Vol. 61, No. 4 April 2018
Gary Wunder, Editor
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The National Federation of the Blind
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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.
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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
Vol. 61, No. 4 April 2018
Illustration: So Much Can Happen in a Day
A Giant Step on the Road to Accessible Art
by Gary Wunder
A Night at the Newseum
by Mark Riccobono, Glen Walters, and John Olson
NFB Philosophy: What It Is and What It Is Not
by Gary Wunder, Mark Riccobono, and Marc Maurer
Fearless: Remembering a Teacher Who Made the Difference
by Melody Lindsey Roane
National Science Foundation Awards New Grant to National Federation of the Blind
by Seth Lamkin
The Power of Twitter
by Karen Anderson
A Professional in the Field Responds to AER
by Dick Davis
Others Share Their Response to AER and NAC
An Open Letter to Federation Chapters Regarding the Presidential Release
by Mark Riccobono
NOPBC 2018 Conference—President’s Welcome
by Kim Cunningham
Minimum Wage Exemption for Persons with Disabilities Eliminated
Our Public Commitment to One Another as Represented in our
Official Code of Conduct Statement
by Mark Riccobono
Changing Attitudes Regarding Education, Employment, and Rehabilitation through the National
Federation of the Blind CAREER Mentoring Program
by Maurice Peret
The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund
by Allen Harris
Driving Blind on the Information Superhighway—Screen Readers: The Interface between
Us and the Road
by Amy Mason
Copyright 2018 by the National Federation of the Blind
On March 17 the Jernigan Institute conducted simultaneous meetings of BELL Academy coordinators and the Research and Development Committee. Though we met in separate rooms and on separate floors, we were all going about the business of creating greater opportunities for blind people.
But when the evening came around, it was time to acknowledge what was going on in the wider world, and that was the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Our dinner offerings were Irish stew or corn beef and cabbage, a healthy serving of potatoes, a healthy salad, three varieties of cheese, and a wide selection of fruit. I don’t know that I can put the word healthy before the brownies, so how about yummy as a substitute for that oh so necessary adjective.But the meal was just the beginning of the evening. Carla McQuillan loves to sing Irish ballads, and all of us had song sheets either in Braille or print so we could join her in singing and clapping during the bridge. Like every great performer, Carla took an intermission, and in her absence from the stage we were entertained by Melissa Riccobono and her accompanist on the guitar, Mark. Melissa has started a project to bring the community together through music and to help raise money for deserving charities. She and Mark gave us a sneak preview of what will be in her first show, and clearly it is going to be a good one. I don’t think there could have been a better way to end a weekend of work then through this celebration. We enjoy working hard, but we also enjoy letting our hair down and playing together. Thanks to the great musicianship on the stage and the audience who made up the chorus, we made a joyful noise that must have made happy the leprechauns that were certainly among us.
by Gary Wunder
One day my mother and I were discussing sight and what I would look at first if I got it back for a limited time. My answer was quick and firm. I’d look at the moon, the stars, at famous paintings, at pictures in magazines and books I always heard so much about. My mom started to cry. The answer was supposed to be that I would look at her, at my father, at my brothers and sisters, at all the people I loved and whose faces I couldn’t see.
I was truly sorry I had hurt her, and at the same time I was perplexed. I knew what my mother and father and brothers and sister looked like. I knew how tall they were, how big or small, the feel of their skin, and the length and texture of their hair, what they sounded like, what they enjoyed for breakfast, and their favorite hobbies and pastimes. Why wasn’t it obvious that I would want to learn about things I had almost no knowledge about and to engage in an experience that eluded me?
Pictures have always seemed magical. How could someone with paint and a brush capture a smile that has captivated the world? How can people looking at a statue see the weight of the world on President Lincoln’s shoulders? What did the astronauts see from space that made them realize how fragile is the planet on which we live? How can light on paper preserve my grandfather’s strong and sturdy body when he was thirty when the man I knew was stooped and found it hard to walk?
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but that doesn’t mean a thousand words can fully capture a picture. My guess is that words can no more describe a picture than they can describe the sound of an orchestra or the beauty of a human voice singing on-key and with emotion that can almost break a heart.
So when pioneers say they want to join with the blind in putting pictures in our hands, we are excited, anxious to join with them, and committed to expanding our experiences into all of the areas that understanding pictures might open: easier ways to comprehend science, to observe technology, to participate more fully in the appreciation of art that has been closed to the blind.
John Olson is a photographer who became known as a result of his work taking photographs during the Vietnam War working first for Stars and Stripes and later for LIFE magazine. His pictures transformed an abstract battle in what too many of us thought of as a battle way over there in Asia into a life-and-death conflict between human beings who were as close as our kitchen table. John’s success in pictures made him wonder how the blind experienced life and whether it could be enhanced by having access to something that had meant so much to him. So it was that in 2008 he created 3DPhotoWorks, a company with the mission of converting pictures into tactile representations blind people could feel and enjoy.
On January 30, 2018, a first-of-its-kind exhibit was held at the Newseum in Washington, DC. Pictures that started Mr. Olson’s career by capturing dramatic scenes at the Battle of Huế City during the Tet Offensive in 1968 were shown to the blind using tactile representations and audio descriptions. These exhibits showed a Marine in battle fatigues with a belt of ammunition for an automatic rifle slung across his chest, a body covered in blankets on a stretcher, a Marine in dress uniform—different facets of the military life and experience that Mr. Olson shared as a war photographer. When touching a part of a picture, what is being touched is described, and several pictures and audio descriptions make up each display. On the night of the Newseum exhibit held exclusively for the NFB, lots of excited people were touching and listening. Multiple people examining one exhibit was a problem since touching a different picture immediately halts the description of the previous picture and begins narration of the one just pressed.
Dr. Maurer went back to see the exhibit for a more personalized tour. His request was that he be allowed to examine a series of pictures without the audio to see what he could determine for himself. He was able to detect a man who appeared to be wearing a belt. The man was a Marine in dress uniform with a saber in his hand, ribbons on his chest, and decorations on his collar. In another case he examined a picture of a tank. He could tell it was a tank and could find the tread on which it rolled, but because the door of the tank was on the same plane, he could not identify it.
Clearly what we are seeing in these works is experimental and raises some good questions. What can we do to make drawings that convey more through the sense of touch? What can we learn to detect through touch that we have not stimulated because trying to interpret pictures is not a normal part of our experience? Since understanding photographs seems intuitive for people who can see, is this something learned through repeated exposure, or is it something reserved primarily to those with vision? Perhaps the most important question is this: if blind people are exposed to tactile art repeatedly at an early age, is it something they can appreciate as much as people who can see?
We are forging something wonderful as we explore the new frontiers of experience, learning, and making museums acknowledge our interest in things that are too often behind glass, too often elevated above where we can reach, and too often separated by a rope or other barrier, the message being "do not touch." We are working to learn the boundaries of touch, expand our knowledge about how to construct tactile art to make the most of touch, and convince museums and other places that display interesting and historic information that the blind want and can benefit from it. Through our partnership with John Olson and 3DPhotoWorks, we will make substantial progress in enriching the lives of blind people who want to know more than what is delivered through the spoken word. Together with the work we are doing with science, technology, engineering, and math, we will increase the ease with which blind students learn, increase the ability of blind workers to use drawings like their sighted colleagues, and open up fields of study which for too long have been thought off-limits to the blind. In this investment of our time and treasure, the Federation will most certainly win because anything we do will bring more information into the hungry and curious minds of blind people.
by Mark Riccobono, Glenn Walters, and John Olson
From the Editor: A number of moving remarks were made on the evening of January 30, 2018, as the Newseum opened its doors to members of the National Federation of the Blind. Our purpose was to celebrate the first of its kind exhibit featuring a tactile and audio exhibit commemorating the Battle of Huế. The evening’s festivities began with a presentation by President Riccobono. Here are his remarks, followed by those of Glenn Walters and John Olson:
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. [applause] Welcome to the 2018 Congressional reception of the National Federation of the Blind and welcome to the Newseum. [applause] Most importantly, thank you for being here for this historic event, a time when the blind of the nation join with a camera company and an innovative photographer to change access to information and celebrate the Marines who made it possible for us to live the lives we want. [applause]
In January 1968 the members of the National Federation of the Blind were not in the war. Blindness was thought to be a barrier to providing service for the nation, although the war was at the front of our minds. In the February 1968 issue of the Braille Monitor, our flagship publication, the very first sentence of the report regarding our legislative priorities read as follows: Although the Vietnam War, fiscal and big city problems, and civil rights are expected to dominate the attention of the members of the Second Session of the 90th Congress, efforts will be made legislatively to resolve longstanding difficulties confronting physically disabled men and women and other socially and economically disadvantaged people.” Those words were published at the same time that the men honored in the exhibit we celebrate tonight were courageously battling in Huế City. When those veterans returned from battle in 1968, they did not always receive a welcome consistent with their service to our country. In that same timeframe we, the blind, were not viewed as first-class citizens who had the ability to participate fully in society. Today, those veterans are rightfully celebrated for their service in defense of the values of our great nation. Similarly, the blind are increasingly recognized as contributors and innovators in our communities. One indicator of our progress as a nation is that we the blind are here tonight to help bring an exhibit to the sighted, an exhibit that is long overdue. [applause] Never before has an exhibit of this depth, power, and honor been presented to remember the Marines who fought in the Battle of Huế in February 1968, and never before in history has an extensive exhibit of photographs been brought to life with tactile and auditory complements in a major museum in the United States, enhancing its access and meaning to all who come to experience it, blind or sighted. [applause]
It is my true honor to be here this evening to offer the opening of this exhibit and this program on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind. As a son of a Vietnam Navy veteran, this evening is special to me, particularly because of its celebration of our military personnel who have given so much for our freedom. We would like to begin this evening by first inviting our Vietnam veterans who are here this evening to stand and say hello so we know who you are. Thank you for your service. [prolonged applause]
And now we would like to invite all active military personnel and veterans to stand and say hello so we know where you are. Thank you for your service.
In 1968 the National Federation of the Blind lost a general in the civil rights movement for the blind. Dr. Jacobus tenBroek died in the spring of that year. He served as founder and first President of the National Federation of the Blind. A few years before his death he described the common bond that brings us together in our organization, and although it is sometimes harder to find in America today, I would argue that it is the same bond we strive to protect in our great nation. He said that we have a faith in each other that can move mountains and mount movements. Today, we add strength and speed to that movement.
There are many who helped us get here this evening. Our reception this evening is made possible through the generous support of our friends at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. I think some of them are here this evening [applause], the Lockheed Martin Corporation, FedEx, and we also should acknowledge the leadership of the Newseum for hosting this event, and, of course, the great folks at 3DPhotoWorks who did the heavy lifting and put this together.
We have a number of special dignitaries who are here this evening, along with the members of the National Federation of the Blind, and friends, and donors to our organization. We’d like to acknowledge the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. We also have with us Dr. Marc Maurer, executive director of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults and his wife, Mrs. Maurer. We have Dr. Fred Schroeder, president of the World Blind Union. [applause] We’re really honored to have with us this evening Lieutenant General Ron Christmas, and also joining him is his wife, Mrs. Christmas. General Christmas was a veteran of Vietnam and fought in the Battle of Huế. Thank you. [applause] I know we have many other distinguished guests here, and I thank you for being with the blind of America this evening.
I am proud to introduce our first speaker this evening. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on 12 May 1979 after graduating from The Citadel with a degree in electrical engineering. He has served in a variety of positions during the past forty years, building extensive experience in the military. It is my honor to present to you the Assistant Commandant of the United States Marines, General Glenn Walters. [applause]
General Walters: Oorah! Thank you so much. It is Gail and my distinct honor and pleasure to be with you here tonight. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Dunford also wanted to be here tonight. As it turns out there’s another event just up the street [laughter]; The State of the Union requires his presence. So General Dunford asked if I could attend in his place and represent all of us who are in uniform today to acknowledge and honor all of those who served in Vietnam. [applause] And as my staff, some of whom are here tonight, will tell you, I rarely stick to script, and I’d rather be here than there this evening. [applause].
I would like to offer my thanks to Mark and the staff and members of the National Federation of the Blind. Without your support and efforts, this evening would not be possible. Most importantly, without your dedication this great exhibit that I had a chance to view today would not be on display.
Fifty years ago tonight, the North Vietnamese began an audacious offensive. Their attacks occurred during what was supposed to be a ceasefire. General Christmas, I’m sorry; you’ve probably heard all of this before. That ceasefire was in honor of the Tet holiday. Instead the communist forces used this perceived temporary peace as an opportunity to strike and catch our forces and those of our allies off-guard. The North Vietnamese struck more than one hundred villages and cities across South Vietnam in places like Khe Sahn and the US Embassy compound in Saigon. Huế City was another target. It was the intellectual and cultural heart of Vietnam; it was almost neutral, with very little US or North Vietnamese conventional forces present. However, in the days and the weeks and the months leading up to that offensive, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong quietly infiltrated Huế City, awaiting to attack. Soldiers and Marines responded to that attack across South Vietnam. The character of many of our heroes we know today was shown on those days and weeks in 1968. Brave Americans like John Canley, then a Gunnery Sergeant in Alpha Company, First Battalion, First Marine Regiment. When his company commander fell, seriously wounded, Gunny Canley assumed command of Alpha Company and on numerous occasions exposed himself to intense enemy fire to rescue fellow Marines wounded by the enemy. Although wounded himself Gunny Canley reorganized and scattered his Marines and inspired them to drive the enemy from its fortified positions. For his actions in that first week of fighting in Huế, Gunnery Sergeant Canley earned the Navy Cross. [applause] That’s our nation’s second-highest award, and he would continue to serve until he retired as a Sergeant Major Marines. This is another ad-lib point for me as I share with you that we have gotten word that Gunnery Sergeant, now Sergeant Major, Canley’s award has been upgraded to the Medal of Honor. [applause] I think that this is the first public announcement of that event, and I’m proud to share it with you.
Another of the many heroes that emerged from that intense urban combat in the Battle of Huế was a young Marine Captain by the name of Ron Christmas. He commanded Hotel Company, Second Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment. Multiple times Captain Christmas moved across exposed areas under intense enemy fire, both to assess the situation and lead his Marines in the assault on the enemy’s positions. He ignored his own safety to direct accurate fire from atop a tank that in my notes said he requested, but I believe was probably more like requisitioned. [laughter] He personally led his men in house-to-house fighting until the enemy building complex was secured. For his actions in Huế in 1968, Ron Christmas would also receive the Navy Cross. [applause]
And to complete the story, we are honored to have Lieutenant General Ron Christmas and his wife Sherry with us here this evening. [applause] He remains a servant to all Marines today and a staunch advocate for our Marine Corps heritage and our history. Thank you, sir, for being here tonight, and thank you for your decades of service. [applause]
There is one more individual hero I would like to recognize tonight, John Olson. He told me this evening he was a soldier, but I’m not going to alter my remarks. In Huế, John stood side to side with our Marines, and he captured with his camera their story. His brave work allowed our citizens then and now to understand the story of the brave servicemembers who served in Vietnam. [applause] This courage will preserve their story for generations to come. Now, through the efforts of John, this great organization, the National Federation of the Blind, and this spectacular venue and exhibit, more of our great people can more richly understand and appreciate the service and sacrifice of our brave men and women. [applause]
Access to our nation’s story is essential and should be realized by all of us. Many great people in this room have made that more possible. Thank you, and I commend you. [applause] You have improved access to a courageous group of American heroes—fellow Americans who remain undeterred by blindness. Accomplishments realized despite challenges inspire us all; perseverance in the face of adversity is a core component of the American spirit. You encourage us when you break through barriers and overcome obstacles. These traits define our character and thank you for inspiring all of us. [applause]
It is a true pleasure for Gail and I to be a small part of this evening’s event. We are honored to be here to celebrate the determination and esteemed contributions of those who persevere through blindness to participate in honoring in the service of our men and women who wore the cloth of our nation in Vietnam. For all of this, thank you for including us, God bless you all, and semper fidelis.
