Vol. 57, No. 9 October 2014
Gary Wunder, Editor
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Vol. 57, No. 9 October 2014
Illustration: Raising the Bar and Creating Opportunities
SourceAmerica: the Source of America’s Discrimination against Workers with Disabilities
by Rose Sloan
Coming Soon, Ten Million Books: Landmark Copyright Rulings will
Revolutionize Access to Books for the Blind
by Chris Danielsen
The Advocacy and Policy Report
by John Paré, Rose Sloan, Lauren McLarney, and Jesse Hartle
iCanConnect: National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program
by Joe Naulty
Deaf-Blind Communication Technology
by Amy Mason
Bringing Beep Baseball and Much More to the Dominican Republic
by Richie Flores
Minimum Wage Guarantees for Disabled Workers—
A Report from the Department of Justice
by Eve L. Hill
Free Global Access for the Blind to the Computer
by Michael Curran
The Blind at Speed
by Dan Parker
For the Benefit of Those Who See: Dispatches from the World of the Blind
reviewed by Barbara Pierce
The GED and Alternatives
by Doris Willoughby
Copyright 2014 by the National Federation of the Blind
September 5 to 7 the National Center played host to the NFB STEM2U Leadership Academy, bringing blind high school students together for a weekend of accessible, entertaining science. On Friday one of the activities was building race cars out of recycled objects. Yang Heppe works alone with Styrofoam, cord, old CDs, and wooden spools on his race car. Others, like Elijah Anderson and Angel Ayala worked together on their car. Elijah confidently wields scissors to cut package tape to secure dowel rod axels onto their car, while Angel holds the CD wheel in place. Once the recycled racers were completed, the cars were put to the test. Ashley Ritter, one of the mentors, manned the top of the test ramp to keep consistency in the starts for each car’s test.
It wasn’t all ramps and race cars, though. Other activities that weekend included musical chairs, attempting to eat donuts suspended on strings, and other activities to challenge the young scientists such as copycat towers, where pairs were challenged to replicate the towers made with paper cups and construction paper.
On Thursday, August 28, 2014, the National Federation of the Blind conducted an informational protest outside the national office of SourceAmerica in Vienna, Virginia. SourceAmerica, formerly the National Industries for the Severely Handicapped, or NISH, is responsible for distributing government contracts to nonprofits that employ Americans with disabilities.
The National Federation of the Blind picketed SourceAmerica because SourceAmerica chooses to distribute contracts to nonprofits that hold special wage certificates which allow entities to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage. Paying people with disabilities subminimum wages should be illegal, but Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act allows entities to do just that.
To add insult to injury, SourceAmerica is actively lobbying against HR 831, the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act. When passed, this legislation will phase out Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Additionally, staff of the National Federation of the Blind discovered, in reviewing SourceAmerica’s IRS Form 990 (a tax form that nonprofits must complete), that over one hundred employees at its national office make over $100,000 a year, while workers at nonprofits that SourceAmerica supports fulfill government contracts by paying people with disabilities subminimum wages, sometimes pennies per hour.
On the day of the protest, for blocks in all directions, over one hundred people with disabilities could be heard chanting, “Equal work, equal pay.” Horns were honked by commuters to show their support for fair wages for workers with disabilities. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) was not the only group protesting SourceAmerica. The Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst (APSE) and the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) joined the National Federation of the Blind in showing their support at the protest, while ADAPT, Little People of America, and TASH endorsed the event.
Many passionate speeches about the need to repeal Section 14(c) were given. Mr. Jesse Hartle was the master of ceremonies and introduced speakers including: Dr. Fred Schroeder, first vice president of the NFB; Mr. Kelly Buckland, executive director of the NCIL; Ms. Rose Sloan, government affairs specialist for the NFB; Mr. John Paré, executive director for advocacy and policy for the NFB; Mr. Sean Whalen, president of the National Association of Blind Students; Mr. Kevan Worley, board member of the NFB of Colorado; Mr. Charlie Brown, former president of the NFB of Virginia; Dr. Marc Maurer, immediate past president of the NFB; Mr. Shawn Callaway, president of the NFB of DC; and Mr. Ryley Newport, public policy associate of APSE. The event was concluded by an impassioned speech by National Federation of the Blind President Mark Riccobono.
Colorful signs that read: “Same jobs deserve same pay,” “Low expectations lead to low productivity,” “Proper training creates productive employees,” “SourceAmerica exploits people with disabilities,” and “Minimum wage should protect everyone,” were visible to SourceAmerica staff working in the office as well as many commuters who passed on the four-lane street. People whose curiosity was sparked by the protest were given a flyer titled: “SourceAmerica: the Source of America’s Discrimination Against People with Disabilities” [this flyer is found immediately following this article]. Throughout the event, protest songs such as “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “Blue Collar Man,” and “9 to 5” were interspersed among the speeches and chants.
Most importantly, many people who before August 28 likely thought SourceAmerica provided good employment opportunities for people with disabilities learned about SourceAmerica’s exploitative policy of supporting nonprofits that pay Americans with disabilities less than the minimum wage. The National Federation of the Blind and its partner organizations made a loud and clear statement: we will not tolerate any organization that endorses subminimum wages for people with disabilities.
Since 1938 Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act has allowed entities to pay workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage. However, just because it is legal does not mean it is right. With proper training and support, individuals with all types of disabilities can be productive employees who earn at least the minimum wage. SourceAmerica refuses to adopt 21st century business models and instead chooses to support this antiquated and discriminatory provision.
URGE SourceAmerica to adopt 21st century business practices that provide the education, training, and support for Americans with disabilities to be productive and valuable employees, and to support fair wages for workers with disabilities.
For more information visit <www.nfb.org/fair-wages> or call the National Federation of the Blind at (410) 659-9314, extension 2330.
by Chris Danielsen
From the Editor: Chris Danielsen is the director of public relations for the National Federation of the Blind and is the driving force behind many of the press releases we issue to the media. He is trained as a lawyer, and we are the beneficiaries of his legal knowledge and his ability to communicate. Here is what he has to say:
On June 10, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued what is probably the final ruling in a case whose implications are nothing short of revolutionary. While the court's ruling in Authors Guild, et al. vs. HathiTrust, et al. may or may not have other effects on authors and the publishing industry, it will have an enormous and positive impact on one of the greatest challenges that we have historically faced as blind people: access to the printed word. As our immediate past president, Dr. Marc Maurer, said in a statement on the day the ruling was issued, the court "ruled clearly and unambiguously that libraries may provide full digital access to the books in their collections to patrons who are blind or print disabled and that providing such access is a fair use of copyrighted works under our nation's copyright laws. Among other things the ruling means that libraries need not rely on the provisions of copyright law relating specifically to access by the disabled in order to provide access to their collections for print-disabled readers. This ruling will dramatically improve the lives of blind and print-disabled Americans, allowing us access to the millions of books held by the HathiTrust Digital Library and any similar collections created in the future. The decision is a victory for the blind and print disabled, the significance of which cannot be overstated. The court's historic action hastens the day when the blind and others with print disabilities will have full access to all of the world's written knowledge."
To understand the implications of the HathiTrust case fully, it is useful to review briefly the history of access to books by the blind and where copyright law stood before the case was decided. We all know that acquiring access to books, magazines, and other published works has always been a source of frustration for blind people. Although the efforts of the United States government (primarily through the Library of Congress) and many dedicated nonprofit organizations, some of them staffed entirely by volunteers, gave us access to many publications, the process of doing so was so cumbersome and laborious that this access was extremely limited. Not only did books have to be transcribed into Braille or read aloud and recorded, but this process could begin only once the entity that planned to make the conversion had obtained the permission of the holder of the book's copyright. This meant that blind people read the latest bestseller months or even years after it originally appeared; waited until far into the school semester for accessible copies of our textbooks; and relied almost entirely on the radio or television for knowledge of current events, since we could not obtain timely access to newspapers or magazines.
In the last two decades there have been incremental but significant steps toward greater access. Computer technology has made books more accessible because they can be converted into electronic formats that blind people can use with access technology to generate Braille, large print, or audio. Hardcopy books can be scanned and fed into optical character recognition software and converted into electronic text files, or books can originate in digital form. As ebooks have moved from being a technology specifically used by blind people to a mainstream phenomenon, some (but sadly not all) ebook providers have made their products accessible to the blind. Our own NFB-NEWSLINE® service has made timely access to newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals not only possible but simple and efficient. On the copyright front the amendment to our nation's copyright laws known as the Chafee Amendment (for its champion, the late Rhode Island Senator John Chafee) eliminated the need for government entities and nonprofits serving the blind to ask for specific permission from copyright holders before producing accessible versions of published works. None of these solutions have been perfect, and blind people in the United States still have access to only around 5 percent of all of the published works produced each year. Nonetheless, the undeniable trend has been toward greater access.
Meanwhile, the trend toward digitization of the printed word has changed the mainstream publishing industry and raised significant questions about the copyright implications of converting hardcopy books into digital form. The efforts of Google, a company which is trying to make all of the world's knowledge electronically searchable and accessible, have been the most dramatic, both in its potential significance and its ability to induce sleepless nights among authors and publishers. We have this technology behemoth and a coalition of university libraries to thank for the recent court decision and all of its implications. Also, of course, the timely and effective advocacy of the National Federation of the Blind played a decisive role.
Beginning in 2004 several university libraries, including the University of Michigan, the University of California at Berkeley, Cornell, and more contracted with Google to scan all of the books in their collections. In 2008 these libraries and others who had joined the project created an entity known as the HathiTrust Digital Library (HDL) to house the digital copies of the books in their collections. The HDL now has eighty members and houses a collection of some ten million books. The HDL planned to use these digital copies of books for three purposes: to create a searchable database, to provide access for blind and print-disabled readers, and to replace the books if the physical copies held by the libraries were lost or destroyed. The Authors Guild, several individual authors, and several other domestic and foreign organizations purporting to protect the rights of authors and other copyright holders sued the HDL.
Recognizing the potential value of having access to ten million digital copies of books, the National Federation of the Blind and other organizations dedicated to providing access to the printed word for people with disabilities asked to intervene in the suit. In essence this means that we volunteered to be defendants, even though we had not been sued, so that we could advance arguments for providing the digital books to readers with print disabilities and so that the court could consider and rule upon our arguments, as well as any made by the HDL. Fortunately we were granted permission by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, the federal district court then hearing the case, to become part of the litigation.
The authors who sued the HDL maintained that the mass digitization of the books held by the participating university libraries violated copyright law. Our nation's copyright laws, which are specifically authorized by the United States Constitution, give authors, publishers, and other copyright holders a limited right to control certain uses of the works they produce for a limited time, currently the life of the copyright holder plus seventy years. At the end of the copyright period, if the copyright has not been renewed, a work becomes part of the public domain, which means that anyone can exercise the rights that the copyright holder once controlled. The purpose of copyright laws, however, is not solely to protect authors, musicians, and other artists or content creators; it is, as the Constitution states, to "promote science and the useful arts." The idea is that, by giving people a commercial incentive to write books, compose and perform music, and so forth, more books, music, and the like will be produced, thereby benefiting the public.
In order for this to make sense, however, the public has to be able to make use of the works that are created. Books are no good if no one reads them, nor is music beneficial unless it is heard. What our copyright laws do is allow the author, composer, artist, publisher, or other copyright holder to maintain exclusive control for the period of the copyright over the way the work is disseminated and used, and to receive compensation for the uses that he or she authorizes. Copyright holders can sell their rights (to a publisher, for example) in exchange for the purchase price plus royalties for each use of the work (e.g., each book the publisher sells), or give the rights away, but the decision rests with the copyright holder. If an author writes a book and a film producer wants to make a movie based on it, then the film producer must get the author's permission and compensate him or her for using the book in this way. When a radio station plays a musician's song, the station pays royalties to an association, which then distributes them to the musician. When the copyright runs out, of course, those who want to exploit the work are free to do so at will. This is why there is a constantly proliferating number of printed editions and film versions of the works of authors such as Charles Dickens and Jane Austen; the copyright holders left us long ago, so their works now belong to all of us.
As mentioned earlier, copyright is not unlimited. The most important exception to copyright law is a doctrine called "fair use." To oversimplify a bit, a fair use is a use of the work that is considered not to be a violation of copyright, primarily because it does not introduce a substitute for the original work into the commercial market and take away compensation to which the copyright holder is entitled. Two well-known examples of fair use are book reviews, in which the reviewer can quote passages from a book that illustrate and exemplify the reviewer's opinion of the book, and home video recording of broadcast television programs.
The doctrine of fair use has been developed by our nation's courts since its founding, and the judicial understanding of fair use was eventually incorporated into our copyright statutes in 1976. The law does not contain an exhaustive list of every use that is considered a fair use; instead, it sets forth factors that courts must consider in deciding whether a particular use is covered by the doctrine. As already mentioned, the most important of these is whether the use takes away all or part of the market for the copyright holder's work by effectively creating a substitute. Other factors include whether the use transforms a work into something other than the original (as happens, for example, when a photograph is included in a collage), and the kind of work involved. The defendants in the HathiTrust case, including the National Federation of the Blind, argued that the uses of copyrighted works in which the HDL planned to engage—including the creation of accessible copies for blind readers—fell within the fair use exception.
In a ruling issued in October of 2012, the late Judge Harold Baer, Jr. agreed that the creation of accessible digital copies for blind and print-disabled readers was a fair use. He further ruled that the libraries involved qualified as entities covered by the Chafee Amendment, because one of their primary purposes was to distribute accessible copies of books to readers with print disabilities. The ruling on fair use was significant, but the ruling on the Chafee Amendment is even more significant. Chafee entities can distribute content to anyone with a qualifying disability. Arguably under fair use the HDL can distribute accessible copies of its books only to patrons of its participating university libraries who are blind or have print disabilities. But as a Chafee entity the HDL can distribute these accessible copies to any blind or print-disabled individual in the United States.
The Authors Guild and the other plaintiffs appealed Judge Baer's ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This is the court that issued its ruling on June 10 of this year. The Court of Appeals agreed with Judge Baer's conclusion on the question of fair use, although not with his rationale. Judge Baer had relied on the concept of transformative use, the idea that in creating digital copies that are accessible to the blind, HDL had fundamentally transformed the works. Instead, the appeals court focused on the fact that accessible copies of books do not undermine the market for the originals. The court noted that authors and publishers have traditionally deemed the market for books that are accessible to the blind to be so insignificant that they do not produce accessible versions themselves and have often foregone the royalties that they might have received from the sale of such versions. Therefore, by the publishing industry's own logic, accessible digital copies of books could not represent a threat to the market for the books.
The Court of Appeals concluded that, because it had found the generation of accessible copies to be a fair use, it need not address the question of whether the HDL was a Chafee entity. When an appeals court lets a lower court ruling stand without altering it, the lower court's ruling remains law. The appeals court allowed Judge Baer's ruling to stand as it related to the Chafee Amendment. Therefore the HDL is free to distribute accessible digital copies of the books in its collection, not only to students and faculty at its participating universities, but to blind and print-disabled individuals across the nation. Once the HDL is able to set up a mechanism to facilitate this distribution, as it has indicated it will do, blind and print-disabled Americans will have access to its ten million books. Moreover, the ruling means that other libraries can do the same with their collections.
