Braille Monitor                                                August/September 2013

(back) (contents)

Convention Miniatures

2013 Division Election Results:
The following divisions have notified us of the results of elections conducted during the 2013 national convention:

The National Association of Blind Veterans
Elected at this year’s convention were president, Dwight Sayer (FL); first vice president, Gene Huggins (SC); second vice president, Larry Ball (FL); secretary, Patty Sayer (FL); treasurer, Allen Bornstein (FL); and board members, Debi Black (AZ), Clinton Grimsley (AL), Nancy Hester (FL), Brad Loos (NE), Cory Keith (GA), and national chaplain and board member, Father John Sheehan (NY).

The Human Services Division
The following officers and board members were elected: president, Merry C. Schoch (FL); first vice president, David Stayer (NY); second vice president, Amalia Veliz (AZ); secretary, Nicole Yarmolkevich (IL); treasurer, JD Townsend (FL); and board members, Tyrone Bratcher (MD), and Denise Shaible (CA).

Writers’ Division
The following people were elected: president, Robert Leslie Newman (NE); first vice president, Chelsea Cook (VA); second vice president, Eve Sanchez (AZ); secretary, Katie Colton (UT); treasurer, Bonnie Newman (NE); and board members, Myrna Badgerow (LA), Kim Valco (VA), Antonio Guimaraes (RI), Thomas Taylor (CA), and Lori Stayer (NY).

The Travel and Tourism Division
The division elected the following officers: president, Cheryl Echevarria (NY); and new board member, Tracie Inman (FL). All other officers remain the same.

The National Association of Guide Dog Users
Elections were held for the offices of vice president, treasurer, and one board position. The NAGDU board of directors is now as follows: president, Marion Gwizdala (FL); vice president, Michael Hingson (CA); secretary, Sherrill O’Brien (FL); treasurer, Toni Whaley (PA); and board members, Margo Downey (NY), Julie McGinnity (MO), and Tina Thomas (CA).

National Association of Blind Lawyers
The following individuals are all elected to fill two-year terms expiring at convention in 2015: president, Scott LaBarre (CO); first vice president, Ronza Othman (MD); second vice president, Timothy Elder (MD); secretary, Ray Wayne (NY); treasurer, Larry Povinelli (AL); and board members, Patti Chang (IL), Parnell Diggs (SC), Noel Nightingale (WA), Randy Farber (TX), Anthony Thomas (IL), and Denise Avant (IL).

NFB Krafters Division
This year two new board members were elected: Lisamaria Martinez (CA) and Theresa Taylor (MN).

The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
The NOPBC proudly announces the members of its 2013-2014 board: president, Carlton Anne Cook Walker (PA); first vice president, Andrea Beasley (WI); second vice president, Kim Cunningham (TX); secretary, Pamela Gebert (AK); treasurer, Pat Renfranz (UT); president Emerita, Barbara Cheadle (MD); and board members, Jean Benning (MN), Laura Bostick (LA), Denise Colton (UT), Bill Cucco (NJ), Rosina Foster (MO), Teresa Graham (MD), Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway (GA), Belinda Martinez (NV), Holly Miller (NJ), and Sandra Oliver (TX).

The National Federation of the Blind in Communities of Faith
The division held elections, and the following officers were elected by acclamation: president, Tom Anderson (CO); vice president, Rehnee Aikens (TX); secretary, Linda Mentink (NE); and treasurer, Sam Gleese (MS).

National Organization of Parents of Blind Children:
This year the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) celebrates thirty years of service to families. The continuing hard work and dedication of past and present board members allow the NOPBC to support parents in helping their children change what it means to be blind.

At the NOPBC annual meeting on July 3, 2013, a new board was elected. The NOPBC thanks outgoing board members Jim Beyer, Wingfield Bouchard, Amber Hall, Dave Hammel, Zina Lewis, and Trudy Pickrel and welcomes six new members and our returning members to the board.

