Vol. 58, No. 3 March 2015
Gary Wunder, Editor
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Mark Riccobono, President
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND KNOWS THAT BLINDNESS IS NOT THE CHARACTERISTIC THAT DEFINES YOU OR YOUR FUTURE. EVERY DAY WE RAISE THE EXPECTATIONS OF BLIND PEOPLE, BECAUSE LOW EXPECTATIONS CREATE OBSTACLES BETWEEN BLIND PEOPLE AND OUR DREAMS. YOU CAN LIVE THE LIFE YOU WANT; BLINDNESS IS NOT WHAT HOLDS YOU BACK. THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR OURSELVES.
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The 2015 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Orlando, Florida, July 5-10, at the Rosen Centre Hotel at 9840 International Drive, Orlando, Florida 32819. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with the Rosen Centre staff only. Call (800) 204-7234.
The 2015 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins, $82; and triples and quads, $89. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 13.5 percent. No charge will be made for children under seventeen in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $95-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2015. The other 50 percent is not refundable.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2015, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold our room block for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.
Guest-room amenities include cable television; in-room safe; coffeemaker; hairdryer; and, for a fee, high-speed Internet access. Guests can also enjoy a swimming pool, fitness center, and on-site spa. The Rosen Centre Hotel offers fine dining at Executive Chef Michael Rumplik's award-winning Everglades Restaurant. In addition, there is an array of dining options from sushi to tapas to a 24-hour deli. The hotel has first-rate amenities and shuttle service to the Orlando airport.
The schedule for the 2015 convention is:
Sunday, July 5 Seminar Day
Monday, July 6 Registration Day
Tuesday, July 7 Board Meeting and Division Day
Wednesday, July 8 Opening Session
Thursday, July 9 Business Session
Friday, July 10 Banquet Day and Adjournment
Please register online at <www.nfb.org/registration> or use this mail-in form. Print legibly, provide all requested information, and mail form and payment to:
National Federation of the Blind
Attn: Convention Registration
200 East Wells Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
Please register only one person per registration form; however, one check or money order may cover multiple registrations. Check or money order (sorry, no credit cards) must be enclosed with registration(s).
Registrant Name _____________________________________________________
City ____________________________ State _____________ Zip ___________
Phone ___________________ Email ____________________________________
___ I will pick up my registration packet at convention.
___ The following person will pick up my registration packet:
Pickup Name ______________________________________
Number of preregistrations x $25 = ____________
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Total = ____________
Vol. 58, No. 3 March 2015
Illustration: Relationships Old and New on the Hill
To Learn, to Read, and to Work: TEACH, Treaty, Time, and the 2015 Washington Seminar
by Gary Wunder
Legislative Agenda of Blind Americans: Priorities for the 114th Congress, First Session
Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act (HR188)
Technology, Education, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act
The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled (“Marrakesh Treaty”)
Daring to Be All We Can Be
by Paul Gabias
A Troubled State of Accessible Voting
by Lou Ann Blake
Ethel Ulysses Parker, Jr.
by Peggy Chong
Access Technology: Spreading the Word and the Knowledge
by Anne Taylor
Copyright 2015 by the National Federation of the Blind
Anil Lewis, one of our most thoughtful and energetic leaders, has made the observation on many occasions that “it is all about relationships.” One of the reasons Congressman Gregg Harper agreed to consider supporting the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act, now the Transition to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act, was that his friend Sam Gleese, the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Mississippi, asked him to do it. As year after year we come to the capital and use the time between visits in DC to talk with our members of Congress in the districts where we live, we build these relationships; we build trust; we create a climate that promotes and results in positive change. This is what we did on Capitol Hill, and this is what we do every day as we continue to educate the public about what it really means to be blind. Whether in lunchrooms, libraries, or the halls of Congress, we continue to tell people that our biggest problem in dealing with the world is not our lack of eyesight but the reaction to it that gets in our way. It is through relationships that the statements become more than just words and allow us to show that with love, hope, and determination, we and our friends and supporters transform dreams into reality.
by Gary Wunder
The slogan of the United States Postal Service and its commitment to deliver the mail are strikingly similar to the commitment of the blind to appear annually before the Congress of the United States of America to discuss the hopes, dreams, and rock-solid commitment of blind people to their full and complete participation on terms of equality with the sighted. So, when winter came to the East, dumping several feet of snow on New York, Boston, and other major cities, many wondered whether we would still travel by the hundreds to visit with the newly elected Congress. But come we did, visit we did, and educate we did. Certainly the weather stopped some from coming, and a few had to leave early, but, once one was in DC, the weather was more a topic of discussion than a deterrent to doing the business we came to do. The weather was chilly, but we were spared the snow and ice that paralyzed much of the East. Inches of snow and bitterly cold temperatures, like many other events in our lives, seemed as though they might make our participation difficult or impossible, but the reality was something quite different. It was more a nuisance than a handicap, and it had no bearing on our ability to do what was demanded.
Events started on Saturday evening as the legislative coordinators from each state gathered at the Jernigan Institute to discuss our issues, strategies for best communicating them, and roleplaying to prepare for the questions we would likely encounter. After a day and a half of training, the coordinators came to the Holiday Inn Capitol, where these students became the teachers: briefing those of us who were just arriving or who had been in other seminars on Sunday and Monday.
The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children hosted the Bolotin Award-winning Parent Leadership Program at the 2015 Washington Seminar. New and returning parent leaders heard from many Federation leaders, including President Riccobono, Pam Allen, Gary Wunder, Parnell Diggs, Gabe Cazares, Jim Antonacci, Anil Lewis, and Natalie Shaheen. NOPBC President Carlton Anne Cook Walker, NOPBC Second Vice President Kim Cunningham, and NOPBC Director of Programs (and former NOPBC President) Carol Castellano led the seminar, and former NOPBC President (and current Louisiana POBC President) Laura Bostick also shared Federation philosophy and leadership principles with the parent leaders. In this two-day seminar the group focused on topics such as the philosophy and policy of the Federation, the nuts and bolts of forming a group, the value of planning an activity of the month, ways to plan a seminar for first timers, and the art and science of leadership.
At the National Association of Blind Students annual winter seminar, students from around the nation gathered to be inspired; to be informed; and, perhaps most of all, to prepare to take our message of equal opportunity for the blind to Capitol Hill. As President Sean Whalen reports, “Leaders from our various state divisions shared their successes during the past year, and NABS committees updated everybody on the work currently underway. President Riccobono called upon us to take the enthusiasm home and work in our chapters and affiliates to advance the agenda of the Federation, and Scott LaBarre armed students with the facts about our legislative agenda so that we were ready to make our case to our elected representatives. We were pleased to have so many students in attendance at the Washington Seminar and hope that even more students will make the trip to DC to push for legislative change in the years ahead.”
At 5:00 PM on Monday evening, January 26, 2015, a new but familiar voice rang out to open the Great Gathering-In meeting. President Riccobono said, “We come despite the blizzard of 2015. The blind have come to Capitol Hill. We have come to speak for ourselves, and in our seventy-fifth year we come with diamonds on the tips of our canes. We have come to assert our right to equal pay; we have come to assert our right for an equal opportunity in education; we have come to assert our right for equality in accessing the world’s knowledge and for the right to read. We bring with us our experience, our knowledge about blindness, and our firm conviction that blindness is not the characteristic that defines us. We want those in the halls of power to know that not only do we demand our rights but we intend to fulfill our responsibilities as first-class citizens to make this the greatest country on earth.” When the President asked the crowd whether it was up to the challenge of taking our message to the policymakers of America, the response was enthusiastic and unequivocal: we were, and we did!
President Riccobono announced that Diane McGeorge, the longtime coordinator of logistics for the Washington Seminar, was not with us but was recovering from a severe sinus infection that resulted in doctor’s orders that she not fly. The crowd sent out a cheer for Diane that found its way to Denver through many phone calls from those sending their wishes for her speedy recovery and ensuring she knew everything she would’ve wanted to know, were she present. Always one for managing in great detail, Diane asked if the hotel had peanut butter pie, and yours truly inquired and then consumed a piece in her honor.
Before addressing the issues that would be taken to Capitol Hill, the President suggested we review some recent victories:
Last year the Maryland Board of Elections offered an online-ballot-marking tool and said they would make it available in the election. After working with constituents to make sure that this tool was accessible, the board decided that it would not take a vote to certify the ballot. The National Federation of the Blind demanded to know why, but the board declined to give a reason. Since we consider the right to vote independently to be a fundamental right of citizenship, we took the state of Maryland to court. The state told the judge that blind people have access to the polls and that the state had already made 98 percent of the polling places in Maryland accessible. They argued that blind people who wanted to vote using a secret ballot should go to the polls and that nothing in the law required that all options a voter might use should be accessible. Since any person in Maryland has the right to vote using an absentee ballot, we argued that this right should be extended to the blind, the court agreed, and the blind were able independently to cast an absentee ballot in the 2014 election.
A new subscription service called Scribd now makes available more than 40 million titles through its online web interface. It also allows subscribers to publish their own works. Scribd is not accessible to the blind, so, standing in solidarity with a blind parent from Vermont, we have sued Scribd, for we are determined to see that the blind of America receive an equal education and access to the reading materials offered to those who can see.
The higher education community often tells us that it has accessibility under control, but despite its assurances we find we must challenge educational inequality on many campuses throughout the country. Although we have negotiated successful agreements with Penn State, the University of Montana, Florida State University, and others, many other colleges and universities continue to discriminate against blind students by not providing accessible technology. Our latest settlement is with Maricopa Community College in Arizona. As a result of this agreement Maricopa Community College will procure electronic and information technology that is accessible to blind students. This will include making changes to its website, the school’s library website, the learning management system used by the school, and the personal response systems used in classrooms. This agreement even goes so far as to require that the automated teller machines be accessible.
Recently the Federation has concluded an agreement with the United States Department of Education which will make its student loan services accessible to all students, including the blind. This agreement binds not only the department but all loan servicers with which they do business. Some people work hard to get out of their student loans, but our effort is to see that blind people have the ability to get a good education, to borrow the money required to do it, and to pay back that money.
President Riccobono spoke briefly about Pedro Martinez, a blind parent who resides in the state of New York and who was trying to gain custody of his child after she was placed in foster care in California due to her mother’s inability to care for her. A California court asked officials in the New York child protection agency to do an evaluation of Mr. Martinez to determine whether he would be able to care for his child. The New York agency praised him for his independence, his personality, and his blindness skills; but they recommended to the court that custody not be granted because Pedro Martinez was not only blind but poor. When we asked our lawyers to look into this report, they concluded that it was shockingly discriminatory. Accordingly, we intervened, and, with the energy and imagination of the National Federation of the Blind behind him, Pedro Martinez got training in the parenting classes that would help him become a better parent, the New York agency did a second assessment, and a California court has now awarded him custody. As President Riccobono said, “Both we and Pedro know that things aren’t going to be easy, but he and his daughter already have a pretty big family to help them out.” That family, of course, refers to his family and to the National Federation of the Blind.
President Riccobono concluded his discussion of legal cases by reviewing our recent settlement with Cardtronics, the largest deployer of non-bank ATMs in the world. Our settlement requires that the full fleet of Cardtronics ATMs be accessible by March 31 of 2017. The settlement also includes a significant financial contribution by Cardtronics to the National Federation of the Blind, 1.25 million dollars. Beyond ATM accessibility and the financial settlement to the Federation, Cardtronics has agreed to establish a Center of Excellence, and this they have done. Ron Gardner is serving as an expert on accessibility and as our representative in dealing with the company. “We started with litigation with Cardtronics, but I think that, going forward, we are going to find some extremely fine partners who push the ATM industry in accessibility farther than we’ve ever seen,” said President Riccobono. Randy Rice, a vice president at Cardtronics and the head of the Center of Excellence, was present and was acknowledged through applause for his commitment to accessibility. President Riccobono remarked, “Although we don’t always start on the same side of the table, it’s great when we can link arms, join our expertise, and change the world. That’s what we’re here to do with Congress.”
We then moved from highlighting some of our legal victories to an introduction of prominent guests in the audience. President Riccobono welcomed representatives from each affiliate; the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind; our immediate past president, Marc Maurer, and his wife Patricia; and Mrs. Mary Ellen Jernigan. He also introduced the associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, Ms. Taryn Mackenzie Williams; the Honorable Bill Zeliff, former member of Congress from New Hampshire; and Paul Cambon, an associate who has worked with us on legislative affairs for a long time.
Jeannie Massay, the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma and the cochairman of the 75 Days of Action Committee, was introduced to talk about our recently completed campaign and our commitment to recruit 750 new members this year. Jeannie welcomed everyone to the Washington Seminar, noting that it is sometimes called the midwinter family reunion of the National Federation of the Blind. She reminded us that we are all Federation-builders and that our goal of 750 new members will be substantially achieved if each one of us attending the Great Gathering-In recruits one new member. She welcomed Federationists who want to play a significant role in reaching this goal to contact her through email using the address <Jeanniemassay@gmail.com> or by phone at (405) 600-0695.
President Riccobono briefly mentioned our 2015 BELL Program, which will be hosted by more than half of our state affiliates; our NFBEQ (engineering quotient) program, in which we will be assisting in the design of advanced placement courses for engineers; and an internship program at the Jernigan Institute, which will run from June 1 to August 7. More details about this program can be found at the Voice of the Nation’s Blind blog at <https://nfb.org/voice-nations-blind>, and applications will be accepted until March 13, 2015.
Marion Gwizdala, the president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, came to thank the National Federation of the Blind for an Imagination Fund grant that helped to establish the NAGDU Information and Advocacy Hotline. Along with the new iPhone application that was made available on September 17, 2014, it has helped thousands of blind people in finding, reading, and sharing information about the laws, rights, and responsibilities of guide dog users. In recognition of the significant contribution made by the national body and in support of the unity that characterizes our work, the National Association of Guide Dog Users presented a check for $25,000 to President Riccobono for the national treasury.
