Vol. 59, No. 11 December 2016
Gary Wunder, Editor
Distributed by email, in inkprint, in Braille, and on USB flash drive, by the
The National Federation of the Blind
Mark Riccobono, President
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND KNOWS THAT BLINDNESS IS NOT THE CHARACTERISTIC THAT DEFINES YOU OR YOUR FUTURE. EVERY DAY WE RAISE THE EXPECTATIONS OF BLIND PEOPLE, BECAUSE LOW EXPECTATIONS CREATE OBSTACLES BETWEEN BLIND PEOPLE AND OUR DREAMS. YOU CAN LIVE THE LIFE YOU WANT; BLINDNESS IS NOT WHAT HOLDS YOU BACK. THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR OURSELVES.
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Vol. 59, No. 11 December 2016
Convention Bulletin 2017
Illustration: Congressman David Young Visits the Institute
What the President Hears
by Mark Riccobono
2016 NFB BELL Academy Highlights
by Carlton Walker
Highlights of Each 2016 BELL Academy Site
by the BELL Academy Team
Teaching to Read in Two Weeks at BELL Academy
by Sheena Manuel
Visually Impaired Kids from St. Louis-Area Braille Camp Learn Life Skills with MetroLink
by Ashley Lisenby
Celebrate the National Federation of the Blind
by Patti Chang
Social Security, SSI, and Medicare Facts for 2017
by Parnell Diggs
La Otra (The Other): Thoughts on My Culture and My Disability
by Danielle Trevino
Making a Way Where There is No Way: Blind Seminary Student Leads Collaborative
Process to Gain Access to Biblical Languages
by Annette Brill Bergstresser
Living the Life She Wants
by Amy Buresh
by Dan Facchini
A Sign of the Times
by Nancy Burns
The 2017 Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award
by Carla McQuillan
The 2017 Blind Educator of the Year Award
by Edward Bell
The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards
by James Gashel
Copyright 2016 by the National Federation of the Blind
It is time to begin planning for the 2017 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. We will again meet in Orlando, this year returning to the beautiful Rosen Shingle Creek Resort. The dates for the 2017 convention are July 10 through July 15.
Our hotel rates are enviably competitive for a resort hotel such as Shingle Creek. For the 2017 convention they 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 12.5 percent. No charge will be made for children under seventeen in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested. Please note that the hotel is a no-smoking facility.
For 2017 convention room reservations you can call the hotel at (866) 996-6338 after January 1. You may also write directly to the Rosen Shingle Creek, 9939 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32819-9357. The hotel will want a deposit of $95 for each room and will want a credit card number or a personal check. If you use a credit card, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $95 check. If a reservation is cancelled before Thursday, June 1, 2017, half of the deposit will be returned. Otherwise refunds will not be made.
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 enjoy four outdoor swimming pools, a full-service spa, and fifteen dining/lounging options from fine-dining and elaborate buffets to casual dining both indoors and poolside.
The 2017 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be a truly exciting and memorable event, with an unparalleled program and rededication to the goals and work of our movement. Make plans now to be a part of it. Preconvention seminars for parents of blind children and other groups and set-up of the exhibit hall will take place on Monday, July 10, and adjournment will be Saturday, July 15, following the banquet. Convention registration and registration packet pick-up will begin on Tuesday, July 11, and both Tuesday and Wednesday will be filled with meetings of divisions and committees, including the Wednesday morning annual meeting, open to all, of the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind.
General convention sessions will begin on Thursday, July 13, and continue through the banquet on Saturday, July 15. To assure yourself a room in the headquarters hotel at convention rates, you must make reservations early. The hotel will be ready to take your call or deal with your written request by January 1.
Remember that as usual we need door prizes from state affiliates, local chapters, and individuals. Once again prizes should be small in size but large in value. Cash, of course, is always appropriate and welcome. As a general rule we ask that prizes of all kinds have a value of at least $25 and not include alcohol. Drawings will occur steadily throughout the convention sessions, and you can anticipate a grand prize of truly impressive proportions to be drawn at the banquet. You may bring door prizes with you or send them ahead of time (identifying the item and donor and listing the value in print and Braille) to Bob Lessne, 3019 Lake Jean Drive, Orlando, Florida 32817; phone (305) 271-0012.
The best collection of exhibits featuring new technology; meetings of our special interest groups, committees, and divisions; the most stimulating and provocative program items of any meeting of the blind in the world; the chance to renew friendships in our Federation family; and the unparalleled opportunity to be where the real action is and where decisions are being made—all of these mean you will not want to miss being a part of the 2017 national convention. We'll see you in Orlando in July.
At the 2016 National Federation of the Blind Washington Seminar, members of the Iowa affiliate encouraged Congressman David Young to visit the Jernigan Institute given that Baltimore is only about forty-five minutes away from DC. On April 11, Congressman Young took them up on the invitation. The Congressman was among old friends given that he had already signed on as a cosponsor to the TIME Act and the Space Available Act. During his visit Congressman Young and his chief of staff were able to talk with President Riccobono and the current First Lady of the National Federation of the Blind, Melissa Riccobono; Immediate Past President Marc Maurer and former First Lady Patricia Maurer; Mary Ellen Jernigan, the former assistant director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind; John Paré, executive director for advocacy and policy; and Parnell Diggs, director of government affairs. The connection to Iowa was made obvious given that the Maurers and Mrs. Jernigan both came to Baltimore from his state, and the rich history of the Iowa Commission for the Blind provided a stellar testament to the verity of the philosophy which is at the core of the National Federation of the Blind. After lunch the Congressman was given a tour by Mr. Diggs and Mr. Paré. These kinds of visits are helpful in building relationships and in demonstrating to members of Congress the accomplishments of blind people through their own organized efforts.
by Mark Riccobono
I hear of hundreds of personal life-changing experiences as I travel, and I read the notes, letters, and emails from all of you. With love, hope, and determination the National Federation of the Blind makes dreams come true one life at a time.
Sometimes our state affiliates ask people to talk about why they are members of the National Federation of the Blind. These segments are often dubbed "Why I am a Federationist." They explain best the impact we have on the lives of ordinary blind people.
One of the memorable answers to this came from a woman who serves as a caretaker for her husband. Let's call her Ann. Her home is in Illinois. Before she was introduced to the NFB, she did not leave her house alone, and she did not read. Those things seemed impossible and scary. Ann had no idea how a blind person was going to read or how travel was possible. She thought she would simply stay in and take care of her husband.
Ann joined one of our myriad at-large chapters that meet by phone. It was perfect, since Ann did not believe that she was capable of getting out on her own.
During chapter meetings and in phone calls, Ann talked about her beliefs and her worries. Her chapter president, who resided nearby, spent time with this new member and went out with Ann and showed by example that travel can be done with proper techniques. Our member now goes to take classes alone, and she is excited to be attending her second full state convention in 2016. Fellow Federationists have applauded each of Ann's new steps toward independence. She puts it best, "I have utilized my cane skills by going out alone, and I am even traveling on paratransit or our disabled/senior neighborhood bus." Fear no longer governs her getting out.
Braille is now her friend after encouragement to learn it from other blind people. Our Illinois affiliate has a Braille reading group that meets weekly to practice Braille. The group is called Literacy Is For Everyone or the LIFE group for short. Ann joins our Literacy Is For Everyone group on a regular basis and in fact takes a lead in sending out the notices. Reading was not something that came easy, but our member loves to read now and says she doesn't know what she would do without Braille. Ann says, "Every blind person should learn it."
This enthusiastic smart lady has come so far that she now serves as the president of her at-large chapter. The Federation gifted her with mobility, literacy, and most of all helped her to gain her confidence back. All of those are powerful reasons for Ann to be a proud member of the National Federation of the Blind.
One more meaningful "Why I am a Federationist" sample story also hails from Illinois:
Patti joined the Federation and became active just before she moved to Chicago. Patti talks about wondering how she was going to manage the University of Chicago Law School and the city of Chicago. "I was coming from a small town in Michigan and had no ability to travel in a big city. I also worried about money—I didn't have any."
Patti speaks in terms of paying it forward when answering why she is a Federationist. "The Federation gave me a nationwide network of mentors and friends who spent time, energy, and sometimes their own money to help me become a competent blind person in a big city."
When she moved to Chicago, the big city, Federationists helped her move. Mobility lessons were frequent. When she lacked finances in college, several Federationists quietly paid for meals after or before chapter meetings. When she graduated, her state president even offered his home for a graduation party. And, when her first child began to crawl, it was a member of the NFB who suggested that "bells on the shoes might be a good idea if one wanted to track a child."
It is that constant ability to network as part of a huge "family" that matters most to Patti. Along the way there were also two college scholarships and much more, but the mentoring, teaching, and the friendship have lasted more than three decades.
Patti is grateful for all that the Federation has given her and all that it continues giving. So she tries to pay it forward. We want the next generation to live the lives they want. We even hope that things will be easier for our children. Patti says, "I can never pay back all I have received, but I have to try to pay some of it forward."Both of these members help explain why people become—and why people remain—members of the National Federation of the Blind. I hope to share more of our stories with you in the future. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I do. The Federation truly changes lives, and I am anxious to tell you how through our members and those we serve.
by Carlton Walker
From the Editor: Carlton Walker is a woman of significant motivation, intelligence, and accomplishment. She is a lawyer, a teacher, a past president of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, the mother of fifteen-year-old Anna, and currently serves as the manager of Braille education programs for our Jernigan Institute. As part of her current duties she directs the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy, and we are devoting significant space in this issue to this life-transforming program. Here is what Carlton has to say:
Throughout this country, there are blind children who cannot read or write efficiently, who do not enjoy independent mobility, and who cannot engage in age-appropriate activities of daily living, like making a sandwich. Over a three-month period this summer, hundreds of NFB members gave their time and energy to provide much-needed blindness skills to more than 320 blind students. Through the NFB BELL (Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning) Academy, thirty affiliates hosted forty-five sites at which students learned nonvisual skills in a supportive atmosphere of high expectations.
NFB BELL Academy targets students ages four through twelve. Nevertheless, affiliates welcomed older students who had not yet had quality instruction in Braille, cane travel, or other nonvisual skills.
Not surprisingly, one finds Braille at an NFB BELL Academy—a lot of Braille. On the first day, students learn about Louis Braille and his invention, which gives blind people of all ages the ability to read efficiently and independently, the ability to write and edit documents, the freedom to read and write music, and serves as the basis for Abraham Nemeth’s Math and Science Code.
NFB BELL Academy students celebrate Louis Braille by throwing a birthday party, during which they make Braille goodies (cupcakes or cookies topped with icing on which the students and adults create Braille letters with candies). Louisiana students celebrated in style with a water slide, a bounce house, a snow cone maker, a popcorn machine, a piñata, and much more. Students at other sites Brailled birthday cards to Mr. Braille, and some, including the rookie NFB BELL Academy in Indiana, used birthday balloons to spell out “Happy Birthday”—in Braille, of course.
Other Braille initiatives included Delaware’s Braille Bucks program, where students earned Braille Bucks for reading Braille books at home. The students then spent their Braille Bucks for desired items.
Braille reading and writing classes tailored instruction to students, from complete novices to excellent Braille readers. With support from caring and knowledgeable NFB members, students grew in their Braille skills. Each NFB BELL Academy student also received a free slate and stylus to keep.
Technology is also important to students at NFB BELL Academy. In addition to many opportunities to read and write paper Braille, our students enjoyed varied engagement with and instruction in technology that can provide even more Braille for them to read. In Oklahoma a representative from ABLE Tech, an agency which provides demonstrations and short-term loans of accessible technology to Oklahomans, spent a day at NFB BELL Academy, giving one-on-one demonstrations of several devices, including Braille displays, iPads, money readers, digital personal assistants (notetakers), and a talking Perkins Brailler.
Students at the NFB BELL Academy in Nebraska had the opportunity to meet and speak with a published author, Travis Bossard. Travis co-authors the Oskar and Klaus books, which recount the adventures of a blind cat, Oskar, and his much-less-adventurous sighted brother, Klaus. Travis shared with the students how the books came about as well as his role in writing the books and producing audio versions of them.
NFB BELL Academy students gave back as well. New Jersey students taught a group of sighted preschoolers the basics of Braille and provided each of the preschoolers with a card bearing his/her name in Braille.
NFB members shared with NFB BELL Academy students the freedom cane travel provides. Several sites hosted cane scavenger hunts in various places, including malls, grocery stores, and parks. The NFB BELL Academy in South Carolina implemented a program called “Anywhere and Everywhere,” geared to the purpose of increasing awareness of travel. Students learned about multiple modes of travel, including white cane travel, car travel, and bus, train, and plane travel on the local, regional, and national levels. Students used chairs and their imaginations to take train and airplane trips. Students also used tactile maps and cardinal directions in the classroom on a daily basis.
For too long, the “no-touch” policy at many museums has kept blind individuals from truly experiencing the exhibits on display. At several NFB BELL Academy sites, students and mentors broke down those “no-touch” barriers and had the opportunity to interact with museum exhibits in meaningful ways.
The NFB BELL Academy in Kentucky was held at the American Printing House for the Blind, and there was a field trip to the museum there. Other museum visits included the Museum of Idaho (where students touched Revolutionary war relics); the Jewish Museum of Maryland; the College Park Aviation Museum; the Leonardo Museum in Utah; the Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC; the American Whistle Corporation factory in Columbus, Ohio; and many others.
Students in Northern California investigated the Turtle Bay Exploration Park, and those in Southern California learned about their local history at the San Bernardino County Museum. Students in Iowa also had the opportunity to tactually explore a 3-D printer in the Iowa Library for the Blind, while Tennessee NFB BELL Academy students dissected dogfish sharks.
Our NFB BELL Academy students enjoyed many different recreational opportunities. Colorado students enjoyed exploring the Cave of the Winds and engaging in a rock climbing activity. Georgia students engaged in accessible physical activities: playing beep kickball, using tandem bicycles, and enjoying adapted soccer at the Coan Recreation Center. Several sites engaged in the Paralympic sport of beep baseball, and the students at the NFB BELL Academy in Indiana had the privilege of working with National Beep Baseball Association Hall of Famer Ron Brown, who later served as the head coach for the 2016 World Series Champion team, the Indy Thunder.
Bounce houses proved popular at many sites, while Texas students enjoyed a trip to a trampoline park, students in North Carolina went bowling, and Mississippi students had the opportunity to go horseback riding. Students at the NFB BELL Academy in New York traveled to a movie theater to watch Pete’s Dragon and learned how to use descriptive video technology.
At NFB BELL Academy, recreational fun does not require a field trip. Among many other activities, the students in Arizona had fun with life-sized games of Hungry Hungry Hippos. In this game students pair into teams of two, and each team has a scooter and a basket. One student lies on the scooter, belly down, and holds a lightweight laundry basket in front with outstretched arms. The other student holds the legs of the one on the scooter. Several teams gather around in a large circle, and all students wear learning shades (sleep shades) throughout the game. Next, an adult drops a bucket full of small, ball-pit balls into the center of the floor. Each team works to get as many balls in the basket as possible by pushing the student with the basket (the “hungry hippo”) into the circle, capturing the balls with the basket, and pulling them back to the team’s area before time runs out. In subsequent games partners take turns being the hungry hippo.
