Braille Monitor

Vol. 56, No. 5                                                      May 2013

Gary Wunder, Editor

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

The National Federation of the Blind

Marc Maurer, President

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

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

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

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


        ISSN 0006-8829

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

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

Orlando Site of 2013 NFB Convention

The 2013 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Orlando, Florida, July 1-6, at the Rosen Centre Hotel at 9840 International Drive, Orlando, Florida 32819. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with the Rosen Centre staff only. Call (800) 204-7234.

The 2013 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins, $79; and triples and quads, $85. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 13.5 percent. No charge will be made for children under seventeen in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $90-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before May 13, 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

Requests for Accommodations Based on Disability:

The convention of the National Federation of the Blind is designed and implemented to be accessible especially to blind people in that materials are offered in accessible formats and other nonvisual aids are provided. Therefore special requests for these items are not required. If you require specific accommodations based on your disability other than the blindness-related accommodations mentioned above in order to participate fully and equally in the convention, we urge you to let us know as soon as possible. Specific accommodations for which requests are required include requests for deaf or deafblind interpreters.

Due to the size and complexity of this convention, as well as the need to plan appropriately for additional human and other resources, requests for specific accommodations must be submitted no later than May 31, 2013. In order to make a request, please 1) Preregister for the convention by visiting <http://www.nfb.org/registration>; and 2) send your specific request for accommodations in writing to the NFB Jernigan Institute by email at <jerniganinstitute@nfb.org>. Please include your name, the dates you plan to be at the convention, information on the best way to follow up with you, and your specific request.



Vol. 56, No. 5                                                       May 2013

Illustration: NFB Sponsors Family Engineering Day

Section 508 and the Blind: One More Battle in the Fight for Equality in the Workplace
by Gary Wunder

How Braille Turned Me into a Purse Junkie
by Audrey T. Farnum

My Historic Recollections of the NFB
by Jean Dyon Norris

Kenneth Jernigan Library for Blind Children
from The Zine Line

Calling in the Cars
by Joanne Wilson

My Search for Accessibility
by Robert Kingett

From the President’s Mail Basket

A Blind Senior’s Journey to Independence
by Diane McGeorge

Deep Sea Fishing Adventure
by Gordon Chan

No Limits! 2013 National Organization of Parents of Blind Children Conference
by Carlton Walker


Monitor Miniatures

NFB Sponsors Family Engineering Day

On February 16, 2013, the Jernigan Institute Education Department of the National Federation of the Blind participated in National Engineers Week by hosting a Family Engineering Day. Its two-fold purpose was to introduce engineers and would-be majors in science, technology, engineering, and math to some of the devices of special interest to the blind and to encourage blind students to pursue careers in these fields. Of special interest to attendees were the blind-drivable vehicles created for the Blind Driver Challenge and the interfaces used to communicate nonvisually those elements in driving that currently come through vision. The interface was demonstrated to eager children and adults through the Blind Driver Simulator (BDS). To keep the masses entertained while they waited their turn for the BDS, the NFB took the opportunity to introduce the critical tool of Braille to sighted adults and children through sim-Braille worksheets and crayons, allowing people to write their names or short messages.

Section 508 and the Blind: One More Battle in the Fight for Equality in the Workplace

by Gary Wunder

Like many other blind people of my generation, I grew up with a fascination for radio. Before the days when satellites, fiber optics, and the Internet made a call across the world as easy as a call across the street, people were fascinated by distance. The idea that we could listen to music while driving down the road without one single wire connecting us to a radio station some twenty miles distant gave the mind pause. We were amazed that at night a young lad could sneak a handheld radio under his covers and listen to stations it would take hours or even days to reach by car.

In looking for far away stations I would sometimes come across familiar voices—late-night talk show hosts, popular disc jockeys, and occasionally a blind man with a very professional-sounding voice delivering a commercial about the National Federation of the Blind. It was inspiring to hear a pleasant and authoritative voice and to know it came from a blind man, but equally impressive was his message, heard again and again: “We are blind, but we are just like you.” That line was most certainly intended for the sighted, and I appreciated its being sent to the nation, but it also had a special place in my heart because it affirmed for me that I wasn't so very different from the people who made up the world where I hoped I would soon be taking my place.

When we think about meaningful statements that sum up who blind people are and why we have organized for action--“We are blind, but we are just like you”--doesn't usually make the list of statements that encapsulate our philosophy. But to me that statement has always been magical in its ability to communicate in a brief, clear, and memorable phrase what it is that brings us together and what we hope to help the rest of the world to understand.

Being just like you says that we have the same needs, desires, and dreams as everyone else; we want to be loved, respected, and needed. We want to provide for ourselves and our families, give to our neighbors and our communities, and be seen first and foremost as human beings with talents and thoughts and emotions that together make us an asset in the world.

To become what we want requires some effort on our part and some effort on the part of the society in which we live. We have to be willing to dream and to work to make our dreams come true. Society has to acknowledge that blindness presents some very concrete challenges, but that meeting them can help make blindness one of many characteristics, rather than the most predominant; it can help in determining whether in America blindness will be a tragedy or an inconvenience that can be handled without much bother.

One challenge facing blind people today is access to the technology used at home and in the workplace. Government and industry have been slow to acknowledge the technological challenges the blind are beginning to face as we perform the routine duties of keeping a house and cooking our meals, but as early as 1998 the federal government acknowledged the need for technology usable by the blind in places of employment by adopting Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. In a nutshell the law says that anything built or purchased by the federal government must be accessible to people with disabilities, including the blind. The law covers everything from office computers to the copy machine, but the reality of federal compliance falls far short of the promises so eloquently proclaimed in the statutes of our land.

Many of us have learned from bitter experience that the government continues to buy whatever it wants and assumes that some kind of adaptive technology will be created to work with whatever it purchases. The federal government buys most items only after an agency issues what is called a request for proposal (RFP). In theory this document does not specify a brand or even a specific device but outlines the need that the product or service must meet. An agency would not ask for a Hoover vacuum cleaner but would specify that it needed a device capable of removing dirt, lint, and dust from surfaces. It would then specify: wood, carpet, and tile, to name a few. Not all of the items the government wants and lists in an RFP carry equal weight. Some are requirements and are mandatory, some are highly desirable, and others fall under lesser categories which indicate they would be nice to have but not essential. A requirement for a vacuum cleaner might stipulate that any device purchased must remove 98 percent of the debris from a carpet and must hold that debris in a reusable canister for later disposal. Other features might be less rigid and reflect desirable characteristics such as how much dust the device should remove from the air, how much the machine should weigh, how much noise it could make while in operation, and how far it could be moved from a power source and still be operational. I used to write these proposals for the University of Missouri, and you can see how carried away by abstraction one can get when using complicated language to avoid saying how long the power cord must be.

When agencies receive responses to their request for proposal documents, a system for evaluation is employed to determine who will be the supplier or vendor. Failure to meet anything appearing under the requirements section is in theory removed from consideration. Then come the desirables, and each desirable is assigned a point value. Generally, accessibility is listed in this section, and its point value is often so low that purchases can be made even when the item sought is clearly not usable without vision. When accessibility is actually given a weight that means it might matter in a purchase, bidders may initially claim features they don't have in the hope that the agency has no intent to evaluate or way of assessing their statements. Alternatively they may claim that their current product falls short of the specifications in the RFP, but in their next release the product they are selling will be fully compliant.

This is my understanding of the way federal agencies procure inaccessible hardware and software. There are probably variations I'm not aware of or ones I've heard about but forgotten. It offends my optimistic point of view to admit that perhaps sometimes it is as simple as the government deciding beforehand what it wants and then just making the purchase, but this is a view all-too-often echoed by the section 508 coordinators, one for each agency in the federal government. From discussions held on Section 508 listservs and other forums, it is clear that at best coordinators are asked after the fact how to make a purchased item compliant, more commonly than they wish they are asked how to make it minimally accessible, and all too frequently they are asked to sign-off on items they know are not at all usable, their endorsement intended to cover for higher-ups who want to say that the person responsible for assuring accessibility signed off on the acquisition.

However the inaccessible technology finds its way into the federal government, the consequences for the blind person are consistently negative. At a minimum, blind employees must work harder to accomplish tasks that have been created to be performed visually, and at worst the systems the blind are required to use won't work at all with any assistive technology existing today.

Signing on to government systems may be as simple as entering one’s user identification code and a password of one’s choosing or as complicated as allowing the machine to attempt a retinal scan to determine if one is authorized to access the system. Recording work activity may be as straightforward as completing a simple document containing the date, the hours worked, and the tasks accomplished or as difficult as accessing a system that provides no auditory or Braille response to presses of the tab key, arrow keys, or specially assigned screen reader keys created to extract information and present it to a blind person. Sometimes buttons on a screen used to initiate functions are clearly labeled, sometimes they appear without labels but can be identified by their position on the screen if one can tab or arrow to them, and sometimes they register not at all and are completely invisible to the blind person and the screen-access program he or she is using.

In today’s work environment it is common to get one’s assignments by signing on to a system containing work lists, current projects, their due dates, and a place to record progress. These systems also provide for assigning parts of a project to other work teams, following their progress, and escalating critical problems to management.

Before the days of the ever-present computer, meetings were scheduled by conversations in the coffee room, by walking from office to office to invite meeting participants, or by using the telephone to bring people from distant locations together. Now scheduling meetings is computerized and involves looking at the calendars of meeting participants and then requesting their presence at a time when all of them are available. When such systems make no provision for alerting a blind employee that he is adding a participant to a meeting who is already booked for the proposed time, the result is irritation by all involved because all of their calendars must be changed to accommodate the now rescheduled gathering. Though these auxiliary systems are likely not the ones used to do the real work one has been assigned, cumulatively the inability to use them interferes substantially with the ability to do the essential functions of one’s job, interrupts the flow of work in the office, and puts the blind employee in a position of having to ask for help in doing tasks that fellow employees consider routine.

For the office worker, training is becoming an annual part of the performance appraisal. Almost everyone in government must take classes prior to each evaluation on sexual harassment, cultural diversity, and quality customer service. Training once accomplished by sending workers to seminars and short courses or by bringing in outside experts is now done through computer instruction. More often than not this instruction is also inaccessible. Some systems are so inaccessible that they offer screens which appear to be blank to screen-reading programs; some programs allow signing in but do not allow sequential reading of training texts, and still others allow reading of the text but will not allow the trainee to take the exam or acknowledge with a push of a button that they have read the required material.

Not only are computer workstations sometimes inaccessible, devices as seemingly simple as the telephone can offer functions that exclude the blind. Some phones in government offices use a flashing light or a special icon on their screens to indicate a waiting voicemail; the stutter dial tone commonly found on home voicemail systems is not incorporated into these business phones. The audible caller ID often found on the least expensive cordless telephones is similarly absent, and nonvisual ways to program frequently called numbers to the many onscreen buttons that make up the business handset simply don’t exist. Audible alerts signaling that the photocopier or printer is out of paper or needs ink or toner are also too often absent, and the question one must ask in these days when even a birthday card can talk and sing is why we would waste the potential of productive employees with disabilities when our technology clearly provides a way for them to thrive and make significant contributions to America’s economy and her government.

Reasonable accommodation may be made for the blind employee by having someone take on parts of the job he or she cannot do because of the shortcomings in purchased technology. This is called job restructuring. The concept is appealing in theory but is quite difficult to implement in practice. Occasionally a coworker will be asked to help a blind worker by filling out a printed time sheet, solving a visual captcha, or pressing a button that appears on a screen but is not detectable by a screen reader because the program displaying the button has not followed standard conventions for displaying this visual item. Occasionally the blind employee can offer something of equal value to the helpful coworker by freely giving advice in his or her area of expertise, but the effectiveness of asking for this help and being able to offer similarly beneficial help depends on how often one encounters a task that requires vision and for which no other alternative technique is available.

In the workplace the experience of many blind people and those who work with them is that the brainpower needed to do the job is abundantly present, the attitude to perform the job is clearly above average, and the gratitude for having the job often exceeds that of the coworker who believes, rightly or wrongly, that there are a hundred other places she could use her talent if she tires of this job. But though brains, attitude, persistence, and flexibility are essential, they cannot compensate for equipment that fails to present needed information in Braille or audio. When no alternative techniques exist and when the employer will not follow the law and expects that somehow the blind person will come up with another solution, discord, tension, and unhappiness are bound to occur on both sides. When work assignments are given, the blind worker’s supervisor must take into account what part of the job to be done will require access to equipment the blind employee cannot use. The blind worker who is told about new and improved software that will help him and his colleagues do their jobs with less effort and greater efficiency on the one hand is excited at the possibilities the new systems will bring, and on the other hand almost immediately wonders whether the features that sound so helpful and liberating will be accessible or will place yet another obstacle in his path.

If her job is encumbered only slightly by the need to ask for help and if she is well liked, fellow employees and her supervisor may be glad to help and feel good about the kindness they have done. If the requests are frequent, the assignments that can be given are limited, and the time to complete them exceeds what is considered reasonable, those good feelings soon turn to resentment, and the consequences are felt by everyone, most especially the blind employee.

Not only is Section 508 skirted, ignored, or relegated to relative insignificance by too many agencies in the federal government, but its effectiveness is hampered by one other factor. If discussions with superiors and their management fail to bring about accommodations that will let the blind employee be the productive worker he or she can be by virtue of God-given and cultivated talent, the only avenue open to him or her is to sue the employer for violations of federal law. Consider the stress caused by filing a lawsuit against people who have been your colleagues for years and trying to convince them that fighting for the right to do your job requires that you file a complaint or even sue them. Try sending this message while striving to keep uppermost in their minds that you are still, first and foremost, a team player who is dedicated to the goal of making your team, your office, and your department the best they can be. Consider the tension this creates between the blind worker, the supervisor, and the layers of management with whom he must work. People recognize that they may be defendants in a suit that will call them to testify, not only about any involvement they have had with this blind employee in the past, but on every action they take between the time the suit is filed and is settled.

