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Braille Monitor

Vol. 60, No. 3                                      March 2017

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

telephone: (410) 659-9314
email address: [email protected]
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Letters to the President, address changes, subscription requests, and orders for NFB literature should be sent to the national office. Articles for the Monitor and letters to the editor may also be sent to the national office or may be emailed to [email protected].

Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation about forty dollars per year. Members are invited,
and nonmembers are requested, to cover the subscription cost. Donations should be
made payable to National Federation of the Blind and sent to:

National Federation of the Blind
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998

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.

        ISSN 0006-8829


Each issue is recorded on a thumb drive (also called a memory stick or USB flash drive). You can read this audio edition using a computer or a National Library Service digital player. The NLS machine has two slots--the familiar book-cartridge slot just above the retractable carrying handle and a second slot located on the right side near the headphone jack. This smaller slot is used to play thumb drives. Remove the protective rubber pad covering this slot and insert the thumb drive. It will insert only in one position. If you encounter resistance, flip the drive over and try again. (Note: If the cartridge slot is not empty when you insert the thumb drive, the digital player will ignore the thumb drive.) Once the thumb drive is inserted, the player buttons will function as usual for reading digital materials. If you remove the thumb drive to use the player for cartridges, when you insert it again, reading should resume at the point you stopped.

You can transfer the recording of each issue from the thumb drive to your computer or preserve it on the thumb drive. However, because thumb drives can be used hundreds of times, we would appreciate their return in order to stretch our funding. Please use the return envelope enclosed with the drive when you return the device.


Orlando Site of 2017 NFB Convention

The 2017 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Orlando, Florida, July 10 to July 15, at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, 9939 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32819-9357. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with the Shingle Creek staff only. Call (866) 996-6338.

The 2017 room rates are singles and doubles, $83; and for triples and quads $89. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 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. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $95-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2017. The other 50 percent is not refundable.

Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2017, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold our room block for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.

All Rosen Shingle Creek guestrooms feature amenities that include plush Creek Sleeper beds, 40" flat screen TVs, complimentary high-speed internet service, in-room safes, coffee makers, mini-fridges, and hair dryers. Guests can also enjoy a swimming pool, fitness center, and on-site spa. The Rosen Shingle Creek Resort has a number of dining options, including two award-winning restaurants, and twenty-four-hour-a-day room service.

The schedule for the 2017 convention is:

Monday, July 10         Seminar Day
Tuesday, July 11         Registration and Resolutions Day
Wednesday, July 12    Board Meeting and Division Day
Thursday, July 13        Opening Session
Friday, July 14            Business Session
Saturday, July 15        Banquet Day and Adjournment

Contents

Vol. 60, No. 3                                      March 2017

Illustration: The 2017 Presidents Seminar

The 2017 Washington Seminar
by Gary Wunder

Washington Seminar Legislative Agenda of Blind Americans Priorities for the 115th Congress, First Session      

Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (AIM HE) Act

Access Technology Affordability Act

Appropriation to the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) for the Purchase of Refreshable Braille Devices

The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled (“Marrakesh Treaty”)

The Future of Refreshable Braille is Refreshing!
by Amy Mason

In Rememberance of June Maurer
by Marc Maurer

A Dream is Born
by Ray McAllister

Stand Up
by Courtney Cole

Community Service Division Works with Habitat for Humanity
by Darian Smith

Across the World
by Matt Jepsen

Dots from Space!: Voices from the Past
by Amy Mason and Anna Kresmer

The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund
by Allen Harris

Independence Market Corner

Recipes

Monitor Miniatures

Copyright 2017 by the National Federation of the Blind

The 2017 Presidents Seminar

Life is about renewal: new ideas, new people, and new leaders. This is evidenced by the number of new state presidents who serve in the National Federation of the Blind. To help in the transition to these most important offices, a seminar was held just prior to the Washington Seminar. State presidents began assembling on Saturday for a 6 PM dinner that would begin a series of meetings discussing the history of the Federation, the present programs we undertake, and what we should do in the future to remain the most vital force in work with the blind.

On Saturday and Sunday we met long into the night, and still we were pressed to touch on all that needed to be addressed. The group discussed organizational priorities, the way to build and strengthen membership, and how to create the strong base of financial support that is so necessary to advancing our programs. State presidents shared their concerns with other leaders and developed relationships that will serve them well as they go about problem-solving and engaging in the creative thinking that will result in stronger and more vital affiliates.

The 2017 Washington Seminar

by Gary Wunder

With every Washington Seminar we build on a tradition, and even in the fast-paced, hard-working, and politically volatile world of the United States capital, inevitably turnover occurs, and each visit we make adds to our name recognition, face recognition, and credibility. This year the weather was wonderful for our gathering, but the Congress’s institutional memory found us starting in-person meetings with a congressman or senator saying, "You were here last year during the big blizzard, weren’t you? I think you even made it back here before I did. We were amazed that with the town shut down you people still showed up."

What some refer to as the Midwinter Convention of the National Federation of the Blind began on Sunday with a job fair for those seeking employment and a meeting of the student division. In this latter meeting students discussed the challenges in getting a higher education, and talked about when individual effort could resolve the problem, and when collective action was necessary to bring about the use of accessible hardware, software, and other aspects of campus life.

When the gavel fell at 5 PM, ushering in the Great Gathering-In meeting which is traditional at the Washington Seminar, President Riccobono wasted no time in welcoming our members to Washington, DC, and explaining the issues that had caused us to travel from throughout the country to change the lives of the blind. Here is what he said:

Fellow Federationists: Change has once again swept America—promises have been made, mandates are being claimed, and deals are being brokered. And, depending on your point of view, greater hope or uncertainty exists. Regardless of the promises, mandates, and deals, there is one great certainty that again expresses itself in this room tonight and on Capitol Hill this week:  the National Federation of the Blind is on the watch. The blind stand self-determined to ensure that our equal participation will be part of the promise. The blind bring a mandate that blindness is not the characteristic that defines us or our future. The blind say that every deal must raise expectations for the blind because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. We can live the life we want, and Washington will not hold us back. We bring our hope, love, and determination to Republicans and Democrats, freshman members and longtime veterans in Congress. Our collective voice offers our authentic experience on any topic affecting blind people, and we come with our own agenda for change.

Now is the time for all great institutions of higher education to knock down the artificial barriers and make their educational technologies accessible. We are tired of having our ability to overcome inaccessible technologies tested rather than our competency in science, math, history, psychology, literature, art, or any number of other subjects we pursue. We have studied politics, and we know that when people come together with a unified voice, change is possible.

From our seventy-six years of field experience as an organized movement of blind people, we know that when we resolve to tackle a problem, nothing will stand in our way. To the schools that continue to hold us back, we say: don’t deny, aim high; don’t deny, aim high; don’t deny, aim high.

We seek to participate fully in our communities in play and in work. We strive to have good jobs and, believe it or not, pay taxes. In order to have those opportunities to integrate fully into society, we need access to information in a nonvisual manner. We need to buy the accessible technology that will allow us to utilize our skills and talents fully for the betterment of our communities, and for our efforts to empower ourselves, we seek a tax credit when we spend our own dollars to buy the expensive technologies required to access information—not a handout but a step-up on the staircase of independence and equality. We seek not to avoid taxes but to get ourselves in a position to pay more of them. Give us a fair chance to get the technology needed to compete on terms of equality, and watch us give back to our nation as we pursue the American dream.

We seek to equip all blind people with knowledge by giving them greater access to the most fundamental tool for reading and writing—Braille. We have one national library that distributes accessible content in Braille for our use, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and last year we helped change the Pratt-Smoot Act in order to authorize the library to distribute devices that would allow Braille to be read with refreshable displays. Now we seek the funds required to establish a national program so that no blind person will be required to live in the twenty-first century without Braille under his or her fingers. Braille is knowledge, and knowledge is power. Let us power the greatest revolution and literacy for the blind by establishing the expectation that all blind people will read.

And finally, we seek to open up the borders of knowledge by creating the systems to share accessible materials around the world. For far too long the volumes of accessible materials have been locked away for only a select few to access. To the protectors of the world’s knowledge in accessible form, we say “Unlock our books, and set the knowledge free.”

This week the Marrakesh Express has come to Capitol Hill, and the blind have a ticket to read. Because the National Federation of the Blind was a key player in getting this historic Marrakesh Treaty established, it is now time for the United States Senate to ratify the treaty for our own country and give us access to the accessible materials around the world. We seek knowledge; we seek Braille; we seek the opportunities to secure the technologies we need, and we seek equality in our educational system. These are the promises we seek; this is the mandate we carry; and we intend to broker the deal for all blind Americans. That is why the National Federation of the Blind has come, and that is the purpose of our Washington Seminar.

After a rousing cheer for the statement of our commitment and the issues we would take to Capitol Hill, President Riccobono introduced the Honorable Phil Roe representing the First Congressional District of Tennessee. In his fifth term as a congressman he serves as chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and is a member on the House Education and Workforce Committee. Congressman Roe comes to the House of Representatives after a distinguished career as a pediatrician, who has delivered nearly five thousand babies. So, when we went to Capitol Hill looking for someone who could deliver on the promises contained in the AIM HE (Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education) Act, it was no accident that we asked for the help of Dr. Roe.

This distinguished member of Congress began by thanking us for our invitation and saying that good invitations to speak are few and far between given the poor reputation Congress enjoys. He said that he told the Speaker of the House that there were only three things that polled worse than the Congress: Lindsay Lohan, meth labs, and North Korea.

Dr. Roe said that it is a credit to the National Federation of the Blind that we have worked to get such stakeholder involvement in the AIM HE legislation he is sponsoring. He wishes to commend us for helping to bring on board the Software Industry Information Association, the Association of American Publishers, EDUCAUSE, and the American Council on Education (ACE). He believes that it is through the cooperative work of all of these organizations that we have developed a common sense, bipartisan piece of legislation that has a good chance of passage in this Congress.

Dr. Roe said that his interest in our issues came from what he learned about blindness from his mother. She lost her sight later in life, and as her only child, he was responsible for most of her care. He said that when he came to Congress and was greeted by our proposals, he would think about them, go home at night, turn off the lights in his small 800-foot-condominium, and challenge himself to learn to move about independently. The strong conviction he feels for the AIM HE Act is the result of the importance of education in his life and the brief attempts at orienting to a new and different situation that convinced him that blindness can mean very different things depending on the opportunity one is given. The country he represents wants the best she can get for all of her people, and he is determined to see that the AIM HE Act results in greater education, employment, and quality of life for blind Americans. His remarks, given their thoughtfulness, sincerity, and enthusiasm, were met with tremendous applause by the crowd, and he said he was looking forward to seeing all of us on Capitol Hill.

President Riccobono presented the Great Gathering-In with the summary of legal cases with which we have recently been involved. He talked about a twelve-year-old girl who was once thought to be incapable of benefiting from instruction in reading and writing but who now has Braille as her primary method for reading and writing in the Individualized Education Plan that bears her name. The President discussed the recent release of regulations regarding the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, details of which will be found in the April issue.

More and more in the public environment we are finding ourselves confronted with kiosks, and far too many of them have no nonvisual means one can use to access them. We find them in health facilities, dining, and grocery stores, just to mention a few. Seldom do we find any of these that are accessible, but this will soon be different as a result of the National Federation of the Blind. The kiosks placed in public locations by Pursuant Health will be accessible. This agreement was signed with Pursuant, the National Federation of the Blind, and the attorney general for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The signing took place on the twenty-sixth anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In the week prior to the Washington Seminar, we reached an agreement with New York City’s LinkNYC program, which has taken over thousands of no longer needed telephone booths and placed kiosks in them. Based on our agreement, these will be accessible. The only thing not covered in the agreement between New York City and the National Federation of the Blind is where Superman will go to change into his suit.

Tackling the inaccessibility of university programs, services, and equipment, in August the National Federation of the Blind settled with Wichita State University, requiring that the university procure only devices that are accessible, and then ensuring that those who can benefit by using them are given the instruction necessary to do it.

