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Braille Monitor

Vol. 61, No. 3                                     March 2018

Gary Wunder, Editor

Distributed by email, in inkprint, in Braille, and on USB flash drive, by the

The National Federation of the Blind

Mark Riccobono, President

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Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation about forty dollars per year. Members are invited,
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made payable to National Federation of the Blind and sent to:

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

THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND KNOWS THAT BLINDNESS IS NOT THE CHARACTERISTIC THAT DEFINES YOU OR YOUR FUTURE. EVERY DAY WE RAISE THE EXPECTATIONS OF BLIND PEOPLE, BECAUSE LOW EXPECTATIONS CREATE OBSTACLES BETWEEN BLIND PEOPLE AND OUR DREAMS. YOU CAN LIVE THE LIFE YOU WANT; BLINDNESS IS NOT WHAT HOLDS YOU BACK. THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR OURSELVES.

        ISSN 0006-8829


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

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


Orlando Site of 2018 NFB Convention

The 2018 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Orlando, Florida, July 3 to July 8, at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, 9939 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32819-9357. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with the Shingle Creek staff only. Call (866) 996-6338.

The 2018 room rates are singles and doubles, $88; and for triples and quads $93. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 12.5 percent. No charge will be made for children under seventeen in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $100-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2018. The other 50 percent is not refundable.

Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2018, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold our room block for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.

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

The schedule for the 2018 convention is:

Tuesday, July 3           Seminar Day
Wednesday, July 4      Registration and Resolutions Day
Thursday, July 5         Board Meeting and Division Day
Friday, July 6              Opening Session
Saturday, July 7          Business Session
Sunday, July 8            Banquet Day and Adjournment


Contents

Vol. 61, No. 3                                     March 2018

Illustration: Taking on the Big Challenges of Blindness is What We are All About

The Washington Seminar in Review
by Gary Wunder

Legislative Agenda of Blind Americans: Priorities for the 115th Congress, Second Session

Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act (S. 2138/H.R. 1772)

Access Technology Affordability Act (S. 732/H.R. 1734)

Oppose the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 620)

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

A Report from the Blind Merchants Division
by Terry Smith

A Report from the National Association of Blind Students
by Kathryn Webster

Building the Federation Brand Part 2: The Brand Personality
by Chris Danielsen

The Dentist and the Eye Doctor
by Jim Marks

Well Digger’s Wisdom
by Ryan Strunk

The 2017 National Convention from Afar
by Adrijana Prokopenko

A Twisted Tail Dog
by Toni and Ed Eames

The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund
by Allen Harris

Definitely the Cat’s Meow
Lauren Merryfield

Eligible Sprint Customers Can Get a KNFB Reader Enterprise License Free

Recipes

Monitor Miniatures

Copyright 2018 by the National Federation of the Blind

 

Taking on the Big Challenges of Blindness is What We are all About

In a land where the automobile is the most prevalent way to get around, the inability to drive poses one of the biggest problems to blind people. Naturally the nation’s most active organization engaged in problem-solving is addressing the issue. As we come ever closer to putting cars that drive themselves on the road, the challenge for blind people is to ensure we can operate them and that the law of the land permits us to do so.

Recognizing our work, the Auto Alliance and the Alliance for Transportation Innovation presented President Riccobono with an award on January 24, 2018. Others recognized included members of Congress, a governor, and a state senator. Also noted for their work were individuals from a safety research consortium, a startup tech firm, a proving grounds pioneer, and a major automotive supplier. “It is important to spotlight the innovators and pioneers who are making future advancements a reality today. Their efforts and technologies have the potential to bring tremendous societal benefits—first and foremost greater motor vehicle safety, as well as greater mobility and reduced emissions,” said Mitch Bainwol, president and CEO, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

In additional remarks, the organizations went on to say, “Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, has served as a strong advocate for autonomous vehicles for the disability community. In October 2017, the National Federation of the Blind hosted a first-of-its-kind gathering of consumers with disabilities, auto representatives, ride-sharing providers, and policymakers to lay the groundwork for including accessibility in the development of promising new vehicle technologies in the early stages. The conference launched an ongoing conversation about how autonomous vehicles can be developed and deployed safely, while considering the needs of those 57 million Americans with disabilities.”

The Washington Seminar in Review

by Gary Wunder

Focus is defined as the state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition, e.g., his face is out of focus; the point at which an object must be situated with respect to a lens in order for an image of it to be well defined; a device on a lens that can be adjusted to produce a clear image; to focus a telescope; a person or their eyes; adapt to the prevailing level of light and become able to see clearly. But for all the references on focus that relate to vision, focus was the heart and soul of the 2018 Washington Seminar, and it had nothing to do with sight or cameras or telescopes. It had everything to do with a laser-like focus or concentration on improving the lives of blind people. It had everything to do with not being distracted by the divisive issues that seem to divide the country and everything to do with finding common ground, being bipartisan, and dealing head-on with the issues that affect all of us regardless of our political ideologies and the labels that might be attached to us. The most important label we displayed with pride—the one that identified us as members of the National Federation of the Blind.

The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children started early by hosting its own two-day seminar, and as a parent I met at the elevator said, “This seminar was wonderful for us. It came at just the right time, gave us lots of information, and has convinced us that there are opportunities for our child we didn’t dare to dream possible. We are so grateful.” What more could an organization ask of a division responsible for creating a magazine called Future Reflections which is dedicated to bringing such hope and comfort to parents of blind children and such opportunity to blind people themselves.

But we had more than parents who wanted to meet to discuss issues in-depth. One was the National Federation of the Blind Merchants Division, and there was much for them to discuss. What once was a program that offered a small corner in a federal or state building was transformed in 1974, and blind merchants today have business locations that private vendors would love to occupy. When big corporations come to Washington to tell Congress that these facilities should be assigned to them rather than the blind, the blind have something to say about that. We demand our right to be a part of the free enterprise system, not just as women and men employed by someone else but as managers who oversee lucrative businesses who are the job creators of our nation and who provide a quality service that is as fine as any big business can supply. A more detailed report of the division’s meeting can be found later in this issue.

Our meeting in Washington has for a long time been the midwinter meeting of our National Association of Blind Students, and the room for that meeting was jam-packed. A report of this meeting is found elsewhere in this issue.

On Monday afternoon many who planned to go to Capitol Hill met with members of our legislative team to become familiar with the intricacies of the legislation we would discuss with those on Capitol Hill and to hear some dos and don’ts when dealing with the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. The issues we were briefed on are covered in the fact sheets that appear elsewhere in this issue, but what is so special about the early afternoon meeting is the tips we are given: Start by defining the problem. If this is an issue we have covered several times and the member or his staff already know about it, go lighter on the problem, stress the need for its resolution, and reserve more time for new issues. Don’t forget to say thank you for past support. At the end of the presentation, don’t forget to make the ultimate ask—will you cosponsor this legislation? If the answer is clearly no, move on. If the answer is clearly yes, move on. If more information is likely to determine the outcome, make sure you understand what is needed, find the answers, and do the follow-up to ensure that this information gets back to the Congressman’s office.

When the gavel fell at 5 PM to signal the beginning of the Great Gathering-In Meeting, President Riccobono inspired the group with these remarks which set not only the tone of the evening but the tone of the four-day event: “Some have been wondering what that sound is in Washington, DC. No, it’s not the sound of the government gearing back up after a shutdown. No, it’s not the sound of social media being blown up with fake news. And it is certainly not the sound of uncertainty, confusion, doubt, or despair. Those who are in the know recognize that what they hear in Washington is the heartbeat of the blind of the nation. We have come with hope and confidence to speak for ourselves, to lead the way with authenticity, to call upon our elected leaders in Congress and urge them to join us in achieving security, equality, and opportunity and to answer the question, who are we?” The crowd responds with “NFB.” “But really, who are we? We are the National Federation of the Blind.” The crowd now responds with “National Federation of the Blind, National Federation of the Blind, National Federation of the Blind,” and it does so each time the President and later presenters pause and prepare to say the name of our organization. President Riccobono continues:

We are the only organization that believes in the full capacity of blind people. We are the National Federation of the Blind. We have the power, influence, diversity, and determination. We are the National Federation of the Blind. We value collective action, democracy, respectful participation, courage, and love. We are the National Federation of the Blind. We are filled with hope, energy, and love by participating in our movement because our expectations are raised, and our contributions make a difference to us and to others. We are the members of the National Federation of the Blind.

It is up to us to make sure that the government does not create artificial barriers between blind people and our dreams. The Social Security Administration provides benefits to blind people that are a critical safety net while receiving rehabilitation training and while seeking and securing employment. We are invited to come to local SSA offices to meet with personnel of the agency about our benefits, but we are required to check in using touchscreen kiosks. We value full participation, but the Social Security Administration has implemented inaccessible visitor intake processing using touchscreen kiosks that require blind people to provide private information, including their Social Security number, to the sighted person who just happens to be nearby. We are not willing to be second-class citizens. We have asked the government for equal access, and they have dragged their feet. We have dragged them into court because we are the National Federation of the Blind.

We seek to enjoy opportunities like all other Americans. In addition to work and school, we like to grab a meal out and maybe a movie now and then. Apparently it is not just the government that is fascinated with the use of kiosks. They also appear on our restaurant tables and in our grocery stores. Late last year we settled with E la Carte and Applebee’s to incorporate text-to-speech capabilities into all current and future PrestoPrime touch tablets across the nation.

In November we resolved a class-action suit with Redbox which will result in Redbox outfitting its kiosks with tactile keyboards, headphone jacks, and text-to-speech capabilities. When Redbox is done, blind people who live in areas that are served by Redbox should never be more than a five-minute-drive from an accessible Redbox kiosk where you can pick up the latest movies offered by the company. We will monitor Redbox to make sure they get it right because we are the National Federation of the Blind.

We want to work, but we are often denied equal access to information about available jobs. Working with us, Monster has renewed its commitment to accessibility and has agreed to make all of its employment job ads available through monster.com and monster-branded applications fully and equally accessible by next December. Monster will also collaborate with us on ways that it can educate employers and promote the benefits of employees who are blind in real jobs. We want to work in integrated, competitive employment. We are the National Federation of the Blind.

We want our blind children to get the best education they can. Some school districts hold our blind students down. In Iowa a local school district had failed to educate a blind student to such a degree that he was poised to transition out of high school without the ability to read Braille or use screen-access software. We will not allow educators to fail another generation of blind students. If they will not teach them, we will advocate for them and teach them ourselves. That is what we did in this case, and today this high school student is receiving training to make up for the years of insufficient services he received in Iowa. The training is being conducted by BLIND, Inc in Minnesota. BLIND, Inc is a training center operated under the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.

We come to Washington, DC, to let our elected officials know that we intend to give them advice and vote to determine whether they will return next year. Some states believe that we need not enjoy the full range of voting opportunities afforded to sighted Americans. We know what equality means, and we have the power and determination to get it when it is not granted. Earlier this month the office of Ohio’s Secretary of State changed its mind about access to voting for the blind. All Ohio counties were ordered to implement an accessible absentee ballot-marking tool in time for the November 2018 election. We helped them change their mind, and we are the National Federation of the Blind.

If you have not yet met us, you can be certain you will. Whether you are a museum creating a significant historical exhibit of our time, a manufacturer of vehicles that require no driver, an airline that insists on burdensome notifications before we can board, or an antiquated professional organization trying to ride a dead horse to accreditation, you will soon know that we are the National Federation of the Blind—we are the National Federation of the Blind—we are the National Federation of the Blind.

We come with our dreams and our legislative proposals. We have not asked that the proposals be written for us. We have crafted the solutions and have come to get them enacted. We speak with a unified voice built on the authentic individual experience of thousands. We have gathered together to transform our dreams into reality. We have come to live the lives we want.

Diane McGeorge was introduced and said that this was her thirty-fourth year as the coordinator of logistics for our Washington Seminar. She gave the logistical information we have been accustomed to getting, and the applause that she received reflected the tremendous admiration we have for her and all that she continues to do.

