Vol. 58, No. 7 July 2015
Gary Wunder, Editor
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Vol. 58, No. 7 July 2015
Illustration: Federationists and Other Community Members Mobilize for Blind Children
Landing Among the Stars: When Teachers and Student Work Together
by Chelsea Cook
The Basics of Carb Counting: How the Carbs You Eat Add Up to Blood Glucose Control
by Allison Tsai
The Blind in Science and Beyond
by Cary Supalo
Helping Those I Meet Look Beyond My Differences or Conditions
by Jeanette McAllister
A Costa Rica Adventure
by Christine Hall
A Unique Disability
by Ruth Silver
Standing on Their Shoulders: Giants Who Helped Build Our Affiliate in New Mexico
by Peggy Chong
Nothing Comes Between Me and My Technology
by Darlene Laibl-Crowe
The Federation at Fifty
by Kenneth Jernigan
Taking Stock in One Another: How Barclays Bank Is Helping the Disabled Invest In Our Future
by Kane Brolin
Don’t Ruin Healthy Eating When You Travel
by Cheryl Echevarria
Copyright 2015 by the National Federation of the Blind
On Sunday, June 7, 2015, runners gathered at the Jernigan Institute to run the 6 Dot Dash, a six kilometer course that began at the Jernigan Institute and passed through Federal Hill and the Inner Harbor. The purpose of this event was to raise awareness about how few blind children are receiving the Braille instruction they need and to raise money to fund Braille literacy programs.
Other activities included a clothing drive as part of the Federation’s partnership with GreenDrop, and a kids’ corner with activities including a kids’ race. Nadia Graham and a friend ran arm in arm, with Nadia’s cane leading the way, but Nadia wasn’t too tired to ring the bell to kick off the big race. Of course, participants could take the course at whatever speed they chose. Kevan Worley and his guide ran, while Rose Sloan and others chose a more leisurely pace. And not all who ran chose to run with a guide. Gabe Cazares and Jeremy Capati, one of the interns at the Jernigan Institute, chose to tackle the course with only their trusty canes to guide them.
by Chelsea Cook
From the Editor: Lately articles in the Monitor about education have been about difficulties getting class materials in accessible formats. We were thrilled to hear from Chelsea about a positive university experience, especially in a challenging degree program like physics. Chelsea is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia and of the Writers Division. Chelsea was a 2010 scholarship winner, and she has this to say about her experiences pursuing her physics degree:
It was a rainy Friday evening—Halloween, in fact—and I was waiting for the bus to take me home, though I was not going to get ready for a party or put on a costume. I was not scared or disheartened by the weather but filled with adrenaline and optimism. I was heading straight to my computer to code an orbital mechanics problem. Getting to this point had not been easy; in fact, getting into this course had not been easy. In a basic space survey course in my freshman year, my favorite part had been the material on rockets: velocities, launch times, and the way payloads moved once in orbit. I loved the mathematical treatment and knew I wanted to investigate further. Someone said, "If you want to go deeper, study orbital mechanics." I remembered that phrase and continued with my physics degree. I kept checking the class schedule, but I always had a scheduling conflict and prerequisites I hadn't taken yet. The semester before my senior year I thought, if I wanted to take this mystical astromechanics course, I'd better get serious about it. I examined the prerequisites, and, although I hadn't taken the prescribed courses, I was well into my physics program and had mastered similar material. With the blessing of the Aerospace Department head, I was allowed to enroll.
Working with a new department on campus always fills me with some trepidation, but it turned out the instructor and I were a perfect match. He and I had the same learning style (visual/tactile), so he was able to spot areas in coursework where I might have trouble with a concept. Anticipating these, he would come up with solutions before I even knew there were problems. These solutions were often low-tech, demonstrating that keeping things simple is often valuable. Since English was not his first language, he wanted a way to communicate with me that would work well for both of us, and it turned out that tactile models were the key. He could use simpler vocabulary and have my hand exploring the model at the same time. What a winning combination.
The first model he made consisted of two pieces of cardboard taped together. Since satellite trajectories are naturally in three dimensions, having a model mimicking reality was crucial. The cardboard was oriented to simulate the two planes of a spacecraft's orbit, and creases in the material represented different vectors between important points. Most of this model-exploring was done during office hours, which came to be a sacred time for me. When the class began, my instructor initially thought that reading the equations aloud in class would be sufficient. When he realized this would take much more time, he needed another approach, so office hours worked to fill in the gaps. I had Braille notes, so I could follow along in class easily enough, but he said it was his "duty to teach you and the class the whole syllabus." Taking that to heart, he was receptive to my many inquiries, which often took us on interesting journeys outside of class and through the world of academia. In one session we could go from discussing course problems to pure geometry to real applications of spaceflight to how those applications were implemented to coding. The logic was often unpredictable and beautiful. The bond between student and master was strong. When grades fell away, knowledge remained, and the depths of that knowledge seemed limitless. That is why I eschewed social norms on Halloween and was so eager to run home and code a problem. It was me, my computer, my teacher, and my knowledge of physics—communing with the universe at large. I thought this must have been what it was like for the Greek scholars and tutors in the classical era.
This was not the first time I had experienced the pure joy of learning. In sophomore year I took an independent study in differential equations with a math instructor I'd worked with in freshman calculus. I had had bad experiences with calculus during high school, and this teacher gave me a huge confidence boost. So, when I started asking for assistance with differential equations, she was happy to help. When she found out the reason I was having trouble (getting the Braille book on time), she decided to help me act to change the situation. With a bit of help from the math department, I decided it was best to drop differential equations on the stipulation that I would have an independent study covering some math material, some visualization techniques for other courses, and a final "Best Practices for Instructors" paper. This all worked beautifully, and I learned more about differential equations that semester than when I had to take the course again the next term. Future-proofing was the goal, and it paid large dividends in my later physics courses. To this day I enjoy solving differential equations (ordinary or partial), and I attribute that to the instructor who took the time to teach me not only math but the joys and potentials of independent learning.
Future-proofing was also the goal in modern cosmology in my last semester. Because of a time conflict, this was also an independent study course; my professor knew I was thrilled about this. That Greek-scholar feeling returned every week as we explored the theoretical framework for the origins of the universe. He made sure I had Braille notes and a textbook to carry me to the future—graduate school. To me those volumes are worth their weight in gold—which, if you have experience with Braille, you know is quite a lot.
As graduation approaches, I am excited for the future but will never forget the people who have helped me accomplish this thing in my life called a physics degree: Braille Services at Virginia Tech, and all those professors and instructors who believed in me and went the extra mile to prove it. They often didn't do this just because of an accommodation request or administrative decree but because they saw an eager student ready to soak up what they offered; it was a challenge they rose to as well. Indeed, my favorite academic memories of college will probably not be of sitting in a lecture hall but of concentrating in a quiet, often small office, taking in knowledge about nature and conversing in the language of discovery and tactile toys.My philosophy for choosing college courses has always been, "If it's not challenging or interesting, why take it?" And I believe I have lived up to that motto. I've treated every course as a new adventure, a chance to take a plane for a test flight and see what it can show me about our world. Some flights I've taken are routine but always insightful; some flights find me flying around in a fog until that beacon called finals appears; some flights find me exploring little islands and caves that I might not return to, but it is great to know they exist. My absolute favorites, however, are those flights that go beyond the airplane, those that rocket off the ground and, whether theoretically or practically, take me to the realm of outer space itself.
by Allison Tsai
From the Editor: This article originally appeared in the May issue of Diabetes Forecast magazine. Though it is written specifically for diabetics, discussing how they can balance carbohydrates and insulin, it can be useful for those who are pre-diabetic, those whose diabetes can be managed with diet and exercise, or those who simply want to create more healthy eating habits for themselves.
People without diabetes may glance at their dinner and see salmon, a salad, or a bowl of soup, but those with diabetes are faced with numbers—specifically, carbohydrate grams. If you’re new to diabetes, you may wonder why you need to carb count at all. Read on to find out why carb counting is an important thing you can do to ensure blood glucose control, how to determine your carb needs, and which carb counting method is best for you.
Carbohydrates are naturally found in certain foods. Grains, sweets, starches, legumes, and dairy all contain carbs in varying amounts.
When foods and drinks with carbohydrate are digested, the carbs break down into glucose to fuel our cells, and the body’s blood glucose level rises. In people without diabetes, blood glucose levels rise after eating, but the body’s insulin response keeps levels from rising too high. “[The] pancreas will release a squirt of insulin to help facilitate getting the glucose from your bloodstream into your cells, where it can be used as fuel,” says Alison Evert, MS, RD, CDE, coordinator of diabetes education programs at the University of Washington Medical Center and a dietitian and diabetes educator at the Endocrine and Diabetes Care Center there.
If you have diabetes, the process doesn’t work as designed. How carb counting can help your blood glucose control depends on your treatment regimen and whether or not your body makes insulin.
The best carb counting method for you is the one that addresses your medication and lifestyle needs.
If you take mealtime insulin, that means first accounting for each carbohydrate gram you eat and dosing mealtime insulin based on that count using what’s known as an insulin-to-carb ratio.
“People who take rapid-acting insulin—type 1 or type 2—at or just prior to food intake need to match the amount of carbohydrate in their meal to achieve glucose control,” says Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, author of Eat Out, Eat Well: The Guide to Eating Healthy in Any Restaurant. This advanced form of carb counting is recommended for people on intensive insulin therapy by shots or pump, such as those with type 1 and some people with type 2.
People with type 2 diabetes who don’t take mealtime insulin may not need detailed carb counting to keep their blood glucose in line. Some do basic carbohydrate counting based on “carbohydrate choices.” One choice contains about fifteen grams of carb. Others use what’s called the “plate method” to eat a reasonable portion of carbohydrate-containing foods at each meal by limiting grains and starchy vegetables to a quarter of the plate. Others still stick with traditional carb counting, too.
Which method is best for those with type 2? “There is no evidence that any of those methods works better than others to help the person achieve good blood glucose control,” says Patti Urbanski, MEd, RD, LD, CDE, a diabetes educator with St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota.
The longer you practice carb counting, the more you’ll remember the carb content of the foods you commonly eat, but it helps to reference nutrition labels, apps, books, and other sources that provide information about the carb content of specific food items.
As for the ideal number of carbs per meal, there’s no magic number. “How much carbohydrate each person needs is in large part determined by their body size and [his or her] activity level,” says Urbanski. Appetite and hunger also play a role.
In order to figure out how many carbs you should be eating, schedule an appointment with your dietitian or diabetes educator to work out an eating plan specifically for you. This service, when provided by a dietitian, is known as medical nutrition therapy. Diabetes self-management education sessions also may include creating an eating plan.
During the sessions, you’ll determine your carb needs and how to divide your carbs among your meals and, if desired, snacks. “Everybody’s insulin response is going to be different, and we don’t want to make the diet more restrictive than it needs to be,” Evert says.
That said, if you haven’t figured out your individual plan yet, the general guideline for most adults with diabetes is forty-five to sixty grams of carbohydrate per meal, which is three to four carbohydrate choices. A snack would be around fifteen to thirty grams of carbs or one to two choices. That’s just a starting point, however. Your total carb allowance should meet your energy needs, blood glucose targets, and weight management goals.
Whether you count each carb gram or use one of the other meal planning methods, you’ll want to choose foods that are rich in nutrients. “The quality of carbs is an important aspect,” says Evert. Opt for foods that are unprocessed and in their natural state, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruit that hasn’t been broken down into smoothies or canned in syrup.
“I encourage people to eat their carbs instead of drinking them,” says Evert. “That will be a lot more satisfying.” Try to eat more whole foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, which are minimally processed and free from additives and artificial substances. Processed foods, such as packaged cookies, crackers, and canned fruit usually contain added salt, sugar, carbohydrates, fat, or preservatives. Eating more whole foods and less processed foods will also make your body work harder to digest them, which is a good thing for weight management.
If you eat mostly whole foods, and limit highly processed foods—whether that’s swapping a doughnut for a bowl of fruit and yogurt for breakfast or switching from white to whole grain bread—you’ll get plenty of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and fiber. As a bonus, you can indulge in a dessert from time to time, Urbanski says, “as long as you’re thinking about the amount of carbohydrates in it and recognizing that you’re not getting a lot of good nutrition in return for those grams of carbohydrates.”
It can be hard to change your eating habits overnight, so start by making small changes and sticking to them. Just knowing which foods are better choices is a step in the right direction.
by Cary Supalo
From the Editor: Cary Supalo has become well known to many Monitor readers as he has moved from young student to graduate student and now to research scientist at Purdue. He is the president and founder of Independence Science, a small business that promotes the development of access technologies to provide hands-on learning science experiences for blind students. Cary won two scholarships from the National Federation of the Blind, one in 1994 and as a tenBroek Fellow in 2001. Here is what he has to say about setting a goal, working to achieve it, and encouraging other blind people to follow their dreams in fields many consider off limits for the blind:
Have you ever wondered why ice melts, why food spoils, or why the sun rises in the east and sets in the west? These are all examples of scientific questions people have asked over the centuries. What is this thing we call science? Some would say it is the quest for knowledge. Others would say it is us trying to understand phenomena in the world around us. Still others would define science as the quest for understanding. Whatever your definition, the most important correlation here between these is a desire to want to know more than we do. This wanting to know more is simply our innate human nature.
With science comes the ability to make and test hypotheses. What is a hypothesis? Most of you know that this is simply the asking of a scientific question and offering a tentative answer. What can that scientific question be about? About anything: Why aren't more blind people employed? How can I make more money? What do I want to do for a career?
There is a typical format for a hypothesis. It comes in the form of an if/then statement. If I go to college and obtain my bachelor's degree in physics, then this will lead to full-time employment with a company like Northrop Grumman. Another example might be: If I don't take no for an answer, then I will succeed in my professional development as a blind person.
It is this last hypothesis that I wish to focus on for a moment. We blind people are told so often we can't do x, y, or z that we tend to believe it. Further, we start to make up excuses why we can't do something, so soon we conflate the outer pressure and our inner dialogue and therein deprive ourselves of some wonderful opportunities.
Often people ask me how I became a chemistry professor. The short answer is that I first set that as my vocational goal and then stuck to my guns as I talked with my rehabilitation counselor. Fortunately I was able to persuade him to believe in me and that this was a reasonable goal. After changing my major seven times while I was an undergraduate student at Purdue, I wasn't sure sometimes that this was truly the path for me. Eventually I committed to and stayed on my path, despite some faculty shunning the idea of my majoring in chemistry. Although I had my critics, others at Purdue were supportive and believed in my ability and my dream.
Upon successful graduation from Purdue, I went on to graduate school at Penn State University. One of the first things you must do as a graduate student is choose your research advisor. For those of you interested in pursuing advanced degrees that require this step, this is the most important decision you will make in your education. To that end I was required to interview with four chemistry faculty. The first two I met with were nice and happy to tell me what their research was about. The third guy, after avoiding me several times and not showing up for my scheduled appointments, eventually did. He told me about his research. It was interesting. We then got into the discussion of my joining his research group. He told me no; he would not support that. He forthrightly told me he viewed me as a financial liability and did not think I would be a productive student. This honest commentary really set me back on my heels. So taken aback was I that I was afraid I could not attend my last appointment of the afternoon. I was upset, thinking that perhaps he was right and that I wasn't good enough; maybe the truth was that I could not do it.