For many blind employees the cost of testing the law and making it deliver what it was designed to provide in the way of equal treatment and workplace equality is just too much. The blind worker often decides to settle for lower evaluations, management settles for less productivity than it wants and deserves, and all parties consciously or unconsciously start thinking about the countdown clock ticking toward the time when early retirement or the choice to take disability is exercised. This is not what anyone envisioned with the passage of Section 508, and it certainly isn't the vision that the blind student had when she moved into the work-a-day world with visions of climbing the ladder of success.

Occasionally circumstance and character intersect, and someone who has given his or her best concludes that, for the law to mean anything, it must be enforced. This convergence is the subject of the article you are reading, and in future articles the Braille Monitor will highlight federal workers who have given their best and tried to be team players but who have reluctantly concluded that going along to get along doesn’t solve the problems that stand between giving the most they can to their agencies and maximizing their productive capacity. Neither does going along to get along further the promise we have made to future generations, a central one being that they will find greater opportunities to thrive, live on their own, and have a better than equal chance of becoming a part of loving and enriching marriages, making enough money to support their children and sometimes their grandchildren, and being the role models on which others pattern their lives and judge their success.

One federal employee seriously contemplating the filing of a complaint is Susie Stanzel, a blind information technology specialist employed by the Department of Agriculture, the sixth largest government agency in the country. She is not by nature a complainer. Her thirty-nine-year career with the USDA, complete with numerous promotions, raises, and awards, is a testament to her tenacious work ethic and whatever-it-takes attitude. Never has she been a forty-hour-a-week clock-watcher. Instead, one of the more significant stresses in her life has focused on balancing being a wife and mother of three and working many weekends and holidays to meet department goals and honor her personal commitment to her coworkers, direct supervisors, and managers. It would not be an overstatement to say that she has regarded as false any prioritization between her work and her family, knowing that without her successful career she could not have given to those she loves the resources to succeed and the example to follow that makes them what they are today.

Susie has not encountered all of the technological barriers elaborated here, but her case is one of several the National Federation of the Blind may pursue in an effort to make the promises of Section 508 a reality for blind employees. As events proceed, the Braille Monitor will have much more to say about this case and others like it in which blind employees find themselves confronting attitudes and technology that hinder them as much as help in attempting to fulfill the expectations of their employers and themselves as highly productive workers. Section 508 must make real in the federal workplace the promises it boldly proclaims as the law of the land. Current federal workers must benefit from its protection, and future employees must know that their education and training can reasonably be expected to lead to opportunities for success that only usable technology can ensure. Only one organization has the commitment, the technical expertise, and the legal knowhow to make this happen. The National Federation of the Blind championed the rights of blind people long before the days of digital domination in the workplace, and no matter the technical or legal complexity, we will stand strong to see that the blind can work alongside the sighted and share in the opportunity of what it means to be a citizen of our great land.

How Braille Turned Me into a Purse Junkie

by Audrey T. Farnum

From the Editor: This delightful article is reprinted from the Winter 2013 issue of the NFB Ok Today, a publication of the NFB of Oklahoma. It, like Audrey, is a gem. Enjoy:

January 4, 2013, would have been Louis Braille's 204th birthday. As I read many comments on Twitter and Facebook about the occasion, I started thinking about how much Braille has revolutionized my life over the past few years. Although I have been legally blind since birth, I was a very high partial who was mainstreamed in public schools and got by with reading print. I occasionally relied on large print, and, as I got older and my reading load increased, I turned to audio books to help me keep up with my sighted peers. No one ever suggested that it might be beneficial for me to learn Braille, and, to be honest, had it ever been suggested to me, I probably would have fought against it with every fiber of my being. I was young and insecure and trying to hide my blindness so I could fit in. I have no doubt that I would have been horrified by the idea of using Braille at school. Looking back on it, I probably would have received more acceptance in school had I embraced my blindness. At least then my peers would have understood the reasons for the behaviors for which I was frequently ridiculed. Instead I largely kept to myself and clung to a small group of friends who accepted me without question or need for an explanation. I always felt awkward, out of place, and ashamed because I was different, but I survived and made it through school. I went on to college, then law school. While the pressure to fit in decreased with age, I still did everything I could to cover up my blindness.

Then, in 1999, the retina in my left eye detached, and I lost all my vision in that eye. I was twenty-five at the time and fresh out of law school, looking for my first job as an attorney. When I lost the eye, I remember thinking that I was probably on borrowed time with my remaining eye and learning Braille would be wise. But after the initial shock wore off and I got used to working with my one eye, I reverted to my old ways and stuck to print and some audio. Finally, February 2006 rolled around, and I had just had a second vitrectomy on my right eye to try to repair a detached retina. I went to the doctor the day after surgery to have my bandage removed and get some post-surgery follow-up. This second vitrectomy involved putting some silicon oil in my eye to hold the retina in place, so there was no waiting for a gas bubble to disappear with the hope of my vision returning to pre-detachment quality. When the patch came off, I knew that was the best things were going to get. I thought I was ready for it, but, when I opened my eye for the first time and all I could see was distorted wavy shapes—light and colors that were all wrong—I came to the terrifying realization that I was no longer going to be able to glide through life, acting as if I were sighted. I was blind, and a lot of things were about to change.

Of all the things that I could no longer do, the thing that was most upsetting to me was the inability to read. I could no longer read print, and I had never learned Braille. With all my education and the fancy degrees hanging on my wall at work, I was functionally illiterate. It was a soul-crushing development for me. While I knew that the other blindness skills I was learning in rehabilitation were important and essential to independence, I needed Braille most of all to restore my sense of self-worth.

I was scheduled to go to a rehabilitation center for twelve weeks of training to learn Braille, among other skills. When I went to this center for a two-week evaluation in June of 2006, I was told all the usual nonsense about how hard it is to learn Braille as an adult and not to expect too much from myself. Basically, the vibe I got from this place was that I should focus on learning to use audio for all my reading needs. Fortunately, the best way to get me to do something is to tell me it can't be done. So I went home and resolved to get a head start on Braille. I was told it would take the whole twelve-week training program to learn uncontracted (grade 1) Braille. That wasn't good enough for me. If that's all they wanted to teach me, then I decided I'd learn uncontracted Braille before I went back to the center in September so that I could force them to teach me more. I found a Braille teacher in Oklahoma City who got me started, and in four weeks I was reading uncontracted Braille. I couldn't read fast, but it was an encouraging start, and it was proof to me that the rubbish that had been fed to me during my evaluation was wrong.

I went back to the center in September 2006 for my twelve weeks of training. One of the biggest highlights of the experience for me was sitting down for my first Braille lesson. I was paired up with another student who had no Braille experience and a bad attitude to boot. As the teacher was handing us uncontracted Braille lesson books, I spoke up and told her that I had learned it over the summer and wanted to move on to contracted Braille. My declaration was met with stunned silence. After a few moments passed, she flipped open the book to a lesson at the back and told me to read it. I oozed arrogance and confidence as I accepted her challenge and read the passage she indicated. It was all I could do to keep myself from doing a victory dance on the table. My fellow classmate with the bad attitude dropped out of the program the next day, and I conveniently found myself in a one-on-one contracted Braille class. I was the only client at the center who learned contracted Braille during my time there.

About ten weeks into the program, my Braille teacher gave me my first Braille book to read, Horton Hears a Who. She was very excited about my progress and told me that in her years at the center she had never had the opportunity to teach contracted Braille to someone. She had done some touch-up with people who had learned Braille in school but were rusty from nonuse, but she had never taught a newly blind adult. I was stunned by this and questioned her more about it. She said that most of her students never even finished uncontracted Braille because they thought it was too difficult and preferred relying on speech. I found this revelation disheartening and depressing, and I couldn't imagine why, barring some other condition or medical complication, someone would choose not to read Braille. It seemed to me that the expectations for newly-blind adults were very low, and that made me sad. Only after a couple of years would I find the NFB and discover that there were people with higher expectations and people who truly believed in the capacity of the blind. I left that rehab center with the false belief that what I had accomplished in my Braille training was unusual. I later learned from my NFB family that it was not and that I could do more.

So I learned Braille and read a children's book. Big deal. I couldn't read very fast, and it was useless to me except for labeling and writing short notes to myself. It was a start, but not enough. I wasn't using it at work. I was devouring audio books, but I wasn't really reading Braille. At my first NFB national convention in 2009, there was a panel discussion about Braille literacy. Anil Lewis talked about his experience with learning Braille and how he came to the realization that he needed to learn it. He read his remarks in Braille and commented that he had been inspired to learn to read it after stumbling through a speech a year earlier. Much of what he described sounded eerily familiar to me. Suddenly it dawned on me that memorizing a code does not make me literate. I couldn't read Braille enough for it to be useful, and I couldn't write more than a label or quick note. I was still functionally illiterate, and that center I went to did me no favors by giving me the false belief that I was somehow special. I resolved then and there that I would make more of an effort to read Braille.

I went home and ordered myself a Braille book. I tried to read for at least an hour a day. Because of working full time and other stuff going on in my life, I didn't always make that goal, but I kept reading and getting faster. I finished that book and another one after that, and my speed gradually improved. Eventually I decided to get a refreshable Braille display to use with my iPod Touch. I found the experience of reading refreshable Braille to be more satisfying, since it removed the extra distraction of trying to keep my place on a page. I turned off the speech on my Read2Go Bookshare app and read. Later I discovered that reading newspaper articles with the NFB-NEWSLINE app was a great way to practice since I could read a short piece and feel like I was accomplishing something every time I finished an article. I would also read Twitter updates as a way to make myself read but keep things short so I could manage my frustration level. My efforts paid off, and I started to feel comfortable reading. I was reading well enough that I could now go into a restaurant and read a Braille menu in a reasonable amount of time. This was encouraging, and I was starting to feel better about my skills.

I was in store for yet another humbling experience when I attended a leadership seminar at the NFB Jernigan Institute in the fall of 2012. I was asked to write a brief assignment, and my work could be handwritten or written in Braille. I have no confidence in my handwriting anymore, so it was Braille or nothing for me. I had the option to have someone Braille the assignment for me, but I'm stubborn and decided it would be a good experience to do it myself. I started out with a slate and stylus, but it was taking forever, and I knew I'd never get any sleep if I kept that up. I had used a Perkins Brailler a couple of times during my rehab training, but I didn't even remember how to load the paper correctly. Fortunately, my NFB family is a helpful and encouraging bunch, and one of my fellow seminarians gave me a refresher course on Brailler basics. Then I began the process of laboriously typing my essay. I discovered that, while I could read contracted Braille, I apparently had been picking up a lot of what I was reading from context. When I actually had to type in contracted Braille, I couldn't remember about half the contractions I needed. I felt like an idiot. With help from my new friend, who patiently sat with me during the whole process to tell me contractions I couldn't remember, I finally finished my six-sentence essay. It's an exaggeration even to call it six sentences. A third of the way through I gave up and broke my thoughts down into a list so I wouldn't have to write so much. The whole thing barely filled half a page. It took about an hour to write that little masterpiece with the Brailler, and that's not counting the hour and a half I spent composing my rough draft on my computer and the numerous attempts I made to write the assignment with a slate. It was embarrassing to observe how deficient my writing skills were, and I can't imagine the patience it took for my friend to sit with me while I demonstrated my incompetence.

Shortly after my writing fiasco, the cell phone I had been using for years finally kicked the bucket, and I ended up with an iPhone. While I was already a seasoned VoiceOver user with my iPod Touch, I had resisted getting an iPhone because I preferred the text-entry method on my Nokia N86 and wanted to stick with it as long as possible for texting and Twitter. I love VoiceOver on the iPhone, but I do find the process of typing with a touch screen to be tedious at best. After several unsatisfying experiments with different QWERTY Bluetooth keyboards and with my writing failure fresh in my mind, I decided it was time to learn how to type with the Braille keyboard on my Braille display. It was slow going at first. I recall spending about thirty minutes typing a short status update on Facebook. But after a week or two I was typing at an acceptable speed with the Braille keyboard and wondering why I hadn't tried that sooner. I can now type faster with my Braille display than I could if my iPhone had a physical keyboard instead of a touch screen. A great side effect of learning to type with my Braille display was that it helped me to read better and made me faster with a slate and stylus.

I am now addicted to that Braille display as much as I am to my iPhone. The two items are inseparable in my opinion, and I don't go anywhere without them. I felt so strongly about wanting my Braille display with me at all times that I actually went out and bought a purse specifically to carry it. Not just any purse, mind you--I ended up with a three hundred dollar Coach purse. I rationalized this expenditure by telling myself that my newly treasured Braille display deserved to be carried around in style. This may not sound like a big deal until you realize that, in my thirty-nine years of life, I have rarely carried a purse. I'm a low-maintenance kind of girl, who values comfort and convenience over fashion and social conventions. I have never felt the need to lug around a bunch of extra stuff. I was of the opinion that, if I couldn't fit what I needed in my pockets, I didn't need to take it with me. I thought women who spent hundreds of dollars on purses were idiots. Now, because of the Braille display, I not only carry a purse, but I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a Coach and had a blast doing it. I now have multiple purses to suit different occasions and carrying needs and can't resist cruising by the purse department every time I go to the mall. Everyone who knows me well is shocked by my sudden purse addiction. This really is a major development in my life, and it is all because Braille has become an essential part of my daily existence.

Not only is typing on my iPhone now a pleasant experience, but I also appreciate the Braille display for giving me a way to use my phone in noisy environments. Sometimes at concerts or noisy sporting events I might as well not even have a phone because it is too loud to hear VoiceOver through background noise. With Braille, background noise is no longer a problem. The first time I made a Facebook post completely with Braille and with no help from VoiceOver, I honestly got a little teary. I suppose it's silly, but using Braille at a noisy football game so I could use Twitter and Facebook during the game made me feel normal. It was ironic to me that, after spending the majority of my life trying to hide my blindness and feel normal, I suddenly achieved the feeling of normalcy by using Braille.

