Vol. 59, No. 5 May 2016
Gary Wunder, Editor
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The 2016 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Orlando, Florida, June 30 to July 5, at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, 9939 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32819-9357. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with the Shingle Creek staff only. Call (866) 996-6338.
The 2016 room rates are singles and doubles, $83; and for triples and quads $89. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 13.5 percent. No charge will be made for children under seventeen in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $95-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before May 27, 2016. The other 50 percent is not refundable.
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All Rosen Shingle Creek guestrooms feature amenities that include plush Creek Sleeper beds, 40" flat screen TVs, complimentary high-speed internet capabilities, in-room safes, coffee makers, mini-fridges, and hair dryers. Guests can also enjoy a swimming pool, fitness center, and on-site spa. The Rosen Shingle Creek Resort has a number of dining options, including two award-winning restaurants, and twenty-four-hour-a-day room service.
The schedule for the 2016 convention is:
Thursday, June 30 Seminar Day
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Saturday, July 2 Board Meeting and Division Day
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Vol. 59, No. 5 May 2016
Illustration: Diversity in the Disability Rights Movement:
Working Together to Achieve
the Right to Live in the World
A Hands-On Guy Doing Hands-On Work in the Information Age
by Fred Wurtzel and Gary Wunder
Blinded Driver versus Blind Pedestrians
by Mike May
I Encouraged My Daughter to Be a Cowboy
by Peggy Chong
Transitions: A Conference for Parents and Teachers of Blind Children
by Kim Cunningham
Sharing a Room at Convention and How to Survive It with a Smile
by Grace Warn
If Braille Were Print
by Erin Jepsen
Fake Service Dogs: Problem or Propaganda?
by Marion Gwizdala
How to Pay for Your Hotel Stay in Orlando
by Tony Cobb
Copyright 2016 by the National Federation of the Blind
For the ninth year the National Federation of the Blind demonstrated its leadership role in the disability rights movement by hosting the Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium March 31 to April 1, 2016, at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute.
Two hundred disability rights lawyers, advocates, and law students from throughout the United States and Canada attended. A broad range of disability rights organizations, government agencies, and law schools were represented, including: Disability Rights Texas, National Association of the Deaf, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, US Department of Justice, Paralyzed Veterans of America, The Arc of the United States, Stanford Law School, National Black Disability Coalition, Asian and Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California, the University of Alabama School of Law, and Syracuse University School of Law.
With a theme of “Diversity in the Disability Rights Movement: Working Together to Achieve the Right to Live in the World,” the focus of the 2016 tenBroek symposium was to examine the status of diversity in the disability rights movement and explore ways to increase diversity so that all may achieve Dr. tenBroek's vision of equality of opportunity. Plenary sessions were moderated by Dr. Maurer and examined building diversity in the disability rights movement, arrests and Title II of the ADA, international progress on improving accessibility, ethical issues in the representation of persons with disabilities, and the right to real work under Olmstead. Workshop topics included disability and discrimination in the LGBT community, how schools are using truancy laws to avoid their responsibilities under the IDEA, voting rights, and application of the Americans with Disabilities Act in a school-to-prison pipeline class action. As the symposium keynote speaker, United States District Judge Myron H. Thompson provided his thoughts on how the diversity of the disability rights movement could be increased.
by Fred Wurtzel and Gary Wunder
From the Editor: Recently several people suggested that I interview George Wurtzel whenever I talked about the need to address employment opportunities for blind folks whose passion is not found in books, letters, and working at a desk. One of the people who was most enthusiastic about publicizing the off-the-beaten-path work that George Wurtzel has done is none other than his brother Fred, known for being a longtime leader in the National Federation of the Blind. Fred and I have decided to work jointly to create this article, and it is in his voice that most of it will be presented. Here is what Fred has to say, with an occasional sentence thrown in by yours truly:
When I received Gary's notes on my brother, Gary wrote in his email to me, "I might not want to hire George to work for me, but I would certainly enjoy watching someone else do it, enjoying both his creativity and their failed attempts to manage him." I am totally impressed with our editor's ability to accurately portray the essence of a person in a sentence. This is why he is the editor, and this is a great way to begin this story.
What do you say about a broad-shouldered, six-foot-six person with a huge bushy white beard, a full head of curly dark hair, who wears bib overalls, has an engaging smile, and an easy infectious laugh? What if that person was on the first American expedition to cross-country ski across Lapland? What do you say about a person who has been an auto mechanic, a bicycle mechanic, a commercial woodworker in three states, was a partner/baker in a bakery, owned and rode Arabian horses in endurance rides, makes props for the film industry, has had exhibits in modern art museums, and teaches blind people to do woodworking? What do you say about this person when you learn he was born with little eyesight and has been totally blind since age nineteen? What do you say if the editor of the Braille Monitor asks you to write about this person, and this person happens to be your brother?
Dr. Joshua Miele of Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute says, "He is a bad-ass blind guy."
I feel a need to begin by explaining why I want to tell my brother's story to the Braille Monitor. Among things I love are my brother and the National Federation of the Blind. They share a fierce need to be independent and, some people say, a reluctance to compromise, arguably to their occasional disadvantage. I do not share the misgivings, but I certainly observe the fierceness in our common need for independence.
George Wurtzel <http://www.gmwurtzel.com/> has always been an adventurer, and it hasn't always been easy for him or those around him. The presence of young George was always accompanied by some kind of sound. It wasn't a radio or a record player; it was tapping, banging, chiseling, sawing, scraping, or running feet. Motion is a signature word for George.
When he started riding a bicycle on the street, he could certainly hear moving vehicles and could detect most of them that were stopped, but he did have a problem with the postal worker. When we were children the postman would deliver mail using a push cart with a bag strapped to it. He and the cart didn't make much noise, and more than once my brother ran into that cart, spilling its sorted contents on the street and leaving the postman not only to reload and re-sort, but also to chase his newly freed letters as they were taken by the wind.
The postman was a fine guy, but George's behavior did not go unchallenged. The postman confronted my mother, openly questioning the propriety of a blind kid riding a bike and suggesting that she bolt down the cycle so George would no longer be a public menace. Mom's reply was that locking up the bike would do no good since her son would only cut the bolts. "This is just one of the problems when you have children raised by a father who loves tools and has a child who is eager to learn to use them," George remembers her saying.
Now comes the age-old debate about nature and nurture. Growing up with George, I know about his innate and irrepressible curiosity. Our parents were hands-on folks, having grown up in farm families as most people of their age did. They were skilled at things like cooking, mechanics, baking, and foraging for wild berries, mushrooms, and asparagus. One of their favorite pastimes was playing cards with family and friends. We had an active and social environment in our early years.
We were expected to be outside as long as the sun was up and only return indoors for food (bathroom breaks were optional, us being boys and all and living in the countryside most of our childhood). In our earliest years we lived on three acres in Thomas Township, Michigan. Our father's excavating business occupied a lot of the three acres with dump trucks, bulldozers, backhoes, dragline cranes, and innumerable other machines and fun stuff to play on. Late afternoons were always interesting with the crews returning, doing machine maintenance like greasing the crawler tracks on the bulldozers and cranes, loading equipment onto the lowboy trailer to prepare for the next day's work—and the banter, always the banter among the crew. I learned lots of words that my teachers were not real impressed with. During the day we had the run of the area with discarded underground gasoline storage tanks that were maybe ten feet in diameter. What a challenge to climb up on them and to hear and feel the really cool, deep bass sound they make when struck with just the right object. In addition we played on piles of used tires, catch basins, old abandoned trucks, and so on. Have you ever seen a fire hydrant out of the ground? It was a paradise for two curious boys.
Later on, after we moved to northern Michigan, and our father was selling the kinds of equipment that he had owned as a contractor, we lived on eighty acres with woods and fields. George and I bought a 1950 Dodge and a 1953 Chrysler New Yorker for twenty or thirty dollars each. We proceeded to take the body off the Chrysler and make a dune buggy out of it, and we amused our friends by driving the Dodge through the fields at high rates of speed. I had some vision then.
So, was it our genes that made George the adventurous entrepreneur, or was it our parent's hands-off style of parenting, or was it the teachers and adults we encountered? If you are a parent and reading this, I hope you consider these questions. Forget what CNN or Crunchy Moms say; let your kids run free to go on adventures. Everyone will be better off for it.
Although George appreciates academia, office jobs, and the so-called information age in which we live, they have never been his cup of tea. He is what most of us call a hands-on kind of guy, but with George the term is not figurative but exceedingly literal. "I learn by doing, by touching, by trying it myself. And, you know, I'm not alone in this. Lots of blind people are just like me—they aren't suited to a desk job, but they are ready for some good, honest, physical work."
As I said, our father was a small business owner during our very young days. He owned an excavating business. Our kitchen was the office where the workers met in the morning for the day's assignments. Talk of machines, excavating, leveling, ditches, sewer lines to be installed—all were part of our morning conversation at the breakfast table.
One time my father found out that one of his employees was taking the long way home so he could add extra time to his paycheck. This was an ongoing problem. When this employee came in one morning, George, only about four years old, said, "My daddy is going to fire you." I guess this prepared George for his future of managing employees in his various businesses.
George's story is more than a blue collar versus white collar career discussion. If one considers George's thought process, it transcends these artificial definitions. Some people would say that George is eclectic; others would say he has simple common sense born of his view of life. He is a synthesizer. He creates new space and concepts out of thought and creativity through tools, wood, flour, spices, and agriculture, all contained in his mind and born out of a rich experiential base. What bothers some people is that George refuses to make overly-simple blanket assumptions about doctrinal issues. Chair caning, piano tuning, and door-to-door sales have been stereotypic professions for blind people. Now the pendulum has swung and many if not most counselors are guiding blind people away from jobs that have traditionally been good paying. Even the Randolph-Sheppard program, arguably one of the best employment programs for the blind, has trouble getting counselors to refer potential businessmen to it because it is one of those stereotypical blind guy jobs, even though some blind people are making six-figure incomes. Dogmatism just isn't in George's personality, unless it concerns the proper care and use of tools.
George does not frown on what some dismissively call the traditional blind jobs. "If they create real American money, I like them. We should argue when people say that the traditional blind jobs are the only ones blind people can do, but we should never argue that, because we have done them in the past, we shouldn't now see them as good, honorable, and lucrative jobs.”
One of the highest values of the National Federation of the Blind is developing positive blind role models to demonstrate first-hand that blindness is not what holds us back. As George says, "In years past schools for the blind, at least the Michigan School for the Blind, had many blind teachers. One of these served as a positive blind role model for me. Frank Rosnoski taught many manual skills, including shoe repair and chair caning. Another role model was Jesse Manly, who taught piano tuning. Many of us made good money as students during evenings and weekends pursuing these occupations. Frank Rosnoski could carve a chain from a single piece of wood or a ball in a cage. He was an inspiration for me, showing me that a blind person could not only be skilled at woodworking, but could earn a living doing so. I had no skill or interest in piano tuning, though it paid very well."
He continued, "Almost everyone would like to work for what they get. They may take public money, may believe they deserve it because some disability has befallen them, may tell themselves they are just getting back what they or someone else has paid in, but no one feels as good about taking money as they do about earning it.
"I have argued and fought against sheltered workshops for their exploitation of the blind. They have long been a thorn in my side. But I am not opposed to creating environments that pay blind people a real and meaningful wage,” George stated with passion evident in his voice.
When around George there is usually some kind of smell. It is the fragrance of wood shavings or sawdust, the nose-twitching smell of some kind of wood finish, the industrial odors of motor oil, WD-40 or gasoline. If you are lucky enough to get in his kitchen, there will be wonderful aromas of lovingly made brothy or creamy soups, the homey and delectable smells of fresh bread baking, or the aromatic vapors of a pot of chili simmering that promises a welcoming mealtime.
When George operated his countertop business, he provided lunch for his employees. This was an economic move to keep his employees close by so they returned on time to work, but it also was a way to share his hospitality, his creative cooking skills, and his concern for others.
At age nineteen George started his own woodworking shop in Traverse City, Michigan. "For the first two years I worked a full-time job from eight to four at a bicycle and ski repair shop, which gave me money to support my habit—woodworking. In doing that I became a bicycle technician, fixing and repairing bicycles. This was a great job for me as a blind person—put the bicycle up on a rack, figure out what was wrong, repair it, and, sometimes at the peril of other people, I'd go riding to test my work."
In this job George also learned to repair and mount ski bindings and was good enough that he was invited to Las Vegas by Salomon, the seller of running shoes, skis, and snowboarding equipment to work the national ski show in its booth. "All of the emphasis on the safety of ski binding equipment was driven by insurance companies who would get sued if an accident could be traced to mechanical problems with the skis and their bindings. In order for me to qualify, I had to take a test for certification. The test involved looking at forty ski bindings and determining which one of those forty was constructed correctly. In my group of test takers, I was the only one to find the ski bindings that had no problem. Lots of us found the thirty-nine that had problems, but I was the only one to find the pair that was put together correctly. I think the difference may be that most folks come in looking for problems, but I am an optimist and tend to assume that things are okay until I find that they aren't."