When I arrived at my next interview, I sat down and tried to display as much confidence as I could, hoping the fact that I was rattled didn't show. I was quite nervous. I explained how I would do my bench work, working with the undergraduate students I would supervise. We talked about how I would work with chemical literature and interpret spectroscopic data using raised-line drawings. Upon the conclusion of our discussion, Dr. Mallouk welcomed me into his research group. I was surprised by this. I asked him if he had any questions about my proposed research methods. He said no. "Cary, you have been problem-solving your entire life to overcome challenges, and that is the epitome of what a scientist does."
For me this was revolutionary. I am referring to the idea that blind people are all lifelong problem-solvers in one way or another. Thus it makes sense to tap into this population of problem-solvers and to incorporate them into the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce.
This is what I spent the next several years working on. I completed my master's degree in inorganic chemistry with an emphasis in catalysis. I made materials that lowered the activation energies of various chemical reactions. I had varying levels of success in this endeavor. I then obtained a National Science Foundation grant to fund the Independent Laboratory Access for the Blind or ILAB project. This project was an educational research study that hypothesized that, if there was a suite of talking and audible lab tools to be used in the high school chemistry class, then blind students would develop a greater interest in STEM. My data indicated, after field-testing the ILAB tools in fifteen high schools across the United States, that this was true in fourteen cases. Therefore, hands-on science learning is valuable to the blind just as it is for the sighted. This equality for all parallels something that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
The path to a STEM career requires lots of persistence by the blind, and simply getting over the fear of not having all the answers along the way as you progress up that staircase is key. Depending on your problem-solving skills to figure out how to meet the challenges you will encounter is perfect on-the-job training for becoming a STEM professional. Dr. King was quite a visionary, as were Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and Dr. Maurer. These are examples of leaders in the blindness movement who have been visionaries in their own right, who have supported us, and who have demonstrated faith that we can do whatever we put our minds to. We can't take no for an answer; rather we must persevere and work hard to stay on the path to making our dream—whatever it is—a reality.
One of the great satisfactions in life is having the opportunity to assist others. Consider making a gift to the National Federation of the Blind to continue turning our dreams into reality. A gift to the NFB is not merely a donation to an organization; it provides resources that will directly ensure a brighter future for all blind people.
The National Federation of the Blind has special giving opportunities that will benefit the giver as well as the NFB. Of course the largest benefit to the donor is the satisfaction of knowing that the gift is leaving a legacy of opportunity. However, gifts may be structured to provide more:
NFB programs are dynamic:
by Jeanette McAllister
From the Editor: How many of us can relate to the frustration generated when people talk with us about our blindness and yet will not name it, calling it our condition or situation or our challenge. It can be difficult when they imply that it is a shame that we can’t visually observe something beautiful or that we are blessed because we do not have to look at something terrible. It is difficult to explain that we too have things to appreciate in a sunrise or sunset, the beauty of a stream, the flapping of a flag, and the wonderful feeling that comes after a rain, whether or not we see the rainbow. Whether we see the horror of the war on our television screen or witness the picture of the starving child halfway across the world, we know these things exist, grieve about them, and search in our souls for a way to change them. How do we get people to understand in their hearts and in their minds that blindness means the loss of physical sight but need not make radical changes to who we are and does not alter our innate humanity? It is one of our characteristics but by no means the most important.
Jeanette lost her vision suddenly in December of 2010 after a head injury exacerbated a dormant eye disease. Since then she has worked hard to learn Braille and about various adaptive technologies. She owns a staffing company where she not only assists both blind and sighted people in finding employment, but also spends time educating employers about the capabilities of the blind. She was recently appointed to the Employment Committee of the National Federation of the Blind and has also been asked to serve on the State Rehabilitation Council for the Virginia Department for the Blind. Here is what Jeanette thought it better to write than to emotionally say to her family and friends:
After several conversations with family members and acquaintances about what they so lovingly refer to as "your condition," I have to clarify some things. Let me start with a few questions:
I have the same needs, wants, and desires as you. The only thing that keeps you from clearly seeing this is that I often do things differently and may appreciate things differently from the way you do. Please allow me to elaborate:
Before you conclude that I can't accomplish something because of my "condition"—what exactly do you think my condition is? Obviously it is much more than the fact that I do not see. You assume a great many things based on my lack of vision—bless your heart. So let’s channel your concern, your goodwill, and your desire to help into areas that will really make a difference. Watch me and learn what it really means to be blind; then take up my cause, join me in the good fight, and together let’s change the attitudes that are the single-largest problem I face. Together let’s change the world, not only for me but for others who are blind.
by Christine Hall
From the Editor: Christine Hall is a long-time member of the National Federation of the Blind, who has served as the president of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico and as the president of the Seniors Division. But, as you can see from this article, Christine is not all work and no play. Here is her account of a recent vacation taken with her daughter:
Last November my daughter Candy and I went to Costa Rica. Costa Rica has been on my bucket list, one of those places in the world I wanted to visit, so now I can take it off the list. What an adventure it was for both Candy and me. It was a yoga retreat in a beautiful retreat center with the jungle all around us: trees, plants, and all kinds of jungle animals. We spent the first night in a hotel in San José, a three-and-a-half hour ride from the retreat center.
The first morning at the retreat center, some of us went on a walking tour through the Cahuita National Park, a tropical jungle. Usually wild animals can be easily spotted in the middle of the abundant, colorful flora. On that day there did not seem to be too many animals, but our guide was able to point out a few: a couple of viper snakes (very poisonous), a monkey or two, some sloths hanging from the trees, and lots of carpenter ants. Some of the group split off and went snorkeling, where they saw many colorful fish and beautiful coral, which they were careful not to touch. Candy went snorkeling, something she had never done before. I had been snorkeling, both in the Caribbean and in Hawaii, so I chose not to go. When I went snorkeling in the Caribbean, I still had a bit of sight and was able to see some of the colorful fish; what a delight!
When we woke up in the morning at the retreat center, we would hear a noise coming from the jungle that sounded like a mountain lion. We found out much to our surprise that the sound was from howler monkeys doing their mating call. These monkeys are quite small, and it is hard to believe something that loud could come from such a little creature. It was reassuring to know that a mountain lion was not nearby.
Speaking of monkeys and other jungle animals, the highlight of the trip for me was our visit to the Jaguar Rescue Center. Our guide Dexter gave me a hands-on experience with some of the animals—not including the snakes, which was fine with me. As a group we all went into the monkey enclosure. Before going in, I asked Dexter if he thought it would be okay for me to take my white cane, and he said yes since the monkeys would probably love to play with the cane. He was so right. They were climbing on my cane, on my arms, shoulders, and head. It was so much fun feeling them and just being in their presence. They were young monkeys who had lost their mothers and would be rehabilitated and returned to their natural habitat. When I first went into the monkey enclosure, a volunteer immediately put a howler monkey on my lap, and he just lay there and slept. The spider monkey and a white face monkey had fun playing with my cane.
I also got to get hands-on with an anteater. I got to feel her entire body as Dexter held her in his arms. Her hair was very coarse, her nose—as you would expect—very long and pointed, and her tail long and skinny. They have only three claws. The one in the middle is very long to dig out the ant hole. She then puts her long tongue in the hole to retrieve ants. In addition I got to go into another enclosure and sit on the ground with a young ocelot (jungle cat). Dexter made sure I checked out her paws, which were quite large for her size. She was soft and calm, and she did not seem to be aware of me while she was eating a treat from the ground.
Dexter then asked me if I was up for what might be considered a scary experience. I said sure since I have always been a risk-taker. So we went out to an open area, and he put a heavy glove on my hand. He then told me to raise my arm as high as it would go and proceeded to put a live mouse on the tip of the glove. He whistled and a hawk came swooping down and flew off with the mouse. I know it may be sad to hear about the mouse being devoured by the hawk, but that is just nature. I could hear the hawk as it flew off with the mouse.
While most of the women went zip lining, another retreatant (Edie) and I visited a small cacao tourist attraction. The cacao tree is a tree that produces chocolate. Once again we had a great guide who took us through every stage of how the chocolate eventually comes to us. When we got to the tourist site, I asked about mosquitoes, which seemed to be flying all around us. They love me, and I am always protecting myself with insect repellant. Our guide said I would probably love the mosquito by the end of our guided tour since they are the insect that pollinates the flowers on the cacao tree, and, without the mosquito, no chocolate. I would be very sad if I did not have my chocolate. We learned of the history and science of chocolate, the transformation from the raw cacao bean, which we tasted—to the chocolate bar—very yummy. We took our chocolate bar back to the retreat center and shared it with our friends. Generous of us, wouldn't you say? The chocolate is much purer than what we are able to get in the United States. Costa Rican chocolate is exported primarily to European countries such as Switzerland, with a very small percentage going to the United States. If you like dark chocolate, you would love it—much better than what we have in the States.I will conclude this article saying I had a wonderful experience, and it was an example of our NFB message: "You can live the life you want.”
by Ruth Silver
From the Editor: Ruth Silver surmounted the challenges of vision loss and later hearing loss to become a successful teacher and service provider for children and adults with special needs. She is the founder of the Center for Deaf-Blind Persons in Milwaukee. She served as executive director for seventeen years. For the next eleven years she continued to work part-time as consultant, outreach presenter, teacher, coordinator of new projects, and support group facilitator. Currently Ruth is a consultant and community outreach presenter for the center, while independently participating in book events for her recently published autobiography, Invisible: My Journey Through Vision and Hearing Loss. She has a bachelor's degree in the education of the deaf, graduate credits in the education of the blind and in counseling, and certification in support group facilitating. Ruth lives in Milwaukee with her husband.
Deaf-blindness is not simply deafness plus blindness. It is not two disabilities put together; it is one unique disability. Let me explain.
I am totally blind, having gradually lost my vision starting in childhood. In young adulthood I started losing my hearing. With hearing aids I am able to understand some speech in a quiet environment.
When I was only blind, I could socialize with many people at a gathering. Now at best I can converse with the individual next to me.
When I was only blind, I could interact with people in a room where the radio was playing, dishes were clattering, and laughter abounded. Now, with background noise, I can understand nothing and be alone in a crowd.
When I was only blind, I could sense sadness, joy, anger, and agitation from a person's tone of voice. That is no longer possible, and the loss sometimes causes misunderstandings.
When I was only blind, I could hear the softest footsteps. Today I am repeatedly startled by the voice of a person who has entered the room with no forewarning.
When I was only blind, I could identify a person by his/her voice. Now I cannot tell who is talking to me unless I first hear a name.
When I was only blind, I could move quickly with my white cane and in familiar surroundings without it. Now I walk cautiously to avoid bumping people since I cannot hear if others are around or where they might be.
When I was only blind, I could retrieve a dropped item in seconds by hearing where it fell. No longer able to localize sound, I must now search on my hands and knees and even then may not locate the item because it rolled behind a door or into another room.
When I was only blind, I could stand unsupported in the middle of a room, bend over, turn sharply, or jump out of bed quickly. This is no longer the case. Like many others with hearing loss, I have balance problems which prohibit abrupt movements.
When I was only blind, I had no difficulty hearing the ring of the telephone or doorbell. Today, even with amplified ringers, my responses are inconsistent, and I must consider using a vibrating alert system.
When I was only blind, talking on the telephone was fun. Now, even with hearing aids combined with a volume-control phone, I miss some words and misunderstand things. Sometimes I use a Braille-type telephone, which is slower and does not convey the emotional nuances of the voice.
When I was only blind, I spent hours listening to Talking Books. Most voices now sound muffled.
When I was only blind, my husband and I enjoyed movies, and he provided an occasional description, but movies are now confusing and no longer pleasurable.
When I was only blind, life had minimal stress. Now, piecing together bits of information, localizing difficulties, and coping with balance problems, misunderstandings, the attitudes of others, and unpredictable drops in hearing increase daily stress and fatigue.
The list of challenges is equally long for individuals who are deaf and have lost or are losing vision. Deaf people rely on their vision to compensate for their hearing loss. Blind people use their hearing to compensate for their vision loss. Deaf-blind people are able to compensate for the loss of both sight and hearing only by learning deaf-blind-specific adaptations that focus on developing and integrating touch, taste, smell, kinesthesia, and any remaining vision or hearing.
When I acknowledged the need and learned new ways of doing old things, my splintered pieces combined into a complete, though narrowed, whole. I rejoice once again in being able—differently able.
by Peggy Chong
From the Editor: Peggy Chong loves history and is determined to recognize those blind men and women who have played a role in creating what we have today. Here is her story of a dozen blind people who played a part in our formation. Some of their contributions were spectacular, and some were less than stellar. Even those who might have done better by their fellow blind brothers and sisters demonstrate that blind people represent a cross-section of our society and show once again that none of us do all the good we can or live the lives we would have lived if living life was as simple as constructing a story. Here is Peggy's article:
The New Mexico affiliate came along many years after the founding of the National Federation of the Blind in 1940, but its members did their best to catch up with and contribute alongside their fellow Federationists across the country.
New Mexico became a state in 1912, the forty-seventh state to join the Union. Although New Mexico is the fifth largest state in land size, it is the thirty-sixth state in population. The school for the blind was opened in the fall of 1906 in Alamogordo, a medium-sized community in the southern part of the state. Beyond the school for the blind there were few options for blind people. The state had no agency for the blind and only a few workshops.
The land of enchantment had few notable blind people in its early history. Elizabeth Garrett was quite famous. Although she was educated at the school for the blind in Texas, her family was from New Mexico, and her father was the famous sheriff, Pat Garrett, who shot Billy the Kid. Elizabeth Garrett wrote the state song, "O Fair New Mexico." She was also one of the few blind teachers at the school for the blind in Alamogordo in its first decade.
In the spring of 1956 blind people and members of the state Lions Clubs canvassed the state, inviting blind people to come to Albuquerque and hear about the National Federation of the Blind. One Lions member in particular was helpful in organizing the new affiliate: Fred Humphrey of the Los Almos Lions Club. The organizing convention was held at the El Fidel Hotel at Copper in Albuquerque, on Saturday, June 2, 1956. More than fifty people attended, including blind people from throughout New Mexico. Among those who joined that day were some members of the staff of the school for the blind, an institution that also ran the largest sheltered shop for the blind in the state.
One of the first national activities that the new affiliate took on was hosting the 1959 National Convention in Santa Fe. The four-day convention was from June 26 to 29. Hotel rates in the six official hotels for the convention ranged from $1.50 for a cot in a dormitory room of the Hotel De Vargus to $12.00 for a double at the Desert Inn. Some rooms had a bath, and some even had air conditioning.
