Vol. 57, No. 5 May 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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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
Please register online at <www.nfb.org/registration> or use this mail-in form. Print legibly, provide all requested information, and mail form and payment to:
National Federation of the Blind
Attn: Convention Registration
200 East Wells Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
Please register only one person per registration form; however, one check or money order may cover multiple registrations. Check or money order (sorry, no credit cards) must be enclosed with registration(s).
Registrant Name ______________________________________________
City ______________________ State _____________ Zip ___________
Phone ____________ Email ____________________________________
___ I will pick up my registration packet at convention.
___ The following person will pick up my registration packet:
Pickup Name ______________________________________
Number of preregistrations x $25 = ____________
Number of pre-purchased banquet tickets x $55 = ____________
Total = ____________
Vol. 57, No. 5 May 2014
Illustration: Service Saturday at the National Center for the Blind
Make the Scene in 2014
by Dan Hicks
Taking Control and Becoming a Driver of My Life
by Mark Riccobono
Blind Students Will Not Be Left Behind in Common Core Testing, Settlement Says
by Joy Resmovits
by Mitch Ryals
Adventuring With My Cane: a Response to Dr. Vermeij
by Donna Posont
Do Blind People Dream in Color?
by Erin Jepsen
Marley and Me Musical Chairs
by Terry Rupp
Odin Mobile: A Wireless Provider for People Who Are Blind
by Robert Felker
by Kristen Jocums
Copyright 2014 by the National Federation of the Blind
Service Saturday is an annual outreach event held at the National Center for the Blind in which we ask for volunteers in and around Baltimore to join us in special projects to help the organization. Our goal is not only to tap into the energy of these volunteers but to help them come to know who we are, learn what we do, and experience firsthand what it is like for the blind and the sighted to work together to accomplish some of the physical tasks required to carry out our programs and in maintaining the structure that houses them.
by Dan Hicks
From the Editor: Dan Hicks is the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida, the fellow who cavorts with people from the Magic Kingdom and their sometimes-visitors from the Hogwarts School of Magic. Here is Dan’s article, giving us a glimpse of what we will experience when we travel to Orlando in July of 2014:
Let’s face it; this summer is going to be hot. The first week in July will probably be one of the hottest weeks of the season. So, rather than complain about the temperature, let your inner thermophile embrace the heat. Come to the hottest spot of all, which is, of course, the convention of the National Federation of the Blind.
Once again the upcoming convention will be held in the very hot and trendy city of Orlando, Florida. Those who attended last year’s convention can spend hours telling you what a perfect venue the Rosen Centre Hotel is for hosting one of our boisterous conventions. This hotel is one of the city’s top tourist destinations, and for good reason. Impressive restaurants offer sumptuous dining for any and every taste. Pools, spas, golf courses, and workout facilities help you keep in shape and relax after visiting those wonderful restaurants. But so far we’re just talking about the hotel.
The Rosen Centre is located on Orlando’s International Drive, right in the middle of all the excitement that Central Florida has to offer. I-Drive—as it is called—and its connecting thoroughfares are home to hundreds of dining options, from fast food to casual to family-style to gourmet.
For those who enjoy shopping—and you know who you are—Orlando Premium Outlets and Festival Bay Mall provide opportunities to buy designer and brand name items at bargain prices. Just down the street from the Rosen Centre, Pointe Orlando, an outdoor shopping and entertainment complex, has shops from high end to casual and everything in between.
But save some money, because you will be close to many places to wear those colorful new casual threads you just picked up. International Drive is also where some of Orlando’s most popular attractions can be found. SeaWorld Orlando and its exciting waterpark, Aquatica, are just five minutes away from the hotel. Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure are also a short drive away. Visit Hogwarts, fly with Spiderman, and enjoy the nightlife of Universal’s one-of-a-kind CityWalk.
A short drive will take you to the world famous Walt Disney World, home to the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center, and other thrilling attractions. Here’s a trivia question for you: which is bigger, California’s Disneyland or Florida’s Disney World? Well, let me put it this way: all of Disneyland would fit in EPCOT’s parking lot.
A little longer drive will get you to one of Central Florida’s newest and most popular attractions—LEGOLAND®. I know, it sounds like it’s just for kids, but adults who have been there tell me it’s fun for the entire family. Come to think of it, so are those little blocks the park is named for, aren’t they? Remember to stay well-hydrated and use sunscreen. We mean it.
Now the reason for coming to Orlando this summer isn’t just for the food and the parks and the shopping, is it? Of course not! You are also looking forward to the convention of the largest organization of blind people in the world, the National Federation of the Blind. The NFB, including the Florida affiliate, is planning lots of fun and exciting things to take part in. You won’t want to miss a minute of it. So plan to come a day or two early or stay a day or two after the convention. It’s the only way to get all of this excitement in. Those of you who attended last year know what I mean. If you have already made your reservations, thank you. We look forward to meeting you in Orlando. And for those of you who haven’t made reservations—well why not? What are you waiting for? Get those reservations in today. You don’t want to miss out on your chance to make the scene in 2014.
by Mark Riccobono
From the Editor: Mark Riccobono was the national representative at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri and delivered the banquet address on March 29, 2014. Though he has written a number of articles for the Monitor and has had many of his speeches at the national convention reprinted here, I think you will learn some things you may not know about his upbringing and some epiphanies in his life.
I introduced him, and for the first time my BrailleNote failed me when I took the podium to read the introduction I had written. Here is what Mark said to the blind Missourians assembled at our fifty-second annual convention:
I appreciate that tremendous introduction; I'm glad you didn't write it because it clearly came from the heart. Melissa is out there listening; I presume the kids might be as well, so maybe everybody would like to say hello [crowd shouts hello to the Riccobono family]. I'll say Melissa, I love you, and to the kids I love you too, good night, and don't give your mom too much trouble because I'll have to deal with it later [laughter].
Since my story's already been told, there's not much more to say. No, actually, there is. It is a humbling task to think about what to say to you this evening, what to share with you, what there might be still to say that hasn't yet been said during our time at this convention. I do have to say that this is an awesome convention. All of you have truly refueled and inspired me. So it is a little daunting to think about what to say and how to talk about the journey that we've been on together, where we might be going, what our dreams might look like, and how to illuminate some of the tremendous things that have been shared at this convention. Many who are here have the spirit of the Federation—that's what I've felt.
So I invite you to open your heart to the conversation tonight, whether this is your first time or your fifty-second time, to be open to the idea that there might be something more for us to do, something more for us to learn, and to share this space that we've created for each other this evening. While you open your heart to that, I want to ask you a very important question and request that you reflect upon it: are you a driver or a passenger? And, not just are you a driver or a passenger in your own life, but are you a driver or a passenger in the National Federation of the Blind?
In August of 1996 the president of the National Federation of the Blind wrote a letter that said in part, "I think the first thing you should do is learn about the organization. Then I think you should teach everyone else about it. While you are telling others what we have already done, remember that there are many things to do that we have not tried. In other words, all of the nifty ideas have not yet been thought up." I also give you that quote to think about as we begin this evening.
I have aniridia, the same eye problem someone mentioned earlier today, and that led to my having glaucoma. When I was five years old, I was diagnosed as legally blind. My parents did not know what that meant. They're both good Midwestern folk from the great state of Wisconsin (by the way, the Wisconsin game is starting in ten minutes, so I'm going to hurry up). [laughter, cheers, and boos for Wisconsin]
My parents went to high school, but neither went to college. They were good, hard-working Midwestern folks, but they didn't know anything about blindness; they didn't know what to think about blindness; they didn't even know what legal blindness meant. But what they knew without question was the value of giving me that good old-fashioned, Midwestern encouragement: encouragement to get out there and do stuff as best I could. As kids we're not drivers, we're passengers. We do the things that people expect us to do. If you're a kid, you go to the sighted family members and the professionals to be the ones to teach you about driving your own life. But the fact of the matter is that, while other kids were learning to drive in their own lives, I wasn't. Whether I knew it or not, I was blind, and over time I was being taught to be a passenger.
I could recount hundreds of experiences like the one I'm going to share with you now: I went to the elementary school in my neighborhood; it was six or seven blocks from my house. Starting in first grade, I walked to school every day. In third grade I had my first orientation and mobility evaluation. The professional took me out in the neighborhood and walked me around. I seemed to do pretty well, so she said there was nothing to recommend and left. Of course, I'd been walking that same route every day for two or three years. There was no challenge. That was no test of whether I had capacity to go beyond. I was allowed to pass.
In fourth grade (let's see if the young folks get this) we read worksheets that were mimeographed. Okay, take a second and google "mimeograph." Let me just shortcut for you: it was a terrible way for anybody to make a copy and hard for anyone to try to read. It was faded blue ink that even sighted people couldn't read very easily, so, if they had trouble with it, I certainly couldn't read it. But I had a teacher who had a degree in teaching blind students, and she came by to serve as my reader. That was what she did. She didn't teach me any techniques or teach me how to operate as a blind person; she was my reader.
By fifth grade I couldn't read the large-print books that I'd started with in third grade anymore. No one told me that there might be a different way to do it, so I turned to the magnification I had. The only magnification device I owned was a monocular, which, if you don't know, is meant for distance viewing, not for looking at things close in. But, if you twist it all the way in so that you get to the setting that's meant to look at the closest stuff, you can actually read books with it. It's not very comfortable, doesn't look very good, and certainly is not very fast, but that's what I had, so that's what I used. I did it because I knew that, if you were a Midwestern kid, part of a Midwestern family, you had to work hard and you had to read and you had to compete, and this was the only way I knew how to do it. I don't know how silly I looked or how slow I was, but no one ever suggested there was a better way to do it. I was a passenger.
By sixth grade, as you know, you're thinking about certain things (like girls). Particularly in the area of being athletic, you want to look impressive. I remember we had a football drill that we were supposed to run. I knew about the sport of football, and I'd played with a football, so I knew what football was. The teacher/coach said we were supposed to run a U-shaped pattern, and, when we got to the peak of the U, we were to catch the football. Now I understood what a U was—no problem. I understood that there would be a football hurtling toward me that I should put my hands up and try to catch—no problem. Knowing I should compete, I ran. I put my hands up, knowing that I had no chance in the world of catching that football. When I missed that ball, the kids made fun of me. They did because, even with my best efforts to compete, I failed, and I must have looked oh so silly. The gym teacher felt bad for me, so he sat me down and tried to make me feel better. He said, "Look, it's going to be okay. Someday you're going to get contacts, and everything's going to be much better for you." What I understood was that, until something changed and I could have normal vision, I had to be content to be a passenger, and that's what I did—that's what I was taught to do.
I went to a very rough middle school, so actually being a passenger was a good thing. The passengers often sit where? In the back of the room—sorry to my Jeff City friends there in the back. I sat in the back because it was easy to pass there. Not much was expected of people in the back. Admittedly the people in the back of the room with me were not the smartest in the group. But they were my buddies, the people who were just getting by—certainly the passengers—not the ones in the front of the room who were driving their lives.
Once in a while a worksheet would be assigned, and I'd have them help me fill it out. I couldn't fill it out on my own, and experience taught me I had to use any technique I could just to get by. So we did those sheets—they read, I understood and interpreted, and, what do you know, we all got by, we passed, but we were not driving our lives.
In science class, one of the things we were supposed to do at the beginning of each class period was to copy down what was on the board. I will admit that it wasn’t great education, but that's what we had to do. I wasn't going to do that because I'd have to go right up to the board. So I'd get one of my friends in the back of the room to write it down for me. I don't know what good that did for him or for me, but we followed the rules and wrote what was on that far-away board. Then for the remainder of the class we'd fold a piece of paper into a triangle and flick it back and forth playing paper football. We'd do this for hours. We didn't learn a lot of science, but I wasn't causing any trouble, and I was passing, getting by as a passenger.
At this point in my life I didn't know there was another blind person in the world. I didn't know I was a blind person. I didn't know what the possibilities were for a kid who couldn't see very well, but I knew I was passing, getting by, and being a passenger.
In Milwaukee at that time all the high schools had a specialization, something that made them stand out from other schools in the area. I went to all the events where they tried to pitch you on their school. I was kind of interested in the broadcast school because I really loved baseball (you heard that from Melissa this morning), and I loved listening to the greatest baseball announcer in the world, Bob Uecker. I know there are two major league teams here, and some of you have your favorite announcers, but he was a St. Louis Cardinal at one time, so you've got to acknowledge that. I thought that learning to be a broadcaster might be cool until I went to the presentation about the high school that specialized in business, where they showed young high school students running their own businesses. I thought, "Yeah, there we go: money! Hey, I can do that. I can think up things to sell, and I can run my own business."
So I chose to go to that high school, and it just so happened that it was a high school that had a resource room for blind students. I didn't know what a resource room was, but I went there—not because of that room, but it just worked out. There was a teacher there who had RP, but he wasn't really a blind guy, either—I mean, he did read Braille, but he read it with his eyes. So he wasn't much of a mentor, and frankly by that point I had been pretty successful at getting by. I was just smart enough to figure out ways to get by, even if I had to work my head off to do it and even if the results were just good enough to pass.
I didn't identify with the other kids there who were blind, because I could see more than they could, and therefore I was better than they were. I did not understand that what was holding me back was the same thing that was holding them back, and I'm ashamed to admit it today, but I didn't think I was one of them. Yet, in every life activity, just like them, I was being taught to be a passenger.
I could tell you hundreds of stories about experiences in high school that reinforced this point. I joined the debate team in my first year, and I did pretty well. A debate starts with an eight-minute speech, and I was the man for this because I could memorize it. I was paired up with a guy from the football team; he was dumb. He would say stuff that I'd have to try to fix later, but I couldn't read any notes, so that made coming up with a comprehensive defense or a rebuttal much more difficult than doing the opening argument.