On a similar note, two years ago the Washington Seminar heard from Aleeha Dudley. Because Aleeha hung tough and because she had an ally in this organization, in October 2016 we announced, along with the United States Department of Justice, the gold standard for access to technology in instructional materials in universities, a settlement and consent decree that now should be the roadmap for every university in this country. Because of Aleeha’s tenacity and the commitment of the Federation, there is good news to report in her case, and it will be found in the April issue of this publication.

After briefly covering other activities, President Riccobono introduced two dignitaries in the audience. They were Karen Keninger, the director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and Diane McGeorge, the coordinator of logistics for the Washington Seminar for more than three decades. She talked about the changes since the first seminar she coordinated: the way we keep records, the room we use to coordinate activity, the hotel now taking reservations, and the large crowds which are routinely a part of our annual event. But not everything is about change, and the peanut butter pie that has been on the menu for lo these four decades has once again made its appearance for the Washington Seminar.

Some traditions are longer lived than others, but it is amazing how many of them revolve around food. Shawn Calloway, the president of the National Federation of the Blind of the District of Columbia, announced that, after a two-year hiatus, the provision of donuts for those going to Capitol Hill would take place on Tuesday morning in the lobby of the hotel. These are provided courtesy of the National Federation of the Blind of the District of Columbia. He went on to say, “Two years ago we ran out. Now, President Riccobono, Anil Lewis, Pam Allen, and Gary Wunder: they were the reason we ran out. This is a warning for all of you to get there early tomorrow morning.”

President Riccobono’s response was, “See, that’s what I get for going down there to hand out doughnuts.”

On other matters, President Callaway thanked those who attended the networking and professional development meetings held on the previous day. He thanked members of the Virginia affiliate for helping to put the events together, and he also congratulated those who put together and attended the job fair held as one of the concurrent sessions that took place before the Great Gathering-In meeting.

Chris Danielsen, the director of public relations for the National Federation of the Blind, reminded us that our job was not only to go to Capitol Hill but to take our message to our fellow countrymen and women. One effective way to do this is through the use of social media, and he talked about how all of us could help in this effort. Whether we were members with shoe leather on the Hill or members at home wanting to help, all of us could have a role in seeing that what was happening at the Washington Seminar was widely posted and ensure that our issues were ones which trended on Twitter.

Immediate Past President Maurer was introduced and began by asking Jim Gashel if he remembered the first significant gathering on Capitol Hill that began the convening of the Washington Seminar. They agreed that it happened in October 1973, that the event gathered lots of press and Congressional attention because it was new to have lots of blind men and women running around on Capitol Hill, but that all of that attention came to a screeching halt with the resignation of the Vice President of the United States, Spiro T. Agnew. As significant as this day in history would turn out to be for the country, Dr. Maurer no doubt understated his feelings and those of others who were present at the time by commenting that the shift in attention was “a pain in the neck.” He observed that one thing that has not changed about the National Federation of the Blind since that beginning in 1973 is that, when we want something, we either build it ourselves or see that it gets built. This is true not only of products but also of programs, and he went on to describe our recent hosting of the meeting of the World Blind Union, an activity which was immensely helpful for us in showing to the world just what an organization of blind people can do to make a change in the world in which we live.

Fred Schroeder, the newly elected president of the World Blind Union, came to talk about how changes made here in the United States will affect millions of blind people around the world. The passage of our AIM HE Act won’t just make things better for students within the borders of this country. The existence of this law in our country will be seen as a beacon by others, will provide a precedent they can use in crafting their own laws, and will give them encouragement that, through their own self-organization, they can raise the bar for education and employment in their countries. The passage of this act will also demonstrate for people of other countries that blind people are worth educating, and that’s really what it’s all about. You don’t educate children unless you think there is a reason to educate them. You don’t worry about the unemployment of blind people unless you believe that blind people can and should be competitively employed.

There is significant synergy that exists between our work and the work of the World Blind Union. One of President Schroeder’s next activities is to travel to Geneva with the purpose of defeating a proposal in some European legislation that would allow the driver of a low-sound emitting vehicle to turn off that sound if he or she judged it unnecessary. Interestingly that switch has been called a kill switch, and Dr. Schroeder’s goal is to see that it is removed from regulations being considered abroad. We are also working together on the Marrakesh Treaty, because the need for information transcends borders, and its provisions help blind people no matter where in the world they may live. He summed up his comments by saying that our most important objective is to build the National Federation of the Blind, for this will be the single most important thing we can do to help the blind of the United States of America and the world.

Anil Lewis came to the podium to talk about a new program being created by the organization. Its acronym is BUILD, and it stands for Blind Users Innovating and Leading Design. The goal of this team will be to tell developers what we need, what works, and what doesn’t. For information about how to become a part of the BUILD team, contact Anil by writing to him at [email protected].

For those who are interested in helping in the effort but believe they are not yet technically able to do so, Anil related a story about a woman calling to offer her help. He gave her the website she could use to fill out the form for volunteering, but she said she didn’t think she had the skills to fill it out. He took her name and contact information, put her in touch with her affiliate president for further training, and fully expects to see her as an active participant on the team once she has received the training she needs. Again, we take people where they are, help them get to where they want to be, and benefit from their contributions as they benefit by becoming a contributor.

Again this year we are conducting our summer intern program, and students who are willing to spend a good bit of their summer working at the Jernigan Institute should contact Anil Lewis at the address above. The internship provides a tremendous opportunity to get to know the workings of the Federation, to meet many of the people who are involved in making things happen nationally, and to grow to be one of them. For more information about the National Federation of the Blind 2017 Summer Internship Program go to <https://nfb.org/blog/vonb-blog/national-federation-blind-2017-summer-internship-program>.

In 2017 we will once again be holding the National Federation of the Blind Youth Slam. In July we will bring one hundred young people from across the country to participate in the most dynamic STEM program of its kind for people who are blind. More information will soon follow on our mailing lists and in the pages of this magazine.

One of the most important things we do is advocate for the rights of blind parents, and the program through which we undertake most of this activity is the Blind Parents Initiative. We need to capture experiences of successful blind parents through video, audio, and written presentations. Those interested in making a contribution to the project should contact Melissa Riccobono by writing to [email protected]. We must also work to adopt model state legislation that will remove the presumption in too many state laws that to be blind is necessarily an indicator that warrants greater watchfulness on the part of agencies charged with child welfare. We must remove the barriers that each blind parent must overcome in convincing child welfare authorities that they are capable, competent, and caring parents who are able to take care of the children they bring into the world.

Parnell Diggs reported that we are now working on a case in Illinois in which a blind infant was removed from its parents because hospital authorities judged that the blind mother would be unable to determine when her child’s feeding bottle was empty or when the child was wet and needed changing. The removal was also based on the concern that she would not be able to safely lift her child from a crib, her own mobility being suspect because she cannot see. Over and over again we are faced with the assumption that when the majority uses their sense of sight to accomplish a task, the absence of sight must mean that task cannot be safely accomplished without it. Our life experience denies this. We must share our reality and see that the full force of the law is brought to protect blind people and our children.

President Riccobono reminded us that preregistration for the convention begins in March, that the convention will be held at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, and that details about the upcoming convention can be found in each issue of the Braille Monitor. The convention will be held from July 10 through July 15, and the President encourages us to come and bring ten or fifteen of our closest friends.

John Paré, executive director for advocacy and policy, took the floor to introduce members of the government affairs team who discussed each of the issues we would take to Capitol Hill. The remarks they made are covered in the fact sheets which appear immediately following this article.

John Paré was followed to the microphone by Scott LaBarre to discuss our Preauthorized Contribution Plan. Currently our members are giving over half a million dollars a year, but the ever-increasing number of programs we sponsor requires that we do even better. We now have three affiliates giving over $2,000 a month, and it is our goal to reach annualized giving of at least $600,000 by the end of the year.

With the adjournment of the Great Gathering-In meeting, members went off to find food, organize in caucuses, and role-play for the legislative discussions that would follow. The National Association of Blind Students hosted a fantastic get-together complete with hospitality, music, and delicious desserts.

Being as good as its word, the NFB of the District of Columbia did provide donuts for those heading for Capitol Hill, and although this writer cannot speak to the behavior of President Riccobono, Pam Allen, or Anil Lewis, he can say with confidence that he left the doughnut table with only one round tasty treat in his hand. His protest that “No one can eat just one,” was ignored as people filed through the line, grabbed a napkin and their own sweet morsel, and filed off to Capitol Hill to begin a long day’s work.

At noon on Tuesday many of us assembled in the upper Senate Park for a student rally to support the passage of the AIM HE Act. Twenty-seven students addressed the gathering, and whether their stories represented the gaining of a 4.0 grade point average or struggles that sometimes led to failure and having to regroup to try again, all of them had one thing in common: the biggest challenge in higher education is not learning the material that others are expected to learn; the biggest challenge is using the technology that is supposed to make learning easier but which sometimes makes it almost impossible. Our class participation, our papers, our test results, and our grades must reflect what we know about the subject matter being taught, not how skillfully we are able to work around inaccessible technology. Over and over again we challenge the schools: aim high, don’t deny; aim high, don’t deny; aim high, don’t deny.

At the conclusion of the student rally we returned to Capitol Hill to keep appointments, meet with our congressmen and their staff, and gather support for the four major pieces of legislation that constitute our 2017 legislative agenda. At 5 o’clock many of us gathered in Senate Room G50 for our second annual Congressional Reception. We were joined by six Senators and ten Representatives, each of whom made brief and moving remarks. Senator Jon Tester was the first to speak, and Federationists will be familiar with his work on our behalf to see that blind veterans have the right to travel on space available aircraft. The senator noted that we are in a time of change, that for some of us it brings about a time of uncertainty and for others a time of challenge. Regardless how we feel about the change that is afoot, we must see that it is positive and that it reflects what we need. He says that we bring a message that all parties should be able to get behind, and he offers his close working relationship with Senator Heller as evidence that this kind of work can and will take place in the current Congress.

Senator Dean Heller addressed the crowd and said that meeting with the National Federation of the Blind was one of the highlights of his senatorial year. He said that many people who walk through his door do so as representatives for some group or other, but he knows that when he meets with the National Federation of the Blind that we are in Washington, DC, because we are an organization of the blind who speak for ourselves. He says that he knows our work involves seeing that we are not defined by one characteristic and that we are given every opportunity to participate fully in our communities. He believes that every American, regardless of their circumstance, should have access to quality jobs, and as part of the Senate Finance Committee he vows to be an important part of the dialogue to see that the opportunity for those jobs and the jobs themselves materialize for people who are blind. At the same time he will continue to work closely with us to see that blind veterans are able to take advantage of the space available provisions that are offered to other former members of our armed forces.

The next gentleman to approach the podium has the distinction of being at both of our Congressional rallies, the one held in 2015, and this one in 2017. The presenter was Congressman Gregg Harper. He has been the principal sponsor of the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act we have been supporting and which will again be introduced after some minor changes that have been suggested by the Congressman. He stressed that one of the reasons for the effectiveness of the National Federation of the Blind is that we realize success on Capitol Hill depends on building relationships. This not only means relationships with members of Congress but also with members of their staffs. Often a staff member will come to know more about the specifics of an issue than his or her boss, and it is because of the judgment and expertise of these staff members that many members of Congress decide whether they will support a piece of legislation and how much energy they will put into seeing to its passage. As important as our Washington visits are, it is essential that we get to know Congressional staff at the local level, for they too have tremendous influence over providing advice about how to best shepherd our legislation through the halls of Congress and onto the desk of the President.

Representative Donald McEachin is a freshman representative from the Commonwealth of Virginia who brings a long background of service in the senate of Virginia and is excited to learn about the issues facing the blind which require federal action. He says that although he and his staff have a lot to learn, the door is always open, and he will always be attentive to the needs and concerns of blind people.

Congressman Tom Rice of South Carolina came to address the crowd, and he is one of only a few representatives who has the distinction of supporting each and every proposal currently advanced by the National Federation of the Blind. Our own Parnell Diggs ran for the position that Congressman Rice now occupies, but both agree that they are united by a strong bond, that bond being the commitment to see that the needs of South Carolinians, and indeed the needs of all Americans, are uppermost on their agenda. Congressman Rice says that in Parnell Diggs we have a man who is brilliant, articulate, and persuasive, that the Congressman is honored to work with him, and that Parnell will always have the ear of the Congressman and his staff.

