Vol. 56, No. 6 June 2013
Gary Wunder, Editor
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The 2013 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Orlando, Florida, July 1-6, at the Rosen Centre Hotel at 9840 International Drive, Orlando, Florida 32819. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with the Rosen Centre staff only. Call (800) 204-7234.
The 2013 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins, $79; and triples and quads, $85. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 13.5 percent. No charge will be made for children under seventeen in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $90-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before May 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
Vol. 56, No. 6 June 2013
Illustrations: The NFB Scholarship Committee at Work
The Rehabilitation System in Oklahoma:
Progress, Setbacks, and the Hope for Greater Opportunities
by Gary Wunder
The Power to Live in the World
by Jonathan Young
Compassion Can Be Discrimination:
Sign the Petition Against Subminimum Wages
by Anil Lewis
A Seventh-Grade Perspective on Blindness
by Jordan Diggs
ALT: A Very Helpful Software Package
by Robert Jaquiss and Gary Wunder
Auditor Flags Purchases for Former Director of
the Iowa Department for the Blind
by Barbara Pierce
Children of Blind Mothers Learn New Modes of Communication
by Elizabeth Norton
From Doubt to Dedication: My Journey in the Federation
by Chris Nusbaum
Why I Like Being a Blind Person
by Agnes Allen
Natalie Shaheen Honored by her Alma Mater
Edna Schmidt: A Federation Fundraiser Goes to Washington
by Anna Kresmer
Copyright 2013 by the National Federation of the Blind
For a long time now the National Federation of the Blind has presented scholarships to the thirty most deserving blind students in the country. Federationists who can attend the convention get to hear from them at the board meeting on the day preceeding the first general convention session, and the winner of the Kenneth Jernigan scholarship will address the banquet.
What is less well-known is that selecting the thirty most deserving students in the country requires hard work by a committee that must choose these winners from a pool of hundreds of applicants. This year brought us more than 700 applications. Some of our work is done in subcommittees and some by the full committee. Shown here are the full committee and one of the eight subcommittees that selected the scholarship class of 2013.
by Gary Wunder
In the early 1960s, when the National Federation of the Blind was torn apart by what many call “the Civil War,” the American Council of the Blind was born. The organizations have coexisted with various degrees of harmony and discord and with differing levels of contact and involvement in the Oklahoma agency for the blind. Passions about the organizational split have continued to run high in the state, and our affiliate has had to struggle to have meaningful contact with Oklahoma’s Department of Rehabilitation Services and specifically the division under it called Visual Services, a somewhat odd name for an agency that exists to serve those who are blind. Although having had to struggle in the past, the affiliate’s efforts have begun to show significant change in the perception of the Federation, which has grown in numbers of members, chapters, and those receiving appropriate services in the skills of blindness.
The last few years have witnessed a positive change in Oklahoma. In 2009 Dr. Michael O’Brien was hired to head Oklahoma’s Department of Rehabilitation Services by the Rehabilitation Services Commission. In 2011 he hired Dr. Michael Jones to head Visual Services. The appointments of both O’Brien and Jones were announced by the Oklahoma Division of Rehabilitation Services in press releases circulated throughout the state. Here, in part, is what was said about O’Brien:
Dr. Michael O’Brien is currently the executive director for the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services and has more than thirty-five years of experience in vocational rehabilitation. He is adjunct faculty at Langston University. He has an Ed.D. from Oklahoma State University in occupational and adult education and an MA in education from Chadron State College in career/vocational guidance. He is a certified rehabilitation counselor (CRC) and certified vocational evaluation specialist (CVE). He is a former Council on Rehabilitation Counselor Commission (CRCC) commissioner (where he chaired the Standards Committee and served on the Exam and Research Committee) and currently serves as a Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE) board member, executive board member of the Consortia of Administrators of Native American Rehabilitation (CANAR), and a member of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) executive committee (currently president-elect). He is a published author and has more than 130 international, national, regional, and state presentations/publications to his credit. He is a four-time Institute for Rehabilitation Issues (IRI) national scholar and served as the chair of the Thirtieth IRI, A New Paradigm in Vocational Evaluation, and the thirty-seventh IRI, Understanding the Impact of Health Care Reform on the Employment and Independence of Individuals with Disabilities. The National Rehabilitation Counseling Association has recognized him with the Presidential Citation, and CSAVR has awarded him the national President’s Award.
Prior to coming to DRS, Dr. O’Brien was an associate professor of rehabilitation and special education and acting department chair for counseling, special education and rehabilitation at New Mexico Highlands University. He previously served as clinical affiliate professor at the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He has been married to his bride Jan for more than thirty-five years. They have four grown children and eight grandchildren.
The arrival of Jones was hailed soon after he assumed his position. Here, in significant part, is the way the agency introduced Oklahoma to its new director of Visual Services:
OKLAHOMA CITY — Dr. J. Michael Jones was recently selected as administrator for Visual Services, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS). Visual Services’ programs offer employment development, independent living training, library services, business ownership, educational materials, and technology for Oklahomans with low vision or blindness. Jones’ career in services to people with disabilities has spanned more than twenty-five years on four continents.
“What attracted me to Oklahoma is the broad scope of DRS’ responsibilities,” Jones said. “I have the operational freedom in Visual Services to use my skills and experience to help our customers become masters of their own destiny….When our customers are educated, have some wealth and political clout or personal influence, then they are controlling their own destinies and have achieved social justice for themselves,” he explained.
He served seven years as a rehabilitation program administrator, ten years as a rehabilitation counselor, seven years as a university instructor, and three years working in international rehabilitation programs for people with disabilities. He was previously employed as senior professor of special education in Lushoto, Tanzania, in Africa and administered two federal programs as executive director for the Division of Rehabilitation in Hawaii. While supervising rehabilitation programs in Hawaii, Jones launched new employment programs for youth with disabilities, created cutting-edge technology programs for children with disabilities living on rural islands, and mentored professionals in rehabilitation techniques.
He was elected six times to serve as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Alabama and led Alabama’s Braille literacy movement, culminating with administrative rule changes requiring that Braille be taught and emphasized in Alabama’s school system. He was the creator of the Braillewriters for Blind Children Program, which gave a free Braillewriter to every blind student in Alabama. Braillewriters are Braille typewriters that enable people who are blind to take notes or communicate by typing keys that correspond to the six dots used in Braille code.
Jones spearheaded local transit programs to connect isolated communities, he established a network for parents of blind children, as well as established a diabetes action network throughout Alabama. Additionally he served as the chair and principal lobbyist for the legislative action committee representing all disability groups from across Alabama and was appointed by the governor to represent all citizens with disabilities on Alabama’s Help America Vote Act committee.
Dr. Jones’s international work has included building university teacher training programs in special education in East Africa, staff training in rehabilitation techniques to assist persons who are blind in both Northern and Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. Additionally Dr. Jones built a community rehabilitation program in Bangladesh that today because of his leadership and continued guidance has grown to serve more than three-hundred people with rights-based education and work skills programs.
Jones was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised on a farm in Butts County, Georgia. Blinded at age eleven, he continued to work the farm until his family moved to Alabama. His public school education included five years in a residential school for the blind and seven years at a local public school. Upon graduation from Pell City High School, he entered Auburn University and in 1985 earned a degree in rehabilitation. He earned a doctoral degree also from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, in 2008. Dr. Jones is the father of sixteen-year-old Laura. “I am most proud of training individual blind people to use the tools that free them from the disabling aspects of blindness,” Jones said.
This is how Oklahomans received word of their new directors of rehabilitation from the Department of Rehabilitation Services. Two national searches had resulted in two highly motivated and credentialed men to oversee and direct rehabilitation in Oklahoma.
Among those familiar with the blindness field in the United States, Dr. Michael Jones is known as an intelligent man who is deeply committed to and knowledgeable about rehabilitation and the good it can bring to the lives of blind people. He is also known as a man with a volatile temper that sometimes causes problems in his making maximum use of his ambition and talent.
Some who know Jones and O’Brien say they have much in common: energy, intelligence, and a clear sense of where they wanted to take their agencies. They are also said to share the less flattering qualities of arrogance, impatience, and a dismissive attitude toward those they consider inferior either in intelligence, technical competence, or life experience. Those who admire both men describe the tension they sometimes felt while watching them function in their professional capacities: amazement at the changes and the good they could accomplish, but wondering when some indiscreet action or remark would derail the good they were trying hard to do.
Visual Services in Oklahoma is known by some blind Oklahomans for its willingness to provide services. However, others would say that this is arguable, maintaining that allocation of resources and services varies extensively and arbitrarily by region and on personal perspectives of the rehabilitation counselor working with each individual. Services often require strenuous advocacy by many. Jones and others say that the problem has never been in a reluctance to spend money to help blind people but in the narrow range of services offered to most of the agency’s consumers. Traditionally Visual Services has had a large number of closures, but most were for homemakers and helping blind people with daily living skills. The Division has fallen short in teaching the attitudes and skills that lead to an education and employment.
Jones is credited with changing the agency’s focus. He says he was pleasantly surprised to find that, not only did the blind people who were served get excited about this change, but many within the agency also embraced the ideas he brought. Admittedly some staff could not or would not embrace the change, and during his tenure Jones reports that sixteen counselors, about 60 percent of the rehabilitation counseling staff, either left or were dismissed for lack of performance.
After a negative review of the Business Enterprise Program (BEP) in Oklahoma by the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration, blind vendors operating under the state’s Business Enterprise Program say that Jones was quite helpful in bringing operating rules to the program and in seeing that those rules and the ones that predated him were known and followed. Selection to be in the program and awarding of facilities had too often been perceived as arbitrary decisions made by the agency, but Jones impressed the blind merchants with his commitment to creating and overseeing an orderly and understandable process. On the issue of the Business Enterprise Program, we are told that some distance existed between Jones and O’Brien, with the latter suggesting that a program in which several blind managers made more than he, a high-level administrator supervising more than a thousand employees, might need to be changed. Whatever their differences, Jones credits O’Brien with generally supporting him and letting him do his job as the head of programs for the blind.
On Friday, April 5, 2013, the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma was beginning its annual convention. Jones had been invited to address the convention in his capacity as the head of Visual Services. He encouraged our affiliate president, Jeannie Massay, also to invite O’Brien, and she did. However, late in the afternoon on Friday, during the annual Rehabilitation Professionals Conference, President Massay was informed that Dr. Jones had resigned. Before the reception that evening, President Massay informally met with O’Brien and asked him to speak the next day during convention in place of Jones. O’Brien agreed and said he would make the presentation for Visual Services that Jones had been scheduled to make.
There is no question that the resignation of Dr. Jones was forced: resign or you will be fired by the end of the day. Though no one from the Department of Rehabilitation Services will talk about personnel matters, it is widely believed that Jones was dismissed as a result of comments made to a staff member in the agency who uses a wheelchair. Our best information is that Jones repeatedly asked this staff member how his chair performed on stairs. One version of the story says that, when Jones came to his job, the staffer wanted to go to lunch with him so they could get to know one another. Jones reportedly said that all the lunch places he liked had stairs and asked how his coworker would deal with that. The clear impression was that Jones had no interest in going to lunch, and, though the coworker was perplexed at the rebuff, he continued to try to get to know and work with Jones. A more sinister account alleges that recently Jones missed a meeting and that the coworker, who uses a wheelchair, told him he had missed it and offered to review what had happened. Jones was reportedly angry about the mention of the meeting and allegedly said in a menacing voice that he would take the coworker’s chair to the stairwell, push it down a couple of flights of stairs, and see how well the coworker and his chair would handle them. Jones says that he made indiscreet remarks but that they were perceived humorously by all who heard them. But people within and outside the agency say that the coworker, whose complaint may have forced Jones to resign, is not the kind of man who would be quick to complain, overreact, or resort to official action in haste. Only if he felt threatened or concluded that this humiliation could not continue would he have brought this behavior to his superiors.
The Braille Monitor sought to interview the target of these remarks, but our calls were not returned. While it might have been comforting to know from the source whether Jones was threatening or simply obnoxious, the behavior still falls far short of what one expects of public officials and especially officials who work in the field of rehabilitation. Whether threat or jest makes little difference. By way of an analogy, a blind person in an office environment who says he would like a meeting with the boss and is told that the boss will put corks in the employee’s ears, put tape on his fingertips, and take away his cane and then see how well he can get to the boss’s office would have every right to be offended. This is so whether the boss was physically intimidating and could carry out his threats or a frail or petite colleague who had no chance of making good on them.
On Friday evening the newly formed Oklahoma Association of Blind Merchants, a part of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma and the National Association of Blind Merchants, held a reception to kick off the Oklahoma convention officially. O’Brien was asked to speak briefly at the reception. Instead of the expected “Thank you for having me, and now let’s enjoy the evening,” O’Brien gave an extended speech, saying that Jones had resigned, that a new director for Visual Services would be hired, and that some changes in the state Business Enterprise Program might have to be made. Some assumed that this unclear reference was to the aforementioned concern about several lucrative facilities in the Business Enterprise Program. O’Brien had sometimes been perceived and characterized as arrogant and insensitive, and his decision to deliver these remarks to this audience during what was to have been a festive and informal occasion, sponsored by people he had several times said were making too much money, only reinforced this perception.
His remarks complete, O’Brien decided to enjoy the liquid refreshment and mingle. One drink followed another, and with each drink his behavior became more unacceptable. Those who liked O’Brien but thought he had a problem with the bottle tried to suggest he go home given that the party was winding down. He replied that he was waiting for a ride from his daughter and that she would be along soon. He continued to drink, and people began to complain that he was taking liberties by inappropriately touching women. Eventually this escalated to kissing on the lips, placing his tongue in one woman’s ear, and pulling at least one woman onto his lap. Some of his victims were blind vendors; some were the wives of blind vendors. Whether O’Brien thought himself so irresistible that the women would not object, considered that the blind people who depended on him for their business opportunities would timidly watch as their wives were manhandled in this way, or assumed that, because they were blind, they wouldn’t know what he was doing is anybody’s guess. What we do know is that people did notice, did object, and did have the presence of mind to make several videos capturing his inappropriate behavior.