Now the second year came around and I went back to be a part of the team. The debate coach came to me after a while, and he was concerned. He said, "Well, have you memorized the speech?"
I said, "No, not yet, I'm working on it. I'm a little busier than I was last year."
He said, "How are you going to participate if you haven't memorized the speech?"
I said, "I don't know."
He said, "Well, I don't think you can be on the team anymore." I never went back. I didn't know there might be a solution out there that would let me be a fully participating part of that team. I was a passenger.
Again, I love baseball. So let me tell you about the time I decided that the best job for me was to be an usher at County Stadium. I went down there, I signed myself up, and they interviewed me. They seemed to think I had something to offer, so they hired me. Now I didn't think of myself as a blind person, but I did let them know that I didn't see very well. It happened to be close to the end of the season, and at that time the Green Bay Packers played three of their home games in Milwaukee, not at Lambeau Field. I signed up to be an usher at one of the games: it was 1992, the Packers versus the Eagles, Brett Favre’s first game, and I was working the bleachers. Oh, the bleachers: that's not the coolest place to be, but I was there, I was at the game, and I was working.
I had this technique: see, I couldn't read their tickets, but I knew the way the section I was working was laid out, I knew the seat numbers. So when a fan came to be seated, I would ask "What does your ticket say; where are you supposed to be?" They'd tell me, and I'd point. Sometimes I'd have to turn around to point to their section, but, because I didn't see very well, one time I turned, didn't see the folks that were in my periphery, and my arm hit a tray a guy was carrying. Remember, this is October in Wisconsin, and he's carrying hot chocolate. He wasn't too happy with me, and I wasn't too happy either. After that little experience I just decided that I didn't like being an usher, never really wanted that job anyway, and I quit.
I could tell you about the time I went to prom and ran into a glass door and hundreds of other times where I had a desire to do something but was stopped. I graduated from high school; they gave me a fold-up cane for graduating—congratulations. I didn't know what I was supposed to do with it or why I even had it, but I took it to the University of Wisconsin. I figured it probably wasn't a good idea to fall down stairs in front of coeds, so I took it to the orientation. But when I actually got to school, I folded it up and stood it in the corner, and that was where it stayed. I wasn't blind, and I certainly didn't want other people to think I was.
Why did I go to college? Because that was what people did. I understood that was what kids around me were doing. My grades were just good enough, I was smart enough, and I had great techniques for just getting by. But I had to work three times as hard as everybody else. I didn't go to parties because I had to study, I had to read. I didn't read with Braille; I oftentimes read with cassettes. I had human note-takers in my classes because I couldn't take my own notes, but then I would have to struggle to read their notes. I know this is really antiquated for some of you, but this was 1994, the Internet was only five years old, we still had DOS, and only a few people were talking about something called Windows 3.
I struggled, and it was getting very difficult. I went to college only because that was the path I thought you were supposed to be on. I survived my first two semesters, but, by the time I got to my sophomore year, I was falling apart. I had a long-term relationship that was coming to an end because I didn't have a good concept of who I was. I almost failed a class because I didn't have access, and I didn't know how to get it. I was at the end of my rope. I thought I was the only person in the world dealing with such problems. But I knew there had to be something more. So I reached out. I came across a blind guy in Madison, Wisconsin. He said, "You know, I live here, and I'd be happy to meet with you."
I said, "Great, let's meet at this place," a place on State Street in Madison. I picked it because I knew where it was. This was key for me because, if I knew where it was, I was okay. We had to meet during the day, of course, because that was easier too. I couldn't see anything at night.
So I was standing outside—I got there really early (that was key for me, one of my strategies), and down the street came this tapping, and this guy whipped by me and went right into the place. And I'm like, "Hey, I'm right here." How did he miss me? It turns out he was a totally blind guy—a totally blind guy! That was the first time I knew there might be something different, might be something to know that I didn't know about functioning competently as a fellow who was blind. Here was a guy who was driving his own life. He was making his own decisions. He didn't hesitate when I said, "Well, why don't we meet here?" I don't know if he knew the place or not, whether he was familiar with it or just had enough confidence to know he could find it.
He told me about the National Federation of the Blind. He said they had national scholarships and state scholarships and local scholarships. So I signed up to try and get a scholarship from the NFB of Wisconsin, and darned if they didn't call and say, "We're going to give you one, and you need to get on a plane and come to Anaheim, California." Now where did I put that cane?
I was supposed to get on an airplane by myself, and they acted like this was normal, no big deal, just what a guy needed to do to get his scholarship. So I went to Anaheim, California, and I showed up at this big old hotel. Blind people were driving their own lives, and I was filled with hope and determination and energy for the first time in a long time. Blind people were making decisions; they were doing the things they wanted to do; they were talking about how to make changes in the world so that they could do more of the things they wanted and needed to do. I wanted that too, but wanting was just the first step.
I had to get a blind person to read me the agenda. They were reading it in Braille. I had to get a blind person to tell me how to go. I wanted to be the one to decide how to go, but I had to get a blind person with a cane to show me the way. I met people who didn't know me, but the very first thing they said to me, every single time, consistently, was: "You can do better, and I'll help you."
I went out with the president of the student division. It was 106 degrees, it was Anaheim, California, and he says, "Oh, we're late getting back. We'll have to run back to the hotel. I'm thinking, "Wait a minute, I'm not late for anything. I don't have any obligations here." But we ran back to the hotel, me trying to use this cane that I didn't have confidence in as a walking tool, let alone a tool I could use to run. But who asked me: we were running, though it was 106 degrees out. Beg off, say I couldn't do it? No way, I'm from Midwestern people, and I was learning that I could run toward challenges and not away from them. I've never asked him if he set me up for that, but I think he did. Those steps, those hot, frightening steps, led me to a bigger step: one that would change my life forever.
At that convention I decided that there might be something different here. I had hope for the first time in a long time. It had always been there, but it was buried oh so deep. So I came home and wrote a letter to the president of the National Federation of the Blind, and darn it if he didn't write me back. I was impressed—didn't expect that. Earlier I read you part of the first paragraph. In that letter Dr. Maurer said, in so many words, you can drive, and I'll teach you how to do it. But you need to help me. You need to participate in this thing and teach me something. All of us have something to teach one another, and this is the best way to learn. I've taken his lesson to heart ever since.
In 1996 I was kind of like a sixteen-year-old with the keys to Dad's Mustang and a hot date. I really didn't have the experience or training to know what I was getting into. But man, I felt freedom like never before! I started reading our literature, trying to understand what it was that was different. I could read it, but what I had to decide was whether I believed it. It is respectable to be blind. That was not what I had thought before that convention, but, if it was respectable to be blind, I had a new lease on life; life was something different from what my experience had taught me it was.
"It is respectable to be blind.” Six words, but what do they mean? For me they mean what Dr. tenBroek called the faith we have in each other. At our twenty-fifth anniversary Dr. tenBroek called it "a faith that could move mountains and mount movements." It is respectable to be blind and compete on terms of equality. Dr. Jernigan helped us understand that the characteristic of blindness is not what defines us, and, if we get training, we can compete on terms of equality.
So I started to seek those things, and I learned that, to be a driver, you also need to teach. So I started teaching other people what I had learned, as fast as I could learn it. That put me on a journey that continues even today.
Melissa told you earlier that, when I was twenty-two years old, I was elected president of the NFB of Wisconsin. I started giving back, started figuring out how to build stuff, But every step of the way I kept running into an interesting problem: I was getting more than I was giving. This seemed unfair, so I'd try to give more, but still I'd get more back than I gave. Finally I decided this was a truth I needed to learn about the world, the truth that those who give are those who receive. Acting on this, I started advocating for blind kids. I didn't know anything about the education of blind children except that they deserved better than the dumpy experience that I had had in school. It turned out that this experience gave me strength and passion, and it turned out I also had a talent for telling people what to do.
So with my passion to make things better for kids, my commitment to see that they would travel a different road, a road where they might have a chance to be more than a passenger, I was hired to direct the Wisconsin Center for the Blind, and I brought some pretty crazy ideas to that venture. At twenty-four and with the radical ideas I brought, I got some push-back from people who had different ideas about blindness at that place. As you can imagine, with the day-in-and-day-out message that "We don't really think these kids need to carry canes," and "We don't really think these kids who can see some need Braille," and "We don't really think these kids can learn to take notes on their own," and "We don't really think it's reasonable to expect that kids go through the lunch line and carry their own trays," you can bet I needed the energy I got from my brothers and sisters in the Federation to keep saying, "Yes, they need to use a cane; yes they need to learn to read and write Braille; yes they can make decisions on their own, and those decisions will make all the difference in determining whether they are the actors or the audience, the spectators or the participants, the passengers somebody drives or the drivers who set their own direction and take control of their lives.” I relied on my friends in the Federation to keep me grounded, to remind me that I wasn't crazy, and to push me so that I came to understand that the space we create in the Federation is reality.
You've got to make decisions when you're fighting those fights out there, and sometimes you're faced with tough ones. There was a special education administrator in the northern part of the state of Wisconsin--his name was Ed, so I fondly called him "Special Ed." He put out a memo that said, "Thou shall not teach Braille more than X number of hours in a week to a kid." Now this is against the federal law. But he knew people at the state department of education, the very people I worked for, and they didn't say anything to contradict what he said or reprimand him for it. In fact, they gave him an award.
I decided I couldn't take it. I had to be a driver, even if it meant personal risk for me. So I started talking to folks, this kid who was only now twenty-six, and, when I started talking to legislators and others in positions of power, that didn't make me a popular guy with my bosses. They didn't have enough on me to fire me, but they certainly wanted to muzzle me, so I had to decide between a secure job that would require me to moderate my views and let those responsible do the driving, or live my life working to bring about a different future for blind children and blind people, a future that almost passed me by and might never be a reality for blind people unless I decided to act.
When I came to meet with the president of the National Federation of the Blind, he asked me an interesting question. He said, “What do you want to do with your life?"
I thought to myself, "You know, I'm so used to following the path that I've never really decided what I want to do." With some trepidation I told him that I'd like to come work for the National Federation of the Blind. I was honored that he hired me shortly before we opened the Jernigan Institute ten years ago, and I'm celebrating the completion of my tenth year working for the organization.
When I showed up there, I didn't know what I was going to do, but I found plenty of work, stayed busy, and felt like I was a part of a team that shared the same game plan. We opened the Jernigan Institute in early 2004, and we had some interesting displays there. One of the displays was a car that a blind person could drive—oooh, cool, that's neat. I thought, "That's a cool hook. Dr. Maurer has done it; he's figured out how we can hook the engineers and managed to give a little something for the public relations folks. Now it's not very realistic, but it's great; it'll give our members something to talk with people about." I thought it was a gimmick, folks.
So I came into work one day in 2007, having been working hard on education programs for a long time, and I was called into a meeting. Dr. Maurer said, "We're going to make some changes. Dr. Zaborowski, who has been the executive director of our institute, has cancer, and she's leaving. Mark is going to be our new executive director."
I thought to myself, "Well, this is good to know: I wasn't really asked if I wanted to do that.” But I started working on programs that were a little broader than the ones I had been working on, and one day I got a telephone call from Virginia Tech. They said, "Hey, we saw that you want to work on a car that a blind person can drive; we'd like to talk with you about it."
I thought, "Oh, I have to go sell this idea now." I didn't really believe in this idea that much—full disclosure. I said, "Okay, I'll come talk to you about it."
I was sitting in a room with these engineers at Virginia Tech, and they were saying, "We work on vehicles that drive themselves, and we can just put you in the back seat, push a button, and we're done."
Now you and I know that that's not actually what we had in mind. So I got up and started pacing around, letting them know that we weren't interested in being passengers—that what we actually wanted was to drive. We wanted to have technology that gave us enough information to allow us to make the decisions real drivers make. So here I was, trying to motivate them by talking the talk, and part of me was asking myself, "Why am I doing this? I don't really believe in it. It's a hook; it's a fine PR thing; it's somewhere out there in the future, but this is 2008."
They listened to what I had to say, gave it some thought, and said, "Okay, well it's a little harder than we thought. But we'll work on it." We got a prototype. I went down to see it, and I thought, "This is kind of nifty; let's take it to the Youth Slam in 2009 and see what happens. We'll put it in front of a bunch of blind kids, see what they do with it."
We put it in a parking lot with these blind kids who had, decade after decade, been told that they couldn't drive, and, what do you know, they loved it. They were excited about it; they lit up, and they said, "We need this today! When can we get this project done? This will open up opportunities for us; it can change our lives."
And I thought to myself "Oh, there is something to be learned here, and these kids are teaching me about it."
Dr. Maurer said, "Mark, go to Virginia Tech and get them to tell you when they can build a real car."
They said, "Well, twenty-two months or so."
I said, "Great. Now our first public demonstration is at Daytona in eighteen months."
"Look," they said, "we said twenty-two months."
"I know, but our first public demonstration is at Daytona in eighteen months." So we decided to go down to Daytona in July of 2010 to announce to the world that we were going to drive a car on the Daytona International Speedway, and we hadn't even built the car.
This wasn't the only thing going on in my life. My son Austin was born in 2006, and my daughter Oriana was born about a month before the 2010 convention. We're there in the hospital, ready to take her home, and, as they were checking her out, they said, "Well, here she is. Now, on Monday we want you to go see a pediatric ophthalmologist. Her eyes don't respond as you would expect.”
Ladies and gentlemen, my heart stopped—I felt sick deep inside—not because of blindness (I knew what to do about that). No, what shook my world was remembering that feeling of being a passenger, that second-class feeling I lived with in the education system. I'd been working on education for a while, but right then I felt fear—fear for my child, and I said to myself, "Not my daughter. We're not doing this again.” And this was the day when I recommitted myself in a new way to this organization. Because, as you parents know, it gets personal when it's your child, your family, your responsibility.