But back in Traverse City, having no money to pay rent for his part-time business, George made a deal with the owner of a commercial office building to use the unrentable space in the basement for his woodworking shop. "For the right to use that space, I cleaned his bathrooms, cleaned his hallways, and shoveled his snow. Because of my job and the building's business hours, I had to do these office building jobs after five in the evening. So, after working from eight to four in the bicycle shop and five until nine or ten at the office building, I could work at making products in the shop."
In about two years George bought his own building. The business was open for a little over nine years, but after buying some new machinery and adding to his original building, he was forced to close in 1982 when the economy crashed and interest rates were sky-high at 20 percent. This meant that the building industry came to a screeching halt. Losing the business took almost everything George had. "You know you are poor when you can move all of your belongings halfway across the country on a Greyhound bus."
What he left behind in Traverse City was a lot of classic woodwork in a renovated historic county courthouse, beautifully made store fixtures in many of Traverse City's gift shops and retail stores, Traverse City's longest bar in a bowling alley, and beautiful furniture in people's homes that they will pass on to their children. The city is richer than it was when he came there and shared some of his passion and creativity to earn his daily bread.
George moved to Hickory, North Carolina, to get a degree in furniture production management from Catawba Valley Community College. "The reason for going back to school was that my failure in Traverse City led to the recognition that I needed more skills to be a successful business person," he said.
While at Catawba College he was hired for a temporary job assembling upholstered couches for a furniture sample maker. North Carolina hosts the headquarters of a number of major furniture companies. Companies have samples made of their new designs to develop manufacturing systems and to show to their customer buyers. It was a rush job and the owner needed people who could use tools and knew about upholstered furniture.
"It surprised me that I actually got a job in North Carolina. The owner hired six people and let five of them go at the end of the job; he kept me. I was working with guys who were the best of the best. There were no slackers. I am very good at setting up machines and am not satisfied until they are perfect. Good enough is not good enough."
After learning his trade George went to work with people who were creating a kitchen cabinet manufacturing plant. "The reason I was hired to start a European-style cabinet factory is that there is no room for error in European cabinet manufacturing. Precision is absolutely mandatory if the cabinets are to come out right. There is no tolerance for slop. They owned the building, and I was responsible for purchasing the machinery, equipment, and tools. I set up the plant, trained the employees, and started seeing production go out the door." But George does not always play well with others, so he and his partners separated after a couple of years. "One of the partners I got along with quite well, but the other partner and I had a personality conflict, and, in addition, I wanted and thought I deserved more money."
Soon George started another company of his own: SellAmerica. His first engagement was with a company selling woodworking routers used for a variety of woodworking applications, including putting finished edges on tables, picture frames, and a multitude of other functions (nothing to do with computers). "The business I contracted with wanted me to do marketing, but my goal was to become an independent representative and work with several companies selling other products to different businesses."
George's business morphed into something different when his mother suggested he make a pretty box for his veteran father's interment flag. The triangular box was attractive and could be displayed either open or closed. She showed it to a neighbor who knew someone in the funeral home business. He in turn showed it to the director of the funeral home, who said, "No one is doing anything like this. This is a great idea." So George built some prototypes, did some horse trading with a photographer, created a brochure, and had about a hundred of them printed up and distributed them by hand and by mail. His company began selling to local funeral homes. Within two years he had 2,200 accounts coast to coast and was making about 17 percent on every box he sold. After seeking and being awarded a contract from both the army and the air force that he could not fulfill without the capital, George began looking for an investor. In that search he found someone more interested in purchasing the company than investing in it. "I won't say how much I sold it for, but it allowed me to be a bum for a while. I believe it was Mark Twain who said that ‘money doesn't bring you happiness; it just allows you to purchase the type of misery you most prefer.’" [Our sources suggests it was actually English comic Spike Millligan.]
In North Carolina George had a lady friend who owned a bakery, so he spent a couple of days each week working there—baking, making soup, and building up the dessert business in local resorts. He spent a couple of days working in his shop, and spent the rest of his time buying, raising, training, and selling Arabian horses. Horses were a passion he had from early childhood. In summers during high school he worked shoveling manure for a local horse raiser in Traverse City, Michigan, in order to earn a little money and mostly to be around horses. All of these part-time jobs he did for three or four years before he decided he needed to go back to work.
George moved back to Lansing, Michigan, and started a business in an abandoned storefront which he and some partners renovated. Its purpose was designing, building, and selling kitchen cabinets. The business also included a unit dedicated to countertop fabrication. "In true George Wurtzel style, as my business grew, I decided I liked working by myself more than I did with others, so we split the cabinet sales business off from the countertop business, it being the one I took."
When anyone spends even a short amount of time with George, they will come to associate him with flavors. It might be some warm whole wheat or sourdough bread from the oven. He might offer a newly discovered craft beer, a particular love of his. He has a signature Key lime pie. Simple things like oatmeal and pancakes are always something special. Quality fresh ingredients skillfully and creatively prepared with George's attention to detail are hallmarks of his culinary presentations.
In the early 2000's when the economy, including the building and remodeling sector, started to fall apart, George closed this business and went to work as the executive director for Opportunities Unlimited for the Blind, where he had been serving as a board member. His job was to run a camp for blind children, and this he did for about five years, something of a record for George.
During this time George brought the camp program to a new level of excellence and learned that he liked teaching, and especially teaching young blind people. In 2009 the camp won the prestigious Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award for outstanding programs serving blind people. George acted on his idea to combine art and cooking by designing and having the campers build an outdoor clay oven for baking pizzas and bread. He hired Steve Handschu, a nationally known blind artist, to oversee the design and construction of a dragon-shaped oven later named Smorge. The campers were the primary designers and builders under Steve's and George's oversight.
After working there George moved to Minneapolis, where he worked for BLIND Incorporated. "I told my brother in an email that if I made it a year, I'd be surprised, and I actually worked there for about two-and-a-half years. I was really proud of myself, and besides, I really needed the money. ... I'm a really creative person, and I really don't like being pinned in. I can be a difficult employee because I'm really strong in my opinions, and eventually those opinions have caused me or my employers to say that it is time for me to move on. ... I've always wanted to have complete control over my life and what I did, and I believe that everybody should have that.
"My rub with much of rehab is that too often you have this thirty-year-old person telling a forty-year-old that we're going to make you a desk jockey, when that forty-year-old’s skills, talents, and abilities are in his hands and not in his academic ability. Luckily for me, when I was a young person in rehab, we had two or three people known as job developers whose jobs were industry-based. They didn't have fancy degrees, but they knew how to go out to a factory, look at those jobs, show the factory how a blind person could do them, and then teach the blind person what they needed to know to get and hold a position there. Now you have rehabilitation agencies in the country that are so focused on getting people degrees that they know nothing about blue collar work. I meet too many rehab workers who are just dumbfounded at what I do, and they say, 'How do you do what you do?' And I find myself asking, 'How can you do what you do without knowing this?'
"When I started at the Michigan School for the Blind, they had just quit raising chickens and teaching people how to take care of them and to do some animal husbandry. I don't know when the last time was that you priced free-range eggs, but they are $5 a dozen where I live, and it costs about three cents per egg to feed a chicken. There's really good money in that, but when I talk with people about this, they say, 'Do you really want blind people to go back to raising chickens?' And I say, 'Yes! If the blind person wants a career in agriculture and there is a likelihood there is money to be made. Nearly everyone eats eggs in some form or other every day.’
"Except for those times when I didn't want to work, I've had a job since I was thirteen years old, either working for myself or working for someone else. This is because I've developed a skillset that suits me well, and I've learned how to sell my skillset to people. When you run your own business, it's like having a job interview every week because you have to go out and sell yourself, whether it’s to a company or a potential customer. You get a guy who wants to build five or six confectionary stores, and you want to build all of his cabinetry for him. You have to go out and convince him that you can build the product the way he wants it, give him the quality that he wants, and do it in the timeframe that he wants. You know, he looks at you as a blind person and says, 'I don't know how the guy gets across the street, so can he do all this stuff for me?'”
This is something George has faced over and over again, but if you do the job long enough in a city like Traverse City, Michigan, people start to know you, your business starts to have a reputation, and then the company becomes the symbol of what you do rather than the blind man who leaves people with the question of whether or not he can do it. "It is hardest when starting out and actually gets easier as you get bigger.”
When we Americans wonder what the newest trend is, we look to California. George is currently working for the San Francisco Lighthouse. In an interview for this article Executive Director Bryan Bashin <http://lighthouse-sf.org/blog/lighthouse-names-bryan-bashin-as-new-executive-directorceo/> had a lot to say about the approach that organization has with respect to rehabilitation of blind people. "There is a need for outside-the-classroom informal learning, informal mentoring . . . one of the great opportunities is what comes in nature. When I took the job at the lighthouse, one of the reasons I did it was because the lighthouse has owned for sixty-five years this amazing camp on 311 acres in Napa with every fun thing and bit of infrastructure you can think of. So it was my dream to bring a critical group of blindness-positive people together and build that camp. That's what George is really at the center of--literally building that camp."
As George sees it, "My current job is the best retirement work one could have expected. Bryan Bashin engaged in some rather unfair recruiting practices. He called me on a day when it was minus eighteen in Minnesota and seventy-two degrees in San Francisco. The line that clinched the offer was, ‘You could be living here.’ Before my interview, I had met Bryan a couple of times at NFB conventions, but he says that when he considered what he wanted done, I was the only person on his radar. He has a grape-crushing building that was built in the 1920s. It is a two-story building with about 3,600 square feet, and he wants to convert it into a place where we can teach blind people fine arts. The entire top floor has become a woodworking shop, which contains all my tools, and the main floor of the building is going to become a pottery studio, a general sculpture area, a leather-working shop, and then we'll have a small gallery space for people to display and sell their stuff if they so desire."
Once the building is done, the San Francisco Society for the Blind will start teaching classes. "I can do some cursory instruction in pottery and in leather working, but we will find people whose professions are to do these things, and we will hire them as instructors. We have a stream of people going through here; some of them want to be good craftsmen for their own enjoyment, and others want to be good enough at the work to do it at a professional level and make a living as an artist or an artisan."
One of the things George hopes to have is big gardens and to raise the produce to feed the people who come during the summer. "We will teach people to be gardeners because, here again, look at the price of organic food in the stores. I've never met a vegetable yet that I couldn't recognize by touch, so why aren't we doing more of this? It's crazy not to be teaching these skills. Community-based farms make big money for the people running them. People subscribe to your garden service, and you give them the vegetables they want either by having them delivered or by having them come to pick up their order. You don't even have to leave the farm, and people will just bring you money."
Bashin commented about the Lighthouse, "I think as an organization that is concerned about employment of the blind, we have to look at the complete spectrum. We can't just be an organization that helps blind law students. We can't be an organization to cream-off-the-top people from the top universities. We have to provide different paths for people who want different things. So, yes, we do help blind attorneys, but we also have something we call employment emersion. There we work with individuals in a very intense multi-month process to learn all the techniques that blind people use to find jobs, secure jobs. Each job in employment emersion is one-on-one, so a person who has a desire to work, let's say in radio station advertising sales--we work with him or her to determine: how do you find these jobs? What are they called? How do you approach this? What if you have no experience? How do you disclose your disability? How do you build a network of people? This is far more than just the regular processes involved in pursuing job postings . . . There's a lot of work that goes into getting people to feel that they deserve a place at the table: the sense of teaching folks about our history and our collective mission and the legitimacy and the normality of being blind."
George observes that, "Other fields cry out for blind people to explore them. While at the bicycle store, I also learned to string tennis rackets. What benefit is that? Well a man who works for one of the William's sisters makes $300,000 stringing her rackets. Now you may not make that much, but you can string a racket in twenty minutes."
We asked George an uncomfortable question. “So how did you avoid falling into the trap of doing nothing and getting paid for it?"
"Well, for one thing I suffer from what the Germans and the Americans call ants in your pants. I can't sit still—I just can't. The second part is that I needed to have the money to do what my adventuresome side wanted to do—bicycling, backpacking, canoeing. All of these are things that require money. In 1974 I had a custom-made tandem bicycle built just for me. At the time it cost me $1,000. That's at least a $7,000 purchase today and maybe as much as $10,000 depending on what you want. Social Security does not supply enough jingle in one’s pockets for those kinds of things."
George did not set out to become a teacher. He said, "It wasn't until I was the director at Camp Tuhsmeheta that I realized that I had a talent and most important, a love of teaching woodworking. I work with every student as an individual. I begin with teaching measuring using a click rule and begin to form a picture of the student's skill set. My goal is to help every student get to the level they want, whether it is a simple hobby with simple tools or a full-blown shop making commercially marketable goods. This is their choice, not mine. My role is to help them to fulfill their dreams and needs."
I interviewed Dr. Joshua Miele (pronounced meelee) <http://www.ski.org/users/joshua-miele> for this article. Miele is a blind researcher at the Smith-Kettlewell Institute. The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute is a non-profit, independent research institute affiliated with and located adjacent to the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. Dr. Miele does work with systems for blind people to gain access to complex data such as digital maps, tables, and other digital images, and uses touch and speech to simplify access to complex information so that blind people can do research, work, and learn in fields dependent on mathematical and graphical information.