There is a chance that the epic legal battle that has brought us to this happy outcome is not yet over. The case was sent back to the lower court for adjudication of a legal issue unrelated to our interests. Once that issue is decided, it is possible that the case could continue with an appeal ultimately reaching the United States Supreme Court. Unlike other courts, however, the Supreme Court can decide whether or not to hear the case. If it does, the National Federation of the Blind is ready to take our arguments to our nation’s highest court. There is no reason to believe that they will be any less persuasive than they have been so far. But, if no such appeal occurs or the Supreme Court decides against hearing the case, then the existing rulings, as they relate to blind and print-disabled readers, will stand. So, with very little fear of contradiction, your correspondent is happy to tell Monitor readers that they should get ready to do lots and lots of reading.
by John Paré, Rose Sloan, Lauren McLarney, and Jesse Hartle
From the Editor: One of the most inspirational items to appear annually on our convention agenda is the report of the Advocacy and Policy Department, a primary component of which is our report on legislative action affecting the blind. Here is what our team said on Saturday afternoon, July 5, 2014:
John Paré: Good afternoon, fellow Federationists. This is such an exciting convention! This morning was historic. Dr. Maurer, I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from you and benefited from in my relationship with you, and I look forward to another ten or twenty or thirty years working with you. I look forward to supporting the new president, President-elect Riccobono. The other thing that really struck me this morning is that, Dr. Maurer, you have really done an incredible job of nurturing each one of us, but also nurturing an incredible board of directors. I’m just awed by the strength of the depth in the knowledge that we have in our leadership, and I’d like to give them a round of applause.
The advocacy and policy department is responsible for NFB-NEWSLINE, governmental affairs, and public relations. Here is a brief review of some of that activity:
NFB-NEWSLINE is the largest and most successful audio newspaper service anywhere in the world. It is available in forty-six states plus the District of Columbia. We have over 105,000 subscribers, 343 newspapers, forty-three magazines, TV listings, job listings, advertisements, and English- and Spanish-language content. Publications are available over the phone, through email, as an iPhone app, on the Internet, or for download on a variety of digital devices, including the NLS digital talking book player. Since the 2013 convention NFB-NEWSLINE subscribers have enjoyed over 38 million minutes of news, made over 2.1 million calls, received over 2.2 million email messages, and accessed over 6.4 million newspapers.
At last year’s convention we announced a collaboration with AccuWeather to provide emergency weather alerts. The services been expanded to include a full weather forecast system. NFB-NEWSLINE subscribers now have the ability to get their full weather forecasts both on the telephone system and on the NFB-NEWSLINE app. The weather system also includes the time of sunrise, sunset, and other things such as the current temperature; wind speed; real temperature feel; air quality; and the air, wind, pollen, and grass indexes. Let’s hear it for Newsline!
Our public relations effort continues to expand our initiatives, programs, and policies. The National Federation of the Blind has been mentioned, featured, or spoken about in over 5,200 stories over the past year. Here are a few examples:
On July 15, USA Today published an article about our work in technology in higher education and the TEACH bill. USA Today is the largest circulation newspaper in the United States. On August 3, 2013, the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho’s iteration of the BELL program received a fine write-up in the Idaho State Journal. The article emphasized the improved Braille skills of the young students who participated in the program. On November 4, 2013, the Department of Transportation released its rule purporting to increase air carrier access act requirements for website kiosks, automated kiosks, and websites. This rule gives airlines three years to make their websites accessible and ten years to make only a portion of their kiosks accessible. Dr. Maurer wrote an incisive op-ed that was published in The Hill, explaining his tremendous disappointment in the weak rule. On April 23, 2014, The Atlantic published a story about the importance of the accessibility of mobile news apps. Chris Danielsen, the National Federation of the Blind’s director of public relations, was quoted throughout this article. We continue to work to expand the National Federation of the Blind’s social media presence and drive traffic to our website. Our Facebook fans have grown to over 3,700 and our Twitter followers had grown to over 5,000. Our Facebook content alone has reached over 250,000 people over the past year. I urge you to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
The National Federation of the Blind has launched a new effort to increase and expand our video content on our YouTube channel, NationsBlind. Our channel is devoted to content featuring the National Federation of the Blind and our members. As part of this effort we have created a special portal on our website for you to upload material to the Jernigan Institute. Our goal is to publish seventy-five new videos by next year’s convention. If you would like to learn more, please go to <www.NFB.org/media>.
The National Federation of the Blind has been advocating against Section 511 of the workforce investment act for the past three years. The original Section 511 would have increased the number of disabled workers being paid subminimum wages. Here is a review of some of that effort:
On July 7, 2011, we passed resolution 2011–17 demanding the removal of Section 511 from the Workforce Investment Act. On July 26, 2011, we conducted protests in front of twenty-six Senate office buildings demanding the removal of Section 511. I imagine many of you participated in those protests. We wrote letters, made phone calls, and had meetings. As a result of our advocacy the Workforce Investment Act faltered. We continued our advocacy, but Senators Harkin and Alexander did not listen. On Friday, July 19, 2013, the Senate released a new version of the Workforce Investment Act. We had one weekend to review hundreds of pages and to submit comments by that Monday, July 22. The bill had gone from bad to worse. Section 511 was still intact, and now the Senators proposed to move the Rehabilitation Services Administration from the Department of Education to the Department of Labor. On July 29, 2013, The Hill published a trenchant op-ed by Dr. Schroeder entitled “Don’t Sabotage the Rehabilitation Act.”
We continued our advocacy, but on July 31 the Workforce Investment Act, S 1356, was favorably reported by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. This was a sad day for disabled Americans. Despite all of our letters, emails, phone calls, tweets, meetings, and op-eds, the Senate refused to listen. They refused to acknowledge that we know what is best for blind Americans. They refused to acknowledge that extending subminimum wages for disabled workers is wrong, discriminatory, and immoral. They told us that the deal was done and that there was nothing we could do. But, did we listen? [No] Did we relent? [No] Did we give up? [No] We doubled down on our efforts. We sent more letters, made more phone calls, and had more meetings. On December 22, 2013, an op-ed written by Michael Barber, the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa ran in the Des Moines Register. The op-ed demanded the removal of Section 511.
Then we had a breakthrough. George Miller, the ranking member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, after meeting with Anil Lewis and Rose Sloan, said that he was opposed to Section 511, and he instructed his staff to work with the National Federation of the Blind to develop new language. As a result the objectionable language contained in Section 511 and the language moving the Rehabilitation Services Administration was removed. This language will now preserve the rehabilitation system and, while not eliminating subminimum wages, will make it more difficult to track disabled youth, blind youth, into subminimum wage jobs. This was a tremendous victory for the National Federation of the Blind. We could not have done it without all of you; our passion, our persistence, and our teamwork paid off. I would also like to give special thanks to Anil Lewis, the new executive director of the Jernigan Institute, for all of his tremendous leadership.
The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines us. Barriers to our success are created by society’s low expectations, but we do not accept these low expectations, and that is why we fight and speak out. No matter how many times we are told that our opinions and our aspirations do not matter, we will not give up. No matter how, we will live the lives we want. This is what we believe, and this is what we will do. We will not let anyone, including the United States Senate, give up on our dreams.
Now I want to introduce Rose Sloan to talk about the President’s executive order and subminimum wages.
Rose Sloan: For those of you who have not yet had a chance to meet me, I started my job at the National Center this past September. Five years ago, when I began my undergraduate program in social policy at Northwestern University in Illinois, I knew I wanted to be an advocate for policy at the national level. Attending my first Washington Seminar in 2011 only sealed the deal for me. Going to Washington and talking to members of Congress is fun. Nine months into the job and I still love it, and I plan on loving it for a very long time.
My favorite part of the job is when I learn that yet another member of Congress has decided that he or she is going to sign on as a cosponsor to HR 831, the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act. Now I have gotten this information in many different ways. Sometimes it is as simple as getting an email from a legislative aide. Sometimes I check Thomas [a source for information about bills and other federal information] and am pleasantly surprised to see that the number has increased. But my favorite way to be informed that yet another member of Congress believes that it is unfair for people to be paid subminimum wages is when you, the Federationist, email me and let me know that your member of Congress is going to be signing on to HR 831.
Let’s take a step back for a second. I really did say that right now, in 2014, people with disabilities can be paid less than the minimum wage, but we’re going to change that. We have introduced HR 831, the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act. This will repeal section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. This antiquated law says that entities can pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage. HR 831 will phase this out over a three-year period. We, the National Federation of the Blind, have been working toward fair wages for blind Americans for many years. I am honored that I have been handed the reins on this very important issue, and I would be remiss if I didn’t take the time to express my appreciation to the role models who set the stage for me. Specifically, I would like to thank Mr. Anil Lewis for being my go-to person on this issue. His passion for the topic is contagious, and there is no question he can’t answer regarding this issue. I would also like to thank Dr. Maurer for offering me this opportunity. Finally I must say thanks to Dave Meyer, Patti Chang, and the entire Illinois affiliate, who have been my cheerleaders and my rock from the beginning. Thank you.
When I started back in September, I hit the ground running. On my third day in the office I was already making appointments to visit with members of Congress. In the next week Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers from Washington declared that she was going to cosponsor HR 831. Soon after, the chair of the Rules Committee, Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas, also declared his support. It is no coincidence that these two members signed on to HR 831. Along with our sponsor, Congressman Gregg Harper of Mississippi, they all have children with disabilities. They understand in a real way that they don’t want their children to be paid less than the minimum wage, and they wouldn’t want to see any other American be paid less than the minimum wage because they have a disability.
In October I had the opportunity to attend the Vermont Conversion Institute. While there I was introduced to many different organizations that train people with even the most severe disabilities on how to be productive citizens. I learned about a man who has an intellectual disability and who uses a wheelchair and is illiterate. Yet he is still being paid the minimum wage because he loves to shred paper. It’s a win-win situation. He has a micro-business in which businesses hire him to shred their paper, and the businesses are happy because they no longer have to waste time shredding their own paper, and their employees can focus on other tasks. This is just one example.
As we rolled into November, we had many affiliates participate in the delivery of our change.org petition to Goodwills throughout the nation. Our petition has over 170,000 signatures. We got the point across. Newspaper articles were written about the event. Goodwill executives throughout the country repeatedly told us that it is a local decision whether or not to pay people with disabilities subminimum wages, and guess what: two-thirds of Goodwills actually pay all of their employees the minimum wage or more. We are especially encouraged by organizations such as the Goodwill of Northern New England. Its website says, and I quote, “The Goodwill of Northern New England supports public policy initiatives that align with our commitment always to meet or exceed minimum wage for all workers.”
We’ve been taking other steps too. We’ve not only been gaining cosponsors on HR 831, but I’m happy to report that we have over seventy-five other organizations who agree with us that 14(c) is absolutely wrong. As many have already said, but it is definitely worth repeating, on February 12, 2014, President Barack Obama announced that he would be issuing an executive order, and in this executive order all federally contracted service providers would be receiving $10.10 an hour starting on January 1, 2015, and this includes people with disabilities who used to be paid under 14(c). I thank each of you who wrote President Obama and Secretary Perez and told them how important it was for us to be included. We did this, guys—this was us, so well done.
This executive order gave Ms. Cari DeSantis the courage to speak out. Ms. DeSantis is the CEO of an organization called Millwood, a community rehabilitation program that employs over seven hundred people with disabilities. She said, "When I became the organization's CEO almost a year ago, I ended the practice of paying workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage despite the 14(c) certificate program." Millwood was able to transform its business model in just a year. HR 831 gives nonprofits three years to transition. Even though Millwood had the 14(c) certificate, it has decided that it is wrong to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage. This is just one example of entities doing the right thing, but we can't count on all 14(c) certificate-holding entities to do the right thing, and that's why we need to pass HR 831.
In the spring a resolution was dropped in the California legislature that urges the United States Congress to phase out and eventually repeal Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. I am happy to announce that this resolution has already passed out of the assembly in the California legislature and has since moved on to the Senate. On June 25 it passed the relevant committee in the Senate of the California legislature, and we are eagerly awaiting it to get to the floor of the Senate. Congratulations, California.
As outlined by this report, we are making great strides to ensure that Americans with disabilities are paid the fair wages we deserve. I thank each and every one of you for allowing jobs such as mine to exist, and I also thank each of you who've contacted your member of Congress in some way, shape, or form. I can email and visit the offices of national legislators, but only you, the constituents, can truly make legislators care about the issues that you care about.
At the beginning of this report I mentioned that gaining new cosponsors is my favorite part of the job. I have experienced this ninety-four times. We have ninety-four cosponsors on HR 831. Now this is good, and every once in a while it's good to give ourselves a pat on the back, but we need more. We have to get more, and I challenge you to get this bill up to one hundred cosponsors by July 26, the anniversary of the ADA. Six more, let's do it! Who's with me? [Convention hall erupts with applause and shouts of support]
When you email your members of Congress, when you email their legislative aides, please copy me on those emails. I ask you to do this because then we can have a dialogue between you, me, and the legislative aide, you being the constituent, me being able to answer any questions that they may have, and the legislative aide having the power to get the member of Congress on the bill. If you ever have any questions, email or call me. I look forward to hearing from you. No one does it like us. Together we will pass HR 831, and we will ensure that we too are insured the economic independence that every other working American enjoys every day.
Lauren McLarney: Good afternoon, everybody. I want to start out by saying that I'm so glad Rose is on the team, partly because she's really smart, and also because it's a little easier to share clothes with her than it is with Jesse because he's so tall.
I am here to give a TEACH Act update, and for starters can you remind me what the TEACH Act stands for? Yes, it is Technology, Education, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education. What does the bill do? It creates guidelines. The bill calls on the access board to create voluntary accessibility guidelines for electronic instructional materials used in postsecondary education and incentivizes colleges and universities to use only technology that conforms to those guidelines with a safe harbor from litigation.
The reason we need this bill is that the overwhelming majority of electronic instructional materials, learning management systems, lab software, PDFs, ebooks—I could go on and on—but these are mostly inaccessible, even though it is easy to make them accessible, and the law calls for schools to use only accessible things. We know that the reason for this disconnect is that there is no criterion in the law to facilitate that. This bill creates that missing criterion, and it does it in a way that stimulates the market, facilitates the mandate, reduces costs of lawsuits, and does all of that without creating any new requirements for schools or any mandates on technology companies.
There's nothing to dislike about this bill. I said it at the Washington Seminar, and I'll say it again: there are no cons to this bill. It's a no-brainer.
Consequently, we have forty-eight cosponsors in the House which, for a new bill, is very good. We have Republicans like Coffman from Colorado. We have McAllister from Louisiana. We have Representative Jolly from Florida, who will be here to speak to you tomorrow. We have Don Young from Alaska, who is the most senior Republican in the House, and we even have Paul Ryan from the Senate, who was once a vice presidential candidate. He wrote on change.org that he publicly supports the bill. Speaking of change.org, I want to tell you something. Thanks to your advocacy, the change.org petition for the TEACH Act has over 160,000 signatures from across the country and is one of the most successful legislative campaigns that site has ever had.
We've had the same kind of success in the Senate. We have six cosponsors, and I know that sounds small, but they are one great combination of people. We have Senator Hatch from Utah, who is a senior conservative; Senator Warren from Massachusetts, who is a freshman liberal; Senator Ayotte from New Hampshire; and we have Senator Bennett from Colorado. Recently everybody has been saying that people from Capitol Hill can't get along, but at the same time we got two new cosponsors: Senator Markey from Boston and Senator Marco Rubio, the Tea Party darling from Florida—and those two people came on at the same time, so that tells you something about how popular this bill is.