So I showed up at the convention in 2010 and worked on publicizing the Blind Driver Challenge™ I'd been managing; and people were talking about it. Some were excited, some were skeptical. Some saw in it the makings of a brighter future; a few saw it as a futile waste of time and money.
After the convention Dr. Maurer said, "We need some blind people who are going to drive this car. Who wants to drive?"
Who wants to drive? Well, I believed I wanted to drive.
He was very clear: "This will not be a political decision. The best driver drives at Daytona. We need the best representative of the National Federation of the Blind in that car."
We were out there in December on a track in Virginia, testing this stuff out, and Dr. Maurer was out there. I was thinking to myself that this was stupid. This was Dr. Maurer's idea. “He's our president. Of course he should drive; we should throw this contest. I didn't even believe in this when we started." As I thought about whether to throw the contest or do my best, I reflected on that very first letter that he had sent me in 1996 and decided I had no choice. If I threw that contest, I wouldn't have been keeping faith with that bond of trust, the trust that I would do my best, that everyone there would do their best, and that we'd show our best in Daytona. In pushing Dr. Maurer, we helped push this organization, and we pushed each other. And we would do it with love and respect and with each of us giving our best, not just to be the driver of the car but to be the driver of our own lives.
So with all my love and respect for Dr. Maurer, the man who dreamed this up, dared to commit to it, and dared to stake his and our reputation on what the blind could do if we put our minds and hearts into it, I went out there and I whooped him. Don't tell him I said that! [The crowd laughingly reminds the speaker he's being recorded and streamed.] But you know, that's what he wanted, the best from all of us, and that's what we gave him. That's all right, he's got some hard feelings, but he'll get over it. Because that's the bond of faith that we have with and for each other. In fact he was happy to be whooped, because that's what we're working on.
I worked on this technology, and it was hard and involved very long hours. We spent a lot of time standing out there in the snow while the engineers were fixing stuff. We sometimes wondered just what we were getting ourselves into.
Anil Lewis and I spent a lot of time together on this because we were the two finalists in the contest to see who would drive the car. One of the things we wanted to do at Daytona was a passing maneuver. We knew it would be impressive if we not only could drive around the track but could pass another vehicle. So one day we kicked these sighted engineers out of the car, and I was working on this—it was the first time we were going to do a pass. So I was driving along, and I rolled the windows down so that I could hear when the car was next to me. I was passing them on the left, I heard when I was just about past them, and I honked the horn. The sighted graduate students were all going, "Oooh, how—ooooh, how did he know? How did he know—he honked the horn at the right time."
You know that your blind buddies sometimes give you away—they know the techniques of blindness, so my friend Anil ruined it. He said, "He's driving with the windows down." They still didn't get it, so he told them about being able to hear the reflection and the noise from the car I was passing and that this would tell me when I had passed and should honk.
Finally, on Friday, January 28, we showed up. We were driving in a parking lot, were just goofing off because it was the day before the demonstration. We got everything down; we were ready to go. The graduate students and the undergraduate students from Virginia Tech were there, and we were giving them rides around the parking lot.
The president and the first lady of the Federation showed up, and I was going to be their chauffeur. I suddenly realized that Dr. Maurer had never ridden in the car with a blind person driving. Then my family showed up, and we took our first family road trip around the parking lot. Let me tell you: it's a lot harder to strap those darn car seats in than it is to actually drive. Austin would like me to tell you that he really liked driving through the puddle. There was a big puddle in this parking lot; we had to drive through it every time, and that was his favorite part.
Now the skeptics who don’t care much for the Federation or lack the capacity to dream would say, "Who cares, it's a parking lot." But they wouldn't say that about Kitty Hawk, and they wouldn't say that about that first footprint on the moon. But they don't understand the love and the bond of faith that we share in this organization.
People always ask me, "Were you nervous at Daytona?" And what I tell them is this. We had to get there very early on Saturday morning, and we were sitting around and sitting around, and finally I said, "We have to go see the Federationists. Where are they? I've got to see them." So some of you were there, right? We walked over from the pits, and we found four hundred blind folks hanging out at Daytona. Whatever nervousness I felt immediately disappeared. I had that same feeling you get at convention, the feeling that together we can do anything--anything, and I was honored to be one of the people who would make history that day, not only for the four hundred but for all of those who worked so hard to make this day a reality.
When I showed up at the finish line at Daytona and stepped out of the car, people asked, "Now, what do you have to say? You've got to say something." But there was nothing to say that was equal to what we did together. They were looking for words about a car and about technology. How could I explain in a memorable quote or a soundbite they would understand that my concept of blindness had been exploded forever. I didn't know what the limits were for us anymore. I knew my future would be different, and I knew that I would never again be a passenger. I resolved to be a driver for my life and for the National Federation of the Blind, and I realized that the limits are only what we make of them: that it was my responsibility to do all I could to be a driver and to fuel this organization. I also recognized that driving isn't just a one-person job. The dreaming, the science, the testing will require all of us. And, on a more personal level, I realized that in my life, driving can't be a one-person job either, because the people in this room, members of the National Federation of the Blind, have always been part of it, that I've been learning to be a driver since I met the organization, and that I will continue to learn as long as I live.
Now, when a blind guy named Dan Parker, a member of ours from Georgia, called up and said, "Hey, I'd like to drive a motorcycle," I kind of thought he was crazy. I thought that maybe he was trying to regain or hold on to his former racing career as a sighted guy. But I believed it was possible. So we supported him, and we've now had a blind guy drive a motorcycle on the salt flats in Utah. He's going to be at this year's convention. (applause)
I'm here to tell you tonight that there are people in this organization who can teach you stuff. I'm here to tell you our president, Marc Maurer, taught me how to drive, and he started in August of 1996 when he wrote me that first letter.
Last fall he said he wasn't going to run for the presidency this year. He asked me if I wanted to be president. I told him that I did, that as long as he wasn't willing to be in the driver's seat, I wanted to do it, because I know nothing better to do than to be a driver in this organization, and I was honored when Dr. Maurer gave me his endorsement for the presidency.
If the Federation sees fit to elect me this summer, I will pledge to be the best driver I can be for this organization. I'm prepared to accept the bond of faith that our presidency requires. But I hope that all of you understand that this bond also binds you. It binds you to be a driver in our organization because I can't be the last blind driver. This organization is bigger than any one person. And it's fitting that we call it a "vehicle for collective action." You have to be willing as well to grab that steering wheel of faith and drive, because this organization is about us.
I appreciate the tremendous driving going on in Missouri, and I have been inspired by the speeches and the discussions that have occurred here today. Earlier Chris shared a story much like mine. She was a passenger. Jeffery's story about employment, and Julie, who has matured in a tremendous way in this organization since she was at the leadership seminar a little while ago—these people inspire me. And I could go on and on and on. I am reenergized by what's going on here, and I appreciate the driving that you're doing. It gives me comfort and faith to know that together we can drive into the future because you have and are the spirit of the Federation, the determination, the hope, and the love that created it and that today we share. Let's grab that steering wheel of fate together and drive ourselves toward the future that is promised to us if together with love, hope, and determination we work to transform dreams into reality.
One of the great satisfactions in life is having the opportunity to assist others. Consider making a gift to the National Federation of the Blind to continue turning our dreams into reality. A gift to the NFB is not merely a donation to an organization; it provides resources that will directly ensure a brighter future for all blind people.
Seize the Future
The National Federation of the Blind has special giving opportunities that will benefit the giver as well as the NFB. Of course the largest benefit to the donor is the satisfaction of knowing that the gift is leaving a legacy of opportunity. However, gifts may be structured to provide more:
NFB programs are dynamic:
Your gift makes you a partner in the NFB dream. For further information or assistance, contact the NFB planned giving officer.
by Joy Resmovits
From the Editor: Readers will remember that Mehgan Sidhu, general counsel for the National Federation of the Blind, told the participants at the Washington Seminar that the NFB had sued the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers because it was contracted by several states to help administer common core testing of students without first making those tests accessible. This article ran in the Huffington Post on February 24, 2014. It is reprinted with permission.
Just five weeks after a New Milford, New Jersey, family filed a federal lawsuit, a major standardized-testing consortium tasked with writing exams tied to the Common Core has agreed to speed up its timeline for making Braille practice tests available, according to a settlement reached Monday.
On January 17, the National Federation of the Blind and two New Jersey parents filed suit against the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), alleging that the group was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1973 Rehabilitation Act by not making hard-copy and online practice tests in Braille available to blind students. The plaintiffs argued that the lack of practice tests would disadvantage blind students because problems with the Braille tests would not be identified before the actual tests were implemented.
"Blind Americans and the parents of blind children cannot and will not tolerate blind students being forced to wait for likely inferior accessibility to the tests that will measure their academic performance, simply because the students happen to live in states that are part of a consortium that does not take its stated commitment to accessibility seriously," Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said at the time.
According to Monday's settlement, PARCC "shall work with its vendor" to provide the spring 2014 practice test "as soon as possible in an accessible format for use with assistive technology used by blind students and in hard copy Braille or tactile graphics when the material cannot be accessibly represented in an online format."
The settlement also outlined steps for PARCC's collaboration with the National Federation of the Blind. PARCC agreed to let the Federation "quality check" the Braille tests and to "compensate NFB at customary rates for mutually agreed to services." PARCC will set up a meeting between the Federation and Pearson Education Services, the company actually designing the tests, to discuss accessibility. In June PARCC will arrange a testing software demonstration for the federation.
Specifically, the Braille-accessible test will be expected to have tactile graphics so that test takers can "use hard-copy Braille and a refreshable Braille Display for those Assessments." The tests must also be compatible with "screen-reader software used by blind and visually impaired students."
PARCC is one of two consortia receiving money from the federal government to develop tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards, a set of learning standards that most states have agreed to implement. PARCC received $186 million from the Obama administration through the Race to the Top competition.
The National Federation of the Blind lauded Monday's settlement in a statement. "Blind students are far too often forced to wait for equal access to educational materials and as a result end up lagging far behind their sighted peers in academics," Maurer said. "This important settlement will address that problem by ensuring that PARCC's assessments and practice tests are accessible to blind students at the same time that they are deployed to all students."
PARCC spokesman David Connerty-Marin said the group was also pleased, adding that it had always intended to have Braille practice tests ready by this fall—and will have Braille versions of the full tests ready by spring 2015, as initially planned."Our interests are the same as those of the National Federation of the Blind, which is full access for all students, which is why we were able to settle so quickly," Connerty-Marin said. "This is a major undertaking. We're moving through all the pieces as quickly as possible." He added that "cognitive labs" in Braille, conducted this summer and fall, will take a closer look at how tests in Braille serve blind students by asking them intermittent questions while they take the test.
by Mitch Ryals
From the Editor: Last month we ran an article by Julie McGinnity, a graduate student majoring in performing arts, who has won two scholarships from the National Federation of the Blind. As you might expect, Julie is a very impressive person, and this article, reprinted with permission from the Mizzou Diversity Magazine, reveals a talented author and journalist who, in only a few pages, manages to capture much of what makes Julie a special person. Here is the article:
“Oh my gosh, if you say ‘say’ instead of ‘suh’ one more time I’m going to scream,” says Professor Ann Harrell from the piano bench in her office.
“It’s pronounced ‘suh’?” Julie McGinnity asks, smiling.
“Yes. Try again.”
McGinnity, twenty-three, runs her fingers over a white music sheet, and Harrell begins playing from where she left off. McGinnity had been pronouncing the French word “se” incorrectly. This time, she gets it right.
About five feet, two inches tall with ash-blond hair that hangs past her waist in a ponytail, the soprano is neither soft-spoken nor tender footed. Rather, she walks and talks with poise and self-confidence. Harrell coached McGinnity during the 2013 fall semester to prepare six songs for a jury performance—the final grade for a voice lesson class, a requirement for a master’s in vocal performance.
Harrell continues to play the bare bones melody of “Air Champêtre,” one of the songs from Airs chantés by Francis Poulenc, at a slower pace than the composer intended. It’s a tough one, McGinnity admits, especially when you don’t speak French. With Harrell’s direction McGinnity pronounces the word correctly, but the song isn’t quite performance-ready yet. At her final performance during finals week last December, the jury graded her based on musical accuracy, physical performance such as posture, tone quality, and pronunciation of the language being sung.
Professor Harrell is no-nonsense. When McGinnity tilts her chin back and scrunches her shoulders up toward her neck while she sings, Harrell firmly reminds her to relax. When McGinnity overuses the muscles in her stomach, the muscles that control her breath, Harrell sighs.
“Breathe with an open throat. Relax your tongue,” she says. She places her hand on McGinnity’s stomach while she sings to remind her. “Sustain your breath. Breathe for the phrase,” she tells McGinnity. “Tension is bad. Singing should be effortless, or at least appear effortless.”
Professor Harrell is honest in her critiques and blunt in her delivery of them. That’s important to McGinnity. She doesn't want her vision loss to determine how she's treated. To someone without vision impairment, any loss of sight might seem an impossible hurdle. Simple tasks such as crossing the street, preparing dinner, and doing homework are unfathomable without fully functioning eyes. McGinnity is used to this notion. She was born with glaucoma, a genetic disease that causes pressure and swelling in the eyes and can limit vision along a continuum of a little to completely. McGinnity has some vision in her right eye but none in her left. She can see colors and faces if they’re close enough but can’t really make out facial features. Bright light helps, too.