Dr. Miele recently participated in a workshop conducted at the newly completed woodshop at the Enchanted Hills Camp facility. George has personally done a lot of the work to renovate the old building, and he also supervised the work of volunteers and tradespeople on the project. Miele’s view on careers for the blind is, "If you're not going to do it, it should be because you don't want to do it, not because you can't. I can't stand the idea of a brilliant physicist being forced to make brooms because that's his only option, but I also can't stand the idea of somebody who wants to work with her hands being forced into the knowledge market because some rehab counselor says that's her only choice.”
But Miele didn’t just learn about woodworking at that event. He learned much more from George, and, from the moment they met, as Miele puts it, “Just as much as learning about the tools and the wood, I feel like I learned about teaching from George. When I met him and we started talking, I had this immediate sense that I was dealing with somebody who was at the top of his game.”
Jason "JJ" Meddaugh <http://www.atguys.com/store/> is a blind entrepreneur who runs a company known as atguys.com. He attended the same woodworking class as Dr. Miele. He has known George for many years, since Jason was very young and a camper at Camp Tuhsmeheta. Jason is not likely to have any inflated opinions of George, having seen him in action in many settings and circumstances. “George's expectation for me was that, with enough practice and attention to detail, I could certainly become as good as him if I put my mind to it. And he has that expectation of all the students. He doesn't dumb anything down. He'll certainly break down complex concepts in a way that beginners understand if he needs to. The way he taught things, he would help you figure out a way to do it.
“Whether it's when he's teaching a woodworking class or sitting around a campfire telling stories about his travels or his life experiences, you get the feeling that nothing can get in his way.
“As an entrepreneur who has started my own business, George was one of the people I looked to, realizing I don't have to do things the way other people tell me to do them. I can make up my own rules if I want, and I will live and die by my own rules. George was one of the main people who encouraged me and gave me the mindset that I could create my own business, as opposed to just going to college and taking a job offered by someone else."
George is kinesthetic. George is all about textures and shapes. The way things feel in the hand or under the foot is an important factor in George's work. Many of his artistic objects have unusual shapes, and most include some highly finished surfaces. He often chooses woods that have unusual grains and grain patterns which can be felt. Other times he chooses very fine-grained woods with a satin finish. Curves are sensual and evocative in his decorative objects. Whether it is a utilitarian piece of furniture or a whimsical wine stopper, the tactile experience will always exquisitely fit the application.
I remember going with my father to the hospital in June of 1954 to pick up our mom and my new brother. I remember little trinkets mom brought from the hospital. Since then, I have known my brother's propensities, his quirks, and the unique person he is. He has an artistic streak. I am sure there are books about what compels someone to do art. Art is not as concrete as most of George's other endeavors. Not all his art pieces are functional, though all his functional pieces are certainly artistic.
One student of George's was an artist named Emilie Gossiaux <http://www.emiliegossiaux.com/>. Emilie has a hearing loss and was struck by a truck while cycling. She lost all her eyesight in the accident. She chose to attend BLIND Inc. to learn to live as a blind person while George was teaching there.
Emilee's artistic skills were well-developed before her accident. Now she needed to learn how to express herself in new ways or express herself in her former ways using alternative skills of blindness. It was up to George, along with the BLIND Inc. staff, to help Emilee figure out that she could do art as a blind person and then help her develop new techniques.
Here is what Emilee said in a speech about George's teaching, "This man has given me a priceless gift and showed me a valuable lesson: That sight has nothing to do with making art. It's the vision within that matters."
In an interview for this article, Emilie said, "When I went blind in 2010, I was very uncertain whether or not I could still be an artist or continue going to the art college, Cooper Union. Even though everyone I knew--my family, friends, and my doctors--were all very supportive and believed that I could still be an artist, I didn't believe in myself. So, I started to consider doing other things and dropping out of art school because I was very overwhelmed by everything and too scared to go back to school.
“When I met George in Minneapolis at BLIND Inc., I was so amazed and inspired by him and the work he does. We instantly became friends because I felt like we had a lot in common, and I appreciated everything I learned from him. He really believed in me, and knowing a person like George exists in the world gave me the courage to keep going to art school and making art. He showed me the skills to make objects and sculptures with my hands again, using chisels and a mallet for woodcarving. He also challenged me to think creatively and helped me make my visions for art in my head become physical and real. For that I am eternally grateful for George and his continued support. Thanks to George, I went back to Cooper Union and graduated with a bachelor of fine arts, and now I have a studio in New York City where I make sculptures and have shows. I hope one day I can do the same for another person, what George did for me."
Professionals, laypersons, and a lot of us blind folks often talk about careers that are good for blind people. From chair caning and piano tuning to psychology and social work, all perfectly wonderful professions in and of themselves, blind people have been herded into them because they are a simple fix, lots of blind people do them, and this makes work easy for teachers, guidance counselors, and for blind people who are unsure of themselves.Many people associate the roots of the NFB with Iowa. This is for good reason: Dr. Jernigan put into practice Federation philosophy there and proved that our ideas could produce superior results. Our deep roots go to California and even the Bay Area where Smith-Kettlewell and the San Francisco Lighthouse are. Dr. tenBroek and before him, a STEM person, math Professor Newel Perry, studied and developed the positive philosophy of blindness that is now one of the core principles of the National Federation of the Blind. The Bay Area seems to be a place for upstarts and sages to mix, mingle, and create change. Given the seventy-five years of our organization and the forty years preceding it, the Bay Area has certainly led a revolution in the field of rehabilitation for blind people. It hasn't stopped. With Bryan Bashin, Dr. Joshua Miele, George, and a lot of other rule breakers and entrepreneurs, the future is very bright indeed. George is living the life he wants and showing us all a path of our own. Whether high tech or primitive crafts, we can all see that it is not blindness that holds us back.
by Mike May
From the Editor: One of the most significant freedoms blind people have gained since the development of techniques to use the long white cane and legislation allowing the use of guide dogs in public places is the ability to travel where we want, when we want, with some assurance of safety. Good training is always essential, but environmental issues are also important, and so too is a recognition on the part of the driving public that they command machines that weigh much more than the pedestrians who share the streets.
Mike May and his wife Gena are no strangers to travel. Mike is the founder and chief executive officer of Sendero Group, a company that develops and markets global positioning systems used by the blind. He also works with the National Federation of the Blind on our project to coordinate indoor navigational activities. Here is what he has to say about a recent accident involving him and his wife:
On February 23, at 7:45 a.m., my wife Gena Harper and I, both blind, were clipped by a vehicle while we were walking in the crosswalk north on E Street. The Toyota Highlander was heading south on E Street. It stopped at the stop sign and then made a left turn heading east on Fourth Street. The driver turned behind us, running over my back heel and knocking Gena’s Seeing Eye dog, Yulie, forward. My dog, Tank, was guiding well in front and suffered no physical injury, nor did Gen. I doubt it would have made a difference even if we could see unless we might have been able to dive out of the way at the last second.
The driver pulled over as did a passer-by who saw the incident. The driver explained that the sun was in her eyes, and she never saw us as evidenced by the fact she did not put on her brakes. Gena and I were halfway across the intersection when we were struck. The first part of that intersection was shaded by a building. We were in that shaded area when she started her turn and then hit us.
It would take about three seconds from the driver’s stopped position to complete the ninety-degree turn. It is astounding that in that three seconds she never saw two people and two dogs in clear view. The obvious question arises, if you are totally blinded by the sun, why would you take the gamble to hurdle a 5,600 pound vehicle at ten to fifteen miles per hour through the intersection?
I suffered a bruised and scraped heel. Yulie was not physically hurt but was quite scared. Everyone was shaken including the driver. Hopefully she learned a frightening lesson not to drive when blinded by the sun.
Another lesson came out of this incident; don’t expect 911 to know your exact location when you call from a cell phone. 911 calls from a cell phone may be routed to one of three entities when you are calling from Davis, and they cannot identify your address the way they would if you called from a landline. Thinking the operator would know I was in Davis, I said I was at Fourth and E. The CHP [California Highway Patrol] operator who got the call transferred me to the Sacramento Police Department. I gave my location again and included Davis in the address at which point I was transferred to the Davis PD and gave my address and story for a third time. It took four minutes before this round-about emergency call was finished. Good thing the situation wasn’t life threatening.
The 911 system was set up in the ’70s based on landline communication with one carrier. Seventy percent of 911 calls today are from cell phones from multiple carriers. 911 operators do not get your GPS position, nor can they receive texts. The FCC reports that 10,000 people lose their lives each year related to poor 911 cell phone positioning.
In retrospect I should have used the BlueLight emergency app instead of calling 911 directly on my phone. This would have alerted my emergency contacts by text of my location while also calling 911.
In some communities like Oakland your BlueLight call is routed to local emergency services based on your exact position. Perhaps enhanced BlueLight service will come to Davis sooner than later as a lifesaving emergency app. For now I have programmed the Davis PD direct emergency number into my iPhone.Gena and I and our guide dogs missed being seriously injured by inches. There are so many pedestrians and cyclists in Davis that this incident should serve as a reminder for everyone to exercise more cautious judgement when driving, especially when the sun is in your eyes. Remember too if you are driving a hybrid or electric vehicle that they are very quiet at slow speeds, like starting up at an intersection or in a parking lot. Blind and sighted people alike have been struck by these quiet cars. The driver who hit us was not driving a quiet car, but she was at a full stop when we stepped off the curb. Our Seeing Eye dogs were doing their jobs, and we clearly had the right of way. I don’t believe that being blinded by the sun or any other excuse justifies hitting pedestrians in a crosswalk.
by Peggy Chong
From the Editor: The following article is reprinted with gratitude from the Winter 2016 edition of Future Reflections. Here is how it was introduced by Editor Deborah Kent Stein:
Peggy Chong is a longtime Federationist who has developed a deep interest in the lives of everyday blind people from the past. She says she draws renewed energy for her Federation activities by looking back at the struggles and triumphs of blind people who came before us:
When my daughter was six, she told me that when she grew up she wanted to be a cowboy, a nun, and a mommy. As most moms would, I told her that was great!
My daughter is sighted. The adults around her assumed that, when she reached the age to think seriously about her career options, she would realize on her own that being a cowboy, a nun, and a mommy all at once might present some problems. As it turned out, I did not have to explain why her career could not be all of the above. She is now a successful computer guru, like her dad.
Something different tends to happen when a blind child announces her future occupation. If a blind girl says to her parents, "I want to be a bus driver when I grow up," Mom or Dad is likely to say, "That sounds nice, dear. But you know, you can't get a driver's license. You're blind."
How is a parent to talk with a blind child about careers? What jobs have blind people chosen throughout history? In what careers can a blind person succeed today?
Over the past several years, I have researched the lives of blind men and women in the United States from the 1700s through the early years of the twentieth century. I have gathered some surprising information.
"But newspaper work is all print oriented!" you might say.
Francis O. Edgecomb was born in 1864 to a well-to-do family, and he obtained a college education. He and his family had great hopes for his future. In 1890 Edgecomb became a banker in Rulo, Nebraska. He rose quickly, not only in his local bank, but in the financial community in general. Then, in 1892, Francis Edgecomb was injured while he was out hunting prairie chickens. A friend shot him accidentally, and as a result he lost his sight.
Not knowing any other blind people, Edgecomb assumed that he could no longer run the bank. Because he had a wife and small children to support, he determined to find another line of work. The bank owned and operated the local newspaper. Edgecomb decided that he would become a newspaper editor.
At first Edgecomb performed all the tasks necessary to run the paper. Through the bank he had easy access to the news of the town. He also had a network of connections with businesses that would take out ads. He was so successful that he and his friends began to buy up other newspapers in the area. Soon Edgecomb was operating his own paper, the Geneva Signal.
Francis Edgecomb did not have training in the skills of blindness. However, he had a supportive family and the drive to succeed. If one strategy did not work, he tried another. He had a thirst to learn. Though he could not read print himself, he found people who could read to him. When he could not travel to the news, he found creative ways to make the news come to him. Today his great-grandson runs the Geneva Signal and all the other papers that Edgecomb purchased.
Was Francis Edgecomb an exception? Well, then there was William Cramer, who was deaf as well as blind. For seventy years he owned and operated a newspaper that is now the Wisconsin Journal. Robert Gust and his wife, who was also blind, ran one of the local newspapers in the new and growing town of Cyrus, Minnesota, for about ten years in the 1920s. Max Frost edited and ran the Santa Fe New Mexican for more than ten years, until his retirement in 1908. B. F. Ervine edited The Oregon Journal for many years and was a powerful political figure. Franklyn Bruce Smith worked for more than fifty years in the Saginaw, Michigan, area as a salesman, reporter, editor, and finally as the owner of a newspaper.
