Vol. 57, No. 6 June 2014
Gary Wunder, Editor
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The schedule for the 2014 convention is:
Tuesday, July 1 Seminar Day
Wednesday, July 2 Registration Day
Thursday, July 3 Board Meeting and Division Day
Friday, July 4 Opening Session
Saturday, July 5 Business Session
Sunday, July 6 Banquet Day and Adjournment
Vol. 57, No. 6 June 2014
Illustration: Protesters for Higher Wages
by Gary Wunder
When Just Listening Is Not Enough: Google Falls Short On Accessibility for the Blind
by Antonio Guimaraes
What Will It Take for Google to Find Its Voice
by Jim Barbour
Making an Impact Doesn’t Mean Using a Hammer:
How to Share Federation Philosophy Constructively
by Jim Marks
In This Close-Knit Denver Family, Love is Truly Blind
by Terri Cotten
This is Not Acceptable for Workers With Disabilities
by Anil Lewis
Knowing What Is Good About the iPhone and What Is Not
by Curtis Chong
Meet Our Division President—Marc Maurer
The National Center for Blind Youth in Science: Expanding Accessible STEM Learning Opportunities
for Blind Students, Parents, and Teachers
by Elizabeth Spann
Driving the Affiliate: Some Musings of a Former Affiliate President
by J.W. Smith
Comparing the Windows Computer with the Mac
by Curtis Chong
Ms. Rovig Leaves the Staff of the National Federation of the Blind
by Lorraine Rovig
Think Food Safety When You Grill
by Bridgette Keefe
Copyright 2014 by the National Federation of the Blind
At a recent protest at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, several members of the National Federation of the Blind decided to ask protesters who were seeking higher wages what they thought of the current practice of paying some of the disabled less than the minimum wage. Many of the Hopkins employees were shocked, some admitted to knowing of the practice, but all were outraged that this was permitted by law and told their own stories about the difficulty in trying to pay the rent, meet the utility bills, buy groceries, and afford medical care. They found it incredibly unfair that some citizens in our nation don’t even enjoy the inadequate protection afforded by the country’s minimum wage, and our visit was most helpful in increasing public awareness.
by Gary Wunder
In this issue we are running three articles about Google: this one, one by Antonio Guimaraes, and a third by Jim Barbour. So why three articles, and why are all of them about Google? We have three articles because the framework I want to build around the two that have been submitted is beyond my ability to do in a headnote of manageable length. I also want to include information that has come to my attention since these articles were submitted. As for the second question: given all the technology companies in America and the world, why Google? This requires a more complicated answer.
Google is one of the most exciting companies on the planet and may well be the most innovative. It has revolutionized the way we do research and the way we settle arguments around the dinner table; and it even helps those of us who work on the Braille Monitor determine how words are spelled as the English language adds new ones and combines old ones.
Google offers great promise to the citizens of the world, with cars that may someday drive themselves and with glasses that may strengthen the human/machine interface. Its ambitious goal to digitize all of the books in the world is enough to get anybody’s attention, and the potential to change the lives for blind people needs no elaboration. But the most immediate reason to focus on Google is that it is giving away an office suite called Google Apps, a group of programs that resembles offerings by Corel or Microsoft in that it provides a suite incorporating an email system, a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a database application. When compared with the cost of competing office products, Google's offer is tempting to state governments, colleges, and universities; and, when institutions adopt Google Apps as their office tool of choice and it is less accessible than the standard office tools that have been used for years, blind people get hurt, be they users of government services, employees, or students.
When the blind began to see Google Apps emerge as the office suite of choice in their institutions, they first tried to learn the new system—exactly what any person, blind or sighted, would do. When it became apparent that even expert users of current screen readers couldn't make the system work and the network of blind people teaching blind people could not bridge the gap, approaches were made to Google. The response at that time was pretty much what we have seen from other technology companies: this product is new; we're working on access for the blind, and you'll probably see something in future versions. But bosses and professors wanted blind people to produce. They understood the problem, but they also understood that grades and paychecks couldn't be handed out today with the someday promise of future productivity. So, sometimes politely, but always firmly, the blind were told to figure it out or admit we could not perform the essential functions required to be achieving students and productive employees. The public perception that the Americans with Disabilities Act targets specific jobs for blind people or that it requires instructors and bosses to set lower standards is a myth, one which a quick look at cases filed under the ADA will quickly dispel.
President Maurer explains the involvement of the National Federation of the Blind in this way:
The frustration level eventually got high enough that many people inside the organization were demanding that something be done. Governments were adopting Google as their platform of choice, and that meant jobs and education were going. Because we couldn't get anyone at Google to pay attention in any meaningful way that addressed more than minor details, we were prepared to get injunctions from the legal system to prohibit their products from being used. At the time we were beginning the legal process, which we knew would be expensive, very slow, and probably only partially successful—as most of these things are—we contacted a senior vice president at Google who said that Google would change things. We knew that Google meant it because this vice president said in our presence that, although they release products with bugs in them—even when they know there are bugs—they don't release products if the bugs are so big that you can't use the product. What the vice president was acknowledging was that, if you were blind, you couldn’t use the products. He said that this is what Google calls a number one problem.
These conversations occurred three years ago, and, true to his word, he told people to fix the problems we had painstakingly identified. But they didn't get fixed because these problems were more involved and had to be addressed in a way different from Google's traditional approach. This caused him great chagrin, but, since that time, we have repeatedly met with Google, and things are changing. A lot of these changes have come from structural changes in the way Google has been looking at accessibility for the past year. We have told Google in detail what doesn't work, and they have begun the process of making the changes to see that the problems are fixed.
A promise that is unsupported by action is a thing we have come to know for years, from lots of people, including Google. But the action within the last six months has been big enough to be impressive, and, if it continues, it will be quite noticeable in the products Google comes to deliver. We have every reason to believe it will continue and that Google and the blind of the world will be the better for our ongoing negotiation, collaboration, and the relationships we have developed. As a part of this relationship, Google will have a high-level representative on the convention agenda in Orlando, and I believe we will all be encouraged by what she has to say.
These are the impressions Dr. Maurer and members of our team have carried away from Google, and they are encouraging. With all of this in mind, we still have an obligation to acknowledge the significant challenge that Google’s technology has posed to blind people. To do that, we are carrying the two articles which follow, understanding that they represent the legitimate concern, frustration, and hope that blind people have experienced in connection with Google.
I have interviewed two people who are prominent in Google’s accessibility efforts and have given them some ideas about what is being said in this and the articles that follow. They would prefer that we dwell less on history and the problems the blind have had with accessibility and focus more on changes that have happened in the last year and those soon to come. I have taken the position that we cannot fully recognize the strides they are making and will continue to demonstrate without an appreciation of that history and that its mention places in a positive light the changes they are working so hard to make. Their commitment to work with other developers of screen-reading solutions marks a departure from their previously stated position, that being that a blind person wanting to use Google should use Google’s hardware and its screen reader. Those agreements are in place, and while there are technical reasons why their systems are likely to work better with the things they develop than with other screen readers and browsers, they are committed to making their products work well with the screen-reading solutions already used by the blind.We invite Google to make their own contribution to these discussions and will be pleased to advertise to all who care to read and listen how this innovative company demonstrates the power of inborn accessibility and what a culture committed to this concept can do to reduce and perhaps eliminate the digital divide that threatens to separate blind people from meaningful participation in getting an education and being part of the workplace in the twenty-first century. Because we are firmly committed to equal access, to education, and to employment for the blind, you can be certain that the National Federation of the Blind will continue to be involved with Google and other developers of technology and that the Braille Monitor will be a conscientious chronicler of the events that will shape opportunities to live and fully participate in the world.
by Antonio Guimaraes
From the Editor: Antonio Guimaraes has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind for a decade and a half. He is a member of the board of directors of the writers’ division, lives in the state of Rhode Island, and is a member of the Cambridge chapter in Massachusetts. He is currently a student in the field of social studies, who has a keen interest in technology which drives him to attend technology conferences where Google is often present. While he is not involved directly in what goes on at Google or in the discussions ongoing between Google and the National Federation of the Blind, he has given more attention than most of us to the technology being seen by students and takes seriously his obligation to report on things as he sees them. This article is the culmination of months of back-and-forth letters and phone calls in which Antonio has consistently made the case that we need to talk about Google and in which I have consistently made the case for presenting specific problems of access in the larger context of education and employment. To his credit, he has not given up, and here are his thoughts and opinions:
If you ask yourself when you last used a Google product, you're likely to say you googled something or checked your Gmail account. But, if you are blind, that is likely where your use of Google starts and ends. That's because, while Google has an active accessibility team, it has not earned the loyalty of blind users with solidly usable and accessible products and services. Google builds many other widely used tools that are barely usable at best and useless at worst. It is difficult even for the most computer-savvy blind person to keep up with what is accessible and how. Blind students, employees, those who teach computers to the blind, and anyone who is blind and regularly accesses a computer ought to be concerned about how one of the most influential and powerful tech companies approaches accessibility. If you work at an organization that deploys Google products in its daily operations, then making appointments, collaborating in the writing of a document, and storing files on the cloud with Google-made technologies soon becomes crucial to your ability to compete.
The answer to this question is not consistent. Some products are totally inaccessible, some require many workarounds, others are accessible only with Google's own operating system and browser, and a treasured few offer flexibility and accessibility across the board.
In order to create a Gmail account, Google uses a voice captcha that speaks a series of numbers that appear on the screen to prove that a human being is creating the account, rather than a spammer’s program. Unfortunately, the audio is garbled and is nearly impossible to decipher. So score one for Google for providing an audio equivalent to the visual captcha, but subtract half a point for failing to come up with a paradigm that is easy to use and does not exclude the deaf-blind.
Google Docs is widely used by the sighted and across all platforms including Windows and Mac. However, every presentation I've personally seen by members of Google's accessibility team has used accessibility features with Google's own hardware, operating system, and browser. Google has scant instructions for Docs, Google Calendar, and other programs. The current approach to accessibility and the lack of support for mainstream screen readers leaves much room for speculation about how Google expects the blind to access its products.
Will the company develop accessibility tools for ChromeBook, Chrome OS, and the Chrome browser and consider this an adequate response to meeting the access needs of the blind? Do they expect blind people to abandon the screen readers we have been using for years if we want to embrace the Googlesphere? If so, will they develop training programs and comprehensive manuals from which we can easily learn? Even if they do, isn’t it reasonable to ask how many operating systems, browsers, office suites, and screen readers a blind person must know before he or she can claim to be computer literate and employment-ready? These questions must be asked and deserve to be answered.
Google twice declined an interview request I made with the director of engineering, Mr. Kannan Pashupathy, who oversees the accessibility team at Google. I had the opportunity to ask him about Google's commitment to accessibility outside the Chrome environment during his presentation to the American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference in early March. He confirmed having heard concerns from users regarding this issue. He said that Google has had discussions and is working on agreements with Freedom Scientific, the maker of JAWS for Windows, and NV Access, the developer of NVDA, to make sure Google products work well with these and other screen readers. [Note the comments made by Google about working with other screen-reading products in the previous article.]
One would hope that these talks will result in more universally available access for the blind. If sighted people, regardless which operating system they use, have no trouble using Docs (Google’s web-based office suite that allows online collaboration in creating and editing documents), the blind should have the same option. Often the blind have no choice in whether they must use Windows, Mac OS, or Google Chrome; the decision is made for them, either by the institution for which they work, the institution they attend as a student, or by the rehabilitation agency purchasing products for their use. When the choice is truly left to them, most blind people use a PC with Windows, a considerable number use the Mac with Mac OS, and a small minority use Chrome OS. Mac OS comes with VoiceOver installed, but not everyone using Windows uses the same screen reader. JAWS for Windows, Window-Eyes, System Access, and NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) come to mind as the most popular screen-reading options for PC users in America. Though each screen reader demonstrates its own strengths and weaknesses when used with web browsers and office suites, none requires the use of or exclusion of a given tool. While making maximal use of any of these tools might be achieved by having a working knowledge of all of the screen-reading solutions on the market, most blind people would consider this impractical. Learning and affording one screen reader is difficult enough, and the thought of multiplying this by three or four is daunting, except for those whose identity is bound up in being a computer geek.
Blind users should not be expected to learn a new system with all of its idiosyncrasies and keystrokes simply to avail ourselves of what Google has to offer. Instead, programs like Google Docs should be available to the blind in the same way they are to the sighted—across platforms and with one’s screen reader of choice.
Google has an accessibility blog. The entry titled “Accessibility: A Progress Report” says that the company met with several organizations of the blind and attended the CSUN technology conference. That entry is from October 7, 2011. The blog quotes an NFB statement by Mark Riccobono saying that the NFB "is pleased that Google has been actively engaged with us in its work to solve access issues … Many improvements still need to be made before Google applications are fully accessible to blind users, but the enhancements that we have seen demonstrated indicate a commitment to accessibility by Google."
That statement was from two years ago and continues to be true today. Google has engaged with the blind and with the assistive technology industry serving the blind. It employs an accessibility team, but whether it will follow through on its stated commitment to accessibility still remains to be seen.
In seeking out information for writing this article I have been given information from Google that points to progress that has been made in the last year and particularly in the last six months. While more still remains to be done, one hopes this direction is one that Google will maintain and that, more than a one-time response to a specific problem, these changes represent a cultural change at the company—one that will benefit the blind and others with disabilities for years to come.
by Jim Barbour
From the Editor: Jim Barbour is a principal systems architect for Qualcomm, a developer of advanced computer chips used in mobile technology like cell phones and tablets. Jim serves on the National Federation of the Blind’s Research and Development Committee and is a member of the East Bay Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California. Here are his thoughts about the problems blind people have with Google and what Google can and should do to address them:
If we think back about ten years, technology choices were fairly limited for blind people. Most of us were using cell phones without knowing what was on the screen, memorizing the keystrokes needed to dial and answer calls. We were reading email using email clients like Eudora and Microsoft Outlook. We were reading text-based webpages in browsers like Internet Explorer 6. Ten years ago was also the start of the organized blind's relationship with Google. This relationship was consistently filled with both exceptional promise and crushing disappointment.