Every student at each NFB BELL Academy site receives a free slate and stylus to keep and, through the NFB Free White Cane Program, each student also receives a long white cane. This year students also received a water bottle bearing the NFB BELL Academy logo. These water bottles are BPA-free and dishwasher safe, and we hope our students use them all year long and remember the great fun they had and the skills they gained at NFB BELL Academy.
While the gifts noted above are important, they pale in comparison to the gift of NFB BELL Academy itself. NFB members raise money year-round to provide support for one or more NFB BELL Academy sites in their affiliate. NFB members also devote countless hours in preparation for NFB BELL Academy, including site selection, preparation of materials, planning field trips, etc. This summer, hundreds of NFB members gave freely of their time, their knowledge, and themselves during NFB BELL Academy instruction. Hundreds of students received instruction, grew in self-confidence, and built relationships that can last a lifetime.Each of us supports NFB BELL Academy, either directly at our affiliate’s NFB BELL Academy, or indirectly through support of our Free White Cane Program, our Free Slate and Stylus Program, and our promise to each blind person we meet: together with love, hope, and determination, we transform dreams into reality.
by The Bell Academy Team
The NFB BELL Academy in Arizona kicked off on Memorial Day with twenty-two students. Students at all literacy levels were empowered to keep track of their daily schedules through the use of three large tactile and Brailled schedules for each group. These schedules were posted in the main community room where students started their day, ate lunch, and concluded each day. This allowed the students to take responsibility for their own schedules without having schedules to carry around.
Arizona’s NFB BELL Academy also introduced new toys, such as Barbie dolls, superhero figures, and Disney princess figures, and each toy came with its own miniature white cane and a pair of learning shades. The students enjoyed playing with toys using the tools they used at NFB BELL Academy. Older students met with young adult blind mentors during lunch to talk about their fears of going into middle school. This was a great opportunity for the older NFB BELL Academy students to really open up and share their fears about being a blind student in a public middle school where “being cool” is the new game. Mentors spoke with them about the importance of taking part in social activities at school, how to join clubs at school, how to make new friends, and how to be social when it’s much easier sometimes to stay secluded in the safety of home. Students and parents enjoyed this activity, and they have requested regular sessions each lunch time to talk more with mentors.
Arizona’s youngest participant this summer was three years old. He came to the program with parents and grandparents who were nervous about leaving their little boy. However, he soon teamed up with an older student in NFB BELL Academy, and they were inseparable.
The Arizona NFB BELL Academy incorporated dancing and worked on having students using their canes and shades to learn popular dances that they would take part in during a school dance. Students and staff alike enjoyed these activities even though many students gave the, “But I don’t dance,” excuse at first. When they realized that all the staff and students were dancing, it didn’t take long for them to get up on their feet and give the Cupid Shuffle a chance. They learned about the importance of giving new activities a try and how this can be tough when you are scared of looking silly but how being silly sometimes helps you find new friends. Students learned that it doesn’t matter what you can see, but what you can do—and the main part of that is the word “do.” If you don’t even try—you aren’t doing anything.
A local newspaper, the Record Searchlight, covered the Redding, California, NFB BELL Academy’s field trip to Turtle Bay Museum. <http://www.redding.com/news/local/blind-girls-learn-skills-at-turtle-bay-38a22093-eaf7-4437-e053-0100007fdb1c--388484271.html> (Note: one must complete a short survey to access this print article and video.)
The two students of this NFB BELL Academy learned Braille and nonvisual skills, but they also received much more. These students had never met other individuals who are blind, either peers or adults. Since the NFB BELL Academy ended, the students have kept in contact with each other and with their blind mentors.
The students of the San Bernardino NFB BELL Academy spent ten wonderful days engaging in hands-on experiential learning, including a trip to the San Bernardino County Museum. Each student also received an introduction to using the long white cane as well as instruction and multiple opportunities to use Braille.
Students at the Colorado Springs NFB BELL Academy took full advantage of the outdoor experiences in their area. In addition to rich instruction in Braille, cane travel, and other nonvisual instruction students received, they enjoyed a field trip to the Cave of the Winds and other field trips, where they went rock climbing with their blind peers and blind adult role models.
Westminster NFB BELL Academy students augmented their classroom learning with a field trip tour of the DoubleTree Hotel. On that trip, students and their blind mentors rode a city bus to a recreation center to go swimming.
Connecticut’s NFB BELL Academy provided its students an opportunity to practice nonvisual skills in an engaging, authentic day at the beach. Students enjoyed working with peers and learning from the blind adult role models.
Five students in grades two through five made up the Delaware NFB BELL Academy. Each day, they engaged in nonvisual skills in the areas of reading and writing Braille, independent cane travel, and daily living skills with their blind adult mentors. Students even worked on their academic schoolwork (Extended School Year—ESY—goals) at the NFB BELL Academy.
The Delaware NFB BELL Academy instituted an incentive program to encourage students to read Braille books each evening of the program. For each book taken home and returned read, they would receive a Braille Buck. While the students’ reading skills varied, each was motivated by the Braille Bucks incentive. At the end of the program, students used their Braille bucks to purchase Braille books and other items to take home and keep.
Students also enjoyed a field trip to a movie theater where they had the opportunity to enjoy a movie with audio description. Each student also used money skills learned at NFB BELL Academy to purchase the movie ticket, and each requested the necessary audio headset independently.
Students at the NFB BELL Academy in Washington, DC, took full advantage of their proximity to Smithsonian-affiliated museums. The Academy revolved around science. Learning shades were renamed “science goggles,” and students learned the principles of being a good scientist. They developed goals for the two weeks and celebrated the birthday of Dr. Abraham Nemeth (the blind mathematician who invented a code for blind people to do math and science.)
Later in the program, students visited the National Science Academy and engaged in accessible science experiments. Nevertheless, the first day’s first science experiment, the dissection of a Minion® piñata to find out what it had inside, was a big hit.
Four students kicked off the 2016 NFB BELL Academy season on May 23 in Albany, Georgia. They concentrated on building nonvisual skills and improving Braille reading speed and enjoyed the mentorship of blind adults. They grew in both skills and self-confidence.
Atlanta’s NFB BELL Academy provided twenty-two students many formal and informal learning opportunities. Field trips included: At Main Event Atlanta students bowled, did a low ropes course, engaged in social time during lunch, and some even enjoyed arcade games. On a sports day at Coan Recreation Center, students engaged in beep kickball, tandem biking, and adapted soccer with Columbus State University Professor Jeanine Wert, who specializes in adapted physical education for blind and low vision people; on another field trip, students enjoyed a mobility lesson using MARTA (Atlanta’s train system) to the Loews Hotel where they were greeted by the chef and his team. Students then received a tour of the kitchen and worked with the pastry chef making cookies. Students and mentors were treated to a wonderful family-style lunch where the students had the opportunity to practice table manners and etiquette. And students also traveled to Historic Fourth Ward Park Playground and Splashpad for lunch and a little recreation time.
Musician and steel pannist Paul Vogler visited the NFB BELL Academy in Atlanta one afternoon for music instruction. He brought all of his instruments for the students to explore and play. Bricks 4 Kidz, a LEGO-building organization came one morning to show the NFB BELL Academy students many ways to have fun with building LEGOs.
A local news station did a video segment on the Atlanta NFB BELL Academy; it is still available on their web page: <http://www.wsbtv.com/community/people-2-people/summer-camp-helps-blind-children-find-independence_20160620203651/353448743>
The Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision hosted the Savannah NFB BELL Academy. Students concentrated on Braille reading and writing and expanding their skills in these areas.
Boise NFB BELL Academy students developed their Braille, cane travel, and nonvisual skills both in the classroom setting and in the Boise community. Students welcomed experts who came in to provide a dance class, a pottery class, and a drama improvisation class. Also, students were treated to a presentation which replicated bird calls and taught the students how to develop their listening skills in order to discern different birds’ calls.
A field trip to Babby Farms provided the Boise NFB BELL Academy students the opportunity to interact with exotic animals, including kangaroos, lemurs, sloths, and monkeys. Students also visited a fire station to explore the equipment and find out more about this important occupation from firefighters who serve the community. Students also visited the Talking Book Library and learned how to access these materials independently.
The rookie NFB BELL Academy site provided instruction in fundamental nonvisual skills and also provided students the opportunity to use tools which allowed them to draw nonvisually and independently.
The BELL Academy again got recognition from the local news affiliate; the segment is available for viewing here: <http://www.krem.com/mb/news/local/kootenai-county/coeur-dalene-hosts-first-area-camp-for-blind-children/291217264>.
Students at the Idaho Falls NFB BELL Academy enjoyed the Museum of Idaho where students touched revolutionary war relics. Students also explored an equestrian center and traveled by city bus to a restaurant for lunch. BYU Radio reported on the Idaho Falls NFB BELL Academy, both transcript and audio are available here: <http://byuidahoradio.org/academy-helps-blind-children-succeed-future>
Students at the NFB BELL Academy in Chicago embarked upon field trips to grocery stores for both scavenger hunts and for the purpose of purchasing needed groceries. They also traveled to a community park for a game of beep kickball. Students used the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) to visit Chicago’s Millennium Park to explore tactile art sculptures. Additionally, a trip to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum allowed students to interact with both live and preserved animals.
NFB BELL Academy students in Springfield engaged in community service activities on a field trip to a residential home for senior citizens. Students read to the residents and enjoyed craft time with them. Springfield provided daily training for parents of NFB BELL Academy students, including a visit to the state technology center, a discussion with an orientation and mobility (O&M) instructor, and an interview with a blind college student. The Springfield NFB BELL Academy celebrated the end of the program with a pizza picnic and games of beep kickball.
The first year of NFB BELL Academy in Indiana was packed with learning and fun. Students travelled to a local mall to work on cane travel, ordering at a restaurant, and using appropriate manners and behavior in public. On another field trip students went to a local McDonald's for lunch and an opportunity to explore the indoor play area. Students practiced their cane travel skills by traveling to a local park for recess on two occasions, and they learned how to play beep baseball from a local beep baseball team (which went on to win the Beep Baseball World Series later in the summer).
NFB BELL Academy students also participated in a music class led by a teacher of blind students and learned the basics of Music Braille. The NFB-NEWSLINE® presented the benefits of NFB-NEWSLINE® and how to use it. Students took a culminating field trip with their families to Monkey Joe's, a local indoor bounce park.
Iowa NFB BELL Academy students used nonvisual and cane travel techniques to walk to the Iowa Library for the Blind. There, the students learned about where their Braille books are housed and how to obtain those books themselves. Students also had the opportunity to tactually explore the library’s 3-D printer before observing the operation of the printer and feeling several figures produced by it. Students also enjoyed a trip to the Science Center of Iowa and had sack lunches there. Some were not comfortable traveling with the kids all the way to the science center, so we took a trip around the block on a different day so the students could practice their travel skills. The instruction, the laughter, and the times that mentors burst into song all came together to make an atmosphere of joy, compatibility, and learning that worked to create our success.
Students at the first year NFB BELL Academy in Kansas concentrated on fundamental skills: Braille reading and writing (in the new Braille Code, Unified English Braille), cane travel, and nonvisual skills. A nine-year-old learned, for the first time, how to pour from a pitcher into a cup, which provided her a new-found sense of independence and accomplishment. Students also practiced their nonvisual skills in new areas, including art. They also visited the Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita and enjoyed hands-on exploration of exhibits.
Kentucky hosted our smallest NFB BELL Academy this summer, providing instruction to one student. Kentucky exemplified our belief that one student needing blindness skill training is one student too many; every student is important and valued. Kentucky’s student formed close bonds with both of the blind mentors who ran the program. She practiced cane travel skills on stairs in the host facility, the American Printing House for the Blind, and visited the facility’s museum. She also learned to walk independently on sidewalks and learned how to cross streets safely without using vision on a field trip to a local convenience mart, where she purchased items for an afternoon snack.
Louisiana was the first to host a residential NFB BELL Academy, and they continue to grow bigger and better at their host site, the Louisiana Center for the Blind. This year’s fourteen students, teachers, and mentors got to know one another at an opening ceremony where they celebrated Louis Braille’s birthday with a water slide, a bounce house, a snow cone maker, a popcorn machine, a piñata, hula hoops, and much more. Field trips included horseback riding, rock climbing, swimming, and a Bayou visit (with barbeque, boating, fishing, ice cream making, and outdoor games). Students enjoyed an NFB BELL Academy Mardi Gras Parade put on by blind mentors. The Louisiana NFB BELL Academy also held a closing ceremony with an NFB BELL Academy Carnival, which included hands-on activities and games that families did together. These activities highlighted the skills students developed through the week.
A dozen students enjoyed learning in fun and unexpected ways at the oldest NFB BELL Academy site in Baltimore, Maryland. Students took trips to a public swimming pool (they walked using their canes and learning shades), the Jewish Museum of Maryland (where students explored a doctor theme), a trip for younger students to the Maryland Library for the Blind, a trip for older students to a restaurant where they got to order off of a Braille menu, and a trip with older students to a grocery store where they got to shop with a shopping assistant. The older students, in a group known as “BELLX” also produced a newspaper, The Blind BELL, which chronicled the activities of the Baltimore NFB BELL Academy.
Students at the NFB BELL Academy in Glenn Dale had daily opportunities to learn to read and write Braille and to engage in cane travel, including climbing and descending stairs around the large facility in which the program was housed. Glenn Dale students also traveled to the College Park Aviation Museum and later to an aquatic center.
Salisbury NFB BELL Academy students traveled to a local park for a picnic. They also toured a farmers’ market where they had the opportunity to pet farm animals and engage in a plant activity.
Another residential NFB BELL Academy was held on the campus of Mississippi State University in Starkville. One field trip included a swim at the campus pool. On another field trip, students went horseback riding at a local therapeutic horseback riding facility. There, they learned about different types of horses and how the program acquires them. At the end, students enjoyed feeding the horses.
The National Federation of the Blind of Missouri partnered with the Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments to provide two weeks of rich learning opportunities for seven NFB BELL Academy students. Scaffolding learning enrichment allowed students to build skills in the classroom which they would put to use on community field trips. For example, on a field trip to The Magic House (a St. Louis children’s museum), students used their orientation and mobility skills to travel independently on public transportation to the Museum. For lunch, students used their money identification skills to purchase their own lunches at McDonald’s. We are always blessed to discover something that we think is routine, but they think is new. This summer we had a student who did not know the joy of running, and we taught her the fun of doing this. We taught her not only how to run but the fun that can be found in competition. Our staff had that competition rekindled in ourselves when we decided that we were not content with the children being the only ones to enjoy running and competed against ourselves to see who could get down the rope and back the quickest.
In addition to learning Braille, cane travel, and other nonvisual skills during formal instructional time, the seven students who attended the NFB BELL Academy in Nebraska enjoyed a field trip to the Nebraska Commission for the Blind Orientation Center. There they learned about the center, prepared and ate lunch with center students and staff, and completed a scavenger hunt with students and staff as well as other commission staff. Additionally, Travis Bossard, co-writer of the Oskar and Klaus books, gave a presentation on how the books came about and his role in writing the books and producing the audio. The book series highlights the adventures of Oskar, a blind cat, as well as those of his less-adventurous, sighted brother cat, Klaus.
