Vol. 57, No. 2 February 2014
Gary Wunder, Editor
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
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Each issue is recorded on a thumb drive (also called a memory stick or USB flash drive). You can read this audio edition using a computer or a National Library Service digital player. The NLS machine has two slots--the familiar book-cartridge slot just above the retractable carrying handle and a second slot located on the right side near the headphone jack. This smaller slot is used to play thumb drives. Remove the protective rubber pad covering this slot and insert the thumb drive. It will insert only in one position. If you encounter resistance, flip the drive over and try again. (Note: If the cartridge slot is not empty when you insert the thumb drive, the digital player will ignore the thumb drive.) Once the thumb drive is inserted, the player buttons will function as usual for reading digital materials. If you remove the thumb drive to use the player for cartridges, when you insert it again, reading should resume at the point you stopped.
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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.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis until our block is filled or until May 28, whichever comes first. After our block is filled and/or after May 28, the hotel has no obligation to accept any further reservations, but may do so if it has rooms available. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.
Guest-room amenities include cable television; in-room safe; coffeemaker; hairdryer; and, for a fee, high-speed Internet access. Guests can also enjoy a swimming pool, fitness center, and on-site spa. The Rosen Centre Hotel offers fine dining at Executive Chef Michael Rumplik’s award-winning Everglades Restaurant. In addition, there is an array of dining options from sushi to tapas to a 24-hour deli. The hotel has first-rate amenities and shuttle service to the Orlando airport.
The schedule for the 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. 2 February 2014
The National Federation of the Blind Board Members at Work
by Gary Wunder
Yet another Federationist Speaks Out About Subminimum Wages
by Michael Barber
The Secret to Winning a National Federation of the Blind Scholarship
by Patti S. Gregory-Chang
Copyright 2014 by the National Federation of the Blind
As this issue goes in the mail, many of us are returning from the Washington Seminar. At this time of the year we not only talk with Congress about matters of concern to the blind but reflect on the good fortune we have to live in this country, to participate in its representative democracy, and to visit the buildings where the business of the people is conducted. Visiting the Capitol is an annual event, visits to the White House happen with less regularity, and arguments before the Supreme Court happen with even less frequency, but all branches of government know that the National Federation of the Blind is the foremost authority on blindness and, unlike the hundreds of agencies for the blind, we are the blind, speaking for ourselves.
by Gary Wunder
In the January issue we talked about the role of resolutions in policymaking. The convention hears and acts on proposed resolutions, and it does this in its role as the supreme authority of the Federation. Because the national convention is an annual event, the board of directors of the Federation is charged with handling the affairs of the organization between conventions. At least two in-person meetings are held annually. The one most familiar to convention attendees is held on the day before the opening session. The second is the fall meeting, which is held at the NFB Jernigan Institute. This year the board convened over the Thanksgiving weekend, with board members, spouses, and family members arriving on Wednesday to prepare for and celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday prior to the commencement of official business on Friday morning, November 29, 2013. Let's look at the agenda and decisions made at this meeting.
The board began its work promptly at 8 AM by reviewing the minutes of board meetings which had occurred in the past twelve months. This review is key because it sets the stage for talking about our ongoing activities and provides important information that can be used as the board charts the future direction of the programs and activities of the organization.
At the fall meeting the board of directors spends a significant amount of time reviewing the finances of the Federation. It is clear that our financial picture is better than it was last year, but it is equally clear that we must figure out a way to raise more money if we are to meet the many challenges we face. Fundraising through the mail is becoming ever more difficult, and the same is true for telephone solicitations. Although these programs continue to bring in some money, it is clear that we must take seriously the task of finding new and innovative ways to get our message to the public and to invite its support.
To further this goal, we have established a new program with GreenDrop, an organization which collects donated items and makes them available for sale through local thrift stores. Currently we are working with this organization on the East Coast and hope soon to expand our operation to include other parts of the United States.
Another program with much promise is the Vehicle Donation Program that allows donors to give their used vehicles to the National Federation of the Blind. All that is required of us is that we publicize the program and figure out how to advertise it widely to the general public. This we can do using social media and special fliers we can take to places where we do business.
The Preauthorized Contribution Plan (also called the PAC Plan) is unquestionably the most successful fundraising program that we have for accepting contributions from our members. This year marked an all-time high in giving, testifying to the commitment of our membership to achieve the ambitious goals we have set for ourselves and the realization that adequate financing is a key to meeting them. In addition to giving what we can from our own wallets, we must find a way to increase public support, and one of the programs designed to do this is the Imagination Fund. This effort is being chaired by Anil Lewis, and our emphasis will be on increasing the number of Imaginators—members who ask for contributions from family, friends, and those with whom we do business.
Since our effort in the 1960s to create the International Federation of the Blind, now the World Blind Union (WBU), we have had an abiding interest in helping people around the world create the kind of member-run organization we have here in the United States and to help them build the programs this self organization promotes. The World Blind Union General Assembly meets every four years and, like the Olympics, it entertains proposals from countries wishing to host it. One question considered by the board of directors was whether the National Federation of the Blind would be interested in hosting the assembly on behalf of the North America/Caribbean Region in the United States. This meeting would occur in 2016 and would represent significant work, but the potential to show the blind of the world what we have achieved in the United States through our own self-organization convinced the board this was a worthwhile activity to undertake. Therefore, we will begin the work necessary to prepare a bid to host the WBU in Baltimore.
John Paré discussed with the board our ongoing efforts to see that the regulations implementing the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act address the concerns that caused the National Federation of the Blind to press for this legislation. The process is taking longer than we would like, a major sticking point being whether cars which are stopped should make some kind of sound to indicate that they are at a street crossing. The position of the NFB is that this is an absolutely crucial piece of information to have as we decide whether or not to proceed. There is every reason to believe that the final regulations will require the emission of sound anytime a vehicle is in use.
The board discussed the upcoming seventy-fifth anniversary of the National Federation of the Blind. Fred Schroeder is coordinating the activities that will celebrate this momentous anniversary, and these will occur not only at our seventy-fifth convention but throughout our seventy-fifth year.
Mark Riccobono is the executive director of the Jernigan Institute, who is currently celebrating his tenth anniversary as an employee of the National Federation of the Blind. In his report to the board he discussed the Braille Enhancement for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Program, future programs to encourage work in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, and a $1.5 million grant to fund a program that will allow us to work with young people from six states to encourage their participation in the study of science.
On the subject of access to technology, we continue to work with Google, Microsoft, and other software developers to convince them that accessibility should be a part of their initial design and should not be considered an optional feature to be added at some later time.
Work is ongoing as we see to the full implementation of the Help America Vote Act. A number of states wish to return to paper ballots but realize they need accessibility and therefore accessibility consultants. Efforts are also ongoing to allow voting using mobile devices, and one of the issues we have been asked to address is how we will meet the needs of the deaf-blind.
A review of the legal cases in which we are involved took a good part of one afternoon, but the list clearly demonstrates our commitment to see that blind people receive equal treatment in society, whether we are seeking to use the technology now required to pay for a taxi ride or work as a trained chiropractor.
The last matter of business to come before the board was a discussion by President Maurer about the leadership of the organization and specifically about the presidency. He has been our president since 1986 and has been the longest-serving president in our history. When he was elected, Dr. Jernigan was still in good health and was able for more than a decade to assist him in taking on the awesome responsibilities involved in leading the National Federation of the Blind. While he is still in good health and has the mental and physical energy to lead, President Maurer wants to offer to his successor the same mentoring he was blessed to receive and to be an active part of the transition of power from one generation to the next.
Fred Schroeder, the first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind and the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia, wrote to his affiliate members to tell them what was discussed on Saturday afternoon. This is what he said:
As you know, Dr. Marc Maurer has been our national president since 1986. He has served as president longer than any of our previous presidents and has guided us through a period of unprecedented growth and change. It was under Dr. Maurer's leadership that we established the Jernigan Institute and all of the programs that have been so successful in demonstrating the truth of our assertion that, given proper opportunity and training, blind people can live and work as others do.
In particular we have developed many programs designed to provide blind children and youth with the skills and confidence they need to compete fully in their education and to develop their life ambitions. We have conducted Youth Slam, the Science Academy, and more recently the BELL programs.
In the area of technology, under Dr. Maurer's leadership we developed the KNFB Reader Mobile, allowing blind people to have immediate access to print with nothing more than a cell phone and special software. And then there was the Blind Driver Challenge™. There is no question that lack of access to reliable transportation remains a major barrier for blind people. Yet, the Blind Driver Challenge showed that we could develop the technology to enable a blind person to drive a car, not simply sit passively in a car that drives itself.
These are the expressions of Dr. Maurer's leadership. Yet at the heart of his leadership is his spirit and his belief in every blind person. He has inspired and encouraged us, faced the most difficult challenges with resolution and strength, and has kept us together, never letting us waiver in our belief in our own right to live normal, productive lives.
On Saturday afternoon Dr. Maurer told the board that it is his intention not to seek reelection to the presidency next summer at our national convention. He feels the time is right to transition to the next president, the next individual who can lead us for a quarter century or more. Dr. Maurer is in good health and believes that it is important that he step down from the presidency while he is able to assist with the transition. Dr. Maurer told the board that he plans to support Mr. Mark Riccobono as the next president of the National Federation of the Blind.
Mr. Riccobono presently serves as the executive director of the Jernigan Institute. He is an accomplished individual with the strength and wisdom to assume the serious responsibility of leading our movement. He has brought to his work the imagination and competency we demand from our president.
We are truly fortunate that within the Federation we have individuals who are able and willing to give all they have to furthering our move toward true equality. The demands of the NFB presidency are unimaginable. We require our leader to give all of his time, all of his imagination, and all of his personal reserve of judgment to leading our organization. This is what Dr. Maurer has done for the past twenty-seven and a half years, and it is what Mark Riccobono will do during his presidency.
This transition brings to an end one chapter in our history and what a glorious chapter it has been. We cannot face the loss of Dr. Maurer's leadership without a sense of sadness; but the transition to a new president is not just the absence of what we had before. The transition heralds a new chapter in our history and, with it, new opportunities—the chance to take all that has come before and build something bigger and more powerful than we have ever known.
Please join me in thanking Dr. Maurer for his leadership, his friendship, and his faithful devotion to our cause; and please join me in wishing Mark Riccobono the very best as he seeks to take the foundation that is all that has come before and build upon it the next great chapter in our history.
This is what Fred Schroeder wrote, and it eloquently articulates many of the accomplishments of our president and our hopes for his successor. The discussion that concluded the board meeting was more personal, with members trying to convey what our president has meant in their lives and in their development as leaders. The heartfelt remembrances reflected both the sadness that comes with the closing of an era and the tremendous possibility that comes with the beginning of another. This meeting will live in my memory as one of the most significant board meetings of the Federation I’ve ever been blessed to attend. I found myself grateful to have watched as President Maurer received the accolades for his hard work and visionary leadership and to observe the commitment shown to Mark Riccobono because of our belief in his ability to maintain the most treasured traditions of the Federation while leading us in the evolving challenges of the twenty-first century. Like the transition begun in 1986, this one will generate many questions and a good deal of discussion about what will change and what will remain the same. But, through it all, the bedrock principles of the Federation will keep us on course, and those we elect will ensure that our organization will continue to be the most vibrant, energetic, and positive force for change in the lives of blind people both here and abroad.
From the Editor: Though brief profiles of the members of the current board of directors can be found on our website at any time, we periodically revise and reprint in the Braille Monitor a compilation we have used for years. It includes profiles of Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and members of the current NFB board of directors. It is high time to provide it again, so here it is:
The National Federation of the Blind has become by far the most significant force in the affairs of the blind today, and its actions have had an impact on many other groups and programs. The Federation's president, Marc Maurer, radiates confidence and persuasiveness. He says, "If I can find twenty people who care about a thing, then we can get it done. And if there are two hundred, two thousand, or twenty thousand, that's even better."
The National Federation of the Blind is a civil rights movement with all that the term implies. President Maurer says, "You can't expect to obtain freedom by having somebody else hand it to you. You have to do the job yourself. The French could not have won the American Revolution for us. That would merely have shifted the governing authority from one colonial power to another. So too we the blind are the only ones who can win freedom for the blind, which is both frightening and reassuring. If we don't get out and do what we must, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We have control of the essential elements."
Although many organizations and agencies for the blind exist in the United States today, there is only one National Federation of the Blind. This organization was established in 1940 when the blind of seven states—California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—sent delegates to its first convention at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Since that time progress has been rapid and steady. The Federation is recognized by blind men and women throughout the entire country as their primary means of joint expression; and today—with active affiliates in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico—it is the primary voice of the nation's blind.
To explain this spectacular growth, three questions must be asked and answered: (1) What are the conditions in the general environment of the blind which have impelled them to organize? (2) What are the purpose, belief, and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind? (3) Who are its leaders, and what are their qualifications to understand and solve the problems of blindness? Even a brief answer to these questions is instructive.
When the Federation came into being in 1940, the outlook for the blind was anything but bright. The nation's welfare system was so discouraging to individual initiative that those forced to accept public assistance had little hope of ever achieving self-support again, and those who sought competitive employment in regular industry or the professions found most of the doors barred against them. The universal goodwill expressed toward the blind was not the wholesome goodwill of respect felt toward equals; it was the misguided goodwill of pity felt toward inferiors. In effect the system said to the blind, "Sit on the sidelines of life. This game is not for you. If you have creative talents, we are sorry, but we cannot use them." The Federation came into being to combat these expressions of discrimination and to promote new ways of thought concerning blindness. Although great progress has been made toward the achievement of these goals, much still remains to be done.
The Federation believes that blind people are essentially normal and that blindness in itself is not a mental or psychological handicap. It can be reduced to the level of a mere physical nuisance. Legal, economic, and social discrimination based upon the false assumption that the blind are somehow different from the sighted must be abolished, and equal opportunity must be made available to blind people. Because of their personal experience with blindness, the blind themselves are best qualified to lead the way in solving their own problems, but the general public should be invited to participate in finding solutions. Upon these fundamentals the National Federation of the Blind predicates its philosophy.
As for the leadership of the organization, all of the officers and members of the board of directors are blind, and all give generously of their time and resources in promoting the work of the Federation. The board consists of seventeen elected members, five of whom are the constitutional officers of the organization. These members of the board of directors represent a wide cross-section of the blind population of the United States. Their backgrounds are different, and their experiences vary widely; but they are drawn together by the common bond of having met blindness individually and successfully in their own lives and by their united desire to see other blind people have the opportunity to do likewise. A profile of the leadership of the organization shows why it is so effective and demonstrates the progress made by blind people during the past half-century and more--for in the story of the lives of these leaders can be found the greatest testimonial to the soundness of the Federation's philosophy. The cumulative record of their individual achievements is an overwhelming proof, leading to an inescapable conclusion.
The moving force in the founding of the National Federation of the Blind, and its spiritual and intellectual father, was Jacobus tenBroek. Born in 1911, young tenBroek (the son of prairie homesteaders in Canada) lost the sight of one eye as the result of a bow-and-arrow accident at the age of seven. His remaining eyesight deteriorated until at the age of fourteen he was totally blind. Shortly afterward he and his family traveled to Berkeley so that he could attend the California School for the Blind. Within three years he was an active part of the local organization of the blind.
By 1934 he had joined Dr. Newel Perry and others to form the California Council of the Blind, which later became the National Federation of the Blind of California. This organization was a prototype for the nationwide federation that tenBroek would form six years later.
The same year the Federation was founded (1940), Jacobus tenBroek received his doctorate in jurisprudence from the University of California, completed a year as Brandeis Research Fellow at Harvard Law School, and was appointed to the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School.
Two years later he began teaching at the University of California at Berkeley, becoming a full professor in 1953, chairman of the department of speech in 1955, and professor of political science in 1963. During this period Professor tenBroek published several books and more than fifty articles and monographs in the fields of welfare, government, and law--establishing a reputation as one of the nation's foremost scholars on matters of constitutional law. One of his books, Prejudice, War, and the Constitution, won the Woodrow Wilson Award of the American Political Science Association in 1955 as the best book of the year on government and democracy. Other books are California's Dual System of Family Law (1964), Hope Deferred: Public Welfare and the Blind (1959), The Antislavery Origins of the Fourteenth Amendment (1951)--revised and republished in 1965 as Equal Under Law, and The Law of the Poor (edited in 1966).
In the course of his academic career Professor tenBroek was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Palo Alto and was twice the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation. In 1947 he earned the degree of S.J.D. from Harvard Law School. In addition he was awarded honorary degrees by two institutions of higher learning.
Dr. tenBroek's lifelong companion was his devoted wife Hazel. Together they raised three children and worked inseparably on research, writing, and academic and Federation projects. Until her declining health prevented travel, Mrs. tenBroek continued as an active member of the organized blind movement. She died October 7, 2005.
In 1950 Dr. tenBroek was made a member of the California State Board of Social Welfare by Governor Earl Warren. Later reappointed to the board three times, he was elected its chairman in 1960 and served in that capacity until 1963.
The brilliance of Jacobus tenBroek's career led some skeptics to suggest that his achievements were beyond the reach of what they called the "ordinary blind person." What tenBroek recognized in himself was not that he was exceptional, but that he was normal--that his blindness had nothing to do with whether he could be a successful husband and father, do scholarly research, write a book, make a speech, guide students engaged in social action, or otherwise lead a productive life.
Jacobus tenBroek died of cancer at the age of fifty‑six in 1968. His successor, Kenneth Jernigan, in a memorial address, said truly of him: "The relationship of this man to the organized blind movement, which he brought into being in the United States and around the world, was such that it would be equally accurate to say that the man was the embodiment of the movement or that the movement was the expression of the man.
"For tens of thousands of blind Americans over more than a quarter of a century, he was leader, mentor, spokesman, and philosopher. He gave to the organized blind movement the force of his intellect and the shape of his dreams. He made it the symbol of a cause barely imagined before his coming: the cause of self-expression, self-direction, and self-sufficiency on the part of blind people. Step by step, year by year, action by action, he made that cause succeed."
Kenneth Jernigan was a leader in the National Federation of the Blind for more than forty-six years. He was president (with one brief interruption) from 1968 until July of 1986. Even after Jernigan ceased to be president of the Federation, he continued as one of its principal leaders until his death on October 12, 1998. He was loved and respected by tens of thousands—members and nonmembers of the Federation, both blind and sighted.
Born in 1926, Kenneth Jernigan grew up on a farm in central Tennessee. He received his elementary and secondary education at the school for the blind in Nashville. After high school Jernigan managed a furniture shop in Beech Grove, Tennessee, making all the furniture and operating the business.
In the fall of 1945 Jernigan matriculated at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville. Active in campus affairs from the outset, he was soon elected to office in his class and to important positions in other student organizations. Jernigan graduated with honors in 1948 with a BS degree in social science. In 1949 he received a master's degree in English from Peabody College in Nashville, where he subsequently completed additional graduate study. While at Peabody he was a staff writer for the school newspaper, co-founder of an independent literary magazine, and member of the Writers' Club. In 1949 he received the Captain Charles W. Browne Award, at that time presented annually by the American Foundation for the Blind to the nation's outstanding blind student.
Jernigan then spent four years as a teacher of English at the Tennessee School for the Blind. During this period he became active in the Tennessee Association of the Blind (now the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee). He was elected to the vice presidency of the organization in 1950 and to the presidency in 1951. In that position he planned the 1952 annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind, which was held in Nashville, and he then planned every NFB national convention through 1998.
