went to work at the information desk, and at noon went off alone to find lunch for my fellow workers. No, these were not milestones; indeed I have done all of them at conventions since without giving them a second thought. But that day marked the beginning of my return to excellence--the excellence I must maintain if I am to serve as a representative of the National Federation of the Blind. At the end of the day I was exhilarated. I had not lost my independence forever; it had merely taken a back seat for a time, and as a result I had begun to feel unsure of myself. I thank Heaven for that lunch with Rosemary and for her honesty and encouragement.
I returned to Portland and set to work removing the tarnish from my travel skills. Edward and I went to the mall to buy a birthday gift for Doug. We took the bus downtown and met him for lunch. Edward even came along while I taught cane travel to some Federationists in the Portland area. A few months later we moved here to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Doug joined Fred Schroeder's team at the Commission for the Blind, and Edward and I hit the road again. After all, there is much to be done when you move to a new town. Yes, I had a few butterflies the first time we set out for the bus stop, but we traveled around the city easily and without incident as Edward rode comfortably on my back, dozing in our warm New Mexico sunshine.
How fortunate I am to be a part of the National Federation of the Blind. It was through the NFB that I first learned about independence, acquired a long white cane, got my first real job, and met my fantastic husband. When I unwittingly let my skills grow rusty and my confidence seep away, it was the Federation that got me back on track again. Independence is a treasure, a hard-earned reward for a job well done. Whether we know it or not, in everything we do, we teach. So let us all protect this hard-won treasure and pass it on whenever we can.
by Gary Wunder
Readers of the Braille Monitor know that what they find in this magazine generally falls into one of three categories: reports of what the Federation is doing, other happenings in the field of blindness, and firsthand stories about problems blind people have faced and how they have dealt with them. This piece is different because it speaks to something we must think about, rather than something we have long since discussed among ourselves, arriving at a decision that reflects our collective experience. In short, this is an editorial. What follows does not instruct readers on Federation philosophy, attempt to lecture on moral rightness, or pretend that this issue is like others and therefore has been clearly resolved in Federation tradition or policy. Instead it is a plea for you to search your heart and soul, to use your rational mind, and to help us decide what we should communicate to the public about what it means to be blind.
Sometime in December of 2012, middle-aged deaf twin brothers in Belgium chose to end their lives because they suffered from glaucoma, which would inevitably lead to blindness. They were supported by their family and assisted by a doctor who described their last hours by saying that they both drank coffee, dressed themselves in new suits and shoes, waved to those around them, and smiled as they received a lethal injection. Euthanasia, the practice of doctors actively participating in the death of a willing individual, is legal in Belgium, but normally requests such as the one made by the twins are honored only if a terminal illness is causing significant pain. The doctor, the twins’ brother, and the parents have all agreed that no pain was associated with the illness that would eventually destroy their vision. According to a brother, the family tried to talk the twins out of ending their lives but eventually consented when they decided the twins were resolute in their decision.
The surprising and alarming thing that many Federationists observed in reading the coverage was reporters’ and commentators’ passive acceptance of the twins’ decision to die because of the prospect of becoming blind. Certainly the reality most of us experience makes us as reluctant to face death as our sighted friends and neighbors, but nowhere in this coverage could one find the slightest suggestion that blind and deafblind people have any quality of life. Nowhere was there a contrast between the life the twins thought they must avoid and the life many deafblind people live.
Let us admit from the outset that we do not know much about the lives of these brothers. Although it was not clearly stated in some of the earliest articles that appeared, later ones suggest that the twins had other medical complications that made it difficult for one or both of them to sleep. One article suggested that the twins could communicate only by using a language that they and their family had developed, and it is unclear whether this presumably visual language could have readily been adapted to a tactile form. We do not know whether the twins knew how to read and write in the conventional sense and whether their communication with a self-developed language was a matter of choice or of not knowing the Belgian equivalent of American Sign Language.
With these questions, and perhaps fifty more that will remain unanswered, it still seems fair to ask whether a choice to die rather than face blindness is rational and defensible. Washington and Oregon recognize terminal illness and suffering as reasons to consider allowing a citizen to take his or her life. Courts have even upheld the rights of several severely disabled people to refuse treatment that would extend their lives on the grounds that they are so disabled that their quality of life would argue against intervening to save them.
State-of-the-art medical practice forces us to confront possibilities that go to the root of our most strongly held beliefs. What is blindness, and in the broader sense what is disability? What should the people involved be expected to know about blindness before the state is willing to sanction death because of it? A medical doctor may be qualified to predict the loss of eyesight, but is the medical profession well suited to judge blind people’s quality of life? The profession has not shown that it knows much about rehabilitation and has failed to offer much in the way of encouragement to people once one of its practitioners has determined that he or she can do no more to save a patient’s vision.
For the last two decades the world has been fascinated by analyzing DNA and decoding the genome. Medical science can now conduct prenatal testing to determine the likelihood of several disabilities, some of which can result in blindness. When one of these tests indicates that a child will be born with a disability, a genetic counselor gives this information to the parents and talks with them about the choices they face. As it is with doctors and nurses, so it is with genetic counselors: they understand the diagnostic tools that can reveal a disability, but few of them have any life experience or education that will lead them to accurate conclusions about what it is like to live as a disabled person or to be the family member of one. In more than 90 percent of the cases in which prenatal testing is done and reveals the likelihood of disability, the decision of the parents is to abort the fetus, a scary statistic for those of us who believe that most disabilities do not preclude an acceptable, enjoyable, and enriching quality of life. Without treading on the rights of would-be parents to take advantage of what medical science can offer them, is it reasonable to suggest that the counseling they receive include not only a discussion about the likelihood of a disability but information about that disability from the perspective of people who live with it? Should people making the decision of whether or not to bring a life into the world at least consider the experience and opinion of blind people and their families that life is as sacred and meaningful to us as it is to any other human who has walked the earth and fretted about the day when he or she will walk no more?
It can be dangerous to see everything that happens in the world as a slide down the slippery slope to oblivion, but surely it is reasonable to sound an alarm when blindness can be used as a reason to end one’s life or terminate a pregnancy. Unchallenged, might the assumptions underlying these actions someday be the basis for determining what kind of life-saving procedures will be used for you or me? If I am in a hospital suffering from pneumonia, I don’t want my blindness to factor into the decision about the quality of my life and to what extent medical practitioners should try to save me. If I suffer kidney failure, I don’t want to be placed lower on the transplant list because someone believes my quality of life is less than that of a person with normal vision. The message we work tirelessly to send to society about our capabilities has traditionally been motivated by our desire to participate in the mainstream of life: to be educated, trained, and allowed to participate as fully contributing citizens. How close might we be to the time when the message we send to society must be to make the case that we deserve a chance at life and deserve to receive every medical procedure to enhance and preserve it?
People wishing to read more should study articles by Dr. Adrienne Asch, a bioethicist who is blind, is an active member of the Federation, and is committed to seeing that these discussions have a disability perspective. Two articles will serve as a place to start: “Recognizing Death while Affirming Life: Can End of Life Reform Uphold a Disabled Person’s Interest in Continued Life?”; and “Disability, Bioethics, and Human Rights.”