After observing how Braille has improved my quality of life and changed the way that I think about myself and my blindness, I often wonder how much better my life might have been had I learned Braille as a child. It was assumed by teachers, my parents, and even me that, since I could read print, that was the best option for me. But looking back on it, I think about all the eye strain, the neck and back pain from hunching over my books, and the extra hours it took me to read because my low vision made reading slower for me. I also think about the shame and embarrassment I felt when I had to give presentations and had to hold my notes a few inches in front of my face. I was always self-conscious about the fact that my audience was seeing the back of my notes and not my face. I'm not pointing fingers or placing blame. I do believe that I had enough vision to warrant learning print, and it was a tool that I needed. But Braille would have been a nice extra weapon to have in my arsenal of skills. I have no doubt that, had I started as a child, I would have ended up reading Braille as fast as my sighted peers read print.

When I think of all the times Braille could have helped me, the first situation that comes to mind is an experience I had during law school. I had to do an oral argument in front of a mock appellate court. I spent the whole semester preparing my case, and the trial would determine my grade for the class. I showed up to the oral argument in a spiffy new suit thinking I was prepared and ready to wow the judges with my brilliance. I thought I had planned ahead to deal with my note-reading issues. I knew I would be too nervous to rely solely on memory, so I put all my notes in large print on index cards and was certain I would be able to look down at the podium to read them. I don't know if it was nerves, different lighting from my practice runs, or both, but, when I looked down, my notes were a blur. I didn't want to hold the cards in front of my face, so I tried to go from memory. Ultimately my oral argument was a complete disaster. I got trounced by my opponent and looked like a stammering idiot. I got a C minus in the class, the lowest grade I would receive in law school. It was one of the three low points of my law school career, all of which had direct ties to my blindness. It was also the exact moment I decided I did not want to be a trial attorney. In hindsight I understand how valuable Braille would have been to me in my oral argument. My Braille notes could have rested comfortably on the podium while I read them, likely unnoticed by the judges or anyone else in the courtroom who witnessed my debacle. I would have appeared more normal by embracing a blindness skill instead of trying to rely on vision as the only answer, and I know I would have received a higher grade.

On more than one occasion I have heard statements like "Don't make that child look blind by forcing him to read Braille. Print is more normal.” My experience is a classic demonstration that this belief is wrong and harmful. It teaches a blind child to be ashamed of blindness and is a sure-fire way to cripple confidence. Braille should not be thought of as something that only totally blind people use. It is not an inferior alternative to print that should be taught only if there is no other option. Braille is a tool to attain literacy and independence. We should teach our blind children to be proud of Braille and see the value of literacy. Studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between Braille literacy and employment. Blind children have enough obstacles to deal with as it is. We shouldn't rob them of an additional tool to overcome educational and employment barriers just because they can read large print by straining and taking extra rest periods. While a low-vision child is resting his eyes so he can start reading again, his peers are leaving him behind.

My journey with Braille is still in its infancy. I have made tremendous progress over the past couple of years, but I know that I can still do better. I still find myself regularly falling back to audio alternatives because I am in a hurry and want to get things done faster. There are going to be plenty of times when audio is simply more efficient for me, and it will always be a part of my life. However, I have found ways to make Braille useful to me by using it in practical situations that are interesting and meaningful to me. I will likely never be a fast Braille reader, but I cherish Braille. I am so thankful that it is a daily part of my life. I still need to practice, but I am glad that I made the choice to learn and put forth the effort. I am thankful to my NFB family who humbled me and encouraged me to embrace Braille. And mostly I am thankful to Louis Braille, who as a teenager created this life-changing code because he rightly believed that literacy and knowledge were essential to independence for the blind.

My Historic Recollections of the NFB

by Jean Dyon Norris

From the Editor: Jean Dyon Norris has been an active volunteer and supporter of the National Federation of the Blind for more than fifty years. For decades after she invented and began producing Twin Vision™ books for blind and sighted parents and children, she headed the Tarzana office of the American Brotherhood for the Blind—now the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults. She is a Californian, so a good bit of Federation history has necessarily flowed around her, and she has a wonderful collection of stories and memories about the organization and its early California and national leaders. She recently wrote down a number of her recollections of Jacobus tenBroek and the NFB. What follows is a selection of these stories, somewhat edited and reorganized for clarity.

In 1958 I was looking for volunteer work to do. When I was looking through my newspaper, I saw a notice of a rummage sale to benefit the local blind organization. I had never known any blind people, but I decided to gather up some rummage and go help. I discovered a group of normal folks whose only problem was that they could not see. We had a great time, and they invited me to their weekly meetings. The main NFB chapter met monthly about twenty miles away. Tony Mannino was president of that group. I drove Tim McGinnis, president of the local group, and several club members to the monthly meetings.

Tim gave me an issue of the Blind American, the forerunner of the Braille Monitor. The featured story in that issue was by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. TenBroek’s father immigrated from Holland to Canada during the first decade of the twentieth century. He built a cabin on the plains of Alberta. TenBroek’s mother arrived in Canada on a bride ship and married tenBroek senior the day they met. When Jacobus was seven, he and a friend made themselves bows and arrows. They used a piece of burlap with a hole in the center as a target. Tragically, Jacobus put his eye to the hole from behind the target at the very moment that his friend shot an arrow and hit the bull’s eye for the first time that day. Young tenBroek lost that eye immediately and the other a few years later from sympathetic ophthalmia. Reading that story moved me so much that I decided to join the organization that he had founded and was now the president of, the National Federation of the Blind. I wrote to the Berkeley office to subscribe to the Blind American and received a warm acknowledgement from Dr. tenBroek’s wife Hazel.

TenBroek’s family had moved to California when Jacobus was young because Canada had no provisions for educating blind children. Jacobus was enrolled in the California School for the Blind, where Dr. Newel Perry was a remarkable teacher. Many of my blind friends had been taught by Doctor when they were students at the school. Muzzy Marcellino recalled that Dr. Perry carried a ruler around and did not hesitate to whack the hand of any student who he considered deserved it. Dr. tenBroek reported that, when Dr. Perry visited his parents, he warned them not to treat Jacobus as if he were blind. He should be expected to get up, dress, make his bed, and do any chores assigned to him.

I became an active member of the local chapter and decided to learn Braille. One day I overheard a member, Audrey Hebner, telling friends that her children could not understand why she could not read their print storybooks to them. She wished out loud that someone would put Braille on the pages so that she could read the books. I went home that day and duplicated some of my own children’s books and placed Braille on the pages. I gave Audrey the books, and immediately other parents asked me to make books for them as well.

At that time Dr. tenBroek was president of the American Brotherhood for the Blind (ABB). The organization had become pretty inactive, but it still had about $5,000 in its treasury. Some members approached Dr. tenBroek about my print/Braille books, a project that interested Mrs. tenBroek. Dr. tenBroek sent Kenneth Jernigan down to interview me. When I mentioned that Audrey Hebner had given me the idea, he commented that they had gone to school together at the Tennessee School for the Blind and that there had been very few Braille books for the children to read. It seems fitting that decades later our print/Braille library was renamed the Kenneth Jernigan Library for Blind Children. Jumping forward many years, one day I answered the phone at the Tarzana office and took down a request from a grandmother who wanted some Twin Vision books to read to her grandchildren. She gave her name as Audrey Hebner. I asked excitedly if she were the Audrey Hebner who had given me the idea for Twin Vision books, and she was. We talked for a long time, and I gave her the news that Dr. Jernigan was gravely ill. She called him immediately, and the old friends talked for an hour.

At any rate, Dr. tenBroek decided that creating print/Braille books was a worthy project for the ABB to undertake; it just needed a name. My suggestions were “Dots for Tots,” “Double Vision,” and “Twin Vision.” We settled on this final name, and it is now trademarked.

During those early years of my involvement with the NFB, I did a lot of driving for the organization. Efforts were being made to organize up toward Santa Barbara. Many blind people had just given up, but a few were interested in changing things. I drove Tim McGinnis, Tony Mannino, and once even Perry Sundquist to monthly meetings.

One of the people I drove was Ms. Cruz Blackburn. She was a special friend of Frances Blend, who had founded the Frances Blend School for the Blind in Los Angeles. The three of us had lunch together one day, and they told this story: Ms. Blend was researching the addresses of blind children in Los Angeles. She made an appointment to talk with one mother who did not want it known that she had a blind daughter. So, knowing the time of the appointment, the mother put little Cruz under the bed, which was in sight of the living room. When Ms. Blend asked about a blind child in the household and began describing how wonderful a school for blind children would be, suddenly two little arms began waving from under the bed as a child emerged shouting, “I want to go to school; I want to go to school.”

When Jacobus tenBroek died on March 27, 1968, I received a telegram with the sad news. Because he and the Federation had made a profound difference in my life, I decided to attend the funeral. Hazel tenBroek’s father, a rabbi, conducted the service. The procession of cars driving to the cemetery was very long. The grave was at one edge, and no grass was yet growing on any of that rough ground. I stood at the foot of the casket as it was lowered into the grave. I looked down and saw a small flat stone on the ground in front of me as though Dr. tenBroek were standing on it. I picked the stone up and took it home and kept it on my desk until I presented it to President Maurer. The sign I made for it to lie on says in print and Braille, “Built on a rock, the movement stands.” When Dr. Maurer accepted the stone, he told me that he would have it displayed in a safe place in the tenBroek Library, where I presume it now resides. After the funeral Mrs. tenBroek invited people to her home for conversation. She mentioned that their great Dane would stand beside her bed each night with his head just where Dr. tenBroek’s head would have lain. She somehow felt as if she were being watched over.

At an NFB of California convention sometime later, Mrs. tenBroek talked to me about her husband’s death. She was standing outside his hospital room waiting to return to his bedside when a nurse came out and rather abruptly announced, “Mr. tenBroek has expired.”

When I marveled at his willingness to trust me when I was so green, that he even let me make mistakes, she paid me the most meaningful compliment I have ever received.
She said quietly, “He knew his people.”

Because of Dr. tenBroek’s foresight and support, my Twin Vision books have grown into many other things, and as a result this is a better world, not only for the blind, but for the sighted world in which they live.

Kenneth Jernigan Library for Blind Children

February 28, 2011

from The Zine Line

From the Editor: reproduced here is a notice from The Zine Line, a newsletter from then Councilman Dennis P. Zine of Los Angeles, California.

At a special gathering last Monday Mrs. Jean Dyon Norris was recognized for her decades of service and outstanding contributions as director of the Kenneth Jernigan Library for Blind Children in Tarzana. Also in attendance and flying in from Baltimore, Maryland, was Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind (<www.nfb.org>) and executive director of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults (<www.actionfund.org>), who recognized the retiring director for her exceptional contributions and partnership. Mrs. Norris is credited for inventing the Twin Vision™ (print/Braille) format that, according to incoming Director Ms. Lucille Abbazia, enables a blind parent to read to a sighted child and also allows a blind child to follow, therefore reducing barriers in reading lessons.

The Kenneth Jernigan Library for Blind Children provides reading materials to children and young adults and is run mainly by volunteers who help in all aspects of the library’s operations. The library does not sell books, nor does it operate like a traditional walk-in library, but exclusively mails Braille books free of charge to either the reader’s home or school by calling the library at (818) 343-3219. For more information about this and other services or to volunteer, please visit <www.actionfund.org>.

Thank you, Mrs. Jean Dyon Norris, for your wonderful contributions, and we wish incoming Director Ms. Lucille Abbazia the best in her new position.

Calling in the Cars

by Joanne Wilson

From the Editor: Joanne Wilson is a longtime Federationist who has served with distinction in many capacities whenever the organization has asked or whenever she has seen an unmet need. She went to Louisiana and transformed our affiliate from a brooding, fighting, and suspicious group dominated by localitis and an us-and-them mentality into one of our most dynamic affiliates. She founded the Louisiana Center for the Blind, served as the head of the Rehabilitation Services Administration under President George W. Bush, and currently serves as the director of affiliate development for the National Federation of the Blind. Like the rest of us she is putting a lot of effort into figuring out how to fund the programs we operate that are essential in advancing the agenda of blind people. Here is what she has to say about a new weapon in our fundraising arsenal:

The National Federation of the Blind always steps up to get the job done. Many affiliates are actively working to assist in finding new financial support for our national movement, and we have just launched a new program that should allow each of our affiliates to make a difference. The National Federation of the Blind has launched a vehicle donation program which allows us to accept car donations anywhere in the United States. Our national office and our affiliates have been turning car donations away because we have not had an effective program for managing these donations and turning them into cash for the organization. We have now solved this problem, and we need your help to take advantage of this opportunity.

After extensive research the Federation has made an agreement with Vehicles for Charity to process our car donations. Besides cars we also accept vans, RVs, motorcycles, dirt bikes, boats, trucks, and tractors. However, it is up to us to capture the donors by promoting the fact that we can accept vehicle donations and finding creative ways to get the word out.

I am asking you to take some immediate steps to help with this effort:

  1. Spread the word in your affiliate that the NFB is now accepting vehicle donations. Encourage members to send all referrals to the page on our website <www.nfb.org/vehicledonations> or to our toll-free vehicle donation number, (855) 659-9314.
  2. Consider placing information in your newsletters and other publications.
  3. Promote this in your social media channels.
  4. Consider volunteering to help your affiliate president if you are looking for this kind of opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the movement. We need Federationists who can find creative ways to get the word out and who will uncover opportunities to promote this throughout the country.
  5. Share with me ideas you have about how we can get the word out about this program.

As we move into spring, we will be building this program and providing you with more details, including supporting materials. We are starting with the tried and true Federation local outreach to get the word out. As we build success with this venture, we will have the capacity to consider other forms of promotion such as advertising. Consider this notion: If fifty-one of our affiliates (unfortunately we cannot operate the program in Puerto Rico) generate ten referrals with an average donation value of $500, we are talking about better than $250,000. This is easily within our capacity in 2013. Maryland has already generated one donation, and all we did was answer the phone and have the ability to say, “Yes, we can take your donation,” rather than turning it away. Imagine what we can do with some Federation creativity and enthusiasm. Let’s start calling in the cars!