In 1952 Jernigan was first elected to the NFB board of directors, and in 1953 he was appointed to the faculty of the California Orientation Center for the Blind in Oakland, where he played a major role in developing the best program of its kind then in existence.
From 1958 until 1978 he served as director of the Iowa State Commission for the Blind. In this capacity he was responsible for administering state rehabilitation programs, home teaching, home industries, an orientation and adjustment center, and library services for the blind and physically handicapped. The improvements made in services to the blind of Iowa under the Jernigan administration have never before or since been equaled anywhere in the country.
In 1960 the Federation presented Jernigan with its Newel Perry Award for outstanding accomplishment in services for the blind. In 1968 he was given a special citation by the president of the United States. Harold Russell, the chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped, came to Des Moines to present the award. He said: "If a person must be blind, it is better to be blind in Iowa than anywhere else in the nation or in the world. This statement," the citation went on to say, "sums up the story of the Iowa Commission for the Blind during the Jernigan years and more pertinently of its director, Kenneth Jernigan. That narrative is much more than a success story. It is the story of high aspiration magnificently accomplished--of an impossible dream become reality."
Jernigan received too many honors and awards to enumerate individually, including honorary doctorates from four institutions of higher education. He was also asked to serve as a special consultant to or member of numerous boards and advisory bodies. The most notable among these are member of the National Advisory Committee on Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (appointed in 1972 by the secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare); special consultant on services for the blind (appointed in 1975 by the federal commissioner of rehabilitation); advisor on museum programs for blind visitors to the Smithsonian Institution (appointed in 1975); special advisor to the White House Conference on Library and Information Services (appointed in 1977 by President Gerald Ford). In July of 1990 Jernigan received an award for distinguished service from the president of the United States.
To date he has been the only person ever to be invited to deliver keynote addresses to the primary gatherings of the two worldwide blindness organizations in a single year: the fourth quadrennial meeting of the World Blind Union in August 1996 and the annual meeting of the International Council for the Education of the Visually Impaired in spring 1997. In 1998 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, the first ever International Leadership Award from the American Foundation for the Blind, and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind's Winston Gordon Award for his leadership in establishing Newsline for the Blind®.
Kenneth Jernigan's writings and speeches on blindness are better known and have touched the lives of more blind people than those of any other person writing today. From 1991 until his death he edited the NFB's immensely popular series of paperbacks known as the Kernel Books. On July 23, 1975, he spoke before the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and his address was broadcast live throughout the nation on National Public Radio. Through the years he appeared repeatedly on network radio and television interview programs.
In 1978 Jernigan moved to Baltimore to become executive director of the American Brotherhood for the Blind (now the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults) and director of the National Center for the Blind. As president of the National Federation of the Blind at that time, he led the organization through the most impressive period of growth in its history to date. The creation and development of the National Center for the Blind and the NFB's expansion into its position today as the most influential voice and force in the affairs of the blind stand as the culmination of Kenneth Jernigan's lifework and a tribute to his brilliance and commitment to the blind of this nation.
From 1987 to 1997 he played an active role internationally as president of the North America/Caribbean region of the World Blind Union. He traveled widely and spoke frequently before international groups about blindness and the NFB's positive philosophy that changes lives and society.
Jernigan's dynamic wife Mary Ellen remains an active member of the Federation. She works with dedication in the movement and is known and loved by thousands of Federationists throughout the country.
Speaking at a convention of the National Federation of the Blind, Jernigan said of the organization and its philosophy (and also of his own philosophy):
"As we look ahead, the world holds more hope than gloom for us--and, best of all, the future is in our own hands. For the first time in history we can be our own masters and do with our lives what we will; and the sighted (as they learn who we are and what we are) can and will work with us as equals and partners. In other words we are capable of full membership in society, and the sighted are capable of accepting us as such—and, for the most part, they want to.
"We want no Uncle Toms—no sellouts, no apologists, no rationalizers; but we also want no militant hell‑raisers or unbudging radicals. One will hurt our cause as much as the other. We must win true equality in society, but we must not dehumanize ourselves in the process; and we must not forget the graces and amenities, the compassions and courtesies which comprise civilization itself and distinguish people from animals and life from existence.
"Let people call us what they will and say what they please about our motives and our movement. There is only one way for the blind to achieve first-class citizenship and true equality. It must be done through collective action and concerted effort; and that means the National Federation of the Blind. There is no other way, and those who say otherwise are either uninformed or unwilling to face the facts.
"We are the strongest force in the affairs of the blind today, and we must also recognize the responsibilities of power and the fact that we must build a world that is worth living in when the war is over--and, for that matter, while we are fighting it. In short, we must use both love and a club, and we must have sense enough to know when to do which--long on compassion, short on hatred; and, above all, not using our philosophy as a cop-out for cowardice or inaction or rationalization. We know who we are and what we must do--and we will never go back. The public is not against us. Our determination proclaims it; our gains confirm it; our humanity demands it."
Born in 1951, Marc Maurer was the second in a family of six children. His blindness was caused by overexposure to oxygen after his premature birth, but he and his parents were determined that this should not prevent him from living a full and normal life.
He began his education at the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, where he became an avid Braille reader. In the fifth grade he returned home to Boone, Iowa, where he attended parochial schools. During high school (having taken all the courses in the curriculum), he simultaneously took classes at the junior college.
Maurer ran three different businesses before finishing high school: a paper route, a lawn care business, and an enterprise producing and marketing maternity garter belts designed by his mother. This last venture was so successful that his younger brother took over the business when Maurer left home.
In the summer of 1969, after graduating from high school, Maurer enrolled as a student at the Orientation and Adjustment Center of the Iowa Commission for the Blind and attended his first convention of the NFB. He was delighted to discover in both places that blind people and what they thought mattered. This was a new phenomenon in his experience, and it changed his life. Kenneth Jernigan was director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind at the time, and Maurer soon grew to admire and respect him. When Maurer expressed an interest in overhauling a car engine, the Commission for the Blind purchased the necessary equipment. Maurer completed that project and actually worked for a time as an automobile mechanic. He believes today that mastering engine repair played an important part in changing his attitudes about blindness.
Maurer graduated cum laude from the University of Notre Dame in 1974. As an undergraduate he took an active part in campus life, including election to the Honor Society. Then he enrolled at the University of Indiana School of Law, where he received his Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1977.
Maurer was elected president of the Student Division of the National Federation of the Blind in 1971 and reelected in 1973 and 1975. Also in 1971 at the age of twenty he was elected vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana. He was elected president in 1973 and reelected in 1975.
During law school Maurer worked summers for the office of the secretary of state of Indiana. After graduation he moved to Toledo, Ohio, to accept a position as the director of the Senior Legal Assistance Project operated by ABLE (Advocates for Basic Legal Equality).
In 1978 Maurer moved to Washington, DC, to become an attorney with the Rates and Routes Division in the office of the general counsel of the Civil Aeronautics Board. Initially he worked on rates cases but soon advanced to dealing with international matters and then to doing research and writing opinions on constitutional issues and board action. He wrote opinions for the chairman and made appearances before the full board to discuss those opinions.
In 1981 he went into private practice in Baltimore, Maryland, where he specialized in civil litigation and property matters. But increasingly he concentrated on representing blind individuals and groups in the courts. He has now become one of the most experienced and knowledgeable attorneys in the country regarding the laws, precedents, and administrative rulings concerning civil rights and discrimination against the blind. He is a member of the Bar in Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, and Maryland and a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Maurer has always been active in civic and political affairs, having run for the state legislature from Baltimore. Through the years he has also served on the board of directors of his apartment complex's tenants association, the board of his community association, and the school board of his children's school. In 1981 Maurer was elected president of the National Association of Blind Lawyers and served in that office until 1985. From 1984 until 1986 he served as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.
An important companion in Maurer's activities and a leader in her own right is his wife Patricia. The Maurers were married in 1973, and they have two children--David Patrick, born March 10, 1984, and Dianna Marie, born July 12, 1987.
At the 1985 convention in Louisville, Kentucky, Kenneth Jernigan announced that he would not stand for re-election as president of the National Federation of the Blind the following year, and he recommended Marc Maurer as his successor. In Kansas City in 1986 the Convention elected Maurer by resounding acclamation, and he has served as president ever since. From 1997 to 2000 he also served as president of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union, and he chaired the WBU Committee on the Restoration of the Louis Braille Birthplace in Coupvray, France. In 2004 he became vice president of the World Blind Union North America/Caribbean Region, and in 2006 reassumed the presidency.
Maurer was honored with the Maryland Black Caucus's Leadership Award in 1985, the United States Presidential Medal for Leadership in 1990, the 1990 Heritage Award from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and the Baltimore Business Journal's 1999 Innovation Award for Excellence in Workplace Technology. Recent honors include the 2002 VME Robert Dole Award and the Daily Record's 2002 Innovator of the Year award. He joined President George W. Bush in the Oval Office in July of 2001 to celebrate the success of the NFB Everest Expedition and once again when President Bush signed into law the Help America Vote Act of 2002. He received honorary degrees from California's Menlo College in 1998 and the University of Louisville in 1999. In 1987 he delivered an address at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and in 2000 he was invited to deliver addresses on civil rights at Oxford University and Birmingham University in the United Kingdom.
As president of the National Federation of the Blind, Maurer has boldly led the organization into a new test of its resolve, beginning with the visionary expansion of the National Center for the Blind--the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, which was completed in the spring of 2004. The facility, located on the grounds of the National Center, has added more than 170,000 square feet to the NFB's headquarters. The Institute, which is the first of its kind, conceived and built by the blind for the blind, is developing innovative education, technologies, products, and services that support independence for the world's blind. One of the early products of the Institute was the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind handheld reading machine, produced in conjunction with the noted futurist and inventor, Raymond Kurzweil. Maurer's unswerving determination to succeed and his absolute conviction that the organized blind are the best-equipped people to solve the problems facing them have set the tone and are guiding the organization into this exciting new period of growth and accomplishment.
Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder was born in Lima, Peru, in 1957. He and his brother Steve were adopted and moved to the United States when he was nineteen months old. Born with normal vision, Dr. Schroeder became blind at the age of seven after suffering a severe allergic reaction known as Stephens-Johnson's Syndrome. As a result, his vision deteriorated over a nine-year period, leaving him totally blind at the age of sixteen.
He attended public school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but received no special education instruction in Braille or any alternative techniques that would have allowed him to function competitively. Although raised in New Mexico, Dr. Schroeder spent much time in San Francisco receiving medical treatment in an effort to save his vision. As a result, he was living in California when he became totally blind. For this reason, following graduation from high school, Dr. Schroeder attended the Orientation Center for the Blind in Albany, California. There he found the Federation, and his involvement in the organization has been central to his life and work ever since.
Through the Federation he met blind people from all walks of life who encouraged him, eventually convincing him that he could live a normal, productive life. Dr. Schroeder attended San Francisco State University, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology in 1977 and a master's degree in Special Education in 1978. After completing his university studies, he went to work teaching cane travel in the Nebraska Services for the Visually Impaired's orientation center in Lincoln. For the next two years he returned each summer to California to complete postgraduate studies in orientation and mobility to become eligible for national certification as a cane travel teacher. This was revolutionary at the time. He was the first blind person ever to be admitted to a university program in orientation and mobility. Although he graduated with distinction, he was denied certification solely on the basis of blindness. Nevertheless, that did not stop him from continuing with his career or education. He earned a PhD in Education Administration from the University of New Mexico in May 1994.
His professional achievements are impressive. In 1980 Dr. Schroeder returned to New Mexico to work as a teacher of blind children for the Albuquerque Public Schools. Knowing how important the Federation had been in his own life, he immediately began integrating Federation philosophy into his work. In a year he was running the program for blind children across the district. The results were dramatic and the program so effective that in the early 1980s the district's program for blind children was featured on the Today Show.
Although New Mexico programs for blind children were the finest in the nation, services for blind adults were among the poorest. As president of the New Mexico affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, Dr. Schroeder was deeply troubled by the lack of employment opportunities for blind people in the state.
In 1986 after a long, bitter legislative fight, the Federation succeeded in establishing the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. Dr. Schroeder was appointed the commission's first executive director, giving him the opportunity to bring Federation philosophy into the work of the newly founded agency. In a short time the program was transformed, and soon the New Mexico Commission for the Blind stood out as the most progressive and successful rehabilitation agency in the country. Under Dr. Schroeder's leadership blind people in New Mexico were prepared to go to work in good jobs—in fact, jobs paying so well that they had higher average earnings than blind people anywhere else in the nation.
Dr. Schroeder's accomplishments did not go unnoticed. In 1994 President Bill Clinton appointed Schroeder to serve as the ninth commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) within the US Department of Education. As RSA commissioner he administered a $2.5 billion dollar program providing services to more than one million people with disabilities each year. He focused on high-quality employment—better jobs, jobs with a future, jobs enabling people to achieve a good and equitable standard of living. His crowning achievement as RSA commissioner was ending the shameful practice of having state vocational rehabilitation agencies place blind people in sheltered workshops, often at subminimum wages.
Following his service as RSA commissioner, he joined the faculty of the Interwork Institute at San Diego State University. He now works as a research professor specializing in leadership and public policy in vocational rehabilitation.
His involvement in the National Federation of the Blind continues. On July 5, 2006, Dr. Schroeder was unanimously elected first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind. In addition to his service on the Federation's board of directors, he serves as the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia and often represents the Federation at national and international meetings and conferences.
Dr. Schroeder has held a number of leadership positions internationally. He was the founding president of the International Council on English Braille and presently serves as the first vice president of the World Blind Union. In his role with the World Blind Union, Dr. Schroeder participated in the drafting of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and on the development of an international treaty to allow books for the blind to be shared internationally. As World Blind Union first vice president he is the lead negotiator in developing a global technical regulation that will establish a minimum sound standard for electric and hybrid-electric cars.
Dr. Schroeder is married to Cathy Nusser Schroeder. They have two children, Carrie, born in 1981, and Matthew, born in 1983. Dr. Schroeder is the first to admit that it is the Federation that has made the difference in his life, enabling him to achieve professionally and to live a normal, productive life. In his own words, "We still have much work to do. Far too many blind people still face discrimination, still live in isolation and poverty, still lack access to the encouragement and training they need to live productive, integrated lives. In spite of all that remains to be done, because of the National Federation of the Blind, opportunities are better for blind people today than at any time in history. The change we have made cannot be turned back, cannot be taken away. We have changed forever what it means to be blind, and we and society are better off as a result."
Ron Brown was born in Gary, Indiana, the first of eight children, to Marzette and Myra Brown on May 15, 1956. When he was a senior in high school, he became blind after he was shot on his way home from a basketball game. At the time he knew nothing about blindness and was overwhelmed by the feeling that his entire life had been radically changed in an instant. One of the first painful lessons he learned was that many of his friends could not deal with his blindness and stayed away from him. Luckily he began to make new friends, members of the National Federation of the Blind. They became inspiring role models for Ron, teaching him that it was respectable to be blind and that he could continue to strive for the goals he had set for himself.
Armed with this newfound freedom, Ron graduated from Ball State University with a bachelor of science degree in health science. He then went to work at Tradewinds Rehabilitation Center in Indiana, where he met his wife Jean, who was on the staff. Eventually he was offered a job in the Business Enterprise Program. He had always wanted to own his own business, and this gave him the opportunity to do so. He has now been in business for himself for thirty years. Recently Ron returned to school and earned a master's degree in educational psychology with a certification in orientation and mobility from Louisiana Tech University. He now owns a second business, Cane and Able Orientation and Mobility, teaching cane travel to blind people in the state of Indiana.
As Ron Brown has developed and matured in his personal life, his commitment to and service in the National Federation of the Blind have deepened as well. In the early years he was a chapter president and was then elected to the NFB of Indiana's board of directors. He was first elected president of the affiliate in 1996 and has been reelected every two years since. In 2001 he was elected to serve on the NFB board of directors.
Looking back, Ron Brown says, "Becoming a member of the national board is the fulfillment of a life dream. I have been an advocate for blind people for more than twenty-five years, and with every passing year my commitment to serving the blind of this nation increases. My life indeed changed the night I became blind, but with the perspective I now have, I must say that it was for the better."
Jim Gashel was born in 1946 and grew up in Iowa. After his early introduction to the National Federation of the Blind as Kenneth Jernigan's student at the Iowa Commission for the Blind during the 1960s, he has been devoted to serving the blind community in various capacities. A 1969 graduate of the University of Northern Iowa with work toward a master's degree in Public Administration at the University of Iowa, Jim started his career teaching speech and English for one year in Pipestone, Minnesota. He then accepted a position as assistant director at the Iowa Commission for the Blind in Des Moines. With that move he found his calling is working with the blind and finding ways of solving the problems that face them as individuals and as a minority.
On January 1, 1974, Jim joined the staff of the National Federation of the Blind as chief of the Washington office, where he became one of the best known advocates for the blind of the United States, combining his commitment to blind people with his interest in the political process. As the Federation's scope and influence evolved, so did his roles and responsibilities. In his professional career of almost thirty-four years with the Federation, he held the positions of chief of the Washington office, director of governmental affairs, and executive director for strategic initiatives. Jim's Federation work has led to significant changes in virtually every law directly affecting blind Americans: the Social Security Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Randolph-Sheppard Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Copyright Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Help America Vote Act. In addition to championing these causes, Jim has won the love and respect of the thousands of blind men and women across America who have directly benefited from his informed and effective personal advocacy. No matter what his position, through his drive and devotion to Federationism, Jim has earned the informal title of the organization's non-lawyer lawyer.
With his first wife Arlene, Jim is the father of three adult children and the grandfather of six. His daughter Andrea Beasley has four children, and his son Eric and his daughter Valerie each have two children.
During Jim's service at the NFB, he received the Commissioner's Award for Outstanding Leadership in Rehabilitation Services to the Disabled, the highest honor presented by the commissioner of the United States Rehabilitation Services Administration. He is also a recipient of the secretary of labor's Outstanding American Award. In 2001 Jim and his second wife, Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, jointly received the NFB's highest honor, the Jacobus tenBroek Award, honoring them for their achievements through decades of leadership in work with the blind.
In November, 2007, Jim and Betsy moved from Baltimore to Denver, Colorado, but Betsy soon died after a recurrence of the condition—retinal blastoma—which had caused her blindness from childhood. In September, 2012, Jim married Susan Kern, now Susan Gashel. Their marriage occurred a few months after Susan had returned from Colorado after retiring as an assistant attorney general in the state of Hawaii. Beyond continuing Jim’s active work on behalf of the blind through involvement in the Federation, and Susan’s work to uphold the rights and promote opportunities for blind Randolph-Sheppard vendors, Jim and Susan are passionate about downhill skiing and all the Rocky Mountains have to offer near where they live in the Vail valley of Colorado.
Beyond his volunteer activities, Jim serves as vice president of business development at K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc., formed in 2005 as a joint venture of Kurzweil Technologies and the National Federation of the Blind. While serving as the Federation’s executive director for strategic initiatives, he led the public introduction and launch of the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader, the world's first truly portable text-to-speech reading device for the blind. As part of this effort he raised and administered the funds necessary to support pre-release beta testing, product announcement, and public promotional efforts to bring the product to market in 2006. Jim's employment with K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc., brings him full circle in his career since, after first meeting Ray Kurzweil in April 1975, he also organized and raised the funds necessary to test and launch the original Kurzweil Reading Machine, released in 1977 as the world's first text-to-speech reading system for the blind.