Senator Boozman of Arkansas was the next to take the microphone, and he said how much he admired the blind of the nation coming to Capitol Hill, especially those from Arkansas. He says that our presence on the Hill is far more important than any number of people we might send to speak for us, and he values those members of the National Federation of the Blind of Arkansas who work so diligently to keep him informed.

Congressman David Young of Iowa was the next person to be introduced by President Riccobono, and readers of the Braille Monitor will remember that representative Young visited the Jernigan Institute in April of last year at the instigation of Jim and Sharon Omvig, who told him that there was nothing more important he could do for the blind than to see the programs and activities of our organization. He said that as a result of a meeting held with the Iowa delegation early in the afternoon, he agreed to sponsor the Access Technology Affordability Act. He agreed this would be handled as a bipartisan issue and commended us on bringing concerns that should easily garner bipartisan support in the Congress.

From Florida we welcomed our longtime friend, Congressman Gus Bilirakis. He began by saying that we could count him in as a cosponsor on the Access Technology Affordability Act. He thinks that nothing is more important than increasing the educational and economic opportunities for blind people, and he looks forward to being closely allied with us in making this happen.

President Riccobono acknowledged the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers for their help in passing the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act and for their generosity in helping to sponsor this congressional reception. No doubt our work in the future will involve insuring the accessibility of autonomous automobiles, technology available in the near future that will help to significantly reduce one of the major limitations of blindness in our society.

Senator Bob Casey came to offer his comments to the group, and in addition to endorsing the positive proposals that we have advanced, he said it was also important to make sure that we do not lose the significant gains we have made over the last twenty-five years. While it is always important to fight for necessary change, it is also imperative to fight against those who would reverse advances already made in this country, and he pledged to stand as an ally to defend the laws and the programs that we count on today.

Our last congressional speaker of the evening was Representative French Hill from Arkansas. Representative Hill worked in the administration of Former President George H. W. Bush and witnessed the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the changes it has brought about. He pledges to stand strong to see that these are not eroded. He thanked us for taking the time to come, for visiting in his office, and for letting him share with us the pride he feels in representing the citizens of Little Rock and Arkansas.

When the rally ended at 7 PM, there was quite some congestion at the Capitol as taxis, cars, and vans assembled to get people back to the hotel.

On Wednesday we again took to Capitol Hill and at the end of the day assembled for our traditional 6 PM debriefing. Many of those reporting believe that their congressmen and senators will sign on to our legislative proposals, and there was real excitement in the air at what we had done and what we would continue to do after our stay on the Hill. On Thursday we finished our meetings with members of Congress, and the two major airports serving the District of Columbia were once again filled with the clicking of claws and the tapping of canes as we headed home to follow-up on the seeds we had planted on the Hill. Our work is far from over, but we understand what needs to be done, have the commitment to do it, and have promised ourselves not to stop until the job is done. This is what the Congress knows about us; this is why they respect us; and this is why, no matter the administration, the Congress, or the political mood in the country, we continue to receive support for the good we are intent on doing. We are not tied to any political party or ideology. We go where the needs of blind people take us, and we engage to meet those needs with open minds, strong hearts, and the resolve that comes from constantly seeking to be the fully participating citizens we are intended by our Creator to be.

Washington Seminar Legislative Agenda of Blind Americans Priorities for the 115th Congress, First Session

The National Federation of the Blind is a community of members and friends who believe in the hopes and dreams of the nation’s blind. Every day we work together to help blind people live the lives we want.

The Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (AIM HE) Act

Electronic instructional materials have replaced traditional methods of learning in postsecondary education, but the overwhelming majority of ebooks, courseware, web content, and other technologies are inaccessible to students with print disabilities. The law requires equal access in the classroom but fails to provide direction to schools for the way it applies to technology. AIM HE creates voluntary accessibility guidelines for educational technology to improve blind students’ access to course material, stimulate the market, and reduce litigation for schools.

The Access Technology Affordability Act

Currently, blind Americans rely on scarce sources of funding to acquire access technology. By providing a refundable tax credit for qualifying access technology purchases, Congress can stimulate individual procurement of access technology and promote affordability of these tools for blind Americans.

Appropriation to the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) for the Purchase of Refreshable Braille Devices

Established in 1931, the NLS provides its patrons with accessible format copies of printed works. With the latest innovations in refreshable Braille, it is now easier than ever before to put Braille into the hands of more blind people. A one-time appropriation to the NLS will save money and lead to the proliferation of critically needed Braille material for blind Americans.

The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled

Despite the ability to convert print books into accessible formats like Braille, large print, audio, and digital copies, millions of blind and otherwise print-disabled Americans are excluded from accessing 95 percent of published works. The Marrakesh Treaty calls for contracting parties to provide, in their national copyright laws, for a limitation or exception that allows for the reproduction, distribution, and cross-border exchange of accessible works.

These priorities will remove obstacles to employment, education, and access to published works. We urge Congress to support our legislative initiatives.

Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (AIM HE) Act

Until a market-driven solution for accessible instructional materials is achieved, blind college students will be denied access to critical course content.

Technology has fundamentally changed the education system. The scope of instructional materials used at institutions of higher education has expanded. Curricular content comes in digital books, PDFs, webpages, etc., and most of this content is delivered through digital databases, learning management systems, and applications. The print world is inherently inaccessible to students with disabilities, but technology offers the opportunity to expand the circle of participation. Studies have found that, of the 6.5 million students with disabilities in grades K-12, the number who go on to pursue postsecondary education is growing.[1]

Blind students are facing insurmountable barriers to education. Instead of fulfilling the promise of equal access, technology has created more problems than the print world ever did. Data show that students with disabilities face a variety of challenges, including matriculation and college completion failure,[2] solely because, in the absence of clear accessibility guidelines, colleges and universities are sticking with the ad-hoc accommodations model.[3] Currently, schools deploy inaccessible technology and then modify another version for blind students, usually weeks or even months into class, creating a “separate-but-equal” landscape with nearly impenetrable barriers. With only an 18 percent employment rate, compared to 65 percent among people without disabilities,[4] students with disabilities should not be denied access by the innovations that could have ensured full participation.

Institutions of higher education need help to identify accessible material and comply with nondiscrimination laws. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act require schools to provide equal access, and in 2010 the US Departments of Justice and Education clarified that the use of inaccessible technology is prohibited under these laws.[5] In the six years since, over a dozen institutions have faced legal action for using inaccessible technology,[6] and complaints are on the rise. Most litigation ends with a commitment from the school to embrace accessibility, but that commitment does little in a vast, uncoordinated higher education market.[7]

Accessibility solutions are available, but guidelines are sorely needed to stimulate the market. The Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act will bring together people with disabilities, the higher education, publishing, and tech developing and manufacturing communities to develop a stakeholder-driven solution to the issue of inaccessible instructional materials. With input from all relevant stakeholder communities,[8] mainstream accessible instructional materials can be achieved, benefiting both institutions of higher education and the students with disabilities they aim to serve.

Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act:

Develops accessibility guidelines for instructional materials used in postsecondary education. A purpose-based commission is tasked with developing accessibility criteria for instructional materials and the delivery systems/technologies used to access those materials. Additionally, the commission is tasked with developing an annotated list of existing national and international standards so that schools and developers can identify what makes a product usable by the blind.

Provides incentive for institutions of higher education to follow the guidelines. Institutions of higher education that use only technology that conforms with the guidelines will be deemed in compliance with the provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act that pertain to schools’ use of technology. For those instances in which accessible technology is simply not yet available, instances that will continue to diminish in frequency as accessible instructional materials become more mainstream, there is a limited safe harbor protection for institutions that otherwise adhere to existing disability law as well as some additional requirements as described in the AIM HE Act.

Offers flexibility for schools while reiterating that pre-existing obligations still apply. Colleges and universities are permitted to use material that does not conform to the guidelines as long as equal access laws are still honored. Conformity with the AIM HE guidelines is only one path to compliance; schools can pursue a different path but will forfeit the safe harbor legal protection.

REMOVE BARRIERS TO EQUALITY IN THE CLASSROOM.
Cosponsor the Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act.

To cosponsor in the House of Representatives, contact:
Otto Katt, Legislative Fellow, Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN)
Phone: (202) 225-6356, Email: [email protected]
For more information contact:
Gabe Cazares, government affairs specialist, National Federation of the Blind
Phone: (410) 659-9314, extension 2206, email: [email protected]
For more information visit: www.nfb.org/aim_he

[1] US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. “Children and Youth with Disabilities” (2016) http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cgg.asp.
[2] Brand, B., Valent, A., Danielson, L. College & Career Readiness & Success Center, American Institutes for Research. Improving College and Career Readiness for Students with Disabilities. 2013.
[3] “Report of the Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities.” (2011) 13
[4] United States Department of Labor. “Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics—2015.” (2016). http://www.dol.gov/odep/.
[5] Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and Department of Education Office of Civil Rights letter to College and University Presidents, June 29, 2010.
[6] National Federation of the Blind. “The Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (AIM-HEA) Act.” Last modified December, 2015. https://www.nfb.org/aim_he  
[7] Government Accountability Office. “Education Needs a Coordinated Approach to Improve Its Assistance to Schools in Supporting Students.” Report to the Chairman, Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives.10-33 (2009).
[8] Organizations and institutions that have endorsed the Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act: https://nfb.org/aim_he.

Access Technology Affordability Act

Increase the availability of access technology and promote affordability of that technology for blind Americans

Access technology enables blind Americans to participate in today’s connected world. These tools enable blind Americans to perform tasks that they were once unable to accomplish themselves due to their disability. Braille notetakers are frequently used in schools, screen reading software allows workers to check their email at home, and screen magnification software can help seniors losing vision learn about community activities. Despite the need for access technology, public and private entities struggle to meet the demands and provide adequate access technology to their clients, including blind Americans.[1] This leads to untimely delays in the delivery of necessary technology and ultimately harms the blind consumer.

Paying for access technology out-of-pocket creates a difficult economic reality. Nearly 60 percent of blind Americans are unemployed [2] compared to under 5 percent for the general population.[3] Most access technology can range in cost from $1,000 to $6,000. For example, a leading screen reader is $900, a popular Braille notetaker is $5,495, one model of a refreshable Braille display is $2,795, and a moderately priced Braille embosser is $3,695. Consequently, most blind Americans do not have sufficient financial resources needed to purchase these items.[4] These financial barriers can ultimately lead to a loss of employment, insufficient education, or even isolation from community activities.

Medical insurance will not cover the cost of access technology. Current definitions of "medical care," "medical necessity," and "durable medical equipment" within common insurance policies do not and should not include access technology. These definitions were adopted in the 1960s when medical care was viewed primarily as curative and palliative, with little or no consideration given to increasing an individual's functional status.[5] However, Congress recognized that blindness, unlike other disabilities, could be measured easily.[6] Many states’ Medicaid programs and individual health insurance plans have adopted similar definitions and will not cover access technology.[7]

Access Technology Affordability Act:

The Access Technology Affordability Act provides a simple solution that will increase the availability of access technology so that blind Americans can procure these items for themselves. It establishes a per-person individual refundable tax credit to be used over a multi-year period to offset the cost of access technology for blind people.

Historically, Congress has created similar tax incentives (e.g., Disabled Access Credit) for business owners required to make accommodations—including access technology—for employees and patrons with disabilities. Congress removed financial barriers so that businesses did not view the needs of people with disabilities as a burden. These opportunities are currently available only to business owners, while blind Americans, for the most part, must depend on others to procure access technology for them.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to meet the access technology needs of all blind Americans. Accessibility requires an individualized assessment of one’s own skills and preference. Therefore, blind Americans should be given the opportunity to procure access technology on their own to ensure that they are receiving the tools that are most useful for them.

