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Braille Monitor

Vol. 57, No. 11                              December 2014

Gary Wunder, Editor

Distributed by email, in inkprint, in Braille, and on USB flash drive (see below) by

The National Federation of the Blind

Mark Riccobono, President

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        ISSN 0006-8829


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Contents

Vol. 57, No. 11                                                    December 2014

 

Illustration: Training the Trainers: The NFB Jernigan Institute Sets the Standard

Convention Bulletin 2015

An Apology to Our Readers and an Author

A New Obstacle for Students with Disabilities
by Kyle Shachmut

Should TEACH Act Language Appear in the Higher
Education Act? NCDAE AND WebAIM Weigh In           
by Cyndi Rowland

Mark Riccobono: Educator, Leader, and Visionary

A New Era in Mobile Reading Begins: Introducing the KNFB Reader for iOS
by James Gashel

2015 Washington Seminar: What’s New in the Rooms and Reserving Yours
by Diane McGeorge

Ode to the Code: How One Student Came to Love Braille
by Kaitlin Shelton

The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards
by James Gashel

The Police Chief of Albuquerque Met the Blind of New Mexico
by Peggy Chong

Social Security, SSI, and Medicare Facts for 2015
by Lauren McLarney

The Tactile Fluency Revolution: Year Two
by Al Maneki

The 2015 Blind Educator of the Year Award
by Edward Bell

Can You Hear Me Now?
by Darlene Laibl-Crowe

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award for 2015
by Cathy Jackson

Recipes

Monitor Miniatures

Copyright 2014 by the National Federation of the Blind

Training the Trainers: The NFB Jernigan Institute Sets the Standard

On October 15, 2014, the NFB Jernigan Institute’s Access Technology Team sponsored a two-and-a-half day seminar to train the trainers. Presenters included representatives from Google, Microsoft, and other top-flight technology developers. Participants who wished to enhance their training skills came from rehabilitation agencies, K-12 schools, and colleges and universities. Some were new to technology for the blind, while others were technology experts. All participants received hands-on training, thanks to equipment available through the International Braille and Technology Center and with the generous support of the technology companies whose products were featured in the training sessions.

Convention Bulletin 2015
Rosen Centre Hotel

It is time to begin planning for the 2015 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. We are returning to Orlando for our third stay at the beautiful Rosen Centre Hotel this year, July 5 through 10. Once again our hotel rates are the envy of all. For the 2015 convention they are singles and doubles, $82; and for triples and quads, $89. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which currently is 13.5 percent. No charge will be made for children under seventeen in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested. Please note that the hotel is a no-smoking facility.

For 2015 convention room reservations you should write directly to the Rosen Centre Hotel, 9840 International Drive, Orlando, Florida 32819. You can call the hotel at (800) 204-7234 after January 1. At the time you make a reservation, a $95 deposit is required for each room reserved. If you use a credit card, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $95 check. If a reservation is cancelled before Monday, June 1, 2015, half of the deposit will be returned. Otherwise refunds will not be made.

Guest room amenities include cable television, in-room safe, coffeemaker, mini-fridge, and hairdryer. Internet access is available in each guest room, and currently it is offered without charge. Guests can also enjoy a swimming pool, fitness center, and on-site spa. The Rosen Centre Hotel offers fine dining at the award-winning Everglades Restaurant. In addition, we will have an array of dining options from sushi and tapas to pool-side dining to a 24-hour deli. See later issues of the Monitor for details and information about other attractions in the Greater Orlando area.

The 2015 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be a truly exciting and memorable event, with an unparalleled program and rededication to the goals and work of our movement. Make plans now to be a part of it. Preconvention seminars for parents of blind children and other groups and set-up of the exhibit hall will take place on Sunday, July 5. Adjournment will be Friday, July 10, following the banquet. Convention registration and registration packet pick-up for those who preregistered will begin on Monday, July 6, and both Monday and Tuesday will be filled with meetings of divisions and committees, including the Tuesday morning annual meeting, open to all, of the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind.

General convention sessions will begin on Wednesday, July 8, and continue through the banquet on Friday, July 10. Saturday, July 11, will be available for tours for those who enjoy getting to know something about our convention city. To assure yourself a room in the headquarters hotel at convention rates, you must make reservations early. The hotel will be ready to take your call or deal with your written request by January 1.

Remember that as usual we need door prizes from state affiliates, local chapters, and individuals. Once again prizes should be small in size but large in value. Cash, of course, is always appropriate and welcome. As a general rule we ask that prizes of all kinds have a value of at least $25 and not include alcohol. Drawings will occur steadily throughout the convention sessions, and you can anticipate a grand prize of truly impressive proportions to be drawn at the banquet. Prizes should be sent to Peter Cerullo, First Vice President, National Federation of the Blind of Florida, 19 Tropical Drive, Ormond Beach, FL 32176. Peter can be reached on his home phone by dialing (386) 265-2527, and can be contacted using email at <[email protected]>.

The best collection of exhibits featuring new technology; meetings of our special interest groups, committees, and divisions; memorable tours suggested by the host affiliate; the most stimulating and provocative program items of any meeting of the blind in the world; the chance to renew friendships in our Federation family; and the unparalleled opportunity to be where the real action is and where decisions are being made—all of these mean you will not want to miss being a part of the 2015 national convention. We'll see you in Orlando in July.

An Apology to Our Readers and an Author

From the Editor: In the May 2011 issue we published an article entitled "Over There" and listed its author as Robert Kingett. The author was actually CathyAnne Murtha, a person known to many as the owner and operator of the Access Technology Institute and the website <www.blindtraining.com>. CathyAnne says she wrote this article while in college.

In a conversation with Robert Kingett, he admitted that the article he submitted was not his but indeed was written by Ms. Murtha. We regret the incorrect attribution of this piece and are glad to credit CathyAnne Murtha with this fine composition. Here is the article she wrote, which, unlike the plagiarized version, acknowledges the fine work of her guide dog Shadow.

Over There

by CathyAnne Murtha

As my guide dog and I stood in line at the checkout of the River City Market at CSUS, I asked the cashier what I considered a simple question: “Where are the napkins, please?”

Her response was hurried, but sincere, “Over there.”

Emerging from the light rail for the first time, I managed to catch the attention of a passer-by, “Please sir, can you tell me where I might catch bus 63?”

A kind voice offered a pleasant response before disappearing into the cacophony of the early afternoon, “You can catch it…over there.”

So many things reside over there—napkins, bus stops, pencils, pens, clothing racks, department stores, and even my shoes! A never-ending supply of important and indispensable items and locales all reside in this place that is shrouded in mystery and intrigue.

I stand in perplexed silence after learning that something is “over there.” It’s a place I have never been and have no hope of finding on my own. My guide dog is skilled at finding chairs, stairs, elevators, escalators, helping me cross streets, and can even find me the Diet Pepsi display at Food Town; however, when I tell her to find “over there” her little bottom hits the floor and a small whimper tells me that she is as confused as I. We will not be going “over there” today. “Over there” has caused me a bit of vexation, a lot of confusion, and, on occasion, made my heart race.

I have discovered that “over there” can be a dangerous place. One day, while crossing a street, I heard a driver’s irritated voice shout out a warning of a truck bearing down on me from over there. Shadow artfully dodged the oncoming vehicle and pulled me to the safety of the curb; our hearts were both racing as we took a few moments to compose ourselves. Close encounters with “over there” can be frightening experiences.

Although many blind people have wondered about the exact location of “over there,” few have dared to venture forth in an exploration of the mysterious place.

One day, while standing in line at the supermarket, I asked the clerk where I might find the aspirin. With a cheery smile in her voice, she informed me that the aspirin was located “over there.” With a weary sigh, I decided that I would take the extra step that would unravel the mystery, which had vexed my compatriots since the beginning of time. Taking a deep breath, and attempting to look nonchalant, I smiled at the clerk, “Where,” I asked, “is over there?” I imagined the girl’s shocked expression. I felt her sharing condescending and concerned looks with her fellows in the store. The silence grew palpable as they mulled the possibility of allowing a blind person access to the forbidden land.

She had no choice; she would have to tell me how to find “over there!” I had won! Exhilaration swept through me as I waited in breathless anticipation. A victorious smile crept to my lips, my hand tightened on the handle of Shadow’s harness; we would soon be going “over there!” The clerk’s voice reeked with resignation as the decision was made, “That way,” she said.

A New Obstacle for Students with Disabilities

by Kyle Shachmut

From the Editor: The following article was originally published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. It was posted online on September 12, 2014, and published in print on September 26, 2014. Its author, Kyle Shachmut, is a leader in the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts, a doctoral student in educational media and technology at Boston University, and a technology consultant for the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. He can be reached at <[email protected]>. The article served as a catalyst to dramatically raise the profile of the issue of accessibility in higher education to a large, more general audience of stakeholders across the country. It was written before and has helped to initiate the negotiations that will be required in arriving at language that will pass the Congress and become the law of the land.

The Chronicle of Higher Education is the number one source of news, information, and jobs for college and university faculty members and administrators. In print the newspaper is subscribed to by more than 64,000 academics and has a total readership of more than 315,000. Online The Chronicle is published every weekday and is the top destination for news, advice, and jobs for people in academe. The Chronicle's audited website traffic is more than 12.8 million pages a month, seen by more than 1.9 million unique visitors. In other words, this message was widely distributed and to the people who needed to hear it. Here is what Kyle said:

It is well documented that students with disabilities are facing barriers in their pursuit of higher education, and institutions are having a difficult time fulfilling their legal obligation to ensure equal access. So it was surprising last month when the American Council on Education (ACE), in a letter to Senator Tom Harkin about the proposed reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, completely dismissed a provision that would make it easier for its member institutions to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

The provision, Section 931 of the draft document, calls for guidelines to ensure that students with disabilities have access to "electronic instructional materials and related information technologies" that are "consistent with national and international standards." Colleges that do not use materials that conform to the guidelines may opt out by showing that they offer students with disabilities access to instructional and technological materials that are equivalent to those used by nondisabled students, a standard the institutions should already be meeting.

Yet, according to the American Council on Education in its letter, this provision "creates an impossible to meet standard for institutions and will result in a significant chilling effect in the usage of new technology." It would "seriously impede the development and adoption of accessible materials, harming the very students it is intended to assist."

That statement indicates either a profound lack of understanding about what the provision actually does, a total lack of awareness that the majority of their member institutions are failing to meet existing legal obligations, or an insulting lack of interest in finding a solution for students with disabilities.

Most people assume technology expands opportunities for students with disabilities. While the potential exists, it can be realized only if technology is designed and coded with equal access in mind. Despite years of public-awareness campaigns, legal challenges, and advocacy efforts, many commonly used technologies built or purchased by colleges—email systems, learning-management systems, library databases, classroom materials—actually do more to prevent students with disabilities from equal participation than paper-based systems ever did.
And partial solutions, like coding written material so a blind student can read the text cover to cover, are no longer equivalent. Being able to highlight, take notes, skip around, and integrate external content are essential functions of today’s digital instructional materials; thus, blind students are denied equal access by the very technology that could have ensured their full participation.

Federal laws mandating equal access in the classroom for students with disabilities were written long before digital technologies were integral to the educational experience, but their meaning has not changed. Four years ago the US Departments of Justice and Education clarified the expectations for institutions of higher learning by stating that requiring the use of "an emerging technology in a classroom environment when the technology is inaccessible to an entire population of individuals with disabilities—individuals with visual disabilities—is discrimination … unless those individuals are provided accommodations or modifications that permit them to receive all the educational benefits provided by the technology in an equally effective and equally integrated manner."

Since that guidance was issued, countless universities have upgraded or rebuilt core technology systems, but few have done so with consideration for this accessibility requirement. What lost opportunities! And those that attempt to wedge the paper-based accommodation model into today’s digital ecosystem are simply leaving disabled students in the dust.

Because of this growing chasm of access, legal disputes and civil-rights complaints have occurred with increasing frequency. Most of these disputes end in agreements where colleges commit to honoring their existing legal requirements to make accessible all technologies they deploy, procure, or recommend. Predictably, language from the aforementioned guidance appears in almost all of these settlements, including the most recent one between the Department of Education and the University of Montana. That agreement, in March, states that materials are considered accessible when "individuals with disabilities are able to independently acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services within the same time frame as individuals without disabilities, with substantially equivalent ease of use."

In 2008 Congress authorized the Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials to examine barriers caused by inaccessible technology and to recommend solutions. The commission’s number one recommendation was to create guidelines that would stimulate the market for accessible materials.

This noncontroversial, common-sense, and data-driven solution is the basis for a bipartisan bill pending in both the House and Senate called the TEACH (Technology Education and Accessibility in College and Higher Education) Act. The act served as the model for Senator Harkin’s provision on accessible instructional material in the Reauthorization Act—the provision that ACE rejected.

With all of these problems and all of these promises, I assumed ACE would welcome the TEACH Act or any provision that results in a similar solution. Instead, the organization says voluntary accessibility guidelines will create "an impossible to meet standard." Is ACE just confused?