Harmony, or the lack of it, mirrored what was happening on a national level. Because many of the NFB of New Mexico members were graduates of the school for the blind, the primary provider of services to the blind of the state, when NFBNM leaders wanted to introduce legislation to create a commission for the blind in New Mexico, dissension occurred; the school did not want competition. That institution tried to get control over the new affiliate and almost succeeded. When their efforts were thwarted, representatives of the school pressured the members of the NFBNM who were alums, causing many to leave the organization. All of this happened within the first decade of the affiliate's existence. Yet this affiliate and its strong leaders maintained and strengthened the affiliate. Brief biographies of some of these leaders follow:
Maria Alvarez was the daughter of Abram and Estafana Alvarez. She was born blind, but her family was reluctant to send her away to school until the parish priest and the county sheriff convinced them that Maria needed to go to school. Maria was a graduate of the New Mexico School for the Blind in 1944. Her family home was in Socorro, New Mexico, and that is where she returned after graduating. In the 1950s she got a job as a typist and transcriber at the county welfare office in Socorro after attending a secretarial school in Santa Fe.
When the 1956 organizing meeting of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico took place in Albuquerque, Maria was there. She was elected the first secretary of the new affiliate. In early 1957 she was chair of the Resolutions and the Publicity Committees for the upcoming state convention.
Maria was employed as a typist at the state welfare department in Bernalillo County and served as the secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico. In the spring of 1958 state president Albert Gonzales and his wife Virginia stood up for her when she decided to marry the state president of the Vermont affiliate, Clarence Briggs. The two had met the previous year at the national convention of the NFB in New Orleans. After convention they corresponded using recordings and decided to wed. Briggs came to New Mexico, and the couple was married at the Episcopal Cathedral in Albuquerque in May.
Marie went back to Vermont with her husband for several years. The couple grew their family and the affiliate. They moved back to Albuquerque for almost two years, where husband Clarence served on the board of the New Mexico affiliate. Apparently deciding Vermont was more to their taste, they once again returned there.
Walter Frady was a blind vendor from Gallup, who operated the vending location at the Gallup Post Office. He was at the first two state meetings and was looking forward to the 1958 state convention, but he died in late April of 1958. His wife Frieda attended the convention in his honor, expressing to all how much Walter would have loved to be there.
Born in Nebraska, he was a salesman for the Goodyear Tire Company for many years. While in his forties Walter began to lose vision. He kept on working. When he moved to New Mexico in the 1940s, he began working the vending location at the Gallup Post Office. Walter was active in the local community as a member of the Elks Club. He also was a past director of the Gallup Lions Club, chairing some of its fundraisers. In 1957 he and two other men from Gallup attended the international Lions convention in San Francisco. When Walter died, the new affiliate lost an energetic, outgoing member.
Owen Henry Shillinglaw was a business owner in Las Vegas, New Mexico. A severe case of arthritis caused him to lose his vision. The arthritis that affected him and his brother William was noticed when Owen was a young child, and by high school he had lost most of his vision. About 1930 Owen went to work for Alfredo Coca Sr., often called Cokey, at the New Mexico Fuel and Lumber Company in his hometown of Las Vegas. Owen did everything, including loading the burros to carry firewood and coal up the gravel mountain roads to its customers.
In 1938 he purchased the company from Cokey and renamed it Owen Shillinglaw Fuel Company. Sometime around 1948 he brought his father in as an office manager to help coordinate the new offerings of his ever-expanding company. This also allowed him to spend more time out of the office, expanding his customer base and the number of products for sale. In front of his business was a large, single piece of coal, about four or five feet wide. This piece of coal was there for many years as a symbol of his trade.
In 1950 a strike at the local coal mines occurred. It lasted about two months. To be sure that Shillinglaw's could continue to serve its customers, Owen approached the Santa Fe Railroad company that owned the local rail yard and asked for permission for his workers to "mine" the rail yard, where hundreds of tons of discarded and sub-standard coal had been left behind when the railroads converted to diesel. He was able to provide work for men and keep his customers happy.
His wife Deborah would drive him to work many mornings because it had become physically hard for him to walk. Owen would check his Braille watch and time her from the time they left their home at 711 Dalby Drive to the intersection of Mills Ave. He knew how long it should take. Many times Owen would catch her going just a little faster than the local speed limit would allow and tell her to slow down. There is no indication that Owen received blindness training or read Braille, his trusty watch being the exception. The arthritis made it difficult for him to use his fingers for delicate work.
Owen took an active role in Las Vegas city council matters and hearings. He was one of those who addressed concerns that the city of Las Vegas was growing too fast and lent his voice to the need to extend the city limits in 1953. As a member of the Jaycees he served on many committees, including the city's Distinguished Service Award Committee. Some of Owen's pet projects were heading the fundraising efforts for the Las Vegas Hospital and the St. Anthony Hospital. He also led the community fund drive and as a member of the Chamber of Commerce led the "Short Line" committee that brought the Santa Fe Engine 1129 to Las Vegas as a centerpiece for the city park. He supported local sports teams, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Red Cross, and more. He held a position on the board of the Arthritis Foundation and local Rotary Club as well. He served as a trustee and elder in his Presbyterian Church.
Owen was a member of the NFB of New Mexico. He took an active interest in the affairs of the organization early on. When the Federation hosted a three-day seminar in Glorieta over the Labor Day weekend of 1957, Owen and his wife were in attendance. There he met and got to know National President Jacobus tenBroek. In the spring of 1958 he and his wife drove to Santa Fe to attend an executive board meeting for the state affiliate at the home of President Albert Gonzales, even though Owen was not on the board.
In May of 1958 Owen attended the state convention of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico in Albuquerque at the Knights of Columbus Club. At that meeting he was elected first vice president. The new organization was attractive to Owen because of its work to better the lives of the blind of New Mexico, working to improve the training for blind New Mexicans so they could become self-supporting members, a goal he was proud to have achieved for himself.
Owen died on September 26, 1958. On September 13 he had taken a fall at the office. He had gotten out of the passenger door of a truck that he and his staff were loading with a display to transport to Albuquerque. Owen stepped on a brick, lost his balance, and struck his head on the bumper of the truck.
In 2014 the Shillinglaw Company still holds his name, even though the business has passed out of family hands. The name of Shillinglaw was well known in all parts of the business community, and the company was awarded many state contracts beginning in the 1940s. Keeping the name, even decades after Owen's death, was good business.
Mark Shoesmith was born in Idaho. At the age of twelve he was blinded when the dynamite percussion cap he was playing with exploded in his face. His family enrolled him at the school for the blind in Salem, Oregon, from which he graduated in 1930. While attending the university, he became interested in sculpting, just to see if he could do it. It turned out that he had a real talent for this form of art. After graduation he did sculptures of Franklin D. Roosevelt's home in Hyde Park and a bust of Robert Ripley. One of his sculptures was displayed in the palace in Argentina. One of his most famous pieces was a bust of the well-known tenor at the Metropolitan Opera, Lauritz Melchior.
Mark and his wife moved to New York to pursue his art career, but, as most artists know, the art one loves does not always pay the bills, and his task was made more difficult by the Depression of the 1930s. Mark began teaching at the New York Institute for the Blind and later at the Goodwill Center for the Blind in Dayton, Ohio. His craft damaged his hands so much that he had to give up reading Braille for pleasure.
In 1948 the Shoesmiths moved to Alamogordo to teach art at the New Mexico School for the Blind and to head up the adult training program, the broom shop located at the school, where many of the students ended up after leaving the academic program. As he had in other locations, he became active in the community, joining the Lions Club and becoming president for a term in Alamogordo.
He continued his craft even after taking the position at the school. In 1954 he was commissioned to do a piece of art for the Blind Golfers Tournament in Toronto, Canada. He came highly recommended for the honor by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The trophy was carved from New Mexican marble. It depicted two eagles and two crossed golf clubs. Mark knew the dual significance of the eagles: first, eagles mean courage in many circles; double eagles also signify a score of three under par for any hole. Nineteen fifty-four was a good year for him artistically; he was selected to display his artwork for at least two years in Santa Fe.
When the NFB of New Mexico was formed in 1956, Mark was at the first organizing meeting. He spoke on the agenda as well. In 1958 he was elected second vice president of the NFB of New Mexico; however, his participation in the organization did not last much longer. As an employee of the school and the man running the broom shop, he must have felt conflicted when the Federation did not support sheltered employment, an occupation at which he was earning his living. During the 1960s, Mark would testify against NFB legislation to bring a commission for the blind to his state, doing this as a representative of the school. By the late sixties he no longer paid his dues to the NFB of New Mexico.
Because he was a blind person with skills and a position, he held influence over those who attended the school. Some students remembered him fondly. Those who worked under him in the broom shop who wanted to organize a union in the late 1950s did not. His supervisors told Mark to fire the union organizers "or else," and he did.
Ironically, in 1972, when the Federation legislation to establish a training center for blind adults was established without a workshop attached to it, legislation which Mark actively opposed, he was appointed as its first director. This position he held for only a year, before retiring to pursue his art career.
Pitaci "Pat" Salazar was born about 1917 near Pajoaque. Partially blind from birth, he was sent to the New Mexico School for the Blind and graduated in 1938. He returned to his parents' home and could find work only in a broom shop. He also sold blind-made items on the side to help make a living. But it was not enough.
When Pat took the bus, moving to Santa Fe in 1941, he had only $26 in his pocket. He got a loan from the Santa Fe Lions Club to set up a cigar stand at the capitol. At that time the Lions Clubs were securing locations for blind vendors, helping them with business planning, and, in the case of Pat, providing financial assistance to purchase stock. The state employment agency did provide training in vending, but it would be several years before a formal Randolph-Sheppard program would be established in New Mexico.
Within eighteen months the small cigarette and newsstand in the Bataan Building was self-supporting. Salazar had repaid the Lions Club its loan to him. He worked hard to build up his business, focusing on his ability to recognize customers after their first visit. After greeting them and engaging them in conversation, he would look for something about them to help him associate a name with a voice.
Salazar became a member of the 20/20 social club, where he served as an officer. This may have later turned into a local chapter of the NFB. He was a member of the St. Francis Cathedral, taking an active part in church activities. He served a term as president of the Holy Name Society at his church. About 1946 Pat lost the rest of his vision.
Pat operated the cigarette and cigar stand in the basement of the state capitol until 1952. When the capitol was remodeled, the state added into their floor plan more space for his business. His expanded offerings included coffee, sandwiches, and other items he could make in the small kitchen space allotted to his facility. Most people liked Pat and appreciated his service, but this did not spare him from the occasional break-in, resulting in the loss of cash and valuable merchandise.
Pat would hire blind people and others with handicaps to work in his business. During the legislative sessions he would often work up to eighteen hours a day, walking home long after midnight and returning as the sun was coming up. He was not a complainer and did what was required to make money.
A move of his business in 1954 to the Bataan Building allowed him to serve complete meals. When the Roundhouse was built and many state employees had offices and worked in other buildings, he would do catering for them by loading up carts and sending over the beans, chili, or whatever the special of the day was.
Pat worked to secure passage of what was called the "Little Randolph-Sheppard Act" in New Mexico. The bill was passed in 1957, giving blind vendors preferential consideration for vending locations on state property. To ensure that the governor would sign the legislation, Pat sent a note to the governor's office, reminding him of the legislation and that his birthday was the next day. Pat told the governor that, if he were to sign the bill on that day, it would be a great birthday present for Pat. The bill was signed.
Pat worked for the State Employment Services, the department that oversaw blindness programs, where he served as a trainer for potential blind vendors. For a year he served on a committee that explored employment opportunities for the blind as telephone and switchboard operators for the Mountain Telephone and Telegraph Company.
Pat married a fellow student from the school for the blind, Eugenia Baca of Socorro, in 1958 in Santa Fe. That was the same year that he was elected state president of the NFBNM. Eugenia had been elected to the state board in 1956 at the first meeting of the NFBNM. His wife majored in music while at school. After they were married, she was active in their church as well, participating in the music programs, playing the piano and organ for church functions. She also taught piano and music from their home to those in the Santa Fe area.
At the end of 1976 Pat decided to call it quits and retired from his vending location at the state capitol.
Joe A. Salazar was born blind, as were several of his siblings. Their father did not allow the children to sit idle while at home. The blind boys had to work on the farm as much as their sighted siblings. Joe was an optimist, finding pleasure even in his farm chores.
The blind Salazar children were sent to the school for the blind in Alamogordo. There Joe discovered a talent for and love of music. The school for the blind was near the military base at White Sands. In 1942 teachers from the school presented programs for the military, including a performance in May for the USO. Joe, Remijillo Chavez, Silviano Chacon, and Serafin Griego had a band at the school. The boys performed as a group, and other students from the school also performed musical numbers and readings. Beginning as a young boy, Joe performed for his church, continuing to do so all of his life.
In 1946 he moved to Santa Fe, where his brother Pat had rooms at 212 De Fouri Street. Pat had graduated a few years earlier from the school for the blind and was operating a vending stand at the state capitol. Needing funds, Joe took a job as a gardener for Henry Dendahl, caring for the man's many flowers and rose bushes. Having come from a farm, where plants provided food for the table, he told the priest, Father Francis, that he had a new appreciation for the flowering plants that provided so much beauty and fragrance to the world. Joe also said that he was surprised that he was paid so well for his gardening services.
Joe was one of the few graduates of the New Mexico School for the Blind to receive a one-year scholarship to the Perkins School for the Blind to continue his studies. He graduated in 1946 and, using the scholarship, went to Boston for the following school year. In the fall of 1947 Joe went to the University of New Mexico, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in music and a minor in English and speech. He was a member of the University of New Mexico Mixed Choirs. He had a wonderful baritone voice that was so extraordinary that every choir director Joe worked with commented upon it. As a college student Joe had few books in Braille, but sometimes he was fortunate enough to find some Braille music. To handle his reading load, Joe hired readers and used volunteers.
In the fall of 1952, just after graduating from college, he began teaching music for the Pojoaque, New Mexico, school. He was the first music teacher for the school system and the first blind teacher in the district. Each day he taught music and choral to over 150 students. Discipline in his classes was never an issue, though this is often the concern expressed by school administrators when considering the applications of blind teachers. Two students who decided to see if Joe could maintain discipline in his fifth grade class soon found themselves staying after school to clean his room. But Joe wanted to do more than discipline these boys: while they worked, he talked with them about common interests in basketball, other sports, and the things Joe remembered being interested in at their age. He was able to take two mischievous and sometimes rebellious children and make them a contributing part of his class.
Joe stayed in Pojoaque for two years. He then spent one year in Santa Fe, acting as the county school's music supervisor and was also given the teaching of English as part of his teaching load. He then took his dream job at Santa Cruz. There he brought his love for all kinds of music to his students, and in 1956 he led a chorus of over three hundred young people from grades one to twelve in performing at an Easter presentation. He wanted to challenge his students and engage them at the same time. This he did by talking about the music, ensuring that the children understood what was unique and fun about even the classical pieces. In 1970 Joe got his PhD from the University of New Mexico, something he had wanted to do for many years. While in the Española School District, where he taught speech and drama, he would on occasion bring in one of the Talking Books that he was reading to engage his students and to show them what a good reader could add to a story.
In 1975 Joe was voted teacher of the year by his colleagues. He was a member of the Española Education Association, EEA. In 1978, after the EEA had negotiated an agreement with the Española School Board and the school board went back on its agreement, Joe was one of the EEA leaders who spoke out at public hearings. He tried to force the school board to restore the confidence and security of teachers. He knew how to work the press and took advantage of his leadership skills to help himself and those who were too easily intimidated by their principal and district officials.
