Vol. 61, No. 5 May 2018
Gary Wunder, Editor
Distributed by email, in inkprint, in Braille, and on USB flash drive, by the
The National Federation of the Blind
Mark Riccobono, President
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND KNOWS THAT BLINDNESS IS NOT THE CHARACTERISTIC THAT DEFINES YOU OR YOUR FUTURE. EVERY DAY WE RAISE THE EXPECTATIONS OF BLIND PEOPLE, BECAUSE LOW EXPECTATIONS CREATE OBSTACLES BETWEEN BLIND PEOPLE AND OUR DREAMS. YOU CAN LIVE THE LIFE YOU WANT; BLINDNESS IS NOT WHAT HOLDS YOU BACK. THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR OURSELVES.
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The 2018 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Orlando, Florida, July 3 to July 8, at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, 9939 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32819-9357. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with the Shingle Creek staff only. Call (866) 996-6338.
The 2018 room rates are singles and doubles, $88; and for triples and quads $93. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 12.5 percent. No charge will be made for children under seventeen in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $100-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2018. The other 50 percent is not refundable.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2018, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold our room block for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.
All Rosen Shingle Creek guestrooms feature amenities that include plush Shingle Creek Sleeper beds, 40" flat screen TVs, complimentary high-speed internet service, in-room safes, coffee makers, mini-fridges, and hairdryers. Guests can also enjoy a swimming pool, fitness center, and on-site spa. The Rosen Shingle Creek Resort has a number of dining options, including two award-winning restaurants, and twenty-four-hour-a-day room service.
The schedule for the 2018 convention is:
Tuesday, July 3 Seminar Day
Wednesday, July 4 Registration and Resolutions Day
Thursday, July 5 Board Meeting and Division Day
Friday, July 6 Opening Session
Saturday, July 7 Business Session
Sunday, July 8 Banquet Day and Adjournment
Vol. 61, No. 5 May 2018
Illustration: Shaping the Technology of the Future
Retraction: The Editor Makes a Mistake
by Ryan Strunk
Building the Federation Brand Part 3: Unpacking Our Brand Values
by Chris Danielsen
The Daily Accidents of Life: Consequence of Blindness or Being Human?
by Sheri Wells-Jensen
Leadership in Fitness: A CrossFit Trainer Living the Life She Wants
by Bettina Dolinsek
Why We Have the Right
by Peggy Chong
What’s That? The Art of Bird Listening
by Allan R. Schneider
Report on the Science, Technology, Engineering, and
Math 2017 NFB National Convention Tutorial
by Louis Maher
An Open Letter to Parents
by Barbara Pierce
The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund
by Allen Harris
Driving Blind on the Information Superhighway: Basic Navigation—
Hitting the Road, and Finding Your Way
by Amy Mason
Blind Students Win Braille Reading Contest: Seventeen Students Awarded
Cash Prizes by National Federation of the Blind
Consider Us Contributors
by Justin Salisbury
How I Spent My Birthday
by Ed McDonald
Independence Market Corner
by Ellen Ringlein
Copyright 2018 by the National Federation of the Blind
Keeping up with technology is a big challenge, but one of our most important tasks is to guide its development. What do blind people need, and what is the current state of technology that may bring it? What must we do as blind people to make our needs known and then connect with the resources required to meet them? This is the task of the Research and Development Committee, chaired by Brian Buhrow, a former scholarship winner who works in digital communications in California. Other members include Curtis Willoughby, an electrical engineer who spent decades proving that a blind person could work in this field and make substantial contributions to it. The same is true of Lloyd Rasmussen, and then there are the younger people who are building careers and reputations in companies long thought off-limits to the blind.
Together this group will do its best to shape the technology of the future and expand possibilities for all of us.
In the April 2018 issue I wrote that Dick Davis was a member of the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation for the Blind (AER). I do not know where I came up with that, but I am wrong and apologize for the error. Dick has been a member of the National Rehabilitation Association but was not associated with AER in his professional life.
by Ryan Strunk
From the Editor: Ryan Strunk works at Target, his job being to make the online shopping experience for blind people as good as it is for the sighted. In this work he not only helps a retail store, but the efforts of him and his team sets the bar for accessibility for the retail industry.
What Ryan reveals in this article is a personal story that contains a tremendous message, a tremendous epiphany, and a tremendous acceptance of the responsibility to be all that one can be while accepting that what we are is plenty good. How many times have we labored under the commonly held belief that what we do will reflect on all blind people whether that be negative or positive? Is there some truth in it? Probably so. Does it sell the public short in their ability to differentiate between one of us and other people who share our characteristics? It most certainly does. As a challenge, being all we can be is worthy. But the idea that we are constantly being judged and that the impression we make will harm all blind people is what people who work a twelve-step program would call stinking thinking. If it takes being perfect for us to be happy with ourselves, we will always be unhappy with the person to whom we have the greatest responsibility. The Braille Monitor is delighted to add Ryan’s thoughts to the real-life stories that will chronicle the history of blind people as we have moved from a lack of acceptance to a grudging acceptance to true acceptance, and, more important than any of these, to self-acceptance. Here is Ryan’s story:
Improvisational theater—or improv—is the art of stepping on stage armed with, at most, an audience suggestion and creating a full-length narrative or series of connected scenes out of whole cloth. There are no scripts, no props, and no stage directions. The scenes we create have never been seen before, and they will never be seen again.
In the midst of that creative space, with limitless possibilities in front of the actors, it can be easy to get lost. To help with this, over the years improvisers have developed a series of suggested rules to keep scenes on track and audiences entertained. These rules make improv fun and engaging, but after exploring them outside of the theater, I have found they have amazing use in our daily lives as well.
The first lesson in improvisational theater: Say “yes.” This is important because, as great improvisers will tell you, most people are far too good at saying “no.” We find ourselves in life situations that stretch the bounds of our comfort, and “no” quickly becomes a wall to hide behind, keeping us out of risky situations. Say “no” too much on stage, and a great scene can come to a screeching halt. “No” eliminates direction; it puts up roadblocks that only the most talented improvisers can get around. Brian, my first improv teacher, was quick to point out that there is a time and a place for “no” in life—particularly in situations that are dangerous—but in general we tend to say “yes” far less often than we should. Even after over four years of improv, I’m still learning this lesson.
A few months ago a coworker invited me to lunch with him and the rest of his team. I told him I had eaten a late breakfast that day, and I probably wouldn’t eat much for lunch. I thanked him for the invitation, politely declined, and immediately regretted saying no.
The people of Minnesota, contrary to what we might want you to think, don’t like cold much more than the average American. To deal with this, some enterprising architects built an impressive eight-mile-labyrinth of heated skyways in downtown Minneapolis, operating on the premise that staying warm in winter is awesome. Downtown Minneapolis is also home to tens of thousands of office workers, and even in the summer month—months if we’re lucky—the halls are jammed with people at lunchtime. In winter, it is a chaotic mass of humanity, rushing bodies juggling takeout containers, coffee cups, and cell phones, all bent on getting somewhere—often loudly and usually in a hurry.
I try to avoid the lunch rush when I go out, taking my lunch a few minutes early so I don’t have to deal with long lines and throngs of people. One reason for this is that I’m an introvert who doesn’t like crowds, but that wasn’t why I said no that day.
A second rule from the improv world: When exploring your character, get to the deepest why. If your character on stage wants something, why is that want important? Let’s pretend, for example, your character is raiding the communal candy dish and taking socially irresponsible fistfuls of chocolate. Why is he doing that? Because he’s hungry. Why is he hungry? Because he skipped lunch. Why? Because he feels incredibly pressured to finish a project at work, one that could make or break his career, and taking twenty minutes to get a sandwich could be the difference between a promotion and financial ruin. At that point, the desire for candy is much more compelling, leading to a much deeper scene. It’s not just that your character is hungry, but that your character wants candy to avoid losing everything. Knowing your character can make for more interesting scenes, and knowing yourself can make for a more interesting life.
The deepest why behind my saying no that day wasn’t that I was feeling introverted. The bigger truth was that I was afraid of screwing up in front of my coworkers and embarrassing myself. I worried that I might trip someone with my cane, get lost in the noise and chaos, or make a wrong turn somewhere, and I feared that whatever mistake I made would have far-reaching consequences. Part of eating lunch with colleagues, I tried to tell myself, is building relationships. But making silly mistakes in front of them, I thought, would damage those relationships. Better to eat alone at my desk than take a chance and screw up.
That regret, though, nagged at me after I said no. I like my coworkers, and I wanted to spend time with them. What’s more, a slice of New York-style pizza from Andréa—where they were going—is always awesome, and despite my reservations, I wanted one.
Tip number three: Never be afraid to jump into a scene. Even if you don’t have anything in your head, even if your mind is blank, jump. Something will almost always come to you, and even if it doesn’t, your scene partners will be there to support you. Instead of waiting for the perfect moment and quietly planning something out, which is contrary to improv in the first place, step off the back line, take a leap of faith, and trust that it will work out. You will never get the chance to act if you never step on stage.