Jim was elected to the NFB's national board of directors in 2008 to fill an unexpired term and was reelected in 2009. Then he was subsequently elected to the position of national secretary, a position he has held since 2010. Serving in each of these capacities, he brings to the board both expertise and contacts in the blindness field and an abiding commitment to the work of the NFB. In accepting his 2001 Jacobus tenBroek Award, Jim offered comments that remain relevant today and reflect his approach to our mission. "All I would ask is that all of you remember that it's all of our responsibilities to go out and work for the movement. We can't all go out and climb a mountain like Erik [Weihenmayer] did, and we can't all do the wonderful things that every one of you do all the time, or raise five or six million dollars like Betsy did, but we can all work for this movement. We all have a place in it." Jim's place is absolutely unique.
Pam Dubel was born in 1970 and grew up in Lancaster, New York. She became blind when she was approximately two years old as a result of retinal blastoma, a type of cancer. Although her parents were shocked by her loss of sight, they fortunately realized that she was still the same child except that she could no longer see. Through love and high expectations, they instilled in Pam a sense of pride and confidence in her ability to succeed. They constantly taught her that her blindness was not a limitation to achieving her goals and dreams. Growing up as the youngest of six children also helped her learn to be independent. Since she was the youngest, nobody, especially the brother a year older than she, let her get away with anything. Pam attended a private Catholic school, where she was the only blind student. Her itinerant teacher provided a sound foundation in Braille, which helped her excel in academics. Her parents expected her to do her best and to engage in activities that would make her a confident and well-rounded person. She participated in horseback riding, skiing, and cheerleading during elementary school. During high school her interests shifted to performing in chorus, doing community service, and having fun with her friends.
While growing up, Pam had limited contact with other blind people her age. In general she had no desire to associate with other blind people. She understood that every high school senior experiences some trepidation about the transition to adulthood and independence. However, as high school graduation approached, she began to grapple with questions that her sighted peers couldn't answer. She planned to attend college, and she hoped that she would eventually find a job, but she secretly wondered if she would truly be able to obtain employment. After all, she had had difficulty finding part-time work during high school. Her loving family and friends encouraged her, but she had questions that went unanswered. Although she entered college with some apprehension, she was determined to achieve her best. Her small liberal arts college provided an exciting environment in which to learn and grow. But those unanswered questions continued to nag at her. If people were amazed that she could accomplish the most insignificant tasks, would they ever treat her as an equal? She realized that she had to meet other blind people with more experience than she who could serve as role models.
Her search exposed her to a wide variety of groups and organizations of and for the blind. However, not until she attended a student seminar hosted by the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio did she begin to find the answers for which she had been searching. Although she didn't realize it at the time, that seminar marked the beginning of a new chapter of her life. She met Barbara Pierce, president of the NFB of Ohio, who told Pam about the Louisiana Center for the Blind. More than that, she spoke with Joanne Wilson, its director, who arranged for Pam to complete an internship at the center the following May. As soon as that was completed, Joanne invited her to work as a counselor in the children's summer program that year.
Pam was a 1991 National Federation of the Blind scholarship winner when she was a senior at Denison University, where she majored in psychology and minored in women's studies. She served as vice president of the Ohio Association of Blind Students and as secretary of the National Association of Blind Students, and throughout college she worked summers for Joanne Wilson at the Louisiana Center for the Blind with the Children's Program.
After graduation from college Pam decided to become a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. She recognized that she still needed to gain some confidence in her skills and in her ability to be a successful blind person.
Since 2001 Pam Allen has served as the director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, one of three NFB adult rehabilitation centers. Prior to becoming the director, she served as the director of youth services, working with blind infants and toddlers and their parents, supervising the training of classroom aides to teach Braille throughout Louisiana, coordinating summer camps, and developing innovative programs for blind children and teenagers.
People often ask her what makes the Louisiana Center for the Blind such a special place. She responds, "What sets our alumni apart from those of other kinds of rehabilitation facilities? The answer is that, by attending our center and the other centers conducted by Federationists, students are exposed to the National Federation of the Blind and its philosophy. The NFB is more than an organization; it is a loving family. Regardless of where you are, you can find members of the NFB who can give you support and encouragement when you need it. The NFB also provides a constant supply of mentors and role models who challenge you to set goals for yourself. Lives are positively changed every day at the Center because of the philosophy of the NFB."
Allen recalls that she used to believe that she did not need other blind people. She thought that being independent meant succeeding without the help of others. Her involvement with the National Federation of the Blind has taught her that this is not true. She has learned that she needs reinforcement from her blind colleagues and friends.
Pam lives in Ruston, Louisiana, with her husband Roland Allen, a dedicated Federation leader and a gifted orientation and mobility instructor at the center. She is currently the president of the NFB of Louisiana and secretary of the National Association of Blind Rehabilitation Professionals. In July of 2002 she was elected to the National Federation of the Blind board of directors. Four years later, in 2006, she was elected to serve as treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind. In 2012, Pam and Roland received the prestigious Jacobus tenBroek Award in recognition of their distinguished service in the Federation. Allen is also involved in a variety of community and professional organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce and as a gubernatorial appointee to the Louisiana Rehabilitation Council. She says, "Being elected to the national board has allowed me to give back and to spread the message of our movement. It is an incredible honor and privilege to serve!"
Today Amy Rut Buresh says, “My blindness is simply another of my characteristics like my auburn hair.” She didn’t always feel that way. Amy Rut was born prematurely June 4, 1974, in Fairbury, Nebraska, and has been blind since then from retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). When she was five, her family moved from their farm to Nebraska City so that she could attend the Nebraska School for the Visually Handicapped (NSVH). Her parents made the difficult decision to relocate to a new community far away from family, friends, and all they knew so that Amy could continue to live at home during her school years rather than in a dormitory. Young Amy received a solid education and had a normal family life, complete with two pesky little brothers, family campouts, picnics, dress-up, and backyard sports. Amy has said her family’s sacrifice was crucial to her peace of mind in her formative years, and she has always been grateful her parents made the choice they did.
While a student at NSVH, Amy received training in many blindness skills, the most critical of which was Braille, which helped her to excel academically. She participated in countless musicals, the track team, cheerleading, and speech competition. In her freshman year Amy began taking classes at the public school in Nebraska City. Although she was active in extra-curricular activities, including service as president of her school’s chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Amy found it hard to make friends. She recalls that throughout her public school years she sat through many lonely lunches. With an outgoing personality Amy easily made acquaintances, but no one invited her to parties or asked her to go to the movies.
Amy took piano lessons from kindergarten through her sophomore year and voice lessons from her freshman to her senior year. She still sings at churches, banquets, and karaoke as often as she can. She taught summer enrichment courses on the basics of Braille to school children in her hometown. Through the Nebraska Human Resources Department at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Amy also participated in a Big-Sister-style program, in which she was paired with a blind elementary school student whom she continued to mentor well after the program’s conclusion.
Growing up, Amy had few positive blind role models and limited contact with her blind peers. During her teenage years she first participated in youth programs sponsored by the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (NCBVI), where she gained many valuable skills and met her future husband.
For several summers Amy worked as a volunteer counselor at the Summer Kids Independence Program (SKIP) Camp, a program for children ages five to twelve, sponsored by NCBVI. She wanted to share with other blind youth the things she had learned during her high school journey: which plans had worked for her, and which hadn’t. She believed then and believes more absolutely today that mentoring is important in improving one’s attitude toward blindness and a great way to learn how to handle being different in our society.
Whether at home or at school, participating in music, academics, or athletics, Amy was successfully working and competing with her sighted peers. She was even named second runner-up in the 1990 Nebraska City Miss Applejack Pageant. Yet in addition she had to face another, deeply personal aspect of life. As a senior in high school she began wrestling with life questions that neither her family and teachers nor her sighted peers could answer. Could she really be successful as an independent blind adult? Would she ever marry and have a family? What about employment? Could she get a job and do it well?
Following graduation, Amy began conquering her fears and seeking answers to these nagging questions by attending the Orientation Training Center of the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Lincoln. There she was first introduced to the underpinning philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind and, equally important, to kind and inspirational Federationists.
Armed with newfound confidence and skills, Amy enrolled in Peru State College, graduating with a BS in psychology, sociology, and criminal justice. Throughout her time on campus she was active as a peer mentor, in student senate, and in residence hall government. She also soloed and toured with the concert choir. She helped found and held several offices in the Association for Challenged and Enabled Students (ACES), a group dedicated to breaking down stereotypes and eliminating discrimination against those with disabilities. ACES sought to educate the non-disabled public about the challenges people with disabilities face. During the years at Peru State College Amy began working with women and children who experience domestic violence, a field to which she still devotes time when she can. She served as a volunteer counselor for a nonprofit in Southeast Nebraska and other agencies. She has worked tirelessly as an advocate, role model, and leader for both women and the blind. She attributes her success with blind people to her discovery of and involvement in the National Federation of the Blind.
In 1993 the NFB of Nebraska established a scholarship program, and Amy won that first scholarship. With this award she faced a turning point in the evolution of her personal philosophy and in her affiliation with the National Federation of the Blind. Growing up, she had been warned that the NFB was an organization of militants whom she should avoid. Thanks to the scholarship program, Amy attended her first state convention in the fall of 1993, discovered the warmth of the members of the NFB and the important work we are doing, and hasn't looked back since.
In fact, the very next year, in October of 1994, Amy and a handful of other concerned blind Nebraska students were granted the charter for the Nebraska Association of Blind Students within the Nebraska affiliate. She was elected president of the student division, an office she held for two years.
Since those early days in the Federation, Amy has held a number of chapter and affiliate positions in Nebraska. In 2003 she was elected to serve as affiliate president, and in the summer of 2006 she was elected by the national convention to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind.
Amy and her husband Shane (a leader and dedicated Federationist in his own right) live in Lincoln with their son Noah (born May 2, 2006). She is employed as a rehabilitation counselor with the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Growing up in Harbor Springs, Michigan, Patti lived a normal life, learning early that blindness was not a tragedy. “We lived in town. My younger brother Gerry and I hung out. I did winter sports and worked a little in the summer. My parents (Eve Lauer and Donald Gregory) did a good job of treating me like anyone else. They had high expectations,” she said.
After graduating from Harbor Springs High School in 1981, Patti planned to attend school with hopes of becoming a teacher of the visually impaired. After earning her teaching certificate at Michigan State University, she discovered a passion for law and enrolled at the University of Chicago Law School.
Patti graduated from law school in 1988 and has worked in the City of Chicago Law Department ever since. She began her tenure there in the Traffic Division and then worked her way up to assistant corporation counsel. In this position she prosecuted housing court matters in the Circuit Court of Cook County and handled collection matters for the Building and Land Use Litigation Division of the City of Chicago Law Department.
In 1998 Patti became senior assistant corporation counsel for the City of Chicago Law Department. In this role she prosecutes cases, supervises attorneys prosecuting cases, coordinates law clerks and externs, and serves on various committees and task forces. She belongs to several professional associations and is active in the Municipal Administrative Law arena in Illinois.
Patti first joined the National Federation of the Blind in 1981 in Michigan. She moved to Illinois in 1985 and has been increasingly active ever since. She served as Chicago chapter president and as first vice president of the Illinois affiliate before becoming president in 2006. She was elected to the National Federation of the Blind board of directors in 2008, and was appointed by President Maurer to chair the National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Committee in 2011.
“The NFB is huge. When I found the NFB, I realized that its philosophy was the same as the one I had fortunately grown up with: 'blind people are able to live full and productive lives just like any sighted person. We want the same chances to succeed as everyone else. With the right techniques, blindness can be reduced to an inconvenience, rather than being a tragedy.' ”
The NFB's monthly publication, the Braille Monitor, has featured several articles by Patti on a variety of blindness topics: Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and the Illinois affiliate of which she is president. She is also a frequent contributor to the ISBA Administrative Law Section newsletter.
Patti and her husband Francisco Chang have raised two children. Francisco is an RN with several national certifications. They were married in 1984. "I love to brag about my kids, John, a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana, and Julia, who attends the University of Illinois at Urbana now. They both excel and care about people. They are really special," she said.
Patti and Francisco work to strike a balance among the priorities in their lives: work, family, philanthropy, and play. Francisco has tricitizenship because he is of Chinese descent and was raised in Belize. As a result of her husband's experiences, Patti administered practice exams and review sessions for permanent residents trying to obtain US citizenship at the Pui Tak Center in Chicago from 2002 to 2006.
“When we find time in our busy schedules, one of our favorite things to do is travel,” Patti said. “We have traveled extensively in Central America, and Mexico.” Wherever the Changs go, they illustrate the NFB's core belief that blind people are normal people who cannot see, and their lives and contributions can be as rich and valuable as those of anyone else.
Parnell Diggs was among the initial generation of Braille-reading students to enter first grade in the public schools of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was 1975, and the president of the United States had just signed into law what is known today as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), guaranteeing disabled students the right to a public education. Diggs had been born blind because of detached retinas. School officials were reluctant to admit him into a classroom with sighted students; but they had no choice if the school system was to qualify for federal funding, and Bill and Nancy Diggs refused to accept the limitations for their son that society ordinarily placed on blind children.
Young Diggs unequivocally demonstrated that he could acquire an education alongside his sighted peers. But he always looked forward to the end of the school day. In the yards, woods, and streets of his childhood, he climbed trees, rode bikes, and played quarterback on the neighborhood Pop Warner football team after his family relocated to Columbia, South Carolina.
He taught his younger brother Holland how to play baseball and how to wrestle. Holland was sighted, and he taught “Parnelli,” (a family nickname), the things most children learn by watching others, such as how to dance, shrug his shoulders, and give the thumbs-up sign. They remained close until Holland's untimely death in 2005.
In high school Diggs participated on the varsity wrestling team and made the South Carolina Honors All-State Chorus, and, while his friends were earning spending cash bagging groceries, he was earning good money singing and playing the guitar in Columbia area restaurants.
In 1989 Diggs met Kenneth Jernigan and Donald Capps, two leaders who had dedicated their lives to helping their blind brothers and sisters. They shared a message of promise and achievement for the blind and talked about how the blind could accomplish more through collective action. Diggs quickly embraced their reasoning and passion.
Before long Diggs recognized that the full integration of blind people into society would be his life's work; and though he was busy double majoring in political science and religious studies, working, and maintaining a social calendar, he believed that the best way to help himself as a blind person was to become a member of the National Federation of the Blind.
In 1991 Diggs participated in an NFB leadership seminar, where he received intensive instruction from NFB President Marc Maurer, whose leadership style has strongly influenced Diggs to this day. That year, he attended his first NFB national convention. Before arriving in New Orleans that summer, he had read Dr. Floyd Matson's eleven-hundred-page history of the first fifty years of the National Federation of the Blind, Walking Alone and Marching Together, in its entirety, as well as other NFB literature.
By the summer of 1992 Diggs had completed his first year of law school and was working as a law clerk at the South Carolina Office of Appellate Defense, the state agency responsible for handling criminal appeals for indigent defendants. There he acquired the skills of legal research and oral argument and learned to interact with clients in the facilities of the South Carolina Department of Corrections.
Diggs accepted a position as a law clerk in a private firm in 1993 and continued to hold this position after he was hired as a page in the South Carolina Senate. At one point in 1994, Diggs, a newlywed, was juggling his final semester of law school with two part-time jobs. He had married Kimberly Dawn Gossett (his high school sweetheart) on May 22, 1993. The couple relocated to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in 1995 when he accepted a full-time position with the South Carolina Commission for the Blind administering rehabilitation programs in a four-county area. In 1997 he opened a private law practice in Myrtle Beach, where he remains in practice today.
Diggs was first elected to the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina board of directors in 1992, and he has been reelected every two years since. He was appointed by Governor Jim Hodges to the governing board of the South Carolina Commission for the Blind in 1999 and again in 2002 and was twice confirmed by the state Senate. This appointment made him the only person ever to have been a client, an employee, and a member of the governing board of the South Carolina Commission for the Blind.
In 2000 Donald Capps announced that he would not seek reelection as president of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina and recommended that Diggs be elected in his stead. Diggs was elected unanimously and has held the presidency ever since. In 2007 the nation's blind elected him unanimously to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind.
As a private practitioner Diggs has argued before the United States Court of Appeals in the 4th and 8th Circuits and has represented some three hundred clients in federal administrative proceedings. Music continues to be an important part of his life. Diggs sang first tenor and soloed with the Carolina Master Chorale in Europe in June of 2012 and performs regularly as a singer and guitarist as a member of Surfside United Methodist Church.
The Diggses have one son, Jordan, born on January 12, 2000. As he pondered his son's future, Diggs made the following observation, “Jordan will be told that he is less fortunate than other children are because his dad is blind, but thanks to the National Federation of the Blind, he won't believe it. Blindness is not a tragedy. I am determined that this is the message about blindness that my son will hear most.”
Michael Freeman was born more than two months prematurely on October 30, 1948, in Vancouver, Washington. He spent his early childhood just across the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon, beginning his education in the Portland public schools. Later he attended the Washington State School for the Blind (WSSB) in Vancouver and ultimately graduated from the city's Columbia River High School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society, played trumpet in the band, and sang in the choir.
In the fall of 1966 Mike matriculated at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, receiving commendation by vote of the faculty for outstanding academic achievement at the end of his freshman year. He graduated from Reed with a BA in physics. He briefly ventured away from the Pacific Northwest to earn his MS in physics from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.
For over thirty years Michael was a computer systems programmer at the Bonneville Power Administration, an agency of the US Department of Energy; he retired at the end of July, 2013. He provided mainstream information technology support to a large and technically diverse staff. While he believes that his blindness definitely kept him from finding employment as a physicist, he good-naturedly admits that in the middle 1970s physicists were a dime a dozen and that many of his colleagues also found careers in complex computer systems programming. He says, "I've had fun here. I've found my work at the BPA to be a rewarding and intellectually stimulating experience."
Michael's talents are reflected as much by his personal interests and accomplishments as they are in his professional achievements. He speaks fluent German, and he is able to converse competently in French and Spanish. He plays several musical instruments, most notably piano. Michael recalls the honor of playing George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra in 1971 at twenty-three. An amateur radio operator since 1962, he now holds an Amateur Extra Class License. He is a voracious reader, particularly interested in military and political history, foreign affairs, economics, fire science, the natural sciences, music, and medicine.
"I became aware of the National Federation of the Blind shortly after graduating from high school when I began applying for college scholarships. I received an NFB Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship in the late 1960s. Bennett Prows, a longtime Federationist, introduced me to the writings of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, the NFB's founder. Dr. tenBroek's erudite style and message that blindness need not be a tragedy and could be reduced to a physical nuisance—a message of common sense and hope—expressed my thinking exactly. Being a skeptic, it took me several years to join the NFB, but it was the best decision I have ever made."
Michael returned to Vancouver in 1978 and helped establish the Clark County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington in early 1983. He began serving as first vice president of the Washington affiliate in 1984, becoming its president for a term in 1996. He has served as affiliate president continuously since 2003. In 2005 he became diabetic. In 2008 he was elected president of the Diabetes Action Network, the NFB division for diabetics.