Just two weeks ago Senator Harkin's staff contacted us. Two years ago I showed them this bill, and they said, "You guys have to go back and rework this bill because it's not strong enough, and it doesn't do enough." Two years later they contacted us; they wanted us to come in and take a look at the Higher Education Reauthorization draft. They took the TEACH Act verbatim and put it in that bill and dropped it last week.
We've gotten press in USA Today, op-eds published in the Boston Globe, on the front page of the Salt Lake Tribune, and in Inside Higher Ed, and we have support from every major disability group in the country. We have AAPD, MAD, Nickel, Hearing Loss, ACB, AFB, our partner AAPD—even the Home School Legal Defense Association, the same group that tried to defeat the CRPD [the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities] officially endorses the TEACH act.
So you might be asking, why isn't it law yet? Why hasn't it passed if it's so great? Well, number one, this is a Republican Congress, and there is a stigma against education issues. It's mostly based on misunderstanding, so, if we can get to those offices, we can win them over, and we're doing that, but we need to do it better. A lot of the Republicans in Congress are new, and we need to build relationships with those offices before going to sit down in front of them and get them to see how great the bill is.
Second, sometimes people just object for the sake of objecting. Some people are just difficult. I know it's a shock that politicians may be difficult, but some of them are. They give all sorts of goofy reasons and questions such as, “What do the schools think? Would this inconvenience them? We've heard that they might not like it.” My favorite line is, "We have decided not to cosponsor at this time. We ask that you please bear with us." Another of my favorites is "We are still reviewing." Ladies and gentlemen, this is only a four-page bill.
No matter how frustrated we get, the bottom line is that we have to have patience and win them over. But what we really need more than patience is persistence and passion. Because the truth is that, no matter how good this bill is, this bill will not pass itself. Every time an office asks if this inconveniences schools, they are basically saying that they are okay with inconveniencing blind students. They are saying that you should settle for a so-so accommodation, that you should settle for partial access. Every time they fail to cosponsor and don't give you a reason, they are saying that they are okay with things as is and that they want you to settle for the status quo, settle for just getting by, settle for mediocre expectations—and we don't settle—that's not what this organization is about.
I think it's really easy for some of these people to say that you should settle because they've never lived it. The truth is that I haven't lived it. I don't know what it feels like to get to college and not be able to use the materials. I know what it feels like not to use them—but not to be able to use them—I haven’t experienced that, and that's the problem faced by every single blind student in this country—they have experienced it, and they’re asking for decisions from those who have not. We have to tell them that we're not going to settle for so-so accommodations, we're not going to settle for partial access, because we know that blindness is not what holds us back. We know that just enough is never acceptable. We are not going to settle for anything less than living the lives we want.
I want everyone to understand that, as good as this bill is, it is not going to pass itself. There is a song by a country group called SugarLand, and they talk about not settling. I think it says it all—about what we need to feel. If you are a college student and taking classes, please stand up. If you are in high school, it is likely you will go to college, so you, too, should stand. I'm going to tell you the lyrics, and I want you to repeat them because this is the message that needs to be in your head and your heart if we're going to pass this bill, if we're going to get through college, if we're going to get through life without buying it when people tell us we have to settle. Please repeat after me:
I ain't settling for just getting by.
I've had enough so so for the rest of my life,
Tired of shooting too low, so raise the bar high.
Just enough ain't enough this time.
I ain't settling for anything less than everything!
Jesse Hartle: Good afternoon. I want to take a quick moment on behalf of the Advocacy and Policy Team to note that Rose, John, Lauren, and I have the opportunity to come before you every year, but I want to recognize the members of our team who don't have that opportunity to speak to you: Scott White, Nijat Worley, Bob Watson, Bill Jacobs, Carylin Walton, Chris Danielsen, Jessica Freeh, Mya Jones, and Lorraine Rovig. All of these people deserve your recognition for the work they do. [Applause]
"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.” This is the pledge of the National Federation of the Blind. Two words make our pledge more than just words on a page. Those two words are “participate actively.” The National Federation of the Blind stands up and actively participates in changing what it means to be blind in America. Fifty years ago Dr. tenBroek spoke during the banquet at the national convention, and he described what Federationism means. In part he said:
Federationism is an indispensable means of collective self-expression, a megaphone through which the blind may speak their minds and voice their demands—and be assured of a hearing. Federationism is a source of comradeship, the symbol of a common bond among the blind. Federationism is a tool of political and social action, an anvil on which to hammer out the programs and policies, projects and platforms that will advance the mutual welfare and security of the blind as a group. It is the restoration of pride, the bestowal of dignity, and the achievement of identity, and an opportunity to demand for the conferral of rights too long withheld and hopes too long deferred. Federationism is a dedication, a commitment of the mind and heart, an act of faith, and an adventure of spirit, which issues a call to greatness and a summons to service on the part of all of those who volunteer to enter its ranks.
Dr. tenBroek's words describe the essence of the Federation philosophy. Those in this room hold that philosophy, and we know it to be true, but there are many not in our ranks who don't know that the blind speak for ourselves. Many of those find themselves in the halls of Congress. Some of those members of Congress believe that they know better than the blind what we need. Still other members take no stand on our issues. An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by another object. An object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an object of greater force. Lauren, Rose, and I need the full power of the Federation to act as that force which will redirect those members who think they know what the blind need and to energize those members who are inactive to follow the voice of the blind, that is, the voice of the National Federation of the Blind.
The right to access information is a fundamental right, however, most often permission by rights holders to reproduce published works in accessible formats has traditionally been denied or has taken far too long to acquire. Today in the United States of America blind people are denied access to published works around 95 percent of the time, and yet we are a leader throughout the world. For blind people in developing nations access to published works occurs less than 1 percent of the time.
The National Federation of the Blind began to work with the World Blind Union to develop treaty language that will solve the book famine around the world. Scott LaBarre has carried the torch of the Federation philosophy, taking on those who challenge the need for such a treaty. On October 2, 2013, the United States of America became a signatory of the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works to persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled. This treaty will allow for the cross-border sharing of materials in accessible formats. Currently the State Department and the Patent and Trade Office are working to develop the treaty package that will be transmitted to the Senate to begin the ratification process. Once this takes place, it will be up to us, the members of the National Federation of the Blind, to secure the sixty-seven Senate votes needed for ratification of this important piece of equality.
But I thought you should know what others are saying about our chances to succeed on the Marrakesh Treaty. They are saying that no disability treaty will be ratified if it isn't ratified in the next six weeks. They are saying that some members of the Senate will never vote to ratify a treaty that deals with the United Nations. They are saying that, if the Republicans take over the Senate this fall, we shouldn't even try. They say that the blind don't have enough clout on Capitol Hill to get this done.
Stroll with me down memory lane for a moment if you will. In 1995 the House of Representatives was set to vote on the careers bill. It was going to the floor, and they said it's too late, you can't stop it. In the early 2000s we were told that we wouldn't be able to get access to materials for students in K-12. When the House Appropriations Committee voted to underfund the digital conversion of the Talking Book Program of the National Library Service, we were told that we would never be able to increase the funding enough to keep the program on track and on time for the digital conversion. We were told that we wouldn't be able to get legislation through the Congress that would require hybrid and electric vehicles to make a sound that would allow blind people safe and independent travel, and most recently we were told that we would never be able to change the language contained in Section 511. I don't know about you, but I think we have a pretty good track record of doing things we're not supposed to be able to do.
Make no mistake, though: this effort will require the active participation of every member of the Federation. My question to you is, are you ready to get access to published works? Are you ready to stand up and take on those who say this treaty is not necessary? Are you ready to show the world the power of the collective action of the National Federation of the Blind? [The Convention’s unambiguous response was yes.]
Well, I have good news for you: we don't need to wait for the ratification package to go to the Senate. We have an opportunity to teach the Senate something about our power right now. The Senate has been a roadblock to equality for our blinded veterans as it relates to participation in the Space Available Program. Last summer I stood before you shortly after the United States House of Representatives passed its version of the fiscal year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which incorporated our language to include 100 percent service-disabled veterans on the list of those who can participate in the program. Our Senate leader on this issue, Senator Jon Tester of Montana, filed an amendment to the Senate version of the defense bill. It contained the same language that the House included in its bill, and Senator Tester was joined on his amendment by Senator Chambliss of Georgia, Senator Heller of Nevada, and Senator Baucus of Montana. However, that amendment was not allowed to be debated during Senate consideration of the defense bill. In fact Senate leadership said that no senator could offer an amendment on the floor. Because of this procedural decision, Senator Tester was not able to get matching language in the Senate bill. Giving the difference in language as justification for its action, the conference committee stripped our space-available language out of the final bill passed on December 19.
Well, you know what they say: sometimes you may lose a battle, but, when it comes to equality for the blind, we will never lose the war. On January 4, 2014, we renewed our efforts to build cosponsor support for HR 164. On that day the bill had 171 cosponsors listed in support of extending the Space Available Program to those who became disabled defending our liberties. On May 22 that number had increased to 233 members of the House of Representatives, and on May 22, for a second time, the House of Representatives voted to include Congressman Bilirakis's language from HR 164 as part of its national Defense Authorization Act. It is now time for the Senate to feel the force of the National Federation of the Blind. We must stand up and defend the rights of blinded veterans—just as they stand up and defend the rights of blind students to enact the TEACH Act, just as they defend the rights of those who are being paid less than the federal minimum wage when they advocate for the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act. If your senator is not a cosponsor of S. 346 at this time, we need your help to get them signed on to this legislation.
Together we speak as one voice in the National Federation of the Blind. Together we all go up, or we all go down. In everything that matters we are one. Together we will be victorious, and together we will ensure that disabled veterans take their seats on space available flights. [Applause]
I pledge to you to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, equality in the workplace, by eliminating the disgraceful language contained in Section 14(c) from the history books of American law; to achieve equality, equality for disabled veterans who became disabled on the front lines defending our freedoms; to achieve opportunity, opportunity for blind students to be challenged by the coursework in colleges and higher education, not to be challenged by how well they can access information through inaccessible technology, a situation that will be remedied by the enactment of the TEACH Act; to achieve opportunity to increase our access to knowledge by leading the charge on Capitol Hill for ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty; and lastly to achieve that security, the security that can only be attained by reaching our status as first-class citizens.
We are now being challenged, and we will continue to be challenged by those who want the blind to stand down, to accept less in life and like it, to simply exist. We will not simply exist; we have the right to live on full and equal terms with our sighted peers. My brothers and sisters in the Federation, no thought can serve as a better roadmap for success on our legislative agenda than was expressed by Dr. Maurer at the 2002 national convention, and I will leave you with these words of wisdom:
We know our strength, and we know what we must do to bring full equality to the blind. We must be willing to work with every ounce of good that is in us; we must be willing to sacrifice for that which we know is right; we must be prepared to meet the challenges wherever and whenever they arise; and we must never interrupt our march to freedom. This is our obligation; this is our opportunity; this is our commitment. We have the power composed of ability, confidence, public understanding, and love; and we will not fail. Tomorrow is ours, for we will never rest until it is. Come, join me, and we will make it come true!
God bless you all.
by Joe Naulty
From the Editor: Joe Naulty is the president of the Deaf-Blind Division of the National Federation of the Blind. Currently the division he heads is working hard to influence an important federal program, and here is what he would like readers of the Monitor to know about it:
The Deaf-Blind Division of the National Federation of the Blind has initiated communication with each state affiliate regarding the equipment and services available through the iCanConnect Program. People with vision and hearing loss whose income will qualify them may be eligible to receive equipment, training, and support to connect with family, friends, and the community.
iCanConnect is a federally funded program made possible by the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. Project partners are the Federal Communications Commission, Perkins School for the Blind, and the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youth and Adults. To be eligible, the individual must:
Many types of equipment are available including, but not limited to, refreshable Braille devices; computers; software; mobile devices; phones, and signalers. There is an assessment component to this identification process. To assist in determining which equipment is right for the individual, an iCanConnect specialist will assist in identifying, installing, and providing training for the equipment that meets the individual’s needs.
A wide range of communications technology—hardware and software—is available to suit the varying needs of those who have combined hearing and vision loss. There is also specialized equipment such as screen enlargement, screen readers, or Braille displays. A program specialist can help identify equipment to meet individual needs. Training is available once the new equipment arrives.
The Federal Communications Commission is currently in the process of making iCanConnect a permanent program. The Deaf-Blind Division of the National Federation of the Blind has information on iCanConnect in large print and Braille. Call (321) 768-9500 or email <email@example.com>; the information will be provided. To access iCanConnect directly, go to <www.iCanConnect.org>. At the top of the page select “choose your state”; then select the state where you live from the drop-down menu. Information pertinent to each state is provided.
Learning more about the iCanConnect program is the key to navigating the application and communicating individual needs. Just get started. This is a wonderful opportunity to get needed technology for those who qualify.
Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, Massachusetts. By phone (800) 825-4595 or TTY (888) 320-2656
New Jersey Affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, Sounding Board, Spring, 2014
by Amy Mason
From the Editor: Amy Mason works in the International Braille and Technology Center and frequently writes about and evaluates technology. Here is an in-depth review of techniques used by deaf-blind people to communicate with others. The piece is long, but this is information everyone needs to understand as we reach out to all blind citizens. Here is what she says:
Author's Note: This article is based heavily upon a presentation for the 2014 CSUN Conference on Technology and Persons with Disabilities by my friend and colleague Scott Davert and me. Scott is a deaf-blind technology teacher and an expert in the field. I wish to thank Scott for all of the information he shared, making that presentation and this article possible. His personal experiences with the technology in question and vast knowledge of the area of deaf-blind communications in general made both this article and the presentation far stronger than they otherwise would have been based only on my own research.
Deaf-blind communication can be a tricky topic to tackle, since there are a number of solutions which meet different needs for deaf-blind users. Some tools are intended for face-to-face communication, while others are meant for communication at a distance. Certain tools that will work for some users will be woefully inadequate for others. Deaf-blindness, like deafness or blindness alone, is measured on a spectrum. A person may be totally deaf, totally blind, low vision, hard of hearing, or any combination of these four states. Additionally, some deaf-blind individuals will have been deaf first and be familiar with alternative techniques which focus on vision, while others may have been blind first and are therefore more comfortable with solutions that rely on hearing. Deaf-blind people may also have other advantages or disadvantages that must be considered when choosing a solution, such as poor reading skills or a higher level of tech savviness. Therefore, the spectrum of needs which must be met by solutions for deaf-blind communication are quite broad.
In this article we will focus on technology-based solutions to deaf-blind communications which are specifically designed to facilitate face-to-face communications: their costs, potential benefits, and detriments. Other major methods of communication will be briefly touched upon in order to provide a clear picture of the landscape of deaf-blind communications at this time.
It is important to understand that a wide range and variety of tools for amplification and focusing of audio, such as hearing aids, loupes, and FM transmitter systems are available. However, the Access Technology Team is not sufficiently familiar with such devices to speak about them in detail. In the same vein magnification may be used to great effect by deaf-blind people with some residual vision, but these topics will not be discussed in detail except where they intersect with tools specifically intended to meet the communication needs of those who are deaf-blind or as ancillary add-ons to other services that are being used by this population already.
When considering any technological solution to a problem, it is always important to remember that nontechnical solutions also exist and that in some situations these solutions can be the best tools for the job. In the case of deaf-blind communication, the low-tech/no-tech tools on the table are communication cards and Support Service Providers. Since this article deals primarily with technical solutions, these options will be only briefly discussed.
