Vol. 57, No. 1 January 2014
Gary Wunder, Editor
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The 2014 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 2014 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins, $82; and triples and quads, $88. 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 $95-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before May 28, 2014. The other 50 percent is not refundable.
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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 2014 convention is:
Tuesday, July 1 Seminar Day
Wednesday, July 2 Registration Day
Thursday, July 3 Board Meeting and Division Day
Friday, July 4 Opening Session
Saturday, July 5 Business Session
Sunday, July 6 Banquet Day and Adjournment
Vol. 57, No. 1 January 2014
Illustration: The BELLs Will Ring Again in 2014
Dr. Adrienne Asch Dies
by Marc Maurer
Remembering Adrienne Asch
by Fredric Schroeder
More Remembrances of Adrienne Asch
by Gary Wunder
Oh My, Dr. Asch was Right
by Patty Estes
Seventy-Five Years of the Fair Labor Standards Act
and People with Disabilities
Have No Reason to Celebrate
by Anil Lewis
How Disability Simulations Promote Damaging Stereotypes
by Toby Olson
Resolutions and the Way Policies are Made in the National Federation of the Blind
by Gary Wunder
Shawn Mayo Leaves BLIND, Inc.
by Dick Davis
Our Rights and Their Responsibilities: Access to Prescription Label Information
by Mike Freeman
The AccessaMed Digital Audio Label: The Accessible Prescription Drug Labeling of Choice
by Les Fitzpatrick
University Says No to Google
by Sean Whalen
New Air Regulations Announced
Skies are Still Unfriendly for the Blind
by Marc Maurer
Intuitive Eating: Enjoy Your Food, Respect Your Body
by Linda Bacon and Judith Matz
The Gun Debate, Why it Matters
by Greg Trapp
Blind Guy versus the Rhododendron
by Chris Kuell
A Moment in Time
Carol Castellano Inducted into the Douglass Society
How Daring to Believe Changed My Life and How It Can Change Yours
by Mary Fernandez
The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund
by Allen Harris
Copyright 2013 by the National Federation of the Blind
How does the NFB go about solving a problem? First we determine its priority, and then we attack it on multiple fronts. Too many children are not learning to read and write Braille; the school systems they attend are supposed to provide this teaching. So we press the schools; work for legislation to remedy the problem; and, in the meantime, take responsibility for doing what we can to provide direct service to these children. That is the reason the NFB created the Braille Enrichment through Literacy and Learning (BELL) Program. And in 2013 the BELL rang loud and proud in nineteen states, and Monitor readers may remember the articles in November’s issue about “The Other BELL in Philadelphia.” This month we have some photos from that amazing first ringing of the BELL in Pennsylvania.
To ensure that the students practice the Braille they learned in the program, they had daily journaling sessions using the Perkins Brailler. But it wasn’t all hard work; there was plenty of time for fun and games, like Twister.
Michelle McManus said that a valuable part of the program is covering things that they wouldn’t learn in school, the little daily practicalities like passing things at the lunch table or navigating on their own. The outdoor mobility lessons were a key part of that, encouraging the kids to explore the city in ways they might not have on their own. That’s why the NFB is working hard not only to keep the BELLs ringing in the affiliates that have already held the program, but to improve it. 2013 was a great year, but 2014 is going to be bigger and better, with the likelihood that half of our affiliates will be sponsoring BELL Programs.
by Marc Maurer
I do not remember when I first met Adrienne Asch, but it must have been in the 1970s. She has been a member of the National Federation of the blind for many decades. Although she was not prominent in the leadership of the organization, she was a dramatically strong supporter of the Federation and a significant factor in its work.
Those who knew Adrienne were aware that she was a professor, a bioethicist, a singer, and a joyful advocate for recognition of the value of human dignity. She was a champion of the rights of the blind and otherwise disabled, and she wrote and lectured extensively about ethical questions pertaining to disability. On occasion she appeared in public debates against those who espoused philosophical points of view that denigrated certain individuals because of their physical disabilities or other characteristics sometimes thought to be badges of inferiority. It is now possible to examine a human fetus before birth to determine whether it is likely that the developing child will have disabilities. Some doctors recommend aborting such children if they are likely to have disabling conditions. Such arguments encourage the notion that those thought to be imperfect should be eliminated from the human race. Killing the so-called deformed because those without disabilities regard such differences as badges of inferiority struck Dr. Asch as a gruesome procedure not to be tolerated by civilized, moral people.
An early adopter of access technology for the blind, Adrienne learned about all of the tools manufactured to help blind people gain access to information. With technology and the assistance of human readers, she read extensively about the subjects that she taught and wrote about. Because she used every kind of access technology, she could evaluate a product being offered to the blind. Once she called me to say she was working on a major presentation, that she had turned her display upside down, and that some of its pins had fallen out. She asked if I could help her with a replacement unit while hers was being repaired, and this I was glad to do. She urged manufacturers to incorporate features that would make Braille devices more useful to academics. For all that they offer in the way of quick and convenient Braille, most notetakers cannot handle footnotes, the generation of a table of contents, or a number of other features generally found in state-of-the-art word processors.
Although Adrienne achieved national and international recognition for her work as a bioethicist, those who knew her well were aware that she felt her life was incomplete. She yearned to find a partner with whom she could share her life, but the bliss that can come with a marriage and family never worked out for her. This was probably her greatest regret.
I met with Adrienne a couple of times a year. She came to the national conventions of the Federation, and she bought a hundred Jernigan Fund tickets each year. I kept expecting her to win the raffle at the banquet, but somehow none of her one hundred tickets was ever drawn for the prize. I am quite certain that this did not trouble Dr. Asch. Each year in the fall she attended a board meeting of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults. She served as the ethics officer for the corporation. One year she gave me a recording of Christmas carols that she had made with a choir in New York. She loved the Christmas season, and she knew that I shared this love. Although she was Jewish, she knew all the Christmas music and took great joy in performing it. Regardless of the time of year that the board meeting took place, after we learned of Adrienne’s magnificent vocal abilities, we sang Christmas carols. Dr. Asch did enormously effective serious work in philosophy, ethics, and medicine. But I will remember her most for the joy and zest for living that were part of her.
by Fredric Schroeder
I first met Adrienne in the mid-1980s. Everyone who knew Adrienne knew she was brilliant, but my earliest memories of her were less about her intellect and more about her innate kindness. She was smart—scary smart—but she was more than smart; she used her intellectual gift to make a difference in the lives of blind people and others with disabilities. She brought a penetrating perspective and an unrivaled power of academic thought to bear on the real problems that blind people face—the reasons behind the social isolation and lack of opportunity that plague our lives. She had the ability to unravel complex, interrelated biases and socially constructed limitations and show them for what they are—prejudice. But she gave much more than understanding; she went beyond simply explaining the sources of our collective disenfranchisement. Through her work and through the way she led her life, she demonstrated that blind people need not live in dependency and poverty, but, given a reasonable chance, we can fulfill our innate talents and drive.This was more liberating than it might first appear. Adrienne’s message, crafted through research, keen observation, and life experience, helped me and countless others truly believe in our own right to live free from society’s low expectations. In other words, she made me proud of who and what I am and showed me that, no matter the barriers placed in our paths, we need not be remarkable or excessively courageous, but need only believe in ourselves to have a full and productive life. And still she was not aloof, living on a higher intellectual plain, residing on the top of Mount Olympus swathed in academic draperies, separate and apart; she was my friend, she believed in me and cared for me, and I will miss her—miss her deeply. Although Adrienne is gone, the difference she made in my life lives on.
by Gary Wunder
Adrienne Asch was my friend. Because I believe in life after this one, I do not just say she was my friend, but that she is my friend and will always be so. I clearly remember the first time we met because I earned myself a lecture. Adrienne had asked Federationists to complete some kind of survey. When I heard her introduce herself at an elevator, I introduced myself and proudly said, “I completed your survey.”
“No, you didn’t complete my survey,” she said. “I know the names of all those who took the time to complete it, and you didn’t.” Well, that elevator certainly seemed confining, and I was glad when I reached my floor. The truth is that, as I thought about it, I clearly remembered being asked to do the survey, but less clearly did I remember completing it or returning it. I concluded she was right, looked her up, asked if having my participation would still be helpful, and promised to be more careful about completing such requests. “It’s too late for the survey,” she said, “But I’d be glad to talk with you.” Figuring that our friendship was already off on the wrong foot and fearing that I’d probably mess up again, I nevertheless agreed that we’d visit, and that visit led to our becoming fast friends.
One of the benefits of belonging to the National Federation of the Blind is coming to know many accomplished people who find time in their busy lives to help in our work and who make it their own. How often do we find the very successful turning a deaf ear when asked to help others who are blind: their musical careers will not allow them to participate; their business consumes too much of their time to allow for volunteer participation; they have done it all on their own and have no more in common with other blind people than they have with those who visit the dentist who cleans their teeth.
While maintaining a schedule every bit as rigorous and demanding as any musician or business person, Adrienne Asch found time for us. She did not regularly attend chapter meetings and seldom made it to state conventions. Nevertheless, her participation was to represent us in places where only she could go: conferences of scientists, philosophers, and bioethicists concerned with matters of life and death, quality of life, and determining when a newly formed being had rights that should be protected by the state.
One thing I admired about Adrienne was how deeply she believed in the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind and how determined she was to live it. She was quick to admit that mobility was a challenge, even in places as familiar as the National Center for the Blind, which she visited at least twice each year. This did not dampen her resolve to go anywhere she needed to go, and to do so independently. When her job required her to go to Europe or Africa, go she did. When it required her to go to unknown hotels and travel on unfamiliar public transit systems, she did. When she found that the academic work that she needed to do required her to read material that had yet to be transcribed, she hired people to scan it, used her Kurzweil product to convert it into a computer-readable document, and transferred it to her Braille display. The materials she had to digest to discuss biology, genetics, philosophy, and the law competently were voluminous, but she appreciated the blessing of being busy and was glad to be so engaged. For her a challenge and a barrier were not at all the same, and her forthright and honest way of acknowledging her challenges and then conquering them should be a lesson to us all.
Adrienne thought and wrote about things we often consider too uncomfortable to think much about, and she tried to do so in a way that did not reflect only one religious perspective or cultural belief. Her positions could not be easily stated in a sentence. If a woman wanted a child, Adrienne supported her right to choose, but she believed that a choice to keep or abort a disabled child should be based on good information about what living with that disability was actually likely to be. What she believed helped to shape the Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act, sponsored by Edward Kennedy and Sam Brownback. This legislation, adopted into law in 2008, said that a choice to abort based on disability should be made only after good information about life with that disability had been provided to the soon-to-be parents. Regulations implementing this legislation have yet to be created, but the challenge given to doctors, genetic counselors, and those of us who have disabilities is enormously important. Adrienne pleaded with us to decide how we would play a part in shaping how the public comes to feel about people with disabilities, explaining to them that we have lives well worth living and affirming through our words and actions that we have something positive to contribute to the world.This passionate belief in the ability of all human beings to bring something to the world is what I most admire about the life of my dear friend and what causes me to look harder every day to find the contributions others can bring into my life and the life of the human family. The thing I most treasure is that she allowed me to share in her life, valued my intellect enough to care about my opinions, and trusted me enough to talk with me about things that really mattered to her—the state of our world, the state of our organization, and the state of her personal life, with all of its joys and sorrows. This was the privilege of knowing the soul who lived in the body of Adrienne Asch and who will continue to live in all of us who heard her message; who felt her love; and who, because of her, will dare to expose the better angels of our natures.
by Patty Estes
From the Editor: Patty Estes is a long-time member from the state of Maine. She has acted as the affiliate’s chief organizer, has served as its president, and has long been its guiding force and spiritual leader when it comes to matters of blindness and the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. One of her frustrations is that she has multiple sclerosis, and this sometimes limits her participation in the work she deeply enjoys.
Patty listened to Dr. Adrienne Asch at our 2013 convention in Orlando and was shocked to hear that our access to medical care and treatment when resources might be scarce was being discussed in the context of our quality of life. More shocking was the realization that participants in the discussion were people who often have no idea what it is like to be blind and who believe that they can judge our lives through the lens of moral philosophy rather than through observing us and asking us what value we place on our existence. Here is a note never intended to be an article, but so introspective and thought-provoking is it that I thought Monitor readers would benefit from Patty’s experiences and observations. It was written just before the convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine, where I was pleased to serve as our national representative. Here is Patty’s letter:
Oh my, Gary—Dr. Asch was right! I have been interviewed or cross-examined by one of those moral ethicists. I tell you, it is lots more chilling than just thinking about it.
I had an appointment with a neuropsychologist a couple of weeks ago for some limited testing. At the end of our time together, he asked me, "So, what do you do all day?" I must have looked like a deer in the headlights, so he repeated his question:
Dr.: “So, what do you do? I mean, what do you do with your day?”
Me: (I was reluctant to answer because his demeanor had shifted) “Okay, well, I do some housework....”
Dr.: (interrupting me) “No, really . . . what do you do? Do you just veg?”
Me: (This was stunning. Ok, he was a chauvinist and could not grasp the concept of keeping a home as a worthwhile activity.) “No, I do not veg all day.”
Dr.: (Apparently I still hadn't given him enough information.) “I mean—what is it that you do all day?”
Me: (Okay, so he specializes in MS—maybe he’s asking about that.) “Well, sometimes I need to rest when I don't want to.”
Dr.: “So, you do sit and vegetate all day!”
Me: (I really, really didn't want to play this game) “No, I do not `Just vegetate all day.’"
The doctor kept sputtering and blurting out the same question and his stupid conclusion, but I just sat and looked in his general direction. I was now done and wanted to go home.
I can tell you, Gary, that I could have spit nickels for several days. I was very, very upset. I had come to the conclusion that he was a chauvinist and had a disregard for the lifestyles (that's really too glamorous a word for my daily activities) of his MS patients or he was one of those bioethicists Dr. Asch spoke about at this past convention. Probably all of the above, but that last one was the kicker.
That's it! He wanted me to account for my productivity. He kept pushing me to offer a reason why I should take up space. Wow, words can't express how judgmental that is, how demeaning, and how furious it made me feel for days.
Then I decided he wasn't worth the energy I was giving him or the turmoil his question was causing in my life. Well, it finally occurred to me that perhaps he had just been quizzing me to see if I had strength and purpose. Perhaps this was a part of his testing protocol or his way of making me tough. I just couldn't know. I mean, he was so insistent and fidgety and loud, whereas, before he had been measured and kind. Well, I had a follow-up to go over the results. I would just ask him if that was part of my test, instead of automatically assuming the worst of him.
That follow-up appointment was yesterday. In the waning minutes of the visit, I referred to those questions he had asked me at the end of the previous session and directly asked him if they were a part of his test.
Dr.: "No, it wasn't part of the test. I was curious about what you do all day. Just sitting and vegetating is something we worry about with disabled people."
Me: “Oh really? Well, I don't do that.”
We left, and I have been stewing since then. On the basis of my very limited cooperation, he could easily have concluded that I might be one of those that "we" worry about. It is easy to see how then I would be one of those who wouldn't really require medical attention, given my MS, and then there is the blindness, and on top of that I am sixty! I can foresee my healthcare being severely rationed within a year or two—not sometime in the distant future—and all by people who haven’t a clue about how I feel and one whit of interest in giving me enough credibility to listen seriously to my side of the story.