The Teach Act and the proposed language to which ACE has objected merely call for voluntary guidelines for accessibility. If colleges opt in, they would ensure access via the market of accessible materials and assuage any legal concerns about complying with accessibility requirements. If they opt out, they would be free to use their own methods, but they would still be subject to the same requirement for ensuring equal access that they are today. Why would this be “impossible?” Or does ACE assert that its member institutions are resolving disputes by agreeing to legal standards that they cannot meet?

I also challenge ACE to prove its assertion that guidelines would chill the development of new technology. Have building designs ceased to evolve and architects ceased to innovate since guidelines for accessibility—think curb cuts, ramps, and elevators—were mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act almost twenty-five years ago? Of course not. Scare tactics are not a valid reason to deny inclusivity.

Finally, ACE has demonstrated little desire to engage on the issue of expanding access. It has been almost a year since the four-page TEACH Act was introduced in the House, yet this empty statement objecting to Senator Harkin’s provision is the group’s first and only public statement on accessible instructional materials.

As a blind student and professional in higher-education technology and an advocate for the disability community, I think we deserve a productive dialogue—not stall tactics and unsubstantiated claims about ensuring access for students with disabilities.

Should TEACH Act Language Appear in the Higher Education Act? NCDAE and WebAIM Weigh In

by Cyndi Rowland, Ph.D.

From the Editor: This position statement was posted in a blog on the website for the National Center on Disability and Access to Education (NCDAE) on October 15, 2014. It goes over in detail what the newest development with the TEACH Act is, the arguments both for and against it, and the reasoning behind the stance the NCDAE and WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind) are taking in the fight. For those who are not familiar with WebAIM, it is a nonprofit organization based at Utah State University that has provided accessibility solutions since 1999. The author, Cyndi Rowland, is the associate director at the CPD [Center for Persons with Disabilities]. She directs several grants that focus on the use of technology and the preparation of personnel. She is the executive director of WebAIM, which offers training, technical assistance, and services to make the web a more accessible place for individuals who have disabilities. Here is what she has to say:

Since their inception, both WebAIM [Web Accessibility in Mind] and the National Center on Disability and Access to Education have worked together with higher education on the issue of web accessibility. We believe that, while accessibility is not easy to do, it must be accomplished if individuals with disabilities are to participate fully in civil society.

Recently important conversations of digital accessibility have emerged in US higher education. They were prompted by the inclusion of language from the bipartisan Technology, Education, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education (TEACH) Act into the proposed reauthorization of the Higher Education Act; known as the Higher Education Affordability Act (HEAA), see Section 931. As a result, position statements made by the American Council on Education and EDUCAUSE, along with a legal analysis provided for six education associations against the inclusion of TEACH language into HEAA, ignited a firestorm. This debate has been seen in news articles, commentary, blogs from groups, blogs from individuals, podcasts, and alternative position statements.

Both the National Center on Disability and Access to Education (NCDAE) and WebAIM would like to share our thoughts on this complex subject. Nobody at NCDAE or WebAIM is offering a legal opinion; rather, our thoughts come from working with institutions of higher education on matters of accessibility for fifteen years.

TEACH Act, a Primer

Note: This TEACH Act should not be confused with a previous piece of legislation using the same acronym that deals with the use of copyrighted materials in distance education.

The current Technology, Education, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education (TEACH) Act had its origins in the previous Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which established the Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) Commission. The AIM Commission detailed recommendations to Congress and to the Secretary of Education in December of 2011. One such recommendation influenced the creation of the TEACH Act. This proposal was introduced to the House by Representative Tom Petri (R-Wisconsin) in November of 2013 and introduced to the Senate by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). The bill had extraordinary bipartisan support, including fifty-two cosponsors of the bill across party lines. It was referred to committee in February of 2014 and has yet to move out for a vote.

Because of the AIM Commission Recommendations, authors of the TEACH Act were able to respond to some issues plaguing accessibility in higher education. One issue is the fact that accessibility guidelines are not unified as campuses try to make content accessible (i.e., some conforming to Section 508, others to state guidelines or standards, others to differing versions of WCAG [Web Content Accessibility Guidelines], and others who blend accessibility guidelines uniquely for their campus). This creates enormous headaches for vendors and for campuses seeking conformance to their own guidelines in a purchasing context; if you cannot purchase digital materials that follow your own technical standard, it will be nearly impossible to reach your accessibility goals. Another issue is the enormous liability perceived by many in higher education for anyone who acknowledges that they need to work on digital accessibility.

The TEACH Act proposal provides a mechanism for unified accessibility guidelines to be created in harmony with national and international standards. It authorizes the Access Board to be responsible for the work to establish and keep guidelines current (i.e., initial guidelines to be completed in eighteen months, as well as reviews to be completed every three years). Those institutions that wish to embrace TEACH guidelines can do so, yet there is nothing in the Act that would compel them to do so. Since institutions are not required to conform to TEACH, they can continue to use their own set of guidelines if they wish. However, for those that choose to become a TEACH Act institution, they must implement the guidelines into every aspect of the campus digital architecture.

The voluntary nature of embracing TEACH comes from this language:

 

Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require an institution of higher education to use electronic instructional materials or related information technologies that conform to the accessibility guidelines described in section 2 if the institution of higher education provides such materials or technologies, or an accommodation or modification, that would allow covered blind individuals and covered individuals with a disability to receive the educational benefits of such materials or technologies–

(1) in an equally effective and equally integrated manner as non-disabled or non-blind students; and

(2) with substantially equivalent ease of use of such materials or technologies.

Thus, an institution has the choice to embrace TEACH Act guidelines or to continue to do that which they are doing now to assure conformance to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. One incentive for an institution to embrace the TEACH Act is the Safe-Harbor provision of the Act. It protects those institutions that embrace TEACH by considering that they in fact conform to the non-discrimination provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and also the Americans with Disabilities Act where digital access is concerned.

 

So, in summary, the TEACH Act proposes to establish clarity of guidelines, provide market-driven solutions to challenges in accessibility, provide legal protections for those institutions who embrace TEACH, all the while being entirely voluntary for the higher education community.

What’s the Controversy?

Those opposed to TEACH in HEAA generally cite at least one of five issues:

Federal Regulation

First and foremost, many in higher education shiver at the thought that increasing issues of compliance are put into reauthorizations of the Higher Education Act. Opponents to adding accessibility regulation into the HEAA indicate it is becoming a junkyard of federal oversight, where items are simply tossed in because they can be. Proponents to regulation being included for digital access indicate that this is a proper use of federal oversight. The thinking is that if those in higher education did not want to be regulated on this issue, they have had nearly twenty years to get in front of it in a way that regulation is not needed. This is especially important considering the topic; that failure to provide access to electronic materials violates protections against discrimination for persons with disabilities and is an issue of civil rights. Also, proponents of TEACH language appearing in the latest HEAA draft indicate that it would make sense that something that came from the previous reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (i.e., the work of the AIM Commission) would return to inform a subsequent reauthorization of the Act.

Demise of Technology Innovation

Opponents to the addition of TEACH language in the HEAA indicate that when an institution chooses to adopt TEACH guidelines, this will be the end of technology innovation in higher education; that is because institutional technologies would need to conform to the guidelines. One example that has been seen in posts is the use of 3-D technologies in biology textbooks. Opponents indicate that the campus would be unable to use this innovation. Proponents see it differently. While they concede that in the short term some technologies would not be used as developed, they believe innovation overall is enhanced as entrepreneurs, visionaries, and vendors solve problems. This could drive greater technology innovation than ever before. The market-driven approach to innovation could not be created whatsoever if there were not a large playing field (i.e., a large swath of higher education entities) as potential new customers for these innovations that address electronic access. Proponents cite the rich innovations that have already been developed by individuals or groups whose focus is to address accessibility. They express confidence that technology innovation will continue to enrich higher education in ways we can’t yet know. It is important to note that the language of the proposal allows for accommodations or modification as long as they are “equally effective . . . equally integrated . . . [and have] substantially equivalent ease of use.”

Existing Laws are Sufficient

Opponents to this action indicate that we have existing laws that are sufficient for today’s needs (i.e., Sections 504 and ADA). They do not see a reason to create additional burdens for any institution. In cases where discrimination may be present, opponents to adding TEACH language into HEAA indicate that we have processes in place to address it (i.e., through OCR [Office for Civil Rights] complaints and the courts). Proponents consider the failure of higher education to become accessible over time to be one reason this action is needed now. They cite the uptick in litigation and the failure of judgments to broadly influence the higher education system as another reason something new is needed. It is true that many institutions wait until they receive requests, or worse, until there is a formal complaint lodged before action is taken. This creates an untenable position for individuals with disabilities who are always put in a position to have to request or complain, and usually put in a position to wait for that which they need. This creates lags in their educational experiences that affect outcomes.

Creates a Different Legal Standard

If an institution chooses not to embrace TEACH guidelines, they must then provide materials and technologies (or accommodations and modifications), in an “equally effective and equally integrated manner as non-disabled or non-blind students; and with substantially equivalent ease of use of such materials or technologies.” The current legal standard of Sections 504 and the ADA reference the use of reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aides and services that result in “effective communication” provided in a “timely” manner. Opponents to adding TEACH language into HEAA believe that this could fundamentally shift the legal standard. We could not find an opinion from proponents on this specific point, so it is not known if they agree or not. There is discussion, however, that important differences in the language used in TEACH are the result of the need for institutions to be proactive, rather than reactive in their approach to accessibility.

The Access Board is Ill-Equipped

Those opposed to adding TEACH language into the reauthorized HEAA cite that they are uncomfortable that the Access Board was named as the responsible federal agency. They do not have confidence that the Access Board could complete the work as envisioned in TEACH; to create initial standards within eighteen months and engage in cycles of review each three years. There is a reason for this concern—a refresh of Section 508 standards began in 2006 and has not yet been completed. Proponents feel they are the best equipped to address harmonization of the guidelines, and feel that if the Access Board is given resources to perform a statutory duty on a specific schedule, that they could accomplish the task.

Our Position

Let us begin by stating that those in higher education want the very best outcomes for all their students. This is why they have gone into the field. While we have read some harsh criticisms of individuals in the postsecondary community, NCDAE AND WebAIM respect the challenging work that goes into enterprise-wide web accessibility, and we acknowledge that this is often times a bumpy journey.

With that said, we have also heard many reasons why institutions choose not to tackle accessibility in a proactive manner. Sometimes it is due to competing institutional priorities and shrinking budgets. Other times accessibility is put off because there is a lack of accessible products. (Moreover we have heard vendors remark that accessibility is not part of their development cycle because it’s not a feature request from their customers.) We have also heard institutional administrators quietly craft a strategy of waiting until there is a complaint sufficient to take action on accessibility writ large. Taken together, there is a broad segment of the higher education community who has decided, consciously or not, to leave the important work of accessibility as an after-the-fact accommodation of a student’s request. The model of post-hoc accommodations in the digital world could never be the long-term solution, it creates a false sense of protection for institutions that are under increasing legal peril, and it continues to plague those with disabilities today.

It is our opinion that the HEAA is an appropriate vehicle to place a regulatory issue of this importance. It would elevate the urgency to make intentional decisions on accessibility for each institution. And, let us not forget, it is voluntary.

Market driven approaches were a brilliant strategy that helped the federal government as it implemented its own procurement policies under Section 508. If the lack of accessible products at the time, or the fear that it would stifle all innovation had been the reason not to move forward, we would not be where we are now; we currently have many accessible products and the attention of federal vendors. Bringing together a single harmonized standard that vendors would use in higher education would likewise create important innovation and product delivery. All journeys begin with a single step. We believe that innovation will not suffer; rather it will be enhanced as new energies go into thoughts about access for all.

We cannot comment on whether or not the TEACH language provides a different legal standard. While the spirit of it does not seem to do so, legal eyes are the best to weigh in on the issue.

While placing this work into the hands of the Access Board worries some, it is our belief that given appropriate resources and statutory authority, they are the best fit for the work. We do think that eighteen months to promulgate the guidelines may be too aggressive. It is more likely that the committee they will appoint would complete draft guidelines in eighteen months, and then the work to promulgate rule would take another eighteen to twenty-four months (or more if the Section 508 work is a peek into a typical process).

Finally, we see a gaping hole in the language inserted into the HEAA. When the ADA was passed into law, massive changes reverberated throughout our society not unlike that which will happen in higher education if this goes into effect. The establishment of transition planning was a brilliant idea that should be considered here. At the time, if you were a business trying to conform to the ADA and you were sticking to reasonable timelines of your own posted transition plan, you were held harmless for that period. Some institutions of higher education may need the option of creating a transition period as they adopt the TEACH guidelines. Of course all other existing laws would be in force (i.e., Section 504 and ADA), but the slow and arduous work will have begun: the work to ensure that accessibility of digital materials is in place for all in higher education.