A communication card is a simple Braille/print or large print card, usually laminated, which asks a specific question or requests assistance concerning a specific item or task. For instance, to get help in crossing a street, a user might lift a card which reads, "I am deaf-blind and need assistance to cross this street. If you can help, please tap me on the shoulder." Other cards might include the user's preferences for ordering coffee or determining on which track a train will be arriving. Simple question/answer pairs can be handled by sliding paper clips under the appropriate answer. Communication books are a collection of these cards that can be used by a deaf-blind user to meet common needs.
Communication cards are fairly inexpensive to create or purchase. They often meet the need of the user far more quickly and simply than more complex solutions, and, if damaged or lost, they can be easily and inexpensively replaced. However, they are limited by their linear nature. A user cannot carry on a long, complex, or detailed conversation or transaction with a communication card or booklet. However, for simple, often repeated tasks, they provide a fast and generally effective way for a user to get his or her needs across.
Support Service Providers (SSPs) are professionals who have been trained in skills such as tactile sign, close up visual sign, and other communication strategies. They work with deaf-blind people to gather visual and auditory information from the environment and often act as sighted guides. These people may—depending on the preferences, skills, and abilities of the deaf-blind person—provide close visual sign or tactile sign interpretation services, type messages to the user using another technological tool, or speak into an FM system or another amplification device. The advantages to this solution are that the deaf-blind person has a great deal of flexibility in receiving information about the environment from working with the SSP, and trained SSPs are capable of assisting with very complex or lengthy transactions. The major difficulties with this system include the fact that SSPs can be difficult to locate and expensive to hire. Furthermore, SSP assistance may not be desired for dealing with matters of a sensitive or personal nature.
Many deaf-blind people use computers to meet longer-distance communication needs. Some of the services regularly used include different IM [instant messaging] clients, SMS text messaging, Skype (for text chat or video in the case of low-vision users) or other video and text chatting services, and email with their preferred screen-access software, Braille display, or magnification package. The use of full-sized computers for face-to-face communications is somewhat limited, however.
The one notable exception to the above statement is the Interpretype DBCS 2.0 package sold by Freedom Scientific and Interpretype. This package consists of a pair of laptop computers, a carrying case, a Focus 40 Blue Braille display, JAWS (installed on one computer), and the Interpretype software. These computers come already paired and set up to talk to one another, according to the documentation, though this has not been verified by the Access Technology Team. One machine is already loaded with JAWS and paired with the Focus. The two machines connect using a special USB cable, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi, and they can be used for face-to-face communications. Furthermore, the Wi-Fi connection can be used to connect up to one hundred unique clients with the Interpretype software installed, according to the Interpretype website.
The Interpretype system is quite powerful since it is based on a full Windows system; however, in order to use the package for face-to-face communications, the deaf-blind user must carry around a pair of computers and a Braille display. For anything but the longest sessions of face-to-face conversation, this seems like a lot of trouble, setup, and wait time for minimal payoff in comparison to other options on the market. Furthermore, nowhere in its promotional materials was there any mention of the specifications of the computers, other than to say that they are "full-featured." This solution may be beneficial if it is intended for semi-permanent placement, such as in an office or educational setting, but for portability it seems a very poor choice due to the need to carry so much equipment, wait for both machines to boot, and have a large enough area to set up and hold a conversation. Furthermore, since only one of the devices contains screen-access software, a deaf-blind owner of the system would have to go through the additional step of adding such software to the second machine in order to maintain her own equipment. The software can be purchased separately and added to a user's existing computer system if preferred. Pricing for Interpretype fluctuates depending on the options required by the user. Contact Interpretype for more information, including pricing.
Some deaf-blind users already own or would benefit from having access to an electronic Braille notetaker. These devices replicate the basic functionality of a personal data assistant (PDA) by providing functions such as a calendar, an address book, a calculator, basic note taking, and book reading. They may also offer instant messaging, email, basic web browsing, and other online services. Many of these devices can also be upgraded to offer GPS navigation. Because these devices are highly portable; can function as Braille displays for computers, phones, and tablets; and are often carried regularly by their users, they make ideal candidates for face-to-face applications.
FaceToFace PC Communicator is a software package installed on the user's PAC Mate and a Bluetooth enabled computer. The package allows the user to connect a PAC Mate to the computer using the included compact flash Bluetooth module. In the case of the PAC Mate and a computer, the computer is designated as a "server" and the PAC Mate is designated the "client." Once this is set up, the PAC Mate user is able to send messages between the PAC Mate and the computer. Two users with PAC Mates can also use this software to talk. When two PAC Mates are paired, one device needs to be set as the server, the other as the client, and the communication proceeds as above. This software allows the user to save conversations for later review. Furthermore, a user can create preset messages in order to send frequently used questions or statements easily and quickly.
Unless a user already owns a Mate and does not intend to upgrade soon, there are no compelling reasons to recommend this product. The PAC Mate is an older technology, missing many of the portability and hardware benefits of newer tools, and any system based upon it is going to be equally outdated. Due to the need for pre-installation of the FaceToFace software on the PC, a deaf-blind user would have to carry around not only the PAC Mate, but also a laptop for any impromptu communication sessions and would be limited to many of the space and time constraints that plague the use of the Interpretype. If, however, a user already owns a PAC Mate and wishes to add this functionality to it, the FaceToFace PC Communicator package can be obtained from Freedom Scientific for $495.
The Deaf-Blind Communicator (DBC) is a package built by HumanWare intended to offer a simple solution to the need for portable face-to-face communications. It consists of two pieces of hardware: an older Windows Mobile 6 cell phone with a full QWERTY keyboard and a BrailleNote mPower. These two devices are set up to communicate with one another over Bluetooth. When the phone is first turned on, it immediately boots into the communications software and offers a greeting message that explains that the owner of the system is deaf-blind. It then asks the recipient to take the cell phone and use it to communicate with him or her. The deaf-blind user reads messages on the mPower's Braille display and can reply to the sighted user by typing on the notetaker's keyboard (both Perkins and QWERTY are available), while the sighted participant uses the screen and keyboard of the cell phone to read and write messages to the deaf-blind person.
Either the notetaker can be left in Deaf-blind Communicator mode, which offers only the basic deaf-blind communication tools of the face-to-face application (SMS and TTY) functionality, or it can be set to a more advanced user mode, which allows the user to take advantage of the full range of software available to users of the BrailleNote, such as basic Internet browsing, email, notetaking, book reading, and personal management functions. This allows it to be very simple or more robust depending on the needs of the user.
Once again the DBC is unfortunately based heavily on outdated technology. With the exception of the DBC, a user can no longer purchase a BrailleNote mPower from HumanWare, and Windows Mobile 6 has not been relevant or widely available for several years. Since this system offers a truly portable design and a simple setup compared with many of the other tools on this list, it would be an excellent choice for users if the technology were not already so outdated. As time goes on, these devices will become harder and harder to maintain, repair, or replace, so those buying one now would be doing themselves a great disservice. This is expensive technology, and, if it cannot be expected to work and be maintained for at least the next several years, it is not a good solution. For more information or to purchase the Deaf-Blind Communicator, contact HumanWare. A system with eighteen Braille cells retails for $6,379, and one with thirty-two cells of Braille is $8,239.
HIMS, like HumanWare and Freedom Scientific, has also begun to offer its deaf-blind communications solutions. They are based upon the Braille Sense line of notetakers. However, unlike its competition, HIMS has chosen to offer the basic notetaker with a couple of relatively inexpensive add-ons and no specialty software.
The Braille Sense U2 and U2 Mini are the most recent Braille notetakers to come out of HIMS and are equipped with all of the software that a user would come to expect from a recent notetaker, but they also have some unique features that make them compelling options for deaf-blind users. First, each of these devices is equipped with a vibration motor in order to provide tactile feedback, which can replace system sounds for all important notifications on the device. Second, the Braille Sense with a thirty-two-cell display and Perkins-style keyboard includes a small, one-line LCD, which can be flipped to face away from the user, thus allowing a sighted user to view what is being written on the notetaker. The other devices in the line, as well as this device, can also be connected to a small USB-powered LCD visual display in order to offer the same functionality. Thus, with the addition of a Bluetooth or USB QWERTY keyboard, two users—one deaf-blind and reading the Braille display, the other sighted and using the LCD, or blind and using audio, or sighted and deaf—can take turns typing back and forth in the word processor of the Braille Sense in order to conduct face-to-face communication.
Like every other solution in this article, this solution has advantages and disadvantages. The greatest advantage is portability. The entire system consists of one Braille notetaker, a small QWERTY keyboard (which can be purchased from HIMS or other retailers as suits the individual), and a visual display that is about the size of a Snicker's candy bar. Reliability and relative ease of setup are also major advantages, since users are able to connect everything with wires if they so choose. Avoiding the fight with Bluetooth connectivity may suit some users very well and can speed initial setup of the conversation.
Unfortunately the very small screen of the notetaker and the close proximity of the built-in LCD screen on the Perkins style U2 can make reading the conversation less comfortable for the sighted participant. The fact that both users are navigating and manipulating the same document to review and read new content may also pose challenges until they get used to one another and find a method for sharing the visuals (in this case this includes Braille) since each will see only a single line of text at any given time.
All in all, this is a fairly simple solution to the problem of face-to-face communications and may suit some users very well. If it sounds like a good option, a user can contact HIMS Inc. to discuss different packages. Prices are as follows: 32-cell Braille Sense U2 with Perkins Keyboard, including a USB keyboard: $5,685; including a Bluetooth keyboard: $5,740; 32-cell Braille Sense U2 with QWERTY keyboard, including a USB LCD display and USB keyboard: $5,789; with Bluetooth keyboard: $5,844; 18-cell Braille Sense U2 Mini, including a USB LCD display and Bluetooth keyboard: $4,244. The LCD screen can be purchased by itself for users who already own a compatible HIMS notetaker for $99.
Apple's iOS devices are extremely powerful tools for users who are blind and deaf-blind. With VoiceOver screen-access software, Zoom magnifier, and support for Bluetooth Braille displays built into the platform, it has been widely adopted in education, professional, and personal environments. Due to the flexibility of the operating system, the size and portability of the devices, and the robust accessibility features, many apps in countless categories have been made accessible to deaf-blind users, including a number for both long distance and face-to-face communications.
On iOS, like the PC, many users will find benefit in a number of mainstream tools for communicating over long distances. These include texting applications, email, instant messaging software, and video-conferencing tools like FaceTime and Skype. Deaf-blind users also have a few unique options for face-to-face communications. Furthermore, outside the realm of interpersonal communications, deaf-blind users will also find many accessible apps for reading books, keeping up on news, social networking, entertainment, health, and productivity.
iOS is available on iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, and each of these may have advantages for certain users. Deaf-blind users with some usable vision may find that the larger screen of the iPad allows them to accomplish more visually than the smaller screens of the iPhone and iPod Touch. The iPod Touch is less expensive than other devices and may be a good choice for a device that is being shared regularly with strangers; and the iPhone, beyond telephone services, also offers GPS, mobile data, and vibration.
These advantages having been stated, it is important also to consider some of the disadvantages in using iOS as the user's primary platform for face-to-face and other communications, not necessarily to dissuade the user from iOS, but simply to ensure that he or she is aware of what to expect when using the device.
Trouble with Braille displays with iOS devices can pose significant frustration for deaf-blind communications. Because a user needs to use Bluetooth to connect the device, he or she may require assistance to pair or reconnect the Braille display with the iOS device initially. If a user cannot hear VoiceOver, there is no way to complete this task independently or repair a connection if something goes wrong. Second, typing Braille in iOS is subject to some challenging quirks. To illustrate: if a user is not a fast Braillist and has contractions turned on, he may find that iOS will automatically translate the word he is writing, whether or not it is complete. If the word to be written is "frustrate" and it takes some time for the deaf-blind person to enter the letter “u” following the “r”, the word will appear as “friendustrating.” Furthermore, if he attempts to fix a typo and does not place a letter sign in front of the character he adds to the end of a word, that character will be translated as though it was typed by itself. So, if a user types "hikd," erases the d, and forgets to enter a letter sign prior to typing an e to make the word "hike," he will find that the word is translated in iOS as "hikevery."
Another concern for users of iOS devices as face-to-face tools is that i-devices are quite small, mobile, and expensive. Unfortunately, iPads and iPhones are quite popular with thieves, and the deaf-blind user may be understandably disinclined to hand an expensive device to a stranger. This can be partially mitigated by using a case which keeps the iOS device on a retractable leash or tether. An example of one such product is the T-Reign ProLink Smartphone case, available on Amazon. This is not an endorsement of the specific case, but merely a suggestion to mitigate some of the concern of using an iOS device for face-to-face communications. Unfortunately, a foolproof method for protecting one's device does not exist, and this suggestion is simply one solution to such conundrums.
A third disadvantage to using an iOS device as a communications tool is that it may be more involved than a user needs or desires. For some users iOS may be overwhelmingly complex, and, although many users with practice come to appreciate the flexibility that is possible using these systems, it is important to point out that it will not be the right solution for everyone. Despite these concerns and those inherent in the options listed below, many deaf-blind users will find an iOS device an excellent tool for communications as well as access to information and other services.
Many users may find that all they need for impromptu face-to-face communications is their iOS device and a paired Bluetooth Braille display. The basic setup involves deaf-blind users' ensuring that the print keyboard is available on screen (or pairing a Bluetooth keyboard) at the same time that their Braille device is paired, opening a file in an application like Notes or another suitable writing program, typing a welcome message to the person they wish to communicate with, and handing that person the iOS device.
The primary advantage to this option is that, after a user has done some initial setup on the device, it is quite simple to implement and requires no training or purchases beyond the iOS device and Braille display that the deaf-blind person already owns. It is extremely portable and fairly easy to set up on the go. Furthermore, it can be used to facilitate communications with either blind or sighted people with little if any change to the setup. Finally, the user has a full record of the conversation saved in the device after its completion.
Unfortunately some limitations to this approach must be considered above and beyond those inherent in using the iOS platform for face-to-face communications. First, users may have difficulty explaining to the people they are communicating with how to type on an iOS device which has VoiceOver enabled. Because VoiceOver changes the way that gestures are interpreted, a sighted user who is unfamiliar may be unsure about how to proceed when using the phone while VoiceOver is enabled. One method that partially mitigates this concern came about with the advent of iOS 7. Initially a user could set the keyboard to a mode called "Touch Typing," which would allow a user to place a finger on the screen, and, when he or she lifted, it, the letter would be typed. The problem was that, until iOS 7, "Touch Typing" had a noticeable delay, which would cause quickly typed keystrokes to be rejected by the device. Although other parts of the phone will still be difficult to navigate for those unfamiliar with VoiceOver, the sighted person reading the display will now find it much easier to type on the screen. A second option which may suit some users is to offer the person they wish to communicate with a Bluetooth keyboard. This means the user has to carry one more piece of technology and ensure that it is ready to use, but it also makes many of the people the user wishes to communicate with more comfortable, especially if they are not tech savvy or if the conversation is expected to be long.
If a user chooses to build his or her own solution in this way, he or she may find some other tools beneficial. For instance, one can use iOS's built-in text shortcuts to create one’s own macros and preset commonly used phrases. To do this, the user can go to Settings, General, Keyboard, Add New Shortcut and follow the prompts to add the text he wishes to use, as well as the shortcut for implementing it. Second, some users have reported that the "Notes" app provided by Apple can become sluggish when used for longer conversations and recommend experimenting with other applications to find one that works better for lengthier documents. One that has been positively reviewed is AFB's AccessNote, which can be purchased for $19.99 in the app store and offers extra keyboard and Braille display shortcuts to improve note taking for blind iOS users.