I have, as a general rule, been risk-averse for most of my life, and while I am still cautious, improv has helped me to realize that often the rewards of jumping outweigh the costs of not doing so. I wanted to spend time with my coworkers, and I wanted pizza. I had the benefit of good cane travel training, and if I was worried I was going to lose the group in the crowd, I could always ask for someone’s elbow. With some trepidation, I told them I had changed my mind, and I said “yes.”
A fourth lesson from improv: Accept mistakes and move on. In a world of unlimited creative possibility, where information is constantly flowing, where actors have to pay attention to their own characters while listening to everyone around them, mistakes will happen. I might forget that my scene partner’s name is Nancy and call her Norma instead. My scene partner might forget that I built an imaginary bonfire in front of myself and accidentally walk right through the middle of it. Sometimes we draw attention to these mistakes in the interest of comedy—“Look out! You’re on fire!”—but more often, we just accept that they happen. If we stop the show to obsess over mistakes, we not only make it awkward for the audience, but more importantly, we make life harder on one another.
The trip to Andréa was uneventful. I navigated the crowd with no difficulties. The pizza was delicious—a huge, foldable slice of chicken, bacon, and ranch. We chatted about work gossip and current events, and everything went perfectly.
Then, as we were leaving, I tapped a person standing in front of me with my cane, and in trying to move around them, ended up walking behind the restaurant counter. I instantly felt mortified, especially when one of my coworkers asked, “Are you trying to get a free slice?” All my fears from earlier started to bubble up, and I felt like an idiot.
I stepped out from behind the counter, took a deep breath, embraced my mistake, and responded, “Yeah. It was going to be your birthday present, but you ruined the surprise.” He laughed, and that was the end of it. My accidental wrong turn was no big deal.
Since then, I’ve gone out to more lunches and happy hours with that group, and even though many of us have since moved on to new projects and teams, we still meet up from time to time for lunch or coffee. We’ve gone from being colleagues to being friends. If I hadn’t overcome my fear that day, that might never have happened.
Life, like improvisational theater, can be a vast, creative space full of possibilities. I will never get the chance to explore that space, though, if I don’t embrace the lessons I have learned. I need to say yes to new opportunities and jump even when I’m uncomfortable. I need to understand the why behind my gut reactions to figure out if the fear I’m feeling is justified. I need to accept that mistakes will happen, embrace them, and move on. Most importantly, I just need to relax and have a good time.
by Chris Danielsen
From the Editor: Chris Danielson is the director of public relations for the National Federation of the Blind. He was a part of our original branding team and knows both the spirit and the language that so eloquently communicates who we are and what we do. Here is what he says:
There are several aspects to our brand; one critical component is our brand values. Just as with personal values, brand values make up the code by which the organization lives. Our brand values define the principles upon which our staff, leadership, and members act and make decisions. They are the heart and soul of the organization and do not change very much over time.
We live by six carefully considered brand values: courage, respect, love, full participation, democracy, and collective action. Wow! That’s a lot of values. The next two articles in our branding series will unpack what each of these values mean and describe how we live them each day. In this article we’ll start with the values of courage, respect, and love.
Fighting for freedom takes perseverance and unwavering determination in the face of challenges, setbacks, and difficulties. For over seventy-five years the National Federation of the Blind has led this fight and made significant progress on the road to complete freedom and equality for the blind. As Marc Maurer has reminded us, it will take our continued courage to “break down the remaining barriers on the last miles of the road to freedom” and we are up to the task.
We demonstrate courage at both the organizational and individual level. It takes concerted, courageous advocacy to make change, but it also sometimes takes individual effort backed up by support from the Federation family. For example, both Jamie Ann Principato and Aleeha Dudley experienced discrimination at their chosen higher education institutions. This included not only the usual systemic barriers that blind students encounter, but active resistance from faculty and staff who believed that Jamie and Aleeha couldn’t succeed in their respective courses of study (physics and veterinary medicine.) Both courageous women had to take their battles to court. Although the NFB supported their legal cases, each of them endured the personal consequences of their decision to fight. They persevered not only to achieve their own goals but so that blind people attending their universities in the future would not experience the same barriers. Their courage resulted in systemic change at their schools.
Our faith in the capacity and dignity of blind people is at the heart of our work. We assert the right to be treated fairly and equally. We reject society’s low expectations that come from the ingrained belief that blindness is the characteristic that defines us. We deserve respect and show it to one another.
We talk a lot about the respect that we demand from society, but it is important to remember that our large, diverse organization demands that we respect one another to function properly. We are a cross-section of society bound together by blindness and the problems associated with it, but naturally we come from different backgrounds, have a wide range of characteristics other than blindness, and adhere to different sets of beliefs. We don’t even all make the same choices about how to deal with our blindness, but we respect different choices. We also recognize that not everyone is at the same point on the journey to accepting blindness or vision loss or learning the skills to cope with it effectively.
One of the best examples of a different blindness choice is the decision to use a guide dog instead of a long white cane. While we believe strongly in the long white cane, we know that many of our blind brothers and sisters find real benefit in a guide dog. We not only respect that choice but actively defend it. Recently, we met with Delta Air Lines to get that carrier to back off a new policy that would have adversely affected guide dog users. One of the leaders in that meeting was Marion Gwizdala, the president of our division of guide dog users. The other was Anil Lewis, who uses a cane. Marion and Anil worked together to convince Delta that requiring guide dog users to give forty-eight hours’ notice when they intended to fly with their animals was unreasonable and unnecessary. They succeeded, and this onerous requirement no longer exists.
Like any large group of people, we have differences and disagreements, even sometimes about the priorities of our local chapter, state affiliate, or the national organization. That is fine if we share those differences in a civil and respectful manner and abide by the solution at which the organization, at whatever level, arrives through our democratic processes. Our new code of conduct, discussed by President Riccobono in the April Braille Monitor, reminds us of our critical obligation to respect one another and those with whom we interact on behalf of our movement.
The NFB provides a loving, supportive and encouraging family that shares in the challenges and triumphs of our blind brothers and sisters. This deeply held faith in one another sustains members during times of challenge and cheers on individual and collective successes. Love is the feeling that permeates our organization and pushes us to expect the best from each other.
Recently Federationists in Texas experienced monumental challenges because of the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. The National Federation of the Blind set up a fund to help blind people who were coping with this devastation. Norma Crosby, president of the NFB of Texas and a member of our national board of directors, administered this fund, selflessly leading efforts to collect donations, both monetary and tangible, and distribute aid to Federation families affected by the storm. Norma did this work even though she and her husband Glenn were personally struggling because their own home was severely damaged. Norma and other Federation leaders knew that blind people helping other blind people was critical, because while blind people had many of the same struggles that faced everyone else affected by the hurricane, there were also blindness-specific challenges. Blind Texans had lost everything from expensive assistive technology to white canes, things they could not pick up at the local Wal-Mart or Target. At Washington Seminar, Norma announced that all requests for assistance from Texas had been met; furthermore, she announced that the remaining funds would go to help Federationists in Puerto Rico, which was subsequently hit even harder by Hurricane Maria. This is an example of how the love we have for each other not only helps us push each other to succeed as blind people but sustains us through life’s difficulties.
What other examples come to mind when you think about these values, or any other aspects of the brand that we have discussed? Share them with us by sending an email to email@example.com. It’s important that our discussion of the brand be interactive so that we can all share how we live the brand and can help to make it stronger. We look forward to hearing from you.
by Sheri Wells-Jensen
From the Editor: Sheri Wells-Jensen is a professor at Bowling Green State University. She focuses on linguistics, teaching English as a second language, Braille, and perceptions of blind people. What she discusses in this article is one that perplexes all of us from time to time: when I make a mistake, is it because I am blind, is blindness a contributing factor, and do I make these mistakes more because I am blind? Here is what she says:
I was standing at the counter in the world’s most perfect coffee shop (which just happens to be in my hometown), engaged in the pleasant task of selecting the exact right combination of sugar and liquid caffeine. I was there to meet with some friends, and while I waited my turn, I pulled my phone out of my pocket, planning to send along a smug little text about how they were all late for once, and I was on time.
My phone came out easily enough but brought with it a shower of sundries: a set of ear buds, my keys, a guitar pick, some change, and a couple of folded-up dollar bills. All this rained down around my feet like an unwelcome summer shower. Embarrassed, I made a dive to collect things, fishing around among other people’s shoes on the muddy floor, and heard that unmistakable noise that a white cane makes when it hits tile and bounces out of reach.
At least, I thought from my position half under the cash register, I hadn’t completed the humiliation by cracking my head on the counter on my way down. People stepped back to clear a little space, and somebody squatted down to help me corral everything.
We all laughed and made little jokes about needing coffee and the dangers of overstuffed pockets. “Thank yous” and “no problems” were exchanged, and I got my cane back and ordered my coffee without further incident. The whole business couldn’t have taken more than twenty seconds, and by the time my friends arrived, I had removed myself from the scene to a nearby table. No harm done. I don’t expect myself to be perfect. This sort of thing happens. To everybody. And it’s no big deal, right?