Mark Riccobono
Educator, Leader, and Visionary

From the Editor: At the 2014 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind, two new members were added to the national board of directors. One of them is President Riccobono, the other James Brown. Since we recently ran “Who are the Blind Who Lead the Blind,” it seemed prudent to run profiles of these members as separate articles, and here is the one for President Riccobono:

Born in 1976, Mark Riccobono is the only child of two hard-working parents of modest means. Both were high school graduates, and, although they encouraged their son and gave him an example of what persistence and hard work could do, they had no experience of higher education and no familiarity with blindness. Riccobono was diagnosed as legally blind at the age of five, glaucoma being the disease that took his sight. Although he knew he had a vision problem, as a child he never felt limited in what he could do. Being an only child just meant he relied more on friends, and his elementary years have left him with good memories. He benefited from going to his neighborhood school because his contact with children was not just at school but in play, birthday celebrations, and school holidays. His low vision meant he sometimes had to work harder, but the print was large, he got a seat in the front of the room, his teachers did what they could to help, and his friends were comfortable with their buddy who didn't see quite as well as they did. "I was comfortable in my own skin, and that made others around me comfortable as well." The obstacles he faced and the fact that he had some limitations simply emphasized that he should do what his parents did when things got tough: they just worked hard and powered through, and powering through became an indispensable part of his personality.

Riccobono got a very good elementary education, but found himself in a rough middle school. It was probably what would be called a failing school today. Many of his elementary school friends went to other middle schools, so his social network began to evaporate. Now there were new friends to make and already established groups who had reservations about adding new members to their circles, and this further added to what was already a difficult transition. The year before he entered the school there had been a stabbing, and little emphasis was placed on academic success. This was the place where he learned to stay under the radar, to isolate himself from others, and to decide his place was in the back of the classroom, where he was less likely to be noticed or called on. There were no services to deal with vision loss, and the only accommodation he can recall receiving was a special lock for his locker that he could operate.

Without a good way to read and to see the blackboard, he learned to rely on memory, but even a good memory could not consistently deliver good test scores, and he believes that sometimes he was simply passed.

Riccobono remembers that he was sometimes challenged to do better and that often it was the math teachers who would ask more of him. But he was all too frequently allowed just to exist there in the back of the room with the students least likely to raise their hands, shout out answers, or be called upon by the classroom teacher. Riccobono describes this as learning to “be a passenger in my own life.”

To add to the difficulty of middle school, surgeries for glaucoma in eighth grade not only caused him to miss school, but eventually cost him a significant amount of the little vision he had. An uncle who observed these futile attempts asked his nephew, "What are you going to do if it doesn't work? What will you do if you don't get vision back?"

"I began to ask myself with each surgery whether we might not be chasing the unreachable dream," Riccobono said. A surgery performed to burn off some of the scar tissue proved to be too effective, destroying the vision in his left eye and eventually causing it to shrink.

So Riccobono went into high school totally blind in one eye and with little vision in the other. In Milwaukee one could choose a high school based on its specialty, and Riccobono chose the one that emphasized business and becoming an entrepreneur. Unbeknownst to him when he made his choice, this school had a resource room for blind students. This was the first time he had considered that there might be others facing the challenges that made school difficult.

Riccobono is glad he chose to attend the high school emphasizing business. The teachers saw potential in him, and, for the first time in a long time, he found himself surrounded by people who believed he had capacity. "High school was better than middle school had been; it had some very good teachers who believed in my capacity, and it had people who worked to mentor me. They didn't understand where blindness fit into my career possibilities, but they knew how to teach, saw potential in me, and were determined to cultivate it."

He joined DECA, an association founded in 1946 to prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs. In this organization he engaged in competitions in public speaking, marketing, and creating a business plan. As a high school senior he was involved in statewide competition, where he won first place in public speaking and earned himself the opportunity to compete in national competitions representing the state of Wisconsin. During that same year he started a school based business selling sports cards based on a business plan he developed the previous year.

After high school Riccobono arrived at the University of Wisconsin with a folding cane, a laptop computer with no screen-reading or screen-enlargement software, and a closed circuit television to enlarge paper documents. "I had to study a lot because I read slowly and memorization was the key to any success I might enjoy.” But even with the extreme focus he placed on academics, Riccobono hit the wall in his sophomore year and almost failed a computer class because he had no access to the machines. Eventually his rehabilitation counselor sent him for a technology evaluation, and the use of speech and other technology was recommended. At this point Riccobono started reaching out to other blind people, knowing that, if some of them were successful, they had to be doing something he was not. He knew that the barriers he was facing were real and that he was making a significant effort to overcome them, but he was learning that effort alone was not enough: he needed techniques, strategies, and building on the experiences of others. So it was that he came to find the National Federation of the Blind, won a state scholarship, and attended the national convention in 1996. "A lot of what I heard at the convention resonated with me—gave me real hope—but I wasn't sure it was real because I hadn't had the chance to test it myself. But whatever skepticism I had, the truth is that my predominant emotions were excitement and hope that what these people were saying was true. For the first time in my life it was clear to me that in this group it didn't matter how much or how little I could see. In this group no one ever asked or tried to limit where I could go. For the first time I didn't feel as though I had to decide what I would or would not do based on my vision."

In the summer after he found the Federation, Riccobono learned Braille, started using the white cane, and came to understand that blind people used other techniques that might help him. He immediately began testing what the Federation said about blindness and encouraged other students to do the same. In the fall of 1996 he founded and became the first President of the Wisconsin Association of Blind Students (a division of the NFB of Wisconsin). He also began rebuilding his dreams. He secured employment with the disability resource center on campus and coordinated the delivery of accessible materials to other students. Riccobono also began expanding his participation in the campus community, knowing that blindness was not the thing that held him back but rather his own low expectations learned over many years. Among his new activities Riccobono became the first blind person at the university to be certified to independently sail one-person sail boats in the Hoofers Sailing Program on Lake Mendota.

Riccobono finished college in May of 1999 with a degree in business administration, majoring in marketing and minoring in economics. He interviewed with Sears in his senior year of college and already had a job offer in hand when he graduated. While attending the Washington Seminar, people asked what he intended to do between his graduation in May and the start of his new job in August. They suggested he use this time for training. Finding the advice sound, he attended the Colorado Center for the Blind. There he worked on attitudes and skills and had a chance to test some of the Federation ideas he had thought about with such hope. He found they had verity in his life.

After training with Sears, Riccobono moved to Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where he rented an apartment about three blocks from where he had grown up. At this point he was feeling good about himself: a college graduate with a job, living on his own, and the recently elected president of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin, having won that post in 1998. Before his election a proposal had been advanced to close the state's school for the blind. Riccobono was appointed to serve on an advisory committee charged with transforming the institution from a school to a center where ten programs serving the blind would be housed, one of them being the school for the blind. Riccobono learned from the Federation that his true passion was not necessarily business (although he exhibits the thinking of an entrepreneur in everything he does) but rather education and building innovative educational programs. When the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired was established, Riccobono was hired as its director shortly before his twenty-fourth birthday. He headed an agency with a budget of six million dollars and began to implement programs that required more of staff and students, consistent with the expectations of blind people he found in the Federation. He worked at the Wisconsin Center for three and a half years, and an audit ordered by the implementing legislation gave the new center good marks and was the best the school had received in over a decade. But Riccobono found making changes at the center painfully slow and thought that his focus on improving education would be better served by working on a national level. Having concluded that Riccobono possessed some skills that would be valuable at the Jernigan Institute, President Maurer hired him, and he and his wife Melissa (a strong leader, advocate, and educator in her own right) moved to Baltimore. After working for some time in education, he became the executive director of the Jernigan Institute, a position he held until his election as the president of the National Federation of the Blind in July of 2014. In his Federation work he has led a number of critical initiatives including: establishment of the National Center for Blind Youth in Science, building a national mentoring program, expanding Braille literacy programs including the NFB Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning program, development of cutting-edge technologies including a car that a blind person can drive (the NFB Blind Driver Challenge®), many advocacy priorities, affiliate-building projects, and serving as a point person for key relationships with NFB partners.

Mark and Melissa have three children: Austin born in December 2006, Oriana born in May 2010, and Elizabeth born in June 2012, all of whom are growing up in the Federation. Their daughters both carry the same eye condition that Mark has, but they will have greater opportunities than their dad because of their connection to the National Federation of the Blind. With the emphasis on social media, YouTube, and communication that goes beyond the written word, his family and their activities have been more visible than those of earlier leaders. "While as a family we draw some lines, we are generally pretty comfortable with letting people know what we are doing, the message being that we lead normal lives and do the same things others with children do. We try to show people what we have learned—that blindness does not prevent us from being the kind of parents we want to be and from living the lives we want." Riccobono is always building—his social media presence frequently shows him engineering new creations out of Legos with his children.

When asked about his responsibilities as the newly elected president of the National Federation of the Blind and whether it is scary trying to fill the shoes of former President Maurer, Riccobono says, "It isn't so much trying to fill someone's shoes as building on a foundation. It is a tremendous responsibility to figure out how to go farther, to strengthen the movement, to lead in such a way that we go forward and build on what we have been given. My challenge is to meet the expectations of folks who have given a lot and have been around a long time, to meet their expectations and let them know they are still wanted, valued, and needed, while at the same time recognizing that the world is changing, that the organization must continue to evolve, and assuring people that these requirements are not in conflict but a part of continuing to exist and thrive. I worry less about the shoes I must fill or the comparisons that will be made than I do about figuring out how to lead us in the miles we must go, preserving the resources we have, while spending enough of them to make the world what we want it to be. I feel grateful that Dr. Maurer recognizes my challenge—he has had to face it in his own transition and presidency, and I feel confident that most of our members understand this too. The nature of this office demonstrates daily just how far we have to go, and, although we have a tremendous organization and significant resources, we have just a fraction of what we need to do the work that remains.

"In accepting the presidency of this organization, I pledged to give all of my energy, my creativity, and my love to our movement. This is how I intend to pay it back, pay it forward, and make a future full of opportunity for blind people. I have no illusions that this will be easy, but I have every expectation that it will happen when all of us pull together to create the kind of future in which we truly live the lives we want."

A New Era in Mobile Reading Begins: Introducing the KNFB Reader for iOS

by James Gashel

From the Editor: James Gashel needs little introduction to our readers. He is the secretary of the National Federation of the Blind, has been involved with the project to bring reading technology to blind people since 1975, and, when that technology could fit into a pocket, Jim urged us all to go totally mobile. Here is an article about the latest release of the KNFB Reader, a truly innovative and useful piece of software that once again allows for on-the-go reading.

"If you have an iPhone you can have a reader too." This is what I said on Sunday, July 6, 2014, as I addressed attendees at our seventy-fourth annual convention and announced that the KNFB mobile reading technology would soon be coming to the iPhone. The wait for this to happen was about over.

The chain of events leading to this announcement extends back almost four decades. It is said that history informs the present and nowhere is that more true than in the history of reading for the blind using text recognition and synthesized speech technology. Providing the iPhone with a high-quality text-reading app did not occur in a vacuum, and it could not have occurred at all without a whole series of events building on one another.

For me it all started in March or April of 1975. I can't remember the exact day when Ray Kurzweil entered the Washington office of the National Federation of the Blind and sat across the desk from me. I had taken the position as chief of the Washington office in January 1974, so when I first met Ray, I was just a few months into my second year in that position.

Ray was and still is just a year or so younger than me, although both of us are forty years older than when we first met on that spring day in 1975. He said he was a graduate of MIT, and he had started a small company called Kurzweil Computer Products. Then what he said next was nothing less than astonishing to me. He said he had invented a machine that could read printed text to blind people, and he speculated that this would have great promise for changing the way blind people would get information in the future. More than what he said, what struck me was the matter of fact way in which he said it—almost like creating this life-changing technology was something he did on a Sunday afternoon with not much else going on that particular day.

For my part I wanted to believe the story he was telling me, but I still approached the prospect of an actual reading machine with a healthy dose of skepticism. This was the mid-1970s, and much of the technology that had been invented for the blind was not too advanced. There were cassette tape players and talking book machines, and there was even a device called the Optacon, which used a small camera and activated vibrating pins to form the shape of the printed letters as seen by the camera. Some people really liked it, but it fell far short of being an actual reading machine.

The machine he described used a computer, which I knew to be something that only large institutions had. Ordinary people did not have computers, so how could ordinary blind people have a reading machine? Besides, I wondered how well it would really work.

As Ray and I talked, I thought of several other technologies for the blind that were said to have great potential and then failed to live up to their promise. Would this reading machine turn out to be something like that?

Ray said his machine was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, so two weeks later I went for a visit. I knew I didn't know anything about computers, but I did know Alan Schlank, and I knew he programmed computers for the Pentagon; so I took Alan with me to see what we could learn about this machine. What we observed that day held true to the promise—the machine did recognize print and speak the words—but it was certainly not ready for prime time either. There were lots of wires and gismos connected together, but everything was spread out on tables and racks in a small room, and nothing was in a case. This was technology in its most basic development stage, but it did do what Ray said it could, and there was nothing else like it anywhere in the world.

I think it was about two months later that I first introduced Ray Kurzweil to Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, then president of the National Federation of the Blind. It was our 1975 convention, held at the Palmer House hotel in Chicago, and it was Ray's first NFB convention. Ray said he had been looking for money to bring the reading machine from the laboratory to the market, but everybody he talked to just wished him well and sent him on his way. The question was, would the NFB help to make the dream of a reading machine come true, and the answer was an unequivocal yes: we would and we did.