Google started out with a very handy search page: one text input box, a "search" button and an "I'm feeling lucky" button. We used this search page a lot, enjoying the simple text box and an easy-to-read results page.
Then, ten years ago on April 1st, 2004, Google launched its Gmail product. Gmail was a mail reading web app with a very innovative way of displaying webpages and controls to users. This new way of displaying information to users was roundly approved by most folks. However, the blind were completely unable to use Gmail. Existing screen readers had no idea how to handle the new way of showing data to the blind.
As Gmail began to increase in popularity, the blind began to grow unhappy about the fact that Gmail was not accessible. We got a little hot under the collar when we couldn't even figure out who to talk to at Google. We couldn't find anyone at Google who would listen to our complaints. I was a Google employee and often advised the Accessibility Team, and even we weren't sure how to solve this problem.
There was a need to bring the web browser developers, screen reader developers, and web app developers together to work out a solution to this problem. However, none of these groups felt compelled to talk with the others.
Google has had an accessibility group since before I joined Google in 2004, which has grown considerably over time, and has talented people working within it. When I was employed there, this team struggled against Google culture to present accessibility as a design principle that Google should apply to their product development lifecycle.
My observation is that Google has applied the same quiet, indifferent, "the user is not our customer" customer service strategy to the blind that they have traditionally applied to the rest of their user community. Their customers are those who buy ads or products; their users represent a different community. It is also fair to say that Google believes that, if they innovate, customers will come to see the wisdom of such innovation, and will appreciate the changes. Google’s inattentiveness toward us built up significant annoyance and anger within the blind community.
In 2005 things started to improve. Google sent me to CSUN to meet with some blind Google users and to talk with them about their frustrations. Google released a mobile Gmail version in December 2005 that the blind were able to use. In 2006 Google launched Google Apps and started thinking about selling Gmail and Google apps to universities, which would come with an accessibility requirement. In 2007 Google introduced IMAP and POP support so that Gmail accounts could be accessed with screen-reader friendly mail clients like Outlook and Eudora. It was also around this time that groups started coming together to find the solution to Gmail and screen readers getting along that became known as the ARIA roles.
Google has moved far beyond search, email, and web apps to pioneer new technologies that hold much promise for the blind, including the autonomous vehicle, Google Glass, Android mobile products, and the Google Book Scanning Project.
As reported in NFB publications and discussions, Google and the NFB began meeting in 2005 to discuss Google’s book scanning project. Google came, listened, and made it clear that they understood our concerns.
The NFB has continued to meet with Google to discuss how poor access to products such as Google Docs and Android-powered devices are keeping students from learning and many blind people from working. We have been told that in all of these meetings Google has listened, acknowledged our concerns, and promised to make things better. However, we have not seen the fruit of these discussions with Google.
While congratulating Google on being willing to listen, we invite Google to take the next step. We invite Google to continue joining us at our conferences, to continue standing with us at the negotiating table, and to continue soliciting our advice and comments. We also encourage Google to take the next step and begin to speak—speak with strong, bold actions that show they respect what we have to say and that they want to provide us with the eyes-free experience we've been asking for, speak by providing products and software that are easy and fun for the blind to use.
We invite Google to make it a company goal to apply the same resources, commitment, and pride to bringing a polished, eyes-free user interface to their many applications as they would to adding a polished user interface in a new language spoken by 180 million people. We invite Google to take up the challenge of providing an eyes-free mobile phone experience that rivals their competition! We invite Google to speak by using their influence with the autonomous car community to help the world become comfortable with the idea that interfaces to autonomous vehicles can be both easy for the blind to use and completely safe for everyone.
We have reason to believe that there are ongoing negotiations between our organization and Google and that, in the past year, the company has made a significant commitment to inborn technology. If this is so, it represents a tremendous change that will have positive and long-term consequences for the blind. Like Apple’s innovative work to make the flatscreen accessible to the blind, Google can significantly raise the bar for the industry by demonstrating that inborn accessibility is possible, that it is economically feasible, and that it is the thing to do if other developers and manufacturers want to be competitive in today’s marketplace.
by Jim Marks
From the Editor: In cleaning up her computer, Barbara Pierce came across a post Jim Marks made on one of our listservs. While the issue being debated at that time was audible traffic signals, we have moved far beyond that specific discussion. Nevertheless, what Jim talks about is quite relevant today. When we have discovered something important about how to function as blind people, how do we go about sharing it? Must we be a stellar example of how that technique is used before we can tell others about it? How do we communicate the liberation that mastering a new technique can bring without making others feel as though we are criticizing them because they don’t know it or cannot use it as effectively as we do? If we learn of someone preparing to move to a nursing home because he believes that he can no longer cook, clean, and take care of himself, I believe we have an obligation to explain how we do such things. On the other hand, if we are talking to a diabetic who has lost most of the feeling in her hands, it is ridiculous for us to suggest to her that the answer to many of her life’s problems can be found in becoming a proficient user of Braille.
Most would probably agree that the two examples I’ve offered are extreme, so what about something less obvious? If I read an email post from a person who complains that a restaurant brought him a sixteen-ounce steak without cutting it and that he was required to send it back, do I have an obligation to tell him that, other significant disabilities notwithstanding, blind people can learn to cut their meat and that the cutting of meat by someone other than the person who is about to eat it is usually reserved for small children? If I say this to him politely, is it okay for him to label me as one of those bossy NFB members who is always trying to make blind people behave in their own, limited, circumscribed way? When is it appropriate to suggest that a blind person has an obligation to learn to be independent, and when is it okay to accept differences in behavior and pass them off with the statement “different strokes for different folks?” The answer isn’t easy to ascertain, but the question is terribly important. Whether I am perceived as offering hope or criticism has something to do with the way I package and send my message and something to do with the mindset of the receiver who hears it. I can’t control the latter, but I certainly can control the former. Here is what Jim has to say about offering hope without offending and creating hostility:
My initial experience with blindness had nothing to do with the NFB. At age eighteen I discovered I had an eye disease which would eventually cause me to go blind. At twenty-five the doctors told me I was legally blind and that there was nothing else they could do for me.
I grew up on a Montana ranch, the oldest of nine children. School and sports were easy for me. I still sometimes joke that at eighteen I thought the earth shook beneath my feet as I walked. Blindness took me by surprise. At first I hated it, thinking blindness to be a tragedy beyond measure. I internalized all the worst stereotypes, going through all the stages of victimhood: shame, using the victimhood to victimize others, and anger. Then, in part because life taught me I was still the same person blind or sighted, I realized my main barrier wasn't in blindness itself. Rather, nearly all the barriers I faced were of my own creation through what I thought blindness meant. Once I realized that all I had to do was to reject the stereotypes and to redefine blindness in ordinary ways, life got a lot better.
All this happened, as I said, without the Federation. Montana didn't have a very strong affiliate. I knew no other blind people who could act as role models and mentors. This eventually changed as I met more and more blind people who set their own agendas and lived life with dignity and respect. I got involved in the general disability movement through a center for independent living. It was okay and taught me a lot about advocacy and making things happen. But CILs really aren't designed for the blind. Working within the independent living movement left me wanting something more, something that made sense for a blind person. Later, I became aware that the independent living stuff paid most attention to the accessible environment. While access is nice and vital, it isn't the answer for the blind. We've got to learn how to be blind, a lifelong process which involves positive attitudes, well-designed training, and plenty of opportunities to practice the art of being blind.
Then something happened to me which made a huge difference in my life. Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic hired me to demonstrate an electronic text-reading system at the 1993 convention of the NFB. I was amazed, as many are, by the feeling one gets from being around so many able blind folk. But that isn't what got me the most. Kenneth Jernigan's speech, "The Nature of Independence," hooked me for a lifetime. Now, it wasn't a matter of being taken in by a charismatic leader. Jernigan uttered the very same stuff I believed in, and it took me by surprise. I came to the NFB with the prejudice of one who thought that Federationists were blind superhero types who preached long and who condemned anyone who didn't walk the Federation walk or talk the Federation talk. So you could imagine my surprise when I heard what I believed in, and it was coming out of Jernigan's mouth. The convention crowd loved it; I loved it; And I've been hanging around ever since.
The reason I have gone into so much personal detail is that I want you to understand better where I'm coming from in order to respond to your post as well as I can. You said the Federation must refrain from putting people down and move towards empowering people. I agree. But I disagree that the Federation beats people up who can't do the things we know to be possible. Many people make the mistake of feeding a supposed split between the less and more able blind. Listservs don't help, for they lean towards misunderstanding far more often than understanding. The Federation I know and love consists of the positive influence you speak of. Sure, some folks may be harsh in their administration of NFB philosophy, but intelligent people look beyond that to figure out what is at the heart of our movement. Thus I urge you not to get hung up on what may appear to be a black-and-white grasp of what it means to be blind and act on what you know works for you and others. At the same time keep an open mind to the lessons the Federation offers. Things that seem harsh at first blush later reveal themselves as kindness.
Of course people apply Federation philosophy differently in their lives. As I said, I do not consider myself an NFB superman. I am learning all the time from a network of dear friends who share the same mission. For instance, my Braille skills leave a lot to be desired. Part of that stems from two separate accidents as a teenager--one in football and the other in a motorcycle wreck, which apparently destroyed the feeling in my right hand. I use Braille daily, but I won’t ever be able to read it nearly as fast as most others. At the same time, I am a fierce advocate for Braille, especially when it comes to children. That's because it's about literacy, the ticket to a life of self-determination and contribution. The point is that, although I don't live out the model perfectly, the NFB gives something to aim at and the framework from which I can effectively press for goals that positively affect blind people's lives.
I agree that blind people face the same problems any pedestrians do, and audible traffic signals are not "the" answer in a world increasingly favoring the automobile. And I agree very much that there may be creative solutions to the problems faced by pedestrians. My main concern about what you said regarding the different strokes thing is that your words bolstered the idea that the solution to the pedestrian problem may be environmental rather than personal. In my opinion the access movement threatens the blind far more than any pedestrian problem ever could. We should not abandon the concepts of believing in the abilities of the blind and the daily application of the alternative techniques of blindness. I fear that the access movement will result in a backslide in which we start to blame blindness itself for our problems rather than acting out the Federation themes of can-do attitudes and personal responsibility. When I hear people crying out for more audible traffic signals or other environmental changes, it makes me afraid for those who come behind us. Somehow we've got to redouble our resolve to define blindness in our own terms.
Many fellow blind people hold the worst notions of blindness. We cannot afford these to set the stage for all of us. That's why the NFB challenges those who reach for something external rather than internal. I want to see action on the part of those who get offended when personal responsibility is raised. No one wants to feel that he or she doesn't measure up. It's a lousy feeling. But it's even more lousy to ignore what we know lies within the realm of possibilities. I believe the Federation should push and push hard on our agenda. This doesn't mean we have to be jerks in the process. We do want to open our arms and provide the support it takes to make a difference in people's lives. No matter what we do, some will choose to reject our understanding of what it means to be blind. This saddens me but doesn't deter me from pressing the Federation agenda. Our dreams say that we want a better world for ourselves, for others in similar situations, and for those who come after us. Reality means that we win some, and we lose some, but being a Federationist means we never give up the dream and never give up sharing it with those who can benefit.
by Terri Cotten
From the Editor: This article is reprinted with the permission of the Denver Post, its author, Terri Cotten, and her daughter who is both the photographer and the inspiration for this article, Jamie Cotten Walker. It appeared on March 27, 2014, and does a tremendous job in describing Ena and Brent Batron and the role the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind plays in their lives:
When Ena Iraheta and Brent Batron met in May 2001, just days after arriving at the Colorado Center for the Blind, it was "love at first sound," they said. They loved one another's voices. But then Brent, who has limited tunnel vision, took off the blindfold required of every new student to fill out some paperwork. When he saw Ena for the first time, she was so beautiful, he said, "I knew she was out of my league."
Today, the two are married with five sighted children—two-year-old twins, Noah and Roman; Olivia, four; Sienna, seven, and Gavin, eight. Brent, forty-three, supports the family with a full-time job as director of youth programs at the Colorado Center for the Blind. Ena, thirty-eight, cares for the children and can often be seen using the city's bus system, the twins in a buggy and the other three in tow.
Iraheta cares for their children in their Littleton home, where love and humor are in abundance. In their boisterous Littleton household, love and humor go a long way, and every day brings a new parenting challenge. "For the most part, they do respect what I say," said Ena. "It amazes me that they're so young, and they understand it's for their safety. They're my life," Iraheta says. "Everything revolves around them."
Others who know the Batrons agree. "They never miss a school function," said Marcy Guthrie, Sienna's second-grade teacher at Highland Elementary School in Littleton. "They are all about their kids." When Brent spoke to Sienna's class about being blind, he brought books about blind people, a Braille calendar, and a Braille alphabet card for each student. "When he came to school and talked, he had such an easy way with the kids, making jokes, making light of things," she said, "and making the kids understand that 'just because I can't see doesn't mean I'm not just like you.’"
Blindness doesn't slow down this family. They ride bikes and play ball together. Sienna plays on a softball team, Gavin plays baseball, and Olivia is in gymnastics. On a recent weekend, Brent stayed home with the twins while Ena took the other three swimming. When the school held its annual "Highland Hustle," a run for which the children train, Ena came and ran with the children, Guthrie said.