But the little incident stayed with me, and questions began bumping around in my head. Sure, everybody theoretically makes mistakes, but how often really does this sort of thing happen? How often is it a blind-person thing? Am I clumsier than the people around me? Or, rather, I thought, flipping the question, are the people around me more dexterous and graceful than I? Very much despite myself, I had to admit that, at least sometimes, I sort of feel uneasily that maybe they are.
I’m a college professor, and one of my areas of research actually is the study of human error, and I often joke to my students that I’m my own best subject. I notice when I drop something or miscalculate and brush the side of a doorway while passing through or fumble with my change. I notice when I accidentally kick a student’s backpack that I knew was in the aisle, lose momentary track of my direction of travel, or put the wrong key in my office door. But, since they mostly happen quickly and almost silently, I rarely detect these kinds of errors when other people make them. I only notice mine.
It’s worth noting that my understanding of how other people move about and physically interact with each other is to some extent shaped by scripted narrations like those in books or audio description of movies, where the action is tidied up. Unless they are central to some upcoming plot twist, there’s no reason to include little mistakes or incidental miscalculations when creating a scene. So, as I read or listen to narration, I absorb the idea that the people around me just do not make these kinds of mistakes very often. Logically, of course, I know they do, but I don’t hear about it.
So how often do sighted people spill their pockets or drop things or take a misstep off a curb? It occurred to me that I could find out. My job, after all, is not to sit in coffee shops musing darkly about the state of the world. My actual job as a college professor is to gather data and answer questions.
I asked my sighted spouse to do a little covert observation; my expectation was that he might find one or two errors if he watched carefully. Here is what he said:
I sat in an inconspicuous corner of the student union where I had a clear view of a busy open area near a food court. It was around lunch time, and the place was full of students. The hardest thing about the task (besides trying not to look creepy as I stared into the crowd) was that I couldn’t look everywhere at once, and when I did see something, I usually had to look away for a moment to write it down, which meant I wasn’t watching the crowd at all for at least a few seconds. So I’m sure I didn’t see everything that happened, but here’s what I did see in thirty minutes of observation:
Do the math; that’s a sighted person making a notable error every seventy-five seconds.
I remember a story Kenneth Jernigan told about moving through a cafeteria with a friend. When a glass of water fell from a tray, he made two assumptions. First, he assumed the glass had come from his tray. There’s something I have in common with Kenneth Jernigan: despite my convictions and my training, stereotypical ideas about blind people have a way of sliding themselves into my mind. If something is bumped, dropped, or knocked over, I reflexively blame any available blind person. What, then, do I make of all this bumping, dropping, and knocking going on in a space where there were exactly zero blind people present?
The second assumption Dr. Jernigan made was that, if the glass had come from his tray, people around him would attribute the accident to blindness. This is almost certainly the case. It’s clear to me that, if anybody tells a friend about my little coffee shop misadventure, the fact that I’m blind will almost certainly feature in the story as if it were pretty important. This, despite the self-evident fact that pulling a phone out of a pocket has precisely nothing to do with being able to see.The answers to my questions, then, are: yes, this sort of thing does happen all the time, and no, it’s not a blind-person thing; it’s a person thing. The little physical intricacies involved in getting through the day go wrong for everybody, and for me, it’s good to understand myself as an unremarkable part of the crowd. And although I can’t say if sighted people are generally more graceful than I am, I can say that whatever grace they do possess does not seem to prevent them from occasionally scrabbling on the floor to pick things up or whacking each other with book bags.
by Bettina Dolinsek
From the Editor: A good deal of our 2017 National Convention agenda dealt with raising expectations through physical fitness, going beyond the comfortable, and asserting that physical activity is as normal and necessary for blind people as it is for any other segment of the population. One of the more inspirational presentations was delivered by Bettina Dolinsek. Here is what she said to the crowd:
Good morning everybody. Are you guys as excited to be here as I am? [cheers] Let’s hear it. [cheers] Fantastic. First of all I want to begin by thanking President Mark Riccobono for inviting me to speak to you guys today. This is incredible. This week has been just one of the amazing weeks. Usually on a Friday at work I’ll wish everybody a happy Friday because we’ve reached the end of the week; that doesn’t seem necessary today.
I want to start off by telling you guys what we’re not going to talk about: a lot of people—when they hear somebody coming up to speak to them about fitness, wellness, nutrition—the first thing they think about is, “Oh, great. They’re going to tell me to go to the gym. I’m not going to do that.” [laughter] Another thing they would say is, “Oh, no, they’re going to tell me what I should not eat. I’m not going to do that.” [cheers] The other thing I’m not going to do is tell you that CrossFit is the best exercise out there. I think that, but you may not, and that’s okay because you have to do what you want to do.
I want to ask you guys a question: when you were growing up, or if you’re currently in school, were you ever excused from PE class because you were blind. If you answered yes, I can also say yes, I was too. If you answered no, I’m so excited, I’m glad that you’re not. I’ve got a follow-up question—I love this audience participation thing, this is great. So here’s my second question for you guys: if you said yes to question number one, when you were excused from that class, were you happy about that? [chorus of negative responses] I was. I was very excited about that. I was in junior high school, I was in high school, and I was told that I didn’t have to go out with my peers and I didn’t have to try to play a sport I didn’t know anything about and look like a fool in front of everybody. I was happy about that. But I’m glad you’re not. And we’re going to get back to that piece of what I’m talking about in just a little bit.
So now what I want to do is I want to kind of tell you my story and how I got to where I am. When I was a kid growing up in school, I did like sports. I love sports. I love baseball—do I have any Cubs fans in the house? [cheers] When I was a child at home after the summer holiday, every Cubs game, never missed a one of them, it was fantastic. I love football, basketball, running. But you know what happened? When I was going to school what was told to me? “You can’t play, you’re going to get hurt.” Have you guys heard that one? Absolutely. Another thing was, if you were playing on the team, who was picked last? That made you feel good about yourself, didn’t it? And the other thing was, you were told that you would slow down the team, and they didn’t want to do that, either. So unfortunately at a young age I thought sports were not for blind people. We could listen to them on the radio, we could watch them on TV, we could sit in the audience, but we could not play. And honestly, at that point, I was okay with it, I didn’t know how to do many of those things.
So let’s fast-forward just a little bit. I’m out of high school, I’m starting to work a job, and I’ve never looked back at that time and thought that what happened was wrong. After working for a while, I started a new position. I worked at the Iowa Department for the Blind, and at that agency we started a wellness committee. I was so excited about that because—like I said earlier—I did like sports, and I liked fitness; I just didn’t know how to get involved. So we started this wellness committee, and we would come up with activities for the staff to do. We would meet during a break time and start in the basement, walk all the way up the stairs, all the way up to the sixth floor, and walk back down again. And I thought, “Hey, stair climbing, this is excellent, I can do that.” By the third floor I wanted to take the elevator [laughter]. But again, we would keep going. We had yoga classes over the lunch hour; we were introducing things like that. I started to walk on the treadmill, maybe walk on the elliptical for a little bit. But after two weeks of that I was bored, so that went by the wayside.
The chairperson of our committee at that time then received another position and left the agency. They were looking for someone to fill that spot, and I was eager to do so. So I said, “Hey, I volunteer. I would love to do that.”
And they said, “That’s great. You can go ahead and join, and we’ll have another person, and you’ll be co-chairs.” I was excited about that, but there was one problem: I was not fit. I was overweight. I wasn’t the example that I felt was necessary for them to have. I truly believe if I’m going to give advice, I need to lead by example. So we got together in our committee and we started putting our heads together and thinking of different things we could offer, things that would get people excited.
My co-chair said to me, “You know what, I do a CrossFit class over the noon hour in the gym. You’re welcome to come, and let’s get some other people to do that.” I had no idea what I was in for. Do you guys know anything about CrossFit? Has anyone heard of it? [affirmative responses]. If you haven’t, I want to give you a quick definition: it is high-intensity, functional movements. So what that means is if we’re going to work out for twenty minutes, fifteen minutes at a time, you’re going to have your heartrate up that whole time. We also incorporate weight training, so different types of lifts using weights. But I didn’t know that’s what it involved. All I knew was that we were going to be doing a class that involved different types of exercises every day.
So I show up on day one; it took me probably the whole class time to do the warmup. That right there should’ve been my first sign that this was going to be a difficult class. After about a week of being involved in this class, I thought to myself, “This is hard. I don’t know if I want to continue doing this. I can get my fitness walking on the treadmill; I can do it walking on the elliptical.” But then I remembered, “You tried that, and it lasted for two weeks. Keep going, keep pushing forward.” So I said to myself—talked to myself a lot back then—I said, “Alright, keep coming to the classes, keep participating.” And I did. And I started seeing things I never thought possible.
We started an exercise there called box jumps. And that’s just exactly what it sounds like: you start out on the floor, and you jump up on a box. We started with lower inches, maybe two or three inches off the ground at first. I thought to myself, “When we get up to the boxes that are made of wood that would hurt if you missed.” I’ve done it, I could tell you, “I don’t have to do it.” I could tell my coach, “I don’t want to do this part of it; I think it’s too dangerous.”