Mark Riccobono: Thank you General. It was a pleasure to have you and your wife here, and God bless you as well.
In 1968, Robert Kennedy was traveling the nation campaigning for president and attempting to bring people together during a time of great unrest. He said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Although he was not speaking of our next presenter, this quote could be appropriately placed as a caption to the creator of tonight’s exhibit or his photos that appear in it. John Olson received his first camera at age twelve. Early on he knew he wanted to be a war photographer. As fate would have it, in 1966 he was drafted and sent to Vietnam at the age of nineteen. There Olson was assigned to the daily military newspaper Stars and Stripes; if you’re not familiar with it, you can read it on the NFB-NEWSLINE service. Amongst his many activities he spent five days photographing the Battle of Huế City in February 1968, where he captured the images that helped unlock the truth about what was happening in the war for the American public. His photos were published in LIFE magazine, and shortly thereafter at age twenty-one, John became the youngest staff photographer ever hired by LIFE magazine. After spending forty years in photography, including starting his own business and using his business talents to advance technologies and digital photography, he dared to do something few would have even believed was possible: make photographs in a form that blind people could have the freedom to explore on their own terms. [applause]
Fate put John and I together at a convention of the National Federation of the Blind in New York, and John began to tap into the authentic experience of blind people, and together we are now making history. [applause] There are many things I could tell you about John and my experience with him. The most important thing for you to know is that he is a man with a big heart, a broad imagination, and a faith that can move mountains and mount movements. He is a visionary photographer who is blind at heart. [applause] I present to you the principal owner of 3DPhotoWorks, a celebrated war photographer, the passion behind the exhibit that we celebrate tonight, and a partner with the National Federation of the Blind: here is John Olson.
John Olson: You know Federation members, I know many of you. I don’t know all of you, but for a few moments here I wondered if in fact they’d switched out some extras because the Federation members I know—when they get a group—aren’t just kind of laid back and quiet as this group is, you know. So is this the Federation or not? [loud cheering] That’s the people I recognize. Thank you for passing the security test.
You know, today is a historic date, and today is a historic day. It’s a historic day as General Walters has explained to us, because fifty years ago the Battle of Huế and the Tet Offensive occurred. I was a twenty-year-old, highly motivated US Army draftee. I was highly motivated to pursue my profession: it was to be a world-class photojournalist and a world-class war photographer. And I had an incredible job in the army. I was the only combat photographer assigned to Stars and Stripes newspaper in Vietnam. Now Stars and Stripes is one of our partners in this project, and they’ve been an incredible partner, just like the Newseum. Now I want to hear just one more time to prove to the Newseum that this is the Federation. Now what do you think of that? [very loud cheering]
You know, it turns out that if you’re a combat photographer, you can’t fake it. You’ve got to be out in the middle of things; the more dangerous the better. And one way to guarantee you’re going to be in the middle of things—you go where the Marines are. [applause]
So shortly after Tet broke out I heard that fighting in Huế was vicious. It was house-to-house, something that I’d never seen, and if I’m correct, many of the Marines had never seen. So I went to Huế. I was met by a number of eighteen-, nineteen-, and twenty-year-old Marines. They were dirty, unshaven, hungry, and angry. And if you’re a combat photographer who probably doesn’t carry a weapon, there’s nothing better than that combination to keep you safe. And they kept me alive for my time in Huế, and they allowed me the opportunity to make a series of photographs that ran in Stars and Stripes and LIFE magazine. And that launched my career, and it gave me access to people and places for decades that I never would have had had I not made that series of photographs.
At a point in my career, I began to realize how critical access to images had been to my life. Now I never met a blind person, but I began to wonder what it was like for people of the blind community who don’t have access to visual information. Now I have no engineering experience, no neuroscience experience, but that day nearly ten years ago I set out to develop a means by which the blind community could share in art, in photographs, and to acquire visual information for learning and enjoying life. [applause]
Now I was very fortunate. I hired some really talented people who were able to devise a means by which we could convert two-dimensional images to three-dimensional data, we could sculpt them to be tactile, and then we could print the image and data on top of the relief. In an early meeting with my partners from the National Federation of the Blind [cheers] it was explained to me by director of assistive technology Anne Taylor— and for those of you who know Anne, you know there’s no middle ground with Anne; she tells it the way it is. She explained to me the need to convey as much information as possible to the blind community. On the way out the door she stopped us and said, “And this will be our gift to the sighted.” [applause]
So tonight, as you experience the ten tactile images there, keep in mind that this is a gift that we’re learning is as compelling to the sighted community as it is to the Federation members and the blind community.
Now I did not develop this on my own. I developed it in partnership with Federation members and the leadership of the Federation. Had it not been for you and your leadership, we wouldn’t have a product today. Early on, in one of our first meetings with a large number of Federation members, we invited in ten of you and asked for your input, and it went from there. When we proposed this exhibition to the Newseum and they understood the historic nature of the exhibit and the opportunity to be the first major museum in the United States to serve the blind community, they seized the opportunity. [applause] Our goal at 3DPhotoWorks is to create a worldwide network of museums, now that the technology exists, that’s willing to serve the blind community. Prior to this evening, the Federation invited leaders from the museum community from different parts of the country. When, as Federation members, you experience this exhibit tonight and you have the opportunity to convey to one of those industry leaders the importance of visual information, make sure you tell them how you feel and tell them from your heart. Because I’ve learned that the number one thing about Federation members is that you tell it like it is, and this is your opportunity to convey the importance of what we’ve achieved. Thank you very much. [applause]
Mark Riccobono: Thank you John. Nancy’s here, right—part of the dynamic duo. Thank you both for being here.
Tonight we celebrate our veterans and the progress we have made as a country and as a blindness civil rights movement. Tonight we help to give back to our veterans, and we set a new standard for photographic experiences in cultural institutions across this great nation. Let tonight be the spark that ignites passion for new dimensions in photography where the visual and the nonvisual combine to create an experience that is beyond our current understanding of presentation and perception. Let this moment strengthen our faith and encourage us to welcome others into our movement so that we can revolutionize how history is displayed and commemorated in our nation. Maybe we’ll even change the participation of blind people in military service. [applause]
In 1968, Robert Kennedy said these words that speak to our purpose here tonight and our mission in the National Federation of the Blind: “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.” [applause] Or, as we say in the National Federation of the Blind [crowd chanting the name of the organization along with him], "together with love, hope, and determination, we transform dreams into reality." That’s what we’ve done here today, and that’s what we will do in the future. Congratulations to us, and thank you for being here. [applause]
by Gary Wunder, Mark Riccobono, and Marc Maurer
From the Editor: In response to the article “Tax Deductions for the Blind: Are They Something We Deserve, and Should We Fight for Them?” published in the January 2018 issue, I received a most interesting question. Boiled down it is what is NFB Philosophy and are there things one must and must not do to follow it. What prompted the question was the letter that talked about a tax deduction for being blind and whether asking for this wasn’t as contradictory as asking to preboard an airplane. The writer who inquired wanted to know if it is an article of faith in the NFB philosophy that we will not preboard and wonders exactly what the NFB philosophy is.
My initial email to her said that I consider the NFB philosophy less a set of commandments and more like the application of the Golden Rule. My understanding of what we believe is that there is no list of thou shall and thou shalt not’s but instead a mindset that asks, “Is this something I need based on blindness? If it is, I will take it and advocate for it. If it is not, I will not borrow against the goodwill and public support that people feel about blind people. Instead, I will try to educate and will hope that I can bank some of those good intentions for things I really need.”
Not content with my own understanding and thinking that the thoughts of others might make an article worth publishing here, I wrote to four people asking if they wished to try defining the NFB philosophy. Two of them responded. It is no surprise that one of them was President Riccobono. As one might expect, the other was Immediate Past President Maurer. Here is what they said in response to my letter asking if they had thoughts to share. Neither believes that he has written the definitive word on our philosophy, and the door remains open for other thought-provoking articles on the subject:
From President Riccobono:
As you know from our telephone conversation, I wrote an extensive reply to you which I lost to a Microsoft gremlin. I have been eager to get back to this, so I took a few minutes at the question yesterday. There is definitely more that can be said on this topic, and I think there is at least one idea that did not come to mind in my rewrite today.
Exploring the question of what is the NFB philosophy and what elements of it are articles of faith is a good idea. I know that my friend Marc Maurer, who has taught me the nature and art of philosophy over the years, will have ideas about this topic. Let me give you the thinking of where my mind went since it strikes me that philosophy is the art of thinking about thinking.
The word philosophy comes from Latin and from the Greek word philosophia “love of wisdom.” Today it is often defined as “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.” Philosophy is about creating understanding (wisdom) and then turning that understanding over to determine if it holds together. Sometimes it does not hold together because it is inconsistent (logic), and sometimes it does not hold together when tested in the real world. This summer I described philosophy as a “pattern of thought,” as that is how I have come to think about it, especially in the art of attempting to contribute to it in the form of banquet speeches.
In contrast, an article of faith is a “firmly held belief.” One can take something as an article of faith without having any philosophy of any type. In fact, I am certain we all know people who have firmly held beliefs based on some experience and not truly because they have reasoned through it systematically. I think I take certain things as articles of faith because of my experience with NFB philosophy. One is the idea that we, as blind people, are best suited to determine what is best for the blind. This comes from NFB philosophy, but I think I consider it an article of faith because I have observed it tested out in the world, and I know how it works better than the alternatives—both in my own life and for us as a movement. I think Dr. tenBroek held this belief, and he did so before we had a shared philosophy. Maybe he held this belief because he thought critically about blindness—which we now think of as NFB philosophy—or maybe he did because Dr. Perry instilled it in him.
This leads me to wonder where the individual comes into NFB philosophy. The Federation provides a pattern of thought, but it is up to us to think about it and apply it. I know that we have an extensive body of literature about blindness. On our website we define some of it as “philosophy.” That page can be found at https://nfb.org/literature-philosophy. This section incorporates by reference all of the banquet speeches. Does that body of literature constitute NFB philosophy? Most certainly there are pieces that are not mentioned. My friend Bill Meeker wrote an article that appeared in the Braille Monitor in December 1994 entitled “The Blind Table.” This article makes certain observations about where the blind get seated in restaurants. I consider it part of understanding our NFB philosophy in as much as it is an expression of how our pattern of thought teaches us to evaluate the world around us. I doubt many people remember or even notice the ideas Bill shares in that article, but I think it could be considered part of our pattern of thought. This raises the idea for me that our NFB philosophy gains strength as more people are learning about it and testing it.
Many times people simplify the critical thinking that the NFB philosophy challenges us to do by boiling it down into bite-sized rules. “Federationists never take preferential treatment because it is against our philosophy,” is one example. Another is “Real Federationists use rigid canes because they are proud to be blind.” The rules always cause trouble because they demonstrate more black and white than the NFB philosophy offers. When I was a student at the Colorado Center for the Blind, I found use of the rigid cane helped me focus on the skills I needed to learn, while enforcing the pattern of thought that I could direct my own movements and manage my own affairs. When I choose to use a telescoping cane today—I have both types in the corner of my office—I know it comes with the disadvantage that it might collapse. If I am running out of the office to meet a business associate who is picking me up to go to lunch, I will likely grab my telescoping cane as I am not sure what type of car they might have or what the arrangements will be at the restaurant. I have no trouble dealing with a straight cane, but I can make a choice. NFB philosophy tells me I should make the choice that makes sense for my independence and blending in. Other Federation members might make a different choice for a different reason, and it will be completely consistent with our philosophy. In other words, I think the pattern of thought often gets confused with the actions we take. In any philosophy, humans always struggle with the gaps between the idea and the action we take. Our philosophy urges us to continue examining ourselves just as many religious philosophies invite people to regularly ground themselves in being God-like—an extremely high standard by any measure.
Your email asks whether avoiding preboarding is an article of faith in the NFB philosophy. This is an interesting question. For me, NFB philosophy guides me to consider whether there are any artificial barriers in the boarding process that require me to be treated differently—I say no. NFB philosophy asks me to consider whether it is necessary for me to stand out as needing special treatment by preboarding—I again find myself saying no. NFB philosophy does not tell me what to do but leads me to a place that informs my decision. Recently I had the A1 boarding position on a Southwest flight. The only people that got on the plane before me were preboarders. Since I was at the front of the A line and very visible to the boarding attendant, he wanted me to preboard. Functionally there should have been no difference to him whether I preboarded or not as I was effectively boarding ahead of everyone else. He insisted that I preboard even after I told him “no thank you.” I wondered if having the back and forth with him was helpful. Once I successfully convinced him to drop it, a nearby passenger remarked to me that the gentlemen really did not trust that I knew my own capacity. I choose to board with the rest of the group because NFB philosophy generally leads my mind to a place where I think it is the best for me and for other blind people. It was not until I had the experience of being the first regular boarder on the plane that I truly realized how powerful that perception line is to others. If the idea of boarding with everyone else was not a firmly held belief before, it is now. Having said that, I think the NFB philosophy challenges me to consider preboarding and if there truly is a reason that I need it. I sometimes take this option when I have to walk out onto a noisy tarmac. The only times I do not are when I am with someone or when I have gotten to know someone in the boarding area that I feel comfortable asking to walk near me. I find it more consistent with NFB philosophy to ask to preboard or walk with someone than to boldly walk out into the noise and hope that someone grabs me and steers me in the right direction or yells loudly enough that I can hear them. I do not ask the person next to me unless we have already been engaged in conversation, because I think it might reinforce whatever misconceptions they already carry. That level of complexity in thinking has come with years of living the NFB philosophy every day. When I was a college student on my way to my first national convention, I would not have had that level of sophistication in my thinking. On my way back from my first national convention, I probably knew that many Federation members did not choose to preboard, but I did not understand why. When the airline put me in a room with twelve-year-old children, I began to understand it better. The pattern of thought is important, but the actual practice of it helps to make it real. The two build on each other. This developmental process is much of what Dr. Jernigan discusses in “The Nature of Independence.” This is also why our training centers are powerful and effective. They do not simply teach the skills, but they reinforce the pattern of thought, and they teach blind people how to evaluate the thought process.
The NFB philosophy also gets a bad reputation when individuals project it onto others. I think the NFB philosophy encourages me to share it with others, and I very badly want other blind people to know the freedom I know I get from this pattern of thought. Leaders of the Federation—this is definitely reflected in “The Nature of Independence”—challenge us to raise our expectations but also to be careful about how we challenge others to raise theirs. We all know of blind people who have pushed potential members of the Federation away because we presented NFB philosophy as a “thou shalt or you are not fit” sort of environment. I do not think that is inherent in NFB philosophy, but rather a problem with humans making a pattern of thought actionable. I think this is also the conflict that comes up related to our philosophy and use of a guide dog. We all know people who talk about the dog as the thinking entity. Yet our philosophy tells us that no matter the tool, the blind person should maintain the locus of control. Thus, the best handlers of guide dogs, in my opinion, are those who understand that the dog follows the person’s directions even if the dog is doing the physical leading. We know that this becomes controversial since some blind people understand this to be that NFB philosophy devalues dogs. In my mind, the NFB philosophy establishes a pattern of thought that gives you guidance on how to use the tools effectively.
The NFB philosophy is a pattern of thought that encourages us to explore the boundaries of what is possible. The NFB philosophy is the belief that we are the ones best suited to decide what works for us. The NFB philosophy is a living way of thinking and acting upon the world as blind people, and it evolves as more of us come to practice the patterns. If there are any articles of faith, they probably consist of blind people know what is best for blind people, blindness is not the characteristic that exclusively defines us, and we should strive every day to raise expectations for ourselves. Then again, we once took it as somewhat an article of faith that blind people could do anything except for drive and fly an airplane. Then we shattered the idea that driving was on the list. This might suggest that the only article of faith is the faith that we have in one another to continue testing the limits of our own future.