Thomas Muir of Plainfield, New Jersey, became blind as a young man while working as a reporter for a New York paper. He did not think that blindness would interfere with his career. In fact, he went on to become the editor of the Plainfield Record in New Jersey. He was elected to the state house of representatives and served for twenty-six years.
We do not have space to look at the lives and accomplishments of the many other blind newspapermen and women I have found. Here is a brief list: Siver Serumgard, North Dakota; Raymond Blackmer, Minnesota; Edwin Frost, Wisconsin; and Henry Belk, North Carolina. The list goes on.
Not so shocking!
Thomas Nicholson was the first blind electrician I ran across. Born in 1877, he lived in San Francisco. By the time he was fourteen, he and his sister were on their own. Nicholson became a messenger for the local phone company, where his sister also worked. He asked a lot of questions, wanting to learn all he could about the new invention, the telephone. At the age of seventeen he was blinded when a piece of copper wire broke off and struck him in the eye.
After he healed from his injury, Nicholson received blindness training, probably at the Home for the Adult Blind in Oakland. He learned to be a piano tuner, but he went back to the phone company and asked to become an electrician. It took a bit of convincing, but the company finally hired Nicholson to build telephones. The job required considerable knowledge of wiring and other electrical work.
Years later, also in California, a man named Jack Polston received wide publicity. Polston was established as an electrician when he was blinded in an explosion. He attended the blindness orientation center in Oakland, where he studied under Kenneth Jernigan and regained his confidence. After completing the program, he returned to his work as an electrician. Polston later testified before the US Congress, demonstrating that blind people can work successfully in the skilled trades.
Due to the labor shortage during World War II, many blind people obtained good jobs. They proved their ability and did well. Nevertheless, most of these blind workers were laid off when the sighted veterans came home. Irwin Herschkowitz was one of the fortunate exceptions. He got his first job as a radio mechanic during the war, and he kept his job with the air force for many years. He also worked as a telephone repairman.
Other blind electricians include Pat Knowles of New Jersey, Mike Mineweaser of Pennsylvania, and Joseph Remington of Michigan. I am sure there are even more that I haven't found yet.
Edward Max is the best documented blind barber I have discovered. Born in New York, he moved to Michigan and established a successful barbershop. When he was thirty-seven years old, he began to lose his sight very rapidly. At first he tried to ignore his vision loss, but soon he began to explore new ways to cut his clients' hair. His skills as a barber had long been sought after by clients in Detroit. Now he modified those skills so he could keep on shaving clients and cutting hair. He trained himself to listen to the many different sounds in his shop. As the boss, he managed the till. He could accurately charge a client for the services rendered by the barbers who worked under him. I have found references to at least four other blind barbers.
Yes, they made house calls.
We have all heard of Dr. Jacob Bolotin, who practiced medicine in Chicago from 1912 until his death in 1924. Well, there was yet another blind doctor in the Chicago area, Dr. Robert H. Babcock. Babcock became a renowned heart specialist. Born in 1851 and blinded at age thirteen, he set out to get a good education, beginning at a school for the blind in Philadelphia. He found out that several blind people had become lawyers, so for a time he studied law. However, his true love was medicine. He took the necessary courses and then, with his strong personality, he got to know the right people. He volunteered to serve in many capacities in medical associations, doing all that needed to be done. He wrote many papers and articles, and he addressed medical conferences around the United States.
Babcock kept in touch with blind people around the country, including other blind doctors. He promoted opportunities for blind people and served on the board of Outlook for the Blind, a publication of the American Foundation for the Blind. His intimate knowledge of the workings of the heart made him a sought-after consultant for other doctors.
Several blind people have worked in the field of chiropractic medicine. Henry Schluntz, a blind chiropractor from Iowa, hired a driver and visited all of the farms in the area. He provided home treatments to anyone who was interested, sometimes offering his services free of charge. In this way he built a loyal clientele, and eventually he became a millionaire.
In the past, traditional fields for blind people included piano tuning, chair caning, and weaving. Like Henry Schluntz, blind piano tuners found creative ways to recruit and keep clients. Several blind piano tuners in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, rode bicycles around town to transport their equipment, moving as fast as their sighted counterparts. Following the wagon ruts, they rode straight down the streets.
This is only a short summary of the inventive, enterprising blind workers whose stories I have uncovered in my research. I hope these accounts show that the choice of a career for a blind person is wide open. What matters is the person's drive and determination to do whatever the job requires and to do it well. The individuals I have described built successful and meaningful lives for themselves and their families. Some had blindness training, and others did not. None of them had the gadgets that make our lives so much easier today.
Back to the blind child who wants to be a bus driver, or an Uber driver, or an airplane pilot: why not? The self-driving Google car is now on the streets. Technology is advancing so fast that things we think are impossible today may be taken for granted next month. Still, technology doesn't have all the answers. Ingenuity is where it all begins.
For more than seventy-five years the National Federation of the Blind has worked to transform the dreams of hundreds of thousands of blind people into reality, and with your support we will continue to do so for decades to come. We sincerely hope you will plan to be a part of our enduring movement by adding the National Federation of the Blind as a partial beneficiary in your will. A gift to the National Federation of the Blind in your will is more than just a charitable, tax-deductible donation. It is a way to join in the work to help blind people live the lives they want that leaves a lasting imprint on the lives of thousands of blind children and adults.
With your help, the NFB will continue to:
Plan to Leave a LegacyCreating a will gives you the final say in what happens to your possessions and is the only way to be sure that your remaining assets are distributed according to your passions and beliefs. Many people fear creating a will or believe it’s not necessary until they are much older. Others think that it’s expensive and confusing. However, it is one of the most important things you will do, and with new online legal programs it is easier and cheaper than ever before. If you do decide to create or revise your will, consider the National Federation of the Blind as a partial beneficiary. Visit <www.nfb.org/planned-giving> or call (410) 659-9314, extension 2371, for more information. Together with love, hope, determination, and your support, we will continue to transform dreams into reality.
by Kim Cunningham
From the Editor: At the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind, one division has so many programs and activities that one could confidently say there is a convention within a convention for parents of blind children. The agenda produced by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children sometimes runs to twenty pages in print, and the breadth and depth of the activities is impressive. Here is what Kim Cunningham, the president of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, has to say:
I would like to invite all families, friends, and teachers of blind and low-vision children to join us at the NFB National Convention from Thursday, June 30, 2016, through Tuesday, July 5, 2016, in beautiful, sunny Orlando, Florida. Every year the NOPBC holds our annual national conference during the NFB National Convention. Our board has been working hard to bring relevant, informative sessions and activities for families and teachers of blind and low-vision children. We welcome all families of children who are blind, low vision, with or without additional disabilities to come together for a week full of fun and educational workshops. We believe that all children can learn with the right support and training. Please help us to share the news that blindness is not what holds our children back! Together we can work to change what it means to be blind!
Ten years ago my daughter and I attended our first NFB National Convention. Because my daughter was considered low vision by our school district, I didn’t think the NFB was for us. After all, no one ever called her blind. But we were at a loss about my daughter’s future and how she would grow into an independent person. We were concerned about how she would take her science classes in school. We were concerned about the length of time it took to complete her work. We were concerned about her identity and feeling like a broken person. We were concerned about her struggle to read. We had no one to answer our questions and give us direction.
This all changed when we attended the NFB National Convention along with 2,000 other blind and low-vision people. Everyone was tapping their canes and living their lives just like all the sighted people I knew. It was an energizing atmosphere that I have never felt before. The Federation embraced us and welcomed us into their family! I learned that low-vision kids would benefit from all the tools “blind” kids used. The magic wand ending up being a cane, and the secret word was Braille. I attended workshops while my daughter learned about accessible science from a blind scientist. She also learned about the benefits of the long white cane. The exhibit hall was filled with technology, books, and independent living items to choose from. If I had a question, someone was there to answer it.
This year our theme for the NOPBC Conference is “Transitions.” As parents we are constantly transitioning from one area to another. When our children were born, we transitioned to becoming parents of blind and low-vision babies. Our children transition from toddlers to elementary school, to junior high, and then high school. Some kids transition from reading print to reading Braille. And with each new transition, we find we are at a crossroad of which way to turn. We hope that our workshops will give you the tools to make educated decisions about the road you want to take.
This is what I want for all families to experience. I want you to feel hopeful for a bright future for your child. I want you to learn the skills that blind and low-vision children need to live their lives to the fullest. I want you to know that we all have the same goal – a bright future for our children.
Schedule at a Glance:
Thursday, June 30: Seminar Day, Opening Day of NOPBC National Conference
Our day begins early—registration starts at 7:30 a.m., and our opening general session is from 9:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. Please make sure you arrive early enough to take advantage of this entire day of learning.
The highlights of our morning general session include a talk for kids and parents by NFB President Mark Riccobono, a report from NOPBC President Kim Cunningham, an address given by a mother who has raised two successful blind daughters, and much more!
Throughout the rest of the morning and afternoon, parents will get to choose to attend three workshops from a list of fifteen offered. Workshop highlights include a look inside a model classroom for students from elementary school through high school, a workshop especially for first-time convention attendees, a session for parents of children with low vision, and much more!
In the evening, relax with other parents of blind children at our annual hospitality event. Great food, great friends, great fun.
Friday, July 1: NFB Registration Day, Meetings of Divisions and Committees
Morning NOPBC Cane Walks (two sessions)
Wondering if your child should use a cane? Curious about how a cane works? Learn and experience the Structured Discovery Method of travel at these special workshops. Parents, teachers, blind/VI children, and siblings are welcome.
Afternoon NOPBC Style Show
Watch our young blind and low-vision models strut their stuff on the runway. Come enjoy the fashions and music and support NOPBC. Tickets are $5 at the door.
Evening “Laps for Literacy” NOPBC Fundraiser
Swim and walk laps for literacy! Everyone is invited to attend and help raise money and expectations at the same time! Tickets are $5 individual, $10 for family, or raise money at home for free entry!
Saturday, July 2: NFB Board Meeting, Meetings of Divisions and Committees
Afternoon NOPBC Annual Meeting
Be sure to attend this important meeting featuring the 2016 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children; NFB Writer’s Division Youth Contest Winners, Parent Power, Kid Power; NOPBC business, elections. Special bonus: meeting attendees receive a priority entrance ticket to the Braille Book Fair!
Early Evening NOPBC Braille Book Fair
A book lover's dream! Browse tables of Braille and print/Braille books. Volunteers will box your books and deliver them to the post office for Free Matter shipment to your home. Books are free; donations are encouraged to support our Braille programs.
Sunday, July 3: NFB Opening Day Session
Evening NOPBC Workshops and Children’s Activities
Join the NOPBC for our popular IEP workshop. Learn how to adapt mainstream board games for family fun. Children from five to eighteen will be kept busy with various game and craft activities.
Monday, July 4: NFB Business Session
NOPBC Brainstorming Session
Please come to share your knowledge and ideas with us. What did you like at this convention? What resources would help you stay connected throughout the year? What workshops might you like to see us offer next year? Be a part of this valuable conversation.
Tuesday, July 5: NFB Banquet Day and Adjournment
What about the Kids?
While parents are busy learning, so are children. NFB Camp offers childcare for children six weeks through twelve years of age. Children will engage in a variety of activities while in NFB Camp, many of which are run by blind adults. Children must be preregistered for childcare. For more information and to register, visit <https://nfb.org/nfb-camp-registration-form>.
Children ages eleven to eighteen are invited to participate in Youth Track activities throughout convention. These activities will include advice on looking great and feeling great, hands-on science activities (led by blind scientists), and more. Sighted siblings are welcome to attend Youth Track.
Conference Registration Fees:
Preregister by June 21, 2016:
$30 for an individual adult
$50 for two or more related adults
Children and youth
After June 21, 2016:
$40 per individual adult
$70 for two or more adults
Children and youth
To register, and for a more detailed schedule of events, please visit: <http://nopbc.org/2016convention>.
In addition to registering for the NOPBC annual conference, you will also need to register for the National Federation of the Blind National Convention in order to take advantage of our excellent room rates. Registration information, as well as a variety of other convention information, can be found at <https://nfb.org/convention>.
We hope to see many families of blind children in Orlando this year!
by Grace Warn
From the Editor: Grace Warn lives in Missouri, and one of her passions is visiting Disney World. She believes if there is a good business model in the country, Disney is it, and that if a good proposal for providing customer service arrives on the scene, Disney will probably be the company bringing it.
This kind of loyalty translates into annual visits, and to cut down on the expenses, she rooms with folks. She thought her advice about roommates might translate well for those of us going to the 2016 national convention. Here is what she says:
Going to convention, whether national or state, is an amazing experience. But it often comes with another experience that isn't always so amazing: sharing a hotel room. Whether to save money or because you're traveling with children too young to be on their own, you're sharing a room with more than just your significant other. And, no matter how much you love your Federation friends or how well-behaved your children are in close quarters for a few days, little frustrations can build up and drain some of the joy from your time at convention. With a minimum of pre-trip planning and almost no effort while there, you can keep the positive energy and enthusiasm flowing during your time at convention.