Gary, the article you asked me to write about, "The Right to Live in the World," appeared in the Monitor one year ago. I focused on our rights and the template Dr. tenBroek and Dr. Jernigan built a movement upon. Apparently this other way of looking at the title of the treatise, "The Right to Live in the World" had already gotten its footing within academia. The literal reading with the emphasis on "live" rather than "right" has troubled me greatly. I could not have conceived of such a disgusting twist on this topic or our feeling its effects in our enlightened generation, and now having to rally on this new barricade! Except, it isn't really new. Only the titles of the actors have changed.
We will once again be taking on those who know much more than we do about our relationship to our blindness. We have no hope of ever scoring points in this debate, since they just “know,” and their presumed knowledge once again comes from professional titles—and this time academic degrees—that show they are very smart and accomplished but which convey nothing about their understanding of who we are, how we feel, and what we have to contribute.Gary, Dr. Adrienne Asch is so very right, and she is also correct to call upon the NFB to get prepared for this battle. Thank you for running her talk in the convention Monitor. Her delivery was wonderful—and chilling. Thank you for reading to this point and for listening, Gary. I am looking forward to our convention and to seeing you.
by Anil Lewis
From the Editor: Employment for and wages paid to the blind have been a priority issue for the National Federation of the Blind, and changing this practice has consumed an enormous amount of time for Anil Lewis, Director of Advocacy and Policy for the National Federation of the Blind. He posted a blog about the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the work still ahead of us to fix the problems its outdated notions of disability cause. With his permission we are reprinting the blog here:
Today the US Department of Labor will be celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) with an all-day program. There will be a host of presentations on various wage and workplace achievements. However, a significant topic will not be discussed: Section 14(c) of the FLSA.
In 1938, the year Section 14(c) of the FLSA was enacted, the federal minimum wage was twenty-five cents per hour. At that time Section 14(c) provided workers with disabilities a wage floor of 75 percent of the federal minimum wage. In 1966 this wage floor was reduced to 50 percent of the federal minimum wage. Then in 1986 the wage floor was entirely eliminated. Today, seventy-five years after Section 14(c) was enacted, there are workers with disabilities being paid less than the federal minimum wage of twenty-five cents that was guaranteed to non-disabled workers in 1938.
You may ask why this provision was ever integrated into the FLSA. The belief was that people with disabilities could not be productive employees. The social experiment, established under a misguided assumption, was that, if you create environments where people with disabilities are provided an opportunity to engage in work-like activities in segregated environments that provide the tangible and intangible benefits of work, they will be better off. Today approximately three thousand subminimum-wage employers or "incubators" exist, creating over 400,000 social beneficiaries with disabilities being paid less than the federal minimum wage. Data show that fewer than 5 percent of people with disabilities working in these subminimum wage jobs ever secure competitive integrated employment. I think it is safe to say that this seventy-five-year-old social experiment of low expectations, segregation, and subminimum wages has failed.
Fortunately, due to the creativity, innovation, and dedication of entities committed to helping individuals with significant disabilities to reach their full vocational potential, a parallel experiment is taking place. This perspective begins with the belief that all people can work, and that, when provided the proper training, support, and opportunities, individuals with significant disabilities can acquire an employable job skill worthy of being paid at least the federal minimum wage. The Employment First movement, expanding the use of supported employment and customized employment strategies, is creating a paradigm shift in the belief in the capacity of workers with disabilities. Individuals with significant disabilities are receiving training from experts, making it possible for them to take advantage of a variety of competitive integrated jobs, where they earn at least the federal minimum wage.
The assertion of subminimum-wage employers that workers with disabilities cannot be productive employees is being proven false, and subminimum-wage employers must acknowledge that they do not have the expertise they claim to possess. We must discard the failed approach of segregated subminimum-wage workshops and embrace the innovative strategies of competitive integrated training and employment that have proven to cost less and produce better employment outcomes.
To those in attendance: enjoy the celebration. The National Federation of the Blind, along with sixty-five other organizations, will be busy working to repeal this discriminatory provision. The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2013, H.R. 831, will phase out the use of Section 14(c) Special Wage Certificates over a three-year period; it is our hope for a better future. I pray that it will not take another seventy-five years to see the error of this discriminatory policy.
by Toby Olson
From the Editor: Toby Olson is the executive secretary of the Washington state Governor's Committee on Disability Issues and Employment, where he also directed the Northwest Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center. He is the chair of the National Fire Protection Association Disability Access Review Advisory Committee and was the chair of the International Code Council Disability Advisory Committee and vice chair of the American Public Transportation Association Access Standard Oversight Committee. He has a neurological disorder that limits his ability to interpret visual and auditory information. Here’s his concern about what people take away from quick disability simulation exercises:
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and Disability History Month here in Washington state. Disability awareness events held in October often include disability simulation exercises in which participants who don't have a disability will spend some time using a wheelchair or wearing a blindfold. More sophisticated exercises might also include headphones with white noise generators to simulate a hearing loss or boxes in which participants can attempt to perform tasks while watching their hands reflected by a series of mirrors to provide a sense of the effects of a specific learning disability.
While these exercises are popular and can help the participants to become more aware of some of the environmental barriers people with disabilities encounter, many people with disabilities and disability organizations are concerned that they create an inaccurate perception of the experience of living with a disability. The fear is that simulations actually reinforce the inaccurate negative stereotypes that often limit opportunities for people with disabilities in education and employment.
If you participate in a simulation, what you experience will not be at all like a slice from the life of a person who has lived with that disability for any time. The difference will not be because you'll know that you'll be taking off the blindfold or walking away from the wheelchair at the end. The difference will be because, without any of the coping skills and techniques people with disabilities create and master throughout their lives, the best you will be able to manage will be to emulate the experience of being the single most hapless, incompetent individual with that particular disability on the face of the planet.
Participants in disability simulations experience their adopted disabilities as a series of discoveries of things they can't do. They can leave the exercise imagining an unbroken string of those discoveries stretching out for a lifetime. Those of us who have had a disability all our lives haven't experienced our disabilities that way. For those who have acquired a disability, that experience is usually a relatively brief transition phase. The long-term experience of living with a disability is more aptly characterized as adapting, adjusting, and developing new ways to do things when the usual ways don't work. It is more commonly the active pursuit of an expanding life, not mourning for a contracting one.
I have heard simulations compared to putting on blackface, but disability simulations have nothing to do with the contempt and ridicule that were the essence of the minstrel shows. Most people in the disability community appreciate that simulations represent a sincere interest in improving understanding and a willingness to put time and effort toward that goal. Still we cannot help being concerned that participants who leave a simulation, imagining life with a disability as an endlessly shrinking spiral of frustration and loss, might be even less comfortable associating with people who have disabilities than they were before. Those who take away from the exercise frustration at the inability to complete simple daily activities could, as a result, be less able to recognize the substantive contributions a job applicant with a disability is ready to make to their organization's bottom line.
If there is one thing about the experience of disability that everyone needs to understand, it is that the chronic unemployment and resulting poverty that are far too common among working-age people with disabilities are not natural consequences of disability. The best exercise for improving awareness on that issue is the one where we all recruit, hire, and work alongside people who have disabilities. That exercise has the added benefit of allowing us to discover what people who have so much experience devising innovative, practical solutions to unusual problems can add to our organizations' strengths.
by Gary Wunder
In the August-September issue Sharon Maneki, the chairman of the Resolutions Committee, wrote an article discussing the policy statements the convention had adopted in July of 2013. Following that article are copies of each resolution as passed. Not long after this issue reached Monitor readers, I began receiving suggestions about how we should talk about the importance of resolutions, how and why they should be drafted, and what happens to them once they are passed. This is a tall order, but let's at least start to answer these questions.
In the first part a case is made that certain events have taken place that require action. The events are described in short statements that begin with the word WHEREAS, and they may speak to some wrong that must be righted or to some good deed that should be acknowledged. These statements should clearly set forth the reason a resolution is being written, without being so detailed that they make the reader wish the resolution had never happened.
The second part of a resolution explains what will or should be done based on the argument laid out in the first section. Resolves are used to say what the NFB will do or what we will try to persuade others to do. Again this may be to condemn and deplore actions we find objectionable or to applaud actions we find meritorious. These, too, should be brief and to the point: long enough that they are not ambiguous and concise enough that they avoid repeating what has already been said. At the end of this article, when you’ve been convinced how important resolutions are and that you may want to write one yourself, we'll drop in a few guidelines prepared by Barbara Pierce, using her many years of experience in editing the final version of our policy statements.
The simple answer is that resolutions are written by anyone who believes that the National Federation of the Blind should take a position on something and who wishes us to make this position public. Resolutions may come from members of our Advocacy and Policy Department, from our national board of directors, from divisions or committees of the Federation, or from members who feel passionately enough about an issue to take up their device of choice and write. Resolutions are submitted to the chairman of the Resolutions Committee or to the president of the National Federation of the Blind at least two weeks before the meeting of the Resolutions Committee. They are reviewed to determine, as best we can, that they are factually and grammatically correct and are then presented to the Resolutions Committee on what is sometimes called Registration or Resolutions Day. If they are passed by the Resolutions Committee, they are then considered on the afternoon of the second day of the convention and, if approved, become official Federation policy.
Like every system devised by man, this one has its problems. People who do not attend the meeting of the committee hear the resolutions for the first time that afternoon and are then asked to vote in favor of or in opposition to something they have had little time to consider. We have limited time for questions and discussion, and sometimes the volume of resolutions has meant we have had to read the resolve clause and have omitted the part of the resolution explaining the need for it.
At the most recent meeting of the board of directors, a decision was made to post resolutions passed by the committee on our website, clearly labeling them as resolutions being considered by the convention. In this way those with devices capable of reading information from the web can see what is being proposed for consideration by the membership, can decide how they think and feel about the resolutions, can get to the right people to ask their questions, and can be in a better position to vote when the resolutions are considered.
To start with, all of them appear on our website and are available to those wanting to know if the Federation has a position on a given topic. They are published in the August-September issue of the Braille Monitor, along with an article explaining who introduced them and why they were introduced and describing similar resolutions passed in the current or previous years. As for implementation, some resolutions are sent to divisions of the Federation for action and follow-up. Others are sent by the president or his designee to the businesses and agencies they affect. Most are assigned to the director of policy and advocacy for action.
The answer is most assuredly yes. Our resolution on quiet cars culminated in legislation, and that legislation will someday soon be incorporated into binding regulations that will make travel safer for the blind and all pedestrians and cyclists. Our resolution about the continuing inaccessibility of the Kindle resulted in a protest at the headquarters of Amazon in December of 2012 and subsequent improvements in the software Amazon produces. Our resolution on the payment of subminimum wages caused the introduction of H.R. 831 by Congressman Gregg Harper of Mississippi and the publicity we have received on the NBC television network and other media outlets.
Now that you know why we draft, discuss, and pass resolutions and what happens to them once they become Federation policy, here are some guidelines to use in creating them:
Writing resolutions is a specialized skill. The resolution is one very long sentence directing the organization to take a stand or engage in some action. It can also commend or take exception to actions of other entities. It cannot provide direct instructions to any group other than the NFB or its president and board of directors. However, it does call upon those entities to make changes. The actions or other recommendations are contained in the RESOLVED clauses at the close of the resolution. The argument for taking the action is laid out in a series of WHEREASes. Ideally each argument, and only one argument, should be placed in a single WHEREAS. These should be arranged in the most logical order.
The most efficient way to write a resolution is to make a simple outline or list of premises which you will turn into the WHEREAS clauses and a similar simple list of phrases for the RESOLVED clauses. In fact, you should begin by determining what your RESOLVED clauses are, that is, how many there should be and what their basic thrust is. You will know how many by the number of entities we need to address or the number of problems we need to fix. After you decide specifically how you want the problem fixed, determine the smallest number of concepts you need to explain to a person unfamiliar with the problem that there is a problem. The best resolutions can be picked up by a person unfamiliar with the issue and hold that person's attention (in other words, they are as short as possible) while still actually explaining the problem and the solution or solutions. This method, deciding the ending first and then crafting the arguments to reach it, will result in the simplest and clearest resolution. Then, when you actually write the formal resolution, you can focus on the writing and the style, having already done the planning part.
Here are the punctuation and layout rules for writing resolutions:
Remember that the resolves are couched in the subjunctive mood, which is rarely used in English. This means that the third person singular verbs look like plurals when they are actually singular: the organization urge, the NFB condemn and deplore, etc.
The rather strained form of the resolution makes it sound unnatural and formal. Do not attempt to add to this effect by indulging in jargon and verbosity. Even though resolutions are frequently long, brevity is a virtue. Each argument should be made concisely but clearly. Jargon never helps this process. Substituting "utilize" for the short, vigorous word "use" and always referring to people as "persons" or "individuals" are good examples of counterproductive inflation of the pomposity quotient. On the other hand, because resolutions are formal statements of a policy position, you should avoid slang or informal words like "exams" instead of "examinations" or "quotes" for "quotations." Verb forms like "hunker down" or "get going" are also a bit too casual for use in resolutions.
You will remember that the NFB is on record as opposing people-first language, except as it happens for some reason to sound euphonious. Despite this fact, we are increasingly saddled with awkward people-first language in our resolutions that serves no function but to lengthen the argument, sound pompous, and contradict our own policy. Remember that there is nothing wrong with the terms "blind people" or "blindness field." Yet increasingly our resolutions are cluttered with "persons who are blind" or “individuals with blindness or visual impairment."
Capitalization should be consistent. Do not capitalize words for emphasis. Quotation marks should not be used for this purpose either. "Federal" is not capitalized unless it is part of an actual title or is the first word of a sentence. Since WHEREASes begin with capital letters, federal is almost never capitalized in resolutions. "Congress," on the other hand, is, as are "House of Representatives" and "Senate." Names of departments and organizations are capitalized, but terms like "departments of education" or "vocational rehabilitation agencies" are generic and should not be.
Resolutions often pile up nouns as adjectives. When this happens, the terms should be hyphenated: access-program producers.
Bill numbers are written H.R. 0000 or S. 0000.
There you have Barbara Pierce’s sage advice about the content and format of resolutions. So now you know why we have resolutions, the process we go through to consider and pass them, what happens once they are passed, and the way you can author one. When resolutions are being considered in 2014, make sure you are a part of the process, and be sure to meet the deadlines.
by Dick Davis
From the Editor: Dick Davis started his work with blind people in 1971 at the Iowa Commission for the Blind when it was led by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. Dick has served with distinction in many roles in Iowa, New Mexico, and Minnesota. He currently serves as the assistant director for employment programs at BLIND, Inc. and here is what he has to say about his boss and his friend, Shawn Mayo:
For the past ten years Shawn Mayo has been the executive director of BLIND, Incorporated, but I’m sad to say she’ll be leaving at the end of December. I started working with her thirteen years ago in 2000, and she’s become one of my closest friends since that time. Joyce Scanlan, BLIND, Inc.’s founding executive director, recruited Shawn as her successor because of her moral strength, intelligence, and vast network of friends, a network she had developed as president of the National Association of Blind Students (NABS).
At the time Shawn came to work at BLIND, she was completing her NABS presidency, and, although I’d known her only briefly when she was a BLIND, Inc. student and afterward, it was obvious she was the real thing. Her charisma was such that one student, who kept asking her to marry him, said, “I don’t know her at all, but I really like her!”