I am eager to hear what others have to share on this topic.
There you have President Riccobono’s thoughts on the subject. Here is what Dr. Maurer said in response to a similar request of him and the suggestion by President Riccobono that he might want to chime in:
Thanks for your email asking, “What is NFB philosophy?” I gather that this is the important piece of what you have written. I know that you are capable of answering the question, “Does NFB philosophy prohibit preboarding an airline?” The answer is that of course it does not. I have preboarded them myself, and I have boarded with everybody else. The important part of NFB philosophy is that I should decide when to do which.
Some of my friends have attempted to synthesize NFB philosophy in a list of principles. I remember reading one of these once and being asked by its author if any items had been omitted. I was busy at the time. Consequently, I only thought about the question very briefly. However, one item which had been omitted was that blind people working together can and should run an organization that synthesizes thought about blindness and assists in creating the kind of culture that welcomes blind people. I added this thought to the list, but I felt unsatisfied.
The philosophy of the NFB says that blind people have value and that we should act in such a way that we enhance that value and bring sighted people to recognize it. It also says that blind people can lead independent, joyous lives. It recommends that we behave in such a way that we increase the possibility that this is the experience of the blind. NFB philosophy says that in every meaningful way blind people are equal to sighted people. The implications of these statements suggest that blind people should be trained to pursue their own lives in ways that they find beneficial. It also urges that blind people take advantage of the training. It does not require blind people to take any certain training as an article of faith.
Hazel tenBroek was the wife of our founding President, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. She told me one time that the method for blind people to follow in ordering a steak in a restaurant in the 1940s and the 1950s was that those ordering the meat would routinely request that it be cut into bite-sized pieces in the kitchen before being served. At one point in my Federation experience I encountered a heated debate among Federation members about whether it was proper to have somebody else cut your meat for you. My own opinion is that if a blind person wants it done and can get it accomplished with a minimum of inconvenience, it is quite proper.
I was recently on a dinner cruise boat. Part of the festivity involved being served a lobster. I asked the waiter to manage getting the flesh from the claws and the tail for me. I was not alone. My sighted buddies were doing exactly the same thing. Neither they nor I felt diminished by the request. It was also evident that the waiter was quite familiar with the process. He must have done it hundreds if not thousands of times for diners on the boat.
How I live my life is my business. I reject being ordered to perform certain actions or be certain places because of my blindness. I also reject such orders for other nonimportant reasons. This is part of my NFB philosophy. If I am told to keep my hands out of a place because the electricity in it could shock or kill me, this seems sensible. If I am told to keep my hands out of a place because it is not suitable for blind people, this seems idiotic to me. How these principles are applied in life is a matter of judgment. I insist on my right to use my own judgment. This also is part of my NFB philosophy.
When I suggest that blind people learn Braille, I do so because I think it’s beneficial. When I suggest that blind people use long white canes, I do so because it’s beneficial. I have tried using a dog, but I’ve never given it enough time to evaluate it properly. I don’t have a strong opinion about the benefits of using dogs. However, I have a very strong opinion about the right of those who want to use them to be protected in this choice. Many of my colleagues have told me that using a dog is liberating for them. I want them to have the liberation, and I trust their judgment. Trusting the judgment and experience of other blind people who know enough to give me effective information is also a part of my NFB philosophy.
On the subject of the exemption in the tax code for the blind, it can be argued either way. As the world is built for the sighted (at least a lot of it), there are costs involved in managing as a blind person. It is possible that the tax code should recognize these and compensate. However, it is also possible to argue that although there are some costs for the blind that the sighted do not have to meet, the difference is not so great that it should be printed in every tax form in the land. I do not remember this argument being pursued on the convention floor. It has been discussed extensively off the convention floor from time to time, and the arguments are fierce. If the debate comes to the convention, I shall be interested in how it develops.
The NFB philosophy is quite clearly not a fixed set of principles that can never be modified. In one sense the National Federation of the Blind is the same today as it was in 1940 when it came into being. The idea at the time was that programs and policies about blindness must incorporate the view of blind people and that the Federation was the appropriate organization to represent the blind. Such remains as valid now as it was then. However, how we interpret and carry into effect the philosophy that is ours has changed.
There was a time in the Federation during which a fierce argument occurred about whether modifications to programs, buildings, and activities of living should not be made on behalf of the blind. This principle remains largely one in which we believe. However, with the digitization of virtually all methods of communication, access to information for the blind becomes as practical as it is for the sighted. We now believe that it is our right to have access to all information put into digital form. Although this is not a change in our fundamental beliefs, it does represent a change in emphasis.
At one time we thought and we said that print was not inherently available to us. The way to get at it was recorded matter, Braille, or a reader. Today we believe that we should have methods of getting such information that are not separate and distinct from the way sighted people get it. We have spent the last twenty years working to incorporate this thought into the minds of the developers of technology. We have not yet been universally successful, but our equality of access to information is greater today than it once was.Undoubtedly there will be other changes in the emphasis that we give to the implementation of NFB philosophy. The fundamental element of our philosophy that will not change is that we in convention assembled will decide what we want our policies to be.
by Melody Lindsey Roane
From the Editor: Melody Lindsey Roane is the director of the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired in Richmond, Virginia. During the past twenty-three years she has directed training programs for the blind in Virginia, Michigan, and Alaska and worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor in New Mexico. Melody learned about the NFB through the national scholarship program when she was a senior in high school in Florida. Over the ensuing years, she served as a board member in the Florida and Michigan affiliates and as the affiliate president in Alaska. She currently serves as the president of the National Association of Blind Rehabilitation Professionals, and she and her husband, Mark, participate actively in the NFB’s Virginia affiliate.
I first met Melody when she was a bubbly young student, and she took the time to compliment me on a speech I had given at a state convention she attended. That gave me good reason to remember her name, but her energy and enthusiasm have come to cement her in my mind more than any kind words about a speech that even I don’t remember now.
Melody has been a leader in every place she has lived, always letting her Federationism shine for those who know her to see. This tribute is her way of saying thank you to one of the people who figured prominently in allowing that light to shine through her, and what a wonderful tribute it is. Here is what Melody says about her friend and mentor, Arlene.
The following post about Arlene Hill written by Louana Abney Sterling appeared on the Louisiana Center for the Blind’s Facebook page: “I thank you for all you taught me about facing fears. When I first came to the Center, I was a very fearful person. I did not want to go out on my own, but you showed me it was nothing to be afraid of. If it were not for you, the last few years of my life would have been terrible. My husband has been in and out of the hospital, and because of you and your love, I was able to be there and do what I needed for him without fear.”
How do you honor a woman who taught her students so enthusiastically, believed so strongly in their potential, and gave so freely so that others may catch the spark that would fuel a dream and inspire a life? This is the question I ponder as I write this article about Arlene Hill, a gifted, talented and well-loved teacher at the Louisiana Center for the Blind who passed away on Monday, November 13, 2017. How do you do justice to someone who lived the lessons she taught?
It was December 1990 when I entered the Louisiana Center for the Blind as a twenty-one-year-old college graduate who struggled with a lot of insecurities, trying to find my place in this world. Arlene was my cane travel instructor, and soon I discovered that she had a great sense of adventure and fun which matched my own. I was going to learn so much, and I couldn’t wait to get started. Every lesson became a great adventure, adding new addresses to her repertoire and helping me develop problem-solving skills and endurance. Insecurities quickly disappeared, replaced by a sense of freedom and confidence.
As I gained a firm belief in my cane travel abilities, Arlene threw challenges at me during each lesson, which I embraced eagerly. They weren’t always easy, and sometimes they were downright bizarre. One day I went into Arlene’s office, and she told me that today’s lesson was to locate Sarah’s Kitchen, a wonderful restaurant in Ruston back in the old days that was operated out of Sarah’s house. The directions went something like this: After you pass the cemetery, take the first right, go down to the third street and turn left; when you hear the second dog bark, turn right. You cross over the second hill, then take the gravel driveway to the right, and you SHOULD be there.” It was always an awesome feeling when you actually arrived there without too many complications like one of the dogs not barking. I loved it! Ruston has grown a great deal since I was a student. Because of my training and role models like Arlene who shared the NFB philosophy with me, I am convinced that blind people can learn excellent travel skills and apply them in towns, cities, the heartland of the USA, and in other countries. Over the years, I have lived in Alaska, New Mexico, Michigan, and now Virginia, and no matter where I was living, the problem-solving and analytical skills I learned from Arlene prepared me to travel successfully and confidently in all environments.
Arlene demonstrated the unique ability to serve as a mentor and teacher to her students, as well as a colleague and friend, and there was no conflict. This characteristic is best illustrated by the following reflections from Pam Allen, executive director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind: “Arlene was my instructor, then my coworker, and then my employee, and in those roles we were always friends. There was never any awkwardness in the transitions. I am forever grateful. She taught me so much.” She lived what she taught, and when people ask me about the differences in training center philosophies, this ability to put into practice what you teach is one of them. Arlene also contributed to the writing of the book, Techniques Used by Blind Cane Travel Instructors: A practical approach: Learning, Teaching, Believing which demystifies the strategies blind cane travel instructors use to teach travel skills to blind students.
When the Center closed for short holidays, Arlene invited me to stay with her family which I appreciated greatly since my home was in Florida. Rather than spending my time as a passive guest, Arlene invited me to help out with various jobs in the kitchen. I felt like I was a part of the family. She shared her tips and strategies for cooking and baking which I still use today. In her unassuming way, she taught me that respect and belief don’t have to be demonstrated just in the classroom. She was a great role model and was always willing to give more so that others could find their dreams. It was not just an eight-to-five job for her; it was a lifestyle. It is rare to find that personal quality.
This is not just my story. There are countless stories of successful blind women and men who say they learned from Arlene. My husband, Mark, told me the story about when he was a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, and Arlene allowed him and another student to build a deck on the back of her house and teach her daughter, Valerie, and Valerie’s husband, Sam, how to build a deck. “There aren’t too many people who would have that much belief in you to invest that much money in the project so that we could know that blindness had not diminished our skills; it just challenges us to develop alternative techniques to do the same things we would do if we were still sighted.” Arlene lived her belief in the abilities of blind people, and because of it, countless blind people are living the lives they want. The heartbeat of her life was the Federation philosophy, which gave hope and confidence to her students.
Another former student, Karl Smith, shared the following thoughts about Arlene which have been echoed by many others who had the privilege of learning from and working with her:
Although I was familiar with Arlene from meeting her in various capacities at national conventions, I really got to know her when I became a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind in 1989. She was an enthusiastic and capable teacher, giving me my first experience with a totally blind travel instructor. She was fearless and very creative when necessary. She taught me that it was OK in an emergency to flag down a car and ask where I was. She taught me to stop, listen, and think to work my way out of difficult travel situations.
In cooking class Arlene taught me how to make a delicious strawberry pie from a recipe she got from a favorite bakery from her days in Baltimore. She once spent an afternoon with me trying to rescue a large batch of fudge I was making in which I accidently put far too much salt. We tried many remedies including boiling a potato in it to take the salt taste away, but none worked.
Arlene was a very good singer, and we found time to sing together with some of the students on weekends at the apartments with me and others accompanying on guitars. She also found time to sing in her church choir on Sundays.
One of my favorite memories of Arlene involved my final student project for home management. After completing all the cooking assignments, I decided that rather than just sew on a button which I already knew how to do, I wanted to make my wife a jumper as a surprise on returning home after my training. Arlene spent many hours after classes working with me to finish this project. For her efforts I taught her how to use the computer. I finished the jumper just before leaving Ruston, and my wife actually wore it a few times.
When visiting LCB over the years I always found time to visit with Arlene. Another favorite memory was watching Arlene’s over the top excitement when the New Orleans Saints won the final playoff game opening the way for their Super Bowl win.
Arlene’s great legacy will continue through all of us fortunate enough to have been taught and lifted by her.
And I would be remiss if I did not mention Arlene’s three children, Andrea, Eric, and Valerie, whom she loved dearly and was committed to completely. She was a single mom who faced that daunting task without fear and with love, hope, and determination. Joanne Wilson, the founder of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, remembers, “Her kids were in sports, and Eric played baseball. You could always count on Arlene being at his games and cheering him on no matter what happened. She was a great mother, and my son Joel said that she was like another mother to him growing up with her kids.” Arlene was also very proud of the activities and accomplishments of her nine grandchildren who brought so much joy to her life.
In 1991 the Louisiana Center for the Blind presented the first of Jerry Whittle’s plays to raise money for the summer youth programs. The title of the play was “Passing the Torch,” and Arlene played the role of the Center director, Mrs. Page. In the play, Mrs. Page challenged blind students who were coming to the end of their training to take the torch of freedom that they have been given by the National Federation of the Blind and pass it on to those who come behind them. And I am struck with the realization that, as we stand at this point in our lives, having benefited from Arlene’s life and her teaching, we hold that torch of freedom that she has passed to us. I am reminded of the responsibility that we have to pass that torch to blind people who come behind us. When a young blind mother of three children calls me, desperate to get her children out of an abusive situation, and others tell her that no judge would give her custody of her kids because she is blind, we must show her that it is possible for her to take care of her children. Hmm, I know that very well because of Arlene who provided a safe home for her three children and because of countless other blind parents we know through the National Federation of the Blind who are successfully caring for their children every day.
So, how do you honor a woman who taught her students so enthusiastically, believed so strongly in their potential, and gave so freely so that others may catch the spark that would fuel a dream and inspire a life? This is the question I ponder as I write this article about Arlene Hill, a gifted, talented and well-loved teacher at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. How do you do justice to someone who lived the lessons she taught?
We can honor Arlene by going to chapter meetings at the end of a long day and encouraging a chapter member to locate her chair independently and participate in the meeting actively when we would rather be at home curled up on the couch reading a good book. We can honor her by doing what may be inconvenient for us at the time but what may have the potential of making a huge difference in someone else’s life. We can honor her by changing our plans so that we can be there to provide hope and encouragement to someone we may have just met who is frustrated, scared, and uncertain about the future. We can honor her by recognizing when someone needs our strength to get them through the rough times of life. Arlene practiced excellence in everything she did, and we can honor her by adopting the exhortation of this quote from Ronnie Oldham: “Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible.”
Arlene’s passing and the passing of others is not the end of an era. It is an opportunity for those of us who remain to pass on their spirit of love, hope, and determination. We can continue the difference Arlene made in our lives by making a difference in the lives of the blind people God places in our paths. And, when we come to the end of our lives, may others say of us what we say today about Arlene, which is stated so beautifully in this Scripture: "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."" Proverbs 22-1 New International Version.
Thank you, Arlene, for teaching me and countless others to live fearlessly.
by Seth Lamkin
From the Editor: Seth is the grant program officer for the National Federation of the Blind. This means that he helps brainstorm about projects, finds organizations that might look favorably on them, writes the grant proposals, and has the thankless job of putting together all of the material required to show that we are spending the money given from the grants in the ways the grantor intends. Seth is also one of our best proofreaders and has made important amendments—okay, corrections—to my work from time to time. Here is what he has to say about a recent grant we have received:
In 2013 the National Federation of the Blind was the recipient of a three-year grant award from the National Science Foundation to expand informal science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) opportunities for blind youth, a project that saw the NFB partner with six science centers across the country as well as with other educators and STEM professionals. As part of that work, we introduced our student participants to tactile technical drawing (or drafting) as a component of an engineering design project. Together with our partners we noticed a trend among our students and realized there was an opportunity for an exciting new project focused on a set of skills commonly referred to as spatial abilities. Fast forward to 2017, and we were fortunate that the National Science Foundation recognized the merits of this idea and awarded the National Federation of the Blind a new five-year grant focused on spatial ability and engineering education for blind high school students.