Michael's work as an activist in the Federation is most evident in his success as the Washington State affiliate's legislative chair for the last thirty years. He has led campaigns to pass strong Braille literacy legislation (1996); first-in-the-nation consumer guide dog protections (1988); and progressive reforms strengthening the Washington State School for the Blind, making it a stand-alone agency of state government (1985). In the same year that the affiliate realized the WSSB victory, Michael also orchestrated early landmark nondiscrimination legislation making it unlawful to deem a parent or guardian of a minor neglectful or abusive solely by virtue of his or her blindness. He is the proud father of Shanthi Anne Freeman, his adopted multiply-disabled daughter from India; she was born in November 1989.
"The NFB has offered me the chance to do my part to educate society that it is respectable to be blind, to make life better for the blind, and to promote the integration of the blind into society. I am grateful for the opportunity that the NFB has given me to pay the debt I owe to those who have made possible the civil rights and the chance to succeed that I enjoy. In working for the goals of the NFB, I have helped myself too, for I have proved to myself that it is respectable to be blind."
John Fritz was born in September of 1966. He was raised on a family dairy farm in southwest Wisconsin. He is the oldest of five children. He was lucky enough to have parents who made him learn the value of hard work early on. “We were a farm family, and I was the oldest son. I was expected to help with the chores and work outside with my dad.” He was born legally blind but had some sight. This diminished to light perception by the age of three. He believed at an early age that sight was not a requirement to be successful.
John attended the Wisconsin School for the Blind from kindergarten through the seventh grade, primarily because the public school didn't believe a blind child could be served in his hometown. In seventh grade he was able to persuade the school counselor to allow him to transfer back to his local public school. He remembers this being a very difficult adjustment. Having lived at the school for the blind for seven years and being away from his siblings, he found it hard to return and take his place again. Everyone had to get to know each other again. “I realized how much I was missing out on at home,” he said.
John graduated from Fennimore High School with honors in 1985. Before and after school he was responsible for milking cows and helping with general farm work during high school. He earned his letter in wrestling and played trumpet in pep band, marching band, and concert band. His most significant accomplishments came in Future Farmers of America (FFA). He was involved in an extemporaneous-speaking competition, the Creed Speaking Contest; dairy judging; and parliamentary procedure. He placed fourth in the nation in computers in agriculture and achieved the American Farmer Degree. He also served as president of his FFA chapter for two years.
John attended the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, where he graduated with honors in 1989 with a major in animal science, emphasizing dairy management, nutrition, and reproduction. He also earned a minor in computer science. While in college he participated in the academic decathlon in agriculture and in seven academic clubs and organizations.
In these years John got his first dose of the low expectations many professionals have for blind students. When he told his Department for Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) counselor that he wanted to be a veterinarian, his counselor informed him that, if he pursued that career, DVR wouldn't fund him. The counselor announced that a blind person wouldn't be able to be a veterinarian. So John told the DVR counselor to leave. That day he learned quickly that, if he wanted to pursue his goals, he needed to find a way to pay for college himself. He found part-time jobs, work-study assignments, and scholarships to pay his way.
“The most significant event of my life occurred the summer of my sophomore year at a national convention when I won a National Federation of the Blind scholarship in Phoenix, Arizona,” John said. This was his first exposure to the NFB. He was relieved to find peers doing similar things and blind people with the same philosophy. He realized during that convention that he had finally found the biggest and most reliable source of information any blind college student could ever have—other blind people. While attending college, he continued to work on the farm on weekends. College provided him the opportunity to advocate for himself and become a self-sufficient person.
John started working on the family dairy farm right after graduating from college. By this time he had decided that the dairy farm was the immediate need, and veterinary school would have to wait. He was responsible for the day-to-day operations and management of the farm, where he milked sixty-five registered Brown Swiss cows. In 1991 he started working part-time for a local computer store as a computer technician. His main responsibility was repairing computers. The next year he became store manager, where his responsibilities included the day-to-day operation of the store, sales, and service. He left the farm and moved to town. He continued at this job for six years. In 1995 he married Heather Ross. They met during the 1992 NFB convention in Charlotte and started dating after running into each other again during the Dallas convention in 1993. In 1997 he accepted a job with the Louisiana Center for the Blind as the computer instructor. He describes it as a very rewarding experience because it provided the opportunity for him to fully absorb and live the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind each day. While in Louisiana, John and Heather Fritz started their family. Lindsey was born in 1998, Christina was born in 1999, Mark was sponsored from Korea in 2001, and Andrew was born in 2002.
In 2003 John made the difficult decision to leave his job and friends at the center and return home to Wisconsin with Heather's parents, who had just retired to Wisconsin from California, to begin his own vending business with the Business Enterprise program. This is what he continues to do today. In 2005 the Fritzes adopted their daughter Katie from China at the age of six. In 2006 John and Heather built their dream home for their growing family on fifteen acres in Kendall, Wisconsin. He also built a warehouse for his business, J&H Vending, Inc.
John says that he was honored to be elected president of the NFB of Wisconsin in 2006. He has enjoyed working with the affiliate, divisions, and the blind of Wisconsin. In 2008 he was elected to the National Federation of the Blind board of directors. He remains very busy with the state affiliate, along with being a member of Lions Club, the local Ham Radio Club, and various other clubs and organizations. He also likes to do woodworking, grilling, fishing, and hunting large game with his kids.
As busy as he is, and as many activities as he pursues, nothing is more important to John than spending time watching his children grow—all seven of them! Child number six, a four-year-old boy from India they named Jacob, was adopted in May of 2009. The Fritz family has also been joined by a seventeen-year-old daughter named Anna, who was originally adopted from China by another family when she was nine years old, but became part of the Fritz clan in the summer of 2009.
Reflecting on his life and work, John says, “The National Federation of the Blind doesn't prescribe what a blind person should do or even what he or she can do. It merely invites every blind person to dream and work to achieve those dreams. Its members blaze trails for one another and cheer each other along the way.”
In 1947 Vicksburg, Mississippi, was not an ideal place for a black child to be born with congenital cataracts. For years no one even noticed that little Sam Gleese had difficulty seeing, least of all Sam himself. He simply assumed that everyone else saw things with the hazy imprecision that he did.
One day when he was in the second grade, the teacher in the segregated school he attended sent a note home asking his mother to come to school for a conference. To the Gleese family's astonishment she told them that Sam had significant difficulty seeing to read and do board work. By the fourth grade the bouts of surgery had begun. Glasses (which Sam hated and forgot to wear most of the time) were prescribed. But none of this effort enabled young Sam to make out much of what his friends could see. Then in 1962, when he was fifteen, Gleese underwent surgery that gave him enough vision to show him by comparison just how little he had seen until that time.
He graduated from high school in 1966 and enrolled that fall at Jackson State College, where he majored in business administration. Looking back, Gleese is sure that he was legally blind throughout these years, but he never considered that he might have anything in common with the blind students he saw on campus. His struggle was always to see, and that made him sighted. Occasionally he was forced to deal with his difficulty in reading, particularly when a fellow student or teacher pointed out what he seemed to be missing, but for the most part he denied his situation and resented those who tried to make him face his problem.
After graduation in 1970, Gleese joined a management training program conducted by K-Mart. Everyone agreed that he was excellent on the floor and dealing with employees, but, though he did not realize it, he was extremely unreliable in doing paperwork. He consistently put information on the wrong line. His supervisor confronted him with the problem and told him he had vision trouble. He hotly denied it, but within the year he was out of the program.
During the following years Gleese applied repeatedly for jobs that would use his business training. When he supplied information about his medical history and his vision, would-be employers lost interest. Finally in late 1972 he got a job as assistant night stock clerk with a grocery chain. He had a wife to support--he and Vanessa Smith had married in August of 1970--and he needed whatever job he could find. Gradually he worked his way up to assistant frozen food manager in the chain, though it wasn't easy.
Then in 1979 his retinas detached, and within a few weeks late in the year he had become almost totally blind. For a month or two he was profoundly depressed. His wife, however, refused to give up on him or his situation. Gradually Gleese began to realize that she was right. He could still provide for his family and find meaningful work to do. He just had to master the alternative methods used by blind people.
Early in 1980 he enrolled in an adult training center in Jackson, where he learned Braille, cane travel, and daily living skills. He is still remembered in the program for the speed with which he completed his training. By the following summer he was working as a volunteer counselor at the center, and in the fall, with the help of the state vocational rehabilitation agency, he and his wife Vanessa were working in their own tax preparation business.
It was difficult, however, to maintain a sufficient income year round, and the Gleeses had a daughter, Nicole, born in 1976, to think about. In 1983 he decided to try taking a job making mops in the area sheltered workshop for the blind. He worked there for two years until a staff member pointed out that he could do better for himself in the state's Randolph-Sheppard vending program, which had finally been opened to African Americans in 1980-81.
In January of 1985 Gleese was assigned the worst vending stand in the state of Mississippi. Because of his degree in business administration, his phenomenal record in personal rehabilitation, and his work history in the grocery business, officials decided that he needed no training but could learn the program in his own location. He spent two years in that facility, mastering the business and improving his techniques. Then during the next several years he had somewhat better locations. But in 1992 he bid on an excellent facility and then appealed the decision that awarded it to another vendor. Though the appeal decision, which eventually came down, did not give him personal redress, it did correct unfair practices that had plagued many vendors in Mississippi for years. In April of 1994 Sam, with the help of his wife Vanessa, became the manager of one of the largest food service operations in the state vending program.
Gleese has always been active in the Missionary Baptist Church. From 1973 to 1990 he taught the adult Sunday school class in his own church, and in 1980 he became a deacon. He was ordained to the ministry in November of 1992 and is now senior associate minister at the College Hill Baptist Church. He headed the scouting and the taping ministry. Currently he heads the members’ ministry and works with several other ministries.
Gleese first heard about the National Federation of the Blind in the early 1980s and attended his first national convention in 1983. He reports that from that moment he has been a committed Federationist. Vanessa has worked steadily beside him through the years as he has struggled to improve the lives of Mississippi's blind citizens. He became president of one of the state's local chapters in 1985, and the following year he was elected state president. He has continued to serve in that office ever since. Under his leadership the number of chapters in the Mississippi affiliate has nearly tripled.
In 1992 Gleese was first elected to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind, where he continues to serve with distinction. He has dedicated his life to educating the public, blind and sighted alike, about the abilities of blind people. According to him, too many people in Mississippi believe--as he did for many years--that blind people can do nothing and belong in rocking chairs and back rooms. Sam Gleese is making a difference everywhere he puts his hand.
In May of 1999 the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, chose Sam to serve as chairperson of the newly formed Mayor's Advisory Committee on Disabilities. In September of that year he was appointed and confirmed by the city council of Jackson as the first blind person to serve on the Jackson-Hinds Library administrative board. This board oversees the services of public libraries in each of the seven towns in the Hinds County area.
In August of 2000 Gleese retired from the vending program for health reasons. He served one year in the AmeriCorps volunteer program. The project with which he was associated encourages and enables people with disabilities to become fully involved in the community. The program is the only one of its kind in Mississippi and is staffed by disabled people. Sam explains that other AmeriCorps programs are designed to assist in education--tutoring and the like--but this program allowed him to increase his outreach to blind people and the general disability community. It provided yet one more way of living his Federationism and ministering to the people he has been called to serve.
In August of 2001 Gleese accepted a position as an independent living specialist with LIFE (Living Independence for Everyone) of central Mississippi. This position provided opportunities to work with adolescents with special health care needs between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one in Mississippi. The project, called Healthy Futures, was funded by a four-year grant through the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
In January of 2002 Gleese became the statewide project director for the Healthy Futures grant. This position enhanced his opportunity to serve all adolescents with special health care needs, including blind people.
On October 1, 2007, Sam was employed by the City of Jackson as its ADA compliance coordinator. In considering the position with the city, Sam saw an opportunity to have an even greater opportunity to positively influence the lives of the blind and other people with disabilities in Jackson. “I believe that the energy and commitment I bring to this job will set a benchmark for other cities to strive for and meet.”
Sam Gleese makes it clear by word and action that each advancement he has made through the years has been in large measure the result of the hope and determination the NFB has instilled in its members, and he makes it clear that he will do what he can to see that others enjoy a quality of life as good as or better than the one he has been privileged to live.
Ever Lee Hairston was unanimously elected to the Board of Directors at the 2010 National Federation of the Blind (NFB) convention on July 6, 2010, in Dallas, Texas. She brings considerable experience to this position, having served in various capacities with the NFB over the years—including nineteen consecutive years of service on the NFB Scholarship Committee and a fourteen-year stint as first vice president of the NFB of New Jersey. Ever Lee founded and served as the president of the Garden State Chapter of the NFB of New Jersey from 1991 until 2005, and for many years she was the coordinator of the LEAD Program, a mentoring program for blind and visually impaired teenagers. She currently serves on the board of directors of the Louisiana Center for the Blind and as first vice president of the NFB of California.
Born to Arizona and Clarence Hairston on the Coolemee plantation in Mocksville, North Carolina, Ever Lee is the third of seven children. She grew up and attended schools in the segregated South. “I felt like a second-class citizen, using hand-me-down books in school; and, due to unexplained vision problems, I had to struggle to read from the bulletin board,” Ever Lee noted. In spite of the challenges of growing up in the segregated South and continuing visual problems, Ever Lee had a strong desire to become a nurse. Ever Lee’s parents simply could not afford to send her to college; so after high school, Ever Lee went to New York City to earn money for college by working as a live-in maid. She returned to North Carolina at the end of the summer anxious to pursue a nursing career. However, she failed the required eye examination and was told that she would not be suitable for admission to Duke University Nursing School. “I was heartbroken but refused to be defeated,” she said. She was accepted at North Carolina Central University, where she earned a teaching degree.
After graduating from North Carolina Central, Ever Lee taught high school business courses in New Jersey. While working as a high school teacher in New Jersey, Ever Lee’s eyesight continued to deteriorate. She finally sought answers and medical care. Ever Lee, along with three siblings, were diagnosed with a genetic eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa (RP). And, four years after starting a challenging teaching career, Ever Lee was forced to resign from her position because of her impending blindness.
At the age of twenty-nine, facing total blindness, with a failed marriage, a child to raise alone, and uncertainty about future employment, Ever Lee admitted to being devastated and feeling sorry for herself. However, she held on to the hope that a better way of life was in store for her. Ever Lee admits to believing in the old adage that “When God closes a door, He opens a window.” She began looking for the window.
After inventorying her strengths, she stepped through a window of opportunity at New Jersey’s Rutgers University, where she took graduate courses in counseling. In 1983 she landed a Counselor Trainee position with the Camden County Department of Health and Human Services. But, as Ever Lee explains it, “With no blindness skills, I was faking my way through.” She notes that she relied heavily on sighted people to read to her and to act as guides.
In 1987 Ever Lee received a call from Jackie Billie inviting her to a NFB convention in Phoenix, Arizona. At first she made excuses because she was afraid of requesting the time off from her job. Jackie was persistent, and Ever Lee finally agreed to attend the convention.
Ever Lee describes arriving at the hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, to the unfamiliar sound of canes tapping and the unsettling feeling of dogs licking her legs. The most profound experience, as Ever Lee explains it, came when she started through the registration line. She remembers being asked, "Would you like a Braille or print agenda?" She could no longer read print and did not know Braille. It was then, according to Ever Lee, that a light bulb went off.
"I am illiterate," she thought. She talked to as many people as she could at that convention in Phoenix, Arizona, and learned about the NFB centers. From then until 1990 she continued to function without blindness skills but worked on a plan with Joanne Wilson to get to Louisiana where she could be trained.
Ever Lee attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind from October 1990 until April 1991. She learned to read Braille, mastered cane travel and independent living skills, and learned to utilize adaptive technology. She returned to New Jersey, after the Freedom Bell rang for her at the Louisiana Center, with a confidence she never had before, integrating blindness skills into her everyday life.
Ever Lee credits her training at the Louisiana Center for the Blind with enabling her to succeed at her chosen career. After twenty-six years holding many successive positions with the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program in New Jersey, Ever Lee retired from the position of program director in 2006.
In July of 2006 she moved to California. She continues to devote tireless hours mentoring and advocating for the blind, as well as delivering inspiring speeches to blind and visually impaired audiences and educating the sighted public about blindness. Ever Lee is blessed with one son, Victor; a wonderful daughter-in-law, Brenda; and three energetic grandchildren: Briana, Kendall, and Jasmine. She enjoys traveling, reading a good novel, and spending time with family and friends.
Mary Catherine Brothers (Cathy) was born on October 25, 1949, in Louisville, Kentucky, to Charles and Catherine Brothers. She is the third of nine children, four girls and five boys.
Cathy was born with congenital cataracts. In 1949 few resources were available to parents of blind children. The National Federation of the Blind was only nine years old, and the Kentucky affiliate was only two years old. The Brothers family had not heard of either. Her parents had never known any other blind people and couldn't imagine what the future might hold for their daughter. However, they decided that a common-sense approach was their best avenue. Luckily for Cathy, they never considered any approach to raising their blind daughter other than the methods they were using to raise their two older boys.
After several eye surgeries Cathy gained some usable vision in her right eye. At age five she was enrolled in a Roman Catholic school. Her parents chose this educational setting since the school offered a sight-saving class, where she would have access to large-print books and other materials that would make classroom work easier. Then in the fall of 1960 Cathy was enrolled at the Kentucky School for the Blind, where she remained until graduating from high school in 1967. Her parents and teachers decided that it would be more beneficial for her to attend school where she would have access to all of her textbooks in large print and, perhaps more important, where she could learn Braille.
This was Cathy's first exposure to totally blind peers and adults. Although she had been around other visually impaired students at her elementary school, the majority of them could see considerably better than she. She and her parents soon learned that blindness was simply a physical condition, certainly not one that would keep her from achieving whatever goals she set for herself. During these seven years while attending the Kentucky School for the Blind, she began to learn not to be ashamed of her blindness. She learned to advocate for herself and others. Being student council president during her junior and senior years launched her political career.
During the summer of 1967 Cathy attended the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind. An ill-advised rehabilitation counselor thought this training would be the crowning touch to prepare her for college in the fall. That summer school Lighthouse class of 1967 was comprised of very bright, outgoing, normal young adults, who turned the tables on the Lighthouse staff and teachers. As Cathy remembers the experience, the adults were the ones to get the education when the students refused to be bound by the low expectations and negative attitudes of the staff. At this point in her life she still had not heard about the National Federation of the Blind but was already preaching and practicing NFB philosophy.
Upon graduation from high school Cathy attended Spalding University, formerly Catherine Spalding College in Louisville, Kentucky. She majored in psychology, minored in sociology, and took an active part in academic, student government, and social organizations. The blindness skills and attitudes she had learned at the Kentucky School for the Blind and even the negative attitudes she had been exposed to at the Lighthouse the summer before college were beginning to pay dividends. Cathy was growing into an adult with increasingly resolute convictions and positive attitudes.
In 1972 Cathy met Betty Niceley, the longtime leader of the Kentucky affiliate and for many years a member of the NFB board of directors. The rest is history. This friendship began her formal Federation education. Although Cathy was slow to join the Federation, Betty never gave up on recruiting her. In 1975 Cathy became a member of the Louisville Association of the Blind, the former name of the local NFB chapter. Through the years Cathy eventually served as secretary, vice president, and president of the National Federation of the Blind of Greater Louisville. She was also treasurer of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille of Kentucky. In the Kentucky affiliate she has served as board member, treasurer, first vice president, and now president. At the 2002 annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind held in Louisville, she was elected to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind.