Joe used Braille music both as a student and throughout his teaching career. Much of his Braille came from New Mexico Braille Services in Albuquerque, a group that encouraged its volunteers to be certified in the Braille codes by the Library of Congress. As noted earlier, he also enjoyed reading Talking Books from the Library of Congress. His reading interests spanned many topics, for he had a genuine interest in learning and broadening his perspectives on life.
No matter where Joe was, he wanted to be of benefit to his fellow man, especially his blind brothers and sisters. One of his neighbors was losing eyesight and becoming very bitter. Joe tried to help him, but, like so many people losing vision, the newly blinded man was not ready to receive help. Joe was persistent and finally got him to sign up for books through the library for the blind. Within a short time the neighbor's attitude began to improve as he regained his ability to read and stay in contact with the rest of the world.
For many years Joe walked to Santuario de Chimayo, from Santa Fe to the holy church, a pilgrimage made by thousands of the faithful to the holy site, observing the Easter holiday. Joe said he did this for personal reasons: spiritual, intellectual, and physical—for the walk. In 1992 he, three of his grandchildren, and his golden retriever, Dooby, left the Holy Cross Church in Santa Fe at about 6:50 a.m. and arrived in Chimayo at about 10:30 that morning. He took no water for himself in the pilgrimage, but did take some for his grandchildren.
Joe was elected as first vice president of the NFB of New Mexico in 1956 and served in that office for several years. He met Dr. tenBroek and Dr. Jernigan at many events and was very committed to the NFB. He wrote for the Braille Monitor. He was appointed as the publicity chairman in advance of the 1959 National Convention. In this role he informed delegates about lodging and convention attractions they would find in Santa Fe.
In the late 1990s significant tension existed between the school for the blind and the NFBNM. Joe was the only blind member of the board when Director Kirk Walters was hired in 1996. Joe voted against his hiring. Then Jim Salas, another blind man, was appointed and two blind people sat on the board of regents during 1997. When a second vote was taken, he too voted to dismiss Walters, who was a controversial administrator. The vote in the summer of 1997 and the events leading up to it caused quite a firestorm, resulting in bad feelings that lasted for years. This issue was extensively covered in the Braille Monitor between 1996 and 2000.
Serafin Griego Jr. was one of many blind children in the Griego family. He was born in Vaughan, New Mexico, to Serafin and Celestine Griego. Blind from birth, he attended the school for the blind in Alamogordo. After he left the school, he married Helen, and they had two children: a daughter, Maria Rita, and a son, Paul Vincent.
In the 1950s the Griego's formed a family orchestra that played for many community and private events in the Santa Rosa and Vaughan area. The group was called the Griego Orchestra and was made up of Mrs. Maggie Griego on drums, brothers Efren and Serafin, and Salomon Mandragon, a fellow classmate from the school.
In 1955 Serafin moved to Albuquerque. An accomplished musician, he played both piano and violin. He became a founding member of "El Mariachi del Norte" in 1956, the first and longest-running Mariachi band in Albuquerque. The band performed for more than three decades.
Serafin was determined to be self-supporting and provide a good income for his family. When they had work, the income from their music was good, and playing was fun, but more was needed to meet the family's needs. Serafin often played for local dances as well as events sponsored by radio stations KABQ and KDCE. He was also trained in electronics and worked as an electronics technician.
In 1959 Serafin was elected to the NFB of New Mexico's state board as the corresponding secretary. He effectively supported many activities of the organization through his vast community contacts. In 1961 he was elected first vice president. In 1965 he assisted in the organization of a picnic for the blind at the Albuquerque Zoo, coordinating two busses to pick up people from different locations. He was elected sergeant at arms at the 1965 state convention.
At the time of his death, Serafin ran a telephone service from his home. He was a dispatcher for the American Auto Association. One October morning Serafin had a heart attack at his home. He was rushed to an Albuquerque hospital but died shortly after. He was taken much too early, being only forty-four.
Pauline Gomez was born into a prominent New Mexico family with roots in the state dating back to the 1600s. The Gomez family strongly believed in serving their community. Pauline was born with little vision and even it deteriorated over the course of her childhood. She was sent to the New Mexico School for the Blind when she was five, graduating in 1940. After graduation Pauline won a scholarship from the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston, Massachusetts, to continue her education and to become certified to teach school. She was the first blind student from the school for the blind in New Mexico to win such a scholarship. She did an internship in Santa Fe at the public library, where she conducted educational programs for children and was praised for her work.
But when Pauline tried to find teaching jobs in the public and private schools, no one would hire her. Not to be thwarted in her desire to be productive and earn a living, Pauline then enrolled at the University of New Mexico in the fall of 1941 in Albuquerque, the first blind student to attend the university there. She became the first blind person to graduate from the University of New Mexico. Still no teaching job was offered.
If no one would hire her, she would hire herself. Pauline decided to open a nursery school in her home. On October 1, 1946, Los Niños Kindergarten School opened in the back room of her adobe-style home in Santa Fe. Eight children were in her first class. In those early days she managed the school, promoted it in the community, and single-handedly worked as its only teacher. Six years later, as the enrollment continued to grow, Pauline built a separate and larger classroom building on her property. The new building had a formal outside play area, a large classroom, an office, and an elevated area to allow parents to view their children while they were at school without disrupting the class or distracting from the tasks at hand. For decades Los Niños prepared the young children of prominent families in Santa Fe to enter the first grade.
Pauline kept her notes in Braille, typed up student reports, and used a tape recorder to keep track of student activities. Los Niños was the only preschool, school, or day care facility that provided parents with detailed reports on their children's educational activities. To add to the special services that set her school apart from others in Santa Fe, she held parent seminars where strategies for educating young children and the benefits of medical inoculations were discussed. Her school also presented holiday programs that were open to the public and the media. Los Niños graduations included caps and gowns for the five and six year olds, these garments made by Pauline and her mother. Such above-and-beyond efforts caught the attention of the Department of Public Education, and Pauline was asked on several occasions to help the state of New Mexico write the policies, guidelines, and strategies on early education for the department.
Pauline was one of the blind people who helped to bring the National Federation of the Blind to New Mexico. She wrote letters to many blind people throughout the state, talking with them about the Federation in 1955. She attended the first organizing meeting in the spring of 1956. She was first elected to the state board as its secretary in 1958. Over the next thirty years she would serve in many capacities, including president for several terms and the national delegate from New Mexico on many occasions. She represented blind vendors in disputes with the state and also was an advocate for other blind people who needed assistance, whether they were school-age children or seniors needing people in authority to listen to them.
Passing Federation legislation was also a major concern for Pauline. Her father had served as governor for a term, and her aunt served in the state legislature at the same time as Albert Gonzales. With the many contacts she had, Pauline had a strong impact on the outcome of proposed legislation. She also developed the blueprint for the Federation's legislative strategy that would result in the Federation’s most successful attempt to influence the legislature of New Mexico in the session that spanned 1966 and 1967. In this session the NFB supported six bills, all were introduced, and all were passed.
On a national level Pauline addressed several sessions of the National Federation of the Blind’s conventions, many of those presentations focusing on the need for an adult training center in New Mexico. She was also called on to translate from English to Spanish for international guests.
Pauline was a founding member of the Teachers Division in 1970 and received the first Blind Educator of the Year award from the national body of the Federation in 1987. Through her national contacts she brought interesting, non-stereotypic, and challenging blind people to the state to help demonstrate to the community what the future could be for the blind of New Mexico. In 1962 she helped bring a blind photographer, Harry Cordellos, from California to address the Santa Fe Lions Club. Cordellos carried a white cane that was longer than the ones used by the blind of New Mexico. He told the Lions about the California Orientation Center and how it taught skills that helped blind people lead full and successful lives. This was done by preparing them for the attitudes that would stand in their way and teaching them the blindness skills that would let them accomplish those things normally considered to require sight. He talked about how difficult it had been to get into college, especially when officials learned that his desire was to become a photographer. He used the pictures he had taken in his presentation, lending credibility to the reasonableness of his goal.
In 1983 Pauline decided to retire as the administrator of her preschool. She stayed active in her many civic activities that had and continued to contribute greatly to the Federation's success and prominence in Santa Fe over the years. Each year she walked and helped organize White Cane events in Santa Fe. In 1989 the Governor appointed Gomez to the State Advisory Council on Libraries. She remained active in all her church, civic, and Federation activities until her death in 1996.
Albert Torres Gonzales was born in Roswell, New Mexico, and is the most documented of all of the early NFB of New Mexico leaders. Albert admitted that he was a daredevil and loved publicity. Blinded while showing off at a training exercise at a military camp, he was sent to Washington, DC for medical treatment. During the year he was there he met other blind people who encouraged him to finish his education. When he returned to Las Cruces in 1931, he began classes at the New Mexico Agriculture and Mechanic Arts College, but not without a fight and intervention from a US Senator. After graduating, he spent some time in California, where he met a blind attorney who inspired Albert and helped to define his future. He went to Georgetown University, where he received his law degree.
Albert returned to Las Cruces, passed the bar, set up his law firm, and found that, although many townspeople said they admired his efforts, they did not trust him with their legal cases. Determined to succeed, Albert ran for the office of State Representative for Dona Anna County on the Democratic ticket. He won. He then moved to Santa Fe to be close to the capitol and to set up his law practice in that city. He hoped that people would be more open to hiring a blind attorney given his service in the legislature.
Gonzales served three terms as a state legislator. During his terms in office he tried to pass legislation to benefit the blind, even calling on Helen Keller, a fellow Lion, to add support to his legislation to provide for a separate department of rehabilitation for the blind. Though he tried hard, the state was not ready to embrace his faith in the blind or his ideas to better their lives.
His law practice did much better than in Las Cruces, but not to his financial benefit. Most of his clients were the poor who needed a bilingual attorney. These were the clients that other lawyers didn't want to take on because they seldom could pay. Albert was often paid in kind, being given produce, labor to repair his homes, livestock, and even land. To get the cash necessary to pay his bills, Albert began selling insurance.
In the late 1940s he began to invest in property. He purchased a home for his family and rented out the home they had previously occupied. When given land, Albert sold or developed it. He soon was purchasing land in downtown Santa Fe. The rent from his properties was what made Albert Gonzales a wealthy man in his later years.
Although Albert had represented famous or infamous clients such as Reies Tijerina, a 1960s-era Mexican-American civil rights leader who led the raid on the Tierra Amarilla County Courthouse, he received little compensation. Nor did his high profile cases bring in the wealthy business clients he was hoping for. He served as district judge for many years, fining Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for speeding, and then a year later, holding them over for trial on a charge of espionage. Albert did his best to see that the press knew about his efforts and his successes, but still his clients were the poor of the state. Beyond the personal satisfaction of helping those who really needed him, the one benefit of having such a client base was that they were the ones who came out to vote for him when he ran for state representative, judge, school board, county commissioner, and other positions he held over a thirty-year period.
When the organizing meeting of the Federation occurred in 1956, Albert was front and center. He had helped publicize the meeting as well as getting some from Santa Fe to attend. He was easily elected as the affiliate's first state president. For the next twenty years he held an office and chaired important Federation committees. He was a shoe-in for the new affiliate’s legislative committee and played a big part in making a pitch for the 1959 National Convention to come to Santa Fe. He worked hard to see that the convention was a success, and it came off remarkably well, given the small community of blind people available to work on it and their newness to the Federation.
Albert worked closely with national leaders such as Jacobus tenBroek, Kenneth Jernigan, and others to bring new ideas and programs to the affiliate and to its legislative efforts. News articles about the Federation were frequently in the New Mexico press, thanks to Albert's contacts and his love for publicity. With his energy, know-how, and broad-based support, Albert helped ensure that the first dozen years of the affiliate were successful, even in the face of significant internal and external pressure.
Albert was still strong and vital in the 1990s, though he had by then lost most of his hearing. He continued to be active in the affiliate, served for a time on the board of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, and was eventually granted an honorary doctorate by the university that originally opposed his entrance as a college student, the institution now known as New Mexico State University.
Life was not always easy for the pioneers discussed here, but they managed to be successful despite the perceived limitations imposed by their blindness. They did all of this without formal programs to help them, against the resistance of institutions of higher education to accept them, and without much of the technology we take for granted today. They were not content to create quality lives for themselves, foolishly proclaiming to the world that they had been given nothing and had done it all on their own. Instead, they gave a part of their treasure, time, and talent to helping other blind people. They certainly understood that this effort would in some measure help them, but they did not argue about whether it takes a village to help the blind or whether it takes the blind to help make a hospitable village. The work demanded concrete action, and this is what they gave. We in 2015 stand on their shoulders. Let us do what we can to make them proud and lend our imagination, our treasure, and our hearts to advancing the opportunities for blind people as these pioneers did for us.
by Darlene Laibl-Crowe
From the Editor: Darlene is an active member of our Florida affiliate and works hard to help us with projects involving communication and telling the story of the National Federation of the Blind. Although it is seldom apparent when corresponding with her, she faces some interesting obstacles in communicating. In this article she both describes the challenges and tells us how she goes beyond them. This article originally appeared in Vision Access Magazine on May 2, 2015:
Nothing comes between me and my technology! Growing up sighted and wearing bilateral hearing aids, I didn’t know the full depth of what technology would do for me. By the time I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) at the age of twenty-eight, I had some knowledge of computers and other equipment due to my employment, but nothing like what is available today!
Little changed for me in 1986 after being diagnosed with RP. I was a single mother with a full-time job. I received white cane orientation and mobility to help with the progressive loss of peripheral field or vision. I gave up driving, which meant relying on others for transportation.
Fast forward to 2008. I began to lose more vision and hearing. I was struggling because I could no longer read print, write, or see faces to read lips to accommodate for what I could not hear. Using a reader to complete forms or use an unfamiliar recipe became a challenge. I kept misunderstanding what was being said. Talking to my children, I often had to ask them to repeat themselves; I would repeat what I thought they said, only to have them end up—literally—rolling on the floor in laughter because I had gotten it wrong, and that was not at all what they had said. It might have been funny to them, but it was no laughing matter for me!
In 2011, after meeting others with combined vision and hearing loss, I learned that there are varied degrees of blindness and deafness. I had never considered myself “deaf” while growing up. I remember telling someone once: “I’m not deaf; I can hear something,” a misconception that many have, just like with blindness. Many believe that being blind means being in the dark. Meeting others who shared these challenges empowered me to identify myself as deaf-blind, which allowed me to open myself to a whole new world of resources.
I want to share what I learned—so where do I begin? I found that by changing my desktop display to “high contrast black” that I could see my monitor much more easily. This means that everything is in a black background with white text. I also use Zoom Text magnification software (<www.aisquared.com>), which allows me to adjust the magnification and to change the pointer, focus, cursor, and other features to continue to use my residual vision. For example, since my screen is full black background and white text, it was hard to follow the mouse. I changed the pointer to bright orange, a color I can see but not as well as I used to. Around the pointer arrow there is a green ring that blinks, making it very easy to find. The software also comes with a screen reader that will speak documents to me when my eyes are tired.
I received a laptop and refreshable Braille display through the National Deaf Blind Equipment Disbursement Program <www.icanconnect.org>, which loans deaf-blind individuals equipment such as computers, iPads, iPhones, refreshable Braille displays, and other devices to enhance communication. This program is available in every state and is sponsored by the Federal Communications Commission.