Most conditions that cause blindness do not result in lifelong pain, are not terminal, and need not result in a diminished quality of life, as long as people receive effective training and opportunity. It would be hard to find someone willing to argue that blindness is a superior characteristic, but my observation is that most blind people are as grateful for their lives as the sighted are for theirs. Shouldn’t those of us who are the experts on living with blindness be the ones educating hospitals and their ethics committees, making presentations to medical students as they matriculate, and getting published in journals read by doctors, bioethicists, and genetic counselors? While all of us can enthusiastically support the efforts of the medical profession to increase longevity and improve the quality of life, shouldn’t those of us who are blind take a dim view of allowing blindness to be a factor in determining whether we get a life or how long that life will be?
by Chris Kuell
From the Editor: This example of how attending the NFB national convention has changed the lives of many of us is reprinted from the Fall/Winter 2012 issue of the Federationist in Connecticut, a publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut which is edited by Chris Kuell. He is the president of the Danbury chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut.
Most of us who faithfully attend NFB annual conventions have stories about the impact our first convention had on us. This is what Chris says about attending his first national convention:
In the summer of 1998 my wife and I entrusted the care of our kids to my brother and his wife, said a few prayers, and headed to Dallas for our first NFB national convention. My gut was full of anxiety, both because it was our first time leaving the kids for more than a few hours and because of the unknown that the convention was to me then. I really had no idea what to expect, except that a blind friend named Betty Woodward had encouraged us to go. She told us it would change our lives. Since my entire life had been overturned in the previous year after I lost my vision, I figured any further change could only be positive.
We caught a shuttle van from the airport to the hotel. A guy on the seat next to me asked if I was going to the NFB convention, and I said, yes, how about him? He told me he was going to his fifth convention. His name was Ed, and he was from Detroit. I asked whom he was traveling with and got my first shock of the week. "Nobody" he said.
"Nobody?” I asked, trying to wrap my head around this concept. I had received a white cane from our state agency for the blind and even knew my way to my kids’ school and the local Rite-Aid, but the concept of traveling to another state alone was beyond my comprehension. How could you find the door? How could you find the front desk to check in--or your room, for that matter? My brain nearly burst with questions.
I held my wife's elbow tightly as we checked in at the front desk, surrounded by blind people. Several asked my wife for directions, which she gave. We had to walk down a long hallway to another building to get to our room. As we walked, I heard little feet and kids laughing as they sprinted by. "You won't believe it," my wife said. "That was three blind kids, racing with their canes down the corridor."
Blind kids, running? Once again my mind was filled with one question: how?
We spent the afternoon listening to talks. I popped into a meeting of blind diabetics and another full of blind scientists and engineers. Before dinner we went to the pool for a swim. There I met Dan, a blind computer teacher who answered some of my many questions about JAWS. We spoke with two women who had driven down from upstate New York with a van full of kids. I talked with a blind single mom who was raising a daughter the same age as my son. She worked as an accountant at a company in Virginia.
My wife wanted to clean up before dinner, and she turned the TV on for me before showering. I listened as a man with a strong voice and a slight Tennessee drawl spoke about a blind man who was sitting at home waiting for someone to help him. He said the guy called and called his state agency for the blind, but they rarely called him back, and, when they did, they rarely did anything for him. They reminded him of all the things he couldn't do. The man felt worthless, he felt afraid, and he lost all hope for the future. As I listened, tears began to stream down my cheeks. The man on the television said he was talking about a guy named Bill, but I didn't think that was the case. He was talking about me.
After dinner we went to the bar, where I learned another truth—blind people like to drink. I talked with a guy named Mike from Canada and a man named Felix from San Diego, who had lost his sight, had it restored through surgery, and then lost it again. I heard stories of frustration, stories of adventures, and stories that made me laugh so hard my belly hurt. I felt more relaxed than I had since the day the doctor had removed the bandages from my eyes and I couldn't see anything.
After a week we left Dallas, and both my wife and I had changed. She didn't want me clutching her elbow anymore, and she wanted me to try doing more things by myself. Rather than my questioning how other blind people did things, I thought to myself—if they can do it, I can do it as well.
In 1999 we brought the kids with us to the convention in Atlanta, and in 2000 I attended the national convention by myself. I've been to conventions in Philadelphia, Louisville, and back to Atlanta again. With each convention I meet new people, make more friends, and come home reenergized to make a difference in the world.
by KathyMaria Badalamenti
From the Editor: A consistent message from the National Federation of the Blind is that living and working with the sighted is normal, that isolation is limiting and even smothering, and that moving beyond one’s comfort zone is sometimes necessary to live the lives we are entitled to enjoy. This message is easy to articulate and repeat; it is harder to live.
In this article KathyMaria Baladamenti has a goal; she is nervous and unsure, but she decides to participate in a race to help others. With humor, wit, humility, and determination, here is what she says about her experience:
On Sunday, May 6, 2012, I meet my team in the lobby of a hotel in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, at 5:00 AM for team pictures. My team is raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and we have trained hard for this cause. All of us wear purple shirts with our team name on them, which we have personalized by writing names of sponsors and heroes. My cousin Judy was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and underwent treatment while I was training for the race. I am wearing her name in my heart and on the back of my shirt. She is my hero.
After pictures are taken, we walk over to the Paul Brown Stadium to face other teams. In this crowd of three thousand are teens ready to sprint, people in wheelchairs, a person with a walking stick in each hand, blind runners tethered to a sighted person, and people of all ages from children to teens to young adults to seniors. Many in this heterogeneous group are dressed in pink in celebration of their newly acquired pighood.
Eight pig pens are set up for us to use in lining up for the race. We are assigned a wait pen according to our predicted race time. That is, the fastest group is assigned to pen one, the slowest group to pen eight, and all the others somewhere in between. It might look like the starting gates at the Olympics, except that a herd of us were stuffed into each pen.
I was assigned to pen number eight, the only one from my team to be there. So here I am, walking past pens one through eight, while the instructor chants “Keep on going” and my fellow teammates enter pens along the way. This means I have to go further than anybody else just to get to the start of the race. I walk a mile to be assigned the pig’s tail. On top of all this I end up in the back of pen eight behind two runners dressed in pink tutus and sporting curly wire tails that dance in my face.
I stand in my place, alternately batting away the curly pig tails and hitting the button on my talking watch, wondering when I get to start. I know I’m the last of thousands of people, and that’s all I do know.
At 6:00 AM we are all lined up and ready to go. The weather is absolutely beautiful, and I am grateful not to be carrying extra gear. The plan for nasty weather is to purchase extra coats, jackets, and other warm clothing at the thrift store and layer it over our running clothes. Then, as the weather improves, we peel off layer by layer and pitch it along the route for volunteers to gather up and take back to the thrift store. In this weather I need no coat or jacket.
I am ready to go, but we are not moving. Over the loud speakers we keep hearing a voice telling everyone to get into their pens. That voice wants three thousand pigs locked in their pens. Who is that voice? Who knows? I can’t even tell you where it’s coming from. Maybe from the sky, hmm? Is it God? Yes, Lord, I’m ready, and there are two pigs in front of me.
Then the program begins. We hear words from the person who started the Flying Pig Runs fourteen years ago, and from the person in charge this year, and a prayer is said by a priest, and the American flag is presented, and our national anthem is sung. Now it is 6:30 AM. Mr. Sun is smiling but not blowing any hot air. The first pen is opened; the race begins. I am standing still. The good thing is nothing hurts yet; the brace on my right knee is holding; my Depends is dry.