Edward Shaham, the newly elected president of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut, addressed the assembled and said how happy he was to be at his third Washington Seminar. In keeping with the traditions of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut, half of all bequests made to the Connecticut affiliate are shared with the national treasury, and President Shaham presented President Riccobono with a check for $82,722. These donations, which came from generous bequests, will do a great deal in furthering the work of the organization.
Immediate Past President Maurer was greeted with enthusiastic applause when he was introduced. He came to talk about the tenBroek Legacy Fund, a program through which Federationists can make a contribution to the work of the organization by including us in their wills. He also talked about the latest incarnation of the KNFB Reader and asked that we think about and submit to him suggestions for what features should appear in subsequent releases of the product. We believe this is the best handheld reading machine on the market, but our goal is always to make it better, faster, and cheaper.
The executive director for advocacy and policy of the National Federation of the Blind, John Paré, was next introduced to begin discussion of the three issues we would take to Capitol Hill. He emphasized that, while our focus for the next few days would be on these three, the fact is that we follow and support many issues. One of particular interest is the Space Available Program, and we have every reason to believe that it will be passed this year. Another issue we are monitoring is legislation recently proposed to block all transfers of funds within the Social Security Administration. Since funds are routinely transferred, and because the Social Security Disability Insurance Fund has only enough money to sustain it through 2016, this is a major concern and one we will be asked to address as the proposal moves through the Congress.
Each of the three issues we took to Capitol Hill was then spiritedly summarized and will be covered in detail in the fact sheets that follow this article. Rose Sloan was introduced to talk about the Transition to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act. She emphasized that this affects the lives of thousands of people with disabilities, and we must ensure that they receive at least the federal minimum wage. Lauren McLarney discussed the Technology, Education, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act and asked that Aleeha Dudley offer a few words of support as a current student. Aleeha eloquently articulated the plight of many blind students who come to higher education with lofty goals and find them frustrated, and in some cases obliterated, by the lack of access found in the technology used by the higher education system. She said that we need guidelines so that the technology that is used doesn’t become yet another voice telling us that our dreams are unrealistic and our career goals unattainable.
Congressman Steny Hoyer, the Minority Whip in the United States House of Representatives, was introduced and cleverly began his remarks by observing that, if he was speaking at the Great Gathering-In, he certainly must be addressing the “in crowd.” He went on to say, “Over the next three days you will be visiting nearly every House and Senate office on Capitol Hill, sharing your personal stories, and advocating for policies that promote equal access and equal opportunity. You will be effective, and the reason you will be effective is that you will be able to speak as this young student has spoken: you will be speaking about your experiences, not something you read about or heard about or were told about, but something that you have experienced. You will be able to convey this to members of Congress who may not have had similar experiences. … Our Constitution and our system of laws espouse the principle of equal justice. We must continue our efforts to ensure that our nation is also a beacon of equal opportunity. That, of course, is what the Americans with Disabilities Act is all about. … The American dream must always be open and accessible to all of us because, if it is not accessible to all of us, we all lose—we lose the contribution of those challenged by disabilities but who are willing and able to participate effectively in so many ways.”
Scott LaBarre had the unenviable task of following Congressman Hoyer, but he did a commendable job in explaining why we need the Marrakesh Treaty, or what is also known as the Books Without Borders Treaty. Ratification of this treaty will require that two-thirds of the Senate support it, so it is important that we emphasize what ratification will mean to us: both materials we can get that have previously been recorded by English-speaking countries, and those we can get from countries where the native language is not English and the materials we need for the study of foreign languages are not available to us through resources in this country.
President Riccobono next introduced Catherine Lhamon, the assistant secretary for civil rights in the United States Department of Education. In her remark she said that “It is my job and the job of my 600-person staff to ensure that the federal civil rights laws are respected in schools both K-12 and in higher education. … Just last month we resolved two cases with two universities in Ohio with a very strong impact in this area. With Youngstown State University in Ohio, which serves 13,000 students, and with the University of Cincinnati, which serves 42,600 students, we entered into resolution agreements ensuring that their websites will fully comply with our federal civil rights laws, requires that they develop and publish a notice of nondiscrimination, that they implement a plan to ensure web accessibility and to train staff in webpage development and content development, and that they ensure access to computer labs, especially regarding the provision of assistive technology that is available for all of their students. … I’m very delighted to be working arm in arm in partnership with the National Federation of the Blind to make sure that we secure the rights for all of our students, including those who are blind.”
Jim Gashel told the attendees at the Great Gathering-In that we must take advantage of the opportunity to reward agencies and organizations who are doing outstanding work on behalf of the blind. The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Committee is now soliciting applications and will do so until March 31. This award provides the National Federation of the Blind an opportunity, not only to recognize and highlight the most innovative thinkers and programs in the country, but to contribute to the financial support of their work.
President Riccobono reminded us to register for the 2015 convention and said that it would be hosted by the seven original affiliates that came together in 1940 to form the National Federation of the Blind. Ever Lee Hairston cochairs the committee coordinating the work of these founding affiliates, and she said that at the convention there would be a door prize worthy of our seventy-fifth celebration. It will be $7,575, so this is yet another incentive to attend the most dynamic meeting of the blind that will occur in 2015.
Jim Antonacci, the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania, announced that the affiliate would be holding its annual convention in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, at the same hotel where the NFB was founded. The hotel will be the Genetti Best Western, and reservations can be made by calling (570) 823-6152. Anyone wishing to go should make reservations immediately. The hotel has only seventy-two rooms.
With the business of the Great Gathering-In meeting concluded, members went off to find dinner, coordinate appointments, and discuss the finer points of the proposals they would take to Capitol Hill. On Tuesday morning the hotel lobby was filled with Federationists proudly displaying the beautiful white tote bags we would use to carry the packets that would be given to each member of Congress. Taxis were in high demand, but many decided to start their day with a brisk walk to the Capitol. The pace was hectic as we made our rounds, meeting with senators, representatives, and their top aides.
On Tuesday afternoon a reception was held at the Rayburn House Office Building to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the National Federation of the Blind. The master of ceremonies for the event was Immediate Past President Marc Maurer, and the first speaker called on to make a presentation was the newly elected representative from the thirty-first District of California, Congressman Pete Aguilar. The Congressman was particularly honored to be asked to speak at our event because his grandfather went blind as a result of retinitis pigmentosa, and under the Randolph-Sheppard Program he managed the cafeteria at the San Bernardino courthouse. Representative Aguilar’s job was to work in that facility, and in the early 70s one of his primary responsibilities was to empty the ashtrays. He said that in this job he learned about the value of hard work, a good attitude, and the cultivation of trust between human beings. When his grandfather was active in business, the talking scale had not yet been invented, but his customers would honestly and consistently tell him what they had purchased, how much it weighed, and the denomination of the bills they were giving him. Because of his experience, Representative Aguilar understands the importance of rehabilitation, education, and advocacy. He supports our work and believes that, not only can blind people be good workers, but, with the proper opportunity and training, we can become job creators, and this he pledges to help us become.
Our champion in the House of Representatives to see that blind people are paid at least the federal minimum wage is Congressman Gregg Harper of Mississippi. Congressman Harper has refiled the bill that will phase out Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and that new bill is HR 188. “You know, this is something we’ve been working on together, and we're not going to stop until Section 14(c) is repealed. Meaningful work deserves fair pay, and to say that someone can be paid less than the minimum wage is pretty insulting. We believe we can do better. Now some organizations take advantage of the special wage—I understand why they’re doing that—but there are some groups that, if they would join with us, could create a lot of goodwill. We have work to do, we’re not going to stop, and together we will make great gains to make life better.”
President Riccobono addressed the celebratory gathering with these remarks:
Thank you, Dr. Maurer, members of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, honorable members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate, Congressional staff, friends from government and nonprofit agencies, and my fellow Federationists.
E pluribus unum has been a motto for our nation since the time of the Revolutionary War. The traditional meaning of this phrase for America was: that out of many states (or colonies) emerges a single nation. Today the motto is often used to provide a broader, more individualized meaning: that out of many diverse people—of different races, religions, languages, and backgrounds—a single nation is solidified. This phrase could also be used to characterize the National Federation of the Blind. We are a unified, powerful force that is made up of many diverse people striving for those sharing the characteristic of blindness to be recognized as first-class citizens in our great nation.
It is fitting that we have come to celebrate our seventy-fifth year here in the halls of Congress. A number of federal programs established by the United States during the 1930s accelerated the urgency to have a national organization that could unify the work of many state-based organizations of the blind and bring a collective voice to Washington, DC.
Since 1940 we have sought partnership with the members of Congress. Just as blindness is not the characteristic that defines us or our future, we have never let the politics in the halls of power define those who share our common interest in improving the status of the blind. It has sometimes been difficult to find leaders with the courage to take on the difficult issues, it has sometimes been tricky to articulate the complexities of policy changes, and sometimes our issues have gotten caught in the middle of technical issues or political battles having nothing to do with the blind.
Yet more often than not, we have found courageous friends in the Congress, like Congressman Harper, who recognize our expertise on blindness and the legacy we have built over the past seventy-five years. We, the blind of this nation, have been successful in advancing a meaningful policy agenda because we bring the largest disability-run event to Capitol Hill every year in the form of our Washington Seminar; because we follow-up when we are back in our hometowns; and because many of the members of Congress have stood with us through the years.
As we celebrate the seventy-fifth year of our organization, we should also celebrate the friends we have had in Congress and the partnerships we can look forward to nurturing in the decades to come. Recently we have been cheering our work on by saying, "Let’s go build the Federation." Inasmuch as our work helps to make the United States a better place for the blind and other citizens, let us say together today: Let’s go build the USA.
With those remarks and the applause that followed, the crowd began to chant “USA, USA, USA.”
President Riccobono was followed to the microphone by Representative John Sarbanes, who represents the third district in Maryland, where the Jernigan Institute is located. Though the Congressman was being pressed to get back to the House floor for a vote, he said, “It means a tremendous amount when you come to the Hill, when you walk the halls of Congress, when you go into members' offices and you make the case for the contribution that you and others can deliver to our communities and to our country. I like that mantra `build the USA.' That’s what you are doing every single day with your commitment; and I know that, when the National Federation of the Blind is at the forefront of an issue or concern, it is something I need to be educated on and something I need to spread the word to my colleagues about. Thank you for being here today, thank you for the great work you do, and thank you for the contributions that you make every single day in our communities all across the United States.”
These were the formal remarks at the reception, but they only begin to capture the excitement we felt about the work that had been done over the last seven decades and the work that still remains for us to do. Wednesday and Thursday were filled with more appointments on the Hill, but, as each of us packed up and left the Holiday Inn Capitol, we did so with a heightened sense of our shared history, a greater understanding of the challenges we face today, and a stronger sense of optimism about the future we intend to make for blind people in this country. The blizzard of 2015 will be but a brief note in meteorological history, but the work of the National Federation of the Blind and its visit to Congress will be much more. It will change the present, enhance the future, and make better the lives of blind people everywhere.
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind people. We represent the collective views of the 1.3 million blind people throughout the US. All of our leaders and the vast majority of our members are blind, but anyone can participate in our movement.
The NFB’s three legislative initiatives for 2015 are:
The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. These priorities will remove barriers that stand between blind people and our dreams, which often include meaningful employment, equality in the classroom, and access to published works. We urge Congress to remove these barriers by supporting our legislative initiatives.
Current labor laws unjustly prohibit workers with disabilities from reaching their full vocational and socioeconomic potential.
Written in 1938, Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act allows the Secretary of Labor to grant to employers Special Wage Certificates, which permit them to pay workers with disabilities subminimum wages. The original intent was to incentivize for-profit businesses to hire people with disabilities, but the provision has failed to achieve this outcome. Today, less than 5 percent of all certificate holders are for-profit businesses, and a complex network of 2,500 plus nonprofit, “charitable” businesses capitalize on this loophole.i
Section 14(c) is based on the false assumption that disabled workers are less productive than nondisabled workers. In reality, the subminimum wage business model is what is unproductive, not workers with disabilities. Successful employment models, such as supported or customized employment, prove that with the proper training and support, people with disabilities can be productive, valuable employees.ii Some former 14(c) entities have already transitioned and found that they are more efficient than they used to be.iii Research shows that the subminimum wage model costs more but actually produces less and that people with disabilities have to unlearn the skills they adopted in subminimum wage jobs.iv
14(c)-certificate-holding entities encourage Americans with disabilities to rely on government benefits rather than achieve self-sufficiency. Over four hundred thousand Americans with disabilities are being paid subminimum wages—some mere pennies per hour.v Instead of paying taxes, almost all employees who are paid subminimum wages must rely on government assistance such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. Currently, 95 percent of people with disabilities who are paid subminimum wages never obtain the competitive integrated employment they strive for.vi
Subminimum wage employment undermines taxpayer investment in job training. Taxpayers invest billions in vocational rehabilitation, money that should be dedicated to helping people with disabilities discover their full potential using reasonable accommodations. This investment is undercut when people with disabilities are stuck doing mundane, repetitive tasks that do not improve their skillsets. Many 14(c) entities (SourceAmerica) are already receiving preferential federal contracts and public and charitable donations—they should not be allowed to pay people with disabilities subminimum wages.
The Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act:
Discontinues the issuance of new Special Wage Certificates. The Secretary of Labor will no longer issue Special Wage Certificates to new applicants.
Phases out the use of Special Wage Certificates over a three-year period. Using the following schedule, entities will be able to transition to the proven model of competitive integrated employment:
Repeals Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Three years after the law is enacted, the practice of paying disabled workers subminimum wages will be officially abolished. This will result in the elimination of segregated, subminimum wage workshops and in the development of integrated and meaningful employment opportunities that encourage people with disabilities to reach their full vocational and socioeconomic potential.