Cathy has held a variety of jobs through the years. During college she was employed at the Kentucky Industries for the Blind (now LC Industries for the Blind) to do seasonal contract work. For a short time after college Cathy worked for the state of Kentucky as a social worker in the Food Stamp Office. After staying home to raise her daughter, Cathy has worked successively as the program coordinator for the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky Braille Service Center, a clerical support staff member in a law office, and the Braille clerk for the Jefferson County school system. But her favorite job of all was stay-at-home mom to her daughter Dana Nicole. She volunteered as a classroom aide, did substitute teaching, and worked as a secretary in the principal's office. She served as president of the school Parent Teacher Association, secretary of the athletic club, and member of the parish council. In addition she coached both the peewee basketball team and the cheerleading squad.
In June of 2010 Cathy joined the ranks of the retired. She is enjoying retirement to the fullest. She says it affords her more time to concentrate on her NFB obligations. She is also enjoying spending precious time with her family, especially her two granddaughters, Hana and Haley.
Cathy has received a number of awards for academic and athletic achievement, but the awards she cherishes most are the Susan B. Rarick, Harold L. Reagan and T. V. Cranmer awards presented to her by the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky. Cathy commented that her roots and commitment to the NFB go deep and that the past thirty-eight years are just the beginning.
Carl Jacobsen was born on December 22, 1946, and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where his father had immigrated from Norway and his mother from Scotland. When he was sixteen, he lost his sight over a four-month period due to Lieber’s Syndrome. Although it would be some time before he found the NFB, Carl says he employed Federation philosophy in his approach to his blindness from the day he learned his diagnosis.
He transferred from Brooklyn Tech to Erasmus Hall High School because that's where the resource room was located. At Erasmus he met two adults who would have a positive influence on his life: his resource teacher, Sam Ellis, and his orientation and mobility instructor, Ed Towns. Carl tells the story of how Towns, now a former member of Congress, gave him a dry cleaning claim ticket and some cash and told him to pick up his suit. When Carl asked where the dry cleaner was located, Towns responded that, since he was such a wise guy, he could figure it out for himself. While at Erasmus, Carl also met Sally Rupp, one of the volunteer readers in the resource room, whom he would later marry. After graduation from high school Carl attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, for two years while Sally attended nursing school in Brooklyn. They decided the separation was too stressful, however, so Carl left school to marry Sally.
Soon he and Sally began their family with son Bradley and daughter Christine, born in their first five years of marriage. Later, in 1991, they adopted their son Andrew from Korea. While the older children were growing up, Carl returned to school and finished his bachelor's degree at Hunter College in New York City. He also attended Union Seminary for three years but decided not to seek ordination.
Carl attended his first NFB national convention in 1989 and has missed only one since, the year his wife Sally was critically ill. In the fall of 1989 he was elected second vice president of the New York affiliate. In 1991 he was elected president of the New York City Chapter, an office he held until 2005. Later that year he was elected first vice president of the state affiliate and subsequently elected affiliate president in 1997, a position he continues to hold. Carl also served on the board of directors of the National Association of Blind Merchants until July of 2006.
Throughout his life Carl has pursued various careers, including factory management and business enterprise management. He says his favorite work is teaching. Though he has never taught school, in addition to training entrants into the Randolph-Sheppard Program, he worked with blind children and teens on cane travel and other blindness skills as well as on attitudes about blindness. He also gives presentations to parents and educators of blind children on the truth about blindness the Federation way. Throughout the 1970s and 80s Carl was instrumental in establishing several programs for preschool children through local churches.
Carl was elected to the NFB board of directors in 2004. His daughter Christine presented him with twin grandchildren, Jason and Caitlin. His wife Sally died in February 2002. His son Brad and daughter-in-law Maggy presented him with another grandson, Gunnar Albizu, who was born in February of 2013. On May 20, 2006, Carl married Cantor Dr. Mindy Fliegelman. Together they continue to work for the independence of blind people in New York and across the country.
While he has received many awards and rewards, Carl says the greatest of them all is the victories both large and small which he and others achieve through the Federation. As long as the Lord gives them strength and breath, Carl and Mindy will work to advance the cause of the NFB.
Jeannie Massay was born in 1968 in Oklahoma City, the youngest of three children and the only girl. She said she was blessed to be a daddy’s girl, with brothers who did whatever she told them to do. “They always had my back and were loving and supportive,” she said.
Jeannie had good vision for the first thirty-seven years of her life, though she did suffer from severe astigmatism and wore strong glasses to compensate for it. She attended Windsor Hills Elementary School because her mother was a teacher there. “I have been an avid reader all of my life, and because my mom was a reading specialist who worked with sixth-graders, after school I went to her classroom to learn about Pompeii, the pyramids, and all kinds of things younger children didn’t normally get to read about.”
In junior high she attended Leo C. Mayfield. As a student she was involved in competing in intermural basketball and softball. She was also involved in the Pep Club and Student Council. In ninth grade Jeannie had unexplained weight loss and severe abdominal cramping, but soon the symptoms went away. They would return every couple months, and initially she was diagnosed with hyperglycemia. When she was sixteen the cramping, weight loss, and lethargy caused the doctor to do a blood glucose tolerance test, revealing a blood sugar level as high as 900. A normal blood sugar is considered to be around one hundred, and one is considered to be a diabetic if blood sugar levels exceed 140. She was hospitalized for a week to learn to manage her diabetes.
Jeannie attended Putnam City West High School, where she played competitive softball and performed in the band for three years. She was on the debate team and managed to get A’s and B’s, which kept her on the honor roll. “Although I didn’t do badly, I wish I had done better. I was pretty social and liked to talk to people. I was a pretty well-rounded kid, but it was tough being a diabetic and wanting to eat like a teenager. Since I wanted to fit in and do what I thought was normal, at times I went to the pizza parlor and the hamburger joints.”
After high school Jeannie attended the University of Central Oklahoma, living at home until her senior year. She thought she wanted to be a political scientist until her first class and then decided this was not what she was meant to do. Instead, she began studying psychology, and in 1990, during a two-week period, she graduated, got married, and watched her husband leave for active military service. Jeannie got a job selling cosmetics in a department store. When her husband Mark was transferred from Fort Knox to San Antonio to go through medical training to be a dietitian, she moved to be near him. After his training was completed, Mark was stationed at Landstuhl General Hospital in Germany, the largest military hospital in the European Theatre.
When Jeannie was eventually able to go to Germany, she loved it: the people, the food, and the opportunity for travel. She taught at a department of defense dependent school, providing instruction in reading, math, and language arts. She also worked with a behavioral management specialist, which led her to think at the time that she did not want to work with children—all the funnier because she eventually came to realize this was her calling and now her job is counseling children and teenagers.
Jeannie and her husband were in Germany just over three years during the Bosnian conflict. When the military began downsizing, Mark was offered early contract closure and both returned to the States. Jeannie went back to selling cosmetics, working at Estée Lauder. She started by working behind the counter, then became counter manager, and then assumed the job of account coordinator, managing seven counters around Oklahoma. When Mark received a promotion, both moved to Alexandria, Virginia, where he managed Marriott contracts for Georgetown University. Jeannie was able to continue her work with Estée Lauder but now she was back to working on the counter. Soon that counter was bringing in $1 million a year.
Yet another promotion for Mark found the couple moving to Jackson, Mississippi. Estée Lauder helped Jeannie find another job, this time managing multiple counters. The couple was in Jackson for two years, but a merger sent Mark to St. Louis, where he ran the food and conference center for Boeing. Jeannie went to work for a subsidiary of Estée Lauder, Origins, where she worked as the coordinator for eight stores in Missouri and Indiana. While in St. Louis the couple lived in an old Jewish Temple which had been renovated into an apartment. This she loved. Soon she was given the opportunity to interview as an account executive for Origins, flew to New York for the interview, talked with Mark, and was gratified to learn that his reaction to making a move that would further her career was unequivocal: “You have followed me around for ten years, so now I will gladly follow you.”
The couple moved to Memphis, and Jeannie was responsible for the states of Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. In this position she managed eighteen counters for Dillard’s stores and for other retail establishments. She supervised eighty people and loved the job.
Even the jobs we love the most come with significant drawbacks. Jeannie was traveling more than three weeks each month, and this was tough on her marriage and tough on her physically. “Sometimes I would work so hard that I would forget to eat. I got really skinny and sickly. So, after close to four years of this kind of life, Mark and I agreed that something had to change.” She chose to resign her position with Estée Lauder because she could not keep up with the demands of the job without continuing to damage her body. They decided to move back to Oklahoma to be closer to family and friends, drastically improving their quality of life.
Her next job was with the Oklahoma Blood Institute doing public relations and helping to run blood drives. She realized she liked working in this nonprofit organization because she believed in its mission, liked helping people, and felt she was doing something good for society. She worked there for two years before she had a hemorrhage in her eye. When she woke on a Friday morning and found that everything she saw was pink, she thought she was having a problem with allergies, because it had happened before. When the problem had not improved on Monday, she went to the doctor and on that day received 1,000 laser shots in both eyes. Problems with her vision would consume the next year of her life. Every two weeks she was having eye surgeries, procedures, and experimental injections. The frequent laser treatments on both of her eyes meant that she missed a lot of work, and the director of public relations called her in to ask why. No doubt feeling the need to expose her repressed inner doctor, the supervisor suggested Jeannie "get an eye transplant." In the quest to save her vision, she could not assure her supervisor that her attendance would improve, so she resigned.
Four times during that year of struggle to save her sight, she lost all of her vision. Each time it would return, there would be less of it. Emotionally she tells the story of traveling to a 7 AM Rotary Club meeting and finding that, on that day, she had so little vision that her usual ten-minute trip took forty-five minutes. “I freely gave up driving because I was terrified that I was going to hurt someone else.”
“I went through the next six months of surgeries and injections and finally came to the realization that I was mostly blind and it was going to stay that way. I couldn’t see to read or to sew, and at that point I had difficulty figuring out anything I could really do. Part of my self-concept is that I am a strong-willed person, but I couldn’t see how that strong will was going to save me.”
Mark was initially terrified by the onset of her blindness and for a time was very overprotective. Neither of the Massays knew a blind person, and the only thing Jeannie knew was that blind people carried long white canes. The rehabilitation agency had not offered her one, she had no idea where a cane for the blind could be had, so she began using a three-foot carved walking stick her father had used. “Mark and I moved in with my mom because I was familiar with the layout of her house. I started receiving library services for the blind but was on so much medication that I really couldn’t read or enjoy the books they sent. I signed up for rehabilitation services and tried to learn something about assistive technology, but only once did a rehabilitation teacher come to my house for fifteen minutes. Not knowing what else to do, I went to the Library for the Blind in Oklahoma City and spent hours there. They offered no formal training there, but I observed other people, listened to what they were doing, and came to understand a bit about the assistive technology used by blind people.
“The one thing I got from the rehabilitation agency that did seem to help was orientation and mobility services. I appreciated my instructor because she showed up for appointments and was the first person I could clearly see who wanted to give me back my independence.”
When Jeannie decided that she would need more training than she could get from an occasional home visit by the Oklahoma agency, she looked at residential rehabilitation centers. She considered attending the Colorado Center for the Blind and was given a long white cane, but the information she had heard about the National Federation of the Blind and the rigor of CCB training, along with biased information and the opinions of her counselor, convinced her that she should attend the Carroll Center for the Blind. She was at the center about six months, and in addition to personal adjustment to blindness training, she also went through an office skills program so that she could learn enough assistive technology to go back to school and get her master’s degree. As she gained confidence and a working set of blindness skills, Mark once again saw in Jeannie the fiercely independent woman he’d married. After her time at the Carroll Center, Jeannie went back to school to become a therapist. Working in the cosmetics industry had always been lucrative, but it’d never been her passion. Mark also made the decision to go back to school, and both graduated with their master’s degrees at the same time.
After graduating in May of 2011, Jeannie set out to begin the supervision process, part of the requirements for licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Oklahoma. The requirement consists of working for a minimum of three thousand hours under a counselor who is already licensed. Jeannie encountered discrimination when seeking a job to complete the supervision required for her to pursue licensure. “Although I was equally qualified and had a high GPA, many people saw my cane and assumed that I wouldn’t be able to do the job,” she said. After going on lots of interviews, Jeannie finally found a job in October of 2011. She began counseling children, adolescents, and their families, who deal with ADHD, depression and anxiety disorders. Jeannie completed the state and national exams in November of 2013 after having had issues gaining her appropriate and desired accommodations. She passed both examinations and will soon receive her Oklahoma state license as a licensed professional counselor.
Jeannie’s first association with an organization of the blind came when she joined the Oklahoma Council of the Blind, the state affiliate of the American Council of the Blind. Although she liked some of the people in the organization, she became concerned with how much time they spent complaining about this radical and militant organization known as the National Federation of the Blind. She did just enough research to realize that the NFB gave state and national scholarships, decided that she was as competent and capable as anyone else, and even decided that crazy, militant money was still spendable. She did not win a national scholarship but was invited to attend the 2008 state convention in Oklahoma. There were fourteen people at that convention and, to her surprise, Steve Shelton nominated her for a board position. During the luncheon speech presented by the national representative from the Federation, Jeannie was touched by the idea of finding something larger than oneself and reaching out to help others.
Although the Oklahoma affiliate did not award her a scholarship in 2008, it did provide resources she could use to attend the national convention. “I was a bit overwhelmed by the three thousand blind people in the Hilton Anatole,” she said, “but once I heard the gavel drop, I knew we had to bring this kind of enthusiasm and the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind home to Oklahoma. I felt a duty and an obligation to organize a chapter in Edmund, so Steve Shelton, Dick Morris, Selena Crawford, and Dan Frye worked to make the first meeting possible. We had four people attend, and I thought this was great! I told myself we would have an awesome chapter, but at our first regular meeting only the officers showed up. I was disappointed but resolved. The chapter kept growing and pretty soon it came to have twenty and then thirty people on average. We kept at it, and at the same time we worked on developing the affiliate.” Jeannie won a national scholarship in 2009, was invited by President Maurer to attend a leadership seminar, and at that time she told President Maurer that, when she graduated with her master’s degree, she would run to be the state president in Oklahoma.
A third chapter of the affiliate was organized in Ardmore, Oklahoma, in 2010. Two more chapters were chartered in 2012, one in Clinton, the West Central chapter, and the other in Tulsa, the Brady District Chapter. The affiliate has organized a student division and hopes to organize a Parents of Blind Children Division in 2014. In 2011 the Oklahoma affiliate had ten people at the national convention held in Orlando. In 2012 thirty-eight people sat in the affiliate’s delegation, since the convention was just across the Red River in Dallas, Texas. In 2013, once again in Orlando, the number of attendees from the state rose from ten to seventeen.
Jeannie says she has never had problems believing in the teachings of the National Federation of the Blind regarding the need to learn blindness skills. She says that, after her initial loss of vision, what she can see has varied so much that she has never been tempted to put down her cane. “My vision isn’t what I use to live—it is helpful and icing on the cake, but it cannot meet my daily needs for travel and other activities.”
Jeannie Massey was elected to the national board of directors in July 2013. “When I was growing up, and to this day, my mother used to ask me ‘What are you?’ She taught me to respond in the following way, 'I am intelligent, capable, beautiful, and lots of fun to be with.' This was our way of affirming who I wanted to be and who I could become, and blindness hasn’t changed any of it. This is the message I want to share with blind people: that our hopes, dreams, goals, and aspirations are no less real simply because we do not see.”
The needs of the blind of Puerto Rico are legion. With the support of the membership of the National Federation of the Blind of Puerto Rico, this board member has made it his personal mission to lead his affiliate to work for improved and modernized opportunities for education, employment, and daily life for all blind people in this somewhat isolated part of the United States. Now on the national board, he is expanding his work to include improved opportunities for all blind people nationwide.
Alpidio Rolón, the only child of Marcela García and Alpidio Rolón, was born on June 20, 1949, in New York City. Seven years later his family moved back to Puerto Rico, where he has lived since 1956. He volunteered for service in the US Army in July 1969, completed basic and advanced infantry training, then was sent to Vietnam in January of 1970. A rifle-propelled grenade that blew up in front of him blinded him on April 7, 1970. Three weeks later young Rolón was sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, where he learned basic orientation and mobility skills and was treated for perforated eardrums caused by the exploding grenade. He later spent six months at the Central Blind Rehabilitation Center of the Hines Veterans Administration Hospital in Chicago. There he learned the blindness skills that would permit him to live independently.
Rolón graduated magna cum laude from the University of Puerto Rico in 1976, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts with an Hispanic studies major. Continuing his interest in Hispanic studies at the master’s level, he completed both courses and comprehensive test requirements. At the University of Puerto Rico be began advocating for the rights of blind people. Although he had belonged to other blind consumer organizations, he says that it wasn’t until 1991—when he became part of the NFB of Puerto Rico organizing committee—that he began to believe that he could really do something worthwhile to help the blind, that joining the National Federation of the Blind was like coming home. Rolón was first elected as treasurer of the NFB of Puerto Rico in 1992 and has served as its president since 1996. He was elected to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind in July of 2006.
Rolón has combined his love of Spanish and his commitment to the National Federation of the Blind by translating NFB materials into Spanish. He was first motivated to do so when he heard Dr. Kenneth Jernigan’s speech "On the Nature of Independence" at the NFB national convention in 1993, in Dallas, Texas. He has since translated other speeches and Braille Monitor articles, served as a real-time translator of banquet speeches at national conventions, and edited inspirational personal stories written by members of the National Federation of the Blind of Puerto Rico of the kind that appear in the NFB Kernel Books.
Alpidio Rolón is the president of the Society of Friends of the Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of Puerto Rico. In that capacity he has guided the Society into producing Braille and recorded books in Spanish for blind children in Puerto Rico. To further his goal of improving educational and job opportunities for blind children and adults, he serves as president of the Advisory Council of the Puerto Rico Assistive Technology Program.
Born July 6, 1949, in Montclair and raised in Bloomfield, New Jersey, Joseph Ruffalo, Jr., had already graduated from Bloomfield High School, attended Montclair State College, and served America in Vietnam, where he earned a Bronze Star, before he learned in 1976 that retinitis pigmentosa would slowly claim his vision. For six years he continued his work as a manager in a Thom McAn shoe store, but by 1983 he began looking for guidance about how to achieve greater proficiency and control over his life as a blind adult.
The staff at the Joseph Kohn Rehabilitation Center (JKRC), then located in Newark, told him he should not learn to use a cane, read Braille, or master any adaptive devices because he still had enough vision to do without them. Though eager to obtain the necessary skills, at the time Joe believed he had no recourse but to adhere to the advice of the only professionals he knew. Not until 1986 did he learn to use a cane, and he accomplished that by teaching himself. While at JKRC, Joe discovered a talent for baking, which led to a successful nine-year career as the owner of a pastry business.
In 1988 Joe tentatively attended his first NFB chapter meeting in Newark. He reports that after ten minutes he knew that his life was about to change dramatically. Realizing that the NFB was a place of fraternity and empowerment, empathy and accomplishment, Joe says, “I saw blind people doing things I wanted to do. They were holding jobs, volunteering, and achieving in every pursuit.” This was the beginning of Joe's own growth and achievement. In 1990 he became second vice president of the New Jersey affiliate; two years later he was first vice president; and by 1993 he was president of the NFB of New Jersey, a position he maintains to this day. “It is a tremendous honor and responsibility to promote positive attitudes about blindness and the abilities of blind people,” Joe comments.