The first step in this process is figuring out who's rooming with whom. Identify a few simple characteristics of each roommate: who snores? Who prefers to shower in the morning versus in the evening? Who are the early birds, and who are the night owls? Who wakes up if a mouse sneezes, and who can sleep through brass bands? Now take a look at the roommate list again. Do you have a light sleeper in with three who snore like chainsaw jugglers riding Harleys? Is there a lone night owl in a flock of early birds? You may want to see if there's a way to juggle people to keep those of similar tendencies together. But, if you can't, there are ways to keep friction from these differences to a minimum:
When you first get into the room, take a quick minute for one simple discussion and define territory. You will be coexisting in a smaller amount of space than you're used to, possibly with people you don't usually live with. Setting up whose stuff goes where and then abiding by what is decided can go a long way toward maintaining harmony. Decide as a group that Joe will get the bottom drawer in the dresser, Sally and Eric each get half of the next drawer up, etc. Try to base the division of territory on practical considerations such as mobility--don’t make the person with a bad back bend to use the bottom drawer. Once each of you has staked out your claim, respect the boundaries. Throwing something where you please is fine at home, but it’s not fine when it ends up being in a place allotted to one of your roommates.
Each of you will have a place for your things, and it’s a good idea to have at least one area designated for communal use, such as one place for all technology to sit safely as it recharges, etc. Remember that bathroom counter space can be a scarce commodity and a great cause of irritation before everyone has had their morning coffee. Taking along a hanging shoe organizer designed to either hang in a closet or over the back of a door can give you more places to sort your toiletries and leave a clearer path to the sinks. If you have a guide dog, make sure roommates know where the water bowl will be and decide whether it will be deployed only at feeding time or at any time the dog might wish a drink.
Tuck the suitcases in the bottom of the closet or in a corner as out of the way as possible, and make sure the main walkways remain clear. Because a tiny little frustration like tripping over someone's suitcase every time you try to go to the bathroom can become a major annoyance faster than you would expect, it can poison the rest of the experience. Depending on who you're rooming with and how long you're staying, a pop-up mesh laundry basket can be pretty handy for that. It doesn't take up much space in a suitcase, can be found in many dollar stores, and it can be endlessly useful. It can be a place to corral dirty clothes, an easy-to-carry transport for flyers or other merchandise for chapters/divisions, or can be used as the designated location for the day's haul of souvenirs.
Speaking of things to bring along from home, in this day and age one of the best items to pack on your trip is at least one power strip. These days everyone has at least a cell phone. But there's also iPads, handheld gaming consoles, notetakers, and many other electronics that require regular recharging. Hotel rooms never have very many outlets, and sometimes the outlet is in a less-than-accessible place, such as a corner behind a small table and chair. The longer cord will bring the power strip up so that everyone can reach to plug in items easily and give you that many more outlets for everyone to share.
Sit down and consider exactly what your daily routine will involve, and make sure everyone understands it. You may never have considered that you have to decide which bed you’re sleeping on based on the distance from an outlet and availability of a flat surface for a CPAP machine, but what’s routine for you may not be for your roommate. That doesn’t mean you can’t share a room, but it does mean that you need to make sure they’re aware of the requirements that are important and perhaps even critical for you. Maybe you’re a guide dog user; your roommate doesn’t mind dogs--no problem, right? Except when you were considering who snores in the room, you only considered the humans, and your dog snores louder than you do. You and your spouse are used to it; it’s white noise that actually helps you sleep better in unfamiliar places. To your roommate, that could be a week spent wishing they’d packed earplugs and praying for a decent night’s sleep. Or maybe one roommate has a mild allergy to dog dander. For a couple of hours during a chapter meeting or dinner with a friend, no problem; but sharing a room for a week or so might mean they will need an antihistamine.When you take just a few minutes to prevent the small disagreements and frustrations, you prevent the larger arguments that can happen when the little things add up with exhaustion and excitement to fuel them. While it only takes a few quick minutes of discussion before you leave home, all of these things become a lot harder to do once you’re away at convention. What you can tolerate for a day or two is a lot less tolerable on day five of a convention, when you’re tired and almost ready to head home.
by Erin Jepsen
From the Editor: This article first appeared in Future Reflections, Winter 2016. Following is the way it was introduced by Editor Deborah Kent Stein:
Erin Jepsen is a low-vision homeschooling mother of four elementary-age children, one blind, one low vision, and two sighted. She is passionate about education for all kids and about teaching Braille. She and her family live in Idaho.
Chatting with a friend today about a refreshable Braille display got me thinking again about the absurdities that I've seen firsthand in my daughter's classes. I've seen a silly attitude about Braille in both a local public school and in a state virtual academy. I've also heard about it from friends around the country who support one another online.
This problem comes, I think, from society's general perception that Braille is complicated, difficult, and specialized. My daughter's TVIs work endlessly to provide peer enrichment, to normalize Braille, to minimize errors, and to add Braille in spaces within the school. I have tried to do the same at home. Still, in spite of our best efforts, misperceptions remain in attitudes about Braille and print.
To address some of these misperceptions for the non-Braille-reading public, I want to try an experiment. I want to reframe some of the things that students commonly hear when they are being taught Braille by imagining that they are being said to a sighted print reader. I'd like to say these things about the reading method that nearly everyone in my area uses: English print.
Imagine a typical first or second grader of average intelligence who is learning to read. Keep in mind the material this learner will need to read in eighth grade, in twelfth grade, in college, on the job, running a household.
1. It makes sense that you're having a hard time with this. It is hard to learn print.
As your hypothetical classroom teacher, I don't actually read this print stuff. Your aide took a two-week training course, and we have a reference chart here, but I really don't know how print works. It just looks like a bunch of squiggles on the paper. It uses a round symbol for both a zero and the letter o, and I'm not sure how to tell you which one is which. There is also special shorthand stuff, like spelling with as w/, and I don't know how to teach you all that.
Reading a book with writing on both sides of the page is hard for me. It doesn't matter that it's normal for you; I say it's hard, because for me, it is.
You have a special print teacher, and you'll see her for an hour or two per week. Surely that's all the extra help you'll need.
2. I'm not aware of any techniques for reading print at a usable speed.
As far as I know, print readers only read one letter at a time. I don't know any adults who read printed books. I saw someone do it once on TV, and it looked like magic. I've heard that people who read print well are either geniuses or flukes.
3. I'm sorry, but your book is loaded with typos.
The books we're giving you were transcribed by unqualified volunteers, so there are at least two typos or misprints or misspelled words for every thirty words. Just remember you're lucky to have print books at all.
Every other kid in your class gets information from illustrations, but we're going to skip those for you. They're cute, but probably they're not important.
4. Technology, schmechnology!
First of all, nobody like you uses computers or knows how to type at your age. You have plenty of time to learn that stuff later. Your job someday probably won't require a computer. If it does, someone can give you a quick training course. For now, we're going to print your books using a dot-matrix printer. The school bought it in 1989 for our last print reader, and they don't want to buy anything new.
We're going to get you a special display screen, though. It hooks up to an iPad. It displays three words per screen. To get to the next screen, you just press this little button over here. Cool, right?
5. Reading is overrated.
Nobody these days needs to read print or write with a pencil anyway. You can just listen to audiobooks. It's a lot less work than reading, and you can dictate anything you want to write. Technology is amazing these days for people like you.
6. Nobody else reads the way you read.
In your school, no one besides you reads print. The teachers don't read it. Your friends don't read it. There is no print displayed around the halls, on the classroom walls, or in the lunchroom. Everybody reads, but nobody reads English print. Nobody here can read what you write, and nobody can write to you. Well, one of your friends learned to write to you. He thinks print is a cool secret code.
There's a sign in print by the bathroom. You say it actually says "Aathroox?"
We keep reminding you to be grateful for your printed books. The other students have thousands of books in whatever they read, and no one tells them to be grateful. But you should be grateful for the twelve books that you have. Don't forget, people went to a lot of trouble to get them for you.
You didn't do very well on the reading test last week. Your special print teacher says it was written like this: %Bgoat %Bpig %Bhorse %Bduck. I don't read print, so I don't know how it looks to you. I just grade your test the best I can.
7. You will get your books late—always.
The school ordered the wrong reading book from the supplier, so your book is the first-grade version, not the second-grade version. It's double-spaced and uses easy vocabulary, but that's okay for you. Your life is challenging enough already just learning to read print. You have to learn all those curves and squiggles. The capital letters are different shapes, and there are different fonts, too. You have to learn five different shapes just for the letter A. That's hard! You don't need challenging vocabulary, too.
You're falling behind your class? Don't worry. You have a lot on your plate.
Your math book is still at the translator's shop. They say it will be here in seven months. Everyone else is going to use a math book during the next seven months, but I'll just read your math out loud to you.
Don't worry about learning to read numbers! When you get your math book, you can read the numbers all you want! Be grateful you're getting a math book in print.
8. Of course you're behind.
Kids like you, print readers of average intelligence, are always behind—always.
In fact, you'll likely graduate from high school with about a fourth-grade reading level. It can't be helped. It's okay, though, because kids like you don't usually want to have a career. People who read print usually get jobs sorting stuff at places like Goodwill. They pay you about $2 an hour, but you won't notice that because of the math thing.
9. Print is just so cool!
Print looks cool! I see it here and there, like on elevators, and it's just so neat. It's all swoopy and round, and I like to look at it. People like you must be really special to read it. I can't believe you can just walk up to a sign with words printed on it and—boom—read what it says.
Kids who read print are so beautiful and special. They open their printed books and just go for it. Unbelievable!
10. I love the way you write print, too.
I've watched you write print. You make these marks on paper, and you actually know what they say. That special tool you use, what's it called? A pencil? It's so neat! It writes print, just like that!
I've seen you type on a special keyboard. It makes print, too, but it disturbs the class with the clicking noise, so I wish you wouldn't use it. You can use it someday when you're grown up, but not in class, okay? Just tell one of the adults what you want to write, and we'll do it for you. We'll even spell it right for you. You can practice spelling words on your special spelling tests in your special writing room on Fridays.
Dear Reader, what do you think? Do you think a kid is going to learn to read in that atmosphere with those expectations and that sort of encouragement? With that amount of support and practice?
Any TVI or homeschool mom who has tried to even things out for a Braille reader knows exactly what I'm talking about.
What do print-reading kids typically experience in school? Let's take a look.
1. Your teacher knows English.
If you are an English speaker, your teacher knows the language in which you're reading and writing. She or he may even know Spanish or Chinese or Dutch. She can use all the tools you are expected to use. If she can't, she is not deemed qualified to teach.
2. Your teacher has books.
Books in print arrive in the classroom on time before the school year begins. In nearly every school in the country, there are books for every kid in the class. The books don't come late. The teacher reads them and shows you how to read them. You have your own copy of each book you need. The teacher sends books home with you for practice. If your parents know English, they can read with you.
If there is a quote you want to read at the school assembly, you don't have to write it out for yourself first because nobody else knows how.
Your mom can read the story you wrote.
There might be one typo in your whole book—maybe—and everyone complains about that one.
3. Everyone around you reads.
Your parents read. Your teacher reads. Your lunch lady reads. Your big sister reads. They read the same way you read.
You are expected to learn to read.
You're told that it's normal to learn to read.
4. You get help when you need it.
If you're having trouble reading, adults act as if this is a problem. You are expected to take extra classes, to practice, and to get help until you can read well.
If you can't read, you are called illiterate. You are not given audiobooks. You are taught to read (one hopes). If you don't know how to write, you are expected to practice and learn to write correctly.
To get a good job that pays a decent wage, you have to be able to read well, write well, and use computers. None of that is considered weird.
5. You learn current technology.
Your school has computers, and you learn to use them. You are taught to type, and you are taught to read on a screen that displays thousands of words at a time. You learn to scan for information, because your class moves quickly.
6. You don't get a pass.
You are expected to keep up with the class. You don't get a free pass not to keep up. You don't get to be lazy just because you're a print reader. After all, reading print is normal. Everyone knows it's completely doable, so why should you get to slough off?
You have all the materials you need and all the tools you need. You can't make excuses, because you have the book you need for the assignment and the pencil or the keyboard you need for your work. The teacher loaded and set up the software your class uses, and he knows how to use it.
7. You know you'll use print all your life.
You fully expect that you will grow up, get a job, pay bills, and become a contributing member of society. You know you will read and write print as you do all of these things.
8. You read math.
If your teachers did not teach you to read and write the language of printed math in school, your parents would throw a holy, hell-raising, fire-breathing, sue-the-school-for-a-zillion-dollars tantrum. And the community would support them. The school would be put up for review by the state.
If the teachers did not write math code, they would be fired. Period, the end.
And no one would be surprised.
9. Nobody gushes over your reading ability.
Nobody tells you they saw some print on a box of BAND-AIDs and how cool that is. Nobody tells you that you literally deserve a medal for learning how to read—because everybody reads!
You don't give yourself pats on the back for using a computer at the age of seventeen—everyone uses a computer at age seventeen!
Technology is normal for you.