And he said to me, “Bettina, if you’re going to be in this class, everything I expect out of everybody else I’m going to expect out of you.” [applause] I’m so glad he said that to me. And I started jumping on boxes—twelve inches, eighteen inches, twenty inches, twenty-four inches. My highest jump to date is 31 1/2 inches. [applause] But without that encouragement I would have never done that. We used to do a day a week or a day every other week where we would come up with something that was scary, and we would then practice that.
So as we continued to go through these classes I could stand on my hands—I thought I could barely walk a straight line or even hold the balance on my feet, now I’m walking on my hands, this is amazing! I’m doing pull ups—only guys do pull ups. I’m lifting heavy weights. I’m seeing all these things, and something clicks. And in CrossFit I did what a lot of other people have done before me—I drank the Kool-Aid. [laughter] I went to my coach after we had worked so long and I said, “I want to become a coach.”
And he said, “That’s fantastic.”
I said, “Do you think that we could do this?” And he said yes.
It was important to me; I was so excited about it. I wanted to go where it all began, and that was in California. [cheers] I thought I could hear from you guys over there. I went to San Francisco Bay area, and I visited some of the first CrossFit gyms. I went there, and I received my level one certification. Since then I have also received a certification in gymnastics. [applause] I can’t flip around; don’t get excited.
So after I got back from that I wondered, what can I do with this? Because another thing that was important to me was not just to have a piece of paper telling me that I could do something. I wanted to put that to use.
Do you remember earlier when I talked to you guys about being excused from PE class? What I did was I started contacting TVIs in our area, schools, and saying, “What can I do to help integrate the blind kids back into this class? [applause] We want them to be involved.” Unfortunately, when you visit a public school, and you see blind children being excluded from certain classes like PE, or then you see them at another time being taken out a class to do something else, it sends a message, that separatism message. And that’s not a good thing. We all want to be involved. So I would go to the schools and I would show the PE teachers, “Here’s how you can teach the blind students to be a part of your class.” And then after a while I moved to Texas and lived in the Fort Worth area—we’ve got a few Texans over here. [cheers] I worked at the Lighthouse for the Blind Fort Worth, and I was their wellness specialist, and I did the same. I worked with clients there, and I also went into the school systems. There was a school that contacted me that said, “We have a young kid that wants to run and wants to be on our track team. What can you do to help him?” And we figured it out, and that was amazing.
So at the beginning I told you that my message to you was not going to be about what gym you join or what you should eat, and it’s not. What it’s about is finding your passion—what it is that you want to do in life and then figure out how to do it. There are many people in this room who have gone before us. If you were to contact the different people sitting next to you, they could be mentors to you. They could be the ones you look up to and say, “How can I achieve what I want? How can I make my dream come true?” And they’d be happy to help you. I’ve had mentors. And I want to thank the people who’ve gone before us, the people who have walked the road so it’s easier for the next generation. I can think of a few, especially my husband who supports me every day when I want to be in the gym for hours on end.
So please, connect with the people around you, connect with those who can help you. Make your own dreams come true. Live the life that you want to. Thank you very much. [applause]
by Peggy Chong
From the Editor: Sometimes we are asked why the National Federation of the Blind presumes to speak for blind people and why what we say should carry any more weight than what other people have to say. The answer is that we are not just blind people presuming to speak for blind people; we are blind people elected to speak for blind people and to coordinate action based on agreed-upon policies. In this article Peggy tries to explain to those who are not members of the Federation why they do not have the right to be a part of meetings which the Federation has set up to discuss strategy and eventually propose policy to elected leaders. Here is what she says:
Recently here in Albuquerque we had some discussion at our chapter level as to why our elected officers carry more weight than an individual blind person appointed to city or state boards, committees, and councils. Questions came up as to why we do not have to include the so-called non-represented blind people at any meeting we have with government officials. Sometimes I forget that I know background information and philosophy that some of our new Federationists don’t, and how important it is to revisit our policies.
Our city is making major changes to our bus system along a central corridor. We call it ART [Albuquerque Rapid Transit]. Many constituents of our city have widely differing opinions as to whether or not this will be a viable service. Accommodations for the disabled have been a topic from the beginning because ABQ RIDE’s history has not been strong in this area.
With all the discussion surrounding ART at our local chapter meetings, questions have come up about what should be included to make it accessible, or what does accessible mean. Are my personal concerns blindness-related? If not, then they should not be included in the NFB’s statements. The comments that I have privately about the system should not be considered when we as a Federation chapter list our concerns as blind people to bring up when meeting with the city while representing the Federation. Why is that?
Our NFB philosophy from the very beginning has been based on informed evaluation, discussions, and voted-on agreements. Our local chapter wrote a “Statement of Concern” that after discussion we distributed to the press, city council, our newly-elected mayor’s office, other city committees, and anyone else who expressed an interest. Previously, we had short meetings with transit officials and nothing happened. We would follow up and nothing happened. After the new mayoral administration came onboard and the NFB of Albuquerque chapter’s “Statement of Concerns” was widely circulated, progress was made. We had a meeting with many of the top officials with the transit company with promises to meet again. As of this writing, we have had an opportunity to have input in the “almost ready-to-go” software that will be installed into the fare machines at the new transit platform stations. It is not quite ready to go, and our concerns may cause modification of other parts of the software. We have had a meeting with the mayor’s office. This is a start but has a long way to go in addressing our policy and communication concerns about the transit program.
After we had made the news with a focus on our concerns, others wanted to get in the act. There are some blind people here in our city who say they represent the unrepresented. The Federation does not speak for them, and they should be heard. They say they should be at our meetings with the transit authorities and at the mayor’s office. When we said no, they could not be present, these nonmembers went to the city to complain. Some of our members felt challenged and thought that they had to cave into these blind people who had not put any time into developing our policy nor cared why we came to our conclusions.
We have said no to them attending our private transit meetings. Yet, some of us long-time members had to explain why. We do not need numbers at these meetings. The unrepresented have chosen to be unrepresented. They have been asked to join the NFB but have chosen not to.
Our chapter spent hundreds of hours researching, gathering data, and organizing input from our members and others. We spent many meetings discussing and honing our responses to be sure we were realistic in our expectations and goals for a positive outcome.
Literally hundreds of public meetings surrounding ART have been held in our city over the past three years. Did they attend these meetings? No. The vast majority of the blind in our city, including many of our members, did not until our chapter leadership strongly encouraged each and every one to show up to at least one public meeting and state their concerns.
Do these unrepresented have an independent view that needs to be heard? If they are the only ones who have this view and they did not take the time to come to a meeting, should their ideas be given equal weight with the other thousands of Albuquerqueans’ who were united in voice at the city meetings? As a Federation we know too well that the voices of the many can drown out the voices of the minority unless the minority is willing to work very hard and can show reason why the many should listen and join in with the voices of the few.
Do these unrepresented have unique concerns related to blindness? They say that the Federation brainwashes its members. They say that not everyone can benefit from blindness training. They say that because they did not have blindness training, the city should provide more and more services to them. They say that the Federation expects too much of the average blind person. We, a united group of blind people from all walks of life, have made a commitment to better the lives of the blind, not being content with staying in one place or going backwards.
A political party of the US would not allow other parties, let alone an individual with competing opinions, share center stage when holding a press conference to lay out its agenda. All would agree that doing so would be a distraction, confusing and watering down the message. Why should we allow others to share our center stage?
When we as a chapter, state affiliate, or national body make a decision through our resolution process, it has been discussed many ways. Many views have been taken into consideration, evaluated, prioritized, and agreed upon. Often we bring to the table possible solutions, sometimes multiple ones for the same issue.
Our reputation is important, as is the time we spend in the meetings with policy makers. To bring along a nonmember who would rather talk about how their dog guide is confused when crossing the new platform access or that the color of the edging does not make it easy for them to find the edge takes away from our credibility, wastes time, and accomplishes little to nothing. We have all heard the line, “Why can’t all of you blind guys get together?” Those of us who care have gotten together and need to stick together to provide the strength of our convictions and recommendations to those who can act on them. A united front is what is required to get us the second meeting or the opportunity to examine the proposed software before it is installed and unusable by the blind.
If the unaligned or “independent” blind want to join the Federation and work on these projects, we encourage them to join us in going out and gathering first-hand experiences, writing letters, and attending public meetings; we welcome them. If they choose to be off by themselves, we wish them the best.
Our NFB philosophy was not new when our founders met in Wilkes-Barre that November day in 1940. Blind men and women across the country had been saying it in newspapers and letters where they lived. We are not any more intelligent than the almost-forgotten T. J. Nichols was in 1904 when he articulated our NFB philosophy to young blind men and women in the state of Maryland. But we are wiser and more well-informed because we joined together in 1940 to effect change. We have taken our combined knowledge and have built and are still building an even stronger philosophy that cannot be dismissed. We are no longer just the one blind woman who came to the state legislature asking for fair housing laws. She is now the representative of the many blind members from their home districts who also came along and gave weight to her demands. The quiet voice on a farm in the wilderness of Nebraska now held the same weight as the professors in New York City when our representatives such as Raymond Henderson of California went to Washington DC to lobby for legislation to better the lives of the blind of the country.