I will spare you the openings of the next six pens and get down to the important one. At 6:48 AM the last pen opens, and off I go, just 13.1 miles to go before lunch. The first 6.8 miles are pretty good. The temperature is rising, but it’s not too bad yet. I am running and walking in my intervals and enjoying the scenery. There are what are known as water stops along the way where people are offering us Gatorade and water, and before long the path is covered with discarded paper cups--kind of like a minefield of cups. I step on a few to hear them pop, and then I decide to play “dodge the cups.” That is a fun game when you are bored. Try it at your next yard party. There are spectators and lots of shouts of “go team,” “you're doin’ good,” and “thank you,” and people were holding up signs, which I understand had some neat things written on them. Maybe you can find someone else to tell you what they said. I would tell you if I knew, but I can’t see well enough to read unless my face is right in the words, and I can’t take time to run over to the signs and get real close.
Yep, the sidelines are blurry at best. I don’t know what they are doing on the sidelines. I miss the beer stop. Just a shot, but still I miss it. Might be good beer, too. I don’t know.
After one hour, forty-two minutes, and twenty-two seconds, I cross the 6.8 mile mark. At this pace I could finish the race by 10:04 AM. I figure that is too early for lunch, so I think I will just slow ‘er down and stroll along. So there I was, like being in a parade, waving at the spectators and thanking them for coming out to support us. There are handshakes and high fives with many well-wishers. I go through a water stop, where people are holding out water hoses for what I thought was what the coach meant by “misters” but, when I held my hand out to feel the cool water, I felt my shoe get wet, and I remembered Coach Stan saying, “Avoid getting your feet wet.” Oh no! What is going to happen now? Will my feet shrivel up? Too late, just keep moving.
Yeah, I am really enjoying myself. Another runner offers me a peanut butter cracker, and I eat it, hoping that it will not ruin my appetite for lunch. I don’t know where I am at this point, but I keep moving, and then I decide to play a little leap frog. I run to pass some people, and then I walk until they all pass me up, and then I run again to get ahead of them. It is lots of fun and makes the miles pass.
Mile marker nine, just 4.1 miles to go; it is getting pretty warm, and every inch of my clothing is soaking wet. Maybe I am delirious! I decide to remove the sweatband from my head and ring it out. As I attempt that trick while jogging, I drop my glasses and partially step on them. I stop and pick them up. They are a bit cattywampus, and I am afraid to twist them too much, so for the rest of the race I am looking through the bottom of the right lens and the top of the left lens, which makes me feel like the road is tilted to one side. I take what I see and follow the crowd.
Somewhere along the route, people jump out of the race to get their picture taken with Elvis. I give someone my phone and ask him to take my picture with Elvis. The nice fellow takes the picture for me and then hits the wrong button so the picture is not saved on my phone. I sit down on the grass to try to see my phone better and realize that my foot is killing me. I get my reading glasses on to find that the bottom of my foot has a blister rubbed by my compression stocking. By this time Elvis has left the vicinity, my foot hurts, and I have messed up my time. Not to waste more of it, I proceed with one sock on and one sock off.
My right hand is numb, so I keep shaking it, and, when I look, it is swollen and discolored. My wrist band and watch have cut off the circulation, and I must remove them. Now I am carrying them and wondering if I will lose my right hand, or did I remove the culprits in time? Then how would I type this story, which I have been constructing in my head as I deal with the challenges of the day?
All is well. I finish the race in three hours, twenty-four minutes, and eight seconds. I place twentieth out of the fifty in my division, female 61-65. Not so shabby, eh? It’s over. Here I am in my thermal wrap, my medal around my neck, happily eating up all manner of sweets. It’s a perfect day!
Humor aside, the best part is that I am able to raise $1,544.20 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and more specifically for the people for whom leukemia and lymphoma are a personal thing, those who stood at the sidelines and cheered us on--like the one little kid in a wheelchair who reaches for me. I can’t see her, but her father says to me, “She wants to touch your hand,” and then he reaches out and brings my hand to hers. Then there’s the man whom I can’t see but whose voice I hear coming from the side of the road saying, “Thank you so much. I have leukemia.” And finally there’s the lady who just finished the whole marathon, who says to me, “Twenty years ago I had leukemia, and my parents were told I would not grow up.”
Yep, I’d do it all over again. I’d do it for all of those people who need the cure my money is meant to bring, and I’d do it all again for me. Talking the talk may be the first step, but walking the walk is the ultimate journey.
by Emilie Gossiaux
From the Editor: Emilie Gossiaux gave this address at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), and repeated it at the 2012 semiannual convention of the NFB of Minnesota, while she was a student at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND). She has now graduated and returned to her studies at the Cooper Union in New York, using the new skills and confidence she gained at BLIND, Incorporated. We are reprinting her remarks from the Winter 2013 issue of the Minnesota Bulletin, the publication of the NFB of Minnesota. This is what Emily said:
Good evening, friends, family, teachers, faculty, and the graduating class of 2012. Before I begin, I want to thank the NOCCA Institute and NOCCA’s president, Kyle Wedberg, for inviting Alan and me here tonight as guest speakers. I am honored to share my story with you.
The first part begins nine years ago in 2003, when I was thirteen. I started attending classes at NOCCA. I remember feeling mesmerized by the beauty of the campus and the city. It became my second home, a haven where I could do anything and express myself freely in any way my heart desired amongst other young, blooming artists, musicians, singers, dancers, writers, and actors. NOCCA opened doors, gave me dreams, and helped me set my goals for the future. Ever since I was a young girl, I have been a high achiever. To be accepted into NOCCA was my first big accomplishment.
I believe I inherited this characteristic of perseverance from my early childhood hearing disability. When I was five years old, I put on my first hearing aids. I saw my hearing loss as something I would grow out of, as if it were an illness that would just get better over time. Unfortunately this was not the case. My heart broke when I found out that my hearing was not going to get any better and would most likely only deteriorate further. By the time I got to middle school, I was trying my hardest to conceal my hearing disability to fit in with everyone else, but I always felt that I was different. I never knew anyone or talked to another person with the same disability as mine, so I felt quite alone. I became quiet and terribly shy unless I was with my close friends, and when I wasn't, I drew. It was something I was proud of, something I felt I was good at.
After being accepted into NOCCA, I no longer felt alone or different. I knew I wanted to be an artist. It was here that I learned about the Cooper Union for the Advancement in Science and Art in New York City. I remember my mom coming home one night after a parent-teacher meeting and telling me that it was the most prestigious art school in the country. Right then, in my thirteen-year-old mind, I made a promise to myself that I would go there.
I want to talk to everyone tonight about what is most important when one wishes to become a successful artist. Talent, which I'm sure all of you have, is important of course, but, if you do not have a strong work ethic, the motivation, or the self-discipline, then it really doesn't matter how talented you are. This is the one thing I learned during my years at NOCCA, and I applied it, not only to my career as an artist, but also to everything in my life. After graduating from high school, I was accepted into my dream school, the Cooper Union, and it was there that I became a full-fledged workaholic. This time I just wanted to be the best.