As executive director of BLIND, Inc. she carried these strengths with her—she ran meetings well, was strong without being overbearing, and had the respect and love of the students. Before becoming executive director, Shawn worked for BLIND, Inc. for several years as assistant director for outreach and marketing, life skills instructor, and summer programs coordinator. She knew BLIND, Inc. both from a student and a staff perspective. Under Joyce’s mentorship, she continued to grow. I also helped shape her.
Shawn is a quick learner, and her strengths continued to emerge: a deep-seated compassion toward others, the highest personal integrity, an intuitive grasp of problems and ability to solve them, an analytical nature that went to the core of things, the charisma mentioned above, and a sense of humor that everyone came to love. She showed herself to be strong too, and, if she made up her mind to do (or not do) something, incredibly stubborn.
She demonstrated excellent money management skills—fiscally conservative when necessary and generous the rest of the time. In fact, she more than tripled the income of BLIND, Inc. and built a cash reserve while simultaneously raising funds to make repairs to the historic Charles S. Pillsbury Mansion that is our home for classes.
Shawn accomplished many other things from 2003, when Joyce retired and she became executive director, to the present. She successfully addressed a breakdown in Minnesota student referrals by bringing in more students from other states and getting the department commissioner to take corrective action. When a state shutdown threatened funding for student training, she testified in court alongside the Minnesota Attorney General, who was impressed by her case, and convinced the judge to continue funding for BLIND, Inc.
Under her leadership BLIND, Inc. developed the country’s only fully integrated English language learner (ELL)/adjustment to blindness training program for blind immigrants and refugees, gained BLIND, Inc.’s first federal contract, and oversaw the creation of the Code Master, the most modern Braille learning system in the country and recipient of the 2013 Bolotin Award and the 2012 Touch of Genius Award. In fact, BLIND, Inc. has been part of receiving not one but two Bolotin Awards since she’s been director.
Most important, she has worked to build a team of committed Federationists. We have all taken the belief Shawn has in blind people and given our love and commitment to them as she has taught and shown us to do through her example. Countless students have followed her lead and joined the National Federation of the Blind and become involved at all levels of the organization throughout the country. As one does at our NFB centers, she had the students to her house, where the kids in our summer programs learned to light a grill and the adult students, after walking nearly six miles to her home under sleepshades, were welcomed with friendship and a steak dinner.
There’s a lot more I could say about her accomplishments, but her record speaks for itself. BLIND, Inc. today is a nationally and internationally recognized training center, known for its family culture, its innovation, and its overall excellence. It is now in the best financial and programmatic shape it has ever been in. If there’s a good time for her to move on, it’s now, and she has good reasons to do so.
Shawn lost her eyesight at age 17 because of leukemia. The drugs that saved her life gave her arthritis, which she’s had for years. Let me say here that she’s one of the toughest and most upbeat people I know. She’s thought for some time that, while still loving her work at BLIND, Inc. and still loving the Federation, a climate a little less severe than Minnesota's would be more comfortable for her.
This fall Shawn’s partner, Emily Wharton, developer of the Code Master Braille System, was offered and accepted the director of technology position at the Iowa Department for the Blind (IDB). Emily is from Iowa and is a graduate of the IDB Orientation Center. She began her new job at the end of October, and Shawn will join her around the turn of the year. This will eventually give Shawn the opportunity to have a house with enough land to own a horse again, one of her lifetime goals. She’ll also be much closer to her and Emily’s families.
I came to BLIND, Inc. in 2000 from State Services for the Blind (SSB), where I’d been assistant commissioner (director) for over seven years. I lost my job because of my resistance and that of the NFB of Minnesota to two department attempts to merge SSB with the general rehabilitation agency. It was such a miserable experience that, by the time I left that job, Minnesota was the last place I wanted to be. However, I agreed to stay until the last of our kids had graduated from high school.
Joyce Scanlan created the position of assistant director for employment programs in order to encourage me to stay in Minnesota, but it was Shawn who ultimately convinced me. I came to like her so much that I decided to spend the remainder of my career helping to make hers a success. One thing each of us in the second generation of the NFB needs to do is pave the way for an orderly transition to younger leadership. Along the way I became very attached to BLIND, Inc. It’s a wonderful place to work, with a devoted staff and great students.
When Shawn told me finally that she’d decided to move, I’d already invested thirteen years of my life helping her be a successful executive director. It was a hard blow for me to take. But nothing good is ever lost, and I knew that what I’d taught her, and my efforts on behalf of BLIND, Inc., would both continue. When she asked if I’d be interim director until a permanent one could be found, I of course agreed. She had the hard task of breaking the news to our board, staff, and students. Those were painful discussions, with tears all around.
Shawn recommended me to the BLIND, Inc. board of directors as her choice for interim director, and the board agreed. I’ll lead BLIND, Inc., assist in the search and interviewing process for a permanent director, and train that individual. Even though she’ll be in another state, Shawn has agreed to advise me and the new director.
Executive director of an NFB training center is a significant position within the Federation, and therefore we cannot just hire someone off the street. The director must be an individual with leadership experience in the NFB, a deep understanding of blindness and blind people, and administrative experience sufficient to run a nationally acknowledged training program. So we have been looking carefully, working through Dr. Maurer and our network of Federation friends. I’m happy to announce that Dan Wenzel, formerly of Colorado, then Wisconsin, and most recently Maryland, has just accepted the position. More about him in a later article.
Like all our new hires, Dan will go through our regular staff training program, and I’ll work with him until he’s thoroughly learned how BLIND, Inc. operates. We won’t have the three years that Joyce was able to devote to Shawn’s training, but the training period will be sufficient. At that point I’ll return to my old position and continue to support Dan until I’m ready to retire. It’ll be a big job, but I love challenges and am looking forward to it.
While we’re all very sad to see Shawn leave BLIND, Inc., we know she’s ready for her new life. Expect more great things from her in the future. As far as BLIND, Inc. goes, she’ll always love us and be there for us, as we will for her. She’ll always be part of the Federation and will pass her knowledge and love of it along to others, wherever she lives or works. If you would like to keep in contact with her, her personal email is <[email protected]>.
by Mike Freeman
From the Editor: Labeling items has always been a challenge for the blind, since the printed labels affixed to objects give us little in the way of usable information if we can't read them. Of all the items we label, none poses more of a challenge than medication. Sometimes labeling is easy if the number of medications one takes is small. But, when the number grows and the instructions are more complex, the rubber band, Braille label, or dot of glue doesn't provide enough information.
To provide blind people with all the information that appears on a drug label, several competing systems have emerged. In this issue we will discuss two systems, and we will print the articles in the order they were received. One article has been edited by Mike Freeman, the president of the Diabetes Action Network, the other by our former affiliate president in Oklahoma, Les Fitzpatrick. Les works as an employee of AccessaMed. Our request of Envision America and of AccessaMed was that they make what they wrote both interesting and informative and that they be more than simple advertisements for their products. I believe each has made a genuine effort to comply with our request. Of course both companies need and want to publicize what they have, and each needs to capture market share, so in these two articles you will find some general information and some straightforward advertising. We hope this is helpful to all concerned.
"Take two aspirin and call me in the morning."
Ah, if only it were that easy! For most of us, though, managing our prescription medication regimens presents numerous issues and roadblocks. Trying to decipher pill shapes, bottle sizes, and multiple instructions can be more than just frustrating. It can also be hazardous to your health.
I'm sure we have all heard stories about medication errors. Not being able to easily read the label data can lead to a myriad of issues: taking the wrong medication or the wrong dosage, taking expired medication, taking medication differently than prescribed, mixing up medications, not knowing warnings or interaction notices, or having generic drugs changed without notice.
Isolated incidents? Think again. Prescription medication errors are more common than you might think and more frightening than you might imagine. It's not just the medication name and dosage to which we need access. More information appears on the label that is vital to our safety and health. If you take only one prescription and the dosage never changes, you are probably doing okay on your own without accessible accommodations. However, many of us regularly take multiple medications. The more we take, the harder it is to remember information and to keep everything controlled and organized, and the easier it is to get things mixed up. In the past the only option was relying on systems such as rubber band reminders, keeping medications in a specific order on the counter, refilling old specially labeled bottles with new medicine, or having to ask another person to read the label for us. While these are still useful systems, many may find them inadequate.
Much has been said in the news lately about the technological advances in helping blind and visually impaired people manage prescription medications. Legislative and regulatory advances have been made as well, resulting in updated laws and requirements for pharmacies in providing access to prescription label information. This mountain of information can be confusing and overwhelming, enough to bring on a migraine, for which you might need to take a prescription, which means you need to access the label information . . . well, you get the idea.
When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was amended in 2010, it included more detail and clarified instructions on how public accommodations—specifically citing pharmacies—must provide auxiliary aids and services to blind or low-vision customers in order to provide effective communication. The new language goes on specifically to list large-print materials, Braille materials, and accessible electronic and information technology as recommended solutions. While the original rules and regulations have been in effect for more than twenty years and the updates for three, many pharmacies are still refusing to provide needed public accommodations that would make it possible for the blind and visually impaired to access prescription label information safely and privately. Whether this is due to ignorance of the law and available technology or claiming financial burden, such excuses have worn out their welcome. It is time for the pharmacies to be educated and time for them to implement solutions.
To answer the excuse of ignorance, the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act was passed in 2012. As part of this act the US Access Board was authorized to assemble a working group, with representation from members of both pharmacies and consumer advocates representing the blind, deaf-blind, visually impaired, and more. Their task was to develop a list of best practices or recommendations for pharmacies to implement and follow. This would ensure that their blind and visually impaired patients would have safe, private, independent, reliable, and consistent access to prescription label information.
After multiple meetings members of this working group devised a list of best practices in providing accessible prescription labels. They included detailed advisory criteria for producing large print, audible, and Braille labels. They were clear that a one-size-fits-all package would not work. This reflects the updated language of the ADA, which now obligates the pharmacy to consult with the individual and find out what aid is needed to ensure the effective communication of critical information.
One item of note that seems to confuse many is the statement that the best practices established by the working group "are not mandatory." It reads, "They [best practices] are not to be construed as accessibility guidelines or standards of the Access Board, nor do they confer any rights or impose any obligations on working group participants or other persons. The law makes it clear that nothing…is to be construed to limit or condition any right, obligation, or remedy available under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990…requiring effective communication, barrier removal, or nondiscrimination on the basis of disability."
Wait! What does that mean? The best practices have no influence? The pharmacies don't have to implement anything? The ADA doesn't have to be enforced? Actually, it means just the opposite. The FDA Safety and Innovation Act was intended to nullify any excuses that remained for pharmacies in denying access to label information. By outlining and detailing how to provide multiple solutions for effective communication to their blind customers, pharmacies would no longer have the defense of not knowing how to help or what services were available. The Safety and Innovation Act is a study guide to the ADA. ADA outlines what pharmacies are required to provide for their patients, and the Safety and Innovation Act outlines how they can do it. It gives support to the individual to say, "These are my rights. Here are your options. This is what I need. Now please do it." As stated in the ADA, "In order to be effective, auxiliary aids and services must be provided in accessible formats, in a timely manner, and in such a way as to protect the privacy and independence of the individual with a disability."
So what is the next step? It's clear that we must raise our voices loudly and insist that pharmacies provide the services granted to us under the ADA. It is important that we speak up, both as individuals and as communities and advocacy groups. We need to make sure that the pharmacies understand that we know our rights and that we will not take no for an answer.
Because of a "negotiated legal settlement," one major pharmacy chain is beginning to offer accessible prescription labels. Over the last year or two Walmart has been providing the ScripTalk™ Talking Labels to patients at about three dozen pharmacies across the country, as well as through its mail order facility. That's great, and it's totally free. In conformance with the requirements of the ADA, pharmacies can't charge for accessibility. The ScripTalk Station patient reader is free to the individual by calling the company at (800) 890-1180. So, if you don't happen to have a local Walmart that is supplying ScripTalk labels, it is imperative that you ask your Walmart pharmacist for the service. Tell him or her that you want it. Demand that Walmart provide it.
In addition to Walmart, CVS is also providing the talking labels through its mail order service. There are another hundred or so pharmacies across the country that are currently offering ScripTalk to their customers. Many of these pharmacies offer large print and Braille labels too.
For those pharmacies that continue to deny accessibility, we can't lose hope. Again, we must speak up and speak out, and keep doing so until we get what we need. Ask to talk with your pharmacy's district supervisor, or call its national customer service line. Request to speak with an ADA compliance specialist, explain the situation, and state your rights and requests. Let him or her know that an ADA lawsuit is not out of the question. The point here is that the squeaky wheel gets oiled.
Let's not play Russian roulette with our medications anymore. We live in a time in which technology is continually advancing. We just need to make sure that the laws and their enforcement are advancing as well. Not only can we make our own lives safer and more independent, we can make a change and a difference for everyone if we take action and continue to push this forward. The ADA is in place. The US Access Board's best practices for prescription labels are in place. The technology is in place. Accessibility is within reach. Let's grab it!
by Les Fitzpatrick
From the Editor: Les Fitzpatrick is employed by AccessaMed™ and is adamant in saying that he is also a supporter and a customer. He uses the product he enthusiastically promotes to help him identify medications to control his diabetes and high blood pressure. Les has been a state president in Oklahoma and a chapter president in the state of Washington, where he now resides. Here is what he has to say about the Digital Audio Label:
Chad has been blind since he was five, a tragic accident with a lead pencil and a toy dart gun. As a child he learned Braille, and, as he got older, he learned to use advanced assistive technologies like computers with screen-reading programs and Braille notetakers. Yet, with all of this technology, he continually struggled to take his prescribed medications safely and independently.
Chad tried numerous ways to differentiate his prescription bottles, including a homemade labeling system in which he put rubber bands on each bottle to help identify its medication. One rubber band for this medication, two rubber bands for that medication—now imagine trying this with eight or more medications. As Chad got older, it was also difficult for him to rely on his teenage children to successfully pronounce medications like hydrochlorothiazide and gemfibrozil. He even tried to remember the different shapes and sizes associated with his medications, but that proved even more dangerous since shape and size change from one manufacturer to another or from one dose to another. The idea of Braille on a label was appealing to Chad at first, but, due to the amount of space Braille takes up, having more than four lines of it was impractical, and it was impossible to include all the print label information. At one time Chad used foam pieces cut out in the shapes of the sun for morning medications and a crescent moon for evening medications. This was not particularly effective since the foam pieces would degrade and fall off, leaving Chad once again asking his children for help.
Chad has been fortunate to have taken the wrong medication only once. He took an allergy pill rather than a sleeping pill before bed. Fortunately the only issue for Chad was that he did not sleep that night. Had this been a more serious mix-up, it could have resulted in consequences far more serious: an illness, an ER visit, or even death. This is a scary reality for those who are blind, and it is unconscionable that this country has not mandated that accessible labeling methods be developed and implemented in order for the visually impaired to be able to take their medications completely safely and independently.