Following the events of Friday evening, a DRS official was warned that O’Brien’s behavior had been noticed; that it had been captured on video; and that, if he failed to resign, the videos would be given to the governor. Dr. O’Brien resigned on Sunday evening, April 7. Since the agenda for the open meeting of the Rehabilitation Services Commission on Monday, April 8, had been compiled before O’Brien’s misbehavior, officials decided that it was not appropriate to raise it for discussion or action at the regularly scheduled meeting. Although his resignation and rumors of his behavior on the previous Friday were known to members of the Commission, to some in the agency, and to many in the audience attending the meeting, the open meetings law in Oklahoma required that a separate meeting with a published agenda be called, and that meeting was scheduled for Friday, one week after the actions that made his resignation necessary.
Several sources tell us that Dr. O’Brien has entered a rehabilitation facility and is being treated for his problems with alcohol. Compassion and an appreciation of his drive, creativity, and dedication to rehabilitation all lead us to hope he is successful in conquering his addiction.
Turning once again to Dr. Jones, he says he is not disappointed to leave Oklahoma, because he believes he was able to do good work and feels pride in the job he did. His goal is to travel to a country where progress in building a rehabilitation system is easier to see and where he will be less encumbered by paperwork and the constraints of an already-in-place system. One cannot help wishing him well and hoping that the light within may someday shine without the encumbrance of temper, arrogance, and impatience for change.
Oklahomans interviewed for this article seem to be of one mind about the events recounted here. They have no interest in seeing O’Brien or Jones reinstated, but they hope that the misconduct of two leading officials in Oklahoma’s rehabilitation system will not cause the gains made since 2009 to be reversed. Neither do they want visionaries with energy and commitment to avoid coming to Oklahoma, for much work still remains to be done to improve the lives of blind residents of the state. Blind people need services that lead to an education and employment. Consumers must continue to play an active role in deciding their futures, and the staff who have embraced a more enlightened vision of what blind people can do must be encouraged to bring all of the energy and creativity they can to this noble task.
The Oklahoma Affiliate has grown significantly over the past three years. In 2012 the Oklahoma Association of Blind Students and the Oklahoma Association of Blind Merchants were formed. To date in 2013 two new chapters have been formed with a third identified. Oklahoma Federationists are coming together not only to demand better opportunity but to be a part of building the foundation for this to occur. The members of the affiliate are committed to empowering all blind Oklahomans to pursue vigorously the skills of blindness that will ensure educational and vocational success and independence. They are also committed to supporting those working within the agency to shift the paradigm of rehabilitative services to one that encourages equality, education, and employment.
In researching and interviewing for this article, we have seriously considered whether it should be written at all and what purpose it might serve. The argument that the blind of the nation have a right to know about programs operated on their behalf is compelling, but so too is our desire not to add to the problems blind consumers and agency staff face in continuing their progress to secure greater opportunities through improved rehabilitation. A major reason to publish involves the way public agencies have decided to respond to information requests and references for all former employees. Standard policy for most public agencies is to confirm only the dates when a staff member became employed and left the agency. The reason for this practice of providing limited information is the conviction that disclosing more could subject the agency to a lawsuit from those who have been terminated or resigned. The result is that potential employers are never given a clue about the performance of those they are considering for employment or the reasons why they no longer work for the former employer. Whatever legal arguments one can muster for this approach, it fails the public and the agencies who serve us. The Braille Monitor has a responsibility to tell the truth even when the truth is complicated, controversial, and difficult to attach to sources willing to be identified by name. For decades the Monitor has tried hard to determine the truth, report it accurately, and then let the pieces fall where they may. That is what we have done with the Oklahoma story, and we trust that the truth will help blind Oklahomans set themselves free.
by Jonathan Young
From the Editor: The following remarks were delivered as the keynote address at the 2013 Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium on April 18, 2013. Jonathan Young is a partner and general counsel at FoxKiser and the former chairman of the National Council on Disability. This is what he said:
I am truly honored to join you here today and pay tribute to one of our movement’s pioneers and greatest thinkers, Jacobus tenBroek. And I am pleased to have an opportunity to offer some of my thoughts on this year’s theme: Push Forward and Push Back: Continuing the Struggle for the Right to Live in the World.
Let me begin with the words of Jacobus tenBroek: He introduced his seminal article, “The Right to Live in the World,” by stating, “Nothing could be more essential to personality, social existence, and economic opportunity than the physical capacity, the public approval, and the legal right to be abroad in the land.”
TenBroek was a man ahead of his time. He articulated the tenets of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) long before it was conceived, let alone enacted. Today, “The Right to Live in the World” is known and appreciated for its masterful effort in harnessing the common law of torts as a means to ground the right of people with disabilities to participate in all aspects of society. As he said by way of conclusion: “The right to live in the world…entails at least a right of free and safe physical access to it through the use of streets and sidewalks, roads and highways, and the common modes of transportation, communication, and interchange. It includes as well full and equal access to places of public accommodation, places designed to accommodate men in the course of gaining access to the world.”
In keeping with today’s theme of pushing forward and pushing back, I want to push boundaries. My goal is to revisit tenBroek’s article from a different angle: through the lens of “power” rather than “right.” Hence the title of my remarks, “The Power to Live in the World.”
Power was implicit in tenBroek’s framework. But we don’t give power enough attention in our current disability rights discourse. My central thesis is that the rights we have admirably secured cannot be exercised fully, absent individual and collective power, and that dwelling on rights to the exclusion of power imperils the goals of the ADA.
Let me begin by explaining what I mean by “power” versus “right.” First let me note that the true value of either power or right lies most not in its intrinsic value but rather in its utility in achieving a desired outcome. My right to vote, for instance, has little value if I decline to exercise that right in casting my vote. Now an individual can have the power to do something but not the right, or the right to do something but not the power. One does not always need to have both right and power to achieve one’s goal. However, an exercise of power without right or right without power does not always ensure sustainable achievement of one’s goal.
TenBroek hinted at the concept of power when he talked about physical capacity along with public approval and legal rights as having overlapping effects on the end goal of integration. Thus tenBroek asked, “To what extent do the legal right, the public approval, and the physical capacity coincide? Does the law assure the physically disabled, to the degree that they are physically able to take advantage of it, the right to leave their institutions, asylums, and the houses of their relatives?”
TenBroek largely took as a given that individuals had the physical capacity of being integrated and focused his attention on whether the law, and to a lesser extent public attitudes, inhibited people from using their physical capacity to be integrated. TenBroek’s genius was to recast the common law of tort as a regime that should not focus merely on objective standards of human behavior and assessing whether a blind person should be held to the same standard of contributory negligence as a sighted person. In tenBroek’s words, “The question to be asked is not whether the defendant created an unreasonable risk of harm, but whether he interfered with the effectuation of the policy of the social integration of the disabled; not whether the plaintiff conducted himself as a reasonable man of ordinary prudence acting in the light of all the circumstances, but whether he acted pursuant to his right to be a part of his community.” In other words, the law of tort must be adjusted to accommodate the capacities of people with disabilities and promote integration. TenBroek was right to focus on the right to live in the world. But I submit to you that’s not enough to achieve the goal of integration. Friends, we need power along with rights.
Let me use a simple example to illustrate. One does not have a “right” to drive a car until an individual has reached a certain age and passed certain tests to obtain a driver’s license. But the “power” to drive a car really has nothing to do with rights. Countless people under the legal driving age have demonstrated the power to drive by borrowing their parents’ cars in the dark of night for a joy ride. I suspect there are many people in this room, sighted and not, who have driven a car without a license, without a right to do so. Others have a right to obtain a drivers’ license but haven’t ever learned how to drive a car; they don’t have the power to drive a car, or are at least unwilling to exercise their potential power.
Now consider the potentially revolutionary impact of the NFB Blind Driver Challenge™ to develop nonvisual interfaces that will allow a blind driver to operate a vehicle independently. During the passage of the ADA, advocates tried to allay employers’ concerns with a simple and compelling illustration that the “essential functions of a job” requirement meant a blind person couldn’t be a qualified person with a disability for a job that required driving because obviously a blind person couldn’t and wouldn’t ever be able to drive. Clearly people didn’t know that Mark Riccobono would be driving at the Daytona International Speedway less than twenty-five years after enactment of the ADA. Mark has successfully navigated a car equipped with nonvisual technology for 1.5 miles. He has demonstrated the power of a blind individual to drive a street vehicle in public without the assistance of a sighted person. People who are blind are on the cusp of having the capability—the power—to drive a car independently and safely on highways and byways as well as driveways and racetracks. Some fun court cases lie ahead.
The Blind Driver Challenge example illustrates how power and right must be paired to achieve goals on a lasting basis. Technological capacity may help give people who are blind the power to drive just as hand controls gave new power to people with physical disabilities. But Mark Riccobono won’t escape getting pulled over and possibly arrested while driving his car until legal rights are established to permit blind people to drive a car. I have no doubt that the NFB will ensure that those rights are secured.
The point again is this: one can have the power to do something, but not the right; or one can have the right, but not the power. As a community we will be strongest with both.
Let’s talk about political power. In an essay published last summer on disability and politics in the Oxford Companion to American Politics, I described political power as “the perceived ability to move people and money.” Moving people relates to showing up at the polls. Moving money is about fundraising. There is irony in the history of the disability rights movement. Our legislative victories have come in the absence of substantial political power. I don’t mean to minimize the extraordinary role of disability rights advocates who deftly shepherded the ADA and other laws through Congress, but reflect for a moment on a string of legislative achievements stretching from the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 through the ADA of 1990 and beyond. Consider just how few people were engaged on a grassroots basis in contrast to the groundswell that paved the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The contrast between the broad-based social disruption wrought by the civil rights movement and the below-the-radar advance of disability rights reveals that other forces besides traditional political power were at play. At every step along our path to securing rights to live in the world, our community has benefitted from individuals in positions of power who were able to translate movement ideas into enforceable rights: George H.W. Bush, Tony Coelho, Tom Harkin, Steny Hoyer, Ted Kennedy, Dick Thornburgh, to name just a few. These were not people who were put in power at the behest of a burgeoning political force in the way that the LGBT community and the Tea Party Movement have put people in places of power. Rather, these were individuals who came to power independent of disability but had personal connections to disability and supported the cause. In a real sense we have repeatedly secured rights before the political power typically needed to secure those rights.
There is nothing wrong with leveraging the power of people in positions of influence, but there are risks. First, legislative victories like the ones we have enjoyed can lead to a misplaced illusion of political power. It is great that elected and appointed officials have carried our mantle because they felt a connection and wanted to help. But that’s different from having elected officials feel compelled to act because of political strength and being able to take some credit for the fact that they are in office. That’s a far cry from the long-term efforts other communities have undertaken to elect leaders from within their communities.
Second, we should remember that most of the disability rights victories we have secured have come without substantial resource allocation. Indeed, when it comes to things like the ADA, policymakers thought it would save the government money rather than require the government to spend more money. It is easier for policymakers to grant deficit-neutral rights than dedicate (or sustain) potentially deficit-growing funds. Budget decisions are influenced more by typical traditional power than by political largesse. Moreover, we don’t have anywhere near the number of champions that we’ve had in the past, and we aren’t backfilling the recent departures of leaders like Senators Tom Harkin and Ted Kennedy. Lack of political power during far-reaching budget debates is dangerous.
Finally, and most important, we must remember that rights secured can never be taken for granted—not only in terms of keeping the law on the books but also in ensuring that we continue to build on our rights amidst changing circumstances. Rights are not perfected at their creation. They must be cultivated, sustained, implemented, and enforced. Only then do rights have meaningful effect. This requires ongoing political engagement. Friends, we need to cultivate and wield sustainable political power.
Political power is important. In the end it serves only a subordinate purpose—as a means to an end. We can all agree that one of the most important measures of our strength as a disability community is economic power, or, to couch it in more typical policy terms, employment.
During his last inaugural address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously proclaimed: “True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.” Put another way, the right to live in the world doesn’t result in true integration absent economic security. In his 1944 State of the Union Address, FDR laid out a powerful vision for an economic bill of rights that included, among other things, “the right to a useful and remunerative job.” Unfortunately, in our American political tradition, civil rights have vastly more traction than economic rights. The continued battle over health care (another element of FDR’s bill of rights) reveals just how much support there is for a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps capitalism and how much skepticism there is toward ensuring any basic modicum of economic well-being. Then there’s Mitt Romney’s disdain for the 47 percent of Americans who benefit from public supports: “There are 47 percent who are…dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it — that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.”
Friends—we don’t want pity. We are not victims. But we do have a responsibility—to one another—to give all of our brothers and sisters a chance to reach their potential. There is a role for government in giving life to FDR’s economic bill of rights. There is a battle for our country’s future, and we need to wield power to show that we belong in that future and have opportunities to thrive in it.
Speaking of FDR, consider an important contrast between FDR’s and Barack Obama’s presidencies. The disability rights movement was built on the ideological framework of the civil rights movement. “Same Struggle, Different Difference,” was the title of my dissertation on the history of the disability rights movement and the ADA. But contemplate this. Most Americans across the political spectrum have applauded the significance of the Obama presidency as evidence of our progress on racial discrimination. It is downright inconceivable that President Obama could have been elected half a century ago, prior to enactment of the Civil Rights Act. It has taken generations to transcend a powerful legacy of abject and overt discrimination of people of color enough that a solid majority of Americans could elect a person of color as president of the United States. Legal rights prohibiting discrimination didn’t guarantee election of a person of color. But those rights were a necessary prerequisite to transforming the landscape of what is possible.
Contrast this experience with the election of a person with a disability as president in 1932—more than three decades before the Civil Rights Act and nearly sixty years before the ADA’s enactment. Sure—attitudes of the day compelled FDR to hide his disability. Not everyone knew the extent of FDR’s paralysis because he hid it and media honored that hiding. But his disability was also no mystery. And he was elected not just once or twice but four times—more than any other U.S. president.
How could FDR be elected president in 1932, in 1936, in 1940, and again in 1944 when people with disabilities purportedly didn’t secure their basic civil rights until enactment of the ADA? The answer lies in understanding the difference between power and rights. Countless people with disabilities have been able to wield real power in the absence of any formal or explicit rights giving them license to wield such power. Thus Stephen Hopkins, a person with “shaking palsy,” could be a signatory to the Declaration of Independence in a way that a woman or an African American could not have been.