This year’s Great Gathering-In Meeting was broadcast on Facebook live, and both President Riccobono and Kirsten Mau, director of marketing and communications, welcomed our remote visitors. Although there is nothing quite like being in the Capitol Ballroom where people are packed from wall to wall or in the overflow room which is also well-populated, it is wonderful that we can extend the spirit of the Great Gathering-In to Federationists throughout the country and around the world. Kirsten urged everyone who has a smartphone to download our NFB Connect app that provides access in one place to the Braille Monitor, the Voice of the Nation’s Blind blog, current announcements, our Twitter feed, the location and meeting time of the chapter nearest you, and so much more.

Immediate Past President Maurer has recently focused a lot of attention on different ways that blind people can learn, and one of those ways involves pictures. This way of displaying information has long been considered off-limits to blind people, and although the pictures are still somewhat costly to produce and difficult for those of us not acquainted with them to understand, the potential they offer to enrich the learning of blind people is enormous. The American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults has developed the drawing kit and is selectively distributing it to people interested in increasing the ways in which blind people learn and in expanding the possibilities that come through an understanding of pictures, drawings, graphs, and other material. People interested in helping with this project should contact Patricia Maurer at the Jernigan Institute by writing to her at pmaurer@nfb.org.

The Great Gathering-In was next addressed by the congressman representing the Twelfth District of Florida, the Honorable Gus Bilirakis. He is the vice chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, and he is a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. He has sponsored H.R. 936, the Space Available Act; is a cosponsor of H.R. 1734, the Access Technology Affordability Act; and he is an early supporter of H.R. 3388, the SELF DRIVE Act which foreshadows the appearance on our nation’s streets and highways of self-driving vehicles. The congressman wrote an amendment to this bill establishing a committee to ensure that these vehicles will be ones that senior citizens and blind people can operate. The congressman has a dog in the fight since he has significant vision loss as well as a loss of hearing. He reviewed all of the other bills which he is involved with as a result of the Federation, wished us luck as we went to The Hill, and encouraged us to keep on bringing our message year after year to the Congress of the United States.

When our blind brothers and sisters are in need, we are there. This was never more evident than when hurricane Harvey visited Texas and Louisiana and when blind people found themselves confronting devastating destruction in Puerto Rico. In Texas more than seventy inches of rain fell over one week. More than 105,000 people had their homes destroyed. The National Federation of the Blind set up a fund which was administered by state president and national board member Norma Crosby. She addressed the Great Gathering-In, talked briefly about the assistance we provided, said that we have now met all the requests received from Texas, and that since we promised that all money sent for hurricane relief would be spent on hurricane relief, the balance in the fund would go to Puerto Rico. The audience greeted Norma’s presentation with enthusiastic response, representing our pride in being able to help, our pride in having leaders such as President Riccobono and President Crosby, and our determination to see that those in Puerto Rico receive all the help we are capable of giving.

Anil Lewis is the executive director of the Jernigan Institute, and he began his presentation by saying that one of his first national events was participating in NAC Tracking, the name we used to symbolize the protests against a bogus accreditation body that cared little about what the blind said or thought. Anil related that it was a rainy day, that Immediate Past President Maurer had put him in charge of the poncho crew, and he hadn’t a clue how we would actually organize a protest. When Diane McGeorge saw his hesitation, she grabbed up a picket sign, moved to a corner, raised the sign, and began shouting, “Come to my voice and turn left.” It was then that Anil knew that blind people were quite capable of organizing and participating in protests, and he has been sounding his voice on behalf of blind people ever since.

So we protest when we must, but our preference is to build relationships and programs. One of the finest we have built is the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Academy, and it is now taking applications to serve young people ages four to twelve. Parents who have children who can benefit from our program should go to https://nfb.org/bell-academy. As wonderful as our program is, it is exceedingly frustrating to deal with a school system that fails to recognize the role of Braille and the importance of dual-media learning for our blind children. We have created instructional materials. We have created the National Reading Media Assessment, we certify Braille transcribers, and, as a last resort, we take on school districts that refuse to live up to their responsibility to the students they are charged with serving.

Science, technology, engineering, and math provide one of the most exciting industries for lucrative employment, but blind people are underrepresented in these fields because instead of being trained using the alternative techniques of blindness, we are educated in schools which see us as broken sighted people, and our students are encouraged to do things the way sighted people do them. But we are not broken sighted people who are forever put at a disadvantage. We are blind people with educational tools and techniques that will let us be as productive as our sighted neighbors. As noted elsewhere in the program, access technology gives us education; access technology gives us jobs; access technology gives us independence.

As a follow-up to our first grant from the National Science Foundation, we have been given a second. It is a five-year grant to conduct a program called Spatial Ability Blindness Engineering Research. Spatial ability is linked to performance in STEM, and the ability of blind people to do mental mapping actually means that we have the potential to be great engineers. This means that we will continue to build on the research that illustrates that our natural abilities to live in this world promote opportunities for us to engage in STEM areas. For more information, go to blindscience.org.

Lastly, Anil reminded us that very soon we will be launching a national mentoring program. We are built on mentoring, survive on mentoring, and are best known for our each-one-teach-five philosophy. All of us have something to offer to young blind students, so everyone should go to www.nfb.org/mentorapplication and become a mentor. Anil said, “Won’t it be fantastic when someday soon we call on our self-driving car to go pick up our mentee for a visit and a meal out?”

Following upon Anil’s desire for us to form new relationships, President Riccobono noted that Kirk Adams, the president of the American Foundation for the Blind, was in the audience, and when he was asked about NAC, he said that there was no way that the foundation would be supporting it. So, if we are called upon to take up our picket signs, it may be that we form some new relationships on the picket line as we work to see that blind people chart our own destiny, demand quality service, and are the customers who will determine whether an agency is providing quality service or not.

None of the initiatives we undertake is more important to the maintenance of our families than ensuring that we have the right to be blind parents. Melissa Riccobono is heading up our blind parents initiative, and we all know that she can’t mentor all of the blind parents who need mentoring by herself. If you know something about being a blind parent and wish to help others, please go to blindparents.org and fill out the form to become a mentor.

President Riccobono reminded the assembled that we are looking for innovative agencies and individuals to recognize them with our Dr. Jacob Bolotin awards. Jim Gashel chairs this effort, and more information about the program and the process for making nominations is found at www.nfb.org/bolotin/. The President also encouraged us to remember that we are actively engaged with Uber and Lyft to monitor their compliance with agreements to transport people using guide dogs. Please log every ride you take with your guide dog by going to www.nfb.org/rideshare.

This year the national convention will be sponsored by our affiliates in Iowa, Florida, and Virginia. The convention will be from July 3 through July 8 and will be held at the Rosen Shingle Creek. More detailed information can be found at the front of this issue.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am the biggest proponent of our Preauthorized Contribution Program (PAC). I am because, like so many of you, it has helped me transform my dreams into reality and to live the life I want. But it’s even more basic than that. It has allowed me to know that I have the right to have dreams. It is this Federation who in 1986 took a scared high school graduate and helped turn him into a confident young man largely thanks to the introduction I got to the Federation through our scholarship program. Guess what funds the scholarship program? The PAC Plan. It was during my first Washington Seminar in 1987 that I realized I might want to go to law school because I wanted to make a difference through the law. … This is our single most successful internal fundraising program, and everyone who can should be a part of it.” So said our intrepid PAC Chairman, Scott LaBarre. Contact your chapter or affiliate president for more information or go to https://nfb.org/images/nfb/documents/pdf/pac-form-fillout-accessible.pdf to sign up or to increase your contribution.

President Riccobono announced that on the following evening the National Federation of the Blind would be sponsoring the first fully tactile art exhibit in the United States at the Newseum on Pennsylvania Street in Washington, DC. The Newseum was opened for the exclusive use of Federationists and our guests between 6 and 8:30 PM, and we will cover this first-of-its-kind exhibit in the April issue of the Braille Monitor.

The executive director for strategic initiatives of the National Federation of the Blind, John Paré, took the stage to introduce the legislative team who would join the rest of us on Capitol Hill throughout the week. In addition to the four issues which appear on our fact sheets and follow this article, John reminded us that we are also supporting other pieces of legislation including the TIME Act, the Space Available Act, and the SELF DRIVE Act. We are also working hard to see that blind vendors retain privileges to work the roadside rest areas that are now run by blind merchants by opposing H.R. 1990. We are working on language to reform the AbilityOne Act, and the accessibility of medical devices is also a high priority with us, especially those devices used by blind diabetics. We will, of course, see that blind people continue to have the right to be accompanied by their guide dogs when flying, and we totally reject the idea that anyone must give forty-eight-hours’ notice before bringing their guide dog onboard. Whether we support or oppose a piece of legislation, regulation, or a comment made by a public official, we always stand out in the way that we conduct ourselves because we are polite, professional, persistent, and persuasive.

After a brief review of each issue we would address on Capitol Hill, Patti Chang was introduced to talk about the Dream Maker’s Circle, a program that will help continue to fund the National Federation of the Blind when those of us who now do it are no longer alive. Kevan Worley mentioned a program negotiated by President Riccobono and the Aira Corporation to provide special discounts for members of the National Federation of the Blind. The specific offer made to Federationists can be found at http://go.aira.io/nfb. In addition to special discounts for members, all state affiliate conventions and the national convention will be Aira sites, and subscribers will not use minutes when taking advantage of Aira services.

When the meeting concluded, many of us went off to find some food and then a quiet place where we could do the role-playing that would get us ready for the next three days on Capitol Hill. Nothing builds confidence in quite the same way as fielding questions, giving answers, and getting gentle direction and constructive criticism from those who’ve done it before. The thing that really cements confidence in one’s ability comes when a legislative aide or a congressman says that they get it, that they appreciate our communication, and that they are proud to join us in supporting or opposing a bill.

People who attend the Washington Seminar annually love the experience and regard it as a significant part of their year. But to gauge the impact of the seminar, it is important to talk with those who are attending for the first time.: “The Washington Seminar was more exciting than I ever dreamed it could be. I met a lot of people I’ve read about, and when I would tell them I had read their articles in the Braille Monitor it was wonderful when they would say, ‘Yes, I wrote that article.’ And then say that it was a pleasure for them to meet me as well.” Another first-timer said: “I come away feeling inspired. It is amazing to think that I really have a say in the important policies of our nation. It makes me proud to be a part of an organization that is so empowering.”

Indications are that this year will garner us a number of new cosponsors for the legislation we support and will do much to eliminate the possibility that a law to dismantle the ADA will not pass the House of Representatives or be seriously considered in the Senate. These are victories by any standard, and they are made possible because, through the National Federation of the Blind, we turn intentions into action and action into positive results.

Legislative Agenda of Blind AmericansPriorities for the 115th Congress, Second Session

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

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

Find us on social media: National Federation of the Blind | @NFB_Voice | @nfb_voice

Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act (S. 2138/H.R. 1772)

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

Technology has fundamentally changed the education system. The scope of instructional materials used at institutions of higher education has expanded. Curricular content comes in digital books, PDFs, webpages, etc., and most of this content is delivered through digital databases, learning management systems, and applications. The print world is inherently inaccessible to students with disabilities, but technology offers the opportunity to expand the circle of participation. Studies have found that, of the 6.6 million students with disabilities in grades K-12, the number who go on to pursue postsecondary education is growing.

Blind students are facing insurmountable barriers to education. Instead of fulfilling the promise of equal access, technology has created more problems than the print world ever did. Data show that students with disabilities face a variety of challenges, including matriculation and college completion failure, solely because, in the absence of clear accessibility guidelines, colleges and universities are sticking with the ad-hoc accommodations model. Currently, schools deploy inaccessible technology and then modify another version for blind students, usually weeks or even months into class, creating a “separate-but-equal” landscape with nearly impenetrable barriers. With only a 17.9 percent employment rate, compared to 65.3 percent among people without disabilities, students with disabilities should not be denied access by the innovations that can ensure full participation.