Each morning at the NFB BELL Academy in New Jersey, the students held meetings where each student reported something s/he did independently at home the night before and shared a future goal concerning what they wanted to do to become more independent. The Academy also hired a company called Bricks 4 Kidz to provide three sessions of LEGO® STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) activities where the children learned about and built a windmill, a paper crinkler, and a tornado. This was the first time the representative worked with blind children, but she was very enthusiastic about helping and interacting with our students. New Jersey NFB BELL Academy students also paired up with typically-developing preschoolers from the Puerto Rican Association for Human Development (PRAHD) summer program to mentor those students in beginning blindness skills lessons. Our students introduced their mentees to the Braillewriter and to Braille itself. Each sighted child received a card with his/her name written in Braille to take home.
The Big Apple welcomed NFB BELL Academy students with many rich learning opportunities, both in the classroom and on the town. Students visited the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library to learn about talking books, Arduino (a mini-computer: an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software), and tactile maps. Students also had the opportunity to explore the New York Hall of Science.
Baldwinsville NFB BELL Academy students traveled to a movie theater to watch Pete’s Dragon and learn how to use descriptive video technology. On another day, students visited Green Lake State Park and used their cane travel skills to engage in a fun hike. On this trip, students also learned about the features of the lake which cause it to be naturally green, and they enjoyed swimming and ice cream.
Seven NFB BELL Academy students in Lincolnton, North Carolina grew in their Braille, cane travel, and nonvisual skills throughout the two-week program. They put their new skills into practice on a visit to the Catawba Science Center and on a field trip to a local bowling alley.
Students at the Raleigh NFB BELL Academy formed strong bonds with one another and with their blind mentors during the program, which was held on the campus of the Governor Morehead School for the Blind.
On one field trip, the students employed their cane travel skills to cross streets on their way to and from Pullen Park, the first public park in the state of North Carolina. On another day, Raleigh NFB BELL Academy students visited the North Carolina Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, where they explored the Braille and audio books which provide access to books for blind individuals throughout the state.
The NFB BELL Academy of Ohio hosted its first residential academy this summer. Students and mentors enjoyed new activities and learned many daily living skills. Students gained the skills necessary to become responsible including self-care activities, especially those needed at bedtime and mornings. In some ways the Ohio NFB BELL Academy became a mini-NFB training center. Students also enjoyed recreational activities such as a music night, swimming, and goal ball, and field trips, including a walk to an ice cream store, a tour of the American Whistle Corporation factory, and a trip to McDonalds for lunch one day.
The Sooner State welcomed back NFB BELL Academy students with great instruction and learning opportunities. Kimberly Berry from ABLE Tech spent a day at the Oklahoma NFB BELL Academy and gave one-on-one demonstrations of several devices including refreshable Braille displays, iPads, accessible money readers, accessible personal digital assistants (also called notetakers), and a talking Perkins Braillewriter. The statewide Assistive Technology (AT) Act Program provides outreach, information, and assistance services, and training on various AT topics, as well as collaborates with state and local agencies and organizations to enhance the understanding and access to AT.
On a field trip to Andy Alligator's Fun Park, students played games, rode rides such as bumper cars, go karts, etc. They also enjoyed a pizza party with blind peers and adult mentors at the fun park. On another field trip, students visited the Oklahoma Library for the Blind where they toured the library, learned about services, explored the recording studio, and had a cookout with library staff.
NFB BELL Academy students in Oregon had a fun and rewarding time, working with great blind mentors and learning Braille and positive attitudes about blindness. Students also visited the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, where they explored the exhibits with the confidence and independence they learned at the Oregon NFB BELL Academy.
At the veteran Philadelphia NFB BELL Academy, both returning and new NFB BELL Academy students grew in skills and confidence with regard to their Braille reading and writing, cane travel, and other nonvisual skills. Philadelphia NFB BELL Academy students visited a museum and a park with a playground. They also enjoyed a program provided by the Settlement Music School.
The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, which includes the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped at its Baum Boulevard branch, served as host to the first year NFB BELL Academy in Pittsburgh. In addition to intensive Braille and cane travel instruction, students took field trips to a local science center and had an ice cream social/pool party.
Students at the NFB BELL Academy in Providence engaged in nonstop learning fun. The program kicked off with piñatas, cupcakes, Braille yoga, and more. Later, students put their skills to work in a fun cane scavenger hunt. Students donned their learning shades and used their canes to locate objects in their path. One student managed to find twenty-one items, including chairs, books, big and small boxes, playdough, and even an orange.
How do you make writing fun? At the Providence NFB BELL Academy you get the students to write rhyming poems. One student who did not know any Braille before attending the Providence NFB BELL Academy proudly shared his Brailled poems with his peers and mentors.
Students also wore their learning shades and used their long white canes while playing sardines, practicing pouring, coloring, and walking to the playground in the rain. On a field trip to the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab at the Rhode Island School of Design, students took the opportunity to feel sea shells, pine cones, bones, mushrooms, seeds, and even a live snake.
Given that it is a presidential election year, it is quite appropriate that the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s office allowed NFB BELL Academy students to check out the accessible voting machine that allows blind people to vote privately and independently. Students voted for their favorite ice cream flavor (had to write in "coffee") and learned a great deal about the voting process thanks to our friend Rob in the office of the secretary of state.
The veteran South Carolina NFB BELL Academy provided two weeks of individualized learning experiences for students. Cane travel was emphasized through the theme, “Anywhere and Everywhere.” Students gained an increasing awareness of travel, white cane travel, car travel, and bus, train, and plane travel on the local, regional, and national levels. Mentors set up chairs and took students on imaginary train and airplane trips. Students received an introduction to tactile maps and used cardinal directions in the classroom. Additionally, South Carolina Artist-in-Residence Kimberly Roberts provided students individual steel drum instruction as well as a performance.
Students at the Memphis NFB BELL Academy learned Braille, how to use their canes for independent travel, and explored nonvisual skills such as identifying different objects, money, etc. They also enjoyed recreational activities such as kickball and Frisbee, each with accessible, beeping sports equipment. Members from the Memphis Symphony Orchestra demonstrated telling a story through music. Their story focused upon a young man exploring the galaxy. Through the music, Memphis NFB BELL Academy students explored Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The music detailed both the exciting adventures and scary moments of his journey. A community field trip involved eating lunch at McAlister's Deli and taking in an audio-described version of the movie Finding Dory at the Paradiso Theater.
The National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee hosted its first residential NFB BELL Academy on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. Students engaged in classroom and daily living skill development throughout the program. Students experienced a scavenger hunt in the local grocery store. Each group of students received a shopping list of three items that they had to identify and bring to the teacher. In this activity, students utilized their Braille skills to read the list of items, their cane travel skills, and their tactile and nonvisual skills to identify items. We also partnered with our local symphony to provide a lesson on how music can convey a story.
Houston NFB BELL Academy students enjoyed varied Braille, cane travel, and nonvisual skill learning experiences. Houston students also visited a local fire station and explored the equipment while learning about the practices and protocols used by their local fire departments.
Students at the Laredo NFB BELL Academy were on the move. On the field trip to the Lamar Bruni Vergara Planetarium in Laredo, students learned about the relative size and scale of our solar system using grains of sand. On another trip, students hopped ‘til they dropped at a local trampoline park.
NFB BELL Academy students in San Antonio augmented their learning with accessible games, such as “For Sale,” which was provided by accessible game maker 64 Oz. Games. 64 Oz. Games founder Richard Gibbs noted, “They did much better than some adults on their first play.” Students also attended a beep baseball demonstration.
Utah NFB BELL Academy students augmented their Braille, cane travel, and nonvisual skills with innovative, accessible recreational activities. Indoor field hockey took place with hockey sticks made from long pool noodles and a sound-making beach ball. Students had a lot of fun and really had to learn to listen for the ball. Students also participated in two field trips including a visit to a park and a hands-on experience at the Leonardo Museum in Salt Lake City.
On graduation day the students decided to plan and present a talent show for their parents. Performances included dancing, singing, and a magic show. This program was completely planned and organized by the students, and everyone had a great time.
by Sheena Manuel
From the Editor: Sheena Manuel is the outreach specialist at the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness. She is a teacher of blind students, a certified national orientation and mobility instructor (NOMC), and holds a National Certification in Unified English Braille (NCUEB). She serves students in the public school setting in the north central area of Louisiana. She spends most summers going to different states to serve as a teacher for the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Academy.
My love for teaching at BELL Academy stems from Louisiana Tech’s Teaching Blind Students program. Participating at the BELL Academy was required and expected from my professor. She understood the value of seeing good blind role models, building relationships with fellow colleagues, and getting hands-on experience before we entered the profession.
I’m always looking for adventure and different places to go whether for work or pleasure. I decided that every year I would look for another place to visit while doing what I love, teaching kids. This year Pittsburg was the place to be for BELL Academy. As I began meeting families, I learned that most of these kids did not have teachers waiting for them once they returned to the school setting. This motivated me to provide as much meaningful instruction as possible for the next two weeks.
Kids are brutally honest. One student revealed she only knew one letter, a, and she received five minutes of Braille instruction throughout her last year at school. Appalling! I explained to her that we would give her a crash course in Braille, and I would give her as much as she could handle. This kid was highly motivated and ready to digest Braille. We started with the alphabet. I gave her between five and eight letters a day, teaching letters and whole words. She practiced writing them with my co-teacher every day. I presented the letters similar to the Mangold program, having her reading lines of letters then reading lines of words. And guess what: at BELL Academy you go home with homework. Every night this kid was excited to share with her family what she learned. As her love for reading Braille grew so did her interest in reading other words. Then I started introducing about three to four contractions and other words commonly found in early readers. The day I decided to introduce a story, she exclaimed that she had been waiting to read a story like the other kids. The look on her face will stay with me forever and continue to remind me of why I do what I do. I want kids to know that with motivation, high expectations, and proper training their dreams can come true.As a kid I remember picking up a book my mother read to me every night, Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel and thinking “I can’t wait until I can read this.” As a kid in grade school I remember waving my hand and squirming in my seat so I could read a passage aloud to my class. During the summer I enjoyed walking in the library and getting as many books as I could carry to read. As an adult I am excited when I can read a story aloud to my students (in print or Braille). Hopefully my love for reading will live on with this kid and every other kid I meet.
by Ashley Lisenby
From the Editor: This article first appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on July 27, 2016, and is reprinted here with their kind permission. We at the Monitor can’t help but wholeheartedly agree with the single comment on the online version of the article at <http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/visually-impaired-kids-from-st-louis-area-braille-camp-learn/article_dade1199-6de3-5a80-a35e-74518e3317ba.html>, “Yay for children learning life skills!”
Tap. Tap. Tap.
A small group of blind and visually impaired children tap their canes on the yellow truncated platform at the Brentwood MetroLink stop as they enter a train. For many of the six children, participants in a two-week Braille literacy camp, boarding this train is their first time riding public transportation.
The camp, called the Missouri BELL Academy, operates out of the Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments and runs through Friday. Now in its third year, the camp accepts children from across the state ages four to twelve with varied reading and writing skills and different levels of vision impairment. It is one of many BELL programs run by the National Federation of the Blind across the country.
Camp leader Debbie Wunder and volunteer Braille teacher Adnan Gutic said the camp is important for teaching children the fundamentals of reading and writing but also for teaching life skills and providing adult mentors who may also be blind.
Before leaving the center in Richmond Heights, the children are prepped on how to distinguish a $1 bill from a $5 bill. Some may choose to fold one bill like a “hot dog” and the other like a “hamburger.” Others may opt to place different denominations of bills in separate compartments of their wallets.
On their last field trip the children, called bell-ringers at the camp, went to The Magic House. This time they already know their final destination—McDonald’s. First they have to navigate the train and bus.
Once on the train platform, a group of adults, many of whom also have varying levels of vision impairment, share safety tips with the children. For example, stand behind the bumpy strip and near a group of short poles—shoulder height to the young riders—in order to know where the train doors will open.
After riding the train and catching a bus, the group arrives at the golden arches.
“I smell Mickey D’s,” one child says upon exiting the bus.
The journey is enjoyable for most of the children, and they understand the importance of the field trip.
“If you live in the big city, you have to know how to ride public transportation so you know how to be safe while doing it,” said Nathan Deeds, ten, a second-year bell-ringer.
But some temporarily struggle with the sounds and sensations that come with riding public transit, such as the screeching of the train and the jerking motion of the bus.
Shianne Ramsey, six, of Jefferson City, admitted while taking bites of her meal that she was scared on the bus because of the abrupt motions, but later proudly proclaimed how she exhibits her independence in other ways. “I can buckle myself,” she said with a smile, adding that she felt great when she accomplished tasks on her own.
For camp leaders and volunteers, that’s the goal: self-sufficiency.
Wunder even questioned a McDonald’s cashier who said an employee would bring the group their food.
“Is that what you do for everyone?” she asked, later turning to encourage one child, saying, “You gotta do it for yourself, buddy. You can do it.”
Holly Carneal, twenty-two, a student studying social work at University of Central Missouri and a camp volunteer who was born blind, wants camp participants to know they can do what most people with sight can do.
“It’s nice to be independent and not rely on other people,” Carneal said. “It gives you a sense of confidence by using a bus or the MetroLink. It’s important for them, when they’re young, to know they can do whatever they want in life.”
by Patti Chang
From the Editor: Patti is the newly-appointed director of outreach for the National Federation of the Blind. She is the immediate past president of our Illinois affiliate, a former member of the national board of directors, and currently serves as the treasurer of the NFB of Illinois. Here is what she says about providing crucially-needed funds that make our programs possible:
The holiday season is coming upon us. It is a time to celebrate, and we ought to reflect on how the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has affected blind people’s lives. In thinking about the gifts the NFB gives, these stories movingly explain how we make better the lives of those we touch:
The National Federation of the Blind provided Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Academies (BELL) in most states during the summer of 2016. These BELL Academies change lives as you can see from this “BELL Ringer.”
A rising seventh grader attended NFB BELL Academy for the first time this summer. She had a Braille teacher in first and second grades. However, her school thought she could see too well to continue with Braille, so they terminated her instruction in Braille. Five years later this bright young lady has been struggling more and more every year in school. The volume of work has grown, print size has shrunk, and her persistent headaches have halted any recreational reading and limited her ability to complete regular schoolwork.
This young lady’s parents knew that something needed to change. Her mother signed her up for NFB BELL Academy and drove four hours each day for two weeks to provide her daughter the opportunity to learn the skills she needs. At the end of each day, NFB BELL Academy students share their accomplishments of the day, which we call “BELL Ringers.” On her second day this young lady, who had not been exposed to any Braille for the past five years, reflected on the impact of NFB BELL Academy: “I came in yesterday knowing “a,” and I’m leaving today knowing “a” through “t.”
One of the most important aspects of the Federation is mentorship. Another parent wrote when evaluating the BELL Academy:
My daughter, age seven, attended her first BELL Academy this summer. The word which most accurately describes her experience is enthusiastic. She not only gained more Braille skills and better O&M [orientation and mobility] skills; she also became enthusiastic about reading Braille and using her cane. For the first time she wasn’t the only blind child or the only blind person in the room. She became enthusiastic about learning more Braille and desired to do so because others were reading Braille also. Her cane skills had been lacking because she hadn’t been interested in following proper technique and learning to use auditory cues around her. At the NFB BELL Academy she received a new cane, she was able to make a name tag to put on it, and she became enthusiastic about using this wonderful tool. She knew that others in the room also had canes, and she wanted to be as good as them.
Ron Brown shared his feelings about the National Federation of the Blind:
I lost my vision when I was seventeen years old in a gunshot accident. I was coming home from a basketball game. I had 20/20 vision. After that happened to me I thought life was over as I knew it because I didn't know anything about blindness or blind people.
