Braille Monitor

Vol. 60, No. 9                                      October 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]
website address: http://www.nfb.org
NFBnet.org: http://www.nfbnet.org
NFB-NEWSLINE® information: (866) 504-7300
Like us on Facebook: Facebook.com/nationalfederationoftheblind
Follow us on Twitter: @NFB_Voice
Watch and share our videos: YouTube.com/NationsBlind  

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


        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.


Vol. 60, No. 9                                     October 2017

Illustration: Tackling the Challenges—Sometimes it Gets Physical

Bringing Hope to Victims of Two Natural Disasters

The Sound of Success
by John Paré

A Worldwide Revolution: The Marrakesh Treaty, the Accessible Books Consortium,
and Global Literacy for the Blind
by Scott LaBarre

Engineering Tools for Tactile Fluency: A Partnership with the Organized Blind Movement
by Josh Coffee

Celebrating a Half Century with the Oldest Division in the National Federation of the Blind
by Kathryn Webster

Building the Twenty-First Century American Workforce:
Disability Does Not Define Your Employment
by R. Alexander Acosta

Tom Ley Dies, and the World Loses a Dear Soul, a Family Member, an Advocate, and a Friend
by Gary Wunder

When Automobiles are Obsolete
by Marc Maurer

John Halverson Ends an Illustrious Career
by Deven McGraw

The American Foundation for the Blind: New Directions for the Future
by Kirk Adams

The Orbit Reader 20: The Most Inexpensive Braille Display
by Curtis Chong

Independence Market Corner
by Ellen Ringlein

Origins of the NFB Pledge
by Anna Kresmer

From the Mail Basket
by Gary Wunder

There’s a List for That!
by David Andrews

Cross of Blindness
by Jacobus tenBroek

Settlement That May Benefit Some Monitor Readers


Monitor Miniatures


Copyright 2017 by the National Federation of the Blind

Tackling the Challenges—Sometimes it Gets Physical

Life presents many challenges, but far too often blind people are steered away from those involving physical activity. The results are what one would expect: poorer health, obesity, and the ailments that go along with it. Not surprisingly one of the messages we want our convention program for children to send is that physical activity is not just normal but expected. Being cautious is one thing, but overcautiousness from well-intentioned sighted people can feed the doubts of the blind person, increasing both and inhibiting the blind person for life.

Monday afternoon at the convention, Federationists had an opportunity to push some of their own limits. Along with sword fighting and rhythmic drumming that were offered last year, the parents division set up aerial silks so that Federationists could experience for themselves the freedom of suspension. The short rig allowed for a few small basic maneuvers, such as hanging upside down, while instructors coached participants through them.

Federationists also had the opportunity to challenge themselves on an inflatable obstacle course. Climbing, sliding, and running on the soft surface of the course was challenging, but Federationists tumbled through it, often laughing, while showing that they could conquer the cushioned barriers here with as much courage, energy, and success as the more intangible barriers they encounter when working to live the lives they want.

Bringing Hope to Victims of Two Natural Disasters

As we submit this issue for proofing, our country is beginning its recovery from two devastating storms: hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Please follow what we are doing to help. You may do this through watching what we post on social media, monitoring our NFB listservs, listening to our podcasts and the presidential release, and calling to talk with your chapter or affiliate president about ways in which you can get involved. Digging into our own pockets demonstrates that our commitment to one another goes far beyond words. Please help!

The Sound of Success

by John Paré

From the Editor: No man has worked harder to make electric and other quiet cars loud enough that they can be heard by blind people who travel the streets of our nation than John Paré. His work in building key alliances, writing persuasive documents, making repeated telephone calls, getting himself invited to make difficult presentations, and continuing to send the message that the lives of blind people are valuable and deserve to be protected is unparalleled. Here is what he has to say in this ongoing saga to make the streets safer for all pedestrians:

After four delays by the Department of Transportation, the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act final regulation went into effect on Tuesday, September 5, 2017. The National Federation of the Blind has been working on this issue for fourteen years. We first worked for eight years to define the problem, develop key partnerships, write the legislation, and work to get the legislation passed. But our work was not over. The National Federation of the Blind then worked for six more years participating in studies, advocating with individual car companies, responding to proposed regulations, and doing our own research. In the end, our relentless attention to detail, our consistent messaging, and our unwavering passion made the difference.

There are two articles from previous issues of the Braille Monitor which detail, at great length, the history of this legislation. The first is an article from the June 2011 issue of the Monitor titled “Belling the Cat: The Long Road to the Passage of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act” by Deborah Kent Stein which details the bill from its inspiration and inception to its passage. It can be found online at https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/bm/bm11/bm1106/bm110602.htm. The second is an article I wrote which was published in the April 2017 issue titled “Progress on the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act: The Regulations, the Law, and What They Will Mean for the Blind.” This second article details everything that happened after the law was passed, including the long and arduous fight to get the final regulation published, and can be found online at https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/bm/bm17/bm1704/bm170403.htm.

The key points of this regulation ensure that America’s streets will be safer for all pedestrians, and in particular blind pedestrians. The final regulation prohibits a pause switch, manufacturer supplied selectable sounds, and any tampering with the device, solidifying its classification as a safety feature. Generally, the vehicle must emit a sound of at least 44 decibels when stationary or traveling in a forward speed of less than 10 kph. For vehicles with an automatic transmission, this includes all times when the vehicle is not in motion and the shifter is not in the "Park" position. For manual transmission vehicles, this includes any time the parking brake is not engaged. When traveling at a speed of greater than or equal to 10 kph, but less than 20 kph the vehicle must emit a sound of at least 51 decibels. When traveling at a speed of greater than or equal to 20 kph, but less than 30 kph the vehicle must emit a sound of at least 57 decibels. When traveling at a speed of 30 kph the vehicle must emit a sound of at least 62 decibels. At rates of speed higher than 30 kph, tire-road noise and wind resistance are considered sufficient, and the additional alert sound is no longer required. A sound of at least 48 decibels is required when the vehicle is moving in reverse. The regulation requires all four-wheeled hybrid-electric passenger vehicles under ten thousand pounds produced on or after September 1, 2019, to be compliant. Fifty percent of all hybrid-electric vehicles produced on or after September 1, 2018, must meet the above requirements.

Our advocacy on this issue is a perfect example of our commitment to help blind Americans live the lives they want. Fourteen years ago we realized that silent vehicles threatened our independence and our ability to safely walk on the streets of America. We refused to accept this possibility and set in motion the mechanism that would lead to the passage of this landmark law. Now the sounds of our success will ring freely from sea to sea.

A Worldwide Revolution: The Marrakesh Treaty, the Accessible Books Consortium, and Global Literacy for the Blind

by Scott LaBarre

From the Editor: We are blessed to have some very talented people who have joined in this organization to improve opportunities, not only for themselves but for other people who are blind. Scott LaBarre is one such person. His talent has certainly been recognized by the National Federation of the Blind inasmuch as it has elected him repeatedly as the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. He also serves as the president of the National Association of Blind Lawyers and as the chairman of our Preauthorized Check Program. But he also distinguishes himself in the profession of law, operating his own legal practice and standing at the forefront of civil rights legislation for the blind.

One of his assignments for the Federation is to work for the passage of the Marrakesh Treaty. Here is what he said to the 2017 National Convention on the progress we have made and the work that remains to be done:

Thank you, Mr. President. I've just got to say that in Colorado we are so proud of Maureen Nietfeld [who spoke immediately before him]. She truly lives our philosophy. Let's hear it again for Maureen Nietfeld. [cheers].

In 1966 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the international covenant on civil and political rights. Article 19 paragraph 2 of that instrument holds that freedom of expression includes the right to information. Specifically it states that everyone shall have the right to the freedom of expression. This right shall include the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds regardless of frontiers. A critical component in exercising this right is the right to read and otherwise manipulate the written word. For the blind, this right has been difficult to achieve, and its full realization and permanency are not yet secured. In addition to the traditional barriers limiting our right to read, namely the barriers of our inability physically to read the visually-printed word and the barrier of inaccessible information technology, there is another significant barrier to our full enjoyment of the right to access information, and it is copyright law.

Without an exception or limitation, international law makes it abundantly clear that reproducing a copyrighted work—any kind of copy, whether in Braille or some other format—violates the exclusive right that the copyright holder possesses to control distribution of the work. The only way around this exclusive right has been to ask permission of the right holder to copy the work in an accessible format. That permission either is denied or has taken a long, long time. That is why the National Federation of the Blind joined the Association of American Publishers in 1996 and urged and ultimately convinced Congress to amend the United States Copyright Act to include an exception permitting reproduction of published works into accessible formats such as Braille, audio, and accessible electronic texts, the so-called Chaffee Amendment. The man most responsible for the Chaffee Amendment is in this room; let's hear it for James Gashel. [cheers, applause]

Our domestic exception, however, did not address the great dearth of accessible works throughout the world. It has been estimated that well over 95 percent of the world's works have not been available in accessible formats. Think about that for a moment. Unfortunately international copyright has either outright banned the practice of exchanging accessible works over international borders or has made it extremely difficult to do so. This has been a phenomenon, a phenomenon later dubbed "the book famine for the blind." That is why we engage with our partners in the World Blind Union to put forward an international agreement that would amend international copyright law proactively to permit exceptions and limitations allowing reproduction of works into accessible formats and to allow such accessible works to flow across international borders.

Four years ago Dr. Fred Schroeder and I had the pleasure and deep honor to stand before you and report on the miracle that had occurred in Marrakesh, Morocco, on June 28, 2013. After several years of intense negotiations and at times stiff opposition, an international treaty had been born: a treaty holding out the promise to eradicate the book famine for the blind and signaling a global priority on the right to access information, the right to access knowledge and literacy for the world's blind and print disabled.

So, what is going on with respect to implementing the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually-Impaired, or Otherwise Print-Disabled? As we join together in this convention, the treaty has become an official, binding, legal instrument for all the countries that have ratified or acceded to it. The treaty fully entered into force when our neighbors to the north—Canada—delivered its accession to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on June 30, 2016, becoming the twentieth so-called contracting party to the treaty. Since Canada, nine other nations have joined the Marrakesh Treaty community. The full list of countries, in chronological order of ratification or accession, is: India, El Salvador, The United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Mali, Paraguay, Singapore, Argentina, Mexico, Mongolia, The Republic of Korea, Australia, Brazil, Peru, The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Israel, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Canada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, Botswana, Sri Lanka, Liberia, Panama, Honduras, Kyrgyzstan, and Kenya.

Now, you are all pretty sharp, and I'm sure that all of you have noticed that not present in that list of twenty-nine countries is the United States of America. How can this be? The United States has led the way in producing accessible titles, both at the governmental level with our National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and at the private level with organizations like Bookshare. We have one of the most robust exceptions to our copyright law permitting the creation of accessible formats. This Federation exercised its leadership and convinced the Obama administration to support a treaty, and the United States Government turned out to be a strong advocate for what later became the Marrakesh Treaty. The United States has, in fact, signed the treaty as of October 2, 2013, indicating its intent to ratify. And, as you know, our Constitution requires that our president send the treaty to the Senate for ratification, which requires a two-thirds vote, and President Obama did in fact submit the Marrakesh Treaty to the Senate in February of 2016. No Senator has voiced opposition to ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty, and in fact the vast majority has expressed support. Why, then, do we not find ourselves among the nations who have boarded the Marrakesh Express?

It comes down to this: after President Obama forwarded the treaty to the Senate, along with proposed implementing legislation, key copyright stakeholders such as the publishers and the library community expressed reservations or insisted on amendments. For a time it felt like déjà vu all over again. Because we started relitigating the same issues: the very same issues that we had talked about ad nauseum in Marrakesh and in Geneva, the same issues to which we had found solutions, and the US key stakeholders had agreed to such solutions.

Regardless, I am now happy to report: due to the leadership of the National Federation of the Blind, we have once again brought the key stakeholders back to the table. And we have once again re-resolved the same issues that threatened to scuttle Marrakesh in 2013. With the full support of the American Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, the American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers, the Association of College and Research Libraries, Benetech (who operates Bookshare), the Association of Research Libraries, the National Federation of the Blind, and the National Music Publishers Association we have now submitted legislative language to the appropriate Senate committees. These Senate committees are conducting their due diligence, and it is our real hope and expectation that by the end of the year the United States will ratify the Marrakesh Treaty. [applause]

It will do so because of us—because of the National Federation of the Blind. But we must all encourage and urge the Congress to stop waiting around, to not be late to the station, and to get on the Marrakesh Express!

On the global front, we are very active in the effort to increase the ratifications and implementation of Marrakesh. We are participating with the World Blind Union to accomplish this goal. I have the honor of serving as co-chair of the WBU's ratification campaign committee. And we are training blind advocates from all over the world on how best to get Marrakesh ratified in their countries. We have created a thorough and scholarly implementation guide that advocates and legislators can use to best implement Marrakesh. I also have the privilege of serving as WBU's representative on the board of the Accessible Books Consortium. ABC, which is an entity created by WIPO, serves the purpose of implementing Marrakesh on a practical level. It is a public-private alliance representing the key stakeholders in this area. Now there are many entities that serve on ABC's board, but just to give you a flavor: The International Publisher's Association, the International Federation of Libraries and Institutions, and the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations all serve on ABC. And I want to thank the worldwide community of copyright stakeholders for their commitment to ending the book famine.

I also want to thank WIPO for taking the leadership and making Marrakesh implementation a priority. WIPO administers and monitors several dozens of international agreements and treaties, yet it has made Marrakesh a priority. [applause]

ABC has three main objectives: number one is to operate the ABC Global Book Service. This is a platform where authorized entities can list and share their accessible titles and get them into the hands of blind and print-disabled individuals around the world. Thus far we have acquired over 400,000 accessible titles in ABC's database. 130,000 blind people from around the world have downloaded and are using these titles. As countries ratify and accede to Marrakesh, these numbers will dramatically increase because it will no longer be required to achieve the permission of the copyright holder to exchange these titles, so literally hundreds of thousands of works can start flowing across international borders.

ABC's second major objective is capacity-building. ABC has been working in six different countries to increase the amount of accessible works, and these are countries that did not have authorized entities creating works. So far over 4,000 titles have been created in accessible format—mostly in the arena of education. And in many of these cases, this is the first time that the blind of those countries have ever had access to accessible works in their native language.

The third major objective of ABC is to promote inclusive publishing. This is an effort to provide techniques and guidance on how to make books and have them born accessible. ABC has several projects in this area, including the publishing of a guide for self-publishing authors on how to make accessible books, as well as a starter kit for accessible publishing. ABC promotes the international excellence award, recognizing leadership and commitment to accessible publishing. And ABC has created a charter of accessible publishing, to which several large publishers and publisher associations have signed, indicating their commitment to create works that are indeed born accessible. [applause]

As you can see, there is a great deal going on in the world surrounding the adoption and implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty. When we take a moment to analyze what is really going on, it is quite simple: these activities represent a global revolution. For the first time in human history, access to information, the right to knowledge and literacy for the blind and otherwise print-disabled is indeed a worldwide priority. The origin of this revolution comes from right here, right here in the National Federation of the Blind. [applause]. It is our founder Dr. Jacobus tenBroek who eloquently said we have a right to live in the world. And indeed, we do. Part of that right, and in fact fundamental to it, is the right to access information on terms of equality. We must insist upon full participation in the world's information marketplace, through which we will transform our dreams into reality and live the lives we want. The days of restricting the blind to little or no information are gone. We have touched the flame of freedom, and it has ignited our hearts, minds, and souls. True freedom is no longer just a dream; it lies well within our grasps. My brothers, my sisters, let’s now march forward to the future, shatter the information barrier, and make our dreams come true! [applause, cheers]

Engineering Tools for Tactile Fluency: A Partnership with the Organized Blind Movement

by Josh Coffee

From the Editor: Drawing is one of the first things children old enough to be trusted with a pencil and paper do. Then they take those drawings to be admired. As they get older, what they draw is gently critiqued: “The dog needs a longer tail.” “The camel is missing his hump.” This feedback, along with what is gathered through observing other drawings, makes learning through pictures second nature, but until now this has not been so for the blind.