REMOVE FINANCIAL BARRIERS AND INCREASE THE AVAILABILITY OF ACCESS TECHNOLOGY
Sponsor the Access Technology Affordability Act

For more information, contact:
Kimie Beverly, government affairs specialist, National Federation of the Blind
Phone: (410) 659-9314, extension 2441, email: [email protected]

[1] Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services and Disability Research, “Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Request,” https://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget17/justifications/i-rehab.pdf, p. I-66.
[2] American Community Survey. www.disabilitystatistics.org.
[3] Bureau of Labor Statistics. Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey. https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000
[4] Erickson, W., Lee, C., von Schrader, S. (2016). "Disability Statistics from the 2014 American Community Survey (ACS)." Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Employment and Disability Institute (EDI). Retrieved November 11, 2016, from www.disabilitystatistics.org.
[5] National Council on Disability, “Federal Policy Barriers to Assistive Technology,” (May 31, 2000) 8, http://www.ncd.gov/rawmedia_repository/c9e48e89_261b_4dda_bc74_203d5915519f.
pdf
.
[6] 26 U.S.C § 63(f)(4)
[7] Assistive Technology Industry Associates, “AT Resources Funding Guide,”
https://www.atia.org/at-resources/what-is-at/resources-funding-guide/ (last accessed December 15, 2016).

Appropriation to the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) for the Purchase of Refreshable Braille Devices

An appropriation to the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped will save money and lead to the proliferation of critically needed Braille material for blind Americans.

There are 119,487 libraries of all types operating in the United States today; [1] however, blind Americans rely on NLS to distribute Braille books across the nation. Currently these are hardcopy offerings, but new, low-cost displays (known as refreshable Braille displays) can produce electronic Braille, saving money, saving paper, and providing a small device where formerly multiple and large volumes were required for just one book. Until all blind Americans have access to high-quality, reliable, refreshable Braille, blind people will continue to encounter artificial barriers in literacy, education, and employment.

Innovative advances in refreshable Braille technology could save NLS $10 million per year. A recent GAO report indicated that the distribution of refreshable Braille devices will result in an annual cost savings of $10 million.[2] Since 1931, hardcopy Braille has been embossed and distributed to patrons through a network of regional and subregional libraries. It is impossible to predict the titles that would be requested at any particular regional library. As a result, there could be five copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (thirteen volumes of Braille)[3] in Boise, Idaho, and none in Richmond, Virginia, where several patrons are currently waiting. Moreover, in 2015 the cost of embossing, housing, and shipping hardcopy Braille volumes was $17 million per year.[4]

Technological innovations now make it possible for Braille to be produced in electronic files. These can be accessed on refreshable Braille displays and distributed electronically at a cost of seven million dollars.[5] Like other types of electronic files (such as printed materials in .docx format), the same Braille book can be read by potentially thousands of patrons at the same time with refreshable Braille devices. Today, the mass production and distribution of Braille content is not only technologically possible, but the method is cost effective, and vast quantities of Braille material can now be stored, transported, and instantly accessed on refreshable Braille displays.

Braille literacy is essential to employment for the blind. Among blind people who are employed, 85 percent are Braille readers.[6] In 1931 the Pratt-Smoot Act centralized the collection and housing of the very small number of individually produced Braille books then existing in the United States.[7] But even though library services have been made available to blind people on a national scale, the broad distribution of hard-copy Braille books is not feasible. Eighty-six years later, the unemployment rate among the blind in 2014 continued to hover around 60 percent.[8] Recognizing this fact, in acknowledgement of the importance of Braille literacy, the 114th Congress amended the Pratt-Smoot Act to authorize NLS to provide its patrons with refreshable Braille displays.

A one-time appropriation of five million dollars to the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped would:

Enable NLS to purchase, through the bidding process, ten thousand refreshable Braille displays to be loaned to NLS patrons;

Make Braille materials more widely available to blind Americans than ever before, thereby improving Braille literacy among blind Americans and leading to increased employability.

Support Braille Literacy
Cosponsor the NLS Appropriation for Refreshable Braille Displays.

For more information, contact:
Parnell Diggs, director of government affairs, National Federation of the Blind
Phone: (410) 659-9314, extension 2222, email: [email protected]

[1] "Number of Libraries in the United States." Professional Tools. 2015. Accessed December 12, 2016. http://www.ala.org/tools/libfactsheets/alalibraryfactsheet01.
[2] United States Government Accountability Office. “Library Services for Those with Disabilities” Report to Congressional Committees. April 2016.
[3] United States Government Accountability Office. “Library Services for Those with Disabilities” Report to Congressional Committees. April 2016.
[4] United States Government Accountability Office. “Library Services for Those with Disabilities” Report to Congressional Committees. April 2016.
[5] United States Government Accountability Office. “Library Services for Those with Disabilities” Report to Congressional Committees. April 2016.
[6] Bell, E. C., & Mino, N. M. (2015). “Employment Outcomes for Blind and Visually Impaired Adults.” Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research, 5(2). Retrieved from https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/jbir/jbir15/jbir050202.html. doi: http://dx.doi.org/
10.5241/ 5-85
.
[7] Pratt-Smoot Act, Pub. L. No. 71-787, ch. 400, 46 Stat. 1487 (1931) (codified as amended at 2 U.S.C. §§ 135a, 135a-1)
[8] American Community Survey. www.disabilitystatistics.org.

The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled (“Marrakesh Treaty”) [1]

An international copyright treaty will give blind Americans access to millions of published works and improve the distribution of books across the globe.

Millions of Americans are being denied access to published works.[2] Despite the ability to convert print books into accessible formats like Braille, audio, and digital copies, over 95 percent of published works are unavailable to people with print disabilities.[3] Literacy and equal participation in society are critical elements of a fulfilling and independent life, but until uniformity is built into the international copyright system, blind Americans will be excluded from accessing works. A blind student seeking to learn Spanish will likely struggle to find an accessible format[4]; a work printed in English may have already been converted into an accessible format overseas, but because copies are not exchanged across borders, domestic entities might need to make a duplicate copy or just might deny access altogether by failing to reproduce the work.

An uncoordinated legal approach prevents the cross-border exchange of accessible books. Unlike the United States, where copyright law includes the Chafee Amendment and other exceptions,[5] two-thirds of the world’s nations do not have domestic copyright laws that permit making copies for the blind, limiting the number of works available in an accessible format. Moreover, many countries consider distribution of accessible copies an infringement as well, and even amongst nations that permit distribution, limitations vary. Instead of exchanging books across borders, works are needlessly duplicated, and circulation is significantly limited.

The Marrakesh Treaty was adopted to achieve this goal. On June 27, 2013, a diplomatic conference convened by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Morocco adopted the Marrakesh Treaty with enthusiastic support from the US delegation. The treaty, signed by the US on October 2, 2013, currently has eighty-eight signatories, has been ratified by twenty-five countries,[6] and has entered into force as of September 30, 2016.[7]

The Marrakesh Treaty has broad stakeholder support. Blind people should have full and equal access to all works that enrich lives, further education, and share critical information; the treaty balances this priority with the interests of rights holders. WIPO’s adoption of the Marrakesh Treaty was supported by American-based companies,[8] the international publishing community,[9] legal experts,[10] and blindness advocates.[11] The treaty will have tangible benefits for all involved. This is why Congress must act swiftly to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty and pass its associated implementing legislation.

The Marrakesh Treaty calls for contracting parties to provide in their national copyright laws for a limitation or exception that allows for the:

Reproduction of works by an authorized entity for the purposes of converting them into accessible format copies exclusively for beneficiary persons;

Distribution of accessible format copies exclusively to beneficiary persons;

Import of accessible format copies for the purposes of making them available domestically; and

Export of accessible format copies for the purposes of making them available to a beneficiary person in another country.

Remove Barriers to Access of Published Works.
Support Ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty.

For more information, contact:
Gabe Cazares, government affairs specialist, National Federation of the Blind
Phone: (410) 659-9314, extension 2206, email: [email protected]

[1]Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled, June 28, 2013 http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/marrakesh/.

[2] World Health Organization, Fact Sheet, Visual impairment and blindness, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs282/en/. Last modified August 2014.

[3] World Blind Union, FAQ Sheets on UN and Human Rights Instruments, Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, http://www.worldblindunion.org/English/resources/Pages/Global-Blindness-Facts.aspx. Last modified March 2014.

[4] LaBarre, Scott. “Literacy Without Borders: The Road to Marrakesh,” Braille Monitor, August/September 2013. “Originally I had planned on a double major in government and Spanish. Ultimately I dropped that Spanish major precisely because I could not get access to Spanish novels and other materials.” https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/bm/bm13/bm1308/bm130811.htm.

[5] 17 U.S.C. § 121.

[6] World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO-Administered Treaties webpage
 http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ShowResults.jsp?treaty_id=843. Last modified on October 6, 2016.

[7] World Intellectual Property Organization, Marrakesh Notification No. 21 Entry into Force http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/notifications/marrakesh/treaty_marrakesh_21.html. Last modified on June 30, 2016.

[8] Association of American Publishers, Statement on Completion of WIPO Treaty, Press Release, June 27, 2013. http://publishers.org/press/112/.

[9] International Publishers Association, Closing Statement by the International Publishers Association, 27 June 2013. http://www.internationalpublishers.org/images/stories/copyright/
statements/closing_statementFinal.pdf
.

[10] American Bar Association, Resolution 100, August 11, 2014.
 http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/mental_physical_disability/
2014_hod_annual_100%20Marrakesh.authcheckdam.pdf
 

[11] National Federation of the Blind, National Federation of the Blind Joins Stevie Wonder and World Blind Union Calling Upon International Negotiators to Conclude Successful Treaty for the Blind and Print Disabled, Press Release, June 24, 2014. https://nfb.org/national-federation-blind-joins-stevie-wonder-and-world-blind-union-calling-upon-international.

The Future of Braille is Refreshing!

by Amy Mason

From the Editor: This piece first appeared in the NFB Access Technology blog on January 3, 2017. Amy is an access technology specialist at the Jernigan Institute. Although her education did not start with a strong foundation in Braille, she was perceptive enough to identify the need and disciplined enough to learn the skill. Her observations about Braille are particularly timely given our emphasis on getting more refreshable Braille to blind patrons of the National Library Service and our wish to enable blind people to buy more technology themselves with the assistance of a federal tax credit. Here is what Amy has to say:

Every year on January 4 we celebrate Louis Braille’s birthday because of his invention of the Braille code—the most powerful and successful reading and writing system designed for the blind. It has given us freedom that only a scant 200 years ago we couldn’t have imagined. It allows us to study the sacred and mull the mundane. From Christmas cards to Coraline, The Great Gatsby to grocery lists, the Bible to the beer menu, and everything in between, Braille has changed the fortunes of the blind by opening the written word to us.

In the same way that Braille has transformed the lives of the blind, the refreshable Braille display has transformed the way that many of us use Braille. Braille displays make Braille portable so we can read anytime and anywhere. Automatic translation means any text can be Braille in a few moments, so even text messages and face-to-face communications for the deaf-blind can be Brailled instantly.

I learned Braille just about the time Braille displays were beginning to become more commonplace, and I am deeply thankful that I did because I don’t know that I would have met with as much success as I have if I hadn’t had access to refreshable Braille.

I began learning the code in the latter half of my high school career, and through the support of some amazing role models from the NFB of Nebraska who inspired me to practice (a lot), I learned to read about forty words per minute before starting college. Unfortunately my nomadic university experience did not provide me with much space or time to spend with Braille books, and my speed and comprehension suffered.

Fortunately two opportunities were presented to me before I returned to college for my junior year. First, I was able to attend the Colorado Center for the Blind, and second, I was able to get my hands on a Braille notetaker with a display.

I credit these two opportunities with my literacy today. If I had not had the time to keep Braille under my fingers for an extended period of time, I could have never improved, and the notetaker was a huge part of that for me. Because of the Braille display, I was able to practice whenever I found a free moment—on the bus, between appointments, and in bed—I was reading. I could quickly and easily get my hands on all sorts of documents, long and short. In a word, it was magical.

Because of all of this practice, my speed increased to just above one hundred words per minute. I can’t imagine going back to working without a Braille display. I wouldn’t be nearly as efficient or as good at my job, and I know many others who would agree.

Refreshable Braille is sadly still very expensive, though prices have improved some over the last ten years. The cost of forty-cell displays now average about $3,000, but advances in technology mean a better price is on the near horizon. I cannot express how exciting this is.

A few years ago the National Federation of the Blind and several other blindness organizations decided it was time to make a significant change to the cost and availability of Braille and did so by creating the Transforming Braille Project. They donated money, time, and testers to the process of finding a cheaper way to produce refreshable Braille, and the first fruits of this partnership are coming to market shortly.