In addition to graduate classes, homework, and her job at the Adaptive Computing and Technology Center, McGinnity sings periodically at Bethel Church and holds so many positions with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) that her email signature spans nine lines (including one Bible verse). NFB, the largest and oldest blind membership organization, advocates for the civil rights of blind Americans and works to develop educational tools and programs to help the blind and those with limited vision become successful.
In mid-February she and other NFB members traveled to Jefferson City, Missouri, to present a legislative agenda that, among other changes, would amend the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to require voting locations to provide nonvisual accessible voting booths at federal, state, and local elections. Currently HAVA provides nonvisual accessible voting booths only at federal elections. Her overall goal in working with the NFB is to erase ignorance and oppression of the blind.
At a crosswalk, for example, she might feel the tug of an unexpected arm against her own. “It’s one thing to ask because I can always say no,” she says. “But, when a stranger pulls me across the street without asking first, that’s not OK.”
After she earned her undergraduate degree, an article about her academic achievements (magna cum laude and degrees in vocal performance and German just to name a few) framed them and her as “extraordinary” because of her blindness. “Everyone who knows me probably just read it and shook their heads,” McGinnity says. “Because, like, I’m not amazing. I just do my homework and go to class and hang out with my friends.”
One of the most upsetting examples of discrimination she encountered, though, happened before her undergraduate graduation from a different university. Every year the big performance for vocal performance majors is an opera scene. Her freshman through junior years, McGinnity was given a part in the chorus or other minor parts, which was disappointing but understandable. She was just learning to read Braille music, and her stage experience wasn’t great. Senior year, the students performed a scene from a Russian opera called Iolanta by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. McGinnity was elated to be cast as the title character until she got home. Iolanta is a blind princess who is unaware of her blindness throughout most of the opera.
When she asked why she was typecast, a professor said it was necessary to cast her as Iolanta because they didn’t have time to work with her, and they wanted to put on a good performance for the university. McGinnity felt as though she didn’t belong in the world of vocal performance, couldn’t pursue her dream lest her blindness be accommodated for. Nevertheless, the performance went smoothly, and McGinnity used the experience as a reminder of why her work with the NFB is so important.
As the voice lesson continues in Harrell’s office, Brie promptly plops herself down in the middle of the room and falls asleep with her head resting on McGinnity’s feet as she sings. She starts to snore. Brie (like the cheese) has been McGinnity’s guide dog since she was a senior at Lindbergh High School in St. Louis five and a half years ago. Now she’s entering her second semester as a master’s student studying vocal performance.
After the lesson McGinnity and Brie head for the Fine Arts Annex. She has some questions about an upcoming music theory assignment.
As she steps out of Harrell’s office, she taps the middle of her iPhone twice. It reads her a comment a friend left on her Facebook status. She taps it again, and it tells her the time. “Good, I’m not late,” she says. “To the stairs, please.” No one moves. “Brie, to the stairs,” she says. Brie obeys somewhat begrudgingly and stops at the top of three flights of stairs. McGinnity stops, too.
“Forward, please.” Brie moves slowly down the stairs with McGinnity. They go through the same routine at the top of each flight, though the two have been together so long, like an old married couple, that commands aren’t entirely necessary.
Brie is now seven and a half years old, and she’s been guiding McGinnity for almost six. Recently, her guiding has been slipping. Her pace has slowed down considerably; she’s often tired and sometimes needs to be told twice.
“She’s a diva,” McGinnity says fittingly of a dog that sometimes accompanies her on stage. As the duo leave the Fine Arts Building to get to the Fine Arts Annex by way of Hitt Street, Brie pulls them both left to a stone wall outside. “I used to sit here and eat lunch sometimes when it was warm,” McGinnity says. Whenever they pass it, she wants to sit down—another sign she’s nearing the end of her career. McGinnity pulls Brie toward the crosswalk, and Brie obliges.
“Heel,” McGinnity commands with loving sternness. “Heel” means Brie is at her left side and facing the way she’s facing. Brie obeys. “To the curb,” she says. “Brieby, to the curb, please,” she repeats. Again Brie obeys. Slowly she brings them both to where Lowry Mall’s red bricks meet the black pavement and stops. “Forward.” Once in the crosswalk, Brie picks up her normal meandering pace to a slight trot. McGinnity feels the harness pull and increases her pace as well. “Good girl, Brie,” she says.
Safely across the street, Brie continues walking toward Memorial Union. “Left, left, leeeft,” McGinnity sings, pulling Brie’s harness.
Inside the Fine Arts Annex, she fires questions at her music theory professor, Dr. William Lackey. Again, Brie promptly falls asleep. Soon McGinnity realizes she’s missing some assigned reading material necessary for the upcoming final exam, which is unusual. “Mizzou is really good about getting me materials in Braille,” she says, “as long as I submit the request a week or so in advance.” McGinnity also has an embosser in her apartment, which is basically a Braille printer.
When McGinnity was first accepted to MU, she contacted the Office of Disability Services right away to begin setting up a plan for getting access to her course materials. There are twenty-eight students with a vision impairment enrolled in the 2014 spring semester. Each one meets with Disability Services to set up an individual plan for gaining access to course materials.
Disability Services works closely with MU's Adaptive Computing Technology (ACT) Center to provide access for McGinnity and other students with vision impairments. The ACT Center does individual assessments with students to determine their needs for screen-reading programs, text-magnification software, larger monitors, and any other adaptive needs a student might have.
“It’s on a case-by-case basis,” says Cate Cooper, access advisor for Disability Services. Each student meets with the offices several times to make plans for access to course materials. But, she adds, the earlier the student contacts her, the better. Sometimes it can take months to get materials transcribed and converted.
At the start of the 2014 spring semester, for the first time since high school, McGinnity is dogless. Brie’s slower pace meant it was finally time to retire after five and a half years. The biggest change to McGinnity’s life, though, is not navigating Columbia. It’s her routine. She no longer packs a Ziploc bag full of brown dog food and a bowl every morning for Brie’s lunch. Regular bathroom breaks outside are no longer necessary, and, when she kicks a dog toy across the floor in her apartment, the yellow dog that normally pounces on it isn’t there.
Her trips to and from campus and between classes are a little quicker now, but she has to adjust to different cues. As she leaves her final class one frigid February afternoon, her cane taps against the tile floor and on each side of the door frame as she walks through. As she approaches the stairs, her cane runs into the bottom step. She then taps it on the second step to gauge the steepness. Outside, McGinnity scrapes her cane across the concrete sidewalk. It moves from just outside her left foot to just outside her right.
Crossing a street isn’t much different without Brie, either. A common misconception is that guide dogs tell their owners when to cross. That’s incorrect. “You have to know when to cross the street,” McGinnity says. “You cross with parallel traffic. The only difference is, if there was a car turning in front of me, Brie would see it and slow down.”
Retirement looks good on Brie. She spends her days napping and chasing cats around McGinnity’s mom’s house in St. Louis. McGinnity calls about every other day to check on her, and in June she will travel to Yorktown Heights, New York, to train with a new dog. During the training McGinnity and her new guide will navigate through rural, suburban, and urban settings, including some time in New York City on subways and busy streets before returning to Columbia.
Until she trains with a new dog, McGinnity will use a cane to get around Columbia—a skill she hasn’t used regularly since high school. Connie Pack, COMS-Mobility Instructor for Rehabilitation Services for the Blind, helped her get used to the transition from dog cues to cane cues and identify landmarks that will help her orient herself.
“Landmarks are objects or a configuration of objects that are fixed, identifiable visually, aurally, or tactilely and unique to the area,” Pack says. “For example, if a person with limited or no vision needs to locate a certain room (and knows it’s next to an elevator), he or she might be able to feel for the elevator with the long cane or hear the sounds of the doors opening and closing.”If you were to ask McGinnity what she wants to do after school, she might sigh and groan a little bit. She knows she wants to educate the public and erase destructive stereotypes of blind people. She knows she wants to sing, and she knows she wants to teach at a university. Maybe she’ll get a PhD, go on a couple auditions, travel a little bit, but for now she’s happy being just Julie.
by Donna Posont
From the Editor: in the March 2014 issue, Dr. Geerat Vermeij discussed how using a sighted guide in his expeditions into the wild gave him a great deal of freedom as well as giving him the opportunity to create relationships that his sighted colleagues missed out on. In the name of fairness, this month we are sharing this article by Donna Posont, who respectfully offers an opposing view of where to leave your cane when heading out into nature, especially when working with blind children. Here is what Donna has to say:
I wish to make it clear that I hold Dr. Vermeij and his contributions to evolutionary biology in the highest respect. As a naturalist and an extreme fan of engaging in adventure on the wild side, I can only dream of experiencing the natural world to the extent that he has. However, in my experience as a naturalist, I cannot imagine any time when I would leave my cane at home. Adventure might be waiting just around the corner or down the path, but I need to use my cane to get there.
I have conducted many programs in the woods with blind children, and I reinforce the notion that my cane is a ticket to freedom. There may be times when it is necessary to use a sighted guide, but in general, when you take another person's arm, some part of the brain shuts down and awareness of surroundings is diminished.
Again there are times when the goal is to get from point A to point B, so the fastest track may be to take the arm of a fellow traveler. It must be acknowledged that the information along the way is not perceived to the same extent. When I am in the woods I want every advantage to collect information, and my cane is crucial in determining the edge of the trail, the slope of the landscape, and the texture of the terrain. At any time I can put down my cane and touch the bark of a tree or even climb it if I wish. But I want to know that my cane will be on the ground beneath the tree, waiting to return to my hand.
My cane tells me so much about my travels that I would feel less engaged without it. When I want it to be, it is an extension of my fingertips. When I want my hands empty to feel the shape of a leaf or flower or the stickiness of a spider web, I simply put the cane down beside me. If I wish to enter the water, sometimes I leave my cane on the shore, and sometimes it goes in the water with me. It depends on what I am trying to achieve. If I had left it at home, I would not have that option.
As a blind role model and mentor for many blind children who participate in nature programming with me, I believe I would be doing them a great disservice by not encouraging them to keep a cane in their hands. In fact, sometimes it must be insisted upon based on the natural habitat. The confidence gained by the children as they navigate their pathway is immeasurable. Again I am not against putting the cane down and diving into learning with my hands, but the cane needs to be nearby for hasty movement.
Not every blind child who attends nature programming will grow up to be a naturalist and live more outdoors than inside. However, each child who enters the woods with cane in hand is preparing to go confidently someday to a job interview or take the bus or walk down the city sidewalk holding the hand of a child. I adamantly promote the cane in-hand to travel the trails and thus prepare to travel the trails of life.
by Erin Jepsen
From the Editor: Sometimes I find myself complaining about the blurring I perceive between opinion and news, about the tendency to elevate the reporter above the events he reports, and about how easily we accept one side of a story without demanding the other side and then some considered discussion of the conflicting points of view. When we carry an investigative piece, the Monitor tries to talk with those who are complaining and those who are the target of the complaints. We certainly do weigh in with our synthesis of what we have been told and have observed, but we also hope to give readers enough information to draw their own conclusions about what has been reported.
What follows is not an investigative piece. It is clearly a strongly held opinion, one that may cause those of us who consider ourselves progressive in the way we think about blindness to question whether we appreciate all that our senses can tell us or whether we simply appreciate having them, poor substitutes though they may be, for the sense of sight.
Here is a perspective from the mother of a blind child, a mother who has some sight but considers herself blind and thinks there is much to appreciate in being so:
Have you ever been asked, “Do blind people dream in color?” I’d like to answer that question, but not in the way you might think. I’d like to say that blind people need to dream more in color, not literally, but metaphorically. Let me explain if I may.
A chronic condition exists in our world that desperately needs changing. We have chipped away at it, but still it lurks in our culture, in books, in movies, in conversations, and in unnecessarily limited expectations. We’ll call it “sightism” for lack of a better term, and, quickly defined, it’s the belief that being sighted is fundamentally better than being blind.
Historically, the “medical model of blindness,” as it’s called in academia, is partly to blame. The thinking goes like this: Diseases, illness, or accidents cause blindness, so it is obviously to be combated and cured by the medical community and by research. Eye doctors spend years of study and millions of dollars to learn how to restore sight. Blindness is not an ideal part of the human condition, so its reversal is better than its acceptance. Historical literature paints the blind man as a second-class citizen, unable to support a family, unable to function independently, and devoid of power in any sort of social sense. The Bible also has several examples of Christ restoring sight, which carries with it the assumption that the lives of those so touched will be vastly improved.
In modern culture we, the politically correct enlightened few, assume we’ve evolved beyond this demeaning form of oppression. Here’s how our modern thinking tends to run: Of course a blind man can work! He’ll simply use his iPhone as a sort of replacement sight and go on with his business. Technology today has advanced so far that we’ll soon have self-driving cars and artificial retinas. Stem cells will likely re-grow entire eyes if put into the right petri dish.
Yes, I’m being facetious, but I wonder if you can spot my point? Replacement eyes. New eyeballs that work. Sight, sight, sight. Valuable—you bet. The end all and be all of human existence—I don’t buy it.
I’ve been told that humans use up to 70 percent of their brains to interpret visual images. [Some literature alleges that 90 percent of learning comes through vision.] I was told this during a vision screening in which my own visual condition was cross-examined. My brain apparently processes visual images incorrectly. It brought into focus for me (sorry about the pun) the trouble the sighted world has with the idea that someone could function normally without that 70 percent of visual input and still have a rich sensory environment. I get it. Simple mathematics dictates that a blind person uses only the 30 percent that remains, right? Well, we all know that isn’t true. The brain is more flexible than that, and, while I don’t buy into the delightful myth of superhuman hearing, a la Daredevil, I do know that the brain appropriates visual processing centers in order to interpret shapes read by the fingers as well as aural input. Echolocation is one example.