Josh Coffee is the president of E.A.S.Y. LLC. In his presentation he explains how his company and the National Federation of the Blind are making drawing and looking at pictures part of the life experience for young people. Here is what he says:

Hello, Federationists. Mark invited us here today to tell you guys our story, because I think that there are a lot of important takeaways from our story and from the work we've learned that we should be working in partnership with the National Federation of the Blind. Our story began, as Mark was alluding to, by a chance conversation between my colleague and fellow cofounder Dr. Mike Rosen at the University of Vermont and Dr. Al Maneki, a proud member of the Maryland division of the National Federation of the Blind. They got into a long conversation about what challenges blind students faced at the time, specifically in the pursuit of STEM education and opportunities in STEM career paths. What they kept coming back to was an inability to gain full access to graphical content in the STEM fields, and that was a severely limiting aspect of the pursuit of education in these areas.

Dr. Rosen suggested that Dr. Maneki bring a crazy idea to the National Federation of the Blind, which was that they sponsor a senior experience in engineering design course at the University of Vermont. Dr. Rosen, in partnership with our third cofounder Dr. Mike Coleman, would mentor teams of students at the University of Vermont in mechanical and electrical engineering to think about how we can innovate new technologies to bring access to digital graphical content to the blind community.

Al Maneki happened to be going to a bar-b-que at Dr. Marc Maurer's house the next day. So, in a matter of forty-eight hours, Mike Rosen got a call back, and it said, "Yes, we'll do it." I think a week later we had a check for $20,000 from the National Federation of the Blind to begin this pursuit of innovation.

Fast-forward three years: I was a student on the third consecutive student team at the University of Vermont. We brought to convention a prototype for the first embosser of tactile graphics on an interactive tactile drawing medium. This was the first embosser that involved read/write graphics, not just read-only graphics. The inspiration for that was the mentorship of the National Federation of the Blind leadership throughout the course of our academic project. We were taken aback at our first convention because these tools for tactile drawing, the idea that you can draw and feel what you're drawing, that has been around for about fifty years. But as we showed off our hot new scanner and embosser for tactile graphics, we quickly realized that about seven out of ten people who came by our booth had never tried tactile drawing. They were discouraged from it in school because their sighted teachers or even their parents, out of harmless ignorance, just didn't realize that blind people could draw and communicate graphically if they were given that opportunity at a young age. If they had the capacity to draw tactilely when their sighted peers had crayons, they could pursue graphical fluency, they could succeed in STEM fields, they could use that capacity to become architects and engineers and doctors. But the fundamental problem was that very few people were being exposed to it as a learning tool and as a communication method.

One year after starting our company, after graduating from academia, and after partnering with the National Federation of the Blind to incorporate and obtain seed funding and pursue this as a corporate endeavor, we realized that we had to totally change our business model and that we didn't need to release the next hot scanner/embosser for tactile graphics, but that we needed to partner with the National Federation of the Blind in advocating for tactile graphics fluency. We needed to create the most affordable and user-friendly version of a tactile drawing tool to date so that five-year-olds and six-year-olds could affordably begin scribbling next to their sighted peers [applause].

So the next year we came back to convention with a prototype for the inTACT Sketchpad. We released this product at 60 percent of the cost of the next closest competitor so that parents and teachers could afford it. We viewed this as a necessity because we knew that, not only for our brand to succeed, but in order for us to continue to innovate and to work toward the release of our high-tech digital products, we needed to get a user base of people who could show others in this community that if you had the right tools and the right experience, and if kids had the opportunity to have fun with drawing, that they could develop the capacity to compete graphically. And that's what we've done.

We released the inTACT Sketchpad four years ago. Now at conventions, it's very rare that we meet someone who hasn't tried tactile drawing before. We are seeing people four years later who bought inTACT Sketchpads as a young child, and now they're using it in their math class going into middle school [applause]. This has given us the opportunity to learn from the Federation and to also curve our pursuit of new technologies.

We have obtained over $1.2 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health to further develop the technology we first demonstrated at this convention six years ago. We are in the process of executing a phase two STTR grant in partnership with the National Federation of the Blind, the Texas School for the Blind, the Perkins School for the Blind, Pearson Publishing, and the American Institutes for Research—all of whom are interested in integrating this interactive graphics curriculum into their programming. We are building partnerships through our connection with the National Federation of the Blind, partnerships we never could have made if we didn't listen to this great organization and its members, and if we weren't willing to learn from the perspectives of the people in this room and the people we have met over the last six years.

During the scope of this grant what we have done over the last year is we have introduced the first interactive tactile graphics worksheets into curricula at the Texas School for the Blind and the Perkins School for the Blind. These are the first embossed STEM exercises that are made accessible to blind and low-vision students, the equivalent to exercises that sighted students have been doing for years and years with ink and pencil [applause]. We have tested over one hundred exercises with over twenty-five TVIs through these programs, and we have found that these students not only are learning from them, but they are having fun while doing it. We are hoping to continue to expand this beta testing program throughout the next year at these institutions as well as partnering with publishers and online learning management system administrators to make sure that their digital graphical content is made accessible and that blind students are able to interact with digital content through their websites so that they have equal opportunity to pursue the same degrees and the same opportunities that their sighted peers have through drawing [applause].

As I wrap up I want to offer thanks to everyone in this room and to the community as a whole. We would not be here were it not for the faith of the National Federation of the Blind in our program. My colleagues—Mike Rosen, Mike Coleman, and I—are always humbled and appreciative of the outpouring of support and love we get from this community every time we come here. You have impassioned us; you have invigorated our passion for design as engineers, and it is unbelievably humbling and exciting to come here every year and report on our progress. On that note, we want to make some commitments to you. After six years of working on this project, we are totally invested in the pursuit of equality in STEM education for blind and low-vision students. We want to commit to you that we will continue to innovate to pursue that goal. We will continue to listen to the people of this community. We will continue to take your advice and commentary and try to use that to build products that enable opportunity in the pursuit of education. We will continue to work with parents and teachers and blind students and publishers and advocates to show that drawing is not a visual skill; it is a spacial skill, and if we give people the tools and opportunities they need, they can accomplish it.

So in closing, thank you, specifically to the leadership of the National Federation of the Blind for believing in us, to Dr. Marc Maurer who, at a casual picnic with Al Maneki, made the decision to believe in us as a university and as a research program, and to Mark Riccobono for continuing to be a champion of our cause and continuing to be a mentor to us every time we have the chance to meet with him. I thank you guys for your time, and that's it [applause].

Celebrating a Half Century with the Oldest Division in the National Federation of the Blind

by Kathryn Webster

From the Editor: The National Association of Blind Students is a division of the National Federation of the Blind, and 2017 marks its fiftieth anniversary. To commemorate this momentous event, President Kathryn Webster addressed the convention on opening day, and here is what she said:

Fifty years ago, during the National Federation of the Blind 1967 National Convention, a small group of students in a hotel room in Los Angeles, California, built the longest standing of all the NFB’s divisions, the National Association of Blind Students. The leader of that small group of students joins us today, the founder of NABS, Mr. Jim Gashel. Since then NABS has been one of the largest and most active divisions of the National Federation of the Blind. Let’s recall the initial purpose behind the founding of the national student division. NABS was created to help recruit students into the larger organization, and also to help give students who might not otherwise have the opportunity the chance to experience leadership positions within our organization. Within the first two decades of NABS, I think our student division did a stellar job of recruiting talented national student division presidents, three of whom stand amongst our audience today. Thank you to Jim Gashel, Dr. Marc Maurer, and Scott LaBarre for your continued work and for paving the path for me and so many NABS presidents.

In the early years of the student division we undertook three essential initiatives: first, we sought to help blind students deal with the problems caused by paternalistic disabled student service offices. Second, the division published a student handbook which functioned as both a resource guide and a how-to manual for blind students at all educational levels. And finally, some members of NABS traveled up to Canada and helped them develop an organization of Canadian blind students. A few years later the division dove into a fourth issue, that being the test administration and validation policies of those entities administering gateway tests, such as the SAT and the LSAT.

Fifty years ago those common principle activities are, in many ways, representative of the focus of NABS. Today we are still fighting with higher education institutions for equal access to coursework, but we are more in number and stronger in resilience. Today, we are still providing endless resources to traditional and non-traditional students, recently blinded students, and individuals interested in returning to school via our network of members and leaders, student blogs, and monthly bulletins. Today, we are still spreading our NFB philosophy far and wide by attending thirty-two state conventions and student seminars over the past year, as well as building our student chapters alongside our affiliates each and every day. Today the SAT and the LSAT, along with several other standardized tests, are accessible to us as blind students. But today there are still barriers that stand between blind people and society’s expectations of us. We are continuing to raise the bar as equal members of society. It is a momentous time for the National Association of Blind Students during this golden anniversary year.

John Lord Acton cautioned, "A word of advice to people thinking about writing history—don't!" Fellow Federationists, let’s ponder our history, let’s reflect on our history; but instead of writing it, let’s create our own history and build the National Federation of the Blind!

Building the Twenty-First Century American Workforce: Disability Does Not Define Your Employment

by R. Alexander Acosta

President Riccobono: This next presentation is one that is very special; it's not every day that you get a cabinet secretary, and we appreciate the leadership coming to this convention to talk with us about topics important to us.… We know that employment is one of the key factors in our full participation in society. We know that even when we get the skills, we work hard, and we show up for a job, sometimes discrimination prevents us from actively participating. We shared a number of stories of employment discrimination yesterday during the Presidential Report. I'm particularly enthusiastic about our next speaker because I think it presents an opportunity for us in this organization to offer our expertise and authentic experience as blind people to the United States Department of Labor. Our next speaker has served in three presidentially appointed senate-confirmed positions. In 2002, he was appointed to serve as a member of the National Labor Relations Board where he participated in or authored more than 125 opinions. In 2003, he was appointed assistant attorney general for the civil rights division of the United States Department of Justice, and from 2005 to 2009 he served as the US attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Please give a warm Federation welcome to the United States secretary of labor, the Honorable Alexander Acosta.
President Riccobono, thank you for the introduction and your leadership. Dr. Schroeder, I didn't have the opportunity to listen to all of your remarks, but your message at the end about the freedom from low expectations I think is a wonderful, wonderful message, and I thank you for delivering it. That is such an important message.

I have to say that it is a pleasure to be back in my home state of Florida. I grew up in Miami, and it's wonderful to be back here.

It's wonderful to be back here with the Federation. I had the privilege of speaking to the Federation when I served in the Department of Justice, and I really appreciated that. So when President Riccobono sent me a request to join you today, I said that I absolutely need to be here, so thank you for the invitation.

The leadership and the members of this Federation understand the importance of hard work. Work provides more than merely income. Work is a source of pride. It gives men and women the ability to provide for their families and to make our local communities better places. This administration understands this and is making work a priority. Every American, regardless of disability, should have access to a good job. Here in this room are individuals who bring amazing talent to the workplace.

As I said, I had the great honor of serving as assistant attorney general for civil rights working with the disability community and employers to create a work environment that was open to all. Smart employers know that workplace accessibility is not something that is done simply to comply with the law; workplace accessibility provides a business advantage. It provides access to talent that makes businesses stronger and more competitive.

So today I want to share some good news. The American economy is growing, creating new job opportunities at an incredible pace. Just this week the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that job openings have reached nearly 5.7 million, a record level. American job creators are eager to hire. More than ever, American job creators can utilize resources and technology to bring workers of all abilities into the workplace. These job openings occur in all professions: more than one million job openings in healthcare; more than one million job openings in professional and business services; more than 750,000 job openings in accommodations and food services; nearly 350,000 job openings in manufacturing. Every region of the country has more than a million job openings, and here in the South there are nearly two million job openings.

Leaving these unfilled jobs open is costly to the American economy. The 2014 study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research found that the economic cost of unfilled jobs was nearly $160 billion. That was when there were only four million job openings. Today there are nearly six million. That means that American companies may be missing out on nearly $250 billion because they have unfilled jobs. So the message to those companies is that this is the time for businesses to realize the untapped potential of the more than 700,000 Americans with disabilities who are seeking jobs right now: today, here, and across the nation [applause].

The people in this room know that Americans with disabilities bring a valuable perspective and an incredible work ethic to their jobs. When I was at the Department of Justice, I hired a talented attorney by the name of Ollie. It just so happens that he was blind. Ollie performed at the highest level. He worked to enforce both the Americans with Disabilities Act and to help businesses comply with the law through the ADA business connection. By enforcing the Help America Vote Act, he also worked to ensure that Americans with disabilities had full access to the ballot. For Ollie his job at the Department of Justice was more than just a job. It enabled him to adopt triplet boys for whom he is both a father and a role model. One job—many lives impacted. That's the American story of success, and that is what can happen when jobs are open to all [applause].

I am happy to report that a few weeks ago Ollie's sons graduated from high school. They are Eagle Scouts; all three have promising careers ahead of them [applause]. We are committed to helping Americans like Ollie's boys pursue their career of choice, and I should say Ollie's boys are blind as well, and so we are committed to helping them pursue their career of choice by making workplaces more accessible and workforce education more inclusive to those with disabilities.

I want to say a little bit about what we're doing at the Department of Labor. Across the Department of Labor and especially at the Office of Disability Employment Policy, we work to integrate people with disabilities fully into the labor force. We work to empower these great Americans with the resources necessary to succeed. If there's one thing that you remember from my remarks today, I hope it is this: we are committed to giving all Americans—all Americans the opportunity to gain the skills needed to fill the jobs of the twenty-first century [applause].

I would like to provide you with an update on some of our latest initiatives that help employers make their workplaces accessible and welcoming. The first step to getting a job is the application process. For most Americans that means using the internet to find job openings and apply. A 2015 survey from the Partnership on Employment and Accessibility Technology showed that 46 percent of jobseekers with disabilities found it difficult or impossible to apply for a job online. Forty-six percent! That's not acceptable. That's why the Department of Labor funds a free tool "TalentWorks" to help employers optimize their online application process for all jobseekers. It is available, it is free to employers, and it should be used. Now more than ever, companies can't afford to miss out on great applicants and great talent merely because their websites are not accessible [applause].

The department’s efforts for employees with disabilities continue once they're on the job. TechCheck is an interactive benchmarking tool that helps companies and organizations evaluate their existing technology. Many employers are learning that technology they already own can be used to improve accessibility in the workplace. You know the iPhone is just ten years old, but in those ten years it's revolutionized vast sectors of the economy and helped blind Americans become so much more connected. In the last ten years technology across-the-board has revolutionized the workplace. It's not just iPhones, but it's SIRI, it's screen readers, and all of these help blind Americans be more and be better connected. So, I would say this: imagine what the world will be like ten years from now when future technologies are leveraged so that more individuals can work in their career of choice. Today many employers either contribute to or provide a smart phone that can read emails and webpages. Free or low-cost apps can do even more to help blind workers be part of a team, and it's important that employers leverage this type of technology.

The department’s job accommodation network helps employers open their workplaces to individuals with disabilities. A network survey found that 59 percent of accommodations cost an employer very little money, but considering the loss of productivity caused by leaving a job open, investment in a disability simply makes business sense. This has been confirmed again and again. A DePaul University study found particular benefits to hiring individuals with disabilities. The study concluded that workers stay on the job longer and had fewer unscheduled absences. The bottom line is this: the American economy and the American people both benefit when employers hire individuals with disabilities of all kinds [applause].

Another way the Department of Labor is expanding opportunities for blind workers is through the workforce recruitment program. This is a program that connects federal employers with college students and recent graduates who have disabilities. Over the years thousands of Americans with disabilities have benefited from this program. We have now opened this program to the private sector so individual companies can have access to this pool of talent as well.

Let me say that blindness can strike at any time in one's life. I once heard it referred to as the case in which individuals are temporarily sighted as opposed to individuals may be blind. It's true, right? So blindness can strike at any time in one's life. Although the government can provide a helping hand, the value of keeping Americans in their job or returning them to work is immeasurable. In his budget the president proposed a demonstration program to test a promising stay at work and return to work strategy. This idea builds on a successful program that started in Washington state. I've seen the great results of this program. The model uses early intervention centers, physical training, employment training, and service coordination to enable recently disabled workers to stay in their current employment. Should Congress agree to the funding, grants for these demonstration projects will be available in 2018. This is one example of successful state-level innovation that can be replicated across the nation.