I was appointed by the governor to represent deaf-blind Floridians on a state board and use my laptop during quarterly meetings at various locations in the state. During these meetings I receive accommodations, as do others on the board who are hard of hearing or deaf. The members of this board represent various state departments and organizations that serve consumers who are deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind. These accommodations are provided to promote smooth and professional communication among members of this board, and these accommodations include Communications Access Realtime Transmission (CART), a Support Service Provider (SSP), and interpreters.
A captionist types the transcript of the meeting (similar to a court reporter), and the transcript appears on a website for each of the board members to read. Some on the board are profoundly deaf and rely on sign language. Interpreters relay communication through sign and voice, allowing all in the room to understand what is being said. I am the only blind person on this board.
While using my laptop, I use my Braille display when my eyes are tired. I also use an SSP, who sight guides, relays visual information, assists with communication needs, and in some cases provides transportation. As the SSP guides me into the meeting room, he/she tells me how the room is arranged and leads me to the area where I am to set up my equipment. When I sit, he/she tells me who is sitting where. Using me as six o’clock on the clock face, I am told who is sitting at twelve o’clock, one o’clock, and so on, along with the location of exits or other important features in the room. This helps me to be oriented to the room, people, and objects. Once the meeting begins, the SSP becomes my eyes and ears by observing everything.
As the meeting progresses, I follow the agenda by reading the document that I Brailled prior to attending. If I want to make a comment, I raise my hand. My SSP then lets me know that I have been recognized by the chair by signing to me “hold,” “one minute,” or “wait,” depending on the situation.
Once it is my turn to speak, the chair will call my name. I reach out, turn on my microphone, and speak. The SSP helps me to complete forms, and, if I need to read a document quickly, he/she will do so for me in a separate room during break--all to give me the ability to be professional and be the best advocate that I can for the deaf-blind.
On a personal note I have to admit I am especially proud of my digital hearing aids made by Phonak. I can hear much more clearly with them; however, the accessories are what make my ability to function so much easier. I wear a neck loop device called a ComPilot, which is paired to my iPhone or other devices with Bluetooth capability. The ComPilot has a vinyl-coated wire that hangs around my neck with a rectangular box that lies against my chest. It is two inches wide, three inches tall, and one-half inch thick, with buttons for volume and a switch to turn the device on and off. I can adjust the volume for my hearing aids and for my devices that are connected to it. My favorite device to use with this is my iPhone.
The ComPilot allows me to hear voiceover clearly. The sound goes directly into my ears through the hearing aids. A caller’s voice does the same thing—giving me clarity like never before. I also use inverted colors, zoom, and large bold text with the voiceover on my iPhone, all to help me understand what is being said. The reason for this is that comprehension is not easy when you have hearing loss. It is easy to misunderstand words and, you know what? I believe Siri has a hearing problem, too, because she seems to misunderstand me quite a bit! Believe me, I have been called out on some of the things that I have texted and emailed…let me tell you, I can still blush!
When my phone rings, it chimes into my hearing aids. I don’t have to search for it in my purse. I simply push the button on my ComPilot. I say “hello” right into the microphone at the top of the box; the caller’s voice is clear while the background noise is slightly muted. I can hear what is being said and also some of what is said around me. It can be disconcerting for some people when they realize this blind woman is not talking to herself but on the phone.
Two other devices that came with my ComPilot are the microphone and the TV link. The microphone can be clipped to someone’s shirt when I am in a noisy environment such as a crowded restaurant. This allows me to hear what he/she is saying. Unfortunately, it mutes the background noise slightly, and I cannot hear anyone else. This means that the person who is wearing the microphone must relay to me what is being said. The TV link can be inserted into any audio jack on a music/book player, television, or computer. The link sends the sound to the hearing aids through the ComPilot. I have been able to listen to my book player from inside the house while working in my yard.
I was invited to participate in a webinar and speak about the deaf-blind and their resources. I was told that I needed a microphone to speak. Since I wear hearing aids, a headset is not an option because of feedback—squealing noise that the hearing aids make when something is too close to them. I did some research and found the Seinhausser BT USB. By inserting the USB device into my desktop, I was able to use my ComPilot as a microphone and to hear what was being said during the webinar. It is absolutely amazing how technology changes and evolves so that we are able to function in daily activities and thereby be productive members of society!
Now I am ready for the keys to my driverless car! Bring them on, I am ready to get back on the road again! Nothing comes between me and my technology!
From the Editor: Last month we reprinted an address by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek about the Federation on its twenty-fifth anniversary. This month we’d like to reprint an address delivered at the 1990 National Convention in Dallas, Texas, by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan on the Federation at fifty. Of course, next month in our August/September convention issue of the Monitor there will be speeches about the Federation at seventy-five, allowing us to track the course of our amazing organization. Here is what Dr. Jernigan said in 1990:
If the engineers of 1800 had possessed complete drawings for a transistor radio (one that could be bought today for $10), they couldn't have built it, not even if they had had billions or trillions of dollars. They lacked the infrastructure, the tools, the tools to build the tools, and the tools to build those; the plastics, the machines to make the plastics, and the machines to make the machines; the skilled work force, the teachers to train the work force, and the teachers to train the teachers; the transportation network to assemble the materials, the vehicles to use the network, and the sources of supply. All of this is generally recognized, but it is far less well understood that what is true of material objects is also true of ideas and attitudes. In the absence of a supporting social infrastructure of knowledge and beliefs, a new idea simply cannot exist.
So far as I can tell, there are only three possible reasons for studying history: to get inspiration, to gain perspective, or to acquire a basis for predicting the future.
In 1965 Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, the founder and leader of our movement, spoke at our twenty-fifth banquet, reviewing the first quarter century and charting the road ahead. We were meeting in Washington, and more than a hundred members of Congress were present. I was master of ceremonies, and some of the rest of you were also there. Tonight (twenty-five years later) we celebrate our Golden Anniversary, and the time has once again come to take stock. Where are we, where have we been, and where are we going?
In a sense the history of our movement begins in the distant past—in the medieval guilds and brotherhoods of the blind in Europe, in the tentative stirrings of organization in China, and even earlier—but the National Federation of the Blind is essentially an American product. Its genesis is native. Although (as we all know) Dr. Jacobus tenBroek presided at the founding of the National Federation of the Blind in 1940 at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, he had a teacher (Dr. Newel Perry), who laid the foundations and served as precursor. And Dr. Perry, in turn, had a teacher, Warring Wilkinson.
Most of what we know about Wilkinson is contained in the eulogy which Dr. tenBroek delivered at the time of Dr. Perry's death in 1961, but our knowledge is sufficient to tell us that Wilkinson was a worthy teacher of the teacher of our founder. He was the first principal of the California School for the Deaf and Blind. He served in that capacity for forty-four years, from 1865 to 1909. He not only loved his students but also did what he could to move them toward the main channels of social and economic participation. Particularly, he saw the potential in young Perry, sending him from the California School for the Blind to Berkeley High to complete his secondary education. To do this Wilkinson (who was ahead of his time both in his understanding of education and the needs of the blind) had to overcome numerous obstacles.
I was fortunate enough to know Dr. Perry, meeting him when I moved to California in 1953. He was then eighty, and he spent many hours with me reminiscing about what conditions for the blind were like when he was a boy. He came to the California School for the Blind when he was ten—“penniless, blind, his father dead, his home dissolved. Two years earlier he had lost his sight and nearly his life as the result of a case of poison oak, which caused his eyeballs to swell until they burst and which held him in a coma for a month.” It was at the school, of course, that he first met Warring Wilkinson.
While going to high school (from which he graduated in 1892) he lived at the California School for the Blind. He also lived there while attending the University of California from 1892 to 1896. His admission to the University (as had been the case with high school) had to be secured over strong resistance. Again, Wilkinson was the pathfinder, young Perry his willing and anxious instrument. “Wilkinson's role in Perry's life as a youth can hardly be overestimated: father, teacher, guide, supporter, in Perry's own words, ‘dear Governor.’”
After graduating from the university, Dr. Perry devoted himself to further education and to the search for an academic job. “He took graduate work at the University of California, meanwhile serving successively as an unpaid teaching fellow, a paid assistant, and finally as an instructor in the department of mathematics. In 1900, following a general custom of that day, he went to Europe to continue his studies. He did this for a time at the University of Zurich in Switzerland and then at the University of Munich in Germany. From the latter he secured in 1901 the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematics, with highest honors.
“He returned to the United States in 1902, landing in New York, where he was to remain until 1912. He had about eighty dollars in capital, a first-class and highly specialized education, and all of the physical, mental, and personal prerequisites for a productive career—except one, eyesight.
“During this period he supported himself precariously as a private coach of university mathematics students. He also applied himself to the search for a university position. He displayed the most relentless energy. He employed every imaginable technique. He wrote letters in profusion. In 1905 he wrote to 500 institutions of every size and character. He distributed his dissertation and his published article on mathematics. He haunted meetings of mathematicians. He visited his friends in the profession. He enlisted the aid of his teachers. He called on everybody and anybody having the remotest connection with his goal.
“Everywhere the outcome was the same. Only the form varied. Some expressed astonishment at what he had accomplished. Some expressed interest. One of these seemed genuine—he had a blind brother-in-law, he said, who was a whiz at math. Some showed indifference, now and then masked behind polite phrases. Some said there were no vacancies. Some said his application would be filed for future reference. One said ironically: ‘For what—as an encouragement to men who labor under disadvantages and who may learn from it how much may be accomplished through resolution and industry?’ Some averred that he probably could succeed in teaching at somebody else's college. Many said outright that they believed a blind person could not teach mathematics.
“Many of these rejections may, of course, have been perfectly proper. Many were not. Their authors candidly gave the reason as blindness.”
Dr. Perry failed not because of lack of energy or qualification but because the necessary infrastructure of attitudes and beliefs did not exist to allow it to be otherwise—so he did not find a job in a university. Perhaps it was better for the blind (for those of us gathered here tonight) that he did not—but for him what pain! What absolute desolation and misery! And he had to face it alone—no family, no supporting organization of the blind—only himself and the bleak wall of continuing rejection year after year. He might have quit in despair. He might have become embittered. But he did not. Instead, he returned to California and settled down to build for the future. If he could not have first-class treatment for himself, he was absolutely determined that at least the next generation of the blind would not be denied.
He taught at the California School for the Blind from 1912 to 1947—and day after day, month after month, season after season he exhorted and indoctrinated, preached and prepared. He was building the necessary infrastructure of ideas and beliefs. Those who were his students went on to become his colleagues, and as the number grew, the faith was kept. There would be a state-wide organization of the blind in California. It did not happen until 1934, but when it came, it was built on a solid foundation. And there would also be a National Federation of the Blind—but not yet.
Dr. Perry was to that generation what Warring Wilkinson had been to him. In the words of Jacobus tenBroek, his most brilliant student and the man who would lead the blind in the founding of their national movement: “We were his students, his family, his intimates, his comrades on a thousand battlefronts of a social movement. We slept in his house, ate at his table, learned geometry at his desk, walked the streets interminably by his side, moved forward on the strength of his optimism and confidence.”
Dr. tenBroek graduated from Berkeley High School in 1930 with, as he said, “plenty of ambition but no money.” He was prepared to enter the University of California but was denied state aid to the blind, a program then newly instituted as a result of Dr. Perry's efforts in sponsoring a constitutional amendment, which had been adopted by the voters of California in 1928. In Dr. tenBroek's words, “The reason for the denial was not that my need was not great. It was that I intended to pursue a higher education while I was being supported by the state. That was too much for the administrative officials. Almost without discussion, Dr. Perry immediately filled the gap. Just as Warring Wilkinson had earlier done for him,” said Dr. tenBroek, “he supplied me with tuition and living expenses out of his own pocket for a semester while we all fought to reverse the decision of the state aid officials.
“It was,” Dr. tenBroek said, “ever thus with Dr. Perry. The key to his great influence with blind students was, first of all, the fact that he was blind and therefore understood their problems; and second, that he believed in them and made his faith manifest. He provided the only sure foundation of true rapport: knowledge on our part that he was genuinely interested in our welfare.”
So the new generation came to maturity, and Jacobus tenBroek was to be its leader. Born in 1911 on the prairies of Alberta, Canada, he was blinded by an arrow in a childhood game and moved to California to enter the school for the blind. He went on to earn five academic degrees—from the University of California at Berkeley a bachelor's in 1934, a master's in 1935, a law degree in 1938, and a Doctorate in Jurisprudence in 1940; and from the Harvard Law School a Doctorate in Jurisprudence in 1947. There is no need for me to talk to this audience about Dr. tenBroek's brilliance—his learned articles and books, his chairmanship of the California Board of Social Welfare, his scholarly pre-eminence and national acclaim, his writings on constitutional law that are still the authoritative works in the field. Rather, I would speak of the man—the warm human being who fought for acceptance, led our movement, and served as my mentor and role model—the man who was my closest friend and spiritual father.
When Dr. tenBroek was first trying to get a teaching position in the 1930s, the climate of public opinion was better than it had been a generation earlier, but he faced many of the same problems which had confronted Dr. Perry—and sometimes with identical letters from the same institutions. “It was,” he said, “almost as if a secretary had been set to copying Dr. Perry's file, only changing the signatures and the name of the addressee.”
Here is what Dr. tenBroek wrote to Dr. Perry in March of 1940. At the time he was studying at Harvard:
Last November a large Midwestern university was looking for a man to teach public law. Having read my published articles but knowing nothing else about me, the head of the department in question wrote a letter to the University of California inquiring whether I would be available for the position. Cal. replied that I would and accompanied the answer with a considerable collection of supporting material. However, when the department head learned that I was blind, the deal was off although none of the competing applicants had as good a paper showing.
This incident seems to me of particular interest because, although I have been refused other jobs, this was the first instance in which blindness could be traced as the sole explanation for rejection. Of course, in other cases blindness was also the determining factor, but the fact could not be demonstrated as well.
There were other letters and other rejections—but on June 8, 1940, Dr. tenBroek was able to write to Dr. Perry:
We have justification for hanging out the flags and ringing the bells. I have been offered and have accepted a job at Chicago University Law School. The job pays $1,800, is denominated a half-time position, and lasts for only a year. But it is a job nevertheless. And the Harvard people, who exerted no end of pressure to get it for me, regard it as an excellent opportunity. The position is designated ‘tutorial fellowship’ and consists in supervising the research of the first-and second-year law students. It involves no actual classroom teaching, except possibly by way of an occasional fill-in job.
This was how Dr. tenBroek (the man who fifteen years later was to win the Woodrow Wilson Award for the outstanding book of the year in political science and who was always the most sought-after professor at the University of California) was to begin his teaching career. Yet, even today there are sighted people (and also some of the blind—people who ought to know better) who tell me that the blind are not victims of discrimination. Yes, the tenBroek job search was fifty years ago, but you know and I know that we have not yet come to first-class status and equal treatment in society. The framework of ideas and beliefs to make it possible, though long in the building, is still not complete. Warring Wilkinson, Newel Perry and his students, Jacobus tenBroek and the founders of our movement, and the Federationists of succeeding decades have worked year after year to improve the climate of public acceptance and make opportunity available for the blind, but the job is not yet finished. Each generation has built on the work of the one before it. Each has fought and hoped, dreamed and drudged for the one to follow—and also for the blind then alive.