The second part of my story begins in the summer of 2010. Before I started my senior year of college, I underwent a surgical procedure called a cochlear implant to improve the hearing in my left ear. After the surgery I decided to take a semester off from school. That fall I got an internship working for an artist in Brooklyn and continued creating my own paintings in my studio apartment. I rode my bicycle to work every morning and rode it home every night. I felt as though my life was finally falling into place, exactly the way I wanted it to be. I had a job I loved, I had a beautiful studio loft in Brooklyn, I was living with the most loving and supportive boyfriend imaginable, and I had the comfort and ease of riding my bike whenever I needed to go somewhere.
Only nine months after I started dating Alan, four months after I had my surgery, and one month after getting my job, everything—my entire life—turned upside down. On the morning of October 8, 2010, I got on my bike to ride to work, kissed my boyfriend goodbye, and rode off. Merely ten minutes after I took off, an eighteen-wheeler semi hit me. Six weeks later I woke up in a hospital with Alan and my mother by my side. My mother told me my accident was a traumatic brain injury (TBI), that I had a stroke in the emergency room, and that my right arm was paralyzed. My left femur was shattered in the accident and had been replaced with a titanium rod. I was also told that the optic nerve in my left eye was severed from the impact of the truck to my left side, and my right optic nerve had atrophied from the swelling in my brain. Due to my injuries, I could no longer see, I could not walk, and I had very little control of my right arm. From there on I went through many months of physical and occupational therapy as an inpatient at the hospital.
It's a strange and funny thing that when I awoke from my drug-induced coma and realized that the accident had blinded me, I wasn't afraid, and I didn't cry. Once again, I believed it was something that would come back to me and would gradually get better with the help of developing medicine and technology. However, I soon realized that I couldn't wait around and rely on that glimmer of hope. Instead I took action. In order to regain my independence as a blind woman, I started taking Braille classes along with cooking and white cane travel classes in New York City. The words “stop” and “give up” never once occurred to me. But I would be lying if I told you that I never doubted my capabilities. There I was, partially deaf, unable to walk, and now blind. The thing that scared me the most was the thought of going back to Cooper and completing my senior year as a visual art student. I was afraid of what people would think of me. How could I make art if I couldn't see? How could I ever enjoy it again? What else could I do if it was the only thing I had ever done and the only thing I was good at?
The artist in me needed the most time to heal. It took many months and the help of many friends before I felt confident enough to become an artist again. During these past four months I have been working alongside another blind artist/craftsman in his wood shop. He was born blind and has been designing and building his own furniture since he was nineteen. This man has given me a priceless gift and has shown me an invaluable lesson: that sight has nothing to do with making art; it's the vision within that matters. My dream was to graduate from the Cooper Union and to be a successful artist in New York City, and it still is.
Not only was this traumatic experience horrifying beyond imagination, it was also an enlightenment. This past year I have learned more about myself, which I probably would never have known otherwise. Because of my hearing disability, I always saw myself as being the weaker link, since I was always competing with the rest of the hearing world. However, I have discovered all of my strengths. I have learned that I have a strong will to succeed, and I have found that I have more discipline than anyone else I know. Through this experience I have also found true love and have realized who my true friends are, without whom I would not be where I am today.
You never know what kind of challenges life will throw at you or where you'll end up, but you must never forget who you are, and you must always hold on to your dreams. My mobility instructor, when teaching me how to walk with a white cane, taught me how to maneuver around objects, such as newspaper stands, bus stops, or trees, when confronted with them. I also apply his advice to how we can handle the things life puts in our way. He told me, "We must walk through life like water in a stream. When the water hits a rock or a tree in its path, it doesn't stop; it gracefully moves around that object and finds its way back on track.” This is also my advice to you. Don't let life stop you from achieving your dreams; take it as a challenge, something from which you can only gain. You must remember there is no wrong or right way, and it doesn't matter how you get there. The only thing that matters is that you get there.
And now congratulations, class of 2012; I wish you all happy travels on your journey through life. Thank you.
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.
by Marc Maurer
From the Editor: President Maurer has written a tribute to former NFB president, Russell Kletzing. It is followed by his obituary as it appeared in the Sacramento Bee for March 3-4, 2013:
Russell Kletzing (Russ), who died February 15, 2013, served as president of the National Federation of the Blind from 1962 until 1966. He was a lawyer trained in California who worked for much of his career for state government. He came to his appreciation of the law—and he got a lot of his training—from Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, the first president of the National Federation of the Blind. Dr. tenBroek was Russ’s mentor, his friend, and his leader. He also supported Kletzing’s election for president of the National Federation of the Blind. During the time that Dr. Kenneth Jernigan served as a member of the faculty of the newly established California Orientation Center in Oakland, from 1953 to 1958, he and Russ became good friends. At the time Dr. tenBroek was, of course, president of the Federation. He had a group of leaders who worked with him to build the organization and to manage its affairs. Russ Kletzing, Tony Mannino, Muzzy Marcelino, Perry Sundquist, and Dr. Jernigan were all part of this group. Russ became president during a time of turmoil in the Federation, and he brought stability to the organization at a time when its governance had suffered from chaotic conditions. During his presidency there was a period of rebuilding and slow but steady growth.
I never met Russ Kletzing, but I have heard his voice, and I participated in the 1969 convention, at which I believe he was present. Russ ceased to be a political factor in the Federation beginning in about 1970. After I had become president of the organization, I invited him to visit the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, but he never accepted the invitation.
Although Russ ceased to be a political factor in the organization, he never sought to disrupt it. In the 1990s he offered us some of his recollections in an oral history.
Russ Kletzing is remembered for a very practical approach to the politics of blindness and to the operations of the Federation itself. When Dr. tenBroek was thinking of resigning from the presidency, Russ Kletzing remarked, “The only thing you get by resigning is out of office.” This direct, practical approach to the politics within the organization is what Russell Kletzing is noted for pursuing. He benefited from the Federation; he served as our leader for four years; his life was enriched by his experiences in the organized blind movement; and he did what he could to contribute to it.
The presidency of the Federation is a most demanding and challenging position. It changes the people who take the job. I appreciate Russell Kletzing’s willingness to attempt to manage the administration of the Federation during a period of trial, and I am a little sorry that he did not accept the invitation to visit our headquarters, to share ideas, and perhaps to be willing to become active in the organization once again. I respect him for the positions he took and the leadership he offered.
From the Editor: The newspaper obituary for Russell Kletzing does not mention his blindness directly. He became totally blind at about eighteen months of age, which means that, like Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and President Maurer, his impressive list of life accomplishments was completed as a totally blind man. Here is the obituary for Russell Kletzing as published in the Sacramento Bee for March 3 and 4, 2013:
1925 - 2013
On the morning of February 15, Russell Kletzing passed away peacefully in his sleep at his home at the age of eighty-seven. He will be greatly missed by his wife Ruth of 59 years of marriage and close friendship, and his son Craig and daughter-in-law Jeanette, and son James. He will also be missed by Quang Huynh, who has been like a third son, and his family, as well as Julie Mandarino, who spent much of her growing-up years with the family, and his nephew Roger Peterson and nieces, Janis Lord and Nancy Barr and grand-nieces, Amanda and Emily Barr. He was preceded in death by his brother, Gene and two sisters, Elizabeth and Marion.