Still, people have a hard time believing that this is adequate. Even the blind community has a pervasive attitude of sightism running through it. Stick with me here. We’ve been told our whole lives that, while blindness is okay, sight is better, right? The sighted parents receive news that their child will be blind for life, and how do they react? They weep. The child hears them weeping and begins to form an image of her own unfortunate circumstances. This carries through to the undereducated (through no fault of her own) blind adult who cannot hold a job because she has never been expected to ride public transit by herself, the man who never learns to get along with his co-workers without demanding special treatment, and the woman who is incapable of working current technology because her school provided her with technology from 1965. In writing this I’m not shaming us, but I’m pointing out some simple facts. We all know these blind people. We are them.
I have low vision. I’ve been denied jobs because the potential employer had known an incompetent blind person and assumed I was also incompetent. There is room for change.
Family, acquaintances, and strangers weekly tell me things I should believe about myself and my daughter, who is blind. When she confidently runs around at church during music practice, I invariably have someone tell me that she can surely see better than we think she can. (Uhm, prosthetic eye, anyone?) The underlying assumption that confident movement can be achieved only with sight is unquestioned. When I refute it, amazement and the dreaded word “inspiration” often follows. When she had surgery on her eyes, people asked me if she could then see better. They ask me if they might pray that her sight would be improved. I won’t go into my observations about our faith in the medical system as contrasted with our faith in the Divine. While I do believe in Divine healing, I believe more in Divine guidance, and sometimes we really do walk by faith and not sight. Did you hear me? Not sight. As in, that’s okay.
The civil rights movement in our country focused our attention on race. It showed us that people with black skin could be employed if they were allowed to be educated. It showed us that black people were not content to sit at the back of the bus or to be treated as second-class citizens. It showed us that the rusty old “colored” drinking fountain next to the refrigerated “white” drinking fountain would no longer do and that shoehorning black adults into menial labor jobs was no longer acceptable. As a country we discovered that people of color were equal in every way to white people. It took time for this idea to sink in. It took a lot of work. But, for a lot of us, it has finally penetrated our skulls, and, equally important, it has made its way into our hearts—both are required for real awareness and understanding that people are equal, no matter their race.
Now let’s talk about disability. I’m tired of sitting at the back of the bus too. I’m tired of people weeping over blindness. I’m tired of literature equating blindness with death, with sin, with darkness and fear, and with ineptitude. I’m tired of being seen as superhuman or subhuman, and, never oh never, just human. I’m tired of viral videos showing a six-year-old boy stepping off a curb for the very first time with his white cane as if that is a good thing. It’s not a good thing. Eighteen-month-old babies step off curbs for the first time, not six-year-old children. I’m tired of reading about 70 percent unemployment rates for blind adults. I’m tired of Braille charities that “bring light to those in darkness.” Well, excuse me, I’m not in darkness. My visual condition happens to have a little too much light as a matter of fact. I’m tired of raising money to fight against my blindness. I don’t raise money to fight against my brown hair, my five-foot-ten height, or my Caucasian skin. If I raised money to fight my daughter’s African skin, I’d be accused of racism, and my accusers would be right. I don’t need to fight against who I am, and, more than that, fighting against the way I perceive the world robs the world of my own perception and of my own voice and message.
The medical model of blindness is fine as far as it goes. The social model steps a bit further and insists that blindness, when incurable, can become a normal condition of existence and should be accepted as such. Well, that’s all nice, but do I merely accept my daughter’s African skin? By no means! I embrace her beauty. I tell my bi-racial son that his brown skin is gorgeous, which it is. I tell them that their beautiful hair is so much fun. I tell my white children the same. I adore my multi-colored family, and my adoration opens the door for those around me to adore them too.
I draw attention to race only to illustrate a parallel between accepting differences in race and accepting differences in sensory ability. Just as rejecting racism ultimately relies on appreciating one another’s differences, rejecting sightism goes far, far beyond simple acceptance. Merely existing in spite of our blindness isn’t good enough. Secretly wishing we could see won’t cut it. There is a point beyond simply living with our blindness--actually enjoying it. There is a point where we realize that we have a unique perception of the world that sighted people don’t have. This perception adds richness to the tapestry of human existence.
My daughter who is blind has a rich perception that is unique to her and is in no way less than that of her sister who is fully sighted. If I go around telling my blind daughter everything I see and describing the world to her so that her poor pitiful dark world will be just a bit fuller, then I am sending her the subtle message that the things she notices are less meaningful than the things I can (sort of) see. People who tell me I am blessed because of the limited sight I have discount the wonderful things I possess as part of my blind self. I want to tell them that the unique way that I have always perceived the world is important, even if it is different from the way they perceive it!
Remember the scene in Dead Poets Society where the teacher stands on his desk to the consternation of his strait-laced, rule-following prep-school pupils? He is trying to get them to see the world in a new way, a different way. He is trying to broaden them. At the end of the movie, the tearjerker scene involves a student standing on his desk, as if to say, “I learned what you were trying to teach. I get it. I’ve changed.”
Guess what? We blind folks were born standing on our desks--or that illness or accident forced us up there. We see the world in a different way. That’s not a bad thing; it’s a wonderful thing. It’s a broadening thing. The world needs us: not to give them inspiration, not by stepping off curbs, but by being ourselves. By experiencing the world in the way that we experience it, by looking at things from a different angle, we enrich the world.
I read an article which said that architecture designed with a blind user in mind ends up being more functional for the general population. In the same way that embracing the beauty of all colors of the races and all of the variety found in the world’s many cultural traditions makes us stronger, so too does embracing our diverse abilities. These must be seen as valid ways of perceiving or navigating the world so that they can bring a richness of experience, a diversity of thought and problem-solving that cannot happen when vision is considered to be the most important of our six senses. We close doors leading to significant human experience when only mobility using two feet is considered, when only hearing is considered, when only neuro-typical ideas are deemed valid.
This shift in thinking about blindness has to come from the blind community first. For the sighted world to see us as competent, we need to begin seeing ourselves as possessing a truly valid perceptual experience. We need to question the sightism that goes on around us constantly. We need to sit in at the sightist lunch counters and insist that we belong there. We need to appreciate the blind artists who showcase the beauty of our perception to the unaware sighted world. We need to insist that blind actors play blind roles in Hollywood and discontinue the shameful but Oscar-winning blind-face practice that goes on there. We need to keep on working for equal access to education and transportation. We need to push back gently against teachers of the blind who teach reliance on poor sight over learning essential blindness skills.
I’m not discounting the frightening experience of sight loss. Any change like that is bound to be unsettling; I’ve gone through it myself. I’ve gone through the identity shift that rocked the very core of my existence when the person I thought I was is the person I no longer am. I’ve been there. I have. It’s okay. Stepping up onto that desk is scary at first. After a while, though, you find your balance and look around, acknowledging that what you observe is still reality, but reality from a different point of view.
Because of the Civil Rights movement, I can adopt and raise black kids to have a wonderful future and embrace them for the color and race they are. I hope that in twenty years my partially sighted and blind children can have as bright a future and be embraced in their families and workplaces for the valuable contributions they make and not merely accepted or accommodated. Like the inimitable Dr. King, I have a dream: just as racism is dying, that sightism and ableism will die the same death, that the medical model will no longer be used as an excuse to discriminate and push us to assume second-class citizenship. I dream that our blind kids will join the ranks of tomorrow’s chemists and doctors and actors and engineers, as well as bricklayers and fast-food workers. I dream that we will never again hear stories of blind parents having children removed by Children’s Protective Services because they are both blind. I dream that inclusive architecture will be standard because the people who directly benefit from that architecture are valuable enough to be worth it. I dream that our children won’t have to spend their energy fighting for equal access to science laboratories but instead can spend their time and energy researching. I have a dream that all Braille teachers not only will read Braille well, but will tell children that learning Braille is as easy as sighted kids learning to read those squiggles and lines they call print. I dream that blind athletes will continue to strive for world records. Not only do I dream for the newsmakers, but I want to see a world in which blind people who want to live quiet, peaceful, non-record-breaking lives without being interrupted by a constant stream of acquaintances calling them inspirational will be free to do so. Let’s dream together, shall we? And then we’ll tell the world of our beautiful, colorful dreams.
by Terry Rupp
From the Editor: Terry Rupp is the former president of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada and the mother of a blind child. This article is taken from her blog, where she shares her experiences as a blind parent with the world. Here is what she says:
I feel as if I’m in a real-life game of musical chairs. First I was the blind child, then the blind student, then the blind parent, and now I’m sitting in the seat as the parent of a blind child.
This blog has been a draft in progress, and I’m finally ready to share it.
About two-and-a-half years ago we brought my daughter in to see the pediatrician for a double ear infection. This was when it was first brought to our attention that she had nystagmus. After a few trips to the eye doctor, we were given the diagnosis of spasmus nutans. This is the combination of n , amblyopia (lazy eye), and a head tilt in response to the other two symptoms. We were told that this was common in eye development in toddlers and it should correct itself by school age.
Over the next two years it looked as if the condition was getting better, only obvious when she was really tired or concentrating to see something at a distance. But as her fourth birthday came around, we noticed more and more signs that perhaps we were just looking for it to get better because the doctor said it would.
I noticed that she was having difficulty seeing the letters in her books while we were working on reading and writing. My husband noticed she was having difficulty tracking things at a distance. Some of my close friends noticed that, when she went to grab an object, it looked as if she wasn’t reaching directly for that object but feeling for it.
I couldn’t believe I had let two years go by since her last eye checkup. When I called to make an appointment in January, the first available appointment wasn’t until May. This wasn’t acceptable, especially to a worried parent. After asking around, I found another ophthalmologist who came very highly recommended in my network of moms. I also decided to contact the school district to see if she would qualify to get into its preschool program because, if she would be needing services, I wanted to start the process sooner than later.
After a series of assessments with the school nurse and the psychologist and the administration of a vision and hearing test, we sat down to our first IEP (Individualized Education Plan) The team determined that my daughter qualifies to start preschool because she will be a blind/low vision student. Keep in mind that we hadn’t yet seen the new eye doctor.
There was a good deal of discussion about what accommodations and services she would be given, and, as I expected, there was significant disagreement about Braille. The low vision specialist claimed she felt my daughter has too much vision to learn Braille and that it would slow her down and confuse her. Knowing the IEP process, and knowing that I was able to appeal the findings of the team if I felt the need, I simply told them that, if they didn’t want to teach her Braille in preschool, that was fine with me. I am already teaching her Braille, and by the time the school district is ready to approve Braille instruction, she’ll already be fully reading uncontracted Braille and will be far ahead of her peers.
A few days later we visited her new eye doctor. It turns out that she doesn’t just have the three symptoms that make up spasmus nutans. She’s got optic atrophy just like her mama. It’s very possible it was a dormant gene that appeared in me and which I passed to her. It could be that waiting two years without treating the amblyopia caused the atrophy in the eye. On the other hand it could be a coincidence. What matters, however, is that she’s got the same eye condition as me. The doctor also told us that her vision loss is severe enough that Braille would be best for her. Forcing her to read print would only strain and stress her eyes, possibly making things worse.
I’ll be honest. The weekend following these findings consisted of a whole lot of tears, a whole lot of guilt, a whole lot of grief, and a whole lot of anger. But it also witnessed a whole lot of love, support, and pride. On Sunday morning I heard my daughter chatting away while she was eating her pancakes. My mommy ears perked up when I heard her say, “X is one, three, four, six.” I then asked her to show it to me, which she did on the little wooden Braille block that we play with. She then told me that X was her favorite letter in Braille. I was overwhelmed by the comforting feeling that, no matter what, everything will be fine. She is a happy, healthy, beautiful, bright, and strong little girl, who will succeed in whatever her heart desires.
With my own personal experiences, with the resources and support of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Federation of the Blind, with the love of family and friends who will treat her like every other little girl out there and not like a child who needs to be tended to or coddled, I plan to surround her with nothing but positivity and make sure that she grows up to be a confident young lady doing whatever she wants to in life.
So, to my dear, sweet Marley, this musical is for you because you’re amazing just the way you are.
Odin Mobile has broken new ground: it is the first wireless provider in the world whose primary mission is to provide cell phone service to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Not surprisingly, Odin Mobile made it a priority to form a partnership with the NFB, which is exciting on a number of levels, not the least of which is that NFB members receive a 5 percent discount on Odin Mobile plans, and a percentage of the revenue goes back to the NFB.
Odin Mobile’s first priority is accessible phones. The company offers some unique basic cell phones, as well as smartphones. Its primary basic mobile phone is the Odin VI. This basic mobile phone has become very popular with the blind community in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom, where it is sold by the Royal National Institute of Blind People.
The Odin VI is designed for people who want a phone with large buttons, who place a priority on ease of use, and who want to perform basic functions, such as making a call, entering and accessing contacts, sending and receiving text messages, having access to the call log, and being able to set and enable and disable alarms. The phone allows the blind user to perform every function that a sighted user can perform. For those of you who feel that a smartphone is more than you need or is too expensive, this phone is designed for you.
The phone speaks everything that is on the screen, speaks the keys that you press, and even prompts you to perform certain functions. You can choose between several voices, which are clear and whose volume can be adjusted. The phone is a “slider”, which means that you slide open the top portion of the phone in order to reveal the keypad. Whenever you slide open the phone, it automatically speaks the time. The phone speaks English, Spanish, and several European languages. The Odin VI also has speaking caller ID, and speaks the battery level and signal strength at the press of a button.
The user guide for the Odin VI is descriptive and accessible. It does not rely on images, as so many user guides do. It is made available on Odin Mobile’s website and is provided through email to customers who purchase the phone. The Odin VI costs $150 and must be used with Odin Mobile service, which operates on T-Mobile’s network. The Odin VI can be purchased directly from Odin Mobile, as well as from Perkins Products.