Ena, herself, wasn't always so positive. Born in El Salvador, she immigrated to Los Angeles with her mother, brother, and sister when she was five. Ena was the oldest child, and her family was not affectionate or understanding. When she realized she was losing her sight, her mother told her to stop complaining.
After she failed a driving test out of high school, Ena was referred to an ophthalmologist, and diagnosed with dominant optic atrophy, a rare condition that has left her with limited peripheral vision. "I had been working in the hospitality industry, at the reception desk, but my sight became a barrier," she said. "I tried to joke about it, but it was no longer funny."
At the age of twenty-five, she arrived at the Colorado Center for the Blind, hoping to learn Braille and computer software skills so she could return to the hospitality industry. She wasn't thinking about a family.
Brent grew up in Maine as an only child. He wanted to be a teacher, but the parents of one of his good friends were both teachers and discouraged him, so he majored in math and went to work at a grocery store.
"I was moving up the corporate chain, when I began having trouble seeing," he said. "I was put on disability and in 1997 was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa," a condition he calls a "family heirloom."
"I've probably had it since I was a kid," he said. "I loved baseball but was a terrible hitter in Little League. Later, after I was diagnosed, I was bouncing from job to job and very depressed. My uncle quit working at twenty-seven; my father quit at thirty. Neither ever went back to work . . . It was pretty hard to think I'd never work again."
After he met Ena, the two began going to Colorado Rockies games and out to dinner. Both graduated from the center's program that October, then moved to Maine and got jobs at call centers. They continued dating and married on May 10, 2003. A year later, they returned to Colorado for Brent's job.
The Colorado Center for the Blind's largest program is the residential Independence Training Program for adults, the one in which Brent and Ena met. The center also offers programs for students of all ages, senior citizens, and support for the families of those with vision impairment.
Executive Director Julie Deden said she was "very excited about the opportunity to have Brent back." When he was a student, he was a mentor to a couple of our other students. He would volunteer to do some teaching in 'cane travel.' I was very impressed with that. After directing that program, Brent became youth services director in 2008 and significantly strengthened those programs, Deden said.
"Brent has a lot of creativity and a lot of passion for his work. We're serving more people and doing a lot more innovative types of things. The quality of what we do has really grown. That's exciting. He has all kinds of contact with universities, colleges, and professors in the area and has put together some very exciting programs for our blind kids."
Earlier this year Brent arranged for Arapahoe Community College biology professor Terry Harrison to guide students at the center to dissect sharks. "It's pretty unique to give them this opportunity," said Harrison, who is in his third year of working with the center, thanks to Brent. "I tend to think about my words a little harder and make it a little clearer. Other than that, they're just like any other students."
For his part, Brent gets to be the teacher he always wanted to be and have the size of family he always wanted. "Bonus family. We wanted four (children) and we got a bonus," Brent jokes about the twins.
When Ena was two months pregnant with the twins, Gavin saw the ultrasound and exclaimed, "Wow. There're two!"
The Batrons admit that money is tight, but say they're willing to sacrifice for their children. There also are many things they can do that cost very little. One evening, Sienna and her dad took the bus into Littleton to see a dress rehearsal of the musical "Annie." The center gets free tickets to dress rehearsals, and Brent wanted Sienna to see it.
Gavin brags about beating his dad at video football, but said one of the things he likes best about his family is their New Year's Eve tradition. "We play Monopoly, then watch the ball drop. We have sparkling cider."
Sienna and Olivia are learning to cook and bake from their mother. Sienna likes playing school with Gavin, Olivia and Brent. All the older children have chores, although Ena smiles when she said they tried childproofing the house, and the children just worked together to dismantle it.
Brent said he thinks Ena's skill with the children comes from her own childhood. She wants the opposite for her children, and so she gives lots of love and kisses.
Ena said she appreciates Brent's sense of humor. "We do a lot of joking," she said. "We do discipline with humor, a lot of humor."
That's not to say they never get angry. When Ena was seven months pregnant with Gavin, the doctors ran tests to see if Gavin would suffer the same condition as either of his parents. That irritated both parents. "If he is born blind, who cares?" Brent asked. "What better situation for him to be born into than two parents who understand blindness."
That prompted Brent to begin offering training for Denver-area medical staffs. “Blindness is not a disease,” he said. “If an ophthalmologist diagnoses a patient with vision problems, then we can be a resource."
While helping with homework, both parents strive to let their children work things out for themselves. They work hard to teach independence, but don't want their children to be afraid to ask for help.
"We know enough blind people who put (leash-like) belts on their kids," Brent said. "Ours are holding hands. They respect traffic. They're walking or on the bus. They're a lot better behaved around traffic."
Center director Deden said the Batron children are "great, great, great kids. They're very social, and always excited about something," she said. "Ena always has them out and about, which amazes me, because I don't think most moms would want to take five kids with them everywhere. These kids have already learned so much about the world and its diversity, and that's very valuable.”
Making a charitable gift can be one of the most satisfying experiences in life. Each year millions of people contribute their time, talent, and treasure to charitable organizations. When you plan for a gift to the National Federation of the Blind, you are not just making a donation; you are leaving a legacy that insures a future for blind people throughout the country. Special giving programs are available through the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).
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by Anil Lewis
From the Editor: Traditions are hard to change, and regressive policies are usually acknowledged as such only after they have long-since been abolished. Someone must first sound the trumpet call, bring attention to a practice society finds uncomfortable to examine, and then lay bare the vested interests of those who profit from the unfair treatment of others. This is the role members of the National Federation of the Blind now play as we openly discuss how one blind person, who is called a production worker, makes pennies per hour, while another blind person, in a more elegant setting and with a more prestigious title, makes nearly ten thousand dollars a week. Where is the equity in this; where is the upward mobility promised the man who makes pennies per hour and is told this is because he is being trained? Where are the justice and the equity when the one who is paid pennies per hour is told that his job is not really about money; not really about making a living; not really about what he will need to raise a family, buy a house, and prepare for his retirement; and the man at the top is given a contract, participates in profit sharing, is given bonuses, and, if he fails, is often given a golden parachute so that he may gently descend into another job.
This is the latest in a series of articles we have run to examine from all angles the issue of paying the blind and the otherwise disabled less than the federally guaranteed minimum wage. This article originally appeared in a blog posted on April 28 and has been updated for this issue. Here is what Anil Lewis, the deputy executive director of the Jernigan Institute, has to say:
The abhorrent practice of employing workers with disabilities at subminimum wages, which stems from the poor public policy codified in Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), has unfortunately been imbedded in disability service models and promoted as a viable alternative for people with disabilities who have significant challenges to employment. As a result we needlessly tolerate the counterproductive, sheltered, subminimum-wage work environments that attempt to justify low expectations for the vocational potential of workers with disabilities, instead of providing encouragement and support for these men and women to obtain real jobs at real wages. This is especially intolerable in an age when innovative strategies produce alternatives that assist people with even the most significant disabilities in acquiring job skills that afford them the opportunity to secure competitive, integrated employment. By continuing to deny people with disabilities the same wage protections enjoyed by every other American worker, we perpetuate outdated practices and behavior that deny people with disabilities the opportunity to receive the quality education, training, and support necessary to obtain competitive, integrated employment.
The simple fact is that, under Section 14(c) of the FLSA, many workers with disabilities have been placed in jobs that require a skill set that they will never master. People with limited hand dexterity are required to screw caps on pens; people who would prefer jobs with more social interaction are segregated in isolated work environments, performing mundane tasks; and individuals requiring specialized interventions are placed under the supervision of a well-meaning but unqualified custodian. The people who work under these conditions will never meet the productivity requirements, never acquire a competitive job skill, and never be paid the same prevailing wage as other employees.
Thankfully more and more employers who have engaged in this unfair, discriminatory, and immoral practice are recognizing the error of their ways and are moving toward the adoption of a new, successful business model that capitalizes on the unique talents and strengths of each employee. Under this new model many workers with disabilities are already performing productively and making the same wage as their nondisabled colleagues. Others require some additional training and support to reach this level of productivity, and, like their nondisabled coworkers, they are provided this on-the-job training by the employer.
In order to encourage the continued adoption of community integrated employment models and to bring about ongoing systemic change that will culminate in the repeal of Section 14(c), we must answer an important question: what should be done with the men and women who require a greater degree of intervention or who have been erroneously placed in the subminimum-wage jobs offered by the workshops?
To answer this question, we must first acknowledge that, while people with disabilities often have greater challenges in gaining competitive, integrated employment, these do not prevent them from becoming productive employees. Workers with disabilities (like workers without disabilities) have unique skills, interests, and abilities. With the appropriate education, training, and supports, they can be productive and can be every bit as competitive as their nondisabled coworkers.
Workshops that take advantage of the 14(c) exemption fight reform tooth and nail. They tell the public and their employees that the shops will have no choice but to terminate many of their disabled staff. They claim these men and women will need to be cared for by already overburdened family members or that they will be placed in day habilitation centers. They claim that these do not currently exist in numbers sufficient to meet the need that will arise when the shops are put out of business. These arguments are little more than self-serving scare tactics that are meant to distract from the real issues society needs to face—that we are placing disabled people in workshops that are unable to provide quality training and employment, even though they are exempt from paying taxes, receive preferential treatment in the procurement of contracts, and receive donations from the public intended to benefit the disabled men and women they are supposed to serve. Rather than raising the standard of living for their workers, these institutions prevent those who work in them from receiving the education and training that would allow them to function up to their God-given potential.
There are viable, proven alternatives that offer training and competitive employment to individuals whom the workshops would otherwise condemn to a lifetime of segregated, subminimum-wage employment. The reality is that, in order for some businesses to convert to a new competitive, integrated business model, they may need to alter the employment relationship with certain disabled workers that they do not currently know how to serve.
Some workshop managers argue that they must fire workers if they are required to pay the minimum wage. This would be true if they insisted that the worker perform in accordance with a model that does not maximize their potential. If the employer is unable to employ the worker with a disability competitively, we should not continue to fund that employer. We should be using those resources to develop and sustain systems that provide quality education, training, and supports that will empower people with disabilities to be productive employees.
Why is it such a frightening concept to have people with disabilities leave these dead-end, exploitive environments to participate in an unpaid training program that will lead to competitive integrated employment? Isn't this exactly what nondisabled people do when they participate in the training offered by colleges, vocational or technical schools, and other job training environments every day? Not only do nondisabled people work without pay—they actually pay their trainers to impart job skills that they will use in making a living.
Contrary to those who would encourage us to allow workers with disabilities to languish in environments that offer nothing in the way of training, nothing in the way of advancement, and nothing in the way of a living wage, we support the following: rather than continuing to condemn hundreds of thousands of men and women with disabilities to a lifetime of sheltered, segregated, subminimum-wage employment, we embrace the difficult task of reform that may temporarily leave some people without their subminimum-wage paychecks. We support the expectation that people with disabilities—like their nondisabled peers—will pursue education and training that allow them to acquire skills and explore various opportunities that will lead to their competitive, integrated employment. It is not acceptable for workers without disabilities to be relegated to subminimum-wage employment, reliant on public assistance for their existence, and deprived of their dignity and self-worth. It is likewise unacceptable for workers with disabilities, especially when we can do better and when models exist to help us in turning make-work jobs at subminimum wages a thing of the past.
by Curtis Chong
From the Editor: The iPhone is unquestionably the most popular cell phone used by the blind. Apple's revolutionary breakthrough in providing a roadmap for making the touchscreen usable by the blind has earned it significant praise from the blind, and their money has followed their words. But even with its impressive list of features and its accessibility, the iPhone is not for everyone, including some blind people. In this article Curtis Chong, who is a technology expert now living in New Mexico, explains the benefits of cutting-edge technology, but he also knows that the complexity of the iPhone and the needs of many cell phone users do not make it a good match. Here is what he has to say:
Many people have hailed the Apple iPhone as one of the first touchscreen technologies that can be used by the blind without sighted assistance. When Apple released the iPhone with VoiceOver back in 2009, even the most skeptical among us recognized that Apple had accomplished a truly phenomenal feat of design and engineering; for the first time in history a person who could not see the screen was able to operate all of the controls of a device, even though those controls were nothing more than icons on a flat screen.
Today the iPhone's reputation as an accessible technology for the blind is widespread. People who have never used an accessible cell phone have heard about the iPhone and dream about taking advantage of its accessibility for themselves. Well-meaning sons and daughters, hearing about the legendary accessibility of the iPhone, act to purchase this marvelous piece of technology for their aging mother or father. Parents who want an accessible cell phone for their blind youngsters believe that the iPhone is the perfect solution.
Accessible as the iPhone is, it is important to understand both its strengths and weaknesses before deciding to spend the money to get it. For some people it will be the perfect solution. For others it could turn out to be a very expensive paperweight.
The good and bad points about the iPhone that are listed below are based solely on my personal experience. In judging the accuracy of this information for yourself, you should know that I was a relative latecomer to the iPhone; I waited nearly two years before I decided to abandon my accessible Nokia cell phone for it, and, because I had talked with a lot of blind people before I decided to make the purchase, I was not disappointed in my decision.
1. The iPhone enables you to take advantage of online services—particularly if they are supported by an iPhone app—for example, banking, news, music, searching for information, reading books online, email, weather, etc.
2. The iPhone gives you the same technology as many of your blind friends who have already embraced the iPhone as their technological Swiss Army Knife of choice. This means that, if you run into trouble, you will probably be able to find a blind person with the knowledge and experience to help you.
3. The iPhone demonstrates conclusively that the blind can operate a touchscreen device that has been properly designed for nonvisual use. In this regard I take great delight in using my iPhone with the screen completely blank—just to show my sighted colleagues that it can be done.