This is not to say that discrimination against people with disabilities hasn’t been real. It has been degrading, destructive, hostile, inhumane, and unacceptable. In some ways disability has been even more insidious than other forms of discrimination because of so-called benign neglect. However, discrimination against people with disabilities has been selective. Disability is the category from which someone can be exempted. “I don’t think of so-and-so as ‘disabled,’” we often hear people say. What does that mean? People often associate disability with incapacity. Consequently, people who are not perceived as incapable often escape the discrimination that comes from the disability label. FDR, in other words, was a person with a disability. But he was not identified as disabled. By contrast, President Obama could not transcend the legacy of slavery and racial discrimination until nondiscrimination on the basis of color was the law of the land and applied to a class—not just single individuals.
What does this have to do with power and rights? When Chai Feldblum addressed this symposium several years ago, she talked about how nondiscrimination laws will not—cannot—eradicate discrimination. The ADA may drive discrimination underground, but discrimination endures. An employer won’t likely tell you that you didn’t get the job because you’re blind. Instead you’ll be told it was because of some other purportedly objective criterion beyond the reach of law and evidence. Someone else had more experience or went to better schools. You can fill in the blanks.
Make no mistake. We need our rights. It is high time for the U.S. to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. But as a community we must not fall into the trap of thinking that rights can stand alone without power. President Obama didn’t become president as a matter of right. He became president because of the extraordinary power he was able to wield as a candidate in an environment where equal opportunity is the law of the land. FDR was elected president because—notwithstanding his disability and despite powerful discrimination against people with disabilities—he demonstrated unrivalled power and effectiveness on the world’s stage during one of humanity’s greatest acts.
The NFB has established eradication of the subminimum wage as one of its top priorities. The NFB is right to highlight the injustice of the subminimum wage. This antiquated policy is inconsistent with the principles of equality of opportunity, independent living, full participation, and economic self-sufficiency. Put aside for the moment the question of whether we as a community have the political power sufficient to leverage a change in policy. There is a more fundamental question of capacity: not narrowly physical capacity, as tenBroek phrased it, but more broadly the capacity to secure earnings at no less than minimum wage on an individual and systemic level.
Today, thanks to the lingering effects of the so-called Great Recession, millions of Americans have the right but lack the power to earn the minimum wage. This recession has had a dreadful impact on people with disabilities. The ADA was supposed to deliver a new era of decreased dependence on entitlement programs because an end to workplace discrimination against people with disabilities would lead to more people with disabilities going to work and becoming more self-sufficient. Instead we have witnessed a surge in the number of people with disabilities receiving income support and an unemployment rate among people with disabilities that, at best, has remained flat in the quarter century since enactment of the ADA.
We cannot say that no progress has been made on employment. Limits in available data prevent us from having a complete picture. However, there is clearly no evidence that we have made significant progress. Throughout the past three decades the labor force participation rate data have remained largely constant. This means that, at any given moment over the past three decades, about 78 percent of people with disabilities have not been working. Presently, the labor force participation rate among people without disabilities hovers about 70 percent compared with about 22 percent for people with disabilities. There is no easy silver lining here. It should give all of us pause. This is unacceptable. The problem is it’s been unacceptable for decades.
More than 3.5 million American jobs were lost between 2008 and 2010—a catastrophic figure by any measure. Here is what is particularly troubling: people with disabilities accounted for 5.5 million of 150 million jobs in July 2008 and less than 5 million by the close of 2010. While the nondisabled workforce declined by about 2 percent during this period, the disabled workforce declined by more than 10 percent. In other words, people with disabilities left the workforce at a rate of about five times that of their nondisabled coworkers. Last to be hired, first to be fired.
It’s not just a question of whether people with disabilities work, but how much they work and how much they get paid. In 2010 about 32 percent of people with disabilities were working part-time, compared with 19 percent of their nondisabled peers. In addition, the median annual earnings for people with disabilities of $19,500 represented just two-thirds of the $30,000 of people without disabilities. People with disabilities also experience a higher rate of poverty: 27.3 percent compared with 12.8 percent of the general population.
The employment picture is even worse when we take into account trends in income support. While labor force participation among people with disabilities has stayed largely constant for several decades, we have witnessed significant growth in the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. The program has grown from 1.5 million to 8.2 million beneficiaries from 1970 to 2010 with a corresponding cost increase from $18 billion to $128 billion when holding dollars constant.
The ADA has apparently had no beneficial impact. Between 1989 and 2009 the percentage of working-age Americans on SSDI grew from 2.3 to 4.6 percent. The cash transfer in today’s dollars grew from $40 billion to $121 billion for SSDI and from $18 billion to $69 billion for Medicare costs for people on the SSDI program. The estimated present value of a combined award of SSDI and Medicare for a person with a disability is about $270,000. Among 8.2 million SSDI recipients, that’s a whopping present value of over $2 trillion. Clearly it’s in the national interest from an economic perspective, let alone a disability rights perspective, that people with disabilities be gainfully employed, tax-paying citizens.
In debates around subminimum wage, proponents of eliminating the 14(c) program often point to anecdotal stories of people who were once in a sheltered workshop and have been liberated to earn minimum wage in the community. These are powerful examples of the capacity—of the power—of countless people with disabilities to succeed in the community if only given a chance. Yet our current legal regime does not prohibit people with disabilities from earning minimum wage in the same way that, by extreme contrast, African American slaves in the antebellum South were stripped of virtually all substantive social and economic legal rights. Indeed the anecdotal stories used to illustrate why subminimum wage should be ended also underscore how, for many people with disabilities, the right to earn minimum wage is alive and well if they can find economic opportunities in the community. Wielding the power to command good jobs is an indispensable part of the equation. I am reminded of advice from disability historian Paul Longmore many years ago about succeeding as a person with a disability in academics: you need not just to meet standards but exceed them because of lingering discrimination. Wielding economic power means being able to demonstrate you are the best candidate among many and then to perform on the job.
Again, let me emphasize that the NFB rightly points to the subminimum wage as an anachronistic policy out of step with the ADA. My challenge to all of us is to recognize that eliminating subminimum wages would not, of its own accord, translate into individuals actually earning the minimum wage. Particularly in an economy where millions of able-bodied Americans who have not had to endure years of menial work in a sheltered workshop are unable to find work, we must recognize the limits of changing the legal regime. Prohibiting subminimum wages, critical as it may be to creating new opportunities for some people, is not the same thing as achieving the ADA’s goal of economic self-sufficiency, of achieving FDR’s dream of individual freedom marked by economic security. We need more jobs and need to sustain high expectations along with adequate resources to enable more people with disabilities to develop the requisite skills and experience to succeed in those jobs.
What should be done? I wish I could say there were easy answers to the stubborn persistence of high unemployment and underemployment and sub-standard compensation of people with disabilities. Anyone who tells you otherwise has to account for how myriad efforts over several decades before and after the ADA have failed to move the employment rates among people with disabilities. But let me offer one thought as a bridge between political and economic power. As a community we need to cultivate real political power so that we can help grow the economy in ways that provide more people with disabilities opportunities to earn a living wage, using community-based tools and efforts that have been proven to work. We have entered an era of sequestration and austerity of yet-to-be-determined length and impact. And yet we know that equipping people with disabilities with the skills and experiences they need to succeed and providing the supports they need on the job and in the community often require significant resources in technology, in human capital, in transportation, and in other ways. We know what works on a case-by-case basis, but we lack the resources to make things work more often for more people on a sustainable basis. We also know it’s worth the investment, because the alternative to earning one’s own living wage is relying on income support financed from other people’s wages. And of course we know it’s the morally right thing to do because, as FDR understood, the right to inhabit the world is a fleeting victory if one can’t afford to live in the world.
I’ve focused my time more on highlighting the challenges we face as a community than prescribing solutions. My goal has been to push us to be vigilant in cultivating power as well as rights and to think creatively about how to cultivate the power to live in the world. By way of closing, let me focus on one key building block to wielding power: “individualized empowerment,” as the late and great Justin Dart Jr. called it. “Only you (and I) and thousands like us have the power to make the dream of individualized empowerment live in every life,” Dart wrote. As Dart conceived it, a culture of individualized empowerment would “provide all human beings the customized education and services and the customized tools to meet each of their distinctive needs and to maximize each of their distinctive abilities.”
I applaud the NFB for its efforts in supporting countless individuals whose lives have been transformed by an ideology of individualized empowerment. Set aside for a moment the NFB’s legacy of proclaiming, securing, and advancing a host of legal rights for people with disabilities—which merits praise in its own right. When I hear people like Anil Lewis tell their personal stories of what it meant to encounter the NFB and throw off long-held stereotypes of what blind people can’t do, and hear the strength in his voice, and witness the confidence in his every step—not just in walking but metaphorically—I behold power in action. The power that the NFB effectively wields begins with the individual journeys its members take to recognize and channel the power that lies within and the power that can be harnessed through the support of our peers and mentors. Yes, we need to secure our rights. Yes, we need to enforce our rights. But let’s not wait on rights to exercise power wherever and whenever we can, and let’s not allow ourselves to think that rights alone will sustain us individually or as a community. Instead, let us show that we can develop and leverage the power to live in the world and thus enjoy more fully the right to live in the world that Jacobus tenBroek so capably established for all of us. Let us unleash the culture of “individualized empowerment” envisioned by Justin Dart. Acquire power. Then use it to live in the world.
by Anil Lewis
From the Editor: Anil Lewis was born in 1964 in Atlanta, Georgia. Lewis was diagnosed at age nine with retinitis pigmentosa, although his vision was fairly unaffected until 1989. He has a master’s in business administration in computer information systems and a master’s in public administration from Georgia State University. He has developed a job placement program for people with disabilities, represented people with disabilities in a law office, and has been president of the Georgia affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind. Today he lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and is the director of advocacy and policy at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute. He works with the NFB’s governmental affairs team to eliminate subminimum wages and the antiquated notion that blind and disabled people cannot be productive members of society. He is also the proud father of Amari, his bright, ambitious son. Reprinted from
Most theological references to people with disabilities portray us as broken people in need of healing, who are dependent on the benevolence of others. Also most faith traditions have a moral imperative to seek salvation by caring for the less fortunate; and people with disabilities, being deemed less fortunate, are therefore tokens for that salvation. The false perception of brokenness, coupled with the misapplied moral edict, results in a “compassionate discrimination” that limits the potential of every person with a disability.
Compassionate discrimination, like other types of discrimination, springs from ignorance and deprives us all of the value each person and group of people have to offer. But unlike the abusive treatment of slaves resulting from racial discrimination and unlike the chauvinistic treatment of women resulting from gender discrimination, compassionate discrimination is cloaked in sympathy and good intentions. The segregation of African-Americans in educational, employment, and living environments is unlawful and universally censured—no questions asked, no exceptions. Conversely, the segregation of people with disabilities in school, work, and home is justified as the creation of safe environments where we are nurtured and protected.
The 20 to 30 percent wage disparity between male and female employees is considered a discriminatory practice in the workplace. But, perversely, the disparity between an executive’s $500,000 salary and the 22-cent-per-hour wage of the worker with a disability is considered reasonable. Work at such wages is even promoted as an opportunity for the disabled worker to experience the tangible and intangible benefits of work. Given this confused moral perspective, it is almost understandable why public policies have been developed that continue to limit people with disabilities from reaching our full potential.
In 1938 policymakers, acting on a laudable desire to integrate people with disabilities into the workforce, made a huge mistake when they enacted Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act <www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/14c/>. That provision authorizes the U.S. Department of Labor to issue Special Wage Certificates to employers, permitting them to pay workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage. As a result of the erroneous belief, commonly held in 1938 but long since disproved, that people with disabilities cannot be productive employees, employers are permitted to pay workers with disabilities subminimum wages that are supposedly based on our productivity. This denial of fundamental wage protections to workers with disabilities, although masked as a compassionate offering of a work opportunity that would otherwise not be available, leaves over 300,000 people with disabilities employed at subminimum wages, some as low as three cents per hour.
A person with a disability is not less valuable than any other person, and, although employing that person may require the use of nontraditional training and employment strategies, a worker with a disability is not inherently less productive than a nondisabled worker. Section 14(c) is a poor public policy that perpetuates compassionate discrimination and harms people with disabilities by denying us proper education and training opportunities and by prohibiting most of us from obtaining competitive, integrated employment.
It is true that over 70 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed, but current segregated subminimum-wage work environments have proven that they are not the solution to this dilemma. We must understand that it is not the disability itself that causes this circumstance. It is the lack of understanding about the true capacity of people with disabilities that results in the misperception that we cannot be productive. Once this misperception has been embraced, it is difficult if not impossible for us to obtain real opportunities to demonstrate that we have that capacity. Rather than challenging the mistaken status quo, society’s “compassionate” remedy is to continue to create “safe,” segregated living, educational, and work environments for people with disabilities.
In order to implement a real solution to the unemployment problem, we must remove the mask of compassion from the discrimination we face. We must eliminate the separate-but-equal environments, and we must repeal the discriminatory policies that are founded on the flawed assertion of incapacity. We can achieve this goal. Congressman Gregg Harper has introduced the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2013 (H.R. 831) to repeal Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and an online petition that you can sign to support the repeal of Section 14(c) can be found at <https://www.nfb.org/fair-wages-petition>.
We are not broken. Our disabilities are neither a curse from God nor penance for our sins. They are a manifestation of the life with which God has blessed us, and, although the vessels which contain them are different, we have the same needs, desires, and abilities as everyone else. People with disabilities are not passive recipients of benevolence; we are also benevolent. We clothe the naked, we feed the hungry, we care for the sick, and we demonstrate the capacity to believe, to have faith, and to worship God. We demand to be fully participating members of society, and we refuse to be reduced to the status of tokens for the salvation of others.
by Jordan Diggs
From the Editor: Jordan Diggs is the son of Parnell Diggs, a member of the NFB board of directors and the president of the NFB of South Carolina. He is in the seventh grade, and this year he was assigned to write a paper that required research. The topic he chose was blindness: one about which he already had a considerable amount of information. Even so, the subject required both reflection and research. He included a few statements based on his father’s technological preferences, but he got most of the facts and the positive philosophy right. Very few sighted adults could have done as well. This is what he had to say:
Blindness is a topic that is very misunderstood. Many people believe it is a horrible disease that will make life completely miserable. But is it really that bad? Blind people can do anything sighted people can do, but few sighted people understand this. Most sighted people misunderstand blindness.