Report from the Blind Parents Group:
Debbie Stein reports that the meeting of the Blind Parents Group heard from Bookshare, explaining how parents can access Bookshare titles to read with their children. Representatives from the One-Touch Self Defense program invited parents to learn more during convention and beyond. The bulk of the meeting consisted of a discussion of strengths and challenges that blindness may bring to the parenting experience. Angela Frederick, a doctoral candidate who is conducting research on parents with disabilities, was there to listen and learn. Several parents spoke candidly of painful experiences involving child protective services that were generally triggered by a report from a neighbor or total stranger. Participants were thrilled by the NFB’s resolution to pursue passage of legislation prohibiting discrimination based on blindness that is carried out by social service agencies and in custody disputes.

Report from the National Association of Blind Veterans:
The group set up its table and banners in the exhibit hall, including a nine-foot banner over the table that was “superb and made it very impressive,” according to Mrs. Jernigan. On Tuesday night, July 2, at 7:00 PM, the division held its business meeting with many presenters as well as the bi-annual elections. The meeting closed with presentations by vendors providing prosthetics and equipment to the VA.

During exhibit hall hours the division sold NABV license plates; the 2013 patriotic pin, a gold shield with red, white, and blue drapes on either side and the words “One Nation Under God” in the center of the pin. The NABV 50/50 raffle netted $1600. The drawing took place Saturday, July 6, at noon. Harold Wilson of Baltimore was the winner of $825. Congratulations, Harold. On Thursday, July 4, was the celebration of freedom with the United States Air Force providing the color guard from Patrick Air Force Base. A big thank you goes to the men from Patrick Air Force Base for a job well done. Father John Sheehan and Dr. Jessica Ewell provided our musical celebration. There were veterans from one side of the stage to the other and wrapped around the end of the stage. All veterans were presented with a red, white, and blue ribbon to attach to their convention badges. In the center of the ribbon the word “Veteran” was inscribed. The vets introduced themselves and announced their branch of service. The division presented President Maurer and Mrs. Maurer with 2013 patriotic pins, and the celebration closed with a reminder that freedom isn't free. President Sayer reminded everyone that, while remembering the men and women of the armed forces, we must remember their families as well because they wait, watch, wonder, and pray that their loved ones will come home safe and sound.

Report of the Job Seeker Seminar, Job Fair, and Employment Committee:
Dick Davis, chairman of the NFB Employment Committee, provided the following report:

I'd like to thank everyone who participated in this year's Job Seeker Seminar and Job Fair at the NFB convention. Approximately eighty-five people attended the Job Fair. This was back-to-basics year, so we worked with attendees on knowing the fundamentals of career preparation and job-seeking skills. Many thanks to Employment Committee member Robert Leslie Newman for coordinating the Job Seeker Seminar. I would also like to thank committee members Bethel Murphy, Brenda Mosby, Dave Hyde, David Ticchi, Fatos Floyd, and volunteer Susan Clark for their work. For the first time we had a breakout session, which seemed to go very well, so that will no doubt be a feature of future seminars. The breakout presenters and attendees felt the time spent was worthwhile. One of the attendees set up a LinkedIn account for himself and discovered that it has a reference letter feature, so he immediately asked me to do one for him. To be honest, I had not known about that feature. Since a number of employers check LinkedIn before hiring a person, having letters of reference on it seems like a great idea. The one-hour walk-through of the newly accessible by Ilya Shubik was also well received.

Well over two hundred attended the Job Seeker Seminar, where fourteen employers were present. The room was mobbed for the first two hours of the Job Fair, and one employer even ran out of business cards and brochures and had to borrow a pen because her’s ran out of ink. Every employer brought away stacks of résumés. Fourteen employers were present: Benetech; Cleveland Sight Center Call Center; Hadley School for the Blind; Industries for the Blind, Inc.; Minnesota State Services for the Blind; National Statler Center/Olmstead Center for Sight; New Mexico Commission for the Blind; all three NFB training centers--BLIND, Inc., the Colorado Center for the Blind, and the Louisiana Center for the Blind; Perkins School for the Blind; the Piano Technology Group; SSB BART Group; the US Coast Guard; Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired; and World Services for the Blind. Many thanks to Suzanne Turner, committee member and Job Fair coordinator, and the people from the Cleveland Sight Center, who held practice sessions for those needing to polish their interviewing skills. Based on the huge response from job seekers and employers in this first year, I think we will need to double the size of the room next year to accommodate the crowd.