Think of spatial ability as the way in which you imagine an object, its various characteristics, and then mentally manipulate that object to consider how it might change under certain conditions or as the result of certain actions. An example of this is if you consider a cube, and then you think of how its two halves would appear if it were cut in half at a forty-five-degree angle, and how those halves would appear based on the angle of perspective. You can imagine how valuable this ability is within engineering specifically, but also its broad application in a variety of fields and in daily life. Consider how helpful it can be to picture how your various belongings—with their varying shapes and sizes—will fit in your luggage before you pack, unpack, and inevitably repack just about everything you own.
Another application of spatial ability is an individual’s concept of place within his or her environment. Again, this is an important skill for anyone, regardless of vision or occupation, but even more so when you consider the importance of mental mapping in orientation and mobility training for blind children and adults. For anyone, blind or sighted, who has become turned around in a busy mall or convention center, recalling the layout in your mind is a useful and comforting ability.
The impetus for our project is our understanding, based on some existing literature but also informed by the collective experience of the National Federation of the Blind, that blind youth are denied many of the opportunities to develop spatial abilities to the same degree and at the same time as their sighted peers. Active play, independent travel, and other age-appropriate milestones can influence the development of spatial abilities. We are all too familiar with the obstacles blind youth face due to low expectations. Our work will include research, led by our partners at Utah State University, to determine how spatial skills can be measured and improved for blind people.
The programs themselves may sound familiar to you. We will be holding multiple iterations of NFB Engineering Quotient (EQ), a week-long program for blind high school students to experience hands-on engineering activities alongside blind adult mentors. Our colleagues at Utah State University are experts in engineering education and have worked with us in the past to develop programming for blind youth. Similarly we will once again be working with our friends at the Science Museum of Minnesota who will lend their expertise in informal programming. Ann Cunningham will be leading lessons on tactile drawing. In collaboration with our other partners, she will showcase how integral this skill is for engineering specifically and how useful it can be in any class or profession.
All of this will of course take place within the context of the National Federation of the Blind and its fundamental knowledge that you can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. With this basic principle the organization has affected thousands of lives, primarily through a system of mentorship that has become second nature to us. In academia there’s a name for what we’ve been doing, and it has been shown to be effective in trials and investigations with a variety of populations. Known as “communities of practice,” a lot has been written about them, but the basic idea is that a group of people who share a concern or passion come together to address their common issues collectively—as a community. The expertise of this group comes from practice, from the lived experiences of the members of the community. Sound familiar? As new members enter the community, they are mentored by those more experienced members who came before them, in time becoming those who will mentor the members to come.
Our partners at Lifelong Learning Group, evaluators on our previous grant from the National Science Foundation, have joined us once again and will be producing research on the impact of the National Federation of the Blind as a community of practice on the blind youth participating in the coming years of programming. It is an exciting opportunity to document the mechanisms and processes by which the National Federation of the Blind truly changes what it means to be blind and does so in a way that speaks the language of academia—an important audience if we are to reach those who so intimately influence educators before they come into the classroom.
We are excited to announce this new exploration into a STEM field and into what makes the National Federation of the Blind so effective. You will hear much more about our work over the coming years in this publication and in others, as well as at upcoming conventions (both our own and in the wider world). For now, if you’d like to learn more about the program, be sure to visit www.blindscience.org. Over the years more information will be added, and we will provide links to other resources including publications resulting from our research.
by Karen Anderson
From the Editor: Karen Anderson, formerly of Nebraska, now lives in Maryland and is working for a time as our interim head of social media. She enjoys writing, and what a treat it is to have something from her for the Braille Monitor. Karen’s story of migrating a relationship from exchanged tweets between strangers to in-person friendship and membership in the NFB is a reminder of the new landscapes of modern social interaction and mentorship. And sometimes, when all you have to start with is a user name and the typed words on the screen, you have no way of knowing exactly who you are speaking with. The reasons to use gender-neutral pronouns when talking about a friend you have made on a message board or Twitter can be as simple as that there has been nothing that explicitly states their gender to as complex as the exact nature of that new friend’s actual gender identity and preferred pronouns. Here is what she has to say:
As members of the National Federation of the Blind, we know how powerful mentoring can be. Connecting with someone else, particularly another blind person, has the potential to change someone’s life. There are many tools we can use in combination to help these relationships grow, even if the person you want to communicate with doesn’t happen to live in the same city. Often connections are made at events, and people keep in touch via phone, email, or good old-fashioned snail mail letters. A couple of years ago I realized that there is a new implement we can add to our toolbox.
In May of 2013, the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska Omaha Chapter decided to participate in Omaha Gives, the city’s local giving day. A giving day is a chance for everyone in a community to focus on donating to local nonprofits. The organization sponsoring the giving day frequently allocates funds to be given out to each of the participating organizations based on the percentage of funds they raise, which means a donor’s money goes even farther. The Lincoln Chapter had participated in a giving day the year before, during which we raised more than $2,000 by reaching out to donors on Twitter and Facebook. Consequently, I knew that social media could be an incredibly powerful way of reaching out to potential donors, and when the chapter president asked me if I would be willing to help boost the organization’s profile on and leading up to the day, I enthusiastically agreed.
Early on the morning of the event I saw a donation come in from someone named Jess, a donor whose name I didn’t recognize, followed by a tweet mentioning us and the importance of Braille literacy for blind children. Thrilled with our increased visibility, I messaged them on Twitter asking who they were and how they found out about us. To my delight, they had found us by following the hashtag for the giving day, and our mission spoke to them because they were losing their vision. I wrote back, thanking them for their donation, telling them a little about myself and the National Federation of the Blind, and asking about them as a person. As I would have in a traditional face-to-face conversation, I didn’t only ask about their blindness, in fact at first I rarely mentioned blindness. Instead, I asked about their hobbies, their likes and dislikes, and other typical getting-to-know-you questions. I replied to tweets they posted about the books they were reading or the vacation they were planning.
Over the next year Jess and I continued to correspond via Twitter, and Jess began to talk about their feelings about blindness. I came to realize that they were more comfortable talking about their struggle online. I was safe because I was anonymous and didn’t judge them or their feelings. I discovered that my new friend was something of a weather enthusiast and connected them with my blind partner who participated in storm-spotting events using ham radio. I listened as they lamented the loss of their vision and the perceived loss of so many hobbies that they cared about. Sometimes I offered an alternative technique that would allow them to continue participating in a hobby, like art. Sometimes we talked about hobbies we had in common; it turned out we both enjoy knitting. Sometimes I simply provided a listening ear, someone on the other side of the keyboard who understood blindness and who was still living the life I wanted.
During this time, Jess connected with the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired and began taking travel classes. I cheered them on, continuing to use Twitter to celebrate as they began realizing that blindness didn’t have to be the end of their independence, commiserating on the days when they weren’t sure they could accomplish the tasks they had been set, and celebrating when, ultimately, they mastered the skill and continued to build their self-confidence.
About a year and a half after we started talking, my partner and I were headed to Omaha for a family event. Realizing we had some extra time to kill, I reached out to Jess and asked if they were interested in getting together for coffee or a bite to eat. As someone who isn’t always the most socially confident, this was something that made me incredibly nervous, but I was at least ready to have a conversation in person. We agreed to meet at a local pizza shop we both liked. Though we were both nervous, we spent an enjoyable hour and a half eating and talking. After that our conversations on Twitter became deeper and more frequent.
Later that fall the Omaha chapter decided to host a chapter building event in conjunction with the state convention. I knew Jess was nervous in groups of people, but I decided it was worth inviting them again. I thought that since we had already met in person, the fact that I would be attending the event might make it easier. Though they were hesitant, they agreed to go, and we set a time and place to meet up beforehand. We also exchanged phone numbers for the first time.
The night of the event, I introduced Jess and their partner to as many members of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska as I could. I was thrilled to see them connecting with other blind people who shared a positive philosophy about blindness. I watched as they talked to blind parents, blind students, and blind professionals. They ended up staying at the event longer than I anticipated and kept talking with others long after I was called away.
Over the next few months my Federation family also began to reach out to Jess. Eventually they attended their first chapter meeting and took on leadership responsibilities, including being a chapter board member. The following year Jess was the one planning the social media strategy for the giving day, the event that had gotten them involved in the first place.
Twitter is not the only reason Jess got involved in the National Federation of the Blind. However, in this case, it was the right tool to use to reach out to them and connect with them where they were at the time. Jess is someone who generally talks more freely online than in person, and the anonymity allowed them to feel comfortable talking about something they hadn’t yet come to terms with. It also allowed me, someone they may never have met in person, to show them that blindness did not have to hold them back.
Getting started with Twitter does not have to be overwhelming. All you need to begin is a user name, a password, and a couple of people to follow. My username is kea_anderson. You can also connect with President Riccobono, @riccobono, and the National Federation of the Blind, @NFB_voice.In today’s digital age, our social interactions seem to happen more and more online. This is either a blessing or a curse, depending on who you talk to. Social media does have the potential to be a powerful recruiting tool for us as Federationists, provided we use it as one of many instruments in our toolbox.
by Dick Davis
From the Editor: In the January 2018 issue President Riccobono called on all of us to express our feelings about the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired’s (AER) decision to join forces with the National Accreditation Council for Blind and Low Vision Services (NAC). A number of us have written using email, Twitter, and Facebook. One of those is himself a member of AER, and makes clear his irritation at the direction the organization has taken and its association with a body which he believes harmful to the blind and harmful to AER. Here is what Dick Davis, a person who has made his forty-seven-year career in working with the blind of America, has to say to his colleagues in AER:
Dear Members of the AER:
I was disappointed to hear that the AER has chosen to breathe life back into NAC. My history with that organization began in 1971 after Dr. Kenneth Jernigan resigned from its board and decided to take our issues to the government, press, and general public. I have picketed NAC through the years, the last time being in 2002. I was an NFB official observer in that meeting, along with Dr. Harold Snider, a blind person. As a sighted person, I was introduced by the NAC president as “Dr. Snider’s attendant.” Not “assistant” or “co-observer,” but “attendant.” And all because I was sighted and he was blind. After thirty years of being picketed, they still hadn’t learned anything.
Carl Augusto, head of the American Foundation for the Blind, attended the 2002 NAC meeting as an invited guest. For a number of years, Carl was associate director of NAC. By 2002, he knew it and its history better than anyone. Our members were picketing the NAC meeting at the time. When the members asked Carl what the organization could do to bring the NFB around, Carl said something like this: “They don’t want to work with you. They want you to go out of business. That’s what they have been telling you for years.”
The NAC members, of course, ignored Carl. They went on to elect as NAC president the superintendent of a school for the blind that had come under investigation for student deaths on campus. That is the way NAC does business. Its reputation has been destroyed, mostly by its own craven lack of ethics. You should know better than to resurrect it. The NFB has, for many years, worked cooperatively with the AER and other organizations and agencies serving the blind. But it doesn’t have to. You are heading down the wrong road and might want to reconsider tying yourselves to NAC.
If not, I guess we will have to introduce the new generation to picketing.
Richard C. (Dick) Davis
From the Editor: Other Federationists have not remained silent on their opinion about the AER bringing NAC into its fold. Here are just a couple of representative samples we have received:
Subject: moving backward
To whom it may concern:
I am deeply disappointed to hear that AERBVI is attempting to revive NAC, a name synonymous with the most regressive tendencies in work with the blind.
There is little point in detailing why I find this decision so repugnant. If you have not read the history, please do so.
The field of work with the blind seems to have moved toward a respectful incorporation of customer-centered thinking in policy and program development over the past few decades. Revival of NAC is the clearest way imaginable to reject blind customers, both individually and collectively.
If you believe a blindness-specific accreditation process has merit, I recommend that you begin at the beginning and work with the National Federation of the Blind to create a mutually respectful dialogue on best practices. I would rather not stand in the sun and the rain demonstrating against NAC-accredited agencies, but I will not allow a desire for the appearance of peace and harmony to permit the clock to be turned back. Our signs in the last round said, “No Accreditation without Representation.” This time they may read “Nothing About Us Without Us.” It’s the same message. How unfortunate that AERBVI never read the memo.
Mary Ellen Gabias
Then the editor had to get in his two cents:
Sent using email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Sir or Madam:
Some organizations are associated with honor, credibility, and trust. Others are not. Sometimes an organization’s reputation is so tarnished that it is better to let it pass into history and start afresh. Does the need still exist or is it being filled by other organizations?
When I think of NAC, I think of a history that will be difficult or impossible to live down. But with NAC it is more than just a failed organization that played fast and loose with the concept of accreditation. It is an orientation, a view of the place blind people occupy in society, and in particular our place in work with the blind. NAC was a part of the professional establishment that told us that being blind had little or nothing to do with understanding the services blind people needed or how they should be delivered. Rather than seeing us as the most reliable barometer of an agency’s services, its integrity, its willingness to innovate, and its dedication to work with the blind, NAC has too often turned a blind eye to abuse in schools it has accredited. Likewise NAC has turned a deaf ear to meaningful input from blind people who have a significant interest in schools and agencies where we get service.
AER has had its own conflicts with blind people, but bettering the relationship between it and the organized blind of America has been decades in the making. AER’s association with NAC is a step in the wrong direction, harkening back to the days when blind people were to be seen but not heard, placed on lists as clients but excluded from critical influence. I would rather talk than walk, but when talk is not enough and protest is my only choice, there are things I believe worthy of my public demonstration alongside my friends and colleagues in the National Federation of the Blind.
Of course we have an alternative. Identify what needs standards that should be addressed by accreditation, use the systems already doing accreditation, and if there is still a need, build a system from the ground up that includes blind people. Let a core value of that system be that there will be nothing about us without us, and do all of this in a way that is so fair and transparent that no reasonable person will question what is being built. Let there be no tokenism when it comes to representation, no votes in which a decision is decided twenty-seven to one, and the one dissenting vote came from a representative of the largest organization of the blind in the world.
It is often observed that we should not reinvent the wheel. The clear meaning is that we should keep the good and go forward. The corollary is that we quit using those things which do not work. Einstein is sometimes quoted as saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for different results. Whether the quotation comes from Einstein, Twain, or some other author, it doesn’t take the brains of Einstein to know that the blind deserve better. Those committed to working with the blind deserve better. Those who are paid through charitable or governmental funds to work with the blind deserve better. Let NAC go its way, and if there is a demonstrated need for accreditation that is not already met, build it with the blind. Let us build for the future and not try to escape from or explain away the past. Real lives demand real solutions, and NAC is not a part of any solution.Gary Wunder
by Mark Riccobono
In my role as President of the National Federation of the Blind, I love attending local chapter meetings since that is the place where the heartbeat of the organization begins. The chapter meeting is my monthly grounding in what is central to our organization—connecting with our Federation family, hearing about the ups and downs members experience, sharing my own ups and downs, explaining what we are doing as a movement, and engaging in conversations about where we have been and where we wish to go together at all levels of our organization. Unfortunately, I cannot physically be at every local chapter meeting across the country. Yet some of the engagement and dialogue that I would have in person is facilitated through the Presidential Release.
Playing the Presidential Release at your local monthly chapter meeting fuels progress toward our organizational objectives by allowing me to:
These are all important to our movement, and I hope this letter helps you to have a deeper understanding of why they should be important to your chapter. Careful attention goes into the Presidential Release to ensure that it contains important information, builds relationships, and includes some humor—known as "customary endings." Good chapter meetings are busy and packed with program—which should include the Presidential Release. If your chapter is not consistently playing the Presidential Release every month, this letter is to ask you to work closely with your chapter president to make sure it is part of the monthly program.
The very first Presidential Release was made on November 12, 1973, and I first heard a Presidential Release in the fall of 1996 after I became president of the student division for the Wisconsin affiliate. The question of why chapters of the National Federation of the Blind should offer the Presidential Release at the monthly chapter meeting has been around as long as I have been in the organization, and I suspect it came up before that time. As we come to the forty-fifth anniversary of this organizational asset, it seemed appropriate that the question get attention directly from the horse’s mouth—or maybe it is the horse’s hooves since this is being composed on a computer.