Odin Mobile’s primary smartphone is the Nexus 5 from Google, one of the best Android phones on the market. As we all know, the large majority of blind people currently use the iPhone. Odin Mobile, however, is focusing on Android because it believes that, as Android accessibility continues to improve, more and more people who are blind will start using Android devices. Odin Mobile intends to bring the best in Android to the blind community.
The advantage of a Nexus over a Samsung or other Android smartphone is that, as Google’s smartphone, it is typically the first device to receive Google’s updates to the Android operating system. In addition, it has the latest in Android accessibility.
Customers who purchase a Nexus 5 from Odin Mobile will be entitled to a unique instructional package. The package will include two one-on-one over-the-phone tutorials on how to use the accessibility features of an Android device, and customers will be able to call our experts to seek help and ask questions about Android accessibility for a period of one month after they purchase their phone. The tutorials and support are provided by an expert in Android accessibility who is also blind.
Individuals may purchase additional months of this special support for $9.95 per month. This additional support can be purchased by Odin Mobile customers, as well as non-customers. Thus, individuals who are blind who receive service from other wireless providers, such as AT&T or Verizon, can sign up for this support service as well.
Going forward, Odin Mobile intends to make its website, <www.Odinmobile.com>, a resource for blind users of Android. It will include a number of tools, such as podcasts, that will help its customers get the most out of their Android devices. These resources will be available to Odin Mobile customers only.
To further its objective of bringing the best in mobile communications to individuals who are blind or visually impaired, Odin Mobile is involved in a few advocacy projects--perhaps the most important of which is obtaining approval from the Federal Communications Commission to participate in the Lifeline program. Through this program consumers who have lower incomes can obtain subsidized cell phone service. Many wireless providers that participate in this program offer a free basic phone and 250 minutes per month. The phones, however, are not accessible! As a result, people who are blind or visually impaired cannot take full advantage of the program. In fact, in a survey performed by Odin Mobile, with the assistance of members of the Blinded Veterans Association, only one out of nineteen people who identified themselves as eligible actually participated in Lifeline. Odin Mobile is determined to provide the blind community the opportunity to benefit fully from this federal program.
Odin Mobile’s service is prepaid so that users are not locked into two-year contracts. The company has unlimited plans, as well as plans as low as $10 per month for those who make only occasional calls. And remember that NFB members receive a 5 percent discount! Also, Odin Mobile has a refer-a-friend program in which customers receive a free month for each person they refer to Odin Mobile, and the person they refer will receive a $10 discount on their phone! This is a nice opportunity for NFB members who may know other members who would benefit from this service.
by Kristen Jocums
From the Editor: Kristen Jocums has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind for more than twenty years. A former winner of a national scholarship, she has served in leadership in each of the affiliates where she has lived. Most recently, she has served as Fountain City Chapter president in Columbus, Georgia, and as a board member of the NFBGA. She is now living in Corvallis, Oregon. Here is her report on a recent chapter activity in Columbus:
Listen to the water lapping against the side of the boat. Hear the far off sounds of people on shore. Check your partner in the seat next to you—all is well. In unison your entire team lets out a battle cry—a unique, low-toned “hhhwhuh” made by forcing air and noise past your lungs in one solid breath. And then comes the call for action—“Paddles up!”
You hold the paddle poised over the water; Your heart beats. Your muscles are taut with excitement. Bang! The starting gun fires and you are off—paddling upstream in a fast-moving river on a sultry, sunny day in Georgia.
“OMG, this is awesome,” yells Maria Vasillava, a mentee in the NFBGA’s GEMS mentoring program. On this bright, sunny day at the end of May, Maria’s one of a twenty-two-member team called the Midnight Dragons. What on earth is a Midnight Dragon? It’s the fiery Dragon Boat team that recently paddled the Chattahoochee River in Columbus, Georgia, of course. You haven’t heard of us yet? Well, listen up because we are on the move.
On Saturday, May 25, 2013, a team made up primarily of blind individuals joined thirty-one other dragon boat teams in a race on the historic Chattahoochee River. As part of the opening of Columbus, Georgia, and Phenix City, Alabama’s whitewater rafting program, a race was held to benefit Children’s Miracle Network. With thirty-two participating teams and over two thousand people in attendance, the Fountain City Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia spearheaded an effort to combine charitable contributions with a can-do attitude. “And that we did—taking first place in our division,” beamed Mary Huie, incoming chapter president.
Dragon boating is an ancient Chinese tradition and is a competitive sport around the world. It requires twenty-two people per boat–one drummer, one steerperson, and twenty paddlers. The trick is to paddle in unison so that the boat cuts through the water quickly.
Made up of mostly blind and visually impaired people, the Midnight Dragons team participated in three heats, ending its final heat in victory with a time of three minutes, two seconds in the 350 meter course. “This was such an awesome experience,” said Mary Huie. “We pulled together a team from every corner of the state of Georgia—Albany, Atlanta, Columbus, Macon, and Valdosta. Amazing!”
The team was made up of several consumer groups, as well as people who were interested in blindness issues. “Our team was the coolest—we had a fourteen-year-old girl, a local probate court judge, and this year’s Miss Columbus State University on our team. Of course, our best and brightest from our own chapter and affiliate made up the core group!”
Sponsored by Country’s Barbecue in Columbus and Hanrahan Freitag Family Law in Atlanta, the team paddled in three heats. The time from the first two heats determined in which division the team placed. The third heat was the championship round for each division. “Of course we won,” said Joe McNeil, former Army Ranger and president of the Georgia Blinded Veterans’ Association. “We had the power and the brains!”
Country’s is a local restaurant that sponsors many sporting events throughout the year. The events are designed both to benefit the blind financially and to provide opportunity for blind people in sports. Country’s hosts the Midnight Express, a 5K run held at midnight annually on the third Saturday night in August. The race raises funds for scholarships and grants for local blind and visually impaired people and programs. Country’s also sponsors the Midnight Stars, a beep ball team that will be participating in the World Series of Beep Ball (baseball for the blind) to be held in Columbus during the month of July.
Hanrahan Freitag Family Law, based in Atlanta, is a progressive, boutique law firm that utilizes outgoing Fountain City Chapter President Kristen Jocums’s parent consulting services to support its clients. “We didn’t hesitate to support the Midnight Dragons. We know blind people can walk the walk when they paddle the boat and do everything else,” said Monica Hanrahan Frietag, the firm’s founding member.
So look out next year, Columbus, Georgia! The Midnight Dragons will be ready when we hear “Paddles up!”
This month’s recipes are offered by members of the NFB of Ohio.
by Colleen Roth
Colleen Roth is president of Ohio’s At-Large Chapter. She is a longtime Federationist. She says that this recipe is great but warns that it is a little spicy.
3 cups cooked chicken
1 10-ounce can RO*TEL tomatoes
1 13-ounce can chicken broth
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup (I substitute celery or a second can of cream of mushroom.)
1 14-ounce bag regular Doritos, crushed
Shredded cheddar cheese
Method: Lightly grease 13-by-9 inch pan. Layer a third of Doritos across bottom of pan. Set aside remainder. Place half of the cooked chicken on top of Doritos. Mix soups, tomatoes, and broth in bowl. Pour half over chicken in pan. Repeat these three layers. End with last third of crushed Doritos. Top with shredded cheddar cheese. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for thirty minutes. This dish is also great for a potluck, but it is a little salty.
Colossal Caramel Apple Trifle
by Susan Day
Susan Day is a member of the NFB of Ohio board of directors and president of the Springfield chapter.
1 package yellow cake mix (regular size)
6 cups cold milk
2 packages instant vanilla pudding
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
1 12.25-ounce jar caramel ice cream topping
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted
2 21-ounce cans apple pie filling
2 16-ounce cartons frozen whipped topping, thawed
Method: Prepare and bake the cake according to package directions, using two greased nine-inch round baking pans. Cool for ten minutes before removing from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.
In a large bowl whisk milk, pudding mixes, and apple pie spice for two minutes. Let stand for two minutes or until soft set. Cut cake layer if necessary to fit evenly in an eight-quart punch bowl. Poke holes in cake with a long wooden skewer. Gradually pour a third of the caramel topping over cake. Sprinkle with a half cup pecans and spread with half of the pudding mixture. Spoon one can of pie filling over pudding; spread with one carton of whipped topping.
Top with remaining cake layer and repeat caramel, pecan, pudding, pie filling, and whipped topping layers. Drizzle with remaining caramel topping and sprinkle with remaining pecans. Chill to set. Store in the refrigerator.
by Elizabeth Sammons
Elizabeth Sammons works for the Ohio state agency, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities. She is an active participant in our Ohio listserv. She offered this recipe with the following note: I learned from a Tartar friend to make this rice called “Plov” in Russian while living in Siberia. There they use cone-shaped rice pots to make it on the stove, but using a rice cooker is far easier and just as good. So here goes with this U.S. modification.
2 to 3 chicken quarters, a half chicken, or 1 large or 2 small chicken breasts
3 to 4 large carrots or about 1 cup baby carrots
1 or 2 green, red, or yellow bell peppers
4 cups uncooked rice
Garlic cloves to taste, 6 to 8 cloves recommended
2 whole cloves
2 to 3 tablespoons cumin powder or seed
1 cup fresh mushrooms (optional)
Salt to taste
Corn oil or other oil to taste, but not peanut or olive oil.
Method: Simmer chicken for about thirty minutes. Remove from broth to cool, but reserve the broth. Meanwhile, slice vegetables into bite-sized, fairly thin pieces. Debone the chicken and cut or tear it into bite-sized pieces. Peel and clean the garlic cloves, including cutting off the hard end of the garlic closest to the center of the garlic head. If the cloves are fat, cut them in half or quarter them, and place them in a separate cup or saucer. Over medium heat fry the chicken and vegetables, except garlic, until the carrots feel slightly soft and no longer crisp. You should not need to add oil, since the chicken will have some fat, especially if it has its skin on it. Some small amounts of water may be added to protect from dryness while frying. Fry about ten minutes at medium heat altogether.
Place all ingredients, including rice, in a rice cooker. If the chicken is skinless or not very fatty, add some cooking oil, not more than a quarter cup. Add the water in which you boiled the chicken, up to six cups. The rest may be cold tap water or ice, but it should come to eight cups altogether. Seal the rice maker and let the contents simmer together; usually the entire cooking process once in the rice maker takes about 1 hour. It is all right to stir once or twice during the process to make sure ingredients are distributed, including spices.
Chicken Broccoli Casserole
by Delcenia Brown
Delcenia Brown is a member of the Cleveland chapter and one of the affiliate’s deaf-blind coordinators.
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 8-ounce bags broccoli cuts or florets
2 blocks of cheese, 1 colby jack and 1 sharp cheddar
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
bacon bits to taste
Method: After washing chicken, cut breasts into bite-size pieces and saute. Place the broccoli in a 9-by-11-inch baking dish. Arange the cooked chicken on top of broccoli. After thinly slicing the cheese, layer it on top of chicken breast. In a small bowl combine the cream of mushroom soup and one soup can of milk and mix well. Pour the soup mixture evenly over the cheese. Sprinkle bacon bits on top of soup. Bake at 350 degrees for forty-five minutes to an hour. Casserole is done when it is hot and bubbly. Enjoy.
Golden Apple Bars
by Carol Akers
Carol Akers is a longtime Federationist. She currently serves as co-president of Ohio’s Parents Division.
2/3 cup shortening
2 cups chopped apples with peels
2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
2 cups flour
Method: Cream shortening and sugar together and beat in eggs. Add dry ingredients, then nuts and apples. Spoon batter into a greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan and smooth. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty-five to forty-five minutes. Check doneness with a cake tester or toothpick, but note that if you hit an apple piece, it will be moist. As in the name, bake until golden brown. If using dark brown sugar, the color will be slightly darker.
Enjoy this yummy dessert that my mom made for us as kids & still makes.
Crockpot Chicken Mexican Style
by Carol Akers
4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 16-ounce jar salsa
1 10-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
1 10-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
Method: Spray inside of crockpot with cooking spray. Place chicken breasts on bottom (can be frozen). Adjust number for amount of end product desired. Add salsa, corn, and beans. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours. Great to do while you are doing errands or at work.
When chicken is done, use a fork to shred the tender chicken and mix with other ingredients. Serve by itself or over rice or tortilla or with taco chips. Diet-friendly when eaten with brown rice and even better as leftovers.
Spinach Feta Salad
by Deborah Kendrick
Deborah Kendrick is president of our Cincinnati chapter and a member of the state board of directors, and she chairs the Ohio Scholarship Committee. Here’s what she says about this recipe: “When you don’t have much time and want to eat something that is both delicious and nutritious, creativity in the kitchen is a good thing. This recipe has wound up being a staple in my house–the answer to a quick dinner for me or quick surefire contribution to a party. The amounts here are somewhat random, but will feed a crowd. To make the salad for just one or two or three people, trust yourself to guess amounts. With these excellent ingredients, you can’t go wrong. And did I mention that it’s delicious?”
1 bag pre-washed spinach, torn into smaller pieces
1 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)
1 8-ounce carton crumbled feta cheese
Slivered almonds, sliced strawberries, or grape tomatoes optional
Raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing (or make your own dressing by mixing one part red wine vinegar to three parts olive oil)
Method: Combine ingredients in layers, then toss gently. Pour on salad dressing to taste (about three-fourths cup for the amounts above).
by Deborah Kendrick
My daughter and her family loved the gifts of hummus brought frequently by their Lebanese neighbors so much that she finally began tweaking recipes to come up with her own. The result is the best you’ll ever taste.