HIMS Chat is a face-to-face communications solution offered by HIMS. It can be downloaded free in the iOS app store and is intended to be used with the HIMS Braille Sense or Braille Edge. Despite the fact that it is intended to work with the HIMS devices, it will also work with any other Braille display that the user owns.
HIMS Chat's main menu consists of several buttons: New Conversation, Greeting, Macros, Saved Chats, and Documentation. In Greeting, a user can set the message he or she wishes to use to open a conversation with the sighted user. It defaults to a basic message which explains that the user is deaf-blind and can communicate using the iOS device. The Macros tab also allows users to create a number of preset messages. Conversations can be saved, and the app seems like it would be a fairly good solution.
Unfortunately the HIMS app has one major flaw; it simply does not work reliably. In testing the app, we found that it would often lose focus and would leave the user somewhere other than the editing area. This meant that it was not always possible for the user texting with a Braille display to get a message typed. Macros also did not appear to work when tested. At times the Braille display would not match what was being spoken by VoiceOver, and it simply did not work as intended. Most frustratingly, the bones of a good face-to-face application are there, with support for lots of macros, an optional conversation history, easy-to-start operation, and a fairly straightforward interface. If HIMS were to iron out the bugs in the application, it would be an excellent tool, but, as it stands now, it's not worth the download.
The HumanWare Communicator is a face-to-face solution sold by HumanWare. Like HIMS Chat, it offers a programmable greeting and macros. When a deaf-blind user wishes to start a conversation, he or she can activate the New Conversation button. Once this is activated, the user feels the phone vibrate. At the same time it will be producing an audible ringing noise to attract the attention of the person to whom the deaf-blind user is handing the device. Once that person has touched a finger to the Okay button on the bottom of the screen, the communications window pops up. The deaf-blind user can then enter the message he or she wishes to communicate, using the Braille display, and the sighted user will see it appear on screen. Once the deaf-blind user has asked his or her question, the sighted user will be instructed to place a finger inside the text box to begin typing a reply. The keyboard will come up on-screen, and the sighted user is then able to type normally. Conversations can be saved for later perusal, and the app includes decent documentation.
HumanWare Communicator is relatively simple to set up; it offers large, eye-grabbing text for the opening message and tactile and audible indications that the deaf-blind user is attempting to begin a conversation. It has full support for up to one hundred macros (designated "me-00" through "me-99"). As such, it is a relatively powerful solution, with some nice features, which will be of benefit to many users.
It does have a few drawbacks to be aware of, however. First, although VoiceOver can read the characters on the on-screen keyboard, it is clearly meant to be used by a sighted correspondent, and using the application with a blind user who is sharing VoiceOver causes the app to misbehave rather badly, including missing input, unintentionally moving focus for the deaf-blind user, and toggling the on-screen keyboard unexpectedly.
Second, a bug introduced in iOS 7 causes the on-screen keyboard to pop up regularly when a blind user is using a Braille display. Since the keyboard covers the text area the blind user is typing in, one may find that he or she is not always able to read the text he or she is inputting or may find that the focus has shifted to the keyboard instead of moving to the Send button when attempting to navigate to it. This bug has been dealt with in iOS 7.1 and 7.1.1, but, for users who have not yet updated, it may be a concern.
The HumanWare Communicator can be purchased as a standalone app in the Apple app store or can be bundled with a package containing either a BrailleNote Apex or a Brailliant BI Braille display and an iPhone 5 or iPod Touch. Prices are as follows: HumanWare Communicator App only: $99; BrailleNote Apex (32 Braille Cells) Communicator package with an iPhone 5: $6,395; with an iPod Touch: $5,995; BrailleNote Apex (18 Braille Cells) with iPhone 5: $4,795; with iPod Touch: $4,395; Brailliant (40 Braille Cells) with iPhone 5: $3,895; with iPod Touch: $3,495; Brailliant (32 Braille Cells) with iPhone 5: $3,495; with iPod Touch: $3,095.
Android is a particularly difficult platform to discuss, because no deaf-blind communication solutions at present are marketed specifically for it. Furthermore, BrailleBack, the Android Braille driver, is badly hampered and not robust enough to be used by people who would rely on it solely or primarily for interacting with the device. For the majority of deaf-blind users (at least those reliant on Braille), it is wisest to steer far clear of Android at this time. That said, there are some things about Android that might make it an appropriate option to consider for users with very specific needs.
Some deaf-blind people with enough vision to navigate a smartphone and few to no Braille skills might prefer an Android phone due to their ability to choose high-contrast or larger print launchers and make other customizations that are not possible on iOS devices. One such launcher is the "BIG Launcher," available for $10 from the Google Play Store. For more information on BIG Launcher, visit <http://biglauncher.com/>.
Looking again at the customization of Android as its primary advantage over iOS, a deaf-blind user might find that Mobile Accessibility from Code Factory on an Android device is a simpler solution than dealing with the full interface of either stock Android or iOS devices. With quite decent Braille support in its own apps, Mobile Accessibility might be a smartphone solution that would be less intimidating for users who are fluent in Braille, but not as technically fluent. Mobile Accessibility contains phone, SMS, "Where Am I," simple GPS information, web browsing, email, calendar, alarms, settings, and access to other applications installed on the device. Mobile Accessibility's Braille support is fairly easy to use and very consistent, however, it does not work outside the suite of bundled applications, so a deaf-blind user considering this solution is essentially restricted to these applications only.
Mobile Accessibility is sold by Code Factory and can be purchased from the Google Play store for $99. Some carriers subsidize the price of this application, so it is worth the user checking to see if their carrier is one that does. For more information on Mobile Accessibility visit <http://www.codefactory.es/en/products.asp?id=415>.
The National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program is a pilot created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in order to meet the requirements of the Twenty-First Century Video and Communications Accessibility Act by ensuring that deaf-blind people have access to the Internet and other communications technology. The program provides up to $10 million a year to provide low-income deaf-blind people with access to hardware, software, and training solutions to ensure their ability to communicate. Many of the devices in this article, as well as others that may be of use, will be available to participants in the program. The pilot will be run through 2015, at which point a more permanent solution is expected to be implemented. The NDBP is managed by different entities in each state. More information, including the names of agencies managing the program, can be found at <www.iCanConnect.org>.
The solutions for deaf-blind communications in this article offer a number of different approaches to the fundamental question of deaf-blind communication. Which is right will need to be determined by each user. It is expected that a mixture of different solutions will best meet most users' needs. For many tasks a simple communication card might work; for others something more freeform, like many of the computer, iOS, and notetaker-based face-to-face packages, will suit, and for some the best solution may be working with an SSP. As with most alternative techniques, some experimentation on the part of the user will be the best way to determine a solution or set of solutions that will work.
Please feel free to contact the Access Technology Team of the National Federation of the Blind using the Technology Answer Line (410) 659-9314, extension 5, or email us at <firstname.lastname@example.org> if you have any further questions about the technologies discussed in this article or any other access technology solution for the blind.
CODE FACTORY, S.L.; C/ Major, 19, 2-3, 08221-Terrassa (Barcelona), Spain; Email: <email@example.com>; Website: <http://www.codefactory.es>
Freedom Scientific, Blind/Low Vision Group; 11800 31st Court North, St. Petersburg, FL 33716-1805; Phone: (727) 803-8000; Toll-Free (800) 444-4443; Fax: (727) 803-8001; Tech support for all products: (727) 803-8600; Email: use Web form; Website: <http://www.freedomscientific.com>
HIMS, Inc.; 4616 W. Howard Lane, Suite 960, Austin, TX 78728; Toll-Free Phone: (888) 520-4467; Technical Support: (512) 837-2000; Fax: (512) 837-2000; Email: <firstname.lastname@example.org>; email@example.com; Website: <http://www.hims-inc.com>
Interpretype; 3301 Brighton-Henrietta Town Line Road, Suite 200, Rochester, New York 14623; Toll-Free: (877) 345-3182; Phone: (585) 272-1155; Fax/TTY: (585) 272-1434; Email: <info@Interpretype.com>; Website: <www.interpretype.com>
National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program; Phone (800) 825-4595; TTY (888) 320-2656; Email: use Web form; Website: <www.iCanConnect.org>
by Richie Flores
From the Editor: Richie Flores has served as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Austin, Texas, has coordinated youth programming, and has played beep baseball with the Austin Blackhawks for quite some time to raise awareness of the blind in his community. Here is what he has to share about a recent international awareness mission sponsored by the National Beep Baseball Association:
I have dedicated most of my life to educating my world regarding the capabilities of the blind. I also play beep baseball. This summer I got to do both when the Austin Blackhawks, the most celebrated beep baseball team in America, were invited to play a game in front of thousands in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Vladimir Guerrero, Albert Pujos, and Pedro Martinez began their careers on the same Quisqueya Stadium ball field, where we took part in one of the most empowering steps toward first-class citizenship for the disabled. The team's interactions with political leaders and the mass media, coupled with amazing international sportsmanship, redefined "blind" that day for a Caribbean nation.
How did beep baseball come to the Dominican? It's a terrible story with a hopeful ending. It starts with a horrific carjacking that blinded a young engineer named Francina Hungria. That tragedy led to the creation of La Fundacion de Francina Hungria. Ms. Hungria's survival brought about a revival—a true desire in her country for better understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities. The fundamental mission of La Fundación Francina Hungría is to take part in projects that demonstrate the potential of blind people. With the support of the vice president, Margarita Cedeño de Fernández, Ms. Hungria hosted the Austin Blackhawks for five days of national awareness and education.
Not only did we Blackhawks tap our canes upon the historical floor of the Presidential Palace in Santo Domingo, but we got to have a face-to-face meeting with the vice president, who confided in us that she produced Braille business cards during her election campaign. She believes in literacy, and she believes in blind people. That faith was apparent in the treatment the Blackhawks received. All five days we rode in a bus chartered by the vice president's transportation staff, expertly maneuvered by soon-to-be team favorite Miguel (the most incredible driver in Santo Domingo). Each morning we dodged in and out of the chaotic traffic of the city to arrive at various newspapers to support Ms. Hungria's mission to tell the world about what blind people can do, what we think, and what we want.
One such newspaper, El Día, led an interactive interview with our team in which the topic discussed was our vocations. In true blindness public relations fashion, we proudly announced our individual careers. We are business owners, state employees, warehouse workers, accountants, counselors, students, and proud parents—the Austin Blackhawks have it all. Seven of the nine legally blind players who attended this awareness mission trip are employed. The other two are current college students, one of whom recently earned his associate’s degree in physical education; the other is certified in crossfit training and can almost certainly outlift most who are reading this article.
One of the most memorable moments for me was on the television show Divertido con Jochy. This was a nationwide variety television show similar to our own Michael and Kelly (with a Jimmy Fallon edginess). We were dancing for disability awareness alongside La Fundacion de Francina Hungria. Thousands saw the show, which translates to "Fun with Jochy." Through these fun activities we made an impact.
Then it was time for the game. Los Hurricanes Del Caribe (Caribbean Hurricanes) are the new beep baseball team in Santo Domingo, and much of our media tour was spent publicizing the Clásico Beep Béisbol. The gentlemen on the Dominican team were excited to learn from us of the security, equality, and opportunity that can be possible for their country's blind citizens. Together with Francina, they are encouraged to open minds on disability. In the Clásico Beep Béisbol over four thousand watched as the Blackhawks and the Hurricanes demonstrated beep baseball. Faith Penn—a close personal friend and a female ballplayer—actually smashed a beep ball pitched by Cy Young-winning pitcher Pedro Martinez. Beep baseball's own Hall of Fame pitcher, Kevin Sibson, pitched to a blindfolded, hard-hitting outfielder named Moises Alou.
This event was bigger than a game; it was a rally for empowerment. Thousands cheered the players and learned about their potential. If you can play baseball blind, they realized, then you can hold down a job under the same circumstances.
I had tears of joy as both teams shook hands, slapped backs, and hugged each other in joint respect for moving forward toward acceptance and inclusion in front of thousands of our sighted peers. Together, Francina Hungria's nonprofit, the Austin Blackhawks, beep baseball, and the organized blind movement made a difference one groundball and one life at a time.
One of the great satisfactions in life is having the opportunity to assist others. Consider making a gift to the National Federation of the Blind to continue turning our dreams into reality. A gift to the NFB is not merely a donation to an organization; it provides resources that will directly ensure a brighter future for all blind people.
The National Federation of the Blind has special giving opportunities that will benefit the giver as well as the NFB. Of course the largest benefit to the donor is the satisfaction of knowing that the gift is leaving a legacy of opportunity. However, gifts may be structured to provide more:
NFB programs are dynamic:
Your gift makes you a partner in the NFB dream. For further information or assistance, contact the NFB planned giving officer.
by Eve L. Hill
From the Editor: Eve Hill is well known to those who attend the convention or read accounts of it in this magazine. She has worked for the law firm of Brown, Goldstein and Levy, as the director of the Office for Disability Rights for the District of Columbia, as the senior vice president for the Burton Blatt Institute, and now for the United States Department of Justice. One of the reasons she is a regular fixture on our convention agenda is that she always has something of interest to say. Here is what she said on the morning of July 6, 2014:
I'm so happy to be here, back at the National Federation of the Blind. Thank you for having me. It's a little intimidating seeing you all out here, but I'm going to try and be calm.
On February 12, 2014, President Obama issued Executive Order 13658, establishing a minimum wage for contractors. The executive order generally raises the minimum for certain federal service contractors and subcontractors to $10.10 an hour beginning January 1, 2015. The purpose of the executive order was to increase the morale of employees and in turn increase their productivity and efficiency. And whose pay and morale are most likely to be increased by this? People who are blind and have other disabilities, because their pay is now lower than anyone else's.
So what does the executive order mean to people with disabilities? The executive order specifically says that covered federal contractors who have special minimum wage certificates under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act must comply with the executive order. Now, as you all know, Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act allows employers to pay wages below the prevailing wage and below the minimum wage to workers with disabilities. Section 14(c) can be used by federal contractor employers and nonfederal contractor employers. Many of the employers who take advantage of Section 14(c) are segregated sheltered workshops, and 20 percent of them are federal contractors who participate in the AbilityOne program, which gives them a contracting preference if their worker population is 75 percent people with disabilities. So, not only are they relatively segregated, but they also get the benefit of paying below minimum wage. And once an AbilityOne employer is approved and its services are placed on the procurement list, that contract is often renewed automatically.
The executive order does not change the Fair Labor Standards Act itself, because that would require legislation, so these AbilityOne employers can still pay workers with disabilities a percentage of the prevailing wage, which is usually for service contracts set by the Service Contracts Act and the Department of Labor. They're mostly higher than the federal minimum wage and often already higher than $10.10, but, because of the interplay of 14(c), those contractors have, until now, been able to pay below $10.10 and even below the minimum wage. But under the executive order, employers under new covered-service contracts, including AbilityOne employers, must pay their workers, including workers with disabilities, at least $10.10—$10.10 becomes the floor.
About fifty thousand people with disabilities under AbilityOne contracts currently make below the minimum wage. Most of those, however, work on product contracts, which aren't covered by the executive order. So, according to the Office of Management and Budget, the vast majority of people with disabilities working on service contracts already make $10.10 an hour. But, if it applied to current contracts now, the executive order would apply to thousands of people with disabilities who are currently working on AbilityOne service contracts and currently making less than $10.10 an hour, and even less than minimum wage.