Institutions of higher education need help to identify accessible material and comply with nondiscrimination laws. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act require schools to provide equal access, and in 2010, the US Departments of Justice and Education clarified that the use of inaccessible technology is prohibited under these laws. The 2011 AIM Commission recommended to Congress that accessibility guidelines be developed for postsecondary instructional materials. In the seven years since, over a dozen institutions have faced legal action for using inaccessible technology, and complaints are on the rise. Most litigation ends with a commitment from the school to embrace accessibility, but that commitment does little in a vast, uncoordinated higher education market.

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

Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act:

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

Provides a digital accessibility roadmap for institutions of higher education. The guidelines developed by the commission will contain specific technical and functional criteria that will clearly illustrate how to make educational technologies usable by the blind and other students with print disabilities. Such criteria will prove to be beneficial to procurement officers, informational technology staff, chief technology officers, and other key personnel at institutions of higher education.

Offers flexibility for schools while reiterating that pre-existing obligations still apply. Colleges and universities are permitted to use material that does not conform to the guidelines as long as equal access laws are still honored. Conformity with the Aim High guidelines is only one path to compliance; schools can pursue a different path but in doing so will forfeit the combined expertise of the relevant stakeholder communities involved in the development of the Aim High guidelines.

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

To cosponsor S. 2138, contact:
Samuel Weinstock, legislative correspondent, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Phone: (202) 224-4543, Email: samuel_weinstock@warren.senate.gov

To cosponsor H.R. 1772, contact:
Jennifer Wise, legislative fellow, Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN)
Phone: (202) 225-6356, Email: jennifer.wise@mail.house.gov

For more information, contact:
Gabe Cazares, government affairs specialist, National Federation of the Blind
Phone: (410) 659-9314, extension 2206, Email: gcazares@nfb.org

For more information visit: www.nfb.org/aim_high

Access Technology Affordability Act (S. 732/H.R. 1734)

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

Access technology enables blind Americans to participate in today’s connected world. Although blindness is easily measurable, it affects each person differently and at different ages. Despite these differences, manufacturers have designed various tools that enable each blind American to perform tasks that they were once unable to accomplish themselves due to their disability. Braille notetakers are frequently used in schools, screen-reading software allows workers to check their email at home, and screen magnification software can help seniors losing vision learn about community activities. Access technology equips blind Americans to seek employment and stay employed. For the 58 percent of blind Americans who are not in the labor market, it is a vehicle that makes possible and increases the chances of engaging in and securing employment. However, despite this critical need, public and private entities struggle to meet consumer demand. This leads to untimely delays in the delivery of crucial technology and ultimately harms the blind consumer.

The high cost of access technology creates a difficult economic reality. According to the United States Census Bureau, 72 percent of blind Americans are either unemployed or underemployed, yet most access technology continues to range from $1,000 to $6,000. For example, a leading screen reader is $900, a popular Braille notetaker is $5,495, one model of a refreshable Braille display is $2,795, and a moderately priced Braille embosser is $3,695. Consequently, most blind Americans do not have sufficient financial resources needed to purchase these items. These financial barriers can ultimately lead to a loss of employment, insufficient education, or even isolation from community activities.

Medical insurance will not cover the cost of access technology. Current definitions of "medical care," "medical necessity," and "durable medical equipment" within common insurance policies do not include access technology. These definitions were adopted in the 1960s when medical care was viewed primarily as curative and palliative, with little or no consideration given to increasing an individual's functional status. Many states’ Medicaid programs and individual health insurance plans have adopted similar definitions and likewise will not cover the cost of access technology.

Access Technology Affordability Act:

The Access Technology Affordability Act provides a simple solution that will increase the availability of access technology so that blind Americans can procure these items for themselves. It establishes a refundable tax credit for blind Americans in the amount of $2,500 to be used over a three-year period to offset the cost of access technology.

Historically, Congress has created similar tax incentives (e.g., Disabled Access Credit) for business owners required to make accommodations, including access technology, for employees and patrons with disabilities. Even though Congress created these tax incentives to increase accessibility in the community, these incentives are underutilized. Meanwhile, blind Americans, for the most part, must depend on others to procure access technology for them.

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

REMOVE FINANCIAL BARRIERS AND INCREASE THE AVAILABILITY OF ACCESS TECHNOLOGY.

To cosponsor S. 732 in the Senate, contact:
Ryan Losak, legislative correspondent, Office of Senator John Boozman (R-AR)
Phone: (202) 224-4843, Email: ryan_losak@boozman.senate.gov

To cosponsor H.R. 1734 in the House of Representatives, contact:
Jacob Olson, legislative director, Office of Congressman David Young (R-IA)
Phone: (202) 225-5476, Email: jacob.olson@mail.house.gov

For more information, contact:
Kimie Beverly, government affairs specialist, National Federation of the Blind
Phone: (410) 659-9314, extension 2441, Email: kbeverly@nfb.org

For more information visit www.nfb.org

Oppose the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 620)

The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 would undermine the ADA by significantly eroding equal access protections and progress made over nearly three decades.

In 1990 the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed with broad bipartisan support. After years of advocacy by people with disabilities and extensive negotiations with the business community, a compromise was reached which balanced the cost to businesses of accommodating people with disabilities with the desperate need to eliminate the physical and systemic barriers that were isolating them from the rest of society and denying them educational, economic, and employment opportunities. Over twenty-seven years later, while much still needs to be done, the ADA has tremendously benefited the blind and others, with and without disabilities. The blind have more access and more ability to participate in economic and community life than we have ever had, while businesses have an expanded customer base, and many accommodations that benefit people with disabilities also benefit others. Now, H.R. 620 (and other proposed ADA “notification” or “reform” bills) threaten to bankrupt the promise of the ADA.

H.R. 620 would eliminate the right to equal access that is guaranteed by the ADA. Instead, the bill would require only that a public accommodation show “substantial progress” toward fixing an access barrier, a standard which has no clear legal definition. The introduction of this vague standard disregards the right of people with disabilities to demand an immediate remedy to an access barrier. Given that this standard is not clearly defined, a business may be able to create a quick partial remedy to an access barrier, not a real solution. For the blind, this could mean continued inaccessibility in online shopping or digital banking platforms, as well as the inability to maintain the privacy of medical information that other people have during visits to the doctor’s office, or to independently peruse the menu choices at a restaurant.

H.R. 620 would undermine the ADA by eroding the threat of litigation, and thereby eliminate a major incentive for compliance. Under the bill, a covered business need not comply with its existing obligations under the ADA at all until receiving a detailed letter from a person with a disability who experienced an access barrier. The business will then be required only to achieve “substantial progress” in remedying the barrier to avoid a lawsuit. The result will be that many businesses will never need to fully comply with the ADA, despite being notified of access barriers that have been experienced by their potential patrons.

This bill is founded on inaccuracies and misunderstandings. Proponents of H.R. 620 argue that the bill is necessary because of the existence of “drive-by lawsuits” designed to exploit Title III of the ADA. This argument has no researched data behind it and rests entirely on anecdotes and sensationalized media stories. There is also confusion as to whether the ADA permits litigants to seek monetary damages under Title III lawsuits, which it does not.

The Americans with Disabilities Act:

The ADA is already a compromise that is designed to acknowledge the concerns of the business community. It explicitly states that any remedy must be “readily achievable” if the access barrier exists in an establishment that predates passage of the bill (1990). The “readily achievable” standard considers the difficulty of the remedy as well as the expense and relationship to the structure of the establishment in question. In addition to this standard, there are provisions within Title III that require certain factors to be considered when determining obligations to undertake Title III remedies, such as the size of the business and the financial resources available to the business.

The federal government already provides extensive educational and technical assistance resources to aid businesses with their ADA compliance obligations. The following resources make Section 2 of H.R. 620 redundant:

The Department of Justice already facilitates mediation and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. When the ADA was enacted nearly thirty years ago, Congress encouraged the use of mediation as a way to resolve disputes. To that end, the Department of Justice refers ADA disputes to professional mediators specifically trained in the requirements of the ADA. This mediation is provided at no charge, making Section 5 of H.R. 620 unnecessary.

CONTINUE SUPPORTING EQUAL ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITY FOR BLIND AMERICANS WHILE ALSO AVOIDING WASTEFUL AND DUPLICATIVE PROGRAMS AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE.
Oppose H.R. 620.

For more information, contact:
Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, government affairs specialist, National Federation of the Blind
Phone: (410) 659-9314, extension 2210, Email: dhedtler-gaudette@nfb.org

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

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

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

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

The Marrakesh Treaty was adopted to achieve this goal. On June 27, 2013, a diplomatic conference convened by the World Intellectual Property Organization, (WIPO) in Morocco adopted the Marrakesh Treaty with enthusiastic support from the US delegation. The treaty, signed by the United States on October 2, 2013, currently has eighty-eight signatories, has been ratified by thirty-three countries,6 and has entered into force as of September 30, 2016.7

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

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

Distribution of accessible format copies exclusively to beneficiary persons

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

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

REMOVE BARRIERS TO ACCESS OF PUBLISHED WORKS.
Support ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty.

For more information, contact:
Gabe Cazares, government affairs specialist, National Federation of the Blind
Phone: (410) 659-9314, extension 2206, Email: gcazares@nfb.org

Footnotes:

  1. Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled, June 28, 2013 http://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/diplconf/en/
    vip_dc/ vip_dc_8_rev.pdf
    .
  2. World Health Organization, Fact Sheet, Visual impairment and blindness, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs282/en/ last modified October 2017.
  3. World Blind Union, FAQ Sheets on UN and Human Rights Instruments, Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, http://www.worldblindunion.org/English/resources/Pages/Global-Blindness-Facts.aspx last modified August 2017.
  4. LaBarre, Scott. “Literacy Without Borders: The Road to Marrakesh,” Braille Monitor, August/September 2013. “Originally I had planned on a double major in government and Spanish. Ultimately I dropped that Spanish major precisely because I could not get access to Spanish novels and other materials.” https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/bm/bm13/
    bm1308/ bm130811.htm
    .
  5. 17 U.S.C. § 121.
  6. World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO-Administered Treaties webpage http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ShowResults.jsp?treaty_id=843, Last reviewed January 2, 2018.
  7. World Intellectual Property Organization, Marrakesh Notification No. 21 Entry into Force http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/notifications/marrakesh/treaty_marrakesh_21.html, Last modified on June 30, 2016.
  8. Association of American Publishers, Statement on Completion of WIPO Treaty, Press Release, June 27, 2013. http://publishers.org/press/112/.
  9. International Publishers Association, Closing Statement by the International Publishers Association, 27 June 2013. https://www.internationalpublishers.org/component/content/
    article?id=166:publishers-welcome-wipo-marrakesh-treaty
    .
  10. American Bar Association, Resolution 100, August 11, 2014. http://www.americanbar.org/
    content/dam/aba/administrative/mental_physical_disability/
    2014_hod_annual_100%20Marrakesh.authcheckdam.pdf 
  11. National Federation of the Blind, National Federation of the Blind Joins Stevie Wonder and World Blind Union Calling Upon International Negotiators to Conclude Successful Treaty for the Blind and Print Disabled, Press Release, June 24, 2014. https://nfb.org/national-federation-blind-joins-stevie-wonder-and-world-blind-union-calling-upon-international.

A Report from the Blind Merchants Division

by Terry Smith

From the Editor: One of the most successful employment programs ever constructed for blind people was begun in 1934, has been expanded several times, and is now known as the Randolph-Sheppard Program. It provides facilities for blind people to manage, but with the increased success of the program we have seen a number of challenges from those who would like to have the opportunities blind people enjoy. One of our more active divisions is the National Association of Blind Merchants, and here is a report of its meeting at the Washington Seminar:

The National Association of Blind Merchants is one of the largest divisions of the National Federation of the Blind and was high profile at this year’s Washington Seminar. NABM President Nicky Gacos has taken the opportunity to turn the gathering into a training opportunity for blind entrepreneurs. He brought in several experts to speak to the group.