4. The iPhone can tell you who is calling before you answer the call.
5. The iPhone can help you keep track of recent calls made and/or received, and you can easily return a missed call.
6. The iPhone offers a dictation system that enables you to make calls to people in your contact list, call specific phone numbers that you already know, dictate emails and text messages, and ask questions that may or may not result in useful answers.
7. The iPhone can run a GPS system that you can use to direct drivers to where you want to go if you pay for a good GPS app.
8. The iPhone has a free built-in compass which is quite useful in places where there are no good landmarks.
9. With a ten-dollar app, the iPhone can read paper currency; this app can even read foreign paper currency.
10. The iPhone is a great music player and also good for streaming radio.
11. With the iPhone you can read digital talking books and electronic Braille books from the National Library Service of the Library of Congress.
12. The iPhone can be used to read books from Audible.com and Kindle books from Amazon. It can also read books from a variety of other sources—including Learning Ally and Bookshare.
13. The iPhone offers access to NFB-NEWSLINE® through a free app.
14. You can take pictures with the iPhone. Autofocus gives you a verbal indication whether there is a face in the picture. Also the camera can, to some extent, be used with optical character recognition software to read printed material if you can focus the camera.
15. The iPhone has built-in voice output and screen enlargement available free. Activating these technologies is fairly straightforward. Moreover, you will find that a growing number of books and people are available to offer help and support for new iPhone users.
1. If you don't want to pay for a data plan, the iPhone has no option for that. A data plan will cost you about twenty dollars a month. You need a data plan for the iPhone to be able to communicate over the Internet.
2. It is very inefficient to make a simple phone call with the iPhone, particularly if you don't have a person in your contacts list. You can dial a phone number that you know much more quickly with a keypad that has real, physical buttons.
3. On the iPhone touch typing for texting and email is very slow as compared to a regular keyboard; this has been somewhat mitigated by Braille apps, of which there are now two. However, you should know that research has shown that, on average, a blind person entering data using the touch-screen QWERTY keyboard is writing at about three words per minute. By contrast, users of the built-in Braille apps have been clocked at around 23 words per minute.
4. The iPhone is very much a technology requiring good hand-ear coordination. People who want real buttons that they can operate silently by touch will be very disappointed in the iPhone.
5. Battery life for the iPhone is still an issue. You have to charge it at least once a day—a lot more if you use GPS.
6. The iPhone is not small. It is bigger than a lot of flip phones.
7. For a lot of people the iPhone is a lot more technology than they want. It is not for someone who just wants a phone to make and receive calls.
8. The iPhone is not cheap. Even with a two-year contract, the basic unit can cost $200. The full retail price of the iPhone is approximately $650.
9. First-time users of the iPhone have reported initial frustration with this powerful technology. It is not uncommon for these people to feel as if they want to throw the phone away during the first month. Answering calls and hanging up calls seem to be two particularly difficult problems for beginning iPhone users.
10. The iPhone requires a fair amount of dexterity and the ability to tap quickly. People who have motor issues or poor dexterity will likely not benefit from this technology.
The iPhone is simply not for everyone—despite its built-in nonvisual accessibility. Before you decide to get one, do the research, talk to your colleagues in the blind community, and decide whether or not you really need or want the power that the iPhone has to offer. Before you buy, be prepared to experience some frustration, have a few second thoughts, and expect initially to find some simple phone functions harder than you think they should be.
From the Editor: As the national convention draws near we observe the traditional buzz about what will be found on the convention agenda, who will make us laugh and who will make us cry, and what will turn out to be the most memorable event in the 2014 gathering of the National Federation of the Blind. This year there is an additional item of interest, the election of a new president. Such a transition occasions much speculation about the future and some considerable reflection on the past and the legacy of the man who has occupied the presidency of this organization for more than a quarter of a century.
With this latter point in mind, here is an article written by a twenty-year-old Marc Maurer that appeared in the Braille Monitor in March of 1972. I wish I could’ve claimed the byline for something this significant at twenty. Here is what the president of the student division had to say about his formative years, the division he then headed, and the role of divisions in our organization:
I am the second child among six. Having reached the age of twenty, I seem to have inherited some of the rugged individuality, the carefree fun-loving spirit, and the wish to do well that are so characteristic of the atmosphere in my home.
I have been legally blind since my birth and for all practical purposes totally blind for the past fourteen years. My third eye operation happened when I was six, and when it was over I was blind. I was resentful, bitter, and scared. I had determined that blindness was an irreparable tragic blow to my being. Henceforth, I would spend much time doing nothing except sitting alone and becoming more bitter. I was doing rather well; I had collected almost as much dust as the knick-knacks on our book shelf. Then my mother decided that it was time for a change of scenery and literally dragged me outside to "play." My first lesson about the proper attitude concerning blindness wasn't much fun, but it was taught to me in the form of a good time on a swing set.
The State residential school endured my presence for five years. I then moved on to school in my former hometown of Boone, Iowa. After my graduation, I spent a year receiving training at the adult orientation center of the Iowa Commission for the Blind. In the fall of 1970, I enrolled at the University of Notre Dame, where I am now a sophomore.
In addition to school my educational experiences have been those of a curious American. My hobbies have included such varied projects as mechanics, cooking, reading, and singing. I like to swim, shoot pool, water ski, play cards, and skate, both on wheels and on ice. What I have known of winter sports has delighted me, and, of course, one of my most engaging present pastimes is girl-watching.
I was introduced to the National Federation of the Blind during my sojourn at the Iowa Commission for the Blind. Under the tutelage of Kenneth Jernigan, the president of the Federation and the director of the Commission, I began to understand the organized blind movement.
We had several discussions about blindness and the blind, and, as it happened, I inevitably lost the debate, but I did grow to recognize the need for the organization. Incidentally, I consider it a feather in my cap to have won a bet with Mr. Jernigan.
The Student Division was organized at the 1967 Convention. At that organizational meeting there were about thirty people. At the past 1971 Convention the Student Division meeting was attended by about one hundred fifty interested persons. We have grown in membership and are growing still, both in numbers and in activities. There are now ten student or young peoples' divisions across the nation, with the prospect of two more within the year. Thus far in 1970, Student Division representatives have been seeking new members in New Mexico, Minnesota, Texas, Montana, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, and Iowa. The St. Cloud discrimination in which First Vice President Mary Hartle figured so prominently has now been brought to a successful close, and the Division's secretary, Curtis Chong, is presently negotiating with officials on the University of Hawaii Campus because the blind students attending that school have no place where they may study after 4:30. In a manner somewhat similar to that in which Loren Schmitt was treated by the rehab center on the University of Illinois campus, the officials of the rehab center on the University of Hawaii campus are ordering and arranging the lives of the blind students.
In an effort to make these rehabilitation centers effective, the Student Division has requested and been granted permission to do a survey of the program on the Illinois campus. This survey is one of the most immediate future concerns of the Division. We plan to continue organizational proselytizing, and wherever possible we will give advice or help to any student desiring it. (In this connection the student handbooks—revised—are available from either myself or Jim Gashel, the immediate past president of the Student Division.)
As we understand it, the first duty of a division is to the organization of which it is a part, and as such the Student Division will work in whatever way we can to make the NFB a greater movement. We plan to do some survey work, book surveys, or commentaries on television programs, but the place of a division is not to lead, but to advise, provide a forum for learning, train its members in this business of organization, and fill the ranks of the larger group on the battlefield. We are an entity in one sense only. We are not a division of the NFB, but a division IN the NFB. We stand together with all our colleagues in the movement.
by Elizabeth Spann
From the Editor: Elizabeth Spann is an educational program specialist at the Jernigan Institute and is the lead science educator on the recent grant received from the National Science Foundation. Here is what she has to say about an exciting new program it is helping to fund:
What do all of the top ten fastest-growing careers have in common? They all directly involve the knowledge and skills of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, twenty-one of the thirty fastest growing occupations directly require postsecondary education in one or more of the STEM fields. This means that the greatest opportunities for stable careers with good earning potential will require STEM education. If blind students are going to be successful in the competitive education and job markets, they will need early and consistent exposure to a wide variety of STEM learning opportunities.
With this in mind the NFB Jernigan Institute is expanding its work in accessible STEM education, having been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation–Advancing Informal STEM Learning (Grant No. 1322855). With this grant the NFB Jernigan Institute will be focusing on expanding informal STEM learning opportunities for the blind. The work done with this grant will expand the knowledge base of effective practices regarding STEM education for the blind. It will educate families, blind youth, future educators, and museum personnel about the techniques and tools used to engage blind youth effectively in informal and formal STEM settings. Finally, it will strengthen the digital resources for engagement of blind youth in STEM education.
As part of this grant the NFB is introducing NFB STEM2U, a new program beginning this fall. This program takes place at regional science centers and science museums around the country. In the initial year of the program (the 2014-2015 school year), NFB STEM2U will serve thirty blind high-school students and sixty blind elementary-school students in grades three to six, expanding their access to informal educational opportunities in STEM. This program will also involve ten teachers of the blind and visually impaired (TBVI).
The high-school student cohort will be referred to as “apprentices,” because they will function, not only as students in the program, but also as older peer leaders for the younger students. The upper-elementary cohort will be called the “juniors.” The apprentices will provide support and guidance to the younger students and have opportunities to use their developing leadership skills.
Prior to the regional NFB STEM2U programs, the thirty apprentices will participate in a weekend-long Leadership Academy. They will be trained as peer leaders and given training on how to share their knowledge and experience in blindness skills and education with younger students.
The regional NFB STEM2U programs to be held during the 2014-2015 school year of the grant will take place in Baltimore, Maryland; Boston, Massachusetts; and Columbus, Ohio. Each of the programs will consist of two-and-a-half days of activities. On the first day apprentices and juniors will participate in hands-on inquiry-based learning challenges. On the second day they will get to explore all of the exciting learning opportunities the science museums have to offer.
The regional programs will provide opportunity for prospective TBVIs to gain additional hands-on experience in working with blind students in an informal science setting. This opportunity will help to inform them about ways to accommodate blind students in science and will also allow them to apply best practices.
While the apprentices and juniors are learning and exploring the museum, there will be seminars for parents to participate in, helping them to understand better how to advocate for their children’s science education and how to ensure that their children have adequate opportunity to explore the STEM fields.
All participants will be helping the museums to identify how to serve blind patrons better. The participating museums have expressed an eagerness to make their exhibits as universally accessible as possible. This will help to shape how these and other museums design their exhibits going forward.
In the summers of 2015 and 2016, there will be a week-long engineering design program for high school juniors and seniors who have already expressed a serious interest in pursuing STEM education and career pathways. The NFB Jernigan Institute will gather data from both the NFB STEM2U regional programs and the engineering design program and communicate this to educators and museum personnel around the country. We encourage parents of blind students and teachers of the blind and visually impaired to visit <www.blindscience.org> for more information and to apply.
by J.W. Smith
From the Editor: J. W. Smith is the immediate past president of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio, and those who regularly attend the national convention will recognize his name as one of the people who has headed our membership recruitment effort. He joined the NFB in the early 1990s and quickly found his way into leadership. Here are some of his observations about things to do and things to avoid in being an affiliate president in the National Federation of the Blind:
I have been fortunate to have a variety of leadership opportunities including as a professor in the classroom, a committee chair, an administrator, a church choir director and youth leader, and a father and husband. Most of my leadership opportunities have been within the context of my university life, at least since 1983. I can honestly say, however, that serving as the president of the NFB of Ohio from 2008 to 2012 was the most satisfying and enriching leadership experience of my life to this point. For the past year or so I have been thinking about some of my experiences from those four years, and I thought it might be helpful to share some of my musings and advice for those currently in leadership in our movement and perhaps those thinking about it at the affiliate level.
I recognize that every situation will be different in opportunity and ascendancy to the affiliate presidency, and it may go without saying, but I think it really does need to be emphasized that each leader should and will bring his or her own uniqueness to the position. Your story may be different from mine, i.e., I had the privilege and challenge of following one of our longtime leaders in our affiliate and at the national level. It was clear to me and probably to most anyone else in our affiliate that Barbara Pierce would be a hard act to follow and that I had very big shoes to fill. Nevertheless, I welcomed the opportunity and began with what I think is the key point for effective leadership:
Even though I had been first vice president in our affiliate for fourteen years, it was essential that I reintroduce myself to our membership and establish my leadership plan early on. In fact, I received a call shortly after being elected. The person on the other end of the phone was one of our relatively new board members. Although I had run unopposed, she still felt that she needed to know who I was and what my plans for the affiliate were. With this in mind and because I was sure that she was not the only one who had questions, I took the opportunity to answer her questions in my first president’s column in our newsletter. Here is in part what I said:
I am a father and a family person, and I love my wife and two daughters with all my heart. I’ve been married since 1986, and because of my wife Regina I am who I am today. She keeps the home fires burning, provides stability, and allows me to travel and do what I feel I’ve been called to do. She has always been a quiet, reserved individual who detests the limelight, but I think the statement “still waters run deep” best characterizes her personality and her perspective on life. Through the years you’ve read much about my daughters Ebony and Joshelyn. Ebony is in her first year at Ohio University, majoring in interior design, and Joshelyn is in her first year of high school, majoring in anything she can get into. These women are the joy of my life and the center of my world.
I am a fighter and a futurist. I was a wrestler in high school, and I had a reputation for being tenacious and one who fought till the bitter end. I will bring that same tenacity to the office of president. I will fight for what is right for blind Ohioans, and I will fight for those who either have lost their fight or don’t feel empowered to fight. I don’t intentionally go looking for fights, but I am a futurist in that I like to see the big picture, and I like to move the ball down the field. I love to play chess and checkers, and, as you know, to be successful at those games, one must anticipate as many future moves as possible for both oneself and one’s opponent. My futuristic tendency allows me to be farsighted, trying to be proactive rather than reactive.