10. You get all the information in class if you bother to pay attention.
A print reader of typical ability and average intelligence can get all the information presented in the classroom. All the stuff on the overhead; all the stuff in every book; all the stuff on the wall; all the lunch menus; all the recess schedules; all the toy names.
And for all that, nobody thinks to be grateful.
1. Reading Braille is normal for blind kids.
For blind and low-vision kids, Braille is the normal way to read. The tools they use are normal. Reading is normal.
Having Braille on the elevator is normal.
2. Reading Braille is not hard.
Reading Braille by touch is not hard.
Many Braille readers are slow because of all the things listed above that happened when they were learning it.
BRAILLE IS NOT HARD.
3. You can read Braille fast.
Good Braille readers can match print readers for speed. (Not many do ... see above.)
A good Braille reader can read ten thousand pages in a couple of weeks. (Not many do ... see above.)
4. Braille is not becoming obsolete.
There are Braille displays for computers. There are Braille embossers. There are Braille transcribers looking for work. There are more Braille books than ever before. There are computers that transcribe books more accurately than ever before.
There are blind people who need to be able to read.
There are people who need to read pill bottles and bills and recipes and blog posts and books and textbooks and math books and elevator signs and hallway signs and foreign languages and CD covers, and they need to see how names are spelled.
There are deaf-blind people who use Braille to communicate everything!
Since the early 1800s when Louis Braille brought the idea of a quick, dot-based tactile method of reading and writing to his school in France, there have been naysayers. In the beginning people said that Braille wouldn't work. A separate code that sighted people couldn't read would never be widely used.
Blind people used Braille anyway, because for the first time they could write for themselves. Braille gave them voices. They could read what they wrote.
When Braille came to America, it had naysayers. People said it was too expensive to produce. They said there would never be enough books.
Blind people used Braille anyway. They made their own books. They hired people to learn Braille and transcribe it. They raised funds.
As Braille enters the modern century, it has its naysayers. They say it's becoming obsolete because of technology. They say it's clunky and outdated.
Blind people keep using it anyway. We use Braille with technology. We use it to learn to spell, and we use it to jot notes. We delight in the thrill of opening a real, paper book and feeling the magical constellations under our fingers as words and stories come to life.
5. Then what is the problem?
See if you can figure it out.
I can hear what you're thinking: "But Braille is different from print."
Obviously Braille and print aren't the same, but they're not as different as they seem to non-Braille readers. I read both. I read Braille by touch. I read print (sometimes, under the right conditions).
"But I'm a blind person, and I don't read Braille well. I hardly read it at all."
Why not? Is it lack of desire, lack of support, lack of encouragement? (I'm not talking about people with multiple disabilities, cognitive impairments, or nerve damage in their fingers.) If it's lack of desire, I accept that. You may prefer to use audio, magnification, or other reading methods. But if you dig deep into your reasons, and it's due only to shame or lack of good instruction, I feel that those reasons should not exist. We shouldn't be ashamed to read! We should not be left unsupported when the rest of our peers have a way to read that fits their needs and frees them for a life full of options.
"But I teach Braille, and what you describe is impossible."
Is it? See if you can do something about it. Please.
Because if blind and low-vision kids got the support their average sighted counterparts get in learning to read, they would not face a 70 percent unemployment rate. There might still be workplace discrimination, but I'd be willing to bet there would be more employed blind folks than there are today!
I wanted to write "That would be amazing," but I realized that isn't quite accurate. Amazing implies something above and beyond the norm. It implies something unexpected. It implies something to be marveled at. Reading isn't something to be marveled at; it's something that should be expected, that should be normal. It's basic, like adequate clothing or nutrition. It's the foundation of every other form of education.
So, instead of "amazing," I write: "It would finally be what kids deserve. It would be just. It wouldn't level the playing field, but it would be a start."
by Marion Gwizdala
From the Editor: Marion Gwizdala is the president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU). In this article he begins to address the question of what constitutes a legitimate service dog and asks whether greater regulation and standardization is warranted. Here is what he says:
When I was younger and sighted, I enjoyed an activity called “connect the dots.” This involved a nondescript picture along with a set of numbered dots. In this activity, one began with a dot numbered one, drew a line to dot number two, and continued drawing lines between the consecutive numbered dots as a picture evolved. I want to invite our readers to play a little connect the dots with me as we examine what some refer to as “the problem of fake service dogs.”
Before we begin connecting the dots, I would like to say that the labeling of this issue as one of fake service dogs is a misnomer. The dogs are not the fakers, the people are. They are feigning a disability in order to attempt to take advantage of the laws that permit disabled individuals to be accompanied by a service dog. Secondly, I believe that calling this issue a problem elevates it to the level of needing a solution. It is my opinion that the real problem is not being created by those who misrepresent themselves as disabled accompanied by a service dog; rather, the issue is being presented as a problem by those who would benefit from the solution. Now, let us connect the dots.
In the field of psychology there is a disorder once known as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, now called, Fabricated or Induced Illness by Carers (FIIC). This disorder refers to the deliberate production or fabrication of physical or psychological symptoms in a child by a parent or caregiver. The theory is that the caregiver gains attention from others because of their child’s illness or is acclaimed for their actions to rescue the child from harm. In the business arena there is another term for this known as “evil marketing.” This latter term refers to a scheme in which a company fabricates a problem that does not actually exist or exaggerates a minor issue for which the company has a product or service to solve the problem.
Over the past few years there have been numerous articles in the media about the issue of fake service dogs. Though I know there are those who mistakenly believe they can call their pet a service animal because they feel better when their pet is with them, their intention is not malicious. They may be misguided or misinformed, but they are not malicious. Then there are those whose intent is less than honorable, willfully misrepresenting their pet as a service animal in order to take advantage of the civil rights provisions that allow disabled individuals to be accompanied by a service dog. I believe these are the exceptions rather than the rule. As we connect the dots, though, I am confident you will see a very interesting picture beginning to evolve.
Upon a review of these articles, the one common denominator we find is that nearly every piece has as its subject a service-animal user who has experienced an out-of-control dog whose owner has asserted their dog was a service dog in a place where pets are generally not allowed. Most of these subjects have another common denominator—they are usually consumers of a training program called Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). Now let’s connect the next dot.
CCI has created an online petition calling upon the United States Department of Justice to ban the sale of service-animal gear such as vests, harnesses, and signs from the internet. Some contend this is not an unreasonable proposal since service animal training programs issue the necessary gear, and those willing to take unfair advantage of the protections afforded us should not be given easy access to it. The challenge is that many of us have a need or desire for additional gear for specific reasons, not to mention that gear is not what makes a dog a service dog. For instance, my wife and I have guide dog harnesses made of nylon and PVC, which are much lighter than the leather and metal versions issued by our training programs, will not set off metal detectors in airports and courthouses, and are more appropriate for beach visits. These items were purchased online from a NAGDU member who makes these harnesses. A number of other reputable companies make harnesses and other gear for service dogs available on the internet, and these companies should not be prohibited from selling their products in the marketplace of the World Wide Web. It would be rather naïve to believe that prohibiting the sale of service-animal gear on the internet will solve the issue of those who misrepresent their pets as service dogs.
Canine Companions for Independence is also engaging in fearmongering. Their contention is that those who misrepresent their pets as service dogs threaten the legal rights of those of us who have legitimate service dogs by causing businesses to question everyone who enters their business with a dog. I believe this is actually a good thing. As more businesses learn what questions they can ask and how to identify a legitimate service dog from a pet, those who are misguided or malevolent will be deterred from this behavior. It is also important to share that when someone signs the CCI petition, they are asked to give their email address and they are advised they will receive additional information. When I visited CCI’s petition site, they claimed they had more than 17,000 signers, so they have amassed a very sizeable contact list from this propaganda. I believe we need to connect a few more dots to really get a clearer picture of the true motives. Let’s take a look at another player in the service dog industry.
Assistance Dogs International (ADI) is the only accrediting body of service-animal programs in the world. ADI has created an ethical standard to which all their members, candidates, and program consumers must adhere as a condition of accreditation. Here is a brief sample of these so-called ethical standards as they apply to service dog training programs and those they train:
As it pertains to other service dogs ADI has the following standard:
The term “client” used in these standards refers to the service dog user. The logical follow-up question is, “What would be the consequences if we, as consumers, refused to comply with these standards?” As it pertains to the issuance of identification cards and the mandate that the service dog wear any specific gear, such requirements as a condition of access are incongruent with the implementing regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and should not be imposed upon a consumer and purported as ethical.
Throughout its standards and another document published by ADI entitled “Public Access Test,” ADI uses the term “certified by ADI,” as if this certification carries some particular benefit. It appears to me as if ADI is attempting to position itself as the certifying body for all things service-animal related. To the best of my knowledge, no guide dog training program is accredited by ADI, and such accreditation is not required as a condition of legal access. So, if Assistance Dogs International is so irrelevant in the guide dog training industry, why even bring them up? Well, let’s connect a few more dots.
On its website, CCI proudly proclaims that it was the very first service dog training program to be accredited by ADI. Remember that most of the articles concerning the issue of the misrepresentation of service dogs featured consumers of Canine Companions for Independence and CCI has a petition to ban the sale of service dog gear on the internet. Add to this that a number of states have attempted to introduce legislation that would require a service dog user to present documentation that a dog is a service dog, wear specific gear, issue identification tags, and create service dog registries—all of which are incongruent with the implementing regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act—in an effort to combat the false perception promulgated by the media that there is a problem needing a solution. Over the past two years Bob Kresmer and our Arizona affiliate have spent too many hours opposing this sort of legislation, and several states have such provisions in their law that have been problematic for guide dog users attempting to protect their civil rights. So far the National Association of Guide Dog Users and the National Federation of the Blind have been successful in getting such legislation withdrawn or amended, but it has created unnecessary work for us. We see a real problem unfolding, and it is not being created by those misrepresenting their pets as service dogs. Let’s continue connecting the dots and watch this picture evolve.
Until 2014 the executive director of CCI was a man named Corey Hudson. Corey Hudson is also a past president of ADI North America. Equally interesting is that the current president of ADI North America is Paul Mundell, who also serves as the national director of canine programs at Canine Companions for Independence. So, if there is a problem with those misrepresenting their pets as service dogs, if the federal government bans or regulates the sale of service dog gear on the internet, if those of us who use service dogs are required to undergo regular recertification, or if we are required to obtain identification cards for our service dogs, what organization do you think would benefit from these regulations but the self-elevated organization that certifies all things service dog?
Long before the fabrication of the nonproblem of fake service dogs by manipulating the media to shore up the need for a solution, there was an attempt to convince the United States Department of Justice that a problem could exist if the regulations did not require the wearing of special gear and other identification provisions. As early as 1991 Mr. Hudson expressed his concerns over what he believed would be the abuse of the ADA by those wishing to pass their pets off as service dogs. Under date of October 23, 1991, Mr. Hudson wrote to the United States Department of Justice, “While Canine Companions for Independence and other members of Assistance Dogs International are pleased that the ADA recognizes service animals, we are also concerned that the law not be abused by others.” Mr. Hudson went on to write, “In April 1991, Robin Dickson, President of Assistance Dogs International, Canine Companions for Independence, and I believe several other Assistance Dog Schools/Centers submitted suggestions that ADA regs. provide for some ID for properly trained assistance dogs. I am again making this request.” [sic] <https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/crt/legacy/2010/12/15/tal207.txt>
Fortunately the DOJ did not heed the requests of CCI, ADI, and the “several other Assistance Dog Schools/Centers” to which Mr. Hudson alluded, refusing to impose requirements for specific gear or other identification as a condition of our civil right to be accompanied by a service dog. Though NAGDU and the NFB have not created an official policy statement on this question, we have a long history of opposing requirements for special gear or documentation and supporting the rights of owner-trainers—individuals who have trained their own guide dogs. During our 2015 annual meeting, we had about one hundred guide dog teams in the room and about fifteen of them were owner-trainers. The provisions of special gear and identification cards advocated by those who would benefit from such requirements and the prohibition of the sale of service-animal gear on the internet would have an adverse effect on owner-trainers and anyone else wishing to purchase service-animal gear for legitimate purposes.
Since the current DOJ regulations do not require a service animal be trained by a training program to be recognized as a service dog, it is possible to train one’s own dog to perform tasks or do work that meets the definition of a service animal under the implementing regulations. Training a dog to pick up dropped items, open doors, or alert to sounds are not tasks only a professional trainer can teach. In fact, all of the owner-trained guide dog teams I have encountered have been more highly trained and consistently better behaved than some of the program-trained dogs I have come across. Even if such regulations were to be adopted—and I highly doubt they will—what is to prevent someone who really wants to beat the system from doing so? Should we ban the sale of lamination equipment from office supply stores so fake identification cards cannot be produced? Should we regulate those who make leather products so they cannot produce harnesses and seamstresses so they cannot sew service-animal vests? There is a far better solution to this issue, and each of us can be a part of that solution.
One of my favorite adages when conducting service animal training seminars is, “It is better to educate than to litigate.” Most of us have faced violations of our civil rights, but few of us have needed to seek legal remedies. Usually a bit of education is all that is needed.