One of the most interesting presentations was by representatives from 7-Eleven, which is one of the largest convenience store chains in America. 7-Eleven is interested in exploring ways that its national brand can be used to enhance blind entrepreneurs’ operations in government buildings. Two concepts are being explored: One is what is called a micromarket or small store. These are self-service operations where customers make their selections from shelves and displays in the store and pay at a self-pay kiosk. These are becoming increasingly popular in today’s retail marketplace. The second option is an operation that is manned by the blind entrepreneur and/or his employees. The branded concept has the potential to greatly increase profits for blind entrepreneurs and President Gacos is committed to developing a partnership that works for both parties.

David Fialkov, who is with the National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO), attended and talked about efforts to commercialize the interstate rest areas. Such legislation would adversely impact blind entrepreneurs who operate vending at the interstate rest areas. President Trump supports rest area commercialization, and it is expected to be part of his much-anticipated infrastructure plan. NATSO and NABM are part of a coalition working against the initiative. Jason Eberstein with the National Automated Merchandising Association (NAMA) spoke about issues blind entrepreneurs have in common with the vending industry at large. NAMA is also a member of the coalition opposing rest area commercialization. In keeping with the DC advocacy theme, John Paré and Gabe Cazares with the NFB Office of Advocacy and Policy stopped by to talk about joint advocacy efforts underway with the Merchants Division.

Jesse Hartle, Randolph-Sheppard specialist with the Rehabilitation Services Administration, gave some statistics from the 2016 annual reports filed by the state agencies. Hartle reported that the number of blind vendors nationwide was down by sixteen to only 1,981, with one-third of those being on federal property. Average income rose to an all-time high of $63,505. The most interesting stat was that more than 50 percent of all money spent by the states on Randolph-Sheppard was for management services, most of which went toward paying agency staff.

Other speakers included Andy Freeman of Brown, Goldstein & Levy who spoke on a number of recent cases in which blind vendors were awarded damages by arbitration panels and federal courts. This is a significant development and offers hope for blind vendors who have their rights trampled on by state agencies. Catriona Macdonald with the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind spoke about a recent policy interpretation by the Rehabilitation Services Administration that now requires state agencies to get prior approval from RSA for any purchase that exceeds $5,000. This has the potential of adversely impacting blind entrepreneurs who have to operate without needed equipment while the purchase goes through the lengthy approval process. Terry Smith, who heads up the National Federation of the Blind’s Entrepreneurs Initiative, spoke about NABM’s planned DC Fly-In May 22 and the Emerging Leaders Training that will take place May 21-23. NABM is committed to a strong advocacy effort in DC.

President Gacos is also committed to developing tomorrow’s leaders; thus, the third Emerging Leaders class. Jim Chico with USI, a vending machine manufacturer, talked about new and improved vending equipment hitting the market and opportunities for blind entrepreneurs. John Murn with the RSA Management Group also spoke. His buying group gave out almost $2 million in rebates to blind entrepreneurs over the last twelve months.

It was a jam-packed agenda and represented another example of how the blind merchants are bringing quality training to blind entrepreneurs.

A Report from the National Association of Blind Students

by Kathryn Webster

From the Editor: Kathryn Webster is the president of the National Association of Blind Students and you will easily observe that some of the outstanding characteristics that got her elected are her ability to inspire, organize, and articulate the hopes and dreams of blind students. Here is what she says:

The National Association of Blind Students (NABS) commenced the 2018 Washington Seminar with vibrancy, energy, and passion. Though many students are left with no other choice but to attend academic classes, thus unable to partake in the advocacy done in-person during Washington Seminar, we had groundbreaking attendance this year! With over ninety-five students at our annual Winter Seminar, NABS was full of excitement as we kicked off another year of hard work, engagement, and most significantly, building the National Federation of the Blind. Perhaps this year was exceedingly special as we fought for equal access to education in the classroom through our efforts with AIM HIGH (H.R. 1772), something our sighted peers may take for granted, but our fellow blind students recognize as a sought-after right in higher education institutions. Still, we are fighting and we are pushing forward as we break down the misconceptions of society and bridge the gap between potential and success.

Our 2018 Winter Seminar was transformative, yet interactive, something NABS is now incorporating into our national events. Our membership spoke, and our leaders listened. No more are we tied solely to lecture-style presentations. Instead, we incorporated a legislative seminar coordinated by our NABS Legislative Advocacy Committee into our festivities. This got students out of their seats, engaging in groups, and fine-tuning their public speaking abilities. Students are the voice of our future, and there’s no better place to refine one’s leadership skills than alongside one of the proudest and most active divisions in the NFB. In addition to students practicing professionalism and self-advocacy through mock meetings, our leaders incorporated a friendly competition component, awarding the most polished mock meeting participants with prizes.

Beyond the legislative seminar during the winter NABS meeting, we heard from the executive directors from our NFB training centers, advice from a member of the national Scholarship Committee, a pep talk from our national government affairs team, and more. The highlight of our Winter Seminar was hearing from our national president, Mr. Riccobono, as he kicked off the week with encouraging and enlightening words. President Riccobono shared that students have the strongest voices in regards to AIM HIGH, so it’s up to us to get this bill passed! It cannot go without mentioning how grateful the National Association of Blind Students is for the generous support provided by President Riccobono and our national treasury, as we financially assisted over thirty-five students in attendance. Washington Seminar was the ideal spark to ignite what will be an incredible year for our national student division.

Building the National Federation of the Blind Brand Part 2: The Brand Personality

by Chris Danielsen

From the Editor: One of the people who has been very involved in helping us to evolve our brand and to make it better known is our own Chris Danielsen, a talented and energetic Federationist who works as our director of public relations at the Jernigan Institute. Here is what Chris says:

In the January issue of the Braille Monitor, my colleague Kirsten Mau talked about what it means for the National Federation of the Blind to have a brand and for all of us to live that brand in the work we do for the organization. She closed her article by talking about the elements that help us define the brand. These elements, taken together, are known as the brand architecture. We can think of them as the pillars that support the house that is our brand. As Kirsten said, the brand architecture is “the internal framework that explains the components of our brand: our values, our personality, our positioning, our value proposition, and our brand promise. It is important that each of us understands and embraces these components so that those outside the organization will know who we are, what we value, why we exist, and what we intend to achieve.”

Wait a second. Personality? Yes, you read that right.

On the face of it, the idea of a brand having a personality seems unusual. We often think of personalities as being associated with people. After all, the word “personality” contains the word “person.” But we all know from our own experience that personality isn’t limited to people. Any pet owner will tell you that her dog, cat, or parakeet has its own personality; those with multiple pets can tell them apart by their behavior.

Brands have personalities too. If you think about it, most of the brands we’re familiar with expend a great deal of effort to convince us that we should like them, not just because of what they make or sell, but because of what it supposedly represents. Insurance companies want to convince us that they are on our side and that they will help us out when we need them. State Farm had an ad campaign in which individuals singing the “like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” jingle magically summoned a knowledgeable, helpful representative. Of course, this doesn’t really happen; the filing of insurance claims takes phone calls and paperwork, no matter who you’re dealing with. But State Farm was sending the message that it would solve its customers’ problems as soon as it was called upon. Speaking of insurance companies, we don’t normally think of dealing with them as being fun. Yet GEICO, with its cute spokes-gecko and humorous ads, wants to project a whimsical, fun image.

The fact that the National Federation of the Blind has a personality makes even more sense; we are, after all, a membership organization. By definition, we are the sum of the people who are part of our movement and who work together to accomplish our goals. The way that we interact with each other, with potential members, and with the public puts the “person” in our personality. With that in mind, let’s examine the personality traits that make us who we are.

Innovative

The National Federation of the Blind isn’t a bunch of blind people complaining about our problems; we’re an organization of problem solvers. We created NFB-NEWSLINE® so that blind people can read the daily newspaper. We developed KNFB Reader so that the blind can have instant access to printed documents. We developed our BELL Academies so that blind children who are not receiving enough Braille instruction in school can get the extra Braille and nonvisual skill training they need. We created STEM programs to pioneer ways that blind students can fully and accessibly experience science, technology, engineering, and math courses. We designed our own white canes and pioneered the Structured Discovery Method of teaching cane travel and other blindness skills. When there are changes that need to be made to laws or policies, we draft proposed legislation and work with our elected representatives to get it passed into law. In these and many other ways, we innovate to make the lives of blind people better.

There’s more to innovation than our national programs, of course. In my local chapter, our president asks a chapter member to share a tip for accomplishing some task as a blind person at each of our meetings. We talk about things like cooking techniques, how to organize and/or label our clothes, and how to get around safely when there’s a lot of snow on the ground. From these discussions, I know that we as blind people are innovating in small ways every day.

Inspirational

One of our missions as an organization is to raise expectations for blind people; in other words, to inspire. Of course, the speeches we hear from our leaders are inspiring, but there’s more. Our positive philosophy, and the examples our members set for each other, make blind people and the public aware that more is possible for the blind than is generally believed. In 2001, the National Federation of the Blind sponsored an expedition in which a blind man, Erik Weihenmayer, climbed to the summit of Mount Everest. Mr. Weihenmayer, an experienced climber, had set himself this challenge. The point of our sponsoring his expedition wasn’t that every blind person could or should climb Mount Everest, but that blind people can achieve whatever dream or goal is personally important to us.

While projects like the Everest expedition are important, there are thousands of examples of blind people inspiring each other taking place throughout our organization every day. We inspire each other to pursue new careers, to try new hobbies, to start a fitness regimen, or just to go to a new restaurant in an unfamiliar part of town. This is how we lift each other individually and blind people as a group.

Inviting

So many stories of how and why people became Federationists start with an invitation. In fact, my own story starts that way. I had never thought about joining an organization of blind people, but while I was participating in a summer program at the South Carolina Commission for the Blind, one of my friends convinced me to stay in town one weekend and attend the state NFB convention. This was nearly thirty years ago, and while I don’t remember all of the speeches that were made or the issues that were discussed in great detail, I remember how people at the convention made me feel. They were welcoming. They were eager to tell their stories and to hear mine. We listened in the convention sessions and talked about what we learned. We also caroused and “carried on” late into the night. By the end of that weekend, I had learned a great deal, but I’d also made some new friends and had a good time. The same thing happened, on a larger scale, when I attended my first national convention two years later.

I hear similar stories from other Federationists all the time, and I’ll bet you do too. For some, the first invitation was to a chapter meeting, or to a social event, or just to visit another blind person who happened to be a member. People have joined our organization because of a dinner, or a drink, or a holiday party, or a conversation on a train or airplane. They join because someone invited them to do so, or at least invited them to learn more about us.

Powerful

The last of our personality traits is unique in a couple of ways: it’s the only one that doesn’t begin with the letter I, and it flows from the others. If you forget it, though, you might think about another I-word: influential.

The National Federation of the Blind is powerful in a lot of ways, but for this article I’ll just point out that a lot of our power comes from our other personality traits. Because we are innovators in the blindness field, we are increasingly respected and listened to. Because we invite people into our movement, our movement continues to grow. Because we are an innovative, inspired movement of tens of thousands of blind people, we have the power to make things happen.

So, there you have it: our brand personality. Each of us amplifies this personality by exercising its traits in our own lives and actions: by inviting friends and potential supporters to learn more about us; by innovating in our own small ways to lessen the inconvenience of blindness; and by inspiring our blind brothers and sisters to believe in themselves and to achieve more than they thought possible. Keeping these traits in mind, and displaying them for others, is one of the many ways in which we can “live” our brand.

The Dentist and the Eye Doctor

by Jim Marks

From the Editor: Jim Marks is known to many Federationists for his work in the Montana affiliate, having served for several terms on its board of directors and as the affiliate's vice president. For a number of years he was a wise voice on the National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Committee. For his paid work, Jim served as the director of disability services for students at the University of Montana flagship campus in Missoula and has long been an advocate for helping young people become independent. He has been the treasurer of the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) and has been the chairman of the organization's special interest group on blindness and visual impairments.