These experiences prompted Chad and his business partners to join forces to create AccessaMed™ and find a solution that not only works but is the best product on the market. In 2011 AccessaMed created the Digital Audio Label to allow users accurately and independently to know what medication they are taking and the prescription details, all without daily assistance. The Digital Audio Label does not require expensive or complicated reading systems for users. It is a two-inch tall by one-inch wide device that permanently adheres to prescription bottles or packages. When you press the button on the label, the embedded speaker provides a clear and robust verbal description of the prescription details as prepared by the pharmacist, repeatable up to four hundred times. The Digital Audio Label does not replace the pharmacist's printed label applied to the prescription. It is affixed in addition to that label.
So, you may be asking, why does AccessaMed claim to be the best on the market? To start, AccessaMed understands that blind people have multiple devices and don't need more to carry around. With smartphones, talking watches, Braille notetakers and Braille displays, digital/cassette recorders, and digital Talking Book players, the last thing they need is one more device to carry. The Digital Audio Label provides immediate access to prescription information and is completely portable. In addition to fulfilling the customer’s need, the AccessaMed Digital Audio Label satisfies the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Safety and Innovation Act, which requires pharmacies to provide accessible prescription drug labeling for the blind, those with low vision, and seniors. In developing best practices, the Access Board confirmed the use of Braille, auditory means, and enhanced visual means. Research has shown that an ever-increasing number of blind and low-vision seniors do not read Braille, do not want huge folded labels with large print, and do not want expensive and complicated devices. They need a simple answer: push a button and have the prescription spoken clearly and concisely. They want the AccessaMed solution.
by Sean Whalen
From the Editor: Sean Whalen is the president of the National Association of Blind Students, is a first year master in public policy student at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and will be pursuing a law degree in a concurrent program. Here is a note he has written to encourage students to advocate for accessible software at colleges and universities around the country:
We have a wonderful opportunity to use our status as students to help further the work of the NFB. Dr. Maurer called me yesterday afternoon and advised me that we are in continued conversations with Google regarding the accessibility of Google Apps, which are frequently used by schools and universities. Unfortunately, Google Apps have many features that are inaccessible. We need to change this, and this effort is building momentum. The Provost of the University of Michigan has recently circulated the two communications that appear below to faculty and students at U of M. As you can read after this message, Michigan will not be requiring, and is in fact discouraging, the use of Google Apps for coursework, class projects, or communication between students until Google Apps are accessible and fully useable by disabled students, including the blind. This is a strong message, but we need to increase the pressure on Google. They need to hear this message from other colleges and universities, and they need to hear it now.
Does your school use Google Apps or is it considering it? Show your administration the principled and courageous stand that the University of Michigan has taken, and urge them to do the same. Educate your school's administration about how Google Apps leave blind students out, how they detract from our full participation in the classroom, and how they degrade our educational experience. I personally have run across inaccessible Google products here at HKS and will certainly be sharing the message below with my dean. I urge each of you to do the same. This is one of those instances in which we as students can step up to make a difference for all blind students and shape the future. Please take a few minutes to communicate the importance of accessibility in all aspects of education, and show your school that it is possible to take a stand. Technology can either open doors for the blind or seal them shut. I know which I prefer. So, please, take a moment and help show Google that accessibility matters by getting your school to communicate its commitment to accessibility.
Please call or write if you have any questions, and share this with anybody committed to equal access in education for the blind. Many thanks.
Below is the letter from the University of Michigan.
As you know, the University of Michigan has transitioned to Google Apps for Education for email, calendar, and collaboration tools. The university has been in regular contact with Google over the past year about the accessibility of their products, and we have conducted numerous tests to measure their progress. While Google has demonstrated definite improvements, much work remains to make the experience acceptable and equitable for individuals who have disabilities. Because Google Docs and Drive, Chat, Sites, and other collaborative technologies in the Google suite do not work well with standard assistive technologies, you should not require students to use them in coursework. In other words, you should not assign work where the only option to complete the work involves use of these tools, and, even if their use is optional, you should be extremely sensitive and avoid situations in which students who have disabilities may be disadvantaged if the Google suite is the preferred alternative.
I am also writing to our students to ask them to be cautious in their informal use of this suite of applications, avoiding them whenever their use may disadvantage students who have disabilities.
Google email and Calendar are accessible with standard assistive technologies when used with the client interface for Outlook or Mac Mail. Students, faculty, or staff may call 4-HELP for assistance in setting up the client interface, or they may visit the Knox Center Adaptive Technology Computing Site on the first floor of the Shapiro Library. Generally, if you need assistance in making your courses or technology accessible to students who have disabilities, don't hesitate to work with the Knox Center or the Services for Students with Disabilities.
We will continue to work with Google to address the accessibility issues in their software systems, and we expect that changes will be made so that they meet the needs of all our students.The university is committed to equal opportunity and equal access, and we are continually working harder to find ways to make the tools we use, facilities we access, and methods we apply accessible to our entire community. Please visit the sites below to learn more about how to support our community members with disabilities.
From the Editor: We recently received this announcement from the United States Department of Transportation. As you would expect, the times outlined here demonstrate significant inattention to the immediate needs of the blind, and President Maurer makes this clear in the article following this one. Here is what the Department of Transportation says:
Disabled travelers should find it easier to access airline websites under a new set of rules the government issued on Monday. Airline website pages that have core travel information and services must be accessible to the disabled within two years, the Department of Transportation said, and all pages on airline websites must within three years be readily available to people with disabilities. The new regulations also require airline ticket agents to disclose—and offer—web-based discount fares to customers unable to use their sites due to a disability. Airlines are already required to provide equivalent service for consumers who are unable to use inaccessible websites.
Airlines and airports will also have to make accessible to the disabled automated kiosks providing boarding passes and baggage tags as they purchase new equipment. If no kiosks are installed, 25 percent of the kiosks currently at each airport location must be accessible within ten years. Another new rule gives airlines more flexibility in how they transport manual, folding wheelchairs onboard, making it possible for them to carry up to two wheelchairs in the cabin, the department said. In addition to being able to stow a wheelchair in a closet, airlines will also be allowed to strap a second chair across a row of seats. Closets must also have signs saying wheelchairs have priority over other baggage.
At the same time the department announced that it has fined US Airways $1.2 million for failing to provide adequate wheelchair access to passengers in Philadelphia and Charlotte, NC. It's one of the largest penalties of its kind ever assessed by the agency in a disability case.
Under the department's rules, airlines are required to provide free, prompt wheelchair assistance, upon request, to passengers with disabilities. The department said this includes helping passengers to move between gates and make connections to other flights. The department said that US Airways use of a combination of electric carts and wheelchairs to transport passengers between gates required frequent transfers and led to long delays. It said that some passengers missed connections because of the delays or were left unattended for long periods of time.The department examined some three hundred complaints that passengers filed with US Airways and the government relating to alleged hardship incidents in 2011 and 2012 at Philadelphia International Airport and at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. That was only a sample of the total number of complaints. The department said US Airways may allocate up to $500,000 of the fine for improvements that go beyond the DOT's requirements.
by Marc Maurer
From the Editor: A version of this article appeared in The Hill on Wednesday, November 18, 2013. This opinion piece was introduced as follows: “Maurer is president of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). With 50,000 members the NFB is the largest and oldest nationwide organization of blind people." Here is what President Maurer said:
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is usually the busiest travel day of the year, so most planning to fly home for the holidays are prepared for high fares, long lines, and potentially substandard service. Thankfully, passengers have ways to prepare for the complications—compare fares online to get the lowest rate, monitor flight delays using mobile apps, print boarding passes ahead of time, and check bags using the kiosk—but the blind and other disabled passengers are denied access to these services.
And after years of the blind being relegated to a second-class travel experience, the Obama administration has released a rule that will allow this inequality to continue for years to come. No one would tolerate the nightmare of holiday travel for every flying experience. Why should the blind?
According to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), we do not have to. The ACAA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel and requires air carriers to accommodate passengers with disabilities. Although the ability to make technology accessible to people with disabilities has existed for many years, most air carrier and travel websites are completely inaccessible to people with disabilities, and so are the kiosks available as an alternative to long lines at the curb and ticket counters.
In 2008 the Obama administration acknowledged this inequality as a violation of the ACAA, and blind Americans have been waiting for five years for a solution. The much-anticipated final rule was released last week, and we are profoundly disappointed. The rule takes only a fraction of the measures that were initially proposed and establishes a timeline so liberal (read: slack) that the technology will likely be obsolete when carriers are finished making changes.
The Obama administration waited far too long to take action and then released a meaningless rule. It would have been better for the administration to do nothing—this weak rule sets a bad precedent that will drive future disability regulations throughout the federal government. This is a terrible setback for disabled Americans.
Technology offers more than just convenience: it can create opportunities to expand the circle of participation. For example, consider how airlines display departure and arrival information. First the information was on tablets displayed behind the ticket counter. Later digital screens provided a streamlined and frequently updated presentation of information on multiple flights across multiple airlines. Now live information is instantly available online and on your phone. The first two ways of disseminating information are inherently inaccessible to those who cannot read print, but disseminating information electronically over websites or mobile apps allows blind people to have the same instant access to flight data as everyone else.
This opportunity is missed when airlines refuse to make their websites and apps accessible to users with disabilities, despite readily available solutions. Guidelines to make websites accessible have been available since the 1990s, and the most up-to-date set of criteria, known as "WCAG 2.0 AA," has been around since 2008. The WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines are flexible prescriptions for web designers to make content accessible, but most airlines have resisted following them. The same organization of experts that created these guidelines released best practices for mobile apps, but those have also been widely ignored. The rule requires airlines to make websites WCAG 2.0 AA compliant, but gives them two years to make only web pages with "core travel services" accessible. The rule allows an extra year for airlines to fix the rest of their sites. Why offer three years for airlines to incorporate five-year-old solutions? Even more puzzling, the rule excludes apps, mobile websites, and travel agent sites.
The rule also gives airlines an appalling ten years to make only 25 percent of kiosks at each location accessible. This means disabled passengers have to wait an entire decade for only a quarter of kiosks to be usable.
Technology changes so fast that, by the time the government mandates accessibility, the technology in question has evolved into a new product or been replaced with a new innovation. When airlines finally update their web pages in three years, most passengers will be using mobile apps. When airlines finally update their self-service machines in ten years, kiosks may be obsolete. Maybe then the federal government will take action on mobile apps, and the cycle of delayed "access" will continue.
Those flying this Thanksgiving will do a lot of waiting: at the security line, at the gate, and on the tarmac. Disabled passengers have spent years waiting for access to the same services as non-disabled passengers, and now the Obama administration is telling us to wait longer. We are tired of waiting. The government must end this discrimination by amending this rule so the timeline makes sense and the access is not partial, spotty, or incomplete, but fully available to all. Until then, the only thing I will be giving thanks for is the option to take a train.
by Linda Bacon, PhD, and Judith Matz, LCSW
From the Editor: Linda Bacon is a nutrition professor, researcher, and author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight. Her personal website is <www.LindaBacon.org>. Judith Matz is director of the Chicago Center for Overcoming Overeating, Inc., has a private practice in Skokie, Illinois, and is coauthor of The Diet Survivor's Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance and Self-Care. Her website is <www.dietsurvivors.com>. This article is reprinted with permission from Diabetes Self-Management, November/December 2010. ©2010 R.A. Rapaport Publishing, Inc. For subscription information please call (800) 234-0923. Or for a free trial issue visit us on the web at <http://offer.diabetesselfmanagement.com/>. Here is what these two experts have to say about handling diabetes, food, and balancing the two:
Jenna, a new client, was explaining what she wanted to get out of her counseling sessions. She said, "I want to love food again. I want to pop a juicy strawberry into my mouth and not think about my blood sugar. I want to enjoy a slice of gooey cake at my son's birthday party, guilt-free. I want to go to a dinner party and feel free to eat whatever my friend prepares." And what stopped her from enjoying eating? "I have diabetes," she said.
This was followed by a pause, as if that sentence explained it all—that a diagnosis of diabetes means that food and eating can no longer be enjoyed. Jenna's concerns aren't surprising, given the advice most people with diabetes receive about food choices and meal planning. When you're asked to consider the carbohydrate content, fat content, glycemic load, and potential impact on your weight of everything you eat, it can be extremely difficult to maintain a healthy relationship with food, to truly enjoy eating, and to allow food to nourish you. It doesn't help when doctors, dietitians, friends, and family members all seem to have something to add to the topic of how to eat with diabetes.
If the prospect of choosing foods strikes fear in you or if you've tried several "diabetic diets" and none of them worked for you in the long run, we've got some great news: there's no need to see food as your enemy or to carefully restrict your eating. In fact the opposite is true. The secret to managing your diabetes lies in learning to celebrate food and its amazing ability to nourish you.
Chances are you've been prescribed a food regimen to help control your blood glucose levels. If you're like most people, you find it hard to stick with a rigid plan, and, if your meal plan excludes certain foods that you like, you mourn the loss of those foods. Perhaps you've tried to follow your meal plan, only to find yourself eating the very foods you were told to avoid. Perhaps you were told you needed to lose weight, and, even though you shed some pounds, a few months later they returned. You may wonder why you can't just get your act together and take better care of yourself. In fact, if you have Type 2 diabetes, you may think that if you'd done a better job monitoring your food intake and weight before your diagnosis, you wouldn't be in this predicament now. So here's our first piece of advice: don't blame yourself!
Genes play a large role in the development of diabetes. We're all born with challenges in our genetic code—as well as in our life circumstances—and this is one of the challenges you were dealt. Your body was vulnerable to difficulty with glucose regulation, and some combination of factors triggered that genetic propensity. However, now that a diagnosis of diabetes has made you aware of your body's trouble regulating glucose, you're in the driver's seat. You can learn how to manage your blood glucose and nourish yourself better. To get there, you may need to let go of certain beliefs that harm rather than help you. Intuitive eating means eating what feels right to you, when it feels right.
In the care and treatment of Type 2 diabetes, the value of achieving and maintaining weight loss has long been an unchallenged tenet. So you may be surprised to learn that there is limited evidence to support this emphasis. In fact, evidence suggests that the pursuit of weight loss—which more often results in fluctuating weight than permanent weight loss—can actually be harmful, both physically and emotionally. It also tends to distract a person from the behaviors and attitudes that really can improve one's health, such as eating well, being physically active, and cultivating a positive sense of self.
It's true that the majority of people with Type 2 diabetes fall into the body-mass index (BMI) categories of "overweight" or "obese." But it's also true that insulin resistance, one of the main underlying problems in Type 2 diabetes, encourages weight gain. In fact, weight gain may actually be an early symptom—rather than a primary cause—of the path toward Type 2 diabetes.
A short explanation of the science behind diabetes may help explain how this weight gain happens. Insulin is a hormone responsible for guiding nutrients—both glucose and fat—out of your bloodstream and into your cells. If you have diabetes, your pancreas can't make sufficient insulin and/or your cells are resistant to insulin, meaning they don't respond effectively to insulin's message. In either case you may have difficulty getting glucose into the cells that need it for energy. Instead, the excess glucose remains in your bloodstream, a situation that is believed to contribute to many of the complications associated with diabetes.
In people with Type 1 diabetes prolonged high blood glucose typically leads to weight loss as the glucose exits the body in the urine and the body begins to break down fat tissue for energy. In people with Type 2 diabetes (or prediabetes) whose pancreases still make insulin, the body's response to high blood glucose is to make and release more insulin, resulting in hyperinsulinemia, or higher-than-normal blood insulin levels. Hyperinsulinemia may promote weight gain in three ways: by causing increased storage of glucose as fat; by interfering with the action of the hormone leptin, which normally signals the brain that the body has had enough to eat; and by increasing the pleasure derived from food, even when the body does not need more calories. Given these mechanisms, it's not surprising that many people gain weight when they have Type 2 diabetes.