Finally I want to return to my earlier discussion of open jobs in our economy and talk about one of the department’s most successful substantial initiatives: the expansion of the apprenticeship model. In the months since I was sworn in as secretary, business leaders, governors, mayors, and others have told me that there is a gap between the skills workers have and the skills needed to fill these 5.7 million open jobs. By closing the skills gap we can boost the number of Americans in family sustaining positions. Now let me be clear: the American workforce is and has always been the best in the world. Americans are hard-working, Americans are dedicated, Americans deserve an education system that focuses on the skills required by the modern workplace. To overcome this skills gap, we need what I call demand-driven education. Apprenticeships are an example of demand-driven education because they directly connect students with employers. They combine paid work with an education; they represent a promising way to focus the education system on the skills that workers demand; they allow workers to earn while they learn.

Now there are a number of advantages to apprenticeships. The first is high wages. The average starting salary for every graduate of an apprenticeship program is $60,000. That's higher than the average starting salary for a four-year-degree graduate. What I'd like to do is I'd like to tell you a story about an individual who participated in an internship program—an apprenticeship program—because I want to focus a little bit on the value that apprenticeship programs can bring to individuals. Her name is Joanne, and she worked for years as a firefighter. She loved the job, but after losing sight in one eye and having her sight reduced in the other, she was put on desk duty, and eventually she became a caregiver. She missed her physically demanding job. She did not want to be on desk duty. Then she learned about a construction apprenticeship program. Now some would say that she lost the sight in one eye, had reduced sight in the other, so she shouldn’t be in an apprenticeship program in a construction field. But she wanted to be, and she should have access to that program.

So she went on to finish a full three-year apprenticeship. Today she is an instructor in general construction. Her apprenticeship gave her the skills she needed not only to stay in the workforce but, as importantly, to find a job that she loved. That is so important. [applause] We hope to hear stories like Joanne's repeated over and over again. Apprenticeships open up opportunities for workers of all abilities. They empower workers to be great employees as well.

This is a great time for job seekers—job seekers like all of you and so many other individuals who have disabilities—who are blind, who are vision impaired—job creators are ready to hire. Technology is making the workplace more accessible than ever. Demand-driven education, when implemented, will provide a great pathway to the skills needed for great jobs. The administration wants to connect job creators and jobseekers to the benefit of all Americans. This means an opportunity to increase the number of disabled individuals who work; this means an opportunity to increase the number of blind individuals who work; this means that more Americans, whether or not disabled, can enjoy the independence, the pride, and the community that accompanies a job.

So I thank you for your invitation. It's great to be here. Thank you very much. [applause]

Tom Ley Dies, and the Earth Loses a Dear Soul, a Family Member, an Advocate, and a Friend

by Gary Wunder

On August 30, 2017, Tom Ley died after a year-long battle with cancer. A type I diabetic since his youth, Tom fought many a medical battle, always sustained by his faith in Jesus, the love of his family, and his irrepressible spirit. Just days before his death Tom took to the keyboard to write these moving words: “18,525: Being a math guy, I calculated this morning that I've lived 18,525 days as of today. That's quite a lot. The time we have each day of our lives is truly ‘life.’ Is there any more precious commodity we have than the time God gives us each day and hour? You cannot buy more of it; you cannot recycle it; you cannot borrow time from a friend; it is all completely yours to do with what you will." What does Tom say we should do with our time? "Love one another." Three short, powerful, all important words, but can any of us come up with any that are more important?

Tom's fascination with numbers is no surprise to those who know his history as a math major and later a grade school teacher of the subject. Neither is his advice to spend one's time in love a surprise to those who knew his heart and its boundless capacity to love his creator, his savior, his family, and the causes he held dear.

Tom went blind in his senior year of high school. His family was devastated: where was his future that would include a college education, a job, and a family. But Tom did not trip; he paused, evaluated his situation, went for blindness training, and started college in January rather than in August. As his siblings remarked during his service, Tom was always hopeful, and though he was the little brother, very often they looked to him for strength, wisdom, and hope. He lived what he loved in song, one poignant line from a favorite being, "The world will watch in wonder, love will make them understand."

This good man’s work in the National Federation of the Blind found him serving for a time as the national president of the Diabetes Action Network. He also served as the president of the Maryland affiliate's monthly call for diabetics and as a bridge between industry and advocates as he communicated the need for equipment blind people can use independently. He served as the longtime president of the board for the Louisiana Center for the Blind, the place where he got the blindness training that allowed him to so quickly return to school.

After teaching, Tom took a job at UPS, not only thriving in his career as evidenced by his promotions but, more importantly, influencing those with whom he worked, bringing energy, optimism, and the out-of-the-box thinking for which he was known. The relationship between UPS and the NFB has flourished in no small part due to Tom’s work, example, and his ability to motivate others to love what he loves.

Tom's life and example continues in the lives of those who survive him, the closest being his immediate family: Eileen, Maria, and JonCarlos. All three of them are our family as well, and we will continue to celebrate the exceptional human being who compressed eighty years of life into the fifty years he was given.

When Automobiles are Obsolete

by Marc Maurer

From the Editor: I remember talking with Immediate Past President Maurer about favorite authors, and not surprisingly the name Isaac Asimov came up. Dr. Maurer said that the thing he liked most about Asimov was that whatever Asimov said Dr. Maurer found interesting. This speaks to a real talent in writing, and I find myself thinking that I feel much the same way when I read something that our former president writes. In this spirit I pass along to you this article, which I received shortly after the national convention:

Reflecting upon the banquet address, Innovation, Blindness, and the Emerging Pattern of Thought, delivered by President Mark Riccobono at the 2017 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind, I reach certain conclusions. Some of these are that we must become linguists, that we must learn to be confident and content with rapid societal and technological change, and that in the imaginable future automobiles will become obsolete except for sporting events and hobbyist activities. Our President pointed out that technology is changing at a more rapid rate than it has in the past. He reiterated a thought from Raymond Kurzweil which tells us that the quantity of intelligence will be expanded within the next few decades a billion-fold. From the context I conclude that he did not mean that a billion human beings would be born who could think. Instead, he meant that a single intelligence would be a billion times as powerful as the intellect of a very bright human being. This is a startling concept. When we do this, what will remain important within our lives?

The scientific method and the interpretation of law have at least one thing in common. Both of these approaches value predictability. When one thing happens, another must follow. When the predictability ceases—or when the speed of changes occurs so rapidly that it appears to cease, we enter the realm of chaos. What does this have to do with intellect? The capacity for human thought has been changing for at least the past ten thousand years. However, the rate of development of new ideas has been reasonably slow, and assimilation of new concepts has been practical, though some of them have caused serious upheaval. One of the more noteworthy new thoughts that has challenged humanity is the idea that equality between human beings is a necessity both in law and in society. We have been fighting about this for centuries, and the battle continues to rage today. However, what will happen to the argument when the ability to think has been expanded a billion times? Certain things seem to me to be inevitable, but the great unknown is more intriguing still.

Whenever we as human beings have invented something new, we have had to invent the language to explain it. A recent example is the computer. Until we had made them, we did not know how to talk about them. Put it another way, until we had invented the language to talk about them, it was hard for us to invent them. A new concept of thought or a revolutionary piece of hardware demands from us that we think of new ways to speak about the idea or the system. I am told that a human being may communicate moderately fluently with others in a language after learning about five thousand words. The last time I checked, the English language was said to contain four hundred eighty-four thousand words. However, English cannot express all thought. Sometimes alternative methods of communication are required to express a concept for which English does not have a readily available set of words. I am also told that a student who enters medical school will learn about 50 percent more in language alone by the time of graduation. The additional words are required to express the thoughts of the medical profession. If we expand our intelligence, we will inevitably think of new ideas, new products, new systems of approach for managing the matters we encounter. All of these will require the facility to add to our vocabularies.

President Riccobono suggested in the banquet speech that in the future we will not only be restoring our senses but enhancing them. Can a receptor be built that will hear as well as the human ear and transmit the information to the brain as effectively as the nerve system human beings now have? Today, the answer is no. However, the systems we currently possess are much better than those of fifty years ago. If intellect expands by a billion, the likelihood is that we will find a way for sense recognition and transmission to expand a great deal also. We will be able to hear what human beings can, but we will hear other things as well. How does a dog hear what you transmit? I do not know, but I think we will find out. Can a dog hear your bones creak? Can the dog hear the sound of your blood running through your veins? Is it possible for some intelligence to hear the creation of a thought in your brain? How does the sound of one thought vary from another? Intelligence expanded a billion-fold will want to know.

If we create sensory receptors in human beings with these kinds of capacities, why cannot we create them outside of human beings? Today we hear sounds that are within a short range of where we are. However, if we change the distance factor, the range will be expanded. The receptor can be on the Eiffel Tower in Paris at the same time that the human being receiving the input is in Baltimore. The only requirement is a connection. Expanded intelligence will learn how this is done.

Transportation is a vital part of everyday life. We travel to meet people, to enjoy new places, to participate in events, to get (or give) items of importance to us. When our sensory impressions can come from any part of the world, much of the reason for travel will be gone. The getting (or giving) of valuable items will remain for a time an important part of the transportation system, but this will also be addressed eventually in digital terms. With an enormous expansion of intellect, the transmission of things by digital means will become practical. We will still travel, but we will do it in a digital way. The automobile which now consumes so much time and energy will cease to matter except as an interesting historical artifact.

What possibly intrigues me more than any of these ideas is wondering what will happen to the law and to the structure of society. This is more challenging for me than imagining what will occur with physical space. We have built societies on the ability to fight, on hereditary titles, on possession of wealth, and on the ability to think. When we radically change one of these factors, what will happen to the others?

As I have thought about the automobile, I feel certain that for a brief time intense arguments will take place about the value of putting autonomous vehicles on the road. Dropping the current requirement that each vehicle must be controlled by a human being will be regarded as dangerous to the point of foolishness. A few years after this debate another will occur demanding that only autonomous vehicles be permitted on the road. This phase of the argument will assert that hand-driven cars are so much more dangerous than the autonomous ones that they can no longer be allowed to be driven except in private spaces such as racetracks. Today we do not trust the machines, but we will come to rely upon them. A small group will insist that too great a reliance on a machine will be dangerous to the future of humanity. However the convenience that we get from automobiles that drive themselves will be great enough that these people will be ignored.

These things will occur before the alteration of the pattern of society that diminishes the need for the automobile. When we can transmit thoughts, sense-impressions, and products digitally, we will no longer need to move enormous machines and masses of material from one place to another in the old way.

These are thoughts that came out of the 2017 banquet speech for me. The vision-centered approach to life is sufficiently limiting that it cannot be tolerated by a truly intelligent society. We must move from this to an intelligence-centered approach with the added elements of personality and fairness. I would have used the word justice, but I have no idea what the long-term effect of massive acceleration in intelligence will be on the legal system. Such thoughts will demand invention of terms to encompass concepts we don’t yet know. Perhaps we will use the grand old term the humanity-centered approach. But this thought leads to yet others which I will forgo for the moment. When all of our senses have been enhanced, are we still human? When we have the capacity to touch something a thousand or a million miles away, are we human? As I say, this speculation must be left for later. I am hoping and planning to be a part of the intellect community that helps us make the choices that are implied in the changes that are fast approaching.

John Halverson Ends an Illustrious Career

by Deven McGraw

From the Editor: Many Braille Monitor readers know John Halverson because of his distinguished career in the organization. He has been an affiliate president in two states, a longtime member of the national scholarship committee, a member of the Rocky Mountain Center for the Blind Board of Directors, a former president of the public employees division, and an advisor to the Federation at the highest levels because of his economic background, his organizational good sense, and his institutional knowledge of the NFB. Of course, we are not the only group to appreciate John’s talents, and this letter to staff announcing his retirement amply demonstrates the respect he commands, no matter the circle in which he travels. Here is what his former boss, Deven McGraw, who serves as the deputy director for health information privacy in the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services says about John:

It is with mixed emotions that I share the news of John Halverson's retirement after thirty-eight (!) years in the federal government. We are so very happy for John and excited for his next chapter! At the same time, we will miss John tremendously here at the Office for Civil Rights (OCR); he is a bastion of institutional knowledge and a cornerstone of the HIP team.

John has had a fascinating education and career. John graduated from Sequoia High School in Redwood City, California, in 1967. He attended the University of California Irvine and graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics in 1971. He was a member of the Student Senate in the tumultuous times of the Vietnam War during his junior and senior years. He was honored as co-winner of the outstanding graduating senior award. He was admitted to the University of Michigan PhD program in economics and completed his PhD in 1978 with an emphasis in public finance. His dissertation involved a comparison of the differences in net life-cycle earnings across medical specialties and other sciences. For several years, while a graduate student at the University of Michigan, he taught the introduction to economics class to undergraduates.

In 1977 John began teaching at the State University of New York Geneseo where he successfully taught a series of undergraduate economics courses. He created and taught health economics when it was a relatively new discipline. Soon after, John began working at the Department of Health Education and Welfare in January 1979. He was hired as a social science analyst because of his knowledge of civil rights, health economics, and statistics. When the department of Health and Human Services was formed in the spring of 1980, he was assigned to the new department.

In 1986 staff in headquarters were given the opportunity to become managers in some of OCR's regional offices. John relocated to Region VII in Kansas City as the division director. He managed the region's case load, conducted technical assistance, and worked with governmental and advocacy officials from throughout what he called the "MINK" Region; Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas.

In 1991 he was appointed acting Regional Manager and made permanent in the spring of 1992. He continued to manage the case load, conduct outreach activities, and planned a comprehensive civil rights enforcement program. As part of the Kansas City Federal Executive Board, he led the formation of an organization representing federal employees with disabilities in the Kansas City area. For several years he headed the Kansas City area Civil Rights Coordinating Committee. This organization consisted of leaders of federal regional civil rights offices. It experimented with conducting joint compliance reviews, analyzed whether the same complainants filed civil rights complaints across different departments, and held regional civil rights advocacy conferences. One of his most interesting activities involved the opportunity to take the two-week Organizational Leadership for Executives training at the Department of the Army Command and General School at Fort Leavenworth.

After ten years he decided it was time for a change. In 2001 John returned to headquarters to become involved in Health Information Privacy (HIP). He also immediately began to participate in the development of Departmental Section 508 policy. He drafted HIP correspondence for the OCR Director for the Secretary's signature, assisted with arranging privacy speaking activities, and provided expertise to OCR and the department on internet and other access issues. More recently he has worked with regions to provide assistance to investigators in developing investigative strategies and insuring that closure letters concisely meet OCR standards. Specifically, for the past three years he worked with a series of new investigators and managers to ensure the Southeast Region was able to reduce its massive case load. Finally, for the last five years he represented OCR on the department's Privacy Incident Response Team (PIRT) which has the responsibility to evaluate privacy breaches of personally identifiable information and PHI in the Department.

He has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind for many years, serving as president of its Michigan affiliate in the mid-70s and its District of Columbia organization in the 1980s. He is currently president of the Potomac Chapter in Arlington, Virginia. John is married to his wife Sandy. His stepson, Brent, and family live in Independence, Missouri.

This was the letter notifying his department of John’s retirement, but there is more. It turns out that John went to school with Secretary Tom Price:


Washington, D.C. 20201

August 30, 2017

John Halverson, Ph.D.
Senior Management and Program Analyst
Office for Civil Rights
Health Information Privacy Division
Department of Health and Human Services
Washington, DC 20201

Dear Dr. Halverson:

On behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), I am pleased to congratulate you on your retirement and to thank you for your more than 38 years of dedicated service to HHS and to the public.

Since joining the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in January 1979, you have made significant contributions in all aspects of OCR’s work. Your 24 years of service in OCR’s Headquarters and 14 years in leadership positions in OCR’s Region VII office in Kansas City reflect your versatility and willingness to lend your talents where needed most in OCR’s expanding mission over four decades in both civil rights and health information privacy. Thank you for being a team player, for giving your all to the job, and for your unselfish devotion to ensuring that others at OCR succeed as well. Your professionalism and your work ethic are admirable and served as an inspiration throughout your distinguished tenure at HHS.