My Constant Search for Accessibility

by Robert Kingett

From the Editor: Robert Kingett is a film critic, performing arts critic, and motivational speaker living in Chicago. He has cerebral palsy, is blind, and is a technology enthusiast. The screen-reading program he reviews is quite impressive. It is fast and easy to use and comes at no cost to blind people, although donations are requested for its support. As a former computer programmer I feel strongly that it is just as important to compensate intellectual activity as it is physical effort. I also believe that, when we are asking for specialized software and hardware, our small numbers will likely require some additional cost to meet our needs. Nevertheless, I have left in Robert’s comments that make it clear he believes most screen readers are significantly overpriced and beyond the ability of many blind people and the agencies that serve them to purchase. Here is what he says:

The constant search for equal access has plagued my life even though I live in a day and age when technology and digital material are ubiquitous. I remember the computer classes in high school back in 2006, where I’d wonder why schools for the blind such as mine didn't have the latest versions of the screen readers on the market. I understood the reason after looking at the price of the screen reader my school used called Window-Eyes, developed by GW Micro. I didn't understand about industry prices, so I felt what they call sticker shock at the individual price for blind people to use computers to do our schoolwork. $1,250 was, in many cases, equal to the cost of the actual computer used to run the screen reader and far in excess of most other software we were using.

Thinking there must be an alternative, I wondered why my school didn’t turn to Freedom Scientific. With a bit of research on my part, I was sadly surprised to find that its screen-reading software cost $895, still quite expensive from my point of view. I couldn’t understand why blind people had to pay such a high price just to look at a screen, something that sighted people did every day without any money out of their pocket.

I didn't see either of these commercial alternatives as practical, so I turned to a Google search to seek out a free screen reader. I found one that I happily use today, the free, open source screen reader developed by NV Access, called NVDA—Non-visual Desktop Access. NVDA is the most feature-rich free screen reader that I have found. This software is updated frequently as evidenced by its publicly available list of changes and enhancements.

Providing feedback through synthetic speech and Braille, NVDA allows blind and visually impaired people to access and interact with the Windows operating system and many third-party applications. I was immediately hooked and soon began installing NVDA everywhere that I could—on my school’s laptops, on my desktop at home, and even on a USB flash drive in case I needed to use a computer at the library. Now, for the first time, I didn’t have to worry about computers having JAWS or Window-Eyes. I had accessibility in my pocket.

One impressive fact about NVDA is its support for multiple languages. I have a firm belief that it is important that people anywhere in the world, no matter what language they speak, get equal access to technology. Besides English, NVDA has been translated into thirty-six languages, including Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Thai, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.

In addition to providing its messages and its interface in many languages, NVDA also enables users to read content in any language, as long as they have speech synthesizers that can speak that language. NVDA is bundled with eSpeak, a free, open-source, multi-lingual speech synthesizer. Additionally, it can use both SAPI 4 and SAPI 5 speech engines to provide speech output, and with an add-on NVDA can now speak with the ETI-Eloquence synthesizer.

Governmental and private rehabilitation agencies for the blind have traditionally had to purchase expensive screen-access software, but, when I was asked if I wanted a commercial screen reader, I said no. I believe that accessibility should be inclusive and not determined by one’s financial status. I've been a user of NVDA for many years, and the one thing that really attracts me to this screen reader is that it is not driven by profit, nor is it constrained by a need to follow market trends and demands. This allows for the freedom to research, experiment with, and implement new and innovative techniques to improve accessibility for blind and visually impaired users, as well as enabling features desirable to minorities within the blind community that aren’t met by commercial offerings.

Since NVDA debuted in 2006, it has blossomed into a fluid and efficient screen reader, now complete with user-created add-on support developed both by NV Access and by the community. This means that contributions to its evolution can come from anyone who knows how to program. Any blind person with a Windows-based computer can use NVDA because it runs on both 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems starting with Microsoft Windows XP and continuing through Windows 8. NVDA has no additional hardware requirements and needs only fifty megabytes of disk space. Since NVDA doesn't rely on any specially installed display driver to retrieve information, this gives it an advantage over several of the traditional screen readers, which install software that sometimes conflicts with factory-provided software and hardware. When one is using Mozilla applications, NVDA improves the reading flow. The wide range of screen-reading settings in the options menu is a nice touch, and so are the easily accessible menus that don't overburden computer resources. The best news of all is that, if you use the portable NVDA release on a USB stick, your voices and settings travel with you, so you can make any computer your own by simply inserting your flash drive.

When people ask about NVDA, they are often interested in how it compares to JAWS for Windows. As originally packaged, NVDA possesses fewer features than JAWS, but a quick search query using “NVDA add-ons” in Google will present free opportunities to expand NVDA’s capabilities. Add-ons give NVDA the ability to use optical character recognition (OCR), to track changes in Microsoft Word, to use the popular Team Viewer software for sharing screens and keyboards with other users, and to track weather around the world without the difficulty of navigating websites that are not user-friendly for screen reader users. Two websites that offer add-ons are: http://stormdragon.us/nvda/ and http://addons.nvda-project.org/.

Using NVDA isn't hard at all. For the most part it uses the JAWS for Windows desktop keyboard layout. However, in a recent update, support for laptop keyboards has changed, and those who prefer the traditional desktop keyboard experience should not use it.

Since NVDA is receiving sponsorship from Mozilla Corporation and Adobe Systems, NVDA works best using those platforms, but it is quite flexible. It works just fine with Internet Explorer. The instant messengers that NVDA works with out of the box are Yahoo! Messenger and Miranda IM, a small, universal instant messenger client. Microsoft Office compatibility is quite good, with support for PowerPoint, Word, Excel, and all other suites.

Of course, as with most open-source software, you get what you put into it. Users who want to have more features included in the next release should donate to the project and should make known the features they want to see in the next version. NVDA has traditionally upgraded three times a year, with over twenty new enhancements and thirty bug fixes in each release, all heavily detailed in a revision history. While NVDA doesn't have as many document formatting detection features as the most current release of JAWS 14, I'm sure that, with programmers and scripters who are enthusiastic about creating the newest and best, someone will incorporate these features into the upcoming releases of NVDA.

Obviously NVDA’s strength is customization that is community driven, but it isn't without its faults. If you’re a low-vision user like me and you choose to turn off NVDA while using Internet Explorer, turning it back on again will cause your session to crash, and you will once again have to navigate to the Internet site and page you were using.

A few years ago, while I was listening to a podcast about inclusion and accessibility, I dreamed of a day when we would have universal PC accessibility. For a while I believed that equal access on a Windows machine could never happen. I believed that we Windows users would simply have to envy people who were rich enough to afford Macs. NVDA gives the Windows user screen access without the need to spend hundreds of dollars on adaptive software, and shows that the needs of users can actually drive the development of screen access software.

NVDA isn't the perfect solution for everyone, and it isn't as feature-rich in functionality as other screen readers on the market today, but it's my top pick. I am so sold on this program that I have every computer at my college’s computer lab equipped with NVDA. It has saved the school a few dollars, and it opens up many doors for new blind students who attend there.

A few years ago equal and affordable access was something I only dreamed about, but today, thanks to NVDA, I can enjoy the world that has been opened to me by services such as Bookshare, Learning Ally, and NLS BARD. If I ever need to remind myself of those long ago days when we had to beg our state rehabilitation agency for the blind to pay a huge sum of money just so we could write a college essay, all I have to do is reach down into my pocket and curl my fingers around a flash drive that, through the determination of a few developers, harnesses the technology to allow me to walk up to any Windows PC, even at a library, and show the world what universal computer accessibility really means.

From the President’s Mail Basket

From the Editor: One of the major tasks undertaken by the president of the National Federation of the Blind is managing the hundreds of letters and emails that arrive each month and that must be appropriately directed or responded to personally. Sometimes these letters are routine acknowledgements, sometimes letters of appreciation, and sometimes letters clearly articulating NFB policy. The letter reproduced below definitely falls into the latter category, uses compelling language to argue for accessibility, and begins to answer the question frequently asked following our protest at Amazon headquarters: “What’s next?”

Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind
Baltimore, Maryland
Sent via first class mail and email

March 11, 2013

Betsy Landers, President
Eric Hargis, Executive Director
National Parent Teacher Association
Alexandria, Virginia

RE: Amazon’s Sponsorship of the National PTA’s Family Reading Experience Program

Dear Ms. Landers and Mr. Hargis:

It has come to my attention that your organization has selected Amazon as the exclusive sponsor of your new Family Reading Experience program. While the aspirations of this program are noble, you should know that the use of Kindle e-books will seriously compromise the education of children who are blind or have other print disabilities. This is so because, unlike other e-books, Kindle e-books do not afford children with print disabilities the same reading and learning experience as their fellow students. As a result local PTAs that accept donations of Kindle devices or encourage the use of Kindle e-books in their schools will, as detailed in this letter, be helping to put those schools in violation of federal law.

In today’s world equal opportunity requires equal access to information. Unlike print, digital information is not inherently visual; it can be made available visually, aurally, and tactilely all at the same time and from the same original digital source. Thus digital information can be the great equalizer, offering mainstream access to all, without regard to whether the reader has a sensory disability. For decades the blind have used a variety of technologies to make e-books accessible. To read electronic texts, blind students use either text-to-speech software that vocalizes the words, letters, and characters on a page or a refreshable Braille display that renders the words, letters, and characters into Braille. Fortunately a number of technology developers and content providers have designed their products and services to put sighted and blind users on an equal footing. With the advent of commercial e-books some developers, including Apple iBooks and Blio books, have made their e-books and reading applications accessible so that everyone, including blind students and others with print disabilities, can read and use them effectively.

Unfortunately Amazon is not such a company. It has made a conscious decision to exclude the blind from reading and studying with its Kindle e-books. Among other barriers blind students using Kindle e-books cannot (1) read character by character and thus learn to spell, punctuate, and distinguish homophones; (2) navigate usefully through the text of a Kindle e-book to keep up with the rest of the class; (3) interact with the Kindle e-book’s content through the dictionary, highlighting, search, or note-taking features; or (4) access any content in Braille through their refreshable Braille displays. In sum, blind students attempting to use Kindle e-books are effectively precluded from developing phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary, which are the stated goals of your Family Reading Experience program.

To illustrate the barriers Kindle e-books create, I have attached a chart to this letter showing the various functions that Kindle e-books offer sighted students and deny blind students. The chart reflects the best access Amazon offers, using a Kindle Keyboard (also called Kindle 3G) or using the Kindle for PC with Accessibility Plugin to read Kindle e-books. All other devices and platforms for reading Kindles are completely inaccessible. By way of comparison, the attached chart also shows other reading platforms, such as iBooks, that offer blind students all of the functions that Amazon reserves for the sighted. For your convenience we have also tied those features to the Common Core State Standards to demonstrate specifically how the access barriers of Kindle e-books inhibit blind students’ educational opportunities. [Editor’s note: The chart discussed previously was reproduced in full in the February 2013 issue of the Monitor.] In short, although blind readers do have some rudimentary access to Kindle e-books when using platforms that permit that rudimentary access, it is not nearly enough [access] to use the books for anything but the most casual reading, much less the intense, challenging reading that characterizes the academic environment.

Hence the implementation of Kindle e-books proposed by the Family Reading Experience program will relegate students with print disabilities to second-class status and unnecessarily exclude them from benefiting from the program’s goals and objectives.

Moreover, the limitations of Kindle e-books will inhibit print-disabled children from developing those grade-appropriate reading skills that are set forth by the Common Core State Standards and that are vigorously advocated by your organization.

Not only does the use of Kindle e-books in the public school classroom inhibit the educational development of print-disabled students, it is also a violation of federal law. This is so because use of Kindle e-books discriminates against students with print disabilities by denying them equal access to educational programs.

Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, public schools must not deny students with disabilities the benefits of their programs and activities. Therefore public schools that choose to use Kindle e-books will be violating federal law, and PTA organizations that encourage the use of Kindle e-books in their local schools will be assisting those schools in that violation.

In 2009 and 2010, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education resolved complaints against five postsecondary schools that used the inaccessible Kindle DX e-reader device in their classrooms with agreements that required these schools not to purchase any e-reader device for their classrooms or require use of any device unless or until such electronic book reader is fully accessible to individuals with visual impairments. An electronic book reader is fully accessible only if all uses of the device that are available to individuals without disabilities are available to individuals with visual impairments in a manner which ensures that its use in the university setting is equally effective for individuals with visual impairments as it is for others. In 2010 the Departments of Justice and Education jointly issued a letter to the postsecondary educational community, explaining that, when it comes to e-book readers and e-book content, equal access is the law. In 2011 the Department of Education again made clear that elementary and secondary schools likewise must refrain from using technology that will deny students with disabilities equal access.

If we can further assist you in understanding which e-books and e-book platforms are accessible and compliant with federal and state law, or provide further information about the deficiencies of Kindle e-books, please do not hesitate to contact us. The National Federation of the Blind, whose 50,000 members comprise not only blind people of all ages and backgrounds but also parents of blind children and others who support equal opportunity for blind Americans, has as its ultimate goal the complete integration of the blind into society on an equal basis with our sighted peers. We are fortunate to live in an age in which that ideal has been written into law.

Amazon’s deliberate choice to scorn that ideal and ignore the needs of blind readers does not give public schools a free pass to discriminate on the basis of disability by purchasing and using Kindle e-books in their classrooms. Nor should your organization be party to such discrimination. Your position statements emphasize the special needs of underserved populations including children with disabilities, and you have assumed the role of being a powerful voice for all children. We look forward to your cooperation in this matter and are confident you will raise your powerful voice in support of the rights of our nation’s blind and print-disabled students.

Marc Maurer, President


A Blind Senior’s Journey to Independence

by Diane McGeorge

From the Editor: Diane McGeorge is a Federationist who probably needs no introduction. She has been in the Federation since the 1950s, served on the national board of directors, been a national officer, served as the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, and founded the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB). Now she works as a volunteer in the Center’s Senior Program.