I am sorry to report that the file we created of job fair attendees became corrupted and was unusable. We intended to get feedback from all the attendees through a follow-up survey, but that is now impossible, so I am asking people who went to the Job Fair to give me feedback by emailing me at <[email protected]>. We will still be able to send feedback forms to the employers, because we have all their contact information.

The Employment Committee meeting had around thirty attendees. This year it was more loosely structured than in the past, but we had presentations from Mississippi State University, the Cleveland Sight Center, Minnesota State Services for the Blind, Robert Leslie Newman of the Writers’ Division on “Where the Blind Work,” Clovernook, and other organizations and individuals. Jobseekers wanted to talk about what they could bring to an employer. I think I have mentioned everyone, but, if I did not, please accept my apologies.

All in all it was a great convention for NFB jobseekers. If anyone has suggestions for how we can do things even better next year, please send them to me at <[email protected]>.

The National Association of Blind Automobile Enthusiasts Division:
The division had many small trucks and cars donated to it. According to Division President Dave Hutchins, the highlight of the division's activities this year was the sale of small cars for $5 each or four for $15. The division conducted its annual seminar and business meeting, with two speakers each from the Model A Club and the T-Bird Club. Having sold out of the complete inventory of model cars, the division will have a new inventory next year.

Report of the Cash and Caring Committee Meeting at Convention:
Ramona Walhof reported as follows on the work of the cash and caring committee at convention: The meeting had more than fifty people, I am sure. There was standing room only for a while, and I collected more than fifty cards with names and email addresses. Parnell Diggs, Scott LaBarre, Richie Flores, and Joanne Wilson gave talks, and of course we did not have enough time for discussion. We challenged states to establish a fundraiser with a goal of raising at least $5,000 by the third year or expand an existing effort by $5,000. Quite a number of people took this challenge. We talked about the importance of sharing income with the national treasury, and I think virtually everyone accepted that as a major need.

We will make a network of the names and emails of those who attended to provide a means of sharing experiences, successes, and suggestions. We will send the toolkit that we first distributed at Washington Seminar to everyone who came to this seminar, and we will continue to add information to it. We heard examples of events that raised $5,000 or more, talk about making state conventions into means of raising funds from nonmembers as well as members, and a list of the ways the NFB helps every blind person in the country. Hopefully, the next two additions to the toolkit will be Parnell's description of how the Columbia Chapter raises $24,000 with a chicken dinner and a contribution from Scott LaBarre on estate planning.

2013 NFB Communications Committee Meeting Highlights:
The focus of this year’s agenda was how to disseminate our message and news in changing times efficiently and affordably to membership and beyond. Each affiliate and division was asked to present and address what affiliates and divisions are doing now, why, and how. The majority present expressed problems and needs and were given useful suggestions by NFB colleagues. Concerns included lack of funding to produce multiple formats--many giving up audio recordings and several eliminating print hardcopies. All use email, most post a website version, a few still offer audio, and a Braille edition was available in half the 22 affiliate newsletters. Placing state communications on NEWSLINE is yet to be fully used by affiliates with the service available. New communications yet to be embraced more fully are Facebook and Twitter.

This committee is looking for additional members. If interested in the committee’s work, contact chairman Robert Leslie Newman.

The National Federation of the Blind in Communities of Faith:
The NFB in Communities of Faith held its meeting on Wednesday, July 3. We first listened to presentations from those who produce Christian material for the blind. Craig Leeds from Braille Bibles International and Darrel Templeton, president of Megavoice, spoke about the availability of Bibles on NLS cartridges and a player using solar energy. The King James and the New Living translations of the Bible are available on cartridges. There are five translations available using the solar energy player. These players cost $35. Father John Sheehan from Xavier Society for the Blind assured us that his organization could produce Christian materials in Braille, which could be kept by the user. He indicated that this is cheaper than maintaining a library.

We also heard from Keith Elliot, director of field services for Christian Record Services for the Blind, and from Mike Smith from the International Christian Braille Mission. A representative from Bookshare described its work in making books available for blind people. A substantial collection of Christian literature is now available through Bookshare.