I make no apology for our philosophy, our methods of determining policy, or how we carry out our resolutions. The NFB does so openly and encourages the participation of any and all who want to be an effective part of change that betters the lives of all blind people. I am proud and honored to take part in our activities resulting in actions that better the lives of so many more than just our chapter members. To those who wish to jump on our backs and derail the progress we have made, even if they say that is not their intention, I say: cease your disruptive activity and come join us. Be a part of the solution. If not, then get out of our way so we can affect the change that will allow you to live the life you want.
This is why we have a National Federation of the Blind and why we have the right to represent ourselves with local, state, and national leaders to effect change.
by Allan R. Schneider
From the Editor: Allan Schneider is an active Federationist: treasurer of his local chapter, editor of the Idaho state newsletter, and director of Cycle for Independence (a major fundraiser for the Treasure Valley Chapter, more information available at www.cycleforindependence.org). He is on the board of the Idaho Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, as well. Between all that, a loving wife, and a pair of granddaughters, this retired teacher still has a bit of free time to devote to hobbies. In this article Allan discusses one of these hobbies—birding by ear. Here is what he has to say about this accessible outdoor activity:
We stop short, folks whisper, “What’s that?” It’s the unmistakable rattle of the beloved kingfisher, the rascal of the water birds, zooming along the river. It went by too fast; my restricted peripheral vision couldn’t locate it, but it caused me to smile. As a beginner two years ago, it was the first species I identified by sound. Shortly before that, at a meeting of the Treasure Valley Chapter of the NFB of Idaho, Steve Bouffard, a local ornithologist with the Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History at The College of Idaho, introduced the idea of taking blind people birding by ear. Although never interested before, I was intrigued. I became the liaison, and since then a real-life, visually-impaired birder! And why not? Even when sighted birders do official bird counts, 90 percent of the birds are identified by sound because foliage naturally camouflages birds. Today we are guiding a group of blind and visually-impaired people along a path on the north shore of Veterans’ Pond near the Boise River in Boise, Idaho. Minutes before the kingfisher, we were startled by the primordial grunting of a cormorant on a low perch over the pond. Some were startled; it was more the sound of a dinosaur than a bird. Two birds, neither one “tweeted,” and we moved on.
Suddenly Steve hushes us and we listen: it’s a western tanager, it sounds like a robin’s spring “cheer-up cheerily, cheer-up cheerily,” only hoarser. It won’t be here long; it’s on its spring migration to the mountains just north of us. Identifying birds by their calls and songs sounds daunting, but it’s really not. At a bird feeder, there’ll be house finches, chickadees, and sparrows for sure. Start small; first learn their calls and songs. Then choose two more common birds in your area, learn their songs and calls, listen for them, and . . . well, you’re hooked! Once again, the rhythmic sound of canes on the path checks, there’s another sound, and several people roll their eyes and giggle. It’s the harsh, incessant “oka-wee-wee, oka-wee-wee, oka-wee-wee” of the yellow-headed blackbirds that one of our members already declared, “Isn’t at all pretty like I came here to hear!” But another blind participant said that if he wasn’t here today, he’d probably just be sitting in his chair.
The insistent, subdued stumbling “kar-r-r-r-o-o-o, kar-r-r-r-o-o-o, kar-r-r-r-o-o-o” of sandhill cranes flying overhead hushes us without Steve’s urging. Maybe that haunting, caressing loveliness is closer to what she “came here to hear.” Steve grins at our immersion; he is enjoying the walk as much as we are. He is not atypical among birders. There are Audubon societies and other avid birding groups that love to share their passion. In our case, Steve came to us, but we could have contacted birders in our area on our own. And since we’ve started, a local group gave us a grant for bird skull replicas for blind people to feel a bird’s shape, and another invited us to bird banding and measuring activities.
A rascal again rattles downstream, and no one needs to ask, “What’s that?” Once you know, you know. Our group will likely never forget the enchanting call of the cranes, the grunt of the cormorant, the rattle of the kingfisher, and for sure not the incessantly harsh cackle of the yellow-headed blackbird. And later, as we near the vehicles, there is yet another rattle, and I again smile, remembering hearing that and two years ago asking, “What’s that?” for the only time.
by Louis Maher
From the Editor: How many of us have been steered away from careers that we were told were impractical or impossible for blind people? I was steered away from electronics, computers, and anything that had to do with science, technology, engineering, or math. What I needed were resources to tell me what existed and where I could find them. In this article Louis Maher takes note of the work of John Gardner to bring us just this kind of information. For some of us it will go way beyond what we want to know because these fields are not our fields, but for others it will be a breath of fresh air and the oxygen that will fill their lungs and give them energy to pursue their hopes and dreams. Here is Louis’ report:
In school a blind student must make up his/her unique accessibility solutions to access the various information sources used in each class. Because there are no standards for systems and classroom materials to be accessible, schools seldom offer the blind student a portfolio of accessible educational solutions to meet each semester’s needs. The proposed Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (AIM HIGH) Act (S. 2138 / H.R. 1772) would develop accessibility standards for schools and content providers.
Until a market-driven solution for accessible instructional materials is achieved, blind students must develop their own accessibility solutions. To do this effectively, students must have knowledge about current best practices on a wide variety of information systems.
Organized by John Gardner, many companies, agencies, and individuals got together during the 2017 NFB National Convention to provide tutorials on innovative new STEM products. STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, topics that seem to be particularly difficult for the blind.
On July 10, 2017, John Gardner had arranged an all-day tutorial on how blind professionals and blind students are succeeding in STEM careers. Also, throughout the convention week, he arranged hands-on tutorials for anyone who wished one-on-one training in these methods.
The speakers presented talks and demonstrations showing proficiencies in math, data analysis, efficient graphics production, and how to perform chemistry experiments as a blind person. Many of the speakers provided information related to their presentations. This information can be found at http://access2science.com/indexAccessibility.html. Podcasts of the Monday symposium were recorded by Ben Dahle of ViewPlus, and they are also available at this website. A summary of these presentations follows.
Please note that we have shamelessly copied words, phrases, and entire sentences from the audio recordings and writings of the presenters, from manuals, and from Wikipedia. In the academic publishing world, each citation is followed by a reference; however, this is not the Braille Monitor format.
After a welcome from John Gardner, Ashley Neybert, representing Independence Science, discussed Making Science Laboratories More Accessible to the Blind. Independence Science works to provide information to educators who are teaching science to students who are blind or visually impaired. Most notable among Independence Science’s products is the Talking LabQuest, an adapted version of the commonly used Vernier LabQuest, which is equipped with speech capability and usable with approximately seventy-five probes. Talking LabQuest allows blind students to perform laboratory experiments. Ms. Neybert demonstrated the Talking LabQuest.
Steve Jacobs, president IDEAL Group Inc. discussed the InftyReader (Math OCR) and the ChattyInfty (talking accessible math editor). Many images of mathematical equations appearing on webpages, ebooks, and PDF documents are not accessible by students using access technology, do not provide for alternative output modalities such as Braille or synthetic speech, cannot be easily altered to accommodate the learning needs of students with low vision (color and contrast changes), and require authors to redraw images when even small changes are made.
InftyReader is an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) application that automatically recognizes and converts image-based STEM content into LaTeX, MathML, and Word XML. ChattyInfty is a talking math editor used to edit the files generated by InftyReader. These two tools can give the blind access to mathematics published as images.
Next, John Gardner (retired professor of physics, Oregon State University and president, ViewPlus Technologies Inc.) described how ViewPlus’s IVEO system can provide audio-tactile access to graphics. The requirements for audio-tactile access are a tactile copy of the figure, a computer file with information keyed to location on the figure, some type of hardware device that communicates position on the figure to the computer, and a computer application that provides speech and/or Braille information to the user.
In the past the hardware device has always been a touch-sensitive tablet. A modification allowing the user to attach the graphic to a touch screen is under development. Essentially, the tactile graphic is produced with a ViewPlus Braille printer and a file providing speech to describe the graphic. The user touches the graphic, and the computer reads the underlying description. The audio description file can be automatically generated for some circuit and molecule diagrams.
Mike Coleman, representing E.A.S.Y. LLC. discussed its interactive tactile graphic drawing tools. The inTACT Sketchpad is an affordable and easy-to-use tool for creating tactile drawings by hand. As you draw on the sketchpad, raised lines appear on the plastic drawing sheet, making it possible for you to feel your drawings as you go.
The inTACT Eraser is the first-ever eraser for tactile drawing. Working like a miniature iron, the inTACT Eraser flattens tactile drawing quickly, erasing your drawing to the touch.
Next, we heard from Jonathan Godfrey, (senior lecturer in statistics, Massey University, New Zealand and national president, Blind Citizens NZ), on statistics with graphics in R. Jonathan is the first totally blind person to gain employment as a lecturer in statistics, and to date only one other person has done so.
Jonathan said that there are two statistics packages accessible to the blind. They are R and SAS. SPSS is another statistical software package that is somewhat accessible to the blind. Jonathan recommends that the blind use R for their statistical needs.
R is a free system for statistical computation and graphics. It consists of a language plus a run-time environment with graphics, a debugger, access to certain system functions, and the ability to run programs stored in script files. Jonathan reported that R can generate accessible tables, graphs, and models. Graphs can be embossed using Braille printers such as those available from ViewPlus.