But Joe's community involvement has not been limited to the National Federation of the Blind. He has been a leader in the Lions Club for over twenty-five years, serving as president for three. He has also held positions as zone/regent chair and serves on the District 16-E cabinet. In over twenty-four years with the Knights of Columbus, Joe has held the positions of guard, warden, and deputy grand knight, and was an active member of the Boy Scouts of America for over fourteen years. As past president of the Special Education Parent and Professional Organization for thirteen years and past chairman of the board of trustees of the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, he has further worked to assure the full integration of people with disabilities into society.
Joe attended the Therapeutic Massage Center to obtain certification in massage therapy and from 1998 to 2000 provided massage for staff, patients, and visitors at Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, before moving his practice to a private office. He has served as a consultant to the Somerset School of Massage, making recommendations to staff and students and answering questions about training methods for blind students.
Joe also worked to smooth others' transitions from dependence to independence as a leader in two programs sponsored by the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He was previously employed by the First Occupational Center of New Jersey as a program specialist in the Senior Community Independent Living Services (SCILS) program, which identifies people over age fifty-five in Essex and Ocean counties who have experienced vision loss, with the goal of teaching independence skills so that these seniors can remain active in the community and independent in their homes. As state program director and northern region coordinator of the Leadership, Education, Advocacy, and Determination (LEAD) program, administered in partnership with Heightened Independence and Progress, Joe provided mentoring activities for blind teenagers and their families. Unfortunately, the LEAD program was terminated as of October 1, 2013.
Joe’s many contributions to the community were recognized in November 2000 when he was honored with the Partnership for Progress Award at the New Jersey Commission's Believe and Achieve ninetieth anniversary celebration. In July 2001 his leadership in the blindness community was again acknowledged when he was elected to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind. In October of 2002 the State of New Jersey honored Joe by presenting him with the New Jersey Vietnam Service Medal.
Joe has always been encouraged and supported by his wife of thirty-six years, Judy, and his two sons, Joseph and James. In his spare time Joe likes sports of all kinds, especially baseball and basketball, and enjoys hosting Thru Our Eyes, an Internet radio program <www.thruoureyes.org> that highlights blindness issues, discusses technology, and promotes positive attitudes about blindness.
Joe’s life and work express his commitment to the blind and their struggle for equality in society. His achievements stand as an example for others, like those of the Federationists who deeply impressed him at his first chapter meeting. He achieves and grows, facing every challenge with energy, enthusiasm, and common sense. In so doing, he exemplifies his belief that “one of the most important things for members of the blind community to do is to teach the public that blindness is only a characteristic. With the proper training, skills, attitude, and techniques, blindness can be reduced to a physical nuisance.”
by Anil Lewis
From the Editor: Anil Lewis is the most visible member of our organization working with Congress to repeal Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the section which allows the payment of less than the federal minimum wage to blind people and others with disabilities. In this article he addresses questions some have about the consequences of repealing this section, explores the faulty assumptions that argue for its preservation, and demonstrates his belief in the innate ability of the human spirit to overcome obstacles too many of us think insurmountable. As we consider his arguments, it is instructive to remember that Anil was initially diagnosed as a person with a developmental disability, and only through his mother’s perseverance and belief in him was he able to attend public school, graduate, and go on to earn a master’s degree in public administration. Here is what he says:
Members of the National Federation of the Blind believe that, given the proper training, support, and opportunity, people with disabilities can live the lives we want. Although some specialized public services may be required for our full participation, those provisions that exclude us from the same rights and protections as everyone else limit us to a lesser existence. Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is an unfair, immoral, discriminatory provision that allows entities to obtain a Special Wage Certificate from the US Department of Labor permitting them to pay workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage. These entities are almost always sheltered workshops, segregated workplaces that employ workers with various disabilities—including sensory, physical, and cognitive or developmental disabilities—at subminimum wages that are sometimes pennies per hour. This has been considered by some to be an essential tool for workers with disabilities. There are so many rationalizations touting the value and purpose of this provision. Some state that it is employment; others state that it is a training program; still others state that it is both training and employment. The last group states that it simply provides something for people with disabilities to do during the day. Regardless of which of these excuses is used to attempt to justify the existence of this provision, they all promote the misconception that people with disabilities are less capable and less productive than those without disabilities. The truth is that most, if not all, people with disabilities, when they receive specialized rehabilitation and training, can acquire a job skill that allows them to be competitive with nondisabled workers and to earn the federal minimum wage or higher. Most people are unaware of the rehabilitation and training strategies that make this possible and therefore believe that it is impossible. The fundamental question is whether we should, out of ignorance, support programs that believe the glass is half empty or whether we should, as an enlightened society, invest in programs that realize the glass is half full.
We must start with the facts. As a result of the antiquated Section 14(c) model, there are over four hundred thousand people with disabilities currently working for wages less than the federal minimum wage. Approximately two hundred thousand of these people are paid less than half of it, and approximately one hundred thousand are paid less than one dollar per hour. 33 percent of students with significant disabilities are being prepared for segregated subminimum-wage employment rather than competitive integrated work. The demonstrated outcome is that fewer than 5 percent of these people will transition into competitive integrated employment (work in a non-segregated environment at the federal minimum wage or higher). Therefore, 95 percent of these people will spend their entire working lives in a segregated subminimum-wage environment performing tedious, sometimes disgusting tasks promoted as work.
The segregated subminimum-wage employers peddle their programs as the solution, when they are really the problem. These employers reference the 70 percent unemployment rate of people with disabilities and assert that the existence of subminimum-wage payments is an essential tool to keep this statistic from getting worse. These “employers” have had over seventy years to use this “essential tool” to effect a positive change in the employment of people with disabilities and their strategy has failed miserably. It should be no surprise that a strategy founded on the belief that a person cannot be a productive employee results in nonproductive employees. The pseudo-work environments that pay individuals pennies per hour for performing mundane tasks are no better than the day habilitation environments they profess to replace. These shelters of low expectations rob individuals with disabilities of their real self-worth and the opportunity to achieve a better life. It is past time for us to invest our time and energy in the development of new models that result in more positive outcomes.
Under the Employment First paradigm, proven models exist that help people with significant disabilities acquire practical job skills and competitive integrated employment. These strategies have been proven successful for people who were previously trapped in segregated subminimum-wage work environments, where they were told every day by the so-called experts that this is the best they can achieve. Customized employment and supported employment strategies are being used to successfully transition people with significant disabilities into competitive integrated work environments after years of institutionalization. We should abandon the archaic segregated subminimum-wage model and embrace the proven Employment First model that recognizes the true value of workers with disabilities, costs less, and produces better outcomes.
We know that it can be done because, as a result of our advocacy, it is being done. Many organizations formerly using Special Wage Certificates have converted to a competitive integrated model in which every employee is paid at least the federal minimum wage. All but one of the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) affiliated agencies pay the federal minimum wage or higher to all of their workers with disabilities employed under the AbilityOne program, a special program created by the federal government and formerly known as the Committee for People Who are Blind or Severely Disabled. Already, 101 Goodwill affiliates operate successfully without paying subminimum wages. These affiliates work with similar populations of people with disabilities as the sixty-four Goodwill affiliates that assert that the Special Wage Certificate is an essential tool. When challenged with this fact, Goodwill representatives state that the difference between these two operational philosophies comes down to a local choice. The sixty-four subminimum-wage Goodwill affiliates are permitted to choose to use the Special Wage Certificate and Goodwill International refuses to adopt a policy that prohibits them from making this choice. Thankfully our advocacy efforts have driven Goodwill affiliates and other segregated subminimum-wage employers to begin to adopt similar non-discriminatory business models. We could just cling to the hope that once our efforts have resulted in an increased number of Goodwill affiliates making the successful transition to this proven business model, Goodwill International would finally adopt a policy that prohibits the use of this immoral discriminatory provision, and all segregated subminimum-wage entities would transition to this proven business model. Unfortunately, as long as it is legal, entities will continue to choose to pay workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage—business will always cut labor costs when the economy or the law allow it. In order to effect real systemic change, this ineffective provision must be eliminated.
The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2013, HR 831, will responsibly phase out and eventually repeal Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. As a result, people with the most significant disabilities will no longer be trapped in segregated subminimum-wage workshops. Entities will no longer be able to choose to employ workers with disabilities at subminimum wages. For-profit entities will have one year, public and governmental entities will have two years, and nonprofit entities will have three years to transition to a proven competitive integrated training and employment business model that helps people with significant disabilities to obtain real jobs at real wages.
We cannot guarantee that every individual currently employed at subminimum wages will be employed at the federal minimum wage or higher at the end of this three-year period. However, these people will be on a path toward competitive integrated employment, rather than being condemned to a lifetime of segregated subminimum-wage pseudo-work. The legislation does not require an employer currently paying an individual with a disability twenty-two cents per hour to immediately pay this individual $7.25 per hour. Therefore, it places no financial hardship on existing employers in the form of increased labor costs. The goal is not to subsidize wages; the goal is for workers with disabilities to acquire a job skill that will allow them to earn at least the federal minimum wage. If an entity is unable to provide proper training and support to assist an individual in obtaining competitive integrated employment, why should we continue to allow people with disabilities to suffer because of the inadequacy of the service provider? HR 831 eliminates the ability for an entity to be considered a successful employer by paying people subminimum wages rather than providing real work at real wages. As with any mainstream training or employment program, the entity must adopt a business model that provides quality training leading to the acquisition of a marketable job skill and competitive integrated employment for the majority of its students in order to continue to operate.
The largest obstacle to our achieving this necessary systemic change is the ignorance and prejudice that has stunted the progression toward equal status of minority groups in our society time and time again. As a society we believe that those who are different are inferior. We feel that if we were faced with blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, or another physical or developmental disability, we would not be able to succeed. Society asks representatives of entities that profit from this misconception for their opinion and we are told that these environments are necessary. These entities allow us to observe people with disabilities who, having received poor training and minimal support, are unable to effectively perform tasks in pseudo-work environments, and our beliefs of incapacity are reinforced. As a society we do not question the quality of the training or the qualifications of the professionals. We do not attempt to understand whether the assigned job task meets the individual's unique skills, interests, and abilities. What job skill can you acquire sorting hangers all day? How competitive an employee can you become by screwing caps on pens for a living? Although we know this environment would not be appropriate for us, we, with no knowledge of appropriate strategies or interventions, acquiesce and agree that this is an appropriate and even essential environment for others.
How many of us would continue to send our children to schools that openly state that they cannot teach our children? How many of us would attend a vocational training program that would not teach us an employable skill? How many of us would choose to work at a job that pays less than the federal minimum wage? None of us, but it seems acceptable to have different answers to these questions when we are referring to people with disabilities. Even many of us with disabilities make this assumption about others with disabilities that we perceive to be more significant than our own. We simply assume that these “other people with disabilities” cannot learn a competitive job skill and that they should therefore be pleased to work at subminimum wages to get the so-called "tangible and intangible benefits of work."
Segregated subminimum-wage workshop representatives ask, “Would you pay a full wage to a person who only works at 30 percent of normal productivity?” This is the wrong question. We should ask why the workshop, with its purported expertise in the training and employment of people with disabilities, is only able to assist the individual to reach 30 percent productivity when other entities are assisting similar people to acquire competitive job skills. No one challenges the competence or qualifications of the entities that represent themselves as quality training and employment programs for people with disabilities. Despite the fact that there are countless examples of people faced with significant disabilities who are successfully working in a variety of jobs, society believes that these people have no potential for competitive integrated employment because the program directors tell us so. We continue to support these programs even though they do not teach self-confidence, self-worth, alternative techniques, or any skills that would empower people with disabilities to secure employment and leave the rolls of poverty and public assistance. In any other instance it would be pure foolishness to use public funds to pay for schools where students do not learn, to pay for vocational programs that do not teach a marketable skill, or to provide public support for jobs that pay less than the federal minimum wage.
Phasing out the use of segregated subminimum-wage training environments is supported by research, countless case studies, and cost benefit analysis. So why is it so difficult to gain support for the long overdue repeal of Section 14(c) of the FLSA as outlined in HR 831, the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act? The simple fact is that it is easier to place people with significant disabilities in segregated environments to keep them away from the rest of society. We even cloud this outrageous act of discrimination by masking it as a demonstration of compassion for those less fortunate by placing them in safe sheltered environments for their own protection. We yield to those who profit from their false assertions of incapacity rather than fight for the rights of those being exploited. It takes courage to confront discrimination. It takes time and energy to invest in strategies and programs that work. We can take the easy way out and prepare the next generation of workers with disabilities for the segregated subminimum-wage workshops, or we can phase out the use of Section 14(c) and invest in the true capacity of workers with disabilities.
The employment statistics for workers with disabilities are far from ideal, but this is not a reason to accept the glass-half-empty logic of allowing workers with disabilities to work in useless jobs that pay them less than the federal minimum wage. The glass is in fact half-full, because strategies exist that allow workers with disabilities to obtain competitive, integrated employment. As a society we must invest time and resources in expanding the use of these strategies. This approach will ultimately create a more positive future for all Americans with disabilities.
by Michael Barber
From the Editor: The following article is reprinted from the Opinion page in the December 21, 2013, issue of the Des Moines Register with their kind permission. It is written by Michael D. Barber, the president of the Iowa affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, and he can be contacted by email at <email@example.com>. Here is what he has to say:
As a blind person who leads a statewide organization of blind people, I am often asked: “What is the greatest challenge blind people face?” My answer usually surprises people: For the blind, as for all people with disabilities, our biggest problem is other people’s attitudes about our disabilities and about how we should be treated. Everyone wants to help us, but the kind of help they want to give isn’t always the kind of help we need. When we try to explain this, we are told that we are being unreasonable or, worse, ungrateful.
Why can’t we accept the things that society is willing to give us and believes to be best for us? The answer is simple: Like all other Americans, we demand freedom, not the care of supposedly benevolent custodians.
US Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., has been the political champion of people with disabilities for many years and was a key proponent of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the civil rights act for people with disabilities.
The adulation he has justifiably received for his advocacy has, however, given him the impression that he can speak for us. Sen. Harkin has mistaken our appreciation of his past service for permission to advance a public policy that will set us back in our struggle for equality. He is endorsing an antiquated and immoral practice that allows workers with disabilities to be paid less than the minimum wage.
Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act allows certain employers to pay less than the federal minimum wage—usually “sheltered workshops,” the term for segregated factories set up specifically for workers with disabilities. Some of these workshops not only pay their workers mere pennies per hour, but they have them working in abhorrent conditions where the workers are physically and psychologically abused.
The Des Moines Register reported extensively on such a case, that of Henry’s Turkey Service, which paid workers at an Iowa turkey processing plant forty-one cents per hour and housed them in a roach-infested, unheated building.
In a recent bill known as the Workforce Investment Act, reauthorization was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which Sen. Harkin chairs. Language was included in Title V, Section 511, that purports to reduce the number of youth with disabilities placed in a sheltered workshop.
Although the intent is laudable, the policy endorses segregated subminimum-wage environments as viable training and employment options for workers with disabilities. There is a better way to stop young people from becoming victims of subminimum-wage employment: Responsibly phase out the use of this practice over a three-year period, allowing existing entities to convert to a proven business model that leads to competitive integrated employment of people with disabilities.
That’s what another bill, the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act, would do. Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., introduced this legislation, and it currently has nearly 50 co-sponsors and is supported by the National Federation of the Blind and over 60 other organizations of people with disabilities.
Americans with disabilities have tried to convince members of the US Senate to support a responsible phase-out of subminimum wages, like that introduced by Rep. Harper, rather than the ineffective, half measure proposed in Sen. Harkin’s bill. We have offered objective policy analysis, historical data, case studies, and descriptions of alternative best practices. We have provided data demonstrating that the archaic sheltered segregated model costs more and produces poorer outcomes for workers with disabilities. We have informed senators about alternatives for competitive, integrated employment that assist even those with significant disabilities in acquiring job skills that allow them to earn at least the federal minimum wage.
But rather than considering the merits of our arguments, most respond with this insulting question: “How does Sen. Harkin feel about this?” With all due respect to Sen. Harkin, he is not a person with a disability and cannot speak for us. His reputation as a champion of the rights of people with disabilities came about because, in the past, he listened to us and put forward legislation in response to what he heard. When he rejects our advice, as he is doing by putting forward Section 511, he is no longer a champion but a custodian, seeking to substitute his own idea of what is best for us.
Sen. Harkin helped Americans with disabilities achieve important milestones on our road to freedom. But freedom cannot be achieved while Section 14(c) remains in force and its grinding, soul-crushing machinery is merely tinkered with.
If Sen. Harkin wants to secure his legacy as a champion of Americans with disabilities, he should amend the Workforce Investment Act to remove Section 511 and introduce a Senate companion to the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act. These are the legitimate demands that millions of Americans with disabilities, speaking for ourselves, have put forward. Sen. Harkin and his colleagues must recognize and act upon them.
From the Editor: Since the introduction of Section 511 to the Workforce Investment Act and the focus it has returned to Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, I have been approached by members to ask how we have arrived at our new position on the right of the blind to earn at least the minimum wage. I tell them that this position is not new, and that any war will require the shifting of emphasis from battle to battle.
Recently Dan Burke ran across several articles from The Blind American,a publication of the American Brotherhood for the Blind, which was distributed by them when the National Federation of the Blind had temporarily discontinued the publication of the Braille Monitor because of shortfalls in our funding. As Dan says about these articles, “The history of our opposition alone is compelling, the arguments then as cogent and as crucial as ours today, and the interim half-century of continued exploitation of workers with disabilities and the powerful defense of vested ‘helper’ interests every bit as execrable.” Keep in mind that these articles are from The Blind American, April 1964, Volume IV, No. 2, and take note of exactly how little the debate has changed:
Bills which would extend the minimum wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act to cover disabled workers in sheltered workshops—many of whom are blind persons—were given a significant public hearing on April 6 by a subcommittee of the House of Representatives.
Testifying in favor of the minimum-wage proposals was John F. Nagle, chief of the Washington Office of the National Federation of the Blind, who presented an oral statement and participated in subsequent discussion. A joint written statement favoring the legislation was submitted by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, president of the American Brotherhood for the Blind, and James McGinnis, president of the California Council of the Blind.
Appearing in opposition to the wage bills were Peter J. Salmon, head of Brooklyn's Industrial Home for the Blind, and Tony Suazo, executive director of the National Association of Sheltered Workshops and Homebound Industries.
The two identical measures under consideration are H.R. 9904 and H.R. 9928, introduced by Congressmen John Dent and Dominick Daniels, both of whom are members of the General Subcommittee on Labor of the House Education and Labor Committee, which conducted the hearings. In addition to Congressman Dent two members of the subcommittee were present: Roman Pucinski, Illinois, and Alonzo Bell, California. (Other members are listed below.)
The measures call for a series of progressive wage increases for sheltered shop workers, requiring that they be paid not less than 50 percent of the prevailing national minimum (now $1.25 per hour) by January 1965, not less than 75 percent by the following year, and that, by January 1967, the sheltered workers must receive not less than the prevailing hourly minimum wage.