First of all, almost all sighted people are very scared of blindness. They think being blind is unbearable. If someone else is blind, they assume that they need to help them with everything they do and that the blind person cannot do anything alone. Many people say that they fear blindness more than any other condition, and it is on many peoples’ top ten fears list. Most people are stunned when they see blind people do things like walking up stairs because, even though it really is not anything special, they believe it is a miracle.
One of the main reasons that sighted people may react this way is that they have never met any blind people. Do they really have the right to make judgments about people they have never actually met? They make assumptions based on what they have heard from others (which can easily be incorrect or exaggerated) and what they hear from the media. For example, a movie called Blindness was created. It portrayed blind people very poorly and made them look like uncivilized, dirty people who cannot do anything on their own. This is completely untrue. People make bad assumptions about blind people because they think sight is required to do everything, and they have no evidence to prove otherwise.
Blindness is not as dreadful as some people say it is. Blind people are not limited by their eyes. They can do anything sighted people can do. Many buildings and hotels have elevators, bathrooms, and other areas that contain two types of signs: print signs and Braille signs. Braille is a series of raised dots, with a maximum of six dots in each cell, that allow blind people to read. Numerous companies print books in Braille so they can be read by blind people. Also blind people can read by listening to audio books. Many well-known books are now sold in audio form at book stores.
Another topic that is misunderstood is the fact that blind people can use canes to navigate. Many people believe that blind people are using canes for support. But the canes used by blind people are white, thinner, and taller. They are not used for support (they would break if someone attempted to do this), but they are used as probes to extend the sense of touch. Canes are one of the most commonly used navigation tools by blind people.
Another navigation method used by blind people is guide dogs. Guide dogs are dogs that have received special training to help blind people traverse. And like canes guide dogs are misunderstood. Some people believe that guide dogs stop when a car is coming or when there is a sign that says not to walk. This is incorrect. Guide dogs have received special training, but they do not know to stop when cars are coming; they are just canines, after all. Guide dogs are aware of oncoming traffic but exercise with their handlers decisions about moving into oncoming traffic. There is another reason why guide dogs are good: they also make excellent pets.
Many new technological developments have been created to help blind people do things that would be difficult for them otherwise. For example, a program called JAWS has been created to read words on the computer to blind people. While sighted people stare at the computer screen to find out what it says, blind people listen to it, because they are unable to see the screen. JAWS can speak at the speed of a normal human voice, but many people who are experienced enough to understand what it says prefer to listen to it many times the speed of a human voice. This allows them to save time and read documents much faster than human eyes would allow sighted people to.
Blind people can also access the Internet with a PAC Mate. PAC Mates are Braille laptops, and, instead of reading the words on the screen, there is no screen, and Braille appears through holes at the bottom of the keyboard. These laptops can access the Internet and read articles on many websites. They have been mass produced and sold. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has promoted PAC Mates extensively. Many members of the large organization use PAC Mates. The National Federation of the Blind also has an agreement with Apple. Because of this agreement, iPhones have VoiceOver that works almost exactly like JAWS.
Another thing about blindness that is commonly misunderstood is the fact that sighted people think that blind people need help with very effortless tasks. When blind people say that they do not need help, the other people try to debate the matter and convince them that they do require assistance but do not know that they need it. Parnell Diggs says, “People misunderstand blindness, and people don’t think I know if I need help. For example, in an airport people ask if I need help. I tell them no. They always say 'Are you sure?’ They then debate the issue. Sometimes people compare me to a relative, such as somebody with dementia. But I know where I’m supposed to be and whether I need to ask how to get there. It’s not that I’m too proud; I welcome help when I need it, but I should be the one to decide when I need it.”
Many sighted people also believe that being blind is like putting on a blindfold. This is incorrect. Parnell Diggs says, “Blindness isn’t like putting on a blindfold. After forty years you learn a lot about being blind. People also think your senses are better, which isn’t true. You use your other senses more, but they’re not better.” If you put on a blindfold, you may not know any blindness skills. If you are blind, you have more time to learn blindness skills. This is a fact that very few sighted people consider when they think about being blind.
Many blind people are unemployed. This is not because they cannot do their job. There are two reasons why blind people could be unemployed. One is that they do not want to get a job. They may live with someone else who is working, and they have enough money, or they might just not want to work (which is unwise, because they will most likely not have enough money to live). The second, more common reason is that employers do not hire them because they do not believe they can work well. This is completely incorrect. Under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the government can issue certificates that say that employers can pay blind people below minimum wage. Goodwill, a charity store, is one of the biggest users of these certificates. If blind people are lucky enough to be hired, which is rare, they are often paid below minimum wage. Many stores do this, which makes it hard for blind people to find a well-paying job. Some careers are so low-paying that it is not worth their while to work. This is why many are unemployed.
There are also many organizations that are fighting for equal rights for blind people. One of the biggest ones is the National Federation of the Blind. Since the 1940s the NFB has done things like teaching Braille, selling PAC Mates, fighting for equal rights and fair laws for blind people, and, most important, educating the public. To read the website, go to <NFB.org>.
Blindness is a topic that is extremely misunderstood by most sighted people. Even though many people do not know it, blind people are just as intelligent and hard-working as most sighted people. Blindness does not limit your abilities; it just makes you unable to see. Blind people are not limited by their eyes, but by the limits that society places on blind people. After all, blindness is just a characteristic.
by Robert Jaquiss and Gary Wunder
From the Editor: Robert Jaquiss is a member of the National Federation of the Blind Research and Development Committee. He has been a staff member of the International Braille and Technology Center and has run his own business putting materials into Braille and tactile graphics. Recently he and I have been testing ALT, and we decided to jointly write a review about this powerful program to increase the productivity of blind people who use the Microsoft Windows operating system:
A blind person functioning in a world constructed for sighted people soon learns that it is possible to do almost everything that is done with sight by using alternative techniques. Some are more efficient than the techniques used by our sighted friends and family, some are about the same, and others are slower. In employment, efficiency is the name of the game, so part of what we must do is, not only demand accessible hardware and software, but find ways to make it efficient. Sometimes this is accomplished by working with designers to ensure that we can do with a series of keystrokes what is done with a mouse or some other pointing device. Sometimes it is done by special software that bypasses the visual paradigm altogether. This article discusses one productivity tool blind people can use at home and in the workplace to perform often-repeated tasks efficiently.
ALT is a program developed in Germany by Dräger & Lienert Information Management, and distributed in English-speaking countries by U-R-Able. ALT was specifically developed for the blind by developers who are blind. Briefly described, it is productivity software that simplifies repetitive tasks, provides keyboard shortcuts for complex operations, and provides keyboard commands to emulate mouse functions. ALT works with all screen readers. For JAWS, Window-Eyes, and the Cobra screen-readers, ALT has over 200 built-in functions to direct the screen reader programmatically. It will work with any Windows-based software. Some examples of how ALT is used are shown below. ALT is activated, as you might expect, by pressing the Alt key on the PC keyboard. Since Alt by itself is already used to perform many functions, the ALT program actually requires two taps of the key, followed by the command ALT is to perform. Suppose you have trouble remembering the website for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Braille and Audio Reading Download, BARD. An ALT accelerator can be defined and given this address once, and from then on all one need do is press Alt twice and enter BARD or NLS or whatever mnemonic one wishes to assign for getting to the service. An accelerator can also be activated with additional information. For example, the accelerator for BARD could be called “bard.” The bard accelerator would be supplied with a user name and password. For example, “bard <email@example.com> booksplease”. ALT will bring up the BARD site and log the user in. The same trick will work for Bookshare. Two presses of the Alt key and the letters “bs” followed by Enter will bring up Bookshare, and this can be configured to load the login page, a search page, or any number of other options Bookshare offers to use its service. The neat part of the ALT accelerators for screen reader users is that all the “journey steps” we’re so used to hearing are silent with ALT.
I personally use Google at least ten times a day: how does Freedom Scientific spell “PAC Mate” or Humanware spell “BrailleNote,” in what issue did we last run a story about Christine Boone, or when did we give Ramona Walhof the tenBroek Award? I could enter <www.google.com> or could put Google in my favorites list; or I could use a nifty ALT command that not only takes me to Google but lets me enter my search term and even positions the reading cursor at the results of my search. A command such as “gs Jacobus tenBroek born” tells me that he was born in 1911 and died in 1968. The search is quick and easy and takes less than ten seconds to type and find the answer. Of course ALT cannot guarantee that the search criteria will lead directly to the desired item, but it can make the process of initiating that search quick and easy.
The same method used with web addresses will also work in searching for commonly used files and folders. If I want the telephone directory used at the Center, I use the word “center” and the name of the person for whom I am searching, and instantly the Braille display contains his or her name and extension.
More complex tasks can also be assigned to ALT. If one wishes to sign into his bank account and determine what the bank believes to be the account balance, ALT can be programmed to go to the bank’s website, login with the ID and password of the account holder, press the buttons or activate the links necessary to display the balance screen, and then search for the text that appears before that all-important number.
For the professional ALT can be a real time saver. For example, when composing email, I can have various text modules for inserting contact information at the end of a letter. If I type “rsj” my contact information is inserted. I could have another module to insert contact information for both my wife and me. Yet another module could be created to insert a signature for a business. ALT accelerators can be used to perform tasks for Microsoft Word. I can press ALT twice followed by “word,” and Microsoft Word will start. I have accelerators for using Microsoft Word. The accelerator “inddec” will decrease the left margin. “Indinc” will increase the left margin indent. “Wcen” will center the current line. Other accelerators can adjust JAWS, the screen reader I am using. There are accelerators to adjust the announcement of access keys and tutorial messages, and for controlling a Braille display. ALT will also work with ZoomText. Users have the choice of purchasing packages of accelerators or creating their own. A very important feature of ALT is that I don’t have to be at the Desktop. ALT will work from anywhere on a PC. They call this “beaming”, moving from any starting location to a final destination in a single step.
I have found that ALT is a powerful productivity tool. Presentations on ALT will be conducted at our upcoming national convention. For more information on ALT, contact one of the following:
For non-English users contact Dräger & Lienert Information Management, Hilfsmittel für Blinde, Stadtwaldstr. 62, D 35037 Marburg, Germany, phone: +49 6421 165555, fax: +49 6421 165556, email: <firstname.lastname@example.org>, web: <http://www.dlinfo.de>.
by Barbara Pierce
The director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped since late March of 2012 has been Karen Keninger, formerly the director of the Iowa Department for the Blind. In an April 22, 2013, article in the Des Moines Register, a reporter, Jason Clayworth, disclosed that Iowa’s auditor has taken issue with expenditures made on behalf of Keninger while she directed the agency. While still an employee, Keninger had a case worker open a rehabilitation case for her, and, using the standard combination of state and federal funds, the Department bought $21,000 worth of equipment and clothing for her. State auditor David Vaudt noted, “It’s never a good practice to have subordinates approving the requests of the director of their department.”
Although retention of and advancement in employment are legitimate uses of rehabilitation funds, it is all but certain that Keninger could have gotten any computer equipment required for her Iowa job through routine purchases for state agency employees. By the same token her employment by the Library of Congress to head the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped would have included the purchase of any required assistive technology to do her job as a part of reasonable accommodation. Sometimes as post-employment services a rehabilitation agency buys assistive equipment for a customer who needs it and who is working for a small employer who would have no use for it if the job does not work out. But this was clearly not the situation in Keninger’s case.
However reasonable the argument for requesting blindness-related equipment using vocational rehabilitation funds might have been in this case, one wonders about the ethics of asking the agency to pay $2,000 for clothing for an official who is already drawing a salary of $94,500 annually from the Iowa Department for the Blind. This revelation of agency expenditures is particularly difficult for Iowans to take at a time when the agency reports significant financial problems that have recently resulted in the dismissal of four fulltime staff members and two who worked part-time. The purchase of clothing for a person with what many would consider a generous salary also undercuts one of the major arguments used to justify vocational rehabilitation, namely that, by going to work, one moves from government support to economic independence and eventually repays many times over the amount spent for rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is billed by its advocates as a one-time boost up, making it possible for a disabled job-seeker to acquire formidably expensive equipment that an employer cannot or will not purchase.
The Des Moines Register says that the state auditor has reported these expenditures to state and federal authorities since the vocational rehabilitation program is jointly funded through federal and state grants. He speculates that a refund may be requested.
Michael Barber, president of the NFB of Iowa, provided the Braille Monitor with the following statement when asked for a comment: We believe that Keninger’s actions were ill-advised, leading to unnecessary and unwanted scrutiny of the Iowa Department for the Blind at a critical time, when members of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa and others in the blindness community have been working vigorously to achieve the necessary funding for the Department in order to preserve programs for the blind in Iowa. She has always maintained that you should not do anything you wouldn’t want printed in the Des Moines Register. We only wish that in this case she had followed her own advice.
by Elizabeth Norton
From the Editor: The following article appeared on April 10, 2013, in the online publication, Science Now. It may report a small study, but it corroborates our conviction that blind people can be as effective parents as any other loving, determined, and conscientious parents. Here is the article:
A loving gaze helps firm up the bond between parent and child, building social skills that last a lifetime. But what happens when mom is blind? A new study shows that the children of sightless mothers develop healthy communication skills and can even outstrip the children of parents with normal vision. Eye contact is one of the most important aspects of communication, according to Atsushi Senju, a developmental cognitive neuroscientist at Birkbeck, University of London. Autistic people don't naturally make eye contact, however, and they can become anxious when urged to do so. Children for whom face-to-face contact is drastically reduced--babies severely neglected in orphanages or children who are born blind--are more likely to have traits of autism, such as the inability to form attachments, hyperactivity, and cognitive impairment. To determine whether eye contact is essential for developing normal communication skills, Senju and colleagues chose a less extreme example: babies whose primary caregivers (their mothers) were blind. These children had other forms of loving interaction, such as touching and talking. But the mothers were unable to follow the babies' gaze or teach the babies to follow theirs, which normally helps children learn the importance of the eyes in communication.