Finally, I am a performer, a professor, and a partner. By performer I mean a musician, public speaker, and preacher. I’ve been a professor at the university level since 1983 and since 1993 at the Ohio University, where I teach in the School of Communication Studies. By partner I mean I’m a team player, and I have no interest in being a Lone Ranger leader or dictator.
I bring continuity and commitment. I want to continue the consistency that our movement in Ohio has enjoyed through the years. As first vice president since 1994, I have been a part of that consistency, and I want it to continue. I want to ensure that the NFB of Ohio is a place of stability and strength and that our positions are communicated effectively and persuasively. I want to continue our presence and prowess in the disability community in general and the blindness community in particular. We have established a reputation for integrity and credibility and the ability to get things done thanks to Barbara Pierce and Eric Duffy, and I want to keep that going.
I am committed to our philosophy and principles. We are changing what it means to be blind every chance we get, and I’m committed to the idea that blind people can do anything they want to do with proper training and opportunity. I’ve been a Federationist since 1990, and I’ve never been more committed than I am today. I attended my first national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1992, and I made up my mind then that I would give my life to this movement, so I am here for the duration, and I’m committed to our programs and our policies. My leadership style may be different from Barbara’s, but my commitment to all that is the NFB of Ohio will be the same.
I bring education and enthusiasm. By education I mean both formal and informal. I don’t want to be snobbish here, but I think that I have been able to use my years of formal education effectively in the real world. My formal education has taught me to be a facilitator and a problem solver. I think these skills will come in handy in this new job. I am enthusiastic about the capacity of blind people to do anything in life they want to do. I’ve traveled a great deal, and I’ve met a lot of people. In short, I have had and continue to have an exciting life that I think allows me to convince other blind people that they can have the same kind of experience. Research demonstrates that communicating enthusiastically and energetically can be contagious. Because I believe in this movement and the limitless capacity of blind Ohioans, I won’t have any problem communicating all things NFB-O enthusiastically and energetically. Of course I will want to make sure that this excitement and enthusiasm are balanced by substance and purpose.
I bring organizational skills and an opportunity-friendly leadership style. I value organization and efficiency, and I take great pride in putting it all together. I also enjoy creativity and innovativeness. It’s often difficult to keep the interest of this new generation, but I think that, as a movement and organization, we must try. My predecessor has made this job easier for me because of her meticulous attention to detail and superb organizational skills. I want to build on those and add my own creativity. I am one who likes to delegate tasks, and you might say that I enjoy discipling others. Discipleship requires time and commitment and a willingness to step in and not just pull people along but walk with them every step of the way. I want to give our members opportunities to work in our movement, but I want to make it clear that I will expect them to seize those opportunities and be positive contributors to our purpose and mission. For example, I want committees that get things done, and I want an infusion of new blood and faces.
That’s who I am and what I believe I bring to this office. I am not perfect, and I will depend on the efforts of my board of directors and other leaders in this organization to ensure our success as a family. This is a “we” operation, and we need as many committed individuals as possible to help make our collective strength that much more evident. For the next two years I will try to be the best CEO I can be. I will try to guide with love and affection and genuine concern for all of you. I pledge to be the best president I can be. I pledge to continue our success, to be committed to our philosophy and programs, to educate others about who we are and what we want, and to provide opportunities for leadership and input that will be in the best interests of the NFB of Ohio. Together we can make it work, and I might add, work very well.
That is what I said in my letter to the colleague who wanted to know who I was and my plans for our affiliate. You’ve probably heard the old saying “people don’t plan to fail; they just fail to plan.” I believe that effective affiliate presidents must have a plan and must clearly identify who they are and how they plan to implement their goals and objectives.
Aristotle once said, “There’s only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” If you are not prepared to deal with and learn from criticism, you should reconsider taking on this leadership opportunity. Even though you might think that your plan and approach are flawless and beyond question, you will quickly discover that there is something to be said about meaningful input from others in the affiliate. It’s important that you identify those you respect and trust and encourage them objectively and constructively to critique as many of the aspects of the affiliate as possible, including your own leadership.
One of the first things I did was to appoint an ad hoc committee charged with evaluating as many aspects of our affiliate as possible and letting me know what people were thinking about what we were doing or should be doing. At board meetings I tried to set a tone that encouraged constructive feedback, and I routinely communicated with my officers to ascertain their critique of how we were doing as a leadership team. No one likes criticism, especially when it is intentionally hurtful and harmful, but you need to have a thick skin when it comes to accepting criticism as an affiliate president. I think effectiveness in this area begins with an overwhelming willingness to do the job. In fact, Dr. Jernigan often said, “To be president, you have to want the job.” In my mind, if you really want the job, you will be willing to stay in the kitchen even when the heat and fire of criticism gets hottest.
Barbara Pierce used to refer to aspects of this one as “keeping your board with you.” Leadership does not mean that you have all the answers or that others expect you to do so. It does mean that you are willing to work with others to find solutions to the problems related to making life better for blind people in your affiliate and your state. As I said earlier in this article, I value delegating and appreciating. I made up in my mind early on in my presidency that I wanted each board member to have a task that he or she was committed to and that I would find every opportunity to validate and appreciate those efforts. There are different leadership styles, so you should find the one that works best for you. I sought to have the most constructive and productive team or board possible. In my case, our affiliate has always enjoyed relative peace, harmony, and goodwill, so it was incumbent upon me to tap into that reservoir of goodwill and productivity.
Trust is another commodity, however. It must be earned and maintained. We often give our affiliate leaders a great deal of trust. As leaders we should never abuse that trust or use it in a way that is counterproductive and poisonous. When you boil it all down, because we are essentially a volunteer organization, trust and goodwill are the most significant elements we bring to the table, especially as leaders. Let me be clear here: if something occurs that has the potential to damage the trust between you and members of your affiliate, do all that you can to address it, learn from it, and build on it. Recognize, however, that it will always take time to regain and rebuild that trust and sometimes you never really get it all back.
Two incidents come to mind in this area, and, while I will not go into detail about them, I offer them here from my own experience. When I assumed the presidency in Ohio in 2008, we had always conducted our board meetings in person, especially the next one after our state convention in November. I decided on my own to try having our winter board meeting by phone. I thought that it would save us some money and take away the uncertainty about the weather that often affected attendance at that first meeting of the year. One of my board members sent me an email saying that she thought that the first meeting with a new president should be face-to-face. Was she correct? I could have put my foot down and decided that it was going to be my way or the highway, or I could have taken her advice and observation under consideration, which I am very glad I did because she was right. This is one way to build a team.
The second incident caused pain and public humiliation for one of our board members because of my failure to follow through in communicating information and caused me to have to seek forgiveness and do all in my power to regain trust and love. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it can teach us something if we are willing to listen. I immediately admitted my mistake and continued to seek ways not to let it occur again on my watch. I am pleased today to report that that person continues to be an effective part of this affiliate.
I want to conclude my thoughts here with some safe driving tips as they apply to leadership in the NFB. Nationwide Insurance says:
In an article entitled “Top Ten Safe Driving Tips” Ed Grabianowski maintains,
Finally, Robert Schaller in his article entitled “70 Defensive Driving Rules” suggests:
With these experiences and tips, I hope that current and future NFB leaders can navigate around some of the potholes and difficult roads on their journey to bringing the blind to first-class citizenship in America and the world.
by Curtis Chong
During the past six months I took it upon myself to learn how to use the Mac computer and the built-in VoiceOver program which makes this computer accessible to the blind. I did this because, as a part of my job, I am often asked to provide training and information to blind seniors who, accustomed to using the Mac computer with a mouse, now want to use this computer with the built-in VoiceOver program due to significantly reduced vision.
Like many of my blind colleagues, I have used Windows computers for many years, and because of this experience, I have been able to write letters and articles, send and read email, and find information on the Web—all without sighted assistance. I have also learned to deal with the frustrations that seem to go along with the Windows computers we use today, and I have reconciled myself to paying a few hundred dollars now and then to keep my screen-access technology up to date.
As I have learned more about the Mac, its operating system (the latest version of which happens to be called OS X Mavericks), and VoiceOver, I have tried to understand the differences and similarities between these two different technologies. I have read a number of articles extolling the virtues of the Mac, and while I understand that for some people it has offered a sense of confidence and independence that they might not have enjoyed with a Windows computer, I am not prepared to say at this point that every blind person should abandon Windows in favor of the Mac. What I am prepared to say is that each platform has its own set of strengths and weaknesses and that the choice of which to use will be determined by individual circumstance. In my case although I am confident in my ability to use the Mac to write a properly-formatted article, send and receive email, and find information over the Internet, I am not ready to replace my Windows computer with a Mac. The financial investment is simply too high, and my work habits too engrained. This is not to say that no one should ever contemplate abandoning his/her Windows system in favor of the Mac. It is only to say that this is my decision and that it is made with a full understanding on my part of the tasks that I wish to accomplish with the computer and the money and effort I am willing to invest to convert to a new system.
Technical purists will probably take exception to my blanket use of the term "Mac." Therefore, to keep things as technically accurate as possible from this point forward, I will refer to the Mavericks operating system instead of the Mac computer.
Before discussing how Windows and Mavericks systems differ from each other, I do think that I need to make one important point here. Regardless of what kind of technology we use at home, most of the people who work in offices today use Windows computers along with Microsoft Office programs such as Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Regardless of whether we decide to use the Mavericks operating system at home, it is highly likely that our jobs will require us to use Windows along with the Microsoft Office suite. Therefore, people who decide to adopt Mavericks for their own personal use will likely, out of necessity, find themselves proficient with both systems.
The first difference you will notice right away when comparing Mavericks to its Windows counterpart is price. Computers running Mavericks tend to cost more, but then, the hardware seems to be of a higher quality. While you can probably find a Windows laptop for around $500, the least expensive MacBook Air I have found starts at $899.
All Mavericks systems have a built-in spell checker and dictionary, which are available to you no matter what application you choose to use. On a Windows system you might be able to use a spell checker for programs such as Word or Outlook, but the spell checker is certainly not available to you if you choose to run the free WordPad program. There is certainly no free dictionary built into Windows.
In Windows, the free WordPad program can be used to create a nice-looking document. However, WordPad does not come with its own spellchecker. In the Mavericks system Text Edit is a powerful (and free) word processing program. It has more power than WordPad, and for many writing tasks, it does a very nice job. Text Edit might not be able to generate a college-level paper complete with references and footnotes, but in the Mavericks world you can buy a program called Pages to do this, and you don't have to spend a couple hundred dollars to get it.
In a Windows system each program you use will have its own menu bar, which contains things like the File Menu, Edit Menu, View Menu, etc. In fact some programs that you might run on a Windows system may not have a menu bar at all. Mavericks, on the other hand, has one menu bar which is shared by all of the programs you are running. This menu bar changes as you switch your attention between programs, and regardless of what program you are working with, you can always get to the menu bar.
In Windows the technical details of the operating system are easily exposed—even to the nontechnical user. In the Windows world it is not uncommon for the average user to have to deal with things like the "system registry," "disk defragmentation," and "temporary files." On a Windows computer when you want to change something in the system, you must go to the "Control Panel." If you want to look at drives, files, and folders, you go to something called "Windows Explorer."
In Mavericks it is not common for the average user to see any of the technical details of the operating system. If you want to make changes to the system, you go to something called "System Preferences," which sounds a lot less technical than "Control Panel." If you want to manage drives, files, and folders, you use a program called "Finder."
In Windows drives are assigned letters like "C:", "D:", etc. In the Mavericks world drives have names like "MAC HD" or simply "My Hard Drive."
Voiceover is the speech program that makes Mavericks usable by the blind. It is available at no cost, but it is fully supported by Apple. While it is possible to obtain a free screen-access program for Windows (NVDA comes to mind), what you don't get by selecting this free software is technical support—particularly over-the-phone support. You get this support when you pay the several hundred dollars it takes to acquire programs such as Window-Eyes, JAWS, or System Access.
Microsoft does provide the free Narrator speech program for Windows, which has improved with the release of Windows 8. However, at this point, Narrator is not nearly as powerful nor as sophisticated as VoiceOver for Mavericks, and it is safe to say that there are a lot more knowledgeable blind VoiceOver users than there are blind users of Narrator.
On a Windows system there are a number of competing products to choose from for people who need a talking screen-access program. The cost of these products ranges from free to over a thousand dollars, and as I pointed out earlier, the level of technical support that is available varies along with the price of the software.
In Mavericks there is only one truly viable solution for the nonvisual user. It is the free VoiceOver program from Apple. VoiceOver is as sophisticated and as powerful as any Windows screen-access program, and long-time users of Mac computers will tell you that it has been very well supported by Apple.
Given how well Microsoft Office works on a Windows computer, it is natural to assume that it would be just as accessible to VoiceOver users. Unfortunately, this is not the case. For blind users of Mavericks, Microsoft Office is simply not the product to use. It just doesn't work well with VoiceOver. Fortunately, there are quite a few programs built into Mavericks that work very well with VoiceOver. For word processing, Apple's Text Edit program offers a very accessible choice; and Apple's built-in Mail, Calendar, and Contacts programs work quite nicely with VoiceOver. So does Safari, Apple's web-browsing program.