One of my volunteer jobs in the Federation is serving as a member of the board of directors of the CCB. At a recent in-person meeting of the board I was invited to sit in on a meeting of the Senior Program, where I heard the story Diane McGeorge recounts here. I was so impressed that I asked Diane to work with Ruben Hernandez to put it on paper. Here is what she has written:

At our training centers we are often asked what students do during training time and what they do in their off hours. The premise of the question, of course, is that there is distinct school time and off time, and, although the Colorado Center for the Blind does have training hours, the division between off and training time is not obvious—learning at the CCB is always happening, and this is the beauty of a program in which a job is more than a job and one in which staff and students together are involved in life-changing experiences.

Ruben Hernandez is an enthusiastic student who participates in the CCB's senior program. His vision loss started when he was an active member of the United States Marine Corps, and after about ten pairs of glasses, each improving for a time what he could see, he was finally discharged. Following his time in the service he became a general contractor, building dry cleaning establishments. This meant performing and supervising work done involving plumbing, electrical wiring, steam fitting, concrete work, roofing, venting—anything that had to do with constructing buildings he did. He also trained and hired his sons, nephews, and brothers-in-law, who all worked for him in the business.

When his sight got so bad he could no longer drive, he hired a driver. Still he was the boss and made the decisions and assignments, and most of the people for whom he worked never realized he couldn't see. Occasionally awkward situations would arise when he would run into a closed door or try walking through a window, but these he laughed off by letting people think he had had a bit too much to drink the night before or by convincing them he was deep in thought working to solve a complicated design problem.

In his mid-sixty's Ruben decided he had lost enough sight that he needed some help. Six years ago he went to the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Scheduled there for six weeks, he left after three because he was told he was suffering from lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes), that he had about a year to live, and that he should spend that time with his family. Sadly, the man who gave him that advice died four years ago; but Ruben is alive and well after two lung surgeries.

Wanting to learn how to type so he could use a computer, believing he could use more training to deal with his decreasing vision, and always on the lookout for activities to stimulate his mind and keep him active, Ruben signed up for the Seniors’ Program at the Colorado Center for the Blind. Like the programs for younger adults, the Senior Program teaches cane travel, Braille, and daily living skills. Ruben was an enthusiastic participant in all of these, and, though he has memorable stories about his formal training and his interaction with other students, the story I want to share is about the day after Thanksgiving when Ruben forgot that the Center would be closed and dutifully reported for class.

Still in the holiday spirit, Ruben starts his Friday morning by reporting to the CCB for senior training. He is sure there will be some kind of Thanksgiving celebration, and the good food and fellowship offer great promise that this will be a memorable day. At this point he has no idea just how memorable it will turn out to be.

When Ruben arrives at the building, he is surprised to find the main doors locked. Undeterred, he goes to the doors on the kitchen side and finds they too are secured, with no evidence of anyone in the building. Worrying that perhaps he has been wrong in assuming the Center will be open for business, he makes a search of the parking lot and finds it empty.

Since this is Denver, he has a fresh snow to contend with, and under it the ever-treacherous ice. Stepping off the curb, Ruben begins sliding uncontrollably downhill and crashes face-first into a ten-foot snow bank created by the snowplows that cleaned the street and the parking lot. After getting up and dusting himself off, he has to find his cane. Where it has gone is not immediately apparent, but eventually he discovers that the snow bank that threatened to swallow him has captured it. Once rescued, together they go in search of more adventure.

Deciding he might as well go back home, Ruben sets off for the light rail. Public transportation is still new to him, but he prefers it to the paratransit and other door-to-door services that have left him waiting while appointment times come and go. He likes the control that taking the bus and the train give him. They run on schedule, which means he runs on schedule, and for Ruben punctuality and self-reliance are what it means to be independent.

As he starts down the steps to the train, he can just make out its approach. Throwing caution to the wind, he increases his speed, pays less attention than he should to what his cane is telling him, and trips down the last two steps leading to the car. This time, when he picks himself up, he finds he has torn pants, sore knees, and a concerned driver who waits until Ruben is on board and seated.

But Ruben's problems aren't over simply because he has reached the relative safety of the train car—it is warm, it is dry, but it soon becomes apparent to Ruben that it is going in the wrong direction and is not getting him closer to home. He ends up at Mineral Station. As Ruben sits there rubbing his knees and looking at his torn pants, the conductor comes along and announces that this car has reached the end of the line. Deciding that the train will eventually turn around and take him back in the direction he needs to go, Ruben waits for the car to move. In a while it does, but soon he hears the announcement that the train he is riding is Train C bound for Union Station, not his destination; he needs to go to Auraria. Getting his bearings, Ruben exits at Englewood and decides to catch the next train. When it comes by, he asks if it goes up by the college, is told that it does, boards the train, and again hears a troublesome announcement: this train is headed for the depot. All of his questioning and planning have once again gotten him on the C train, so at Alameda he exits and waits.

When the next car arrives, he asks a fellow passenger if this train goes to the college, is told that it does, boards the car, drifts off into thoughts about this most eventful day, and doesn't pay attention to where he is. Jarred out of his reflections when a fellow passenger tells him he has arrived at the college, Ruben jumps off the train, looks around, and soon concludes he is not at Colfax but some place entirely unfamiliar. Remembering what he has heard about the value of asking questions, Ruben decides his best source of information will come from inquiring about his location from passing cars on the street. He approaches stopped vehicles for information and finds them unwilling to open their windows and engage in conversation. "This is Denver, and I think they have the idea I want to attack them," he says. Finally someone cracks a window about an inch, and he asks where Colfax is. He is told that it is on the other side of the college and that he must travel through the campus to get where he wants to go. He knows no landmarks; pedestrian campuses offer fewer of them than traditional streets, and this is the day after Thanksgiving, so no students will be there to offer helpful directions. Add to all of this an overcast sky that means it is getting darker and making it harder for Ruben to use what little vision he has, and you begin to get a picture of what he refers to as "quite a little challenge."

With only one alternative open to him, Ruben starts his trek across campus, realizing that, though he has been proudly carrying his cane, he has only a few weeks of instruction and that most of the teaching he has received has come from the VA and the rolling canes they assigned their students. He now holds an NFB cane, but he is still so new to training that instruction in its use is still sometime in the future. Eventually he comes to a major street, sees a light off to his right, proceeds to the end of the block, and meets a girl on a bicycle asking if he needs help. He tells her he needs to find the bus stop on Colfax. She tells him he is on Colfax, that he is close to the bus stop, and that she will be glad to show him where it is.

Ruben catches the bus; he takes it to Pierce; and, when he gets off, he now finds it is completely dark—not overcast dark, but night-time dark. Never has he traveled by himself at night, always making certain that any night trips occur in the company of someone with sight. But this is not an option, so he decides that he must see for himself just what this cane can tell him.

The street he is traveling is not ideal for an introductory cane travel test. The part he must initially travel has no sidewalk, and fresh snow is on the ground. If he ventures too far left, he runs the risk of being hit by traffic, and if he drifts too far to the right, he will slide down a steep embankment, which at times resembles a cliff. Swinging the cane to the left to find a walkable path and to the right to ensure he does not slide down the embankment, Ruben walks until he eventually reaches a sidewalk. He finds the street crossing he needs, locates the ramp used for entering his building, takes the elevator, finds his room, and opens his door. He enters, drops to his knees, kisses the floor, and yells out, "Darn, I can do this!"

Of his adventure he says, "I learned three things that day: Don't get in a hurry—that's why I fell; pay attention to what you are doing—that's why I got on the wrong tram; and, most important, learn to trust what you get from that cane. I never had that confidence before. Now I'm not one to brag, but I tell people that, if I can do it, they can do it. What they need to do is get over their poor-me syndrome. Your eyes aren't going to get any better, so you might as well take advantage of what time you've got, and learn what you can. When you finally become totally blind, then you'll know what to do. I tell people that my life has taught me that you have to fight what you have to fight, whether it is seeing flashes from a foxhole and hoping that the blast doesn't get you or taking on the problems of blindness and learning how to handle them."

What I find so moving about Ruben is not just his story but the man it reveals and the influence he has on others. He does not preach; he would not claim to teach. But example is a tremendous teacher, and the words he uses have meaning because they capture that example and make it come alive for others. At the CCB we have helped Ruben, but he has been much more than a student, amplifying what we say and what we teach in ways we could never hope to do on our own.

One of the things I love about the Senior Program is the gratitude that is evident in the people we serve. I'm not saying that our younger students don't appreciate what they get from us; I am saying that they often take the programs we have for granted, just another in the array of services they have a right to and can expect. Perhaps this is because of our emphasis on the strides we have made in creating laws and the services we pledge to provide; perhaps it is because they have had to fight less to get what they have needed. I'm no philosopher, so I'll leave it to others to figure out why our seniors seem to be emotionally moved and spiritually uplifted by their programs and are so willing to embrace attitudes, tools, and techniques that give them back freedom they thought was forever lost to them. Teach a senior he can do a thorough job cleaning his apartment, and you have given him back the respect that comes from knowing he can invite anyone at any time to the place he treasures and not be ashamed of how it looks. Teach the same skill to some of our young folks, and they act like you have saddled them with yet another unwanted chore.

In my almost sixty years in the Federation, I've been a part of many a battle to help blind people, but nothing I've done has been more enriching than the role I'm able to play now in helping our blind seniors. Some of my feelings about this no doubt come from my husband Ray's love of our Senior Program and my desire to carry it forward because of him. But the experience of giving back the independence and self-reliance for men and women of a generation known for both is difficult to put into words, so I have left it to Ruben through his story to explain once again why I am proud to be a Federationist.

Deep Sea Fishing Adventure

by Gordon Chan

From the Editor: Gordon Chan is a new Federation member who lives in California. He has been blind since the age of four but resisted being around other blind people because he thought he was too busy being a husband, a father, and a businessman. He joined due to the persistence of a friend and his own reluctantly acknowledged conviction: “My helping is long overdue; I have been very fortunate, and it is time for me to give back.” On joining, he warned his chapter that they shouldn’t expect too much of him: “I’m pretty busy. I ski the second weekend of the month, which conflicts with your chapter meeting, so you’ll probably see me no more than four times a year.” That warning notwithstanding, Gordon now has willingly taken on the chairmanship of the sports and activities committee and the best in tech committee. He is also one of the most active members of the membership committee and the fundraising committee. “I guess you could say I went from zero to sixty pretty fast,” he says.

For those of us who aren’t familiar with some of the vocabulary, Gordon has helped with the definition of a few phrases: “awww, fresh one” means “I have hooked one.” “Fish on” and “hook up” mean the same thing. “Sawed off” means that the friction from another fisherman’s line has cut your line. Now, here is what Gordon has to say about his deep-sea fishing adventures:

The boat trolls, or pulls tuna feathers, and the anglers wait for the fishing reels to go off with their clickers screaming out an alarm. Suddenly, the corner rod goes off, and someone yells “Hook up.” All the fisherman grab their fishing rods, race to the bait tank, and start throwing out their lines with a sardine pinned to each hook. I am somewhat slower and at a severe disadvantage in selecting the choicest bait or finding an open spot in which to cast out. Another angler to my right yells out “fresh one.” My adrenalin starts to increase just being in the fray and having the opportunity to fish for tuna or yellowtail. I feel my bait begin to feed out and a slight tap; then my line begins to accelerate rapidly. This is a critical moment because, if I try to set the hook too soon, I will pull the hook out of the fish’s mouth. I put my reel in gear; feel the line go tight; lift my rod; and, as it begins to bend, I set the hook hard and fast. The initial pull of the bluefin bends my rod to its limit. The drag on my reel screams out an intoxicating whiz and hums as line is peeled off. I yell out “fish on.” My fish pulls me hard to the left, and the deck hand yells at me to move left and follow my fish. “Go over this guy, over another, and under the next,” he instructs.

My fish then decides to pull me to the right, and this dance will continue until I get him to the boat or he breaks off. I have been fighting my fish for about thirty minutes, and my hands are sore and tired. The end of the rod is jammed against my stomach, which is also beginning to become extremely sore. Another fisherman who is fighting his own fish tells me he needs to come under me, and, as I attempt to step back, my fish pulls hard, and I bump him hard on his back and mutter a quick apology. I feel a friction on my line and say, “I have a line on me.” The deck hand cuts the other person’s line, and I continue to fight the fish. I ask people around me, “Do you see color?”

Someone says, “You have deep color.” I ask the deck hand for the gaff, and he coaches me to stop reeling and lifts the beast onto the deck where I hear his tail flapping the deck. “That’s a nice one,” someone exclaims.

And my friend confirms this by saying, “What a beauty! That’s about a thirty-eight-pound bluefin.”

The action continues all around me as I hear another “hook up,” and “awwww, fresh one.”

The deck hand says, “You are clear, so grab another bait and get it out there.”

For the next three hours we are in a wide-open bite, and the entire boat is filled with running feet, flapping tails, and the laughter of happy anglers. Intermixed with the excitement are some groans of disappointment and outright cursing. I can tell that some fish are sawed off and others have broken the anguished angler’s line. Tuna fishing is among the most challenging, and bluefin can be some of the most line shy or finicky when it comes to bait presentation.

Being totally blind has not stopped me from learning all about deep sea fishing. I have learned about different hook types and sizes and what weight of line to match to the hook in relation to the bait. I have gathered knowledge about the different types, lengths, and composites of rods; when to fly line; and when to use a sliding weight or a torpedo weight. Each species of fish requires a different game plan. I have caught calico bass, barracuda, halibut, white sea bass, yellowtail, dorado, Wahoo yellowfin tuna, albacore tuna, and bluefin tuna.

The captain steers the nose of the boat out of the harbor. He increases throttle, and the diesels begin to hum. I feel the sun and the sea breeze on my face. A slow smile lights up my face as the realization comes over me that once again I am chasing the tuna. I am deep sea fishing, and this is a joy I hope my example and this article can bring other blind people to share.