In this article Jim discusses two trips: one to his eye doctor and the other to his dentist. It turns out that his blood pressure was higher when visiting the former than the latter, and many who have gone blind under the care of a doctor will have a clue as to why. Few blind people harbor long-term anger at their doctor because the medical community could not preserve their sight, but many are angry because that community had nothing to offer but the door when blindness was assured. Here is what Jim has to say:

They say the blood pressure cuff reveals a lot more than the numbers. Sure proved true for me. In the last few weeks, I’ve visited both the eye doctor and a dentist. Both took my blood pressure. At the eye doctor’s, my numbers were very high. At the dentist’s, my numbers were very good. You wouldn’t expect this because there is little to fear at the eye doc’s, while the dentist often includes some uncomfortable procedures.

So, here’s the deal. The last time I visited the eye doctor was in 1985. I am blind, and the eye doctor could provide no treatment that would improve my vision. My experiences with vision treatment were pretty good except that the medical world knows nothing about how to function with blindness and does nothing to educate itself or its patients. Sometimes, eye doctors provide low vision aids, but these still focus on vision, not blindness. When the treatments to preserve or improve vision fall short, the eye doc has no rabbits to pull from the medical hat. When I first became aware I was losing my vision due to an eye disease, I remember placing a huge amount of faith in the abilities of the medical world to keep me from going blind. At the time I internalized all the negative prejudices and stereotypes about blindness. For me it was all about the cure… at least hope for the cure. When my eye doc booted me to the curb, that quest for the cure evaporated.

I turned to the alternative techniques of the blind and positive attitudes about blindness in order to live the life I want. That approach was cemented deeply in my being, and the medical world insofar as vision goes faded into my past. That is, it did until I recently needed to verify my blindness as part of my application for Social Security Disability Insurance. My blindness documentation dated back to 1982 when my eye doc declared me legally blind and referred me to blindness vocational rehabilitation services. My blood pressure numbers at the eye doc’s revealed that I harbor a great deal of emotion about the puny overlap between medical vision treatments and blindness.

For example, a technician at the eye doc’s administered a field test. I cannot see any of the flashing lights, so I sat through two cycles of the test just waiting for the conclusion. Frankly, it pissed me off. My anger came from those long dormant emotions and was not directed at the staff. All were very kind and professional. But I am blind, and the way I define my life really has very little to do with the medical world. So, my blood pressure told the story, and I am still marveling at just how difficult a simple visit to the eye doc was for me. I was my usual cheerful self on the outside, but I was boiling on the inside.

Now that the moment is behind me, I can reflect on it and understand better who I am and where I am going. I won’t be going back to the eye doc anytime soon. Some blind people must do this to prevent abnormal eye pressures and other health issues. I have cataracts on top of the retinitis pigmentosa that causes my blindness, but I will not get them removed unless a health issue crops up. Right now, I have light perception, but I am so good at being blind that I own it, control it, and direct it. Being able to see has very little to do with most of life’s important endeavors. I choose to be so positive that I forget I am blind. Anyhow, thanks for reading through this wandering reflection.

Well Digger’s Wisdom

by Ryan Strunk

From the Editor: Ryan Strunk is the newly-elected president of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. He is bright, energetic, and insightful. He is also painfully honest, especially when it comes to self-reflection. What follows is a speech he gave to the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota before he was elected:

I attended my first NFB convention in 1990, my second in 1991. And I was really proud of this fact. Never mind that my third was in 2001. It was a real badge of honor for me.

So in 2002, when I was introducing myself at the secret scholarship meeting, I took that badge and pinned it right up on my chest to score points with the committee. “I’ve been a member of the Federation for a long time,” I told that committee—and just as important—my fellow scholarship winners. “I drank Federation juice and ate Federation crunch for breakfast.” I look back on that now, and I hate how arrogant and hollow and, well, silly that sounded.

Because first, let’s be real. It’s not a good joke. And Federation Crunch would not be a good cereal. I mean, I could handle the white cane marshmallows, and I could even eat Whozit, but I draw the line at biting into a guide dog corn puff.

Second, though, and way more important, who did I think I was? I was born in 1983. Do the math. In 1990, while Dr. Jernigan was delivering “The Federation at Fifty,” I was in child care. In 1991, while Dr. Maurer was “Reflecting the Flame,” I was eating crab corn chowder at the chocoholic bar at the top of the Hyatt Regency.

I was listening to an interview with Cory Booker recently. You might have heard of him. He’s a senator from New Jersey. And in it he talked about how he grew up a solidly middle-class black kid in the 1960s. He said he had all these privileges that others at the time didn’t, and it kind of went to his head. So he’s walking around one day all puffed up, and his dad said something to him that struck a chord with me—this Chinese proverb that’s been rattling around in my head ever since I heard it. He said to Cory, “Son, never forget. You are drinking from a well your ancestors dug.”

My parents figured out I was blind when I was six months old, and since they didn’t really have any idea of what to do, they threw themselves on the mercy of Kim Bosshart, this pretty new teacher of blind students with some pretty revolutionary ideas about how to teach blind kids: things like put a cane in their hand when they’re old enough to walk, teach them slate and stylus before the Braille writer, teach them Braille even if they have some residual vision.

Incidentally, at the same time, the eye doctor I had as a kid was telling my parents I could read two-inch tall print … with a magnifying glass. Kim, thankfully, knew better.

She had me baking cookies at six years old, walking around the block under sleepshades at seven, finding random addresses by knocking on complete strangers’ doors and asking for directions at eight. By junior high I was ordering my own books and introducing myself to my teachers as “blind.” By the way, it was Kim who made me say “blind,” even though I wanted to use “visually impaired.”

We gave Kim Bosshart, now Kim Adams, the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award in 1989, and for good reason. She was, and still is, an amazing person.

And I never really got that back then. I took for granted how hard she worked, how all those evenings and weekends that I complained about having to give up were evenings and weekends she voluntarily gave up. I figured that my success was because of my hard work and my amazing brain. But they wouldn’t have meant a thing without someone to push me to work and to fill up that brain with radical new ideas.

You are drinking from a well your ancestors dug.

Summers, when Kim wasn’t around, I went to lots of summer camps. There was SKIP, the Summer Kids Independence Program; there was PI, Project Independence; and when I got older, there was Winner Fest, which was a perfect time to hang out with girlfriends—I mean do awesome seminars on blindness. All these programs were put on by the Nebraska Commission for the Blind, but a whole bunch of the staff there were NFB members, blind role models who reinforced all those same ideas I was learning from Kim.

When we took a walk down the gravel lane at 5:00 in the morning to experience the sunrise in the middle of the forest, it was blind people who led the way. When we made foil pack dinners around the campfire, blind people built and tended that campfire. When I got caught sneaking out to spend time with my girlfriend, it was—no that didn’t happen. No really. It didn’t.

Anyway.

I imagine Amy Buresh can tell you some stories. But that’s the point. Right? She was there, along with so many others, sharing her time and her experience with me to shape me into a more confident, independent blind person. Thanks, Amy, and please give my love to Shane, too.

You are drinking from a well your ancestors dug.

Mom. Of course mom did her part too. She was an active member of the Nebraska Parents of Blind Children and the Lioness Club. She helped put on golf tournaments and craft shows to raise money so that Nebraska blind kids could have scholarships and get good technology. She drove me to those summer camps, to the white cane banquets, and she held me accountable to those same high standards that Kim and my blind role models had for me.

And in 2002, when I won that scholarship, she called me in my room at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville to tell me that she was downstairs in the lobby, that she had come all the way to Kentucky because she was proud of me and she wanted to support me.

You are drinking from a well your ancestors dug.

There comes a point, and it’s one of my favorite things about our organization, that someone comes up to you and hands you a shovel, and they suggest that maybe you’d like to dig for a little while. For me, that first opportunity came from Carlos Serván, he was the Nebraska affiliate president at the time, and he suggested that I should run for president of the Nebraska Association of Blind Students, even though I had no leadership experience.

And then it was Jason Ewell, calling me in 2002 to invite me to take part in NFB Corps, where they dropped me in the middle of Seattle and Knoxville and Burlington and Pensacola to build new chapters of the NFB. It was Angela Wolf, inviting me in 2003 to serve as treasurer of the National Association of Blind Students, and then calling me again in 2005 to tell me I should run for president. It was Fred Schroeder in 2006, suggesting that he could get me a sweet gig teaching Braille. All I had to do was pick up everything I owned and move to Hawaii. No big deal, right? And all that time I was learning and growing, starting to find my feet, those leaders were right there. Encouraging me and offering me their wisdom.

You are drinking from a well your ancestors dug.

I learned something, in NFB Corps, in NABS, in Hawaii and Texas and Minnesota. I learned just how incredibly lucky I had been. Because I met people who didn’t have the same opportunities I had.

There was the forty-three-year-old woman in Hawaii who still lived at home with her parents because they didn’t believe she could ever live on her own. She worked hard and she learned Braille, and after she graduated, she worked in a sheltered shop.

There was the senior support group in Florida, some twenty-odd people who sat in a conference room every month and listened to magazine articles on tape telling them that a cure was just around the corner. When Rachel Olivero and I went to one of their meetings, we had the privilege of hearing their president dole out this sage advice: “Men, let me tell you. When you go over to somebody else’s house, and you have to pee, sit down!” And being green and wet behind the ears and drunk on independence, I actually argued with the guy.

There was the dad who lost his sight a year ago and wondered if he could ever provide for his family again. There was the guy who went blind when he was hit by a drunk driver who just wanted a job, the kid who graduated valedictorian and never learned to tie his shoes or sign his name, the college student full of promise who was too afraid to walk to class—you know these stories! Maybe you even are one. And if you are, God am I glad you’re here.

Stephen Jay Gould once wrote, “I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.”

I don’t want to lose any more Einsteins. I don’t want to lose any more tenBroeks or Jernigans or Maurers or Riccobonos or Scanlans or Dunnams or Jacobsens or Sanders or Baileys or Wenzels or Aunes or Heberts or anyone else in this room because we weren’t there.

So here I am, and here is my promise to you. When you need my time or my energy, you will have it. When you need my nights and my weekends, I will give them and gladly, and if we ever have to fight because someone wants to hold us back, bring it on.

I have drunk from the well my ancestors dug, and I will never forget that. I stand here with you now, shoulder to shoulder, digging the well that blind children and blind seniors and all those who come after us will drink from. My brothers, my sisters, let’s work together to create a better tomorrow. Let’s go build the National Federation of the Blind.

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.

Bequests
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, and complete the Pre-Authorized Contribution form, and return it to the address listed on the form.

The 2017 National Convention from Afar

by Adrijana Prokopenko

From the Editor: The National Convention of the Federation is the largest annual gathering of blind people in the world, and participating in it is a major highlight for Federationists and others as we come together to discuss issues and shape the policy for the organization. Fortunately we broadcast much of our convention, and people from around the world join us in spirit. Adrijana Prokopenko is a teacher in Macedonia. English is not her native language, but she does a wonderful job of communicating her excitement and her suggestions for how she thinks things should be. Like her Federation brothers and sisters in the United States, she clearly has her own opinions and is anxious to express them. Here, with slight editing, are parts of the diary she kept describing her participation in our 2017 National Convention:

NFB Diary

July 10

Excitement is in the air for many people going to convention and lots more that can’t go including me. Looking forward to finding out what is in store. Making a list to make sure I have everything at hand while convention is streaming so that I don’t have to go out of the room looking for things: water, ice coffee, snacks, mouthwash, cups, spoon, tissues and wet wipes on the shelf, Brailler and Braille paper for taking notes next to me, the phone near the computer on silent mode, doors closed to prevent outside noise, Skype and Facebook opened for immediate communication with members who are there on the spot.

July 11

Some great presentations regarding technology equipment like OrCam and Braille devices that have been improved over the years. The thought of being able to access information as do the sighted with not much hassle is great enough; just hope the price is right for everyone; otherwise, some people may miss out on it again.

July 12

Job fair seems to have brought some cool things, as someone recommended my Facebook group to people from employment divisions, like Lighthouse and different companies. I was even chatting live to someone like that getting contact info of one of them to be able to email her with more!