Salmon and Suazo, speaking against the bills on behalf of sheltered shop management, were subjected to sharp questioning and comments by Congressmen Dent and Pucinski. For example, when Salmon presented figures on costs and income for his Brooklyn workshop, Congressman Dent noted that the labor costs represented only about 16 percent of gross sales revenue and asserted that he had never before heard of any business with such low labor costs in relation to income.
Again, when the Brooklyn workshop executive sought to justify his low wage rates by lamenting the allegedly poor productive capacities of blind shop workers, the NFB's John Nagle intervened to point out that the great majority of blind and handicapped workers in sheltered workshops have sufficient capacity to compete on an equal basis in competitive employment if they are provided with proper training and adjustment services along with skilled help in securing employment.
In his oral testimony before the House subcommittee, Nagle urged the legislators "to recognize that disabled workers have the same problems as other workers, and share in common the same needs. We ask you to recognize and remedy the sorry plight of these workers—for their plight is a sorry one," he said.
The National Federation of the Blind official pointed out that "not only are these men and women in sheltered workshops not protected by the minimum wage provisions...but they are specifically denied this protection by the very provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act."
Nagle noted that in 1963 "nearly half of the sheltered workshops investigated were paying some of their disabled workers less than the very low wage rates presently permitted by law—and the number of such violations discovered shows a threefold increase over the previous year."
California Council President McGinnis joined Dr. tenBroek, head of the American Brotherhood, in a detailed statement documenting the grievances of blind sheltered shop workers throughout the country with respect to wages and general working conditions.
The two blind leaders asserted that "the tragic fact is that no consistent and generally agreed-upon" definition has yet been achieved as to the character and function of sheltered workshops and the status of the handicapped workers.
"Until a clear, acceptable and just definition can be devised, the identity of these disabled workers must remain in jeopardy and at issue—with resultant waste, confusion, conflict and failure on all sides," they said.
The joint Brotherhood-Council statement noted that in most of the public and official discussion on workshops, "one voice is rarely heard. That is the voice of the disabled worker himself, characteristically a blind person, whose concern in the matter is at once the most direct and vital of all."
Pointing out that "no outside groups or interests can in truth speak for the disabled worker in the sheltered shop," their statement continued: "Only the worker himself can do that—both directly, on the rare occasions when his individual voice may be heard, and indirectly through his own democratic voluntary organizations.
"During the past few years the voice of the shop worker has in fact been heard with increasing force and clarity," tenBroek and McGinnis said. "Blind workers in particular have made use of their own voluntary state associations, united in the National Federation of the Blind, to give organized expression to their demand for an adequate definition of their status and a reasonable reward for their labor.
"At the same time they have been systematically beginning to organize as an employee group, seeking union affiliation and recognition, and collective bargaining rights, through negotiation where possible and through strike action where necessary,” the statement observed.
Citing a long series of militant activities by sheltered shop workers in various parts of the country—notably in Cleveland, Dallas, St. Louis, San Diego, and Berkeley—the tenBroek-McGinnis statement focused upon "three main points of grievance" commonly raised by the handicapped workers in their organized protests:
"First, low wages consistently below the national minimum, coupled with discrimination and inequities in job classifications which have the effect of barring blind workers from normal advancement opportunities open to all others;
"Second, poor management, in terms both of simple ineptness and of irrational prejudice against the workers—the former expressed in terms of unnecessary delays, layoffs, low-quality production, and excessive operating costs—the latter in terms of contemptuous attitudes and outright bullying directed against the blind workers; and
"Third, inadequate training methods, carried out by unqualified instructors, performed on obsolete and poorly maintained equipment, and reflecting stereotyped convictions of the inability of blind persons to master any trades other than the most elementary and menial.
"The protest which is embodied in this wave of militant activity on the part of blind and disabled sheltered workers is unmistakable. It is a protest against an employment situation intolerable in its inequities and injustice; and it is a demand for recognition of the minimum rights of shop workers both as free citizens and as employees," the blind leaders said.
Letters supporting the two progressive wage bills for sheltered shop workers—H.R. 9904 and H.R. 9928—should be sent to the Hon. James Roosevelt, Chairman, General Subcommittee on Labor, Committee on Education and Labor, US House of Representatives, Washington 25, DC. Letters should also be sent to any subcommittee members who are from your state. The other members are: John Dent, PA; Roman Pucinski, IL; Dominick Daniels, NJ; Thomas Gill, Hawaii; Augustus Hawkins, Calif. These are the Democratic members of the Subcommittee. The Republicans are: William H. Ayres, Ohio; Charles E. Goddell, NY; Dave Martin, Neb.; Alonzo Bell, Calif.
by Bud Aronson
(Editor's note: Mr. Aronson is secretary-treasurer of the Union of State Employees, Local 411, AFL-CIO, the union responsible for the successful organization of blind workers in California Industries for the Blind workshops. A former intern with the Coro Foundation, Mr. Aronson prepared his article for publication in the March 1964 issue of the Foundation's bulletin.)
The wondrous joy flowing from the visual perception of a multitude of daily sights is not the only benefit denied blind workers in the State of California. Hundreds of sightless men and women employed in the State's sheltered workshops, known as California Industries for the Blind, are also deprived of many basic forms of protection accorded to their sighted counterparts in both private and public employment. Most important of the missing benefits is protection under the State's minimum wage law. Also noticeably lacking is a guaranteed work week. Consequently, it is perfectly legal to pay these workers as little as 50, 60 or 70 cents per hour, and it is equally legal to send them home after they report to work or to instruct them not to come to work for one or a number of days.
Of course, abundant explanations are readily available as to why blind workers are not treated just like any other workers. The usual argument advanced by government sources is that the blind in the sheltered workshops are primarily trainees rather than employees, that the chief objective of the workshop is to provide them with the vocational and personal rehabilitation necessary to equip them for a successful, gainful life on the outside. According to this theory, their stay in the workshop should be as brief as is possible, and as soon as the rehabilitation process has been completed, they should be placed on remunerative, outside jobs.
The only trouble with this argument is that few workers ever graduate from workshops to outside employment. The great majority are destined to remain at their same old stand making brooms and mattresses, or sewing and folding linen for the remainder of their productive lives.
Perhaps someday when society is more understanding and cooperative, or when the workshops teach more meaningful and adaptable skills, workshops may indeed become the mere stopping-off places they are intended to be, but, in the meantime, there is not the slightest indication that their present role is about to change.
In this context, it was not particularly surprising that in early 1963 the overwhelming majority of the 80 workers at the Berkeley GIB plant should see fit to become members of the Union of State Employees, Local 411, AFL-CIO.
After all, their grievances were numerous and important, and years of dissatisfaction gave no rise to hope of their solution. What was surprising, at least to many observers, was the tenacious militancy they would exhibit, a militancy which was to prove once and for always that sightlessness had not deprived them of the ability to recognize their own self-interest.
Early in May a number of broom makers engaged in a brief work-stoppage when their demands for improvements were not met. Acquiescence by management resulted in a speedy resumption of production. However, workshop officials then retaliated by laying off forty workers—one half of the entire work force. Management's contention that the layoff was forced by a surplus of unsold brooms piled up in the workshop was belied by Local 411's discovery that a large order for 800 dozen brooms had been placed by the State with a Texas organization.
It was at this point that the workers had to choose between insuring their jobs and returning to the old frustrating existence, or to take a calculated risk by remaining with the Union and "voting with their feet.” Their decision was virtually unanimous: to go out on strike. Fully sanctioned by the Alameda Central Labor Council and supported by all organized labor, the entire work force—with four lone exceptions—left their jobs and set up a picket line around the plant. Another delegation of strikers was sent to Sacramento, where picket lines were established outside the State Capitol, while the Legislature was in session, and the building of the Department of Education, which at that time administered the blind workshops. Legislators and State officials were equally surprised and apparently disturbed to see blind pickets, some of them accompanied by seeing-eye dogs, marching in orderly fashion around their buildings.
Two days of strike action, aided by generous publicity in all the communications media, led to a successful conclusion of the first authentic strike of blind workers in California history. Terms of the settlement included immediate rehiring of all workers—including the forty whose layoff precipitated the work stoppage—and management's agreement to negotiate on all outstanding issues.
Although the story is far from finished, this new chapter augurs well for the future of blind workers in the State. That they will no longer stand for the exploitive practices of the past has been demonstrated in unmistakable terms. Better wages, improved working conditions, and, above all else, attainment of the same dignity and recognition sought by all mankind since the beginning of time—these are the goals of California’s blind workers.
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 insures a future for blind people throughout the country. Special giving programs are available through the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).
Benefits of Making a Gift to the NFB
Your Gift Will Help Us
Your gift makes you a part of the NFB dream!
by Patti S. Gregory-Chang
From the Editor: Patti Chang is the chairman of one of the most important committees of the National Federation of the Blind. She and her committee are charged with advertising our scholarship program and choosing thirty students who evidence academic success, leadership, and a demonstrated commitment to helping others. Here is Patti’s announcement about the 2014 scholarship program:
Each July at our national convention the National Federation of the Blind gives a broad array of scholarships to recognize achievement by blind scholars. We offer thirty scholarships, and all are substantial and prestigious enough to warrant any student’s time to complete and compete. Our $12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship is the largest. The NFB Scholarship Program is our investment in the future of blind people who demonstrate scholastic aptitude, leadership, and service. I encourage every blind college student to apply.
I am sometimes asked what the secret is to winning an NFB scholarship. I am going to tell you the secret. First of all, applicants must meet the eligibility requirements to receive a scholarship. All applicants for these scholarships must be legally blind; must reside in one of our fifty states, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico; must be pursuing or planning to pursue a full-time postsecondary course of study in a degree program at an accredited United States institution in the fall academic year; and, if chosen, must participate in the entire NFB national convention and in all scheduled scholarship activities.
Many think the key to becoming a winner is a high grade point average. Others believe it is based on participation in extracurricular activities. Still others think it is one's level of commitment to the NFB. While grade point average is important because it demonstrates the ability to learn and be successful academically, it is not the only attribute that influences the scholarship committee. Participation in extracurricular activities is important in portraying oneself as a well-rounded person; it is not sufficient in itself to justify a scholarship award. Committed members of the organization recognize the attributes that are important to committee members when determining who wins a scholarship.
The scholarship program is a tremendous tool for us to develop future leaders of the National Federation of the Blind, but scholarship awards are not restricted to members of the organization. The National Federation of the Blind is an organization dedicated to creating opportunity for all blind people. Recipients of NFB scholarships need not be members of the National Federation of the Blind. Many of our past winners were not even aware of the NFB before they applied for our scholarships. When you check the lists of past winners, you will see that students of all ages and in widely differing fields have won over the years. The class of 2013 included students entering their freshman year, as well as older students who were nearly ready to write their PhD dissertations. Past winners are working toward credentials for employment in diverse fields.
There is truly only one way to win an NFB scholarship: that is to apply. Each November the new, updated scholarship application forms are posted on the Web at <www.nfb.org/scholarships>, along with important information about the contest, links to information on past winners, and a page of frequently asked questions. The application form for 2014 is already online. It will remain up until March 31, 2014.
The process can be initiated with an online application, which we prefer, or students can ask for a print application by contacting our scholarship office at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or by calling (410) 659-9314, ext. 2415.
A complete application consists of the official application form and a student essay, plus these supporting documents: student transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and proof of legal blindness. The student must also complete an interview with the president of the applicant's state of residence or the state where he or she will be attending school. High school seniors must also include a copy of the results of their ACT, SAT, or other college entrance exams.
Unfortunately, some applications are incomplete, so the committee is unable to consider them fairly. Applicants must ensure that all of the required information and supporting documentation has been received by our scholarship office either online by midnight EST, March 31, 2014, or by mail postmarked by March 31, 2014. Students should carefully consider who can do the best job of writing their letters of reference. Letters should support the application by being full of facts and observations that will help the members of the committee see the applicant as a smart, active student and citizen. Students can write their essays using word processing software. They should remember to use the spell checker (or a human proofreader) before uploading, printing, or copying and pasting it into the online application form.
In an effective essay the applicant will talk about his or her life in a way that gives the committee insight into him or her. The essay should cover the ways in which one lives successfully as a blind person and describe one's personal goals for the future. Information about positions of leadership is especially helpful. Committee members give the essay a great deal of attention.
The NFB scholarship committee is comprised of dedicated, successful blind people who will review all applications and select the top thirty applicants who will become the scholarship class of 2014. Note that students submit just one application to the program; the scholarship committee will choose the thirty winners from all applications received. These thirty scholarship winners will be notified of their selection by telephone no later than June 1.
Finally, during the annual convention held July 1 through July 6, 2014, in Orlando, Florida, the scholarship committee will decide which award will be presented to each winner. Attending the entire NFB national convention is one of the requirements to become an NFB scholarship winner. Of course, attending the convention is also a significant part of the prize.
The National Federation of the Blind’s national convention is the largest gathering of blind people to occur anywhere in the world each year, with 2,500 or more people registered. Those chosen as scholarship recipients will have the opportunity to network with other blind students, to exchange information and ideas, and to meet and talk with hundreds of blind people who are successfully functioning in many occupations and professions. Our past winners often comment that the money was quickly spent, but the contacts they made and the information they gathered at convention have continued to make their lives richer than they ever imagined.
Often students apply more than one year before winning a scholarship, so applicants are encouraged to reapply. The NFB may award three or more scholarships to men and women who have already received one Federation scholarship in the past if their scholarship and leadership merit another award. Individuals receiving a second NFB national scholarship are recognized as tenBroek Fellows. The secret, if there is one, to winning an NFB scholarship is to read carefully the application on our website, and then provide all of the required information and supporting documentation before the deadline of March 31, 2014. However, I actually maintain that there is no secret. The only way to win an NFB scholarship is to apply.
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@example.com> 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 come from members of the NFB of New Mexico.
by Don Burns
Don Burns retired in 2006 and now enjoys gardening. He refers to himself as a part-time chili farmer.
1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 jalapenos, finely chopped
Method: Put berries into boiling water for one minute. Drain and place in cold water. Chop all remaining ingredients and mix with drained cranberries. Serve with tortilla chips.
Creole Okra with Shrimp
by Daphne Mitchell
Daphne Mitchell is a fairly recent transport to the Land of Enchantment but has quickly made herself busy in the affiliate. She serves as second vice president of New Mexico, president of the Albuquerque Chapter, and state coordinator for New Mexico’s BELL Program. Recipes like the following keep her a Louisianan at heart:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 14- to 16-ounce package cooked andouille or smoked sausage, cut into quarters
1 16-ounce package frozen cut okra, thawed
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning, or to taste
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
2 pounds peeled and deveined medium shrimp
2 cups water
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
Method: Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the celery, bell pepper, and onion; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about five minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer for ten minutes, then add the okra, sausage, Cajun seasoning, and pepper. Cover and cook for thirty minutes. Place the rice and water in another pot, and cook according to package directions. Add the shrimp to the okra mixture and cook, stirring, until they are bright pink on the outside and the meat is no longer transparent in the center, about eight to twelve minutes. Serve okra mixture over cooked rice.
by Peggy Chong
Peggy Chong is a new member of the NFB of New Mexico, but she is a longtime member of the Federation, an amateur historian, and a cook.
12 ounces Jimmy Dean Sausage
1 1/2 cups Bisquick
12 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
Method: Combine all ingredients. Mix with hands. Form into balls. Bake at 350 on greased cookie sheets for 25 minutes.
Red Chili Sauce
by Veronica Smith
Veronica Smith is the president of the West Mesa Chapter in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the chair of the membership committee, and a board member of the NFB of New Mexico. She is married, has a fourteen-year-old daughter, and was recently hired at Zia Elementary School as an educational aid in the VI program.
20 dried chili pods
1/4 cup water
6 garlic cloves
Pinch Mexican oregano
1 pound diced pork (optional)
Method: Remove the stems and seeds of the chili pods. Soak the pods in water or simmer on stove for about ten minutes. Place chili and garlic in a blender with 1/4 cup water and puree until smooth. (Blend six to eight pods of chili and two cloves of garlic at a time, which will make the puree smoother and easier to work with.) Add more water as needed to get a medium consistency. In a saucepan, combine pureed chili with Mexican oregano and salt to taste. Bring to a slow boil, and then simmer for twenty minutes. Pork can be browned and added to sauce while simmering. Yield: 3 cups.
by Veronica Smith
There is nothing in this world better than biting into a warm sopapilla while visiting New Mexico. Traditionally they are served alongside any New Mexican meal, which might be something like enchiladas, chile rellenos, or a bowl of posole. Most people love to slather the inside of them with honey. But be very careful when you pop open the corner: hot steam will pour out.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shortening
Warm water, enough to make a soft dough, but not sticky
Method: Combine all ingredients to form dough. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes, making sure that all ingredients have been combined. Divide the dough into ten to twelve balls. Roll the balls into circles an eighth inch thick, then cut into medium wedges; you decide how big you want them to be. Fry in about one inch of oil until browned on each side and puffed up. Some people use a Fry Baby so they can immerse the wedges all at once. When done frying, throw into paper sack with some paper towels to drain. Serve warm.
Mexican Coffee with Chocolate and Cinnamon
by Nancy Burns
Nancy Burns served as president of the NFB of California. She and Don moved to Albuquerque in 2006 and enjoy entertaining. The following is one of her favorite desserts.
6 cups water
1/2 cup ground dark roast coffee
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup half and half
1/3 cup chocolate syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sweetened whipped cream
Method: Place water in coffee maker; place coffee and cinnamon sticks in coffee filter. Combine half and half, chocolate syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla in coffee pot. Brew coffee; coffee will drip into the cream mixture. If desired, serve with one shot tequila in bottom of cup, pour in coffee, and top with whipped cream.
NFB Bid for Equality:
Thank you to everyone who supported our Bid for Equality online auction. We are grateful for our members who helped with this effort, including those who spread the word about the auction. And we especially appreciate those who made a "bid for equality." The package with the highest leading bid was Texas’s two music badges to the South by Southwest Music Festival, including hotel accommodations, which was followed by Indiana’s pearl necklace and earring set and New York’s weekend getaway.
We are excited to report that we received more than $10,000 in bids to support our programs. We are already looking forward to next year’s auction.
The Blackhawk Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois held elections with the following results: president, Jay Blanchard; vice president, Patrick Olson; secretary, Jean Rauschenbach; treasurer, Lois Montgomery; and board members, Mark Clayburne Jr., Leah Slightom, and Donna Miles.
The National Federation of the Blind of Rhode Island held its forty-third convention on October 26. The following individuals were elected: treasurer, Daniel Kendig; and board members, Angelina Stabile and Donna Elliott. Congratulations to Angelina, Donna, and Daniel.
The Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the NFB of Pennsylvania held its election on Saturday, October 26th. The following people were elected: president, Denice Brown; first vice president, Stanley Ingram; second vice president, Joyce McEntyre; treasurer, Eugenio D'Oliveira; and board members, Stacy Shomo, Sherry Gaskins, Michelle Owens, and Ruth Chambers.
At the business meeting of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington, held during the 2013 convention in Everett, the following members of the NFBW board of directors were elected: treasurer, Cynthia Bennett; board members, Gary Mackenstadt and Betty Watson; delegate to the 2014 NFB national convention, Michael Freeman; first alternate delegate, Doug Johnson; second alternate delegate, Kaye Kipp. Congratulations to those elected, and a hearty "thank you" to those who have ably served before them.