On a personal note, when I met you shortly after I arrived at HHS, I was delighted to find that we were in graduate school together while I was a medical student and you were pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Michigan in the 1970’s. Since then, you have truly made your mark and left a lasting legacy at OCR and HHS, and I wish you all the best during your retirement years.


Thomas E. Price, M.D.

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.

Invest in Opportunity
The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. A donation to the National Federation of the Blind allows you to invest in a movement that removes the fear from blindness. Your investment is your vote of confidence in the value and capacity of blind people and reflects the high expectations we have for all blind Americans, combating the low expectations that create obstacles between blind people and our dreams.
In 2016 the NFB:

Just imagine what we’ll do next year, and, with your help, what can be accomplished for years to come. Below are just a few of the many diverse, tax-deductible ways you can lend your support to the National Federation of the Blind.

Vehicle Donation Program
The NFB now accepts donated vehicles, including cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, or recreational vehicles. Just call (855) 659-9314 toll-free, and a representative can make arrangements to pick up your donation—it doesn’t have to be working. We can also answer any questions you have.

General Donation
General donations help support the ongoing programs of the NFB and the work to help blind people live the lives they want. Donate online with a credit card or through the mail with check or money order. Visit www.nfb.org/make-gift for more information.

Even if you can’t afford a gift right now, including the National Federation of the Blind in your will enables you to contribute by expressing your commitment to the organization and promises support for future generations of blind people across the country. Visit www.nfb.org/planned-giving or call (410) 659-9314, extension 2422, for more information.

Pre-Authorized Contribution
Through the Pre-Authorized Contribution (PAC) program, supporters sustain the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind by making recurring monthly donations by direct withdraw of funds from a checking account or a charge to a credit card. To enroll, visit www.nfb.org/make-gift, complete the Pre-Authorized Contribution form, and return it to the address listed on the form.

The American Foundation for the Blind: New Directions for the Future

by Kirk Adams

From the Editor: There was a time when the National Federation of the Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind were actively at war. The foundation regarded itself as the expert on all things blindness related. What blind people themselves might say was inconsequential; after all, any real speaking done for the blind would be done by professionals, and those professionals turned to the foundation to give and get information about how they would deal with their clients. The NFB took a different view. It was that the blind, having the most to win or lose in the struggle and being competent to set the direction of the programs serving us, should be the most significant force in this work; no longer were we going to sit idly by and let others speak for us.

Tensions began to lessen in the middle of the 1980s, and although the road has not been straight or without bumps, relations have gotten better as the recognition that blind people are best suited to speak to the needs of blind people is more widely embraced by the field.

As President Riccobono remarked: "To start off the afternoon, we have a presentation which features an organization which has not been on our agenda in at least a decade. The American Foundation for the Blind has sometimes been at odds with the National Federation of the Blind, but there is a new direction for the American Foundation for the Blind, and here to talk with us about it is a gentleman who used to direct the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind where he demonstrated an openness and true willingness to work with the organized blind movement, and he's bringing that perspective to the work of the AFB. So here to talk to us about the future at the American Foundation for the Blind is its president, Kirk Adams:"

Good afternoon, everyone. I'm un-telescoping my cane—if that's a word—it's my cane of choice, the NFB carbon fiber telescoping cane. [cheers] It's really great to be here. The acceptance speeches by your new board members—that was worth the price of admission—tremendous. It's just always a pleasure to witness strong leadership in action.

Again, my name is Kirk Adams. I'm the sixth president and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind. I want to thank President Riccobono for reaching out to me and inviting me to speak with you. I'm here to tell you a little bit about AFB, and really also to highlight our strong desire to work more closely with the Federation to create the world of no limits for people who are blind.

You know over the years AFB and NFB have worked together on many important initiatives. In the early 2000s we worked together to establish the right for all blind K-12 students to receive their accessible textbooks on the first day of school. We worked on advocating for access to instructional materials in higher ed. You know that together we fought to hold the makers of e-readers accountable for their responsibilities under the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. So, we want a lot more of that in our future. As Scott [LaBarre] mentioned earlier today, we're also part of the coalition really driving toward US ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty, so we need to make that happen. [applause] We're grateful for the Federation's leadership in protecting the civil rights of blind people, and we know that a successful Federation is just vitally important for blind people in the country, so at AFB we do look forward to working with you more closely in the future, thank you. [applause]

For those of you who don't know much about AFB, I invite you to visit our website afb.org. I invite you to send me a Facebook friend request (I'm a little bit of a Facebook addict, so I'm there a lot.) We're a private nonprofit; we're not a membership organization like the Federation. We were created in 1921 by the two professional associations that existed then in the blindness field. There was an American Association of Workers for the Blind, and there was an American Association of Teachers of the Blind. They met every other year, so, in their meetings in 1919 and 1920, both organizations voted to put forward leadership and resources to create a new, central nonprofit agency which was meant to identify, understand, and address the most important issues affecting the lives of people who are blind. Today, ninety-five years later, like all of you here in this room, we are working hard to create the world of no limits for people who are blind that everyone who is associated with NFB and AFB knows is possible. Maureen [Nietfeld] this morning made it just so very clear that, like all people, blind people have unlimited potential to achieve, to create, to live the lives we want.

Prior to coming to AFB, as President Riccobono mentioned, I was the CEO of the Lighthouse for the Blind in Seattle. I worked very closely with members of NFB of Washington, and I attended lots of state conventions. I look forward to getting to know the Federationists in my new home state of Virginia [cheers]—three weeks in, and I've also had the privilege of attending a number of national conventions. Dr. Maurer gave me an opportunity to address the general session in Atlanta when I was at the Lighthouse, and I've attended conventions in Dallas, Detroit, and here in Orlando, too. I know firsthand the amazing work that you all do. The Federationists in this room are living proof that there are no limits to blind people's talent and ambition, our creativity, our courage, our compassion; but the reality remains that limits are being placed on us in the form of barriers to inclusion in nearly every aspect of life. So we all know that blind people face barriers to equal employment opportunities, to educational and health care services, to transportation systems, to electronic information and resources. The book famine—95 percent of books are not available to us yet. At AFB we are working hard to understand why and how these limits are being imposed on blind people and what we can do about it.

I know every blind person in this room has had a limit placed upon them at some point, and I've had my own experience. One very small example: when I was a senior in high school, my first day I went to my math analysis class and my physics class—I was carrying about forty pounds of Braille books—all was well. I went to my chemistry class, and my teacher told me I could not take chemistry. A blind person would not be able to conduct the required experiments. I was sent out of the classroom; I was assigned to a study hall; case closed. I was seventeen years old in a small rural town in Washington state. Now, of course, I've met successful blind chemists and chemistry professors. At the time that I was kicked out of chemistry class, I didn't have any relationships with any blind people; I didn't have any blind adult role models; I didn't have any self-advocacy skills to speak of. But this week we are all here in community together, so that's a community full of role models and expert self-advocates. [applause] And I know that we are all taking advantage of the unbelievable opportunity here in Orlando to learn from one another.

Back to chemistry class: a limit was placed upon me by that teacher and that school. I did not know how to deal with it, so I was not allowed to live a life of no limits in that case.

But for the good news: now we have unprecedented opportunities to create that world of no limits. Advances in technology, the power of social media to help us share knowledge and to organize—research and data analysis tools that will really allow us to dig deep and look at old problems and find new solutions—in this world which is changing each and every day, we really need to be strong and decisive as blind people right now to make sure that these changes contribute to the world of no limits for people who are blind, rather than creating even more barriers. Of course we know individual blind people can and do overcome all kinds of barriers, sometimes in really remarkable ways, like running across America. At AFB we really want to make overcoming barriers easier for all blind people.

I had a really neat experience visiting the New York Institute for Special Education in the Bronx asking kids what they want to be when they grow up. And there was a little girl—totally blind little girl—about six years old. When we asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up she said, "I can be a helicopter pilot if I want to." [cheers] When she's in high school, and she walks into her intro to aeronautical engineering class with her white cane in her hand, I don't want some ignorant so-and-so telling her she can't do it. [cheers, applause]

To create a world of no limits for kids like her, AFB just went through a year-long strategic planning process. We took a step back and asked, "What can we do as an organization that will bring the greatest long-term value to people who are blind in our country." We talked to lots of people, leaders both inside and outside of the blindness field—including President Riccobono and Anil Lewis. Thank you for participating in our planning process [cheers]—and we got a really clear answer. We were told that the AFB should really identify the most challenging barriers faced by blind people and use research and data analysis to understand these barriers, to create knowledge about these most challenging issues, and then to share that knowledge to make positive changes in the lives of people who are blind.

So at AFB we are going back to our roots. We're identifying evidence-based promising practices using research and data, pursuing goals that will result in direct, measurable, positive results for people who are blind. We look forward to working with partners like all of you to create solutions in the areas of employment, education, and access to technology. We want to promote understanding of the issues faced by blind people with the decision-makers and influencers across our country. We're going to focus efforts on those key decision-makers in corporate America, government, health care, education, and the nonprofit sector. So we'll be reaching out and building relationships across all of these sectors, and we'll be sharing our research, our data, and our knowledge so that better decisions can be made concerning the inclusion of people who are blind in all aspects of life.

I know it's going to be hard to imagine how knowledge can break down barriers, but in the long run we think it is the best way for AFB to contribute. So just think about how we can level the playing field for blind people if we had clear, evidence-based answers to some of our tough questions: why are employers afraid to hire people who are blind? How do we change that fear to enthusiasm? What will transportation systems look like twenty-five years from now, and how can we make sure blind people have full access? Which of the new technology solutions that are popping up literally every day are going to be game changers and which are going to be a flash in the pan? But the essence is really to do our best to understand the most challenging issues facing blind people, to use research and data to identify solutions, and to drive toward these solutions, working in collaboration and partnership with people like you.

So thank you Federation for everything you do. Thank you for including AFB in this year's convention; I hope it's not another fifteen years before you have us back, [laughter] and enjoy the rest of your time. Thank you.

President Riccobono asked Mr. Adams to stay onstage for a moment after he finished speaking so that he could ask two questions. The questions and Mr. Adam's responses follow:


Mark Riccobono: Thank you Kirk. I really appreciate you being here. As you know, this organization has staunchly been for the elimination of the provision in law that allows employers to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage. In the past the American Foundation for the Blind has told us that they're not prepared to support such a provision. AFB, I think, stands out really as an outlier amongst organizations. I'm wondering if you have any plans to change AFB's position on this topic?

Kirk Adams: Yeah, 14(c) is an antiquated law that needs to be eliminated. [cheers] My concern is a repeal-and-replace without knowing, in an evidence-based way, what the impacts will be on individuals living with the most significant disabilities, in particular developmental disabilities. I think if blindness is your only disabling condition, there is no reason on God's green earth that you should be earning less than the minimum wage. I am concerned about blind people, in particular, who also live with significant developmental disabilities, in which that disability is really the most impactful disability. I would really welcome an opportunity to be in dialogue with NFB and understand more clearly how we make sure to protect and hear the voices of the individuals who are engaged in the community with use of this antiquated tool. Again, I welcome a chance to talk more about it. I think AFB's position has been based on the concern for blind individuals who are severely developmentally disabled.

Mark Riccobono: I appreciate the answer, would point out that the law doesn't distinguish classes, and I think this crowd would urge that we figure out a way to eliminate—get on the path to elimination—and then we can work out the other details. But I have another question: we've been working now for over two years to get an accessible instructional materials bill into Congress, and AFB has also not fully endorsed our perspective. Earlier this week a higher ed bill came out that has language in it that apparently AFB does endorse. Now, we would urge and ask that the American Foundation for the Blind join with us in supporting accessible instructional materials and a true pathway to getting schools to do something about this, since so far they haven't taken it seriously. Can we get your support with that?

Kirk Adams: We have—again, I've been there for a year—but I see that we have supported NFB language and bills in the past—past versions. The most recent version added the safe harbor proviso, which we feel weakens the previous bills and language. We would like a stronger bill. When we look at the Higher Ed Improvement Act language that was dropped yesterday, it looks like all the accessibility provisions are included in that bill, and it does not include the safe harbor provision, so it's back to very similar to the original language that NFB put forward in previous versions which we did support, and we're supporting the version that dropped yesterday.

Mark Riccobono: Thank you, Kirk. I would point out that one problem we have is that—where are the students in the room? [cheers] A whole bunch of them—the one problem is that we have to ask ourselves what kind of bill is going to get through Congress, and what are we going to do about those students who are sitting out in those seats right now to make sure that the technology is accessible in the next year, not in the next ten years? [cheers] I think we need to be realistic about the prospects in front of us in Congress, and so far I've noticed that no other organizations are willing to put their shoulder to the wheel to help sue schools. So if we could get some support telling Congress that something has to happen today, that would be great. [applause] Thank you for being here today Kirk.

The Orbit Reader 20: The Most Inexpensive Braille Display

by Curtis Chong

From the Editor: Curtis is the retired president of the NFB in Computer Science, having given up that title in the summer of 2016. He now serves as the organization's treasurer. In addition he serves as the treasurer for the NFB of New Mexico, taking on that job in January of 2014. For pay, Curtis works as the manager of assistive technology at the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, where he continues to push for nonvisual access in education, recreation, and employment.

Curtis is proud to say that he joined the National Federation of the Blind in Hawaii in 1969 at the young and tender age of fifteen. His first national convention was in 1971 in Houston, Texas, where he was happy to be elected to serve as the secretary of the NFB Student Division. He later worked on the staff of the Federation, serving as the director of technology from 1997 until 2002. Here is his review of this new technology:

While attending the 2017 convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando, Florida, I was among the lucky handful of individuals who was able to buy (for $449) the Orbit Reader 20. For the first time I was able to own a refreshable Braille display which cost under $500. Every other piece of refreshable Braille technology that I have ever used was paid for either by my employer or a rehabilitation agency and cost thousands of dollars. You might say that I felt as if I had scored a personal victory here.

The opinions expressed in this article are mine and mine alone, and the needs I have with respect to refreshable Braille technology may or may not be reflective of the blind community as a whole. I have four specific requirements for refreshable Braille. First, I want a device that I can use to quickly write and edit long and detailed notes during a meeting and (perhaps more important) allow me to read them back while talking or presenting at that meeting. My second requirement for refreshable Braille is that, from time to time, I want to be able to connect the device to my computer so that I can proofread a document on the computer in greater detail than I can using speech alone. My third requirement is to be able to read in Braille agendas and other documents that I have copied from a computer. Lastly, I want to be able to read Braille books that I have downloaded from various sources of electronic Braille. I do not want or need a Braille device to search the web, produce professional-looking documents, edit an article, send and receive email, or read information on my iPhone. In other words, I want my refreshable Braille technology to supplement—not replace—my computer or iPhone.

What Is the Orbit Reader 20?

The Orbit Reader 20 is a twenty-cell, eight-dot refreshable Braille display which serves three major purposes:

  1. reading books in electronic Braille,
  2. taking and editing Braille notes, and
  3. serving as a refreshable Braille display (by connecting via Bluetooth or USB) for a computer, smart phone, or tablet running a screen reading program.

In addition to the twenty-eight-dot Braille cells, the Orbit Reader 20 also has a Braille keyboard, a cursor pad, and rocker keys to move through a document or book. The Orbit Reader 20 does not have the traditional cursor routing buttons that many people have come to expect in more expensive refreshable Braille devices. It reads from and stores information on an SD (Secure Digital™) card, which can be up to thirty-two gigabytes in size. It supports USB and Bluetooth connections. The Braille cells themselves produce dots that are locked in place, meaning that the Braille feels as solid as a Braille sign—no more dots going down when you push them.

If you think of the Orbit Reader 20 as an electronic slate and stylus, you will understand what I mean when I say that the Orbit Reader provides no forward or backward Braille translation. Information stored in contracted Braille is displayed in contracted Braille, and information stored as plain, readable ASCII text will be displayed in what is called Computer Braille, which is the code that drives Braille displays and embossers. Any notes you write will be stored exactly as you wrote them.