July 13

Also lots of work today; trying to hunt down exactly the names of companies that are out there so people can meet them live and get their job ads and include them into my job group. Also following the progress of convention from the stream and members who are already there posting on the groups and to me privately. Lesson number one: Learning starts way back from the past in the NFB history, and going deeper into this allows me to understand the organization's philosophy and ideas better. Then there is lesson number two: Real communication and connections with people can always help, no matter if the information comes from an email list, a magazine, or a conversation with an actual person. This would make the learning complete!

Everyone seems to be enjoying convention, including Ciera, the fearful high school girl who thought that the NFB wasn’t for her. NFB-related messages spread on the groups big time! It is great they are opening the stream thirty minutes early so we can feel the atmosphere and hear some informal chat there! As Oriana enjoys exploring her dad’s watch and feeling overjoyed that she will have to announce the National Federation of the Blind name to mark the start of the meeting, I could see how kids could grow into the Federation and have fond memories of it. Practice from the performing arts division in front of the veterans and more recognition for their work from others and probably way more that happened during other events that aren’t streamed. And me being the student that I am, I keep learning the NFB lessons as before, so lesson number three goes: stick to being a Federationist in the true sense of the word, no matter how close or far you live. And lesson number four goes: the NFB site always has surprises, so keep checking and scrolling to find them.

Even though advertisements about the Nation’s Blind podcast didn’t appear anywhere before, I could find it from the audio link and start listening to it to keep up with what is going on! Dick Davis had an interview on 1520wbzw, so I had to spread the info far and wide beforehand so people could listen in. Seems like the KNFB Reader is also expanding its features to become even more accurate, and the brother of Victor Stream was just born to help those who want to get it with mobility at the same time. Feels very rewarding to be able to do all this work even from afar!

July 14

Already getting replies from companies that they are joining my group and supporting the idea, praying this would bring some cool things for many. Lots of money talk at convention today, which made me feel inadequate for not being able to provide any, but promising I will fix this next year. If nothing else, I can send a door prize and surprise someone! As board members got reelected and kept sharing their enthusiasm, others shared experiences of growing up with blindness and lack of opportunities and how they became the way they are to help others, which shows that if you really want to do something, you can probably find a way to do it! Hopefully all of this talk about discrimination will lead to less of it as we fight to show we will stand up for ourselves and people come to understand that we can do the things they do—especially being parents, students, and workers.

So many wrong email addresses people gave at convention: glad I wrote to them first to test before I spread the info out about the NFB-NEWSLINE Echo testing, radio station interview, and job-related email address information. So lesson number five may be: When people get excited, some addresses can go wrong! Smile. Also glad that I subscribed to the press release email list and presidential reports link; wish someone had told me about these things way back when I became a member! Don’t think any of this was mentioned in the new member packet, and I think it would be useful for any new member and anyone else who is truly interested in helping the NFB.

July 15

An exciting day today—don’t want to miss the banquet or anything else by falling asleep, so dividing my sleep hours so I can stay up and listen. What a great thing to hear that companies and organizations can work together to achieve things, even if change is slower than we want and things take time. Was impressed: no one said no at convention so far to the president’s words, which made me gain whole new respect for conventions like this one because of this. If it was a roundtable in Macedonia, the discussions would have probably gone nowhere, and everyone would have blamed the other for all our problems.

Prizes and awards going to deserving professionals once more, which will probably bring many great things for them and the rest they are connected to, to keep achieving greater things together and stay together in the fight! What can be better than that?

As the banquet gets going and prizes get drawn, finding out who gets recognized for drawing in the largest number of people and raising the most money, people cheering for certain individuals in their own state, loud enough to hear even with the sound trouble! As Dr. Maurer gives little NFB facts and stories from the past and lets people get ready for the main thing, excitement builds about what is to follow. As singers start introducing each other and invite everyone to join in, I can’t help but sing with them and pull the headset out of the computer for the whole house to hear, not minding that it is 1 AM where I am! As songs go in a faster mood, people get to clap and dance around in their limited space in the crowd. As the video for the students’ scholarship and sponsors starts, we have a chance to learn more about everyone who is involved in the deal, hoping that they will continue to support the organization as greatly in the future. As students recite their little songs especially created for the occasion and prizes get drawn, I can’t help but suggest that it may serve a great purpose if some of the money prizes are given in products and not money, because this would benefit both the organization selling them and the people who receive and need the products.

With the banquet address starting and the room getting quieter, the serious business starts that will hopefully give us the great address for a greater tomorrow. As science and technology advance and take a great part in blind peoples’ lives if they are able to afford it, our power to change things for a better tomorrow for us and our children is even greater than ever if we possess all the skills and knowledge to be able to do this nonvisually. As we stick together and share what we have and can do, it is the only way that will bring us and many others forward.

As this year’s scholarship students come to shake hands with the former and current president and the owner of Kurzweil and are further greeted by all, let's hope that they will be the ones who will be the great movers and shakers of the organization in the future.

A Twisted Tail Dog

by Toni and Ed Eames

From the Editor: Toni and Ed are well-known to members of the National Federation of the Blind for their significant activism on behalf of the rights of guide dog users. Ed died in 2009, and Toni continues her strong activism on behalf of guide dog users everywhere. Recently she sent us a note about the proper term for referring to the wonderful dogs that help us move freely in the world. As a former guide dog user myself, I have generously contributed to the problem that Toni addresses, but from now on I will be on the straight and narrow. Here is the article she sends from her and Ed:

When The Seeing Eye was founded in 1929, trained dogs partnered with blind people were referred to as guide dogs. Ten years later, when Leader Dogs for the Blind was founded, guide dog was still used as the generic term. When in 1942 Guide Dogs for the Blind was established, Leader and Seeing Eye were concerned the generic term guide dog would be mistakenly associated with this California-based school. Thus, the birth of the use of the twisted term dog guide. In the intervening years, eleven more training programs have been established, with six using the term guide dog in their registered titles. Both major consumer groups, Guide Dog Users Incorporated and the National Association of Guide Dog Users, have opted for the use of guide dog. Even so, the term dog guide persists in some segments of the industry.

In interacting with other disabled people, it stands out like a sore thumb to hear about hearing dogs, service dogs, and then dog guides. If we don't put checks on this archaic usage, we could end up with the following:

Once upon a time, a small dog lap came to live with the family Brown. The Browns could not decide if he should be a dog house or a dog yard. While mom and dad went to their office law and sister and brother were at care child, the puppy entertained himself by chewing on the leg chair and shoes leather. An even greater violation of etiquette dog was his chasing the cat Siamese and getting into the litter kitty.

After many transgressions canine, mom and dad came home one day and threatened to convert their mischievous dog lap from a dog house to a dog yard unless he mended his ways.

One day a neighbor visited the Browns with her Retriever Labrador dog guide. This coach canine became the puppy's mentor. Following the advice of this mannered-well dog guide, the small dog lap lived happily after ever as a dog house.

The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund

by Allen Harris

From the Editor: Allen Harris is the chairman of the Kenneth Jernigan Fund Committee and was one of the people who came up with the idea of honoring our former President and longtime leader by establishing a program to promote attendance at the national convention, where so much inspiration and learning occur. Here is Allen’s announcement about the 2018 Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund Program:

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

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

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

Who is eligible?

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

How do I apply for funding assistance?

Your letter to Chairperson Allen Harris must cover these points:

The body of your letter should answer these questions:

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

When will I be notified that I am a winner?

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

How will I receive my convention scholarship?

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

What if I have more questions? For additional information email the chairman, Allen Harris, at kjscholarships@nfb.org or call his Baltimore, Maryland, office at (410) 659-9314, extension 2415.

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

Definitely the Cat's Meow

by Lauren Merryfield

From the Editor: It is frustrating to realize that the sighted public has real reservations about the ability of blind people to parent, but it is also interesting to see that they have questions about how we take care of our pets. Lauren Merryfield has no reservations about getting down and dirty when it comes to talking about the care of her pets. It is obvious that she is a cat lover, and it is also obvious that there is truth in the saying that “Dogs treat you like royalty; cats treat you like staff.” Here’s what Lauren has to say:

I received my first kitten, a yellow-and-white kitty I named Fuzzy, when I was around seven years of age. Back then, our cats were mostly outdoor, so they came and went through the years, some of them not lasting all that long. Eventually, a select few would find their way into our home and be allowed there.

After my first husband and I moved to our home, we received a kitty as a housewarming gift. We had her for fourteen years. She eventually went blind and needed insulin due to diabetes. No one commented all that much back then about how I managed with cats, because there was almost always someone around. But now that I am widowed and living alone, the questions come:

"How do you know where your cats are?" Most of the time, if they're quiet and/or sleeping, I might not know where they are, but this does not bother me. Cats do not always want their humans to know where they are. When they want attention or food, they'll show up.

"How do you get them in their carriers when you take them to the vet?" I know my cats so I can often guess where they are. I pick them up, and as they squiggle, I put them into the carrier. No, you do not have to see to get your cat into its carrier. They may protest, but how does a sighted person put their cat into the carrier when it is protesting?

"How do you know when your cat is sick?" If the urine has a pungent odor, I know one has a urinary tract infection. If they leave evidence of an upset tummy, I know. If they are too warm, I know. When my Maryah was panting due to difficulty breathing with fluid in her lungs, I knew. If Toby isn't pestering me and is not sleeping, but hiding, then I know. Cats hide when they are ill so that is the number one means I have of knowing when they are ill and need help.

I discover when they do not need help also. When I took Laynie in to be spayed, resulting in an overnight stay, I put a soft kitty bed on the floor where she could get to it easily. I even put a few treats there so she could find them easily. After showing obvious happiness in being back home after her overnight stay, I suddenly observed her climbing the patio screen. As she was hanging there playfully, I realized that she would be dictating how much pampering she would or would not receive from me.

"What do you do if your cat has a fur ball?" Almost always, my cats through the years have made it a practice to let their fur balls fly in my pathway so that I will find them. I just clean them up. I usually go barefoot at home so that I have a better chance of finding something on the floor that needs attention.

"How do you keep from tripping and falling on your cats' toys?" I walk gingerly. I probably shuffle some of the time. Going barefoot once again comes to my benefit in locating cat toys on the floor. When they are playing with them, I can hear where the cat and the toy are.

"What if another cat comes in from the outside?" Yes, that has happened. One day my kitty at the time started growling and hissing. I couldn't figure out what was going on at first until I heard similar sounds coming from under the dining room table. A neighbor's cat had climbed up to our balcony and when I opened the door, he/she sneaked in. Sneaking did not last long.

"How do you clean the cat box?" This may seem gross, but not only do I use a pooper scooper, but also, I often use my hands covered with a glove or a sandwich-sized bag to make sure the cat box is clean. This is not any worse than changing a baby's diaper.

The question I am asked most often is: "How can you tell your cats apart?" This is an easy one for me. I am sometimes surprised that someone would even ask. I know them by their tails, by their body shape, by their meows, by the bell on their collar if they are wearing one, which toy(s) they are playing with, because they have favorites, and by what they are doing. If I hear one slamming the kitchen cupboard doors under the sink, I know it's Toby. When something was knocked down, it was Maryah. When a cat sneaked out and was gone for two or three days, it was Maryah.

I remember the times when I would leave a Braille note on the table and later find it on the floor, with "kitty Braille" added to it, and I knew it was Kitten Kabootle, our Himalayan.

When one meowed in such a way that it went up at the end like a question, I knew it was Laynie. When I could hear a cat meowing frantically from the window when I'd come home, I knew it was Jaspur. I similarly knew it was him when he got out one Halloween night and he was a totally black cat—not a good combination, Halloween and black cats. One meowing in a high-pitched tone, getting louder if I do not respond immediately is Toby. He is so gifted with his meows that I sometimes find myself responding to scolding or whining. He is the only cat I've ever had who does this. If I hear unwanted chewing, it is Toby. If I hear excessive scratching in the wrong place, it is Laynie. One who often spoke in two meows, "meow meow," was Melissa. When I hear a crash from the trash can being tipped over it is Toby.