No Limits!
2013 National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) Conference for Families and Teachers

by Carlton Walker

From the Editor: One activity that makes our convention unique is the annual program sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. No other conference in the world does as much to provide programming for blind children and their parents. Here is the list of activities they will enjoy this summer in Orlando:
Shortly after my daughter Anna Catherine turned three, an ophthalmologist told me that she was legally blind and had central vision loss. I was surprised, but I was not particularly worried. At that point I had not noticed any evidence of her visual impairment. Besides, blindness was nothing compared to what she had already faced.

Anna Catherine's first year of life had been filled with multiple hospitalizations, endless painful procedures, and tube feeding through a port in her stomach. Just before her first Christmas, her doctors warned us that our nine month old might not live another year. They said we would be lucky if she lived to be five or six years old. Thankfully they were wrong about her diagnosis, but Anna still had much to overcome. When she was one year old, she was finally strong enough to begin the physical milestones of infancy such as rolling over and sitting up. Shortly after her second birthday a month-long stay at a feeding clinic taught her how to swallow. She spent the next year trying new foods and liquids, and we went a whole twelve months without a visit to a hospital emergency room.

Thus, even though I was not expecting the legal-blindness diagnosis, I was not really worried. Anna acted just like most three-year-olds. Nevertheless, I began to research what this term “legally blind” meant. I found out that central vision loss can significantly impair one's ability to read print. I wondered whether she should start learning Braille. I wondered what her future would hold.

I soon found, however, that many people thought my ideas about Braille were simply wrong. Anna's ophthalmologists and optometrists downplayed my thoughts about her using Braille, “She should be able to read print, so she won't need Braille.” Anna's educators conveyed a certainty that she would not be a candidate for Braille. They told me that she would need large print (thirty-six- to forty-eight-point font) and as a result would be a slower reader. I wondered why these people who said she didn't need Braille were telling me about what she couldn't do because of her limited vision. Wouldn't Braille help?

Even in our own family no one seemed eager to admit that Anna's life would be affected in any way by “her eye issues.” My husband retreated from any talk about Braille or canes, while other family members expressed great sadness about her vision. One close family member was downright hostile and even forbade me from saying the “B” word—blind—in front of Anna.

Despite all this, eventually I knew that my little girl needed more than she was getting. I noticed that Anna was not as independent as her peers. My fearless toddler was becoming a fearful preschooler. One day, while walking home from the library, I made Anna let go of her fierce grip on my hand. None of the other children at the library story hour held their parents’ hands as tightly. Two steps later, Anna walked right into a telephone pole and ended up with a walnut-sized lump in the middle of her forehead. I immediately felt terrible and went back to holding her hand all the time. It seemed that her limited vision was truly going to limit her.
Fortunately, through a series of coincidences, I found out about the National Federation of the Blind and a conference being held in just a few weeks. Somehow my husband agreed to take off work to go to this conference for parents and blind kids—even though he knew that Anna wasn't one.

In May 2005, at that conference in Baltimore, Maryland, everything changed. We met successful blind adults who showed us that blindness was not the tragedy we had been led to believe. We heard that blindness skills could “reduce blindness to the level of a physical nuisance.” We learned that our little girl need not be defined by her visual acuity or her visual field. Before the conference we had believed that the amount of vision Anna had would determine how far she would go in life. Instead we began to understand that having the skills to do the task at hand, not level of vision, would be the most accurate predictor of future success for our young daughter.

At that 2005 conference I also came to know the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). In addition to successful blind adults we had the support of parents from all over the nation. While each family has its own story, we remain together in believing that our children can be as successful and as independent as they would be with full sight. With the help of successful blind adults, our children are reducing blindness to the level of a physical nuisance and tearing down the artificial vision-focused barriers erected by others.

Now, as NOPBC president, I have the great honor and pleasure of welcoming you to our No Limits conference. No Limits means sharing information, ideas, and dreams. No Limits means mastering the skills needed for independence and self-determination. No Limits means the amount of eyesight our children have will not be the determining factor in how far they go in life. No Limits!

The thirtieth annual NOPBC conference, No Limits, will take place from Monday, July 1, to Saturday, July 6, 2013, at the national convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando, Florida, at the Rosen Centre Hotel. We look forward to seeing you at our full-day seminar on Monday and at our many activities, listed below, which continue all week. Preregister (forms below) or register on-site in Orlando. Hope to see you there.

No Limits!
Schedule of Activities for Parents, Teachers, Children, and Youth

Please Note: NOPBC children’s activities will take place in NFB child care throughout the week. Be sure to register your child for child care. (NFB child care has separate registration and fees—see the article in the April issue.)

MONDAY, JULY 1: Full-Day Seminar for Parents and Teachers 

7:30 AM to 8:45 AM—Registration

9:00 AM to 10:45 AM—General Session
            Welcome—Carlton Walker, president, NOPBC 
            Kid Talk with Dr. Marc Maurer—Kids get a chance to speak to the president of the National Federation of the Blind about anything on their minds.
            No Limits!—Anil Lewis, director of advocacy and policy, National Federation of the Blind 
            Braille Readers Are Leaders Recognition
           Life without Limits—Dr. Jessica Ewell, opera singer; Lindsay Yazzolino, MIT cognitive neuroscience researcher
            No Limits for These Kids!—The students speak.

11:00 AM to 12:15 PM—NOPBC Children’s Activity, Music and Movement with Conchita Hernandez, special educator (ages 5-12, in NFB child care)

11:00 AM to 12:15 PM—NFB Youth Track Session (ages 11-18)
Sponsored by NFB Jernigan Institute
Children who would like to take part in the Kid Talk with Dr. Maurer and Youth Track participants will begin the day in the general session, after which they will be escorted to child care or their activity. 

11:00 AM to 12:15 PM—NOPBC Concurrent Sessions—Parents and Teachers
Access Tech: Apple Products
Come see how the accessibility of iPhone, iPad, iPod products, accessories, and apps could work for your child/student. Instructor: Dan Wenzel, manager, youth services, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM). Note: This workshop repeats at 2:00 PM.

Early Childhood Language and Play
Learn how to create a stimulating environment for the development of language and play in the young blind/visually impaired child. Instructor: Heather Field, special educator

The Inclusive Classroom
How to set up the classroom and what the classroom teacher needs to know for the student’s full participation throughout the day. Instructors: Denise Mackenstadt, NOMC; Kristen Sims, teacher of blind students

Making and Understanding Raised-Line Drawings
Participants will use raised-line drawing (RLD) boards to create, erase, and revise images through free-hand sketching and more formal manual drawing methods needed for STEM curriculum content. Staff will share tips for improving student ability to read RLDs by touch and understand their content. Instructors: E.A.S.Y. LLC Staff

Social Skills for the Teen Years
Looking good, making friends, dating, and other concerns of the teen years. Instructor: Deja Powell, cane travel teacher. Fashionista: Garrick Scott, president, NFB of GA, and youth mentor

12:15 PM to 2:00 PM—Lunch on your own
Pick up children ASAP from NFB child care at 12:15.

1:30 to 4:30 PM—NFB Youth Track Sessions (ages 11-18)

2:00 PM—NOPBC Children’s Activity Hands-on Art with Ann Cunningham, tactile artist (ages 5-12, in NFB child care)

2:00 PM to 3:15 PM—NOPBC Concurrent Sessions—Parents and Teachers
Access Tech: Apple Products
Come see how the accessibility of iPhone, iPad, iPod products, accessories, and apps could work for your child/student. Instructor: Dan Wenzel, manager, youth services, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) (Repeat of morning session)

What’s Available?
What tools and materials are available for my child’s use for access to a full education? Where can my school get them? Instructor: Eric Guillory, director of youth services, LA Center for the Blind

Movement and Exploration for the Young Blind Child
How can you get your child moving and exploring the world? What if your child has delays? Would a cane be good for your child? The session will be appropriate for families with children with or without additional disabilities. Instructor: Mary Jo Hartle, NOMC, teacher of blind students

Aiming for Independence
Independent living skills for home, school, and community. Instructor: Melissa Riccobono, president, NFB of MD, school counselor

The ABCs of Braille
A hands-on workshop for adults that will teach the beginning of Braille reading and writing. Instructor: TBA

3:30 PM to 4:45 PM—NOPBC Concurrent Sessions—Parents and Teachers
Technology: Where Do I Start?
This session will explore the basics of access technology for blind/VI children. Instructor: Jack Mendez, director of technology, LA Center for the Blind

Social Skills for the Younger Years: Interaction and Play
How parents and teachers can facilitate the development of age-appropriate social skills in the younger blind/VI child. Instructor: TBA

Out and About: Independent Mobility for Your School-Aged Child 
High expectations, real-life goals, and how to achieve them in independent travel. Instructor: Denise Mackenstadt, NOMC

Self-Advocacy: A Critical Life Skill 
We want our children to be able to take charge of their own lives as adults. This workshop will explore the importance of self-advocacy and provide suggestions for teaching children to speak up for themselves effectively. Instructor: Arielle Silverman, doctoral student, University of Colorado

Persuade, Negotiate, Collaborate
Choosing your battles and resolving conflict at IEP meetings so that your child can benefit and make the most progress. Instructor: Sharon Maneki, NFB of MD, advocate

7:00 PM to 9:00 PM—NOPBC Family Hospitality
Relax, chat, meet new families, and connect with old friends. Veteran parents will be on hand to welcome you and provide information.

No NFB child care on this day

7:00 AM to 8:45 AM—NOPBC Board Meeting

8:45 AM to 10:30 AM—CANE WALK Session I

11:00 AM to 12:45 PM—CANE WALK Session II
Learn and experience the structured-discovery method of travel at these special workshops. Parents, teachers, blind children, siblings welcome. Instructors: Jeff Altman, NOMC, and cane travel instructors

2:45 PM to 4:00 PM—NOPBC Youth Style Show
This is an opportunity for your aspiring model to take a walk down the runway in a favorite outfit from his or her closet. Contact Kim Cunningham at (713) 501-9659 or <kim@gulfimagesphoto.com> for more information and to sign up.

4:00 PM to 5:00 PM—NFB Youth Track Session (ages 11-18)


10:00 AM—NOPBC Children’s Activity, Astronaut Activities with Noreen Grice, accessible astronomy educator (ages 6-12, in NFB child care)

11:30 AM to 12:30 PM—NFB Youth Track Session (ages 11-18)

12:45 PM—NOPBC Children’s Activity, Beep Kickball with Judy Byrd, Beep Kickball Association (ages 5-12, in NFB child care). You can drop off your child early at child care on this afternoon so that you can attend the NOPBC annual meeting. 

1:00 PM to 4:00 PM—NOPBC Annual Meeting: Options and Opportunities
Keynote address by the 2013 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award winner, special guest speakers, news from NASA, cutting-edge information on products and services, summer programs for our kids, Parent Power, business meeting, elections, and much more

5:00 PM to 7:00 PM—Braille Book Fair 
A book lover's dream! Browse tables of new and used Braille and print/Braille books. Volunteers will box your books, and the post office will deliver them to your home as Free Matter. Books are free; donations are encouraged to help support our Braille programs. Cosponsored by NOPBC and NAPUB. Coordinator: Krystal Guillory, teacher of blind students, NFBL BELL Coordinator

7:00 PM to 9:00 PM—NFB Youth Track Activity (ages 11-18)

7:30 PM to 9:00 PM—Dads’ Night Out
All dads, sighted or blind, are welcome. Call Jim Beyer at (406) 239-2057 for location.

9:00 PM to 10:00 PM—Convention 101
Facilitated convention experience for tweens and teens. Facilitator: Carlton Walker, president, NOPBC


7:00 to 9:00 AM—NOPBC Board Meeting

8:45 to 9:20 AM—Convention 101
Facilitated Convention experience for tweens and teens. Facilitator: Carlton Walker, president, NOPBC

10:00 AM—NOPBC Children’s Activity, Making Raised-Line Drawings with Staff of E.A.S.Y. LLC(ages 6-12, in NFB child care)

12:15 PM to 1:15 PM—Convention 101

2:00 PM—NOPBC Children’s Activity, NASA at Your Fingertips with David Hurd, NASA scientist (ages 5-12, in NFB child care)

5:10 PM to 5:35 PM—Convention 101

7:00 PM to 10:00 PM—NOPBC Children’s Activity Crafts and Games—For children whose parents are attending NOPBC evening workshops. (ages 5-12)      

7:00 PM to 9:45 PM—NOPBC Concurrent Sessions—Parents and Teachers

7:00 PM to 8:15 PM—Homeschooling a Blind/Visually Impaired Child
Come network with other homeschoolers to share information and tips and discuss the challenges and satisfactions of homeschooling. Instructor: Heather Field, special educator

7:00 PM to 8:15 PM—IEP Basics for Parents of Blind/VI Students 
The sections of the IEP, essential assessments, how assessment information is used, how to be an active and effective participant. Instructor: Carlton Walker, attorney, teacher of blind students

8:30 PM to 9:45 PM—IEP Development and Legal Process Overview
Do’s and Don’t’s for the IEP meeting; preparing for possible mediation, due process, appeal, etc.; overview of the legal process; how to prepare for a due process hearing so you don’t have to have one. Instructor: Carlton Walker, attorney, teacher of blind students

NFB Youth Track Activity (ages 11-18)—Time TBA


8:15 AM to 8:50 AM  Convention 101
Facilitated Convention experience for tweens and teens. Facilitator: Carlton Walker, president, NOPBC

12:15 PM to 1:15 PM—Convention 101

5:10 PM to 5:35 PM—Convention 101


8:15 AM to 8:50 AM—Convention 101
Facilitated Convention experience for tweens and teens. Facilitator: Carlton Walker, president, NOPBC

12:15 PM to 1:15 PM—Convention 101

5:10 PM to 5:35 PM—Convention 101


National convention is a complicated week of events. Here are a few tips to help you stay organized and take advantage of the many opportunities that will be available. 