We want businesses to know the rights of an individual accompanied by a service dog are not absolute, and businesses have the right to deny access to dogs that pose a direct threat, are out-of-control and the handler does not take action to correct the behavior, or if the dog is not housebroken. I will submit an article in the future discussing the responsibilities of service dog users and the rights of businesses as they pertain to access to individuals accompanied by service animals. In the meantime, if you would like more information about the rights and the responsibilities of service-animal users, we have the tools and information to offer guidance. This will go much further than restricting our rights the way CCI and ADI wish.
In order to be good advocates, we need a few tools and sound skills. The National Federation of the Blind’s National Association of Guide Dog Users sponsors The NAGDU Information & Advocacy Hotline. This nationwide toll-free telephone service offers general information about service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as specific guidance concerning restaurants, taxicabs, and healthcare facilities. Callers needing immediate assistance can connect directly to a live, trained advocate.
Now there’s an app for that. The National Association of Guide Dog Users is proud to sponsor the NAGDU Service Animal Information & Advocacy mobile app. This innovative app provides general information about the state and federal laws that protect the civil rights of disabled individuals who use service dogs. The app contains the full texts of the implementing regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as they pertain to service animals and each of the state statutes that affirm the rights of those who use service dogs, as well as general guidance concerning access to specific types of establishments, such as hotels, restaurants, taxicabs, healthcare facilities, and more. In addition, this app provides the ability to directly connect with a live advocate who has been specially trained to resolve access issues as they occur or send an email for more specific guidance. This app is provided by the National Association of Guide Dog Users at no charge as a public service. To download the app, simply type the term “NAGDU” into the app store’s search field.
In an effort to better train our members about the rights and responsibilities of guide and other service dog users and learn how to initiate a dialogue with businesses, we are offering a special advocacy-training seminar, so plan to join us on Tuesday, May 17, at 8:00 p.m. eastern time for a dynamic training program conducted by the staff of our hotline. During this training, we will offer you some new tools to help start the conversation and share the skills of advocacy. To join the teleseminar, please call the NAGDU boardroom at (641) 715-3300 and enter participant code 560908#. We look forward to mobilizing our membership to remove the obstacles we face as we live the lives we want in our communities and make a meaningful impact on the rights of guide and other service dog users in the United States.
by Tony Cobb
From the Editor: For a long time Tony Cobb was a fixture in our national convention hotel lobby, and his kindness, wisdom, and experience helped to make the convention better for all of us. Here is a reminder we try to run each year to prevent the heartache that comes from an overdrawn checking account when one is not familiar with the practices of major hotel chains. The words below come from the wisdom of those years of service, and it is with gratitude that we reprint them:
Here is some advice about paying for your hotel stay: every year at our national convention we have serious trouble with use of debit cards or cash payments at hotel check-in, and, having worked to solve these problems for years, I can tell you they can nearly ruin the convention week for those experiencing them. Planning to attend our national convention should therefore include thinking seriously about how to pay the hotel, and I cannot urge you strongly enough to avoid using cash or a debit card as your payment method. Doing so may seem convenient, but you should not do so. If you do not have a credit card of your own to use, prevail upon a close friend or family member to let you use one just for convention. Here’s why:
If you are paying in actual currency, most hotels will want enough cash up front at check-in to cover your room and tax charges for the entire stay, plus a one-time advance incidentals deposit to cover meals, telephone calls, internet service, and other things you may charge to your room. The unused portion of the incidentals deposit may be returned at check-out or by mail after departure. Understand, however, that, if your incidentals charges exceed the incidentals deposit credited, you are responsible for payment of the full balance at checkout. The total can end up being a very large sum indeed.
If you use a debit card, however, you are really at a potentially painful disadvantage. The hotel will put a hold on money in your bank account linked to the debit card to cover the estimated balance of your stay—that is, for the entire week’s room and tax charges plus a one-time incidentals deposit to cover meals, movies, and so on charged to your room. You should be aware that the hold can therefore be a considerable amount of money and that you will not have access to that amount for any other purchases or payments with your card. (Hotels sometimes also put authorizations on credit cards, by the way, but those are not often a problem unless they exceed your card’s credit limit.)
Holds can remain in effect for three to five days or even a week after you check out. If you have pre-authorized payments from your bank account, for example your monthly mortgage payment, or if you try to make a purchase with your debit card and it's refused, the hold from the hotel can cause you trouble or result in very large overdraft fees for payments you thought you had money in your account to cover. I have seen this hit some of our members in the form of hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees.
This means that, if you use a debit card, you would have to be certain you have a high enough balance in your checking account when you come to convention to cover any debit card holds. This is a perilous practice since charges may exceed your estimate by a considerable amount. (Some frequent travelers even open a separate checking account used only for debits like these.) Remember, a hold is going to be placed on your debit card regardless of how you end up paying the bill, and the hold is not necessarily released right away, even if you pay with a credit card or cash when you check out of the hotel.
Planning ahead in this area can ensure an untroubled week at convention, leaving you free to enjoy fully the world’s largest and most exciting meeting of the blind—using a credit card, I hope.
This month’s recipes are from the National Federation of the Blind of Alaska.
Tortellini Tomato Soup with Italian Sausage and Spinach
by Juanita Webb
Juanita is a member of the Alaska affiliate, who believes strongly in the power of an individual to make a difference.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound Italian sausage
1/2 cup diced onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 32-ounce box of vegetable broth (chicken works as well)
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 package tortellini
1 cup packed fresh spinach
Fresh grated parmesan cheese to taste
Method: Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Heat vegetable oil and add diced onion. Sauté until onions are soft. Crumble Italian sausage and garlic with the onion. Cook until sausage is no longer pink. Stir in crushed tomatoes, broth, basil, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover. Let soup simmer for twenty to thirty minutes. Add tortellini and spinach and simmer for about ten minutes, until pasta is tender. Serve with shredded parmesan.
Ranch Chicken Salad
by Shanley Kerls-Brown
Patrick and Shanley Brown, both members of the NFB of Alaska, have recently made some major healthy lifestyle changes. Shanley went in for a simple eye exam to renew her driver’s license in December of 2015. The eye doctor informed her that she had signs of diabetic damage to her eyes. She had bloodwork done which confirmed that she had type 2 diabetes, and her numbers were off the scale. She and her husband Patrick, who is the first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Alaska, began making healthy lifestyle changes. Along with exercising they began eating a healthy low-carb diabetic diet. In three months they had both lost thirty pounds and both had excellent bloodwork results, with Shanley’s within .50 from being under the diabetic window. These are a few healthy recipes they enjoy.
3 to 3 1/2 cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken breast
1 cup celery, chopped
1 sweet bell pepper (any color), chopped
1/4 sweet yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon dry ranch seasoning
Method: Mix the chicken, mayonnaise, and seasoning together in a medium bowl until well blended. Stir in the celery, peppers, and onion until mixed evenly. Chill one hour to let flavors meld.
by Shanley Kerls-Brown
1 to 2 pounds ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium head of cabbage, chopped
1 10-ounce can Ro-Tel tomatoes
1/2 pound Velveeta, cubed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Method: In a large skillet, brown beef with chopped onion. Drain if necessary. Return meat mixture to pan. Add chopped cabbage (this may have to be done in batches depending on how big of a pan you use). Cook until cabbage is somewhat wilted. Add Ro-Tel and continue to cook until cabbage is tender. Add cubed Velveeta and seasonings to taste. Cook until cheese is melted. Serve hot.
Hearty Hungarian Goulash
by Bonnie Lucas
Bonnie is the president of the Anchorage chapter and loves to cook. She does her best to share the NFB philosophy of the Federation with the blind of Alaska as an employee of the Alaska Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
2 pounds chuck roast, cubed
4 whole carrots, cut into large chunks
18-ounce canned plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups bone broth or organic beef broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Coconut oil to brown meat
Method: Coat large pan with enough coconut oil to line the bottom. Brown cubes of chuck steak over high heat in batches, about two minutes per side. Chop carrots and onion. Hand crush tomatoes. Add carrots, onion, and tomato to slow cooker. Add meat, seasonings, garlic, mustard, and bone broth to slow cooker. Stir to combine. Cook on high for four to six hours or low for eight to ten hours. Can serve over brown rice or quinoa. Makes four servings.
Grandma Jo's Pizza Burgers
by Bill Packee
Bill says of himself: I am a former Alaska state president of the NFB, assistant manager at Walmart, and a student at the University of Maryland working towards a bachelor's degree in forensic psychology. In my "off time" I enjoy my children, grandchildren, our dogs, and maybe some sleep. This recipe was one of our kids’ favorite meals while growing up.
1 1/2 pounds of hamburger
1 10-ounce can of pizza sauce
1 small onion, chopped
1 can mushrooms
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8 hamburger buns
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown hamburger and onion together. Add remaining ingredients except cheese. After adding ingredients cool mixture, then add cheese and bake at 350 degrees for ten to fifteen minutes, then spoon unto buns. Yields eight servings.
Flourless Chocolate Cake
by Bonnie Lucas
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 3 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract
Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a nine-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Spray the paper with cooking spray, too, then set the pan aside.
Place two-thirds (eight ounces) of the chocolate and one cup (two sticks) of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stirring often, melt chocolate with butter until completely blended. Remove from heat, and transfer to a large bowl. (Alternatively, you may use your microwave to melt the butter with the chocolate, if desired). Add sugar and mix well. Add eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Sift cocoa into bowl and stir until just blended.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for thirty-five to forty minutes, or until cake has risen and top has formed a thin crust. The cake should be just firm in the center when done. Cool for ten minutes, then invert onto a plate, removing sides of springform pan. Remove and discard parchment paper and set cake aside to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the chocolate glaze. Melt remaining four ounces chocolate and three tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat, then stir in milk, honey, and vanilla. Set aside to cool slightly.
When cake has cooled, pour glaze onto the center. Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, very gently smooth glaze along the top and sides of the cake. Chill cake, uncovered, for thirty to sixty minutes before serving to set the glaze and make the cake easier to slice.
by Tracey Packee
Tracey says about herself: I am a mother of six kids, four boys and two girls. I also have two grandsons and two more grandsons due in August. My husband Bill and I consider ourselves to be newlyweds even though we have been married for seventeen years, four months and three days. I live in Alaska, where I have been residing for the last nineteen years.
In 2009 I spent nine months at the Helen Keller National Center learning the skills necessary to adjust to this condition. In 2010-2012 I attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in paralegal studies. I am currently the Alaska state president for the National Federation of the Blind.
12 vanilla wafer cookies
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 can cherry pie filling (or any fruit pie filling of your choice)
Regular-size cupcake pan
National Federation of the Blind Praises Secretary Clinton’s Remarks on Employment of People with Disabilities:
The National Federation of the Blind commented on recent remarks by Hillary Clinton in which she called for ending “the tiered minimum wages for … people with disabilities.”
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "The National Federation of the Blind applauds Secretary Clinton for stating boldly and unequivocally that she rejects the discriminatory practice of paying workers with disabilities subminimum wages. We call upon the other presidential candidates to join with us and over seventy-five other organizations of people with disabilities in supporting the repeal of Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act and to reject the misconceptions and low expectations that have for too long kept people with disabilities from achieving our dreams.”
A provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act dating from the law's enactment in 1938, known as Section 14(c), allows facilities to apply for special wage certificates that permit them to pay workers with disabilities subminimum wages. About three thousand entities pay more than 250,000 workers with disabilities wages as low as pennies per hour, according to 2016 statistics from the US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.
Health and Wellness Experts Wanted:
The NFB Sports and Recreation Division and WE Fit Wellness are seeking health and wellness experts for the 2016 NF-BE Healthy Fair.
On June 30, 2016, the NFB Sports and Recreation Division will help kick off the seventy-sixth National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind with the first ever NF-BE Healthy Fair. The NF-BE Healthy Fair is a health fair designed with the blind in mind. Instead of walking from table to table gathering print information, attendees will have the opportunity to receive a health assessment, nutrition information, put their hands on talking health- and wellness-related gadgets, try out accessible mechanisms for reading nutrition information, check out accessible activity trackers, and more. In order to make the NF-BE Healthy Fair a huge success, we are seeking health and wellness professionals who are willing to show off their skills, sell their products, and help convention attendees find solutions, tools, and motivation to NF-BE Healthy!
We are looking for personal trainers, fitness instructors, people who sell health- and wellness-related products, life coaches, massage therapists, chiropractors, representatives from sports- and recreation-related community-based organizations, recreational therapists, nutrition experts, exercise enthusiasts, and others who may add an exciting dimension to our 2016 NF-BE Healthy Fair. For more information on how you can become a sponsor or exhibitor, please contact Jessica Beecham at (866) 543-6808, extension 105, or email <email@example.com>.
Convention Announcements from the Assistive Listening Project:
At the 2016 national convention, we will again offer special arrangements for severely hearing-impaired people attending convention sessions and the banquet. This will consist of transmission of the public address system signal over a special short-range radio transmitter for the severely hearing-impaired. Spanish-language translation of convention proceedings in general sessions and the banquet will also be provided using a similar arrangement. The special receivers required for these services will also be provided.