Apparently, the children don't need the help. Senju and colleagues studied five babies born to blind mothers, checking the children's proficiency at six to ten months, twelve to fifteen months, and twenty-four to forty-seven months on several measures of age-appropriate communications skills. At the first two visits babies watched videos in which a woman shifted her gaze or moved different parts of her face while corresponding changes in the baby's face were recorded. Babies also followed the gaze of a woman sitting at a table and looking at various objects. The babies also played with unfamiliar adults in a test that checked for autistic traits, such as the inability to maintain eye contact, not smiling in response to the adult's smile, and being unable to switch attention from one toy to a new one. At each age the researchers assessed the children's visual, motor, and language skills.
When the results were compared to scores of children of sighted parents, the five children of blind mothers did just as well on the tests, the researchers report today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. [Proceedings is a journal produced by the Royal Society, a worldwide fellowship of scientists. This journal is focused on topics of biology.] Learning to communicate with their blind mothers also seemed to give the babies some advantages. For example, even at the youngest age tested, the babies directed fewer gazes toward their mothers than to adults with normal vision, suggesting that they were already learning that strangers would communicate differently than would their mothers. When they were between twelve and fifteen months old, the babies of blind mothers were also more verbal than were other children of the same age. And the youngest babies of blind mothers outscored their peers in developmental tests—especially visual tasks such as remembering the location of a hidden toy or switching their attention from one toy to a new one presented by the experimenter.
Senju likens their skills to those of children who grow up bilingual; the need to shift between modes of communication may boost the development of their social skills, he says. "Our results suggest that the babies aren't passively copying the expressions of adults but that they are actively learning and changing the way to best communicate with others."
"The use of sighted babies of blind mothers is a clever and important idea," says developmental scientist Andrew Meltzoff of the University of Washington's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences in Seattle. "The mother's blindness may teach a child at an early age that certain people turn to look at things and others don't. Apparently these little babies can learn that not everyone reacts the same way." Meltzoff adds that there are many ways to pay attention to a child. "Doubtless, the blind mothers use touch, sounds, tugs on the arm, and tender pats on the back. Our babies want communication, love, and attention. The fact that these can come through any route is a remarkable demonstration of the adaptability of the human child."
For more detail about this study, read the original article in Proceedings of Royal Society B: Biological Sciences at <http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/280/1760/20130436>.
by Chris Nusbaum
From the Editor: Chris Nusbaum is finishing his freshman year at Francis Scott Key High School in Taneytown, Maryland. He was recently featured by Nick News on the Nickelodeon television network, and his was by far the most positive and articulate portrayal of blindness on the show. Chris will be entering STEP, the Summer Training and Employment Project at the Louisiana Center for the Blind this summer. Here is what he has to say about an earlier summer program and how it almost kept him from becoming a contributing member of the NFB.
Not long ago I participated in a lengthy and thought-provoking thread on one of our listservs. This thread began as a discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of our NFB model of training over the traditional methodology used by other adjustment-to-blindness training programs. But the topic soon changed to the value of the National Federation of the Blind itself and the choice that blind people must make: to join or not to join. This change in the conversation was caused by one contributor’s to the list’s expressing reservations about joining the Federation, let alone attending one of our centers. When I asked him to elaborate, he told me his doubts were mostly due to what he saw as a closed-minded approach to issues affecting blind people. I wrote back and told him that, although this is true of a few of us, my experience tells me that a majority of Federationists (including most of our leaders) do not subscribe to this my-way-or-the-highway philosophy about blindness. I certainly don't.
As the discussion went on, I found myself reflecting on my own journey in the Federation. The posts from various contributors, members and nonmembers alike, called up in my mind memories of all the experiences which have taken me from wanting no part of the organized blind movement to being an active participant in it. If sharing my story here serves any purpose other than to satisfy my own desire to open my mouth, I hope it demonstrates the effect the Federation can have on one blind person's life and why I am so active in the movement today. In short, I hope it demonstrates why I am a Federationist.
On paper I have been a member of the National Federation of the Blind since I was a baby. When my parents were first dealing with the reality of their son's blindness and were looking for resources, our family was fortunate enough to find the NFB and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) through a wonderful teacher who has always been active in the Federation. The teacher was Ray Peloquin, a man who spent some time as a valued employee of the National Federation of the Blind. My family attended our first state convention in 2000, when I was two years old and our first national convention in 2001. My parents often tell the story of an incident that happened at an NFB of Maryland convention when I was about five years old. I had gone with them to a few sessions presented by the Maryland parents division. In our room that night my mother asked me what I had learned. Without hesitation I replied, "Mommy, I learned that it's okay to be blind." Looking back, I count it as one of my many blessings that my family found the Federation so early in my life.
When I was six years old, I went to a camp sponsored by Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM). It was the first time I had been away from home for any extended period of time, aside from occasional sleepovers at my grandparents' house. As you can imagine, the thought of going to this camp for a week with people I didn't know was an alien and somewhat nerve-wracking prospect. Unfortunately, the experience I had there did not help to calm my nerves. Let me just say that I did not have a good experience there at all. More specifically, I didn't like the style of teaching used at that program, nor did I learn much from it. To me they expected us to know what we were doing rather than actually teaching us. I know now that they were trying to introduce us to the guided-discovery [normally referred to as structured-discovery] training method. The problem, however, was that there was no guidance, only discovery.
Let me give you a few examples that I remember especially clearly. On the first day of the program, as we walked into the building and registered, a BISM employee was standing at the bottom of the stairs leading to the dorm rooms, quite literally shooing our parents away. I remember my parents’ trying to help me heft my bag up the stairs, and this BISM employee calling back, "Let that boy carry his own bag! He's got to learn how to do this on his own." Now I have no problem with independence or with learning how to do things on my own—quite the contrary. Anyone who knows me knows this to be true. I have traveled many times since, and I handle my own bag. However, there was one problem my parents and I saw with what this camp counselor was doing: I was six years old. The suitcase weighed more than I did! How could she expect a six year old, even using all the strength someone of that age can muster, to carry more than his body weight, especially up a flight of stairs?
Another example of the no-guidance, only discovery style used by the instructors at BISM's Kids Camp happened on the last night of the program. We had a campfire that night which included a visit from the children's librarian at the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (LBPH), who came to tell stories. The camp counselors must have realized by that point that cane travel was one of my weaknesses. The camp director decided to try remedying this. When we were in our dorms getting ready to go to the campfire, she told me that she was going to give me a little challenge: she and the other counselors would go out to the campfire, and I would meet them there. She told me she wanted to see if I could make it by myself without any information from anybody. I was definitely nervous, but she encouraged me, and I accepted her challenge. What else was there to do?
Now the dorm building at this camp was an old one with many staircases, winding corridors, and other nooks and crannies. Since I was a first grader with very little training in orientation and mobility, I had no idea what I was doing. I used my cane as best I could, but I didn't know which staircases to climb and which hallways to enter. It didn't take long for me to realize that I was completely and totally lost. Even scarier, I realized that I was utterly alone in that building. These were not comforting realizations for someone of my age and experience. I remember being relieved and grateful when I finally heard the familiar voice of a friend: Kit Bloom, the librarian from the state library for the blind. Noticing I was not out at the campfire, she had gone into the building looking for me. When she found me, I was terrified. I will never forget how much solace one voice brought me that night, and I am very grateful to Kit for going out of her way (and perhaps breaking a camp rule) to search for me.
You might wonder what all this has to do with the Federation. To answer that question, I would like to point to the philosophy classes which were held each day during the camp. You see, throughout these classes we were told that the program they were conducting was being guided by the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. We were also introduced to Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who we thought was some dead blind guy who gave a lot of speeches. They told us that it was he, not BISM, who developed the teaching practices used at the camp. After all that I had experienced at BISM Kids' Camp, I returned home determined that I would never support an organization or a philosophy which promoted that kind of so-called teaching. In short, I resolved never to join or be active in the National Federation of the Blind.
I stuck to this decision for another seven years. Through all of elementary school and most of middle school, I remained an outsider to the organized blind movement—and that's how I wanted it. I attended state conventions with my parents, but mostly I stayed in the hotel room with my dad while Mom went to her parent sessions. The only time I attended a general session was when Sharon Maneki asked me to sing the National Anthem before the meeting started. Even then I walked in, sang, and walked out. Introducing me that morning, Sharon called me "a future leader in the NFB." I wondered then, as I do now, how she figured this, considering my lack of activity and interest in the organization as a rank-and-file member. I suppose she saw something in me that I didn't see in myself.
All this changed in four days in April of 2011. It was my seventh grade year, and I was attending the Jernigan Institute's Leadership and Advocacy in Washington (LAW) Program. The LAW Program was my first Jernigan Institute education event. In fact, this was my first NFB-related program since Kids' Camp. I was a little nervous about how this would go but excited at the same time because I would be able to participate in the politics I enjoy following so much. The program exceeded my greatest expectations. I know this phrase has become an overused cliché, but I think it is adequate to say that the LAW Program changed my life. In those four days I honed my blindness skills, met successful blind role models, discovered the value of the Federation, and returned with renewed motivation to learn the skills of blindness and to increase my activity in the organized blind movement. Here is how I described it in a speech I gave about the LAW Program at the 2011 NFB of Maryland convention: "Another thing our mentors did which has changed my life for the better was to introduce me and the other participants to the National Federation of the Blind, a strong and influential organization working every day to better the quality of life for the blind and a big family which is here to help each and every one of its members. The Federation has always been a part of my life from as far back as I can remember, ever since my first TVI introduced the NFB to my parents. But I was never really that involved in it and didn't really become interested in being an active member until the LAW Program. Since the program I have discovered the true value of the Federation and the network of resources it provides."
I remember this change becoming especially apparent to me while we were on Capitol Hill, meeting with our representatives in Congress. The thought hit me suddenly as I walked out of then-Congressman Roscoe Bartlett's office. I had just finished leading a meeting in which our group was advocating for the Technology Bill of Rights for the Blind with one of Congressman Bartlett's legislative assistants. At that moment I thought, "I want to be a part of this!" Here was an organization in which I could help to fight discrimination and increase opportunity for all the blind. Although I was only a middle school student, I could participate actively in this movement for civil rights and equal opportunity. Wait a minute, I thought: this is the NFB, the same organization I had been so adamant about not supporting for so long. Now here I was feeling this longing to be a part of it. It was at that point that I realized that the BISM Camp counselors had been wrong. Their teaching was based on their own philosophy, not the Federation's. In reality, what had steered me away from the movement for so long had nothing to do with the organization; it had to do with some members of it who represent the opinions of the minority.
Armed with this newfound information, I returned home wanting to learn more. I spent most of the next weekend scouring the NFB website, reading and listening to all I could find: banquet speeches, presidential releases, Monitor articles, Kernel Books, etc. For some reason a speech delivered in 1993 called "The Nature of Independence" caught my attention. This speech remains my favorite national convention address to this day. [<https://nfb.org/banquet-speeches>] In it I found a definition of independence I wholeheartedly agree with. Incidentally, this definition was eloquently articulated by Dr. Jernigan, the same man who was credited by the counselors at Kids' Camp for inventing the teaching methods used there. I was also encouraged by the very positive reaction to Dr. Jernigan's remarks from an audience filled with Federationists, indicating that his views are shared by most of us. If you have not read or listened to this remarkable speech, I strongly encourage you to do so.
During the two years since the LAW Program, my activity in the Federation has steadily increased. About a week after I returned from Baltimore, I subscribed to several listservs on NFB-Net. I have since become an omnipresent (perhaps even annoying) contributor to these lists. My activity in the national organization and our Maryland affiliate has also greatly increased. At state conventions I now attend general sessions and state affiliate board meetings. During last year's convention I was elected to serve on the board of directors of the Maryland Association of Blind Students (MDABS). I am still honored to serve now as a board member and the co-chair of the public relations committee. Last year I also attended an NFB training center for the first time when I went to the Louisiana Center for the Blind's Buddy Program. This was a very rewarding experience for me and one which has allowed me to start really living my Federationism. It is probably accurate to divide my work in the Federation into two time periods: before the LAW Program and after it. And what a rewarding experience the after phase has been and continues to be!
Although there are ups and downs to the story I have related to you, I have learned much from the good times as well as the bad. More than anything I have learned the true philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. It is not about one specific technique for travel, nor is it that all true Federationists must think identically or even similarly on every issue that affects blind people. It is not that our model of training is the only way, nor is it that our leaders are always perfect. The true philosophy of the Federation is exactly what we say it is; given the proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to a physical nuisance. I have also come to understand the value of this philosophy on a personal level. It can truly change one's life; indeed, it has changed mine. Our philosophy is a freeing one. If put into practice, it can open innumerable doors for blind people and give them hope for the future; it has done these things for me. I believe that each Federationist has his or her own personal story which explains why he or she is passionate about the Federation and its work, and this is mine. For me it all lies in a change in attitude about the Federation. Once I was doubtful, now I am dedicated.
by Agnes Allen
From the Editor: One of the controversial beliefs espoused by the National Federation of the Blind is that blindness is but one of many characteristics and that to spend much time trying to figure out what one might or might not have done had he had sight makes little sense. One might as well speculate about what she might have done had she been given fifteen extra points on the IQ test or whiter teeth. One can’t pick and choose these things, so the best we can do is get along with our lives, capitalizing on our advantages and figuring out ways to make our perceived disadvantages work for us. Agnes Allen has not only reconciled herself to being blind but says she likes it. In her long and varied career, she has been an educational consultant for blind children in New Jersey, a home teacher for the rehabilitation agency in Pennsylvania, has raised three children, has retired, and is currently helping a blind woman study for her GED. In her spare time she enjoys her grandchildren as they grow. Here is how she describes coming to live the philosophy that blindness is a part of her life, but not the ultimate defining part:
The concept of whether I like or dislike being a blind person has never given me pause for serious reflection. Would I love to see the faces of my daughters or the smiles of my nine grandchildren? Of course I would. Have I wished I could view the heavenly universe with its stars at night, the bright sky, or springtime flowers? Indeed I have. But the reality is that I cannot see any of these things.