Some people, including some blind people, would say that a blind person cannot be owned by a cat, however, I totally disagree. Cats always figure out that I cannot see, however, they do not go into fear-mongering as some humans do; they just work around it. Two of my cats would stand with a small object I dropped, holding it between their front paws until I located the cat, and then the item. They know that I touch the seat of my chair before I sit down to prevent having a flat cat. They trust me to take care of them, and how much I can or cannot see is not part of the equation. They show the same unconditional love toward me whether I can see or not.

At times, when I am asked questions that are born of doubt, I feel like it is definitely not the cat's meow. However I also realize that these are opportunities to stop and educate someone. For them to go uneducated about what a blind person can do would definitely not be the cat's meow. But when they discover how I live the life I want with my cats, then it is—yes—the cat's meow!

Eligible Sprint Customers Can Get a KNFB Reader Enterprise License Free!

Sprint customers who purchase a new line of service or eligible upgrade through Sprint Accessibility will receive a free license to download KNFB reader Enterprise on up to two mobile devices.

If you are a new or upgrading Sprint customer, you may be able to get the power to convert printed documents into speech or Braille instantly and accurately at no extra cost! All you need to do is:

  1. Visit sprint.com/vision or a Sprint store to purchase a new line of service or eligible upgrade.
  2. Call (855) 885-7568 and ask a Sprint representative for KNFB Reader Enterprise.
  3. Sprint will provide you with the information you need to create a username and password that will activate your new KNFB Reader Enterprise license.
  4. Download the KNFB Reader Enterprise app from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, or Windows 10 Store.
  5. When you launch the app, enter the username and password from step 3 above, and you’re all set!

Please be sure to download the KNFB Reader Enterprise app, not KNFB Reader for $99.99. The KNFB Reader Enterprise app is listed free in the app stores and can be activated with your free KNFB Reader Enterprise License from Sprint. KNFB Reader Enterprise allows users to enjoy the power of KNFB Reader on multiple devices. Make sure that KNFB Reader Enterprise is the app that you download onto your devices to take advantage of this offer. KNFB Reader Enterprise works on Apple, Android, Windows 10 devices, and Windows 10 laptops and PCs.

You’ll be able to use KNFB Reader on up to two devices with the KNFB Reader Enterprise license that Sprint provides. Just download KNFB Reader Enterprise on both devices and use the same username and password. For example, you can download KNFB Reader Enterprise onto your Sprint phone, and also to your Windows 10 laptop. Or onto both your Android phone and Android tablet.

To learn more about what KNFB Reader Enterprise can do, visit www.knfbreader.com.

Happy reading from the National Federation of the Blind and Sprint!

Recipes

The At-Large Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa is celebrating its fifth birthday this year. One of the things we've done to raise money for our chapter is compile a cookbook of some of our favorite recipes. Here is a sampling of recipes from Food at Your Fingertips. If these recipes whet your appetite, we still have a few Braille cookbooks available for ten dollars per copy. For more info, contact April Enderton, alenderton@gmail.com.

Blueberry Coffee Cake
by Nancy Finnestad

Nancy lives in northwest Iowa. She works as a web accessibility auditor. She likes to read and hike with her husband and little dog.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons butter

Method: Cream butter, cream cheese, and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, milk, flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and berries. Mix and spread in a nine-by-thirteen-inch pan. Mix topping and sprinkle on coffee cake. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty to thirty-five minutes. Serves eighteen.

Hot Fudge Pie
by Loren Wakefield

Loren has been active in the Federation for over twenty-five years. He serves on our chapter board. Loren and his wife Teresa are homeschooling their grandchildren. Here is what Loren says about this recipe, “If you love chocolate, this is for you. It is so gooey and delicious.”

Ingredients:
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add cocoa powder, salt, and flour. Stir until well combined. Grease eight-inch pie pan with butter or cooking spray. Pour mixture into pie pan. Bake thirty to thirty-five minutes or until center is set.

Pin Wheels
by April Lynn Enderton

April is the president of the At-Large Chapter. She owns and operates Beulah Reimer Legacy, (BRL) and works at United Way. She enjoys reading, writing, camping, playing Scrabble, and listening to music.

Ingredients:
1 package large flour tortilla shells
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1 can green chilies, drained
4 slices ham or turkey lunch meat

Method: Soften cream cheese in microwave. Dice lunch meat. Pour green chilies and diced meat into cream cheese. Mix and spread thin layer over tortilla shells. Roll and place in fridge until firm. Slice into one-inch pieces.

Variation: Mix one envelope ranch dressing mix into cream cheese. You can use black olives or thinly-chopped green onions instead of chilies.

Salmon Loaf
by April Lynn Enderton

Ingredients:
1 16-ounce can salmon
1/2 cup milk
3 cups soft bread crumbs (I use 1 sleeve Club crackers)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
3 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons finely chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Method: Drain salmon, saving the liquid, flake the fish. Heat milk. Add bread crumbs (crackers) and butter, let stand five minutes. Add salmon liquid; beat until smooth. Add eggs, green pepper, onion, pepper, and salmon; mix well. Pour into well-greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for forty to fifty minutes, until firm in center. Remove from oven, let stand five minutes. Loosen from sides of pan with spatula, invert onto serving platter. Makes six servings.

Scotcheroos
by Scott Van Gorp

Scott is the secretary-treasurer of the At-Large Chapter, the secretary of the state affiliate, vice president of the Des Moines Chapter, and treasurer of the Amateur Radio Division of the National Federation of the Blind. He enjoys reading, amateur radio, music, technology, and spending time with friends and family. “The scotcheroos have been a favorite in my family for as long as I can remember,” Scott says. “I got the recipe from my mother, and it quickly became one of the special things my late wife, Heidi, and I enjoyed making together. It’s been a great joy to share these with people over the years, and now I’m proud to share this recipe with my Federation family.”

Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1 cup white syrup
1 cup peanut butter
6 cups rice krispies cereal
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips

Method: Spray a nine-by-thirteen-inch pan with Pam. Place sugar, white syrup, and peanut butter in a glass bowl. Microwave 3-1/2 minutes, stirring after each minute. Add rice krispies. Spread in bottom of pan. Put chocolate and butterscotch chips in a bowl. Microwave 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Stir after a minute. Spread over top of rice krispies. Let set until firm.

Taco Pie
by Pam Quinn

Pam enjoys reading, traveling, and anything technology-related.

Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
1 16-ounce can refried beans
1 16-ounce jar salsa
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 bag corn chips

Method: Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In skillet, brown beef; drain. Add beans and salsa; mix well. Spoon half of mixture into baking dish. Place thin layer of corn chips over mixture. Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese. Repeat layers. Bake fifteen to twenty minutes.

Turkey Rice Casserole
by Tom Davis

Tom serves on our chapter board. He enjoys reading, playing on his computer, listening to his Victor Reader Stream, hunting, and grilling.

Ingredients:
2 cups instant rice
Any amount of leftover turkey you wish
1 onion, chopped
Whatever cheese you’d like to use and any amount you’d like
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can green beans, not drained
Salt and pepper to taste

Method: Mix well until rice is no longer dry. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour and fifteen minutes.

Zucchini Snack
by Dolores Reisinger

For many years Dolores taught blind clients as a rehabilitation teacher for the Iowa Commission for the Blind during the years Dr. Kenneth Jernigan was its director. She lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she is active in her church and organizes lots of Meet the Blind events in her community.

Ingredients:
4 eggs, well beaten
1 cup Bisquick
2-1/3 cups parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 stick margarine, melted
3 cups thinly sliced zucchini

Method: Mix all ingredients together and pour in a well-greased nine-by-thirteen-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes. Let cool and cut into squares.

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

Anil Lewis Recognized:
I am truly humbled and honored that the Baltimore Teachers Union, Civil, Human, and Women's Rights Committee has chosen me to be the recipient of the Barbara Van Blake Civil and Human Rights Award. My work with the National Federation of the Blind has afforded me the opportunity to actively engage in the educational, civic, social, and human rights arenas, working to create opportunities for blind people to live, work, and play as fully participating members of our communities.

The Baltimore Teachers Union, Civil, Human, and Women's Rights Committee will pay tribute to the legacy of Dr. King at its fourteenth Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast. The breakfast will be held Saturday, February 3, 2018, at the Forum Caterers, 4210 Primrose Avenue at 8:30 AM. The theme for this year's breakfast is “The Dream is Still Possible."

I share this recognition with the 50,000 members of the National Federation of the Blind.

Gain work experience, challenge yourself, and build relationships that will last a lifetime:
The Colorado Center for the Blind is now accepting applications from positive blind role models to be residential counselors and classroom instructors in our 2018 summer programs. We offer three programs for students: Summer for Success College Prep Program, Earn and Learn High School Program, and the Initiation to Independence Middle School Program.

Staff must be available May 29 through August 10, 2018. Applicants must be good role models, competent in the skills of blindness, well-rounded, flexible, must possess excellent communication skills, and be willing to lead by example. Must be excited to work with blind students ages eleven through twenty. 

Challenge recreation is an exciting component of the job. Staff will go rock climbing, hiking, canoeing, whitewater rafting, attend martial arts classes, and much more. All staff and students will attend the week-long national convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando, Florida.

To learn more about our summer programs, please click the following link https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-cl=84503534&v=6yBomtj12KU&x-yt-ts=1421914688 &feature=player_embedded#t=0

If interested, please contact Martin Becerra-Miranda at (303) 778-1130 extension 223 or via email at mbecerra@cocenter.org

David Andrews Receives Minnesota's 2018 MLK Commitment to Service Award:
David Andrews, chief technology officer at State Services for the Blind, is a recipient of Minnesota’s 2018 MLK Commitment to Service award. Andrews was recognized for his contribution to diversity and inclusion through his advocacy for assistive technology, accessible web design, and access to information.

Among his many other accomplishments, Andrews was a part of a working group whose efforts contributed to the adoption of accessibility standards as passed by the Minnesota legislature in 2009. Dave has been on staff at SSB for twenty-three years, and has worked in the field of accessibility for nearly four decades.

"This award not only honors Dave’s dedication and tireless advocacy," said SSB Director, Carol Pankow, "but it also reflects the importance of accessibility and access to information in building a strong and diverse Minnesota. Along with the rest of the staff here at SSB, I congratulate Dave on this important award." James Burroughs, chief inclusion officer for the Governor’s Office, presented Andrews with the award at the Ordway Center in St. Paul at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration on Monday, January 15, 2018.

NFB BELL Academy Adds New Skills to Curriculum:
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy helps blind and low-vision children ages four through twelve develop the literacy skills that will empower them to be successful in their academic and life goals. This year, with the assistance of our Wells Fargo partners, we will be focusing on the development of financial literacy skills as well. In addition to Braille instruction, the program provides instruction in other nonvisual blindness skills through fun, hands-on learning in a day program or residential setting. In addition to Braille crafts, games, and other engaging projects, children learn vital independent living skills, interact with blind adults who serve as mentors, and enjoy field trips to sites related to the NFB BELL Academy curriculum. Through these activities and interactions, the children learn that by “Banking on Blindness Skills,” they can live the lives they want. To learn more about NFB BELL Academy and to apply please visit https://nfb.org/bell-academy.

National Association of Blind Merchants Day on The Hill:
The National Association of Blind Merchants (NABM) and the National Federation of the Blind Entrepreneurs Initiative (NFBEI) will be holding a Day on The Hill on May 20-21, 2018. Please make arrangements to join us in Washington, DC, so we can let our voices be heard and collectively protect the priority.

A bill has been introduced that will allow commercialization of interstate rest areas and the President is promoting an infrastructure plan that has been leaked, and we know for certain it includes the option for states to commercialize their rest areas through public-private partnerships. If this becomes the law of the land, almost 400 blind entrepreneurs who operate vending at these rest areas could be displaced almost instantly. Add to that the fact that several programs that rely on funding from third party vendors would face financial ruin. We have to continue our fight to prevent DOD from promulgating the proposed troop dining rules and educate the Armed Services Committee in an effort to thwart any attempt by AbilityOne to get language added to the National Defense Authorization Act this year that would further weaken our priority for troop dining. We must continue to put political pressure on the VA to comply with the law. Now, burdensome OMB regulations are being imposed on states that require federal approval of all purchases of over $5,000. This will slow down purchasing to a crawl and dramatically impact vendors’ ability to make a living. We continue to get threats from the American Heart Association that wants to mandate only healthier options to be sold in our vending machines.