The Presidential Release is a monthly communication that is planned and presented by the President of the National Federation of the Blind. It is a direct message from the President of the national organization to the members at the local level, and it is intended to be shared within a local chapter meeting. The Presidential Release was originally distributed on cassette tape to chapter presidents and other Federation leaders. In 2012 it began being distributed on a flash drive which dramatically cut the time for duplicating and distributing the release. Not too long after that we began posting the audio file to nfb.org, and starting with the August 2015 release, #441, we added an RSS feed allowing it to be podcast. Shortly after that we added a new version of the Presidential Release which is intended to reach out to members who primarily speak Spanish—the first Spanish release was November 2015, #444. In the same timeframe that we moved away from cassette tape distribution, we established a telephone number that could be called to listen to the release, and that capability was later moved to NFB-NEWSLINE where you can now find the release on the National Federation of the Blind channel. In January of 2018 we began posting the English and Spanish transcripts of the Presidential Release at nfb.org to provide access to members who are deafblind. To make sure our list is comprehensive, I should mention that the Presidential Release can also be accessed on devices like the Amazon Echo or by pulling up the NFB Connect mobile application on iOS or Android. To get the release with Amazon Alexa say, “Play the Presidential Release podcast.” In general the Presidential Release is made eleven times a year, and it is available prior to the first Saturday of the month on the website and via the podcast feed. We generally have the Presidential Release posted within twenty-four hours of recording it, and the Spanish and text versions follow later in the month. I am not aware of any Federation chapters that meet earlier than the first Saturday. Therefore every chapter should plan to have the Presidential Release at their chapter meeting as long as a new one has been produced for that month
The Presidential Release is intended to be a common bond shared among all of the chapters of the Federation. Our organization is strong because it is a wide, diverse network of chapters working on common issues. The release is also an opportunity to make the President of the Federation more personally known by the members. Obviously I cannot be at every chapter meeting, but the release allows me to share some personal reflections, information about what is happening, and some personal notes that might not otherwise be widely distributed. The release is also a reminder for members of the Federation that they can reach out directly to me to share ideas, information, and feedback. I am always surprised when a member asks if they can have my email address since it is on the Presidential Release every month.
The release is also a tool that chapters can use to spark discussion about the topics that are raised. For example, discussion of organizational priorities, the national convention, pressing legislative concerns, or new Federation projects are an opportunity for chapters to discuss how those national themes fit into the priorities of the chapter and how the chapter can contribute. The goal is to have a united organization where we coordinate work at all levels—local, state, and national—and we find ways to maximize opportunities for blind people.
The most important thing to know is that presenting the audio version of the Presidential Release should be a regular part of every chapter meeting agenda. At what point in the meeting it should be played and how it should be discussed is up to the chapter president as the individual running the meeting. Some chapters use it as the first major item of content at the meeting. Others work it in immediately before a report from the affiliate president. Still others take it in chunks so that discussion can happen after a particularly important item has been raised on the release. I caution against the release being the final item on the agenda if it has the effect of encouraging some members to beat the crowd and leave before the meeting is over. I also urge that it not be used as background noise for a break in the meeting. Both of those approaches diminish the intent and importance of the release to the Federation.
The Presidential Release should be introduced with some context for new members. chapter presidents have an opportunity to remind existing members and educate new members before every release is played about its value in bringing the chapter together with every other chapter in the nation. The preamble to the release need not be long, but it is important to remind each other why we do what we do.
Although many members think I do not know, I am well aware that the release is sometimes played at a faster speed at some chapter meetings. I do not strongly object to this practice, but I do urge that chapter presidents be sure that the faster speed works for everyone in the room. Some people have hearing difficulties, and many newly-blind people may not be comfortable with listening to things at a higher rate of speed. Thus, my preference is that the Presidential Release be presented at the speed it was intended to make sure that it is as accessible to as many people in the room as possible. The playing of the release should be thoughtfully placed in the meeting, offered in its entirety, and its presentation should be managed by the chapter president.
In 1973 when the first release was made by Dr. Jernigan, or even in July 1986 when Dr. Maurer recorded his first Presidential Release (#117), we did not have the diverse and speedy communication tools we have today. It can be argued that email, Twitter, Facebook, podcasting, and other methods of sharing information mean that the information on the release is outdated as soon as it arrives. I believe this is not the case. In fact, if you go back and listen to the release over the years you can hear some of the commonality and some of the evolution. The release is presented in my voice, and much of our other organizational communication is heard through other voices. We provide less detail about specifics of Federation activities than we once did because we can now refer people to the website. Thus, rather than giving all of the details about the program for the law symposium or our next youth STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math] program, I can discuss the overall program and refer people to other sources for the details. Additionally, the release shares information that we do not share through other organizational channels such as celebrations of new Federationists (babies and grandbabies) and new Federation marriages as well as local Federationists who have passed away. This section of the release, which I refer to as the Federation Family notes, reminds us that we are a diverse, grassroots organization where most of our contributors are not high-profile names known to all across the nation. However, many of the names are widely known because of meetings at national conventions, service on a Federation committee, or information sharing through the Federation network. More than any other tool of communication we have, the release brings the personal element of shared understanding between our leaders and our members.
When I first heard the Presidential Release in 1996, I came to know that our President was a blind man who faced the same barriers and misconceptions that I did as a struggling student at the University of Wisconsin. The national President was better at dealing with the barriers than I was, and the release helped contribute to my development of methods and skills to cope with obstacles I encountered. When I finally met Marc Maurer in person, I felt like I already knew him from the release, and it eased my nervousness about approaching the President. Similarly, it is my hope that the Presidential Release brings members of the Federation to a place where they know me and can work with me. I could write something to the members every week or send out a Tweet of the day, but it will not be as personal or as comprehensive as the Presidential Release is today. I also believe that the release is an important part of cataloguing our progress as a movement. It gives us a running understanding of the Federation’s concerns and priorities over time, and it allows us to understand those concerns through the perspective of the principal leader of the movement. The release itself has given us a mechanism for continuing to evaluate what we do and how we might do it better—hence the evolution of the ways of distributing the release and the change from a communication that went primarily to leaders to one that is easily accessed by anybody (member or not). I hasten to add that I’ve seen this availability to everyone used as a reason not to take chapter time for the release, but, as I’ve already made clear, the release is meant to stimulate discussion in the meeting and not just as another source of information.
It is also worth noting that research demonstrates that people have to be exposed to things multiple times—seven is the number used in marketing circles—before it sticks with them. Even if the Presidential Release emphasizes content that is promoted in other places, the fact that it is on the release is helping it gain importance and building understanding within the membership. A good example is that someone once said to me that they were not invited to visit the Presidential Suite at the national convention. Besides the fact that it is in the convention agenda every year and we mention it throughout the convention, I have specifically invited people to come to the suite and thanked them for coming on Presidential Releases. Why did this individual think they were not invited? I suspect because the Presidential Release may not have been played at their chapter meeting.
I have tried to make the Presidential Release authentic to my style as a leader of the Federation. I have also tried to encourage people to share ideas, topics, and customary endings that might help shape the content of the release in ways that are helpful to the Federation. While I wish to have feedback and ideas, you should know that I have avoided certain things. I frequently get requests to announce a chapter fundraiser on the release, and I have consciously decided not to open up those floodgates. I may share interesting fundraising ideas that chapters are implementing, but I do not think the Presidential Release is the correct forum for pitching candy bars and umbrellas. I invite customary endings, and I have tried to encourage people to send audio clips of young Federationists sharing those treasures. Sometimes I receive jokes which are not appropriate for the family atmosphere we want at our chapter meetings. Other times I receive cute recordings, but they are hard enough to understand that I decide not to include them. In other words, just because you send a contribution does not mean it will be included for a variety of reasons. On the whole, I never get enough feedback on things you would like to hear discussed on the release.
And now for the real customary endings:
This was the only ending on the very first Presidential Release offered by Kenneth Jernigan:
What do you call a sleeping bull? A bulldozer.
On Marc Maurer’s first release in July 1986 he offered a number of one liners but this one seems most appropriate for a customary ending:
What goes ha, ha, ha bam? A man laughing his head off.
My favorite ending from the first forty Presidential Releases I have recorded appears at the very end of #458 (February 3, 2017). This ending is delivered by me to Oriana Riccobono. I think the ending is a good one, but Oriana’s reaction is the real Presidential Release gem—you will have to pull up the episode online to hear what happens. Here is my ending:
What did the coffee say to the cream? I do not always know how to espresso my feelings, but I love-a you a latte!
As we come to the close of this Presidential Release letter, I wish to offer a few items that might be of interest. Dr. Jernigan wrote an article upon the occasion of the 100th release in 1984. That article notes that he tried to keep the release to about twenty minutes. I had not known that fact until putting this letter together. I also try to keep it to about twenty minutes, but frequently it runs longer because of the number of important topics that I want to cover. With today’s digital delivery of the release, chapter presidents can easily note the run time of the release and work that into the planning of the chapter agenda. You can read the other nuggets from the first one hundred releases in the February 1985 issue of the Braille Monitor in the article entitled “Presidential Releases” (available at https://nfb.org/Images/nfb/Publications/bm/bm85/bm8502/
We only have eleven releases a year—how come? Because we do not have twelve of course. Actually the reason is that traditionally one is not made very close to the national convention because the organization is focused on the activities of the national convention. The President does not want to scoop any of the happenings of the convention on the release, and chapters should be discussing the national convention during that month. I did not examine the archive to determine if there was ever a year when we had a release very close to the convention because there was something urgent. However, I can remember years when we have had more than eleven releases. Typically this means we do not have a release in June, but can you think of a year when we had a June Presidential Release? It happened in 2017 because the convention was late enough in July that the July release would have come out immediately before the convention.
We have mentioned the first release by other Federation Presidents. What was my first release you might ask? It was July 2014, #429. I have tried to do some different things on the Presidential Release in the time I have been putting it together. Including my family in the release has been fun—my son Austin even tries to create his own customary endings now. I also once invited the Amazon Alexa to offer customary endings—probably the first time they were offered via the cloud. If the pattern for releases holds, the five hundredth Presidential Release will be December of 2020—seems like that presents an interesting opportunity to do something fun.There are a lot of fun and interesting jobs related to serving as President of the National Federation of the Blind. The Presidential Release is one of the fun tasks to tackle. It is not always that the news to be delivered is joyful, but the release itself—what it represents and the bond that it allows me to strengthen with members of the Federation—is really important to me and valuable to our organization. I hope that you will join me in that bond by making the Presidential Release a priority at Federation chapter meetings. Equally as important, I urge you to continue contributing to that bond by giving me feedback and sending customary endings—I would love to put more young Federationists on the release. If you have great customary endings but no young Federationists to deliver them, send them anyway—I have three members that I go to when a recording is needed. It is my honor to be a part of every chapter meeting within the National Federation of the Blind. I hope to get to your chapter in person very soon. Even if I cannot be there in person, I appreciate that I have the opportunity to offer my perspectives at the meeting. In many large organizations the primary leader serves at a distance to the members. That is not the Federation way, and I am glad to continue the tradition of direct engagement with members at all levels. Remember that together with love, hope, and determination we transform dreams into reality. Let’s go build the National Federation of the Blind.
by Kim Cunningham
From the Editor: Kim is the president of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, one of the most active divisions we have in the organization and certainly a highly-visible presence at our national conventions. The 2018 National Convention will certainly uphold the standard that has been established, and here is Kim Cunningham and her capable board of directors to tell us about it:
The NOPBC board would like to invite you to attend our 2018 national conference this summer. Our conference is held in conjunction with the convention of the National Federation of the Blind, which takes place July 3 to July 8, 2018, in Orlando, Florida. If you are a family member of a blind or low vision child, teacher, or professional, you will not want to miss spending this week with other families across the US along with 2,500 blind and low vision adults. It is our goal to teach you and your family what it means (and does not mean) to be blind by providing numerous workshops, activities, and opportunities for mentoring.
Our theme this year is “Tools in My Toolbox.” Just as a carpenter has many tools, so does the blind and low vision person. We want to share how blind and low vision students are successful both in their personal lives and in the classroom and how each person uses their tools in different ways, at different times.
The National Federation of the Blind and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children know that blindness is not the characteristic that defines your child’s future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. Blind children can live the lives they want; blindness is not what holds them back.
Most toolboxes include basic tools such as a hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdriver, and saw. Imagine trying to put something together without a screwdriver or cutting a piece of lumber without a saw. Without the right tools, your work will be slow and laborious. We want to help you build your child’s toolbox and build his/her confidence. Blindness skills such as: Braille, a long white cane, Nemeth code for math, Braille music, magnification, and technology (along with many others) are critical skills for independence. If your child qualifies for services as a legally blind student, then your child’s weakest sense is going to be his/her vision. Vision will be the weakest tool in your child’s toolbox. Yet there are those who believe your child should use his or her vision in order to complete most daily tasks, even if other alternatives might be more efficient. This is similar to someone believing that a screwdriver is the best tool to cut a piece of wood. In the NOPBC we believe learning all the tools will enable students to grow into successful adults with options for how to live the lives they want. My own daughter’s toolbox is full of tools for her to pick from. She may not use each tool in the same way as another blind or low vision person, but she has the ability to choose which is best for whatever task she is doing. She no longer relies on unreliable vision. My husband and I both use a hammer for different reasons and in different ways, but we still know how to use a hammer. Braille is like a hammer. Some students will use it for everything, and some dual media students will use it along with large or magnified print. If your child’s toolbox doesn’t include Braille (or a hammer), he or she might find it difficult to keep up with work in the classroom. The other students might be hammering away while the blind and low vision student is hammering with a screwdriver. If your child’s toolbox doesn’t include a long white cane, he or she won’t enjoy the freedom of independently traveling where and when he or she wants. By building your child’s toolbox, you will build a better future for your child.
We are excited to share our workshops with you and your family and hope to encourage you all to learn about the tools for independence. Our Youth Track program will give our students ages eleven to eighteen the opportunity to socialize and learn about independence from other students. Our NFB Kid Camp will also be hosting a National Federation of the Blind Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (NFB BELL) Academy for children ages three to ten to introduce them to the skills of blindness from blind and low vision adults.
Last year our young blind and low vision students sold “Megan Bening” angel pins in memory of NOPBC Board Member Jean (and husband Al) Bening’s daughter Megan. Over $5,000 was raised. Technology was a big part of Megan’s life, and we hope to keep Megan’s spirit alive by giving what she loved. We will be holding drawings for various pieces of blindness technology purchased from money raised through our NOPBC Megan Bening Memorial Fund. This drawing will be held during our Family Hospitality evening, July 3.
We are also gearing up to provide even more Braille and Twin Vision books for our annual NOPBC Braille Book Fair. During the book fair on the evening of July 5, families are given the opportunity to choose books free of charge and have them shipped home courtesy of our UPS and Wells Fargo volunteers. We are thankful for the numerous Braille books already donated by families and professionals across the US. We are also thankful for the monetary donations made which enable us to purchase even more Twin Vision books. Braille rocks!
From the Editor: The State of Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development posted this announcement on its website on February 16, 2018, and the original post can be found here: http://labor.alaska.gov/news/2018/news18-04.pdf.
Following a regulatory change that goes into effect today, Alaska employers are no longer allowed to pay less than minimum wage to workers who experience disabilities. In repealing 8 AAC 15.120, Alaska joins New Hampshire and Maryland as the first states in the nation to eliminate payment of subminimum wages for persons with disabilities.
An exemption from paying minimum wage to persons with disabilities has existed for many years, beginning at the federal level with the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and in Alaska regulations since 1978. Historically, minimum wage exemptions were considered necessary to help people with disabilities gain employment. Experience over the past two decades has shown that workers with disabilities can succeed in jobs earning minimum wage or more.
“Workers who experience disabilities are valued members of Alaska’s workforce,” said Department of Labor and Workforce Development Acting Commissioner Greg Cashen. “They deserve minimum wage protections as much as any other Alaskan worker.”