The Orbit Reader is a twenty-cell display which employs a new method of raising and lowering the dots. The new cells use less electricity, increasing the display’s battery life, and they are less expensive to create than traditional refreshable Braille cells. The new cells also refresh one at a time and remain very firm when dots are raised. The Orbit Reader will work with all major screen readers (mobile and desktop) that support Braille today, and its cost will be just under $500 for twenty cells of Braille. The NFB will be selling the Orbit Reader! Details are coming soon.

The Orbit Reader won’t meet everyone’s needs, but in a very real way it is opening the door to more affordable refreshable Braille. Given my own transformative experience with Braille displays, I am a firm believer in what these devices can do for others. I can’t wait to see them in the hands of Braille readers who were unable to afford them previously.

Whether the Orbit Reader is the device you’ve been looking for or another display would better suit your needs, the access technology team would love to help you learn what is possible when it comes to refreshable Braille. The International Braille and Technology Center houses a wide variety of devices including simple Braille terminals, smart Braille displays, and full-fledged notetakers, so if you have been wanting to learn more about a specific device or just about what refreshable Braille can do for you, please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected], or the Access Technology Answer Line (410) 659-9314 option 5.

In Remembrance of June Maurer

by Marc Maurer

From the Editor: June Maurer is the mother of Immediate Past President Marc Maurer. Some of you will remember her from national conventions. Still others will remember her from part of a story that appeared in one of our Kernel Books. We will include it at the end of June’s obituary:

June Maurer was born on November 28, 1923, in St. Paul, Minnesota, to Adolph Davis and Ellen Bradshaw. June graduated from high school and went on to study chemistry at the University of Minnesota. June married Frederick V. Maurer in 1947, and they lived together in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Detroit, Michigan; Des Moines, Iowa; Boone, Iowa; and Bellevue, Iowa.  Fred and June had six children, Peter (Laurie), Marc (Patricia), Max (Brenda), Matthew (Carol Bowman), Mary Ellen, and Mitchell (Theresa). She lost Fred in 1993 in Bellevue. In 2012 June moved to Westfield, Indiana, to be close to family, where she lived for the remainder of her life. She was preceded in death by her brothers William (Bill), Robert (Bud), and Paul Davis.  June outlived all the relations in her generation and is survived by her six children, thirteen grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

June was a devout Catholic and a member of St. Patrick's of St. Paul Parish as a youngster; Sacred Heart Parish in Boone, Iowa, in the 1960’s; and St. Joseph Parish in Bellevue, Iowa, from 1969 to 2012.  June was deeply involved with each of these parishes, giving generously of her time and talent, and deriving deep spiritual benefit.

June was an avid hobbyist, dabbling in many areas, and delving deeply in a few. She was a fast and creative knitter, a fine seamstress, a good cook, an avid reader, and she was well known for her love of singing and dancing. There are many layettes and mittens in the world thanks to June’s fast hands. 

June loved to travel, be that near or far. She traveled extensively both domestically and abroad.  She loved to go and have a good time. Her friends counted on her as a steady, willing companion, no matter where they might be going. Those who knew June well remember her loud, unique, and frequent laugh. You could find her in a crowd from that laugh. In her later years she was part of the Foster Grandparents tutoring program and became known to many youngsters as “Gramma June.”

Gramma June is now in the hands of God. She will be missed by those who loved her.

Editor’s Note: Of all the many wonderful memories that Marc Maurer has of his mother, he shares two that convey the essential warmth, intelligence, and strength his mother had and shared with the world:

I was in the first grade. There were sixteen of us—two rows of eight. I was the sixth person back in the first row. We all got our Dick and Jane books, and the first child in the first row was asked to read page one. By the time it came to me, I had heard page one five times. I put my hands on the page and recited. For this performance I was invited up front to receive a gold star on page one of my book. My teacher urged me to take the book home with me on the weekend to show my mother what I had done. My mother asked me if she could borrow the book, and I gave it to her. My mother had learned Braille because she thought she might need it to communicate with me. Later during the weekend she gave me a piece of Braille paper that had lines of Braille on it, and she asked me to read it. I could not. She told me that the page contained an exact copy of page one of my Dick and Jane book.

In the summer months between my first and second grade years, my mother sat me on the couch in the living room for an hour each day to teach me to read Braille. I was most annoyed by this because nobody else in the family had homework in the summer. Nevertheless, I learned to read Braille. It has been both a joyous skill to use and a most useful one for accomplishing the work that I do. These moms sometimes have a great deal of sense.

Final Reflections:

I visited with my mom the week before she died. For three weeks before I had come she had remained in bed and spent most of her time asleep. She was not able to sit up while I was there, but at times she was animated, and she appeared to be singing with us. Because her mind had deteriorated, it was not possible to understand the words she was singing, but it was quite evident that she was enjoying herself, and she smiled. When my mom died, I reflected that she loved to travel. She always liked to go to new places and to have new experiences, and she had faith in God and in God’s goodness in creating Paradise. I feel certain that she wanted to travel on this most joyous trip to learn about what God had in store for her. My mom often prayed for me. For those who want to remember her, a prayer would be good.

A Dream is Born

by Ray McAllister

From the Editor: Monitor readers may remember Ray McAllister as the winner of a Bolotin Award at the 2016 National Convention. He was one of the Semitic Scholars whose efforts have created the tools to allow future blind scholars to study works in ancient languages. In August of 2010 he received a PhD in Hebrew Scriptures. Dr. McAllister is totally blind, so he's the first blind PhD from Andrews University's seminary and the first totally blind person in the world to get a PhD in Hebrew Scriptures. He teaches distance education religion classes for Andrews University, but he isn’t just a scholar focusing on the past. Ray chose to take a rather nontraditional path as both a blind person and a man, choosing to become a part of a most amazing everyday event that shapes the future: the birth of a child. In December, 2014, he became the first totally blind, male, certified birth doula trained to assist a woman during childbirth. Here is how he describes the journey to become a massage doula:

For years I've dreamed of witnessing the birth of a baby. I have no children, and my wife is past childbearing age. Since I'm totally blind, sitting in the back of a delivery room while someone's having a baby wouldn't be helpful. So, in 2014, I took the journey to become a certified massage doula, most likely the first totally blind, male, certified doula. On this journey I would not only witness births but make a difference for three women in what some would consider the most difficult day of their lives.

In June 2014 my wife Sally and I discovered the Institute of Somatic Therapy on the internet. This online distance education school has a program for training massage therapists to become massage doulas. A doula assists in childbirth to see to the comfort of the woman having the baby. A massage doula does this but incorporates all the skills of massage to have a special edge in reducing the pain, stress, and length of labor. Since I had been a licensed massage therapist for over a year, this looked like an excellent program. Even though male doulas are rare, I signed up the next day. I've always been the type to do things considered outside the box. I also agreed to help adapt this program so it would be accessible to blind people.

Within a couple weeks I had completed the first steps of the program, theoretical and practical, becoming a certified prenatal massage therapist. Then I began actually studying the materials for becoming a massage doula. Learning the theory was easy. I read the materials with my screen reader, as I had done in the earlier part of the course. A female massage therapist showed me various birthing positions and techniques. One time we had to have Sally join us so this therapist could help me understand how two people can easily assist a woman into a pushing position. Meanwhile, I was writing down descriptions of all this for the blind using proper technical medical terminology, which anyone with massage training could clearly interpret. I passed the academic test for the doula course shortly after.

Then came the difficult part of the journey: finding three pregnant women who would accept a blind male as their doula. None of the pregnant women I knew from my church or as friends were interested. I was offering free prenatal and post-partum massage care, and that didn't even get anyone's attention.

Next I reached out to a homeless shelter where I had preached in the past and done infant massages when I was in massage school. There I found a resident who was very receptive to my offer to assist in the birth of her first child. Soon this resident referred another pregnant friend of hers to me, and by that time I was also waiting for two women to go into labor at about the same time. In fact I had to warn them that if they went into labor on the same day, I'd have to choose only one of them.

On October 13, Canadian Thanksgiving Day, at 2 AM, my wife and I got the call that the first woman was at the hospital, about ready to start pushing. Just ten days after I helped her push, her friend went into labor with her first child, and I spent all day helping comfort her through labor and supported her through pushing. A few weeks later I was introduced to a friend of this woman who was almost due. On the day before American Thanksgiving, I had to interrupt the making of my pumpkin pie because she went into labor with her third child.

Being part of all three births was the most amazing experience. I heard a baby's first cry. After one of them, the doctor who delivered the baby let me feel the placenta through my rubber gloves. A blind person won't get to see what that looks like on a television documentary. All the women reported that I had helped them significantly with everything from preparing for labor to easing labor pains to giving guidance through pushing. My blindness was not a hindrance. My Braille-reader's touch enabled me to provide effective relaxation, and I could lightly joke about how I don't peek. Truly, we all had much to be thankful for.

Now I am a certified massage doula. I don't know exactly where this path will take me. I may find paying customers, and/or I may work for free for those who really need the support but could not possibly afford it. If a blind person really wishes to experience the miracle of birth and has a compassionate heart, doula work is probably the only way in to a delivery environment. Even if it is just for the three births for certification, the memories and experience will last me a lifetime.

Update: It’s now 2016. I have assisted in six births. Early this year I visited an area hospital’s birth simulation lab. There they have a mechanical model of a woman having a baby. I could feel how the baby moves and turns during contractions and what the different birth presentations like breech really look like.

 

Leave a Legacy

For more than seventy-five years the National Federation of the Blind has worked to transform the dreams of hundreds of thousands of blind people into reality, and with your support we will continue to do so for decades to come. We sincerely hope you will plan to be a part of our enduring movement by adding the National Federation of the Blind as a partial beneficiary in your will. A gift to the National Federation of the Blind in your will is more than just a charitable, tax-deductible donation. It is a way to join in the work to help blind people live the lives they want that leaves a lasting imprint on the lives of thousands of blind children and adults.

With your help, the NFB will continue to:

Plan to Leave a Legacy

Creating a will gives you the final say in what happens to your possessions and is the only way to be sure that your remaining assets are distributed according to your passions and beliefs. Many people fear creating a will or believe it’s not necessary until they are much older. Others think that it’s expensive and confusing. However, it is one of the most important things you will do, and with new online legal programs it is easier and cheaper than ever before. If you do decide to create or revise your will, consider the National Federation of the Blind as a partial beneficiary. Visit <www.nfb.org/planned-giving> or call (410) 659-9314, extension 2422, for more information. Together with love, hope, determination, and your support, we will continue to transform dreams into reality.

Stand Up

by Courtney Cole

From the Editor: Courtney is originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia. However, after a move in high school due to her father’s military career, she fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. She now attends Seattle University in Seattle, Washington, studying psychology. She is on the staff of Rooted in Rights, a Disability Rights Washington program, where she works as a creative production intern to help in the production of media which advocates for the rights of people with disabilities. She is a member of her state affiliate of the NFB and has been elected vice president of the Association of Blind Students for her state. In her spare time she enjoys writing her blog, playing ukulele, and singing. Like Courtney herself, her article is short but powerful. Here is what she has to say:

Everything feels surreal right now. I've spent the past two days at Seattle University, my new school, for orientation. My new school. It's still sinking in, as you can probably tell. It's so incredible because I sincerely, in all honesty, did not think I would live to see life after high school. I'm sure many of you can relate. In fact I think everyone feels that way at some point during secondary school.

Now that time is over. I've finally stepped into the chapter of my life where people really start to define themselves, and I'm so excited. I know I have stars in my eyes for something brand new and that eventually it will become a place where I have a routine. In other words, the honeymoon phase will end.

Of all the information I learned at orientation, I can't help but feel excited about how I walked with my cane confidently, how I introduced myself to others, and how I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. There was a portion of the orientation where we all assembled to discuss diversity. The speaker would say statements, and if it applied to you, you would stand. For me it pointed out that we are all very different, but we all have unique challenges and components to our lives that make us who we are.

"If you have or live with someone who has a disability, please stand."