Registration Information

Activities for Children and Youth; Child Care Information

Seminar Day Information

Other Activities Going on All Week Long
In addition to the special NOPBC activities for parents, children, and youth listed in this article, other activities that you and your child may be interested in attending will be going on all week. Often activities are going on at the same time, and you and your child will have to make choices. Here is a sampling:

NOPBC Family Outing to Gatorland
Gatorland has made it possible for NOPBC families to visit the park on Sunday, June 30, at a discounted rate. Please note, this is the day before our full-day seminar. We will meet in the lobby of the Rosen Centre Hotel at 1:00 PM on Sunday and then carpool or cab-pool to Gatorland, which is a short distance from the hotel. We can then enjoy the park from 1:30 to 5:00 or 6:00 PM, depending on its closing time that day.

Cost of the discounted tickets will be $17.49 for adults and $10.75 for children 3-12 years. Children under 3 are free. Visit the Gatorland website at <www.gatorland.com/index.shtml> to see all the fun-filled activities it offers.


Make check payable to NOPBC and mail with forms to:
Pat Renfranz, NOPBC Treasurer
397 Middle Oak Lane, Salt Lake City, UT 84108
Save money by preregistering. Preregistration must be postmarked by June 15.
After June 15, please register on-site in Orlando.


By June 15

On-site in Orlando




Child/Youth (up to 18 years)

Children are free, but please list names and ages below


Adult Name ____________________________________________________
 [ ] parent [ ] professional [ ] other____________________

Adult Name ____________________________________________________
 [ ] parent [ ] professional [ ] other____________________

Please list additional adults on a separate sheet.
Address ______________________________ City _____________________
State _______ Zip _____________ Phone ___________________
Email _______________________________ Alt. phone ________________

Child/Youth 1—Name (first and last), age, brief description of vision and any additional disabilities: _________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________
Child/Youth 2: _____________________________________________________________
Please list additional children/youth on a separate sheet.

How many?                  Prereg. by June 15                 On-site reg.
 Adults _____              @ $30 = $______ or              @ $35 = $______
 Child/Youth _____                                                      FREE = $__00__
                                                                         Total enclosed: $_________

___ I receive Future Reflections
___ This is my 1st national convention
___ I am a member of my state NFB/POBC
       If not, how many national conventions have you attended? ______________

PLEASE NOTE: Preregistrations postmarked after June 15 will be returned.

Also, remember that registrations for the NOPBC conference and NFB child care are separate and must be mailed to different places.


SUNDAY, JUNE 30 (Day before conference begins)

1:00 PM—Trip to Gatorland (Please list how many will attend)
 _____ Adults _____ Children 4-12 years _____ Children 3 and under
            (Payment is due the day of the trip.)


11:00 AM to 12:15 PM (Please mark how many will attend each session)

_____ Access Tech: Apple Products 
_____ Early Childhood
_____ Inclusive Classroom 
_____ Raised Line Drawings
_____ Social Skills—Teens

2:00 PM to 3:15 PM (Please mark how many will attend each session)

_____ Access Tech: Apple Products
_____ What’s Available?
_____ Movement and Exploration for the Young Blind Child
_____ Aiming for Independence
_____ ABCs of Braille

3:30 PM to 4:45 PM(Please mark how many will attend each session)

_____ Technology: Where Do I Start?
_____ Social Skills—Younger Children
_____ Out and About: Independent Mobility for Your School-Aged Child 
_____ Self-Advocacy 
_____ Persuade, Negotiate, Collaborate

CHILDREN—You must register your child for NFB child care for the day for child to participate. Child care has separate registration and fees. (See article in the April issue.)

Please mark how many children will attend each session
 _____ 11 AM to 12:15 PM: Music and Movement (ages 5 – 12)
            Name   _____________________      Age_______
                          _____________________      Age_______

 _____ 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM: Hands-On Art (ages 5 – 12)  
            Name   _____________________      Age_______
                          _____________________      Age_______

8:45 AM to 10:30 AM: Cane Walk Session I
            _____ adults   _____ children      _____ youth
                                       ________ ages    ________ ages

11:00 AM to 12:45 PM: Cane Walk Session II
            _____ adults   _____ children      _____ youth
                                       ________ ages    ________ ages

2:45 PM to 4:00 PM—Youth Style Show
            Name   _____________________      Age_______
                          _____________________      Age_______

CHILDREN—You must register your child for NFB child care for the day for child to participate (separate registration and fees).

Please mark how many children will attend each session
 _____ 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM—Astronaut Activities (ages 6-12; mature 5-year-olds may attend)
            Name   _____________________      Age_______
                          _____________________      Age_______

 _____ 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM—Beep Kickball (ages 5-12)
            Name   _____________________      Age_______
                          _____________________      Age_______


CHILDREN—You must register your child for NFB child care for the day for child to participate (separate registration and fees).

Please mark how many will attend each session.
 _____ 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM—Making Raised-Line Drawings (ages 6-12)
            Name   _____________________      Age_______
                          _____________________      Age_______

_____ 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM—Space Exploration (ages 5-12)
            Name   _____________________      Age_______
                          _____________________      Age_______


7:00 PM to 8:15 PM(Please mark how many will attend each session) 
           _____ Homeschooling

           _____ IEP Basics for Parents of Blind/VI Students

8:30 PM to 9:45 PM(Please mark how many will attend)
            _____ IEP Development and Legal Process Overview

CHILDREN (ages 5-12 years)

Please note: Sign your child up for this activity only if you will be attending NOPBC workshops that evening.

_____ 7 to 10 PM Crafts and Games (Please mark how many will attend)
            Name   _____________________      Age_______
                          _____________________      Age_______


Gatorland trip is Sun., June 30. Teen Room and Tween Room schedules to come.

Monday, July 1
9:00 AM to 10:45 AM            No Limits Seminar (Adults, Children, Youth)
11:00 AM to 12:15 PM           NOPBC Children’s Activity in Child Care
11:00 AM to 12:15 PM           Youth Track
11:00 AM to 12:15 PM           NOPBC Concurrent Workshop Sessions
1:30 PM to 4:30 PM               Youth Track
2:00 PM                                  NOPBC Children’s Activity in Child Care
2:00 PM to 3:15 PM               NOPBC Concurrent Workshop Sessions
3:30 PM to 4:45 PM               NOPBC Concurrent Workshop Sessions
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM               Family Hospitality

Tuesday, July 2
7:00 AM to 8:45 AM              NOPBC Board Meeting
8:45 AM to 10:30 AM            Cane Walk Session I (Adults, Children, Youth) 
11:00 AM to 12:45 PM           Cane Walk Session II (Adults, Children, Youth)
2:45 PM to 4:00 PM               Youth Style Show
4:00 PM to 5:00 PM               Youth Track

Wednesday, July 3
9:00 AM                                  NOPBC Children’s Activity in Child Care
11:30 AM to 12:30 PM           Youth Track
1:00 PM to 4:00 PM               NOPBC Annual Meeting—Drop kids in child care early
2:00 PM                                  NOPBC Children’s Activity in Child Care
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM               Braille Book Fair
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM               Youth Track
7:30 PM to 9:00 PM               Dads’ Night Out
9:00 PM to 10:00 PM             Convention 101

Thursday, July 4                                 
7:00 AM to 9:00 AM        NOPBC Board Meeting
8:45 AM to 9:20 AM        Convention 101 meets
10:00 AM                           NOPBC Children’s Activity in Child Care
12:15 PM to 1:15 PM      Convention 101 meets
2:00 PM                             NOPBC Children’s Activity in Child Care
5:10 PM to 5:35 PM        Convention 101 meets
7:00 PM to 9:45 PM       NOPBC Concurrent Workshops
7:00 to 10:00 PM            Children’s Activity for children whose parents are in the NOPBC workshops
Time TBA                          Youth Track

Friday, July 5 and Saturday, July 6
8:15 AM to 8:50 AM              Convention 101 meets
12:15 PM to 1:15 PM             Convention 101 meets
5:10 PM to 5:35 PM               Convention 101 meets



This month’s recipes are contributed by members of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri.

Sweet and Sour Spinach and Tofu Salad
by Dan Flasar

Dan Flasar is a member of the Lewis and Clark chapter of St. Louis, Missouri. One of his major contributions to the affiliate is to act as our official photographer.

1 8- or 10-ounce package unfermented tofu
1 8- or 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar or one tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
4 or 5 drops sesame oil

Method: Leave package of frozen spinach to thaw overnight in refrigerator. Remove tofu from package, drain and rinse. Cut into ½-inch cubes or smaller if preferred. Remove the thawed spinach from package, draining excess water, and place in a glass or porcelain (not metal) bowl. Add tofu cubes to spinach. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar, pour over the tofu and spinach, then stir to mix. Stir the sesame oil into the mixture, one drop at a time. Let salad stand covered in the refrigerator. The salad is ready to eat when the ingredients have blended, at least an hour, but overnight is best. Makes five three-ounce servings.

Notes: The only item you might have a little problem finding is sesame oil. You need only a drop or two, a bottle will last a long time, and it’s not expensive. Most large grocery stores stock it in the Chinese food section. It's also good on ramen noodles and in stews and soups and as an unusual note in barbecue sauce. It does not need refrigeration if kept tightly capped. Rice vinegar can also be found in the Chinese or Japanese food section

Ham and Potato Crockpot Soup
by Rosina Foster

Rosina Foster is the parent of two exceptionally fine children, is the newly elected president of the Missouri Parents of Blind Children, and is an energetic and enthusiastic participant in anything she undertakes.

3 1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
1/3 cup celery, diced
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup cooked ham, diced
3 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground white or black pepper, or to taste
5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk

Method: Combine ham, potatoes, celery, onion, water, bouillon, and salt and pepper in a Crockpot and set it on low. After the Crockpot has cooked for seven hours, in a saucepan melt butter and whisk in flour until smooth and add to Crockpot. After this thickening is mixed in, slowly add the milk while stirring constantly. Turn off Crockpot and let soup stand for fifteen minutes. Enjoy. This is a great way to use leftover ham.

Sicilian Casserole
by Dave Hutchins

Dave Hutchins is a member of the Kansas City chapter, holds a board position, is an automobile enthusiast, and is the president of the CARS (Classics, Antiques, and Rods) division.

1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni, 1 8-ounce package
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, cubed
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup sour cream
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile brown ground meat, onion, and garlic in heavy saucepan, stirring to break up meat. Add pepper when meat is almost cooked; continue to simmer until meat is done. Drain well. Add tomato paste, tomato sauce, water, and dried Italian seasoning and stir well to blend. Let simmer for 10 minutes to blend flavors. Meanwhile cook elbow macaroni in salted water as directed on package. While macaroni is cooking, combine cream cheese and milk in medium bowl. Cook in microwave on medium power for two to three minutes, stirring halfway through cooking. Remove from microwave and stir with wire whisk until mixture thickens and blends to form a smooth sauce. Drain macaroni and add to cream cheese sauce along with sour cream and half cup Parmesan cheese; stir to combine. In two-quart casserole dish place all of cream cheese mixture. Top with all of the ground meat mixture and sprinkle with remaining quarter cup Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for twenty to thirty minutes, until casserole is bubbly.

Note: To freeze, add 1 tablespoon cornstarch to the cream cheese sauce. Prepare casserole as directed, but instead of baking, chill in refrigerator. Wrap well and freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw casserole overnight in refrigerator. Bake covered for twenty-five to thirty-five minutes, then uncover and bake five to ten minutes longer, until bubbly.

Chicken Linguini with Ranch Dressing
by Dacia Luck

Dacia Luck has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind for most of her life, having joined at age six. She is currently the president of the Columbia Chapter of the NFB of Missouri and serves as the affiliate’s corresponding secretary.

2 to 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, grilled
or 2 6-ounce packages of Tyson’s grilled chicken breast
1 pound linguini, cooked al dente
1 large red or yellow pepper, grilled,
or 1 jar roasted red peppers
1 pound broccoli crowns, cooked for 2 to 3 minutes
1 large bottle ranch dressing
Grated Parmesan cheese to taste

Method: Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain. Meantime grill the chicken and cut into bite-size pieces. Cook the broccoli. Mix pasta, peppers, chicken, and broccoli together in large serving bowl and coat with the bottle of ranch dressing. It sounds like a lot of dressing, but there are a lot of ingredients to cover. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and serve hot. This dish goes well with garlic bread.

Cora’s Chocolate Sheet Cake
by Cora Underwood

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 sticks margarine
6 tablespoons real cocoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Method: Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, and baking soda in large mixing bowl. In a saucepan melt margarine and add water, stirring to mix well. Add buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Do not let liquid heat far enough to cook the eggs. Just warm should be fine. Pour liquid over dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Pour into a greased and floured cookie sheet with sides. Bake at 350 degrees for fifteen to twenty minutes. While cake is baking, make icing.

Icing Ingredients:
1 stick of margarine
4 tablespoons cocoa
5 tablespoons buttermilk
1 pound box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts

Method: Melt margarine in saucepan. Add cocoa powder, buttermilk, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and nuts and mix thoroughly. When the cake comes out of the oven, pour icing over warm cake and spread evenly.

Spinach Casserole
by Debbie Wunder

Debbie Wunder is the president of Missouri’s Diabetes Action Network, the vice-president of the Missouri Association of Dog Guide Users, and the head of Community and Special Projects for the Missouri Affiliate.

4 9-ounce boxes of frozen chopped spinach
16 to 20 slices American cheese (I prefer Kraft)
2 eggs
1 cup to 1 1/2 cups small curd cottage cheese, drained
1 teaspoon flour
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)

Method: Drain spinach in a sieve and squeeze dry, removing all extra water. Next break up cheese into small pieces and mix thoroughly with spinach. Beat eggs and add the flour and garlic. Mix all ingredients together, making the cottage cheese the last ingredient to be added. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish with Pam and pour mixture into dish. Spread mixture evenly and bake forty to forty-five minutes. Serves ten. This is a family favorite at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

Strawberry Bread
by Grace Warn

Despite having been friends with Dacia Luck since they were both six, Grace joined the NFB only this past December. Coincidentally, this was the same time she became reader/assistant to the Monitor editor.