As our effort to raise funds went forward in the fall of 1975, word of the machine that could read to the blind began to circulate, building interest and enthusiastic support for the project. Ray likes to tell the story of how Walter Cronkite, the legendary anchorman of the CBS Evening News, learned about the reader and allowed it to read and speak the words of his signature sign-off for the program: "That's the way it was, January 13, 1976." Speaking these words to conclude his nightly broadcast to America was a personal privilege that Walter Cronkite reserved for himself, and, as he later recalled, he had not allowed neither man nor machine to take his place with the single exception of that night in January. Although I was at the controls to make the reader speak, it was the reading machine and not James Gashel that spoke the final words to conclude the broadcast.

First introduced to the market in 1978, the Kurzweil Reading Machine continued to attract much interest, albeit with a $30,000 price tag. Buying one was beyond the reach of most blind people, but it was possible for blind people around the country to encourage its purchase by libraries and agencies for the blind so that we could begin to take advantage of the access it provided to the printed word. Still, the product was popular. Even today I hear from blind people who had their first experience with the Kurzweil Reading Machine at a local library, school, or rehabilitation agency.

During the 1980s and through the 1990s, the reader (using different product names) got smaller in size and less expensive to buy, just as Ray had originally predicted. Then, as personal computers gained in popularity in the 1990s, with scanners available as well, what we knew in the 1970s as the standalone Kurzweil Reading Machine became computer software and sold for $1,000—far more affordable than the $30,000 machine twenty years before.

But the evolution of mobile reading for the blind was yet to come. In October of 2001, as we were breaking ground for the Jernigan Institute and planning its ground-breaking projects, Ray Kurzweil declared that the time was drawing near when the scan-and-read technologies of the last thirty years could be converted to run on mobile devices and used for reading on the go. We asked when this could happen, and Ray responded in his unassuming low-key way that his current models suggested the technology could be available in about four and a half years give or take six months. Trusting Ray and this prediction, the NFB and Kurzweil Technologies started development of a handheld carry-around reader in 2002, not knowing what hardware would eventually be available to power it.

In July, 2005, we had a handheld reader we could demonstrate. I told Ray that the test would be if either Marc Maurer or I could get the reader to recognize and speak text in front of our national convention. I explained that the audience would not believe that the technology was real if Ray or one of his engineers aimed the camera and took the pictures; it was necessary that a blind person do the demonstration. So, with my heart in my throat, I stood before the convention, holding the reader with print on the table below, hoping to hear it read text. This was the first time in history that a blind person would be standing up in a public setting, aiming a camera at a printed document, and then letting the audience listen to the result. Just imagine my feeling of absolute pride and joy when the reader started to speak the text of the afternoon agenda, and the audience erupted with one of the loudest convention cheers on record.

Obtaining reasonably accurate text-to-speech results when using a computer and scanner was certainly a challenge not to be sneezed at in 1975, but designing the technology so blind people could take pictures and still get highly accurate reading results was a challenge of a much higher magnitude. When using a scanner, the page can easily be lined up with or without sight, and the document is always well lit to provide a uniform and high-quality image for text recognition. Not so, however, when a camera rather than a scanner is used to capture an image of a page with text, and especially not so when the person aiming the camera at the text can't see to focus it. This is something Ray pointed out at our first meeting to discuss the details of the mobile reader project. During that meeting and since, he emphasized the importance of creating high-quality pictures of text using image preprocessing technology as being absolutely essential to improve text recognition accuracy.

The first mobile reader developed through the Kurzweil NFB collaboration was software running on a personal data assistant connected to a digital camera. The combination of these components sold for $3,495 beginning in July, 2006. We were right on schedule with Ray's October 2001 prediction. Then, eighteen months later, Nokia released the N82 cell phone, complete with a five megapixel camera with a very bright xenon flash, making this an ideal single unit platform for the smallest and least expensive mobile reader ever. Within a year of its release this reader, running on the Nokia N82 cell phone, was speaking in eighteen different languages and even translating from one language to another. With the image preprocessing technology working under the hood, the reader, called the KNFB Reader Mobile, attracted worldwide attention and praise for its ease of use and accuracy. Still, at a price of around $1,700, which included the phone, the KNFB reading software, and screen-reading software, the cost presented an economic barrier for many who wanted and needed a high-quality reading device.

In June of 2009 Apple made history by adding screen-reading software called VoiceOver to the operating system used to power its iPhone 3 GS. For the blind this meant that a fully-accessible smartphone could be obtained for around $200 as compared to buying any of several other available smartphones for twice as much or more after adding in the additional cost of screen-reading software. Besides, word spread that VoiceOver actually worked very well to make the flat screen iPhone a thoroughly usable device right out of the box. No wonder blind people were joining the lines of enthusiastic buyers which form outside Apple stores worldwide every time a new version of the iPhone is released. But for those who wanted a smartphone with the ability to take pictures and read text on the go, the advent of the fully accessible out of the box iPhone turned out to be a mixed blessing, since Apple's choice of camera technology was far behind the excellent cameras used in the more expensive and less accessible Nokia phones. Running the reader software on the iPhone was not a problem, but the iPhone's camera just would not produce an image of sufficient clarity for accurate text recognition, resulting in the truth contained in the well-known adage pertaining to computers: garbage in, garbage out.

In June 2010 there were widespread rumors that a better camera would be available in the iPhone 4, scheduled for release later in the month. So, camping chair in hand, I took up my position immediately outside the front door of the AT&T store in my neighborhood when the store closed at 9:30 at night. I wanted to be and was first in line to get my hands on one of these new phones, which we were hoping could also be used as a reader. When the store opened at 7:00 AM the next morning, I got my iPhone 4 and immediately turned it over for review, hoping that a reader would result. It did not. Although the camera hardware in the iPhone 4 was improved as compared to its predecessors, it was still not possible to sharpen the image of text by adjusting settings in the camera software, so the garbage in garbage out problem continued.

These were dark days indeed for those of us who wanted the ability to take pictures and read text with our iPhones, finding instead that, in order to have a suitable device for reading on the go, we had to continue carrying one phone for a reader and another for all other capabilities of a smartphone—far from an optimal solution. Still the good old KNFB Reader Mobile running on a Nokia N82 cell phone remained the gold standard in mobile reading technology, never mind that Nokia stopped making the N82 mid-way through 2009. Lacking a suitable platform, the reader, once popular in the golden age of the Nokia phone way back in 2008, had become virtually obsolete except among those of us who had the good fortune to obtain it before the iPhone became accessible and captured the market.

The break which led almost immediately to the KNFB Reader iOS app came in September 2013 when Apple announced its coming release of iPhones with better cameras, faster computer processors, and greater control over certain camera settings made possible in the newest version of its mobile device operating system called iOS 7. The specifications looked very promising, but I remembered my high hopes for having a reader on the iPhone 4. A small company in Belgium called Sensotec had been wanting to produce a reader for the iPhone, so plans were made to do so if good text recognition results could be obtained from the new iPhone 5 S running iOS 7.

I remember taking the first pictures with a prototype version of our text reading app in late November 2013 and realizing at that time that the iPhone could be a reader too. My thought was that, for blind people to accept it, we needed a reader that would meet or exceed the standard set by the KNFB Reader Mobile running on the Nokia N82. Anything less would disappoint potential users and might not be worth the effort. Several text reading apps had become available for the iPhone, but most had failed or nearly failed due to poor performance and lack of interest. The problem (if you can call it a problem) was that the standard for high-quality reading on the go had been set when Kurzweil Technologies and the NFB joined forces to create the KNFB Reader Mobile reading technology. To gain widespread acceptance, performance of the app on the iPhone would have to meet the KNFB Reader standard or exceed it.

Has that goal been achieved? Let the users speak for themselves. What follows are unsolicited comments compiled by the Apple App Store and on the KNFB Reader Users list.

Wow. This single app is a life changer for blind people. It recognizes text extremely accurately and quickly. It's far faster than using my flatbed scanner with Kurzweil and is as fast or faster than OpenBook with the Pearl document camera. I have taken twenty or so pictures since downloading, even of my computer screen, and have been continuously amazed with the results. If you are debating getting it, don't. It's the real thing. It’s what we have been waiting for! NFB and good old Ray have done it again.

I have used several OCR applications on different platforms. Some of them worked well, but, on iOS, I have generally had very poor results with them until KNFB Reader came along. I stuck a regular office memo under the phone and gave this app a try, and it read the memo almost perfectly on my first attempt. My camera technique isn't all that good either. So I must say that these guys hit one out of the park with this one.

I bought it, used it, and love it. Talk about a product that is simply amazing: it's everything it was promised to be.

This is the app I have been waiting for for the past five years—and it has not disappointed. I have used the previous KNFB Reader mobile device, and this app for iPhone is much easier to use. It is intuitive. It takes pictures and reads the print from round spice bottles, small round medicine files, on the back of plastic pouches, in glass picture frames, and off of my laptop computer screen. [While the reader does have the ability to capture some text from round bottles, sometimes several shots are required to determine their contents, and the Reader should not be regarded as a substitute for other devices that read prescriptions or bar codes.] I have many scanner apps on my iPhone, and none of them are accurate. But this one is accurate at least 98% of the time. Love it, love it, love it.

These comments represent the overwhelming sentiments of those who have purchased the KNFB Reader. In mid-October the app was upgraded for use on Apple's iPhone 6 and 6 plus, as well as being supported for use with the iPhone 4 S and the 5th generation iPod Touch. Plans are in the works to release a version designed for use on newer models of the iPad with better cameras, as well as on Android phones and tablet devices.

More information about how the KNFB Reader works is available by visiting the KNFB Reader website at <www.knfbreader.com>, where you can also find video and audio demonstrations. A thorough and well-crafted review of the product also appeared in the November issue of Access World with the title “KNFB Reader for iOS: Does This App Live up to All the Hype?,” written by Bill Holton. It can be found at <http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw151104#content>.

Speaking in English and eleven other languages on the day it was launched, the KNFB Reader will soon be able to be used with dozens of other languages, including Japanese, Russian, and Chinese, with translation from one language to another.

Maintained by KNFB Reading Technology and Sensotec with the support of the National Federation of the Blind, the KNFB Reader for iOS can be purchased and downloaded from Apple's worldwide App Store distribution system. At a price of $99.99 it is an understatement to say that, with added capabilities yet to come, the KNFB Reader for iOS has already opened a new era in read-on-the-go technology for people who are blind by raising the bar for high-quality performance and by lowering the price of the technology that makes it possible.

2015 Washington Seminar: What’s New in the Rooms and Reserving Yours

by Diane McGeorge

From the Editor: The following message comes from Diane McGeorge, who organizes much of the logistics of Washington Seminar:

This is a reminder about making your hotel reservations for the 2015 Washington Seminar. Our deadline with the hotel is December 19, 2014, and, although I know most of you are busy as we approach the holiday season, we would certainly appreciate getting your reservations as early as possible.

Sleeping room rates are $180 for single, double, triple, or quad rooms, and the tax rate is 14.5% per night. The address of the Holiday Inn Capitol is 550 C Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024. We would like to have representation from all fifty states, so please encourage members from your state affiliates to attend. 

The Holiday Inn Capitol in Washington DC has undergone a great number of changes since our last visit, including becoming completely non-smoking. All of the sleeping rooms have been completely renovated, giving them a classy and fresh look and feel. The rooms with two beds have been upgraded from double beds to queen beds and can no longer accommodate rollaway beds. All king rooms will have walk-in showers instead of bathtubs with showers. All rooms will also have laptop-sized safes in the closets.

All of the meeting rooms have also been renovated, and along with the new look are new names. We will no longer have any meeting rooms or office space on the second floor.

The former Apollo and Mercury rooms are now sleeping rooms and are no longer available to us. The communication center and office for our Washington Seminar will now be found in room 353. The Columbia Ballroom is now called Capitol Ballroom, and the Discovery Ballroom is now called Congressional Ballroom. Saturn/Venus is now called House Room, Jupiter is now called Senate Room, and Mars is now called Caucus Boardroom.

The hotel restaurant, too, has undergone changes. The buffet has been moved to provide more guest seating. The Deli Express is no longer. In its place you will find a new public seating area, complete with device-charging stations. You will find the new Lobby Market to the right as you face the front desk. You will be able to grab snacks there 24/7. They are expected to provide frozen dinners, ice cream, little boxes of cereal, milk, and that type of thing. They are hoping to have coffee in the lobby as well.

With all of these changes, the hotel has removed soda and snack machines on each floor, but you can still find ice machines on each level. Keep in mind that Starbucks will still be in place, so you can get your coffee as well as their usual fare.

I hope you have made your requests for meeting room space, since these meeting rooms fill up very quickly. If not, please notify us prior to December 10, giving us the name of your meeting, the number of people you expect in attendance, and the type of room setup you wish to have.

Following is the information I will need to make your hotel reservations:

Please do not contact the hotel to make your reservations. I submit all the reservations for the Washington Seminar. You may call (303) 778-1130, extension 219, to make your reservation, or you may email your reservations to Lisa Bonderson at <[email protected]>. We will confirm receipt of your reservation either by return email or by telephone, so be sure to give us your telephone number and your email address.