TEACH Act Collaboration:
The National Association of Blind Students (NABS) is collaborating with the NFB's advocacy and policy department in their efforts to advocate for the Technology, Education, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education (TEACH) Act. They are collecting stories about blind students' experiences with higher education, with a goal of collecting stories from constituents living in every congressional district in the United States.
They need stories from current and recent students who are, and have been, affected by the lack of accessibility in the classroom, whether it was through inaccessible instructional materials or a lack of, late, or inadequate accessible materials. Instructional materials could be any form of curricular content from digital books to web content, to PDF, to online digital databases. If you have information to share, compose your paragraph-long story and send it to Cindy Bennett at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Be sure to include a sentence about how accessibility guidelines would have prevented or solved your problem. Please include the school you attend or attended and any congressional districts that you live in. For example, if your permanent address is in a different congressional district from the district in which you go to school, list both. If you do not know this information, you can use your ZIP code to look it up at <http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/>.
The second way that you can help is by reinforcing the appointments the NFB has with Congress. If someone has an appointment with your congressperson, Cindy will contact you with the date of the appointment, and you can call your congressperson's office and tell your story. This will show your congressperson that one of his or her constituents is directly affected by inadequate accessibility and needs the TEACH Act. This part is very important since members of Congress work for their constituents.
If you have any questions, contact Cindy Bennett at <email@example.com> or Lauren McLarney at <LMcLarney@nfb.org>. For more information about the TEACH Act, please read the fact sheet found at <https://nfb.org/images/nfb/documents/word/2013-teach-fact-sheet.doc>.
Blind Access Training:
At Blind Access Training we pride ourselves on our ability to provide customized, individualized training to fit the unique needs of our clients. Our trainers work with clients to establish reasonable, achievable technology goals. Our aim is to empower our clients to use the devices and software they have been trained on with proficiency and confidence to achieve greater independence. We provide training using the telephone, Skype, and our Talking Communities classroom to allow clients the freedom and flexibility to choose the venue that best fits their skills and comfort. We provide the following training options: Windows Operating Systems (XP and higher), Mac OSX, iDevices (iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, and iPad Mini, iOS 4.0 and higher), Outlook, Windows Live Mail, Microsoft Office Suite (2007 and higher), JAWS (all versions), Window-Eyes (all versions), System Access, SAMNet, and DocuScan Plus, Nonvisual Desktop Access, VoiceOver, ZoomText (all versions), OpenBook (all versions), Kurzweil 1000 (11.0 and higher), various Braille displays and notetakers (ask for details), and web design (HTML, CSS, PHP, and JAVA Script).
For more information please contact us by phone at (877) 774-7670 and press 1, or by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. You can also visit us on the web at <http://www.blindaccesstraining.com/> to view our complete listing of services. You can also find helpful blogs, a sample tutorial, and a resource list there.
Second Annual Fundraiser Bus Trip for the NFB Travel and Tourism Division:
After the success of our first fundraiser for our division trip to Utah, we decided to offer another great trip. This time it is to Country Music USA, Nashville, TN, on October 6 through 10, 2014. This is during Meet the Blind Month, and, for those worried this might interfere with your state convention, the trip starts on Monday and ends on Friday, so you can either fly in from your state convention or fly to your state convention from this trip.
What’s included: four nights lodging, eight meals (four breakfasts and four dinners), two great shows (the Grand Ole Opry and Nashville Nightlife Theater), an exclusive dinner party with entertainment, guided tours of Nashville and Belle Meade Plantation, admission to the Country Music Hall of Fame, admission to the Grand Ole Opry Backstage Tour, transportation in Nashville to and from the airport on a video and restroom equipped motorcoach, tips for driver and tour guide, and much more!
The trip will cost $568 per person based on double occupancy. Deposits of $75 are due no later than May 15, 2014, and final payment is due by July 15. Payment plans can be arranged once deposits are made. Travel insurance will be offered.
For those wanting hotel rooms on October 5, prior to the start of the trip, please contact us so we know how many rooms to hold. These will be at an additional cost.
The itinerary can change, depending on weather and traffic, but this is what is offered:
Day 1: After you land at the Nashville International Airport, you’ll depart in the comfort of a luxury, video and restroom equipped motorcoach as you head for lots of excitement in Nashville. On this evening you’ll enjoy dinner and check into your Nashville area hotel for a four-night stay. (Not sure which hotel yet, but the tour operator uses hotels such as Holiday Inn or similar, you will be notified prior to the trip.)
Day 2: After enjoying a continental breakfast, you’ll take a guided tour of Nashville, including a stop at the Parthenon. The Parthenon is the world’s only full-scale reproduction of the famous Greek Temple. After this you will enjoy a ride on the Delta Flatboat inside the Opryland Hotel. This evening you will enjoy dinner before going to see a show at the famous Grand Ole Opry.
Day 3: After a continental breakfast, you’ll depart for a guided tour of beautiful Belle Meade Plantation. Marvel at its antebellum architecture, and learn about its unique Southern history. Belle Meade’s illustrious past has spanned from its prosperity as a thoroughbred breeding establishment, to its perilous location at the Civil War’s Battle of Nashville, to its current restoration as a historically accurate Victorian home. A visit to Belle Meade also provides an important insight into the struggles of African Americans before the Civil War. Next, you’ll have an opportunity to explore historic downtown Nashville. During the evening, enjoy dinner and a show at the fabulous Nashville Nightlife Dinner Theater.
Day 4: Enjoy a continental breakfast, before departing for the Grand Ole Opry Backstage Tour. There’s nothing like a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry House—it’s a must-see for everyone in Music City. Walk in the footsteps of country music’s superstars, and get an exclusive look at what happens behind the scenes of the show that made country music famous. On this afternoon, you’ll head to the Country Music Hall of Fame. This is a state-of-the-art cultural landmark and an architectural crown jewel of the Nashville skyline. Be amazed by its incredible array of rare costumes, instruments, and historical mementos. When evening arrives, enjoy an exclusive group dinner party with entertainment.
Day 5: After enjoying a continental breakfast, you will depart for home. It is a perfect time to chat with your friends about all the fun things you’ve done, the great sights you’ve seen, and where your next group trip will take you!
To book, contact Cheryl Echevarria, president of the Travel and Tourism Division. Echevarria Travel will be hosting this trip for the NFB Travel and Tourism Division. Call (631) 456-5394 or email <email@example.com>.
A New Addition to NFB-NEWSLINE®:
We are pleased to announce the addition of The Verge to our Breaking News Online publications. The Verge was founded in 2011 in partnership with Vox Media and covers the intersection of technology, science, art, and culture. Its mission is to offer in-depth reporting and long-form feature stories, breaking news coverage, product information, and community content in a unified and cohesive manner. The Verge won five Webby Awards for the year 2012, including awards for Best Writing (Editorial), Best Podcast for The Vergecast, Best Visual Design, Best Consumer Electronics Site, and the Best Mobile News App.
This publication is now available using NFB-NEWSLINE on the telephone, on Web News On Demand, and on the iPhone app. For telephone users, The Verge is available as a Breaking News Publication. To access this you should select option number 5 from the main menu, labeled For Newspapers in a Different State. Then select the option for Breaking News Online, which is option number 1. From there select the option for The Verge.
For iPhone users, first navigate to the Publication Options. From there select Publication Groups. Finally, you can find The Verge as a newspaper under the Breaking News Online group.
For those using Web News on Demand, The Verge will be available either from an alphabetical listing or, if you prefer, you can access Publications Organized by State. Then select Breaking News Online.
We hope you enjoy this new addition to the service. Stay tuned for more additions over the next few weeks. Happy Reading from the NFB-NEWSLINE Team!
Community Service Group Seeks AmeriCorps Alum:
Fellow Federationists, are you an AmeriCorps alum? Would you be interested in sharing some of your AmeriCorps experiences with other service-minded Federationists? Then the Community Service Group is looking for you!
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, the Community Service Group is looking for AmeriCorps alumni to speak at our annual seminar at the 2014 national convention in Orlando, Florida. If you would be interested in speaking and sharing your experiences, please contact Chris Parsons at <Christinefirstname.lastname@example.org>.
We look forward to hearing from you and hearing your stories!
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.
International consultant and state agency leader to head up services for the blind in Oklahoma:
Douglas C. Boone, a consultant and state agency leader from Kalamazoo, Michigan, with thirty years’ experience in serving people who are blind, will soon lead Visual Services staff for the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.
“I am excited about coming to Oklahoma, and I look forward to working with the staff at the Division for Visual Services and Oklahoma DRS,” Boone said. “I believe that we can most effectively fulfill our mission, which is really a joint venture between the federal Vocational Rehabilitation system and the state of Oklahoma, by developing a partnership between the hardworking professionals within the agency and the customers who are eligible to receive vocational rehabilitation and independent living services. Together we will work as a team that can implement the strategies needed to enable blind Oklahomans to reach their full potential," he said.
As president of D. Boone Consultants since 1993, he offered customized consultation to agencies, educational institutions, businesses, and organizations serving people who are blind. The company served more than one thousand staff in nineteen states and Europe with programs targeting vocational rehabilitation, independent living, program review and evaluation, strategic planning, reasonable accommodations, employer outreach, orientation and mobility, industrial education, and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.
As state director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services, Boone was responsible for vocational rehabilitation, employment, independent living, and specialized services for blind adults and children. He also administered a program that provided opportunities for people who are blind to own and operate food service businesses on government property under provisions of the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act.
His career included employment as director of human resources staff development for the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, rehabilitation counselor and rehabilitation teacher at the Oregon Commission for the Blind, and as an orientation and mobility instructor and industrial arts instructor for visually impaired adults and youth.
Boone, who has an orthopedic disability, benefited from rehabilitation services as a client of Nebraska Rehabilitation Services. Douglas Boone jokes about inheriting a strong desire to travel from his forefather Squire Boone Jr., an American pioneer and the brother of Daniel Boone. The brothers lived in many states. “The brothers were always looking for a better place and always trying to improve the places where they were,” he said. Boone earned a bachelor of education degree from Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska. He participated in three segments of the National Executive Leadership Institute sponsored by the Rehabilitation Services Administration. He is a member of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired and the National Federation of the Blind. Boone’s wife Christine is an attorney. Their son Edward is serving in the US Army in Afghanistan. Daughter Kate works as a groundwater geologist for the state of Nebraska.
DRS annually serves nearly 85,000 Oklahomans with disabilities through employment, vocational rehabilitation, education, and independent living programs, and the determination of medical eligibility for disability benefits. For more information, phone (800) 845-8476 or visit <www.okdrs.gov>.
2013 Onkyo Braille Essay Contest Winners:
The Onkyo Braille Literacy Essay Contest is administered in the US by the NFB on behalf of the North American/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union. The essay contest, which is sponsored by the Onkyo Corporation and the Braille Mainichi, was created to promote Braille literacy and to encourage the sharing of social and cultural information among blind and visually impaired persons.
The essays were required to be written in Braille and to pertain either to how the individual gains knowledge or independence through Braille or to an individual concept about world peace from the viewpoint of persons with disabilities. There were two groups of competitors: a junior category for persons up to age twenty-five and a senior category for persons over age twenty-six. Each winner received a substantial cash prize, a plaque, and other gifts from the Onkyo Corporation.
The seven winners from the North America/Caribbean Region were as follows: Ootsuki Prize, Jerry McKee, Alabama; Excellent Work Award, Senior, Lynn Spittle, South Carolina; Excellent Work Award, Junior, Anna Avramenko, Kansas; Fine Work Award, Senior, Jeremiah Rogers, North Carolina, Carolyn Fish, Virginia; Fine Work Award, Junior, Aspen Poole, New York, Tamer Zaid, Texas.
New Partnership Between Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and American Printing House for the Blind:
The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) and the Dollywood Foundation began an exciting partnership in the summer of 2011 that expands Dolly Parton's Imagination Library (DPIL) program to provide young blind and visually impaired children with accessible books in audio and print/Braille formats.
Thanks to the APH/Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Partnership and the support of Penguin Group USA, the Accessible Books website was established at APH. It offers a growing collection of audio files of Imagination Library books available as free downloads.
Now, selected Imagination Library Books are also available, free-of-charge, in print/Braille format. By enrolling in the Partners Print/Braille Book Program, a child may receive five free print/Braille books each year until reaching his/her sixth birthday. APH selects the titles from the current year’s DPIL booklist, those most appropriate for a child with a visual impairment. Print/Braille versions are mailed directly to the child’s family.
Is your child a potential Braille reader under six years of age? If yes, apply now for the Partners Print/Braille Book Program! Books are limited and enrollment is on a first come/first serve basis. Complete and submit our application form here, <https://usa.imaginationlibrary.com/audio_and_braille_books.php>.
This free service is made possible by generous donors from across the country. APH welcomes contributions to help defray initial costs and expand the program so that all blind and visually impaired children will benefit from this wonderful service. Donate Now!
APH President Tuck Tinsley: "We're excited! What an honor it is to partner with someone like Dolly, who is as passionate about literacy as we are. This relationship between the Imagination Library and the American Printing House for the Blind means that blind and visually impaired preschoolers can now be more involved in the experience of reading with their parents."
Ms. Parton: "Any credit I get is really due to the hard work and fine reputation of all of those who partner with us to bring the love of reading to so many kids. I am just thrilled we can work together to bring this same joy to all children who may have trouble seeing but have no trouble in believing that all of their dreams can come true."
About Dolly Parton's Imagination Library
Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, a part of the Dollywood Foundation, partners with local sponsors in 1,300 communities in three countries to provide a quality, age-appropriate book each month to preschool children enrolled in the program. For more information, visit <www.imaginationlibrary.com> or the official Facebook page.
About the American Printing House for the Blind
American Printing House for the Blind (APH), founded in 1858, is the world's largest nonprofit organization creating educational, workplace, and independent living products for people who are blind and visually impaired. In addition, the Louis database currently contains approximately 398,796 titles in accessible formats <www.aph.org>.
GrabPak Offers Emergency Preparedness Kit for Blind:
When disaster strikes, community emergency services and government agencies may not be able to respond promptly to your needs. Their buildings, equipment, personnel, communications, and mobility may be severely hampered by the event. At a minimum they will be overwhelmed.
The US Department of Homeland Security and state emergency management agencies strongly recommend all Americans prepare to be on their own for a minimum of three days after a disaster. One of the most important elements of preparedness is the seventy-two-hour emergency kit for your home or office.
The GrabPak custom-built backpack kit for the blind and vision-impaired includes the necessary supplies to comfort and assist those with limited or no vision during an evacuation or times of emergency. Our blind and vision-impaired backpack comes equipped with a Braille identification tag and all items in the backpack are labeled in Braille and large print. Contents include: List of contents in Braille, extended-shelf-life high-calorie food bars, extended-shelf-life water pouches, crank-powered mobile phone charger with USB connection cord, crank-powered LED Flashlight, first aid kit, LED illuminated pocket magnifier, compact folding white cane, rescue whistle, Mylar solar blanket, hooded rain poncho, twelve-hour light stick, AM/FM radio with batteries, and hygiene kit. Note: Supplies for guide dogs, including extended-shelf-life dog food and water, collapsible bowl, and waste disposal bags, are also available.
For more information, please visit us at <www.grabpak.com> or call David Fisher at (800) 620-4199.
Developers of Tactile Graphics Guidelines and Standards Honored with BANA’s Braille Excellence Award:
The international committee that developed the landmark publication Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010 was recently honored with the Braille Excellence Award from the Braille Authority of North America (BANA). CBA-BANA Joint Tactile Graphics Committee, which was co-sponsored by the Canadian Braille Authority (CBA) and BANA, received the award on December 5 in Providence, Rhode Island, in a showcase session at the 2013 Getting in Touch with Literacy Conference.
The volunteer members of this collaborative CBA-BANA ad hoc committee donated their time and talents for nearly a decade, meeting by phone almost weekly year round. Together, they defined, refined, and established in writing a comprehensive, user-friendly set of research-based guidelines and standards for the design and production of tactile graphics for Braille users.
The members of the CBA-BANA Joint Committee on Tactile Graphics honored with BANA’s Braille Excellence Award are: Lucia Hasty, Colorado, USA; John McConnell, New Brunswick, Canada; Janet Milbury, Nova Scotia, Canada; Irene Miller, Alberta, Canada; Allison O’Day, Minnesota, USA; Aquinas Pather, Ontario, Canada; and Diane Spence, Texas, USA.
The publication of Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010, which includes a manual and an accompanying supplement that contains hardcopy examples, was approved by BANA in the fall of 2010. The manual is available free of charge on the BANA website at <http://www.brailleauthority.org/tg/index.html>. Hardcopy editions of the manual and the supplement can be purchased from the American Printing House for the Blind <www.aph.org>.
The BANA Braille Excellence Award was established in 2009 to commemorate the bicentenary of Louis Braille's birth by recognizing individuals and groups who have made significant contributions to Braille. It was presented to Dr. Abraham Nemeth in 2009 and to Mr. Joseph Sullivan in 2011.
The extraordinary commitment and contribution of the CBA-BANA Joint Tactile Graphics Committee will have an immeasurable impact for Braille readers. Their work and dedication are truly representative of the accomplishments that BANA’s Braille Excellence Award was designed to recognize. For additional resource information, visit <www.brailleauthority.org>.
New Crossword App for iPhone and iPad:
Four Down is a crossword app for iPhone and iPad that uses VoiceOver to make it fully accessible to blind and visually impaired users. With VoiceOver enabled you can easily navigate around the crossword grid and the clues. As you do so, Four Down reads the clues aloud, telling you the clue itself, how many letters the answer has, and describing any letters in the answer that are already known. For example, it may say “Eight down. Male duck. 5 letters. D, three blanks, E.” When you’re ready to answer a clue, you simply double-tap and use the keyboard to enter the answer.
In addition to being able to enter the answers into the crossword grid, you can also use VoiceOver to find out how you’re getting on by checking individual letters, a whole answer, or the entire puzzle. Four Down will announce whether or not any mistakes were found and, if there were, it will describe their locations on the grid so that you can easily find and correct them. If you get stuck, Four Down can lend a helping hand by filling in an individual letter or a whole answer. If you get really desperate, you can even fill in the entire puzzle.
Four Down is a universal app, meaning the same app works on both iPhone and iPad and costs $0.99 in the App Store <https://itunes.apple.com/app/id655212651?mt=8>. If you try Four Down, the developers would love to hear from you. You can email them at <email@example.com> or find them on Twitter <@deftmethods>.
New Electronic Magazine to Connect Pen Pals:
I am starting an electronic magazine for people who would like to become or find new pen pals. If you would like to receive it regularly or would like to submit a pen pal ad for yourself or someone else, feel free to do so at: <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Suggestions for what to include in your ad are your name, age, location, and hobbies or interests.
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.
I have a six-year-old PAC Mate BX400, which was upgraded to a PAC Mate Omni. It is in excellent condition and comes with a forty-cell Braille display, flash memory card, network card, cables, related documentation, and a carrying case. The price is $1,500 plus shipping costs. Method of payment: Check or money transfer (I would prefer the latter). Please contact Maryse Glaude-Beaulieu at <email@example.com>.
I have a Romeo Attaché Pro Braille embosser for sale and am asking $1,000 or best offer. Enabling Technologies replaced the main board six months ago. It is compatible with Windows XP and with Windows 7. Please contact Debra Baker at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.