REMOVE BARRIERS TO REAL TRAINING AND MEANINGFUL EMPLOYMENT.
Cosponsor Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act (HR 188)
For more information contact:
Rose Sloan, Government Affairs Specialist, National Federation of the Blind
Phone: (410) 659-9314, Extension 2441, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To cosponsor, contact:
Scot Malvaney, Policy Director, Congressman Gregg Harper (R-MS)
Phone: (202)-225-5031, Email: email@example.com
For more information visit: www.nfb.org/fair-wages
i. United States Department of Labor. “Wage and Hour Division (WHD) Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRPs) List” Last modified November 1, 2013. http://www.dol.gov/whd/ specialemployment/CRPlist.htm.
Until colleges and universities have accessibility guidelines for technology, blind college students will be denied access to critical course material.
Technology has fundamentally changed the education system. The scope of instructional materials used at institutions of higher education has expanded. Curricular content comes in digital books, PDFs, webpages, etc., and most of this content is delivered through digital databases, learning management systems, and applications. The print world is inherently inaccessible to students with disabilities, but technology offers the opportunity to expand the circle of participation. And studies have found that, of the six million plus students with print disabilities in the system, the number who go on to pursue postsecondary education is growing.
Blind students are facing insurmountable barriers to education. Instead of fulfilling the promise of equal access, technology has created more problems than the print world ever did. Data show that students with disabilities face a variety of challenges, including matriculation failure, solely because colleges and universities are sticking with the ad-hoc accommodations model instead of embracing accessibility. Schools deploy inaccessible technology and then modify/retrofit another version for blind students, usually weeks into class, creating a “separate-but-equal” landscape with nearly impenetrable barriers. With only a 20 percent employment rate, blind students should not be denied access by the very thing that could have ensured full participation.
Institutions of higher education need help to identify accessible material and comply with nondiscrimination laws. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act require schools to provide equal access, and in 2010, the US Departments of Justice and Education clarified that the use of inaccessible technology is prohibited under these laws. In the five years since, over a dozen institutions have faced legal action for using inaccessible technology , and complaints are on the rise. Most litigation ends with a commitment from the school to embrace accessibility, but that commitment does little in a vast, uncoordinated higher education market that mostly forgets about blind students.
Accessibility solutions are available, but guidelines are sorely needed to guide the market. Equal access requirements have no criteria for accessibility that schools can use when selecting technology. Innovations in text-to-speech, refreshable Braille, and other accessibility features are widely available, but developers and manufacturers will incorporate only solutions that are demanded by the market. Accessibility guidelines are needed so that schools can streamline demand, stimulate the market, and better identify accessible material. If schools seeking to avoid litigation embrace this voluntary path to compliance, blind students will truly attain equal access.
Technology, Education, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act:
Develops accessibility guidelines for instructional materials used in postsecondary education. A purpose-based Commission is tasked with developing accessibility criteria for instructional materials and the delivery systems/technologies used to access those materials so that schools and developers can identify what makes a product usable by the blind.
Provides incentive for institutions of higher education to follow the guidelines. Institutions of higher education that use only technology that conforms with the guidelines will be deemed in compliance with the provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act that pertain to schools’ use of technology.
Offers flexibility for schools while reiterating that pre-existing obligations still apply. Colleges and universities are permitted to use material that does not conform to the guidelines as long as equal access laws are still honored. Compliance with the guidelines is only one path to compliance; schools can pursue a different path, but will forfeit the safe harbor legal protection.
REMOVE BARRIERS TO EQUALITY IN THE CLASSROOM.
Cosponsor the TEACH Act
For more information contact:
Lauren McLarney, Manager of Government Affairs, National Federation of the Blind
Phone: (410) 659-9314, Ext. 2207. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To cosponsor in the Senate, contact:
Katie Neal, Legislative Assistant, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Phone: (202) 224-5251. Email: email@example.com, or
Louis Katz, Legislative Correspondent, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Phone: (202) 224-4543. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information visit: www.nfb.org/teach
An international copyright treaty will give blind Americans access to millions of published works and improve the distribution of books across the globe.
300 million blind and print-disabled people around the world, including Americans, are denied access to published works.i Despite the ability to convert print books into accessible formats like Braille, audio, and digital copies, over 95 percent of published works are unavailable to people with print disabilities.i Literacy and equal participation in society are critical elements of a fulfilling and independent life, but until uniformity is built into the international copyright system, blind Americans will be excluded from accessing works. A blind student seeking to learn Spanish will likely struggle to find an accessible format;i a work printed in English may have already been converted into an accessible format overseas, but because copies are not exchanged across borders, domestic publishers might need to make a duplicate copy or just might deny access altogether by failing to reproduce the work.
A coordinated legal approach to modifying the international copyright system is needed. Unlike the United States, where copyright code includes the Chafee Amendment and other exceptions,i two-thirds of the world’s nations do not have domestic copyright laws that permit making copies for the blind, limiting the number of works available in an accessible format. Moreover, many countries consider distribution of accessible copies an infringement as well, and even amongst nations that permit distribution, limitations vary. Instead of exchanging books across borders, works are needlessly duplicated, and circulation is significantly limited.
The Marrakesh Treaty was adopted by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to achieve this goal. On June 27, 2013, a diplomatic conference convened by WIPO in Morocco adopted the Marrakesh Treaty with outspoken support from the US delegation. The treaty, signed by the US on October 2, 2013, currently has eighty-one signatories and has been ratified by five countries.i Because the treaty calls for contracting parties to adopt copyright exemptions similar to those found in US law, the administration is developing a ratification package that should call for only a sleek, narrow set of modifications.
The Marrakesh Treaty has broad stakeholder support. Blind people should have full and equal access to all works that enrich lives, further education, and share critical information, and the treaty balances this priority with the interests of rights holders. WIPO’s adoption of the Marrakesh Treaty was supported by American-based companies, the international publishing community,i legal experts,i and blindness advocates.i The treaty will have tangible benefits for all involved.
The Marrakesh Treaty calls for contracting parties to provide in their national copyright laws for a limitation or exception that allows for the:
Reproduction of works, by an authorized entity, for the purposes of converting them into accessible format copies exclusively for beneficiary persons.
Distribution of accessible format copies exclusively to beneficiary persons.
Export of accessible format copies, for the purposes of making them available to a beneficiary person in another country.
Import of accessible format copies, for the purposes of making them available domestically.
REMOVE BARRIERS TO ACCESS OF PUBLISHED WORKS.
Support Ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty
For more information contact:
Lauren McLarney, Manager of Government Affairs, National Federation of the Blind
Phone: (410) 659-9314, Extension 2207 Email: email@example.com
To support ratification, please contact:
Les Munson, Majority Staff Director, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Phone: (202) 224-6797, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
i. Government Accountability Office. “Centers Offer Employment and Support Services to Workers With Disabilities, But Labor Should Improve Oversight” Report to Congressional Requesters. 01-886 (2001): 4.
by Paul Gabias
From the Editor: Paul Gabias was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1952. He attended his first NFB national convention in 1973. He graduated with a BA in psychology from Concordia University in Montreal in 1975. In 1988 he received his PhD in experimental psychology from New York University with a specialty in perception. He has held numerous leadership positions in the Federation. He was elected president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users and served in that position from 1992 to 1998. He also served as the editor of its publication, Harness Up, from 1996 to 1998. For the last ten years Dr. Gabias has traveled with a white cane.
Here is what he has to say about autonomy, independence, and the need to get to know competent blind people and the techniques they use in their daily lives, and, equally important, what he has to say about the belief in the public to understand our message and to act on it:
As I write this article, I am sitting outside in a very comfortable garden swing in my back yard. It is a warm, sunny September day. There isn't a cloud in the sky. Choruses of birds sing overhead. In the distance I hear the voices of children playing, the sound of lawn sprinklers, and a faint sound of a propeller plane in the sky. Our guide dogs are frolicking in their own separate enclosure. There is the occasional barking of neighborhood dogs. In short, life is quite good this morning.
I have a wonderful arrangement with my reader. She sits in her home at the keyboard, wearing a special binaural headset so that her hands are completely free to type. I dictate to her over a cordless telephone. At the moment life couldn't be better, except for the dogs next door that bark too much.
As I think of things to discuss for this issue of The Canadian Monitor, I feel somewhat at a loss. How does one communicate to others that it can feel perfectly normal to be blind; that blindness is simply a characteristic; that life need not be significantly changed by blindness; that, when you are blind, life can be easy and pleasant; that blindness need not make life a tortuous path filled with constant struggle; that in life, despite blindness, there is still beauty and poetry and zest and vivaciousness and splendor and human dignity? How do I communicate all of this without seeming miraculous and extraordinary? How can I communicate a simple truth which seems to be so difficult for most people to fathom? In an attempt to do this, I offer you recollections of my childhood. Perhaps you can relate to some of the experiences there enough to give you some vicarious knowledge of the basic truth that, all other things being equal, blind people have the same potential for success and mastery of the environment as sighted people. In the end it is all a question of desire and opportunity.
My mind turns back to when I was a child of about four or five. It's hard for me to remember exactly what that felt like, so some of this musing may be reconstructive. However, I believe that many of these recollections will be fairly accurate.
From what I know of child psychology, play is an important part of growing up. Children play at being adults to prepare themselves for the roles they will need to take on in later years. When children play, they model themselves after their parents, teachers, older siblings, and other significant adults in their lives. This roleplaying starts early, probably by the age of three. As a young child I had no significant blind adult role models in my life. At the school for the blind there were some blind teachers, but I did not think of them as role models, probably because they didn't think of themselves in that way either. As far as I can recollect, I don't remember anything about blindness or being blind until the age of five. It was simply not discussed. As far as I was concerned, I was like any other child.
In the area of child development a psychologist named Eric Erickson is famous for a proposed series of eight stages of psycho-social development. The first stage is the sense of trust. This means that children are born with the capacity to become trusting if the parents and caretakers act in a way that is trustworthy. Children become trusting when their needs for shelter, food, love, attention, and security are met. According to Erickson, the development of trust is the foundation for all the other stages. The degree to which the environment fosters a sense of trust in the child directly affects the development of the next psycho-social stage, which is the stage of autonomy. Autonomy means taking charge of one's own life, in other words, the drive for independence. Erickson suggests that, if the child has developed a complete sense of trust in his environment, the need to become autonomous will develop in proportion to the degree of trust which was fostered in the first year.
If a child does not trust in the environment, she will be afraid to follow the blueprint of autonomy which is her birthright. I use the word "blueprint" deliberately. A strong pursuit of autonomy is supposed to develop in children if they have achieved a sense of trust. This is supposed to happen in all children, whether they are sighted or blind. From the beginning of life you have probably developed a very strong sense of trust if you can say to yourself without equivocation the following statement: "From as far back as I can remember, I know that my parents always loved me and were always there to fulfill my every need." From as far back as I can remember, my parents were like that, particularly my mother. My mother's mother thought that my mother used to cater too much to her children. In an attempt to protect her daughter, she used to say to us: "You are going to drive your mother to her grave." She was not exactly what you'd call a doting grandmother.
I must have developed a strong sense of trust because, from the earliest that I can remember, I always had a very strong sense of autonomy, much as my own children have. Because my sense of trust was so strong, my sense of autonomy could develop, unfettered by blindness and unfettered by people's negative attitudes toward blindness. My mother was told, early on and in no uncertain terms, when her help was not necessary. It is the same for us with our own children, who are sighted. As they grow, we parents come to understand, if we're smart enough, when we are needed and when we are not.
My parents were very good at protecting me from the unwanted concerns of other people. I remember they taught our relatives and family friends to behave toward me the way they would have around a sighted child. I was allowed to explore people's houses and the grounds around their houses to my heart's content, provided I was careful with their possessions.
I remember my mother telling me that I was impossible to go shopping with. She told me that, by the age of three, I was no longer content to sit in the shopping cart while she wheeled me around the store. Being a normal three-year-old, I wanted to walk around the store and explore. My need to run was not diminished in the least by blindness. If I thought the coast was clear, I ran.
I remember that, on the way to our grocery store, we had to walk through a lane. I thought the lane had a wall on each side of it. But on one side the lane was bordered by a dug-in driveway that sloped down toward the garage door. There was a verge, maybe a foot high, between the lane and the driveway, which was parallel to the lane. As you walked along the lane, the driveway paralleling it got deeper and deeper. This meant that, although the verge was a foot high, the drop-off to the driveway became deeper as you moved along the lane. I did not know that a veritable precipice developed on the right side of the lane as you walked along, just beyond the verge. One day during the summer, just after my fifth birthday, I got the brilliant idea that it would be fun to run down the lane. I did not tell my mother what I was planning to do for fear that she would say no. As soon as my mother and I got to the beginning of the lane, I yanked my hand away from hers and tore down the lane, but I didn't make it to the other end. I fell into the driveway and bruised my collarbone. I didn't know what had hit me, except that something had gone very wrong. I had a deep fear of hospitals, and I was much more frightened by the trip to the hospital and the emergency room than by the actual fall. If I remember correctly, I had to wear my arm in a sling for a while. I don't remember which arm it was, but I do remember telling myself that I had to be more careful in the future.
It was also during my sixth year that I broke my arm. I was fascinated with heights. We lived in a two-story home, and I remember liking to throw things out the second-story windows. My father's alarm clock was a favorite projectile. I suppose I loved to hear objects fall because it gave me a way of assessing how high the second floor actually was.