My name is Ron Brown, and I'm from Indianapolis, Indiana. I tell people I lost my vision at 17, and I found the Federation at 18—and how fortunate for me. Dr. Maurer at the time was our state president, and he is now the immediate past president of the National Federation of the Blind. He was instrumental in changing my life for the better. I met him while I was on the campus of Ball State University.
I felt that my blindness was a negative thing in my life. Every time people would see me with my cane they would react differently, and I noticed that. So a couple of other students and I got together, and we said, you know we're going to stop using our canes. And we're going to do this click-and-shuffle method of getting around. That's clicking your tongue to bounce sound off of walls, and it's sliding your feet in order to stay in contact with the ground.
Now, I'm thinking everybody on campus knew I was blind except me, because I didn't want to accept it. I wanted to pass. I wanted people to look at me the same way they had looked at me before. I was a tall guy who played sports and different kinds of things. I did not want to be seen in a hopeless, helpless way.
I did this for quite some time until one day I was going through the Cooper Science Building, and here I am clicking and shuffling down the hall sliding my feet. I am thinking that this hall is pretty empty so I'm going at a pretty good click, but what I did not know was that down the hall, about a hundred yards down the hall, were students on both sides of the hallway, and they had their legs stretched out. They were reading, and I didn't know it. They weren't making any noise. So I'm clicking my tongue, shuffling my feet, sliding on down the hallway until I got to that first person on the right side. I stepped on his legs and he screamed, and I jumped to the other side of the hallway, and I kicked this girl's book out of her hand, and her books went flying and she screamed, and on and on through the gauntlet of bodies I'm kicking books. In my wake I'm leaving homework and all kinds of stuff!
I'm saying 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry,’ and I'm jumping from one side of the hall to the other.
So then I turn around and make more apologies. I hear a patter of these feet come running behind me, and I'm thinking Uh-oh, I'm in trouble now! This guy came and put his hand on my shoulder, and he said 'Hey guy, I've been there. That's some good stuff you’re on.' And I'm thinking No, no, no, I'm not high; I'm just blind!
You see then I wanted to be blind. I didn't want to pass then. I'm thinking, you know, after it was all said and done—I need my cane. I better use my cane. Had they seen me with a cane they would have looked up and noticed a blind person coming, and they would have adjusted, but I didn't have any idea. So the cane was not only just a mobility tool, but it was an informational tool as well. It let them know that I was blind—and it also let me know the same.
From then on I carried my cane. I saw Dr. Maurer and Mrs. Maurer on the campus getting around gracefully with their canes, and I'm thinking That's the way I want to be. That's the mindset I want to have. I started listening and learning about the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. I felt like it was a good path to walk. Sometimes you want to take the path of least resistance; you don't want to acknowledge blindness, and you want to try to hide it. But the Federation taught me that it's respectable to be blind—that just because you lose your sight doesn’t mean you lose your ability to live the life you want. Not only did it teach me those valuable life lessons, but it also taught me that I could go to school and become someone that I wanted to become. I wanted to go into business. I've been in business now for thirty years. I've been living the American dream basically: living the life I want—not because I'm blind but in spite of it.
The NFB distributes free long white canes. One recipient recently sent a thank-you note:
It is great to know there are still people in this world that care about other people besides themselves. Your gift of a white cane could not have come at a better time for me! My wonderful wife of 43 years, who has Alzheimer’s, has moved to an assisted living facility. The only place I could find a cane was at the Lighthouse for the Blind in San Antonio, Texas. It’s a 14-hour round trip for me, and I can’t drive anymore. What you have done for me I will remember for the rest of my life.
Those testimonials and many more show why and how the National Federation of the Blind helps blind people live the lives we want. But we need your contribution to continue making a difference and changing lives.
With a $50 donation, the National Federation of the Blind can send a long white cane—free of charge—to a blind recipient and give back mobility. With the same amount the Federation can provide early literacy materials to families including a book with both Braille and print which empower parents to help their blind child get an early start to Braille literacy. With a larger donation we can train our Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Academy teachers, show blind youngsters that they can do science too, and so much more. Be a part of these gifts and everything the Federation does with love, hope, and determination.
We can’t change lives without you. Please help by making an end-of-year gift—and it’s easy to do. You can mail a donation or give online. To mail your donation, simply make out your check to the National Federation of the Blind, and send it to Attention: Outreach, 200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, MD 21230.
To give online visit our web page, <https://nfb.org/donate2016>. We all know that the Federation positively affects blind people’s lives every day. Please be a part of our movement with an end-of-year donation. It will be sincerely appreciated.
by Parnell Diggs
From the Editor: Every December we publish the Social Security figures that have been announced for the coming year. Our director of government affairs is charged with writing this annual update, and hats off to Parnell Diggs for never once complaining or needing to be reminded that the Braille Monitor needs this annual contribution. What follows is not easy reading, but it may be of significant importance for those who qualify for some assistance from the Social Security Administration. Here is what Parnell says:
About this time each year, we provide you with details regarding annual adjustments in the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medicare programs. In 2017 approximately 65 million Americans will see just a slight cost-of-living (COLA) increase (0.3 percent) in their benefit amounts. Thus, come January, monthly checks will be a few dollars higher.
The 2017 amounts appear below along with some concepts which are always good to know about the Social Security and Medicare programs if you want to understand your rights. The COLA adjustment (if any) is based upon the consumer price index (CPI-W), which measures the inflationary rate against the wages earned by the approximately 173 million workers across the nation over the previous four quarters starting with the third quarter of the previous year. Okay, here are the numbers.
FICA and Self-Employment Tax Rates: If you have a job, you know that you do not bring home everything you earn. 7.65 percent of your pay, for example, is deducted to cover your contribution to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Fund and the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund. Specifically, 6.20 percent covers OASDI, and 1.45 percent is contributed to the HI Trust Fund. Additionally, your employer is required to match this 7.65 percent for a total of 15.30 percent.
For those who are self-employed, there is no “employer” to match the 7.65 percent. Thus, a self-employed individual pays the entire 15.30 percent of her income. These numbers will not change in 2017 whether an individual is employed or self-employed. As of January 2013, individuals with earned income of more than $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly) pay an additional 0.9 percent in Medicare taxes not including the above amounts.
For the OASDI Trust Fund, there is a ceiling on taxable earnings, which was $118,500 per year in 2016 and will jump to $127,200 in 2017. Thus, for earnings above $127,200, there is no 6.20 percent deducted for OASDI. As for Medicare, there is no limit on taxable earnings for the HI Trust Fund.
I always like to compare the OASDI Trust Fund to an insurance policy. You have to pay a premium to participate. Therefore, to qualify for Retirement, Survivors, or Disability Insurance benefits, an individual must pay a minimum amount of FICA taxes into the OASDI Trust Fund by earning a sufficient number of calendar quarters to become fully insured for Social Security benefits.
In 2016 credit for one quarter of coverage was awarded for any individual who earned at least $1,260 during the year, which means that an individual would have needed to earn at least $5,040 to be credited with four quarters of coverage. In 2017 the amount increases to $1,300 for one calendar quarter or $5,200 to earn four quarters of coverage for the year.
A maximum of four quarters can be awarded for any calendar year, and it makes no difference when the income is earned during that year. Basically, the taxes you pay into the OASDI and HI Trust Funds are your premiums to participate in the Social Security and Medicare programs.
The total number of quarters required to be eligible for benefits depends on the individual’s age. The older the individual, the more quarters are required. Furthermore, a higher average income during an individual’s lifetime means a higher Social Security or SSDI check when benefits start. Remember the above quoted numbers for quarters of coverage to become fully insured are only minimum amounts.
This concept is often misunderstood. The amount of earnings required to use a trial work month is based not upon the earnings limit for blind beneficiaries, but rather upon the national average wage index. In 2016 the amount required to use a TWP month was only $810, and this amount will increase to $840 in 2017.
If you are self-employed, you can also use a trial work month if you work more than eighty hours in your business, and this limitation will not change unless expressly adjusted.
The earnings limit for a blind beneficiary in 2016 was $1,820 per month and will rise to $1,950 in 2017. Remember this is not the TWP amount. This is to say that the TWP can be exhausted even if your income is well below $1,950 per month. See the above information about the TWP.
In 2017 a blind SSDI beneficiary who earns $1,951 or more in a month (before taxes but after subtracting unincurred business expenses for the self-employed, subsidized income for the employed, and impairment-related work expenses) will be deemed to have exceeded SGA and will likely no longer be eligible for benefits.
In January of 2017, the average amount of SSDI benefits for a disabled worker is estimated to rise by about $4 to $1,171. Pursuant to the Social Security Act, a cost-of-living adjustment occurs automatically when there is an increase in inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). The CPI-W indicated an inflationary rate of 0.3 percent between the third quarter of 2015 and the third quarter of 2016. Thus, there is a corresponding COLA increase in 2017 and a minimal increase in monthly benefit amounts.
The federal payment amount for individuals receiving SSI in 2016 was $733 per month and will increase to $735 in 2017, and the federal monthly payment amount of SSI received by couples will rise from $1,100 to $1,103.
In 2016 the monthly amount was $1,780 and will increase to $1,790 in 2017. The annual amount was $7,180 and will be $7,200 in 2017. The asset limits under the SSI program will remain unchanged at $2,000 per individual and $3,000 per couple.
Signed on December 19, 2014, the ABLE Act will have a significant impact on resource limits associated with the SSI and Medicaid programs for those who were blind or disabled by the age of twenty-six. Traditionally, SSI beneficiaries have been required to adhere to strict resource limits: such as a maximum of $2,000 in the bank for an individual receiving SSI benefits. Under the ABLE Act, however, the amount on deposit in an ABLE Account can be much higher.
ABLE Account contributions must be designated specifically for purposes such as education, housing (with a cautionary warning to follow), employment training and support, assistive technology, health, prevention and wellness, financial management, legal fees, and funeral and burial expenses. The required implementing regulations are being enacted in most states. Check with your financial institution of choice for a status of ABLE Act regulations in a specific state.
As to the warning about ABLE Account contributions for housing, it is important to note that SSI beneficiaries may still face the traditional $2,000 resource limit for ABLE Account funds designated for housing. Thus, SSI beneficiaries should consider the many other purposes not subject to the traditional resource limits when making ABLE Account contributions. Because there are also tax advantages associated with ABLE accounts, both SSDI and SSI beneficiaries should consult a financial advisor about establishing an ABLE Account.
At this writing, the Department of Health and Human Services has not released updated information regarding deductibles, coinsurance amounts, and premiums for 2017. Updated Medicare information will be provided in an upcoming issue of the Braille Monitor. But for illustrative purposes, we will here provide you with details regarding the numbers from 2015 compared to 2016.
Medicare Deductibles and Coinsurance: Medicare Part A coverage provides hospital insurance to most Social Security beneficiaries. The coinsurance amount is the hospital charge to a Medicare beneficiary for any hospital stay. Medicare then pays the hospital charges above the beneficiary's coinsurance amount.
The Part A hospital inpatient deductible was $1,260 in 2015 and increased to $1,288 in 2016. The coinsurance charged for hospital services within a benefit period of no longer than sixty days was $0 in 2016. From the sixty-first day through the ninetieth day, the daily coinsurance amount was $315 per day in 2015 and rose slightly to $322 in 2016. Each Medicare beneficiary has sixty lifetime reserve days that may be used after a ninety-day benefit period has ended. Once used, these reserve days are no longer available after any benefit period. The coinsurance amount paid during each reserve day used in 2015 was $630 and in 2016 was $644.
Part A of Medicare pays all covered charges for services in a skilled nursing facility for the first twenty days following a three-day in-hospital stay within a benefit period. From the twenty-first day through the one hundredth day in a benefit period, the Part A daily coinsurance amount for services received in a skilled nursing facility was $157.50 for 2015 and rose just slightly to $161 in 2016.
Most Social Security beneficiaries have no monthly premium charge for Medicare Part A coverage. Those who become ineligible for SSDI can continue to receive Medicare Part A coverage premium-free for at least ninety-three months after the end of a trial work period. After that time the individual may purchase Part A coverage. The premium rate for this coverage during 2015 was $407 monthly and increased to $411 in 2016.
The annual deductible amount for Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) in 2015 was $147 and rose to $166 in 2016. The Medicare Part B monthly premium rate for 2015 was $104.90 per month and rose to $121.80 in 2016. For those receiving Social Security benefits, this premium payment is deducted from your monthly benefit check. Individuals who remain eligible for Medicare but are not receiving Social Security benefits due to work activity must directly pay the Part B premium quarterly—one payment every three months. Like the Part A premiums mentioned above, Part B is also available for at least ninety-three months following the trial work period, assuming an individual wishes to have it and, when not receiving SSDI, continues to make quarterly premium payments.
Programs That Help with Medicare Deductibles and Premiums: Low-income Medicare beneficiaries may qualify for assistance through four Medicare Savings Programs. We will discuss three of them here and leave the fourth one alone because (to qualify for it each year) you must already be on it, and you know who you are. Note: the below amounts may change in 2017. We begin with the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program (QMB) and the Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary program (SLMB). To qualify for the QMB program in 2016, an individual’s monthly income could not exceed $1,010, and a married couple’s monthly income could not exceed $1,355. To qualify for the SLMB program in 2016, an individual’s monthly income could not exceed $1,208, and a married couple’s monthly income could not exceed $1,622.
Under the QMB program, states are required to pay the Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance expenses for Medicare beneficiaries who meet the program's income and resource requirements. Under the SLMB program, states pay only the full Medicare Part B monthly premium. Eligibility for the SLMB program may be retroactive for up to three calendar months.
Both the QMB and SLMB programs are administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in conjunction with the states. The rules vary from state to state, but the following can be said: As of 2016, resources (such as bank accounts or stocks) could not exceed $7,280 for one person or $10,930 per couple. The third program, known as the Qualified Disabled and Working Individuals (QDWI) Program, pays Part A premiums only and has resource limits of $4,000 for one person and $6,000 for a married couple. As to these programs, resources are generally things you own. However, not everything is counted. Examples of things that don’t count include the house you live in, one car, a burial plot (or $1,500 put aside for burial expenses), and furniture.
If you qualify for assistance under the QMB program, you will not have to pay the following: Medicare's hospital deductible amount, the daily coinsurance charges for extended hospital and skilled nursing facility stays; the Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) premium, the annual Part B deductible; and the coinsurance for services covered by Medicare Part B, depending on which doctor you go to (these services include doctor services, outpatient therapy, and durable medical equipment).
If you qualify for assistance under the SLMB program, you will be responsible for the payment of all of the items listed above except for the monthly Part B premium, depending on your circumstances.