Jonathan has developed a method of taking a Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) plot output from R, generating an automatic description file, and making it available to the user. The description file contains a tree which describes the properties of the graph. The top node of the tree contains the title, other branches describe the X-axis, the Y-axis, and a description of the data in the plot. The computer describes the graphic as the user arrows through the description file. His program has an expert mode which can give summaries of the data in the plot. His tools make histograms and time series plots accessible. He is working on making scatter plots readable.
His tools provide real-time operating-system and screen-reader independent methods for reading the graphical output of R. He spent most of his lecture showing how his tools can describe a histogram. Jonathan says that it is essential for a blind user to be able to not only read graphs but also to generate them. R fulfills this need.
Lloyd Rasmussen (senior staff engineer, Library of Congress), and Louis Maher (retired software engineer), discussed reading math from electronic documents. Lloyd said that an accessibility certification standard is being developed for the EPUB electronic book publishing format. He also said that publishers are beginning to require authors to write the descriptions for figures since the authors understand the reasons for having those figures more than the publisher does.
Louis Maher described how to read math in Windows with JAWS and NVDA. He also showed how to do it with iOS using Voiceover. Recently JAWS has introduced a method to display, in voice and Braille, mathematics on the web. When you encounter MathML on a webpage, JAWS describes the expression, followed by the message “math content.” Pressing Enter while focused on the math content opens the Math Viewer where you can explore the expression in greater detail in both speech and Braille.
Using Windows 10, Word 365, Firefox, MathPlayer, and MathType, NVDA has a rich set of features which speaks, navigates, and provides Braille output math from the web, in Word, and PowerPoint. These capabilities were summarized.
John Gardner introduced his LEAN Math editor (aka LEAN) program for reading and writing math in MS Word using the Design Science MathType plugin. LEAN is an interface to applications that can exchange MathML with LEAN. This first version is used only as an interface to MS Word plus MathType, which is (according to the MathType manufacturer), the most-used authoring environment in the world by a substantial margin.
For the web, LEAN can insert alt tags into MathType equations which allow the blind user to have descriptions of the equations independent of a screen reader’s ability to read math on the web. Recently it has become possible to read these equations directly with screen readers, so the need for such alt text is not as important as it once was.
LEAN is meant to write math, not just to read it. LEAN provides excellent speech access to editing MathType equations or authoring new MathType equations. LEAN has many features that help in the manipulation of equations to solve algebraic equations. One can also view equations in Braille while in the LEAN application. LEAN is intended for blind people who must read and write math and need to solve equations.
Sam Dooley (Pearson), Susan Osterhaus (Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired), Sara Larkin (Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired), and Tina Herzberg (University of South Carolina Upstate) described how to do real-time Nemeth Braille input/output by using the Pearson “Accessible Equation Editor.” The Accessible Equation Editor is a program that allows a user to create math expressions within a webpage. The Equation Editor is used in many Pearson products, most notably the TestNav assessment delivery system used for high-stakes testing. The Equation Editor is accessible to blind and visually-impaired users because it translates printed math notation into Nemeth Braille, which can be displayed on a Braille terminal. It accepts Nemeth Braille input, which it translates into printed math notation that it displays for a sighted user. A blind user can create math expressions that can be immediately read by a sighted user and vice versa. Mathematics can be entered either from a QWERTY or Braille keyboard.
Pearson is developing an online curriculum to teach the Nemeth code in conjunction with mathematics using the Equation Editor. There is a test at the end of each module to check the student’s progress. Students, parents, and teachers should all be able to use this tool. Current pre-kindergarten and kindergarten modules have been completed.
Pearson is also working on an online glossary of mathematical terms in a searchable database. A user would enter a mathematical term, and the database would demonstrate how to write that term in the Nemeth code.
At the time of the presentation, it was not possible to generate the mathematical output of the Equation Editor as a separate stand-alone file. This capability would be an invaluable tool for doing math homework. The Equation Editor is currently used as an interface to other online applications.
Jonathan Godfrey introduced LaTeX and Markdown. LaTeX is a document preparation system for high-quality typesetting. It is most often used for medium-to-large technical or scientific documents, but it can be used for almost any form of publishing. Markdown is a lightweight markup language with plain text formatting syntax. It’s designed so that it can be converted to HTML and many other formats using a tool by the same name. Any text editor can be used to prepare input files for both LaTeX and Markdown. The difference is that Markdown uses a much simpler syntax than does LaTeX. It should be noted that the mathematics in Markdown is done using a version of LaTeX. LaTeX has a steeper learning curve than does Markdown.
Both LaTeX and Markdown can produce PDF documents; however, PDF documents are usually difficult for the blind to read. The preferred output for both languages is HTML. PDF documents are page oriented whereas HTML has one continuous flow. HTML files are much easier to search than a page-oriented PDF. Markdown also forces you to put in Alt text descriptions for URLs; that is, Markdown forces the author to provide accessible descriptions for his/her web links and graphics. LaTeX has a lot of structure to make it work. Markdown has defaults which work. You can have Markdown output LaTeX if necessary. Jonathan recommends using Markdown for most files, only using LaTeX for longer documents such as research dissertations, theses, and books. Jonathan pointed out that a blind person must be able to read and write scientific material without sighted assistance. Markdown is a powerful tool that can help achieve this goal.
Finally, William Freeman (American Printing House for the Blind) discussed using BrailleBlasterTM for scientific braille translation. BrailleBlaster is a Braille transcription program developed by the American Printing House for the Blind to help transcribers provide blind students with Braille textbooks on the first day of class. BrailleBlaster takes advantage of the rich markup contained in NIMAS (National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard) files to automate basic formatting and provides tools to make advanced tasks quicker and easier. Designed primarily for editing textbooks that meet the specifications published by the Braille Authority of North America, the purpose of BrailleBlaster is to help Braille producers ensure that blind students receive their books on-time.
BrailleBlaster relies on Liblouis, a well-known open-source Braille translator, for translating text and mathematics to Braille. BrailleBlaster can be used by an instructor to prepare Braille documents for his or her blind students. It is fully accessible. It can accept math in MathML. It can convert MathML into AsciiMath, which is a simplified LaTeX. This allows users to edit their math directly before the final Braille output. BrailleBlaster now runs on PCs. There are plans to make it work on the MAC and on Linux. It works with JAWS and NVDA. It can output Nemeth or UEB. BrailleBlaster was started by John Gardner.
Individual tutorials on using these new tools were offered at available times during the week of the convention. This was an experiment in bringing tutorials to the students, because it is much less expensive to take them to where the students are already congregated than having special events to which students come. But the convention seems not to be the best place to do this. Although many students told us how much they needed and wanted to learn more about how to do STEM, their schedules were simply too full for very many to find time to participate.
The need for knowledge about methods of accessing STEM material is essential for having a career in science. The methods discussed in this tutorial will provide an invaluable resource.
I am grateful to John Gardner who originated this tutorial and reviewed this paper, to the National Federation of the Blind for making space available for these tutorials, to the many people who donated their time and paid their own expenses to speak or tutor during the project, and to my wife Helen Maher who edited this paper.
For more than seventy-five years the National Federation of the Blind has worked to transform the dreams of hundreds of thousands of blind people into reality, and with your support we will continue to do so for decades to come. We sincerely hope you will plan to be a part of our enduring movement by adding the National Federation of the Blind as a partial beneficiary in your will. A gift to the National Federation of the Blind in your will is more than just a charitable, tax-deductible donation. It is a way to join in the work to help blind people live the lives they want that leaves a lasting imprint on the lives of thousands of blind children and adults.
With your help, the NFB will continue to:
Plan to Leave a Legacy
Creating a will gives you the final say in what happens to your possessions and is the only way to be sure that your remaining assets are distributed according to your passions and beliefs. Many people fear creating a will or believe it’s not necessary until they are much older. Others think that it’s expensive and confusing. However, it is one of the most important things you will do, and with new online legal programs it is easier and cheaper than ever before. If you do decide to create or revise your will, consider the National Federation of the Blind as a partial beneficiary. Visit www.nfb.org/planned-giving or call (410) 659-9314, extension 2422, for more information. Together with love, hope, determination, and your support, we will continue to transform dreams into reality.
Invest in Opportunity
The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. A donation to the National Federation of the Blind allows you to invest in a movement that removes the fear from blindness. Your investment is your vote of confidence in the value and capacity of blind people and reflects the high expectations we have for all blind Americans, combating the low expectations that create obstacles between blind people and our dreams.
In 2016 the NFB:
Just imagine what we’ll do next year, and, with your help, what can be accomplished for years to come. Below are just a few of the many diverse, tax-deductible ways you can lend your support to the National Federation of the Blind.
Vehicle Donation Program
The NFB now accepts donated vehicles, including cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, or recreational vehicles. Just call (855) 659-9314 toll-free, and a representative can make arrangements to pick up your donation—it doesn’t have to be working. We can also answer any questions you have.