The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development received written comments expressing support for repealing the regulation that allowed the minimum wage exemption from the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education, the State Vocational Rehabilitation Committee, the Statewide Independent Living Council, and the Alaska Workforce Investment Board.
The elimination of the minimum wage exemption brings employment practices into alignment with Alaska Employment First Act of 2014, which requires vocational services help people with disabilities to become gainfully employed at or above the minimum wage.
For more than seventy-five years, the National Federation of the Blind has worked to help blind people live the lives they want and, with your support, we will continue to do so for decades to come. We sincerely hope you will join our enduring movement by including the National Federation of the Blind in your planned giving. Our legacy society is called Dream Makers Circle because those who join it turn dreams into reality.
You can add the National Federation of the Blind to your will. You can name the National Federation of the Blind as a beneficiary or partial beneficiary of a retirement vehicle, life insurance policy, pension, 401(k), or other asset. You can even gift a bank account.
A gift to the National Federation of the Blind is more than just a charitable, tax-deductible donation. It is an easy way to join in the work to help blind people live the lives they want and leave a lasting imprint on the lives of thousands of blind children and adults.
With your help the NFB will continue to:
Please consider the National Federation of the Blind in your estate planning. 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.
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 2017 the NFB:
Just imagine what we will 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.
The NFB now accepts donated vehicles, including cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, or recreational vehicles. Just call (855) 659-9314 tollfree, 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 donations help support the ongoing programs of the NFB and the work to help blind people live the lives they want. Donate online with a credit card or through the mail with check or money order. Visit www.nfb.org/make-gift for more information.
Even if you can’t afford a gift right now, including the National Federation of the Blind in your will enables you to contribute by expressing your commitment to the organization and promises support for future generations of blind people across the country. Visit www.nfb.org/planned-giving or call (410) 659-9314, extension 2422, for more information.
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.
by Mark Riccobono
Having the opportunity to serve as an elected representative in the National Federation of the Blind is an extreme honor and one that brings with it the expectation that we will do our best to represent all blind people and make them proud. In an effort to formalize standards that have long been a part of the expectations we have for leaders and members at all levels in the Federation, the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind has written a document embodying the principles we will uphold as national, affiliate, and chapter leaders. Federationists will recognize that this document formalizes and presents in some detail the long-held conduct expected of our leaders and makes clear our promise to be the kind of diverse and welcoming organization represented by our brand.
The standard we expect from our leaders mirrors those we expect of members and embodies promises we make to one another as we interact at our chapter meetings and at conventions of the National Federation of the Blind. A primary one is to provide a safe and friendly environment for everyone who attends. Our meetings welcome those from diverse backgrounds who have made advancing the good of the blind a goal that is so important in their lives that they commit their time and treasure to securing it. Everyone who attends our events can expect to be safe, to be treated with courtesy and respect, and to be appreciated for who they are. We make no distinction based on age, race, gender, religion, educational level, sexual orientation, or one’s affiliation or lack thereof with a political party or ideology. Here is the formal pledge that we make to one another to ensure that the Federation is representative, welcoming, and open to all who are engaged in our cause.
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. The Federation 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. To help carry out the Federation’s vital mission, this Code of Conduct sets forth policies and standards that all members, especially Federation leaders, are expected to adopt and follow.
II. Diversity Policy
The National Federation of the Blind embraces diversity and full participation as core values in its mission to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind. We are committed to building and maintaining a nationwide organization with state affiliates and local chapters that is unified in its priorities and programs and is directed by the membership. We respect differences of opinion, beliefs, identities, and other characteristics that demonstrate that blind people are a diverse cross section of society. Furthermore, the organization is dedicated to continuing to establish new methods of membership and leadership development that reflect the diversity of the entire blind community. In promoting a diverse and growing organization, we expect integrity and honesty in our relationships with each other and openness to learning about and experiencing cultural diversity. We believe that these qualities are crucial to fostering social and intellectual maturity. Intellectual maturity also requires individual struggle with unfamiliar ideas. We recognize that our views and convictions will be challenged, and we expect this challenge to take place in a climate of tolerance and mutual respect in order to maintain a united organization. While we encourage the exchange of differing ideas and experiences, we do not condone the use of demeaning, derogatory, or discriminatory language, action, or any other form of expression intended to marginalize an individual or group. The National Federation of the Blind does not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, citizenship, marital status, age, genetic information, disability, or any other characteristic or intersectionality of characteristics.
III. Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy
The National Federation of the Blind will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, citizenship, marital status, age, genetic information, disability, or any other characteristic or intersectionality of characteristics. Harassment on the basis of any of these characteristics similarly will not be tolerated. Although this Code of Conduct establishes a minimum standard prohibiting discrimination and harassment, nothing in this Code should be interpreted to limit in any way a person’s right to report abuse or harassment to law enforcement when appropriate.
Sexual harassment is prohibited by state and federal law and also will not be tolerated by the National Federation of the Blind. Complaints of harassment may be lodged by a female against a male, by a female against a female, by a male against a male, or by a male against a female. Sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, sexually motivated physical contact, or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature.” The following conduct is either considered conduct that by itself is sexual harassment, or that has the potential risk of causing sexual harassment to occur, and this conduct is therefore prohibited:
Under this policy, harassment can be verbal, written, or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual because of his or her race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, disability, marital status, citizenship, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by law; or that of his or her relatives, friends, or associates, and that a) has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment; b) has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance or involvement in the organization; or c) otherwise adversely affects an individual’s opportunities for participation/advancement in the organization.
Harassing conduct includes epithets, slurs, or negative stereotyping; threatening, intimidating or hostile acts including bullying; denigrating jokes; and written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group that is placed on walls or elsewhere on the organization’s premises or circulated by email, phone (including voice messages), text messages, social networking sites, or other means.
IV. Social Media and Web Policy
All members of the Federation, but especially officers of the Federation as well as those in leadership positions such as state affiliate presidents, should follow these recommended guidelines when making comments online, posting to a blog, using Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/YouTube/
Pinterest/Instagram/similar tools, and/or using other platforms that fall under the definition of social media:
V. Conflict of Interest Policy
Each NFB officer, national board member, or state affiliate president (hereafter Federation leader) is expected to take appropriate responsibility to protect the Federation from misappropriation or mismanagement of Federation funds (including funds of an affiliate, chapter, or division in which the Federation leader assumes a leadership role).
Each Federation leader is expected to disclose the existence of any potentially conflicting personal financial interest or relationship to the full National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors and seek its review and approval, as specified below. For example:
VI. Policy While Interacting with Minors
For purposes of this Code of Conduct and consistent with most legal standards, a minor is any individual under the age of eighteen. While interacting with any minor, a national officer, national board member, or state affiliate president (hereafter Federation leader) shall recognize that a minor cannot legally give consent for any purpose even if said minor is verbally or otherwise expressing consent. For example, a minor may say that he/ or she consents to physical interaction. However, such consent is not valid or legal and should not be accepted. A parent or guardian must be informed and consulted about any action requiring consent from the minor. A Federation leader shall report any inappropriate interactions between adults and minors to the minor’s parents and law enforcement when appropriate.
VII. Alcohol and Drug Policy
Although alcoholic beverages are served at some Federation social functions, members and Federation leaders may not participate in any such functions in a condition that prevents them from participating safely and from conducting Federation business effectively or that might cause embarrassment to or damage the reputation of the Federation. The Federation prohibits the possession, sale, purchase, delivery, dispensing, use, or transfer of illegal substances on Federation property or at Federation functions.
VIII. Other General Principles
In addition to the other policies and standards set-forth herein, national officers, national board members, and state affiliate presidents (hereafter Federation leaders) shall adhere to the following standards:
IX. Violations and Complaint Procedure
Violations of this Code of Conduct, after first being established through the process set-forth below, are subject to disciplinary action by the Federation. Such disciplinary actions may include but are not limited to counselling, verbal and/or written reprimand, probation, suspension or termination of officer/leadership duties, and/or suspension or expulsion from the Federation.
X. Minimum Standard
This Code of Conduct is intended to recite a minimum set of standards expected of Federation members. It sets forth the spirit that the Federation expects of all of its participants toward each other and toward those who work with the Federation at all of its levels. It is intended to be interpreted broadly to instill a respectful, cooperative, and welcoming spirit in members and in the activities of the Federation.
XI. Federation Pledge and Acknowledgement of Code of Conduct
I, (Federation leader), 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. I further acknowledge that I have read this Code of Conduct and that I will follow its policies, standards, and principles.
by Maurice Peret
From the Editor: Maurice Peret began working as coordinator of career mentoring programs for the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute in January of 2018. Having gone through the public school system in suburban Washington, DC, the term “partially sighted” was most often used to describe his status because of his very limited vision that would decline completely by the time he was in his early twenties. Although there was a chapter of the NFB in his area, he knew no blind adults after whom to model blindness skills or positive attitudes. He finally became a member of the Federation in 1991 through the mentorship of Ed McDonald who was then the president of the NFB of West Virginia where Maurice lived at the time.
He has worked in the blindness rehabilitation field since 1999 and earned the National Orientation & Mobility Certification in 2002. He has served continuously on the NOMC Training Committee which develops and upholds the rigorous performance-based standards of the Structured Discovery Cane Travel (SDCT) training model under the direction of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board. Maurice is grateful and excited by the opportunity to provide pre-employment transition-focused career mentoring programs that he might have benefited from when he was growing up. Here is what he says:
For seventy-eight years now the nation’s largest and most influential representative organization of the blind, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), has developed and nurtured its single most valued and effective asset: its membership. The collective experience of tens of thousands of blind men and women, passed down through the generations from one to another, has contributed to the ultimate success and independence of countless blind young people to carry the torch of leadership and to live the lives they want.
The cause of the Federation’s successful and long-standing reliance on and promotion of mentorship as a leadership development tool can be traced back to before the organization’s formation, to the unique and exemplary relationship between Dr. Newel Perry, an instructor at the California School for the Blind, and his protégé, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. Dr. Perry earned a prestigious doctor of philosophy in mathematics degree with highest honors in 1901 before returning to his alma mater. He was a supreme teacher, scholar, mentor, friend, and colleague in his own right. Obviously Dr. Perry acquired life skills that allowed him to successfully overcome the myths and misconceptions that prevented other blind people from achieving similar success. More than a teacher, as a mentor Dr. Perry openly shared his experiences and strategies with Dr. tenBroek in a manner that allowed Dr. tenBroek to leverage those strategies to define his own future. Despite the capability their brilliant academic achievements demonstrated, both of these great, accomplished men had to struggle to overcome multiple brick walls to opportunities that society deemed insurmountable by them on the basis of their blindness. This struggle served to strengthen their determination to build the kind of national civil rights organization that would systematically chip away, brick by brick, at the social barriers that would confront future generations. In 1940 Dr. tenBroek founded the National Federation of the Blind, a nationwide organization of blind people that believes in the true capacity of blind people.
Dr. tenBroek explained that the key to Dr. Perry’s “great influence with blind students was first the fact that he was blind and therefore understood their problems; and second, that he believed in them and made his faith manifest. He provided the only sure foundation of true rapport: knowledge on our part that he was genuinely interested in our welfare.” In other words, because he’d fought the same battles and faced the same barriers, his students believed his interest in their progress as students and developing humans was genuine and untainted by pity or charity. In the decades since Dr. Perry taught, research studies have empirically demonstrated that matching blind youth with successful mentors in this way increases their effectiveness in making decisions about their futures and increases their positive attitudes about blindness.
In October of 2004 the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute received a five-year model demonstration grant from the US Department of Education Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to develop a mentoring excellence program for blind youth between the ages of sixteen and twenty-six. With this grant, the Federation established a National Center for Mentoring Excellence to design, develop, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive national mentoring program to connect young blind people with successful blind adults. Today we are building on the quantitative and qualitative data collected from that experience to establish NFB CAREER Mentoring Programs across the country for blind youth with a stronger emphasis upon pre-employment transition services as outlined in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA). The NFB CAREER Mentoring Program combines best practices in mentoring with the philosophy of the NFB—a philosophy that combines high expectations, a positive attitude, the value of alternative techniques of blindness, and the belief that it is okay to be blind. In the end, we hope to instill a conviction in the blind women and men we serve that they can live the lives they want and that blindness is not what holds them back.
The empowering role that mentors play in encouraging and modeling proven strategies and winning behaviors to young mentees can hardly be overstated. From the time they are very young, boys and girls begin to think about what they want to become when they grow up. Unfortunately, this is also the time that society begins to tell blind and visually-impaired children and their families that not only are they different from other children, but that this difference means that there will be less expected of them because they could never measure up to the expectations held for sighted children. Combined with the tendency for blind and low-vision youth to be underexposed to blind adult role models who are successful in a variety of technical, professional, and academic pursuits within the mainstream workplace, these societal misperceptions of the capabilities of the blind discourage blind children from using their imagination to combine their personal interests, aptitudes, and innate talents to dream big about what they want to be when they grow up.
In the words of Frederick Douglass, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Mentoring has become an effective strategy used by millions of men and women and thousands of organizations to offer the necessary guidance and support to combat low expectations and cultivate success in groups of people who have not traditionally succeeded in their field. The NFB CAREER Mentoring Program highlights the power of combining best practices in mentoring with the philosophy of the NFB—a philosophy that combines high expectations, a positive attitude, the value of the alternative techniques of blindness, and the solid belief that it is okay to be blind. Mentors can share personal experience of successful and unsuccessful strategies for challenging situations including confronting public and employer attitudes; navigating through programs such as Social Security and Vocational Rehabilitation; managing accessibility in education; and learning about access technology and employment opportunities. Young blind people who are not connected to a network of blind mentors must continually reinvent the wheel by working through these challenges on their own. Our NFB CAREER Mentoring Program effectively uses the resources of thousands of blind Americans who have successfully navigated the path from education to career success and are willing to share their experiences and insight with young people.
The NFB CAREER Mentoring Program matches transition-age blind and visually-impaired youth and young adults with successful blind mentors in order to: increase knowledge of and participation in the vocational rehabilitation process, increase postsecondary academic success, and increase high-quality employment and community integration. But unlike some mentorship programs where each mentee is matched with a single mentor, the NFB CAREER Mentoring Program is strengthened by matching each mentee with two to three. Information is gathered from the mentees about academic and career goals, hobbies, and extracurricular activities and used to match them with mentors who share interests or are successful in a career that matches with the mentee’s interests. This method has several benefits, including an increased exposure to educational, training, and career opportunities; a diversity of educational and work experiences for a student to learn from; an extended network of contacts for mentees to benefit from; increased community involvement and sense of belonging; and a more robust ongoing support system for the student as he/she tackles the early years of adulthood.
Blind youth need exposure to positive blind role models who demonstrate a solid belief in the abilities of blind people and can, through guidance and example, raise expectations and offer practical tips and tricks for accessing resources and acquiring skills for success. When successful blind role models take a concerted interest in the lives of young blind people, expectations are raised about what can be accomplished. As dreams become reality, practical lessons are absorbed, often without even knowing that the learning is taking place. With an intolerably high rate of unemployment and under employment of working-age blind people in our nation, knowing what it takes to succeed in the vocation of one’s choosing is critical. Navigating the labyrinth of the special education, vocational rehabilitation, and other social systems while juggling the dissidence and mixed messaging of expectation imbalances can become perplexing and wearisome. The personal knowledge and experience of successful blind adults helps ground blind youth to internalize the philosophy that blindness is not the characteristic that defines them or their future. Every day successful blind mentors help raise the expectations of blind young people because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and their dreams. They come to know that they can live the lives they want; blindness is not what holds them back.
As participants in the NFB CAREER Mentoring Program, blind mentees travel with mentors in direct learning experiences. This is done using alternative travel techniques such as the long white cane or guide dog and by demonstrating how to use public transit systems. Working with one or more mentors is the perfect environment for observing and practicing effective self-advocacy skills, all while learning to confront public misperceptions about blindness with grace, integrity, and respect.