Russ graduated with a degree in chemistry from U.C. Berkeley, in 1945, followed by a year at the University of Chicago for his first year of law school. He completed his law degree at Boalt Hall, U.C. Berkeley in 1948. He worked for the State of California, Department of Water Resources for thirty years, retiring as assistant chief counsel in 1988. During those years of working, he was very active in the organized blind movement, serving as president of the local and state chapters, and then was president of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) from 1962 to 1966. Many blind leaders in other countries had attended an NFB convention in Arizona during those years, so, following his presidency, the NFB sent Russell and his wife, Ruth, on a round-the-world trip for six weeks to those countries to be of service and education to them.
After retirement Russ was a volunteer with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). He was also very active in the Renaissance Society of Sacramento at CSUS [California State University, Sacramento], serving on its board for several years. Many thanks go to Russ' former caregiver, Deanna, who returned to be of much help. A Celebration of Life will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento on Saturday, March 9, at 2:00. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to CASA at CASA Program, Inc., P. O. Box 278383, Sacramento, CA, 95827 or any charity of one's choice.
From the Editor: As President Maurer has said, many of us know little about former President Russell Kletzing because his significant involvement predates our own. To get a sense of how this leader was regarded in the time when he was active and at the center of the movement, we reprint the following from the August 1966 issue of the Braille Monitor:
"Under his presidency, we have regained unity, vigor, and renewed dedication. Because of him we are stronger as a movement and better as men."
With these words the Federation's leader, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, bestowed the Newel Perry Award upon its chief executive of the past four years, Russell Kletzing, in a ceremony highlighting the convention banquet on the evening of July 7 .
Kletzing was described in the speech of presentation as "the active agent of rehabilitation and reunion" who in 1962 "took arms against a sea of troubles, internal as well as external."
Dr. tenBroek went on to recall his acquaintance of more than twenty years with the Federation's outgoing president. "I first met Russ in the years of World War II when I was a lowly instructor and he was a high-minded student at the University of California at Berkeley," he said.
Pointing to Kletzing's rapid rise in the California Department of Water Resources--"where he has won several achievement awards and a rapid succession of promotions leading to his present eminence as assistant chief counsel"--Dr. tenBroek observed that his professional advance "has been more than matched by his rise in the leadership ranks of the organized blind movement. In 1959 he became president of the California Council of the Blind and held that position until the Federation's national convention chose him for the presidency in 1962 and reelected him in 1964."
Prior to presenting the Newel Perry Award to Kletzing, Dr. tenBroek called attention to the "unique significance" of the award: "In our field, as in the military services, there are basically two kinds of citations. Most of them are simply `good conduct' medals--that is, rewards for cooperating with the powers that be and not rocking the boat.
"The other kind of citation--unfortunately much more rare--is that which is given for valor in combat. The Newel Perry Award is such a citation. It is presented not for good conduct but for outrageous behavior. It is a testimonial to the voice that cries untiringly in the wilderness--like Jacob Freid's in the Jewish Braille Review. It is a tribute to the maverick who kicks off the custodial traces and breaks new orientation and rehabilitation ground--like Ken Jernigan in Iowa.
"It is a celebration of the independent statesman who leads better than he follows--like Vance Hartke, Cecil King, Jennings Randolph, Walt Baring, and that well-remembered young man who authored the Kennedy Bill," Dr. tenBroek said.
"The Newel Perry Award is a means of expressing our appreciation to the intrepid adventurers and missionaries of Federationism--like Isabelle Grant. It is a way of thanking those quiet warriors of welfare who continue year after year to fight the good fight--like Perry Sundquist in California and John Mungovan in Massachusetts.
"The Newel Perry Award is for those who, being unafraid to walk alone, march together with us in our forward movement--or who run ahead on the Biblical mission of removing the mines and stumbling blocks from the path of the blind.
"The man we honor tonight," he said with reference to Kletzing, "the recipient of the Newel Perry Award for 1966, is that kind of person."
by Anna Kresmer
From the Editor: The following is another in our series of historical documents in the Jacobus tenBroek Library:
All members of the Federation know that the NFB is made up of fifty-two affiliates, including one for each state, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. Each of these affiliates is modeled after the national organization with elected officers, a board of directors, constitution or by-laws, divisions which represent member interest groups, appointed committees, and annual conventions, where resolutions are passed by the will of the assembled membership. Apart from some subtle variations, the make-up of the modern NFB affiliate has remained relatively unchanged since 1982, when the current format of the NFB charter of affiliation was adopted by all NFB affiliates, excluding Montana, which chose not to sign, and Puerto Rico, which did not become an affiliate until 1992. But 1982 can be a misleading date. In truth the development of the affiliates that make up the NFB today evolved over forty years. So how did we get here? The answer, of course, can be found in the archives at the Jacobus tenBroek Library.
In the earliest days of the Federation what would be identified as an affiliate today was simply called a member, and the requirements for membership were basic. As stated in the original version of the NFB constitution, drafted at the founding meeting in 1940:
Article III. Membership:
Section a) The membership of the National Federation of the Blind shall consist of delegations from each of the states of the United States.
Section b) Each state shall have one vote.
Section c) Delegations shall represent organizations of the blind controlled by the blind; but individuals may be admitted to membership with all the privileges and duties of representative members except that they shall not be entitled to vote or hold office.
In the interest of quickly building a nationwide, coordinated movement of organized blind people, the founders left much to be defined about the way in which an affiliate organization should be run and how its relationship to the national office should work. No one had ever tried to coordinate a national disability rights movement before, and it was crucial to keep up the momentum. As a result some organizations were allowed to join the Federation who, for one reason or another, would not have been admitted if they applied today. Unsurprisingly, as the Federation grew and its framework developed, ensuring that the original intent of its founding—to create a national organization controlled by blind people to treat collectively with the federal government for the economic and social welfare of all blind Americans—became an increasingly unmanageable task.
To combat this problem, in 1954 the Executive Committee (a precursor of the NFB board of directors) created a committee on affiliate standards, the task of which was to define the requirements for and outline the powers of a state affiliate. The committee's first act was to create the NFB's first affiliate standards report, the recommendations of which were formally adopted in a resolution at the National Convention in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1955. Over the next twenty-seven years, the relationship between the national and affiliate organizations would continue to evolve into the system still used in 2013—with many peaks and valleys along the way. But the foundation for the affiliates that together are the National Federation of the Blind today was undoubtedly laid in 1955. Here is the text of that report:
Report of the Committee on Affiliate Standards of the National Federation of the Blind
Adopted at the Omaha Convention, July 18, 1955
Since the establishment of the National Federation of the Blind in 1940, many questions have arisen regarding the relationship between the Federation and its affiliates. These questions arise most frequently on the subject of organization and program standards within the respective state affiliates. Because many of these questions could not be directly answered, the Federation’s executive committee in July of 1954 created this Committee on Affiliate Standards to make a study of this subject and to make recommendations which, if adopted by the convention, would serve as guides for affiliated organizations.
The Committee on Affiliate Standards is composed of:
Durward K. McDaniel, Chairman
Clyde Ross, and
The Committee met in Chicago at the end of October, 1954. The nature of the task requires that the product of the committee’s work be made in the form of a Statement of Policy which will become official when and if it is adopted by a Federation convention.
Statement of Policy Applicable to Affiliate Standards
by Carla McQuillan
If you are between the ages of six weeks and twelve years, NFB Camp is the place to be at national convention this year in Orlando. During meetings and general convention sessions NFB Camp will be open for fun.