If you think you qualify but you have not filed for Medicare Part A, contact Social Security to find out if you need to file an application. Further information about filing for Medicare is available from your local Social Security office or Social Security's toll-free number (800) 772-1213.Remember that only your state can decide if you are eligible for help from the QMB or SLMB program and also that the income and resource levels listed here are general guidelines, with some states choosing greater amounts. Therefore, if you are elderly or disabled, have low income and very limited assets, and are a Medicare beneficiary, contact your state or local Medicaid office (referred to in some states as the Public Aid Office or the Public Assistance Office) to apply. For more information about either program, call the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on its toll-free number (800) 633-4227, or visit <Medicare.gov>.
by Danielle Trevino
From the Editor: Danielle has until recently been a staff member for the National Federation of the Blind as the director of our social media efforts. She has recently moved to Texas to be with family, and though it goes without saying for those who know her, she remains an active member and leader in the National Federation of the Blind. Danielle uses the term “Latinx” to describe herself. This is a newer term, a nongendered alternative to Latina or Latino that has gained popularity as a way to include transgendered or other nontraditionally-gendered members of the community. Here is what she has to say:
Today is the twenty-sixth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). I am sitting in a very nice hotel room in Orlando, having just spent the last four days attending the National Council of La Raza [the Race] (NCLR) conference. The NCLR is an organization that advocates for the rights of Latinx people. Similar to the mission of the National Federation of the Blind, La Raza strives to empower the Latin community to raise our voices and demand to be treated as equals. On the one hand, I am proud. Proud of being a woman, of being Latinx, and of being blind. I was born and raised in the United States, and I've benefited from the ADA. Even before I had language to explain things like self-advocacy, equality, opportunity, and security, I knew that I always had a leg to stand on. I'm so proud of how far we've come as disabled people while recognizing that the playing field is far from level. It does my heart good to know that organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind have not only fought for a seat at the table, but we've proven that we're capable of setting it and cooking the food to be served on it.
I was raised to be vocal about my rights and needs, but I have to say that growing up I never met someone who looked like me. I met other blind people, I met other Latinx women, but the three never intersected. So on the other hand, my heart hurts. I thought that coming here would mean that I would be able to forge relationships with like-minded people of my culture who would be open to inviting the disabled to the table instead of sitting us in a corner where they can watch us in case we need help. I don't consider myself to be a shy person. I strike up conversations with anyone around me. However, when I tried to do that with other conference attendees (who were not part of my group), most of them responded with "Do you need help?" "Are you lost?" One lady even grabbed my cane and tried steering for me.
I sat in sessions where the presenter said things like, "Read the story on screen, and tell me what you think," and my favorite, "If you look at the girl in the picture, you can tell she's not broken or different." Uh, what? Ironically enough, this was said in a session about social media and telling stories—two topics I may know a thing or two about. I'm saddened by the fact that we as disabled people have so far to go to level that playing field within American society, but in my experience this week, we're not even in the ballpark within the Latinx community.So how do we fix it? How do we start the conversation? How do we shed light on the fact that diabetes is now officially an epidemic within the Latinx community? How do we make people understand that blindness is the number-one side effect of diabetes? How do we make it so that little brown blind girls and their families get connected with the resources they need to get ahead and role models they can truly look up to? What steps need to be taken so that at large conferences such as NCLR or in the day-to-day, we are not othered because we're different? In the last year I've met some amazing Latinas within the NFB: Conchita Hernandez, Roxanne Torres, Lisamaria Martinez, and many more. All of these women are phenomenal powerhouses, who are out there representing the strength and beauty of the blind Latina. They, along with my incredible support system, inspire me to keep showing up, to keep moving in this space to the beat of a good salsa song. Our day is coming. We're hungry and more than ready to take our seats at the table.
by Annette Brill Bergstresser
From the Editor: This article is reprinted with the kind permission of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. Readers probably recognize the name Matt Yeater. He is a leader in the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana, has been the winner of a national scholarship, and was honored with a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. What you may not know about him is that Matt was once on a very different path, one he believes was changed by God and furthered by his work in our organization. Here is Matt’s story:
Matt Yeater can relate to Bible stories in which God moves in seemingly impossible ways. His own story is one of them. Blinded in a meth lab explosion when he was twenty and imprisoned on multiple occasions, Matt doesn’t fit the stereotype of a seminary student. However, he not only graduated May 21 with a Master of Divinity from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, but also was named a recipient of the 2016 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award from the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) for his work in making biblical languages accessible to blind people.
“It’s not anything I’ve done; it’s God pushing me and telling me to move forward, making a way where there is no way,” reflects Matt, now thirty-six and a member of Life Tabernacle Church in Elkhart. “He will lead even in the places that don’t make sense to anyone.”
Matt recalls a childhood and young adulthood with a lot of moves, most of them in the Midwest. “I was angry and couldn’t stay out of trouble,” he says. “Between ages thirteen and eighteen, I was locked up more time than I was free.”
The meth lab explosion sent him to the hospital, where he spent a month on life support recovering from chemical burns. The explosion of hydrous ammonia had burned the top half of his lungs; he says he still gets winded easily today.
After leaving the hospital, he “went back to the same old environment,” getting drugs wherever he could. “People would only give me so much, so I ended up learning how to make meth blind,” he recalls. “I did it for a year and a half before they put me in prison. I got busted on charges of possession and conspiracy to manufacture [illegal substances].” Matt was sentenced to six years in an Illinois prison. There he went through a drug rehab program and was put on work release, which he did while staying with family in Illinois.
“I became sought after as a motivational speaker for kids by law enforcement,” he says. “When they were losing funding for the DARE [Drug Abuse Resistance Education] program, I’d go in and talk, and they’d get funding again.”
After serving three years of his sentence, Matt was released at age 24. He got married to the woman he was with when the meth lab blew up, and they moved to Elkhart—where his dad was—to try to start over. His wife got a job at a gas station, and they had two children, a son and a daughter. Matt had dreams of going to college to become a drug and alcohol counselor.
Unfortunately, things got worse before they could get better. One day in November 2005, Matt was watching his children while his wife was at work. He set his infant daughter down in a recliner to go check on his son, who was wearing a bell so he could keep track of where he was. When he returned, he sat down on the recliner without thinking, accidentally sitting on the lower part of one of his daughter’s legs. Frightened, he waited for his wife to come home, and they took her to the hospital, where doctors determined she had a small fracture. Matt was arrested immediately, and the children were taken into foster care.
What followed was a complicated situation in which allegations of battery of a minor dependent were brought against Matt; his daughter allegedly had injuries that were inconsistent with his story of what had happened. So Matt found himself in a jail cell again, facing a trial. For the first and only time in his life, he contemplated suicide.
“I said, ‘Lord, I heard you won’t put more on us than we can bear, but this is too much for me.’ I didn’t see any other choice,” he says. “I remember the next day . . . I had fallen asleep on my bunk, saying, ‘God, you know what happened.’ I heard a voice, a clear audible voice that said to go get the medical records.”
He called his wife and told her what he’d heard. It took six months, but she was able to get the records to prove that the only injury their daughter had was the leg fracture.
“That was a supernatural experience,” Matt reflects. “No one was coming to preach to me. God sovereignly moved in and blew the thing wide open. And right after that, five preachers came to the jail—a few looking specifically for me.
“I started holding Bible studies in jail as a way of getting people to read the Bible to me,” he adds. “I started doing prayer circles.”
Although the battery charges were dropped, Matt still remained in jail until January 2008 for neglect of a dependent for not having called an ambulance right away. After he got out of jail, he went to church with the people who had been ministering to him.
“My relationship with God has always been a supernatural relationship,” he says. “God would show up and speak, and things would turn around. All I had was the Bible. Our relationship developed through prayer and trials in my life and the Word of God.”
Matt then went to Indiana Bible College in Indianapolis to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Bible with a minor in theology. He graduated in May 2013 with high honors and leadership awards.
“While I was at IBC, God said, ‘Prepare for a PhD,’” he says. He came to visit AMBS. “I had no money to pay for anything,” he says. His marriage had ended, but he had regained custody of his children. “I knew I wanted to have a place for my kids.”
“As I was walking up to AMBS on my second visit, the Holy Ghost just fell on me, and I started speaking in tongues, and I got a phone call saying everything would be paid for, even my housing,” he remembers. “The people I was with were asking what was going on, but I was experiencing what the Lord does for me. God opens up doors along the way.”
When Matt became a student at AMBS in the fall of 2013, he faced higher hurdles at seminary than most students, both in terms of accessibility and academics. He had never studied languages before, and the resources available for studying biblical languages in Braille were limited.
Paul Keim, professor of Bible and Religion at Goshen (Indiana) College and a sessional instructor of Hebrew at AMBS, began tutoring him in Greek two times a week, using Braille versions of the Greek grammar and New Testament text. However, after more than two weeks, they realized that the New Testament text they were working with was not ancient Greek, but modern Greek. Back to square one.
“I’ve been teaching language for a long time, but at every turn I realized how most of the strategies and protocols for learning language are for sighted people,” Paul says. “The dictionary and encyclopedia articles were full of symbols Matt couldn’t read.”
Matt and Paul began to explore gaining access to scholarly articles and commentaries in Braille. While they were able to connect with others who had converted biblical language documents into Braille, they realized there was no way for a blind person to successfully produce ancient language material in print in a way that would make sense to sighted scholars.
“Our approach very early on was that we were going to try to reproduce the text [in print] to contribute to the sighted community and to scholarship as a whole,” Matt says. “I wanted to create tools that would help blind people compete with sighted people on terms of equality.”
That same semester, Matt called Duxbury Systems, Inc., a company based in Westford, Massachusetts, that specializes in Braille translation software, supporting up to 147 different languages. He explained to David Holladay, a senior technical staff member, the challenges he was facing in translating the Hebrew characters.
Matt didn’t know it, but David’s father was Bill Holladay, a well-known biblical scholar who translated the Hebrew Bible from German to English. David talked to Bill about Matt’s problem. The next time they talked, he told Matt, “My dad’s a theologian; I’m going to help you.”
Matt said David and his wife, Caryn Navy, also a senior technical staff member at Duxbury, dove into the project, even working on their own time at home to create a new biblical language software profile in Braille that would help Matt and other blind scholars study the ancient languages.
They began building in the Braille software the critical apparatus, which gives scholars information about other manuscripts to find the best reading of a passage. Matt and Loren Johns, professor of New Testament, would write the code; David and Caryn would translate it into the software; and Matt would work through the text and identify where revisions were needed.
“The critical apparatus gave me the opportunity to engage with the biblical textual criticism,” Matt says. “That had never been done by a blind person.” Matt adds that once they plugged Greek and Hebrew into the new software, they realized they would also need to write code for Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic in which many early Christian texts are written. He and Paul created the consonants, and he worked on the vowels with a fellow student, Ryan Harker, and Ray McAllister, who is blind and has a PhD in Hebrew from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.
“We didn’t just want to assign the same vowels for all three scripts [Hebrew, Greek and Syriac],” he says. “We had to create a systematic code so that it would be the same for a blind person as a sighted person, who could recognize the difference immediately.”
Matt notes that the project has taken three years and is still ongoing. In addition to the critical apparatus, Duxbury’s biblical language software currently contains ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, ancient Greek, ancient Syriac, Coptic, and Latin—all of which can be converted to Braille at the touch of a button.
According to Matt, the timing of the project is significant. The Marrakesh Visually Impaired Persons Treaty, passed in June 2013 in Marrakesh, Morocco, grants copyright exceptions so that accessible versions of books and other copyrighted works can be created and shared across borders. So the code Matt and his colleagues have created will set the standard globally for access to biblical languages.
“This is a big deal for the blind community,” he says. “The biblical language profile is now accessible to people all around the world in their own language. There hasn’t been anything like this since Nemeth Code [a Braille code for encoding mathematical and scientific notation linearly].” He recently also learned that HumanWare, a company that makes Braille devices, is adding the software to two of its devices.
“Matt always emphasized that he wanted the results of his work to be accessible to other blind people, to show them that it’s possible to study languages, that tools are available, and that they wouldn’t have to start from scratch,” Paul notes. “I don’t know how many people out there want to learn languages and have the capacity, but Matt was convinced that if they could create the software, other people would use it.” Paul adds that in Matt’s second year, Eileen Saner, then director of the AMBS library, saw a notice on a librarians’ discussion board; another seminary was planning to admit a blind student who wanted to study languages. Matt, Paul, and Loren arranged a conference call to share about their experiences.
“That gave us encouragement that our resources could be made available and that our experiences could be valuable to others—not just blind people but sighted professors as well,” Paul says. “We discussed everything from biblical language protocols to use to how much time it takes for a blind student to access the materials.”
Paul says that for him, working with Matt on this project transformed his understanding of what accessibility means. “It’s not just being able to get to the second floor because somebody hoists you up; you can get up there, but you’ve got to find somebody to hoist you,” he says. “The point is to get up there on your own, when you want to go. Physical accessibility is a metaphor for all kinds of accessibility.” He adds that getting course textbooks in an electronic format that could be translated into Braille was an ongoing need during Matt’s studies. A lot of people at AMBS scanned books for him. “It’s a question of getting to the point where you don’t always have to depend on the largesse of the community,” he says. “I think that’s what we’ve moved toward.”
Now Matt himself can transfer text from Logos Bible software to Microsoft Word and export it into digital Braille with the help of the new software. It takes him ten additional steps, but he can access the same information as a sighted person. And what he writes in any of the biblical languages can be exported into a form that makes sense to sighted scholars.
This spring, thanks in part to those who chose to invest in this project, he successfully defended his thesis, which is provisionally titled, “Yeshua Yahwism: The highest Christology in apposition to mono-Yahwism.”
This spring, Matt also applied for the NFB’s Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award, named for a pioneering blind physician, which recognizes “individuals and organizations working in the field of blindness that have demonstrated exemplary leadership and extraordinary accomplishments toward achieving the full integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality.” Matt is also president of the NFB’s Michiana chapter.
In his application, Matt chose to name everyone at AMBS and Duxbury who contributed to the work; he also included two other people who are blind who participated in the project: Ray McAllister and Sarah Blake LaRose, an adjunct instructor at the School of Theology of Anderson (Indiana) University. “I felt I needed to honor the others’ work; they’re the giants, and I’m standing on their shoulders,” he says. He also expresses gratitude to AMBS professors and staff for “not being intimidated” by his needs and for their willingness to invest in learning how to meet them.
The NFB chose to give the $20,000 first-place award to Matt, Ray, and Sarah. The award will be presented July 5 at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando, Florida.
This summer, Matt is taking Aramaic and Syriac with Paul. He plans to continue his post-graduate studies on Second Temple Judaism and the birth of the church, perhaps at a university in Israel. He’d like to sharpen his research skills and to become fluent in Hebrew and Arabic.
“I want a graduate program to say, ‘This kid’s going to be an investment’—that’s how I want to be viewed,” he says. “I want the next blind person to be evaluated on their skills and accomplishments and not their blindness.
by Amy Buresh
From the Editor: Amy is the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska, an employee of the agency serving blind people in her state, and the mother of two children. She also serves as a member of the national board of directors and at this summer’s convention delivered one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard about integrating all of these responsibilities and still finding time for oneself. Here is what she said to the convention:
The house is still. For a few precious moments my world is quiet. My two-year-old daughter Sarah is sleeping peacefully on my lap, and my husband Shane and ten-year-old son Noah have long since given in to the sandman’s call. You would think that I, too, would be able to take advantage of the tranquility and get some much needed rest. It is a busy summer at my house. Noah is playing baseball, which means practice or a game on most evenings. Sarah is an active, inquisitive, imaginative, energetic toddler. Family is visiting from California. Youth programs like WAGES (Work and Gain Experience in the Summer) and several others are in full swing at the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, where I am employed as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. The Nebraska affiliate has just completed its annual Walk for Independence, and week one of our BELL Academy is in the books. I have a convention speech to write. What could I possibly say that would make a difference, challenge and inspire? My mind is working overtime. Words from the book I had just read Sarah before she drifted off to dreamland still running through my head. “… someday you’ll know…” In The Dream Tree by Steven Cosgrove, Patti is a little fuzzy, energetic caterpillar who is curious to know what it will feel like when she becomes a beautiful butterfly as she spins her cocoon on the branches of the Dream Tree. She asks her mom. She asks a fluttering butterfly. But it's all to no avail. No one can truly explain the mystery that awaits. Dream Tree is a story for all ages that addresses those things in life that are so hard to explain. Though it is sometimes hard to wait, growing up will come soon enough.