Without a doubt weight loss is very effective at improving blood glucose control in the short term. But this doesn't mean that your health will be better off in the long run. A review of controlled weight loss studies involving people with Type 2 diabetes showed that initial improvements in glucose control were followed by a return to starting levels of control within six to eighteen months, even in the few cases where weight loss was maintained. What can have lasting positive results, however, is developing sustainable behaviors. A wealth of evidence shows that people of all sizes can substantially improve their blood glucose control and their general health and well-being through healthy behaviors—even in the absence of weight loss.
A new approach to diabetes management that emphasizes wellness rather than weight is called Health at Every Size (HAES). HAES encourages people to trust their body to guide them in making nourishing food choices and attaining a natural weight. The HAES program includes three guiding concepts:
Many people who have diabetes feel betrayed by their body and find it difficult to trust that their body can actually support them in eating well. However, research shows that you can learn to read your body's signals and respond to them in a loving, nourishing way. Intuitive eating means eating what feels right to you, when it feels right. This approach helps you to reclaim the pleasure in eating and at the same time allows your body to help you manage your diabetes.
The first step in becoming an intuitive eater is to shift away from external rules about when you should eat and to learn to listen to your body's internal cues. We were all born with the ability to know when we are physically hungry, and you can reconnect with this natural signal.
To identify your physical hunger, pay attention to signals such as an empty or gnawing feeling in your stomach, a feeling of low energy or lethargy, a headache, difficulty concentrating, irritability, or persistent thoughts of food. Each person experiences hunger a little differently, and your job is to learn what hunger feels like to you. Checking your blood glucose level when you feel these sensations can provide you with valuable information. If it is low, the feeling you are experiencing is indeed physical hunger. If your blood glucose is high, your impulse to eat may be coming from an emotional rather than a physical trigger, but that's not always the case. If for some reason your body doesn't have enough insulin available to move the glucose in your bloodstream into the cells that need it, you may be experiencing real hunger. Insufficient insulin can result from not enough being injected (in those who inject insulin) or from a pancreas that simply can't put out enough to handle the level of glucose in the blood. And while food is the best known contributor to glucose in the bloodstream, high blood glucose can also occur after intense exercise, as a consequence of an infection (even one that you're not aware of having), and as a side effect of certain drugs. Having high blood glucose when you're feeling hungry, therefore, is an opportunity to think about what's going on for you at that moment and to ask yourself whether your urge to eat is coming from a physical trigger or an emotional one.
As you become an intuitive eater, you can experiment with different amounts and combinations of foods and get feedback through assessing how you feel and checking your blood glucose level. If you take insulin, you can also experiment with the dose and timing. You'll find that responding to true hunger is one way to put the pleasure back in eating; food actually tastes better when you are hungry. To ensure that you can eat what you want when you are hungry, it's a good strategy to always carry a bag of food with you that includes a wide range of options.
If you find that you are frequently turning to food before you are physically hungry, ask yourself, "Can I wait?" Remind yourself that as soon as you are hungry, you will eat. The more you practice listening to your body's signals and responding to them, the less you will feel the drive to eat when you're not really hungry. However, if you continue to turn to food for emotional reasons in spite of this work, consider doing some further reading or seeking counseling to learn how to manage your feelings without reaching for food.
Just as it's important to move away from external rules about when to eat, it's also important to let go of the rules about what you "should" or "shouldn't" eat. Instead, think about what food(s) would feel truly nourishing in your body. By choosing foods you like that will also keep your body feeling well, you can end the feelings of deprivation you may have surrounding food. When you eat, pay attention to how various foods affect you. Note how you feel physically and mentally before and after eating. Check your blood glucose level before and two hours after eating for additional feedback on the foods you chose. The more you do this, the more you will feel in charge of your eating and your diabetes care, rather than feeling controlled by them.
Here are some examples of how people with diabetes are using intuitive eating in their everyday lives:
Kara experimented with different types of food as she moved toward intuitive eating. For lunch one day she made a burrito filled with beans, vegetables, brown rice, and cheese. She felt nourished by this meal, and her energy level felt great. Her blood glucose check two hours after the start of this meal confirmed that she was in an acceptable range. Kara's positive eating experience resulted, in part, from the fact that her meal was high in fiber from the beans, vegetables, and brown rice. The fiber both filled her up and slowed the rate of glucose entering her bloodstream, keeping it at a healthy level. Kara was careful to concentrate on how foods felt in her body, which guided her to make choices that supported her wellness.
Jesse loved to eat fried chicken. However, when he checked his blood glucose level two hours after eating a fried chicken meal, it was over 300 mg/dl—well above the preferred range of less than 180 mg/dl two hours after a meal. Jesse recognized that he had also eaten mashed potatoes, gravy, and creamed corn because they were included with the meal, not because he really wanted them. He decided that in the future he would tune in to what he really wanted, not just eat what was offered. The next time he ate fried chicken, he chose green beans and a baked potato as side dishes. His blood glucose level following this meal was 164 mg/dl. Through this process Jesse learned how his body reacts to various foods. He was able to continue eating the foods he loves while successfully managing his diabetes. In the future, if Jesse wanted to eat the mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn with his fried chicken, he could experiment with eating a smaller quantity of each to keep his blood glucose level down.
Chris loved to eat bread. When she checked her blood glucose level a couple of hours after eating several slices from a freshly baked loaf, it was too high. She started to pair the bread with some peanut butter, which helped keep her blood glucose below 180 mg/dl, since fat helps slow the rate at which glucose gets into the blood. Knowing that a high-fat snack or meal can cause a delayed rise in blood glucose after eating, Chris also checked her blood glucose level three to four hours after her snack to receive additional feedback.
Remember the gooey cake that Jenna wished she could eat without guilt at her son's birthday party? After several months of practicing intuitive eating, Jenna realized that on days when she sat around the house, eating a piece of cake would send her blood glucose level too high, leaving her feeling tired. But when she was physically active, she felt better, and her blood glucose level tended to stay in a healthy range. So after a wonderful celebration of her son's fifth birthday, she took her dog for a long walk. Her goal is to walk more regularly. For now, though, she is glad to know that walking helps get glucose out of her blood and into her cells without requiring more insulin. This motivates her to be more active and also enables her to enjoy her cake.
Becoming an intuitive eater and learning how to feed yourself in a way that gives you pleasure takes some experimentation. The payoff is the feeling of sustained energy that comes from matching your hunger with pleasurable, nourishing food choices.
When you are hungry and eat exactly what you are hungry for, it feels very satisfying. As you eat, there's a point when you've had enough, and the food no longer tastes as good. By paying attention to this internal cue, you can stop eating when you are full so that your body feels satisfied and comfortable. But keep in mind that, if there is no physical hunger signal to start eating, there will be no internal signal to stop. One thought that may make it easier for you to put down your fork or spoon when you've had enough is that, when you are hungry again, you will eat again—the same food as you are eating now, or something else if you prefer.
There may be times when you suddenly feel hungry again even though you recently finished eating. This may be because your insulin-resistant cells have not yet received the energy from the meal. Try making your meals smaller in this case and eating more frequently. Smaller meals will require your pancreas to release less insulin, so you may have a better match between the amount of glucose from the meal and the amount of available insulin. You will learn in time, based on the way your body feels, how much food is right for you at a particular moment.
Craving food after a filling meal may also mean that your food choices didn't entirely satisfy your needs. Hillary found that when she ate salmon, a plain baked potato, and vegetables for dinner, she would over-eat cookies later in the evening even though she wasn't hungry. Upon reflection she realized that while she loved the foods she chose, something was missing. In her effort to reduce her fat intake so that she might lose weight, she never felt completely satisfied after a meal. She tried having some cheese and crackers before dinner and found that at the end of the meal she felt comfortably full— eliminating the nighttime overeating of cookies that she didn't really want. On the evenings when she did want something sweet after dinner, she had some cookies or fruit—depending on what she felt like eating at the time—and stopped when she felt satisfied. Hillary recently saw her doctor for a checkup and was pleased by her test results, which are a measure of blood glucose control over the past two to four months.
As you become an intuitive eater, honoring your internal cues and reclaiming the pleasure in eating, you will be in a much stronger position to make decisions about your health. The transition from a focus on dietary control and weight loss to the HAES mindset, with an emphasis on wellness, will put you in charge of managing your diabetes and altering your choices as necessary.
After six months of learning to become an intuitive eater, Jenna reported: "The best part is that the internal guidance of my body's cues is reliable. I don't feel bad about 'cheating' anymore because there's no such thing—it's just eating! I've loved getting back in touch with my real stomach hunger and enjoying what I eat, instead of rushing through and eating as much as I can since, as a large person, I'm 'not supposed' to eat. I find that I feel better and have more energy when I eat healthful foods. I certainly don't deprive myself, but I do try to pay attention to enjoying really good food, prepared with love and eaten slowly. My blood sugar readings have improved significantly, and I'm nicer, too!"
As mentioned earlier, it takes time and practice to develop the skills of intuitive eating. Fortunately, there is a large HAES community and an abundance of resources that can support and inform your journey. For more information about the Health at Every Size philosophy and about resources that can help you reshape your relationships to food, weight, and body image, here are two resources:
We wish you well on the journey to a healthy, positive, and pleasurable relationship with food!
by Greg Trapp
From the Editor: From time to time someone in the press does a story on blind people who own or use guns. Regardless of how the story is slanted, it always provokes debate. No matter how one feels about the interpretation of the Second Amendment, in the debate concerning the blind the issue is always whether we can safely use a gun or benefit from having one. It isn't just the judgment of blind people that is called into question but whether we have the physical senses and the experience to use them in safely aiming a weapon.
I think most of us who are blind proved to our friends and enemies alike that we have the skills in early childhood when we experimented with the water gun, the rubber band shooter, or the paper wad propelled by the rubber band. I remember getting stung by those paper wads and finally deciding that I would no longer be passive about the matter. I learned to roll the paper tightly, got myself a stash of rubber bands, and, after having been shot during the course of a high school history lecture, I aimed my paper wad and prepared to shoot. Blindness posed no problem with my aim, but it did make it harder for me to observe the teacher who, when he was talking, had his back to me, but who had turned around while I was aiming and said, "Gary, if you want that shot to do any good, aim a bit lower. Hitting him in the back of the head is a waste of paper; hitting him on the back of his neck just above the shirt collar may get his attention."
Greg Trapp is the executive director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, a position he has held since 1999. Prior to becoming commission director, he was a senior staff attorney with Disability Rights New Mexico. He has taught disability law as an adjunct professor, and he is a past president of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB). He currently serves on the NCSAB Executive Committee and is vice president of the New Mexico Navy League Council. He is also a longtime member of the National Federation of the Blind. Here are his personal thoughts about the issue of blind people and guns:
The issue of guns is one of the most divisive topics in modern American politics. Some see gun ownership as a cherished right and tradition that should be protected and expanded, while others see it as a risk to public safety that should be more tightly controlled and regulated. The issue of blind people owning and using guns has recently factored into the contentious debate. After the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Stevie Wonder called for additional gun control, saying that current gun laws were “ridiculous." Seeking to underscore his point, he said, “Imagine me with a gun. It’s just crazy.” In New Jersey a blind person was recently arrested for carrying ammunition on an airplane and for having an undeclared handgun in his luggage. New Jersey has also been the location of the long-running case of Steve Hopler, in which the state sought to take away Hopler’s guns. Most recently it was Iowa, where National Federation of the Blind state president Mike Barber garnered international attention when he spoke out on the rights of the blind to buy a gun or obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun. Regardless of one’s position on the overarching issue of guns and gun control, the outcome of this debate has the potential either to constrict or to expand the rights and opportunities available to the blind, and it is a matter that should concern us all.
Responding to the recent spate of stories regarding blind people and guns, on September 12, 2013, the National Federation of the Blind issued the following statement on gun ownership by blind individuals:
In recent days there has been much discussion about whether blind individuals should be permitted to own and/or carry firearms. The National Federation of the Blind, the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans, understands that guns are dangerous weapons and that anyone who owns, carries, or uses them must therefore exercise great care and sound judgment in doing so. Blindness has no adverse impact on a person’s ability to exercise due care and good judgment. State firearms laws must be applied in a nondiscriminatory manner to blind individuals. Recognizing that laws and regulations regarding the granting of permits to own and/or carry firearms vary throughout our country, our single position on firearms regulation is that a permit to own and/or carry a gun should not be denied to any individual solely on the basis of blindness.
It is indeed true that “blindness has no adverse impact on a person’s ability to exercise due care and good judgment.” Those who reflexively say that blind people should not possess guns are likely doing so under the mistaken belief that blind people are intrinsically unable to exercise good judgment or due care when deciding whether to own or discharge a firearm. That belief assumes that a blind person is incapable of being anything other than careless and that a blind person will haphazardly fire without any awareness or regard where the bullet may strike. Such a belief is based on a lack of understanding of blindness and of the capabilities of people who are blind. It assumes that blind people lack the ability to reason and exercise common sense.
Those who contend that a blind person should not be allowed to possess a gun would add us to the list of people who are prohibited by federal law from purchasing or owning a firearm. The prohibited list includes felons, fugitives, people convicted of misdemeanors involving domestic violence, people subject to a domestic abuse restraining order, people who are unlawfully using or addicted to controlled substances, people dishonorably discharged from the US armed forces, people adjudicated to be “mental defectives,” and people “committed to mental institutions.” Proponents of stricter gun control laws contend that the list should be expanded to include people that have been shown by studies to be at higher risk of gun-related crimes, such as people convicted of certain misdemeanors or who are “dangerously mentally ill.” Some states have adopted laws to restrict gun ownership on the basis of such studies. What is lacking from the current debate is any comparable study showing that there is a problem with blind people owning guns or, even more implausibly, that blind people are somehow more likely to commit gun-related crimes. Instead, people who are blind are simply assumed to lack capacity or constitute a danger. In the language of the Gun Control Act of 1968, those who want to exclude the blind from being able to purchase a gun are placing the blind in the same status as those people adjudicated to be mentally “defective” or “committed to mental institutions.”
In reality blind people are far from unique in terms of being unable to see the target. There are countless circumstances when a sighted person cannot see what he or she might shoot. For instance a .30-06 hunting rifle has a maximum range of over three miles and can easily fire through multiple walls. A 9mm pistol is also capable of firing through more than one wall and has a maximum range of over a mile. Even the diminutive .22 rimfire can penetrate walls and fire out to a range of more than a mile. Because a bullet can be fired over great distances and through objects, a sighted shooter’s view of where a bullet could impact will potentially be blocked by walls, floors, ceilings, fences, buildings, signs, hills, bushes, trees, and a myriad of other items. A gun can also be fired in the pitch black of night, in a darkened room, in thick smoke, or in a dense fog. Bullets can also ricochet in unpredictable directions. In other words a sighted gun owner has the potential to shoot people he cannot see. This is exactly the same argument made against people who are blind. The only difference is that a blind person is presumed to be inherently incapable of exercising good judgment, whereas a sighted person is presumed to be capable of using good judgment. Conversely, the presence of sight does not bestow good judgment or infallible decision-making. Even highly trained law enforcement officers with perfect vision can misinterpret what they see and make a tragic error, such as the case of a child with a toy gun being mistaken for a criminal with a real firearm.