2 cups fresh strawberries
3 1/8 cups flour
2 cups plus a spoonful sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans. Slice strawberries and place in medium bowl, sprinkle lightly with sugar, and set aside. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in large bowl; mix well. Blend oil and eggs with strawberries. Add strawberry mixture to dry ingredients, blending until dry ingredients are just moistened. Add pecans, stir, and divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake forty to forty-five minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center of each loaf. Let cool in pans on wire rack for ten minutes. Loosen edges and turn loaves out to cool completely. For an even sweeter treat, add chocolate chips before baking.

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

Braille Book Fair 2013:
Calling all Braille readers, teachers, and parents! It’s that time again: time to sort through all those boxes of Braille books and donate gently used but no longer needed Braille books to the 2013 Braille Book Fair sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. Our primary goal is to get more Braille books into the hands of children, youth, and beginning adult readers, so here’s what we need most in our books in good condition: print-Braille picture storybooks, leisure reading (fiction or nonfiction) books, cookbooks, and books about sports.

Children are so hungry for their very own books that every year, despite generous donations of books, most of our books for young children are gone in less than an hour. So begin your search through the boxes in your basement and spare room and get those books shipped to UPS, Braille Book Fair, Attention: Milton Bennett, 8901 Atlantic Ave, Orlando, FL 32824.

This year's coordinator is Krystal Guillory. If you have any questions, contact Krystal Guillory at (318) 245-8955 or <kguillory@lcb-ruston.com>. This year's event is slated to take place on Wednesday, July 3, 2013, from 5:00 to 7:00 PM. Please check the convention agenda for location.

Resolutions for Convention:
Here is a message from Sharon Maneki, who chairs the NFB resolutions committee:

Do you think we should change a government policy, take a stand concerning an agency for the blind, or create new regulations? If you do, consider writing a resolution. At the 2013 national convention the resolutions committee meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 2. The committee will debate and discuss resolutions on a wide variety of subjects. If passed by the Convention, these resolutions will become the policy statements of the organization.

To ensure that your resolution will be considered by the committee, please send it to President Maurer or to me by June 18, two weeks before the committee meeting. If you send a resolution to me by email and do not receive a response acknowledging your email in two or three days, please call or send it again. If you miss the deadline, you must get three members of the committee to sponsor your resolution and then get it to the chairman before the meeting begins. I will be pleased to accept resolutions by email, <nfbmd@earthlink.net>; fax, (410) 715-9597; or snail mail, Sharon Maneki, 9013 Nelson Way, Columbia, MD 21045.

How to Pay for Your Hotel Stay in Dallas:
Here is some advice about paying for your hotel stay:

Every year at our national convention we have serious trouble with use of debit cards or cash payments at hotel check-in, and, having worked to solve these problems for years, I can tell you they can nearly ruin the convention week for those experiencing them. Planning to attend our national convention should therefore include thinking seriously about how to pay the hotel, and I cannot urge you strongly enough to avoid using cash or a debit card as your payment method. Doing so may seem convenient, but you should not do so. If you do not have a credit card of your own to use, prevail upon a close friend or family member to let you use one just for convention. Here’s why:

If you are paying in actual currency, most hotels will want enough cash up front at check-in to cover your room and tax charges for the entire stay, plus a one-time advance incidentals deposit to cover meals, telephone calls, Internet service, and other things you may charge to your room. The unused portion of the incidentals deposit may be returned at check-out or by mail after departure. Understand, however, that, if your incidentals charges exceed the incidentals deposit credited, you are responsible for payment of the full balance at checkout. The total can end up being a very large sum indeed.

If you use a debit card, however, you are really at a potentially painful disadvantage. The hotel will put a hold on money in your bank account linked to the debit card to cover the estimated balance of your stay—that is, for the entire week’s room and tax charges plus a one-time incidentals deposit to cover meals, movies, and so on charged to your room. You should be aware that the hold can therefore be a considerable amount of money and that you will not have access to that amount for any other purchases or payments with your card. (Hotels sometimes also put authorizations on credit cards, by the way, but those are not often a problem unless they exceed your card’s credit limit.)

Holds can remain in effect for three to five days or even a week after you check out. If you have pre-authorized payments from your bank account, for example your monthly mortgage payment, or if you try to make a purchase with your debit card and it's refused, the hold from the hotel can cause you trouble or result in very large overdraft fees for payments you thought you had money in your account to cover. I have seen this hit some of our members in the form of hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees.

This means that, if you use a debit card, you would have to be certain you have a high enough balance in your checking account when you come to convention to cover any debit card holds. This is a perilous practice since charges may exceed your estimate by a considerable amount. (Some frequent travelers even open a separate checking account used only for debits like these.) Remember, a hold is going to be placed on your debit card regardless of how you end up paying the bill, and the hold is not necessarily released right away, even if you pay with a credit card or cash when you check out of the hotel.

Planning ahead in this area can ensure an untroubled week at convention, leaving you free to enjoy fully the world’s largest and most exciting meeting of the blind. See you as usual in the lobby at check-in—using a credit card, I hope.

Instructor Turns Novelist:
Federationist Jerry Whittle has published two novels, costing $7.99 each, available on Amazon at the Kindle Store and online at Barnes and Noble. Slingshot, a baseball novel, and Standing with Better Angels, a novel about a blind minister who works at a homeless shelter in New Orleans, are the two titles.

Federationist Kenneth Silberman Honored:
Captain Kenneth Silberman of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) earned CAP's prestigious Charles E. 'Chuck' Yeager Aerospace Education Achievement Award on March 15, 2013. He earned this award, named after the man who first broke the sound barrier, after having served as an assistant aerospace education officer for the Bowie Composite Squadron of the Maryland Wing since January 14, 2013. The Yeager award recognizes CAP officers who have demonstrated a thorough knowledge of aerodynamics, navigation, weather, and the history of both civilian and military aviation.

New Chapter:
We are excited to announce the formation of a new Federation chapter in Jackson, Michigan. The Jackson Area chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan was formed in January of 2013 and currently has sixteen members. The new officers and board of directors are president, David Robinson; vice president, Rusty Higgins; secretary, Mary Ann Robinson; treasurer, Kristen Wilson; and board members, Pat Feldpausch and Travis Wilson.

In Brief

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

NLS Sponsors Braille Summit:
NLS invites you to participate in the NLS Braille Summit at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts, June 19 to 21, 2013, to help determine the best ways for libraries to promote and support Braille literacy. The conference will bring together librarians, Braille literacy professionals, Braille readers, and other stakeholders.

Braille is the only true form of literacy for people who are blind. It increases access to education, allows for fuller participation in society, and drastically increases the odds of employment. Yet studies suggest that fewer than 10 percent of people who are legally blind in the United States can read Braille, and many children who are blind have no opportunity to learn it. As leading providers of Braille reading materials, libraries are poised to play a key role in the fight to reverse this trend. NLS is committed to increasing Braille literacy as part of its strategic plan.

The conference will allow participants to gather lessons learned from across America and around the world; assess the present state of Braille literacy, technology, and access; and make recommendations that will shape Braille programs and priorities for the future of the NLS network of cooperating libraries. The conference will cover five major themes: Braille Readers, Library Selection and Collection Development, Braille Production, Braille Technology, and Promoting Braille Literacy and Awareness. Participants will have the opportunity to listen to expert speakers in each subject area and then engage in facilitated discussions with their peers, during which they will identify strategic issues and recommend solutions for implementation. We hope that you will join us to lend your own knowledge and experience.

The Crowne Plaza Boston-Newton, selected as the host hotel, is offering a rate of $159 per night. Attendees are responsible for arranging and covering their own lodging and transportation expenses. NLS will provide breakfast and lunch, as well as transportation from the host hotel to the conference facility.

Registration form and conference information available online: <https://nlsbard.loc.gov/
cgi-bin/public/nlsbardprod/Braillesummit2013conference.cgi>. Please note that attendance is limited and registration will be closed when capacity is reached. For more information contact: Judith Dixon, consumer relations officer, <jdix@loc.gov>

Braille Pal Wanted:
I am finishing the study of contracted Braille, thinking about trying grade three, and am contemplating a purchase of a Brailler. It would make Braille writing a lot easier and faster than using a slate and stylus. However, the cost of a Brailler did concern me, especially because I could not think of many reasons why I would have to use it.

Then someone mentioned that I could use it to write letters to others who are blind, and that led me to another thought: it might be fun to have Braille pen pals to correspond with. Writing letters with a computer using a screen reader is ok, but I do want to keep up my Braille skills. If you are interested in being a Braille pal, you can write to me in Braille, and I can write back to you. I am a senior but would also enjoy corresponding with younger people. I suppose we would need someone to address envelopes for us, but it is good to keep in touch with the sighted community too. My name and address are Estelle Shukert, 2924 S. Ingalls Way, Denver, CO 80227.

Pen Pal Wanted:
A friend of my father lives in Poland and is legally blind and retired. He speaks Polish, German, Esperanto, and some English. He would love to learn the American Braille Code and is looking for a pen pal. He is very musical and used to tune pianos and guitars. Can someone direct me to older blind people who would like to communicate with my father’s friend? If anyone can help, please write to Martina Stroup, <martinastroupe@gmail.com>.

Science Sense Tours at the American Museum of Natural History:
Blind and partially sighted visitors are invited to attend this program, held monthly in the Museum galleries. Specially trained Museum tour guides highlight specific themes and exhibition halls, engaging participants through extensive oral descriptions and touchable objects. Science Sense is free with Museum admission.

Sunday, May 19, 10:00 AM: Scales of the Universe
Explore the Scales of the Universe, a 400-foot-long walkway that hugs the glass curtain wall along the Rose Center for Earth and Space, which introduces visitors to the relative sizes of galaxies, stars, planets, and atoms through text panels, interactive terminals, and models.

Wednesday, June 12, 2:30 PM: Living Large
Join us on a big expedition throughout the Museum as we discuss and examine several larger-than-life icons such as the blue whale, the giant sequoia, dinosaurs, and the 63-foot-long Great Canoe.

Saturday, July 13, 10:00 AM: Ocean Life
Plunge into the ocean to explore aquatic habitat dioramas in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.

Thursday, August 15, 2:30 PM: North American Mammals
Discover the dioramas in the stunningly restored Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals, which offers a snapshot of North America’s rich environmental heritage.

Science Sense tours are available to individuals or groups. Space is limited, and advance registration is required. Programs may be subject to change. For additional information or to register for a Science Sense tour, call (212) 313-7565 or email <accessibility@amnh.org>.

If you attended The Ohio State School for the Blind (OSSB) and are interested in attending the biennial reunion/business meeting, it will be held at 5220 N. High Street, Columbus, Ohio, from June 7 to 9. If you have not updated your mailing address, phone numbers, and/or email address, please do so ASAP if you want to attend so we can send out the necessary invitation to you, your family, and friends.

Please send contact information to <louis.mazzoli@yahoo.com> or call at (614) 882-8370. You can also call our information line and leave your contact information there. The telephone number is (206) 279-6833.

Lions World Song Festival for Blind Singers:
Four Lions Clubs in Kraków, Poland, part of LCI District 121, are in the process of organizing a Lions World Song Festival for the Blind. The event, called “Sounds from the Heart,” will be held in Kraków from November 18 thru 20, 2013. The primary purpose is to give talented vision-impaired singers a chance to be heard on a world stage. At the same time the organizing clubs want to raise awareness among the general public about the needs and difficulties that severely sight-impaired people face. All proceeds will benefit LCIF’s SightFirst programs.

The Festival will take the form of a competition among the participants. Participation will not only create a bond among the artists but will also give them a worldwide stage. It also demonstrates to the world how Lions from all parts of the globe can work together to address great humanitarian needs and achieve successful outcomes. The Festival will demonstrate again to the world that the Lions are still fully committed to the eradication of preventable blindness, to research into the various causes of severe eye diseases, and to assisting those who are blind in any manner possible.

The Song Festival initiative was first presented at the European Lions Forum in September 2012. It was met with great enthusiasm on the part of the attendees. In October 2012 the National Lions Convention in Zakopane, Poland, threw its full support behind this initiative of the four Kraków clubs.

Participation in the festival will involve four steps:

  1. initial qualification of applicants to participate, based on submitted DVD’s
  2. two-day auditions of invited applicants in Kraków and selection of finalists
  3. finalists’ performances with accompaniment by Kraków orchestra
  4. announcement of winners

The competition is intended to give talented vocalists who are blind or sight impaired an opportunity to perform for a large and diverse audience. Only amateur musicians will be invited, although participation may lead to a professional career. The venue for the festival will be the Grand Opera in Kraków, a city selected by the European Commission to receive the Access City Award 2011 in recognition of its initiatives to make life easier for the severely handicapped. One of these initiatives is a special tourist route using three-dimensional maps and GPS technology to make access to the city’s cultural and historical heritage easier for blind and vision-impaired people.

Lions Clubs from around the world are invited and encouraged to join the Kraków clubs to participate in this important service project. It will involve identifying vocally talented people from their geographic area who are blind or sight impaired, assisting them to create an original song with the help of local composers and lyrics writers, and sponsoring them to make a recording in a professional studio.

The Kraków Lions are confident that the idea of promoting young, talented vision-impaired musicians to become respected and appreciated artists will be supported by the entire Lions community. A little push from their Lions friends may be all that’s needed to get them on stage. Stevie Wonder and Andrea Bocelli may not be the exception after all. The Lions of Kraków will be happy to assist any club willing to participate in this joint Lions project. Details about the Festival are shown on the website: <www.lionsfestival.jordan.pl>.

Monitor Mart

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

For Sale:
Ann Wasserman has a BrailleNote Empower thirty-two-cell refreshable display with a Braille keyboard. It is gently used, having been owned for just over a year. Asking $1,500. She can be reached at (732) 222-3510.

For Sale:
AmbuTech Mobility Aid iGlasses ($80), PowerBraille 81 Braille display ($500), and Juliet Classic Braille Embosser ($500). All prices negotiable and do not include shipping. All items come with accessories. If interested, call (519) 669-1456 or email <dvm975@gmail.com>.

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

Media Share

Facebook Share