It is surprising that I retained this fascination with heights, because I am told that as a crawling toddler I actually fell out of a window. There was a window on the landing between the first and second floors of our home. It was about a foot above the landing. For reasons that I don't understand, that window was open with no screen. The window faced the backyard. They told me that I must have climbed up the stairs and crawled out of the window. I fell onto the cement patio six feet below. My mother said that, responding to a little cry in the backyard, she found me there on the cement. My sister, who is older than I am, tells me that she couldn't look. She thought I was dead. Apparently I was fine, just a little shaken.
Continuing with my undiminished fascination with heights, I remember that on one fine Sunday morning my brother and I decided we were going to play heaven. My brother was two, and I was five. The idea was that we were to climb on the highest piece of furniture we could find. Since I was older, I would get the higher one. In my parents' bedroom upstairs, there was a ladies' dresser and a men's six-drawer chiffonier. My "heaven" was to be the chiffonier. It was so high that I needed a stool to help me climb to the top. My parents were cooking Sunday dinner downstairs. It was around noon. My idea of heaven was to jump up and down on top of the chiffonier as high as I could. I had no idea that I would move as I jumped. I thought that, as long as I jumped up and down in the same place, I would be safe on top of the chiffonier, in heaven. Suddenly my parents heard a crash on the second floor. Heaven had come to an end, and hell was about to begin, not only for me, but for my brother. Of course, I had to endure an itchy cast on my left arm for forty days and forty nights. But my brother had to endure being hit with it.
You might think that my fascination with heights would have diminished some. Of course I learned to be more careful, but I was not cured. At age six I attended first grade at the French school for the blind in Montreal, L'Institut Nazareth. In the schoolyard they had a set of monkey bars. In French they called it a trapeze. I had heard of the "Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze." As I walked through the schoolyard, I discovered a post, and I heard a whole bunch of older boys on top of the post. I was fascinated. How could people be on top of a little tiny post? It was hard for me to get the appropriate explanation because I didn't understand French yet. All I knew was that the boys were high up above the post, and I wanted to be there too. I tried climbing the post, but I wasn't strong enough. By and by, I discovered that the posts—there were in fact two of them—were posts you could use to slide down from the highest part of the monkey bars. If you were strong enough to climb on top of the monkey bars, you could crawl along the bars and go up a ramp to the top level, and there you could be, sitting right above the posts. There was a good deal of space between the top rung of the ladder on the monkey bars and the actual set of horizontal bars along the top. At six I was too short to climb onto the top bars. I couldn't wait until I was tall enough to climb to the top. What a day that was when I succeeded! I was the king of the monkey bars and king of the sky.
For a long time the monkey bars provided me with a great deal of enjoyment. I learned to hang upside-down, and I developed the strength to move along the structure from bar to bar, hanging by my hands. Not satisfied with that, I learned to stand up on the main longitudinal bars. Having mastered that, I imagined what fun it would be to be able to walk along the longitudinal bars from one end of the structure to the other. I could not do that very far along on the monkey bars at the school because there was a ramp that led to the elevated part of the structure. The angle of the ramp was too great, and I had no intention of falling.
But the monkey bars in the playground near my house were level. Routinely I gave the park keepers apoplexy by standing up and walking along the bars. They screamed for me to get down, and, the more they screamed, the more I enjoyed it. Maybe it was my way of getting back at all the sighted people who were afraid that I would have trouble going up and down a simple flight of stairs.
As a child I enjoyed climbing trees. I would climb as high as the branches within reach permitted. On St. Helen's Island near Montreal, there was an artificial tree especially designed for children to climb. I climbed all the way to the top. Climbing up was always much more fun than getting down. On the way down you had to search for good places to put your feet. If you can't see where those places are, you have to hang on to the branch above you and search with your feet until you find a secure spot. You need to have strong arms so that you can take the time to search properly.
As you might imagine from this history, I was fascinated not only with heights but also with speed. I loved roller coasters and Ferris wheels that turned you upside-down. The faster we could go in the car, the better it was. I remember on the way to the boarding school for the blind on Sunday nights, my father would allow me to press the gas pedal of the car while he did the driving. I was not more than six or seven, but he must have had an incredible trust in me. I knew all about the perils of crashing, and I knew that my father would tell me when to stop pressing on the pedal. This must have been a way to make the drive to the school more pleasant for me. I hated going back to that school and being away from my parents for the whole week. It was difficult for my parents too. They gave me chips and chocolate bars to ease the pain until I got too fat.
My father and I had developed a wonderful trust in each other. When I was five or six, we went to the ocean on Virginia Beach. He used to take me into the ocean with him, into deep water, way over our heads. My father would warn me of big waves coming toward us. He would say, "Here comes a lulu!" The waves would push us around and suck us under. I would hold my breath and wonder if we would ever come up. I trusted my father. I knew he would not let go of me, and I knew that eventually we would come up. Of course we always did, and I felt perfectly safe with him.
Despite all of these experiences, things could have been so much better for me if my parents had known about the National Federation of the Blind. For all my feelings of autonomy, even though I learned to travel alone from my house to my parents' friends in the neighborhood and some stores nearby, I walked quite slowly compared to sighted children my age. Any time I was out with my parents, I held the arm or hand of one of them. Sometimes I walked with my sister, and sometimes I walked with my younger brother. I should have been walking on my own whenever I could. But my parents did not know enough to introduce me to the long white cane. Had I used a long white cane from early childhood, I might have avoided falling into the driveway along the lane. I would have had a chance to explore my environment to a greater extent than I had, and I probably would have known that there was a huge drop-off beside the lane. I could have run in perfect security.
Parents and blind children today are more fortunate. The National Federation of the Blind has pioneered the concept of cane travel for very young children. Canes are available for toddlers. They can be purchased from the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, 200 East Wells Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. The Federation also has a number of excellent books and articles which deal with teaching cane travel to young children.
Blindness is no more than a characteristic. The white cane must not be regarded as a symbol indicating the need for help. It must be regarded as a tool for opportunity. Learning to use the long white cane is much more than learning how to handle a long stick. In the public mind there is a very strong stigma of helplessness associated with the white cane. In Canada, white cane week is associated with raising money to help the blind. The white cane has been used as a symbol for raising money for the helpless blind, instead of being promoted as a badge of independence for the industrious blind. When I was growing up, parents with a sense of decency and respect for their blind child would not permit their child to be connected with the fundraising and pity racket associated with the white cane in Canada. Being a part of the same social fabric as the rest of the people in my society, I too learned that the white cane was for pitiful blind people who tapped their way through life, needing help at every corner or every turn. Money had to be raised for them because they couldn't work or live independently without the help of the agency for the blind or their close relatives. The agency for the blind could help to ameliorate the condition of blindness, to diminish the challenges of blindness, to help the blind live more independent lives. But, when all was said and done, blind people would always require looking after to some degree, even in the best of circumstances.
I do not mean to imply that money does not need to be raised to improve the well-being of blind people in our society. We need for people to be generous toward the blind, but not for the purposes espoused by many of the agencies. We need money to provide training and opportunity for people so that they can truly come to believe that blindness is no more than a characteristic. The white cane must not be regarded as a symbol requesting help. It must be regarded as a tool for opportunity. It must be regarded as the foundation for independence. It is not to be used to raise money from the wellsprings of pity but from the wellsprings of pride and achievement.
The kind of training for blind people which instills pride, achievement, industriousness, self-reliance, and a competitive edge does not exist in Canada at this time. Something must be done about that, and we intend to do it. A 90 percent unemployment rate for educated blind people between the ages of eighteen and fifty-five is simply unacceptable. Society would not tolerate it if they knew better. Through public education we will make sure that society knows better so that people of goodwill will no longer tolerate the intolerable. Capable people are living empty lives of desperation with no hope, just because they are blind. For them there is no training and no opportunity.We will no longer permit this to continue. The travesty has gone on long enough, and we know that our Canadian social conscience will rise to the occasion and help where help is needed. We need money—lots of it—to teach the sighted public what they are only too glad to know when they truly come to understand. We need money to teach society that the blind are normal people like the rest of sighted society. We come in all shapes and sizes, with varying degrees of intelligence and aptitudes and moral development, with varying degrees of physical capacities. What we are saying in the National Federation of the Blind and the Canadian Federation of the Blind is that, with training, opportunity, and motivation, blindness need not be an additional significant negative factor toward the pursuit of happiness, fulfillment, and productivity. You can make it all come true by working with the Canadian Federation of the Blind. I welcome your support and thank you for it.
by Lou Ann Blake
From the Editor: Bringing a truly secret ballot to the blind has generated tremendous excitement for those who value voting but have felt reluctant to disclose their voting preferences to poll workers or whomever they bring with them to the polls. The Help America Vote Act provided federal funding for the purchase of machines, and all of us who have used them have opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of whatever machines have been purchased.
In the February 2014 issue we ran an article about the discontent of people in New Mexico with their secretary of state's failure to involve them in the selection process and with the machines purchased. In an attempt to explain how new machines are certified and the reasons for the delay blind people see in the incorporation of state-of-the-art text-to-speech and nonvisual navigation, Lou Ann Blake, HAVA project manager and Law Symposium coordinator at the Jernigan Institute, has written this article. Lou Ann is both thorough and interesting—a dream writer for any editor. Here is what she has to say about the difficulty in implementing HAVA:
The passage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, which requires at least one accessible voting system in each polling place for all federal elections, has enabled many voters with disabilities to vote privately and independently as never before. However, surveys of blind voters conducted by the National Federation of the Blind show that the percentage of blind voters who were able to cast a private and independent ballot on an accessible voting system declined from 86 percent in 2008 to 75 percent in 2012, and 83 percent in 2014. What has happened in the last six years so dramatically to thwart the promise of HAVA? The answer to this simple question is actually fairly complex, because there are many factors and forces at work that affect the ability of blind and other disabled voters to vote with the same privacy and independence as nondisabled voters.
In addition to requiring accessible voting systems for all federal elections, HAVA also created the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC). HAVA mandates the EAC to develop voting system standards and to establish the first federal voting system certification program. To fulfill its HAVA mandate, the EAC created the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) to work with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop voting system standards.
The standards developed by the TGDC and NIST consist of specifications and requirements for testing a voting system to determine if it provides all of the basic functionality, accessibility, and security necessary to be used in an election. In 2002 the EAC adopted the Voting System Standards, which were replaced in December 2005 by the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG). Under HAVA, states may elect to adopt these standards in part, in full, or not at all. Currently thirty-nine states have included the 2005 VVSG as part of their voting system certification process.
Accessibility guidelines in the 2005 VVSG address the design of voting systems for use by voters with a broad range of disabilities. For voters who are blind or low vision, the guidelines address features such as the audio-tactile interface (ATI), font size, color, and contrast. For example, the 2005 VVSG requires that the audio system allow the voter to control the rate of speech throughout the voting session, that the range of speeds supported shall be 75 to 200 percent of the normal rate, and that the pitch of the voice not be affected by adjusting the speed. The VVSG also addresses the quality of the audio presentation of verbal information with requirements such as proper enunciation, normal intonation, and the requirement that candidates' names be pronounced as the candidates intend.
In addition to developing the accessibility guidelines that are included in the 2005 VVSG, the EAC also created the nation's first voting system certification program. As mandated by HAVA, the EAC accredits laboratories to test voting systems for compliance with the 2005 VVSG. Those systems that are found to be in compliance are certified by the EAC. When any changes are made to a certified voting system's software or firmware, or a hardware change is made that will change or has a reasonable potential to influence the system's operation or compliance with the VVSG, it must be resubmitted for certification of the modification. The EAC's full accreditation and certification program became effective in January 2007. Currently two laboratories are accredited to perform voting system certification testing.
HAVA authorized the EAC to administer $3.9 billion in grants to the states, so they could replace outdated lever voting machines by January 1, 2006, with either direct-recording electronic (DRE) touchscreen voting machines or an optical-scan system that included an accessible ballot-marking device. These first generation accessible voting systems included the Diebold AccuVote, Election Systems & Software (ES&S) AutoMark, and the Sequoia Edge.
Once the EAC had provided grants to the states to replace lever voting machines, adopted the 2005 VVSG, and completed the implementation of the voting-system-certification program, a number of Republican members of Congress no longer considered the EAC to be necessary. This resulted in an inability of the Senate to confirm EAC commissioner nominees and in attempts by members of the House to pass legislation abolishing the EAC. In addition the EAC’s staff has been cut almost in half and its budget reduced by over $6 million since 2009. The budget cuts, the lack of a quorum of commissioners since 2010, and vacancies in all four seats since 2011 have meant that certification standards have not been updated since 2005, and states have not received grants to improve the administration of elections and purchase new machines. Fortunately this situation may be about to change as three new EAC commissioners were confirmed by the Senate during the waning moments of the 113th Congress.
The vacuum that has been created by the absence of EAC commissioners for four years has had a negative affect on accessible voting in the United States. Because of the lack of federal grants, many of the first-generation accessible voting machines purchased with HAVA grants prior to 2006 were still in use during the November 2014 election, even though these machines have reached the end of their useful life. The end result is that since 2008 an increasing number of blind and visually impaired voters have not been able to vote privately and independently because there was no working accessible voting machine in their polling place.
In addition the lack of updated certification standards has caused a great deal of uncertainty among the developers and producers of voting systems and the states and counties that purchase them. While the state of the art in voting technology has changed since 2005, the certification standards have not. For example, voting system vendors such as ES&S, Everyone Counts, Dominion Voting Systems, and Scytl have developed online ballot delivery systems, but there are no design or testing standards to certify these systems. The result of this lack of standards is that recent testing for the city of Toronto, Canada, of online ballot delivery systems developed by Dominion, Everyone Counts, and Scytl found that these systems did not meet the WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards and were not accessible.