To many of the students there the activity may have felt like a waste of time or just too invasive. Most of them probably thought it was stupid, and yeah, maybe it was a little melodramatic. There was a time when I would have felt the same, but yesterday I couldn't. I was too busy standing as tall as my four-foot-eleven stature would allow. In that moment, I realized that I am nothing but proud and confident about who I am. Everyone has their own challenges, and mine have made me who I am. I'm no longer ashamed or apologetic because I have different abilities from everyone else. This is all to say, “Do not be like me.” Don't wait until you are eighteen years old to feel comfortable in your skin and to be proud of who you are. And if you're older than eighteen, do not wait another second. Time putting yourself down and not loving yourself is wasted time, and, in addition, you are preventing yourself from so much. You're going to make mistakes, and you have flaws. We all do. But you will never learn from them if you're consumed with punishing yourself.

Don't be your own worst enemy. Be proud of who you are, and don't let anyone dictate how you feel about yourself. Stand up, and start moving.

Community Service Division Works with Habitat for Humanity

by Darian Smith

From the Editor: Darian Smith is the president of the National Federation of the Blind Community Service Division. The purpose of the division is to show that blind people are more than takers and that real integration means taking our place as responsible givers. Here is one example of the way the division put this philosophy into action in 2016 as related by Darian:

Earlier this month Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando asked our Community Service Division to work with them to contribute an article for its October newsletter. The newsletter is a paper publication, but I was able to work with their Marketing and Communications Manager to get a text copy of the article which is included below.

Building without Boundaries

Earlier this summer the National Federation of the Blind joined us on our build site for a day of volunteering. It was just like any other morning on our build site with our construction team working beside volunteers and ready to assist whenever needed. We welcome all volunteers with open arms and hearts, and this group truly proved that their blindness did not limit their ability to lend a hand and help build homes, communities, and hope.

Our task for the day was hanging drywall, which requires strong communication and a lot of teamwork. The group jumped right in, and with some minor modifications, such as using black markers to indicate where to put screws and creating small divots to be used for drills, they got all of the sheets hung! For most of the volunteers, it was their first time working with a power tool.

“Once we arrived, we—like any other group—were a little nervous, not knowing just what the work would entail. Once we learned the type of work we would be doing and just how to do it, we soon found it to be second nature,” said Darian Smith, president of the National Federation of the Blind Community Service Division.

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines a blind person or his or her future and that all blind people can live the lives they want. By joining with one another on service projects, the Community Service Division aims to use service as a means to show that the blind have the talent and desire to better the world we live in. Through engaging in collective action, they are able to improve the lives of blind people all across the country, with love, hope, and determination. Every day, they transform dreams into reality.

Across the World

by Matt Jepsen

From the Editor: Matt Jepsen lives in Moscow, Idaho, with his wife Erin and their four children. He works as a computer programmer with a local company called Populi. Matt is quite involved with the NFB of Idaho through his wife Erin and their daughter Abi, both of whom are blind. In the future he would like to do more work providing canes and Braille Bibles in local languages in Ethiopia and would welcome any information or contacts of people also working to that end. He can be reached at [email protected]. Here is what he says:

Life always takes unexpected twists and turns, but I never would have predicted finding myself on a plane to Ethiopia with a suitcase full of white canes and Braille slates! In fact, six years ago I knew almost nothing about Ethiopia other than the fact that it was located in East Africa and occasionally cropped up in the international news. I didn’t even know that the most common language was called Amharic. A few years ago we decided to adopt a little blind girl from Ethiopia, and that is how our interest in the people and culture of Ethiopia began. Having two biological children already and a third adopted domestically, we decided to adopt a fourth, this time abroad.

My wife Erin has a visual impairment that prevents her from driving or easily reading print and has been an enthusiast for blind mobility skills since she was young. She is also a certified Braille transcriber. Because of this background and knowledge, we decided we would really like to adopt a blind child. After slogging through mountains of paperwork and walking over the emotional mountains and trenches that accompany international adoption, in 2011 we traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to appear in court and meet our new daughter Elizabeth. That was five years ago, and our daughter is eight years old now. In the meantime, my wife has taught her to read (she just finished the entire Little House on the Prairie series) and taught her to get around town independently with a white cane (age appropriately, of course!). Because we learned to love her country and culture as we tried to preserve some of it in her life, I read many books about Ethiopian culture and history, and we both used books and homemade flashcards to learn as much of the local language as we could.

What I discovered along the way is that, while Ethiopia is a large country (about twice the size of Texas) of nearly 100 million people, almost nobody there is doing anything to serve the blind population. There are plenty of NGOs [non-governmental organizations] there digging wells and supporting mothers with HIV, but the blind are very marginalized. Every once in a while a team of doctors will fly over for a week and give a few hundred people cataract surgeries, restoring a handful of people's vision overnight, but for those who cannot be healed by medicine (and there are several million), the prospects are rather grim and far behind those found in much of the rest of the world.

Over the past few years my wife and I have tossed around the idea of returning to Ethiopia to help with education and advocacy for blind people who live there. After a lot of phone calls and some serendipitous encounters over the past year, I connected with a couple of local Ethiopians who had only recently begun to organize for the same purpose. Berhanu Belay is an energetic man leading one of these efforts. He is blind himself from childhood and attended one of the only schools for the blind in the country, established by the last emperor, Haile Selassie, in the 1960s. When communist rebels took over the country during the 70s and 80s, concern for the blind declined severely, and the school has been neglected. Berhanu's organization, Zena Wengal, is a specifically Christian ministry, but nevertheless is working to improve the lives of blind people regardless of their religion.

With all this in mind, I decided to travel to Ethiopia in October of 2016 for several weeks to contribute and learn as much as I could. I wanted to take some immediately useful materials, so I collected used and new collapsible canes donated by other NFB members in our town, as well as small ones that my daughter had outgrown. Beverly Cook, a blind woman from southern California who runs an organization called Global Cane Outreach, was also able to provide me with many canes for the trip. I was able to fill one suitcase with nearly forty canes. Additionally, I took a pipe cutter with me so adult canes could be cut to size for some of the younger kids. I also acquired over thirty metal Braille slates using money donated by our local NFB chapter, along with several jingle soccer balls, a Perkins Brailler, and some solar-powered audio units containing the Bible in Amharic and Oromifa, the other most widely-used language in the region. I also arranged to meet with some of my adopted daughter's relatives while I was there so I could learn more about her family and past.

It felt like such a small gesture, but my gifts were enthusiastically received, and I had a wonderful time learning as much as I could during the two weeks I was there. Most of the materials went to a school for the blind in the town of Sebeta, about an hour outside of Addis Ababa. There, about 300 blind students reside, all gathered from the rural areas of the country. On average, one in four children had a Braille slate to use in class, so they spent a lot of time taking turns. Most of the children used wooden sticks to serve as canes. Because traffic accidents on the unpredictable streets are the number one cause of injury, having a white high-reflective cane is especially valuable.

The children I met surprised and delighted me by acting just like children do the world over, sighted or blind. Some teenage boys, with arms linked together to help them not trip on things, joked around in between classes. Some teen girls listened to Ethiopian pop music on a cell phone one of them had. Surprisingly, everyone has a cell phone. Old-style flip phones can be had for only about $10 and use reloadable time cards. Some younger girls sang and played a clapping game together outside their dormitory. A Muslim girl wearing a hijab studiously copied down notes using a slate and stylus. Some younger boys played soccer using an old plastic jug that was remarkably easy to hear on the pavement. Lunch for everyone was a huge pot of lentil stew cooked over an open fire in the smoky kitchen.

Only the most fierce and clever students are able to advance on to college and with luck get a job as a public school teacher making approximately $150 a month. Most of the volunteers I met were people who had been fortunate and resilient enough to make it to that point and who wanted to give back to the next generation. For the rest of the children, they might be able to work making brooms or baskets, but many will end up on the streets begging. The idea that the blind can lead normal, productive lives is not something found much in the public's imagination, and consequently in the minds of blind people themselves. By giving them canes and training, teaching them Braille, and telling them that they matter, we hope to plant a seed that can grow into a brighter future for them and for their families.

I'm back in the USA now but am still thinking about the kind and beautiful Ethiopian people. I’d love to go back for a longer-term stay, although our children are still young, and it may be a few years before we are able to do much additional volunteer work there. In the meantime, my wife and I bought an older embosser on eBay and are working on producing some useful Braille materials in the Oromifa language that currently don't exist. A woman I met there named Meseret hopes to repair a closet full of Perkins Braillers that have been lying dormant for many years, and we will be sending her some tools and spare parts. My wife will continue homeschooling Elizabeth and helping her become more independent. If I may be allowed a quick brag, I’m pleased to report that she has been devouring her Braille copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and yesterday she climbed over forty feet straight up the rock climbing wall at our local university's recreation center. Through it all we've been very thankful for the support and friends we made through the NFB, especially our local chapter. Who knew that a little effort here could spread halfway across the world? I certainly didn't. I'm looking forward to what the future holds.

 

Dots from Space!
Voices from the Past

by Amy Mason and Anna Kresmer

From the Editor: This is episode three from our monthly serial “Dots from Space!” If you missed episodes one and two, refer to the January and February issues.

Some time later, as the intrepid crew continues their explorations, they find themselves in a large room with shining glass windows stretching all the way up to the ceiling. A once-stately wooden desk and leather office furniture, showing the signs of age and neglect, are positioned in the center of a semicircle comprised of fifteen chairs. Strewn among the chairs and across the surface of the desk are small structures made from miniature interlocking building blocks, while an enormous glass jar of candy-coated chocolates sits half-empty on the desk.

The first officer rotates slightly as he considers the scene before them. Deep in concentration he stretches out a limb and uses two fingers to stroke what appears to be a small pointy beard on his nonexistent chin. It squeaks softly in the hushed room. “The room appears to have been abandoned, Captain,” he says in an authoritative voice.

“Indeed, Commander Point. Just like the rest of the building, perhaps?” the captain’s exasperation is apparent.

“Yes, er… I mean no, Captain. This room was obviously abandoned in a hurry in the middle of some strange ritual.” Squeak, squeak, squeak.

“An astute observation, as usual, Commander,” replies Doctor Spot. Spot then turns to the fifth member of the group and asks, “How are you making out on reactivating that primitive computing device, Lieutenant-Commander Jot?”

“Almost got it now, Doctor?” says a cheerful voice under the desk as ominous sparks light up the murky room.

Suddenly the computer screen comes to life, and a voice from the past echoes in the long-abandoned room. As the voices from long-ago waft among the crew members, a faint squeaking sound can be heard.

“Knock it off, Commander!” barks the captain. “I want to hear this!”

“Oh, sorry!” A small pop can be heard as the commander quickly retracts the arm back into his body.

LEGO and the Pattern of Experience [Video transcription]

[Son] So, we're also going to need one base plate.
[Father] Got it.
[Son] And we're also going to need one two-by-one flat, please.
[Father] So this base plate is eight-by-sixteen.
[Son] A one-by-two flat.
[Father] A one-by-two flat?
[Son] Yes.
[Father] Hello, I'm Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. I'm also a blind person who is a father of three children. It was shocking to me the first time in one of our science programs in the National Federation of the Blind when we were doing an activity, we were trying to get kids to build models that they were going to test with LEGOs, and these were high school students, and we found that some of them had never built with LEGOs before. And it was a little astonishing to learn that blind kids, especially ones that were interested in science, technology, engineering, and math just hadn't had the opportunity to learn concepts of engineering, building, spatial relationship, simply from playing with LEGOs. So it got me interested in what we could do in our organization to build greater opportunities, and one of the things that we decided we wanted to do was find ways to communicate the instructions for LEGOs, which are often presented visually in alternative ways. So I started with my son, developing a language that we use to describe different pieces. That's the way we build together; we look for different pieces together, we talk about the types of pieces we need—the key is using a common language.
[Son] Put the stud one in the corner. This one up here. This corner.
[Father] This stud one?
[Son] No. Yeah, that one right in the corner.
[Father] Right there.
[Son] Okay, then put the flat piece across.
[Father] Across?
[Son] Yeah sort of across it. No not like that. Just get it down onto, next to it.
[Father] Next to it? Like that?
[Son] Yeah, good. And then put the studded one right underneath the end of that one, of the flat.
[Father] Over here?
[Son] Wrong, wrong, wrong. Right under it.
[Father] Under it? In the middle?
[Son] No, right here, man.
[Father] At the end?
[Son] Yeah, at the end. That's what I'm saying. Okay.
[Father] One thing I think is really important is just letting children have the opportunity to build. So often in society it's focused on our kids building the right way, following the right instructions. But, you know, when I first as a blind child started playing with LEGOs, the focus wasn't on building sets. It was on just getting a bunch of bricks and building things from your imagination and starting to learn the concepts of building. And I think that's particularly important for getting blind children engaging with building. And it can teach so many great spatial concepts.
[Son] And now we need one jointed double one-by-one, one-by-two joints.
[Father] One-by-two jointed. Oh. Like this thing?
[Son] No, but it's connected like one of these except, no, oh yeah. One of these except a different color.
[Father] Oh, that's a jointed.
[Son] Yes. And then we also need two four-by-one stud flats.
[Father] What color?
[Son] Gray.
[Father] I just think LEGOs provide particularly a very fun and interactive way to teach spatial concepts, building concepts, that are very useful for everybody. And besides, they're a lot of fun, don't you think?
[Son] I think that LEGOs are really awesome, and if there weren't LEGOs, the world would be pretty boring.
[Father] So what do you think about building with me?
[Son] I think that it's fun even though you can't see. I think that it's good to have the opportunity to build with somebody who has experience and knows how to build, what to do.
[Father] So what did you learn from building with me?
[Son] That you don't always have to follow the instructions. Just be creative. Build whatever you want.