This article would not be complete if I did not mention that on a Mac computer, you can update your operating system without any sighted assistance. Unfortunately, on a Windows computer, when a new operating system is installed, there are times when screen access technology simply doesn't work.Whether a blind person uses a Windows computer or a Mac running a version of OS X, there is today a very high level of independent access available. As I said earlier, I am not prepared to say that one and only one system is best for everyone. Each platform has something to recommend it. Yes, Windows and OS X are different from each other; each system has its own design philosophy. But isn't it great that we who are blind, can now choose between them?
by Lorraine Rovig
From the Editor: Lorraine Rovig is a very familiar name to those who have been around the Federation for any time at all. She has been a Federationist for almost forty years and has worked with our national leaders for almost four decades. She is retiring and has written a letter to her Federation family that the Braille Monitor is pleased to run in advance of what may be Lorraine’s last national convention. For those not familiar with Federation lingo of the 70s, all of us were blind guys, no matter our gender, but be assured that Lorraine is one fine gal. Here is her letter:
My Federation Friends,
It’s time to let you in on my plan. I bought a house in southern Minnesota because I’m retiring from my work at the National Federation of the Blind and moving my membership from Maryland to Minnesota. Not having done it yet, I’m not sure how living on my retirement plan is going to work out when it comes to the fun extras of life, so the 2014 July convention in Orlando may be my last national convention. Although, if the money permits, I can see me coming back like former students go to their high school reunion, just to enjoy being with their old friends. My last day on the staff will be July 11, 2014. Now when did this all start, you may ask. After all, I’m a sighted guy.
Back in the summer of 1975, I had decided not to sign the contract to continue as the librarian at a five hundred-student high school in southern Wisconsin because I didn’t want to grow old in that small town. So, job hunting are us! One fine summer day on a bulletin board in the multi-story library school of the University of Wisconsin Madison campus, from which I had received my master’s in library science degree, I saw a 3x5 typed card that said, “Librarian Needed. Must have some knowledge of textbooks. Iowa Commission for the Blind, Des Moines, Iowa, (phone number).” A teacher in the library school was passing by just as I finished reading and I asked her, “Have you ever heard of this library?” She said she’d heard it was the largest library for the blind in the country. Well! After a tiny high school, that sounded interesting! And Iowa being next to Wisconsin, I could drive back to visit my family on the holidays. That it was “for the blind” never really registered with me. I figured a library was a library. Oh, my! Little did I know how my life was changing from that very minute. So I called and made an appointment to interview.
As it happened (here comes Fate dropping in again), my brother was buying a house to be close to his new job in northwest Iowa, so he and his wife and I rode in the same car. He dropped me off in Des Moines, where I was to interview for a few hours. Then I would ride with them up to see their new home and would come back to Des Moines to have a second interview “if” I was invited to do so. During the first interview—with Head Librarian Florence Grannis, and Duane Gerstenberger, her replacement in training—it was all about my ability as a librarian. The Iowa Commission for the Blind had a large library—a point in its favor, and, when fully staffed, six librarians serving patrons statewide! I was interviewing to be in charge of obtaining textbooks from the American Printing House for the Blind (using their list of transcriber’s works) or our own transcribers for all (was it three hundred?) of Iowa’s K-12 and college-level blind and visually impaired students and all the adults who needed materials for their work, plus the Braille collection, the large type collection, and the small professional collections of print books by blind authors or about blindness, and the historical collection of early Braille, New York Point, Moon Type, and such books. Nope, I did not know Braille, did not know anything about the NFB, or about how blind persons handle things.
But I did instinctively know that Gone with the Wind is still Gone with the Wind, whether it is in print or in Braille; and I passed Mrs. Grannis’s several tests of my competency. So Mr. Gerstenberger gave me a stack of banquet speeches that agency director Kenneth Jernigan had made in his other job as president of a federation for blind people, and I was set up for a second interview. Hello Fate.
All the long way to northeast Iowa I read the speeches. Very interesting! And solid philosophy! Those speeches just made sense to me. Of course blind Americans should not be treated that way! And I read them some more all the way back to Des Moines. I got my second interview, this time with Kenneth Jernigan. I sat in the chair across from Dr. Jernigan at his big desk, and his assistant, Mrs. Anderson (now Mrs. Jernigan), sat on a couch to my right side. As I figured out later, this was a subtle test of attitude—would I look and speak to the sighted person or the blind boss? Right. It just made sense to me to talk to the boss and, well, I got hired.
July 23, 1975, 8 am, I started work at the Iowa Commission for the Blind as one of its six librarians, and I continued working there for nearly thirteen years. I am proud to be part of “the Iowa connection.” I joined the NFB at the July 1975 chapter meeting. As part of staff training, Dr. Jernigan had me reading several decades of back issues of the Braille Monitor, in class with Jim Omvig as our teacher for blind civil rights history, and taking cane travel lessons under sleepshades with Field Op Counselor Dick Davis as my instructor. I really liked cane travel. For my graduation exercise I walked a four-mile route around Des Moines. No problem. I learned how to do some other things under sleepshades too. All of this got me started in understanding how a blind guy handles whatever he or she wants to do.
And in September 1975, President Jernigan invited me to his annual Labor Day weekend NFB Leadership Seminar at the old Randolph Hotel, where I met Diane McGeorge and my first guide dog. I am a proud alumna of the Bathroom Seminar, along with Barbara Pierce, Barbara Beech (Walker Loos), and many other current leaders of the Federation (not all of them named Barbara).
I went on many weekend protests against NAC [the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped], driving for the first time ever a huge fifteen-passenger van to get to that hotel near the O’Hare Airport, on the crazy Chicago freeways, and this was before GPS was invented. I marched on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. With Tami Dodd (now Mrs. Jones), Eric Duffy, and Sharon (now Monthei)—those three blind and all of us wearing sleepshades to prove we weren’t peeking—I swung my cane and marched in our NFB White Cane Marching Team in three town parades and at one NFB national convention. I drove for tons of candy sales. Thank goodness one of the blind students who rode to Oskaloosa knew how to change the tire on the van when it went flat halfway there, surrounded by cornfields. None of us in the van will forget the time I drove the four-hour trip to the Minnesota state convention and Curtis Willoughby and Bob Ray taught us songs to sing in a bar, and I ran out of gas on that interstate superhighway, but coasted down the miraculously appearing ramp right into a gas station and next to a pump!
After a few years, a new chunk got added to my library work, I became the boss of Iowa’s radio reading program and along with one other staff person would cut up the Des Moines Register to precisely fit our time slot before being one of our many readers on the air. We were proud to know our radio service was one of only two RRS [Radio Reading Services] in the country that operated on a public channel. Thanks to using the radio station at the Des Moines tech high school, we were heard as far as fifty miles out of the city! A truck driver told me he listened as he made deliveries to farms outside Des Moines.
Dr. Jernigan and his extraordinary Orientation and Adjustment Center for blind adults went on all around us in that multi-story building at 4th and Keo. We’d find newly blind and scared cane travelers lost in the Talking Book stacks or get out of their way when after a few weeks they’d be striding down the city sidewalks outside on their errands. Students made wonderful smells (and some not so much) come out of the kitchens; students came to check out a first shortest book possible to practice reading Braille. They’d be gathered in our comfortable library reading room late into the night, reading and talking. We who were there every day saw the change in the students, from their first day to their graduation. We literally could see that the NFB method of teaching worked splendidly. We saw students learn a new positive attitude along with their skills, and we saw those few students who did not learn the NFB attitude toward blindness. They would go home with their skills, more or less, but sooner or later start again to be what the sighted folks around them thought they should be because, after all, they were blind. Students who joined and got involved with their support group, the National Federation of the Blind, were the adults who thrived.
Dr. Jernigan did not just hang out in his fancy office. He taught you, whether you were student or staff, and not just about blindness. He was funny, wise, eccentric, surprising, demanding, giving, super-smart, super-educated, totally plugged in to Iowa politics, and sometimes ignorant of current cultural icons (like John Denver and his music). He read 420 words of Braille per minute—I timed him, and he was a terrifically good cane traveler. We were walking downhill on Keo one day at his cane-swinging, lickety-split speed and me in my two-inch heels nearly sprinting to keep up, until one of my heels broke, and he hammered it back on with his cane handle. That man did more work in a day and night than three other people. Of course he had two full-time jobs—simultaneously the elected president of the National Federation of the Blind, building the Federation and working on serious issues nationwide, and the director of the statewide vocational rehabilitation center for the blind, which included the training center for blind adults, the field services department with offices around the state offering home teachers and counselors, a store for products handmade by (agency-inherited) elderly blind women, the statewide Business Enterprise Program (which went from the previous popcorn and packaged candy counters to full-service cafeterias), the statewide regional library for the blind and physically handicapped, the lending office for NLS Talking Book machines, the textbooks for the blind program, the volunteer Braillists program (including for a number of years an operation in Iowa’s biggest prison), the volunteer readers making open reel masters which became cassette books at our building, and the radio reading service. We were everything for the blind except the school for the blind at Vinton, Iowa, and the checks from Social Security.
About three years after I was hired, Dr. Jernigan resigned his state job and moved the headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind to Baltimore, Maryland. A series of blind directors followed him; none making innovations worth commenting on and the NFB no longer recommended to students, nor, in some years, even mentioned in a favorable way. I continued to be a steady member of the NFB, attending local meetings, the state conventions, and the national conventions.
One day in July of 1987 I got a phone call from Baltimore. It was Dr. Jernigan. He said, (read this in a deep, deep voice), “Miss Rovig, how would you like to be director of Job Opportunities for the Blind?” I said, “But Dr. Jernigan, I’m not blind.” And he said, “Miss Rovig, how would you like to be the director of Job Opportunities for the Blind?” Not being dumb twice, I said, “Yes sir, I would.” I was the director of JOB for ten years.
At various times during that decade Dr. Jernigan also put me in charge of the single staff person cleaning all the bedrooms in our bedroom wing (I personally cleaned every toilet we owned many times), cassette production (which, if I remember right, was more than 60,000 copies per year); and for a very brief period back in 1987, I was the reader and first engineer of the brand new NFB studio. Larry McKeever, “the voice of the Braille Monitor,” designed it to be, as he told me, equal to a big-time studio in Nashville. He taught me how to run the giant board and all the equipment over a couple days. As time went on and the monthly “Presidential Release” was recorded, Dr. Jernigan and I discovered I was an okay reader but a poor engineer. Yes, I lost that piece of the job. (Whew!)
Job Opportunities for the Blind was a big part of my job. The NFB’s innovative program was funded by the US Department of Labor. Mary Ellen Reihing (now Mrs. Gabias) and I used the NFB studio to produce six cassette newsletters per year. Half of it was articles about blind workers (I usually did the interviews and wrote them up) plus job hunting advice, and half of it was reading real job listings for all kinds of jobs all over the country—as long as they were not specifically to hire a driver of a vehicle or a life guard at a swimming pool. My all-time favorite came from the Baltimore Sun and said, “Seamstress needed. Steady work. Baltimore Casket Company.”
I got calls from all over the US—blind job seekers asking advice and, occasionally, an employer worried about the new ADA. What helped folks the most was our rock-solid belief in their goal and introducing a blind job hunter to someone who was blind and already at work in that same field or one with similar requirements. Networking built that essential positive attitude and provided the practical advice that one who is in a field knows.
Once a year I wrote a four-page “Employer’s Bulletin” like the one in 1995 called, “Employer Nightmares about Hiring Blind Employees.” It started like this, “This bulletin is for employers who have hidden worries about hiring a blind person.” Some bulletins are still posted on the NFB website, but they surely need updating.
Then we had the three-hour long JOB Seminars at national conventions for a live audience of two to three hundred NFB members. I was the MC for our lineup of blind speakers. I’ll never forget the presentations by John Fritz on doctoring his Wisconsin dairy herd; Doug Lane of Nebraska, a professional baker for a large hotel; Joe Urbanek, owner of a B&B for newlyweds; Lloyd Watts, house parent in a group home for adult men with low IQs; Carla McQuillan on childcare in the home (before she started her Montessori school); Allen Schaefer of Illinois, a public high school music director and teacher (whose students went all the way to state several times), and so many others. But, golly, my number one favorite was Robert Munz of Long Island, New York, telling us about his interview and his job working the Price Club fast food counter. He got the job of defrosting the pizzas and warming the big dough pretzels when he told the sighted HR lady that he cooked a meal for 40 as part of his training at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, and she said, “I couldn’t do that!” And Bob said, “You could if you tried.”
I am proud to say I started the JOB convention breakfast meetings targeted to different professions. Out of that networking, people found each other and they grew our NFB divisions for science and engineering, for voc rehab workers, and for medical fields, among others.
One day, Dr. Jernigan asked me, “Miss Rovig, would you like to go to the United Nations?” The NFB was invited to run an information table in the lobby of the UN in New York City alongside other self-help groups because it was The Year of the Disabled.
And one very memorable day, Dr. Jernigan asked me, “Miss Rovig, how would you like to go to Japan?” Of course, I said, “Yes sir, I would.” The Japanese government office that ran training centers to train blind people for employment asked for a keynote speaker to come to their convention to explain how the NFB worked on employment issues. Their chief push was to teach the use of the Opticon. Unfortunately that was the last year the machine was manufactured.
Anyway, what a wonderful trip, and what an honor to be chosen. I heard later from our contact, Chuji-san, that my speech had been translated and published in the main Tokyo daily newspaper with my photo.
Well, after I’d done this job for ten years, the DOL [Department of Labor] decided we’d been funded way longer than they normally would fund any program (normally only two or three years) and ended our funding, so Dr. Jernigan switched me to being the writing-driving-reading assistant to our staff in the IBTC, the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. Working this job for two years, I learned a lot about modern equipment for blind people. I loved the time Robert Jaquiss and I drove to several high tech companies and saw the amazing, new, 3D printing machines.