The executive order applies only to service contracts by executive agencies, not independent agencies, but it strongly encourages independent agencies to comply as well, and it applies only to new contracts. It doesn't apply to contracts being applied outside the US, and it doesn't apply to federal grants.
So what's happening now? The executive order requires the Department of Labor to issue regulations by October of this year. On June 17 the Department of Labor published a notice of proposed rulemaking to implement the executive order. Comments from all of you—all of you and the rest of the public—are due by July 17. I can't say much about the rulemaking because it's not my rulemaking and because the process has started, so I'm not allowed to give a lot of information beyond what's in the notice of proposed rulemaking. I understand that Pat Shiu spoke about this from the Department of Labor already. I'm a little afraid that because of that limitation my presentation may be a little boring. So, if I start to get interesting, you'll know I've gone off script.
The NPRM would define a new contract covered by the executive order as one that results from a solicitation issued after January 1, 2015, or a contract that is awarded outside the solicitation process on or after January 5, 2015. This includes new contracts and replacements for expiring contracts, and under the NPRM the executive order would not apply to automatic renewals of contracts that were issued before January 2015.
What Dr. Maurer really asked me to talk about was how this fit and how this represents an evolution in federal policy. Both Section 14(c) and the AbilityOne program came from statute originally enacted in 1938. How many of us were around in 1938? Well, you may recall that the statutes were well before the enactment of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. They were before reasonable accommodations were required of public and private employers. They were before Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act required affirmative action by federal contractors to hire and retain people with disabilities. They were before the development and widespread implementation of supported employment services and supports. At the time of those statutes, people with disabilities were largely presumed unable to work in integrated competitive employment. At that time people with disabilities were assumed to have access to charity and public benefits sufficient to meet their needs, so why did they need wages? All I clearly disagree with.
But much of that has changed. The ADA now prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants on the basis of their disability and requires them to provide reasonable accommodations. Section 503 now requires affirmative action to hire and retain people with disabilities. Supported employment services have been recognized in the Developmental Disability Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 1984 and are now widely available. People with disabilities have consistently demonstrated that they—we—are capable of working in integrated, competitive employment.
People with disabilities are unwilling to rely on charity and public benefits, but insist on making a real living and contributing to their families and communities. So the executive order is recognizing that people with disabilities work hard and that they need and deserve the same living wage as people without disabilities. [Applause] As I often say, we are not leprechauns; we do not have a pot of gold. If you can't live on less than $10.10 an hour, neither can we.
People with disabilities, like other employees, will improve their morale, their efficiency, and their productivity when they are paid fairly. The executive order is consistent with and builds on other federal policies that recognize that people with disabilities are capable of competitive integrated employment and are entitled to be free of discrimination, to be accommodated, and to be fairly paid for their work.
This is not the beginning of this federal recognition—it's been coming. In 2001 the Federal Rehabilitation Services Administration program eliminated permanent placement in sheltered workshops (or so-called extended employment in the agency's lingo) from the agency's list of services it will fund. The Rehabilitation Services Administration remains committed to supported employment in competitive integrated settings as an effective service for clients of state VR programs. The agency's regulations define supported employment for people with disabilities to mean competitive employment in integrated settings or employment in integrated work settings in which individuals are working toward competitive employment, consistent with their strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice. Similarly, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, referred to as CMS, which oversees the Medicaid program providing long-term services and supports, has embraced supported employment services and declared that prevocational services provided in sheltered workshop settings should be time-limited and designed to lead to integrated employment. They cannot be services without placement. Their informational bulletin in 2001 said that "Medicaid community services funding is not available for the provision of vocational services delivered in facility-based or sheltered workshop settings where individuals are supervised for the primary purpose of producing goods or performing services. Those services should be designed to create a path for integrated community employment where the individual is compensated at or above the minimum wage, and no less than a customary wage or benefits shall be paid for similar work by individuals without disabilities."
The Department of Education has also recognized the importance of supplementary aids and services, including supported employment, as part of in-school transition services for youth, to enable students to work in integrated settings both while they're in school and after they are out of school, and it defines transition services to include supported employment. Even Congress is getting on the bandwagon and is considering restricting eligibility for subminimum wage work through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
I'm sure that Dr. Maurer thought, when he asked me to speak about the subminimum wage, that would stop me from talking about all the great things DOJ is doing, but ha—it will not! This work also has a significant overlap with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division's efforts in implementing the ADA's integration mandate, the Olmsted Mandate as we call it in the employment arena. Because many of the entities that employ people below minimum wage under 14(c) are segregated sheltered workshops. Olmsted requires that state services be provided in the most integrated setting appropriate for the individual, and that includes not just residential services, not just healthcare services, but employment services as well. So we recently reached a statewide settlement with Rhode Island to transform its day services program from one that relied primarily on segregated subminimum wage sheltered workshops and segregated day programs to one that relies on integrated competitive supported employment and integrated day services. We are also in litigation on the same issues in Oregon.
Now we have the additional benefit of Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. So we've been talking about the push, where we push people to provide the services people with disabilities need. Now we're on the pull side, where we want employers pulling to hire people with disabilities. Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act has new regulations that require federal contractors to implement affirmative action programs to get over past discrimination, to hire people with disabilities, including a utilization goal in all job classifications to have 7 percent of their employees be people with disabilities. These regulations also require data collection so contractors can keep track of how well they are doing. We all know that what gets counted gets done.
I'm personally involved in three interagency groups that are working on increasing the integrated competitive employment of people with disabilities and particularly people with significant disabilities, who should not be left out of this. Like the executive order itself, these changes in federal policy are not just about justice—wouldn't it be nice if that was all that we needed. They are about the bottom line for business and for the country and for people with disabilities, and we're already seeing results on the business's bottom lines. Employers are looking for people with disabilities. Employers who have already been committed to inclusion are benefiting.
At a summit I was at just a week and a half ago on the employment of people with disabilities in Rhode Island, large, medium, and small businesses all made it clear that they believed their employees with disabilities contributed positively to their workplaces, not just through their productivity and doing a good job, but also through their reliability, their positive morale (many of these employers became a no whining zone), and even their accommodations, which often made the workplace more safe and efficient for everybody. As a result, from employers large, small, and medium, we heard over and over again their commitment to the same jobs, the same standards, at the same pay for their employees with disabilities. Even businesses are starting to notice that they've been contracting with sheltered workshops to do some of their work—sometimes as what they thought of as a good thing—their diversity in contracting programs. Then they shockingly found that those workshops were paying below the minimum wage to people with disabilities who can work and should be paid. So some of them are now considering demanding that all of their contractors and subcontractors pay at least the minimum wage. [Applause] Some are now hiring out of the workshops that they used to contract with and are choosing to do the jobs in-house at regular wages.
From a societal standpoint federal policy focusing on competitive integrated employment is also paying off. Studies keep showing that supported employment services offer a great return on investment. Supported employment services return an average of $1.46 for every dollar in taxpayer investment. People with learning disabilities return as much as $2.20 for every dollar. That is a fantastic return on investment; think about what it would be like if you invested in the stock market at that rate. And that's not counting the benefit to the workers with disabilities themselves, who make a great deal more money in competitive integrated employment than in sheltered workshops. That's buying power that they and their families can use to buy products and services from companies that hire people with disabilities.
But that benefit is more than money. Even though money is important—I like it—I have met several people in Rhode Island who used to work in sheltered workshops during the course of the last year and who now work in competitive integrated jobs. I've seen them each several times over the past year, and every time I've seen them, they've changed. One man, Stephen, who worked for about $2 an hour for thirty years, now works for minimum wage in an office and is taking computer classes. Just as important, he has come out of his shell and is a passionate, funny speaker, talking about employment of people with disabilities. And Pedro, who went straight from a school-based sheltered workshop—who knew this was still happening—to an adult sheltered workshop and earned $0.48 an hour. Now he works at a restaurant kitchen and was recently chosen as employee of the month. He doesn't use a job coach anymore. In fact he teaches his former job coaches how to teach others. Lewis used to make below minimum wage in the workshop. Now he works full-time in an office for more than minimum wage. He is a whiz at Excel, he drives to work every day (having gotten his license), he wears a necktie (which he hates), and he has decorated his office with Red Sox paraphernalia—he's a big fan, and I'm a Mainer [from Maine], so I'm with him—sorry Broncos and Seahawks. Different sport, but, seriously, all Boston. And when the Red Sox won the World Series, he bought his father and his uncle (also avid fans) championship t-shirts with his own money.
Since Peter left the workshop, he has a full-time job doing janitorial work—not a group of people with disabilities doing janitorial work after the office has closed—he does it as part of a group of people without disabilities. He makes above minimum wage and works full-time. He bought a car, took driving lessons, got his first parking ticket the last time I saw him (which he can pay), and has gotten engaged.
And then there is Orquedio, who goes by Q for obvious reasons. He made $2.85 an hour in the workshop. Now he works in an auto garage. His work and his accommodations showed his boss how to make the garage more efficient for everybody who works there. He takes two busses to work every day, he is always the first to arrive, and he arrives in snowstorms when nobody else makes it in. I saw him a week or so ago at the summit I was talking about, and when we first saw him in the workshop, he was very shy and didn't want to talk to us. Then the next time I saw him, when he was working in the garage, he would say a little bit to me, a couple sentences about rotating tires on a car—I have always wanted to know how to do that. Last week at the summit he spoke on a panel in front of two hundred and fifty people, and I swear he's gotten taller.
Why—with all of this good news on how much this benefits society, how much it benefits the employers, how much it benefits the people with disabilities—why are over 200,000 people with disabilities still in sheltered workshops and 200,000 more in the segregated day programs, not working at all? Why are people with disabilities still making less than minimum wage? You don't know either?
Why do we as a community still tolerate segregation and poverty based on disability—just on disability? You don't know the answer to that one? Why are the unemployment rates still so high for people with disabilities, three times as high as for people without disabilities, two times as high even if you're a college graduate? Are we less competent? [Convention answers no] Are we less confident? [No] Do we have low expectations for ourselves? [No] Are we afraid of hard work? [No] But do we have low expectations of employers, businesses—I'm afraid we may. Do we have low expectations of government? [Yes] Do we have low expectations of service providers? [Yes] That may be. But we are at a tipping point. We can accept the argument that we'll be the last ones hired as the economy continues to recover. We can accept that we'll be paid less because we are lucky to be working at all. We can accept charity and poverty because they are safe. Or we can stand up and insist on high expectations for ourselves, for our employers, for the businesses we buy from, and from our government. And they will respond! Thank you all very much.
by Michael Curran
From the Editor: Nonvisual Desktop Access (NVDA) is a popular screen-reading program available to the blind without charge but with the request that we donate to its continued development. The NFB has assisted in its funding, but even a little from each user will help substantially in the ongoing development and maintenance of the product.
Attempts to lower the cost of screen-reading solutions are not new, but few of them have been as popular as this program, and the developers are committed to see that their work continues to make NVDA a robust product and to investigate other areas in which expansion will help in our access. Here is what Michael Curran said on the morning of July 6 at the 2014 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind:
Thank you, everybody, thank you for having me. The NVDA screen-reading software is changing the lives of blind and vision-impaired people across the globe by providing them a free alternative to commercial screen readers that may be either too expensive or not available in their location or language. It is enabling these people independently to use computers to produce written content; read news; socialize; shop and bank online; and, most important, participate actively in education and employment. It is developed by users, for users. It is used by both the young and old; it's used at home, at school, at university, at the workplace, and on the go. It supports over forty languages, and it can be run portably without the need to install it. NVDA is open source software. We have received contributions of code documentation and translations from over 140 people across the world. NVDA is downloaded roughly 60,000 times per release, with over 17,000 users depending on the product every day, spanning over 160 countries. Since NVDA is free for anyone, the greatest impact is for people living in developing countries, where it is often impossible to access a commercial screen-reader. However, even in the developed world, NVDA is having a significant impact. The second-highest country for NVDA use is the United States, suggesting that even here there are people for whom NVDA is a necessity due to the prohibitive cost of other products.
Over the past several years we have continued to strive to ensure that NVDA is a fully featured solution, not only for those who have no other option, but also for those who simply like choice. For anyone who hasn't looked at NVDA in the last two years or so, some of the major changes and improvements have been a repackaged download allowing you to install or create a portable copy (all from one file); automatic updates, ensuring that you have the latest and greatest NVDA when it becomes available; support for NVDA add-ons, allowing you to add optional features created by others in the community; support for Asian character input and improved support for reading right-to-left languages such as Arabic; support for Microsoft PowerPoint, allowing you both to read and to edit PowerPoint presentations (special thanks go to the NFB and several other blindness agencies for contributing financially to this project); Microsoft Word enhancements, including support for form fields and revisions and comments; and a configurations profile manager, allowing you to create and switch between multiple configurations for different applications or situations. Other developments have included support for touchscreens on Windows 8; computer Braille input; support for many more Braille displays; customization of keyboard, Braille display, and touch commands; enhancements and fixes to webpage and PDF content; stability fixes; and much more.
As a small taste of what's coming for the next release of NVDA, some enhancements you can look forward to, particularly with Microsoft Office are support for the Outlook Calendar; less verbose reading in the Outlook inbox and other message lists; commands to read the current comment in Microsoft Word and Excel; Microsoft-Word-specific enhancements, including reporting of paragraph indenting, distance from the left edge when pressing tab, feedback in speech and Braille for most formatting shortcut keys (bold, italic, underline, etc.); automatic column- and row-header reading for tables where the author has specified headers compatible with JAWS; improved automatic column- and row-header reading in Excel, including setting headings for multiple regions, and per worksheet storage, again compatible with JAWS. Some other features that should be available in the not-too-distant future are improved support for rich-text editing in web browsers, further enhancing the accessibility of products such as GoogleDocs, Office 365, and other content editors; and access to complex math equations in web browsers and Microsoft Office via Design Sciences MathPlath Alpha, allowing for meaningful navigation within equations, with feedback in both speech and Braille.
In conversations almost ten years ago my close friend James Tay and I talked about the possibility of a fully featured screen reader for Windows. Due to the high cost of commercial products, there was unfortunately a fair amount of illegal use of the existing commercial products. Given the importance of access to computers, it was difficult for many to resist doing this. However, both of us realized that, in addition to the obvious legal and ethical reasons against software piracy, this approach simply ignores the underlying problem of screen reader cost and availability. Blind people, regardless of their economic status, should not have to break the law just to be able to use computers and gain independence. [Applause]
The idea of a free screen reader was not new. There were several free screen readers for Lenox, and Apple at that time was introducing VoiceOver for the Mac. There were even some free options for Windows, but at that time they were mostly limited or abandoned. Another group had a similar idea to ours, but their project never seemed to get off the ground.
In April of 2006, while just out of university and also out of a job, I decided to start working on the NVDA screen-reader software. I certainly wasn't the best programmer around, but previous life experience and participation in Blind Citizens Australia taught me that, if you want or need something, someone has got to start it sometime. Although perhaps a little skeptical about the chance of success at first, James Tay joined me on the project in July of that year, and together we have worked as the lead developers on the project for the last eight years. There were many reasons why we developed NVDA as a free and open source project. The first was because this enforced the ideal that it should always be freely available to anyone who needs it. Second, based on our previous experience with open source software, we knew that a project of this size and complexity could really benefit from input and contributions from the community. Finally, we believed that for too long screen reading techniques had been locked up in the proprietary world. Each time a new screen reader project was started, programmers had to reinvent the wheel. There was no reference, no baseline from which to start, and NVDA would be a chance to open this up and allow the blind and visually impaired community to learn and access from code knowledge and techniques that help them access computers each and every day. [Applause]
Although we understood well the issues around screen reader costs for ourselves and for others in situations similar to our own, we did not appreciate at first just how much more of an impact NVDA would make on the blind in developing or non-English-speaking countries. In these countries commercial screen readers can be up to four times the price that we are used to, and sometimes the commercial screen readers are outdated or just not available in that language. This further spurred our efforts and led to a framework for translating NVDA into any language by anyone so that everyone, regardless of language, can benefit from access to computers.