Ode to the Code: How One Student Came to Love Braille

by Kaitlin Shelton

From the Editor: Kaitlin Shelton is the president of the Ohio Association of Blind Students, won a national scholarship in 2013, and just won her second scholarship from the Ohio affiliate. At the state convention she played Federation songs on the guitar, although she plays other instruments as well. Kaitlin offers her perspective on Braille, Braille literacy, and how she struggled to accept both. Here’s what she has to say:

Today I am an avid Braille reader. I love reading novels on my BrailleSense or in hard copy and couldn’t imagine life without literacy. Some would say I’m even a bit too stern about Braille because I tend to avoid other forms of reading like audio and readers since a part of me considers using those methods of reading to be cheating, but you really just can’t replace Braille and the independence that comes along with it. From the way I talk, you’re probably assuming that I’ve had a Braille-filled childhood and parents who fought long and hard to secure the privileges of reading for me, but that wasn’t the case.

One day in pre-K I was pulled out of class by a woman from the county for an assessment. We sat in the hall, and she introduced me to the Perkins Brailler for the first time. We Brailled a few letters, and I was starting to get the hang of it, but she took me back to class, and I never saw her again. County officials determined that I saw well enough that reading Braille might not be the best option. I was sent along to kindergarten with the notion in my parents' heads that I would read large print.

Kindergarten came and went, and I started the first grade in the fall of 2000. My teacher, a creative and wonderful woman named Mrs. Murphy, noticed that there were a few problems with my academic performance right from the start. For one thing I could read print, but it was painfully slow and tedious. Since I have nystagmus and a very small focus in the one eye that has vision, I had to scan each letter individually before I could identify the word I was reading. I was also missing out on a lot of the incidental learning that the sighted students gained from seeing things like alphabet posters, number charts, and other visuals on the walls of the classroom. Mrs. Murphy decided that this needed to change. She researched the problem and decided that it was time for me to switch from reading print to reading Braille.

This terrified my parents, especially my mother. She had been told that, since her child had vision, everything should be done to allow that vision to be used and that using it would help me be more like my peers. In a roundabout way she had been told that reading anything other than print would make me look blind. Under these conditions she was against the idea of my learning Braille. She thought, “Who does this teacher think she is?”

But Mrs. Murphy followed her instinct and fought for me to learn Braille. She sat my mom down and told her that I was a bright student; there was no reason why I should be reading below grade level and falling behind my peers if it didn’t have to be that way. She explained that for me Braille would be the great equalizer. The books would grow longer and more complex, I’d be expected to read more for my classes, and without Braille I would continue to function at a lower level than my sighted classmates. She also made the point that the doctors had no idea how long I would have usable vision and that it would be much harder to learn Braille as a middle school or high school student than it would be at six years old, when reading instruction was part of the curriculum. My mom finally agreed that I should start learning Braille, so my instruction began.

But that wasn’t the half of my struggle to become Braille literate. By that time the idea that reading print was what made me the same as my friends had already wedged its way into my six-year-old brain. When my books that had pictures on the covers and looked just like everyone else’s were taken away, I was absolutely distraught. The Braille books I was given in their place were bland, bulky, and very different. I didn’t like being the only one in my class to have books like them, so I resisted the instruction. The Perkins Brailler was also something I came to despise. Before I used the Perkins, I used a grease pencil to write. I’d often lift my face from the page to have black grease smeared all over myself, but I figured that I was at least doing what my friends were. The Brailler was heavy, bulky, and loud. We were supposed to be very quiet during spelling tests, and using the noisy machine made me feel self-conscious.

Many of my spelling tests were not completed because I would get frustrated or upset and begin to cry or throw a temper tantrum in the middle of class. I remember being carried out of the room into the hall by my aide, sobbing out “I hate Braille.” Though I laugh about it now, it was a serious self-esteem issue for me at the time. As the year went on, I started to devise other methods for avoiding the Brailler. Once, when my aide had left me alone in our Braille room to grab something, I shoved everything I could get my hands on into the Brailler. Pencils, paper clips, and thumbtacks were among the items that the aide tried to fish out of the Brailler, but it needed to be sent off to be repaired. Unfortunately for me, the county brought a spare Brailler to the school for me to use while the one we had was being fixed, and I think that was when I realized that I wasn’t going to avoid Braille. It was clear to me that it would now be a part of my life, and I would just have to deal with it.

In the second grade, after I had been reading Braille for a year, my attitude about Braille began to change. My skills had improved to the point where I could start reading the same stories as my classmates, so, even though I still didn’t have my pictures, I could at least read the same Junie B. Jones and Magic Treehouse books. My mother had become a staunch supporter of Braille and began purchasing the print copies of books I read so she could read with me. Each Christmas after that, until I became a member of Bookshare and NLS, I received several Newberry Award-winning books from Seedlings in Braille. I soon started reading books above my grade level, and by the third grade my favorite books included The Trumpet of the Swan, Matilda, Charlotte’s Web, James and the Giant Peach, and some books in the Goosebumps series.

Over the next several years I began to advocate for Braille along with my mother. Together we established a Braille book library for blind children throughout Ohio, and several of my Seedlings Books remain in that library today. Whenever I hear a parent of a blind child say that he or she uses audio and the computer to read, I always ask, “What about Braille?” And then I try to educate them about how it has enriched my life and the lives of other blind people. As Mrs. Murphy said, for blind people Braille is the great equalizer. It is what makes us literate, and, although technology and audio can certainly be useful and do serve their purposes, they can’t replace Braille. I know that I would have at best struggled through high school and performed less successfully than I have and at worst not finished high school and found some small job which doesn’t require literacy skills. Fortunately, I can say that, not only am I well versed in the literary code, but I also use the music Braille code for my studies as a music therapy major and know the scientific and Nemeth codes as well.

In the Federation we hear about parents fighting their school districts for Braille instruction all the time. My situation was the opposite, and I shudder to think of where I would be today if my parents had never changed their minds about Braille. I am glad that both my parents and I have come to see Braille, not as something which makes me different from my sighted friends and classmates, but as something which lets me compete and perform to the same standards. I consider myself to be extremely lucky, not only because I learned Braille at all, but because most kids like me with usable vision are denied the right to receive a comparable education to those of their sighted peers. If it weren’t for Mrs. Murphy’s insistence, I would never have discovered the necessity and joy of Braille literacy. It is fitting that my birthday is the same as Louis Braille's, January 4, because I owe so much to him—as we all do—for the code which has made me who I am today.

Consider a Charitable Gift

Making a charitable gift can be one of the most satisfying experiences in life. Each year millions of people contribute their time, talent, and treasure to charitable organizations. When you plan for a gift to the National Federation of the Blind, you are not just making a donation; you are leaving a legacy that insures a future for blind people throughout the country. Special giving programs are available through the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).

Points to Consider When Making a Gift to the National Federation of the Blind

Benefits of Making a Gift to the NFB

Your Gift Will Help Us

Your gift makes you a part of the NFB dream!

The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards

by James Gashel

From the Editor: James Gashel is secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and chairs the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards committee. Here is his announcement about the 2015 Bolotin Awards program:

The National Federation of the Blind is pleased to announce that applications are now being accepted for the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards. These prestigious awards, granted each year as funds permit, recognize individuals, corporations, organizations, or other entities for outstanding work of excellence on behalf of the blind in the United States. The public recognition ceremony will be held during the 2015 annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando, Florida. Each recipient will be given a cash award in an amount determined by the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Committee and will also be honored with an engraved medallion and plaque.

Dr. Bolotin was a pioneering blind physician who practiced in the early twentieth century, and the awards which now bear his name are made possible through the generosity of his late nephew and niece. Their bequest, the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust, allows the National Federation of the Blind to recognize and support the most outstanding individuals and projects working to improve opportunities for blind people in the United States, consistent with Dr. Bolotin’s pioneering example.

As chronicled in his biography, The Blind Doctor by Rosalind Perlman, Bolotin fought ignorance and prejudice to gain entrance to medical school and the medical profession. He became one of the most respected physicians in Chicago during his career, which spanned the period from 1912 until his death in 1924. He was particularly known for his expertise in diseases of the heart and lungs. Bolotin used his many public speaking engagements to advocate for employment of the blind and their full integration into society. Interested in young people in general and blind youth in particular, Dr. Bolotin established the first Boy Scout troop consisting entirely of blind boys and served as its leader.

Jacob Bolotin’s wife Helen had a sister whose husband died suddenly, leaving her to raise a son, Alfred Perlman. The Perlmans moved in with the Bolotins when Alfred was eleven, and for four years (until Jacob Bolotin's untimely death at the age of thirty-six), "Uncle Jake" became Alfred's surrogate father. Alfred later married Rosalind, and the couple worked on a book about Dr. Bolotin's life. After Alfred's death in 2001, Rosalind dedicated the rest of her life to completing and publishing the book. Then, upon her death and as part of her will, Rosalind left a bequest to the Santa Barbara Foundation and the National Federation of the Blind to produce Dr. Bolotin's biography and establish the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award program. Her book, The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story, has been published by and is available from Blue Point Books <www.BluePointBooks.com>.

Award Description

In 2015 the National Federation of the Blind will again recognize individuals and organizations that have distinguished themselves in accordance with the criteria established to receive the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. The committee will determine both the number of awards and the value of each award presented. The Federation determines the total amount to be distributed each year based on income received from the trust supporting the award program. The award categories for each year are blind individuals, sighted individuals, and organizations, corporations, or other entities. Individuals may apply on their own behalf or may submit a third party nomination, or the committee may also consider other individual or organizational candidates.

Who Should Apply?

Individuals: Only individuals over eighteen years of age may be considered for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. Applicants must demonstrate that they have shown substantial initiative and leadership in improving the lives of the blind. Examples of such initiative include but are not limited to developing products, technologies, or techniques that increase the independence of the blind; directing quality programs or agencies for the blind; or mentoring other blind people. All individual applicants or third-party applicants nominating other individuals must demonstrate that the work to be recognized has been conducted within the twelve months preceding the application and/or that the work is continuing. Applications by or on behalf of individuals must include at least one letter of recommendation from a person familiar with or directly affected by the work to be recognized.

Organizations: Organizations may apply for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award in order to further programs, services, technology, or techniques of unique and outstanding merit that have assisted and will continue to assist the blind. Applications from third parties nominating an organization will also be considered. The organization category includes corporations, nonprofit organizations, or other entities, such as a specific division within an organization. Organizations or third-party applicants must demonstrate that the programs or services to be recognized include substantial participation by blind people as developers, mentors, administrators, or executives, and not merely as clients, consumers, or beneficiaries. For example, an organization operating a program for blind youth might demonstrate that a substantial number of the counselors, teachers, or mentors involved in the program are blind. The organization or third-party applicant must demonstrate that it has substantially aided blind people within the twelve months prior to application and that an award would support efforts to build on previous successes. The application must also include at least one testimonial from a blind person who has benefited substantially from the programs or services.

To qualify for an award both individuals and organizations must be headquartered in the United States of America, and their work must primarily benefit the blind of the United States.

Procedures

More information, including an online application, can be found on the National Federation of the Blind website at <https://www.nfb.org/bolotin-award-main>.

Online submission of nominations, letters of support, and other relevant materials is strongly encouraged, but applications sent by mail and postmarked by the deadline will also be accepted. The 2015 deadline for application submission is March 31. Recipients chosen by the committee will be individually notified of their selection no later than May 15. Receipt of all complete applications will be acknowledged; only those applicants chosen to receive an award will be contacted by May 15. All decisions of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award committee are final.

The awards will be presented in July during the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Individuals selected to receive an award must appear in person, not send a representative. Organizations may send an individual representative, preferably their chief executive officer. Recipient candidates must confirm in writing that they will appear in person to accept the award at the National Federation of the Blind annual convention. Failure to confirm attendance for the award presentation by June 1 will result in forfeiture of the award.

Ineligible Persons

Those employed full-time by the National Federation of the Blind may not apply for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award for work performed within the scope of their employment. Students may not apply for both a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award and a National Federation of the Blind Scholarship in the same year.

The Police Chief of Albuquerque Met the Blind of New Mexico

by Peggy Chong

From the Editor: Peggy Chong loves history and is an amateur historian who has made frequent contributions in these pages. Here is what she has to say about spreading the news about the White Cane Law to a prominent official in the state where she and her husband Curtis now live:

On Saturday, October 18, 2014, Federationists gathered at the Uptown Sheraton Hotel in Albuquerque to celebrate the passage of the White Cane Law here in New Mexico. This is much more than a law that allows us to travel independently on our city and country roads. It is the civil rights legislation here in New Mexico that guarantees blind people access to all buildings, streets, activities, and employment opportunities in our state. Our banquet was sponsored by the NFB of New Mexico, Albuquerque Chapter; the Parents of Blind Children Division; and the West Mesa Chapter.

Caroline Benavidez, president of the West Mesa chapter, was our emcee. The first part of the agenda was a history of white cane laws in New Mexico presented by Peggy Chong. Francine Garcia read the 2014 White Cane Proclamation signed by Governor Susana Martinez earlier in the month.

Our guest speaker was Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden, whose topic was quiet cars and how they affect us all. He related his personal experience being hit by a quiet car at his own home by a family member. It was refreshing to have a police representative identify with our issues as a fellow Albuquerquean and not think of us as amazing, brave, or leading lives too scary for him to imagine. He offered our chapters an opportunity to come and record a video message concerning the White Cane Law that all the police officers of Albuquerque can view as part of their daily updates. We agreed to take him up on his offer later in November. All agreed that Chief Eden did a great job and is a friend to the blind of our city.