The issue of blind people firing guns is far from new. One of the most famous incidents took place during the World War II battle of Guadalcanal. On August 21, 1942, the First Marine Division was positioned to defend against Japanese attacks at the Ilu River. Private Al Schmid, Private John Rivers, and Corporal Leroy Diamond were deployed on the west bank of the river. The three Marines were manning an M1917 .30 caliber machine gun. The Japanese attack began at 3:00 AM. Schmid, Rivers, and Diamond responded by firing their machine gun against the attacking Japanese troops, who were yelling and shouting at the American forces. Schmid took over the machine gun after Rivers was killed and Diamond was wounded in the arm. “Tell me which way they’re coming from and I’ll get them,” Schmid told Diamond. Diamond spotted targets in the dark, and pointed in the direction Schmid was to fire. After battling this way for several hours, Schmid was seriously wounded in the face and arm by an exploding hand grenade. “They got me in the eyes,” Schmid told Diamond. Schmid reached for his .45 automatic pistol, and Diamond said, “Don’t do it, Schmitty, don’t shoot yourself.” Schmid replied, “I’m going to get the first Jap that tries to come in here.” “But you can’t see,” Diamond told him. “Just tell me which way he’s coming from and I’ll get him,” Schmid said. At this point it was beginning to get light, and their position was starting to come under more accurate and intense enemy fire. Although seriously wounded and blinded, Schmid reassumed his position at the machine gun and began firing with Diamond yelling directions. When the battle was over and the Japanese forces were defeated, Schmid was credited with killing over 200 Japanese soldiers. Schmid, Rivers, and Diamond were each awarded the Navy Cross for their extraordinary heroism and conspicuous devotion to duty, with Rivers’ medal being awarded posthumously. The story of Schmid’s combat action and subsequent life as a blinded veteran was the basis of the movie, Pride of the Marines.
There are several lessens that can be derived from the heroic story of Al Schmid. Most of the battle took place at night and at a time when Schmid was unable to see the target at which he was shooting. The Japanese forces were yelling taunts at their American opponents, and Schmid was using the noise of their taunts to adjust his aim. Diamond was also directing Schmid’s fire, a technique that is commonly employed by blind shooters. While it is normal for the members of a machine gun team to help spot targets, Diamond was probably also spotting because Schmid was directly behind the machine gun, and the bright muzzle flash would have hindered his vision of the target. Once Schmid was blinded, and even though it was starting to get light, Diamond still continued to spot for Schmid. For his actions, Schmid was awarded the Navy’s second highest honor. The only higher award Schmid could have received would have been the Congressional Medal of Honor. In essence the Navy recognized that Schmid was exercising “good judgment” as well as valor in his decision to fire his machine gun against enemy forces and to ready his .45 pistol to defend his position.
The concept of a person handling a gun without seeing the target would have been very familiar to the United States Navy. For instance, the crews that fired the massive guns on American battleships relied on spotters and fire control systems to direct the guns, the largest of which could fire more than 23 miles. The military even taught its servicemen to assemble and disassemble their weapons while blindfolded. Al Schmid was newly blinded, but despite his serious injuries and the intense stress of combat, his Marine training helped him to know that he possessed the ability to exercise good judgment in either the use of his .45 pistol or in his .30 caliber machine gun.
A blind person is of course capable of exercising poor judgment, just like any other man or woman. However, a blind person who exercises poor judgment should be treated like any other individual in the same circumstances and not be held to a different standard merely on account of blindness. The long-running New Jersey case of Steve Hopler illustrates this point. Hopler lost his vision due to diabetes in 1991. Three years after he lost his vision, the police learned of Hopler’s blindness and revoked his permit to purchase guns, relying on a state law that said a gun permit should be denied to "any person who suffers from a physical defect or a disease which would make the owner unsafe to handle firearms." Hopler challenged the decision in court and won a ruling that allowed him to retain his permit and fire his guns in the presence of an adult trained in the use of firearms. In 2004 the police sought to revoke Hopler’s handgun permit because Hopler had been arrested for being drunk and unruly the year before. Hopler again challenged the decision and again prevailed. Had Hopler been convicted of a felony or of a disqualifying misdemeanor, he would have lost his right to own a firearm. Four years later Hopler accidentally shot himself in the leg while cleaning his .357 magnum handgun. While he recovered in the hospital, twelve of Hopler’s guns were stolen from his apartment, one of which was later used in a suicide. The investigating police found several more firearms in Hopler’s apartment. One of the guns was loaded and hidden in an oven mitt, and another loaded gun was hidden under a sofa. The police again decided to seek the forfeiture of Hopler’s guns. The same person who stole Hopler’s guns testified that Hopler drank alcohol to excess. Relying on this questionable testimony, the Morris County Prosecutor revoked Hopler’s gun permit and seized the rest of Hopler’s guns. In 2012 Hopler again won the right to have his guns returned after a ruling by a Morris County Superior Court that said his disability should not take away his Constitutional right to bear arms.
Another high-profile example of a blind gun owner who has received extensive media attention is Carey McWilliams. In contrast to Steve Hopler, McWilliams emphasizes his extensive firearms training and marksmanship skills. He has even written a book titled Guide Dogs and Guns: America's First Blind Marksman Fires Back. McWilliams obtained widespread media coverage in 2001 when he obtained a permit as the first totally blind person authorized to carry a concealed handgun. In 2007 he obtained a second concealed carry permit from Utah. Because of reciprocity agreements, McWilliams is allowed to carry a concealed handgun in more than half of the nation’s states. McWilliams has been called the “single largest threat to the Second Amendment,” has been the target of jokes in a segment of the Colbert Report, was interviewed on The Early Show with Bryant Gumbel, and was shown in the documentary Bowling for Columbine. He has promoted himself as an active hunter, using a variety of guns to bag game that has included an antelope, a bear, and an alligator. He has even downed ducks and pheasants in flight. According to McWilliams, “brains are more important than sight for safe carrying.”
There are certainly many Americans who sincerely and strongly believe that gun laws need to be reformed and that tighter gun controls need to be put in place. Stevie Wonder doubtless falls into the category of people who seek additional gun control. However, the debate over gun control is a matter of overarching public policy and should be distinct from the issue of whether blind people ought to be allowed to own or purchase guns.
There are also many Americans who sincerely and strongly believe that gun ownership is a right that needs to be protected and expanded. It is likely that at least some of these Second Amendment supporters might be uncomfortable with the thought that blind people are able to own or purchase firearms. However, they may be even more uncomfortable with the potential consequences of prohibiting gun ownership on the basis of blindness, which is why Carey McWilliams has been labeled the “single largest threat to the Second Amendment.” What makes McWilliams a threat to the Second Amendment is that expanding the prohibited list to include blindness might create a slippery slope leading to other medical or disability-related restrictions. For instance, if gun ownership could be prohibited on the basis of blindness, it might be argued with equal reason that a deaf or hard of hearing person might not hear a range master’s instruction to cease shooting, hear a family member identify himself in the dark, hear an undercover police officer identify herself as a law enforcement official, or hear a business manager say that concealed handguns are not allowed on the premises. Similar arguments might be applied to people who have other disabilities or medical conditions, including people who have depression or who take any kind of psychotropic medication; people with dementia and seniors at risk of dementia; people who might suffer a loss or alteration of consciousness due to conditions such as diabetes or seizure disorders; and even any people who have night blindness or who have less than perfect vision.
When Congress drafted the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), it recognized that irrational fear of harm or injury had long been used to justify discrimination against people with disabilities. Accordingly, Congress imposed very strict limitations on the ability of covered entities to exclude people with disabilities on the basis of an alleged threat to health or safety. Under the ADA people can be excluded only if they present a “direct threat” of a “significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services.” The risk also cannot be “speculative” or “remote.” These provisions enable people who are blind to engage in activities that range from the mundane to the exotic. Without the protections that allow blind people to own or purchase a firearm, they might be prohibited from engaging in a wide variety of other pursuits on the pretext that some element of risk is involved. In other words, blind people could be excluded not only from more adventuresome activities such as horseback riding, whitewater rafting, mountain climbing, and skydiving, but even from such routine activities as taking a cooking class, exercising at the local gym, going on an amusement park ride, or enjoying a vacation on a cruise ship.The rights of all Americans, including rights protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, are frequently preserved in ways that create the greatest societal discomfort. One of the most poignant examples of this is the 1977 case of National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie. The case involved the request of a group of neo-Nazis to march through the Illinois community of Skokie and to wear Nazi uniforms and display swastikas. The request was calculated to create outrage because a majority of the 70,000 residents of Skokie were Jewish, and about 5,000 were actually survivors of the Holocaust. The unpopular cause of the marchers was taken up by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that restrictions on the marchers violated the First Amendment’s free speech protections. The United States Supreme Court upheld the right of the marchers, affirming the importance of the First Amendment and the right to free speech. Although very few Americans would consider the opinions of the neo-Nazis to be anything other than reprehensible, to have denied them the right to express their opinions would have greatly restricted the free speech rights of all Americans. Although a large portion of the public, including some who are blind, may also be uncomfortable with the concept of blind people purchasing or owning guns, to restrict them solely on the basis of blindness would diminish the rights of people who are blind and ultimately of all Americans.
by Chris Kuell
From the Editor: Chris Kuell is president of the Danbury Chapter of the NFB of Connecticut and the father of two children. His daughter is a senior in high school and plans to attend the University of Connecticut to major in psychology. His son, a senior at the same university, plans to get a graduate degree and become an English teacher. The article we are reprinting appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of the Minnesota Bulletin and relates an interesting incident that occurred when Chris was walking his elementary-school-aged children to school every day. Here is what he says:
One of the better aspects of losing my job along with my sight is that I get to spend more time with my kids. Every morning I walk them the half mile to school, and I return in the afternoon to accompany them home. During our walks they tell me about their days, who got in trouble, who likes whom, and how a kid named Brian always cheats at kickball.
We live in an old neighborhood, and along my route are a dozen homes with bushes planted near the sidewalk. While there are several varieties, they all inevitably grow outwards, eager for the opportunity to snag an unobservant pedestrian. At the beginning of every school year I bring a pair of clippers with me as I drop the kids off, and on my way home I help those who are too busy to trim their bushes.
One house has a huge rhododendron bush, which must be decades old. Tall and thick, branches hang over the sidewalk like a canopy. When it's blooming, the fragrance is unmistakable, and I'm sure it's quite beautiful.
I'm about five foot eleven, and I could feel the presence of one close branch as I passed underneath. Following a heavy rain, the branch got heavier, hung lower, and whacked me in the head. After the third or fourth such incident with the wayward branch, I asked around and found out the name of the homeowner. I called and left a message stating that I was the neighborhood blind guy and that their shrubbery had assaulted me and asking if they would please do something about it. Several weeks went by and no action was taken, so I followed up with another, stronger phone message. When winter came, the aggressive branch adopted a regular five-foot nine stance. Most days I was able to duck and miss it. But every now and then I'd wind up with another hunk of flesh donated to the rhododendron god and five more points on my blood pressure reading. I sent a letter asking the homeowner please to take care of the bush. I even volunteered to help tie the branch up higher if they needed assistance. Nobody did anything.
One morning we all got up late because the power had gone out and the alarm clock hadn't worked. Everybody scrambled to get ready on time. During the frenzy I knocked a box of cat food on the floor, accidentally poured orange juice on my cereal, and misplaced my left shoe, so I wasn't feeling particularly loving or charitable. The kids had warned me to duck on the way to school, but the battering bush got me on my return trip. As Popeye used to say, "That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more!"
At home I stuck a wad of toilet paper on the gash in my forehead and grabbed my tree saw. I tapped back down the street, with one arm raised protectively in front of me, and located the assailant. At first I started trimming small branches to take weight off the thick bough overhanging the sidewalk, but this was time-consuming and had little effect. So I went to the major branch, one evil nub still sticky with my blood, and started to saw.
About this time I heard a car pull into the driveway and stop, not five feet from me. This was a little awkward. While I'm no lawyer, I figured that cutting down a neighbor's bush was probably illegal. But the car just sat there idling. I imagine the driver, presumably the homeowner, was frightened by the sight of the angry blind guy, a wad of bloody toilet paper stuck to his forehead, waving a saw around like the villain in a bad horror movie. I did a quick mental calculation and figured that, if the driver had called the cops on a cell phone, I was already in trouble, so I might as well finish the job. I found where I'd been cutting, completed the amputation, and dragged the limb to the edge of the property. Still no activity from the vehicle, so I picked up my cane, gave them my best Jack Nicholson smile, wished them a good day, and returned home.
I don't expect to be invited over any time soon for a barbeque, but at least my forehead and hairline will stay intact. Now, if I could only do something about the guy who refuses to shovel his sidewalk.
Making a charitable gift can be one of the most satisfying experiences in life. Each year millions of people contribute their time, talent, and treasure to charitable organizations. When you plan for a gift to the National Federation of the Blind, you are not just making a donation; you are leaving a legacy that ensures a future for blind people throughout the country. Special giving programs are available through the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).
Points to Consider When Making a Gift to the National Federation of the Blind
Benefits of Making a Gift to the NFB
Your Gift Will Help Us
by Anna Kresmer
From the Editor: The following is another in our series of historical documents in the Jacobus tenBroek Library. Because of reductions in our staff, this column appears with less regularity than it did several years ago, but it is always a treat to read what Anna has prepared. Here is what she says:
Many members of the Federation may be aware of the Jacobus tenBroek Library’s ongoing project to digitize and make available online all legacy issues of the Braille Monitor from 1957 to 1984. To achieve this goal, the tenBroek Library partnered with the Internet Archive <www.archive.org> in 2010 to scan this invaluable resource, which documents the history, struggles, and accomplishments of the early Federation.
As with any text scanning project, complicated by the age of the materials and the mass-production style scanning setup at the Internet Archive, quite a few typos have had to be resolved before these digital versions are ready for release. As a result various members of the staff here at the Jernigan Institute have worked diligently over the last three years to make these digitized issues clear and fully accessible to all readers. And we are pleased to inform the membership that all issues from 1957 to 1968 are now available on the NFB website at <www.nfb.org/braille-monitor>.
Recently, while continuing work on this important project, library staff discovered a newsflash from October 1968 that presents a glimpse into another time. A seemingly unimportant change of location notice for the NFB’s Washington office offers us a unique view of the state of both the Federation and our nation’s capital in the late 1960s. Who knows what long-range effect the presentation of a more professional office with better-equipped personnel may have had on the legislative projects of the NFB. If the federal government had decided not to begin construction on the Washington Metro subway system that year, how might the gains enjoyed by blind people today have been affected? We can only conjecture.
Here is what Dr. Jernigan reported to Monitor readers in October of 1968:
As the Monitor is going to press, President Jernigan reports that he has just returned from Washington, where he completed arrangements for the relocation of the Federation's office. Because of the proposed construction of a Washington subway system (see Letter to State Presidents in this issue), it was necessary for the Federation to find new quarters. President Jernigan reports as follows:
Our new Washington address is Suite 212, Dupont Circle Building, 1346 Connecticut Avenue, N. W., Washington D. C. 20036. John Nagle and I spent a good part of Tuesday, September 10, working with decorators, office furnishers, and the building management to get things in shape. Our new quarters are really first-rate. We have three spacious rooms on the second floor of one of Washington's finest buildings.