This year, we will kick things off with some extensive training on Monday afternoon, May 20th. John Paré and Gabe Cazares from the National Federation of the Blind’s Baltimore office will lead the training, and it will focus on how to be an effective advocate on The Hill and in your everyday lives. That training will begin at 3:00 and conclude by 6:00.

To register to attend the Fly-In, go to www.blindmerchants.org. Complete the registration form and submit. We will make appointments for you with your members of Congress on Tuesday, May 21st.

The host hotel will be the Marriott Key Bridge Hotel, 1401 Lee Highway, Arlington, Virginia, 22209. You can see the agenda and book your room at https://blindmerchants.org/day-hill-may-21-22-2018/. You may also call 703-524-6400 and ask for the NABM Fly-In rate which is $199.00. We have a block of rooms for the nights of May 19, 20, and 21.

The Randolph-Sheppard Program is under attack. Help us defend it. Register now!

2018 Summer Training and Employment Project (STEP) Program Striving for Success:
Since 1985 the Louisiana Center for the Blind has been changing what it means to be blind for adults from across America. In 1990, a program was created to address the needs of blind high school students. The Summer Training and Employment Project (STEP) Program is designed to introduce blind teenagers to positive blind role models and to provide participants with summer work experience.

The eight-week summer program will consist of two components. During the first part of the program, competent blind counselors will instruct the students in the alternative techniques of blindness. Classes in Braille, cane travel, computer literacy, and daily living skills will be taught by qualified blind instructors. In addition, seminars will be conducted in the areas of job readiness, job interviewing skills, resumé writing, and job responsibilities. The second part of the program will continue all aspects of training and expand to include an employment dimension. Students will have the opportunity to participate in 40 hours of internship experience—for which they will receive the Federal minimum wage. Students will be introduced to a broad spectrum of career possibilities as they explore postsecondary options.

The combination of work experience and blindness-related skills—along with fun-filled activities such as cookouts, swimming, mall excursions, and various other outings—will foster self-confidence and independence in blind teens. From July 3 through 8, students will attend the National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando, Florida. This exciting conference will allow them to meet thousands of competent blind people from across the country. The students will also have the chance to participate in a wide variety of informative seminars and youth-oriented social and other activities. At the close of the program, parents will be required to attend a Parents’ Weekend which will enable them to discover how much their children have learned throughout the summer. The STEP program is designed to provide invaluable work experience, friendships, opportunities for personal growth, and cherished memories.

Training will begin June 10 and conclude August 4. We recognize that there may be some overlap between the start and/or conclusion of our program and school district dates. If accepted, we are happy to coordinate with a student’s school district in this regard. Please visit www.louisianacenter.org to learn about more program specifics and to complete an application.

Due to limited space, we cannot guarantee that every applicant will be granted enrollment, and applicants must have an open case with their state’s vocational rehabilitation agency or other funding entity to cover program costs.

Questions? Please call our director of youth services, Eric Guillory at (800) 234-4166 or email him at eguillory@louisianacenter.org. "Together, we are changing what it means to be blind." Check out STEP and find out how.
 
BUDDY PROGRAM 2018: Putting the Pieces Together
Come and join us for a summer of fun and learning! Since 1989, the Louisiana Center for the Blind has offered an innovative summer program for blind children in grades four through eight. This summer, the Buddy Program promises to be full of learning opportunities, new friendships, and fun-filled activities.

Many blind children have misconceptions about their blindness due to the lack of positive role models and to the negative stereotypes about blindness in society. Unlike other summer programs for blind children, the Buddy Program is directed and staffed by competent blind adults. Classes in cane travel are taught to instill independence and self-confidence. The knowledge of Braille enables the blind child to compete on terms of equality with sighted peers in the classroom and provides a solid background in spelling and other grammatical skills. Classes in access technology expose students to available mainstream and adaptive solutions. Daily living skills instruction promotes equal participation in household duties such as cooking, shopping, and cleaning. In addition to learning valuable alternative techniques of blindness, children will enjoy participating in a wide variety of exciting activities such as swimming, camping, bowling, rollerskating, and field trips.

The combination of hard work and fun activities will provide a rewarding experience that children will cherish. Involvement in the Buddy Program helps them realize that it is not blindness that holds them back. Rather, it is the negative attitudes and misconceptions about blindness that may prevent them from reaching their potential. At the close of the program, parents are REQUIRED to attend a Parents’ Weekend. This weekend will allow them to interact with other parents of blind children and to learn what their children have discovered about their blindness and themselves. Friendship, training, fun, growth, and interaction between blind children and positive blind role models is how the Louisiana Center for the Blind is “changing what it means to be blind.”

The Louisiana Center for the Blind will sponsor one session of the Buddy Program in 2018. Program dates are July 15 through August 4. We recognize that there may be some overlap between the conclusion of our program and school district dates. If accepted, we are happy to coordinate with a student’s school district in this regard.

Perhaps we will have the opportunity to work with your child this summer. We know it will be a memorable experience for both you and them. All interested families should visit www.louisianacenter.org for more details and to apply. Please also feel free to contact our director of youth services, Eric Guillory before April 20. Please email Eric at eguillory@louisianacenter.org or call (800) 234-4166.

Due to limited space, we cannot guarantee that every applicant will be granted enrollment. Please note that the fee for students not from Louisiana is $1,000—which is all-inclusive save for transportation to and from the program. The fee for Louisiana students is $500.

NFB EQ:
The National Federation of the Blind Engineering Quotient (EQ) program is a weeklong summer engineering program for blind and low-vision teens from around the country that will run July 29 through August 4. Throughout the week participants will forge new friendships while increasing their engineering knowledge, problem-solving abilities, self-confidence, and independence. Blind and low-vision teens who are ready to learn new things, meet new people, and have an adventure this summer are encouraged to apply to attend the NFB EQ program. To learn more visit: http://www.blindscience.org/nfbeq.

Session Dates for 2018 Summer Programs at BLIND, Inc:
Dates for summer programs at BLIND, Inc are as follows:

Please contact Michell Gip, youth services coordinator at (612) 872-0100 ext. 231 or mgip@blindinc.org if you have any questions or would like an application. 

Summer Programs at the Colorado Center for the Blind:
CCB offers three summer residential programs for students in middle school, high school, and college prep. The students live with counselors in two-bedroom, 1½ bath apartments located near the Center and will work on all aspects of managing an apartment. Students will also use public transportation to travel to and from the Center each day.

We place a big emphasis on challenge recreation activities such as whitewater rafting, rock climbing, canoeing, martial arts, science, and a variety of other events. All programs share the core classes of Braille, cane travel, daily living skills, technology, and philosophy of blindness.

Summer for Success College Prep Program
The College Prep class seeks to instill a sense in each student that they can and should take charge of their education in college and beyond. The program introduces students to the student-initiated world of the college Disability Services office and “reasonable accommodations,” as well as the increasingly digital learning environment. We impart concepts and develop skills to assist the student in finding success in their studies. They will learn about their civil rights in college, as well as multi-tool strategies for obtaining their own accessible formats of textbooks and other instructional materials. Here, the emphasis will be on assistive technologies and textbook resources. We’ll also cover access to science and math, research databases, and use travel skills to visit several campuses in the Denver Metro area.

Earn and Learn High School Program
This eight-week residential program serves students age fourteen and older. Not only do these students take the core classes, but they have the opportunity to participate in exciting, paid work experiences. We work to match students with jobs they find both interesting and challenging, and they travel to and from their jobs with an assigned summer counselor. It is exhilarating for the students to get their first paycheck.

Initiation to Independence Middle School Program
This is a three-week residential program for students age eleven to fourteen. In addition to participating in the core curriculum, students will meet successful working adults in order to learn about various professions. These students are excited to have so many new experiences in just three short weeks!
           
For more information and applications please contact Brent Batron, director of youth programs at bbatron@cocenter.org.

Post-secondary Readiness Empowerment Program (PREP) 2018 applications are due:
Apply today to PREP 2018, a summer program for all blind/low vision high school students! This program is designed to prepare students to reach their personal, academic, and professional goals as they transition to adulthood. The PREP curriculum empowers blind youth as they learn the alternative techniques of blindness and develop the self-confidence needed to become successful adults!

The core classes include Braille reading and writing, independent cane travel, adaptive technology, career exploration, and home management. This program includes a three-week paid internship experience. Students will utilize the skills they have developed while earning minimum wage, working approximately twenty hours per week in local businesses and agencies.

The program will run June 16 through August 11. Contact Michell Gip, youth services coordinator, at (612) 872-0100, ext. 231, or mgip@blindinc.org for more information or an application.

Krafters Division Craft Extravaganza:
The Krafters Division is sponsoring a Craft Extravaganza on Sunday, March 18, 2018, between 2 and 5 PM central time. We will host a variety of crafts. Each class will last no more than forty-five minutes. Classes offered are: origami box, dipped cherries, duct tape project, bath bombs, and flowers. Come and join us! Log on to www.kraftersKorner.org for more information.

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.

Summer Employment at BISM:
Have you thought about how you will spend your summer? Are you looking for a fulfilling job working with students to improve their skills and confidence? If so, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) wants to hear from you! BISM is currently looking for independent, confident role models ready to teach and mentor high school and middle school students from across the nation.

When:
Staff training: Thursday, June 7 to Friday, June 15, 2018
Work to Independence Program: Saturday, June 16 to Saturday, August 4
Independence 101 Program: Friday, July 20 to Saturday, August 4
Staff Departure Date: Sunday, August 5

Where:
Apartments on a college campus in Baltimore County, and classrooms at the Blind Industries and Services of Maryland Baltimore headquarters

Who should apply?
Anyone with:

What will you get for your work?

All the information you need can be found on our website: www.bism.org/youth.

Please read through our 2018 Youth Services brochure and download a staff application. Application submissions must also include a current resumé.

For questions, or to apply, please contact Melissa Lomax at MLomax@bism.org, or (410) 737-2642.

The DAISY Consortium Continues to Innovate for the Blind:
The DAISY Consortium is delighted to announce the launch of Ace by DAISY, the groundbreaking free and open source accessibility checking tool for ebooks created in the widely adopted EPUB format. Ace by DAISY equips the publishing industry with a tool which can test their ebooks against internationally recognized standards for accessibility. Designed to assist content providers at any stage in their workflow, Ace by DAISY will make it easier to produce higher quality, more accessible EPUB content files.

The full press release can be accessed at http://www.prweb.com/releases/ 2018/01/prweb15141305.htm. For further information on Ace and how to get started, see https://inclusivepublishing.org/toolbox/accessibility-checker/.

Please help us to promote this major step forward in accessible publishing!

Leader Dog’s Summer Experience Camp—Making Teens Unstoppable!
Summer Experience Camp is a week of outdoor fun, friendship, and skill building. The program combines activities like rock wall climbing and tandem biking with leadership building exercises and things exclusively Leader Dog—GPS training and spending time with Leader Dogs in training. The combination helps increase independent travel skills, interpersonal skills, and leadership skills. The free program is for boys and girls ages sixteen and seventeen who are legally blind. Leader Dog covers all costs including airfare to Michigan—and everyone receives a free HumanWare Trekker Breeze+ GPS device. The 2018 camp dates are June 23 through June 30. Applications are due by March 31, 2018.

For more information and to download an application, go to www.leaderdog.org/clients/
programs/summer-experience-camp
or call the Leader Dogs for the Blind client services department at (888) 777-5332.

Monitor Mart

The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.

Wanted:
I am interested in purchasing a Voice Mate. Call Ray at (863) 993-2997. I will pay a good price.

NFB Pledge

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

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