Blind employees as well as blind job seekers must be proficient in the use of access technology including text-to-speech software, screen enlargement software, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) programs, and refreshable Braille displays. Aspiring blind professionals must be prepared to address how adaptive software and equipment can be used to perform the essential elements of the job and be able to effectively educate the employer about how this reasonable accommodation would allow the blind applicant to be a productive employee. Blind mentors who have successfully navigated these situations are able to share their strategies with their mentees.
The confidence derived from participation in a mentoring program equips blind youth with the ability to own the job interview. Roleplaying and role reversal exercises are useful activities in anticipating questions that may arise ahead of time and addressing them knowledgeably and confidently. Roleplaying between mentor and mentee is also an effective exercise that addresses social and professional morays such as appropriate attire, eye contact, hand shaking (e.g. when to and when not to), and being proactive and articulate in responding to interview questions.
Financial literacy skills are also learned through practice in joint mentoring activities as blind youth are encouraged to engage in financial transactions such as paying for lunch or purchasing movie, paintball, or laser tag tickets. Mentees learn social protocol for calculating gratuity percentages and guide waitstaff in providing assistance in signing credit or debit card receipts. They explore banking options, learn to open a checking or savings account, learn how to balance their checkbook, and use web-based and mobile apps to track income and expenditures.
Blind mentors provide guidance and empower mentees to effectively self-advocate and consider options that might otherwise have been dismissed. Introduction to successful blind college students, tours of local colleges and universities, and interest surveys inspire blind mentees to consider or reconsider higher education. There is no substitute for spending a day or more with a successful blind student or students to observe how challenges are managed. The National Association of Blind Students and its affiliated state organizations provide an abundant source of peer mentors. These experiences also prove valuable in integrating with other students and faculty, relationships that prove helpful in ways that are not always immediately recognizable. Because academic readiness does not always equate to graceful fluidity in public and social interactions, mock interviews assist blind students with guidance on how to engage effectively in an interview. Blind mentors provide useful tips on how to independently negotiate new environments, how to address the issue of disability prior to or during the interview, interact with Office of Disability Service staff, and strategize about the management of appropriate accommodations.
It is widely accepted that job opportunities are generated most effectively through personal connections. Likewise, successfully employed or scholastically enrolled blind mentors share with mentees their accumulated networking experience in professional and academic associations, service organizations, fraternities and sororities, and especially through membership in organizations like the National Federation of the Blind.
Many Federationists have stories of how mentorship by an older or more experienced Federationist changed their life. For some it was someone in their local or state chapter; for some it was someone like past Presidents Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, or Dr. Maurer. And most of those Federationists talk about their determination to pay the time, faith, and confidence spent on them forward with new and younger Federationists. If you would like to know more about mentorship opportunities with the NFB CAREER Mentoring Program, go to www.nfb.org/mentorapplication and submit an application. If you are that young Federationist who would like to benefit from the advice and support of a mentor, go to www.nfb.org/menteeapplication to submit an application to become a mentee. This is how the Federation helps build a strong new generation of blind youth to continue changing the world until all of society believes that blindness is no true barrier to living the life you want.
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:
Explain how much money you need from this fund to make this trip possible for you. We suggest you consult with other members to make a rough budget for yourself.
The body of your letter should answer these questions:
How do you currently participate in the Federation? Why do you want to attend a national convention? What would you receive; what can you share or give? You can include in your letter to the committee any special circumstances you hope they will take into consideration.
When will I be notified that I am a winner?
If you are chosen to receive this scholarship, you will receive a letter with convention details that should answer most of your questions. The committee makes every effort to notify scholarship winners by May 15, but you must do several things before that to be prepared to attend if you are chosen:
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 email@example.com 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.
by Amy Mason
From the Editor: This is the third article in a series intended to help users of assistive technology learn to use and get the most out of the World Wide Web. Navigating the web is possible, productive, and enjoyable, but there are many parts to the puzzle, and this series of articles is intended to let readers examine each piece and decide how they will put together the system that gives them the access they desire to the vast resources of the internet. With her analytic mind, her vast knowledge of resources, and her command of language, here is what Amy Mason has to say, this time about screen readers:
Howdy class. I hope your homework went well. I’m looking forward to hearing reports on how things have gone for you in your test driving of alternative browsers. Since our last class, I’ve been spending a lot more time with Chrome. I’ve been pretty happy with Mozilla Firefox for the last several years, but it never hurts to test drive something different, especially when your regular car is in the shop (see our blog post on Firefox Quantum for further details https://nfb.org/firefox-57-and-screen-reader-compatibility. If you have missed either of the previous “classes” you can find them in the January and February issues of the Monitor and catch up.
The final level of equipment we need to discuss before we can really start exploring the open road is your blind driver interface: the screen reader. Like browsers, you have many options available, and they offer different paths to the same basic information. Also, like browsers, each screen reader has unique advantages and disadvantages, so once again it is wise for users to learn more than one when they have the opportunity. Sadly, unlike browsers, there are many scenarios where you may be tied to a single screen reader, and you will need to consider carefully your browser choice based upon what is most compatible with it.
At its most basic, a screen reader is a software package that gathers information from the operating system and programs on your computer, tablet, or smart phone, (read “pocket computer”) and offers that information to you in the form of speech and/or refreshable Braille. Dashboards can vary wildly, from a minimal number of indicators to a mess of flashing lights and gauges. Choosing the right interface is essential for making sure you can get where you want to go.
To understand the screen reader’s role in working on the web, it is important to remember a few things about screen readers in general:
Just a heads-up here: there are several screen readers you may be familiar with that I am not going to cover in this article. They fall into two categories. The first are our mobile and platform specific screen readers; these will be addressed in a future article since your dirt bike or smartphone requires a very different dashboard from a Ferrari. The second are those that hold just a small market share. Some have a very passionate fan base, but it is not practical to talk about every variant with its own collector’s club. The Back to the Future Delorean dashboard is iconic, but my wonderful editor might kill me if I submit a three-hundred-page article nine months late.
If you wish to read up on ChromeVox, I would recommend reviewing my article “Google in the Classroom: Chromebooks and G-Suite” in Future Reflections, Vol. 36 No. 3 (Summer 2017). In the case of ZoomText, I would point to its primary purpose as a magnification tool and not a screen reader, unless it is paired with JAWS in Fusion. In this case the references and resources covering JAWS that appear below should be sufficient to get you started.
For those of you who are curious about the distribution of screen reader users here and elsewhere, you may wish to look at the WebAIM Screen Reader Survey #7 at https://webaim.org/projects/
And with those bits of advice behind us, let us look at the screen readers themselves:
Operating System Supported: Windows
Compatible Browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Edge (sort of)
Obtained from: Freedom Scientific, a division of VFO group. www.freedomscientific.com
Cost: Widely variable—if purchased outright it will cost $970 for home use and more for business; however, some organizations (employers, educators, etc.) have deals with Freedom to provide the software to their users at drastically reduced prices.
JAWS is the last remaining early Windows screen reader. As such, it has had years and years of work behind it. This means that it offers a lot of customization—you can spend hours or even days setting this beast up to work exactly as you like it. Whether you want to use different voices for different elements, or sound effects to convey information, or even change how you interact with web forms, you can and likely will need to spend some serious time customizing JAWS to get the most out of it.
It is well understood by the community. There are more training materials, both free and paid, for this software than for any other screen reader on the market. For this reason, it is still often the de facto option in many workplaces, colleges, and other institutions.
Likewise, there are many (mostly legacy) software packages and some websites that have been specifically coded to work well with JAWS instead of to the standards, and, as such, are more likely to misbehave when used with other screen readers. Hopefully in the coming years this will continue to change and evolve, but it’s a factor that we need to be aware of now.
If there is a screen reader that tries to guess at what’s going on in a misbehaving system, it is JAWS. It will often get things right, though it is important to be aware of this tendency because, when JAWS gets something wrong while guessing, it is more likely to really confuse the situation; it doesn’t tend to warn you when it is just a guess.
It’s built on a very large existing code base, so you need a more powerful computer than you might for other screen readers in order to have it run well. When bugs emerge, it can take more time for VFO to find and repair them than some of the lighter, more nimble screen readers.
In a nutshell, JAWS is a powerful large software package with a lot of development hours behind it. This means it will let you set everything up just the way you like it—everything from variable density in the car seats and automatic heated seat to the trip movie selections on the built-in TV—but when things go wrong, you probably need to send it to a specialist. Your friend who’s good with cars probably can’t fix this one in his driveway. Sometimes that complexity can get in your way; automatic sensors and cameras to keep you in the middle of the lane are great, except when you need to go around roadworks.
In this vein, JAWS offers pretty comprehensive (if challenging to initially set up) Braille support and such extreme customizations as allowing for scripting even of individual webpages and applications.
On the web it attempts to guess at relationships between elements and labels when they are not explicitly and correctly coded. This is why you may find that JAWS will read labels on webpages where other screen readers will not. If you find that the first edit field in a set is unlabeled, but subsequent ones are, you can bet that JAWS is guessing, and one off. For instance, if you hear something like “edit, <tab> First name edit, <tab> last name edit…” you are fairly safe to assume that the first edit field is where your first name goes, not the second.
The help topics and manuals for JAWS are extraordinarily comprehensive. You will also find links to a wealth of free and paid webinar information from the manufacturer. You can explore all of these materials from the Help menu in JAWS itself. If you are looking for a specific command in the application, press JAWS-Space followed by the letter J to open up a context sensitive search box where you can search for commands relevant to your location on the computer. You can also press JAWS-1 (on the number row) to enable Keyboard learn mode. Pressing this combination a second time will return the keyboard to its normal state.
One training reference which is especially relevant to your experiences on the internet is “Surf’s Up! Surfing the Internet with JAWS and MAGic” It is a very powerful and interactive tutorial, even if they have the metaphor wrong. Although it is JAWS specific, much of the information in it can be generalized to use with other screen readers as well, and it may be worth exploring regardless of the tool you choose to employ. It can be found at: http://www.freedomscientific.com/Training/
When you need to quit and restart JAWS and do not have a dedicated keyboard shortcut created, the most sure-fire method is to exit the program then open the run dialog by holding down the Windows key and pressing R, henceforth referred to as Win-R. Then type JAWS followed directly by the version number of the software you are running. So if you are running JAWS 2018 you would type “jaws2018,” and for v. 17 you would type “jaws17” followed by Enter without spaces.
Operating System Supported: Windows
Compatible Browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Edge (sort of)
Obtained from: NV Access www.nvaccess.org
Cost: NVDA is free to download, but its development is supported through donations, so when you first download or when you update, you will be asked to consider donating to this most worthy application’s further development. You may also choose to purchase higher quality voice packs from several different sellers, which usually run between $50-$100 for a one-time purchase.
NVDA is sort of the “anti-JAWS.” It is a competent screen reader that is focused on simplicity and speed, so when using it remember the following:
Free and paid training resources certainly exist for NVDA and continue to be actively developed, but they are not nearly as comprehensive as those for JAWS. They also tend to be of mixed quality when it comes to the quality of production because they come from volunteers who bring various levels of knowledge when it comes to content creation. Even so, these materials are very useful and have the distinct advantage of being very affordable—when they cost anything at all.
In my opinion the most exciting thing about NVDA is that it is a screen reader that we as the community have the power to affect more directly than any other. It is open source, which means that it can be taken apart and studied, viewed, and improved by anyone with the know-how and desire. This is much like fixing up a car with your dad—adding pieces and making it your own with enough time and elbow grease.
NVDA is the screen reader written by blind folks for blind folks, and it shows. It’s not as polished around the edges, and the doors are not necessarily the same color as the bonnet, especially when it comes to documentation and training. But it has now been around long enough that people have started to create pretty comprehensive materials about its use. Furthermore, due to its free and open source nature, many web developers are using it to test their work, guaranteeing the best result for everyone.
As I mentioned previously, NVDA is a program that has a lot of support from the community. As such, one of the best resources I’ve seen for this software is actually a community resource. Located at http://accessibilitycentral.net/nvda%20audio%20tutorials.html it provides several audio tutorials, links to other resources, including the official help page from NVAccess (https://www.nvaccess.org/help/) and several different and very comprehensive instructions for downloading and installing NVDA on your own computer. NVAccess itself has created a couple low-cost tutorial books which can be accessed from its official help page along with information for email listservs and paid technical support options. In the software itself, the user’s guide can be accessed from the Help menu. Finally, like JAWS, it is possible to enter Input Learn Mode by pressing NVDA-1.
There are a plethora of ways to restart NVDA when it is misbehaving. They include the following:
Operating System Supported: Mac OSX
Compatible Browsers: Safari, Chrome, Firefox (sort of)
Obtained from: Installed on any Apple Mac Computer built in the last decade.
Voiceover is the name for all of the built-in screen readers available on Apple products. However, in this article we are going to limit our discussion to the Mac because mobile Apple products offer a very different browsing experience from that offered on the full desktop. With that in mind, here are the relevant details to keep in mind when you choose to use VoiceOver as you browse.
You are not behind the wheel of a Windows PC. The paradigms are very different. Modes of interaction, commands, and controls are all in different places and work differently from those you may be familiar with if coming from this environment. In my opinion, using a Mac with VoiceOver is very similar to driving in the UK, Australia, or other countries where drivers travel along the left side of the road, not the right. You can be just as safe, effective, and competent using a machine built for this environment, but if you are coming from Windows, (or the US and Canada as drivers) you are going to have to take some extra time to learn how things have changed, and you may find yourself reaching down to shift gears with the wrong hand until you grow accustomed.
VoiceOver receives updates at the same time as the operating system, so it’s important to decide just how comfortable you are with change and possible instability when choosing to update your OS. VoiceOver is the only choice you have on a Mac when it comes to screen reading, so if a bug hits which you cannot work around, you will be stuck until Apple offers a patch, unless you choose to reload an earlier system image to get back on your feet.
VoiceOver and OSX have a very dedicated fanbase. The number of VoiceOver users may not be as high as for Windows screen readers, but many of these folks are very active in sharing their knowledge, so training materials are readily available.
VoiceOver, although it certainly has its own way of doing things, has a fascinating combination of traits when it comes to how it’s been built to behave. In standards compliance for local computer programs, it’s going to largely demand standard controls or changes to the desktop software it is reviewing in order to ensure accessibility. But on the web, it has the tendency to play guessing games similar to those played by JAWS. As with JAWS, this is both a blessing and a curse. Further, like JAWS, it is highly customizable, and getting down deep into the tweaks you can make with the package is going to be an important part of getting the most out of it.
Like other desktop screen readers, VoiceOver can be relied upon to offer fairly good access to software and content that is built to be accessible. This includes websites and browsers. Unlike screen readers for Windows, though, everything will feel very different until you have learned how to work with it.
I will admit that even after several years of use I just don’t feel quite as comfortable with this tool. I know many users who swear by it, and I am pleased that it suits them. That said, I continually seem to muddle my hands and controls when I use it. All I can say is that in the truest sense of these words, your mileage may vary. The best way to know is to find a way to try it for yourself, whether you ask someone to let you try it out on their machine or take the leap and get your own.
Even as someone who is not quite comfortable driving on the left side of the road, I can admit there are some really delightful and unique benefits. For example, on the Mac the Track Pad enables VoiceOver users to operate the computer in much the same way one operates the iPhone, with gestures. In my opinion, this is one of the coolest tricks that VoiceOver has to offer. Browsing the web with just a flick of the finger is really quite a satisfying experience
There are a lot of Apple fans in the blindness community. I am not going to even try to name all the podcasts, articles, and groups available to get you connected with other Apple users. I will, however, point you to the group that I find has been of most assistance to me when I’ve been looking for tutorials, software reviews, and general information: www.applevis.com. If these folks don’t have what you need, they can probably point you to the resources that do. It’s a whole community of blind people who are passionate about all things Apple and accessibility, and I would recommend looking them up no matter what your skill level or Apple device of choice.