2 16-ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained and liquid reserved
3 tablespoons sesame tahini
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
Method: Combine ingredients in blender. Pulse a few times. Add one-fourth cup reserved bean liquid, and blend. Then another fourth cup bean liquid and continue processing, a minute or so, until smooth. Store in airtight container and refrigerate at least one hour. To serve, you can drizzle olive oil on top and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with bagel crisps, pita chips, baby carrots, or any other veggie or salty dipper.
Dutch Apple Cake
by Bernadette Dressell
Bernie Dressell is a longtime member of the Cincinnati Chapter. She is famous around the affiliate as a great cook.
1 package spice cake mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 can apple pie filling
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Method: Combine dry cake mix, melted butter, and eggs. Spread across the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Spoon pie filling evenly over batter. In a small bowl mix brown sugar and cinnamon; cut in soft butter, then stir in nuts. Sprinkle this mixture over pie filling. Bake at 350 degrees for fifty minutes.
Southern Baked Spaghetti
by Shelbi Hindel
Shelbi Hindel is secretary of the NFB of Ohio and president of the Capital Chapter. She was in charge of lunch preparation in last summer’s Ohio BELL Program.
6 slices bacon
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped bell pepper
2 14.5-ounce cans Italian style diced tomatoes with liquid
2 10-ounce cans RO*TEL tomatoes with liquid
1 to 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning, according to taste
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
12-ounce package thin spaghetti, cooked and drained according to the package directions
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cook bacon in skillet. Remove meat and sauté onion, bell pepper, and garlic in drippings. Crumble bacon and return to pan. Add all tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and beef and simmer for ten minutes.
Place half of the spaghetti in the baking dish and spoon half the meat mixture over. Sprinkle with 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Repeat these three layers. Mix soup and water until smooth. Spoon over casserole. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake in the preheated oven for thirty to thirty-five minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Stuffed Jalapeno Appetizer
by Kaiti Shelton
Kaiti Shelton was an NFB scholarship winner last year. She is currently president of the Ohio Student Division. She is a music therapy major at the University of Dayton.
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded cheese. The recipe originally called for parmesan, but I've used cheddar and liked it.
1 pound ground pork sausage
1 pound large jalapeño peppers, cut in half lengthwise with seeds removed
Method: If peppers are not already cut and seeded, clean them. Be careful not to touch your eyes with the juice from the seeds on your hands. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cook sausage in a skillet on medium until evenly brown. Drain the grease. In a bowl mix the cooked sausage, cream cheese, and shredded cheese. Scoop about a tablespoon of the mixture into each halved pepper. Arrange the stuffed halves in Pyrex or another baking dish. Bake for about twenty minutes until light brown. Let the peppers cool, and serve with an optional ranch dip.
This recipe makes twelve servings.
News from the Federation Family
Requests for Accommodations Based on Disability:
The convention of the National Federation of the Blind is designed to be accessible especially to blind people in that materials are offered in accessible formats and other nonvisual aids are provided. Therefore special requests for these items are not required. If you require specific accommodations based on your disability other than the blindness-related accommodations mentioned above in order to participate fully and equally in the convention, we urge you to let us know as soon as possible. Specific accommodations for which requests are required include requests for deaf or deaf-blind interpreters.
Due to the size and complexity of this convention, as well as the need to plan for additional human and other resources appropriately, requests for specific accommodations must be submitted no later than May 31, 2014.
In order to make a request, 1) preregister for the convention by visiting <http://www.nfb.org/registration>; and 2) send your specific request for accommodations in writing to the NFB Jernigan Institute using email at <email@example.com> with the subject “convention request for specific accommodations.” Please include your name, the dates you plan to be at the convention, information on the best way to follow up with you, and your specific request.
New Song Contest:
Since 1969, “The Battle Song of the NFB,” or “Glory, Glory, Federation,” as it is most popularly known among Federationists, has been our battle hymn from the convention hall to the picket line. Now, on the cusp of our seventy-fifth anniversary, the National Federation of the Blind is launching a contest to discover a new NFB song. The goal is to find a song that encompasses our history, while at the same time embracing the bright future that lies ahead. The exciting part is that you have the opportunity to be a part of it!
What: The new NFB Song Contest
When: March 1 through July 13, 2014
How: Send us a simple recording of yourself or a group performing a new song that could potentially be used as the NFB’s new battle song. Submissions must be received at <firstname.lastname@example.org> no later than July 13 to be considered. The song must be original, no copyright infringement permitted. The finalists will then be voted upon by our membership to determine the winning song, details to come.
In addition to the opportunity to chronicle the history of the Federation, the person who submits the winning song will receive a complimentary registration and banquet ticket for our seventy-fifth anniversary to be held in July 2015, as well as have the lyrics to the winning song printed on the anniversary convention program.
Help us show the world that with love, hope, and determination, we transform dreams into reality! If you have any questions about the contest, please feel free to contact the chairman of our song committee, Gabe Cazares, at <email@example.com>. The new Federation song contest is an effort of the seventy-fifth NFB Anniversary Committee with support from the Performing Arts Division.
NFB STEM2U is coming to a city near you during the 2014-2015 school year. The National Federation of the Blind, in partnership with museums and science centers, will facilitate three regional science, technology, engineering, and math programs. NFB STEM2U is an extension of the NFB’s National Center for Blind Youth in Science initiative in local communities. It will provide great learning opportunities to elementary and high-school-age blind students, parents of blind children, and teachers working with blind students.
Learn more about the NFB STEM2U programs to be held in Baltimore, Boston, and Columbus in the coming year by visiting <http://www.blindscience.org/nfb-stem2u>. The application deadline for high school-age students interested in participating is June 15. Elementary-age students and educators who are interested in applying have until July 31 to submit applications. If you have questions, please contact Natalie Shaheen by e-mail at <STEM@nfb.org>.
National Federation of the Blind and H&R Block Announce Agreement Assuring Accessibility:
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans, and H&R Block, which prepares approximately one in seven tax returns in America, announced March 29 that they have reached an agreement to make H&R Block’s website, online tax preparation products, and mobile applications fully accessible to blind taxpayers. Blind people access computers, websites, and mobile applications through screen-access software that converts what is on the screen into spoken words or Braille, but improperly coded websites and applications can prevent this software from working properly, denying the blind user equal access. The agreement is contained in a consent decree ending litigation involving NFB, two of H&R Block’s subsidiaries, two blind Massachusetts residents, and the United States Department of Justice. The consent decree outlines steps that H&R Block will take to assure that its website, including the utility for preparing income tax returns, is accessible by January of 2015 and that its mobile applications are accessible by January of 2016. The agreement also contains measures to ensure that accessibility is maintained and that blind users and others with disabilities can provide feedback and receive assistance with accessibility issues.
Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “We are pleased to have reached this agreement, which will make the online services of one of America’s largest and most popular tax preparers available to blind taxpayers. Blind people will soon be able to file their tax returns privately and independently if they wish, rather than seeking assistance in doing so. We commend H&R Block for its commitment to making its services accessible to all taxpayers, including those who are blind.”
Jason Houseworth, president of Global Digital Tax Solutions and Product Management at H&R Block, said: “H&R Block is pleased to have reached an agreement with the National Federation of the Blind that insures the accessibility of our online resources for individuals who use assistive technologies and will work with the organization on further refinements to our online resources. We are committed to providing superior customer service to all Americans, including those with disabilities. As part of that commitment we want to serve all clients in the way they prefer to be reached—in a retail office, online, using software, or a combination of methods.”
The National Federation of the Blind and the individual plaintiffs are represented in this matter by Christine M. Netski of the Boston firm Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C., and Daniel F. Goldstein and Gregory P. Care of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP.
Reporter Shares Time with the Fab-Four and Shares His Experiences at the Convention:
Art Schreiber, radio newsman extraordinaire, was one of two American reporters on the road with the Beatles for their first US cross-country tour in 1964. On Friday evening, July 4, at our national convention, Art will share stories about crazed fans stealing his clothes and typewriter, being locked in the green room with the Beatles when one concert got out of hand, flying on private planes watching the Beatles writing songs, and playing Monopoly all night with John Lennon and George Harrison.
Art’s career as a news reporter took him all over the world. He covered stories about and became friends with John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Astronaut John Glenn, Lyndon B. Johnson, and many movie stars and celebrities. After losing his sight in 1982, Art continued working as the general manager of New Mexico’s largest AM and FM radio stations and became deeply involved in organizations to help others. He continues his efforts on a daily basis, serving on many boards and running interference on behalf of the blind and deaf at the state capitol in Santa Fe.
Resolutions for Convention:
Here is a message from Sharon Maneki, who chairs the NFB resolutions committee:
Do you think we should change a government policy, take a stand concerning an agency for the blind, or create new regulations? If you do, consider writing a resolution. At the 2014 national convention the resolutions committee meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 2. The committee will debate and discuss resolutions on a wide variety of subjects. If passed by the convention, these resolutions will become the policy statements of the organization.
To ensure that your resolution will be considered by the committee, please send it to President Maurer or to me by June 18, two weeks before the committee meeting. If you send a resolution to me by email and do not receive a response acknowledging your email in two or three days, please call or send it again. If you miss the deadline, you must get three members of the committee to sponsor your resolution and then get it to the chairman before the meeting begins. I will be pleased to accept resolutions by email, <firstname.lastname@example.org>; or snail mail, 9013 Nelson Way, Columbia, MD 21045.
Fatos Floyd to be Awarded Defender of Democracy Award:
In the December 2012 issue of the Monitor, readers learned about the actions of Fatos Floyd of Lancaster County, Nebraska, when she fought for her right to vote using an accessible machine at the same time and place as a sighted voter.
We are pleased to announce that on April 24, she will receive the Defender of Democracy Award from the Nebraskans for Civic Reform for taking a stand and publicly filing an official complaint to ensure that blind members of the community have equal voting rights.
How to Pay for Your Hotel Stay in Orlando:
This helpful information comes from former NFB staff member Tony Cobb, who has been a fixture in the lobby of our convention hotels for as long as I can remember. Here is his advice about paying for your hotel stay:
Every year at our national convention we have serious trouble with use of debit cards or cash payments at hotel check-in, and, having worked to solve these problems for years, I can tell you they can nearly ruin the convention week for those experiencing them. Planning to attend our national convention should therefore include thinking seriously about how to pay the hotel, and I cannot urge you strongly enough to avoid using cash or a debit card as your payment method. Doing so may seem convenient, but you should not do so. If you do not have a credit card of your own to use instead, prevail upon a close friend or family member to let you use one just for convention. Here’s why:
If you are paying in actual currency, most hotels will want enough cash up front at check-in to cover your room and tax charges for the entire stay, plus a one-time advance incidentals deposit to cover meals, telephone calls, Internet service, and other things you may charge to your room. The unused portion of the incidentals deposit may be returned at check-out or by mail after departure. Understand, however, that, if your incidentals charges exceed the incidentals deposit credited, you are responsible for payment of the full balance at checkout. The total can end up being a very large sum indeed.
If you use a debit card, however, you are really at a potentially painful disadvantage. The hotel will put a hold on money in your bank account linked to the debit card to cover the estimated balance of your stay—that is, for the entire week’s room and tax charges plus a one-time incidentals deposit to cover meals, movies, and so on charged to your room. You should be aware that the hold can therefore be a considerable amount of money and that you will not have access to that amount for any other purchases or payments with your card. (Hotels sometimes also put authorizations on credit cards, by the way, but those are not often a problem unless they exceed your card’s credit limit.)
Holds can remain in effect for three to five days or even a week after you check out. If you have pre-authorized payments from your bank account, for example your monthly mortgage payment, or if you try to make a purchase with your debit card and it's refused, the hold from the hotel can cause you trouble or result in very large overdraft fees for payments you thought you had money in your account to cover. I have seen this hit some of our members in the form of hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees.
This means that, if you use a debit card, you would have to be certain you have a high enough balance in your checking account when you come to convention to cover any debit card holds. This is a perilous practice since charges may exceed your estimate by a considerable amount. (Some frequent travelers even open a separate checking account used only for debits like these.) Remember, a hold is going to be placed on your debit card regardless of how you end up paying the bill, and the hold is not necessarily released right away, even if you pay with a credit card or cash when you check out of the hotel.
Planning ahead in this area can ensure an untroubled week at convention, leaving you free to enjoy fully the world’s largest and most exciting meeting of the blind. Enjoy Orlando—using a credit card, I hope.
National Organization of Professionals in Blindness Education, A Division of the National Federation of the Blind, presents Braille for NFB BELL:
Through its philosophy and programs, the National Federation of the Blind demonstrates an unwavering dedication to Braille literacy. The NFB BELL program is now in twenty-four states—introducing young blind children to Braille and other blindness skills, showing them that Braille proficiency creates lifelong literacy <www.nfb.org/BELL>.
The National Organization of Professionals in Blindness Education (PIBE), an organization comprised of teachers of blind students and other blindness education professionals, is launching a campaign to encourage Braille reading and to increase awareness about the NFB BELL programs. Our campaign is open to blind students and adults, as well as sighted parents and teachers of blind students. It should be noted that all reading is to occur in Braille.
Registration for the Braille for NFB BELL program is free, and registrants must read at least three books between April 1 and May 31st to qualify for the drawing of prizes to be given by PIBE. Any donations to the National Federation of the Blind and any of its programs—such as our Imagination Fund—are always welcome. The “Imagination Fund” is used by the National Federation of the Blind to fund many initiatives, including NFB BELL and the My First Cane program. Visit <https://nfb.org/imagination-fund-brochure> to learn more about the Imagination Fund and <http://is.gd/hCpBsd to make a donation>. Your generosity makes literacy and independence possible for the next generation of blind children and youth!