A certificate of appreciation was presented to Chief Eden after his presentation. The certificate was done in both print and Braille, and Albuquerque President Daphne Mitchell read the Braille version to him.

Again this year we hosted the White Cane Essay Contest. Gail Wagner presented the winners with their cash prizes and read the winning entries to the audience. This year's essay contest winners were first place in the adult category, Veronica Smith, and second place, Monica Martinez. In the children's category Faith Switzer took first place and Ari Benally second place.

When we adjourned the festivities, many Federationists lined up to thank Chief Eden for coming and staying during the entire event to meet many of our members personally. All left the banquet with renewed energy for the National Federation of the Blind.

Social Security, SSI, and Medicare Facts for 2015

by Lauren McLarney

From the Editor: Every December we publish the Social Security figures that have been announced for the coming year. Here is the 2015 information as prepared by Lauren McLarney, manager of governmental affairs, in our NFB Advocacy and Policy Department:

Another year, another set of annual adjustments to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medicare programs. The updated amounts for 2015 are listed below. These numbers include new tax rates, higher exempt earnings amounts (substantial gainful activity), and cost-of-living increases. They also include deductible, premium, and coinsurance amounts under Part A and B of Medicare.

Tax Rates

FICA and Self-Employment Tax Rates: The FICA tax rate for employees and their employers is a combination of payments to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Fund, and the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund, from which payments under Medicare are made. In other words, the tax rate is the combined rate for Social Security and Medicare. The total tax rate for 2014 was 7.65 percent for employees and their employers and 15.3 percent for self-employed workers. These percentages are unchanged for 2015. Please note that as of January 2013 individuals with earned income of more than $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly) pay an additional 0.9 percent in Medicare taxes. The tax rates listed above for 2013 and 2014 do not include that additional 0.9 percent.

Ceiling on Earnings Subject to Tax: In 2014 the ceiling on taxable earnings for contributions to the OASDI Trust Fund was $117,000. For 2015 the maximum amount of taxable earnings will be $118,500. All earnings are taxed for the HI Trust Fund.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Quarters of Coverage: Eligibility for Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance benefits is partially based on the number of quarters of coverage earned by any individual during periods of work. Anyone may earn up to four quarters of coverage in a single year. The rationale behind the quarter-of-coverage concept is that a person must have contributed to the system before being eligible to collect benefits from it. The quarters of coverage are a way of measuring how much one has contributed to the system. In 2014 a quarter of coverage was credited for earnings of $1,200 in any calendar quarter. Anyone who earned $4,800 in 2014 (regardless of when the earnings occurred during the year) received four quarters of coverage. In 2015 a quarter of coverage will be credited for earnings of $1,220 during a calendar quarter. Four quarters will be credited for annual earnings of $4,880.

Trial Work Period Limit: The amount of earnings required to use a trial work month is subject to annual increases based on changes in the national average wage index. In 2014 the amount was $770. This amount will increase to $780 in 2015. In cases of self-employment a trial work month can also be used if a person works more than eighty hours, and this limitation on hours worked will not change unless expressly adjusted.

Exempt Earnings: The monthly earnings exemption is referred to as Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). This is a measurement used to determine whether a beneficiary is earning enough income that he or she may be deemed ineligible for benefits and is calculated as a person’s monthly income before taxes, minus any unearned (or subsidy) income and any impairment-related work expense deductions. In 2014 the SGA for a blind person receiving disability benefits was $1,800. In 2015 this number will increase slightly to $1,820 per month. This means that in 2015 a blind SSDI beneficiary who earns $1,821 or more a month (before taxes but after subtractions of subsidy incomes and impairment-related work expenses) will be deemed to have exceeded SGA and will likely no longer be eligible for benefits.

Social Security Benefit Amounts: There will be a 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for beneficiaries in 2015. Increased payments to beneficiaries will begin in December of 2014 and will apply to everyone receiving benefits in 2015.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Standard SSI Benefit Increase: Beginning January 2015 the federal payment amounts for SSI individuals and couples are as follows: individuals, $733 a month; SSI couples, $1,100 a month.

Student Earned Income Exclusion: In 2014 the monthly amount was $1,750, and the maximum yearly amount was $7,060. In 2015 the monthly amount will be $1,780, and the maximum yearly amount will be $7,180. The SSI program applies strict asset limits of $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for couples, which can be changed only by Congress.

Medicare

Medicare Deductibles and Coinsurance: Medicare Part A coverage provides hospital insurance to most Social Security beneficiaries. The coinsurance amount is the hospital charge to a Medicare beneficiary for any hospital stay. Medicare then pays the hospital charges above the beneficiary's coinsurance amount.

The Part A hospital inpatient deductible was $1,216 in 2014 and will increase to $1,260 in 2015. The coinsurance charged for hospital services within a benefit period of no longer than sixty days was $0 in 2014 and will stay at $0 in 2015. From the sixty-first day through the ninetieth day, the daily coinsurance amount was $304 a day in 2014 and will slightly increase in 2015 to $315 a day. Each Medicare beneficiary has sixty lifetime reserve days that may be used after a ninety-day benefit period has ended. Once used, these reserve days are no longer available after any benefit period. The coinsurance amount paid during each reserve day used in 2014 was $608. In 2015 the coinsurance for each reserve day will be $630.

Part A of Medicare pays all covered charges for services in a skilled nursing facility for the first twenty days following a three-day in-hospital stay within a benefit period. From the twenty-first day through the one hundredth day in a benefit period, the Part A coinsurance amount for services received in a skilled nursing facility was $152 in 2014 and will increase to $157.50 for 2015.

Most Social Security beneficiaries have no monthly premium charge for Medicare Part A coverage. Those who become ineligible for SSDI can continue to receive Medicare Part A coverage premium-free for at least ninety-three months after the end of a trial work period. After that time the individual may purchase Part A coverage. The premium rate for this coverage during 2014 was $426 a month. In 2015 the premium rate for Part A coverage will reduce to $407.

The annual deductible amount for Medicare Part B (medical insurance) in 2014 was $147. That amount will not change in 2015. The Medicare Part B monthly premium rate charged to each new beneficiary or to those beneficiaries who directly pay their premiums quarterly for 2014 was $104.90 a month, and again that amount will not change in 2015. For those receiving Social Security benefits, this premium payment is deducted from your monthly benefit check. Individuals who remain eligible for Medicare but are not receiving Social Security benefits because they are working must directly pay the Part B premium quarterly—one payment every three months. Like the Part A premiums mentioned above, Part B is also available for at least ninety-three months following the trial work period, assuming an individual wishes to have it and, when not receiving SSDI, continues to make quarterly premium payments.

Programs That Help with Medicare Deductibles and Premiums: Low-income Medicare beneficiaries may qualify for help with payments. Assistance is available through two programs—the QMB (Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program) and the SLMB (Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary program). To qualify for the QMB program in 2014, an individual’s monthly income could not exceed $993 and a married couple’s monthly income could not exceed $1,331. To qualify for the SLMB program in 2014, an individual’s monthly income could not exceed $1,187 and a married couple’s monthly income could not exceed $1,593. A note on the Medicare website says: “These amounts may increase in 2015.”

Under the QMB program states are required to pay the Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance expenses for Medicare beneficiaries who meet the program's income and resource requirements. Under the SLMB program states pay only the full Medicare Part B monthly premium. Eligibility for the SLMB program may be retroactive for up to three calendar months.

Both the QMB and SLMB programs are administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in conjunction with the states. The rules vary from state to state, but the following can be said: Resources, such as bank accounts or stocks, may not exceed $7,160 for one person or $10,750 for a family of two. There is yet a third program called the Qualified Disabled and Working Individuals (QDWI) Program, and resources cannot exceed $4,000 for one person and $6,000 for a married couple under that program. Resources are generally things you own. However, not everything is counted. The house you live in, for example, doesn't count; and generally one car also doesn't count.

If you qualify for assistance under the QMB program, you will not have to pay the following: Medicare's hospital deductible amount, which will be $1,260 per benefit period in 2015; the daily coinsurance charges for extended hospital and skilled nursing facility stays; the Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) premium, which will be $104.90 a month in 2015, unless you are currently receiving benefits from Social Security and the agency is automatically withholding your Part B premiums; the 2015 $147 annual Part B deductible; and the 20 percent coinsurance for services covered by Medicare Part B, depending on which doctor you go to (these services include doctor services, outpatient therapy, and durable medical equipment).

If you qualify for assistance under the SLMB program, you will be responsible for the payment of all of the items listed above except for the monthly Part B premium, depending on your circumstances.

If you think you qualify but you have not filed for Medicare Part A, contact Social Security to find out if you need to file an application. Further information about filing for Medicare is available from your local Social Security office or Social Security's toll-free number (800) 772-1213.

Remember that only your state can decide if you are eligible for help from the QMB or SLMB program and also that the income and resource levels listed here are general guidelines, with some states choosing greater amounts. Therefore, if you are elderly or disabled, have low income and very limited assets, and are a Medicare beneficiary, contact your state or local Medicaid office (referred to in some states as the Public Aid Office or the Public Assistance Office) to apply. For more information about either program, call the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on its toll-free number (800) 633-4227, or go online to <http://www.cms.hhs.gov/ ContactCMS>.

The Tactile Fluency Revolution: Year Two

by Al Maneki

From the Editor: Al Maneki has had a distinguished career and in his retirement has turned his focus to improving the education of blind children by addressing the issue of tactile drawings. His work with E.A.S.Y. is well-known to readers, and here is his latest update on their efforts:

Welcome to the second year of the tactile fluency revolution. The National Federation of the Blind proclaimed the start of this revolution at the tactile graphics workshop held at our 2013 convention in Orlando. As a cornerstone of this revolution, we adopted Resolution 2013-08, committing us to teaching Braille and tactile graphics simultaneously.

Despite a number of production delays, during the past year E.A.S.Y., LLC brought the inTACT Sketchpad and Eraser to market just in time for sale at the 2014 NFB Convention. E.A.S.Y. representatives spent the past year promoting the tactile fluency revolution to people in the field of work with the blind. Our case for the need for tactile graphics was met with nearly unanimous support. Under the sponsorship of this resolution, E.A.S.Y. participated in NFB state conventions in Illinois, Texas, Utah, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana. They held exhibits and workshops, and they spoke in some of the general sessions. In the summer of 2014 E.A.S.Y. conducted tactile graphics sessions at the NFB BELL summer programs held in Ohio, Utah, Pennsylvania, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, and Texas. At the 2014 National Convention E.A.S.Y. conducted a tactile graphics workshop for NFBJI, and they spoke briefly at the NFB board meeting. They also spoke at the NOPBC and Science and Engineering annual meetings. For the second consecutive year E.A.S.Y. introduced tactile graphics to the youngsters in NFB Camp.

In the summer of 2014 I personally conducted tactile graphics sessions in three NFB BELL classes, two in Maryland and one in the District of Columbia. I found it most refreshing to work with NFB BELL-age students, roughly age five to ten. Unlike blind adults, who reacted to our Sketchpad with a degree of hesitation, blind youngsters took up the Sketchpad with glee. While we received comments from the adults such as “I’ve never done this before,” or, “I’m not going to be very good at this,” the youngsters took up the Sketchpad with enthusiasm. As soon as we showed them how it worked, they were off and running.

I developed a simple lesson plan for these three classes. When I arrived to teach the classes, students were already well drilled in the basic Federation classroom procedures, such as speaking out their names loudly and clearly in order to be recognized. Although there were a few complaints about using sleepshades, everyone complied with this requirement.

After the round of introductions, the students examined their Sketchpads. Each contained a simple tactile image that they were asked to identify. We showed them how to use the drawing stylus and had them practice drawing random designs on fresh sheets of plastic. We then showed them quarter-inch-thick foam sheets in which we had cut out various simple shapes. These sheets were trimmed to fit snugly over the plastic sheet inserted in the Sketchpad. They were asked to trace around the edge of each cutout. They then exchanged pads to practice tracing different shapes.

As a further exercise we handed out various geometric shapes: circles, triangles, etc, which students were asked to identify and trace. Unlike the foam sheets, these did not fit snugly over the Sketchpad. The students had to hold the shape firmly in place in order to trace around it. We had previously glued strips of rubber shelf liner on the back of each shape to help keep it in place as it was being traced.

If time permitted, we allowed students to finish the session by drawing anything they wished. While some of these drawings were not recognizable to us, we appreciated their unrestrained creativity. Students took home all of their drawings. In these NFB BELL classes we did not show the students how to use the thermal Eraser.

In the appendix we describe by brand name and manufacturers’ links all of the materials we used for the NFB BELL classes. We also tell you how we constructed or adapted these products for use with our Sketchpads. We are giving you this information in the hope that it will inspire you to develop other aids and tools to teach tactile graphics. Please tell us about your successes, and also don’t hesitate to share with us the things that didn’t work for you.


In the coming year we hope to participate in more NFB affiliate conventions to hold workshops and exhibits and speak in the general sessions. We plan to teach tactile graphics at as many NFB BELL classes around the nation as possible. We will develop augmented demonstrations of Braille and tactile graphics.