General 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, complete the Pre-Authorized Contribution form, and return it to the address listed on the form.
by Barbara Pierce
From the Editor: A major effort of the Federation is working in the statehouses throughout the country to have Braille recognized in state law as the most efficient reading and writing method for blind people and to see that a research-based test is used in determining whether a child should learn to read Braille, print, or both. I can’t think of anything more frustrating than going into a school and finding that at sixth or seventh grade we are still arguing about whether Braille is appropriate for a blind child. That precious window when the brain is so open to learning to read and write efficiently is starting to close, and when it does, for many people the dream of being able to read a book cover to cover or to read to one’s children or grandchildren slams closed with it. The whole notion that in grades one through three we learn to read and from then on we read to learn is turned on its head, and blind students are the casualties. In my frustration after attending an IEP meeting, I thought about writing an article, but then I saw one that is better than anything I could write on the subject. This is an article written back in 1996 for Future Reflections by Barbara Pierce. Here is what she says:
Can you remember the intoxication of learning to read? I can. When I began first grade, the Scott-Foresman primers about the adventures of Dick, Jane, and Sally were in use, and I still remember the picture of Dick standing on his shoulders in a pile of leaves, feet kicking in the air, while one of his sisters intoned the page’s text, “Look at Dick! Funny, funny Dick!”
Had I but known it, those early weeks of first grade were the high point of my reading career. We gathered around the teacher in reading groups to sound out the words and falter our way through each page. I was good at it. I understood the principles of picking out the sound of each letter and shoving them together rapidly enough to guess at the meaning. The result was that I was in the first reading group.
My success didn’t last long. By second semester each page bore many more lines of print, and my mother was forced to work with me at home after school or before bed to help me keep up. For I was what they called a low-vision child. I could see the print with only one eye, and I am certain that I was legally blind, though no one ever used that word in my hearing. Mother placed a little lamp close to the page so that I could see as well as possible, but the letters were still blurred, and I could never get the hang of reading an entire word at once.
By second grade I was in the second reading group, and by third grade I had slipped to the third group, despite the lamp now clipped to the side of my desk. I had to face the truth: I was dumb. I lay awake at night worrying about the increasing number of spelling workbook exercises left undone because my reading and writing were too slow to complete them in class. I still maintained an unbroken string of perfect spelling tests because my parents drilled me on the spelling lists every week. The tests were nothing, but the workbook! I fantasized about what it would be like to go to bed at night and not stare open-eyed into the black prospect of mortification when the truth about me and my incomplete work eventually came to my parents’ notice.
It happened at the close of the third marking period, and it came, as such things do, like a bolt from the blue. I had actually brought home what I thought was a good report card—all A’s and B’s—except for art, penmanship, and gym, in which I always got C’s. Everybody knew that I was terrible at those things because “Barbara’s blind as a bat.” But the dreaded unmasking of my shameful secret in the spelling workbook seemed to me to have remained hidden beneath an A for yet one more grading period. I handed my mother my report card and ran out to play. But when my brother and I were called in for dinner (Dad was out of town at the time), I knew that something was wrong; Mother had been crying, and she did not sit down to dinner with us. She said that she had a headache. It soon became apparent that I was the headache. My report card had betrayed me after all. In all that hard-to-read small print at the bottom the teacher had given me a U (unsatisfactory) in the puts-forth-best-effort category, where I was used to getting E’s (Excellent) or at least S’s (satisfactory).
Mother went to school the next day and learned the horrible truth about me. I was astonished to learn afterward that the relief of having my shameful secret out in the open actually reduced my burden. True, I had to make up all the work I had been avoiding because the reading had become too difficult. Play time was much reduced, and I had to learn all over again how to go to sleep without worrying, but things were never again as bad.
In the following years we tried magnifying glasses for my good right eye, and the summer after fourth grade I had to be tutored in an effort to learn to read with high magnification. In September of fifth grade my new teacher called on me to read a paragraph in the geography book during the class lesson. I read like a second grader, and I was mortified. The teacher never called on me again. By sixth grade I was hardly using the glasses at all. I was quick to learn as long as I didn’t have to struggle to make sense of the print, and it was easier on everyone for the teacher to assign a rapid reader to work with me on in-class reading projects.
Finally, at the close of seventh grade, my parents faced the painful truth: if I were to have any hope of literacy, I would have to learn Braille. Print was no longer an option. I mastered the Braille code in a summer of weekly lessons taught by a woman who used Braille herself, though she admitted that she was not a good Braille reader. She assured me that her husband could read Braille rapidly, but I never heard him or anyone else use the code efficiently. People told me it was important to use my Braille and that practice would increase my speed. But by that point in my education I had already worked out alternative ways of getting my reading and writing done, and I was no longer eager to crawl down a page of text as we had done in early elementary school. I practiced writing Braille with my slate and stylus because I knew that in college I would need a good way of taking notes in lectures, but I never made time to learn to read Braille properly.
Now that I am a member of the National Federation of the Blind, I know hundreds of people who read Braille easily and well. Some of them could not see print when they were beginning school, so Braille was the only option for them. But many more could make out print when they were learning to read, even though as adults they cannot see it. They were lucky enough to be taught Braille along with print, and they simply and naturally learned to decide which method would be most useful for each reading task. As a result they now read Braille at several hundred words a minute.
I have never regretted learning to read print. Everyone should know the shapes of print letters, but I will always bitterly regret that I was not taught Braille as a small child. Today I am struggling to gain the speed and accuracy in reading Braille that I should have had by the time I was ten. I have now been working at it for six years, and my reading speed has tripled, but I must face the fact that I will probably never read as well as a bright ten-year-old. Setting aside the fact that the adult brain does not master new skills as rapidly as does a child’s, I cannot bring myself to practice reading aloud to my long-suffering family. The time for taking advantage of such an opportunity is childhood, and I cannot inflict my stumbling reading on my husband.
If my mother could speak to you who are facing the dilemma of whether or not to demand that your children learn Braille, she would urge you to decide in favor of Braille. No matter how clearly a youngster can see print at the moment, if the vision is fragile or problematic in any way, Braille will often become invaluable in the future, even if print too continues to be useful. I urge you to keep your child’s options open and your expectations high. All young things need space to stretch and grow within their God-given abilities. Please insist that your child be given a chance.
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.
Active NFB members, blind or sighted, who have not yet attended an NFB national convention because of lack of funding are eligible to apply.
How do I apply for funding assistance?
Your letter to Chairperson Allen Harris must cover these points:
The body of your letter should answer these questions:
How do you currently participate in the Federation? Why do you want to attend a national convention? What would you receive; what can you share or give? You can include in your letter to the committee any special circumstances you hope they will take into consideration.
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call his Baltimore, Maryland, office at (410) 659-9314, extension 2415.
Above all, please use this opportunity to attend your first convention on the national level, and join several thousand active Federationists in the most important meeting of the blind in the world. We hope to see you in Orlando.
by Amy Mason
From the Editor: This is the fourth 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:
(Music fills the hall as you open the classroom door… “Get your motor runnin’/head out on the highway/lookin’ for adventure/and whatever comes our way.” –Steppenwolf)
Welcome back to web driving school! Today’s class is an especially exciting one. We are pulling our cars… er... I mean browsers, out of the garage, and we are going to hit the open road. Today we begin to seek adventure, profit, and entertainment on the information superhighway.
Just a quick aside before we begin: from this point forward in the series, I am going to be sharing broad techniques you can employ when browsing the web and not specific solutions. If you were counting, you know that so far in the previous articles, we have discussed nineteen different possible combinations of screen readers and browsers (more than that if we include those with poor support or low adoption). Shockingly enough, I cannot keep up with all the quirks of these combinations to give you a comprehensive tutorial on how to do everything precisely with your tools of choice.
Driving instructors are unable to teach each student how to use his or her own car but must instead explain the overarching skills a student can employ in their own vehicle. Therefore, from this point forward, I am going to be primarily providing examples using my tools of choice, NVDA and Chrome. If you are unfamiliar with how to perform these types of commands with your screen reader, you may want to look back at the previous article in this series. I included directions for accessing several helpful resources for each screen reader we discussed in that piece.
Of course, this leads to the question, “Where do you want to go?” And its companion, “How do you plan to get there?” There are many different ways to reach a given destination on the internet and several different options for how you can find what you are looking for. Some of the most common options include:
If you know the address of your destination, you can drive right there. This is the most straightforward way to reach any given site on the web. If you have a particular website in mind, you can directly enter its address in the address bar of your browser. On Windows you can reach the address bar in any of the browsers we discussed by pressing Control-L. On Mac you can reach it by pressing Command-L. Once you have entered the address bar, you can type the address of the site you wish to visit, followed by pressing Enter then, almost like magic, your browser will take you directly to the site in question.
Honestly, this is probably the most popular method for finding destinations on the internet today. Whether you have a topic you wish to research, a question you wish to have answered, or a particular site in mind, you can use a search engine to start you on your journey. Much like a map, the search engine can point you to where you want to go. It can also act as a guidebook by offering suggestions when you are seeking something specific or a compass by pointing you in the right direction when you aren’t entirely sure where to start.
Several search engines exist, but by far the most popular in the United States, if not the world, is Google, located at www.google.com. If Google doesn’t suit you, you might prefer Bing at www.bing.com.