As the soundtrack of the video fades, Ensign Bean begins to bounce excitedly. “Counselor! This must be how they taught their young! This was some kind of mentoring ritual!”

“I think you may be right, Ensign,” Counselor Mote concedes. “A truly creative way to impart some important life lessons.” [Note: Link to video https://youtu.be/0ncVyVcAG9o]

The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund

by Allen Harris

From the Editor: Allen Harris is the chairman of the Kenneth Jernigan Fund Committee and was one of the people who came up with the idea of honoring our former president and longtime leader by establishing a program to promote attendance at the national convention, where so much inspiration and learning occur. Here is Allen’s announcement about the 2017 Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund Program:

Have you always wanted to attend an NFB annual convention but have not done so because of the lack of funds? The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund invites you to make an application for a scholarship grant. Perhaps this July you too can be in the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel in Orlando, Florida, enjoying the many pleasures and learning opportunities at the largest and most important yearly convention of blind people in the world.

The three biggest ticket items you need to cover when attending an NFB national convention are the roundtrip transportation, the hotel room for a week, and the food (which tends to be higher priced than at home). We attempt to award additional funds to families, but, whether a family or an individual is granted a scholarship, this fund can only help; it won’t pay all the costs. Last year most of the sixty grants were in the range of $400 to $500 per individual.

We recommend that you find an NFB member as your personal convention mentor, someone who has been to many national conventions and is able to share money-saving tips with you and tips on navigating the extensive agenda in the big hotel. Your mentor will help you get the most out of the amazing experience that is convention week.

Who is eligible?

Active NFB members, blind or sighted, who have not yet attended an NFB national convention because of lack of funding are eligible to apply.

How do I apply for funding assistance?

1. You write a letter giving your contact information, and your local NFB information, your specific amount requested, and then explain why this is a good investment for the NFB. The points to cover are listed below.

2. You contact your state president in person or by phone to request his or her help in obtaining funding. Be sure to tell the president when to expect your request letter by email, and mention the deadline.

3. You (or a friend) send your letter by email to your state president. He or she must add a president’s recommendation and then email both letters directly to the Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund Committee. Your president must forward the two letters no later than April 15, 2015.

Your letter to Chairperson Allen Harris must cover these points:

Explain how much money you need from this fund to make this trip possible for you. We suggest you consult with other members to make a rough budget for yourself.

The body of your letter should answer these questions:

How do you currently participate in the Federation? Why do you want to attend a national convention? What would you receive; what can you share or give? You can include in your letter to the committee any special circumstances you hope they will take into consideration.

When will I be notified that I am a winner?

If you are chosen to receive this scholarship, you will receive a letter with convention details that should answer most of your questions. The committee makes every effort to notify scholarship winners by May 15, but you must do several things before that to be prepared to attend if you are chosen.

1. Make your own hotel reservation. If something prevents you from attending, you can cancel the reservation. (Yes, you may arrange for roommates of your own to reduce the cost.)

2. Register online for the entire convention, including the banquet, by May 31.

3. Find someone in your chapter or affiliate who has been to many conventions and can answer your questions as a friend and advisor.

4. If you do not hear from the committee by May 15, then you did not win a grant this year.

How will I receive my convention scholarship?

At convention you will be given a debit card or credit card loaded with the amount of your award. The times and locations to pick up your card will be listed in the letter we sent you. The committee is not able to provide funds before the convention, so work with your chapter and state affiliate to assist you by obtaining an agreement to advance funds if you win a scholarship and to pay your treasury back after you receive your debit or credit card.

What if I have more questions? For additional information email the chairman, Allen Harris, at <[email protected]> or call his Baltimore, Maryland, office at (410) 659-9314, extension 2415.

Above all, please use this opportunity to attend your first convention on the national level and join several thousand active Federationists in the most important meeting of the blind in the world. We hope to see you in Orlando.

Independence Market Corner

The National Federation of the Blind Independence Market is the conduit through which our organization distributes our empowering literature to our members, friends, and the general public. As a service we also operate a blindness products store, which sells mostly low-tech items, designed to enhance the everyday independence of blind people.

This month we want to highlight a product we have carried for a while: the PenFriend 2 Voice Labeling System. A tool for labeling and organizing various household items, this pen-shaped device, approximately six inches long and one inch in diameter, records voice labels of varying lengths and associates them with stick-on labels. The unit has four gigabytes of internal memory, which allows for up to 125 hours of recording time. The memory capacity can be increased by replacing the included micro SD card with one up to sixteen gig. 127 stick-on labels of assorted sizes and three magnetic labels are included. Individual recordings can be up to an hour long. Label playback may be paused and resumed, but rewinding and fast-forwarding are not possible. Labels can be re-recorded and additional label packages are available for purchase. Features include volume control, an external speaker, a headphone jack, and a lanyard. Audio instructions are built into the packaging and are accessed with the PenFriend itself.

This audio labeling tool can be used to accomplish a variety of tasks. From labeling cooking spices; packaged, canned, and frozen foods; medications; CDs and DVDs; AC adaptors; to files and important papers, only the user's imagination will limit what one can accomplish with this device. For example, when labeling medications, place the label on the cap, so the cap can be switched out for the next refill of a prescription. If the prescription changes, simply re-record the label. One might want to follow the same procedure with cooking spices. One may not want to place the label directly on canned goods and other one-time use items, since the labels are reusable and re-recordable. The Independence Market carries plastic food labels, originally designed for Brailling, which attach to cans and packages using elastic. As it turns out, these labels are perfect to create reusable PenFriend labels. One could even combine the two labeling methods by creating a Braille label for boxed brownie mix and using the PenFriend label for the preparation instructions. Some people have even used an arrangement of PenFriend labels to create address books, calendars, and to-do lists.

PenFriend laundry labels are also available for purchase. After the adhesive has had a chance to bond with the fabric, the labels can go through the washer and dryer. However, they are not suitable for garments that have to be dry-cleaned. Record the care instructions as well as a description of the clothing item and note what other garments match it.

It's obvious that the PenFriend is a very useful device, especially to those who don't know or can't read Braille. With some creativity, the PenFriend can serve as an invaluable organizing tool.

For more information about the products and literature available from the Independence Market or to request a catalog in Braille or in print visit us online at https://nfb.org/independence-market. You may also contact us using email at [email protected] or by phone at (410) 659-9314, extension 2216, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. eastern time. Our staff will be glad to assist.

 

Recipes

In February Federationists traveled to Washington, DC, to speak with their Congressmen about legislation that we in the National Federation of the Blind are supporting. But speaking to legislators is not something that can happen only once a year in the nation’s capital. With that in mind, this month we went back into the archives to offer up a selection of refreshments suitable for setting out when entertaining your local politicians, regardless their office.

NFB Tea by Kenneth Jernigan

Somewhere around 1970, when the national office of the Federation was at the Randolph Hotel building in Des Moines, I began making a concoction which I called NFB Tea. I served it to the first seminar, which occurred in the fall of 1973, and I served it in the presidential suite at National Conventions. Some admired it; others couldn't tolerate it; but everybody knew about it.

Then, as the seventies passed into history and the eighties came and went, the custom of serving NFB Tea at conventions and seminars faded. However, there are those who pine "for the good old days" and long to see a revival of the soothing brew. They continue to ask that the recipe for the NFB Tea appear in the Monitor.

When I remind them that I put it into the Monitor sometime early in the seventies, they simply respond with annoyance, saying that they don't remember it, don't have that edition of the Monitor, or don't want to be bothered with irrelevancies. Since the recipe is now quite different from what it was when it appeared in the Monitor a decade and a half ago and since the requests continue, it seems worthwhile to print it again. So here it is as revised:

You can make as much or as little NFB Tea as you want by increasing or decreasing the quantity of the three basic ingredients. Just keep the proportions the same. Pour equal parts of pineapple juice, orange juice, and cranberry juice or cranberry cocktail into a large container. If you don't intend to use at least as much as a forty-six-ounce can of each of these juices, it hardly seems worth the bother, not to mention which it will be difficult not to over flavor. After you mix these three basic juices, the fun begins. I usually add about one-third as much peach or apricot nectar and one-third as much apple juice as I have used of each of the three basic ingredients. Sometimes (but not always) I also add a small amount of pear nectar if I have it, about half as much as I have used of the apple or peach.

Then I begin to sweeten the mixture with either sugar or sugar substitute and add flavors, tasting as I go. I regard certain flavorings as indispensable, but NFB Tea is a highly flexible brew, which should be crafted to the taste of the brewer. I always use vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I use liquid cinnamon and nutmeg, and if I don't have the liquid, I make it by heating the ground spice in water as strong as I can and straining it.

Next I add small amounts of a large variety of other flavorings. I emphasize that you should begin with only dribs and drabs. Remember that you can always put more in; once it's there, you can't take it out. The mixture of flavors will depend on the whim of the moment and what I have handy. But I will always use at least eight or nine in addition to the cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg. Here are some of the ones I use: almond, Angostura bitters, anise, apple pie spice, arrack flavoring, banana, blackberry, blackcurrant, blueberry, brandy flavor, butternut, butterscotch, butter rum, caramel, cherry, peach, chocolate, clove, coconut, coffee flavor, English toffee, a tiny amount of ginger, hickory nut, lemon, pineapple, lime, maple, orange, orange bitters, pear, pecan, pistachio, pumpkin pie spice, root beer, rose, rum flavor, sassafras, violet, sherry flavor, strawberry, tangerine, walnut, and most anything else I can find. I don't use mint, eucalyptus oil, or wintergreen. It will also be observed that NFB Tea contains no tea. When I first started making the brew in the early seventies, I used Lipton tea, but I abandoned the practice before the end of the decade. It had to do with some of my Mormon friends and also with my evolving taste. I like it better without the tea.

When the mixture has been thoroughly concocted and tasted, a good deal of ice should be added and stirred in. All that remains is to enjoy the product and try different proportions next time, but not different proportions among the three basic ingredients—pineapple juice, orange juice, and cranberry juice or cocktail. And no omission of the three basic flavorings— vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Anything else goes.

Ginger Lime Punch
by Carol Clark

This recipe was originally published in July 1993 and introduced with this: Carol Clark has been a member of the NFB since the mid-1960s. She is currently the president of the Johnson County Chapter of the NFB of Kansas, as well as a state board member.

Ingredients:
2 6-ounce cans frozen limeade concentrate
1 6-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 tablespoon chopped candied ginger
4 cups cold water
ice
1 large bottle of ginger ale, chilled

Method: Pour concentrated limeade and lemonade into punch bowl; add ginger. Chill for at least two hours to blend flavors. Add cold water and ice. Pour ginger ale down sides of bowl. Fluted lemon slices, small lime slices, and mint sprigs may be floated in punch. Yields twenty servings.