Plans are in the works to organize Communities of Faith divisions in various states. Devotions were held on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings one hour before the opening of the morning session of the NFB convention. We had lively music, excellent solos, and messages presented by Sam Gleese, Mike Smith, and Tom Anderson.

Report of the Human Services Division:
The meeting of the Human Services Division was held on Wednesday, July 3. During the meeting Mike Truelock, a blind massage therapist, conducted chair massages as a fundraiser for the division. The board of directors and members are very grateful for Mike’s hard work during our meeting as well as at our table in the exhibit hall. Thank you, Mike.

The division had several informative presentations:

The business meeting resulted in an amendment to the division’s constitution regarding membership dues. Elections were then conducted.

Our members range from interested high school students to seasoned professionals in such varied careers as psychotherapist, occupational therapist, life coach, speech/language therapist, massage therapist, and music therapist, to name a few. Anyone in a career track that leads to being a professional in the human services field is welcome to join our membership. Just write a check payable to NFB - Human Services Division and mail it to the treasurer, JD Townsend, 1598 Riverside Drive, Holly Hill, FL 32117.

Tidbits from the Krafters Korner:
The division celebrated its fifth year, and we are excited about the number of telephone classes that are expanding to include a variety of crafts. Classes range from knitting and jewelry making to many types of beading.

Another great event at the convention was our craft sale, held on Monday, July 1, from noon to 6:00. Quite a few people wandered through and purchased handmade items. We also had some free make-and-take items such as a pony-bead butterfly and an origami box. Krafter Korner had volunteers helping anyone who wanted to try a hand at making these items. We had visitors ranging from young children to seasoned crafters. It was a great time to meet new friends and catch up with old ones. It was also a great opportunity for parents of blind children to understand their youngsters’ potential.

NAGDU at National Convention:
The National Association of Guide Dog Users, Inc. (NAGDU) is a strong and proud division of the National Federation of the Blind. We hold our annual meetings each year over two days during the NFB convention. On Monday, July 1, after our packed room of convention delegates introduced themselves, we accepted our treasurer’s and secretary’s reports. We then read, discussed, and passed a resolution concerning Guide Dogs for the Blind. You can read this resolution elsewhere in this issue.

Access to zoos with our guide dogs is an ongoing concern for NAGDU and its members. With a wide diversity of policies among zoos in the United States, NAGDU contends that many of these policies are not compliant with the ADA. In keeping with the adage, “It is better to educate than to litigate,” we invited top officials who are in a position to help us make changes to address our membership. Among these were Mark Jones, manager of domestic services for guests with disabilities for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts; Steve Olson, vice president of federal relations for the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA); and Mark Trieglaff of ACT Services, who serves as an accessibility consultant to AZA. Each panelist discussed how the organizations they represent can affect policies to comply with their obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and some of the challenges zoos face with service animals on their premises. The discussion was productive and laid the foundation for future collaboration with the organizations represented.

On Wednesday, July 3, our meeting reconvened with committee reports, including updates on the NAGDU Information & Advocacy Hotline; our social networking efforts; enhancing our website; and a report on our advocacy efforts over the past year.

Each of the chief executive officers of the guide dog training programs in the United States was personally invited to attend our meeting with the express purpose of providing their comments on the Guide Dog Users’ Bill of Rights we passed during our 2011 annual meeting. We attempted to solicit these comments during our 2012 meeting; however, all the training programs avoided this request. This year we advised the training programs that the only comments we would permit were those concerning the Bill of Rights. Some of these reports were in-depth, while others could be charitably described as dismissive, evasive, and nonsubstantive. Nonetheless, the National Association of Guide Dog Users demonstrated that we are actively shifting the paradigm in the guide dog movement in the United States and around the world. Transcriptions of the training program comments, along with commentary from the NAGDU board will be made available on our blog, which you can view at <>.

Eleventh Anniversary Meeting of the NFB Travel and Tourism Division:
The division started as a group to discuss why blind people should travel for leisure to places like Ireland or Walt Disney World or take a cruise. The division has advocated for the rights of blind people who want to cruise without sighted companions or work in the travel industry as a travel professional or an outside business development manager.