Also in the first year of the tactile fluency revolution, we began the development of an interactive workbook to teach tactile drawing to students of all ages. It is being written to be used by teachers in the classroom or by parents to teach their children at home or even by students for self-study. Both the print and Braille editions will include a set of tactile worksheets, some of which are meant to be read-only but also many with pre-drawn exercises to be completed by the student. The exercises will range from the elementary, teaching the drawing of basic lines, curves, and shapes, to the more advanced in which objects are drawn by combining the elementary lines and shapes into figures, such as houses and cars. From the beginning this book is intended as a truly multimedia effort. The book will incorporate templates or stencils to aid in learning shapes by feel and how to draw them.

Eventually we anticipate the development of other learning tools for the inTACT Sketchpad. As I am writing this article, the company is developing a set of plastic overlays to fit snugly over the top of the Sketchpad. To introduce blind students to the different types of triangles and quadrilaterals, each overlay contains cutouts of the different shapes. Each shape will have a Braille label to identify it. We will accompany these overlays with a study guide containing a set of definitions of each type of triangle or quadrilateral (e.g., equilateral, scalene, acute, rhombus, trapezoid, etc.) Students will learn to identify each form by examining the corresponding shape in the overlay. To reinforce learning, they may draw the border of each shape on the Sketchpad and shade in the area of that shape if they wish.

After mastering the definitions of the various shapes of triangles and quadrilaterals, we will provide students with an unlabeled set of overlays. The study guide will ask students, for example, to pick out a particular shape such as a scalene triangle or rhombus. They will mark their choice by tracing what they think is the right cutout in the unmarked overlay. For additional self-study students will be asked other questions such as: “Is it possible for an equilateral triangle to be a scalene triangle?” “What is the difference between a rhombus and a trapezoid?” etc. This workbook is intended for demonstration only and not for general classroom use. Our overlays may be used with any teaching units on triangles and quadrilaterals.

After students master these overlays, they will learn to construct triangles and quadrilaterals with the use of a ruler and protractor. Then they will be able to engage in activities of self-discovery, e.g., figuring out formulas for the areas of triangles and quadrilaterals and using triangles to build arbitrary polygonal shapes. These analytical efforts are in keeping with the goals of the common core state standards for mathematics.

We plan to develop other learning aids and tools to accompany our Sketchpad. I have found to my disappointment that I cannot draw a neat circle with a compass. I have since learned that using a compass requires dexterity that is beyond the abilities of many people. We at E.A.S.Y. are giving serious thought to building a tool for drawing circles on our Sketchpad. This tool will be extremely valuable, enabling blind students to perform geometric constructions requiring arcs and complete circles, as well as Venn diagrams. A Venn diagram, consisting of a set of intersecting circles drawn inside a rectangle, is used to display relationships between sets of objects such as intersections, unions, set-differences, and complements. Too often the best that a blind student can do in place of a Venn diagram or other geometric construction is to render a cumbersome verbal description.

With the superior design of our Sketchpad and the forthcoming digital functionality for it, it’s not surprising that E.A.S.Y. is currently getting the lion’s share of attention in tactile graphics. Yet, like other movements that apparently spring up overnight, the tactile fluency revolution has its share of progenitors. The Sewell Raised Line Drawing Kit and the APH DRAFTSMAN Tactile Drawing Board have been around for a very long time. Although some vision teachers are using them, they have not had much impact on tactile fluency. In particular Susan Osterhaus at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has been a fierce advocate but gives us full credit for coming up with the term “Tactile Fluency.” Ann Cunningham at the Colorado Center for the Blind has been actively engaged in teaching tactile art to blind people since 2009 with her Sensational Blackboard. When I saw her in Orlando, Ann told me that she was writing a book to teach art to blind people of all ages. We eagerly anticipate the publication of her book. On the academic side, Dr. Paul Gabias, Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Okanagan, has performed extensive research on tactile perception and its comparison with visual perception.

We are at an opportune moment for significant advances in tactile graphics. Several independent events highlight the need for a unified approach for Braille and tactile graphics. These events are exactly what we need to stimulate major advances in tactile fluency. For example, in Orlando we heard from Christopher Downey, an architect who lost his vision suddenly in 2008. However, he continues to work as an architect by using improvised tactile systems. As a blind person he served as an architectural consultant to designing a rapid transit bus system for the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District in California. He served as a contract architect to the design of a 170,000-square-foot Polytrauma and Blind Rehabilitation Center for the Veterans Administration in Palo Alto. He is currently starting to design new offices for the Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco.

As we listened to Downey’s presentation, it became very clear to us that he would benefit immensely from the digital features that we plan to incorporate into our Sketchpad. Downey’s story further reminds me of successful blind scientists I heard of in my youth. I was told back then that these folks were successful because they lost their sight after attaining their scientific reputations. By implication there was no possible way to attain scientific stature when starting out blind. Today we know better. We accept Christopher Downey’s success story with the understanding and the belief that, if he made it, success in his field is possible for any of us.

In year two the tactile fluency revolution is alive and well. It has been an unqualified success. Our greatest impact can be seen in the successes we have had with our NFB BELL students. This is the generation that will have boundless opportunities as engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and designers of all types. I’m convinced that computer-aided design software will be as useful to them as text-based applications are to us today. Even more encouraging, as they grow into adulthood, these students will be well versed in all of the skills of blindness as well as in living the Federation philosophy. This will enable them to compete on terms of equality.

There is still much work to be done in reaching the goal of tactile fluency for everyone. We need all the help we can get. If you would like to join us, please get in touch with me: by email at <[email protected]>, or by phone at (443) 745-9274. See you on the barricades!

Appendix
What Worked for Us

Here are the items we used in our NFB BELL classes and two sessions of NFB Camp. We have not tested other items. When we found something that worked, we stopped looking and used it. This list is just to help you get started in teaching tactile graphics. We encourage you to look for other items and develop other teaching techniques. If you find anything you would like to share with us, either good or bad, please contact me, <[email protected]>.

The quarter-inch foam sheets were purchased at Michaels Craft Store:
<http://www.michaels.com/M10390268.html?dwvar_M10390268_color=Black#product-description>.
Although this link refers to black sheets, when ordering, the color may be changed to white. We chose white over black due to odor and texture differences.

The Craft Knife and extra blades:
<http://www.michaels.com/10450829.html#q=craft+knife&start=16>.
Used to trim the cutouts on the foam sheets, was also purchased at Michael’s Craft Store.

Geometric Shape Templates are made by Learning Resources
<http://www.learningresources.com/product/primary+shapes+template+set.do?sortby=best
Sellers&sortby=&&from=fn
> and were purchased from eNasco:
<http://www.enasco.com/product/TB24928T>.

The Con-Tact Brand non-adhesive Shelf Liner, Grip Prints Liner, 12 in. x 10 ft. Almond
<http://reviews.homedepot.com/1999/202499887/con-tact-12-in-x-10-ft-almond-print-grip-shelf-liner-4-per-pack-reviews/reviews.htm> was purchased at Home Depot.

Tombow’s Xtreme Adhesive was purchased at Michaels Craft Store but is also available online through Amazon.com. <http://www.amazon.com/Tombow-USA-Permanent-
Performance-Applicator/dp/B00HLY0K9E
>.

Animal Zoo Foam Play Puzzle was purchased at Amazon.com <http://www.amazon.com/Animal-Educational-Foam-Puzzle-Squares/dp/B0093P0QDO> but is probably available elsewhere.

Geometric Shapes from Learning Resources
<http://www.learningresources.com/product/large+geometric+shapes.do?from=Search&cx=0> was purchased from Amazon.com.

This is a set of ten three-dimensional shapes, inviting students to explore geometry. Shapes have a common three-inch dimension to illustrate relationships between area, volume, shape, form and size. Plastic shapes include cone, sphere, hemisphere, cube, cylinder, rectangular prism, hexagonal prism, triangular prism, square pyramid, and triangular pyramid. Although we did not use these shapes in our NFB BELL classes, they appear to be a useful way to teach blind children about three-dimensional objects.

The 2015 Blind Educator of the Year Award

by Edward Bell

From the Editor: Dr. Edward Bell is an experienced educator in his own right. He was named Blind Educator of the Year in 2008. He chairs the 2015 Blind Educator of the Year Award selection committee. This is what he says:

A number of years ago the Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by the National Organization of Blind Educators (the educators division of the National Federation of the Blind) to pay tribute to a blind teacher whose exceptional classroom performance, notable community service, and uncommon commitment to the NFB merit national recognition. Beginning with the 1991 presentation, this award became an honor bestowed by our entire movement. The change reflects our recognition of the importance of good teaching and the impact an outstanding blind teacher has on students, faculty, community, and all blind Americans.

This award is presented in the spirit of the outstanding educators who founded and have continued to nurture the National Federation of the Blind and who, by example, have imparted knowledge of our strengths to us and raised our expectations. We have learned from Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and Immediate Past President Marc Maurer that a teacher not only provides a student with information but also provides guidance, advocacy, and love. The recipient of the Blind Educator of the Year Award must exhibit all of these traits and must advance the cause of blind people in the spirit and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.

The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Honorees must be present to receive an appropriately inscribed plaque and a check for $1,000.

Nominations should be sent to Dr. Edward Bell, Louisiana Tech University, PDRIB, PO Box 3158, Ruston, LA 71272. Letters of nomination must be accompanied by a copy of the nominee's current résumé and supporting documentation of community and Federation activity. All nomination materials must be in the hands of the committee chairman by May 1, 2015, to be considered for this year's award. For further information contact Edward Bell at (318) 257-4554, or <[email protected]>.

Can You Hear Me Now?

by Darlene Laibl-Crowe

From the Editor: Darlene Laibl-Crowe is the vice president of the NFB of Florida Statewide Chapter. She was appointed by Governor Rick Scott in 2012 to the Florida Coordinating Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to represent deaf-blind Floridians. Here is what she has to say about enhancing the experience of deaf-blind members as we in the National Federation of the Blind harness the power of conference telephoning to conduct some of our business:

When the National Federation of the Blind of Florida Statewide Chapter was created in February of 2013, it became possible for those who live in Florida who do not live near a local chapter to become part of the Federation. The statewide chapter meets once a month by phone, unlike the traditional chapter meeting, where people are physically present. It has a once-a-year face-to-face meeting at the state convention. Now this avant-garde group is pioneering another approach by opening the door for those who are hard of hearing to participate in the conference call meetings more efficiently with captioning.

As a hard-of-hearing person it is difficult at times to clearly understand what is being said on the phone, even more difficult when more than one person is talking. Here is a sample conversation for me on the phone with one person:

Me: What? What was that you said? Could you please repeat what you said?
Voice on the phone mumbles: Mmph…dis…mmph.
Me (sighing): I can’t understand you. Can you spell that please?

Sometimes when talking on the phone I feel like I have a loose connection, since I can catch only bits and pieces of what the caller is saying. Now I can’t speak for others who are hard of hearing, but this seems to be the norm for me.

Fortunately, I am one of the lucky ones who have experienced the technology that is available to understand what is being said during a meeting and on conference calls. In 2012 Governor Rick Scott appointed me to represent deaf-blind Floridians on the Florida Coordinating Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (<www.fccdhh.org>). Members of the board represent various state agencies and other organizations that serve the deaf, the hard of hearing, and the deaf-blind consumers of Florida. Some of the members are deaf and rely on sign language, and some are hard of hearing. The state provides accommodations such as interpreters, support service providers, and Communications Access Real-time Transmission, also known as CART.

CART (<http://www.ncra.org/specialty/CART.cfm?navItemNumber=636>) is a form of captioning in which transcriptionists type into a program what is being said during a meeting or over the telephone. During the meeting I can read the conversation using my laptop on a website. This helps all of us on the board to understand clearly what is being said and to make professional decisions and comments.

As I continued to meet with the statewide chapter, I thought to myself on several occasions, “How wonderful it would be if we had CART.” But after some research I found that having CART was not an option due to our limited budget.

In September 2014 I found out about C-Print (<www.rit.edu/ntid/cprint/>), which is similar to CART. I researched the organization, and they connected me to a listserv that transcriptionists used. I asked some key questions. How does C-Print work? Can it be done by phone? How much does it cost? I had many people contact me with some very good information and some reasonable quotes. Then one of the emails connected me to Strada Communications.

According to CEO Chanel Carlascio, “Strada (<www.stradagize.com>) is committed to giving back to the people and communities we work with every day. A portion of our proceeds is set aside to provide services for people who have been denied them in some way and for organizations that could not otherwise afford them. We are proud to partner with the NFB of Florida in this way,” supporting NFB’s philosophy to empower all who are blind, even those who also have hearing loss.

Before the meeting there were some concerns that this type of meeting might be in conflict with NFB’s rules. I quickly explained how it works. The meeting would proceed as normal with audio recording. The transcriptionists would type the conversation. When the meeting was over, we would receive a copy of the transcription. This would mean that we would have two forms of documentation for our meeting to prevent any misleading information.

I also informed the members that there is one rule: all of us must state our name before we speak, so the transcriptionist can know who is speaking. A list of those attending the meeting was also sent to the transcriptionists before the meeting.

Sunday night, October 19, 2014, statewide chapter president, Holly Idler began, “This is Holly. Welcome to the Statewide Chapter.” During the call echoing or staticky phone lines were apparent, but overall the two transcriptionists, Joshua Kissel and Cora Sipe, were able to type the conversation as the meeting proceeded. We were able to read the captioning on the website (<typewell.com/overview/how-it-works>) by using our computers and listening to what was being said.