Please join us in promoting Braille reading, showing people of all ages that reading is exciting, and, most important, through individual and collective action, proclaiming that Braille Rocks! Please see below for contest rules, as well as the attached entry form and reading log.
National Organization of Professionals in Blindness Education
A Division of the National Federation of the Blind
Braille for NFB BELL Contest Rules
1. Complete the entry form and email it to <email@example.com>.
2. Reading begins April 1 and will end June 1, 2014. Please note: all books are to be read in Braille. Refreshable Braille devices may be used as long as any audio functionality is not used.
3. Complete your reading log and email it to <firstname.lastname@example.org> no later than June 5, 2014.
4. First and second place winners from each of the three categories (Elementary School Student, Middle School or High School Student, and College Student or Adult (not enrolled in school/teacher) will be drawn. Note: In order to be eligible for prizes, contestants must complete a reading log demonstrating evidence of having read at least three verifiable book titles. Prizes will be awarded by the PIBE division.
5. A contestant’s name will be entered into the drawing once for each book completed. If a book is over one hundred Braille pages, the name will be entered once for each additional one hundred Braille pages. For contestants in the elementary category, this will be done for each fifty Braille pages.
6. Who may enter?
The Illinois Association of Blind Students recently had its elections for the at-large board, and the results are as follows: president, Leslie Hamric; vice president, Linda Hendle; secretary/treasurer, Charlene Elder; and board members, Sid Weiner and Danny Mandrell.
Travel & Tourism Division Elections:
The twelfth annual meeting of the NFB Travel & Tourism Division will be held on July 3 from 1:00 to 4:30 PM, beginning with registration. This is an election year, and all positions are up for election. To run, one must be a paid member of the National Federation of the Blind, as well as a paid member of the Travel & Tourism Division. You do not have to be in the travel profession, but you must be willing to work hard to remove the barriers that exist for blind people in traveling and to actively encourage it for those blind people who have not yet experienced the thrill and adventure travel can provide. Come and learn more about the NFB Travel & Tourism Division.
Information Wanted from Blind Social Workers:
The National Federation of the Blind’s Human Services Division is seeking a collaborative relationship with the National Association of Social Workers in an effort to significantly increase opportunities for blind social workers. In an effort to assess how many people will be affected by our efforts, we would like to get an idea of how many blind people are either professional social workers at any level or aspire to become social workers. We are urging anyone in any of these categories to send a message with your name, location, and email address to <MerryS@verizon.net>.
When sending us a message, if you would like to share any concerns or challenges you have faced in your educational, application, recruitment, employment, or professional development efforts, such information will help us prioritize our initiatives to better serve our constituents.
Twelfth Annual Meeting of the NFB Travel & Tourism Division:
This year we have a full agenda: we will continue the discussion of “Why the Blind Should Travel.” We will talk about destinations where we have been, as well as techniques we use. We will discuss what is affecting us in the travel industry and discuss advocating for better independence. This year our guest speakers will be: Mrs. Cathy Vazquez, Access Manager, Norwegian Cruise Lines; a representative from The National Statler Center for Careers in Hospitality Services, located in Buffalo, New York; and a possible visit and presentation by Mark Riccobono. We will discuss the 2013 Travel & Tourism first fundraiser trip, as well as future fundraising events. There will be elections for all offices, and those interested in running for positions must be paid members. Dues are $10 per year, so please bring cash or, if you choose to pay by check, checks that are made out to NFB Travel & Tourism. There will be door prizes and more! For more information go to <www.nfbtravel.org/> or write to <info@NFBtravel.org>.
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.
Save the Date:
What: Unified English Braille Workshop
When: Friday, May 16, 2014, at 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Saturday, May 17, 2014, at 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Where: The Louisiana Center for the Blind, 101 South Trenton Street, Ruston, Louisiana
Cost: Participation in the workshop is fifty dollars for professionals and free to consumers and students. Continuing Learning Units (CLU) will be provided to workshop participants.
Teachers, instructors, consumers, and all those whose work involves the teaching, production, and/or use of Braille are aware that the United States has adopted the Unified English Braille code, effective January 4, 2016, as the standard code for literacy.
The purpose of this workshop will be to familiarize participants with the changes to the Braille code introduced by UEB and to provide hands-on training in order to provide a solid working knowledge of Unified English Braille. Information will also be presented on the new National Certification in Unified English Braille (NCUEB), which will be available later this year.
For more information, contact Edward Bell at <email@example.com> or by phone at (318) 257-4554.
Housing may be available on a limited basis. Contact Eric Guillory for details by writing him at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or by calling him at (318) 251-2891. A registration form will be circulated by late April.
Blind Industries and Services of Maryland Summer Programs:
If you are a blind high school or middle school student and are still searching for a fun and educational way to spend your summer, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) may have a program for you. This year we are heating up with two residential summer programs: Work to Independence 2014 for high school students and Independence 101 2014 for middle school students. Students nationwide may apply.
Work to Independence 2014 (June 22 – August 8, 2014)
This program will focus on equipping high school students with skills to achieve independence and confidence to believe in themselves and their abilities. Throughout the program students will learn independent living skills, familiarize themselves with the structured discovery method, plus enjoy fun and challenging activities. In addition to classes in Braille, technology, cooking, and cane travel, students will spend three weeks gaining valuable work experience through paid internships. They will work sixteen to twenty-four hours per week and will receive a check upon graduation for hours worked at minimum wage or greater. To build confidence and apply skills learned in classes, students will have multiple opportunities to travel outside the state of Maryland. Past trips have included travel to DC, New York City, and Orlando, Florida for the National Federation of the Blind annual convention.
The Work to Independence 2014 program offers an environment in which blind students can learn from blind mentors. Students will meet and develop lasting friendships with blind peers from all parts of the country. Program attendees and staff will reside on a college campus in Baltimore, Maryland. The program’s structure places heavy emphasis on confidence-building activities, which may include rock climbing, baseball games, and sailing.
Independence 101 (July 19 – August 8, 2014)
This three-week comprehensive life skills program focuses on building confidence. As in most summer camps, students participate in a wide array of social and recreational activities. Just as many of their sighted peers are meeting new friends at camp, Independence 101 participants will build a peer support network with other blind middle-school students. Activities will include rock-climbing, recreational water activities, sports outings, trips to the mall and movies, visiting points of interest in Baltimore, taking a train to explore Washington DC, and much more!
Students will receive instruction in Braille, technology, cane travel, and independent living classes by blind instructors/mentors. They will also assist with daily household chores. Staff will reside with students on a college campus in the Baltimore area.
It is not too late to apply! For more information on these programs or to apply, contact Sarah Baebler or Melissa Lomax at (410) 737-2642, or visit <www.bism.org/youth>.
American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults: The Kenneth Jernigan Lending Library in Tarzana, California:
Laugh along with Curious George or Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Solve a mystery with the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew. Or Escape From the Ice with Shackleton and the Endurance. If you like to be scared silly, R.L. Stine or Sherlock Holmes might do the trick.
These are just a few of the more than 14,000 titles we have in the Kenneth Jernigan Library for Blind Children and Adults. From the classics to the contemporary, we are sure to please every taste and age level. From pre-school through high school and young adults, our books are sent postage free to individuals, schools, and itinerant teachers.
Books are available in two distinct formats: Twin Vision® or Braille. Twin Vision® books contain adjacent pages of print and Braille, making it the ideal form for teachers and parents to read to pre-school to fourth grade children. Many of our Twin Vision® books contain colorful pictures that can be enjoyed equally by sighted children with blind parents or by students with limited vision.
Braille books are produced for the use of more advanced students and for upper grade readers. Titles in this category contain many classics.
The Kenneth Jernigan Library for Blind Children and Adults is a lending library dedicated to the reading pleasure and education of blind children and young adults. Our service is free, and we consider it a privilege to serve you.
You can contact the library via e-mail at <email@example.com> or by telephone at (818) 343-3219. The application for individuals and schools is available online at <https://www.actionfund.org/kenneth-jernigan-library> or can be mailed directly to you.
We welcome you and hope you will enjoy our books!
2014 GMSAAI’S Reunion Announcement:
Hey, it’s that time again! It’s time for the sixth annual Governor Morehead School Alumni Association, Inc’s reunion. You do not have to be a graduate of GMS; all interested persons are invited. If you come, I promise you will have lots of food, fun, and fellowship. We’ll have games, a catered lunch, a talent show, an auction, a dance, fabulous door prizes, etc. Many of our Saturday activities will be held on the Garner Road campus.
The kickoff to our big weekend will be a free low-vision and blindness seminar presented by Freedom Scientific; they will show several of their products and will also provide lunch. Participants will be able to use the products themselves; there will be door prizes for those lucky ones. The seminar will be held on July 31 on the Governor Morehead School campus at Weathers Hill Dining Hall located at 329 Ashe Avenue, Raleigh, North Carolina 27610. More information about the seminar will be revealed at a later date.
Our main event will take place August 1 to 3, 2014, at the Holiday Inn Raleigh North located at 2805 Highwood’s Boulevard in Raleigh, North Carolina. The room rate per night will be $65.90 plus 13.75 percent, which totals $74.96 per night; this price includes a hot buffet breakfast for up to four people per room. Call the hotel at (919) 872-3500 and ask for a room with the Governor Morehead School Alumni Association.
Registration rates remain the same; for members, $50 plus your yearly membership dues of $15 if it has not already been paid and for non-members $65. Registration fees should be paid on or before July 13, 2014, after which there will be an additional $10 fee. Also there will be no refunds after July 15, 2014. There’s a lot involved in planning a big event like this; therefore, please register ahead of time instead of waiting until the last minute. Your planning ahead will save you money and assist us in planning better.
Checks should be made payable to GMSAAI and mailed to Frances Council at 1609 Elkpark Drive, Raleigh, NC 27610. If you need assistance completing your application or need an application, you can reach Frances by phone at (919) 832-9732 or using email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
So bring your friends and family to join us in the best party ever. Meet new friends and reacquaint with old ones. You’ll regret it if you don’t. See you in August.
New Book on Echolocation Available:
The use of active echolocation is growing in popularity as a perceptual mobility tool for the blind and visually impaired. With a little practice any hearing person can begin to subconsciously deconstruct the sounds around them and interpret them as an actual landscape of shapes and objects laid out in front of them. The author of the Beginner's Guide to Echolocation, Tim Johnson, demystifies the growing practice of active echolocation in a way that anyone can understand and gives the reader simple exercises, examples, and lessons as a starting point for launching one into a successful practice of active echolocation.
Echolocation requires no special equipment, nor any special talent. The human body and mind are truly marvels of nature that grant us capabilities we may never know we had. If one can hear, he or she can echolocate. Understanding the simplicity of this skill will allow one to shift his or her way of thinking to accommodate an expanded awareness of one’s environment. With this awareness comes independence, confidence, new possibilities, and new opportunities.The Beginner's Guide to Echolocation is available in all widely used accessible formats at <www.HumanEcholocation.com>.
Newsreel Magazine is a two-way audio magazine by and for the blind and visually impaired. Subscribers share ways to make daily living skills much easier without vision. For a free three-month introductory subscription to Newsreel Magazine or for more information contact us by phone at (614) 469-0700, or toll free at (888) 723-8737, or email us at <email@example.com>. Newsreel Magazine is available on four-track cassette, on an MP3 CD, and through an MP3 download.
Do you feel lucky? If so, then I’ve got a deal for you. Our Lucky 365 fundraiser is underway. The Governor Morehead School Alumni Association Inc. is sponsoring the Lucky 365 Raffle. The proceeds from this endeavor will help us to continue to fund our awards and scholarships, education and technology, and the Envisioning Youth Empowerment (EYE) retreat programs.
Sale prices are as follows: one ticket: $25; three tickets sold together, $50; seven tickets sold together, $100
You can purchase your tickets by calling Lawrence Carter, (919) 856-0034; Douglas Davis, (202) 744-4666; Fred McEachern, (919) 821-4808; or Ricky Scott, (919) 673-8300
And what do you get if you purchase tickets? You have a chance to win first prize, $1,000; second prize, $500; and third prize, $250. You do not have to be present to win. The drawing will be held on Saturday, August 2, 2014, at our luncheon on the Garner Road campus. So call, buy, and take a chance at winning. Thank you in advance for your participation. Good luck to all!
Top Websites List for Gamers:
7-128 Software has just released the 2014 edition of “Top Web Sites for Gamers Who are Blind.” This resource includes game reviews and information about games that are blind-accessible, where to find free and commercial games that are blind-accessible, and forums and blogs visited by the blind gaming community. The websites are ranked, and detailed descriptions make it easier to find what you need. There is a direct link to each site.
This information is totally free. No registration is required. 7-128 Software is a small, independent developer of accessible computer games. The list is our attempt to give back to the blind and VI community. Because of frequent changes in the community, we have updated the list annually since 2007. The resource guide can be found at: <http://www.7128.com/top25/topsitesblind.html>.
Making Board Games Accessible:
So many great board games are released every year that for most people the choice is almost limitless. Unfortunately, that is not the case for everyone. People with visual impairments have few options when it comes to enjoying board games. 64 Oz Games wants to change this by making board games accessible to the blind. “My wife and I both work with and have many friends who are visually impaired. We are passionate about board games and want to make this brilliant hobby accessible to more people. If our campaign is successful, we will start producing a new line of products that will add accessibility to existing board and card games. These accessibility kits would be add-ons to games that would allow both blind and sighted players to play together.”
The 64 Oz Games Kickstarter campaign is currently live but will finish on Thursday, April 24, 2014, at 3 PM. As of April 15, 2014, the 540 backers have pledged $14,491, which is more than the $7,500 Kickstarter goal.
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.