Slate and stylus users (a diminishing population, I know) are familiar with the crazy Braille contractions and codes we use to jot down information in a hurry. While these codes may make no sense to other people, they certainly make sense to us. The really nice thing about the Orbit Reader 20 is that if we use these codes to speed up our writing, we can read them back. For me, this is an extremely valuable feature.

If you want to copy a Word document to the Orbit Reader 20, you need to run the document through a free "Send to Braille" program, which is a shortcut that adds Braille to the Windows® Send To menu, which converts files on your computer into the unformatted BRL (Braille Ready Format). You can check out this free software using the link http://tech.aph.org/lt/.

On the Plus Side

The Orbit Reader 20 is by far the least expensive twenty-cell Braille display. Yes, it does lack certain functions, but in order to get those functions, you have to spend a lot more. For purposes of comparison, consider that the VarioUltra 20 (a twenty-cell display from Baum) costs $2,395, and the Braille Edge, a forty-cell display from HIMS, costs $2,795. The Orbit Reader 20 cost me $449.

The Orbit Reader 20 fits easily into a briefcase. This means that when I need it, I have it. Other displays I have tried were either too large or too fragile to be safely stored in my cramped case, and I could not afford the $2,395 that I would have had to spend to acquire the VarioUltra 20. The Braille dots on the Orbit Reader 20 are locked in place when raised. They do not give when pressed.

Once mastered, the Orbit Reader 20 is very easy to use, and it takes only a few seconds to turn it on from the power off state. During a long note-taking session, you can suspend the unit to conserve battery.

The Orbit Reader 20 is supported by all of the current screen reading programs used by the blind: VoiceOver, NVDA, JAWS for Windows, and System Access. Remember that once you connect the Orbit Reader 20 to your screen reader, any functionality you experience is provided by the screen reader—not the Orbit Reader 20.

On the Not So Positive Side

As of this writing, the Orbit Reader 20 is not yet ready to be sold to the general market. There simply aren't enough units to go around. However, the supply issues are being addressed, to the point where suppliers are now declaring that the Orbit Reader 20 is coming soon. And as far as I know, the price appears to be set at $449.

The Orbit Reader 20 does not refresh as quickly as more expensive displays. Some people will regard this as a negative. Others, like me, will not. Also, there is a certain amount of noise when the Braille cells are refreshed, but I have not yet found this to be a problem when I use the Orbit Reader 20 in meetings.

The lack of cursor routing buttons has been criticized, but learning how to move the cursor around on the twenty-cell display will mitigate this problem. Once I learned how to do this, I found that the lack of routing buttons was not significant. At least, I did not find their absence to seriously impede my work.

The Orbit Reader 20, being of a rather simplistic design, does not teach itself. You can't simply press keys and hope to figure out how to make it work. This was my experience. There is no help built-in, and there is certainly no context-sensitive help available. You really do have to give some attention to the manual. When you purchase the unit, a Braille version of the manual is available to read off of the SD card, and the most current version of the manual is available online at http://www.orbitresearch.com/support/orbit-reader-20-support/orbit-reader-20-user-guide-downloads/.

Finally, a computer running Windows is required to update the Orbit Reader 20 firmware. This could be a problem for people who want to update their Orbit Reader 20 firmware but who don't have a Windows computer available to them.


It is unfortunate that the Orbit Reader 20 has been actively promoted for a year-and-a-half with no reliable supply yet available for purchase. Unless or until this major problem is solved, I fear that the initial enthusiasm with which this technology was greeted will wear off, to the point where people will simply spend more money to obtain other Braille devices. I sincerely hope that this does not happen and that we will see Orbit Reader 20's flying off the shelves.

Is the Orbit Reader 20 going to be useful to every blind person who needs or wants a less expensive refreshable Braille display? There is no simple answer to this question. Refreshable Braille purists, familiar with more expensive devices, will doubtless complain about the slow refresh rate, the noise of the refreshing dots, and the lack of cursor routing buttons. Others will decry the lack of forward or reverse Braille translation, and some users who are not technology enthusiasts will not be happy about having to read the user guide.

As I understand it, a great deal of money has already been spent by a number of organizations to bring a low-cost Braille display to the blind community around the world. This is an exciting time for Braille users. Let us move forward with the expectation that before the end of this year, we will be able to purchase the Orbit Reader 20 because there will be enough for those who want them.

Comments from Orbit Research

The Orbit Reader 20 was designed in accordance with the specifications developed by the Transforming Braille Group, a consortium of the world’s prominent organizations of the blind. The overarching objective was to create a low cost, simple to use, and compact refreshable Braille display that would be affordable for students in developing countries and at the same time provide functionality and quality that are appealing to users in developed countries.

To achieve the goal of affordability, careful consideration was given to the cost implications of various features; and tradeoffs were made on features such as cursor routing buttons, refresh speed, and sound during refresh. Extensive field testing was performed with users around the world, which confirmed that these tradeoffs would not affect usability. In addition to providing the key features of book-reading, note-taking, and connectivity to screen readers, the Orbit Reader 20 brings unique signage-quality Braille, which is especially helpful to beginning Braille readers.

As with any groundbreaking technology, there were numerous technical challenges in getting the manufacturing streamlined, which resulted in a slower release to the market. We are pleased to note that we have worked through these challenges and are now in the process of accelerating production. We look forward to the Orbit Reader 20 and its breakthrough technology bringing affordable electronic Braille to millions of blind people around the world.

Independence Market Corner

by Ellen Ringlein

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.

We would like to extend a big thank you to all who volunteered in the Independence Market during our 2017 National Convention in July. We would not be able to run the Independence Market at convention without the assistance of our numerous volunteers. Because of their work our many customers had the opportunity to examine all our demo products and purchase the items that caught their interest.

We are frequently asked about what is new in the Independence Market, so here is a brief description of some of the items that were new at this year's convention. We now carry 8-1/2 by 11-1/2 inch medium weight Braille paper in both unpunched and three-hole punched versions. It is great to use with a slate and stylus if you need to take rapid notes. We also sell a thinner, flat, saddle-shaped stylus which easily tucks into a small pocket. This stylus is a nice accessory to our business card slate and mini Braille notepads. We now have added a smaller 5-1/2 by 8-1/2 inch dark line notepad to our low vision product offerings. It is just the right size to keep on the kitchen counter or the nightstand for some quick notes.

The market has some new labeling stickers which may help those with severe vision loss or those who have just lost their sight and cannot read Braille yet. The stickers are individual letters and numbers. The three-quarter-inch high black symbols can also be identified by touch, and the corresponding Braille letter or number is below it. One sheet has 176 letters and numbers on it. When combining these stickers with our Braillable food labels, which consist of little plastic cards with an attachable elastic band, one can make practical, reusable print/Braille labels for cans, packages, and other household items.

The Independence Market is repeatedly asked if we carry a talking caller ID. The model we used to sell was unfortunately discontinued quite some time ago. However, we identified a talking phone with a nice, built-in talking caller ID, the Serene CL-30 Cordless Phone. This phone is designed with the needs of users who are experiencing vision and/or hearing loss in mind. The high definition sound technology makes incoming calls sharp, clear, and intelligible. The talking caller ID feature announces incoming numbers twice in a clear voice for those users subscribed to the caller ID service through their phone company. When enabled, each keypad button audibly repeats the number pushed. The phone amplifies incoming calls up to forty decibels, and the ringer is amplified up to ninety decibels. The handset is hearing aid compatible. The phone features easy-to-see large and brightly back-lit keys; eight one-touch speed dial buttons; one-touch call-for-help button for hands-free emergency calls; audible and visual indicators for voice mail and missed calls; high performance speakerphone; bright visual ring flasher and super loud ringer on handset and base; and more.

We will introduce the remaining new products in a later issue of the Braille Monitor. If you would like a detailed description of the new items, you may request a Braille or print copy of the document which lists the Independence Market products that were new at this year's national convention. Please contact us by email or phone and be sure to specify the format you would like.

It’s that time of year when many are starting to look for next year’s calendar. Since not everyone is using digital calendars yet, the Independence Market still offers the following Braille and large print calendars for 2018. Many continue to find the free, pocket-sized American Action Fund Braille calendar very useful. Each calendar page includes the days of the month and lists major holidays. It's a great way to get a tactile overview of each month. We have carried our spiral-bound, large print appointment calendar with inside pockets for many years. Each month is displayed on two facing 8-1/2 by 11 inch pages and features two-inch blocks for each day of the month. The months are tabbed and include a section for monthly notes as well as a three-month calendar overview. More recently we have started selling the Easy2See Large Print Planner, an organizer designed with low vision professionals in mind. The spiral bound planner with plastic-coated covers, measuring 8-1/2 by 11 inches, features a page for each month as well as two-page weekly views from the end of December of the previous year through the beginning of January of the following year. Major holidays are listed on both the monthly and weekly views. The weekly pages have individual unlined writing areas measuring 3-1/4 by 8 inches, and the font on these pages is at least forty point. Dark boarders on all the pages make it easier to see the writing area.

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.

Origins of the NFB Pledge

by Anna Kresmer

From the Editor: Anna Kresmer is one of the most valuable resources we have in the Jacobus tenBroek Library. She understands our history, embraces our philosophy, and can answer almost any question asked of her. She can offer her opinion and then back it up with one or more documents. After almost a decade at her work, she was surprised when she had what appeared to be a simple question that sent her back to the stacks to answer. Here is what she says:

After nine years working with the archives of the National Federation of the Blind, it is not often these days that a reference question about Federation history truly stumps me. But this is exactly what happened recently. I received a request from a member in our Massachusetts affiliate which asked how the pledge that Federationists recite at every chapter meeting, state convention, and national convention was originally created. Like the member, I could not find any reference to the adoption of the pledge online in our literature or publications, including our recent seventy-fifth anniversary history book. However, when I still could not find reference to the pledge in both the Jacobus tenBroek Collection and the NFB Institutional Records, I knew it was time to consult with a real expert on the subject of NFB history. I speak, of course, of none other than Dr. Marc Maurer. Needless to say, he put me on the right path immediately.

The pledge that we all know and use today came about during the 1974 NFB National Convention in Chicago. Dr. Kenneth Jernigan first spoke about the idea of a formal pledge to show one’s support for the organization during his Presidential Report. In those days, the report was delivered in a more off-the-cuff manner using only notes, but thankfully it was transcribed and later printed in full in the September 1974 Braille Monitor. Here is how Dr. Jernigan addressed the Convention:

Ever since 1971, we've been on a sharply ascending curve organizationally—in power, in prestige, and, I think, in responsibility. We must exercise with care the very considerable power inherent in an organization as large and as broadly representative as we are. We must also, however, recognize that there are dangers any time a group makes as many waves as we have; we can expect to be subjects of vicious counter-attacks. Now, I think that it is in that context that we must view our situation. During the American Revolution, you know, the leaders said: "We pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." Well, in retrospect that sounds like rhetoric. But think about it; it wasn't just rhetoric. It meant what it said… If you take us as a group, blind people in this country, we have pledged our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor—because although they are not going to come out and kill us in the usual sense of that word, life is going to be a different kind of life, and for some blind persons, not really worth the living if this movement does not succeed. And furthermore, [applause] as to fortune, although some of us as individuals may do well financially, the blind as a class can expect very little except the same old custody and care, shelter and pity, and contempt which we have always received if we don't succeed in this movement. And as to our honors, already there are people who try to make us appear to be less than human by what they've said and done and how they felt… it is my duty not to hesitate, not to count the cost personally, it is my duty to lead where I ought to lead, stand out on the cutting edge and be willing to take the risk and not count what it may do to me as a person, even if it costs me my job, if it costs my reputation, costs whatever money I have— whatever it costs, it is for me to be prepared to give it. Otherwise I am not fit to lead the movement. But, it is up to you as members to do all you can to make that job successful. It is up to you as members of this movement to be willing to give as much as you can in the way of your time, your effort, your money, your dedication, and your commitment. If you are not willing to do that, you are not fit to be members of the movement. [Applause] In other words, those who believe that the primary purpose of this movement is a nice little game, or a social tete-a-tete, would do better to go elsewhere; they will find it more fun. But those of us who intend to see this thing through and to make lives better for blind people in this country and to improve our own status in the world will stay to the end and we will prevail.

That year Dr. Jernigan also hosted a special presidential reception during the convention with a receiving line that, according to the Braille Monitor, “included not only President and Mrs. Kenneth Jernigan, but all present, incoming, and outgoing officers and their respective spouses of the whole board of directors; NFB staff members; and the top officers of the Illinois Federation of the Blind.” Each member who walked through that receiving line received an official NFB membership card, which, when signed, certified that that person was a member in good standing of the National Federation of the Blind. On the back of these membership cards were the words, printed for the first time, which every Federationist today knows:

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.

From the Mail Basket

by Gary Wunder

We all know that being a chapter or an affiliate president means more than presiding at meetings. Often it means setting the pace by showing through example one’s commitment to the cause and the ambition to get things done. But what happens when activity in one area leads to the appearance of inactivity in another and when those closest to us think we aren’t setting the right example? A discussion of this type came up recently on our chapter president’s list, and some of the concerns and observations seemed appropriate to address here. Names and locations have been changed so that the discussion is more about concepts than individuals. Let’s see what we can learn together:

Dear Colleagues,

I am seeking advice. I feel like my chapter presidents and many of my affiliate members are constantly seeing all the things that I do not do and not seeing the things that I actually get done. My local chapter president is upset with me because I missed the June and July chapter meetings. During the July meeting I was up in Buffalo preparing for our BELL Academy and attending the Northern Lakes chapter meeting, and during the June meeting, I was attending a family event for blind children put on by another foundation here in Kansas. I am being criticized for not supporting or showing up when the truth is that what I am doing is giving my time freely to the Federation. It just comes as a shock with this last wave of criticisms—being told that I am micromanaging by telling the chapter presidents to play the Presidential Release during their meetings. Our student division is at a halt with all of the leaders resigning from that division. I am just tired. How do you all keep on continuing on when you feel like all the work that you do is not noticed or appreciated? How do you not let the criticisms get to you? I love this organization and am willing to serve when and where I am needed. However, sometimes it is just draining to feel alone.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for any advice that you might be able to share.

Sincerely yours,


One response was offered by Anil Lewis, the executive director of the NFB Jernigan Institute:

Dear Autumn:

Ah yes. This brings back memories. The joy of being an affiliate president.

One of the ways that I attempted to address this issue is to prepare a monthly memo to all chapter presidents (I would also copy the chapter board members) to let them know what I was doing and to guide them with suggestions on things they could be doing as well. The memo let everyone know that I was busy doing things we can all take pride in and set an expectation that they should not be criticizing but working as well. You could strengthen this by also inviting the chapter presidents to submit items for the memo as well. It would be more difficult for them to complain that you are not doing anything if they are not equally as active. Of course, this is an additional administrative burden for you, but the benefit outweighs the extra work.


Scott LaBarre, a veteran president in Colorado offered these observations:

Autumn, you have been getting some great advice. One thing that I would add is that we follow a practice of inviting all chapter/division presidents to every board meeting whether they participate on the phone or in person. I appoint them to committees and keep them very engaged and involved. Other than having an official vote, they really are acting like board members. You should also not forget the social aspect for building camaraderie. For example, just this past Saturday, we held an in-person NFBCO Board Meeting which several chapter/division presidents attended. Afterwards, we shared some drinks and snacks and hung out for a while. All in all, it was a great afternoon.



I took my turn at offering some advice as well:

Dear Autumn:

One of the struggles of any Federation leader is to figure out how much time to use in one’s life for Federation work and how much time to live out the goals of the Federation. If one of my goals is to be an integrated member of my community, I can’t spend all of my time at a writing desk putting together a magazine. I can’t spend all of my time attending chapter and board meetings with the message that all of us should be out in the community if my example does not show that I too am a part of it. I can’t hope to lead the Federation band without picking up an instrument, but there can be no Federation band if I am the only instrument playing.

You have to do enough work in the Federation that you deserve the elected position you have campaigned for, but you have to work at a pace that will let you run a marathon and not leave our ranks because you thought you were continually required to run a sprint. Let your heart be your guide, but don’t leave it exposed. It is a good heart; take care of it for all of us. You too have the right to live the life you want, and I thank you for showing us through example how that is done.