I found myself contemplating what my children’s grown-up future would hold. Their little personalities already showing, what would they become? What would the future hold for our students from the BELL Academy or the WAGES program?
It wasn’t so long ago I had the very same thoughts about my own life.
I am blind because of retinopathy of prematurity. I weighed nearly two pounds at birth and have been told I could easily fit in the palm of my dad’s hand. Placed in an incubator, I received too much oxygen, damaging the optic nerves of my eyes and causing blindness.
When I was five, my family moved from our farm to Nebraska City so that I could attend the Nebraska School for the Visually Handicapped (NSVH, as it was known then). My parents made the difficult decision to relocate to a new community far away from family, friends, and all they knew so that I could continue to live at home during my school years rather than in a dormitory. There I received a solid education and had a normal family life, complete with two pesky little brothers, family campouts, picnics, dress-up, and backyard sports. I believe this was critical to my success during my formative years, and I have always been grateful my parents made the choice they did.
While a student at NSVH, I received training in many blindness skills, the most critical of which was Braille, which no doubt helped me to excel academically.
In eighth grade I began taking classes at the public school in Nebraska City. That was an adjustment academically and socially. I went from all material, including textbooks, in Braille to having to learn to use books on cassette. I love music, so I tried out for swing choir. It took some hard work, but I made it. And, I can admit it now—my mischievous side got the best of me, and I purposely would sometimes dance near the edge of the stage, just ‘cuz I could. Most times though I danced right in step with everyone else because I knew instinctively that what I did would reflect on all blind students to follow me. Although I was active in extracurricular activities—president of our school chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, musicals and plays, National Honor Society, and speech team, I found it hard to make real friends and sat through many lonely lunches. This is when those tough life questions began to formulate. What would it be like to be a blind woman? I knew one. She was the wife of the superintendent of NSVH and the Braillist. She was a nice enough lady and in the church choir with me. She and her husband had three children. I assume she prepared their meals and kept the house. However, she could not walk the one block between her home and the school’s campus on her own. She went sighted guide every day and walked without a cane around the school with a slow and shuffling gait. I knew I did not want this. My own mobility lessons were once a week. I was expected to use and trust my cane then, but at no other times was I encouraged to use it. My mobility teacher thought it was more for recognition than a tool. “Grab a wing. It’s all right,” he’d say. I did take it with me to the public school, where I used it properly. How would I get around? I knew this was not what I wanted for my future.
I kept the questions and fear at bay by keeping busy. Through the Nebraska Human Resources Department at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, I participated in a Big Sister-style program in which I was paired with a blind elementary school student whom I continued to mentor well after the program’s conclusion.
Growing up, I had few positive blind role models and limited contact with confident competent blind peers. It was during my teenage years that I first participated in youth programs sponsored by the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (NCBVI), where I gained many valuable skills and met my future husband. (So, those of you in summer youth programs, look out! You may get more than you are bargaining for this summer.)
For several summers I worked as a volunteer counselor at the Summer Kids Independence Program (SKIP) Camp, a program for children ages five to twelve, sponsored by NCBVI. I wanted to share with other blind youth the things I had learned during my high school journey: which plans had worked for me, and which hadn’t. I believed then and believe more absolutely today that mentoring is important in improving one’s attitude toward blindness and a great way to learn how to handle being different in our society.
Whether at home or at school, participating in music, academics, or athletics, I was successfully working and competing with my sighted peers. But, despite academic and extracurricular success, no one would hire me for a summer or after school job. A teacher did offer me a babysitting job a few times, but that was the extent of my work experience.
As a senior in high school those nagging life questions from a few years ago came back in earnest. Neither my family and teachers nor my sighted peers had an answer. Could I really be successful as an independent blind adult? Would I ever marry and have a family? What about employment? Could I get a job and do it well?
Following graduation, I began conquering those fears and seeking answers to these nagging questions by attending the Nebraska Center for the Blind in Lincoln. There I was first introduced to the underpinning philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind and, equally important, to kind and inspirational Federationists like Barbara Loos.
Armed with newfound confidence and skills, I enrolled in Peru State College, graduating with a BS in psychology, sociology, and criminal justice.
In 1993 the NFB of Nebraska established a scholarship program, and I was its first winner. With this award I faced a turning point in the evolution of my personal philosophy and in my affiliation with the National Federation of the Blind. Growing up, I had been warned that the NFB was an organization of radical, evil militants I should avoid like the plague. Thanks to the scholarship program, I attended my first state convention in the fall of 1993, discovered the warmth of the members of the NFB and the important work we are doing, and haven't looked back since. YES! I could live the life I wanted. It was there I met Chris Boone. She was confident, smart, a law student, and a wife and mom. These were things I wanted for myself. If she could do it, so could I!
The very next year, in October of 1994, a handful of other concerned blind Nebraska students along with myself were granted the charter for the Nebraska Association of Blind Students within the Nebraska affiliate. I was elected president of the student division, an office I held for two years.
Since those early days in the Federation, I have held a number of chapter and affiliate positions in Nebraska. In 2003 I was elected to serve as affiliate president, and in the summer of 2006 was elected by the national convention to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind.
The year 2006 was quite a monumental and emotional year in my life. Two months before being elected to the national board, on Tuesday, May 2 at 10:26 PM, a seven-pound-ten-ounce, twenty-one-inch long baby boy we named Noah made his grand entrance into the world. Shane and I were proud and excited. Naturally, we had the normal questions first-time parents would have. But thanks to the National Federation of the Blind and the supportive family we found there, we never doubted our abilities as blind parents—even though some around us did. Soon after Noah’s birth, (we didn’t even have his name picked out yet and still very emotional with all the birth hormones) we were visited by a hospital social worker. He came in, notepad and pen in hand, with a mile-long list of questions. Were we prepared at home? How would we feed, change, and bathe our new baby? How would we know if he was awake or hungry? (Duh!) Did we have anyone to move in with us permanently? Now, I don’t know about you, but no matter how much you love your parents or your in-laws, you don’t want them living with you. We had heard of these things happening to other blind parents, but that was years in the past—this shouldn’t, couldn’t be happening to us today! I wanted to cry. Shane, as he usually is, was strong, pragmatic, and calm. We asked if all new parents received a visit with questions such as these, and he had to reluctantly admit they did not. Only if it was thought a situation warranted special extra attention or posed a certain risk or potential for problems did they receive a visit. So, we took a deep breath and began to educate this guy about the real truth of blindness. Standing on the shoulders of those successful, competent blind parents who went before us like Marc and Patricia Maurer, Ray and Diane McGeorge, Joanne Wilson, Steve and Nadine Jacobsen and so many more, we began to answer his questions and, with love, hope, and determination, to explain how we would care for our son. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, he was satisfied we were not going to harm our son and left us alone!
Later that same year, in November, I was assigned my first duty as a national rep. I was to travel to Ohio, and I could bring my family with me. I was excited to share the good work we were doing at a national level and to learn from their affiliate and watch the always poised, confident, smart, and well-dressed Barbara Pierce in action up close. Our trip there was un-eventful, and the convention was positive and uplifting. Barbara was kind and gracious, and we had a wonderful time with our Federation family in Ohio. Confident and energized from the weekend, we boarded the plane to return home. As we walked down the jet bridge and entered the plane, a worried flight attendant greeted us. He physically steered us immediately to our seats and tried multiple times to take the baby carrier, with Noah in it right out of Shane’s hands. After all, Shane might drop him. How could he possibly get the buckle secured around the carrier properly? His tone was condescending, and we were treated like toddlers. Did he stop to think about how we got ourselves, our bags, and our baby on to this plane all by ourselves? We settled Noah’s seat nearest the window and farthest away from grabbing stranger hands. Shortly after takeoff Noah was hungry. I took him out of his seat, grabbed my cover and prepared to nurse him. Right on cue came our friendly flight attendant with worry and warning that “You better cover up” and “Are you ok to do this? Did I know what I was doing?” How did he think we kept our son alive until this moment? I remained polite on the outside and knew I needed to try and educate this guy, but on the inside I was emotional and angry. While I was still feeding Noah, our overly solicitous flight attendant came to take drink orders. When the drinks were served, he brought ours in cups with lids and straws and insisted on opening our package of pretzels for us. We could not get off that plane fast enough! Once on the ground, we gathered our things, put Noah in his carrier, and waited our turn to deplane. We thought we could escape without another encounter but … it was not meant to be. Mr. flight attendant once again tried to convince us to sit and wait until everyone else was off the plane and he could find help for us. We said “No thank you,” and hurried as fast as we could off that plane.
I know that we are not alone in these types of experiences and that others have had to deal with far harsher circumstances.
In July of 2010 at the national convention in Dallas, we were all shocked, appalled, and frightened to hear the news of how baby Mikaela was taken away from her blind parents for fifty-seven long days simply because her parents were blind. I often think of how blessed we were to have narrowly escaped a similar fate.
On Valentine’s Day 2014, at 9:30 AM Sarah Faith arrived. This time we would not be surprised. We were prepared. Armed with literature from the NFB, and phone numbers of other blind parents and the national office on speed dial, we waited for a visit from a well-intentioned social worker, but it never came.
Are there challenges and frustrations with being a blind parent? Sure: Like when the room parent captain questions my ability to put together simple treat bags for the Halloween party; like when exiting a restaurant or crossing a street or at a checkout counter someone says what a big helper our sighted children must be (to which Noah responds “I guess”); or when one of the moms of Noah’s friends that I have served with on several committees and school and church groups say that Noah wasn’t asked to fill in when they were one altar boy short because they thought he had to sit with us to help us out lest we go astray in the communion line; or putting the KNFB reader through the paces and working with the teacher and school to read stacks of homework sheets in print; or when, after Sarah was born, a woman with whom I had served on the home and school board for two years asks if we had a nanny/housekeeper live with us to help take care of things since it must be extra difficult to manage a home and family without sight. (I know I’d sure like a maid but don’t run in the kind of circles where one can afford one.) Sure there are lots of annoyances and challenges, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Incidents such as these cause me to be invigorated to work shoulder-to-shoulder and stride-for-stride with like-minded Federationists who hold my same beliefs. I believe our biggest disability as blind people is the limitations and doubts which are placed upon us by others in society. Let’s continue to march together with our hammers of determination poised to drive home the nail of success.
In my acceptance remarks when joining the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors during the NFB’s 2006 national convention in Dallas, I said that the Federation, for me, is a family. I feel at home and empowered here, sheltered by the big branches of the mighty oak tree, a nut that stood its ground.
The roots of that tree go deep into the recesses of time and history. As written about in C. Michael Mellor's book Louis Braille: A Touch of Genius, we learn of a request for him to tutor a blind prince in the Austrian royal family. Louis Braille declined. As it says in the book, "According to his family, he asserted 'I am not the servant of only one blind person. I am the servant of all blind people.'"
Had he said this against a backdrop of arrogance, we wouldn't be likely to see it as a good thing. However, we know that he did serve blind people every day, including both friends and students every step of the way when creating his code. We also know that this decision probably shortened his life, since the air would have been much purer in Austria than at the school in France, where he chose to stay. In other words, he ultimately compromised his health and sacrificed his life to improve the lives of fellow blind people. He understood, as we do in the Federation, that individual accomplishments matter little if they don’t benefit others.
As many of you know, the National Federation of the Blind has a new Blind Parent Initiative. This initiative includes a website, <http://www.blindparents.org>. On this website, we want to include videos of blind parents explaining (and possibly demonstrating) how they complete different parenting tasks such as changing diapers, transporting babies in strollers or carriers, keeping track of toddlers when traveling, dispensing proper amounts of medication, helping older children with homework, feeding infants, and helping young children learn letters, numbers, colors, and so much more. If you are a blind parent, I hope you will take some time to offer a video, photo, and narrative to this project.
Sarah sighs softly in her sleep. As I gently rock her, I am contented and at peace. My ordinary life, juggling family, Federation and work commitments, struggling to keep all the balls in the air—this is the life I’ve chosen—the life I’ve created. My life as a blind woman is ordinary, not extraordinary. Therein lies its beauty.
Finally, “She fell into a long sleep, and dreamed the dreams of the dream tree.”
I am forever grateful for the many gifts given to me in my life. I am blessed with a wonderful spouse. Shane is kind, funny, smart, and a leader of this movement in his own right. I could not do the things I do without his love and support. Together, we are living the lives we want.
The National Federation of the Blind too has been a treasure. Melody Beattie said, "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
M. Jenison said “It’s your place in the world. It’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it and make it the life you want to live.” The National Federation of the Blind is a powerful and life-changing gift. It was for me, and I hope for you too.
by Dan Facchini
From the Editor: This article is reprinted from the fall edition of The Sounding Board, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey. Here is how it was introduced by the editor:
Editor’s Note: It is with much sadness that we report the untimely death of Tara Carty on July 11, 2016. An NFB national and state scholarship winner, Tara was an active member of the NFBNJ. Tara was an inspiration to all who knew her. She will be missed. The following article tells of Tara’s many challenges, her indomitable spirit, her life philosophy, and her kindness. Here is what Dan says about the love of his life:
My wife Tara was like any other woman of the world: she loved to go shopping, get her nails done, and she enjoyed going to the malls with her grandmother. Her home was very important to her. She loved to decorate for the holidays, especially Christmas, and one of her favorite things to do was to have friends and family over for holidays, backyard parties, and just having a good time.
One of Tara’s lifelong dreams was to complete college after leaving Boston College in her second semester when she was diagnosed with renal failure as a complication of diabetes. This dream came true when she graduated from Caldwell College in 2013 with a 4.0 GPA. Another of Tara’s dreams was to go to Disney World as an adult. This dream came true in 2016. We went to the national convention, and we also went to Disney. Like they always say, “All your dreams come true in Disney.” This year’s convention will be the most memorable for me because another of Tara’s dreams came true. I felt her life was complete, and she was finally happy and at peace.
My introduction to the NFB dates back about twenty years. That was my first state convention, and it was there and then that I was introduced to a whole new world. I no longer felt I was powerless against this blindness. Ever since that day, the NFB has changed my way of thinking about most everything. I was no longer an angry man with no direction. It led me to a good job, and I again had purpose. I became a member, then became a chapter president, and now I sit on the board of the NFBNJ. I share with others that being blind doesn't mean we have to stop doing the things we love. We can do anything if we put our minds to it. A blind person can do just fine in a sighted world. Independence and success are ours for the taking.
The biggest change in my life came in November of 2009 at our state convention. It was there that I met the most amazing young lady, Tara Carty. Tara was a national and state scholarship winner that year. On Friday, November 6, 2009, in Clark, New Jersey, at the state dinner, things changed in my life forever. After I heard Tara speak, I just knew I had to meet her and get to know more about her.
Now here was a person who had just recently lost her sight and had other major health issues due to diabetes, but she still had the most amazing outlook on life. You could tell whenever Tara spoke that she had the biggest smile on her face, and she was glowing. Between her smile and her attitude, she would just light up the room, and that very night she lit up my heart as well. I remember going up to her to introduce myself, and I was so nervous. That night we just talked and got to know more about one another, and the more she spoke, the more I fell in love.