After a while my several layers of bosses and I discovered I was an editor and proofreader. My job changed to working in our Advocacy and Policy Department (as we call it now), mostly proofreading print documents that leave our building—letters, emails, petitions, invoices, language in new legislative bills, posters, website pages, fact sheets, and official reports. I helped proof the opus, Walking Alone and Marching Together—all thousand-plus pages of it. I wrote the wording for the Bolotin Award online under Jim Gashel’s direction. I began to proofread the Braille Monitor and Future Reflections. This is what I’ve done for the last decade.
Dr. Jernigan had a dream of a national headquarters for the National Federation of the Blind, one that would work on all the different issues, with room for things like a library to educate the researchers and a research institute run our way, an educational center figuring out best practices, and lots of room for offices and meeting rooms to cover all the different jobs the NFB is doing and will want to do in the unknown future. This is not a school, but a think-tank at work to innovate ideas and train the trainers. We had eighteen million dollars to raise, so I helped build it. I had NFB accounting take a small portion of my paycheck every month to give $5,000 to the building of our National Center for the Blind, 200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Yup, my name is on the wall in the Wells Street lobby.
Five years ago President Maurer changed my job again by appointing me to assist Anil Lewis, NFB state president in Georgia, with all the paperwork for our national scholarship program. Under Anil’s direction, I wrote the information on our scholarship website, answered half a zillion phone calls and emails, printed and filed the five hundred to seven hundred or so scholarship applications we get each year, and handled lots of other time-consuming details. After a couple of years Anil accepted a staff position here in NFB’s home office and Patti Chang, Esq., a full-time lawyer in Chicago and president of the NFB of Illinois, became my boss for this part of my job. It is so very strange to think that this is my last year working on this fun, important, expensive program. I so enjoy meeting our thirty winners at convention and helping them find out that what the National Federation of the Blind offers to them goes way beyond a one-time check and a week in a big hotel.
I have been to every NFB national convention since 1976. This convention will be number thirty-nine. It’s the most fun you can have in a week and still be legal. I’ve been to every NFB state convention in the state in which I lived (Iowa or Maryland) plus some extra state conventions just for fun: Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Washington, DC. All were so different, and yet all were totally NFB.
There’s never been a national convention that I didn’t have several jobs. I met and got to know hundreds and hundreds of our members when I had the job for many years of training and supervising volunteers for the NFB Store. Remember the time we had no customers at all, so joking around we got Ellen Ringlein to do an advertisement and demonstration for her table of Braille tools in German and got Fatos Floyd to advertise her Braille equipment in Turkish? Many of our volunteers had a first Braille lesson, many learned how to use the click rule and the abacus, and many strangers became friends as they sat beside each other.
So many good times!
It looks like I’m writing a book here, and not a goodbye! It somehow doesn’t seem proper to say only, “So long, and thanks for all the fish.” [For those not familiar with the reference to “thanks for the fish,” it’s a reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series] Fellow members and friends, if you read between the lines, you know I will always treasure these things—getting to know the most extraordinary man I’ve ever met—Dr. Jernigan; having the chance to work, protest, and laugh with the many wonderful, hard-working members I’ve met since 1975; and, yes, I very much treasure the fact that, using such gifts as I have, I have helped the movement of all blind Americans toward full equality. The conclusion I reached in a car crossing the hot summer landscape of Iowa in 1975 hasn’t changed—equality for the blind just makes sense. So see you in Orlando! If you come to Minnesota’s NFB events, look for me there, or find me on NFB listservs.
With appreciation for the past and anticipation of the future,
Lorraine (also known as Miss Rovig)
by Bridgette Keefe
From the Editor: Given that summer is just around the corner, it seemed timely to include these food safety tips for all of our blind grill enthusiasts. These safety tips come straight from the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture. Here’s what they suggest for safe and delicious outdoor food preparation:
Around the country barbecue grills are already pulled out of tool sheds and garages and dusted off. Before you start grilling, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) would like to remind you of several tips for a safe cookout.
“Before grilling always start with clean surfaces and clean hands. Wash hands for at least twenty seconds with warm, soapy water before and after handling food. All surfaces that come in contact with raw and cooked foods must be washed frequently,” FSIS spokesperson Maria Malagon says. “Be sure to remind your guests to wash their hands before preparing or handling food.”
Raw meats and poultry should be prepared separately from vegetables and cooked foods. For example, using separate cutting boards when you chop meats and vegetables will prevent cross-contamination. Juices from raw meats can contain harmful bacteria that could spread to raw vegetables and already cooked foods.
If you plan to marinate meat and poultry for several hours or days prior to grilling, make sure to marinate them in the refrigerator—not on the counter. If you plan to reuse the marinade from raw meat or poultry, make sure to boil it first to destroy any harmful bacteria. “We recommend setting aside a portion of the marinade before you put in raw meat and poultry for later use,” Malagon said.
Now it’s time to fire up the grill. If you’re using charcoal, go with commercial briquettes or aromatic wood chips. Remember to follow the manufacturer’s directions on the package label; the same goes for your grill. If you’re using a gas grill, it’s important that you know where hot and cold spots are. Read the manual that came with your gas grill for more information.
Keep in mind as you grill that color is not a reliable indicator of doneness. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often brown quickly and may appear done on the outside, but it still may not have reached a safe minimum internal temperature to kill any harmful bacteria. That’s where a talking food thermometer comes in handy.
“Hamburgers and other ground beef should reach 160 °F to reduce the risk of E. coli O157:H7. Consumers should also make sure poultry is grilled to a minimum safe internal temperature of 165 °F to reduce the risk of Salmonella,” FSIS spokesperson Aaron Lavelle urged. “Statistically, the number of reported illnesses involving E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella is significantly higher during the summer months. That’s why it is absolutely critical for consumers to know the importance of handling and cooking meat and poultry safely.”
The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline recommends that whole cuts of pork, lamb, veal, and beef be cooked to 145 °F as measured by a talking food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat, followed by a three-minute rest time before carving or consuming. Fully cooked meats like hot dogs should be grilled until steaming hot. Fish should be cooked to 145 °F.
If you plan on using a smoker, the temperature in the smoker should be maintained between 225 °F and 300 °F for optimal safety. Be sure to use your food thermometer to be certain the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature.
As you take the cooked meats off the grill, be sure to place them on a clean platter, not on the dish that held them when they were raw. The juices left on the plate from raw meat can spread bacteria to safely cooked food.
“Too often people allow food to sit out for several hours at cookouts. They don’t know that, by leaving food out for too long, they are inviting the number-one unwanted guest: foodborne bacteria,” Lavelle says. That’s because bacteria grow most rapidly between 40 °F and 140 °F, so perishable food should never sit out for more than two hours. If the temperature is over 90 °F, food shouldn’t sit out more than one hour. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly, and throw out any food that has been out too long.
Remember: always keep your hands and everything clean; use separate utensils, plates, and cutting boards to prevent cross-contamination; use a food thermometer; and remember the two-hour rule if the room temperature is below 90 °F (or one hour if the air temperature is above 90 °F).
Follow these tips and have fun grilling. For more information go to FSIS's Grill It Safe page <http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/teach-others/fsis-educational-campaigns/grill-it-safe>, ask Karen at <www.AskKaren.gov>, or call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at (888) MPHotline, (888) 674-6854.
This month’s recipes come from North Dakota.
by Duane Iverson
Duane Iverson is a longtime Federationist, having attended his first convention in Houston in 1971. He is president of the North Dakota affiliate. He got this recipe from his first wife, Linda Allembaugh. It is a simple and tasty way to oven fry chicken.
Chicken pieces, as many as desired
At least one stick of butter
A splash of milk
Parmesan cheese from a shaker, optional
Method: Prepare a mixture of half flour and half Bisquick. Liberally grease the bottom of a shallow baking pan with butter; I melt at least a quarter pound. Combine eggs and milk and beat with a fork. Dip chicken pieces in milk mixture to moisten the chicken, then roll it in the flour and Bisquick mixture. Arrange chicken in baking dish and bake for one hour at 350 degrees, turning after thirty minutes. I find that adding a liberal amount of parmesan cheese to the flour mixture enhances the breading.
by Duane Iverson
Potatoes, peeled and evenly sliced
1 onion, sliced
Slices of Velveeta cheese
Method: I used a Vegematic to slice the potatoes when I first made this dish. The slices should be just a little thicker than a Talking Book cartridge. Layer the potatoes in the bottom of a greased square casserole dish. Dot the potatoes with butter, spread with a layer of thinly sliced onions, then do another layer of potatoes, butter, and onions. Do three layers in all. Cook covered at 350 degrees for a little less than an hour. Test with a fork. If the potatoes feel almost done, that is, the fork goes in easily, cover the top with a generous number of Velveeta cheese slices. Put the lid back on the dish, and return it to the oven for about ten more minutes. The cheese will melt and infuse the potatoes. Since the potatoes are in a covered dish, they stay warm for long enough for you to get everything on the table.
Brad Martin's Meatballs
by Duane Iverson
1 pound of ground meat
1 can chicken-and-rice soup
1 can tomato soup
1 small onion
Lots and lots of soda crackers.
Method: In a mixing bowl crack two eggs. Break up the ground meat into the bowl. Grate a small onion or part of a large onion into the mixture. Then begin crumbling and adding soda crackers to the mixture until it is sticky but fairly dry, about the consistency of modeling clay. Form the meatballs and place in the bottom of a shallow baking pan. The meatballs should be small, no larger than a cherry tomato. I'd say a golf ball is too large, and a grape is too small. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer in the bottom of the pan. Now combine the chicken-and-rice and tomato soups in the bowl you just emptied. Mix well with a fork. Then pour the liquid evenly over the meatballs. Cover with lid or aluminum foil and cook at 350 degrees for about an hour. As the meatballs cook, they will absorb much of the liquid from the bottom of the pan. When serving, there will be liquid left that you can spoon over the meatballs.
This dish goes well with Marvin’s Potatoes. Happily, you can prepare them beforehand. An hour before supper mix the soups, pour liquid over the meatballs, and put the dish of potatoes in the oven. You don't have to go back to the kitchen until ten or fifteen minutes before the meatballs are done to put cheese on the potatoes and cook a vegetable.
Lori Stayer Dies:
It is with sadness that we report the death of Lori Stayer on April 29, 2014. She was a longtime Federationist married to David Stayer of New York. She was an active part of the New York affiliate, missing only one convention since her entry into the Federation in the 1970s, and this due to the illness of a child.
Lori was best-known for her work as a founding member of the National Federation of the Blind’s Writers’ Division, and the editor of its magazine, Slate and Style, for twenty-seven years.
“Lori had a warmth about her that made people know just how much she cared,” said David, her husband of forty-one years. “You always knew she had your best interest in mind. If she came up and told you that you had a stain on your shirt, you didn’t take that as a put-down but were grateful that someone cared enough about how you wanted to present yourself that she’d tell you the uncomfortable things.”
Lori had battled ovarian cancer for more than three years and had joined a support group. When they suggested to her that her illness was too advanced for her to travel, she insisted on going to the 2014 Washington Seminar, telling David that this would be the last major NFB event she would ever be able to attend and that she wouldn’t miss it for the world. Her last instruction to David, just two days before her death, was that he was to attend the convention in Orlando and keep doing the good work that has been such a part of his life. David will be with us there, and so too will the spirit of Lori—a wife, a mother, and a proud Federationist.
Coming to Know the National Federation of the Blind: We Need Your Help:
As Federationists know, for almost seventy-five years we have demonstrated that we can live the life we want. However, as surprising as it may seem, there are thousands upon thousands of blind people and their families across the nation who have not yet heard the positive, uplifting message of our organization. Many blind people have heard of the National Federation of the Blind but have not been properly introduced to the real philosophy, accomplishments, and spirit of the movement.
We know that the strength of our movement comes from the grassroots. Dr. Maurer has appointed a committee to conduct a robust, targeted chapter development campaign this fall for seventy-five days leading up to our 75th birthday on November 16th. We will establish seventy-five new chapters and greatly strengthen seventy-five chapters that already exist. You will be hearing much more about this Seventy-five Days of Action Campaign at the national convention. We hope you will participate in one of the five informative chapter-building seminars in Orlando. In the meantime check your social media and emails to discover ways you can take part in the Seventy-five Days of Action. Affiliate presidents will be asked to identify areas within their affiliate which will need special attention. Affiliate presidents and leaders of the National Federation of the Blind will be asked for their help to develop the strategy and take the concerted action necessary to establish seventy-five new chapters and strengthen seventy-five existing chapters.
The committee appointed by President Maurer will be seeking seventy-five extremely committed members of our movement from across the nation to lead this effort. It will be a herculean endeavor, and we will need everyone’s strength, imagination, and determination to establish seventy-five chapters and significantly strengthen at least seventy-five more. Applications for service on this distinguished committee will be available soon. Applicants will be asked to complete a very brief survey indicating their willingness to give significant time and energy during this unprecedented campaign. Fellow Federationists, accept the challenge. Each of us can be a part of the Spirit of Seventy-five. For more information write to <firstname.lastname@example.org> or call (866) 543-6808. The future is ours. Let’s go make history.
The Secret Weapon in the Media Wars:
In these days of social media and the pressure to keep the affiliate Facebook page filled with interesting photos, it is easy to forget the lowly newsletter. This is a brief plea to affiliates and divisions to maintain their newsletters. These documents trace the history of the organization month by month and year by year. They provide an ongoing vehicle for recording the history of the organization and allow members a voice for telling their own stories and articulating their perspectives on the organized blind movement.