A real pearl was offered by Immediate Past President Maurer who said:

Dear Autumn:

You are not alone. I am a buddy of yours. Now, we don't talk very often, but that doesn't mean I'm not a buddy of yours.

Being criticized is a badge of honor when the right people are doing it. Sometimes if your friends do it, this can be painful. However, when you carry around the notion (as I do) that you know what you want to get of this organization, things get a lot easier. I know that I want certain things. I want the subminimum wage to go away. I want employment for the blind to become practical at many different levels. I want technology to be accessible and reasonably simple to use. I want educational opportunities for the blind to exist at every level. I want blind people to be welcomed into society as valuable members of the community. I can't get these things without help. If I thought I could get them without help, I would do it. However, I know I can't. Consequently, I get a bunch of friends about me and we make plans together to change the nature of the world in which we live. For example, I need friends like you. What does this mean? Don't give up on me. I will not give up on you. Don’t worry that I’m perfect because I’m not. I make lots of mistakes. You can criticize them if you want to. When you’re done with the criticism, let’s make a plan to change the world. If you plan with me, I will listen a lot harder to your criticisms.


Marc Maurer

There's a List for That!

by David Andrews

This month we will continue our monthly column exploring Internet Mailing Lists with Ohio-related offerings. The Buckeye State has a good set of lists that offers its members a wide variety of announcements, information, advice, and support.

The main list for Ohioans is the Ohio Talk list. You can subscribe to the list by going to
http://www.nfbnet.org/mailman/listinfo/ohio-talk_nfbnet.org or you can also subscribe by sending an email to [email protected] and put the word “subscribe” on the subject line by itself. The list contains both announcements and discussions of interest to members of the NFB of Ohio and their friends.

A number of local chapters have their own lists. Below are the list name and a brief description of each. To subscribe, substitute the list name in the command above for the ohio-talk phrase.

CapChapOhio—Capital Chapter list, (Columbus)
Cinci-NFB—Cincinnati Chapter list
NFBMV—NFB of Ohio, Greater Miami Valley Chapter list

In addition, quite a few of the state divisions in Ohio have their own lists. Below are the list name and a brief description of each. To subscribe, substitute the list name in the command above for the ohio-talk string originally cited.

A1C—Diabetes Action Network of Ohio
OABM-Talk—Ohio Association of Blind Merchants list
OABS—Ohio Association of Blind Students list
OADB—Ohio Association of the Deaf-Blind list
OAGDU—Ohio Association of Guide Dog Users list
Ohio-NAPUB—Ohio division, National Association to Promote the Use of Braille

Next month we will tell you about student lists. Stay tuned since there are a bunch of them! As always, you can find all NFBNET.ORG-related lists at http://www.nfbnet.org/mailman/listinfo/.

Cross of Blindness

An address delivered by Professor Jacobus tenBroek, President, National Federation of the Blind, at the banquet of the annual convention, held in New Orleans, July 6, 1957

To hear this speech in his own voice go to https://nfb.org/images/nfb/audio/banqspeech/

From the Editor: While serving as the national representative at the Arizona convention, I was pleased to participate in a philosophy session. The format was different from anything I've encountered before. A clip from an important event at which one of our leaders was speaking was played, a panel was to address what had been said, and then the audience was asked to chime in with questions, differing views, or their own observations which no one had mentioned.

When we got to the topic of civil rights and then the speech about the day after civil rights, one member asked if we had really reached the day beyond, and another admitted that some days she fears that all of the educating she has tried to do throughout her life has been for nothing; the symptoms may be different, but the illness, the basic problem, remains the same. When it was my turn to respond, I said that I agreed with her. I told her and the group that I naively started by believing that being a member of the Federation would mean being so successful that I would work myself out of a job—not single-handedly but certainly my talented colleagues would figure it out. The problem is that too many fairytales end with "happily ever after," and too many John Wayne movies end in victory, the hero's reputation safely secured for eternity. But real life isn't like that: real life is taking a step up the hill to find that the next step, while giving a different view, still requires the same energy as the step before.

For this reason we are running a speech by Dr. tenBroek so that it can be seen in the context of the challenges we face today. Are we still confronted with the issues Dr. tenBroek relates? Not often. Are we still confronted by the root of those problems, a basic misunderstanding about blind people that is painted in today's colors as we face today's issues? Yes. Here is Dr. tenBroek's speech. As you read it, think about how far we have come, and consider too how far we have to go. Finally, recommit yourself to helping all of us figure out how to get to the equality we seek, the vision of which has driven our organization since its beginnings:

In the short seventeen years since our founding of the National Federation of the Blind, we have grown from a handful of men and women scattered over seven states to a federation of forty-three state affiliates. The first convention of the NFB in 1940 was attended by twelve or fifteen persons—our convention last year had a registration of seven hundred and five from every corner of the Union.

That is rapid organizational growth by any yardstick. Who are these people of the National Federation of the Blind? What is the purpose that has led them to self-organization in such numbers and unites them now with such apparent dedication and enthusiasm?

It is not enough, I think, to answer that the members of the NFB are drawn together by their common interest in the welfare of the blind; for many of the sighted share that too. Nor is it sufficient to say that we are united only because we are blind; many who are affiliated with agencies for the blind have that characteristic also. It is fundamental to the uniqueness of our group that we are the only nationwide organization for the blind which is also of the blind. The composition of the NFB, indeed, is living testimony to the fact—unfortunately not yet accepted by society as a whole—that the blind are capable of self-organization: which is to say, of leading themselves, of directing their own destiny.

Yet this is still only half the truth, only a part of the characteristic which defines our Federation and provides its reason for being. Our real distinction from other organizations in the field of blind welfare lies in the social precept and personal conviction which are the motive source of our activity and the wellspring of our faith. The belief that we who are blind are normal human beings sets us sharply apart from other groups designed to aid the blind. We have all the typical and ordinary range of talents and techniques, attitudes and aspirations. Our underlying assumption is not—as it is with some other groups—the intrinsic helplessness and everlasting dependency of those who happen to lack sight, but rather their innate capacity to nullify and overrule this disability—to find their place in the community with the same degree of success and failure to be found among the general population.

Perhaps I can best document this thesis of the normality of the blind with a random sample of the occupations represented at our national convention a year ago in San Francisco. Among the blind delegates in attendance, there were three blind physicists engaged in experimental work for the United States government. There was one blind chemist also doing experimental work for the national government. There were two university instructors of the rank of full professor, a number of other college instructors of various ranks, and several blind teachers of sighted students in primary and secondary grades in the public schools. There were thirteen lawyers, most in private practice, two employed as attorneys by the United States government, one serving as the chairman of a state public service commission, one serving as a clerk to a state chief justice. There were three chiropractors, one osteopath, ten secretaries, seventeen factory workers, one shoemaker, one cab dispatcher, one bookmender, one appliance repairman, four telephone switchboard operators, numerous businessmen in various businesses, five musicians, thirty students, many directors and workers in programs for the blind, and sixty-one housewives.

At any other convention there would be nothing at all remarkable about this broad cross-section of achievement and ability; it is exactly what you would expect to find at a gathering of the American Legion or the Exalted Order of Elks, or at a town meeting in your community. Anywhere else, that is, but at a convention of the blind. It never ceases to surprise the public that a blind man may be able to hold his own in business, operate a farm successfully, argue a brief in a court of law, teach a class of sighted students, or conduct experiments in a chemistry lab. It comes as a shock to the average person to discover that the blind not only can but do perform as well as the next man in all the normal and varied callings of the community.

But this shock of recognition, on the part of many people, too easily gives way to a mood of satisfaction and an attitude of complacency. After all, if the blind are so capable, so successful, and so independent, what is all the fuss about? Where is the need for all this organization and militant activity? Why can't the blind let well enough alone?

These are reasonable questions, surely, and deserve a reasoned answer. I believe that the answer may best be given by reciting a list of sixteen specific events which have taken place recently in various parts of the country. The events are:

1. A blind man (incidentally a distinguished educator and citizen of his community) was denied a room in a well-known YMCA in New York City—not on the ground that his appearance betokened inability to pay, which it did not; not on the ground that he had an unsavory reputation, which he did not; not on the ground that his behavior was or was likely to be disorderly, which it was not—but on the ground that he was blind.

2. A blind man was rejected as a donor by the blood bank in his city—not on the ground that his blood was not red; not on the ground that his blood was watery, defective in corpuscles, or diseased; not on the ground that he would be physically harmed by the loss of the blood—but on the ground that he was blind.

3. A blind man (in this case a successful lawyer with an established reputation in his community) was denied the rental of a safety-deposit box by his bank—not on the ground that he was a well-known bank robber; not on the ground that he had nothing to put in it; not on the ground that he couldn't pay the rental price—but on the ground that he was blind.

4. A blind man was rejected for jury duty in a California city—not on the ground of mental incompetence; not on the ground of moral irresponsibility; not on the ground that he would not weigh the evidence impartially and come to a just verdict—but on the ground that he was blind.

5. A blind college student majoring in education was denied permission to perform practice teaching by a state university—not on the ground that her academic record was poor; not on the ground that she had not satisfied the prerequisites; not on the ground that she lacked the educational or personal qualifications--but on the ground that she was blind.

6. A blind applicant for public employment was denied consideration by a state civil service commission—not on the ground that he lacked the education or experience specifications; not on the ground that he was not of good moral character; not on the ground that he lacked the residence or citizenship requirements—but on the ground that he was blind.

7. A blind woman was refused a plane ticket by an airline—not on the ground that she couldn't pay for her ticket; not on the ground that her heart was weak and couldn't stand the excitement; not on the ground that she was a carrier of contagion—but on the ground that she was blind.

8. A blind machinist was declared ineligible for a position he had already held for five years. This declaration was the result of a routine medical examination. It came on the heels of his complete clearance and reinstatement on the job following a similar medical finding the year before. These determinations were made—not on the ground of new medical evidence showing that he was blind, for that was known all along; not on the ground that he could not do the job which he had successfully performed for five years with high ratings; not on the ground of any factor related to his employment—they were made on the ground that he was blind.

9. A blind high school student who was a duly qualified candidate for student body president was removed from the list of candidates by authority of the principal and faculty of the school—not on the ground that he was an outside infiltrator from some other school; not on the ground that he was on probation; not on the ground that he was not loyal to the principles of the United States Constitution—but on the ground that he was blind.

10. Traveler's Insurance Company, in its standard policy issued to cover trips on railroads, expressly exempts the blind from coverage—not on the ground that there is statistical or actuarial evidence that blind travelers are more prone to accident than sighted travelers are; not on the ground that suitcases or fellow passengers fall on them more often; not on the ground that trains carrying blind passengers are more likely to be wrecked unless it is the engineer who is blind—but solely on the ground of blindness. Many, if not most, other insurance companies selling other forms of insurance either will not cover the blind or increase the premium.

11. A blind man, who had been a successful justice court and police court judge in his community for eleven years, ran for the position of superior court judge in the general election of 1956. During the campaign his opponents did not argue that he was ignorant of the law and therefore incompetent; or that he had been guilty of bilking widows and orphans; or that he lacked the quality of mercy. Almost the only argument that they used against him was that he was blind. The voters, however, elected him handily. At the next session of the state legislature a bill was introduced disqualifying blind persons as judges. The organized blind of the state were able to modify this bill but not to defeat it.

12. More than sixty blind men and women—among them doctors, teachers, businessmen, and members of various professions—were recently ordered by the building and safety authority of a large city to move out of their hotel-type living quarters. This was not on the ground that they were pyromaniacs and likely to start fires; not on the ground that they were delinquent in their rent; not on the ground that they disturbed their neighbors with riotous living—but on the ground that as blind people they were subject to the code provisions regarding the "bed-ridden, ambulatory, and helpless," that anyone who is legally blind must live in an institution-type building—with all the rooms on the ground floor, with no stairs at the end of halls, with hard, fireproof furniture, with chairs and smoking-stands lined up along the wall "so they won't fall over them."

13. The education code of one of our states provides that deaf, dumb, and blind children may be sent at state expense to a school for the deaf, dumb, or blind, if they possess the following qualifications: (1) they are free from offensive or contagious diseases; (2) they have no parent, relative, guardian, or nearest friend able to pay for their education; (3) that by reason of deafness, dumbness, or blindness, they are disqualified from being taught by the ordinary process of instruction or education.

14. In a recent opinion the supreme court of one of the states held that a blind person who sought compensation for an injury due to an accident which he claimed arose out of and in the course of his employment by the state board of industries for the blind, was a ward of the state and therefore not entitled to compensation. The conception that blind shop workers are wards of the state was only overcome in another state by a recent legislative enactment.

15. A blind person, duly convicted of a felony and sentenced to a state penitentiary, was denied parole when he became eligible therefore—not on the ground that he had not served the required time; not on the ground that his prison behavior had been bad; not on the ground that he had not been rehabilitated—but on the ground that he was blind.

16. A blind man who sat down at a gambling table in Reno, where such things are legal, was denied an opportunity to play—not on the ground that he didn't know the rules of the game; not on the ground that he might cheat the dealer or the other players; not on the ground that he didn't have any money to lose—but on the ground that he was blind.

These last two cases show that the blind are normal in every respect.

What emerges from this set of events is the age-old stereotype of blindness as witlessness and helplessness. By virtue of this pervasive impression, a blind man is held to be incapable of weighing the evidence presented at a trial or performing the duties of a teacher. He cannot take care of himself in a room of his own and is not to be trusted on a plane. A sightless person would not know what he has put into or removed from a safety deposit box; and he has no right to employment in the public service. He must not even be permitted to continue on a job he has performed successfully for years. Even his blood cannot be given voluntarily for the common cause.

Contrast these two lists—the one of the occupations represented at the NFB convention; the other of the discriminatory activities—the first is a list of accomplishments of what the blind have done and therefore can do; the second is a list of prohibitions of what the blind are thought incompetent to do and therefore are debarred from attempting. The first list refers to the physical disability of blindness. It demonstrates in graphic fashion how slight a disadvantage is the mere loss of sight to the mental capacity and vocational talent of the individual. The second list refers not to the disability but to the handicap which is imposed upon the blind by others. The origin of the disability is plainly inside the blind person. The origin and responsibility for the handicap are just as plainly outside him—in the attitudes and preconceptions of the community.

Let me be very clear about this. I have no wish to minimize the character and extent of blindness as a disability. It is for all of us a constant nuisance and a serious inconvenience. To overcome it requires effort and patience and initiative and guts. It is not compensated for, despite the fairy tales to the contrary, by the spontaneous emergence of a miraculous "sixth sense" or any other magical powers. It means nothing more or less than the loss of one of the five senses and a corresponding greater reliance upon the four that remain—as well as upon the brain, the heart, and the spirit.

It may be said that the discriminatory acts which I have cited, and others like them which are occurring all the time, simply do not reflect informed thought. They are occasional happenings, unpremeditated, irrational, or accidental. Surely no one would justify them; no one would say that they represent an accurate appraisal of the blind and of blindness.

Well, let us see. Let us look at some pronouncements of presumably thoughtful and informed persons writing about the blind—agency heads, educators, administrators, social workers, historians, psychologists, and public officials. What do they have to say about the potentialities of the blind in terms of intellectual capacity, vocational talent, and psychological condition? What do they report concerning the prospects for social integration on the basis of normality and economic advancement on the basis of talent?

First, an educator. Here are the words of a prominent authority on the education of the blind, himself for thirty years a superintendent of a school for the blind. "It is wrong to start with the school," this authority writes, "and to teach there a number of occupations that the blind can do, but to teach them out of relation to their practical and relative values. This is equivalent to attempting to create trades for the blind and then more or less angrily to demand that the world recognize the work and buy the product, whether useful or useless." More than this, it is necessary to recognize the unfitness of the blind "as a class" for any sort of competition and therefore to afford them not only protection but monopoly wherever possible. Declaring that "it must be unqualifiedly conceded that there is little in an industrial way that a blind person can do at all that cannot be done better and more expeditiously by people with sight," this expert considers that there are only two ways out: one being the extension of concessions and monopolies, and the other the designation of certain "preferred" occupations for the blind—“leaving the battle of wits only to those select few that may be considered, and determined to be, specially fit."