For those members throughout the state who thought they knew me, thought I was a little rough around the edges and not the one for Tara because we came from two different sides of the tracks, I want you to know you had nothing to worry about. Tara saw me for who I really was. Tara was one of the few people I ever met who saw with her heart and not with her eyes. She could talk to a person, listen to them, and decide what kind of a person they really were.
In Tara’s scholarship application, she wrote that she sees with her heart, and she sees people for their personalities, not for what they look like. Well, it was a good thing for me that she did not judge me by what I looked like!
That year at the state convention, we had a “Kiss the Frog” fundraiser. It was between Joe Ruffalo and me, and at the last minute Tara took her last ten dollars and put it on Joe. She said she did not want me kissing anyone else but her. Well, truth be told, neither did I!
As two blind people we were able to teach one another so many things. I can honestly say that Tara made me a better person and taught me how to experience life more fully. There were so many things we did in the short time we had together, and when I was with her, I was never afraid to do anything. I don’t think I could have learned or done more in a lifetime with anyone else.
We enjoyed traveling. Of course we went to NFB national conventions. We also went to Saint Croix on a wonderful vacation, and then there were so many weekend getaways for when we just wanted to be alone and forget about everything else in the world.
The happiest day of my life was when I took her hand at our fairy tale wedding, and we vowed to spend each and every day together from that day forward for as long as we lived.
The reason I’m sharing the story of my life with Tara is because I think sometimes people think of the NFB as a place only for business and to get things done in the state, or in Washington on behalf of the blind and their issues. That is part of what the organization does, and thank God for how well we do it, but it isn’t the only thing the NFB does. The NFB is a place where people come as strangers who share a disability, but leave as part of a family that will always be there—offering support and advice, personally, emotionally, or yes, the practical necessities too.
So I will leave you with this testimony: I went from being a rough, tough exterior guy, mad at the universe for taking my sight, to a successful businessman in the Blind Merchants Division of the NFB. This enabled me to buy a perfect home for my lovely Tara, support the both of us in a way I could not have done if the NFB wasn’t there to guide me, but more than even that, it gave me a home and a family in the organization. These folks were there the day I met my Tara, and they were there holding me up the day I had to say my goodbyes to her.
My life is richer because of Tara, along with the list of friends and fellow Federationists who fill my life. These people are the greatest gift of all.
A friend shared this quote with me, and I’d like to end with it, since it sort of says what I’ve been trying to convey about the less discussed side of the NFB: “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”—Maya Angelou
by Nancy Burns
From the Editor: Each year I receive a tidbit after convention expressing the concern that we are not as polite as we should be as we hurriedly travel the halls on our way from place to place. Sometimes this is attributed to a more aggressive younger generation, sometimes to people who lack good mobility, and sometimes to people who are so preoccupied with their technology that they are like the driver who is simultaneously texting and shaving while driving to work. I have been reluctant to run some of these articles, crediting that there will be a certain amount of bumping and jostling in any group that includes a couple thousand blind people, but the fact I have received items like this for the last few years makes me wonder if a word about convention courtesy is in order.
Nancy Burns is a former resident of California, having served for a time as that state’s affiliate president. She and Don are longtime Federationists, and when she speaks, it is always after significant thought and reflection. Here is what she says about her experience at the 2016 National Convention in Orlando:
Not long ago our phones weren't smart; they were just phones. The word JAWS might have reminded us of a scary movie, and an Angry Bird was absolutely not something you wanted to play with.
Advances in technology continue to introduce us to new ways of life. It has changed the way we travel, the way we communicate, the way we work, and the way we play. It is fair to say that nearly all of us depend on at least some modern technology to function in society. Our dependence on technology does come with some responsibility. Sometimes it is just difficult to keep up with our fast-paced world. Our Victor Readers and notetakers must stay charged in order to allow us to read that favorite novel or keep track of notes, dates, etc.
We, as blind people, may not step into pools while texting, or step into ongoing traffic while playing Pokémon, but it is imperative that we pay close attention to our surroundings. When moving about the world, either in airports, cities, or large buildings, it is imperative that we use our hearing along with our cane skills. If we become distracted, for whatever reason, we may bump into someone or trip over some object.
The recent National Convention in Orlando was a perfect example of the need to be aware of not only ourselves, but of those around us. As a longtime cane user I was rather surprised at some of the behavior of convention attendees. It is understandable that excitement prevails at such conferences, and that fact may contribute to our lack of concentration and even lack of courtesy at times.
In discussing this matter with others, several thoughts emerged, but the one common thread was that many of us seem to abandon our manners and simply plow through a crowded area. This is not a blanket indictment of all blind travelers, but some of this behavior was disturbing. We are all ambassadors of education, and as Pam Allen, director of the Louisiana Center said, "We must constantly be aware of our nonverbal impressions that we make on society.” When asked if she felt that today's young travelers were less cautious than previous generations, Pam answered that we all seem to believe that our own generation was better but that her observations do not confirm such a conclusion.
One of my fellow convention attendees who is also a cane user said that she spent a fair amount of time being bumped and jostled by others and that she took the time to direct, and even instruct in some cases, the invading culprit.
I also took my concerns to Julie Deden, director of the Colorado Center for the Blind. Julie agreed that the blind, as well as the sighted, need to be more aware of their surroundings. She said that we all need to slow down.The good news is that, because of the NFB centers, more and more blind and visually impaired people are receiving cane travel instruction. It is not likely that any blind person without proper training will be able to successfully mix and mingle with the sighted world and make a positive impression. With training and support by peers and qualified instructors a blind person can safely and courteously navigate from coast to coast or border to border. Once we have acquired confidence in our travel skills, we are able to lead the life we want.
by Carla McQuillan
From the Editor: Carla McQuillan is the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, a member of the national Board of Directors, and the owner and executive director of Main Street Montessori Association, operating two Montessori schools. She is the chairman of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award Committee, and she has written this announcement seeking applications for the 2017 award:
The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind students at our 2017 annual convention, July 10 through July 15, in Orlando, Florida. The winner of this award will receive the following:
The education of blind children is one of the National Federation of the Blind's highest priorities. We are committed to offering and supporting programs that enhance educational opportunities for this group. Please help us recognize dedicated and innovative teachers who provide quality education and meaningful experiences and opportunities for their blind students.
Q: Who is eligible for this award?
A: Anyone who is currently a teacher, counselor, or the administrator of programs for blind students.
Q: Does an applicant have to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind?
A: No, but attending the national convention in Orlando is required.
Q: Can I nominate someone else for this award?
A: Yes. Applicants can be nominated by colleagues, parents, supervisors, or friends who have first-hand knowledge of the individual’s work with blind students.
Q: How would I apply?
A: You can fill out the application at the end of this article or find it on our website at <https://nfb.org/images/nfb/documents/pdf/distinguished-educator-of-blind-students-award-form-fillable.pdf>
Q: What is the deadline to submit an application or make a nomination?
A: All applications must be received no later than May 1, 2017.
Please complete the application and attach the required documents specified in the application. If you have questions, contact Carla McQuillan at (541) 653-9153.
National Federation of the Blind
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award
Deadline: May 1, 2017
Home Address: _________________________________________________
City, State, Zip: _________________________________________________
Phone: (H) ____________________ (W) ____________________________
City, State, Zip: _________________________________________________
Use a separate sheet of paper to answer the following:
List your degrees, the institutions from which they were received, and your major area or areas of study.
How long and in what programs have you worked with blind children?
In what setting do you currently work?
Briefly describe your current job and teaching responsibilities.
Describe your current caseload (e.g., number of students, ages, multiple disabilities, number of Braille-reading students).Email is strongly encouraged for transmitting nominations; letters of support and other relevant materials should be included as attachments. Applications sent by mail and postmarked by the deadline will also be accepted. Send all material by May 1, 2017, to Carla McQuillan, chairperson, Teacher Award Committee, <firstname.lastname@example.org> or by mail to 5005 Main Street, Springfield, OR 97478; (541) 653-9153.
by Edward Bell
From the Editor: Dr. Edward Bell is an experienced educator in his own right. He was named Blind Educator of the Year in 2008. He chairs the 2017 Blind Educator of the Year Award Selection Committee. This is what he says:
A number of years ago the Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by the National Organization of Blind Educators (the educators division of the National Federation of the Blind) to pay tribute to a blind teacher whose exceptional classroom performance, notable community service, and uncommon commitment to the NFB merit national recognition. Beginning with the 1991 presentation, this award became an honor bestowed by our entire movement. The change reflects our recognition of the importance of good teaching and the affect an outstanding blind teacher has on students, faculty, community, and all blind Americans.
This award is presented in the spirit of the outstanding educators who founded and have continued to nurture the National Federation of the Blind and who, by example, have imparted knowledge of our strengths to us and raised our expectations. We have learned from Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and Immediate Past President Marc Maurer that a teacher not only provides a student with information but also provides guidance, advocacy, and love. The recipient of the Blind Educator of the Year Award must exhibit all of these traits and must advance the cause of blind people in the spirit and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.
The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Honorees must be present to receive an appropriately inscribed plaque and a check for $1,000.
Nominations should be sent to Dr. Edward Bell, director, PDRIB, by email at <email@example.com>, or post mail to PDRIB, Louisiana Tech University, PO Box 3158, Ruston, LA 71272. Letters of nomination must be accompanied by a copy of the nominee's current résumé and supporting documentation of community and Federation activity. All nomination materials must be in the hands of the committee chairman by May 1, 2017, to be considered for this year's award. For further information contact Edward Bell at (318) 257-4554, or <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
by James Gashel
From the Editor: James Gashel is secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and chairs the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Committee. Here is his announcement about the 2017 Bolotin Awards program:
The National Federation of the Blind is pleased to announce that applications are now being accepted for the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards. These prestigious awards, granted each year as funds permit, recognize individuals, corporations, organizations, or other entities for outstanding work of excellence on behalf of the blind in the United States. The public recognition ceremony will be held during the 2017 annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando, Florida. Each recipient will be given a cash award in an amount determined by the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Committee and will also be honored with an engraved medallion and plaque.
Dr. Bolotin was a pioneering blind physician who practiced in the early twentieth century, and the awards which bear his name are made possible through the generosity of his late nephew and niece. Their bequest, the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust, allows the National Federation of the Blind to recognize and support the most outstanding individuals and projects working to improve opportunities for blind people in the United States, consistent with Dr. Bolotin’s pioneering example.
As chronicled in his biography, The Blind Doctor by Rosalind Perlman, Dr. Bolotin fought ignorance and prejudice to gain entrance to medical school and the medical profession. He became one of the most respected physicians in Chicago during his career, which spanned the period from 1912 until his death in 1924. He was particularly known for his expertise in diseases of the heart and lungs. During his successful career Dr. Bolotin used his many public speaking engagements to advocate for employment of the blind and the full integration of the blind into society. Interested in young people in general and blind youth in particular, Dr. Bolotin established the first Boy Scout troop consisting entirely of blind boys and served as its leader.
Jacob Bolotin’s wife Helen had a sister whose husband died suddenly, leaving her to raise a son, Alfred Perlman. The Perlmans moved in with the Bolotins when Alfred was eleven, and for four years (until Jacob Bolotin’s untimely death at age thirty-six), "Uncle Jake" became Alfred's surrogate father. Alfred later married Rosalind, and the couple worked on a book about Dr. Bolotin's life. After Alfred's death in 2001, Rosalind dedicated the rest of her life to completing and publishing the book. Then, upon her death and as part of her will, Rosalind left a bequest to the Santa Barbara Foundation and the National Federation of the Blind to produce Dr. Bolotin's biography and establish the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award program. Her book, The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story, has been published by and is available from Blue Point Books <www.BluePointBooks.com>.
In 2017 the National Federation of the Blind will again recognize individuals and organizations that have distinguished themselves in accordance with the criteria established to receive the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. The committee will determine both the number of awards and the value of each cash award presented. The Federation determines the total amount to be distributed each year based on income received from the trust supporting the award program. The award categories for each year are blind individuals, sighted individuals, and organizations, corporations, or other entities. Individuals may apply on their own behalf or may submit a third party nomination, or the committee may also consider other individual or organizational candidates.
Individuals: Only individuals over eighteen years of age may be considered for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. Applicants must demonstrate that they have shown substantial initiative and leadership in improving the lives of the blind. Examples of such initiative include but are not limited to developing products, technologies, or techniques that increase the independence of the blind; directing quality programs or agencies for the blind; or mentoring other blind people. All individual applicants or third-party applicants nominating other individuals must demonstrate that the work to be recognized has been conducted within the twelve months preceding the application and/or that the work is continuing. Applications by or on behalf of individuals must include at least one letter of recommendation from a person familiar with or directly affected by the work to be recognized.
Organizations: Organizations may apply for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award in order to further programs, services, technology, or techniques of unique and outstanding merit that have assisted and will continue to assist the blind. Applications from third parties nominating an organization will also be considered. The organization category includes corporations, nonprofit organizations, or other entities, such as a specific division within an organization. Organizations or third-party applicants must demonstrate that the programs or services to be recognized include substantial participation by blind people as developers, mentors, administrators, or executives, and not merely as clients, consumers, or beneficiaries. For example, an organization operating a program for blind youth might demonstrate that a substantial number of the counselors, teachers, or mentors involved in the program are blind. The organization or third-party applicant must demonstrate that it has substantially aided blind people within the twelve months prior to application and that an award would support efforts to build on previous successes. The application must also include at least one testimonial from a blind person who has benefited substantially from the programs or services.
To qualify for an award both individuals and organizations must be headquartered in the United States of America, and their work must primarily benefit the blind of the United States.
More information, including an online application, can be found on the National Federation of the Blind website at <https://www.nfb.org/bolotin-award-main>.
Online submission of nominations, letters of support, and other relevant materials is strongly encouraged, but applications sent by mail and postmarked by the deadline will also be accepted. The 2017 deadline for application submission is April 15. Recipients chosen by the committee will be individually notified of their selection no later than May 15. Receipt of all complete applications will be acknowledged; only those applicants chosen to receive an award will be contacted by May 15. All decisions of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Committee are final.
The awards will be presented in July during the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Individuals selected to receive an award must appear in person, not send a representative. Organizations may send an individual representative, preferably their chief executive officer. Recipient candidates must confirm in writing that they will appear in person to accept the award at the National Federation of the Blind annual convention. Failure to confirm attendance for the award presentation by June 1 will result in forfeiture of the award.
Those employed full-time by the National Federation of the Blind may not apply for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award for work performed within the scope of their employment. Students may not apply for both a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award and a National Federation of the Blind Scholarship in the same year.
Last December the Braille Monitor put out a call for holiday recipes on Nfbnet-members-list, and we received a delicious variety. This year, we thought we’d do something similar. But, instead of narrowing it down to holiday recipes, we thought we’d ask for party recipes. After the holidays come New Year’s and Super Bowl Saturday and any number of other occasions for large gatherings.
by Tom Bickford
Tom Bickford is best known for the Federation songs which bear his name. He has been a member of the Federation for more than fifty years, regularly attends conventions, and is a retired employee of the National Library Service.