I accepted this long ago as a child of five when sight was first denied me. Perhaps this acceptance entrenched itself deeply in my psyche through the process of osmosis. A loving family, a school for blind children, and a welcoming and forward-looking college and university conspired to build my self-esteem, which ultimately led to my well-being as a blind person. The opportunities I enjoyed fostered feelings of usefulness and self-worth. Through them I could reach out to others and give back what I had received.
Were it not for the positive direction in which my life unfolded, I could have remained a helpless and dependent individual, unhappy with blindness and a burden to family and society. This was not the case. I choose two significant ways to illustrate how faith in God and becoming Braille literate provided the motivation to reach my major goals.
A strong religious faith has lent itself to overcoming major obstacles inherent in blindness. Without faith no other achievement in life would have meaning. In addition to blindness, God willed that I deal with, and accept, a major hearing loss. Hopefully my core values have wielded a healthy influence on my family, friends, students, clients, and many members of the blindness community.
At the Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind in Pittsburgh, I mastered the art of reading and writing Braille. This major accomplishment laid the foundation for my future education. With Braille I gained much independence and success. I became a competitive student, competent teacher, practicing social worker, proficient proofreader, responsible mother of three, and caring grandmother. As Grandma I read stories to my grandchildren, who did not seem amazed that I could read those dots with my fingers but who simply enjoyed listening to The Tickle Tree or The Five Little Monkeys. Can there be a more bonding experience?
I could go on and on singing the praises of Braille and its advantages. I have described two of many areas which have made the condition of blindness more bearable and yes, even comfortable. To be blind has not been the end of the world but has led to the entrance to a whole new world, which, if I could see, I would never have known. Within this world I have encountered many people and demonstrated to them the joys and happiness of a person who just happens to be blind.
One of the great satisfactions in life is having the opportunity to assist others. Consider making a gift to the National Federation of the Blind to continue turning our dreams into reality. A gift to the NFB is not merely a donation to an organization; it provides resources that will directly ensure a brighter future for all blind people.
Seize the Future
The National Federation of the Blind has special giving opportunities that will benefit the giver as well as the NFB. Of course the largest benefit to the donor is the satisfaction of knowing that the gift is leaving a legacy of opportunity. However, gifts may be structured to provide more:
NFB programs are dynamic:
Your gift makes you a partner in the NFB dream. For further information or assistance, contact the NFB planned giving officer.
From the Editor: On April 19, 2013, Natalie Shaheen, director of education at the Jernigan Institute, was given an award by her alma mater, the Ohio State University. The College of Education and Human Ecology New Leader Award is presented to an EHE alum under the age of thirty-seven in recognition of significant early accomplishments in his or her profession. We share OSU’s admiration of Natalie and are delighted to showcase the praise people had for her. Reprinted here are several letters. The first is the letter nominating Natalie written by Dr. Tiffany Wild, a professor at OSU; then a letter of recommendation submitted by Mark Riccobono, executive director of the Jernigan Institute; and then the letter confirming Natalie’s selection to receive this award. Last are Natalie’s own words, answering questions about what she’s done so far and how much more she plans to do to further the work she loves:
Dear Members of the Alumni Awards Committee:
I am writing to offer my strongest recommendation for Natalie Shaheen to receive the New Leader Alumni Award offered by the College of Education and Human Ecology. I am acquainted with Ms. Shaheen through her time as a graduate student at the Ohio State University and more recently through the cutting-edge science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education programs she has facilitated at the NFB Jernigan Institute, at which I was able to conduct research.
Ms. Shaheen brings enormous energy, passion, and leadership to the educational programs that she directs, which serve thousands of blind and visually impaired children across the United States each year. In all of the programs she facilitates—particularly the STEM programs—Ms. Shaheen uses innovation and research-based pedagogy for engaging her students in learning, helping her students to realize that a visual impairment will not impede STEM education opportunities. She allows the curriculum to come alive and provides hands-on experiential learning not normally available to students with visual impairments. Merely adapting existing textbook-based curricula for learners who are blind or visually impaired is not enough. Ms. Shaheen brings the element of fun into STEM education.
Ms. Shaheen is committed to ensuring that all visually impaired children have access to high-quality learning opportunities. Numerous times I have called Ms. Shaheen, only to find her still at her desk well after her agency has closed, finishing a project or curriculum plan. She has also been known to take supplies home for a curriculum instructional activity she will be doing at the center with blind youth.
Ms. Shaheen is also very diligent in sharing the wisdom she gains from the programs she directs with fellow educators. She acts as a resource to and supports the work of the up-and-coming leaders in the field of blindness education—the fellows of the National Leadership Consortium in Sensory Disabilities. Ms. Shaheen has even offered her assistance to acquaintances in the field who train teachers of the blind and visually impaired abroad. Ms. Shaheen took it upon herself to provide current and pre-service teachers the opportunity to have live-feed chats about educational issues in the field of visual impairments from her home in the evenings outside of her standard workday. Students in the current OSU teacher preparation program in visual impairments have benefitted from that live-feed chat and have commented on how well it was executed by Ms. Shaheen.
Natalie Shaheen is a born leader. The best leaders know that one of the most valuable contributions they can make is to nurture the growth and development of the next generation of leaders. Understanding that the skills one needs to become a leader must be fostered from a very young age, Ms. Shaheen provides the youngest blind students—like those who attended her most recent STEM program—with the opportunity to develop problem-solving and decision-making skills by allowing students to direct their own learning. Ms. Shaheen models for her students the skills a good leader must possess and, perhaps most important, she shows the youth that her blindness does not impede her ability to make a difference.
Upon learning of this award, the first name to come to my mind was Ms. Natalie Shaheen. She embodies all aspects of the qualities of a new leader in our field. I feel Ms. Shaheen is an outstanding candidate for the New Leader Alumni Award. I believe she will continue to be a force for development in education. By recognizing her achievements to date, Ohio State will bring credit to the tremendous foundation it provides for the growth of leaders from diverse backgrounds who work with under-served populations. Please contact me if you would like additional information on Natalie Shaheen.
Tiffany Wild, PhD
Program in Visual Impairments Coordinator
Middle Childhood Math/Science Education
The Ohio State University
Dear College of EHE Awards Committee:
I am writing in support of the nomination of Ms. Natalie Shaheen for the New Leader Alumni Award. For the past three-and-a-half years I have had the opportunity to work directly with Ms. Shaheen, observe her growth as well as her positive impact on others, gain inspiration from her passion and ideas, and enjoy her constant promotion of Ohio.
I first got to know Ms. Shaheen in the spring of 2009 when we hired her to work on a national demonstration project teaching Braille to blind students during the summer. It was immediately clear that her passion for education was not confined to the classroom. It carries through everything that she does. She is constantly seeking opportunities to improve her own learning as well as that of those around her. Ms. Shaheen’s initial work with us was under contract for the summer only. After observing her in action with students, we recognized that she would be a tremendous asset to our education team here at the NFB Jernigan Institute.
One unique attribute we discovered in Ms. Shaheen was her passion for the intersection of technology and education and the way the two could be effectively used together. She has a strong belief in the important role technology can play in the learning process and an appreciation for the role the educator needs to play in conjuction with the use of technology. Furthermore, Ms. Shaheen’s experience educating a variety of children in a variety of settings gives her a unique perspective on how to understand what is happening in a classroom.
Ms. Shaheen has taken that passion for education and technology and is building national programs that were previously unimagined. The 2009 pilot program that she participated in has now spread to eleven states with six [now eleven] more coming on board in 2013. Ms. Shaheen has been the primary leader of the program and its curriculum development, including finding innovative ways to promote and fund the program (not something that she was ever trained to do). When Ms. Shaheen is confronted with a challenge, she does not run from it. Rather she studies it and figures out the most effective ways to tackle it. In 2011 she was promoted to be director of education here at the NFB Jernigan Institute—the youngest person we have ever had in that position. She is quickly becoming the best director we have ever had (in full disclosure, I once had that position myself, but I am not ashamed to say that Ms. Shaheen brings skills and perspective I did not possess). Last year, despite personal health struggles that kept her out of the office a significant amount of time, she built and executed a new summer program that many educators told her could never work. NFB Project Innovation was a huge success and changed many lives.
Ms. Shaheen exemplifies a high standard of personal and professional integrity and excellence that any university should want to acknowledge. And she makes it very clear to everyone she meets where she received her education. Considering that Ms. Shaheen works with many young blind kids who have constantly been told that they can’t do this or that, her impact when she tells them they can and tells them she got her skills from OSU adds extra inspiration. I add this last note to bring up that Ms. Shaheen also possesses the characteristic of being humble. She understands that she has had opportunities because someone invested in her, and she takes every day as a chance to cultivate new opportunities to invest in others. Her impact is now felt across the country, but she will not be satisfied until she finds a way for every child to have the quality education she knows he or she deserves. It is not about her; it is always about the kids.
I believe Ms. Shaheen’s qualities are an example of what this committee seeks in a nominee. You will not be disappointed by selecting Ms. Shaheen, and I believe the university will gain tremendously from acknowledging the current and future achievements of this new leader.
Mark A. Riccobono, M.S.Ed
Executive Director, Jernigan Institute
National Federation of the Blind
Dear Ms. Shaheen,
It is my distinct honor to confirm in writing your selection for a College of Education and Human Ecology New Leader Award. This honor is presented to EHE alumni, age thirty-six or younger, for significant early accomplishments in business or professional life.
A nomination was submitted on your behalf by Dr. Tiffany Wild. One comment from your nomination that resonated with me states, “Ms. Shaheen uses innovation and research-based pedagogy for engaging her students in learning, helping her students to realize that a visual impairment will not impede STEM education opportunities. She allows the curriculum to come alive and provides hands-on experiential learning not normally available to students with visual impairments.”
The Hall of Fame reception, dinner, and induction ceremony will take place at the Blackwell Inn and Conference Center on April 19, 2013. The Blackwell is located on the Ohio State University campus at 2110 Tuttle Park Place. The reception will begin at 6:00 p.m., followed by dinner and the induction ceremony. Valet parking will be available.
At the induction ceremony you will be invited to make acceptance comments of approximately two minutes. In previous ceremonies this has been an extremely enjoyable time of storytelling about the inductees’ perspectives on their professions. Sean Thompson is coordinating the event. If you have any questions concerning the event, please feel free to call or email Sean. If he has not already done so, Sean will be contacting you to discuss planning for the ceremony.
I look forward to celebrating this honor with you on April 19th.
1. For the New Leader Award – Summarize what you consider to be your most significant accomplishments in your business or professional life or in service to our college.
The fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) will have an increasing impact on the world in which we live as today’s youth become tomorrow’s workforce. Consequently, all children should be provided with rich educational opportunities in these fields to foster the development of the skills that will eventually allow them to make life-changing contributions to science or to apply these valuable skills to analogous tasks in other disciplines. More and more, STEM education is being offered to our youth in formal and informal settings. Unfortunately—due to common misconceptions about blindness—blind and visually impaired children are not afforded the same opportunities as their sighted counterparts. The greatest accomplishment of my career to date has been the development and implementation of national multi-disciplinary STEM programs that serve blind and visually impaired youth in elementary through high school.
The 2010 NFB Junior Science Academy, the 2011 NFB Youth Slam, and NFB Project Innovation, held in the summer of 2012, have all carried forward the mission of the National Center for Blind Youth in Science: empower blind and visually impaired youth, through engaging learning opportunities and mentoring, to believe that vision is not a requirement for success in STEM. In these programs blind youth learn inquiry, design-thinking, problem-solving, and the alternative techniques needed to perform tasks in the lab nonvisually. The instructors who facilitate this learning are predominantly STEM professionals—who happen to be blind.
The impact of these programs does not stop at the hundreds of youth who have had the opportunity to attend; the knowledge that is developed through each program is disseminated to teachers, blind students, parents of blind children, and STEM professionals across the country. Therefore, when a university professor of biology who has a blind student in his class wants to know how the student can participate in dissections, he can capitalize on knowledge developed at the aforementioned programs. Likewise, when the advisor of a high school engineering club wants to know how the blind student in her club can precisely measure materials to be used in the construction of a bridge, she can draw from the knowledge base created by these programs.
The scientists who will develop the most progressive technologies in the next half century might be blind. Educational opportunities like the ones I develop and implement ensure that blind children do not dismiss a career in STEM for fear that the subject matter is too visual.For New Leader Award Only – You are 36 years old or younger; what do you envision your impact or legacy to be?
It is my firm belief that the misconceptions that exist about blindness are the largest barrier to the success of blind children. These misconceptions, which are rooted in a lack of information, are widely held by people from every subset of society, including blind people themselves. It is challenging for society to understand how a person can complete a task without the use of vision and do so accurately. I want to retire with the knowledge that I effected change in societal attitudes about blindness.
As a teacher I know that the best tool for combating misguided beliefs is education. Through public educational outreach for the youngest to the oldest in our society, I will work to change the way the public views blindness. By providing rich educational opportunities that include mentoring from successful blind adults, I will empower blind youth to believe in their own abilities. By disseminating the knowledge created in programs I facilitate and by creating forums where teachers and parents can share their wisdom, I will raise the expectations parents and teachers have for our blind youth. If I can help the world come to know what I know about blindness, our blind children will know no barriers.
3. How did your OSU experience/roots impact your later accomplishments?
Born and raised in Columbus by an entire family of Ohio State University graduates, I was a Buckeye in spirit and values long before I enrolled in classes. My parents—both OSU alumni—instilled in me a love of learning, a love that was deepened by my experiences as a graduate student at Ohio State. I have fond memories of the learning I engaged in within the numerous libraries on campus, many of which occurred even before I graduated from high school. I learned early on from my parents that, if research was to be done, the Ohio State University was the place to go. Ultimately, I became a teacher because I loved learning, and most of all I loved learning with others. I believe that, to be a good teacher, one must be a lifelong learner.