The conclusion that employment possibilities for the blind are confined, with only negligible exceptions, to the purview of sheltered workshops is contained in this set of "facts" about the blind which the same authority asserts are "generally conceded by those who have given the subject much thought: that the handcrafts in which the blind can do first-class work are very limited in number, with basketry, weaving, knitting, broom- and brush-making, and chair caning as the most promising and most thoroughly tried out...that in these crafts the blind cannot enter into direct competition with the seeing either in the quality of product or the amount turned out in a given time...that the crafts pursued by the blind may best be carried on in special workshops under the charge of government officials or trained officers of certain benevolent associations...that among the 'higher' callings piano-tuning and massage are, under favoring conditions such as prevail for masseurs in Japan, the fields offering the greatest chance of success, while the learned professions, including teaching, are on the whole only for those of very superior talent and, more particularly, very superior courage and determination to win at all costs."

Second, an historian. The basis for this assessment, and its justification, have been presented in blunt and explicit language by a well-known historian of blindness and the blind in the United States. He says, "[T]here exists in the community a body of men who, by reason of a physical defect, namely, the loss of sight, are disqualified from engaging in the regular pursuits of men and who are thus largely rendered incapable of providing for themselves independently." They are to be regarded as a "disabled and infirm fraction of the people" or, more specifically, as "sighted men in a dark room." "Rather than let them drift into absolute dependence and become a distinct burden, society is to lend an appropriate helping hand" through the creation of sheltered, publicly subsidized employment.

Third, administrators. That this pessimistic appraisal of the range of talent among the blind has not been limited to the schoolmen and historians may be shown by two succinct statements from wartime pamphlets produced by the Civil Service Commission in an effort to broaden employment opportunities for the physically disabled. "The blind," it was found, "are especially proficient in manual occupations requiring a delicate sense of touch. They are well suited to jobs which are repetitious in nature." Again: "The placement of persons who are blind presents various special problems. Small groups of positions in sheltered environment, involving repetitive work, were surveyed in government establishments and were found to have placement potentialities for the blind." Such findings as these were doubtless at the base of a remark of a certain public official who wrote that: "Helping the blind has its strong appeal to the sensibilities of everyone; on the other hand, we should avoid making the public service an eleemosynary institution."

Fourth, a blind agency head. The executive director of one of the largest private agencies for the blind justifies the failure of the philanthropic groups in these blunt terms: "The fact that so few workers or organizations are doing anything appreciable to [improve the condition of the blind] cannot be explained entirely on the grounds that they are not in the vanguard of social thinking. It is rather because they are realistic enough to recognize that the rank and file of blind persons have neither the exceptional urge for independence nor the personal qualifications necessary to satisfactory adjustment in the sighted world.... It is very difficult and exceptional for a blind person to be as productive as a sighted person."

Fifth, a psychologist. Even plainer language—as well as more impressive jargon—has been used by another authority who is widely considered the preeminent expert in the field of blind psychology. "Until recently," he writes, "the blind and those interested in them have insisted that society revise and modify its attitude toward this specific group. Obviously, for many reasons, this is an impossibility, and effort spent on such a program is as futile as spitting into the wind.... It is extremely doubtful whether the degree of emotional maturity and social adaptability of the blind would long support and sustain any social change of attitude if it were possible to achieve it." If this is not plain enough, the writer continues: "A further confusion of attitude is found in educators and workers for the blind who try to propagandize society with the rational concept that the blind are normal individuals without vision. This desperate whistling in the dark does more damage than good. The blind perceive it as a hypocritical distortion of actual facts.... It is dodging the issue to place the responsibility on the unbelieving and nonreceptive popular attitudes.... The only true answer lies in the unfortunate circumstance that the blind share with other neurotics—the nonaggressive personality and the inability to participate fully in society.... There are two general directions for attacking such a problem, either to adjust the individual to his environment, or to rearrange the environment so that it ceases to be a difficulty to the individual. It is quite obvious that the latter program is not only inadvisable but also impossible. However, it is the attack that nearly every frustrated, maladjusted person futilely attempts."

Sixth, a social worker. This sweeping negation of all attempts to modify the prejudicial attitudes of society toward the blind, however eccentric and extreme it may sound, finds strong support in the field of social casework. In areas where "such ideas remain steadfast," reads a typical report, "it is the function of the social caseworker to assist the blind person to work within these preconceived ideas. Since handicapped persons are a minority group in society, there is greater possibility of bringing about a change in an individual within a stated length of time than there is in reversing accepted concepts within the culture." The "well-adjusted blind person," it is argued, should be able to get along in this restrictive social setting, and the caseworker must concentrate on his personal adjustment since it is easier to reform the client than to reform society.

Seventh, a blind philanthropist. Let me close my list of testimonials with one final citation. I think it must already be sufficiently obvious that, granting the assumptions contained in all these statements, the blind have no business organizing themselves apart from sighted supervision; that a social movement of the blind and by the blind is doomed to futility, frustration, and failure. But just in case the point is not clear enough, I offer the considered opinion of a well-known figure in the history of blind philanthropy: "It cannot, then, be through the all-blind society that the blind person finds adequate opportunity for the exercise of his leadership. The wise leader will know that the best interests of each blind person lie within the keeping of the nine hundred and ninety-nine sighted people who, with himself, make up each one thousand of any average population. He will know, further, that if he wishes to promote the interests of the blind, he must become a leader of the sighted upon whose understanding and patronage the fulfillment of these interests depends.... There is...no advantage accruing from membership in an all-blind organization which might not be acquired in greater measure through membership in a society of sighted people."

What is the substance of all these damning commentaries? What are the common assumptions which underlie the attitudes of the leaders of blind philanthropy and the authorities on blind welfare? The fundamental concepts can, I think, be simply stated. First, the blind are by virtue of their defect emotionally immature if not psychologically abnormal; they are mentally inferior and narrowly circumscribed in the range of their ability—and therefore inevitably doomed to vocational monotony, economic dependence, and social isolation. Second, even if their capabilities were different, they are necessarily bound to the fixed status and subordinate role ordained by society, whose attitudes toward them are permanent and unalterable. Third, they must place their faith and trust, not in themselves and in their own organizations, but in the sighted public and most particularly in those who have appointed themselves the protectors and custodians of the blind.

A few simple observations are in order. First, as to the immutability of social attitudes and discriminatory actions towards the blind, we know from intimate experience that the sighted public wishes well for the blind and that its misconceptions are rather the result of innocence and superstition than of deliberate cruelty and malice aforethought. There was a time, in the days of Rome, when blind infants were thrown to the wolves or sold into slavery. That time is no more. There was a time, in the Middle Ages, when blind beggars were the butts of amusement at country fairs, decked out in paper spectacles and donkeys' ears. That time is no more. There was a time, which still exists to a surprising extent, when the parents of a blind child regarded his disability as a divine judgment upon their own sins. But that time is now beginning to disappear, at least in the civilized world.

The blind are no longer greeted by society with open hostility and frantic avoidance but with compassion and sympathy. It is true that an open heart is no guarantee of an open mind. It is true that good intentions are not enough. It is true that tolerance is a far cry from brotherhood and that protection and trusteeship are not the synonyms of equality and freedom. But the remarkable progress already made in the civilizing of brute impulses and the humanizing of social attitudes towards the blind is compelling evidence that there is nothing fixed or immutable about the social status quo for the blind and that, if the blind themselves are capable of independence and interdependence within society, society is capable of welcoming them.

Our own experience as individuals and as members of the National Federation of the Blind gives support at short range to what long-range history already makes plain. We have observed and experienced the gradual breakdown of legal obstacles and prejudicial acts; we have participated in the expansion of opportunities for the blind in virtually every phase of social life and economic livelihood—in federal, state, and local civil service; in teaching and other professions; in the addition of a constructive element to public welfare. Let anyone who thinks social attitudes cannot be changed read this statement contained in a recent pamphlet of the Federal Civil Service Commission:

Sometimes a mistaken notion is held that...the blind can do work only where keenness of vision is not important in the job. The truth appears to be that the blind can do work demanding different degrees of keenness of vision on the part of the sighted. If there is any difference in job proficiency related to a degree of keenness of vision required for the sighted, it is this: the blind appear to work with greater proficiency at jobs where the element is present to a noticeable extent in the sighted job than where vision is only generally useful.

Second, are the blind mentally inferior, emotionally adolescent, and psychologically disturbed; or on the contrary, are they normal and capable of social and economic integration? The evidence that they are the latter can be drawn from many quarters: scientific, medical, historical, and theoretical. But the evidence which is most persuasive is that which I have already presented: it is the evidence displayed in the lives and performance of such average and ordinary blind men and women as those who attended our national convention last summer. It is the evidence of their vocational accomplishments, their personal achievements, the plain normality of their daily lives. To me their record is more than an impressive demonstration: it is a clinching rebuttal.

It would, of course, be a gross exaggeration to maintain that all blind persons have surmounted their physical disability and conquered their social handicap.

It is not the education of the sighted only which is needed to establish the right of the blind to equality and integration. Just as necessary is the education of the blind themselves. For the process of their rehabilitation is not ended with physical and vocational training; it is complete only when they have driven the last vestige of the public stereotype of the blind from their own minds. In this sense, and to this extent only, is it true that the blind person must "adjust" to his handicap and to society. His adjustment need not—indeed must not—mean his submission to all prevailing social norms and values. His goal is not conformity but autonomy: not acquiescence, but self-determination and self-control.

From all of this it should be clear that it is a long way yet from the blind alleys of dependency and segregation to the main thoroughfares of personal independence and social integration which we have set as our goal. And I believe it is equally plain that our progress toward that goal will demand the most forceful and skillful application of all the means at our command: that is, the means of education, persuasion, demonstration, and legislation.

We need the means of education to bring the public and the blind themselves to a true recognition of the nature of blindness--to tear away the fossil layers of mythology and prejudice. We need persuasion to induce employers to try us out and convince society to take us in. We need demonstration to prove our capacity and normality in every act of living and of making a living. And finally we need legislation to reform the statute books and obliterate the legal barriers which stand in the way of normal life and equal opportunity—replacing them with laws which accurately reflect the accumulated knowledge of modern science and the ethics of democratic society.

This final platform in our program of equality—the platform of adequate legislation—is in many respects the most crucial and pressing of all. For until the blind are guaranteed freedom of opportunity and endeavor within the law, there can be little demonstration of their ability and little prospect of persuasion. What is needed is nothing less than a new spirit of the laws, which will uproot the discriminatory clauses and prejudicial assumptions that presently hinder the efforts of the blind toward self-advancement and self-support. The new philosophy requires that programs for the blind be founded upon the social conception of their normality and the social purpose of their reintegration into the community, with aids and services adjusted to these conceptions.

These then are the objectives of the self-organized blind, goals freely chosen for them by themselves. And this is the true significance of an organization of the blind, by the blind, for the blind. For the blind the age of charity, like that of chivalry, is dead; but this is not to say that there is no place for either of these virtues. In order to achieve the equality that is their right, in order to gain the opportunity that is their due, and in order to attain the position of full membership in the community that is their goal, the blind have continuing need for the understanding and sympathy and liberality of their sighted neighbors and fellow citizens. But their overriding need is first of all for recognition—recognition of themselves as normal and of their purposes as legitimate. The greatest hope of the blind is that they may be seen as they are, not as they have been portrayed; and since they are neither wards nor children, their hope is to be not only seen but also heard—in their own accents and for whatever their cause may be worth.

Settlement That May Benefit Some Monitor Readers



This notice is to inform you about the proposed settlement that would resolve two class action lawsuits: Nguyen v. Outerwall Inc., No. 5:16-cv-00611-LS (E.D. Pa.) and Boyer v. Outerwall Inc., No. 2:17-cv-00853 (E.D. Pa.). The lawsuit alleges that Coinstar, LLC (fka Outerwall Inc.) violated federal law and California state law by offering services at self-service, touchscreen Coinstar kiosks that the lawsuit alleges were not independently useable by persons who are Legally Blind. Coinstar denies all liability in the case. In the proposed settlement, Coinstar will complete modification of one Coinstar Kiosk at each of its retail locations nationwide. The modifications will include ensuring a functional and tactile keypad exists on each modified Kiosk, the addition of a 3.5mm headphone jack, and the addition of text-to-speech output via audio through the headphone jack. Further information regarding the modifications is available at www.coinstarkiosksettlement.com.

If you used or attempted to use a Coinstar Kiosk in California at any point between February 8, 2013, and July 14, 2017, you may be entitled to payment of money as part of this settlement. This is because the California law allegedly violated allows for monetary payments. Depending on the number of individuals who submit a valid Claim Form, California Sub-Class Members may be eligible for up to $4,000.00 in monetary relief under the settlement. You may complete and submit a claim form on the settlement website at www.coinstarkiosksettlement.com or by requesting a Claim Form from Settlement Services Inc., the Claims Administrator, by phone, letter, fax, or email at: Nguyen v. Outerwall Inc., Claims Administrator, P.O. Box 71,  Tallahassee, FL 32302-0071; Toll-Free: (855) 928-2272; Fax: (850) 385-6008; Email: [email protected]. All claims submitted must be received by December 1, 2017. Further information regarding the California Sub-Class is available at www.coinstarkiosksettlement.com.

You also have the right to object to the settlement. California Sub-Class Members also have the right to opt-out of the damages portion of the settlement only. If you do either, your documents submitted must be received by December 1, 2017. The settlement website www.coinstarkiosksettlement.com contains a more detailed notice with procedures for opting-out of the damages portion of the settlement and to objecting to the settlement, and information about other provisions of the settlement, including attorneys’ fees and costs.

Any questions about the settlement, including requests for documents in alternate accessible formats, should be directed to class counsel using the contact information below:

Claims Administrator:
Nguyen v. Outerwall Inc.
Claims Administrator
P.O. Box 71
Tallahassee, FL 32302
Toll-Free: (855) 928-2272
Fax: (850) 385-6008
Email: [email protected]

Class Counsel:
Gerald D. Wells, III
Stephen E. Connolly
Connolly Wells & Gray, LLP
2200 Renaissance Boulevard, Suite 275
King of Prussia, PA 19406
Telephone: (610) 822-3700
Email: [email protected]
Email: [email protected]

Class Counsel:
Arkady “Eric” Rayz
Kalikhman & Rayz, LLC
1051 Country Line Road, Ste. A
Huntingdon Valley, PA 19006
Telephone: (215) 364-5030
Email: [email protected]


The NFB Krafters Division is an active part of the NFB. It has a very busy list ([email protected]) and website www.krafterskorner.org. The division holds a telephone conference chat most Monday evenings and offers several classes each month by email and telephone. Members do embroidery, knitting, crocheting, pottery, soap, latch-hook, sewing, jewelry, and more. Recently, this group exchanged recipes, and it seemed a good opportunity to share some with Monitor readers. Most are for food items, but recipes here include some items that are not for eating, as well.

Large Pasta Salad
by Bernice Bird

This recipe is from Bernice, who lives in Rochester, New York. She stays busy with her job, crafts, and family. She says she learned basic cooking skills from a school for the blind, and her skills have evolved over the years. She enjoys sharing her recipes and dishes with friends and family.

1 pound spiral, corkscrew, rotini, or other pasta
8 to 12 ounces sliced pepperoni
12 to 16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 each red, yellow, orange, and green sweet bell peppers
1/2 of a large seedless cucumber
8 ounces grape tomatoes
1 small bunch fresh broccoli
2 large carrots
1/2 Vidalia or 1 medium red onion
4 stalks celery
1 cup stuffed green or seeded black olives
1/2 cup each frozen corn and peas

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup balsamic vinegar
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons oregano
3 tablespoons parsley flakes
1 tablespoon rosemary
3 tablespoons basil
1 tablespoon chives
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon savory
4 garlic cloves, crushed


Dressing: Make the day before. Add all ingredients together and shake or stir vigorously. Refrigerate dressing overnight and mix well before pouring over salad.