We used to publish quarterly print documents that were faithfully circulated around the state or division. The escalating cost of publishing has pretty well done away with the hardcopy newsletter. But its email brother is a great tool for communication. It is still possible to print up copies of the newsletter to tuck into folders going to legislators at the Washington Seminar or the state capital during the annual visit to lawmakers.
The newsletter can be quickly dropped into the NEWSLINE® sponsor line and added to the affiliate website. These are both easy ways of keeping current the affiliate’s public information.
To learn more about how to create a lively, interesting, and accurate newsletter with general appeal, come to the meeting of the Communications Committee at convention this summer. Affiliate presidents with sporadic or nonexistent newsletters should be sure to assign someone to attend this important meeting. Social media will be discussed as well, but we want to be sure that the newsletter is not forgotten. The Communications Committee is chaired by Robert Lesley Newman. Its meeting takes place from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, Thursday, July 3. Everyone is welcome.
The 2014 National Association of Blind Students Mentoring Program:
Students, young professionals, successful blind adults, and ambitious young adults: listen up, this one is for you. For the second year the National Association of Blind Students (NABS) will be sponsoring a mentoring program which will kick off during the 2014 convention and will help to build relationships which will hopefully last a lifetime.
What: Blind students and professionals in the student's field of interest will be matched.
When: On July 2, we will hold our introduction meet-and-greet, which will be filled with fun games, and activities to kick off the mentoring relationship.
Who: Blind students and first-time convention attendees will be mentees; blind professionals, and seasoned convention attendees will serve as our mentors.
How: If you'd like to participate as a mentor or mentee, you simply have to fill out a form that will take you no more than five minutes to complete and which the committee will review. For mentors go to <http://nabslink.org/content/mentor-form>. For mentees go to <http://nabslink.org/content/mentee-form>. These links can be found on the <nabslink.org> website.
The only way we can have a successful program is by having mentors and mentees, so come one and come all, spread the word, see you in Orlando!
NFB.org Fast Facts Page:
When one website has as much information and resources as the National Federation of the Blind’s site, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or lost when looking for one specific link. To help speed up the search, check out the Fast Facts page <https://nfb.org/fast-facts>. Basic information and links to more detailed information is gathered onto one page, allowing you to find what you need quickly and easily.
National Association of Blind Veterans (NABV) Fundraiser:
The NABV will be raffling off four one-day DISNEY PARK HOPPER TICKETS, valued at $516.00 and good for the next two years at Walt Disney World here in Orlando.
The drawing for these tickets will be held at the national convention on July 6, 2014. Use them this year or next year for our seventy-fifth anniversary convention of the NFB.
Tickets to win are $5 for one or $10 for three tickets. You could be the winner!
Send your money and request for tickets to:
Dwight Sayer, NABV president, PO Box 784957, Winter Garden, FL 34778. Cash, check or money order will be accepted. We can return mail your stubs or hold them for pickup at our table at the national convention.
Welcome Fellow Therapists and Other Human Service Workers:
We are the NFB Human Services Division, a place for advocacy and fellowship for all of us in, or contemplating being in, any of the many professions that can be grouped as human services. We have social workers, mental health counselors, and other mental health professionals, occupational, speech therapists, physical therapists, massage, music and recreational therapists, genetics counselors, dieticians, and many other specialties. We encompass a lot of territory!
Our membership and board of directors include students and employed professionals with decades of experience. We are currently advocating for issues related to full access to licensure testing and that troubling line in many job descriptions: Driver's License Required. Our Board Meetings are by phone and are open to all. Our email list offers a good place to help others with suggestions and encouragement or to ask for assistance.
It can be a struggle being blind in a sighted world, for instance with computer-based or electronic record keeping. The NFB is helping to make this easier, currently working to ensure that all electronic medical records are screen-reader friendly, an uphill battle that the Human Services Division is championing.
You are a special person, desiring to help others. Few things change what it means to be blind more than helping light-dependent persons to solve their human needs. Let's do it together.
Joining the Division is easy and cheap. It currently costs only $5.00 a year! We need your help to strengthen our call for the changes noted above.
To join today, just send a check to the Treasurer and Membership Committee Chair: JD Townsend, 1598 Riverside Drive, Holly Hill, FL 32117. Just add your name, email, and address in print or Braille, and you can be a part of a positively focused group of human service professionals. Let's all be a part of change.
Where is Your Voice?
Did you know that the Braille Monitor is your magazine, one created not only for your reading pleasure but for the sharing of what you think, what you know, what you feel, and your unique observations about it? What you write doesn’t have to be about a law that got passed in your state or a landmark court case that was decided. Those are important, and we want to hear about them, but that type of event isn’t all the Federation is about.
There are those ordinary yet extraordinary moments in life: the moment you became the first blind student to walk in your school’s graduation ceremony; the scout troop leader who asked your child’s mobility instructor to come to a troop meeting so that everyone in the troop could learn the proper way to walk sighted guide with your child; the first day you wore a sweater you’d knit yourself after struggling to learn how; the time your uncle wouldn’t let you join your cousins on a fishing trip because he was afraid to have you around all the sharp hooks and tools; your freshman year of college when you got turned around and attended the wrong class for most of the period and then spent the rest of it figuring out how you could walk out without making a scene; any of the small triumphs and failures that shape us as we travel through life. If it’s a story you enjoy telling or that others ask you to tell new members, think about writing it up and sending it in. Within most of us there is a Monitor story waiting to be told, a life-changing experience which, once shared, has the possibility to change more than one life.
Not everything that happens to us is serious and weighty. What about the time in the laundromat when you were approached by a man who had had too much to drink and he began complimenting you on how smart you were to put a handle on your dog so he wouldn’t get away from you? What about the time you called and asked to talk with Tommy because your screen reader pronounced T-A-M-I like the man’s name?
If you don’t think you have enough to say to write a full article, that’s okay. Do you have photos from an event your chapter put on? Email high-quality photos and as much information about who is in them as you can—they may become the lead photo in next month’s issue.
The National Federation of the Blind is an organization of the blind, for the blind. And the Braille Monitor is a magazine by the Federation, for the Federation. But we can’t share your stories if you don’t send them in. Can we use everything we get? We can’t, but we can’t run them if you don’t dare to write them. Let’s see your byline in an upcoming issue.
Airport Transportation Discount To/From Orlando International Airport (MCO):
All convention attendees receive a $4 discount on transportation services courtesy of SuperShuttle Orlando. Use the discount code NFB14 when booking. Discounted rates are $16 one way and $28 roundtrip per person to the Rosen Centre, but vary based on hotel location if you are not staying at the convention hotel. Exclusive sedans, SUVs, and vans are also available. The rate for an exclusive van (eight passengers) is $100 or $12.50 per person one way. Book your transportation on the SuperShuttle.com website. To make reservations for large groups, call (407) 513-0225.
This year at our annual state convention the NFB of South Dakota elected the following: president, Kenneth Rollman; second vice president, Kathleen Nelson; treasurer, Jo Mundenhaul; board members, Jackie Campbell, Wayne Erickson, and Lonnie Schaeffer.
We have it set up so that we elect positions alternating every year. We elect first vice president, secretary, a one-year and a two-year board position next year.
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.
Lone Star BLAST 2014:
The National Association of Blind Merchants (NABM), a division of the National Federation of the Blind, announces the opening of registration and hotel reservations for Business Leadership and Superior Training (BLAST), November 2014. Lone Star BLAST 2014 will be held at the Austin Renaissance Hotel from November 18 to 20.
Nicky Gacos, president of the National Association of Blind Merchants, said: “In coordination with Business Enterprises of Texas and the elected committee, we have begun to plan the biggest, boldest, most far-reaching training for blind entrepreneurs and state agency personnel. It will be a BLAST as big as Texas.”
NABM and the National Federation of the Blind Entrepreneur Initiative will jointly plan the conference. The group has already begun planning the biggest trade show in its history, working in conjunction with the RSA Buying Group and the Committee of Blind Operators of Texas. NABM is also pleased to announce that, in coordination with the National Counsel for State Agencies for the Blind, BLAST will again this year feature a day-long training event exclusively for state licensing agency staff. The association is also working with the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind to offer continuing education for attorneys working with state VR agencies and Business Enterprise programs. Those sessions will take place on Tuesday, November 18.
BLAST seminars will begin the morning of Tuesday, November 18, with business development training on the morning of Wednesday, November 19. The trade show will take place Wednesday afternoon. There will be a full day of targeted education related to personal and professional growth on Thursday, November 20. BLAST will conclude with an all-star Lone Star BLAST banquet and celebration on Thursday evening.
Room reservations at the luxurious Austin Renaissance, 9721 Arboretum Blvd., Austin, Texas 78759, are available now at the unbelievable rate of $129 per night plus applicable taxes. A limited number of executive suites are available on a first come first serve basis at $149 per night. Rooms are available from Sunday, November 16 through Saturday, November 22, 2014. Reservations should be made online at <www.blindmerchants.org>. You may also phone the hotel at (800) 468-3571. Be sure to explain to the agent that you are registering for BLAST under the National Association of Blind Merchants group.
Act now to take advantage of early bird registration rates. Again this year, BLAST registration will be $200. If you register prior to September 2, 2014, you will be charged only $160. Remember that the BLAST registration fee covers BLAST activities, excluding out of hotel tours or events which may be offered. Your registration fee covers the training, the training materials, the welcoming reception, the leadership breakfast, the trade show and trade show reception, and the banquet which will be held on Thursday evening, November 20.
For questions or assistance with hotel reservations or Lone Star BLAST registrations, please call (866) 543-6808.
Austin is the home of the most diverse and lively music scene in the world. NABM invites you to come for the high-caliber training, networking, and Texas hospitality. In an email to constituents, President Gacos said: “If you plan to attend any national training conference in 2014, make it the Lone Star BLAST!”
To offer your ideas for the kind of training you’d like to have at the Lone Star BLAST, contact Kevan Worley, program chair, at (866) 543-6808 or <email@example.com>.
Don’t Let the GED Fall Through the Cracks
We in the Federation are working on many problems involving access to computerized tests. In many, if not most, instances there are laws or regulations which apply from elementary to high school to college.
The GED is important, giving a second chance to many people. But the laws and regulations covering it vary from state to state. Furthermore, in January of 2014, the test itself was totally revised. It now is offered only on computer and is provided by a private entity.
I don’t want the GED to fall through the cracks and not be made accessible to blind applicants. I hope to find a way to collect and communicate information about the GED or its equivalent and explore ways to solve problems with its administration to the blind. I’m retired now, but I still get inquiries because of my previous writing. My goal is to determine who has experience now and might help others.
Please contact me at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or write to me at Doris M. Willoughby, 279 W. Ridge Road, Littleton, CO 80120.
National Blindness Professional Certification Board Announces New Certification:
The National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB) would like to announce a new certification being offered beginning January 2015: the National Certification in Unified English Braille (NCUEB). Although this certification is intended primarily for professionals in the blindness field, anyone is welcome to take the test, and there are no prerequisites other than knowledge of the UEB code.
Since the Braille Authority of North America (BANA), the governing authority of the Braille code in the United States, has set January 4, 2016 as the official conversion date to Unified English Braille (UEB), the National Certification in Literary Braille (NCLB) will no longer be offered as of January 1, 2015. Obviously, there will still be a great deal of material in circulation for many years to come that has been transcribed in Literary Braille, and we recognize that many professionals may be interested in becoming certified in both UEB and Literary Braille, so we have scheduled a number of testing opportunities for the NCLB certification in 2014. All registration information is located at: <www.nbpcb.org/nclb>.
2014 Test Dates for National Certification in Literary Braille (NCLB)
May 17 Southern Arizona Association for the Visually Impaired, Tucson, AZ
May 31 Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired, Richmond, VA
June 11 Iowa Department for the Blind, Des Moines, IA
Sept. 13 San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind, San Francisco, CA
Sept. 27 BLIND Inc., Minneapolis, MN
Oct. 10 Embassy Suites LAX South, Los Angeles, CA
Anyone holding NCLB certification at the end of 2014 will continue to maintain their status until the expiration date on their most recent certificate. If your agency or organization would be interested in scheduling an exam in your area, please contact us.
The NBPCB, along with many other organizations whose work involves all aspects of the learning, teaching, and production of Braille, are committed to ensuring that the transition from Literary Braille to UEB will be a smooth one. To this end, many workshops will be held throughout the country to offer an opportunity for both professionals and consumers to become familiar with UEB. Please consult our website often for information regarding scheduled workshops sponsored by the NBPCB.
For questions regarding any aspects of NCUEB or becoming dually certified in both the Unified English Braille and Literary Braille, please contact us at <email@example.com>.
The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.
A Web Developer for the Blind:
Is your state organization in need of a website? Do you need someone to keep your website up to date? I can build accessible, clean, customizable sites, connect a calendar of events to a database, and keep it up to date at an affordable price. Please email Kelli Jo Isaak at <KelliJo.Isaak81@gmail.com> for more information. For samples of my work, check out <http://www.graphics-geek.com>, where I have links to other sites I’ve done, including the one I recently completed for the NFB of South Dakota.
Braille Sense for Sale:
I have a 32-cell Braille Sense Plus manufactured and sold by HIMS. It is in very good condition, and I am asking $2,000 for it. My telephone number is (616) 212-8639.
The Colorado Center for the Blind is seeking to acquire a donated copy of the Pocket Dictionary in seven volumes. Contact Tom Anderson, CCB Braille instructor, for further information. Email him at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or call at (800) 401-4632, Ext. 220.
I am looking for an APH 5198A desk model recorder, an APH-modified Sony Cassette recorder, an CFM-165TW recorder, and a CFM-30TW recorder. These must be in excellent condition, with all functions working well. Contact J. Larry Railey at <email@example.com> or by calling (281) 444-0907.
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.