Our camp rooms are divided by age with toys and activities appropriate to the ages served in each room. We have rooms for infants and toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children. The infants and toddlers spend much of their time in the room with occasional walks around the hotel and stories read from Braille books. The preschool group will enjoy Braille story time, arts and craft projects, and small group play on the hotel lawns. The school-age children will have special-guest presentations on writing stories, science and technology, music and movement, and blind people employed in different professions. In addition, we will have daily excursions to the hotel lawns for outdoor games and water play.
Just down the street from the hotel is an indoor fun house called Monkey Joe’s. This air-conditioned party room has several giant inflatable structures with slides, obstacle courses, bounce houses, and ball pits. In addition there are several carnival and arcade games. We will be taking small groups of children to Monkey Joe’s several times throughout the week. The cost will be ten dollars per child, which includes transportation on the local shuttle that runs up and down International Drive and admission to all the attractions at Monkey Joe’s. Children must be between the ages of five and twelve, and priority will be given to children enrolled in NFB Camp for the week. Look for sign-up sheets at the NFB Camp registration desk when you get to the convention.
NFB Campers will enjoy their own banquet night activities beginning with their meal. After dinner the children will enjoy games and win prizes at the camp carnival.
NFB Camp is under the supervision of Carla McQuillan, president of the NFB of Oregon, and a longtime member of the Federation. Carla is the executive director of Main Street Montessori Association, operating three Montessori schools and a teacher-education program. She has directed NFB camp since 1996. Alison McQuillan serves as the activities and staff coordinator for camp. She monitors the daily programs, the drop-off and pick-up of children, and the staff-to-child ratio. She also ensures that only parents and authorized adults are allowed into camp rooms.
Each of the three camp rooms has a supervisor who is responsible for the activities of that room’s age group. These leads are chosen because of their experience and demonstrated capacity to handle groups of children and workers. Other workers and camp volunteers are drawn from within the organization. We usually have a mix of blind and sighted teens and adults who work with the children.
Michelle Chacon is a certified Orientation and Mobility instructor and a teacher of blind children. She will be available throughout the week to consult with parents and staff, as well as to provide some individualized instruction for our campers.
NFB Camp maintains a list of people who are interested in providing care outside of the scheduled hours for camp. The list is at the check-in desk for NFB Camp. Parents are welcome to review names on the list if they are in need of caregivers during off hours. NFB Camp and the National Federation of the Blind are not responsible for the actions and behavior of those on the babysitting list. We do not screen the people; we merely maintain a central list for the convenience of convention attendees.
Because of limited space we require that parents wishing to enroll their children in NFB Camp complete and return the registration form that follows no later than June 15, 2013. You may also email or call to reserve your child’s or children’s space: <firstname.lastname@example.org> or (541) 653-9153. Any questions can also be directed to Carla McQuillan at the same mailing address, email, and phone.
Completed form and fees must be received on or before June 15, 2013.
City__________ State___________ Zip______ Phone _______________
Cell Phone _______________ Cell Phone _______________
Child or children’s Name(s)
___________________________ Age_____ Date of Birth___________
___________________________ Age_____ Date of Birth___________
___________________________ Age_____ Date of Birth___________
Include description of any disabilities or allergies we should know about:
Who, other than parents, is allowed to pick up your child or children? ________
PER WEEK: $100 first child, $75 for each sibling.
(Does not include banquet) First Child = $ 100
# of additional siblings ____ x $75 = $ ________
TOTAL for the week = $ _______
Or PER DAY: $25 per child per day:
(Does not include banquet) M T W TH F S (circle)
($25 x ____ # of children) = $ _______ x ______ # of days = TOTAL $________
BANQUET: $25 per child.
___ # Turkey Sandwich. ____# Cheese Sandwich. # of children ___ x $25 = $ ________
TOTAL CAMP FEE: $ __________
We understand that NFB Camp is being provided as a service to make our convention more enjoyable for both parents and children. We will pick up children immediately following sessions. We understand that, if our child or children do not follow the rules or if for any reason staff are unable to care for our children, further access to childcare will be denied.
Parent’s Signature _____________________________________ Date ______________
Make checks payable to NFB Camp.
Return form to NFB Camp, 5005 Main Street, Springfield, OR 97478; (541) 726-6924; and <www.mainstreetmontessori.org>.
NFB Camp will be open during general convention sessions, division and committee meeting day, and the evening of the banquet. The hours for NFB Camp are tentative. The actual hours will be based on the beginning and ending of sessions so that parents can drop off their children thirty minutes before the start of session and must pick up their children within thirty minutes of the end of session. On occasion the actual end or beginning of session may be earlier or later than the agenda indicates. We charge a $10 per quarter-hour per child late pick-up fee. NFB Camp provides morning and afternoon snacks. You must provide lunch for your children every day.
Date NFB Camp Hours
Monday, July 1st 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 2nd Camp is closed.
Wednesday, July 3rd 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m.
Thursday, July 4th 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m.
Friday, July 5th 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 6th 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m.
Banquet 6:30 p.m.–30 minutes after adjournment.
Additional forms (emergency info, waivers, etc.) will be mailed or emailed after we receive the completed registration form.
by Allen Harris
From the Editor: Allen Harris chairs the Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund committee. He has an important announcement for those who would like to attend this year's national convention but find themselves short of funds. This is what he says:
The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund is looking for individuals who can use some financial assistance to attend our national convention in Orlando, Florida. At the 2012 convention in Dallas we were able to assist sixty-three people. In 2013 our convention will begin on Monday, July 1, and run through Saturday, July 6. The convention is a day shorter than you might expect, ending with the banquet Saturday evening.
Who is eligible to receive a Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship? If you are a member of the National Federation of the Blind who has not yet attended a national convention, you are eligible to apply.
What do I have to do to apply for a Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship? You must do the following and are responsible for meeting these application requirements:
1. Each individual who applies for a Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship must write a letter to the selection committee. You will send your letter of application to your NFB state affiliate president. A list of state presidents is posted on the NFB website <www.nfb.org>. He or she will forward your completed application, along with his or her recommendation, to the committee at <email@example.com>. 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>. We look forward to seeing you in Orlando.
This month’s recipes have been contributed by members of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. Many appearing this month can be found in the cookbook created by the affiliate. The book is called Serving Our Best: Great Foods to Cheer You Right Up! The book is available in Braille, in print, and on CD as a Word document and BRF file. It is $10 and includes over seventy-five recipes of all types. To order, visit the NFB of Maryland website <http://www.nfbmd.org> and pay using Paypal. Alternatively, email <email@example.com> to place an order, or write a check payable to National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, and send it to 1026 East 36th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218.
Easy Crock-Pot® Cream of Crab Soup
by Will Schwatka
Will Schwatka manages the recording studio at the Jernigan Institute and is the voice of the Braille Monitor, Future Reflections, and other publications produced by the NFB. He is a member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter.
3 cans condensed cream of potato soup
2 cans condensed cream of celery soup
4 large cans evaporated milk
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
8 ounces Velveeta cheese, cubed
1 pound crab meat, shell bits removed
Old Bay seasoning to taste
Method: Combine all ingredients except Velveeta, crab meat, and Old Bay and heat on low in crockpot until hot, about an hour. Add cubed Velveeta, crabmeat, and Old Bay to taste. Heat on low until Velveeta has melted, about a half-hour. Serve.
by Carylin Walton
Carylin Walton works in the NFB Jernigan Institute’s Outreach Department. She is a member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter.