What we have done must be seen in perspective; for no act of the past (no gain or denial) is irrelevant, and no present behavior of ours can be divorced from tomorrow. We are close to freedom, and we must finish the journey.
1940 was notable for something else besides Dr. tenBroek's debut at the University of Chicago. It was also the year of the founding of this organization. With the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935 the federal government had supplanted the states in providing assistance to the blind. In 1939 Congress and the Social Security Board combined to pressure the states having the most forward looking programs (chief among them California but also Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Wisconsin) to repeal their progressive laws. This supplied the immediate impetus for the formation of the Federation, but of course the momentum had been building for a generation. The event occurred at Wilkes-Barre on November 15 and 16, 1940, coincident with the convention of the Pennsylvania Federation of the Blind.
In a letter to Dr. Perry dated November 19, 1940, Dr. tenBroek said in part: “The confab at Wilkes-Barre gave birth to an organization, the National Federation of the Blind—of which you, vicariously through me, are president. The long-range aims of the organization are the promotion of the economic and social welfare of the blind, and its immediate and specific aims are the sponsorship of the principle of Senate Bill 1766 and an amendment of the Social Security Act.
“Seven states were represented at the organizational meeting--Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California. We arrived in Wilkes-Barre in the middle of Friday afternoon....
“On Saturday morning, while the Pennsylvania state meeting was going on, I had several back-of-the-scenes conversations with Pennsylvania leaders.... In the afternoon... we drew up a skeleton constitution, which we presented to a meeting of all of the delegates to the national meeting, beginning about four o'clock and ending about the same time twelve hours later.... The meeting was interrupted at 5:30 in the afternoon long enough to give the other delegates a chance to eat dinner, and the Pennsylvania leader (Gayle Burlingame) and me a chance to appear on the local radio, where we lambasted hell out of the Social Security Board.”
On January 4, 1941, Dr. tenBroek wrote to Dr. Perry concerning the details of getting the new organization started. “With the National Federation of the Blind not yet two months old,” he said, “its permanence is definitely assured. The factor guaranteeing that permanence is the closely knit nucleus composed of Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and California. We three have now had enough experience with each other to know that we can make a go of it.... We can add to this trilogy the state of Wisconsin.
“I had a letter from Minnesota yesterday to the effect that they are ready to pay their assessment but that they wish assurance that Pennsylvania and California are also ready before they mail their check. I also had a letter from Pennsylvania stating that it is ready but wishes assurance that Minnesota and California are ready. I have written to both of these states requesting them to make out their checks, payable to the Treasurer of the National Federation, and to send them to me, with the stipulation that I shall not forward them to the Treasurer until I have the dues from each of the states of California, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota. Consequently, if California is ready, I suggest that you follow the same procedure….”
But the new president did not limit himself to procedural matters. The Federation immediately assumed its present-day role of working to improve the quality of life for the nation's blind. In a letter to Dr. Perry dated March 15, 1941, President tenBroek described the efforts he had been making to get changes in the administration of public assistance to the blind. Here, in part, is what he said:
“After a week in Washington I have more unsocial exchange to report than specific accomplishment.... Gradually working our way upward, Gayle Burlingame and I first presented our case to Jane Hoey, director of the Bureau of Public Assistance, and her associate, a lawyer named Cassius. Next we went to Oscar Powell, executive director of the Social Security Board; and finally to Paul V. McNutt, administrator of the Federal Security Agency. Hoey is simply another social worker of the familiar type but with a higher salary than most. Cassius has lost none of his qualities since Shakespeare described him, except that his wit has been sharpened by a little legal training. Powell is a very high caliber man with a fine sense of argumentative values, a considerable store of good nature, and unusual perception. He simply is not a believer in our fundamental assumptions. McNutt, on the other hand, is a lesser Hitler by disposition and makes our California social workers look like angels by comparison.
“Hoey and Powell had argued that the new ruling of the Board did not necessarily result in a reduction of a recipient's grant by the amount of his earnings or other income. McNutt took the position that it did and, moreover, that it should. `Are you saying to us,' I asked McNutt, `that blind people should have their grants reduced no matter how small their private income and no matter how great their actual need?' His answer was that he was saying precisely that. I formulated the question in several other ways, only to get the same reply. I can't say that I wasn't glad to get this official declaration from McNutt since it provides us with an official declaration by the highest administrator of them all that ought to be of immense propagandistic value to us. Moreover, McNutt's conduct during the conference has provided us with the most perfect example of the arbitrary and tyrannical methods of the Board that we could hope to have.
“In the remaining week that I shall stay in Washington, we shall attempt to carry our appeal to the last administrative step. Senator Downey of California and Senator Hughes of Delaware are attempting to secure for us appointments with Mrs. and President Roosevelt.
“As things stand, the only course open to the blind of California is to urge the legislature to retain the blind aid act in its present form and tell the federal government to go to hell. Even if we can get a favorable amendment to the Social Security Act, it certainly will not be until after the California legislature adjourns.”
This is what Dr. tenBroek wrote in 1941, and although we have often said in this organization that the first task which the Federation faced after its founding was to help the blind of the nation get enough money for bare survival, I sometimes wonder if we have made the point with sufficient clarity to convey the desperation of it. The report which was prepared following the 1941 convention of the Federation in Milwaukee says in part:
“Mr. Stephen Stanislevic of New York City reported as follows: ‘The blind population of New York State is roughly estimated at 13,000. Of these, more than half are in New York City. A very small number of our people, a few hundred in all, are at present employed in sheltered industries, on government projects, at newsstands, or in miscellaneous enterprises. The majority depend for sustenance either upon private bounty or upon Social Security grants. The average monthly grant per individual is $27 in New York City and $23 in the up-state counties. This is the paltry pittance which the wealthiest state in our Union sees fit to dole out to those of its citizens who are blind.’
“Mr. Hugh McGuire explained that in Indiana there are approximately 2,600 blind and that between 2,200 and 2,300 are drawing assistance with the monthly average of $20.”
That was forty-nine years ago, and much has happened in the interim. Not that it happened by chance, of course. Mostly we made it happen. How many times since 1940 has the National Federation of the Blind led the way in social reform in this country, not only for the blind but also for others? To mention only three examples, we pioneered exempt earnings for the recipients of public assistance; we pioneered fair hearing procedures in rehabilitation and other public programs; and we pioneered jobs for the disabled in government service.
As I have already said, our first task as an organization was to initiate programs to enable the blind to get enough to eat. In 1940 and the decades immediately following, most of the blind of this country were desperately poor, and there were almost no government programs to help. When people are hungry, little else matters. Later (although many of us were still in poverty—and, for that matter, are now) we worked on rehabilitation and employment, and today we emphasize civil rights and equal participation in society. But essentially our role is what it has always been--seeing that blind people get equal treatment and a fair shake.
It is not only in basics but also in detail that our operation today is often much the same as it was in past decades. Let me give you a rather specialized example. I have made a lot of banquet speeches at these conventions, and certain key ideas are central to them all. I can sum up the essentials in a few sentences. The real problem of blindness is not the blindness itself but what the members of the general public think about it. Since the agencies doing work with the blind are part of that general public, they are likely to possess the same misconceptions that are held by the broader society. The blind, too, are part of that broader society, and if we are not careful, we will accept the public view of our limitations and thus do much to make those limitations a reality. The blind are not psychologically or mentally different from the sighted. We are neither especially blessed nor especially cursed. We need jobs, opportunity, social acceptance, and equal treatment—not pity and custody. Only those elected by the blind can speak for the blind. This is not only a prime requisite of democracy but also the only way we can ever achieve first-class status.
These are the essential points of every banquet speech I have ever made. The banquet speeches are meant to be widely circulated. They have the purpose of convincing those in work with the blind and the public at large that they should rethink their notions about blindness. They also have the purpose of stimulating our own members to increased activity and added vigor. Hopefully the speech will be sufficiently inspiring, entertaining, and literate to make people want to listen to it—and later (when it is distributed) to read it. The difficulty is that just about the same thing needs to be said every year, but it has to be restated so that the listeners (and ultimately the readers) will feel that it is different—and maybe even new. After a while, putting it all together becomes quite a problem.
I don't think I ever talked about this matter with Dr. tenBroek, and I certainly did not attend the 1949 convention at Denver. With this background let me share some correspondence with you. Kingsley Price was a Californian, who became a college professor and was living in New York in the 1940s. In a letter dated April 8, 1949, Dr. tenBroek wrote to urge him to attend the Denver convention. “The problem does not arise,” Dr. tenBroek said, “out of an unmixed desire to enjoy your company. I would like to get you to give the principal banquet address. This is something that I have not been able to dodge very often in the seven conventions that we have had. [Conventions were not held in the war years of 1943 and 1945.] The banquet address,” Dr. tenBroek continued, “is a kind of focal point in which the problems of the blind, their peculiar needs with respect to public assistance, employment, and equal opportunity are formulated and presented both with an eye to rededicating and stimulating the blind persons present and an eye to enlightening and possibly converting the many sighted persons who have been invited to attend. For me, this has always been a job of rehashing and repeating certain central ideas. My imagination and new methods of statement have long since petered out. The next alternative is to get a new `stater.' This is what I would like you to be.
“We would, of course, introduce you as a New Yorker since there are far too many Californians in the limelight as it is. We also, if we thought hard, could find one or two other chores about the convention for you to do.
“Please think this matter over as long as you want, but let me have an immediate answer.”
Among other things, Dr. tenBroek obviously wanted to get Price to become more active in the movement, and he probably thought the banquet speech might be a way to do it. There has always been a tendency for the successful members of a minority to try to avoid involvement. The only trouble with this behavior is that it won't work. At an earlier period many blacks tried to straighten their hair and hide in white society, but then they realized that it was better to make it respectable to be black. The corollary, if I need to say it, (and every one of us had better know and understand it) is that it is respectable to be blind. That's what the National Federation of the Blind is all about.
No blind person in this country is untouched by our successes or, for that matter, our failures—and no blind person can avoid identification with the rest of us. This is true regardless of how the blind person feels about it and regardless of how we feel about it. Blindness is a visible characteristic, and all of us are judged by each other whether we like it or not. The feeling I have toward those blind persons who try to hide in sighted society is not anger but pity—and, yes, I am talking about those who are regarded (and who regard themselves) as highly successful.
When Professor Price replied to Dr. tenBroek, he said that he might be able to come but would probably do a bad job making the banquet speech. He should not have been deceived by the light tone of Dr. tenBroek's letter of invitation, for Federation presidents take banquet speeches seriously. In a letter dated April 21, 1949, Dr. tenBroek set him straight:
I am not now, nor on June 20th shall I be, in the least inclined to accept a bad job in the banquet address. If I were willing to accept a bad job, I can think of at least a hundred persons of assured competence to satisfy the requirement.
The banquet address is the focal point of the whole meeting. It has come to be regarded as the most important thing that is done at a convention. Many people of influence in the community are invited to hear it. The Governor of the State often is present, and the occasion is used to give him instructions as to what his policy should be towards the blind. The address is expected to be of such a character that it can be published and circulated the nation over with some advantage to the blind.
The address must be on the subject of the nature of the problems of blindness, and the discussion should be frank and forthright. Amplification of points by way of personal experience is always helpful and attractive. One conclusion that must always be reached is that the blind should speak for themselves because they are the only persons qualified to do so.
I enclose a copy of my Baltimore address, which may give you an idea of what needs to be said. The same truths have to be retold, but the hope is that they will be dressed up in a new and fresh style, even to the point of appearing to be different truths.
One further word: It may be that the address will be broadcast direct from the banquet hall. Consequently, both speech and delivery need to be well in hand.
I hope these admonitions are solemn enough to convince you of the importance of doing a good job and yet not so solemn as to scare you away. We are desperately in need of a new voice and a new brain to do this job and a man from New York has geographical advantages as well.
In considering our past I am mindful of the fact that except for inspiration, perspective, and prediction, there is no purpose to the study of history. Certainly we can find inspiration in the lives of Warring Wilkinson, Newel Perry, and Jacobus tenBroek. Often in lonely isolation they worked for a distant future which they knew they would never see but which is our present. Using meager resources that they could ill-afford to spare, they fought to build a framework of opportunities and benefits which constitute the underpinning and foundation of what we have today. How can we be unmoved by their story? It speaks to us across the years—calling us to conscience, giving us strength for the battles ahead, reminding us of our heritage, and underscoring our duty to those who will follow.
Yes, there is inspiration in our history, and it also gives us perspective. Otherwise we might become discouraged. Even today, with all of our work, more often than not when we come to one of these conventions and talk to the press, they assign their medical reporters to deal with us. They want to write stories about our guide dogs, the causes of blindness, and how capable we are because we can do the ordinary tasks of daily living, like cutting our food or finding our way.
But the balances are shifting. Each year a few more reporters are beginning to understand that our story is not one of physical loss, or courage in the face of deprivation, but lack of opportunity and denial of civil rights. A perfect example is the recent story in the Wall Street Journal about the blind who are running their own businesses. It contains not a scrap of pity, nor a wasted word about those who (though blind) are valiantly struggling to earn a living. Of course, it contains drama—but it is the drama of a people fighting to rise to first-class status in a society which treats them like children and wonders why they object.
Recently I went to the White House and talked with the President of the United States about the problems we are having with the airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration. We are being excluded from exit row seats on airplanes, but year after year the Federal Aviation Administration has said that there is no issue of safety in our sitting there. Now (because of pressure by the airlines) they have changed their minds. As we have become painfully aware, the issue of seating is only one tiny part of an overall pattern of bullying and harassment which blind persons face today in air travel. The difficulty which always confronts us when we try to discuss this issue is the talk we get about compassion and how commendable it is that we are trying to be independent—all of which is a bunch of nonsense. If we pose a hazard in exit row seats, we shouldn't sit there—and we wouldn't want to. If we don't pose a hazard in exit row seats, then we have as much right to sit there as anybody else, and to try to make us move is an infringement of our civil rights. In either case compassion has nothing to do with it.
When I tried to convey these ideas to President Bush, his response made it clear that he had been thoroughly briefed—and by somebody who hadn't the faintest idea about the issues. In answer to my question the President said that if there was no evidence that we constituted a greater hazard than others in exit row seats, he would put an end to the rule if he had the power to do so—which, of course, he has. I wasn't very hopeful about the outcome because of two things. President Bush kept avoiding the word blind, gingerly referring to us as the non-sighted, and he said that Secretary of Transportation Skinner had personally tested an airplane door to see whether an individual without sight could open it—which is comparable to my going (with my lack of experience) to a hospital to see what can be done with surgical instruments.
The President assigned his lawyer, Boyden Gray, to look into the matter and get back to me. The results were what might have been expected. Mr. Gray did not talk to us, nor did he look at the video tape of our test evacuation of an airplane. Instead, he talked with Secretary of Transportation Skinner, who told him that we constituted a safety hazard—which data he ceremonially transmitted to me.