Luncheon Dessert
by Alice Fornia

This recipe was originally published in February 1972, where Alice Fornia was described as an active member of the San Francisco Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California.

Ingredients:
8 Heath candy bars 
1 pint of Cool Whip 
vanilla extract (optional) 
12 lady fingers sliced in half

Method: Crush or crumble Heath bars, be careful not to crush into powder or too fine. Small chunks make a chewier filling. Use a blender, a rolling pin, or cut into fine chunks with a paring knife. Line nine-inch pie plate with halves of lady fingers. Combine crushed candy bars with Cool Whip. Add vanilla to taste if desired. Spoon into lady-finger lined pie plate and place in refrigerator. Filling will become firm and dessert can be cut in pie-shaped pieces. Remember to keep dessert in refrigerator when not serving.

Apple Nut Quick Bread

Originally published in May 1987, this recipe came from the Capitol Chapter of the NFB of Ohio.

Ingredients:
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 eggs
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon allspice
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup chopped nuts
2 cups fresh chopped apples
1 cup honey

Method: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease nine-by-five-by-three-inch loaf pan. Line bottom with waxed paper. Blend flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice together. Add honey, milk, and eggs. Blend well. Add melted butter and beat. Add nuts and apples; mix well. Pour into prepared pan. Bake fifty minutes to an hour.

Kuchen
by Tom Bickford

From the December 1990 Monitor, this recipe had the following introduction: Concerning his activities as a chef, Tom Bickford says: "The second nicest thing my mother-in-law gave me was a set of recipes for German coffee cake called Kuchen. My wife Virginia and her entire family are of German origin, and they use the German pronunciation: two ‘k’ sounds, and the ‘u’ sounds like the double ‘o’ in ‘food’. Also, whichever way the dough is topped off, it is still called Kuchen. Virginia tells me that in her teen years she baked Kuchen every Saturday morning, and by Sunday afternoon it was gone! In recent years I have taken up the weekend baking and often bake a double batch, twice the amount given here, just so I can get more than two or three rolls for myself. I admit that nothing smells or tastes as good as freshly baked bread. It is very flattering to have my family utter that smiling `mmm' and then help me eat up all my work. Just as I share the Kuchen with my family, so I share the recipes with you. Much love and good eating." –Tom Bickford, Sligo Creek Chapter, NFB of Maryland.

Main Recipe for the Dough
Ingredients:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk, scalded
6 tablespoons margarine
1/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/2 to 2 packages dry yeast
5 to 5-1/2 cups flour

Method: Scald the milk and set it aside to cool. In the meantime cream together the margarine, sugar, and salt. Stir in the eggs. Pour in the warm milk, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir to a smooth mixture. Stir in two cups of flour. Stir in another 2-1/2 cups of flour. Spread 1/2 cup of flour over the kneading board before pouring out the dough. Knead the dough about ten minutes to form a soft elastic dough. Put the dough in a lightly-greased bowl, then turn the dough to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with wax paper, then a dish towel, and put it in a warm place to rise. Let rise about 1-1/2 hours or until the dough is three to four times the original size. Shape the dough as described in the following recipes into rolls, buns, or fruit upside-down cake. Put the dough in greased baking pans and let rise in a warm place about forty-five minutes, or until it is about double in size. Bake at 350 degrees for twenty to twenty-five minutes, depending on the thickness of the shape. Makes about three dozen rolls.

Your imagination is the only limitation for the shaping and the topping of this good dough.

Kuchen Toppings
In our kitchen when we divide the once-risen dough into thirds, we have suitable quantities for our cooking pans. Therefore, most of the following recipes use one-third of the dough.

Fruit Upside-Down Coffee Cake (The Simplest)
Into a greased nine-inch pan, square or round, pour one can of fruit pie mix. My favorite is cherry. Roll or stretch one-third of the once-risen dough to the size and shape to reach all edges of the pan. Let the dough rise again in a warm place about forty-five minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for about twenty minutes. Turn out onto a plate immediately after baking.

Apple Upside Down Coffee Cake (Even Better)
Grease a nine-inch pan, square or round. In a separate bowl mix: 3/4 cup brown sugar, one tablespoon flour, and one teaspoon cinnamon. Spread this mix over the bottom of the pan. For the next layer use three cooking apples peeled, cored, and thinly sliced. Roll or stretch one-third of the once-risen dough to fill the pan to the edges. Let the dough rise in a warm place about forty-five minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for about twenty minutes. Turn out onto a plate immediately after baking.

Caramel Pecan Rolls (My Favorite)
First the gooey sauce. In a small saucepan simmer together for five minutes: 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons margarine, 1 tablespoon white corn syrup, and 1 tablespoon water. Chop 3/4 to 1 cup pecans and cover the bottom of a greased nine-inch pan, deep dish if you have it, with the nuts. Pour the sauce over the nuts.

Prepare a separate mixture of 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Melt 2 tablespoons margarine, and get out the pastry brush.

Now the rolls: With a rolling pin, roll out 1/3 of the once-risen dough to a rectangle about 6 by 12 inches. Brush on the melted margarine, and spread on the mixed brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll the dough into a long stick. At this stage I stretch out the rolled dough to about 16 inches. With a sharp knife cut off sections two fingers wide, and lay them (cut edge down) in the pan. Leave space for the dough to rise. Let the dough rise in a warm place about 45 minutes.
Bake at 350 degrees for twenty to twenty-five minutes. You may want to place a cookie sheet on the rack below to catch drips. Turn out the rolls onto a plate immediately unless you like chipping out the pan with a mallet and chisel. Makes one dozen rolls.

Half Cut Circles
Roll out one-third of the once-risen dough into a rectangle six-by-twelve-inches. Brush about 2 tablespoons of melted margarine over the dough. Spread on a mixture of 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. If you like, sprinkle with chopped nuts, raisins, or the like. Roll the dough into a long stick. Place the dough on a lightly greased baking sheet, and bend it into a circle. With a sharp knife, cut most but not all the way through the dough, making the sections two fingers wide. Bend alternate sections in and out of the circle. Let rise in a warm place about 45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for fifteen to twenty minutes. To serve, break off sections at the cuts.

Buns in Patterns
For this recipe you may use more or less than an even third of the once-risen dough. Grab off lumps of dough the size of a ping-pong ball and place them on a lightly greased baking sheet. Arrange them in a pattern, perhaps a tree, and allow space for the dough to rise. Let rise in a warm place about forty-five minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for fifteen to twenty minutes. After the buns are cool, frost them with a mixture of 1 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons milk. You might include a drop or two of food coloring. Exercise your imagination for designs and colors.

Strawberry Almond Bars
by Sue Drapinski

When this was originally published in February 1991, Sue Drapinski was the treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan. Everyone who has tasted these cookies agrees that they are something special.

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1-1/2 cups oats (quick-cooking)
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter (or oleo)
1/2 cup jam (strawberry, raspberry, peach, or apricot)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2/3 cup slivered almonds

Method: Mix together the first four ingredients until crumbly, and set aside two cups of the mixture. Press the rest evenly across the bottom of an ungreased nine-by-thirteen-inch pan. Stir together the jam with the almond extract and spread evenly on the crust. Next mix almonds with the reserved crumbly mixture and spread evenly across the top, pressing gently. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes. Cool completely and cut into bars.

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

Braille Book Fair 2017:
Calling all Braille readers, teachers, and parents!

It's that time again: Time to sort through all those boxes of Braille books and donate those gently used but no longer needed Braille books to the 2017 Braille Book Fair sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children.

Our primary goal is to get more Braille books into the hands of children, youth, and beginning adult readers, so

Children are so hungry for their very own books that every year, despite generous donations of books, most of our books for young children are gone in less than an hour. So, begin your search through the boxes in your basement and spare room and get those books shipped to: 2017 Braille Book Fair, National Federation of the Blind, 200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, MD 21230.

Please note that you are shipping the books FREE MATTER FOR THE BLIND; you do not need to pay shipping cost for Braille items. Hand write, stamp or affix a label to the upper right hand corner of the box stating: FREE MATTER FOR THE BLIND. Take your package(s) to your local post office. There is no shipping fee for Free Matter for the Blind when mailed through the post office.

Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND) Inc.
Post-secondary Readiness Empowerment Program (PREP) 2017
Learning+Recreation+Friends+Job=A Great Summer

Apply today to PREP 2017, a summer program for all blind/low vision high school students!
When: June 11-August 5, 2017
Where: BLIND Inc.: 100 East 22nd St., Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404
Application deadline: April 15, 2017   
                                            
What: This exciting 8-week summer program is designed to prepare students to reach their personal, academic, and professional goals as they transition to adulthood.  The PREP curriculum empowers blind youth as they learn the alternative techniques of blindness and develops the self-confidence needed to become successful adults!

Instruction: The core classes include Braille reading and writing, independent cane travel, adaptive technology, career exploration, and home management, which includes cooking, cleaning, personal care, and daily living skills. Students also participate in regularly-scheduled discussion groups designed to build confidence and learn from blind peers and adults. PREP students live with fellow students and adult counselors in modern apartments with free Wi-Fi. Counselors and instructors serve as successful and positive role models. Students shop for groceries, prepare meals, and clean their apartments as part of their home and personal management training, while using public transportation on a daily basis. They begin to learn how to live independently while still in a supportive environment. Students develop problem-solving skills needed to take care of themselves and determine their own future!

Getting A Job: This program includes a three-week paid internship experience. Students will utilize the skills they have developed while earning minimum wage, working approximately 20 hours per week in local businesses and agencies.

National Convention: In July, PREP 2017 students will enjoy the exciting opportunity by accompanying BLIND Inc. staff and adult students as we travel to Orlando, Florida, to attend the week-long National Federation of the Blind convention. During this convention, our PREP students will join hundreds of other high school and college students from around the country when attending the National Association of Blind Students meeting. Students will also attend other meetings and seminars, learn about new groundbreaking technology, and get involved in social and recreational activities. This annual convention is packed full of great learning opportunities and fun experiences.

Other Activities: Throughout the summer, the PREP students will also participate in a variety of fun activities, including going to Wild Mountain Water Park, camping, rock climbing, shopping at various malls, and much more. Don’t worry; there will be plenty of time to hang out with old and new friends!

Contact Michell Gip, youth services coordinator, at 612-872-0100, ext. 231, or email [email protected] for more information or an application. We can assist you to work with your local vocational rehabilitation agency to attend the program.

Information about our summer programs can also be found at https://www.blindinc.org/
programs/summer/

Apply today to ensure your space in this program! Applications are due by April 15.

Elected:
The Central Florida Chapter of the NFB of Florida elected the following officers at their November meeting to serve a two-year term: president, Sherri Brun; vice president, Marilyn Baldwin; secretary, Jerry Heichelbeck; treasurer, James Evans; board members, Paulette Williams, Dan Weiner, and Don Wilkerson.

Elected:
The following members were elected for one-year terms at the Treasure State (Montana) At-Large Chapter meeting on February 9, 2017: president, Rik James; vice president, Travis Moses; secretary, Joy Breslauer; treasurer, Linda Hurlock.

In Brief

Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.

BlindSquare Friends, Tell Your Story:
The folks at BlindSquare are launching a contest intended to bring voice and reward to BlindSquare friends.

BlindSquare often hears stories from NFB friends and others, either about discovering new and important benefits of BlindSquare or simply to tell how wonderful this technology is and how it has changed their lives. The transformation of dependence to independence, the elevation from movement-of-self to joyful steps, the evolution of travel from planned routes to the freedom of choice—all are wonderful and, for us all, very encouraging.

BlindSquare would like to provide a way to capture these stories more formally—this contest is the first step. BlindSquare will also provide awards for those who told their stories well. This won't necessarily be measured in volume or fancy prose but perhaps the simple capture of a happy result.

If you want to participate or help promote this fun contest, check out BlindSquare My Story Contest at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScbKm9XhsqWbwPCEZXBHxQGw5
NWVFlECqQISvC5ypeGQ6mZDA/
viewform. The form will gather teacher/sponsor information for the hundreds of BlindSquare friends under the age of eighteen. Contest ends April 1.

NFB Pledge

I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.

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