Most of our old office furniture was dilapidated beyond belief. All of it was over ten years old, and some of it was in pretty sad shape when we got it. In making the move, I arranged for a complete set of new office furniture.The contrast between our old quarters and the new is considerable. We now have offices which are in a location and furnished in a manner which can bring pride to us all. I hope it will be possible for many of you to visit our Washington office during the coming months.
From the Editor: Carol Castellano is a past president of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a leader in the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey, and the author of several books on the education of blind children. We gladly reprint this acknowledgement of a well-deserved award:
Carol Castellano, Douglass College class of ’73, is the director of programs for the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and is an author, advocate, and president emerita of Parents of Blind Children-NJ, an organization she co-founded. As a tireless advocate, she has been integral to state and national efforts to eliminate discrimination and prejudice against the blind and to help achieve security, equality, and opportunity for blind people. Carol writes frequently on the education and development of blind children. Her articles and books explore helping blind children progress from early literacy experiences to full participation in the classroom, as well as teaching children the skills needed for an independent life.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Carol graduated from Douglass College with high honors in English literature. Her early career in publishing in New York City led to teaching in a Manhattan private school before her first child was born, a daughter named Serena. Arriving four months early and weighing less than a pound and a half, Serena spent nearly eight months in the neonatal intensive care unit. When Carol and her husband, Bill Cucco, Rutgers College Class of ’75, brought their newborn home, she was blind and far behind in her development. It was during this time that the new parents were introduced to the National Federation of the Blind and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. Carol felt an immediate affinity to the organizations because they advocated the idea that blind children have a right to a full and satisfying life.
Serena’s premature birth proved to be a turning point in Carol’s career. She began researching and writing articles on the prevention of premature birth and was invited to join a select group of parents, physicians, and ethicists to discuss the difficult issues of decision-making in neonatal intensive care. The proceedings of this conference resulted in a landmark article, the first ever to be authored by both physicians and parents, in the medical journal Pediatrics. Soon Carol began publishing pieces about raising a blind baby and, later, about her daughter’s school years. Carol’s advocacy secured the way for Serena to attend public school in New Jersey. Serena graduated from college and recently earned a master’s degree at Rutgers.
Carol raised awareness about threats to education resources as a member of the Statewide Consumer Advisory Board of the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and advocated for better services through the creation of the New Jersey chapter of Parents of Blind Children more than 20 years ago. On a national level Carol served as vice president and then president of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, before becoming the director of programs in 2011. She was also the first sighted person to serve on the National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Committee.
Carol is the author of four books: The Bridge to Braille: Reading and School Success for the Young Blind Child, Because Books Matter: Reading Braille Books with Young Blind Children, Making It Work: Educating the Blind/Visually Impaired Student in the Regular School, and Getting Ready for College Begins in Third Grade: Working Toward an Independent Future for Your Young Blind Child. For more than two decades Carol has co-edited In Touch, POBC-NJ’s newsletter, and conducted parent seminars and educator training in states across the country. After several years of service on the advisory committee, Carol served for two years as Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator for the College of New Jersey’s Teacher of the Blind/Visually Impaired Program, where she developed curriculum and co-taught courses.
Carol has served on the State Human Services Advisory Council and the State Rehabilitation Council and has collaborated on many projects with the New Jersey Commission for the Blind. She is the recipient of the Diana Cuthbertson Parent-Professional Collaboration Award from the Statewide Parents Advocacy Network, the New Jersey Commission for the Blind Mary O’Donnell Advocacy Award, and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children Twig Award.
by Mary Fernandez
From the Editor: Mary Fernandez was a winner of a National Federation of the Blind scholarship in 2010, graduated from Emory University in 2012 with undergraduate degrees in psychology and music, and is currently working as a paralegal at the law firm of Brown, Goldstein, and Levy. What follows is a slightly revised version of a speech she gave at the annual meeting of the National Association of Blind Students, which was held in Orlando, Florida, in July of 2013. Here is what Mary has to say about the pressures of being a blind student, learning to feel comfortable in her own skin, and extending the hope and optimism she now feels to others:
I moved around the kitchen, using a measuring cup for the first time to make ice cream. I argued with my peers about why we needed to put some caramel in our chocolate ice cream. In a sly move I sneaked up to the ice cream maker and poured in some caramel. When they all tasted it, they said, “Someone put caramel in here,” and unknowingly proclaimed my brilliance by repeatedly complimenting the texture of the ice cream. Since we were all under sleep shades during the cooking activity, no one had solid proof that I had been the miscreant who dared put caramel in the ice cream.
That same weekend I got to use a chainsaw, in heels of course, and for the first time listen to blind adults talk about their lives, their dreams and aspirations, and the ways they had made those dreams and aspirations come true. That was the first weekend I visited the National Federation of the Blind headquarters, and, from that weekend forward, I have never looked back. I walked away having seen three things I did not associate with blindness: belief, hope, and passion.
I was born in Colombia, South America, and lived there with my grandmother until the age of seven. My mother left to come to the United States when I was two years old. A year later I became totally blind from glaucoma. As a three-year-old I thought everything in my world was still fine, but then my older brother started going to school. In Colombia parents pay for children to attend school, so, since my brother was sighted and I wasn't, he had priority. I remember that I went to school for about a week, but, since the teachers didn't really know how to teach a blind child, I was declared unteachable.
In the meantime I was taken to what seemed to be every eye doctor in the country. I despised eye doctors, because all they kept saying was, “This girl is blind. She needs to sit around all day. You shouldn't be running around, little girl; you’re blind.” Then to my grandmother they would explain how I wasn't a normal child because of my blindness. I didn't know how to verbalize to these adults that that wasn't right: that I couldn't see but that I wanted to know things. I wanted to explore the world around me, and why did my brother get to do those things, and I didn't? What made me so different from other children?
Finally, when I was seven years old, my mother came back to Colombia to bring us to the US. When I came to America, I knew no English, had had very little interaction with children my age, had very poor social skills with people outside my family, had never attended school for longer than a week, and had the unhealthiest and most negative attitudes about blindness. When I first started school, I was terrified; I did not know how to act with children my age. And, to top it all off, some old man came by and put a cane in my hand and told me I had to walk around with it. I was like, “Sure, in your dreams, Dude,” and promptly dropped the cane on the floor.
After repeated prodding and questioning, I told my O&M instructor that canes were for old people, and I was seven, not an old lady. He tried to tell me blind people used canes to help them travel. I knew better, and, while I would use it when he was around, I would do anything possible not to use it otherwise. It didn't help that the school had given me an aide who would let me travel sighted guide with her all the time. Once my mother got wind of this, she wasn't having it. She told me that, if it was the last thing she did, she would have me using that cane and learning how to use it properly. Now, remember I hadn't had a mother since the age of two, but I quickly learned that this woman's word was the law. So sulkily, ungracefully, and with the poutiest face in the world, I used that stupid cane.
Though using a cane was awful, I did find Braille to be really cool. I loved my Braille teacher, but, even after I had been here a year, I refused to speak English to her. In a show of my defiant nature, I got it into my head that no one would get a word of English out of me until I could speak it without an accent. Though I liked Braille, for some reason I didn't want to practice it at home, and even my mom's threats didn't work until the day she had enough. She gave me a Braille book, Freckle Juice, by Judy Blume, and, with me kicking and screaming, she shut me in my room, and said I would not be coming out until I read that book. For about half an hour I cried and sobbed and went on and on. But finally I settled down and started reading. When I was done, I very sweetly asked her if we had more books at home, and, in a very nonchalant voice, she replied that we did.
Though I had acquired passable blindness skills and did well academically, I was still very socially awkward. All of the schools I attended insisted that I have an aide with me every place I went. Though my mom did the best she could, she unfortunately did not know about the Federation’s parents of blind children division and didn't speak enough English to be able to research resources beyond what the schools provided.
So I was stuck with an aide. I was also very self-conscious about my blindness and felt ungainly. I started feeling like such a freak of nature that, in my freshman year of high school, I would come home and start crying for no reason. My mother kept asking me what was wrong, and I didn't know how to explain to her that I hated being blind, that all the other kids thought I was weird, and that I didn't like having an adult with me all the time because I felt that this was why nobody wanted to talk to me.
All of this changed in April of my freshman year. I went to the National Center for the Blind for a weekend trip with other blind students my age. All of a sudden I talked and laughed and felt comfortable. I learned that there were differing levels of sight, but I realized that I felt better when everyone was under sleepshades. That weekend planted a seed that grew into an idea that would become an essential trait of my personality: to be confident, to believe in my abilities, and to believe in myself.
I went home happy, but of course things didn't change just because a little attitude change had occurred inside me. That summer I participated in the Rocket On Program, which at the time was the STEM summer program at the Jernigan Institute. We got to work with NASA to build and launch a rocket. That in itself was cool, but aside from that I got a whole week of being around blind people and sighted people who didn't care that I was blind. I felt good enough about myself that I was using my straight cane, got a crush on a boy, and even flirted—a characteristic that would become an essential part of my character.
I determined that things were going to change at home. So, when I had my IEP meeting for the next school year, I walked in with my straight cane and said, “I don't want an aide with me at all times." I might as well have said that I wanted to bring my pet duck to school, judging by their shocked reactions. Reluctantly, the school told the teachers that I wouldn't have an aide in class. The head of the English department was alarmed and apparently told my aide that she had to be in the classroom: what if I fell out of my chair? The principal of the school then got involved and said that he felt uncomfortable with me not having an aide. I told my mom, “Well, too bad for him.” She agreed. The battle lasted a full semester, but finally I started walking to class by myself just fine and didn't even fall out of any of their chairs.
As the years went by and I became more deeply involved with the NFB and understanding and incorporating its philosophy, I sadly realized that the way the administrators at my school reacted wasn't unusual. No, I wasn't in Colombia anymore, and yes, I was allowed to go to school, but the world viewed me as far less than an equal. Expectations were so low that people were surprised that I could walk and talk at the same time.
As I stand before you today, I have hope. I have hope because each and every one of you has now been introduced to the NFB in a big way. There are thousands of blind people living in this world who have jobs, families, and a good measure of perseverance and stubbornness. I am hopeful because you have been introduced to the concept of self-advocacy. You now know that we all believe in you and that we are not only willing to fight for you anywhere you may need us, from your school to the halls of Congress, but that we want you to join the fight. There is a moment in every life when the belief that others have in us is the thread that keeps that fragile, silken fabric of hope from falling apart. It is that hope which feeds our dreams and allows us to go on. And I am hopeful because you now know of the passion and love we pour into this organization. Everyone here today, be he or she a lawyer or a scientist, believes in you and shares the hope that one day we will be first class citizens and have the passion to pursue that dream.
The great children's writer Shell Silverstein said:
Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
The IMPOSSIBLES, and the WON’TS
Listen to the never haves
Then listen close to me--
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.
by Allen Harris
From the Editor: Allen Harris is the chairman of the Kenneth Jernigan Fund Committee and was one of the people who came up with the idea of honoring our former president and longtime leader by establishing a program to promote attendance at the national convention, where so much inspiration and learning occur. Here is Allen’s announcement about the 2014 Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund Program:
Have you always wanted to attend an NFB annual convention but have not done so because of the lack of funds? The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund invites you to make an application for a scholarship grant. Perhaps this July you too can be in the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, Florida, enjoying the many pleasures and learning opportunities at the largest and most important yearly convention of blind people in the world.
The three biggest ticket items you need to cover when attending an NFB national convention are the roundtrip transportation, the hotel room for a week, and the food (which tends to be higher priced than at home). We attempt to award additional funds to families, but, whether a family or an individual is granted a scholarship, this fund can only help; it won’t pay all the costs. Last year most of the sixty grants were in the range of $400 to $500 per individual.
We recommend that you find an NFB member as your personal convention mentor, someone who has been to many national conventions and is able to share money-saving tips with you and tips on navigating the extensive agenda in the big hotel. Your mentor will help you get the most out of the amazing experience that is convention week.
Who is eligible?
Active NFB members, blind or sighted, who have not yet attended an NFB national convention because of lack of funding are eligible to apply.
How do I apply for funding assistance?
1. You write a letter giving your contact information, and your local NFB information, your specific amount requested, and then explain why this is a good investment for the NFB. The points to cover are listed below.
2. You contact your state president in person or by phone to request his or her help in obtaining funding. Be sure to tell the president when to expect your request letter by email, and mention the deadline.
3. You (or a friend) send your letter by email to your state president. He or she must add a president’s recommendation and then email both letters directly to the Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund Committee. Your president must forward the two letters no later than April 15, 2014.
Your letter to Chairperson Allen Harris must cover these points:
Explain how much money you need from this fund to make this trip possible for you. We suggest you consult with other members to make a rough budget for yourself.
The body of your letter should answer these questions:
How do you currently participate in the Federation? Why do you want to attend a national convention? What would you receive; what can you share or give? You can include in your letter to the committee any special circumstances you hope they will take into consideration.
When will I be notified that I am a winner?
If you are chosen to receive this scholarship, you will receive a letter with convention details which should answer most of your questions. The committee makes every effort to notify scholarship winners by May 15, but you must do several things before that to be prepared to attend if you are chosen.
1. Make your own hotel reservation. If something prevents you from attending, you can cancel the reservation. (Yes, you may arrange for roommates of your own to reduce the cost.)
2. Register online for the entire convention, including the banquet, by May 31.
3. Find someone in your chapter or affiliate who has been to many conventions and can answer your questions as a friend and advisor.
4. If you do not hear from the committee by May 15, then you did not win a grant this year.
How will I receive my convention scholarship?
At convention you will be given a debit card or credit card loaded with the amount of your award. The times and locations to pick up your card will be listed in the letter we sent you. The committee is not able to provide funds before the convention, so work with your chapter and state affiliate to assist you by obtaining an agreement to advance funds if you win a scholarship and to pay your treasury back after you receive your debit or credit card.
What if I have more questions? For additional information email the chairman, Allen Harris, at <[email protected]> or call his Baltimore, Maryland, office at (410) 659-9314, x2415.
Above all, please use this opportunity to attend your first convention on the national level and join several thousand active Federationists in the most important meeting of the blind in the world. We hope to see you in Orlando.
This month’s recipes have been provided by members of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey.
by Carol Castellano
Carol Castellano is a long-time member and former president of Parents of Blind Children of New Jersey and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. This recipe is from her grandmother. Unfortunately Grandma did not specify amounts, so Carol is estimating.
12 jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined (or comparable weight of smaller shrimp)
Bread crumbs, Italian flavored (about 1/3 cup, to taste)
Dried oregano (to taste)
Capers to taste, optional
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic or garlic powder
1/4 cup olive oil
Method: Set oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle olive oil in bottom of small baking pan. Arrange shrimp in pan. Shrimp can be tightly fit into pan. In separate bowl make breadcrumb mixture by combining breadcrumbs, spices, and capers. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over shrimp. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake in oven for fifteen to twenty minutes. (Ten minutes may be sufficient if using small shrimp.) Raise oven to broil, and broil shrimp for two minutes. Enjoy with a salad and a loaf of crusty Italian bread.