We reviewed the division’s history. Ms. Stephanie Nelson founded the division. In 2001 she talked with President Maurer about having a travel division, and in 2002 Doug Johnson of California was elected as the first division president. Don Gillmore of Illinois also served as president, and now Cheryl Echevarria from New York has been president since 2011. The other officers are currently vice president, Maurice Shackelford (GA); secretary, Margo Downey (NY); treasurer, Milton Taylor (UT); and board members, Jemal Powell (IL) and Amy Baron (MN).

Secretary Margo Downey told the division about problems she and others had with Southwest Airlines while flying to convention. The flight attendants and gate agents in Buffalo, New York, did not understand the Air Carrier Access Act and FAA regulations and tried to require passengers with guide dogs to sit in bulkhead seats. This has been an issue with Southwest Airlines for some time now. There is an Air Carrier Access Hotline. The phone number is (800) 778-4838. Anyone can file a complaint with the federal Department of Transportation by going to its website at <>. There is a link giving information about filing a complaint. The only reason a passenger can legally be required to sit in a certain seat or certain type of seat is to prevent something from blocking the aisle or exits. This is an FAA regulation.

Steve Olsen from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums urged us to let his organization know of any concerns we have while visiting zoos or aquariums. The AZA has been around since 1929 and began accrediting in the late 1970s. AZA now has 221 members. President Cheryl Echevarria urged people to let her or Marion Gwizdala, president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, know about any zoo problems. Mr. Olsen’s association is willing to work with us to ensure enjoyable and problem-free visits to zoos, aquariums, and related venues.

The new Travel and Tourism website is <>. Starting in September we will hold a monthly teleconference call for members, people thinking about becoming members, and anyone else interested in travel. Please make sure you register on the and sign up for the travel and tourism talk list, to keep up with information.

Jessica Snyder from the NFB of New York described her trip to China. In the 1990s China began to develop more comprehensive accessibility laws. About 60 million people are considered disabled. China does have services for blind children with mainstreaming and special classes. Elderly and disabled citizens have a right to material assistance from the state and society. Jessica had no problems as a blind person traveling in the country.

Rob Nevin from U-R-Able, a company in Canada, spoke. It is concerned about the underemployment and unemployment of blind people and seeks to make employment more accessible. Along with JAWS its product makes using software easier and more efficient with fewer steps. People can use this accessibility software in call centers. Lawyers can use it, and so can many other people. A person can use JAWS, a refreshable Braille display, and the Alt software for work acceleration. Blind people can outperform sighted people using this threefold approach and have even more chances to get the jobs we want. The Alt software uses something called “beaming.” It takes the user from where she/he is to the end destination in a single step. Mr. Nevin demonstrated the software for us.

Margo Downey presented a report on the Travel and Tourism working tour of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. We used the way-finding and description devices and were updated on Disney’s accessibility features. Disney cast members asked for our feedback in an effort to continue to improve accessibility for all.

Mark Jones, manager for domestic services for guests with disabilities at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, presented to the group. There are over 130,000 cast members (employees) at Disney properties and on Disney cruise ships. Sixty thousand cast members work at Walt Disney World. Blind people are employed at Disney. He told us about the way-finding devices that audibly update you as you walk through the parks and then describe attractions. He also mentioned that the service dog relief areas are now inside the parks and that any open grassy area can be used by service animals in the parks. Mr. Jones welcomes suggestions, problems, and compliments.

Announcement about the United Blind Industrial Workers of America:
Thomas Stivers writes as follows: It is my honor to have been elected as the chairman of the steering committee for the newly reconstituted United Blind Industrial Workers of America. We will work together to eliminate all subminimum wage payments on the basis of disability, ensure equal opportunities for advancement for all blind workers, provide adequate training to blind workers in sheltered employment who are seeking mainstream jobs, and defend the rights of blind workers who are abused by those who claim to be their protectors.

As of now the UBIWA is in its earliest stages, and we are looking for members to give of their time, talent, and eventually treasure to make this developing division of the Federation one of our strongest. Join the mailing list by sending a blank message to <[email protected]> or visit our website at <> to keep up with developments as they occur.

On behalf of the committee I offer thanks to the merchants division, the Federation as a whole, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, and the lawyers division for their generous contributions, which will make this organization possible.

NFB Pledge

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

Media Share

Facebook Share

(back) (contents)