Salad: Cook pasta in salted water with a little olive oil. Drain and let cool while preparing all of the other ingredients. Dice all peppers, onion, celery, and cucumber. Slice tomatoes in half. Peel carrots. After all peel is off, keep using your vegetable peeler to make thin strips of carrot. Cut broccoli florets into small pieces. Peel and dice cucumber. Make a stack of the pepperoni slices. Cut the stack into quarters; repeat until all pepperoni is cut into little wedges. Cut olives in half if desired. You can also buy a jar of already sliced green olives. If using them, drain. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, and add enough dressing to make the mixture wet with a little dressing standing. If you think you will have leftovers or if you make it a day ahead, make extra dressing because the macaroni absorbs the dressing. Of course, this only makes it more flavorful.

Notes: This makes a very large bowl of salad and could be cut down a great deal. You can add any fresh or cooked vegetables to the salad you want. You could add zucchini or yellow summer squash, but I don’t happen to like them. Mushrooms would be good also. Sweet pickle relish would give a slightly sweet zing to the salad. You could substitute diced chicken for the pepperoni. You could also use an Italian blend of cheeses instead of mozzarella cheese. If you don’t want to make your own dressing, you could use your favorite bottled Italian dressing.

Poppa Peanut’s Bar-B-Q Sauce
by Tanya VanHouten

Tanya VanHouten lives in Lonoke, Arkansas, and is a member of the At-Large Chapter. She owns her own business and enjoys gardening, crafts, and cooking. Her family has a lot of cookouts, and her dad taught her how to make this sauce. You need to make this in a giant pot or maybe your bathtub. You could halve the recipe if you don’t want such a large amount. You can also bottle it and give as gifts or make up the giant batch and grill a whole cow.

1 gallon Cattlemen’s BBQ sauce
1 gallon ketchup
1/2 cup chili powder
1/2 cup A-1 sauce
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup dried mustard dissolved in beer
1/2 cup prepared mustard
1-1/2 cups Splenda
1/4 cup cayenne pepper
1/4 cup black pepper
1-1/2 liters Dr. Pepper
1/2 cup lemon juice

Method: Combine all ingredients well. This makes a large batch, so save containers to store it.

Grape Salad
by Courtney Smith

Courtney Smith belongs to a chapter at large and is a Krafters Korner board member. She lives in Iuka, Mississippi, with her husband Jason and their fur baby Ranger. She enjoys cooking and crafting, with a primary focus on loom knitting.

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 pounds red seedless grapes
2 pounds green seedless grapes
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons chopped pecans

Method: Mix cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Fold in grapes.
Cover and refrigerate. Just before serving, sprinkle with brown sugar and pecans.

Fruit Compote
by Courtney Smith

2 medium tart apples
1 teaspoon salt
12 ounces frozen or fresh cranberries
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon orange peel
1/4 cup orange juice
15-1/4 ounces sliced peaches, in own juice
15-1/4 ounces apricot halves, in own juice
1 cup pecans (or other nuts)

Method: Peel and slice apples. Combine first nine ingredients (through orange juice) in large sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered ten minutes or until berries pop. Add peaches and apricots. Stir in pecans, heat. Serve warm or cold.

Notes: I have used whole cranberry sauce, and you don’t have to wait for the berries to pop. We also add one can of fruit cocktail to add more fruit. Have leftover compote? Use it to make a cobbler!

Fruit Compote Cobbler
by Courtney Smith

1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter
2-3 cups fruit compote

Method: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in nine-by-thirteen-inch pan. Mix together milk, flour, and sugar. Add to pan over butter. Do not mix. Spoon fruit compote over milk mixture. Bake for one hour. Enjoy.

Mom’s Baked Beans
by Pearl Thurkettle

Pearl is the mother of Joyce Kane, president of the NFB Krafter’s Division. Joyce has this to say about her mother and this recipe, “Mom is ninety-nine years old and turns 100 in January 2018. She has been making these baked beans for a long time. She still makes them for all our picnics and events. Although I really don’t cook much, I do love her beans.”

4 slices bacon
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cans [16 oz. cans] Heinz vegetarian beans in tomato sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
dash of garlic powder

Method: Sauté bacon until almost crisp; add onion, and continue to sauté until onion is tender. Drain excess fat. Mix all ingredients in baking dish. Bake uncovered in 375-degree oven for fifty to fifty-five minutes. Recipe can be doubled for a large crowd or a hungry few.

Apple Cinnamon Ornaments
by Terry Knox

Terry Knox is a board member at Krafters Korner, and she’s from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She enjoys most all crafts but specializes in designing miniatures. This craft is great to make for Christmas ornaments but also useful for Valentine’s Day and other holidays. This is a craft project and not a food item. Please keep out of reach of small children, as the smell is wonderful, and children want to place them in their mouths. The glue in the ornaments makes them a non-food item.

1 cup applesauce
1-1/2 cups or 6 ounces of cinnamon
1/3 cup of white glue like Elmer’s or craft glue

large cutting board
cookie cutter of choice
drinking straw
rolling pin or other item to roll dough flat
bowl for mixing
ribbon, if using

Method: Mix applesauce and cinnamon together to form a ball; use spoon or your hands. Add in your glue as you form the ball. Place in the refrigerator for at least thirty minutes. Sprinkle cutting board with some extra cinnamon and roll out the mixture. If your mixture is too dry, add more applesauce. If too wet, add more cinnamon and place in refrigerator for about five more minutes. When mixing your ball, you can add scent of lemon, vanilla, or mint to add to the smell. Roll out your mixture to one-quarter inch thick, no less as mixture will tear. Cut out ornaments using cookie cutters. Use straw to cut hole near the top; if making garland, cut two holes, one each side. Remove from cutting board and place on wire rack. Allow to dry for at least two days. While the ornaments are still damp you can write on the wet mixture by using a pointed item to inscribe letters (print or reverse Braille). You can also add things like glitter, beads, stones, and other small items of your choice to stick in the mixture. A suggestion: cut out ginger men shapes; when dry paint on eyes and buttons, and they last for years. Use the ribbon to thread through the holes so ornaments can be hung. At the end of the year, wrap in tissue paper and place in plastic bag or box; they will last until the next year. Caution: the smell might attract pests to your storage area.

Relaxing Bath Salts
by Nella Foster

Nella Foster lives in northwest Arkansas and is a member of the At-Large Chapter. She owns and manages a small goat dairy, and in her free time she enjoys gardening, crafts, cooking, and writing.

Warning: This product is only to be used on the skin and is not for human consumption.

1/4 cup grape seed oil
1 cup Epsom salts

Note: You can add a few drops of your favorite essential oils, such as lavender, eucalyptus or peppermint. Any fragrance will work, and you can make the scent as strong or as subtle as you wish.

Method: Mix all ingredients well and store in a covered container. You can put the bath salts in a pretty jar and give as gifts.

Lip Fudge
by Nella Foster

This lip balm smells yummy and feels great on your lips too. Remember this is a cosmetic, not a food, so it should probably be kept out of the reach of small children.

1 ounce cocoa butter
1-1/2 tablespoons solid coconut oil
2 teaspoons grated cosmetic grade beeswax (can be purchased at drug and craft stores)
1/2 teaspoon vitamin E oil (optional)
10 chocolate chips
2 to 3 small clean containers (you can purchase containers for lip balms at craft supply stores and online.)

Method: Mix all ingredients in a small glass bowl and microwave for about sixty seconds. Once everything is melted, stir to make sure the mixture is well blended, then transfer into containers. This is the hardest part because the containers are small, and the lip balm starts to firm up as it cools down. Let sit for a few hours or put into refrigerator until the lip balm is firm. You can double or triple this recipe and make as gifts.

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

NFB Helps Santa Answer His Mail:
Santa Claus has made the staff at the National Federation of the Blind honorary elves.  He has asked us to help him send letters in Braille to very young blind boys and girls (those under the age of ten) in the United States.

Between November 13 and December 15, parents can go online at www.nfb.org/santa-letters and fill out a Santa Braille Letter request form. The form can also be printed and faxed to (410) 685-2340.  Beginning December 4, the Braille letters from Santa will start going out to boys and girls around the country. The Braille letter will also be accompanied by a print copy (for mom and dad to read) as well as some other fun Christmastime activities.

The deadline for letter requests is December 15 to ensure that a return letter in Braille is received before Christmas. For more information, please visit our website at www.nfb.org.

NFB 2018 Scholarship Program:
These scholarships are for legally blind high school seniors through grad school students. The program begins November 1, 2017, and closes at midnight EST on March 31, 2018. Thirty scholarships are available ranging from $12,000 to $3,000 plus other gifts. Go to www.nfb.org/scholarships. To apply during the five-month open period: read the rules and the Submission Checklist, complete the official 2018 Scholarship Application Form (online or in print), supply all required documents, and request and complete an interview by an NFB affiliate president. Read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for detailed information. Chairperson is Cayte Mendez; email [email protected] or call (410) 659 -9314, ext. 2415, (8 a.m. - 5 p.m. EST).

2018 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards:
Application materials will be available beginning November 15, 2017, and must be received electronically or postmarked by March 31, 2018. These awards (named for a pioneering blind physician who practiced in the early twentieth century and are made possible through the generosity of his late nephew and niece) recognize individuals and organizations working in the field of blindness that have demonstrated exemplary leadership and extraordinary accomplishments toward achieving the full integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality. Only individuals who are over eighteen years of age may apply for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. For more information, please go to https://nfb.org/bolotin-award-main

National Federation of the Blind Assistive Technology Trainers Division Notes:
Nancy Coffman sends us the following announcement: The National Federation of the Blind Assistive Technology Trainers Division met on Wednesday, July 12, 2017, during our annual convention. Several topics were discussed during our meeting including deciding what tasks are best suited to what devices. How can we incorporate Structured Discovery techniques into the communication technology classroom? We were pleased to hear from the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired about new video lessons available on using Voiceover on the Macintosh.

We adopted a new name for the division this year since the constitution had to be reviewed and approved. It is reflected in the title of this piece. We let everyone know that by paying dues, they are invited to a members-only list.

Stay tuned. Next year, we are planning to have a trainer’s breakfast in addition to our meeting.

Celebrate the Holiday Season with a Gift to the National Federation of the Blind:
Have you received gifts from the National Federation of the Blind? Lots of us have. A mom recently thanked us for sponsoring a Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy by sharing:

Rudy and I would like to thank all that made Braille BELL Camp this Summer possible. Since Rudy does not qualify for Braille and mobility services through his school, this camp is an answer to our prayer for helping Rudy learn. There was an unfortunate conflict in planning his summer that jeopardized the chance of him attending, which caused a great deal of worry. Rudy stated, "I have to go! It helps me so much." My heart ached as I saw how much he wanted and needed the professional touch these smart teachers provided. Thankfully we were able to sort out our conflict, and he was able to attend. The relief in his eyes was enough to realize how powerfully important this week was towards supporting and educating Rudy while he learns how to read and navigate.

Thank you ALL from the bottom of our hearts.

Libby Houston

We make dreams come true. You can help. We give people free white canes, literacy, and confidence. If you have gained from contact with the NFB or NFB members, enjoyed our publications, or participated in an academy or program, we are asking you to give back. Celebrate the holiday season by donating much needed funds. It is easy. You can mail a donation or give online.

To mail your donation simply make out your check to the National Federation of the Blind. Please mail it to 200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place, Attention: Outreach, Baltimore, MD 21230. To give online visit https://nfb.org/donate2017.

Together with love, hope, and determination we will continue making dreams become reality.

Webmasters Group Meets at Convention:
Affiliate, division, and chapter webmasters met at the 2017 convention to discuss how to create and maintain websites that are clearly branded as part of the National Federation of the Blind. One of the issues for website developers is to use a content management system, a clever piece of software that lets someone other than the webmaster update the part of the web for which he or she is responsible. Because we know that many of our affiliates, divisions, and chapters use both Drupal and WordPress, the webmasters group is offering templates, and a training course for Drupal users was held on the last weekend in August. Our commitment is to make the same kind of quality impression when one visits our websites as we try to make when they visit our national headquarters. To be a part of the webmasters mailing list, go to www.nfbnet.org, activate the Join or Drop NFBNet Mailing Lists, and find the webmasters group. We look forward to helping you, and in turn, giving you the opportunity to help others.

The Deaf-Blind Division held elections at its meeting during convention: president, Alice Eaddy (New Jersey); first vice president, Marsha Drenth (Pennsylvania); second vice president, Janice Toothman (Maryland); secretary, Danielle Burton (Kentucky); treasurer, John L. Williams (Florida); and board members Brian Norton (Florida), Mark Gasaway (Georgia), Dana Tarter (Georgia), and Robert Stigile (California).

The United Blind Industrial Workers of America Division held elections at the convention with the following results: president, Sandy Halverson; first vice president, Tom Page; second vice president, Kevan Worley; recording secretary, Norma Crosby; treasurer, Kathy Tooten; one-year board members Glenn Crosby and Anitra Weber; two-year members Paul McNeal and Leonard Silkey, leaving two unfilled positions.

The following members were elected to the board of the National Association of Blind Lawyers at the 2017 National Convention: president, Scott LaBarre; first vice president, Ronza Othman; second vice president, Timothy Elder; secretary, Ray Wayne; treasurer, Larry Povinelli; and board members Noel Nightingale, Denise Avant, Anthony Thomas, Randy Farber, Jackson Walker, Deepa Goraya, and Al Elia.

The National Federation of the Blind Assistive Technology Trainer’s Division elected the following officers and board members during the 2017 National Convention: president, Nancy Coffman; vice president, Chancey Fleet; secretary, Chip Johnson; treasurer, Jeanine Lineback; and board members Wesley Majerus, Amy Ruell, and Jim Portillo.

The Human Services Division held elections, the results are as follows: president, Candice Chapman; first vice president, Jonathan Franks; second vice president, Tabea Meyer; secretary, Jessica Snyder; treasurer, Merry Schoch; and board members Dezman Jackson and Nooria Nodrat.

After elections at the convention, the board of directors of the National Association of Guide Dog Users is as follows: president, Marion Gwizdala; vice president, Michael Hingson; treasurer, Linda O’Connell; secretary, Sherrill O’Brien; and board members Aleeha Dudley, Raul Gallegos, and Jessica Snyder.

The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children would like to present the 2017/18 NOPBC board of directors elected during the 2017 National Convention: president, Kim Cunningham (TX); first vice president, Laura Bostick (LA); second vice president, Holly Miller (NJ); secretary, Penny Duffy (NH); treasurer, Sandra Oliver (TX); board members Carol Castellano (NJ); Pamela Gebert (AK), Jean Fultz (NY), Carol Akers (OH), Melissa Riccobono (MD), Jean Bening (MN), Kimberly Banks (FL), Corbb O’Connor (MN), Tabby Mitchell (VA), and Carlton Walker (PA).

The National Organization of Professionals in Blindness Education Division election results are as follows: president, Eric Guillory; first vice president, Denise Mackenstadt; second vice president, Jackie Anderson; secretary, Emily Gibbs; treasurer, Krystal Guillory; and board members Michell Gip, Shannon Kemlo, Casey Robertson, and Carlton Walker.

The following were elected during the meeting of the Science and Engineering Division on July 12, 2017: president, John Miller; vice president, Ashley Neybert; secretary, Louis Maher; treasurer, Alfred Maneki; board members Donna Posont and Kristen Johnson.

The results of the election held by the Sports and Recreation Division are as follows: president, Jessica Beecham; vice president, Audrey Farnum; secretary, Lisamaria Martinez; treasurer, Danielle Fernandez-Frampton; board members Roland Allen, Mike Armstrong, Maureen Nietfeld, Amber Sherrard, and Cathy Tuton.

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.

New Brailler Repair Business:
The Chesapeake Brailler Service run by Steve Bishop in central Maryland is open and looking forward to serving the NFB community. Our family is active with the Maryland Parents of Blind Children. We work on all models of the classic Perkins Brailler (regular, large cell, light touch, and electric). Our basic service fee is $100; this includes a thorough cleaning and any adjustments needed to return the machine to factory specs. Repairs may incur additional charges. Find us on Facebook at Chesapeake Brailler Service. You can call us at (410) 315-9664 (voice only) or email at [email protected].

If you have any questions, please contact me by phone or email. Thank you for helping me get the word out about my new business.

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.