Many states and counties have put off purchasing new voting machines because they do not have the money to purchase them and/or because of the limited number of voting systems that have been certified under the 2005 VVSG. With the slow economic recovery that is continuing in the United States and the lack of federal funding from the EAC, many states have delayed purchasing new voting systems. In 2010 Maryland put off purchasing a new voting system until 2015 because of inadequate funding and a lack of accessible voting machines that were certified under the 2005 VVSG. In Florida the legislature has delayed until 2020 the replacement of the first generation DRE voting machines, which are now used only by voters with disabilities while all other voters use an optical scan system.
The lack of an adequate selection of 2005 VVSG certified-accessible voting machines has also made it difficult for states to replace their first-generation systems. The first system to be certified under the 2005 VVSG was the Microvote EMS in 2009, followed by the Unisyn OpenElect in 2010. Both Microvote and Unisyn are minor players in the arena of voting systems vendors, and they do not market their systems on a national scale. It was not until 2012 that a VVSG-certified machine was available nationally, when Dominion Voting Systems' ImageCast Evolution (ICE) received its certification. A fourth accessible voting machine, the ExpressVote developed by ES&S, the largest vendor of election systems in the United States, received 2005 VVSG certification in 2014. In addition, two other major players, Hart InterCivic and Everyone Counts, currently have accessible voting systems in the certification testing process.
Why has there been such a delay in getting new accessible voting systems certified under the 2005 VVSG? A significant contributing factor to this delay has been the trend of states moving away from the use of DREs to a system that produces a voter-verifiable paper record. In 2003, shortly after many states had begun implementing voting systems based on a DRE voting machine, computer security experts at Johns Hopkins University performed a security analysis of DRE voting systems that revealed security vulnerabilities. This analysis was followed by others that also raised security concerns, and nervous state legislators started following the lead of the Nevada legislature, which passed a law in 2004 requiring a voting system that produced a voter-verifiable paper record.
At the time that HAVA was passed in 2002, eliminating the use of mechanical lever voting machines, the future of voting was all electronic. However, that future was changed by virtually all of the states requiring a voter-verifiable paper record in response to the security concerns surrounding DREs. At about the same time that the states were passing laws requiring a voter-verifiable paper record, the EAC was in the process of adopting the 2005 VVSG. The result of this perfect storm was that voting system vendors had to develop new systems that would be tested and certified for functionality, accessibility, and security under new guidelines.
Another contributing factor to the dearth of 2005 VVSG-certified voting machines is the duration and rigidity of the certification process. Certification testing of the ES&S ExpressVote System took seventeen months, and the Hart InterCivic Verity has been in certification testing since December 2012. In addition to the initial certification testing, a voting system must be resubmitted for certification testing following any modification to the software or firmware and following a modification to the hardware that will alter or has the potential to alter the system's reliability, functionality, and operation. Since the initial certification of the ES&S system, it has been resubmitted twice for testing of modifications. The first modification testing took four months and the second seven months. While the EAC certification testing program helps to ensure that voting systems are secure and accessible, it also contributes to the high cost of these systems and delays the introduction of new systems. Perhaps what is more critical is that it delays improvements to existing systems.
Finally, poll worker training on the operation of accessible voting machines continues to be a problem in all states. According to surveys of blind voters conducted by the National Federation of the Blind, following the 2008, 2012, and 2014 federal elections, untrained poll workers are the primary reason why blind voters are not able to cast a private and independent ballot on an accessible voting machine. Of the blind voters surveyed in 2014, 29 percent said that poll workers had problems setting up or operating the accessible voting machine as compared to 33 percent in 2012 and 19 percent in 2008. With many states converting from a DRE voting system, where everyone uses the same machine, to an optical scan system, where only voters with disabilities use a machine to mark their ballot while the majority of voters hand mark their ballot, it is even less likely in future elections that poll workers will know how to operate the accessible voting system.
The commitment to guarantee an electronic secret ballot for blind people in America currently confronts many challenges. The replacement of worn out first-generation accessible voting machines with new 2005 VVSG-certified machines has been slow. Consequently, the number of blind voters who were able to cast a private and independent ballot on an accessible voting machine has declined from 86 percent in 2008 to 75 percent in 2012 to 83 percent in 2014 due to machines that do not work or the absence of an accessible machine. The ongoing problem of untrained poll workers continues to make it difficult for blind voters to take advantage of existing machines when they are available.
In states that have implemented new 2005 VVSG-certified systems, the process has not always been smooth. New Mexico and Iowa, for example, selected new voting machines without first consulting with members of the disability community. In addition, voters, poll workers, and election administrators must always negotiate a learning curve whenever a new voting system is put into use. While blind voters are able to vote privately and independently on the four systems currently certified under the 2005 VVSG, none of these systems are perfect, and the incorporation of improvements is slowed down by the certification testing requirements and process.
With all of these challenges, what can blind and visually impaired voters do to ensure that we are able to vote privately and independently just as the nondisabled do? The most important thing a blind voter can do is file a HAVA complaint with her local and state elections officials if she is unable to cast a private and independent ballot at her polling place during a federal election. Filing a HAVA complaint is the most effective way blind voters can be sure that problems are brought to the attention of elections officials and the US Department of Justice, which has authority to enforce HAVA. Because there is no private right of action under HAVA, it is imperative that blind voters who are not able to vote privately and independently at their polling place during a federal election file a HAVA complaint so that the Justice Department has a true picture of the problems that voters with disabilities are experiencing.
By working directly with local and state elections officials, members of the National Federation of the Blind can develop a relationship to achieve more accessible elections through improved communications. There are many ways this can be accomplished: invite election officials to a chapter meeting or your affiliate convention, attend board of elections meetings, testify before legislative committees and boards of election on issues that affect voters with disabilities, and participate on your local or state disabled voter advisory committee. If your local or state board of elections or secretary of state's office does not have an advisory committee of voters with disabilities, work with these officials to establish one.
At the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, we are using our HAVA grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services to work with voting rights advocates, elections officials, and election technology developers to improve the accessibility of the election process. Recently NFB staff worked closely with Maryland State Board of Elections (MDSBE) programmers to ensure that the state's online ballot delivery system is accessible, and we advised MDSBE's selection team on accessibility during the selection of a new voting system that will be used statewide starting in 2016. We have also assembled a working group of developers and users of online ballot-delivery systems to develop guidelines to ensure that these systems will be accessible. In addition, every two years we bring election technology researchers and developers to our National Center for Nonvisual Election Technology to introduce them to topics such as the incorporation of personal access technology into voting systems and accessible apps. These are just a few examples of the many services we provide under our HAVA grant to improve the accessibility of the election process for blind voters.As blind voters we have faced and continue to face many challenges to the exercise of our fundamental right to vote privately and independently since the Help America Vote Act became law in 2002. We cannot let tight budgets, rigid bureaucratic processes, and lax enforcement erode this long-delayed right which belongs to us as citizens of this country. We did not do that work simply to watch our newly won right slip away. With firm and persistent advocacy, the members of the National Federation of the Blind will continue to ensure that voters with disabilities exercise their right to full and equal participation in our democracy.
by Peggy Chong
Ethel Ulysses Parker, Jr., E. U. to his friends, was a strong-voiced, determined, and kind human being, whom many people in the Federation had the privilege to know during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. He will long be remembered in the Federation for his strong, no-nonsense presence and the opportunities he helped to create. We know him as the founder of the preauthorized check plan, and his legacy lives on in the national scholarships awarded each year to blind students in his name and in the name of his wife Gene.
Yet, with all we know, very few of us really knew who he was outside the Federation. He spoke passionately on many subjects that were important to blind people during the time he was most active, and he was always in the forefront of promoting up-and-coming people he saw as having talent and energy that they could give to this cause we share.
I was fortunate to have had a chance to meet and talk with E. U. when I was younger. He graciously took the time to meet with me and other younger Federationists to get to know us. It was easy to feel comfortable with E. U. right off the bat; we felt like he was an interested grandfather, willing to listen to us despite our youth. He had a nice laugh and a gentle speaking voice in a small conversational group, but in a formal meeting, on the convention floor, or in legislative hearings, he had a strong, powerful, and persuasive voice and presence that left no doubt that he was a competent authority on the topic at hand. One of the first things E. U. told me about himself was what his initial stood for and how to say his name. Ethel was easy to pronounce, but Ulysses was to be pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable, and he made a point of saying that this was not to be pronounced the way that the former general and president of the United States pronounced his name.
I thought that researching this larger-than-life man would be an easy task. Everyone in my circle of friends knew him. But it turns out we did not really know him but knew only that we liked knowing him. He left a thin paper trail, and there was little on the internet from which I could draw.
Ethel Ulysses Parker, Jr. was born on March 18, 1922, in Bay Springs, Mississippi, to Ethel Ulysses and Lula Mae Parker. He was the middle of three surviving children born to the couple. Mr. Parker, Sr. and his wife ran a grocery store in Bay Springs and were the owners and operators of an icehouse business. They did well in their small community.
By the age of seven Ethel Jr. began to lose his eyesight. By the age of nine he was totally blind. Mr. and Mrs. Parker decided to send their son to the school for the blind in Jackson, Mississippi. Each Sunday his mother would drive her son more than sixty miles to Jackson, and every Friday she would drive him back to their home to spend the weekend with the family. This was during the depression of the 30s when family incomes were tight, and such a drive represented a significant cost in gas, not to mention wear and tear on the car. It was hard for Lula Mae to send her son away to school, but she knew this was important for him if he was to succeed in life.
At the school for the blind E. U. did well as a student and was active in his school’s Boy Scout troop. After graduation he attended Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi in Oxford. It is doubtful that any financial assistance for E. U. was granted by his state agency for the blind, but he pursued a higher education anyway. One must assume that a significant amount of financial support was given by his parents. His older sister Doris also attended college and graduated from Ole Miss, showing the commitment to education held by the family.
Again his mother would pick him up on many weekends and bring him back to school on Sunday evenings. He left Ole Miss in his senior year without finishing. This was late in the Second World War, many men were off fighting in the military, and women had joined the workforce. E. U. found it harder to recruit readers at the school, and this made it difficult for him to keep up with his classwork. When he left school, he still needed a career to support himself, so he decided to go to San Antonio, Texas, where he attended chiropractic school.
On completing this part of his education, he was encouraged by his parents to come back to Bay Springs and open his chiropractic business, even though there was an established chiropractor already in this small town. His brother-in-law and best friend, Joe, was off fighting in the military during World War II, leaving an empty house in Bay Springs. E. U. moved into the vacant house and set up his practice. Business was good, so he hired a secretary, Miss Imogene Price (known to many of us as Gene) a girl five years his junior. It was her job to take care of the growing paperwork and to manage other office duties while he was seeing patients. He must have found more than just her work satisfactory, because he married Miss Price on November 30, 1945, just after her eighteenth birthday. The couple had three daughters: Dixie, Teresa, and Genie.
After eight years as a chiropractor, E. U. wanted to change careers and became a State Farm insurance agent in Bay Springs. Soon after, the family moved their business to Laurel, Mississippi, a town on a major highway, which benefited business significantly. With E. U.’s personality and perseverance, he became one of the first seven State Farm agents in the state of Mississippi and was soon regarded as one of their top agents. Like all new businessmen, he needed to establish himself. This meant going door-to-door to sell insurance. Again Gene helped out with the paperwork, acting as his office manager and reader. Keep in mind she was doing this at the same time she was raising their children.
E. U. often hired high school students to work for him as drivers when he made his calls. It is a credit to his investment in young people and his judgment in hiring that two of the young men who drove for him stayed on after high school to become part of his staff. One retired from the business after working there for twenty-five years. A State Farm agent is an independent contractor with his own office. Over the years E. U. hired additional staff to work in his business. As his business grew, he spent less and less time going door-to-door and relied more on traffic coming to his office.
As an ambitious agent E. U. did everything he could to promote himself, even if it cost him a bit of money. One promotional item he had tailored for his firm was a tin box to hold valuable documents such as one’s State Farm policy. He gave one to each of his customers and was generous enough to give them to most people in the community. Such a box was useful, not only for retaining personal possessions, but as a way of keeping his name in front of the families who were or could potentially be his customers. As was the custom in those days, he also had ashtrays made for his State Farm business customers, along with pens, calendars, and other traditional giveaways, which he changed each year.
Each morning advertisements for E. U.’s insurance agency would air on the local radio station about 7 AM, and, when his youngest daughter would get up for school, one of the first things she would hear on the radio was her father’s commercials. She remembers this fondly and says that it shows just how much her father did everything he could to promote his business.
But in the Parker family it was not all work and no play for this energetic agent. Family was important to him and Gene. When their daughter Dixie was still small, the Parkers would go out to the lake nearby to picnic and swim. Gene was not a swimmer, so E. U. would take their young daughter and lead her into the lake. As Dixie grew older and the other children came along, he continued to swim with the girls. Even with the assumption on the part of the public that the children of blind parents are the real caretakers—one that is frequently communicated to their offspring--she notes with pride that, when E. U. came along, she never felt that she was the one leading or watching out for her blind father or her siblings. Along with a good sense of direction and confidence in himself, he was definitely “daddy in charge.”
One of the many responsibilities E. U. took on as a State Farm agent was to host an annual picnic for agents in Mississippi. They would come to Laurel and stay at local hotels, and the Parkers would host a big cookout at their home. This was usually followed by a swim party at one of the establishments they had taken over for the Fourth of July weekend. Later in life, when the doctor told E. U. that he needed to get more exercise, it was his love of swimming that found him putting a swimming pool in his backyard.
Becoming active in the community was also important to the couple. Knowing the movers and shakers in the community was important if E. U. was to bring in new business. Since he considered scouting to be a formative part of his childhood, he became active in the Boy Scouts, even though his three children were girls. He believed in the program and actively worked to help it raise money. He also made himself available whenever asked to do volunteer work for the organization and was honored with the Silver Beaver award for his participation and exceptional character. E. U. was also an active member of the Rotary Club of Laurel, Mississippi, serving for a time as its president.