In cooperation with several state affiliates (notably Colorado, Utah, and Virginia), the NFB will provide special receivers for these transmissions to those needing them. The receiver-lending will be managed by the Amateur Radio Division and will be operated from a table just outside the meeting room. A deposit of $40, cash only, will be required of anyone wishing to check out one of the Federation's receivers. The deposit will be returned if the receiver is checked in at the checkout table in good condition by the end of the banquet or within thirty minutes of adjournment of the last convention session that the borrower plans to attend. Batteries for the receiver will be provided. Anyone checking out a Federation receiver will be given upon request a miniature earbud-type earphone to use with the receiver.
Along with explaining what will be available, it is important that we explain what will not be available. The miniature earbud loudspeaker-type earphone will be the only kind of earphone offered. If you would like to use your own earphone(s), silhouette, neckloop, or other device or adapter cable to get the signal from the receiver we provide to your ear, you must ensure that the cable connection between your device and our receiver is one that will fit the audio jack found on electronic devices such as talking book and MP3 players, laptops, or mobile devices like iPhones and notetakers. In technical terms, this is referred to as a 3.5 mm (formerly called 1/8-inch) earphone plug. You are advised to arrange for such things well ahead of arriving at the convention. Other than the earphone jack on the receiver, no means of connection to a hearing aid will be available from the checkout table. The receiver does not have a built-in loudspeaker. While earphones, and even neckloops, are sometimes available in the exhibit hall, you cannot be certain of getting one there.
Many severely hearing-impaired people already use radio systems that employ FM radio signals to carry the voice from a transmitter held by the person speaking to a receiver in the hearing aid. Some of these hearing aid systems can be tuned to receive the Federation's special transmitters. In this case the hearing-impaired person may simply tune his or her own receiver to receive the Federation's transmitter and will not need to check out a Federation receiver.
Some audiologists and rehabilitation agencies are now buying digital and other FM hearing aids that cannot be tuned to the Federation's frequency. If you have one of these or if you have any other type of hearing aid, you should obtain from your audiologist an adapter cable to connect from your hearing aid to a monaural 3.5 mm earphone jack. This will allow you to plug the cable from your hearing aid directly into a receiver you check out from our table. This will allow you to hear as well as anyone else using one of our receivers.
The transmitter for the hearing impaired will be connected to the public address system so that the signals from the head table and the aisle microphones will be transmitted on channel thirty-six (74.775 MHz narrow band FM). People must not operate their personal transmitters on channel thirty-six or on channel thirty-eight because that would interfere with the reception for others. This means that folks wishing to use their own receivers (rather than checking out one of the Federation's receivers) need to have their personal receivers arranged so that they can switch between their personal channels and channel thirty-six. Some people may need to purchase replacement or additional receivers. Caution your audiologist that there is more than one channel thirty-six, and he or she must also verify that your frequency matches our frequency.
This announcement is published now to allow as much time as possible for those interested to make the necessary arrangements before convention. It contains this amount of detail so that any audiologist who works with this type of equipment should be able to know by reading this article exactly what capabilities a person's hearing system must have to work with the Federation's system at convention.
Even if your hearing aid is not of the FM type, you may be able to purchase a silhouette, a neckloop, or an adapter cable to couple the signal from a Federation receiver directly to your hearing aid. Your audiologist should also be able to help you with this. The NFB Deaf-Blind Division has offered to provide feedback on their members' experiences with these types of devices to interested convention attendees. Contact Joe Naulty, 3924 South Wind Drive, West Melbourne, Florida 32904, (321) 768-9500 or <firstname.lastname@example.org> for inquiries. Please always remember to consult your audiologist when considering any additions to your hearing aid setup.
The service for Spanish speakers will be similar, except that a live Spanish translator will speak over a separate transmitter on channel thirty-eight (75.275 MHz narrow band FM). We do not expect that people will bring their own receivers for the Spanish-translation service, unless they are also hearing impaired and use an FM hearing aid system. Spanish speakers may, however, wish to bring their own earphones. See above for a description of the type of plug needed.
Conchita Hernandez from Washington, DC, will be coordinating the Spanish language interpreters, and she would appreciate hearing from anyone willing to volunteer to interpret. Please call her before convention at (530) 908-3547, or send her email at <email@example.com>.
If other state affiliates or chapters are interested in purchasing this type of equipment for use in state and local meetings, they are encouraged to purchase equipment that is compatible with that which we are using and to allow it to be used in the pool of equipment that the Amateur Radio Division administers at national convention. I (Rachel Olivero) would like to help you choose equipment that is compatible with that which the NFB is using. You may contact me at (765) 977-1683 or at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. The Federation is pleased to offer these services to our severely hearing-impaired and Spanish-speaking colleagues, and we hope and believe that it will again significantly improve their convention experience.
New Opportunities for Careers in Rehabilitation of the Blind, Scholarships are Now Available:
Structured Discovery Cane Travel (SDCT) and Structured Discovery Rehabilitation have been demonstrated to be among the most innovative and effective forms of rehabilitation training for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Louisiana Tech University has operated its Orientation and Mobility program on this model successfully for eighteen years, with upwards of 90 percent successful employment and employer satisfaction rates.
Louisiana Tech is excited to announce that, along with its O&M program, it has expanded its training and is launching a brand new concentration in rehabilitation teaching for the blind.
Scholarships are now available for qualified individuals seeking one of the following degree paths: master of arts in industrial/organizational psychology with concentration in orientation and mobility, master of arts in counseling and guidance with concentration in rehabilitation teaching for the blind, or orientation and mobility graduate certification.
Who can Apply?
Individuals must already possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, have a grade point average of 2.5, and obtain a minimum of 287 (verbal and quantitative) on the Graduate Records Examination. Individuals must also be willing to attend courses on campus in Ruston, Louisiana, on a full-time basis.
What’s the Catch?
Registration Open for Rehabilitation and Orientation and Mobility Conference:
Contemporary Issues in Rehabilitation and Education for the Blind Fifteenth Annual Rehabilitation and Orientation and Mobility Conference will be held at Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, Thursday, June 30, 2016, 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Come and join us! Once again, this year's conference will be action-packed with a variety of new speakers, topics, and hands-on events.
7:30 - 8:30 AM Registration
8:30 AM Conference Begins
2:00 - 5:00 PM Interactive Breakout Sessions
5:00 - 7:00 PM NBPCB Awards Reception
Registration fee includes the NBPCB awards reception. The cost before June 15 is $85 for professionals, $75 for students. After June 15, the cost is $100 for both students and professionals. To register, go to <https://nbpcb.org/members/login.php?r=/members/er.php?eid=284>. Those certified through the NBPCB may register using their username and password. All other participants should register as a guest.
For questions or special arrangements, contact Dianne Reed at (318) 257-4554, or <email@example.com>.
Conference sponsored by: National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB), Professional Development & Research Institute on Blindness (PDRIB), Louisiana Tech University, and the National Association of Professionals in Blindness Education.
Assistance Needed at Convention:
Pauline Murphy is looking for assistance in getting from her room to convention sessions, restaurants, the exhibit hall, and other convention activities. She is willing to pay some for this service. If interested in helping her, call (317) 403-7000, or write her at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
A History of Blind People Available:
The Blind History Lady Presents is a growing series of articles and historical biographies of blind people who lived in the 1800s through the early 1900s. These blind men and women created their own opportunities, becoming electricians, boat builders, insurance salesmen, chemists, chiropractors, and so much more. Peggy Chong is the Blind History Lady. Her articles have appeared in the Braille Monitor and many other publications. Now she takes her almost three decades of research on blind people, compiling them into in-depth short stories and is sharing it with everyone, blind and sighted. Check out The Blind History Lady Presents at your favorite ebook store or at <www.smashwords.com>.
Conference Calls for Those with Cerebral Palsy:
Come one and all, blind and visually impaired Federationists who have cerebral palsy, to create an active and vibrant group of blind and visually impaired Americans with cerebral palsy. The purpose of this group will be to provide the following: positive role modeling techniques, leadership, networking, mentoring, information, referral to agencies, education, socialization, rehabilitation training methodology ideas, advice about self-representation, and systemic legal advocacy assistance. This group will discuss the management of social issues faced by blind and visually impaired people with cerebral palsy and the management of the rehabilitation training issues faced by this group. Our goal is to provide mutual support from those who understand.
Meetings will be held by conference call on the first Sunday of the month from 8:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. eastern time starting on Sunday, June 5, 2016. The conference phone number is (218) 339-3814; enter pin 999999#. To assist in developing this group contact Alexander Scott Kaiser by Braille snailmail, by phone, and by email. His postal address is Alexander Scott Kaiser, 52 Meadowbrook Road, Brick Township, New Jersey 08723-7850; his email address is <AKaiser999@gmx.us>, and he can be reached by phone at (848) 205-0208.
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.
Delta Air Lines Offers a Discount to National Federation of the Blind National Convention:
Members of the National Federation of the Blind and all individuals planning their travel to attend our annual national convention are being offered discounted airfare from Delta Air Lines through their Delta Meeting Network. Those interested should go to <www.delta.com/booking> to book their flight and enter the meeting event code: NMNBW. The discount will be calculated based on your specific travel arrangements and could range from 2 percent to 10 percent. If you have any questions, call the Delta Meeting Network at (800) 328-1111 from 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. central time, Monday through Friday.
SENSEsational Alphabet Books Back at Seedlings:
The ever-popular SENSEsational Alphabet books are back at Seedlings! And, we are still offering them at our deeply discounted price of $20 each! The interactive ABC picture books allow blind and sighted family members to learn the alphabet and beginning words in sign language and uncontracted Braille together! The book incorporates visual stimuli, movement, touch, smell, and sound. Feel the different textures of the horse and lizard, smell the distinctive aromas of apples and roses, move the hands of the watch, pull the zipper, and much more! To order, go to <http://www.seedlings.org/browse.php?search=SENSEsational+Alphabet&field=Item_name>. You can also check out our webpage at <www.seedlings.org>, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@SeedlingsBrlBks).
DOJ Reaches Settlement with Greyhound and Disabled Passengers May Be Due Compensation:
The US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) recently entered into a settlement with the Greyhound bus lines company on behalf of disabled travelers. The settlement consent decree creates a fund of $300,000 for “select individuals identified by the United States” and a separate uncapped claims filing process to compensate “individuals who assert ADA claims meeting established criteria.” The following information is meant to help clarify some confusion about the significance and scope of this settlement among members of the National Federation of the Blind. The information is compiled from the publicly available settlement documents, court filings, and consultations with the DOJ attorneys responsible for enforcing the settlement.
Who is generally eligible?
As for the $300,000, that fund is likely set aside for the specific individuals that the DOJ was already working with during its investigation. If you weren’t already talking with DOJ attorneys or staff about access problems prior to February 8, 2016, then it is unlikely that this fund applies to you. If you were talking with the DOJ about your access problems prior to February 8, 2016, then you should contact them to verify your status.
As for the claims filing process, you must meet each of the following four requirements to even be considered for compensation:
The above qualifications are vague and could arguably include quite a few access problems that members of the National Federation of the Blind have experienced. Based on conversations with the Department of Justice attorneys responsible for enforcing the settlement, it appears that the “criteria” that might be used to award compensable claims is not as broad as the above language might suggest. Further, the policy fixes outlined in the settlement also seem to target a broader set of ADA violations than the monetary claims. Because this settlement is not a class action, the DOJ and Greyhound retain discretion on the claims that will eventually receive monetary compensation.
What claims are likely covered?
According to the DOJ attorneys responsible for enforcing the settlement, blind individuals whose experiences are similar to the types of access problems illustrated in the complaint should consider filing a claim. Eligible blind individuals who experienced the following types of problems should consider filing a claim:
Much of the settlement focuses on access for people who use wheelchairs or have mobility impairments. Blind travelers who use wheelchairs or have mobility impairments should consider submitting claims if they experienced inoperable lifts, inadequate wheelchair securement straps, or problems related to the operation of the “kneeling” function of a bus, which lowers the height of the access point to the bus for those who would otherwise have difficulty navigating the distance between the ground and the bus’s first step. In addition, blind individuals with wheelchairs who were unable to book wheelchair-accessible travel online or were charged extra to book wheelchair-accessible travel over the telephone should also consider submitting a claim.
How do I submit a claim?
The claim administrator website has relevant case documents, contact information, and instructions for filing a claim at <www.dojvgreyhoundsettlement.com/>. You may also call the settlement administrator at (844) 502-5953.
What about other issues not mentioned above?
The National Federation of the Blind is aware of other access issues that are not clearly addressed by this settlement. The Federation continues to raise and monitor these issues with Greyhound and the DOJ to ensure that all of the concerns of the blind community are addressed in the context of this settlement or other independent action. Individuals with questions or concerns may contact attorney Timothy Elder at <email@example.com> or (410) 415-3493, or contact Valerie Yingling with the NFB’s legal team in Baltimore at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or (410) 659-9314.
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