But for Ohio State, I would not be a teacher of the blind and visually impaired. It was not my experience as a blind child that sparked an interest in teaching blind students; it was the coursework and practicum experiences that comprised my master’s program that helped me realize how much I enjoyed working with blind children. From middle school on I knew I would become a teacher, but, until I enrolled in the graduate program at OSU, I had no interest in working with blind students like me. I am forever indebted to the Ohio State University for helping me to realize my true calling.
by Anna Kresmer
From the Editor: The following is another in our series of historical documents in the Jacobus tenBroek Library:
Since the founding of the National Federation of the Blind in 1940, fundraising has been the engine which makes the Federation run. The charitable donations from members, corporations, and the general public allow the NFB to advocate for blind people in countless ways, from providing legal and legislative representation in the courts and Congress to creating innovative education programs like NFB Youth Slam. As with most nonprofit organizations, the quest for funding has always been a part of the work of the NFB, and over the years Federationists have come up with some creative ways to accomplish this vital task. But what strategies did the fledgling Federation employ to raise the money needed to put its ambitious programs into action in the 1940s?
Meet Edna Schmidt (1898 to 1986), who, for the first decade of the NFB's existence, was arguably the public face of the organization. A blind native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Schmidt was the principal fundraiser for the Federation, as well as one of its first paid employees. For thousands of sighted people throughout the United States, she was their first encounter with the power and potential of the organized blind movement. Appointed by the executive committee and the convention in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1942, Schmidt was granted the title of public relations director. Constantly traveling the country long before the days of the Interstate Highway System, she spent the next ten years presenting the ideals and goals of the Federation to the numerous labor unions and professional associations that once dotted the American landscape.
According to a 1955 interview for the Regional Oral History Office at the University of California, NFB founder Jacobus tenBroek said that the reason for approaching the unions was straightforward: "Our appeal to them was based on the proposition that we have similar problems and similar organizations; that we are a people's movement and they are a people's movement; that we are organized on a federation basis, local, state, national; they are organized along the same principles. For much of our history they were a disadvantaged part of the population—unequal opportunities and rights—as we are. So that in effect a very good case could be made out which had a great deal of appeal for labor unions."
Schmidt made her presentations nightly by making direct personal solicitations for money and political support at union meetings. This support usually took the form of letter-writing campaigns in favor of legislation engineered or endorsed by the NFB. In the midst of World War II and the lingering recovery from the Great Depression, Schmidt was able to bring in roughly $16,000 to $18,000 a year. Because of her efforts the NFB was able to contribute to the travel expenses of volunteer organizers, mail informational bulletins to its growing membership, and send representatives to state conventions. These funds also paid for the NFB's legislative supplement in the American Brotherhood for the Blind's All Story Braille Magazine, later taken over by the Federation and renamed the Braille Monitor.
But perhaps most important, with this income the NFB was able to send its own legislative representatives to Washington, DC, for a portion of the congressional session each year. Long before the establishment of the NFB Washington office in 1957 and the first March on Washington in 1973 (now known as NFB Washington Seminar), this was the primary way in which the Federation accomplished one of its central goals: lobbying the federal government for favorable legislation for blind Americans.
In 1952, after years spent mostly on the road, Schmidt was no longer able to continue in this way. She took a position as the first blind resource teacher for blind students in the Milwaukee Public Schools and continued her fundraising work by mail. However, this proved less successful than face-to-face solicitation and was eventually replaced by other fundraising methods. Schmidt was later a director of the Badger Home for the Blind in Wisconsin and became an active member of the American Council of the Blind. She passed away at the age of 88.
Schmidt got to enjoy the fruits of her fundraising labors on the part of the NFB in the spring of 1945, when she was sent to represent the legislative interests of the Federation during the first session of the seventy-ninth United States Congress. Arriving in Washington exactly two days before the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, Schmidt had her work cut out for her and a lot to report back to the NFB leadership. Here's what she wrote to Dr. tenBroek a few days after her arrival:
3800 Military Road, N.W.
Washington 15, D.C.
April 14, 1945
Dear Dr. tenBroek:
This is the continuation of my report. I have been down on the Hill every day making such contacts as I could. I have only talked with four senators. In a number of cases where it seemed to be impossible to see the senators, I have talked with their secretaries. That, of course, isn't as satisfactory; but if the secretaries are interested, it will no doubt help some. Everyone is very polite and courteous. In my last report I mentioned that I had talked with LaFollette. The other three senators are Bushfield of South Dakota, Butler of Pennsylvania, and Magnuson of Washington. I have called at the offices of all of the members of the Finance Committee and then started on the others. Next week I intend to spend a great deal of time in the House. The senators with whom I have talked seem to be sympathetic toward our cause. They realize the need of improvement in the Social Security. Bushfield says he thinks a blind person should be permitted to retain all of his earnings and get a pension besides. They all seem to feel that the states should have the authority to determine the needs of their blind. None of them gave me much time, and Bushfield and Butler were rather reserved. I liked Magnuson best of the three. He says they have improved the pension system in his state. He was very informal. He said he knew all about this business of caseworkers snooping around back alleys, etc. When I spoke to him, he had just come from having lunch with Truman after the president's death. He said that Truman had told him that, as soon as he gets some of these war situations cleared up, he would go into the Social Security. All of these senators said they would study the bills when they came up in the Senate.
I have explained our program to secretaries of the following senators: McMahon, Gerry, Lucas, Guffey, Bailey, Ball, Kilgore, Green, Fulbright, Mead. In most cases the secretaries took notes on what I told them. Every one of them says his senator is sympathetic toward our cause and will do all he can for us. In several instances the American Foundation was mentioned. One secretary told me she had sent contributions to the Foundation. I felt like telling her we needed the money too, and she might as well make out a check to us. Senator Mead of New York is ill. Senator Bailey's secretary told me that there was no use in my explaining our program to him because, by the time this legislation got to the Senate, both he and the senator would forget everything I told him. And in a way this would seem to me to be the case with all of them. They have so much on their minds, and sometimes I wonder just how much good I can really do here. That is what I think when I get depressed, and one cannot help but get depressed when it is so hard to see the senators. But when I hear the experience others have, I feel a little more encouraged because they seem to have the same difficulties that I do.
Naturally the death of the president has upset everybody here. I couldn't do as much yesterday as I would ordinarily have done. I left the Hill about three o'clock. Many of the senators had cancelled all appointments for the remainder of the week. There was only a short session of the Senate yesterday noon, a sort of memorial service for the president. I attended that session. I probably will not be able to do much on Monday. Truman is going to address Congress Monday noon. If I can get in, I will go to that session.
I called Fenton's office yesterday. He is not in town but made an appointment to see him next week. I thought possibly he might help me to get an interview with Green. Today I had a letter from UAW [United Auto Workers] in Detroit, Mr. Addes. He sent me the name of their legislative representative. I called that office this morning, but this being Saturday, not many were in the office. They suggested that I call Monday morning for an appointment Monday afternoon.
From the contacts I have made, I feel that we have a good chance to get some favorable action when this thing gets before Congress.
The Labor Building, where the railroad unions have their offices, is very close to the new House. I have been over there several times. Those representatives over there are so cordial to me. They told me I could drop in any time I wanted to. I ran into one of them in the Capitol the other day. He stopped and talked and was very friendly.
I realize that my reports are rather detailed, but you might as well know just how things are going here.
About getting the two employment bills introduced into the Senate, I don't think I will have much success because the senators are so hard to see. That is something that I will have to work on next week and Senators Pepper and Myers return to Washington. Will write again in a few days.
Edna H. Schmidt
This month’s recipes have been contributed by members of the National Federation of the Blind of Mississippi.
by Allen Gales
Allen Gales is a member of the Jackson Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Mississippi. He has been a member for four years. He is also the proprietor of a cafeteria in the Walter Sillers Building in Jackson.
1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 14- or 15-ounce can tomato sauce
4 tablespoons chili powder
3 to 4 cups cooked macaroni
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
Method: Brown ground beef in a large skillet. When it is about half done, press garlic into pan and add diced onion. Cook until ground beef is done; onions should be transparent. Drain the grease. While cooking ground beef, cook macaroni according to package directions and drain. Add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce to meat and stir. Add chili powder and stir. Stir in drained macaroni. Transfer to a baking dish and top with cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 degrees till heated through and bubbly. Cheese will be melted.
No-Bake Sugar-Free Cheese Cake
by Allen Gales
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 6-ounce package sugar-free lemon-flavored Jell-O
1 cup boiling water
1 8-ounce package reduced fat cream cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup frozen light whipped topping, thawed
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, and cinnamon. Mix well and press into the bottom of a nine-inch square pan. Bake in preheated oven for eight to ten minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Dissolve lemon Jell-O in boiling water. Let cool and then chill until thickened but not set. In a large bowl beat cream cheese and vanilla extract until smooth. Blend in thickened lemon Jell-O, and then fold in whipped topping. Pour filling over crust. Sprinkle top with additional graham cracker crumbs. Refrigerate overnight.
by Allen Gales
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
1 3-ounce package instant pistachio pudding mix
1 8-ounce container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1/2 10.5-ounce package miniature marshmallows
Method: In a large bowl combine the drained pineapple and dry pistachio pudding mix. Fold in thawed whipped topping and half-package marshmallows until well mixed. Refrigerate until chilled and serve.
Baked Fried Chicken
by Allen Gales
3 to 4 pounds chicken pieces
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup butter or margarine
Method: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash chicken and pat dry with paper towels. In a pie pan combine flour, paprika, salt, and pepper and coat chicken pieces with the flour mixture. Place butter in a shallow baking pan and put the pan in the oven to melt. When butter is melted, arrange chicken in the baking pan in a single layer, skin-side down. Bake for thirty minutes; turn and bake for fifteen minutes longer, or until chicken is tender and done. This recipe serves four.
Sherbet Frosting Punch
by Allen Gales
2 46-ounce cans tropical punch
2 6-ounce cans frozen lemonade
two quarts ginger ale
2 pints pineapple sherbet
Method: Combine and chill punch and lemonade concentrate to almost slush. Add ginger ale and sherbet and stir. To serve, ladle from a punch bowl into cups.
by Allen Gales
1 2-pound package frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
1 pound bulk pork sausage
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
12 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2-quart baking dish. Place the hash brown potatoes in the bottom of the baking dish. Heat a skillet over medium heat and cook and stir the sausage and diced onion until the sausage is crumbly, evenly browned, and no longer pink; drain. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, milk, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and pour over the potatoes. Layer on half the cheddar cheese, the sausage mixture, and the remaining cheddar cheese. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for an hour. Remove foil, return casserole to oven, and bake until a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about ten minutes. Let dish stand for five minutes before serving.
Egg and Sausage Casserole
by Barbara Hadnott
Barbara Hadnott is first vice president of the Mississippi affiliate. She is also a member of the Jackson Chapter, where she serves on the membership committee. She is employed at the Addie McBryde Rehabilitation Center for the Blind, where she teaches computer and assistive technology classes. She serves on several state and local boards as well.
2 cups milk
1 pound bulk sausage
3 slices bread
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
Method: Butter a 9-by-12-inch casserole dish. Tear up bread into bite-size pieces and place in bottom of buttered baking dish. Fry and drain sausage and spread on top of bread. Sprinkle grated cheese on top of sausage. Beat eggs, milk, and a little salt and pepper. Pour this liquid over the layered mixture in dish. Refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for about thirty-five minutes, until surface is lightly browned and mixture feels set when lightly touched in the center.
Hot Bacon Cheese Dip
by Barbara Hadnott
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2/3 cup mayonnaise
4 to 5 green onions, chopped
1 jar real bacon bits
Garlic salt to taste
Method: Mix all ingredients except crackers together and place in Pyrex pie plate or other shallow baking dish suitable for serving in. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for twenty to thirty minutes or until dip is bubbling. You can crumble a few Ritz Crackers on top during the last few minutes of baking. Serve with Ritz or your favorite crackers for dipping.
Mandarin Orange Pie
by Barbara Hadnott
1 graham cracker crust (the one with two extra servings)
1/2 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup Tang breakfast drink
1 8-ounce carton sour cream
1/2 can or 1 fruit cup mandarin oranges, drained
1 8-ounce container Cool Whip
Method: Mix milk and Tang together well. Add sour cream and drained orange slices cut in small pieces. Fold in Cool Whip and slide filling into graham cracker crust or vanilla wafer crust which follows.
Ingredients for Vanilla Wafer Crust:
1 large box vanilla wafers, crushed
1 stick butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
Method: Crush wafers in a food processor or plastic bag, using a rolling pin. Melt the butter. Meantime, add sugar to crumbs and mix well. Add the melted butter and stir well. Press the crumbs into two nine-inch pie pans and press evenly across bottom and up the sides. Bake for eight to ten minutes in a preheated 375-degree oven. Makes two crusts.
by Gwendolyn Byrd
Gwendolyn Byrd is a longtime member of the NFB of Mississippi. She has held various positions, including affiliate vice president and Jackson Chapter president. Presently she is the state legislative coordinator.
Using a coffee mug, stir two tablespoons of a chocolate hazelnut spread such as Nutella into one cup hot brewed coffee until blended. Top with whipped cream and shaved chocolate. For a variation, make a mocha latté by topping drink with ice milk.
by Gwendolyn Byrd
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 chai bag, paper label removed
2 cinnamon sticks
Method: In a small saucepan combine milk, water, chai bag, and one cinnamon stick. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, and remove from heat. Steep for five minutes, longer for a spicier taste. Remove and discard tea bag and cinnamon stick. Pour into a mug and sweeten with honey. Garnish with an additional cinnamon stick. Serves one.
Variation: you can omit the honey and sweeten with the following simple syrup, flavored with vanilla extract. In a small saucepan combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. Heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, coconut, rum, or cinnamon extract. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.
Too-Easy-to-Believe Coconut Pie
by Gwendolyn Byrd
4 eggs, well beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup Bisquick
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup flaked coconut
Method: Mix first three ingredients together, then add the remaining ones. Mix well and pour into greased nine-inch glass pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for fifty minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. When it's done, the pie will have its own crust, a custard filling, and browned coconut on top.
by Patrina Pendarvis
Patrina Pendarvis is an active member of the Mississippi affiliate. She serves on several statewide committees. She is very active in fundraising, advocacy, and information referral. She currently serves as the president of the Jackson Chapter.