We realized it was now imperative that we put in place an infrastructure to ensure NVDA's long-term continuation. In 2007 James Tay, several other blind people, and I founded NV Access, an Australian-based nonprofit organization, to develop and promote NVDA. NV Access raises funds through grants, donations, contracts, and potentially other avenues in the future. Among other things NV Access employs us to work full-time on the project, provides the technical infrastructure for the website and other online services, and allows us to offer related services such as support and consulting. NVDA is now a world-renowned screen reader used by tens of thousands, but its impact reaches far beyond the direct benefits to its users. It has helped to change the landscape of an industry where fully featured free or low-cost products were previously considered an unrealistic dream. It has provided greater competition in the assistive technology space, thus driving continued development and innovation. Both NVDA and NV Access have played a continuing part in pushing the accessibility industry forward, especially in the area of web accessibility. Because NVDA is free and unrestricted, more developers are able to test with a screen reader when implementing accessibility into their products, lowering even more barriers to accessibility. All of this ensures the importance and relevance of our work now and into the future, even despite the emergence of other free options such as Window-Eyes for users of Microsoft Office.
Today NV Access still continues actively to develop NVDA. With the rapid pace of technology developments we must continually update NVDA to ensure compatibility with the latest versions of Windows or other popular third-party applications. Aside from NVDA development we are also focusing on several other areas in order to increase awareness and uptake for those who truly need it. In order to achieve our mission, NV Access needs to grow as a business and be sustainable into the future. Also we need to grow the ecosystem of the products and services around NVDA. Thanks to a grant from the Nippon Foundation, we have recently hired a general manager, who is focusing specifically on these issues.
The lack of official training material and technical support is something that many people have identified as a barrier to NVDA uptake. We recognize the importance of this and are working towards a solution. The hope is first to have a set of official text-based training materials in the not-too-distant future with the aim of also putting into place a certification system around this training to ensure quality from those offering training in their local communities. Ensuring the existence of training will allow the NVDA user to work more effectively with the product, get beginning users up to speed faster, and also quash a fair bit of ignorance around NVDA's current capabilities. We are also seeking to partner with various blindness agencies, rehabilitation organizations, and companies, including organizations here in the US, who could offer end-user technical support to NVDA users in their own communities and around the world. We already have a corporate support model in place which allows these organizations to receive second-level technical support, training, or custom development from NV Access for a monthly fee.
Another major barrier to uptake is of course the speech. NVDA comes with the eSpeak speech synthesizer built in. It's extremely responsive and can speak in many languages. I myself use eSpeak all the time, and many others also do, especially in developing countries where other synthesizers are not available. However, we are very much aware of the reluctance of those who hesitate to use eSpeak apparently due to its robotic or metallic nature. Perhaps the most popular speech synthesizer among screen reader users is ETI Eloquence from Nuance. IBM also incorporated the same engine in their IBM text-to-speech product. Unfortunately we have been unable to license this for NVDA, despite several attempts to negotiate with both Nuance and IBM. Furthermore, both products are considered end-of-life. Nuance continues to wholesale Eloquence but does not really provide support or updates, while IBM text-to-speech can no longer be purchased at all. Perhaps more unfortunately we are aware of a significant number of users who choose to use the synthesizers illegally. NV Access certainly does not condone this process. One potential solution we are pursuing is attempting to restart research into formant synthesis by developing a prototype flat synthesizer. If successful, it could be a replacement for those who cannot adapt to eSpeak but have been comfortable with the sound of eloquence and DECtalk. Like NVDA it is being developed as open source software, ensuring that others can contribute and that the future of the product is not dependent on just one company. The prototype synthesizer is already available in English and can be found on our extra voices webpage under the name of NV Speech Player.
The aim of NV Access has always been to lower the economic and social barriers associated with accessing information technology for people who are blind or vision impaired. The company is thus dedicated to the ideal that accessibility and equitable access are a right and should be available to all no matter their language, location, or economic status. NV Access upholds this ideal through its continual commitment to keep NVDA freely available to all blind and visually impaired people who need it; however, in order to achieve this ideal, the blindness community must work together. We welcome open and candid discussion with all in the blindness community, including the NFB, on ways we can ensure NVDA's continuation. There are still many blind people in the US and elsewhere who don't have access to computers or the Internet for lack of screen readers. In the twenty-first century for some this means the inability to participate equally in education, the inability to get a job, or the inability simply to socialize. We believe that everybody, blind or not, has a duty and a right to contribute to society in some way. We implore organizations such as the NFB to ensure that all blind people have the necessary tools to do so. Let us also make sure that at least some of these tools are owned and controlled by the blindness community.
Access to technology is essential, and we as blind people must play a significant part in shaping the future of that access. I'd like to thank our current primary sponsors, who include Adobe, the Nippon Foundation, and Google. I also want to acknowledge past support from Microsoft, and especially past support from Mozilla, with whom we share many values. Finally I'd like to think the NFB for the opportunity to speak today and for your support of the NVDA project. You can find out more about NDDA or NV Access or download a copy of NVDA from <www.NVAccess.org>. Thank you.
by Dan Parker
From the Editor: Those who attend concerts know that the way one makes an entrance is important in setting the stage for the show. Not since former President Maurer entered the hall driving a small crane has the convention of the National Federation of the Blind witnessed the spectacle of the kind that started the Sunday morning session of the 2014 Convention as Dan Parker entered the hall on his motorcycle, reached the stage, and turned off his machine after two short revs of the engine. Here is what he said to the convention:
Good morning, Federationists. I hope the smell of a little racing gas is okay this early in the morning. My name is Dan Parker, I'm from Salem, Alabama, and I'm honored to be here to share my life story.
I look at my life in the same way that I look at chapters in a book. Chapter one was before blindness, and chapter two is after blindness. In chapter one I was born in Columbus, Georgia, raised by a racecar driver, and my father (who is seventy-one) still races today. In my adult years I studied machine work, welding, fabrication, and built race cars and motorcycles all across the United States and as far away as the country of Qatar. In 2005 I was the ADRL Pro Nitrous Champion, reaching top speeds of 224 miles an hour in the quarter mile.
On March 31, 2012, I started chapter two. It was like any other day I'd been through a thousand times before. My team and I went to Steele, Alabama, to test a brand-new racing engine that was 864 cubic inches plus four stages of nitrous oxide. On the third pass the car made a horrible right turn. It cut the car completely in half—from the dash forward there was nothing—No motor, no transmission, no steering wheel, nothing. Two weeks later I woke from an induced coma at the University of Alabama, and my family and girlfriend realized that I was totally blind. It took months of physical therapy, rehab, and numerous surgeries for me to get to a point in my life where I could think about trying to get out of the house, much less race again. During one of those sleepless nights a dream came to me, and that dream was that I would not let blindness define me and stop my racing.
I had always known about the famed Bonneville Salt Flats, which are in Wendover, Utah, 120 miles west of Salt Lake City, where men have been setting land speed records since the 1930s. Cars have traveled at speeds over 650 mph, and motorcycles have been over 300. This was my new goal in life: to become the first blind man to race the Bonneville Salt Flats. [Applause]
I had a goal, but I didn't have a path to get there. I had to figure this out. Through some research I was lucky enough to learn about the Blind Driver Challenge, Mark Riccobono, and the programs of the NFB. When I first called the NFB, I thought they might think I was crazy, but I got Joanne Wilson on the phone, shared my story with her, and she got me in touch with Mark Riccobono. I went to the NFB, met with Mark Riccobono, Dr. Maurer, and we decided this was an achievable goal. In ten short months we embarked on an aggressive mission to build the first motorcycle to race the Bonneville Salt Flats by a blind man.
We started the project, and, as with many aggressive projects, friends and family asked me if I was crazy and was trying to get myself killed. I explained to them, "This ain't about dying; this is about living." I had a lot of volunteers come to the house, and I'm proud to say that I fabricated and designed about 50 or 60 percent of the motorcycle myself. I still run my milling machine, my lathe, and all my bending equipment. I built my jigs on the frame machine and did everything to build this motorcycle. For those who can't see it, the motorcycle is a red three-wheel bike, two wheels on the back, a real aerodynamic body, with a 70 cc engine and a five-speed transmission. Realistically it has a top speed of about 85 mph.
A few weeks before the Salt Flats in August, we got the motorcycle together, and it was crunch time—it was time to test. My engineer, Patrick Johnson, who built the guidance system along with me and the team, met at an airport in North Alabama to test. The first day we had some problems, but we came back, regrouped, redesigned the guidance system, and, with one week to go, we tested successfully at the airport. I was successful on the very first pass and did so 100 percent independently. [Applause]
When we got to Bonneville, Mark Riccobono was there with us, and we had to demonstrate our capabilities and to prove to racing officials that blindness was not the obstacle that was going to stop us. The race officials were absolutely impressed with our entire team, our organization, how we went about it, the guidance system—everything—and they granted us permission to race the Salt Flats. On the morning of August 26, 2013, we embarked on a mission that was successful. At eleven o'clock in the morning we made a pass down the Salt. The Salt is ten miles wide by twenty miles long, so you have two miles to accelerate on the short course, one mile to drive at average speed. I started off at mile marker one, accelerated at mile marker two, and between mile marker two and three I did not vary four feet from center with the audible cues that my guidance system gave me. I averaged 55.331 mph, setting a record for the fastest blind man on the Salt Flats, along with being the first blind man on the Salt Flats.
That night at dinner Mark Riccobono, Bill Clap, my team—everybody was celebrating, and we said to ourselves "This morning on the way to the Salt, we were saying that we could; tonight we're saying that we did!"
In the next few months my life had slowed down a lot, and I had to reflect on what the next chapter was going to be. I was reading a book by racing legend Smokey Yunick. Smokey, in his later days, was a little depressed about the way his life had went—was wanting to give up—and his wife brought him home a picture frame with a message in it: "A man without a problem to solve is out of the game." I think Smokey's wife put it in a picture frame because she knows us men: if she didn't nail it to the wall, we'd forget about it. But, if you think about that message, a problem to solve is a challenge, and if you're out of the game, you're on the sidelines of life.My current challenge is that I am now at the Louisiana Center for the Blind receiving proper training—that's right, LCB. That quote stands true for all of us. We all have a problem to solve to better ourselves every day, to reach out to other blind people, and to prove to ourselves and to prove to society that infinite possibilities are only defined by ourselves, not others. So when we leave here tomorrow and everybody starts heading home, I wish you all would take that one quote with you: "A man without a problem to solve is out of the game," and everybody here, we're going to stay in the game. Thank you very much.
by Rosemary Mahoney
Reviewed by Barbara Pierce
Little Brown and Company
New York Boston London, Copyright 2014
From the Editor: Barbara Pierce needs little introduction to readers of the Braille Monitor. Her service as its editor means that her influence on what we have published about blindness and the organized blind movement is unparalleled. Here is a book review she has recently written, one so compelling that I read the book before we could publish Barbara’s observations. Here is what she says:
Reading this book is a little like accidentally overhearing someone talking about one. The old saw has it that you never hear any good about yourself. That was certainly my experience of this book.
Rosemary Mahoney had a brief brush with blindness after an injury in college which affected her profoundly. She says that it was like being trapped in a coffin, a fate worse than death. Why she was attracted to write about blindness is not at all clear to me. It must be like the attraction one's tongue feels exploring a sore tooth.
Four or five years ago she accepted an assignment to write a magazine article about Braille without Borders, the school for the blind in Lhasa, Tibet, founded by Sabriye Tenberken, the blind German woman who with her sighted Dutch partner, Paul Kronenberger, founded the school. In 2014 she arranged to teach English to blind students in a school for the blind in Trivandrum, Kerala, in south India, another school established by Tenberken and Kronenberger. In this book she talks at length about her stay at Braille without Borders and her experience teaching in India.
She is explicit about wanting to learn everything she can about how blind people think and talk and carry out the functions of daily life. In addition she manages to work in bits of the history of the blind and to explore the problems of regaining sight after years of blindness.
I suppose that there is nothing wrong with such goals, and she seems to me to have done a pretty good job of reading and summarizing the literature about the contemporary understanding of the visual cortex and how it gets reassigned in blind people. This is the reason people have a difficult or impossible time making visual sense of the world when they regain sight.
The distressing part of the book for me was her fixation on what blind eyes look like. Sabriya Tenberken, whom the author very much admires, has beautiful blue eyes that look directly at the person with whom she is conversing. Sabriya also moves swiftly and unerringly through downtown Lhasa, never bringing her cane in contact with any obstacle. The other blind people are not so lucky in Mahoney's handling. In her descriptions their eyes twitch, are white or grey, or show other signs of their dysfunction. She describes in detail the various glasses that people wear. It never occurred to me that people might be taking painful note of my eyes. She made me wonder how distasteful people find my gaze. It is hard to find the words to describe how disconcerting all these descriptions were. So much of the book was devoted to these descriptions: I believe that every blind person discussed in the book is subjected to a minute description of his or her eyes.
Perhaps to compensate for all this implied criticism of her blind students, she cites examples of superhuman feats of blind people's sense of smell or listening. Sometimes these are plausible. One student recognized her in the computer room because her typing on a keyboard was faster than anyone else's. That seems reasonable, as does the students' recognizing her footsteps by their speed and absence of cane tapping. But smelling a glass of beer in a large room filled with people seems implausible.
Mahoney includes a number of what must be transcriptions of students telling their stories. These are quite moving and capture the range of backgrounds of the students in the Indian school. Clearly the author comes to love and respect the people with whom she is working, but one is left with the impression that she continues to feel superior to them—there but for the grace of God go I.
Mahoney's boyfriend, who suffers the same dismay when confronting blindness as Mahoney does, visits her at the close of the book. He is appalled at the distance she has traveled in accepting blindness and blind people. But the reader is still convinced that she wants no part of experiencing blindness firsthand.
The book is gripping and a quick read. Mahoney is an interesting writer. But when all is said and done, much of my fascination with it was like probing a canker sore. In short, reading the book was painful and disconcerting.
by Doris M. Willoughby
From the Editor: Doris Willoughby has had a distinguished career as a teacher of the blind and as an author of books about how to teach the blind. In June she wrote an article expressing concern about problems in accessing the GED for those wishing to take this high school equivalency test. This is what she has learned in the interim:
Following up on a Monitor Miniature in June, I continue to seek information about the new GED test and accessibility. I do not yet know of a blind person who has actually taken the test since the changes occurred in January 2014. However, here are some pieces of information I have gathered:
In researching these matters, it is difficult to find a live person to talk with. Generally it appears that one should look online. However, the websites quickly ask for the name of the applicant; if the researcher is a teacher or other person, it may be difficult to proceed.