In the late 1960s this outgoing man ran for the Mississippi State Senate. He spoke at many clubs and rallies while campaigning. Dixie, his oldest daughter, drove him to many of these and says that she learned a great deal about her dad by listening to him speak. On their many trips to Jackson, the state capital, E. U. would direct his daughter and other drivers around the city, since he knew it much better than they did. E. U. did not win a seat in the Mississippi State Senate, but he did a great deal to raise the visibility of blind people in the state and to redefine for many of them what blind people could aspire to do.
In the early 1970s E. U. learned about the National Federation of the Blind and attended the annual national convention held in Houston, Texas, in 1971. At that convention he was so impressed with the spirit and activism of the organization that he decided he wanted to bring the Federation to Mississippi. As usual E. U. jumped in with both feet and became one of its most active leaders and members. He helped organize the new affiliate, trying to get names out of the state agency for the blind in order to offer them the opportunity to join fellow Mississippians in improving conditions there but to no avail. At that time the agency was closely allied with the American Council of the Blind, and at times agency officials were cold and hostile to the creation of a Federation affiliate in that state. In the early 70s employment opportunities for the blind were quite limited. There was a sheltered workshop, Mississippi Industries for the Blind, and, while it paid better wages than some shops around the country, not much opportunity existed for advancement. The state ran a vending program for the blind, but most of its facilities were limited to the selling of snacks and soda. It was E. U.’s dream that bringing the National Federation of the Blind to Mississippi would serve to increase the opportunities blind people would have for other jobs and thereby increase their chances of making a good living.
With or without the support of the rehabilitation agency, he and other blind friends went about making their lists—friends telling friends, churches referring fellow church members, local clubs talking about the blind they had helped. Leaders from other states arrived just after the new year in 1972. They, along with others from Mississippi, began calling on people across the state. All told, a team of members from eleven states arrived in Jackson to work those lists and build new ones. On January 15, 1972, a meeting was held at the Downtowner Motor Inn in Jackson to organize the affiliate. President Kenneth Jernigan and board member Don Capps were on hand to meet, greet, and get to know the more than seventy Mississippians who came to learn about the National Federation of the Blind.
During the week of the organizing two of the team members were refused accommodations at the Ole Miss Hotel in Oxford. The refusal to accommodate them was based on the fact that they would have no sighted person to accompany them, that the hotel had steps to get to and from sleeping rooms, and that the hotel had no restaurant on-site and would not be responsible for their safety when they traveled the streets of Jackson to find nearby restaurants. Tackling this issue was the first goal on the new organization's agenda, and that day they voted to take to the Mississippi legislature the Model White Cane Law that would allow blind people the same rights to public places and accommodations enjoyed by those with sight.
At that first meeting E. U. was elected as the first vice president and continued to serve on the state board in many capacities over the next quarter century. For a time he was the Mississippi affiliate's president, and for many years he was elected to serve as the official delegate to the national convention of the National Federation of the Blind.
It didn’t take long for E. U. to be recognized as a national leader. Soon he was serving on the board of directors of the Jacobus tenBroek Memorial Fund and was invited to attend the National Federation of the Blind’s board of directors meeting held over the Thanksgiving holiday. Gene came along with him, and all who partook of the Thanksgiving meal realized she was a great cook and remembered with fondness her corn casserole and the seasoned oyster crackers she brought to share.
Through the years many Federationists had the pleasure of staying at the home of Gene and E. U. Gene was every bit as committed to the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind as her husband, and it is encouraging to see this kind of commitment in a person who is sighted.
In the fall of 1974 E. U. approached the Federation with a fundraising opportunity that he thought could raise a lot of money for the organization. The State Farm insurance company had begun collecting payments for insurance premiums through fund transfers that assured that payments would be on time and trouble free. E. U. believed that we could do this organizationally, and all of us are familiar with the PAC plan. Though its name has changed and the options for doing those funds transfers have increased, the concept is the same, and it continues to bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to the organization each year.
This successful businessman and community activist made significant contributions to the organization through his work on the Resolutions Committee, and, when the Federation decided to establish a low interest loan program for adaptive technology, E. U. was one of the first three committee members to serve. As a businessman he observed that banks and credit unions were reluctant to make loans for specialized equipment because the collateral that equipment would represent would be harder for them to sell than cars, boats, houses, and more traditional items. One of the benefits of this program was not just that it made money available but that it also offered expertise about the kind of technology that would be most useful for the client who was applying for the loan. Although some of the new technology was foreign to E. U., he was certainly comfortable using the technology of his day, and his family remembers how he made it a habit to tape-record family discussions with his girls or catch them singing at unexpected moments. These recordings were his way of remembering, the role that pictures play in the lives of so many who can see.
E. U.’s involvement in organizations extended well beyond the National Federation of the Blind. He served on the Mississippi public welfare board, and he and Gene were one of thirteen family members who founded the Franklin United Methodist Church in the 1950s. At first the congregation met in a tent, but E. U. and Gene helped to raise money for a building and eventually a second building that was used as a youth center. For years E. U. served as a trustee of the church.
E. U. loved history. The Civil War was his passion, and he read extensively on the subject and had many cassettes filled with Civil War music.
With advancing age he developed significant back trouble. Even after surgery his pain was so severe that he could not climb steps. At times he used a wheelchair to navigate large buildings and packed convention halls. But his physical problems didn’t retard his intellectual curiosity and his determination to remain involved in the things that were so much a part of his life’s work. He continued to hire a reader who would come to his home each day to read the Wall Street Journal, weekly and monthly print magazines, and of course the daily mail. Sadly, E. U. did not live long enough to benefit from the NFB-NEWSLINE service that the PAC plan money he helped to bring to the organization played such a significant part in financing.
E. U. died on April 7, 1996, in Laurel, Mississippi. His wife lived until December 30, 2012. Evidencing her strong commitment to the advancement of blind people, for many years after her husband’s death Gene remained an active member, attending national conventions until 2008. Gene and E. U. are buried in Bay Springs, but they continue to live in the hearts of those who love them, in the statutes of the state of Mississippi, and in the history of the blind and our movement toward first-class citizenship.
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
by Anne Taylor
From the Editor: Anne Taylor is the director of Access Technology, supervises the work of the International Braille and Technology Center, and is in charge of the Access Technology Team. In this article she tries to give us an overview of all that she and her team do to help make existing technology usable and to work with developers so that soon-to-be products are released with accessibility as part of their design. Here is what she has to say:
Many members of the NFB and others interested in learning more about blindness come through the doors of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC) every year to see what is available and what is new in technology for the blind. Much of the work that is done by the Access Technology Team, however, is not as visible to those outside the team as the equipment and the facilities of the International Braille and Technology Center.
As the director of Access Technology at the Jernigan Institute, I want to share the big-picture view of what my team and I work on. Many of you have heard Kenneth Jernigan's 1992 speech on the importance of training and public awareness: "The real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight. The real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of information which exist. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to the level of a physical nuisance." His statement continues to represent the attitude and set the direction in the work my team and I do every day, as will clearly be evident from an overview of some of our recent activities.
Perhaps the most visible program of the Access Technology Team, second only to conducting tours and instruction at the IBTC, is the Technology Resource List. This resource, available at <https://nfb.org/technology-resource-list>, describes just about every piece of blindness technology available in the United States, and the team just finished a major overhaul of this most useful document at the end of 2014. It is a unique compendium of information on blindness technology and is unmatched in its scope and thoroughness. It is a great place to start for anyone wanting to familiarize him or herself with access technology; but it is equally useful in hunting up the latest and best in a given area, such as Braille displays or optical character recognition products. Our access technology blog <https://nfb.org/at-blog> and the access technology tips <https://nfb.org/attips-blog> are two other valuable resources for anyone who wants to learn more about new access technology products. Both of these resources also provide much needed information for those who are interested in nonvisual access technology.
In addition to creating and posting general information, the Access Technology Team continues to respond to questions on nonvisual access technology using email and the telephone. You can reach us by phone by dialing (410) 659-9314 and then choosing option 5 for the technology answer line, or you can email us at <email@example.com>.
In the area of access to the web, one very public aspect of what is so often the result of a lot of behind-the-scenes work is the Web Accessibility Training Day. This event, which the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute co-hosted with the Maryland Technology Assistance Program for the third time last September, is an opportunity for us to bring together some of the experts with whom my team and I have come in contact and have worked collaboratively with over many years and on so many projects. Attendees come from local and state governments as well as the federal government. They also come from higher education, business, and a number of other fields. We shared (and will continue to share at future events) advice from industry experts and our own knowledge of web accessibility in a series of general sessions in the morning, and technical and policy tracks in the afternoon. Topics for this latest iteration included enterprise implementation of accessibility, education implementation of accessibility, PDF accessibility in an enterprise setting, captioning and audio description, HTML5, government implementations of accessibility, and the Section 508 refresh. More information, session recordings, and materials are available to anyone looking to find out more about any or all of these at <https://nfb.org/web-accessibility-day>.
On October 15 through 17, 2014, the team hosted the second run of its wildly popular Train the Trainer seminar. For this three-day event we brought together a group of forty access technology professionals from different backgrounds and from all parts of the country to try out a plethora of devices and software. The focus was on new developments and new technology. It was especially exciting to have a team from Google, as well as Chris Gallello from Microsoft, to discuss and demonstrate their company's work in accessibility. Laura Palmero, Roger Benz, and Lia Carrarri from Google brought Chromebooks and Android Nexus phones for all participants to experiment with, and gathered much feedback from attendees. They also showed participants the tremendous potential of Google products. Chris from Microsoft demonstrated Office Online with JAWS and provided a very honest assessment of its assets and shortcomings.
Google and Microsoft were not the only guest stars to grace the podium. Our own Jennifer Dunnam and our friend and longtime technology expert Earle Harrison from Triumph Technology led sessions on the Duxbury Braille Translator and the Mac, respectively. Henry (Hoby) Wedler, a PhD student in chemistry at UC Davis, was as good an instructor and role model as we could ask for. In his talk about accessibility in math and science, he related his experiences as he has taken on the challenges presented by a rigorous program in science, related his difficulties, and shared the solutions that have helped him overcome these problems and flourish in his chosen field of study.
The Access Technology Team did its part by covering a number of topics, including notetakers, tactile graphics, Windows 8, and low-vision tools. The attendees were as engaged as any group who has ever crossed our threshold, and it was a pleasure to spend these days with them. Because we do limit the size of the group to keep it hands-on, and because not everyone can travel across the country to attend a training of this kind, we do post the material presenters share at <https://nfb.org/training-the-trainers>.
A less well-known part of the work of the Access Technology Team is public awareness. In February I had the honor of co-presenting with three distinguished individuals: Towson University professor and former fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, Jonathan Lazar; senior counselor to the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, Eve Hill; and disability rights lawyer Dan Goldstein from the firm of Brown, Goldstein, & Levy. Our broadly defined topic was "Frontiers in US Law: Equal Access to Info Tech for People with Disabilities," and we presented at Towson University. Specifically, we addressed captioning and legal ownership, accessible instructional materials in higher education, technology access for people with cognitive impairments, ebook access for people with print disabilities, access to courtroom documents and technology, and accessibility and open government. Even with the Department of Justice affirmation that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to the web, many areas still exist in which the lack of access to information technology affects blind people, and much work remains to be done by lawmakers, technology experts, and other stakeholders.
Recently standardized testing is an issue that has gained some traction in the press and with the public. My team and I are working collaboratively with test platform developers to ensure the accessibility of these tests. If the test platform developers adhere to our recommendations, then I am certain that the platforms will be accessible to the blind. We will not stop until every blind child is correctly evaluated based on what he knows about the subject matter and not on how accessible a given piece of technology is for his or her disability.
Somewhere in between public speaking and training, you might find the Access Technology Team's many endeavors at CSUN, or, to name it in full, the Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference. The acronym by which the conference, the largest of its kind, is usually known stems from the host, the California State University at Northridge, which has long been one of the leaders in the field of access technology. The topics we cover vary from year to year, but here is what we will be talking about this March:
Personally, I will be taking on two sessions. The first is "Race to Accessibility," where I will share the stage with Pearson and a representative from the Maryland Department of Education to address the accessibility of high-stakes assessment. In the second session, "The Human Cost of Digital Barriers," I am co-presenting with web accessibility professionals from Deque and Knowbility as well as from Pearson in an open discussion about access to high-stakes, computer-based assessments for students with disabilities and the real-life consequences for students when the materials are not accessible.
The rest of the team, a stellar group dedicated to our mission, will have their hands full with a presentation by Amy Mason on "Access Technologies for Blind and Low Vision Seniors," one which discusses a survey of tools and services available to blind and low-vision seniors for reading, identifying objects, and staying organized. This will be followed by Karl Belanger's demonstration of iWork accessibility in Mac OSX. This session will review whether the Mac and VoiceOver, paired with the iWork suite, is a viable productivity tool for a blind professional or student. The team's final session for the conference will be Clara Van Gerven's talk on the state of wearables for blind users. Wearable technology is one of the fastest growing areas in today’s electronic landscape. It has the potential to provide unprecedented access to the world for blind people, but the question is how close wearables are to fulfilling that promise.
I invite those who are coming to the CSUN conference to attend our sessions. Having members of the Federation participate actively in the audience is something that I always treasure. Whenever we are together in public, we show that the National Federation of the Blind represents a strong and united group who is determined to keep blindness or common misconceptions about it from stopping us. Your technology team always draws inspiration from your example, your participation, and your support of our presentations.