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple
1 20-ounce can apple pie filling (optional)
1 box yellow or butter recipe cake mix
1 stick butter or margarine
Method: Dump the crushed pineapple directly into a greased 13-by-9-inch cake pan. Spread evenly across bottom. Cut apples in the pie filling while filling is still in the can, then dump them over the pineapple, and spread evenly. Do not stir. Sprinkle cake mix evenly over the contents of the cake pan. Dot with cut-up pieces of butter or margarine. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for twenty-five to thirty-five minutes, until the crust is lightly brown. Serve warm with Cool Whip or ice cream.
Note: You can use blueberry pie filling, strawberry filling, or peach pie filling. Be creative and have fun.
1Touch™ Self-Defense Project at Convention:
Since 2010 the 1Touch™ Project has offered self-defense workshops at the National Federation of the Blind national conventions. Due to public demand in 2012 we held a total of eight training sessions. Once again we will be sponsored by the Sports and Recreation Division at the 2013 national convention in Orlando. The 1Touch Project is self-propagating and empowering, certifying blind and sighted instructors to spread the benefits of safety, confidence, mobility, rehabilitation, and self-discovery. The 1Touch Project will offer introductory workshops. Our intention is to participate in the Youth Track again.
In the past we received overwhelming interest and support among those who attended our workshops as well as from people we spoke with outside of training. The consensus among our coaches is that presenting to the Youth Track, both eleven to fourteen and fifteen to eighteen, was the most rewarding part of our effort and a lot of fun.
The 1Touch moves and techniques are described aurally and demonstrated hands-on. This system was designed specifically for the blind. Age, strength, and gender need not be a barrier. In the first lesson three elements--balance, coordination, and dexterity--along with situational awareness are emphasized and promoted, with simple exercises and drills at the beginning progressing to more complex techniques over time. Appreciation of the benefits of 1Touch, both personally and collectively, include more independence, self-confidence, and increased self-perception.
The project’s goal is to establish a network of instructors in the United States so that 1Touch can be self-perpetuating. The 1Touch Project is approved by local and international organizations including the International Symposium of Adapted Physical Activity. For information about upcoming workshops at national convention and how to register, email LisaMaria Martinez <email@example.com> or call (510) 289-2577. To learn more about the 1Touch Project or how to become a coach, email <firstname.lastname@example.org> or visit <www.1touchproject.com>.
Community Services Meeting at Convention:
Hello service-minded Federationists! The Community Service Group is excited to announce our second annual community service seminar. This event is to take place during the convention of the National Federation of the Blind on Monday evening, July 1, from 7:45 PM to 10:00 PM. If you were at our last seminar, you know that we had a great time and gained a lot of tips and inspiration. Expect no less this year!
We are also planning a small service project to coincide with the Braille Book Fair. Our project will take place on Wednesday of the convention from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM, with a group gathering at a restaurant to follow. Should you have any questions about the project or wish to be involved, please contact Chris Parsons at <email@example.com>. If you would like to learn more about the Community Service Group or the seminar, please contact Darian Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>. We look forward to meeting with you, learning with you, and serving with you. Let's get involved together!
James Brown, president of the NFB of Tennessee, reports with delight that Karen Zakhnini, a former longtime staffer at the National Center for the Blind, and Joe Shaw were married on February 27, 2013.They met when Joe went to Baltimore from Tennessee for blindness training. They are now both members of the Nashville Chapter, and Joe is the Tennessee legislative chair. Congratulations to the Shaws and to the Tennessee affiliate, which now has been strengthened by a dynamite couple.
The new officers of the Potomac Chapter of the NFB of Virginia are as follows: president, Corbb O'Connor; first vice president, Tajuan Farmer; second vice president, Joe Hobson; recording secretary, Sandy Halverson; corresponding secretary, Mary Ann Kessler; treasurer, Sean McMahon; and board members, Tracy Soforenko, Nancy Yeager, and Deepti Devarabhotla.
Airport Discount Available:
All convention attendees can receive a $4 discount on transportation services courtesy of SuperShuttle by going to <http://TinyURL.com/ATX2RGB>. Use discount code TVYK5 when booking. Discounted rates vary based on hotel location and are $16 one way and $28 roundtrip per person. The rate for an exclusive van (eight passenger) is $100 or $12.50 per person one way.
Visit <https://nfb.org/national-convention> for more information or to book a shuttle. For large groups call (407) 513-0224.
Video Description Focus Group Participants Needed: 2013 NFB National Convention:
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Jernigan Institute is again collaborating with the Smith-Kettlewell Video Description Research and Development Center to host a stakeholder focus group on advanced concepts in video description. The focus group will be held during the 2013 NFB national convention in Orlando, Florida. This year there will be two sessions for slightly different audiences with space for only ten attendees in each session. Participants must register in advance for this important meeting.
Both sessions will be held Monday, July 1. Session I will be from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., and session II will be from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. (the exact meeting room will be announced prior to the convention).
Those interested in participating in this focus group should send an e-mail to Beth Braun at the NFB Jernigan Institute <email@example.com> with the following information:
Session I: An opportunity for sighted amateur describers to evaluate YouDescribe—Smith-Kettlewell's new web-based video-description tool for YouTube. Participants will test the system by recording their own descriptions for selected videos and report on their experience.
Session II: An opportunity for blind video description consumers to evaluate YouDescribe—Smith-Kettlewell's new web-based video-description tool for YouTube. Participants will test the system by navigating the website to listen to selected described YouTube videos and will report on their experience.
Participants in Session II will need to provide their own Windows 7, Apple, or Chrome laptop and must be familiar with their screen-reading software and web browser. The laptops must have Wi-Fi connectivity (hotel will provide Wi-Fi). They will also need to provide their own headphones.
Please respond with your interest no later than June 10. Note that we will not pick participants on a first-come-first-served basis but rather to ensure that the focus group has a good mix of perspectives. If you are unable to e-mail your interest in the focus group, you can reach Beth at (410) 659-9314, extension 2369. Thank you for your interest in shaping future developments in the description industry.
Assistive Technology Trainers’ Division Meeting:
The Assistive Technology Trainers’ Division will have several wonderful presenters at this year’s meeting. Cathy Anne Murtha of Access Technology Institute will discuss her unique techniques for training students. John Panarese of Mac for the Blind will offer ideas and tips for where to begin when training on OS X. Pratik Patel, founder and CEO of EZFire, will present an overview of tablets, from Android to Windows RT. Serotek will be announcing its new service for assistive technology trainers. There will also be a discussion about choosing the right device for each person. We look forward to your attendance and participation.
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 Audio Magazines Now Available in Digital Format:
“Our audio magazines are now available on digital cartridge,” announced Karen Keninger, director of the National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress. “Cartridges mark a new reading experience for our subscribers. They’ll have access to more magazines, higher quality sound, and more fine-grained navigation tools. We’re also asking patrons to participate in the new recycling program.”
The transition of audio magazines from cassette to cartridge completes the digital conversion of the NLS talking-book program begun in 2009. Cartridges offer superior sound quality and more in-depth navigation. They can hold multiple magazines or books and are delivered to patrons faster than cassettes. NLS has devised a circulating magazine system that will be cost effective and responsive for patrons who subscribe to magazines. As part of this system subscribers will return each cartridge as soon as they’ve finished reading the magazines. Recycling cartridges will keep costs down and allow NLS to continue and potentially expand its magazine program.
NLS audio-magazine subscribers like John Eccles, a fifty-nine-year-old residential life counselor for the Washington State School for the Blind in Vancouver, are raving about the advantages of the new digital format. Eccles said, “I received my first digital magazine, and what a difference a format makes! I was really struck by how the navigation tools of the advanced digital talking-book player altered the magazine-reading experience. It allows blind and low-vision readers to be targeted readers—reading through more periodicals in less time.”
By June 30, 2013, all subscribers to the NLS audio-magazine program will have been moved from cassettes to the cartridges. Patrons should return cartridges based on their subscriptions: weekly magazine readers must return their cartridges every week, while monthly and bimonthly magazine readers must return their cartridges every month.
The NLS talking-book and Braille program is a free library service available to U.S. residents or American citizens living abroad whose low vision, blindness, or physical disability makes reading a regular printed page difficult. Through its national network of regional libraries, NLS mails books and magazines in audio and in Braille, as well as digital audio players directly to enrollees at no cost. Music instructional materials are available in large print, Braille, and recorded formats. Select materials are also available online for download. Further information on eligibility requirements and enrollment procedures for the program is available at <http://www.loc.gov/nls> or (888) NLS-READ, that is, (888) 657-7323.
Earn a Master’s Degree:
Are you looking for an exciting opportunity to earn a master’s degree? The Institute on Blindness is looking for individuals who are seeking a meaningful and rewarding career in the field of blindness. We are offering scholarships on a limited basis to qualified applicants for the Master of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology with concentration in Orientation and Mobility (O&M), the Master of Arts in Teaching Blind Students (TBS), and the Master of Education in Teaching Blind Students.
Louisiana Tech University offers the only programs in the country that are founded with a philosophy of personal empowerment from the perspective of individuals who are blind. We invite all qualified individuals who have positive attitudes about blindness and who would like to teach cane travel or Braille to blind children or adults to apply for our programs. We are also interested in speaking with anyone who may want to pursue a career teaching in the field of blindness in any capacity. The Institute on Blindness does not discriminate against any applicants and actively recruits people who are blind, sighted, and of diverse backgrounds.
Contact us today to find out more about earning your master’s degree by calling the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at (318) 257-4554 or by writing us at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Research us on the web at <www.pdrib.com>.
Walmart Expands Program to Provide Talking Prescription Containers:
Need information about how to order talking prescription containers for prescription medication obtained from Walmart? You'll find everything you need in this post. In June, 2012, Walmart became the first national pharmacy retailer to offer talking prescription containers free of charge to people with visual impairments. The ScripTalk Talking Prescription program is being offered to customers across the country through Walmart mail order. In addition to the national mail order program, Walmart now offers ScripTalk at thirty-three stores around the country. A list of stores where ScripTalk is available, as well as instructions for ordering, appears below. Read the June 2012 Walmart press release announcing its ScripTalk initiative.
To order ScripTalk talking prescription containers for use with prescription medications obtained from Walmart, you must first contact Walmart. For mail order, Walmart has a dedicated toll-free phone line for ScripTalk requests. The toll-free number is (888) 227-3403. You may also contact any of the stores listed below directly for information on receiving ScripTalk containers from those stores.
To listen to the talking label provided by Walmart, you will need a reading device from Envision America, the company that makes ScripTalk. The device, called the ScripTalk reader (or the ScripTalk machine or device), is available free of charge to blind Walmart pharmacy customers. After you have contacted Walmart, you will need to contact Envision America to order your device. Envision America has a dedicated toll-free line for requests and for general ScripTalk service and inquiries. The toll-free Envision America number is (855) 773-2579, that is, (855) SPEAK-RX. You need to order the device only once; it will work with any talking prescription label you receive from Walmart.
Walmart is currently also offering the talking prescription labels in thirty-three stores across the country. As with mail order, you will need to contact both the Walmart store (for the prescription medication) and Envision America (for the ScripTalk reader).
If you are a Walmart customer with a visual impairment, contact Walmart at (888) 227-3403 to inquire if your local Walmart is participating or to request that the ScripTalk containers be offered at your store.
We also welcome your feedback about the Walmart Talking Prescription Container initiative. To contact the Law Office of Lainey Feingold, please use the contact form on this website. To contact co-counsel at Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian and Ho, please call toll free at (800) 822-5000.
Eyeglasses Read to the Blind:
The following information is taken from a press release issued by Florida International University. It describes yet another way for blind people to read. Here, in part, is what the release says:
A unique pair of eyeglasses developed by a Florida International University student team could revolutionize the lives of the blind, enabling them to walk into a library or a store, pick up any book or a can of soup, and read it. The Eyetalk concept, initially conceived for a student competition in social entrepreneurship, has been hailed by venture investors as a potentially breakthrough product that could make a difference for disabled people worldwide. This week it was recognized as one of twelve semi-finalists in the FIU Track of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge.
By using a pair of eyeglasses and lightweight components, Eyetalk will allow a blind user to access printed material while walking around a store or library, which now requires bulkier, more expensive equipment. The Eyetalk, still in its development stage, is designed to be portable and affordable and operate without requiring an Internet connection. Future versions of Eyetalk will target a global market and enable users to hear information aloud in one of many languages.
The project began with a challenge issued by FIU College of Business faculty member Seema Pissaris, a successful entrepreneur who founded Games Trader, a company that went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Last fall Pissaris urged students in several of her classes to think about developing a social entrepreneurship project. FIU students Maria Pia Celestino, Viurniel Sanchez, Jesus Amundarain, and Esam Mashni came forward and started working with Pissaris on a technology that had the potential to help people and turn a profit.
Focusing on the breakthrough innovation of a pair of glasses that could read to the blind, engineering student Viurniel Sanchez began to explore a target-recognition technology that he and two of his classmates had developed in a research project funded by NASA and the Department of Defense. He thought it might be reconfigured to help the blind navigate their environment.
The human inspiration for the product’s development came from Miami social entrepreneur Michael Arbitman, a computer engineer who lost his sight in his 20s. He created Imuneek.com, a website designed for the disabled to share resources and connect with service providers. He met the team, heard their concept for a pair of glasses that would read, and was amazed by the potential of their technology. “A product like this,” he said, “could give me my freedom back.”
The FIU team’s early prototype, known as the “FreedomLens,” was one of sixteen semi-finalists chosen from twenty-nine nations to present at the 2013 Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition (GSEC), February 25 to 30 at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business in Seattle. The team from FIU, one of only four U.S. universities chosen to present, received an outstanding reception at the conference, where one judge said it had the potential to bring “disruptive technology” and create an entire new market. “The students realized that they didn’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Pissaris said. “They are customizing a technology to meet a global social need and creating a market-based solution.”
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