Pumpkin Cheese Cake
by Mary Jo Partyka
Mary Jo Partyka is the second vice president of the New Jersey affiliate, president of the Braille Division, president of the Capital Chapter, and coeditor of the Sounding Board.
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup pumpkin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 9-inch graham cracker pie shell
Method: Mix cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in electric mixer set on medium speed until smooth. Add eggs and mix until blended. In another bowl mix pumpkin, cinnamon, and 1 cup of the cream cheese mixture. Spread remaining cream cheese mixture on the bottom of the pie shell and top with pumpkin layer. Smooth until level on top. Bake at 350 degrees between thirty-five and forty minutes, until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Refrigerate three hours or cool overnight. Makes 8 servings.
by Brian Mackey
Brian Mackey currently serves as secretary of the New Jersey affiliate and the NFB-NJ At-Large Chapter. He is a board member of the Garden State Chapter and producer of ThruOurEyes with Joe Ruffalo. Brian is a 2007 graduate of the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB) and a 2006 graduate of the LEAD (Leadership Education Advocacy Determination) Program. He brought this recipe back from LCB.
1 pound ground beef
1/2 onion, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 envelope chili mix (any kind)
Water as directed on chili mix
1 can baked beans (any kind)
Shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese
Method: In large skillet brown ground beef with diced onion until done. Drain excess grease and rinse with hot water if needed. Drain tomatoes, reserving liquid to use as part of the water called for on chili mix envelope. Add tomatoes, chili mix, and water to the beef and allow to reduce in volume for about five minutes. Add beans and continue to cook until beans are heated through. Sprinkle individual servings with cheese, and serve with crackers or cornbread.
Serves four to six.
by Brian Mackey
2 cups white or yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups milk or buttermilk
If using buttermilk, 1/3 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Method: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients together with your fingers in medium bowl. In a separate bowl beat the two eggs well. Then add the mayo and mix well. Then add milk or buttermilk. Mix liquid ingredients together well. Pour liquid into the dry ingredients. Mix them together until smooth. In a cast iron skillet or cake pan heat the oil. When the oil is very hot, quickly pour it into the batter. Stir it into the batter. Quickly pour batter into the hot pan. Put it into the oven for 20 minutes. To check if it’s done, use a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the cornbread is done. You can also touch it lightly in the center. If it feels dry and firm, it is done. If it’s not done, bake for a further five minutes.
Hot Chicken Salad
by Brian Mackey
4 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1 rib celery, chopped
1 onion, diced
3/4 cup almonds or any other nuts
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups croutons
2 to 3 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
Method: Cook chicken breasts. You can use the microwave, cooking two at a time in a covered dish. Cook four to five minutes on a side. When they are done, dice the meat and place in a bowl. While cooking chicken, dice celery and onion and add to chicken. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Transfer chicken mixture to greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Sometimes I put a little extra cheese on top of the salad. Bake for thirty to forty-five minutes covered loosely with aluminum foil. Salad is done when it is heated through and bubbly.
Cherry Chocolate Bundt Cake
by Jerilyn Higgins
Jerilyn Higgins serves as the New Jersey affiliate first vice president, chapter president, scholarship chairperson, and coeditor of the Sounding Board. Jerilyn was Northern Region mentor in the LEAD Program and has taught activities of daily living for many years. In her spare time Jerilyn loves to cook for her family.
1 18.25-ounce box chocolate cake mix
1 21-ounce can cherry pie filling
2 large eggs, beaten
Method: In a bowl combine the cake mix, pie filling, and eggs, mixing well. Lightly spray a microwave-proof Bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pour batter into pan. Microwave on high for four minutes. Turn pan a quarter and microwave four minutes longer. Turn pan a quarter further and microwave for one minute longer, or until cake tester comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool completely. Yields twelve slices.
Healthy Granola Bars
by Jerilyn Higgins
Non-stick cooking spray
2 cups Quaker instant oatmeal
3/4 cups dried cranberries
3/4 cups walnuts, chopped
3/4 cups toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup vegetable or coconut oil
2 large eggs
Method: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Line the pan with foil, extending it two inches over the short ends of the pan. Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray. In a glass pie plate spread oats and cook in microwave for four minutes in one-minute bursts. In a large bowl combine cranberries, walnuts, oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and then stir in honey, oil, and eggs. Mix until well blended. Transfer to the prepared pan and with very clean wet hands press down until evenly packed into the dish. Bake for thirty-five minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack, and, when cooled, cut into twenty-four bars.
Al Maneki writes as follows:
For almost ten years the NFB has maintained the Blindmath listserv, a lively exchange of worldwide postings on all topics mathematical. The Blindmath archives are now ginormous. Finding anything of substance in them can be a daunting task except for the most database-savvy users. Therefore, in cooperation with the NFB Jernigan Institute, I have spent the last three years combing through the Blindmath archives looking for and compiling the most interesting and relevant postings. We have put this compilation on the NFB’s Blindscience.org website. Postings have been placed in different categories that simplify user searches. Currently I have finished searching the archives through 2011. What has happened too often before is that, rather than searching the archives first, people in need of math-related information have simply posted their questions on Blindmath. This has resulted in repetitive queries with sometimes tired, old answers. Now, before posting your question, please go to <http://www.blindscience.org/blindmath-gems-home>. If you don’t find what you are looking for there, feel free to post your question to Blindmath. It’s possible that your question has already been answered, and I simply failed to select your query. Let me apologize here in advance for any failure or shortcoming on my part in my selection of postings. If you have comments or questions about Blindmath Gems, please contact me at <[email protected]>. This is a special email address I have created for Blindmath questions. For all other communications with me, please use <[email protected]>.
At its fall convention the NFB of the District of Columbia conducted elections with the following results: president, Shawn Callaway; first vice president, Libra Robinson; second vice president, Margaret Williams; secretary, Gail Snider; treasurer, Lamont Wright; and at-large board members, Robert Ashe and Eric Smith. Shawn Callaway has appointed Oliver Washington to fill Gail Snider’s unexpired board position.
The affiliate also established a new Community Services Division, the first in the nation. Officers are president, Libra Robinson; first vice president, Oliver Washington; second vice president, Conrad Perry; secretary, Gail Snider; treasurer, Jason Manchester; and board members, Dana Hinnant and Shirley Jordan.
The Snake River Valley Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho recently had its elections and the results are as follows: president, Vickie Bateman; first vice president, Sandy Streeter; second vice president, Lynn Kneip; secretary, Carla Teczon; treasurer, Kevin Pirnie; and board members Jason Bernert and Katy Pirnie.
At our state convention the following persons were elected to the board of the NFB of Pennsylvania: president, Jim Antonacci; first vice president, Lynn Heitz; second vice president, Connie Schwarzfeld; secretary, Harriet Go; treasurer, Antoinette Whaley; and board members, Emily Angelcyk, Denice Brown and Thomas Brown. Those continuing to serve as directors from last year are James Baxter, Kirk Hunger, and Michelle McManus.
National Center for Blind Youth in Science Recently Funded by a Grant from the National Science Foundation:
The NFB recently received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop, implement, and evaluate the National Center for Blind Youth in Science (NCBYS), a three-year, full-scale development project to increase informal learning opportunities for blind youth in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).The NFB will collaborate with six science centers from across the country and the affiliates in which those science centers reside to conduct two-day, multi-age, regional STEM programs for blind youth, parents of blind children, and teachers. Additionally, the NFB and museum personnel will collaborate to improve the accessibility of exhibits and programming at each of the museum sites so that blind patrons may be afforded the same learning opportunities as sighted patrons.
We are excited about this opportunity to expand our work in informal STEM education to include the museum and science center settings. Talented professionals from across the country will come together to facilitate the programming that comprises the NCBYS initiative. Senior team members include Mark Riccobono, principal investigator; Christine Reich, co-principal investigator; Natalie Shaheen, project director; Dr. Tiffany Wild, researcher; and Dr. Joe Heimlich, evaluator. It will undoubtedly be an exciting three years of growth in learning opportunities for the blind in STEM. To learn more about the project and to stay up to date, visit the project webpage at <http://www.blindscience.org/ncbys-nsfgrant> and follow <@NFBScience> on Twitter.
The 2013 Meet the Blind Month Report:
This year's Meet the Blind Month events ranged from a fundraiser bus trip to Utah/Las Vegas, a read-a-thon, and a statewide Girl Scout event (which taught girls about diversity) to signing the White Cane Proclamation, hosting information tables, and using Who's Whozit presentations to educate students. Not only were there a variety of events this year, but with the assistance of eleven affiliates, we also raised a total of $9,780.01. It is great to see that our members are actively engaging the local community. We can't wait to see how we expand upon Meet the Blind Month next year.
As always we value your feedback. If you have any suggestions for next year, please contact Ilana Posner at (410) 659-9314, extension 2283, or at <[email protected]>.
Milt Taylor Elected Second Vice District Governor:
Milt Taylor, the father of seven children and seventeen grandchildren, has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind since 1971 and has served in many leadership positions, including affiliate president. Milt has also been a member of Lions International since 1979. He has also served in leadership roles in local clubs, including president. His service and leadership opportunities are taking him to new horizons.
Taylor has been serving as zone chair in district 28T of Lions International and this past November was elected as second vice district governor. In 2015 he will become the district governor. He will also be on the board of trustees of the Utah Lions Foundation. Taylor considers it a real honor to serve in the largest global service club in the world. There are over 1,350,000 members and 46,000+ Lions Clubs in 208 countries.
“It is my belief that I will be able to provide service for the NFB in ways that I would not have been able to do in the past. In this position I will be able to set an example for Lions that blind people can function in society and in leadership roles as well as the sighted. I look forward to making a difference by helping to change attitudes about blindness in this country and throughout the world.
Odin Mobile Partnership:
The NFB is excited to announce that we have formed a partnership with Odin Mobile, a wireless provider that is 100 percent dedicated to providing cellular service to people who are blind and visually impaired. This partnership will bring you additional choice as you look to fulfill your mobile communications needs.
Odin Mobile offers a variety of cellular phones, including basic mobile phones with built-in accessibility features that allow blind people to text message, access contacts, and perform other basic tasks, as well as smartphones such as the Nexus 4 from Google that offer the latest in Android accessibility. With monthly airtime rates as low as $10 per month, Odin Mobile has plans to fit various budgets and needs.
Perhaps best of all, when you mention that you are an NFB member, you will receive a special 5 percent discount on Odin Mobile talk and text plans. The NFB will receive a percentage of the revenue that Odin Mobile generates from NFB members, so you help the NFB as well. Odin Mobile is committed to supporting NFB members and their mobile communications needs. So the next time you need to buy a new cell phone or subscribe to a new service provider, be sure to check out Odin Mobile at <www.odinmobile.com>, or call them at (855) 217-9459.
Provide Feedback Regarding Your Travel Experience:
The NFB is committed to removing barriers and promoting equality for blind travelers. In light of the Department of Transportation’s recent and insufficient application of the Air Carrier Access Act to self-service kiosks and airline websites, the need for advocacy amid the travel industry is increasingly apparent.
Member feedback regarding individual travel experiences is central to this effort. The NFB, therefore, encourages all members to complete a brief online travel survey at <https://www.nfb.org/TravelSurvey>. Your feedback provides the NFB with essential accessibility data that help drive collective advocacy efforts and guide the engagement of travel industry leaders.
In order to provide a truly accurate picture of accessibility at travel centers across the nation, we ask that members complete the survey each time they travel. Please take time to share your travel experiences, both positive and negative, using the survey. For additional information please contact Valerie Yingling, paralegal at the NFB, at <[email protected]>, or by phone at (410) 659-9314, extension 2440.
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.
Call and Sign Up to Learn More about Non-24 and Vanda Will Donate to the NFB:
Our friends at Vanda Pharmaceuticals are running a campaign to raise awareness of non-24 hour disorder and raise funds for the National Federation of the Blind at the same time. Non-24-hour disorder (Non-24) is a serious circadian rhythm disorder that causes significant nighttime sleep problems and a wide range of daytime difficulties, including an overwhelming urge to sleep during the day. According to Vanda, non-24 affects nearly 70 percent of people who are totally blind. Sign up to learn more about non-24-hour disorder by calling (855) 856-2424, and a portion of $24, divided among several other blindness organizations, will be donated to the NFB. Even better, every time you share the program with someone you know and he or she signs up, Vanda will make another $24 donation. Sign up and spread the word.
Disability Employment PSA Discussion Guide Now Available:
The Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) recently announced the availability of a discussion guide to accompany the “Because” public service announcement (PSA) distributed earlier this year.
The “Because” PSA has a simple but significant message—that youth with disabilities, like all youth, should grow up expecting to work and succeed, and parents, educators and other adults of influence in their lives should reinforce this expectation at every turn. The new discussion guide—which comes with a DVD containing the PSA—can be used to facilitate a conversation about this important topic among adults or youth in a variety of settings. Free of charge, it is available in both English and Spanish.
The CDE is funded by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). To order a “Because” discussion guide, as well as associated posters and other materials, visit ODEP’s publications order webpage at <http://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/ CampaignForDisabilityEmployment.htm>. To learn more about the CDE, visit the CDE website.
Unity Literature Available from Message of Hope:
Message of Hope is a Unity outreach program. Funded solely by donations, Message of Hope shares the assurance of God's love and grace by providing free spiritual materials to those in need. Unity extends support to individuals in various care settings and to those experiencing hardship. Message of Hope also serves persons with blindness or visual impairments, offering free spiritual resources in Braille, on CD, in digital format, and through an online Braille library.
Chaplains, administrators, and volunteers often contact Unity to request spiritual materials that will inspire hope and encouragement in those they serve. After an application process, Message of Hope offers nondenominational spiritual materials, at no cost, in English and Spanish.
Unity's Message of Hope ministry serving the blind and visually impaired has the following products and services available free of charge: Daily Word in Braille, bimonthly; Daily Word on CD, bimonthly; a virtual library of downloadable Braille (.brf file) Unity publications, available free of charge to anyone with access to a computer, Braille notetaker or digital talking book player at <http://www.unity.org/messageofhope/> and link to the online Braille library; an audiobook lending library which contains Unity publications on audiocassette and CD; and a hardcopy Braille book lending library (Unity publications in Braille).
For more information, call (866) 421-3066 or send email to <[email protected]>. Visit the Message of Hope Facebook page at <http://www.facebook.com/messageofhope/> to stay updated on new books and other materials. Visit the Message of Hope website at <http://www.unity.org/messageofhope/>.
The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.
For Sale or Trade:
I have four Braille displays for sale or trade. All four of these displays are in excellent condition. Prices include shipping to Canada and the US, and all come with AC adapters. I will entertain offers to trade for a BrailleNote Apex or Braille Sense U2 having a QWERTY or Perkins keyboard. The first display is a Braille Edge 40, about eight months old, and used very little. I'm including a carrying case from Executive Products Inc., and I'm asking $1,800. The second display is an Alva BC640 with carrying case, and I'm asking $1,575. The third display is an Alva Satellite 44, along with the foam pads for a keyboard to rest on. I'm asking $475. The fourth display is a PowerBraille 81, for which I'm asking $250.
I accept PayPal payments, money orders, or cashier’s checks, and I will accept non-certified checks, which must clear before I will ship. I can be reached at <[email protected]> or (519) 669-1456.