Another joint effort that I want to mention is a survey. We have been working closely with the Therapeutic Research Foundation (TRF) to create a survey on health, mobility, and navigation. TRF is inviting blind and low-vision participants to take the survey to help them create the next generation of navigational tools. The data gathered will be used specifically to do research and development, so please consider taking the time to complete the questionnaire and help them build a device that will serve your needs. With well over three hundred responses in already, the survey promises to be a formidable source of guidance for the team. The link to the survey is <https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XNZKWL8>.Finally, I want to conclude by emphasizing that it is through ongoing collaboration that we are able to draw the speakers and trainers that we do for our events and are able to work toward and bring about the delivery of more accessible hardware, software, and services. The effort we put into these collaborations is often hidden from the public due to the requirements of confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements, but it shows clearly in the results. President Riccobono and I had a meeting not long ago with Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft. He brought in many members of his management team, and the conversation that ensued promises many changes and improvements. My experience has given me ample evidence that, in making accessibility happen, there is no substitute for support and understanding at the top, and meetings like this one are vital to what we do. Such meetings come about based on the Federation's, the Jernigan Institute's, and the team's reputation as experts, advocates, and partnership-builders. Such meetings also happen because the National Federation of the Blind is known for its persistence, its dedication to equality of opportunity, and its constant search for partners who share our goal of full access.
This month’s recipes are offered by members of the NFB of South Dakota.
Mike’s Mexican Eggs
by Mike Klimisch
Mike Klimisch is the secretary of the NFB of South Dakota and also the president of the Falls Chapter of the NFB in Sioux Falls. He describes his cooking style like this, “When I cook, I tend to make my own concoctions and not follow recipes. Here are some recipes that I like. My wife tends not to want to eat many of the things I cook since I like to create some very strange combinations.”
1/2 pound ground meat
1 cup salsa
2-inch thick slice Velveeta cheese
Method: In a frying pan brown the ground meat and drain. In another pan, scramble the eggs. Once both eggs and ground meat are cooked, combine and add the salsa. Cut the Velveeta into small pieces so it will melt quickly. Stir all ingredients together and heat through. When cheese is melted, you will have an excellent breakfast for two.
by Mike Klimisch
1 can sweet peas
4 cups macaroni
2 cans tuna
Cheese (either Velveeta or shredded cheddar) to taste
1/4 cup chopped onions
Method: Place the noodles in a pot of boiling water and cook. When macaroni is fully cooked, strain macaroni, running cold water over it so the macaroni does not stick together. Strain the liquid from the cans of tuna and peas. Toss tuna and peas with cooled macaroni. Cut Velveeta cheese into small cubes or use shredded cheese. Mix in chopped onions for flavor. Next add equal portions of your favorite salad dressing and mayonnaise to taste.
by Mike Klimisch
These mints are very easy to make, and there are many variations in the recipe. I’ve chosen one that uses sweetened condensed milk and one that uses cream cheese.
Sweetened Condensed Milk Version
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 stick butter
Method: Mix all three ingredients in equal portions, e.g., 1/3 cup butter, 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk, and 1/3 cup powdered sugar. Add in liquid extract to desired strength of flavor. Once mixed, roll mint in sugar and roll into round patties or place in mold of whatever shape you prefer.
Cream Cheese Version
Method: Mix cream cheese and sugar in equal parts with mint extract to desired strength of flavor. Break into small pieces and roll the pieces in powdered sugar or place in mold to make decorative mints.
The Braille Monitor Moves to UEB:
Given the adoption of the Unified English Braille code by the Braille Authority of North America, the Braille Monitor will begin using the Unified English Braille Code in the January 2016 issue of this magazine. Although we were the first to contact the American Printing House for the Blind about embossing our magazine using the new code, they assure us that they are preparing for the change and will be ready in plenty of time to meet our January 2016 deadline.
For those concerned about the changes that the UEB will bring, keep in mind that our 2014 National Convention Agenda was produced using this code, and most Braille readers had no trouble adjusting to the elimination of some familiar contractions and the addition of some new symbols. The Braille Monitor published a notice in the December issue about the availability of the McDuffy Reader: A Braille Primer for Adults by Sharon L. Monthei. In June of 2014 The Braille Authority of North America produced a document entitled UEB Reader, which describes the changes that one will see in current literary Braille and the Unified English Braille code. A course in UEB is also being offered by the Hadley School for the Blind.
Our hope is that all of our readers who read this magazine in Braille have ample time to get ready for the minimal changes you will see and that this new code will improve our ability to communicate technical material and to do so more quickly than we have been able to do in the past.
A New Service from the NFB Employment Committee:
The National Federation of the Blind Employment Committee has started a Twitter account to provide yet another avenue to connect job seekers with opportunities. Job announcements posted on our email list are manually converted into tweets, which are concise, 140-character-maximum summaries of the job postings with contact information and/or links to full postings when available. We encourage individuals and organizations to tweet at us with job postings so that we can retweet them, which spreads the word to all of our followers. If you have a job posting or employment-related resource, please tweet it <@NFB_Jobs>; we’d love to retweet it because we know you can communicate your own ideas better than we can. We also tweet employment resources, such as useful articles, webinars, or job fairs. Be sure to follow <@NFB_Jobs> on Twitter!
We need additional hands-on help to make this great service carry on indefinitely. If you have questions about this service or would like to volunteer to help keep the tweets flowing, contact us at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Living the Life We Want Through Exercise and Healthy Living:
On Saturday, May 9, the NFB of Colorado Sports and Recreation Division and WE Fit Wellness will be breaking down barriers to exercise with a full day, high energy, and interactive seminar. The seminar will be held at the Colorado Center for the Blind at 2233 W. Shepperd Ave., Littleton, CO 80120. Whether you want to know more about exercise, competitive sports, or active things to do for fun, this is the seminar for you! From low impact to full throttle we have recreation and exercise solutions that are accessible, affordable, and achievable. Come ready to play. Activities include: goalball, dance, yoga, guided walk/run, full body any time workout, self-defense, tandem cycling, at-home exercise tools, beep ball, and a parents track.
You can try it all. Each participant will also receive a complimentary, tasty, and healthy breakfast, lunch, and snacks as well as a take-home tool kit which includes healthy recipes, ready-made workouts, tips and tricks for staying healthy, and a guide to healthy options on the go: best fast food choices. No matter your age or ability level, you will leave with the confidence and practical tools that promote healthy living.
Registration is $15 in advance or $20 at the door. In Colorado and across the nation, you can live the life you want through recreation, better choice in diet, and exercise. If you are from out of state or even outside the Denver Metro Area, we have made hotel arrangements with the Hampton Inn Highlands Ranch, which also provides free shuttle service to and from the conference and within a five-mile radius of the hotel. To register, reserve a room, or for more information, please contact Cheryl Gross at <email@example.com> or call (866) 543-6808, extension 10.
Senior Division Sponsors Conference Calls in 2015:
The National Federation of the Blind Senior Division proudly sponsors the following conference calls on the topics listed below. Each conference call will be moderated by an active member of the NFB:
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Cane Travel—Can I truly be an efficient cane user as a senior if I’ve never learned before? Moderators: Jeff Altman, Nebraska; Maurice Peret, BISM, Maryland
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Braille: Can I learn Braille as a senior?
Moderator: Shelley Coppel, South Carolina, secretary of the NFB Senior Division
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Organizing Paperwork—keeping track of banking, labeling, sorting and filing necessary documents
Moderator: Ruth Sager, Maryland, president, NFB Senior Division
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Hobbies—Pursuing favorite hobbies and crafts
Moderator: Marguerite Woods, Maryland
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Leisure Time—dining out, movies, museums, enjoying favorite pastime activities
Moderator: Shelley Coppel, South Carolina
All calls will be held at the times listed: 4:00 eastern standard time, 3:00 central time, 2:00 mountain time, and 1:00 Pacific time.
The conference call number is (712) 432-1500, and the access code is 59633#.
All calls will be recorded and put on the NFB Senior webpage, and directions for calling in to listen to missed calls will be given a few hours after the calls have taken place.
In order to obtain the best possible sound for these calls, it is recommended that each caller, after dialing in, press *6, which puts you in a “mute” mode. You will be able to hear everything during the call, but background noise from your location will not disturb others listening in on the conversation. When you wish to speak and enter the discussion, press *6 once again, and you will be released from the “mute” mode and able to participate.
It is also highly recommended that each person wishing to speak state his or her name and wait for the moderator to recognize you before speaking. The quality of our calls is diminished when we have too many people trying to seek the floor at one time; chaos is the result, so a little courtesy goes a long way in participating in an information-filled meeting. The moderators will do their very best to recognize as many callers as possible; however, they will determine the order in which speakers proceed. When finished with your comments, press *6 once again to go back into “mute mode.”
We are very pleased that you are interested in joining our conference call sessions, and we welcome your participation and input. We hope that you will then share what you learn with others, and encourage friends and colleagues to join you in participating in these calls. By the way, you do not have to be a senior to participate and join with us. Each call will be about one hour in length. Come join us, and learn to live the life you want.
Investigating the Accessibility of H&R Block Services:
The NFB is investigating the accessibility of the H&R Block tax-filing website and online documents <http://www.hrblock.com>. If you have recently experienced problems with this website, please send an email to <firstname.lastname@example.org> as soon as possible. Please include the following information in the email: your name, your contact information, a brief description of the barriers you faced, and the approximate date when you accessed the site. Thank you for your assistance.
New Opportunities for Careers in Rehabilitation of the Blind:
Structured Discovery Cane Travel (SDCT) and Structured Discovery Rehabilitation have been demonstrated to be among the most innovative and effective forms of rehabilitation training for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Louisiana Tech University has operated its Orientation and Mobility program on this model successfully for eighteen years, with upwards of 90 percent successful employment and employer satisfaction rates.
Louisiana Tech is excited to announce that, along with its O&M program, it has expanded its training and is launching a brand new concentration in Rehabilitation Teaching for the Blind.
Scholarships are now available for qualified individuals seeking one of the following degree paths: Master of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology with Concentration in Orientation and Mobility; Master of Arts in Counseling and Guidance with Concentration in Rehabilitation Teaching for the Blind; or Orientation and Mobility Graduate Certification.
Who Can Apply?
Individuals must already possess a bachelor’s (BA) degree from an accredited university, have a grade point average of 2.5, and obtain a minimum of 287 (Verbal and Quantitative) on the Graduate Records Examination (GRE). Individuals must also be willing to attend courses on campus in Ruston, Louisiana, on a full-time basis.
What’s the Catch?
Where do I get started?
Summer Job Opportunities at the Colorado Center for the Blind:
The Colorado Center for the Blind is now accepting applications from positive blind role models to be residential counselors and instructors in our 2015 summer programs. We offer three programs for students: Summer for Success College Prep Program, Earn and Learn High School Program, and the Initiation to Independence Middle School Program.
Staff must be available May 26 through August 7. Applicants must be good role models; competent in the skills of blindness; well rounded; flexible, excellent communicators, both oral and written; and willing to lead by example. Applicants also must be excited to work with blind students ages eleven through twenty. Challenge recreation is an exciting component of the job. Staff will go rock climbing, hiking, canoeing, white water rafting, attend martial arts classes, and much more.
All staff and students will attend the National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando!
To learn more about our summer programs, please click the following link <https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-cl=84503534&v=6yBomtj12KU&x-yt-ts=1421914688 &feature=player_embedded#t=0>
If interested, please contact Brent Batron at (303) 778-1130, extension 222 or by email at <email@example.com>.
Louisiana Buddy Program 2015
Come and join us for a summer of fun and learning! Since 1989 the Louisiana Center for the Blind has offered an innovative summer program for blind children in grades four through eight. This summer, the Buddy Program promises to be full of learning opportunities, new friendships, and fun-filled activities.
Many blind children have misconceptions about their blindness due to the lack of positive blind role models and to the negative stereotypes about blindness in society. Unlike other summer programs for blind children, the Buddy Program is directed and staffed by competent blind adults. Classes in cane travel are taught to instill independence and self-confidence. The knowledge of Braille enables the blind child to compete on terms of equality with sighted peers in the classroom and provides a solid background in spelling and other grammatical skills. Computer literacy classes expose a blind child to available adaptive equipment. Classes in daily living skills promote equal participation in household duties such as cooking, shopping, and cleaning. In addition to learning valuable alternative techniques of blindness, children will enjoy participating in a wide variety of exciting activities such as swimming, camping, bowling, roller skating, and field trips.
The combination of hard work and fun activities will provide a rewarding experience that children will cherish. Involvement in the Buddy Program helps blind children realize that it is not blindness that holds them back. Rather, it is the negative attitudes and misconceptions about blindness that may prevent blind children from reaching their potential. At the close of the program parents are required to attend a Parents’ Weekend. This weekend will allow them to interact with other parents of blind children and to learn what their children have discovered about their blindness and themselves. Friendship, training, fun, growth, and interaction between blind children and positive blind role models is how the Louisiana Center for the Blind is “changing what it means to be blind.”
The Louisiana Center for the Blind will sponsor two sessions of the Buddy Program in 2015: from June 7 through 27 and from July 19 through August 8.
Perhaps we will have the opportunity to work with your child this summer. We know it will be a memorable experience for both you and them. All interested families should visit <www.louisianacenter.org> for more details and to apply. Please also feel free to contact our director of Youth Services, Eric Guillory, before April 13. Please email Eric at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or call (800) 234-4166.
Due to limited space, we cannot guarantee that every applicant will be granted enrollment. Please note that the fee for students not from Louisiana is $1,000--which is all-inclusive save for transportation to and from the program. The fee for Louisiana students is $500.
2015 Summer Training & Employment Project (STEP) Program Striving For Success:
Since 1985, the Louisiana Center for the Blind has been changing what it means to be blind for adults from across America. In 1990, a program was created to address the needs of blind high school students. The Summer Training and Employment Project (STEP) Program is designed to introduce blind teenagers to positive blind role models and to provide participants with summer work experience.