So was it just an exercise in futility? Not at all. This is where perspective helps. In 1940 Dr. tenBroek was not able even to get a hearing from President Roosevelt even though two United States senators tried to help him do it. Moreover, my talk with President Bush was only one brief skirmish in our long airline fight, and the history of our past efforts tells us that we will ultimately win. It is true that Dr. tenBroek did not get to talk with President Roosevelt, but it is also true that most of the Social Security reforms for which he fought have been adopted—and mostly they have been adopted through the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind.
Likewise, we lost the recent motion to cut off debate on our airline bill in the United States Senate, but we had fifty-six votes. And when has any other group in the blindness field ever been able to bring a bill of its own to the floor of the United States Senate and have it be the pending business of that body for several days? Never—and never with the number of votes we mustered. Again, this was only a single skirmish in an individual battle in a long war—a war which has been going on for more than a century, a war which we are winning, and a war which we intend to finish.
Yes, our history provides us with both inspiration and perspective—and it also gives us the basis for prediction. Of course, no individual can be sure of what will happen tomorrow, but I feel absolutely certain that this organization will continue to grow and lead the way in improving the quality of life for the blind. The outward appearance of the issues may shift, but the basics will not change—not until we have achieved equal treatment and first-class status in society. And we will achieve it.
In examining our past I have not attempted to assess my own role and contributions. How could I? I have been too close, loved too deeply, put too much of my life into the process. All I can say is this: When Dr. tenBroek was dying, I made certain pledges to him. I have tried to keep those pledges. I shall always try to keep them. And when in 1986 I thought the time had come that the movement would best be served by my leaving the presidency, I did it. The decision was not easy, but I think it was right. I believe that President Maurer was the best person we could have chosen for the position and that he will lead this organization into the twenty-first century—stronger, more vibrant, and more committed than it has ever been. And there is something more: I think the new generation that is on the horizon will provide leaders and members who will be present fifty years from now when we meet for our hundredth anniversary. We must never forget our history; we must never dishonor our heritage; we must never abandon our mission. With love for each other and faith in our hearts we must go the rest of the way to equal status and first-class membership in society. Let us march together to meet the future.
1. All of the material concerning Dr. Perry except what I got from my own discussions with him is taken from “Newel Perry: Teacher of Youth and Leader of Men,” by Jacobus tenBroek, Braille Monitor, February, 1976. The quotes from Dr. tenBroek are taken from letters in the files of the National Federation of the Blind.
by Kane Brolin
From the Editor: Kane Brolin is a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana and is a certified financial planner practitioner. In this article he speaks to those investors who are not only interested in a way to invest their money but who want to invest in a fund that considers their values and beliefs. Here is what he has to say:
I have always found the story of the mythical ancient Greek King Sisyphus both disturbing and apropos as a figure for what it feels like to struggle in the world. In a story familiar to most who have been through literature classes in high school, after his death this king is forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch the boulder roll back down—thus having to repeat the same futile task over and over for eternity. What I did not know until I looked up details on this story is that Sisyphus’s frustrating fate was reserved for him as a punishment for chronic deceitfulness.
It’s not hard to feel pity for Sisyphus—not just for the impossibility of his assigned task, but for the fact that he is doomed forever to repeat it, with no relief or resolution. Similarly, when the subject of disability—especially blindness—comes up in polite conversation among people at large, it seems that pity remains their most common response even today. And, while most wouldn’t admit it, I have the distinct feeling that in the back of their minds many who consider themselves “able-bodied” still wonder whose fault it is when they see someone carrying a white cane, sitting in a wheelchair, or obviously struggling with a cognitive challenge. Note the disciples’ first question to Jesus in the Gospel of St. John when they were confronted with a man who had been blind since birth: “His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’”
Of course, we who actually are facing a persistent physical challenge such as blindness often do come to realize that it is not a fate worse than death, as some might imagine—that its impact can be reduced to that of a nuisance. But even a blind person who has developed a measure of confidence and productivity such as me can sometimes feel a lot like Sisyphus, especially when I look at unemployment figures for blind adults in the United States, which never seem to get much better. Cornell University reports that among non-institutionalized Americans between ages twenty-one and sixty-four with a visual disability, regardless of gender or ethnic background, 62.25 percent (or roughly five out of every eight) were still unemployed in 2012. In fact, one learns from these researchers’ statistics that 54.6 percent of working-age blind adults in America (1,795,000 people) were not even in the labor force—thus, weren’t even attempting to get work.
Yet we can take heart in the knowledge that things are changing. Of those blind people who have cracked the employment barrier, more and more of us seem to be getting significant work as specialists in our chosen disciplines. Thanks to the pioneering work of Anne Cunningham and some of those connected with E.A.S.Y. LLC’s tactile graphics revolution, this even includes the graphic arts. But imagine my surprise when I discovered this past winter that one of the most prominent financial institutions in the world has come up with a way for us to invest in firms who honor and serve disabled people.
According to Wikipedia, Barclays is the seventh-largest bank in the world, with assets totaling $2.42 trillion at the end of 2011. Barclays reported net income of 845 million British pounds in the year 2014—about $1.3 billion in US terms. Barclays is so big, in fact, that it sponsors the English Premier League of professional soccer. So Barclays is unlikely to make business decisions based on goodwill alone, and certainly it does not base its activities on pity, either. What is my point? Simply that disabled people worldwide have become a formidable enough force that Barclays has decided to offer an investment to the public reflecting the one hundred publicly traded companies who best honor and serve them. On September 10 of last year, Barclays released to the investing public a new exchange-traded note based on the Return on Disability Index. Traded under the ticker symbol RODI, it is available using NYSE Arca, an electronic trading platform owned by the New York Stock Exchange and available through most brokerage firms and discount trading platforms.
The Return on Disability Indices were created by and are managed by Fifth Quadrant Analytics, based in the Greater New York City area. They have created an index of one hundred US-based companies, and another consisting of fifty companies based in Canada. According to Fifth Quadrant’s literature, these indices “are designed to capture the shareholder value creation indicated by publically traded firms acting in the global market of disability. Companies in the RODI are considered by Fifth Quadrant to be the top-ranked firms in disability with respect to creation of shareholder value.” A white paper published in the year 2012 by Fifth Quadrant puts this into plainer English: “A Market the Size of China representing a population of 1.1 billion people with disabilities (PWD) are an emerging market the size of China[sic]. Their friends and family add another 1.9 billion potential consumers that act on their emotional connection to PWD. Together, they control over $9 trillion in annual disposable income globally. Companies and governments seeking new ways to create value for stakeholders must begin acting to attract this newly unleashed cohort.” Bottom line: The world is beginning to recognize that disabled people have substantial buying power and earning power—enough to have a profound influence on global markets.
On Barclays’s website, one can gain some insight into how Fifth Quadrant screens the companies that are to comprise the Return on Disability Index: the index uses a quantitative ranking methodology to measure a company’s publicly-observable activities relating to people with disabilities across three key areas: talent, customer, and productivity. This ranking methodology focuses on elements that have the potential to increase shareholder value in a company, such as using best practices for attracting and hiring candidates with disabilities, focusing on “ease of use” features in products and services, and implementing productivity-focused process improvements driven by people with disabilities. The phrase “disability market” refers to the 1.3 billion people globally who face challenges across three general areas—dexterity, cognition, or sensory abilities—as well as their friends and family. The index notionally tracks the returns that may be available from investing in a basket of up to one hundred stocks that are selected pursuant to the Return on Disability® Binary Ranking (the "RoD Ranking"), and meet certain market capitalization, trading volume, and financial viability thresholds.
So which companies make up the RODI? At last report, Bloomberg cited firms covering a surprisingly wide array of industries. Represented in this index were firms such as Kimberly-Clark Corporation; Humana, Inc.; 3M Company; IBM; The Boeing Corporation; Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; Chevron Corporation; Capital One Financial Corporation; Stanley Black & Decker, Inc.; and even Carnival Corporation (operator of the cruise line).
Clearly enough evidence exists to make a strong case that disabled communities in the developed world have become a force to be reckoned with in both the marketplace and the workplace. But if you’re an investor considering the purchase of RODI as a component of your portfolio, is it a wise decision? This article is not meant to give an absolute answer to that question. What’s more, an absolute answer does not exist, since your tolerance for the risks associated with this kind of alternative investment will be different from your neighbor’s. But the following points are worth keeping in mind:
Investing in RODI is not the same as investing in stocks. While the RODI has been developed to track a basket of stocks from companies whose policies favor disabled consumers and employees, it is not possible for anyone to invest directly in this or any other index. The product Barclays has created for retail investors is an exchange-traded note (ETN) that really is structured more like a bond than like a stock. RODI was introduced to the public with a par value of $50 per unit, and it has a maturity date of September 17, 2024. What’s more, the value of an ETN depends somewhat on the health of the lending sector in the economy, not just on the fortune of the specific stocks which make up the basis of the underlying index. “ETNs can track the performance of anything from indexes to commodity futures to foreign currencies. In this way they resemble ETFs [exchange-traded funds]. However, while ETFs invest in securities to allow them to track the underlying benchmark, ETNs do not actually own what they are tracking. … The value of ETNs is determined by several factors. The two primary elements affecting ETN value are the performance of the underlying benchmark and the credit rating of the issuer. For example, if an ETN is tracking an index, and the index is staying level but the issuing bank's creditworthiness comes into question, the ETN would likely lose value.” The subtleties of ETN products lie far beyond the scope of this article, but before investing you should download and read the prospectus for RODI or any other ETN thoroughly before deciding to invest. Fact sheets and prospectus for all of Barclays’s BARX Investor Solutions ETNs can be downloaded as accessible PDFs from <http://www.etnplus.com/US/7/en/instruments.app>. Alternatively, the reader can phone Barclays’s Equity and Fund Structured Market Solutions hotline at (212) 528-7990 or send an email to <email@example.com>.
RODI is a very thinly traded product. This means that on most days, no one on the entire NYSE Arca platform is buying or selling this ETN at all. No trades whatsoever were made in February, March, and April of 2015. The official market price has gone up from the original $50-per-unit par value to $60.66 as I write this article on May 26, but no trades were made between May 11 and May 26, 2015. For this reason, in the event you should try to purchase it, it is most effective to put in a limit order—that is, specifying a particular number of shares that you are willing to purchase at a pre-stated maximum price. This makes it more likely the market will respond to you in a way you are prepared to live with.
As the owner of RODI or another semi-liquid issue like it, you might not be able to get out right away under terms that would make you happy. So don’t risk money that you know you may need to meet essential expenses in your life in the coming weeks. If you do, then you might be forced to sell out at a loss, depending on the mood of the market on the day you have to divest.
In the interest of full and fair disclosure, I mention that I work in the securities industry, serving as the registered representative of a nationally recognized broker/dealer. This means that I directly manage money for clients and have the ability to purchase, sell, and advise on stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, and other instruments—including exchange-traded notes. As of this writing, I and one of my clients have purchased a combined total of 160 units in RODI, and we have no immediate plans to sell them. While I am invested both emotionally and financially in this product, I have been given no monetary incentive to purchase this note for myself or for any clients, and no one has solicited me to write this article or has paid me for doing so.Finally, keep in mind that neither the Return on Disability Index nor the exchange-traded note it inspired are focused specifically on blind people. Neither Fifth Quadrant Analytics nor Barclays Bank, PLC is committed specifically to the policies and programs of the National Federation of the Blind. So buying units of RODI surely is no replacement for contributing to your Federation’s state affiliate or for making regular payments into the Pre-Authorized Contribution plan. But it is an impressive way in which a huge, globally respected purveyor of investment and banking products has called the attention of the stock and bond investors to the growing influence of persons who live the life they want while dealing with significant challenges that involve dexterity, cognition, or sensory perception. Thank you to Barclays Bank, PLC, and its subsidiaries for recognizing that disability does not mean disempowerment and for presenting this truth to the marketplace.
by Cheryl Echevarria
From the Editor: Cheryl Echevarria is the president of the National Federation of the Blind Travel and Tourism Division and also vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of New York's Greater Long Island Chapter. In 2012 she was selected by Governor Andrew Cuomo as the Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year. She and her husband Nelson operate Echevarria Travel.
I've noticed that, as people become more conscious of how food affects their health, leaving home can sometimes present challenges for those who want to keep eating well, who want to avoid illness, or who have certain food restrictions. Here are some great tips from other seasoned travelers on how to enjoy your culinary adventures without compromising how great you want to feel. I'd love to know what other tricks or tips you have for eating well on the go. Send us your ideas to put on the NFB Travel and Tourism website at <www.nfbtravel.org>.
To help avoid trouble with eating well when you travel, try these tips:
One of the best parts of travel is getting to taste and savor all kinds of new and delicious foods, whether you're driving across the state or flying across the world. And without a doubt it's fun to let go a little and eat things you wouldn't normally eat during a week at home—that's part of the freedom and excitement of being on vacation.
But we all know the feeling when we've had way too much for too many days in a row: the lack of energy, the bloating, the dehydration, the headaches, the hangovers, the pronounced jet lag, and the increased susceptibility to illness. All of these things can really get in the way of maximizing your travel enjoyment. And, if you're someone with food restrictions, a diabetic like me, you know the added frustration of trying to find good food that will be good to and for you.
The great news is that it's easier than ever to make the kinds of food choices that will keep you healthy and energized while you're away from home and varying from your usual routine. Here are some simple ways to eat adventurously and well while you're enjoying the best moments of your trip:
1. Plan ahead. Often when we're traveling, we're out of our routine and aren't eating at regular intervals. Sometimes we can go several hours without eating anything. Contrary to the popular myth that you should hold off eating to save room for a big meal, going for long stretches without eating actually slows metabolism and causes your body to become sluggish and tired and to hang on to calories. Our bodies experience this food deprivation as mini-starvation, and this sends our brain into panic mode. To keep blood sugar stable and avoid energy lapses (which can then lead to overcompensating with high-sugar or fried foods), aim for eating a little bit every couple of hours while in transit and while you're out and about. Eat foods that are nutrient-dense and high in lean protein. Pack snacks for easy access: nuts, seeds, hard-boiled eggs, firm fruits (such as apples), veggies, hummus, or natural fruit-and-nut bars.
If you know where you're staying, scout out restaurants in the area. Check with your hotel or resort to peruse menus and see what's available. Once you arrive, you can use an app like AroundMe (1) to locate healthier restaurants in your area. Check out these smartphone apps that can help you find gluten-and other allergen-free options while you travel (2).
2. Don't forget the grocery store. A supermarket, especially a local co-op, can be your best ally while traveling. You'll have easy, cheap access to fresh produce and healthy snacks. You'll find a wider variety of great foods that are free of gluten, dairy, and other common allergens at a reasonable cost. Plus many co-ops also have a deli, where you can get delicious sandwiches, salads, or wraps to take with you during the day.
3. Your mother was right: get your greens and take your vitamins. While you're traveling, your immune system is exposed to many new pathogens—especially on airplanes and other forms of mass transit. Make sure your body has what it needs to stay healthy, fight germs, and process toxins. Don't forget to pack your multivitamin and other supplements. If you can't get ready access to fresh greens, consider getting some powdered greens that you can bring and easily mix into a glass of water or a morning smoothie.