For these and other reasons some applicants may want to look into alternative paths to high school equivalency. Some school districts and other educational entities offer an adult high school. A particularly viable alternative is the Hadley School for the Blind, a free correspondence school, which is a source of many educational opportunities. After my previous Miniature was published, I was delighted to hear from Karen Woodfork at Hadley. She called me and introduced herself as the coordinator for high school diplomas. She explained that Hadley offers many alternatives leading to a diploma. A student may take all his/her courses from Hadley or arrange a combination with the local school district. Ms. Woodfork and others can be contacted at: <firstname.lastname@example.org> or by telephone at (800) 526-9909.I will continue to collect information and would be pleased to hear from others with suggestions on this important issue. I can be contacted using email by writing to Doris M. Willoughby at <Dmwauthor@forethought.net>, or by telephone at (303) 424-7373.
This month's recipes come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon.
Moscow Mule Punch
by Tamera Snelling
Tamera Snelling is a licensed massage therapist, practicing in Oregon and Arizona. She is a musician and an avid gardener. She won a National NFB scholarship in 1999. Tamera is an active member of the Rose City Chapter.
1 bunch fresh mint
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
24 ounces vodka, apple flavored
24 ounces ginger beer
1 cup lime juice
Method: Combine the water, sugar, and mint in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Let stand one hour. Remove the mint leaves and pour the syrup into a punch bowl or pitcher. Stir in remaining ingredients and chill. Serve over ice and garnish with sliced lime, mint leaves, and sliced ginger root. Serves eight to ten.
Tamera Snelling says: "Every summer when the mint begins to smell wonderful, I look for recipes that use it. With a patio party coming up, I tried this one. It was a hit."
by Carla McQuillan
Carla McQuillan is the president of the NFB of Oregon and was formerly a national board member. She is the executive director of Children's Choice Montessori Schools in Oregon and serves as the director of child care services during the national convention.
She says about this recipe: "This marinade is great for grilling fish, beef, lamb, chicken, or vegetables."
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 to 6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon dry oregano or 1/2 cup fresh- oregano chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
Method: Combine all ingredients. Marinate meat for at least one hour, or overnight. Grill on the outdoor or indoor grill. Vegetables can be brushed with the marinade right before grilling.
by Carla McQuillan
Quiche is an easy, healthy, and inexpensive way to use leftovers, or start from scratch.
1 single pie crust
6 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup filling (see filling suggestions below)
1 cup shredded cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Method: Warm milk in a saucepan but do not scald. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano to taste. Slowly incorporate the milk into the eggs, whisking as you do so. Spread filling and cheese evenly over the bottom of the unbaked pie crust. Pour the milk and egg mixture evenly over filling. Bake at 375 degrees for thirty to forty-five minutes, or until the center is set. Slice into six pieces. You can serve it hot or at room temperature.
Filling can be meat, vegetables, or a combination of both. I even used leftover Chinese food once. Here are some classic quiche fillings: bacon, sausage, seafood, chicken, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, and potatoes, but almost anything will work.
Double Chocolate Bundt Cake
by Carla McQuillan
1 package dark chocolate cake mix
1 small package instant chocolate pudding
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
4 eggs, beaten
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Method: Thoroughly combine the wet ingredients. Stir in the cake mix and pudding until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips. The batter will be thick. Grease or coat with cooking spray a bundt or angel food cake pan. Spread the batter evenly around the pan. Bake at 300 degrees for one hour. The cake should be rounded in the middle, and a toothpick should come out clean when inserted.
This cake is excellent served with vanilla ice cream and a fresh raspberry sauce.
Mediterranean Olive Bread
by Carla McQuillan
2 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 envelope dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
Scant cup warm water
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus more for brushing
1 cup pitted black and green olives, coarsely chopped
Method: Combine yeast, water, and olive oil. Stir to dissolve yeast. In a large bowl combine the flours and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour. Add the water and blend to make a soft dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface for about ten minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap—cooking spray works well for this. Let rise in a warm place for one hour.
Turn out onto a floured surface and punch down and flatten. Sprinkle on the olives and fold and knead to distribute the olives. Let rest for five minutes, then shape into an oval loaf. Place on a greased baking sheet. Make 6 deep cuts in the loaf. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise again for thirty to forty-five minutes, or until doubled in size. Brush with olive oil and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool.
Note: This bread is good with a dipping sauce of olive oil, salt, crushed garlic, and balsamic vinegar.
Diabetic-Friendly Oatmeal Cookies
by Robert Jaquiss
Robert Jaquiss has been an active member of the Federation since 1990. He currently serves as the secretary of the Oregon affiliate and the secretary-treasurer of the At Large Chapter. Robert has his own business, Tactile Graphic Solutions LLC. On occasion, Robert will be found in the kitchen whipping up a batch of cookies or making some other diabetic friendly item. Robert reports that these cookies, because of the use of raw sugar and whole wheat flour, do not cause trouble with his blood sugar.
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup Sucanat
1 cup Sucanat with honey
2 large or 3 small eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups oats
Method: In a large bowl cream butter, Sucanat, and Sucanat with honey. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Sucanat is much coarser than sugar, so make sure it is mixed well. I melt the butter in a microwave for one minute. This makes the mixing easier. In a separate bowl combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter-egg mixture. Stir in rolled oats and mix well. Scoop onto baking tray and bake for twelve minutes at 350 degrees. Yields: two dozen cookies.
Notes: When using raisins, I let them soak several hours before using them. Adding soaked raisins makes the dough sticky. A cup of shredded coconut is also a tasty addition. The dough is very stiff, so use a heavy duty mixer. It does not spread much on a cookie sheet, so 1/2 inch is a good thickness. Optionally, 1-1/2 cups of raisins, semisweet chocolate chips, chopped nuts, or a combination may be added.
On Tuesday, July 22, 2014, the San Diego chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California was born. The elected officers are president, Lisa Irving; vice president, Kyle Woodard; secretary, Allison Depner; treasurer, Debbie Ciampoli; and board member, Joseph Burton.
The annual convention of the NFB of North Dakota was conducted on September 13. The board of directors elected was as follows: president, Amber Kraft; vice president and treasurer, Milton Ota; secretary, Caroline Congdon; and board members, Candace Rivinius and Duane Iverson.
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.
National Association of Blind Merchants Announces Lone Star BLAST 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Association of Blind Merchants
Phone: (866) 543-6808, extension 10
The National Association of Blind Merchants (NABM) announced today that the President of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), Mark Riccobono, will provide the opening address at Business, Leadership and Superior Training (BLAST). NFB President Riccobono will bring his insight, humor, and inspiration to conference attendees at the leadership breakfast Wednesday morning, November 19. NABM, a division of the NFB, encourages you to place your hotel reservations and register now for the powerful BLAST training conference in November 2014. Lone Star BLAST 2014 will be held at the Austin Renaissance Hotel from November 18 to 20.
This year’s BLAST has expanded its scope. There is great excitement building around the Blind Entrepreneurs Succeed Today (BEST) mentoring program for blind clients of vocational rehabilitation who may be considering or embarking on a career of entrepreneurship, either within Randolph-Sheppard or other forms of self-employment. Many state agencies are providing stipends for clients to attend the BEST track at BLAST. Interested consumers and rehab counselors should get in touch with our office for details.
Nicky Gacos, president of the National Association of Blind Merchants, said: “In coordination with Business Enterprises of Texas and the elected committee, we are planning 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 stage 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 NCSAB 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. Thursday evening, BLAST will conclude with an all-star Lone Star BLAST banquet and celebration featuring guest speaker/performer, blind American Idol finalist Scott MacIntyre.
Room reservations at the luxurious Austin Renaissance are available now at the unbelievable rate of $129.00 per night plus applicable taxes. There are a limited number of executive suites available on a first-come, first-serve basis at $149.00 per night. Rooms are available from Sunday, November 16, through Saturday, November 22, 2014. Reservations should be made online at <www.blindmerchants.org>, or by phone at (800) 468-3571. Explain to the agent that you are registering for Lone Star BLAST under the National Association of Blind Merchants group. You must mention Lone Star BLAST to get the discounted rate. The Austin Renaissance is located at 9721 Arboretum Boulevard, Austin, TX 78759.
This year BLAST registration will be $200.00. Remember that the BLAST registration fee covers BLAST activities, excluding out-of-hotel tours or events that may be offered. Your registration fee covers training, training materials, welcoming reception, leadership breakfast, trade show and trade show reception, evening banquet, and a “lunch and learn,” featuring an address from Dr. Marc Maurer, Immediate Past President, National Federation of the Blind, on Thursday, November 20. Register now at <www.blindmerchants.org>. 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!”
Think training! Think opportunity! Think Austin, Texas!
We Need Your Help:
The American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults has back issues of books from the Free Braille Books Program that it would like to get into the hands of children who would love to have them. These books have been returned to us but are in excellent condition. All of the books are in contracted Braille, and they are at two reading levels. The first level is for children in grades kindergarten through second grade. The second level is for children in grades three through six.
If you would like to have some of these books sent to you from the Free Braille Books Program, please send an email to <email@example.com> or <firstname.lastname@example.org>. To sign up for the new books in the current year, please visit <https://www.actionfund.org/free-braille-books>. You may also call (410) 659-9314, extension 2287. All blind youth, blind parents, teachers of the blind, schools, and libraries serving the blind are eligible to participate in this program.
Cherokee Braille Code Developed:
A Cherokee Braille code has been developed by Tamara Kearney of the Commonwealth Braille & Talking Book Cooperative. This code permits the reading and writing of the Cherokee syllabary in Braille for the first time. The Cherokee Braille code permits the "blind as well as the sighted to be able to read and write in their native language," Ms. Kearney said.
"It’s exciting that our Cherokee citizens who are visually impaired can now read stories in their first language," said Roy Boney, language program manager. "We provided copies of our Cherokee syllabary, sample text, and other items to make Braille in Cherokee a reality. We want to stay in the forefront by offering the Cherokee language on as many written tools as possible to preserve and protect our native tongue." The full description and use of the code can be found at: <http://www.cbtbc.org/cherokee> or <http://www.cbtbc.org/ᏣᎳᎩ>.
The Cherokee syllabary stands as one of the major advancements in literacy among the native peoples of North America. It was invented by Sequoyah (c. 1770-1843) between the late 1810s and early 1820s. The creation of the syllabary is noteworthy in that Sequoyah could not previously read or write in any script. It remains today the only example of a modern writing system developed independent of a previous background in an existing writing system. The Cherokee Braille code was developed by Tamara Kearney, who is also the developer of the Inuktitut Braille code used by the First Nations people of Canada's far north.
Cherokee Braille is supported in version 2 of Braille2000, a commercial Braille production system offered by Computer Application Specialties Company of Lincoln, Nebraska. This computer program permits the publication of Cherokee Braille from existing and future Cherokee texts. In addition translation tables have been developed for the open source Liblouis computer Braille translation system. It is hoped that other Braille translation systems will also include Cherokee as an option.
For more information write Commonwealth Braille & Talking Book Cooperative, 605 Robson Street, Suite 850, Vancouver BC V6B 5J3, Canada, or email <email@example.com>.
2015 Writing Contest Theme Announced:
“75 in 75” is catching on everywhere within the Federation family. We all want to live the life we want, to build the Federation, and to take our part in the cause. Some of us are getting pretty creative as to how we do this. The Writer’s Division has found its own way to honor the anniversary of the National Federation of the Blind. The yearly writer’s contest is making a major change, at least for 2015, so start getting those fingers limbered up and those creative juices flowing. Details will come later in the year, but prepare yourself now for what is to come.
Are you ready for this? The yearly writing contest will, for the first time ever, have a required theme. All submissions will need to somehow incorporate the theme of seventy-five in the piece. It does not necessarily have to be about the anniversary of NFB. It could just be the number; or perhaps the diamond anniversary, seventy-five steps to your destination; or even seventy-five balloons. Thinking of past entries, I might even add that seventy-five aliens would work. Seriously, let your imagination take over. Write the piece you want. Just remember to include the theme of seventy-five, and remember that this is inspired by the seventy-five years of the great work that has been happening within and because of the National Federation of the Blind.
Ski for Light to Celebrate Its Fortieth Anniversary in Colorado; Applications Being Accepted:
Ski for Light (SFL) will return to one of its favorite venues to celebrate its fortieth year in 2015. The SFL International week will be held in Granby, Colorado, from Sunday, January 25, through Sunday, February 1, 2015. Join over two hundred active blind and sighted adults from across the US and around the world who pair up for what many have called the experience of a lifetime.
We will stay at the Inn at Silver Creek and ski at nearby Snow Mountain Ranch. We have returned again and again because the combination of great skiing and the comfortable event hotel is hard to beat. The Inn at Silver Creek offers more than two hundred rooms, an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, both indoor and outdoor hot-tubs, and plenty of convention and meeting space. Snow Mountain Ranch, near Winter Park and part of the YMCA of the Rockies, has 100 kilometers of wonderfully groomed trails. It is consistently rated one of the top Nordic venues in the country.
Ski for Light Inc. is an all-volunteer nonprofit that teaches the basics of classic cross-country skiing to adults who are visually- or mobility-impaired, while giving participants who have already learned the basics of the sport the chance to improve their skills or to just have fun skiing with a trained guide. The total cost of the week per person is $850 for triple-occupancy, $900 for double-occupancy, or $1,225 for single-occupancy. This includes room and all meals for the entire week, round-trip transportation between the Denver airport and the Inn at Silver Creek, all trail fees, and all afternoon and evening activities. Skis, boots, and poles will be provided free of charge to first-time blind or visually-impaired participants. Partial stipends based on financial need are available for guides and first-time and second-time participants.
Apply early for our exciting fortieth anniversary event. Applications are due by November 1, 2014. Those who apply after November 1 will be accepted only if space permits, with priority given to first-time applicants. For more information and to submit your application, please visit the fully accessible website at <www.sfl.org>.
If you do not have web access or need more information, please contact the chairman of the Visually Impaired Recruitment Committee, Bob Hartt, Alexandria, Virginia, by phone at (703) 845-3436, or by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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.
Brooks Technology Talking Infrared Thermometer Now Available:
The Brooks Technology model IRT-1 Talking Infrared Thermometer is a new and unique device designed for use by the blind. Because it uses infrared technology the user can measure temperatures of many different objects without contact and from a safe distance. The user can now do things with much more confidence. It's essential when cooking to make sure oil and food temperatures are in a safe range, something you can only guess at without this device. Do you have a flat cooktop stove? How do you know the pan is centered over the burner or even where the burner is located? Many folks will use their hands to feel the heat from the burner, which may be adequate for some, but people with diabetes and peripheral neuropathy cannot feel heat and risk serious injury in attempting to do so. The IRT-1 has a scan mode to safely do this for you! Simply hold the SCAN button while moving the thermometer a safe distance above the cooktop, a beeping tone will vary from slow to fast as you zero in on the source of the heat. The fastest beeping is the location of the burner. So, what are people using the device for? Here's a quick list: cooking oil in the pan, locating burners, refrigerator and freezer temperatures, air conditioning vents, heating vents, outdoor grills, bath water, coffee, tea, soups, stews, and bread rising in the oven. There is even a blind auto mechanic that uses his to check engine temperatures. Your imagination is the limit!
Braille Micrometers for Sale:
I have a set of Braille micrometers for which I no longer have a need. There are four in the set: sizes 0 to 1 inch, 1 to 2 inches, 2 to 3 inches, and 3 to 4 inches, and they are zeroed in.
I would like to find a new home for them. They are valued at $800. I will take $400 or best offer. If interested, please call Al Hicks at (801) 595-8078.
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.