The eight-week summer program will consist of two components. During the first part of the program, competent blind counselors will instruct the students in the alternative techniques of blindness. Classes in Braille, cane travel, computer literacy, and daily living skills will be taught by qualified blind instructors. In addition, seminars will be conducted in the areas of job readiness, job interviewing skills, resumé writing and job responsibilities. The second part of the program will continue all aspects of training and expand to include an employment dimension. Students will have the opportunity to work fifteen to twenty hours a week at a local business for which they will receive the federal minimum wage. The staff will attempt to meet the job interests of the students. Instructors from the Louisiana Center for the Blind will be available to provide on-the-job assistance as needed.
The combination of work experience and blindness-related skills—along with fun-filled activities such as cookouts, swimming, and various other outings—will foster self-confidence and independence in young blind teenagers. During the week of July 5 through July 10, students will attend the national convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando, Florida. This exciting conference will allow them to meet thousands of competent blind people from across the country. The students will also have the chance to participate in a wide variety of informative seminars. At the close of the program, parents will be required to attend a Parents’ Weekend which will enable them to discover how much their children have learned throughout the summer. The STEP program is designed to provide invaluable work experience, friendships, opportunities for personal growth, and cherished memories.
Training will begin June 14 and conclude August 8. Please visit <www.louisianacenter.org> to learn about more program specifics and to complete an application.
Due to limited space, we cannot guarantee that every applicant will be granted enrollment, and applicants must have an open case with their state’s vocational rehabilitation agency or other funding entity to cover program costs.
Questions? Please call our director of Youth Services, Eric Guillory at 800-234-4166 or email him at <email@example.com>. "Together, we are changing what it means to be blind." Check out STEP and find out how.
Registration for the Minnesota Summer Buddy Program Open:
Warm greetings from BLIND, Incorporated. It is once again time to start planning for our 2015 Buddy program! This three-week summer fun and learning program is for children ages nine to thirteen. The dates are July 18 through August 7.
The Buddy Program offers an opportunity for blind children to make friends and have fun in a positive and secure setting. Students will learn and practice alternative techniques of blindness while building self-confidence. The training in alternative techniques includes instruction in reading and writing Braille, basic cane travel, cooking skills, and introductions to independent living skills. Students learn to pour liquids, carry a food tray, do laundry, follow a recipe, and much more as they build self-confidence and problem-solving skills.
Students also participate in "talk time," where they discuss important issues about blindness with blind peers and instructors. This time gives the students a chance to discuss their feelings about blindness and their frustrations in dealing with uncomfortable situations, and helps them to problem-solve and develop a positive attitude about blindness and their abilities as blind students.
In addition students participate in many exciting activities in the Twin Cities area such as visits to nature parks, Wild Mountain Water Park, and rock climbing. These activities allow students to develop their socialization skills. Activities are well supervised, and mentoring for the children is provided by active blind role models. Lifelong friendships begin during this brief summer experience.
One of our goals during these recreational/educational activities is to teach our students the alternative techniques of blindness and help them gain the self-confidence that will allow them to return home and actively participate in other fun activities with their sighted friends. Activities are excellent opportunities to teach and reinforce a wide variety of alternative techniques as they apply to real life. These learning experiences are usually most effective when there is plenty of fun involved!
If you have questions please call (612) 872-0100 (ext. 251), toll-free (800) 597-9558, or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>. You may complete an application by visiting our website at <www.blindinc.org>.
Registration for the BLIND, Incorporated Summer PREP Program Open:
It is once again time to start making plans for your summer. This year the PREP, Post-secondary Readiness Empowerment Program, our eight-week program for blind high school students, will run from June 14 to August 7, 2015.
This exciting summer program is for blind high school students and is designed to prepare them for academic, employment, and social success. The PREP curriculum is designed to empower blind youth with the alternative techniques of blindness they will need in order to be successful in the college and the career fields they choose and to give them the confidence and belief in themselves they need in order to find and keep a job.
The core classes include Braille reading and writing; independent cane travel; adaptive technology; career exploration; and home/dormitory management, which includes cooking, cleaning, washing and labeling clothes, personal care, and daily living skills. Students also participate in regularly scheduled discussion groups designed to build confidence and learn from blind peers and adults. This program includes a three-week paid employment experience. Students will utilize the skills they have developed while earning minimum wage working approximately twenty hours per week in local businesses and agencies.
PREP students live with fellow students and adult counselors. These counselors and instructors serve as successful and positive role models. Students shop for groceries, prepare meals, and clean their apartments as part of their home and personal management training.
They begin to learn how to live independently while still in a supportive environment. They develop problem-solving skills and come to realize that they will be able to take care of themselves and take responsibility for their own futures.
This program is based on a positive view of blindness: that if blind people are given proper training and opportunity, they can be successful in education, find meaningful employment, and live full and productive lives.
Traveling to Orlando, Florida
In July, PREP students will enjoy the exciting opportunity of accompanying BLIND, Incorporated staff and adult students as we travel to Orlando, Florida, to attend the weeklong National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. During this convention, our PREP students will join hundreds of other high school and college students from around the country when attending the National Association of Blind Students seminar. Students will also attend other meetings, seminars, learn about new groundbreaking technology, and get involved in social and recreational activities. This annual convention is packed full of fun and great learning opportunities and experiences.
Throughout the summer the PREP students will also participate in a variety of fun activities including going to Wild Mountain Waterpark, camping, rock climbing, shopping at various malls, etc.
For more information or to complete an application, you can visit our website at <www.blindinc.org> or call (612) 872-0100, extension 251, or phone us toll free at (800) 597-9558. Alternatively, you may email us at <email@example.com>.
Federation Leader Presses for Educational Accessibility:
The January 2015 issue of the Monitor focused strongly on accessibility in education with articles about the TEACH Act and the lawsuit the NFB got involved with against Florida State University. This month brings news of a long-time Federation leader working to bring equal accessibility in educational technology.
Alpidio Rolón filed a complaint with the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) against the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDOE) asserting that the PRDOE’s website is not accessible to individuals with visual impairments because the website is not fully compatible with certain assistive technology that converts text to speech. The OCR conducted an investigation, including having the Assistive Technology Team conduct a review of the PRDOE’s website. The team tested the assistive technology that converts text-to-speech on the PRDOE’s website by randomly sampling three webpages. The team concluded that all three webpages had accessibility defects that would prevent a screen reader such as JAWS or ZoomText from accurately conveying the information displayed on the webpages.
During the course of OCR’s investigation, the PRDOE communicated its willingness to voluntarily resolve the complaint prior to the conclusion of OCR’s investigation. Accordingly, on October 24, 2014, the PRDOE voluntarily entered into a resolution agreement with OCR. OCR will monitor implementation of the resolution agreement. If the PRDOE fails to implement the terms of the resolution agreement, OCR will resume its investigation by requesting additional information and documentation, as well as conducting more extensive testing of the PRDOE’s website. We will continue to follow this situation and keep Monitor readers informed as events develop.
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.
IRS Services for People with Disabilities:
Hundreds of accessible federal tax forms and publications are available for download from the IRS Accessibility web page at <http://www.irs.gov/uac/IRS.gov-Accessibility>. Visit <www.IRS.gov> and select the Forms & Pubs tab to access the Accessible Forms and Pubs link. You can choose from large-print, text, accessible PDFs, e-Braille, or HTML formats that are compatible when used with screen readers and refreshable Braille displays. The IRS also provides American Sign Language videos with the latest tax information.
IRS Tax Return Preparation Help is Available
People who are unable to complete their tax returns because of a physical disability or are age sixty or older may get assistance through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs. You can find a nearby VITA or TCE location by calling (800) 906-9887. Publication 907, Tax Highlights for Persons with Disabilities, explains the tax implications of certain disability benefits and other issues and is available at <http://www.irs.gov/publications/p907/index.html>.
Envision Seeking Blind Employees:
Envision is proud to be a leading employer of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. At Envision we focus on ability, not disability. All Envision employees come to work driven by a sense of purpose in what they do, and they see their purpose in action through the employment opportunities, programs, and services which their work with Envision helps fuel. Each Envision employee has different roles and responsibilities, but everyone works toward the same mission: to improve the quality of life and provide inspiration for the blind and visually impaired through employment, outreach, rehabilitation, education, and research.
For more information or to apply for an open position, please visit us at <www.envisionus.com/careers>. We look forward to hearing from you.
Braille and Talking Book Program Embraces New Braille Code:
The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), part of the Library of Congress, next year will implement the Unified English Braille (UEB) code on Jan. 4, 2016—the 207th birthday of Louis Braille.
"This is the first extensive change to the English Braille code, a major literacy tool, since the 1930s," said NLS Director Karen Keninger. "The new code will be especially beneficial to students and other users of technology. It resolves persistent translation errors that occur when, for example, a student’s work is translated to print for a teacher to read, or when print material is translated to Braille." Those who use computers, smartphones, ebooks, and texting features will find it very useful.
The code, which has been adopted by seven other English-speaking countries, brings the Braille code into the computer age. "UEB is not much different from the English Braille American Edition that we’ve been using," Keninger said. UEB uses the same six-dot cell pattern as the present code, but drops some contractions, uses different spacing rules, and allows for transliterating a wider array of symbols.
The Braille Authority of North America (BANA)—which oversees the use, teaching, and production of Braille in the United States—adopted the code in November 2012. It then began preparing constituents for the change to ensure implementation in 2016.
"Since many BANA members produce Braille or transcribe Braille, the NLS announcement will not be a surprise. They have already been preparing," said Judy Dixon, NLS consumer relations officer and NLS representative to BANA.
Beginning January 4, 2016, all books added to the Braille collection will be produced in UEB. "Current patrons should make the transition easily as the new code builds on the old system," said Keninger. Existing Braille books will remain in the collection and be available. The UEB books are not expected to be available from the collection for at least six months. Patrons will not need to change their equipment.
NLS administers the Braille and talking-book program, a free library service available to US residents and American citizens living abroad whose low vision, blindness, or physical disability makes reading regular materials difficult. Through its national network of libraries, NLS mails books and magazines in audio and Braille formats and digital audio equipment directly to enrollees at no cost. Music instructional materials are also available. Selected materials may be downloaded. For more information visit <www.loc.gov/nls/> or call (888) NLS-READ (888) 657-7323).
New York State School for the Blind Reunion:
The Alumni Association of the New York State School for the Blind will hold its annual reunion from Thursday, June 11 to Sunday June 14, 2015, at the Clarion Hotel in Batavia.
The Clarion is conveniently located just off the New York State Thruway at 8250 Park Road, Batavia, NY 14020-1275. The phone number is (585) 344-2100.
The bus companies that serve Batavia have agreed to provide front-door service for guests traveling from the east and west. For returning alumni who will be traveling from out of state, many of the buses that originate or are destined for Buffalo make stops at the Buffalo Niagara International airport.
As always, this year's get-together will not lack in excitement with a trivia contest, a trip to a nearby museum, and our legendary banquet. We've recently changed the rules concerning membership in our organization, making membership open to more people than ever before. You won't want to miss our 2015 gathering.
Room rates are competitively priced at $87 for standard rooms and $107 for suites. Our banquet choices of rib eye steak, salmon, and chicken and pasta primavera are priced reasonably from $20 to $25.
The registration deadline is Friday, May 1, 2015, and in order to enjoy the hotel room rates as quoted above, you must register with treasurer Chet Smalley by that date. Chet can be reached by mail at 541 W. Gore Road, Erie, PA 16509-2329; by phone at (814) 866-3949; or by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
For more information contact our corresponding secretary, Diane Scalzi, at 21621 Briarcliff Street, Clair Shores, MI 48082-1299; by phone (586) 337-5226; or by email at <email@example.com>.
Warriors to Summits:
Apply now for Warriors to Summits 2015 Expedition! We are thrilled to announce that on the heels of such success with Mission: Mt. Whitney, Wells Fargo has renewed their relationship with No Barriers USA to provide another incredible veteran program in 2015.
This year’s Warriors to Summits expedition will be to Gannett Peak, the apex of the entire Central Rockies. At 13,804 feet, it is located in Wyoming between Fremont and Sublette Counties along the Continental Divide. There will be two team trainings prior to the expedition launch, and the summit is planned for September 11th.
We highly encourage all veterans and transitioning service members with disabilities to apply for the program. Applications will be accepted through March 31. Not a veteran? Do your part by nominating a potential applicant today.
Learn more about Warriors to Summits by calling (877) 627-1425 or write to 224 Canyon Avenue, Suite 207, Fort Collins, CO 80521.
Participants Wanted for a Survey on the Employment of the Blind:
I am working on my thesis for my master's degree in management. The topic is the dismal unemployment rate for people who are blind or visually impaired and are of working age. This is a concern of mine both because I am blind and because I believe blindness is a disability requiring minimal accommodations. I have been involved in most aspects of the blindness system, from getting rehabilitation training to getting an undergraduate degree to doing job searches and working for sixteen years with a major air carrier. Due to office closures, I have gone back to the job search, but, while searching, I decided to further my education with a graduate degree in management, specializing in leadership.
My hope is to get a clearer understanding of the problem of the unemployment of the blind in order to come up with solutions to the problem. I am doing this with a survey on surveymonkey.com. The link is below; however, I am open to simply having a dialogue with people who are blind or visually impaired who are successfully working, those who are looking for work, those who are under-employed, or those who are retired and have left the workforce. Since my specialization is in the leadership area, I hope to find meaningful information in order to take a step toward addressing a solution to the problem, no matter how small that step may be.
The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.
Bookkeeping Services Available from Blind Entrepreneur:
I am the secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey and the owner/operator of Mackey Enterprises. My company offers its services to assist individuals and small businesses with their data entry and bookkeeping needs using Word, Excel, and QuickBooks. Projects will be undertaken and completed based on a negotiated hourly rate or as a volunteer contribution by the company if circumstances warrant. To learn more and negotiate a rate, contact Brian Mackey at (609) 953-6988, or email me at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.