After the meeting there was much praise for how well the captioning worked. Brooke Evans, a statewide chapter member and also hard of hearing, stated: “It is a game-changer for the deaf/blind/hearing impaired. I'm very impressed with it. It is very good.” The captioning can also be accessible for those who rely on Braille displays.

For more information, or if you would like to visit our next meeting to learn more about captioning, please either contact me by phone at (386) 325-0218, or email me at <[email protected]>.

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award for 2015

by Cathy Jackson

From the Editor: Cathy Jackson chairs the committee to select the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 2015.

The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind children at our 2015 convention next July. The winner of this award will receive an expense-paid trip to the convention, a check for $1,000, an appropriate plaque, and an opportunity to make a presentation about the education of blind children to the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children.

Anyone who is currently teaching or counseling blind students or administering a program for blind children is eligible to receive this award. It is not necessary to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind to apply. However, the winner must attend the national convention. Teachers may be nominated by colleagues, supervisors, or friends. The letter of nomination should explain why the teacher is being recommended for this award.

The education of blind children is one of our most important concerns. Attendance at a National Federation of the Blind convention will enrich a teacher's experience by affording him or her the opportunity to take part in seminars and workshops on educational issues, to meet other teachers who work with blind children, to meet parents, and to meet blind adults who have had experiences in a variety of educational programs. Help us recognize a distinguished teacher by distributing this form and encouraging teachers to submit their credentials. We are pleased to offer this award and look forward to applications from many well-qualified educators.

Please complete the application and attach the following:

National Federation of the Blind
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award
2015 Application

Deadline: May 15, 2015

Name: _______________________________________________________
Home address: _________________________________________________
City, State, Zip: _________________________________________________
Phone: (H) ____________________(W) ____________________________
Email: ______________________________________________________
School: ______________________________________________________
Address: _____________________________________________________
City, State, Zip: _________________________________________________
Use a separate sheet of paper to answer the following:

Email is strongly encouraged for transmitting nominations; letters of support and other relevant materials should be included as attachments. Applications sent by mail and postmarked by the deadline will also be accepted. Send all material by May 15, 2015, to Cathy Jackson, Chairperson, Teacher Award Committee, <[email protected]> or by mail to 210 Cambridge Drive, Louisville, Kentucky 40214-2809; (502) 366-2317.

Recipes

This month’s recipes are offered by members of the NFB of Puerto Rico.

Sancocho (Puerto Rican Stew)
by Odette Quiñones

Odette is a founding member and hard worker of our affiliate. She is the loving mother of our first vice president, Lydia Usero.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons culantro (also known as long coriander or Mexican coriander), chopped
2 cups corn kernels (frozen may be used)
1 stalk celery with leaves, chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut in cubes
2 green plantains, peeled and quartered
2 yautias, peeled and cut in cubes
1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 pound pumpkin, peeled and quartered
1 cup tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 pounds boneless/skinless chicken thighs
2 pounds cubed stew beef
1 pound cubed pork shoulder
2 1/2 quarts cool water
Salt and pepper to taste

Method: Heat the oil in a deep kettle. Add peppers, garlic, and onions, cook for two to three minutes. Add the meat, culantro, celery, and oregano. Cook for fifteen to twenty minutes. Add remaining ingredients, then add enough water to cover the ingredients. Cook for two and a half hours or until the meat is tender.

Note:   For a thicker soup, mash some of the vegetables and stir them well into it. Sancocho is great for cold days. It goes well with garlic bread or our scrumptious tostones, delicious. Makes ten to twelve servings.

Tembleque (Coconut Pudding)
by Odette Quiñones

Ingredients:
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups coconut milk
1 can coconut water
1 small orange leaf
Ground cinnamon

Method: Mix cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a pot. Slowly add coconut milk and coconut water, stirring well. Add orange leaf. Stir continually and cook at medium-high temperature until mixture boils. Lower temperature to medium, and continue stirring until it thickens. Take out the orange leaf and pour mixture into a glass mold, refrigerate. Sprinkle ground cinnamon over it before serving.

Note: Tembleque is a dessert usually eaten during Christmas season in Puerto Rico.

Codfish Serenade
by Lydia Usero

Lydia Usero is the first vice president of the NFB of Puerto Rico.

Ingredients:
1 pound salted codfish fillet
1 pound peeled potatoes
1 red onion
3 avocados
5 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 cup olive oil

Method: Wash salt from codfish with cold tap water. Boil and clean codfish. Cut into one-inch pieces. Peel and boil potatoes, then slice them and place them in a bowl. Slice hard-boiled eggs. Peel and cut avocados in cubes. Slice red onion. Place ingredients in the bowl with the potatoes and codfish, add olive oil, and mix with a plastic spoon.

iGreen Salad
by Lydia Usero

Ingredients:
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 can sweet peas
Parmesan cheese to taste
Bacon bits to taste
Mayonnaise

Method: Mix everything except mayonnaise in a bowl, and put in the refrigerator. Add mayonnaise when serving.

Cream Cheese Potatoes
by Luz Sánchez

Luz Sánchez is a member of the NFB of Puerto Rico and the wife of Eduardo González, NFB of Puerto Rico second vice president.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds potatoes
1 quart heavy cream
1 pound package bacon, diced
4 ounces cream cheese
Garlic to taste
1 ounce butter

Method: Peel and slice potatoes, cook in heavy cream at medium-low temperature. Fry diced bacon slices with garlic. Mix bacon, butter, and cream cheese with potatoes and heavy cream. Cook for five minutes at low temperature. Serve with preferred meat or poultry. Serves seven.

Strawberry Flan
by Gladys Franco

Gladys Franco is the mother of a young blind woman and a member of the board of directors of the NFB of Puerto Rico.

Ingredients:
1 14-ounce can of condensed milk
1 12-ounce can of evaporated milk
1 10-ounce package of frozen strawberries in their juice
2 cups boiling water
1 large package strawberry Jell-O

Method: Liquefy strawberries with evaporated and condensed milk in a blender. Pour Jell-O into boiling water and blend well. Mix all ingredients, then pour into a mold and put in the refrigerator until mixture jells.

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

National Federation of the Blind 2015 Scholarship Program:
Are you a legally blind college student living in the United States or Puerto Rico? This annual program offers thirty scholarships worth from $3,000 to $12,000 to eligible students, from high school seniors beginning their freshman year in the fall semester of 2015, up through grad students working on their PhD degrees. These merit scholarships are based on academic excellence, community service, and leadership. In addition to the money, each winner will receive assistance to attend the July 2015 NFB annual convention in Orlando, Florida, providing an excellent opportunity for high-level networking with active blind persons in many different professions and occupations. To apply, read the rules and the submission checklist, complete the official 2015 Scholarship Application Form (online or in print), supply all required documents, and request and complete one interview by an NFB affiliate president (unless the president requests a later date). Applications are accepted for five months, from November 1, 2014, to March 31, 2015. Go to <www.nfb.org/scholarships> for complete rules and requirements.

Release of Unified English Braille Version of The McDuffy Reader:
On October 14, 2014, the National Federation of the Blind announced the release of a new version of The McDuffy Reader: A Braille Primer for Adults by Sharon L. Monthei, which is designed to guide students through the Unified English Braille (UEB) code. The primer, first published by the National Federation of the Blind in 1989, has been used as an effective Braille teaching tool in many rehabilitation settings around the country. Ms. Monthei has revised this popular Braille instructional manual in light of the coming changes to the Braille code. By January 2016, Unified English Braille will be the official Braille code used in the United States.

Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The National Federation of the Blind is proud to make this new instructional tool available to adult Braille students. With the rollout of Unified English Braille only a little more than a year away, we believe that programs that teach Braille to blind adults will find this new version of our classic Braille instructional manual to be an invaluable aid for their students.”

Jennifer Dunnam, manager of Braille programs for the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The McDuffy Reader has been a widely utilized and acclaimed guide for adults learning Braille for twenty-five years and counting. This update ensures that this excellent primer will continue to be a helpful resource for Braille students across the nation.”

The Unified English Braille Edition of The McDuffy Reader: A Braille Primer for Adults is the first UEB instructional guide for beginning adult Braille readers to be published in the United States. The book first presents uncontracted Braille, then the Braille contractions in logical groups. The author has crafted the text in the contracted section of the manual so that words are used only when students have learned all of the contractions that apply to them. The book contains eighty-nine Braille pages in one volume, which is comb-bound with plastic covers.

The UEB edition of The McDuffy Reader is available from the National Federation of the Blind Independence Market for $20.00 plus shipping and handling. You may contact the NFB Independence Market by email at <[email protected]> and by phone at (410) 659-9314, extension 2216.

2015 NFB Writers’ Division Writing Contest:
The annual youth and adult writing contests sponsored by the NFB Writers’ Division will open January 1 and close April 1. Since it is the Federation’s seventy-fifth birthday, the contest will, for the first time ever, have a required theme. All submissions will need to incorporate the theme of seventy-five. It does not have to be about the anniversary of NFB. It could just be the number seventy-five, or perhaps the diamond anniversary, or seventy-five steps to your destination, or even seventy-five balloons. In the pattern of past entries, 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 to commemorate the seventy-five years of the work that has been happening within and because of the National Federation of the Blind.

In the adult contests, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and stories for youth are open to all entrants eighteen and over. The youth writing contests, poetry and fiction, are to promote Braille literacy and excellence in writing. Each contest is divided into three groups by grade level—elementary, middle school, and high school.

Prizes in the adult contest may be as much as $100; winners in the youth contest may receive as much as $30. All contest winners will be announced during the Writers’ Division business meeting at the NFB National Convention, held in Orlando, Florida in July of 2015. In addition, the list of winners will appear on our website, <http://writers.nfb.org>, and their submissions will be considered for publication in our division’s magazine, Slate and Style.

For additional contest details and submission guidelines, go to <http://writers.nfb.org>.

Elected:
At the 2014 Illinois state convention, the following members were elected to the board of directors: president, Denise R. Avant (Chicago chapter); first vice president, Debbie Kent Stein (Chicago chapter); second vice president, Leslie Hamric (at-large chapter); secretary, Glenn Moore (Chicago chapter); treasurer, Patti Chang (Chicago chapter); board members, David Meyer (Chicago chapter), Bill Reif (Ferris Wheel chapter), Brian Sumner (Four Rivers chapter), Debbie Pittman (Chicago chapter), Adrienne Falconer (IABS), and Jesse Rogers (IABM).

Elected:
At the annual meeting of the Illinois Association of Blind Students, the following were elected: president, Brianna Lillyman; first vice president, Katie Leinum; second vice president, Sarah Luna; secretary, Julia Chang; treasurer, Glenn Moore; board members, Debbie Kent Stein, Adrienne Falconer, and Nadia Montanez.

In Brief

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.

Ideas Wanted for the Improvement of Web-based Technology:
We welcome you to submit your best work on improving accessibility of the web, mobiles, and wearables for people with and without disabilities to the International Web for All Conference (W4A™15), conveniently co-located with WWW™15 and MobiSys™15.

W4A15 (<www.w4a.info>) will take place in Florence, Italy (May 18 to 20):

As you know, devices are getting smaller, and more of them are now wearable: smart glasses, smart watches, and smart clothing are all working their way into our lives and onto our bodies. These devices are online, web-accessible, and increasingly interconnected. As with many technologies that have come before, wearable devices present incredible opportunities for improving accessibility for people with and without disabilities, but also present accessibility challenges in ensuring that people are able to equally benefit from them regardless of disability, context, or situation. Acknowledging the importance of this topic, the theme of the twelfth International Web for All Conference is “The Wearable Web.”

Don't be deterred by the theme; we invite your best work on improving and understanding access for people across the accessibility continuum. Papers are expected to detail technical solutions and scientific insights into web, mobile, and wearable technologies addressing diverse user needs. Areas of interest include but are not limited to the following: age, cognition, culture, education, emotions, dexterity, disability, diversity, health, hearing, income, infrastructure, language, learning, literacy, mobility, situation, society, and vision.

The keynote speech on the "Sense and Sensibility: Smartphones and Wearable Technologies to Support Seniors" will be delivered by Lorenzo Chiari who is a professor and the vice director of the Health Sciences and Technologies—Interdepartmental Center for Industrial Research at the University of Bologna. On the close of the first day, join us for an evening of wine, food, and live music—with a classical performance by Lia Martirosyan.

The William Laughborough after-dinner talk "Riches Beyond Measure: A New Frontier in Web Accessibility" will be given by Kevin Carey, the chair of the Royal National Institute of Blind People, UK.

Don't come just for W4A™15—stay for the entire week! W4A is conveniently co-located with WWW™15 and MobiSys™15 conferences. MobiSys™15 is the top research conference dealing with all aspects of mobile systems: <http://www.sigmobile.org/mobisys/2015/cfp.php>.

And WWW™15 (<http://www.www2015.it/>) is the best and the biggest web research conference attended by famous web researchers and practitioners, such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the web). Among other events, we will hold a joint WWW/W4A panel session devoted to the “Wearable Web” theme.

NFB Pledge

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.

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