4. Speaking of morning smoothies—if you're really dedicated to getting your daily intake of fruits and veggies, you might even consider bringing along a travel blender (3). This might seem extreme to some, but consider this: most travel blenders are under $20, fit easily into a suitcase, and are easily put into the back of the car. This can be just the thing to make a power breakfast of fruits, nuts, and vegetables quickly that will keep you going all morning.
5. Drink more water than you normally do. Planes and hotel rooms are notoriously dry. Walking around all day expends energy and dehydrates your body. Often people drink alcohol or sodas with meals, and these are also dehydrating. Drinking more than your usual eight glasses of water a day will keep you energized, hydrate your cells, keep your skin glowing, and help flush out toxins.
6. Drink less alcohol than everyone around you is drinking. This can be challenging, especially on business trips, where drinking is a familiar pastime. But, in addition to worsening dehydration and jet lag, tossing back more than two drinks leads to more unhealthy eating. A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that men take in an extra 433 calories on average from alcohol and food when they consume more than two drinks.
7. Try to get your eight hours of beauty rest—easier said than done, I know! But getting decent rest helps steady your metabolism, resets your adrenal system, and boosts your immunity. Being sufficiently rested will make every other choice you face on your vacation much easier.
8. Try the "one-and-done" rule. Let yourself have treats, and enjoy them—just keep it to once a day. Get that gorgeous piece of chocolate cake. Have an extra helping of steak fries. Order the thing that's generously doused with butter, and love every single bite. Then be done with the less-than-healthy food, and remember that you always have another day for that one little indulgence.
This month’s recipes are from the National Federation of the Blind of Utah. These recipes are from the NFBU's Project STRIVE “Cooking without Looking” program. The STRIVE in Project STRIVE stands for Successful Transition Requires Independence, Vocation, and Education.
Successful Spaghetti Sauce
While this recipe is fantastic, it became a “Success” when STRIVE participant Tynysha added half a bottle of parmesan and over half a bottle of Italian seasoning to it. Fantastic soon became totally yummolicious!
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (we used 1 pound ground beef and 1/2 pound ground sausage)
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 14 1/2-ounce can stewed tomatoes
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
Method: Brown the meat in a large heavy-bottomed pot, then drain off the fat. Add the onion, green pepper, and garlic and sauté until the onion is tender, about five minutes. Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, seasonings, and water. Simmer for thirty minutes. Let cool. The sauce will keep for several days covered and refrigerated. Serve over spaghetti or your favorite pasta.
Transition Peach Cobbler
by Barbie Elliott
The butter and batter start out below the fruit, but by the end the fruit sinks, and the batter rises to the top. This “Transition” truly makes this peach dessert a tasty treat. Our co-director and Utah's Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (DSBVI) home management instructor, Barbie Elliott, shared her expertise in creating this scrumdeliyumtuous dish.
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1 large can sliced peaches in heavy syrup (I use 4 cups fresh sliced peaches)
Cinnamon and nutmeg in 2 tablespoons of sugar (optional)
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While oven is preheating, melt one stick of butter in a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Mix flour and sugar well. Add milk to flour and sugar mixture, and stir well so that it is not lumpy. Pour milk, flour, and sugar mixture over butter, be careful not to pour too quickly because it works best if you do not spread it but pour evenly over the top of the butter. Arrange peaches evenly on top of batter. Mix two tablespoons sugar and spices in a small bowl. Sprinkle spice mixture over the top of peaches. This step is optional; some prefer the cobbler without the extra sugar. Cook until crust is lightly brown; dough will rise to form a crust over the top of the peaches. Enjoy.
by Tara Briggs
This recipe was taught by Project STRIVE and former DSBVI Braille and home management instructor Tara Briggs. She says it is best when you follow all requirements, especially using silicone cupcake pans. Tara also submitted this recipe and the next recipe for our Project STRIVE Cupcake Wars.
3 egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 cups butter, chopped in small pieces
6 tablespoons flour
Method: Melt chopped butter and chocolate together for sixty seconds. Stir the butter and chocolate and continue to melt in microwave for thirty seconds at a time until mixture is melted. Mix eggs, egg yolks, and sugar for five minutes. Add chocolate and butter and mix. Add flour a tablespoon at a time. If you are using an electric mixer, be sure to pour the flour into the middle of the beaters and then mix. Spoon batter into silicone cupcake pan and bake for twelve to fourteen minutes at 350 degrees. Yields twelve cakes.
Independence Lemon Strawberry Cheese Cupcakes
by Tara Briggs
After four teams shopped for ingredients, the Project STRIVE Cupcake Wars were ON! Guest judges rated the finished products in the areas of flavor, texture, creativity, appearance, and clean-up of work station. A dedicated and determined team won with this deYUMMcious recipe, using strawberry tops with stems as garnish on their presentation platter.
1/2 cup sugar
8 ounces softened cream cheese (not light)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Foil cupcake liners
Strawberry pie filling
Method: Beat sugar, eggs, and cream cheese together until smooth. Place one vanilla wafer, flat side down, in each cupcake liner and fill half full with batter. Bake for fifteen minutes at 350 degrees. Cool in refrigerator, then top with drizzled-on pie filling and fresh strawberries.
Vocation Creamy White Chicken Chili
by Marla Palmer
For some of us this recipe is forever attached to our first Successful Futures Seminar/Career Fair. We were well fed by hearing from our own Kristen Cox. Incidentally, she negotiated our funding through Utah's Department of Workforce Services. We were further filled by the experience and hands-on activity with a local blind mechanic, as well as by taking the opportunity to participate in mock job interviews. This recipe nourished us, as did the woman who submitted it. Marla Palmer, our program's original director, started the tradition that is now a favorite training recipe for students at DSBVI.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken
1 medium onion
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon oil
2 cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can chicken broth
2 4-ounce cans green chilies
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whipping cream
Method: Sauté chicken, onion, and garlic powder in oil. Add beans, broth, chilies, and seasonings. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for thirty minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in sour cream and cream and serve.
Education: The Meat Doneness Touch Test
by Willie Black
Just in time for summer grilling. So maybe this isn't a recipe, but it's a great tool. This technique was taught at our very first “Cooking without Looking,” and subsequent activities, by our very own Project STRIVE instructor and BEP manager, Willie Black.
Besides the obvious, how can you know that your meat is raw? Open the palm of your hand. Relax the hand. Take the index finger of your other hand and push on the fleshy area between the thumb and the base of the palm. This is what raw meat feels like. (Test this the next time you have a raw steak to cook.)
How can you know if your meat is well done? Now gently press the tip of your pinky and your thumb together. Again feel the fleshy area below the thumb. It should feel quite firm. This is what well-done meat feels like when you press on it. (Test this the next time you overcook a piece of meat.)
How can you know if your meat is medium? Press the tip of your ring finger and your thumb together. The flesh beneath the thumb should give a little more. This is what meat cooked to a medium doneness feels like.
How can you know if your meat is medium rare? Gently press the tip of your middle finger to the tip of your thumb. This is medium-rare.
How can you know if your meat is rare? Press the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb. The fleshy area below the thumb should give quite a bit. This is what meat cooked to rare feels like.
Open your palm again and compare raw to rare. Adapted from <http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/the_finger_test_to_check_the_doneness_of_meat/>.
Virginia Legislature Commends NFB on Seventy-Five Years of Service to the Blind:
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 914
Offered February 23, 2015
Commending the National Federation of the Blind.
Patrons––Cole, Howell and Minchew; Senators: Howell and Reeves
WHEREAS, in 2015, the National Federation of the Blind celebrates its 75th anniversary as the oldest and largest organization in the United States led by blind people, bringing them together to work collectively to improve their lives; and
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) was founded in 1940; its first logo featured the words "Security, Equality, and Opportunity," all of which were pressing needs for the nation's blind people; and
WHEREAS, in the early days, the leaders of the NFB focused on those three goals by working to help blind people live independently, have equal opportunity in employment, and have equal access to housing, transportation, and places of public accommodation; and
WHEREAS, the philosophy of the NFB is that a person's blindness should not be the characteristic that defines his future; the organization works to raise the expectations of the nation's blind people so that they can live the lives they want; and
WHEREAS, a network of local chapters, state affiliates, and nationwide divisions make up the NFB; the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia, which is one of fifty-two affiliates, has fifteen chapters throughout the Commonwealth; and
WHEREAS, the Virginia chapter of the NFB also consists of several divisions that focus on specific areas of interest to blind persons, including divisions for students, parents, and merchants; the Virginia chapter also has a deaf-blind division and additionally, it sponsors an association to promote the use of Braille; and
WHEREAS, as the leading force for the nation's blind people and the voice of the nation's blind, the NFB and its Virginia chapter improves lives through advocacy, education, research, technology, and programs that encourage independence and self-confidence; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, That the General Assembly hereby commend the National Federation of the Blind on the occasion of its 75th anniversary as the oldest and largest organization in the United States led by blind people, bringing them together to work collectively to improve their lives; and, be it
RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Clerk of the House of Delegates prepare a copy of this resolution for presentation to Michael Kasey, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia, as an expression of the General Assembly's respect and admiration for the organization's tireless work on behalf of blind people.
NFB-NEWSLINE Adds New Magazines:
For all those aspiring and accomplished cooks out there, NFB-NEWSLINE is happy to announce the addition of two magazines to our service. Meredith Corporation has recently provided access to Diabetic Living and Allrecipes magazines. And, for our technophiles, we have added AppleInsider and Android Central to Breaking News.
Diabetic Living is the largest and most active media brand for people living with diabetes. This magazine offers inspirational stories, heartfelt communications, encouraging information, and extraordinary advice for people diagnosed with diabetes and their loved ones. Food is at the heart of Diabetic Living because “what to eat?” is the number one question asked by people with diabetes and their caregivers. That's why all recipes are tested in the Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen and feature complete nutritional information including serving size, carb count, and diabetic changes. Guided by our independent advisory board of national health professionals, Diabetic Living is dedicated to providing action-oriented information to help consumers improve their quality of life.
In a world of unlimited recipe choices, Allrecipes magazine sifts through and serves up the best from Allrecipes.com, the world's largest online community of cooks. Combining our digital insights and editorial expertise, Allrecipes shares recipes from the people, for your people, with ratings, reviews and motivation to make it your own. It's guaranteed that, when you cook what they cook, you'll get your own five-star reviews.
To find these two exciting new magazines using the telephone access method, log into NFB-NEWSLINE, choose 7 for Magazines off the main menu, and search for them under All Magazines Alphabetically, or under General Interest. And remember, you can easily press #9 to email articles to your inbox, which is a great way to refer back to the recipes you'll find in these magazines. To find these publications using the web or your iPhone, you can search for them alphabetically under publications.
For those wanting to keep up with the ever-changing technology out there, we're also adding AppleInsider and Android Central. AppleInsider launched in 1997 and quickly grew to become one of the internet's premier sources of information for all things Apple. Each day you'll find the most in-depth coverage and analysis of the latest Apple rumors and insider news surrounding the company, its partners, and adversaries. Android Central was launched in September of 2008 under the guidance of Dieter Bohn (now with The Verge), with Casey Chan (now with Gizmodo) at the helm. A little more than a year later, current editor-in-chief Phil Nickinson left an eleven-year career with a daily newspaper in Pensacola, Florida, to head Android Central full-time.
The site saw exponential growth alongside Android and soon became the go-to resource for scoops, reviews, videos, and podcasts. In February 2010 Android Central was named one of PC World's "Fifty Smartphone Blogs to Watch."
Both of these dynamic technology publications can be found using the telephone access method by pressing 5 off the main menu and then selecting 1 for Breaking News, or alphabetically by name using the iPhone or web access methods.
Cancer Survivors to Meet at NFB National Convention:
The NFB Cancer Survivors Support Group will hold its meeting at the seventy-fifth National Convention in Orlando, Florida. We're looking forward to meeting all cancer survivors and supporters.
Join us in helping cancer survivors get well, stay well, share preventive measures, and provide accessibility to information that may enhance the lives of all cancer survivors.
Our meeting will take place on July 7 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. in room W202B on level two of the convention center, across from the exhibit hall. We are here for one another—come, help, and be helped.
Pen Pal Wanted:
Hello everybody. My name is Valentina Ermolaeva. I am from Russia. I love English language. I want to learn and improve English. I would like to find pen friends from the USA. In return I can help them study Russian language. Please contact me on Skype: <Valya.80> or email me at: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.
Now Accepting Applications for 2016 Ski Season:
Sierra Regional Ski for Light (SRSFL) <www.srsfl.org> is accepting applications for the 2016 ski season at Tahoe Donner Cross Country in Truckee, California. SRSFL offers guided cross country skiing and snow shoeing for blind and visually impaired children and adults. Each skier and snowshoer is matched with a trained guide. SRSFL welcomes beginners to advanced skiers. Scholarships are available. Call one of the leaders below for more information and to sign up.
2016 ski schedules:
Saturday Day Trips:
January 23, sign-up deadline January 16
February 6, sign-up deadline January 30
April 7, sign-up deadline March 26
Please contact Betsy Rowell by phone at (916) 362-5557, or by email at < email@example.com>.
Twenty-Fourth Annual Three-day Event (adults only):
Saturday, March 5 through Monday, March 7, 2016. Lodging will be at the Best Western in Truckee, California. Skiing will be at Tahoe Donner Cross Country, Truckee, California. We recommend lodging at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Rancho Cordova Friday night for out-of-town participants. Please contact Cindy Quintana by phone at (510) 483-2948 or by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Resource Handbooks for Five States Available:
I have created five screen-reader-friendly resource handbooks containing resources pertaining to the blind and visually impaired for use by consumers and professionals. This handbook is for the residents of specific states and includes the many organizations for the blind and visually impaired covering areas such as employment, housing, transportation, and more. Currently the handbooks are for Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, and Hawaii. The handbooks include contact information on the local, regional, and national level. For more information on pricing and formats please contact Insightful Publications by email at <email@example.com>, by phone at (808) 747-1006, or by visiting <http://www.in-sightful.com/orderpage.html> for more information on pricing, formats available, and state resource handbook order form.
New Newsletter The Blind Perspective:
Have you ever desired a newsletter where everything is from a blind perspective—a newsletter that is loaded with informative articles such as interviews with the movers and shakers of the blind community, modern and future technologies, book reviews on already existing audio books, or even crafts that are specifically tailored to being blind friendly?
You may need to search for a Braille device or sell an electronic gadget. We have the perfect venue to advertise the sale or the desire for such unique items. Wait no more! Here is a new and exciting newsletter. It will be distributed through email as an attachment at the beginning of each month. Even more exciting is that it will not cost you a penny. It is completely free to its subscribers. If you want to add your name to the email distribution list (and be assured we will not use your email for any other reason than to send you the monthly newsletter), send an email to <firstname.lastname@example.org> with the word “subscribe” in the subject line, and we will add you to the email list. Feel free to go to <www.theblindperspective.com> for periodical updates and developing news as it happens.
Be plugged into The Blind Perspective, where we aim to keep you entertained and informed!
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.
Trekker Breeze GPS for Sale:
This one-year-old Trekker Breeze made by HumanWare would be perfect for someone who has low vision or who is blind and finds it difficult to get to specific places independently, but does not want to get a smartphone. I am asking $400 Canadian plus shipping. For more information please email Matthew Hoare at <email@example.com>.
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.