1 1/2 pounds ground beef, 80/20 %
1/2 cup onion, chopped into small dice
3/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon McCormick Hamburger Seasoning
1 tablespoon McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 small eggs
2 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 tablespoon sour cream
Method: In a large bowl combine ground beef, onion, breadcrumbs, seasonings, Worcestershire sauce, and egg, and mix gently until well blended. If mixture is too moist, add more breadcrumbs. Form mixture into medium-sized meatballs and place on a baking sheet lined with heavy aluminum foil. Bake at 350 degrees for forty-five to fifty minutes or until done, and remove from oven. Place meatballs in separate bowl, cover with foil to keep warm, and reserve two tablespoons of drippings. In a large nonstick pot, combine the two cans of mushroom soup, sour cream, and reserved drippings, and heat on low to medium heat, stirring occasionally until smooth and creamy. Add meatballs and continue to stir over low heat for fifteen to twenty minutes. Serve with baked potatoes, egg noodles, or white or brown rice.
Honey Dipped Chicken
by Janice Toothman
Janice Toothman is a member of the Sligo Creek Chapter of the NFB of Maryland and is in charge of the guide dog committee there. Readers may recognize her name from her article in the March 2013 issue of the Monitor.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup prepared mustard
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts or chicken tenders
Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Place butter in the baking dish and put into the preheated oven to melt. Check the butter frequently so that it does not burn. This takes five to eight minutes, depending on your oven. Remove the baking dish from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Add the curry powder and prepared mustard; stir until smooth. Add the honey and stir well. Place the chicken in honey mustard sauce and coat evenly on both sides, taking care that pieces do not overlap. Return the baking dish to the oven and bake for twenty minutes. Baste chicken with honey mustard sauce and bake for an additional fifteen to twenty-five minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken pieces. Remove to a cooling rack and baste chicken with honey mustard sauce. Serve this dish with rice or accompanied by vegetable side dishes.
Note: I use orange blossom honey because it provides extra flavor and contrasts nicely with the curry, but any type of honey will do. If you are watching carbohydrates, substitute water for half the honey. It tastes the same. Just add the water with the honey.
Mouth-Watering Cheese and Macaroni
by Tracey Hall-Hennigan
Tracey Hall-Hennigan has been a longtime member of the NFB of Maryland. She is on the board of directors of the Greater Baltimore Chapter and is an advisor to the Maryland Association of Blind Students. Tracey loves to cook, and we have all enjoyed her cheese and macaroni at chapter gatherings.
1 1-pound box elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese
8 ounces Velveeta Cheese
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese
8 ounces Muenster cheese
1 8-ounce container sour cream
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
1 stick butter
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place large pot of water with seasoning salt over high heat. Once water comes to a boil, add vegetable oil, then elbow macaroni. Cook about 10 minutes (do not overcook.) Rinse pasta in cold water and drain well. Return to pot. In medium saucepan melt butter; add flour and one cup half-and-half. Stir constantly to prevent lumping. When mixture thickens, add all cheeses, eggs, and the remaining half-and-half. Stir until cheeses are melted. Add seasonings and sour cream. Stir well. Add sauce to macaroni and mix well. Pour into casserole dish. Spread evenly and cover. Bake until bubbly around the edges, about forty-five minutes. Serve hot.
Viking Sauce for Vegetables and Meats
by Lorraine Rovig
Lorraine Rovig joined the NFB in 1975 after being hired as a librarian at the Iowa Commission for the Blind. She now works at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, where she proofreads many of the documents produced by the staff before they leave the building. She also assists the chair of the NFB scholarship committee. Lorraine says many dishes from Scandinavia add a dash of nutmeg, which led her to develop this one.
1 small container low-fat sour cream (not the no-fat kind)
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg (or to taste)
Method: Stir nutmeg into the sour cream. Heat the opened container in the microwave until hot. Stir again. Serve in an attractive serving dish. Now spoon this low-calorie sauce over vegetables or meats for a nice kick of flavor.
Aunt Edith’s Recipe for Barbeque
by Mary Ellen Thompson
Mary Ellen Thompson was a longtime staff member at the National Center for the Blind. We are now extremely lucky to have her talents as an assistant to the Maryland Affiliate. She has been an active member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter for decades. This recipe can be doubled or even tripled to feed a large crowd.
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons Crisco or other solid shortening
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup catsup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vinegar
Method: Place ground beef in frying pan and cook on low with onion until lightly cooked but not browned. Add all other ingredients and simmer for at least one hour. Serve on buns.
Grandma Lehman’s Cocoa Brownies
by Melissa Riccobono
Melissa Riccobono is president of the NFB of Maryland. Her grandmother’s brownies are in high demand at affiliate bake auctions every year and at gatherings at her home. This recipe can easily be doubled and baked in a 9-by-13-inch pan.
1/3 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup pure cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup nuts, chopped (optional)
News from the Federation Family
Federationists Speaks to Education Majors:
Blind NFB volunteer publicist Donna W. Hill visited the University of Scranton Wednesday, February 20, 2013, to speak to education majors about the NFB Writers' Division and issues surrounding sight loss. Hill's novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, which comes out this spring, has received prepublication endorsements as a tool for promoting full inclusion of students with vision loss and as a tool to promote anti-bullying from professionals in education, rehabilitation, and the arts, including University of Scranton assistant professor of education Dr. Patricia Gross, LCB Braille instructor Jerry Whittle, Future Reflections editor Deborah Kent Stein, and Writers' Division President Robert Leslie Newman.
Hill (seen here playing guitar) read the novel's first scene, which she hand-Brailled, and sang songs from the book. She plans to submit The Heart of Applebutter Hill for publication on Bookshare and Learning Ally shortly after the print and e-book versions hit the market. She will be putting proceeds from the sale of commercial versions aside to have a hard-copy Braille version published. More information about the novel, including an introduction for educators by Dr. Karen Squire (Chicago Lighthouse optometrist/low-vision specialist) is at: <DonnaWHill.com>.
To contact Donna, email <firstname.lastname@example.org>, call (570) 833-2708, or write to 605 Overfield Rd., Meshoppen, PA 18630
National Association of Blind Office Professionals Announcement:
The National Association of Blind Office Professionals (NABOP) will hold two meetings this year at our convention in Orlando, Florida, at the Rosen Centre Hotel. The first meeting will be held Monday, July 1, with registration beginning at 6:30 PM and the meeting beginning at 7:00. This will be a time of learning about assistive technology in the workplace, training opportunities, job announcements if any, and announcement of the upcoming Braille proofreading seminar to be held on Friday, July 5, beginning at 7:00 PM and ending at 9:00.
Have you always wanted to get a feel for what it’s like to do Braille proofreading? This is your chance to get hands-on experience. Mary Donahue and Lisa Hall, who will be conducting the seminar, hope that many fluent Braille readers will take advantage of this opportunity. If you are a parent of a blind child, teacher of the blind and visually impaired, or a rehabilitation teacher, or if you are just interested in learning what’s happening in the Braille field, now is the time to join in the fun. If you are planning to participate in this seminar, let us know by June 15 so that we can get a count of Braille and large-print copies to produce.