1 16-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate bits
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark rum
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 cups finely-crushed vanilla wafers
1 cup finely-ground walnuts
Method: In a saucepan melt the chocolate bits over low heat. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar, rum, and corn syrup. Fold in vanilla wafers and nuts. Shape the mixture into one-inch balls using two measuring teaspoons of mixture for each or one eating-sized teaspoon. Roll the balls in sugar. Store the balls in an airtight container for several days, two weeks minimum. Makes about four dozen balls.
One time I had dry crumbs left over, so I added a few drops of water to make them moist enough to stick together; one might substitute a few drops of rum. When doubling the recipe do them separately, not as one giant batch.
by Tom Bickford
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 pound margarine
3 5/8-ounce packages dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
8 to 9 cups flour
1 quart buttermilk
Method: Cream together sugar and margarine in a large bowl (I use a fork to do this). Sift together the first one or two cups of flour with the remaining dry ingredients. In the bowl you creamed the sugar and margarine, alternate adding and stirring in the flour and buttermilk. The final dough should be light and slightly moist. Cover the bowl so the dough will not dry out. Refrigerate the dough overnight. The dough will expand, so expect it to do so. You may, but you don’t have to, bake all the dough at the same time. I have stored unbaked dough for as much as two weeks. The flavor will intensify. Lightly grease muffin pan before filling cups about 3/4 full. Allow the dough to rise another hour in the pan in a warm place. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 min. Cooked biscuits can be stored frozen. Biscuits are best when fresh, warm, and buttered.
by Anna Freysz Cable
Anna Freysz Cable was a member of the Sligo Creek Chapter of the NFB of Maryland. She lived to be 108 years old. Her loving and cheerful spirit and her dedication to learning Braille and other blindness techniques after losing her sight in her sixties were an inspiration, and the NFB of Maryland named an award in her honor. She used this recipe for many bake sales over the years.
3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup orange juice
1 cup cooking oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 one-pound-can pumpkin
1 cup raisins lightly floured to keep them from sinking to the bottom of the pan
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Method: Mix sugar and salt in juice, stir to dissolve. Add cooking oil and eggs. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Beat dry mix into wet mix starting slowly. Beat in the pumpkin. Stir in raisins and nuts last. Grease and flour two loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour and twenty minutes. Test with a toothpick. If toothpick comes out wet, try another ten minutes. When the toothpick comes out dry, remove to a rack for cooling. If loaves do not come out easily, run a knife around the pan to trim off any crust that may have stuck to the edge of the pan.
Note: You can use six mini loaf pans. Prepare batter and pans, using the same recipe. Bake at 350 degrees for fifty minutes. I put all six mini pans on a baking sheet to catch accidental spills.
Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers
by Megan Kindrick
Megan Kindrick is the granddaughter of Federationist Mary Kindrick. This recipe comes from Megan’s blog The Autistic Chef. Mary says, “Just as I advocate for the blind, she speaks for herself and others who are autistic. I am very proud of the hard work she has done to overcome her problems.”
1 12-ounce package ground sausage (I like the Jimmy Dean Sage)
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
6 jalapeño peppers
6 slices of bacon, cut in half (I find Oscar Mayer thin-sliced bacon works best)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Method: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place ground sausage in a large skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain sausage and place in a medium bowl. Mix with the cream cheese and cheddar cheese and set aside.
Warning! Experience taught me that it is best to wear rubber gloves while preparing the jalapeño peppers. I did not do so the first time, and my hands burned for two days, despite repeatedly washing with soap and water. A plastic sandwich bag, used to hold the pepper, can be substituted for the gloves. Cut jalapeños in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds. You can leave some of the seeds if you like it hotter. Stuff each jalapeño half with equal portions of the sausage and cheese mixture. Wrap with half slices of bacon. Secure bacon with toothpicks. It is best not to use colored toothpicks, as the dye will come off while cooking. Arrange wrapped jalapeños on wire rack that is placed on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for twenty-five minutes, or until the bacon is brown.
Sweet Potato Pie
by Rose Lee Meyer
Rose Lee Meyer is Federationist Mary Kindrick’s sister, and this recipe is a family favorite.
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes (You may use canned sweet potatoes if you wish.)
1 unbaked deep-dish pie crust
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Method: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Blend sugar and spices in large mixing bowl and set aside. Beat eggs in medium mixing bowl. Add milk and vanilla. Combine with sugar mixture. Stir in potatoes, beat until smooth. Pour into pie crust. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 degrees, bake for 30 minutes. While the pie continues to bake, mix topping ingredients together. Spoon topping over pie; bake an additional ten to fifteen minutes.
by Mary Kindrick
12 to 16 slices of bread
8 eggs (you can use Eggbeaters)
2 cups of milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound grated cheddar cheese
1 pound of Jimmy Dean pork sausage (cooked and drained), or you can use 2 cups of cubed ham
1/2 cup of melted butter
Method: Remove crust from bread and cut each slice in half (vertically). Cover bottom of a nine-by-thirteen-inch Pyrex dish with one layer of bread. Pour drained sausage (or ham) over bread, then cover with grated cheese, then cover with another layer of bread. Beat eggs, salt, milk, and butter. Pour very slowly over entire casserole, being sure to get in between everything. Refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered, at 375 degrees for forty to fifty minutes, until golden brown.
I serve with a fruit salad, fruit juice, and maybe even some miniature muffins—sometimes I'll even fry bacon on the side. This is great for holiday weekends or family gatherings, as it can be prepared in advance.
by Robert Jaquiss
He says about these cookies, “Because these cookies use raw sugar and whole wheat flour, I find they do not affect my blood sugar nearly as much as cookies made with refined sugar and bleached flour.”
1 cup butter (two sticks), softened
1 cup Sucanat (brand of raw sugar)
1 cup Sucanat with honey (3/4 cup of Sucanat mixed with 1/4 cup honey)
2 large or 3 small eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 and 1/2 cups rolled oats
Method: In a large bowl cream butter, Sucanat, and Sucanat with honey. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Sucanat is much coarser than sugar so make sure it is mixed. I melt the butter in a microwave for one minute; this makes the mixing easier. In a separate bowl combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter and egg mixture. Stir in rolled oats and mix well. The dough is very stiff, so use a heavy-duty mixer. Scoop onto baking tray and bake for twelve minutes at 350 degrees. Yields two dozen cookies. Optionally, 1-1/2 cup raisins, semisweet chocolate chips, chopped nuts, shredded coconut, or a combination may be added.
Note: When using raisins, I let them soak several hours before using them. Adding soaked raisins makes the dough sticky.
Gin and Tonic
by Scott LaBarre
Warning: This recipe may cause the preparer to become horizontal with or without company at an undesired point; cause the preparer to act inappropriately; perhaps cause the preparer to tell the truth about friends and family, or perhaps even say or do something witty. An unanticipated benefit may be that the preparer may think he/she is actually handsome/pretty, slender, and intelligent regardless of prevailing views and established fact. Note also that this recipe is best enjoyed on hot days, on a patio (friends and family present optional). This recipe can be prepared at any time of day because it is always 5:00 o’clock somewhere.
lime or lemon, sliced (optional)
Method: Take one glass (size at discretion of drinker). Pour in a big splash of gin (Tanqueray preferred). Add ice to preference. Add some tonic followed by another big splash of gin. Did I say another splash of gin? Place a slice of lime or lemon on rim of glass or into drink to preference. Repeat process until appropriately tuned.
Mexican and (Puerto Rican) Wedding Cakes
by Eileen Rivera Ley
Eileen says about this recipe: My sister Millie and I have lots of siblings. Each Christmas our mom had us each pick a special "signature" cookie recipe to make with her. This way we had a lovely variety to enjoy. My brother Ed would make chocolate pinwheels, I made Walnut Diamonds, Sandra perfected Mexican wedding cakes, Millie baked peanut butter cookies, sweet Caroline decorated the cut out cookies and little Jorge specialized in chocolate chips. (Little Susie was off the hook.) Of course some traditions last a lifetime while others make way for new ones. These days all the Rivera kids always make these amazing Mexican Wedding Cakes during the holidays.
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup roasted nuts (walnuts/pecans)
Method: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roast nuts for four to seven minutes, tossing half way through. Cream butter and powdered sugar; add vanilla. In small bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to butter/sugar/vanilla mixture. Add fully cooled nuts (throw them in freezer for a while if needed). Roll the dough into 1-1/4 inch balls (smaller is prettier). Bake at 400 degrees for ten to twelve minutes or until light golden brown. When fully cooled, roll cookies in powdered sugar. We double the recipe and keep half in the fridge to bake as needed.
by Shannon Cook
Shannon is a Columbia chapter member and NFB of South Carolina Board member.
1 cup sugar
1 cup eggnog
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp rum extract
1 tsp vanilla
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bread pan. Beat eggs. Add sugar, eggnog, butter, rum, and vanilla. Blend well. Add flour, baking powder, and nutmeg. Stir until just moistened. Pour into bread pan. Bake at 350 for forty-five minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for ten minutes before turning out of pan.
Buttery Toffee Cookies
by Michelle Clark
Michelle is the president of the National Harbor chapter of the NFB of Maryland.
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce package milk chocolate toffee bits
Method: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add flour, baking soda, and salt; beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Stir in toffee bits. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake ten to twelve minutes or until lightly browned. Cool one minute on cookie sheets; remove to cooling rack. Consider using parchment paper. Makes forty-eight cookies.
Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage
by Michelle Clark
3 pounds corned beef brisket with spice packet
2 carrots, cut into two-inch pieces
2 medium onions, chopped
1 small head green cabbage, cored, roughly chopped
2 cups apple juice
1 cup water
1-1/2 pounds baby red potatoes, sliced in half
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Method: Put the carrots and onions on the bottom of slow cooker, and put the corned beef on top. Arrange the chopped cabbage around the beef. Add the apple juice and one cup of water along with the contents of the spice packet. Cook on low for six to eight hours until the beef is tender. Remove the beef and vegetables to a platter and keep warm.
For the potatoes: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about twelve to fifteen minutes. Drain and return them to the pot. Add the butter, garlic, parsley, and salt, and pepper to taste. Gently combine so that all the potatoes are evenly coated. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with corn beef and vegetables from the slow cooker.
Bleu Cheese Dressing/Dip
by Amy Mason
Amy Mason hails from Nebraska and works at the Jernigan Institute in the National Braille and Technology Center.
1 16-ounce container of cottage cheese (2% fat or more gives the richest flavor)
1 4- to 6-ounce container of bleu cheese crumbles
Method: Place the cottage cheese, a small amount of milk, and half of the bleu cheese crumbles in a blender and blend until smooth. Mix in salt, pepper, lemon juice, and garlic to taste (start with half teaspoons of salt and pepper, a teaspoon of lemon juice, and two to three cloves of garlic, or a teaspoon of the already minced stuff from the store.) Blend in more milk until the dressing reaches the desired consistency. Mix—don’t blend—in remaining bleu cheese crumbles, or serve with these sprinkled on top for a more festive appearance. For best results refrigerate for at least four hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld.
Congratulations on Additions to the Federation Family:
Friday, September 23, 2016, NFB of Montana President Joy Breslauer and her husband Bruce became the proud grandparents of twin girls, Blake Kendalyn-Marie Sanderson and Beckett Analyn-Rose Sanderson, 4.13 and 5.7 pounds respectively. Although the twins were born a few weeks early, they did not spend any time in the NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit). Mother and both babies are doing fine. This makes seven grandchildren for the Breslauers.
The following officers were elected at the 2016 State Convention of the NFB of North Dakota on Saturday, September 17 in the city of Fargo: president, Milton Ota; vice president, Duane Iverson; secretary/treasurer, Jessiaca Evans; and director, Jesse Shirek.
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.
Computers for the Blind Expand Service:
Computers for the Blind (CFTB) is pleased to announce a substantial grant from the Reading Resource fund, Communities Foundation of Texas to provide almost 700 computers to people on SSDI and/or SSI, as well as families of children with visual impairments.
Please share widely with staff and consumer organizations, and parents of children with visual impairments and their support groups such as the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. Consumers who are on SSI and/or SSDI can receive a desktop computer package (desktop computer, flat screen monitor, and peripherals) for $50 or a laptop for $70. An award letter from SSA is required.
Parents of a child with a visual impairment may receive a desktop computer package (desktop computer, flat screen monitor, and peripherals) for $50 or a laptop for $70. A letter of recommendation from the student’s teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) is required. The letter needs to indicate that obtaining a computer at our standard price of $110 would create a financial burden on the family. No other financial information is needed. The TVI also needs to indicate that the student needs a computer and is capable of benefiting from it. Note: We have discovered that a child who can press the spacebar may be able to use a computer with proper training, special software, and USB connections.
Go to the CFTB website to see what we provide. All computers have a two-year warranty. Purchase orders are not accepted for this grant. CFTB does not recommend and rarely approves a laptop computer for people who use MAGic screen magnification because the laptop screen is not large enough. CFTB now accepts credit and debit cards or PayPal. Talking Typing Teacher is available from MarvelSoft for $10 through this grant. It is 90 percent off of retail and is highly recommended for all users!
For additional information or to place an order contact customer service at (214) 340-6328. Please leave one message only. Staff will get back to you within two business days. Write to <email@example.com> or visit us at <www.computersfortheblind.net>.
The Selective Doctor Closes Its Doors:
We have closed The Selective Doctor, Inc. effective October 31, 2016. Our business began in March 1992, and we have repaired over 7,100 Perkins Braillers since that date. It is with great sadness that we close but feel it's time to retire due to Joe's back injury.
We want to thank all of our customers for trusting us with their Braillers for the past twenty-four years and have thoroughly enjoyed the bonds we have made over the years. To express your appreciation of the long service given by Joe Staniewski Jr., email him at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Leading the Way:
A group of twenty-two blind, visually impaired, and sighted students across the US ages fifteen to nineteen will have an amazing opportunity to participate in a nine-month program that includes an expedition to the Grand Canyon with No Barriers Youth on July 14 to 25, 2017. Over the course of twelve days, students will journey into the heart of the Grand Canyon, learning about the importance of natural sounds, participating in meaningful science, learning about career opportunities with the National Park Service, and honing their leadership strengths. At the end of this transformative expedition, students emerge as leaders ready to face personal and global barriers with passion and perseverance and inspired and equipped to be the next generation of ambassadors for the National Park Service.
No Barriers USA was co-founded by the first blind mountaineer to summit Everest, Erik Weihenmayer. The cost for the trip is $510 plus travel to Phoenix, Arizona. Due to generous funding (a $3,300 scholarship for each accepted student) from the National Park Service's Natural Sound and Night Skies Division (NSNSD), this program has been significantly reduced from its original price.
Eligible students are those who are blind, visually-impaired, or sighted between the ages of fifteen and nineteen. To apply, submit an online application and correlating materials here: <https://nobarriersusa.wufoo.com/forms/2017-leading-the-way-grand-canyon-application/>. Preference is given to those who apply by the early deadline of December 12, but applications are accepted until January 13, 2017.
Please contact us at <LeadingTheWay@nobarriersusa.org> or call us at (970) 484-3633 with any questions, and share this email with those who may be interested. If you share this message, please CC <LeadingTheWay@nobarriersusa.org> so we can see our reach. If you "like" No Barriers Youth on Facebook, you can see our post about this program and share it on social media. You can also nominate a student here: <https://nobarriersusa.wufoo.com/forms/leading-the-way-nomination-form-2017/>.
Thank you for helping to spread the word, and we look forward to connecting with you!
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.