As for VoiceOver internal help, pressing VO-H will provide you with a large number of resources in the software itself which you can use to learn how to make the most of this powerful tool. In the Help menu you can find Command Lists, the User Documentation, and even the simple interactive tutorial that is offered the first time you turn it on.
You can toggle VoiceOver on and off by pressing Cmd+F5 on Macs with physical Function keys, or by quickly triple tapping the fingerprint sensor at the top right corner of Macs with the touch bar. If using the touch bar, a self-voicing menu appears and allows you to toggle VoiceOver on or off.
For those just starting out with a screen reader, your choice to use Mac or Windows should be guided by what you plan to use the computer for and your budget. Any of these three can be great options, depending on what you want to do. When choosing the proper screen reader for browsing, it honestly comes down to choosing the proper screen reader for you and then following up with the browsers that work best. Each screen reading interface is going to handle pages and browsers somewhat differently, but, like getting behind the wheel of any car for the first time, if you learn where the controls are and how to use them, you will find that with some practice you can become an excellent driver with any of these dashboard setups.
Even so, like with driving, if you have the opportunity and inclination, you will benefit from getting comfortable with more than one model of car… I mean screen reader. The more time you spend moving between the different options, the more resilient you will be when you come across problems, not only because you will have different tools to choose from, but also because your mind and reactions will be sharper. Race car drivers practice in different conditions with all sorts of obstacles and track layouts so that they can hone their reactions. Your growing accustomed to unfamiliar screen readers, applications, browsers, and even OS’s will help to improve your reactions, intuition, and skill in the same way.
As such, I am assigning homework again. This time you have a choice: In your primary screen reader, endeavor to learn something new. Perhaps you can find a new plugin for NVDA or discover the shortcuts you can use on the web to jump between different elements in JAWS. You might even try the Track Pad for the first time with your shiny Mac.
For extra enjoyment, if you are fortunate enough to have a Braille notetaker, look at trying to connect it to your screen reader and enjoy the power of browsing with all the power of both your preferred screen reader and Braille.
Try something else. Borrow a Mac, visit an Apple store if you are a Windows user, or try one of the screen readers you don’t know as well. Even JAWS can be downloaded and used in forty-minute mode. You can learn a lot using it even forty minutes at a time.
One final option: teach someone else. You may feel very comfortable with the screen reader and computer you use every day. That’s great! Share that knowledge. Some of the greatest gifts I’ve received from my Federation friends and family are the gifts of time, teaching, and mentoring. Each of us is an expert in something; let’s share our expertise and make this world a little brighter for us all.
Recipes this month come from the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas.
Chicken Enchilada Soup
by Donna Wood
Donna is a retired human rights investigator who lives in Wichita. She is a past president of our affiliate and currently serves as second vice president. Here is what she says about this recipe: “This is my go-to soup that is super-fast and easy. It's so rich and creamy and guilt-free! It's packed with fiber and flavor. Pumpkin is the secret ingredient that makes the soup rich and creamy and adds fiber and vitamins.”
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 cups chopped celery
1 medium chopped onion
1 large red pepper diced
3 cups fat-free chicken broth
3-1/2 cups (28 ounces) mild green enchilada sauce (use medium if you prefer more heat)
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1 small deli-roast chicken, deboned, skinned, and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 7-ounce can mild green chilies
1-1/2 cups frozen white corn
1 package ranch-style salad dressing mix
crumbled queso fresco cheese
shredded cheddar cheese
crushed tortilla chips
Method: In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the
celery, onion, and red pepper until slightly tender. Add the chicken broth, enchilada sauce, pumpkin, chicken, green chilies, corn, and dressing mix. Simmer for ten to fifteen minutes or longer. Serve with your choice of toppings.
Shrimp Pasta Salad
by Susan Tabor
Susan is a member who lives in Lawrence and is the wife of our first vice president Rob Tabor. She has hosted several cooking-related demos at recent Kansas conventions. She says this is so good that she loves to double the recipe when she makes it.
8 ounces elbow macaroni, uncooked
1 pound shrimp, cooked, drained, and chopped into chunks
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup diced green onions
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup diced red pepper, for sprinkling over top to add some color
Method: Cook elbow macaroni according to package directions. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Refrigerate for at least an hour so flavors can blend.
Crockpot Sloppy Joes
by Tom Page
Tom Page is the current president of the Kansas affiliate and is employed as a professional musician who lives in Wichita. He admits that the recipe is a little loose, “I’m not sure how to translate from number of “shakes” to actual measurements, so feel free to play with it.”
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
3/4 pound ground beef or turkey
1 small can tomato sauce
five shakes of salt
six to ten shakes of pepper
six to ten shakes of garlic powder (to taste)
three or four shakes of Italian seasoning
Method: Combine ground beef, tomato sauce, and onions in the crockpot. Add salt, pepper, garlic, and Italian seasoning; mix together. Cook on low for at least four hours. Spoon onto buns. Makes 4 to 6 sandwiches.
by Sharon Luka
This one is a real favorite of Kansas Federationists. Anyone who has attended our state conventions has probably enjoyed a loaf of Sharon Luka‘s famous pumpkin bread.
Sharon lives and works in Salina and serves as our affiliate secretary. Sharon modestly says, “This recipe was originally taken from a former NFB Braille paperback cookbook. I have made a few simple modifications.”
3-1/2 cups flour
3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 15- or 16-ounce can of pumpkin
3/4 cup water
1 cup oil
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all dry ingredients thoroughly. Make a well in the mixture. In a separate bowl, beat four eggs. Add eggs, pumpkin, water, oil, and soda to dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into greased and floured medium-sized loaf pans. Place loaves on a cookie sheet (the cookie sheet is not required). Bake for approximately fifty minutes.
Frosted Cappuccino Brownies
by Susan Tabor
These are wonderful, creamy, coffee-flavored, milk chocolate brownies. They freeze well too, according to Susan.
2 pounds milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup instant coffee granules or espresso powder
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour four eight-by-eight-inch baking pans. Place the chocolate chips and the coffee granules in a double boiler over simmering water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs two at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in vanilla, cinnamon, and salt, then mix in the melted chocolate. Mix in flour until just blended. Divide the batter equally into the prepared pans, and spread smooth. Bake for thirty-five minutes in preheated oven, or until the edges pull from the sides of the pans. Cool on a wire rack. Cover and refrigerate for eight hours. Cut the cold brownies into bars to serve.
1/2 cup butter, unsalted
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 to 3 tablespoons strong-brewed coffee or espresso, cooled
1 to 2 tbsp milk or cream, optional, if needed for correct consistency
1/4 to 1/2 cup cream (if you want to make cappuccino buttercream)
Method: Cream together butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and cream (if making buttercream instead of regular frosting) using a handheld mixer or stand mixer. If icing is too stiff, beat in either more coffee or some milk or cream to make a smooth, spreadable consistency.
After frosting these brownies, the more they set, the better they taste as the flavors have more time to blend. Twenty-four hours is about ideal, but it’s hard to wait that long! Enjoy!
You can also experiment with the chocolates; use half milk chocolate chips and half dark chocolate ones, or all dark chocolate, or milk and bittersweet chips, or all bittersweet chips. Different varieties/strengths of the chocolate will play with the other flavors in their own ways, so you may want to adjust the flavors like cinnamon and coffee and vanilla according to your taste.
Blindness Summer Transition Youth Learning Experience
Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND) Inc. presents Summer Transition Youth Learning Experience (STYLE) 2018. Spend part of your summer in STYLE!
The STYLE program offers three separate, five-day, theme-based educational/recreational programs. All of our programs are delivered by blind role models. STYLE students will learn skills, gain confidence, and have fun! Attend one, two, or all three sessions! Day programming and residential options are available.
Session 1: July 23 to 27: Fitness, Fun, and Friends:
Get fit, have fun, compete! Students will participate in individual and group recreational activities. Learn about proper nutrition while preparing healthy meals. Activities may include rock climbing, goalball, water sports, self-defense, etc.! Have fun while being active and hanging out with new and old friends.
Session 2: July 30 to August 3: Tech Trek:
Students will explore the world of assistive technology. Computers, smartphones, tablets, etc. are the tools which will help students achieve success. Learn to effectively and efficiently use assistive technology in school, at work, and at home. Sign up for your Tech Trek adventure today!
Session 3: August 6 to August 10: Career Quest:
What jobs can blind people do? Where do you want to work? Students will explore jobs held by blind people and learn what those jobs truly entail. Learn what skills are needed to reach your vocational goals. Topics include résumé building, interview skills, soft skills, finding jobs, qualifications/experience, and more!
Contact Michell Gip, youth services coordinator, at (612) 872-0100, Ext. 231, or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or an application. We can assist you to work with your local vocational rehabilitation agency to attend the program. The first review of applications will occur on April 30, 2018. Apply today to ensure your space in this program!
Attention Blind and Low-Vision Students!
Are you or do you know a blind or low-vision teen who wants to spend their summer learning, meeting new people, and having a great adventure? Join the National Federation of the Blind at our NFB EQ program. NFB EQ is a jam-packed week of fun and learning.
Participants spend each day engaged in activities designed to strengthen their knowledge of engineering as well as their problem-solving abilities. In the evenings, participants hang out with the twenty-nine other teen participants while exploring the local community and participating in various recreational activities. Throughout the week, participants will forge new friendships while increasing their engineering knowledge, problem-solving abilities, self-confidence, and independence.
To learn more and to apply, visit http://www.blindscience.org/nfbeq.
Who: Thirty blind and low vision teens currently enrolled in grades 9-12 in the United States.
What: A weeklong summer engineering program for blind and low vision teens.
When: Participants will travel to Baltimore on July 29 and travel back home on August 4.
Where: The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.
Why: To meet new people, learn new things, and have an exciting adventure!
How: Apply Now! Applications are due May 1, 2018.
How Much: There is no registration fee for this program. Visit our frequently asked questions web page for more details: http://www.blindscience.org/nfb-eq-faq.
What are people saying about EQ?
“NFB EQ gave me more confidence to keep doing what I want—no one can stop me! The program opened my eyes to even more options in the field [of engineering], and it gave me some confidence that I can do some mechanical stuff that I didn’t think I could do before.” – Michael, Texas
“At the program, I learned that there is accessible equipment—I can use equipment that is close to what sighted people use, like Braille rulers and click rules. At school, the tools for measuring in science aren’t always accessible to me.” – Lilly, Alaska
“I increased my drawing skills at NFB EQ. The tactile drawing board helped me because I could feel what I drew. Visualizations also have gotten easier [going from drawing to model to prototype]. In engineering, you have to picture an idea in your mind and then draw it before you can build it. When you draw it, you can really see how it's going to come together.” – Trey, Kentucky
“I am amazed at how the people involved in organizing this program made everything so easy for us. From organizing logistics to making sure the schedule was running smoothly for the students—the whole event was very successful. The staff’s warmth and attention to detail really eased my mind and made me feel good about leaving my son at the program for the week.” – Mark (father), North Carolina
"I was looking for a rigorous, highly academic science program that promoted and modeled independence, and the National Federation of the Blind was offering everything I was looking for. Still, I was hesitant. What if it wasn’t a good use of my students’ resources, or what if they weren’t safe? My fears were unwarranted, from start to finish. NFB made the health, safety, academic rigor, social experiences, and general well-being of our students paramount. Every detail was professionally planned and handled, ensuring that every moment, for every student, was as meaningful as it could possibly be.” – Laura (teacher of the visually impaired), Kentucky
Send them to: STEM@nfb.org; call (410) 659-9314, extension 2418; or mail to National Federation of the Blind, 200 East Wells Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1712887. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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.
Amazon Prime Discount Available:
Amazon is extending an Amazon Prime discount to Medicaid and EBT recipients. The cost is $5.99/month or $40/year, normally $12.99/month or $99/year. Applicants must upload a scan of their Medicaid card.
This offer has all the benefits except the ability to extend the Prime membership to Household Members. Benefits include Prime Video (a service similar to Netflix); two-day free shipping; and Amazon Now, a service available in places where Amazon has a warehouse and can fill an order within two hours. To learn more about the service and to apply go to http://www.amazon.com/qualify.
Share Your Story:
The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) in Louisville, Kentucky, kicked off its 160th Anniversary Celebration with an open house on their founding day, January 23. As part of this celebration, APH announced a National Writing Contest. Students and adults who are blind or visually impaired as well as professionals in the field are invited to share their stories about the impact of APH products on their lives, as well as celebrating their personal success stories. Categories, word count, and topics are as follows:
Grades 3 through 5 (Maximum 250 words)
The American Printing House for the Blind provides specialized tools and materials for people who are blind and visually impaired to learn and to live independently. Write a letter to APH telling us about either
Grades 6 through 8 (Maximum 500 words)
Louis Braille, a Frenchman, invented the Braille code of tactile reading and writing in 1821. He died in 1852—six years before APH was founded in 1858. Write a letter to Louis and tell him either
Grades 9 through 12 (Maximum 750 words)
Think about the career or vocation you would like to pursue as an adult. Write an essay about how your strengths and interests will help you in this work. What person (or people) have empowered you to succeed? What APH product(s) has best prepared you for work in this area, and what product(s) will you use to become successful in this career or vocation?
Adult Consumers (Maximum 1,000 words)
APH has celebrated many milestones since it was founded in 1858. For example: in 1883 a new building was constructed; in 1932 Standard English Braille became the only tactile reading and writing system produced by APH; in 1974 cassette tapes were introduced in the Talking Book program; and in 2003 Book Port was offered for sale. Write an essay about significant milestones in your life. What factors helped you to accomplish remarkable things and to overcome challenges? What APH product(s) have empowered you along the way?
Professionals (Maximum 1,000 words)
Write an essay about the most creative, unique way you have used an APH product (or products). What is the product and what did it help you (or a student or adult you worked with) accomplish?
Cash prizes will be awarded to first, second, and third places in each category. The deadline for all entries is June 1, 2018. For additional information about rules, eligibility, and evaluation criteria, as well as official entry forms, please visit the contest website at www.aph.org/contest/160th-anniversary-essay. Questions? Contact Nancy Lacewell at email@example.com or (502) 899-2339, or Lauren Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or (502) 895-2405.
For the purposes of this contest, visual impairment is defined as corrected visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye, or a visual field limited to twenty degrees or less. This includes those who function at the federal definition of blindness (FDB), described above, due to brain injury or dysfunction.
Braille Calendars Available:
I am selling handmade Braille calendars. They are Brailled on larger Braille pages, and there is space on each page to make your own notes and mark events, just like sighted people do on print calendars. These are also good practice for children and adults learning to read and write Braille or use a calendar and allow teachers and parents to create activities using tactile markings.
I’m creating these calendars using a Brailler, so there is no set price. I will discuss with each individual to determine price based on what they can afford. I will also Braille recipes, words of songs, poems, stories, and other things that are not under copyright, except computer and music Braille. Whatever money I get will be used to help me attend the NFB convention and help others as well. If you are interested, please email me at email@example.com.
State Resource Handbooks Available for Purchase:
I have created thirty-four screen-reader-friendly resource handbooks containing resources pertaining to the blind and visually impaired for use by consumers and professionals. This handbook is for the residents of specific states and includes the many organizations for the blind and visually impaired covering areas such as employment, housing, transportation, and more. Currently the handbooks are for Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Oregon, Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, North Dakota, North Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin.
These state resource handbooks are not available in the following formats: Braille hard copy, audio, CD, and National Library Service cartridge.
The handbooks include contact information on the local, regional, and national level. For more information on pricing, formats, and order form please contact Insightful Publications by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at (808) 747-1006, or by visiting http://www.in- sightful.com/orderpage.html.
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.
Braille Watch Wanted:
I am looking for a Braille watch that has a spring and must be wound. If someone has one for sale, please call Eftyhios Scordas at (331) 245-8037.
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.