Membership dues are $5 a year. Contact Lisa Hall, president, 7001 Hamilton Avenue, Unit 2, Cincinnati, Ohio 45231; home phone: (513) 931-7070; cell phone: (513) 550-5155; email: <email@example.com>. Mary Donahue, vice president, can be reached at 8800 Starcrest Drive, Apartment 226, San Antonio, Texas 78217; home phone: (210) 826-9579; cell: (210) 445-6356; email: <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Dues can be sent in advance to Debbie Brown, treasurer, 11923 Parklawn Drive, Apartment 104, Rockville, MD 20852; home phone: (301) 881-1892; email: <email@example.com>.
We look forward to seeing everyone at this year’s meetings in Orlando, Florida.
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.
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Conducts Survey:
The Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) is conducting a survey to understand how to serve better the needs of Braille and Talking Book readers. Take the survey now to let your opinions be heard and help us serve you better. To take the survey online or to learn more about it, go to <www.libraryofcongresssurvey.com> or call (866) 545-1618 to schedule a time to take the survey over the phone. You do not have to be a current NLS reader to take the survey. The twenty-five minute survey is designed to learn more about your experiences with Talking Books and Braille, what types of Talking Book and Braille materials and services you are looking for, and what NLS can do to interest you in the free Library of Congress Talking Book and Braille program. If you aren’t currently using NLS, let us know what services you want and how we can add you to our list of NLS readers. If you are a current NLS reader, let us know what we are doing well, where we can improve, and what new services you would like NLS to offer. Your answers to the survey questions will be kept confidential. Take the survey now to help Library of Congress NLS better serve all readers who use Talking Books and Braille!
Join a Free Voice Chat Community on the Web:
Would you like to have lots of fun and meet other blind or visually impaired people from across the country and around the world? Do you like challenging interactive games, old time radio, adaptive cooking techniques, a book club, chess instruction, product presentations, real-time technical assistance with your computer, Bible study, a weekly talent showcase, programs to learn about the iPhone, and more? Our community is made up of a set of free voice chat rooms that are extremely user friendly, and all you need is a microphone to get started. To become a member and join our Out-of-Sight free chat community, go to the website <http://www.out-of-sight.net/>. Hope to see you soon! “Catch the vision--it’s out of sight!”
New Support Provided by Microsoft:
Microsoft has launched a new support channel offering tailored support to people with disabilities and customers using our accessibility features. Every customer is important to us. We're passionate about providing the best possible experience for all our customers, including those with disabilities, to help them get the most out of Microsoft products. There are over fifty-eight million people with disabilities in the U.S. and one billion globally. Connecting customers with disabilities to experts who can guide them in using accessibility features and help get the best from their devices and software is a top priority for Microsoft.
For the last several months Microsoft Customer Service and Support has been piloting a new support offering that provides a tailored experience for people with disabilities and customers using our accessibility features. Starting February 1, 2013, this experience is now available throughout North America, providing support specialists trained on accessibility and disability. The service is available using the telephone and email.
Even though customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive during the pilot, we know we still have a lot to learn. After a support interaction, customers will be asked to complete a short survey providing us with additional and ongoing feedback on how we can continue to improve our support.
The support desk for people with disabilities and/or assistive technologies is available in North America from 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM PST during the week, and 6 AM to 3 PM on the weekends, English language only. If you want to try out the service, the direct telephone number is (800) 936-5900, and the web address is <https://enable.microsoft.com/eform.aspx?productKey =enablefeedback&ct=eformts>.
We're passionate about supporting all our customers around the globe and being able to provide the same level of guidance to those who speak other languages. We will be rolling out support desks for people with disabilities and/or assistive technologies over the next year. More information on these areas will be available as they near launch.
While our goal is to help all customers be successful with their software and devices, support for third-party technologies will continue to come directly from those partners. Microsoft will help you with those connections whenever possible.
Currently there is no charge to use the accessibility service, although this is subject to change. All support services are aligned to current product and service warranty terms and pricing.
Ongoing feedback is the key to improving this experience for people with disabilities over time. After a support call or email, Microsoft will contact you with a short survey to capture your feedback, allowing us to continue learning and growing this support environment. In addition, customers can provide feedback at any time by completing this survey.
For more information visit the website <http://www.support.microsoft.com/contactus/>.
IRS Online Services for People with Disabilities:
It’s tax time again. Check out the many IRS online products and services available to taxpayers with disabilities. Individuals who are blind or visually impaired can now download hundreds of the most popular federal tax forms and publications from <http://www.irs.gov>. These products range from accessible PDFs to e-Braille formats and are accessible using screen-reading software and refreshable Braille displays. Visit the <http://www.irs.gov/uac/Disability-Related-Products> page to download these forms and publications. View <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=el-xueE-ZDY&list=PL634968897EAEA4FD&index=3> that highlights IRS products and services available for people with disabilities; also watch YouTube videos in American Sign Language (ASL). Discover the latest tax information for veterans with disabilities and more.
Tax Return Preparation Help Also Available:
People who are unable to complete their tax returns because of a physical disability may get assistance from a local IRS Tax Assistance Center or through a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or Tax Counseling for the Elderly site (VITA or TCE). To find a Tax Assistance Center near you, go to <http://www.irs.gov>, click on “contact IRS,” and then select “contact your local IRS office.” You can also find a nearby VITA or TCE location by calling (800) 906-9887. Publication 907, Tax Highlights for Persons with Disabilities, explains the tax implications of certain disability benefits and other issues and is available at <http://www.irs.gov>. Visit <www.irs.gov> and enter “accessibility” in the search box for more information.
Camping Opportunity Available:
Camp Abilities Nebraska is a week-long residential sports camp for youth ages nine to nineteen who are blind, visually impaired, or deafblind. The camp, held from July 21 to 26, will be a place where youth can explore sports and recreational activities in a safe environment with instructors who have experience in adaptive techniques. Camp Abilities Nebraska is cosponsored by Boys Town National Research Hospital and Outlook Nebraska, Inc. The cost is $300; scholarships are available. Nebraska residency is not required. Camp registration ends May 1 and is limited to twenty campers, so prompt enrollment is suggested. Volunteers in the areas of adaptive physical education and special education are needed; orientation is July 20 and 21. For more information or to make a donation to Camp Abilities Nebraska, contact Kristal Platt, camp director at (402) 498-6365, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, or visit <www.boystownhospital.org/hearingservices/ educationaloutreach>.
National Deafblind Equipment Distribution Program:
We would like to pass along the following information to our deafblind members. We encourage all NFB members to share this information about the National Deafblind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP), promoted by iCanConnect, a program established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to distribute assistive technology to people with combined hearing and vision loss who require special equipment to make a phone call, send an e-mail, or access the Internet.
Working in conjunction with the FCC, Perkins School for the Blind, and the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youth and Adults (HKNC), iCanConnect will connect people who are deafblind with the proper equipment and training on how to use it. iCanConnect was mandated by the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act and provides a wide range of hardware, software, and applications to suit the varying communications technology needs of people who have hearing loss plus visual impairment.
Who can benefit from iCanConnect? Here are just a few examples.
Who is eligible? Any individual who meets the definition of deafblindness in the HKNC Act and has an income that does not exceed 400 percent of the federal poverty level can qualify to receive telephone, advanced communications, and information services equipment. Communication is essential for staying healthy, holding a job, managing a household, and participating in the community. If you know someone who might benefit from the iCanConnect program, please call (800) 825-4595 or visit the new website <www.icanconnect.org>.