To use this method begin by visiting one of these or any other search engine you prefer by typing its address into the address bar. We will be using Google as our example so that we can all begin, both literally and metaphorically, on the same page.
When you open the search site, you are likely to be placed in the “Search” edit field (which may also be called a “combo box” or “editable combo box” depending on the screen reader and browser you are using). If your focus is not in this edit field, use your arrow keys or tab and shift tab until you are in this box.
Here is where things get both a bit more complicated and a bit more fun. Enter your search term or terms and press Enter. The browser will load a new page containing a list of results based on what you typed. For our example today, I chose “NFB.”
So, I just mentioned that things can get more complicated. Well, “NFB” is actually a pretty great example of how that can happen. Although all of us here would think of the “National Federation of the Blind” first when we hear the acronym “NFB” this is, in fact, not the only organization represented by these letters. When I searched for “NFB” the first search result I received was for the “National Film Board of Canada,” and although the National Federation of the Blind was included in the list of results, there were several other National Film Board results as well. Not precisely what I had in mind.
Well, let’s try again… “National Federation of the Blind.” Follow that by Enter, and yes, there we are. The first page in this batch of web results was in fact for our “NFB.”
The lesson from this searching snafu is simple. Be prepared to reframe your search attempts. Using a search engine to find what you are looking for is very similar to using maps and compasses when travelling in the car. You will not get where you want to be unless you understand how to at least minimally use the tools on offer and know what you are looking for. I have been assured that there are eighty-eight locations in the United States that share the name of “Washington” (discounting roads, streets, and the like). Therefore, if you decide you want to go to Washington, you need to know which one you want in order to use your map and compass to get you there.
Admittedly, when you don’t know quite what you are after, you can take advantage of the search engine’s guidebook-like features and try out search suggestions. The way that you would do this is to start typing your search term in the “editable combo box” from earlier. After you have typed a few letters, you can press down arrow to browse the options offered, again choosing one with the Enter key. We will talk more about “combo boxes” in the next article, but since they are important to making the most out of your search engine experience, I want to at least briefly discuss them here. Incidentally, there are times that the box will not open with just the arrow key or will automatically go to the first thing on the list when you press the down arrow. If this happens, return to the box, (when necessary) and try opening it up with the key combination Alt-down arrow.
Our third option for finding things on the web is the equivalent to just jumping in the car, picking a direction, and driving. It’s a road trip. It’s an adventure, and more often than not, it’s going to take you to places you would have never seen before. (Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends entirely on how you are feeling, how long you have to spend in this endeavor, and just which links you decide to activate.)
Large portions of the internet are built to encourage random exploration. Shopping sites, news sites, social media, and everyone in between want to keep you on their websites for as long as possible. Whether they are hoping to get you to look at advertisements, buy something, or just learn why their organization/product/conspiracy theory/resource is the most interesting or relevant, the majority of sites are built with a large number of links to similar or related content in order to keep you clicking. Most web denizens have taken this bait, at least occasionally—I certainly have. In fact, I have found myself, more times than I would like to admit, shaking my head as I ask myself questions like: “How is it already 3 AM?” “What was I supposed to be doing again?” and “How did I find myself watching a YouTube video about the depiction of medieval farming practices in video games?” (I never did come up with an answer to that last question, by the way.)
Browsing the web for leisure can be a great way to become more comfortable with using your screen reader and browser together. Spending some time this way may also provide you with new interests, hobbies, and opportunities you never considered before. There are websites for just about any hobby, profession, or interest I can think of, so explore a little, and see what you can find. If you need a push in the right direction, you might try a few of the following resources:
It seems important to point out at this juncture that like television—and every other medium—you can’t trust everything you see or hear. Social media campaigns, advertising, hoaxes, and “fake news” all exist on the internet, so it is important to be savvy about what you accept as fact. I recently was involved in a conversation with a friend who announced, “Silvester Stallone just died.” A second friend asked, “Are you sure?” and the first person replied, “No, I just read it on the internet.” In this case, my friend was right to be skeptical, as apparently Sylvester and his family have been very vocal about the fact that the rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated. Essentially the point of this section is to simply remind you to check your sources and that like with everything else in life, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Websites can be… complicated. There is a lot on most pages, and finding the information you want, instead of the random bits of fluff you don’t, can be time consuming and occasionally frustrating, but there are lots of strategies you can employ to help you find what you are looking for more quickly and easily. Learning these basic techniques will greatly improve your experiences on the web. Although these tips will work best for well-maintained and accessible sites, they are often enough to make browsing the average so-so site relatively painless, and sometimes even the fairly inaccessible site possible, if not exactly… enjoyable.
Today we are going to cover just the basic tools in your glove box, but once you have these tools down, you will find browsing can be much faster, easier, and more pleasant than if you feel you have to read every word on a page or tab through every link.
Nearly every road includes some signs you can use to find your way. Location information, navigational guideposts, mile markers, and even billboards provide drivers with useful and sometimes crucial information for safely and effectively reaching their destination. In the same way, different elements on a webpage can be used to help you quickly and efficiently cruise to the portion of a webpage you want to read and interact with. Although the commands differ, each of the major screen readers we have discussed so far in these articles offer keystrokes for moving by most of these different element types, so let’s discuss a few and see how you can make the most of them.
Note: NVDA, JAWS, and VoiceOver each allow for single key navigation to the next and previous instance of most of the common elements outlined below. In order for this to work, VoiceOver needs to have “Quick Access” enabled, NVDA needs to be in “browse mode,” and JAWS needs to be using the “Virtual Cursor.” To move forward by each element type in all three screen readers, you would just press the required keystroke. To go back by the same element, use Shift in combination with that letter. As we discussed earlier, I am unable to outline each keystroke for each screen reader, so I will demonstrate with NVDA. If you are using VoiceOver or JAWS, please consult your documentation. If you wish to follow along, I’ll be using a few different websites to demonstrate how each of these browsing tricks work. Some content may change, but I expect the general structure of the sites are going to be fairly consistent.
Let’s start with a relatively new item you will find on websites. Landmarks or Regions (terminology on these is determined by your screen reader and browser combination) are large overarching buckets of content on a page. If the page is coded well, the number of these will be relatively limited—usually no more than five or six to a page. If it is not, sometimes you will find considerably more, but either way, it helps to divide up the space.
If your webpage were an apartment, think of landmarks as being each of the different rooms. “Top Navigation” might be like your entryway, “Main content” might be the living room, and “footer” might be like the back bedroom where you store all the extra junk you don’t know what to do with.
Landmarks are generally meant for screen-reader users and others using access technology only. They are almost always invisible to sighted visitors to a site, so asking a visual user what is under the “Main content” landmark is going to be an unproductive and confusing exercise for you both. Landmarks/regions are intended to help you quickly move past the parts of the page you aren’t interested in and straight to the parts you do care about. They perform a similar function as “headings” which we will discuss shortly, except at a higher level of organization.
Remember, unless otherwise stated, all practical examples are provided using the base of NVDA and Chrome. Please consult documentation for your preferred tools if necessary.
JAWS users looking for information on how to complete this exercise will want to be aware that most JAWS documentation refers to landmarks as “regions” so you will want to search out “region” in the help system instead of “Landmark.”
Heading elements act just like the headings in a book or article. Visually, they are usually bigger and bolder than other text with the intent that they will attract attention and aid the user in skimming the content on the page for what most interests them. They perform the same function for screen-reader users, but they perform it a bit differently. Headings are coded with a special tag which tells our system “Hey, this text is a heading! It’s important!” When these tags exist, our screen reader can jump directly to them. Headings on the web are available from levels one through six, and ideally they will be in a hierarchical structure. To illustrate:
Occasionally a site will be coded so text will look like headings, without the special tag in the background which tells the screen reader that it is a heading, but this is fairly uncommon. Many sites don’t follow the hierarchical structure outlined above, but even so, you can usually get a good overview of what’s available by perusing the headings on any given page.
During this exercise, you may have noticed something interesting. Each heading was also another element. For instance, “Search Results” was a landmark, and each search result heading was also a link. Many elements will do some form of double duty, and it can be useful to keep track of these methods of structuring a page. To illustrate, you may be able to use the fact that every search result is both a link and a heading, but not every link on the page is a heading. So you can choose to move by headings even if you are looking for links if there are less of them on the page.
As mentioned above, links are the interconnecting elements on the internet that move you from one page to another. A page may contain just one or two, or literally hundreds. They can be named something descriptive like “Expedia’s commitment to accessibility” or something less useful, like “click here,” or “read more.” In a very real sense, links are the glue that hold the web together. Without links, we wouldn’t have the “web” we know today. They are the threads that connect one page to the next, or the interconnecting roads that make it possible for us to “drive” from Google to the NFB homepage, to the booking site for the convention hotel.
In fact, links have become such a part of modern computing that you will find them everywhere. They exist in electronic books, emails, Word documents, and a number of other file types I’m probably forgetting right now. Although they may take you to other resources on your computer, the vast majority of links you find anywhere will bring you back to the browser and a page on the internet.
Links can move you to different places on the same page or can take you to different pages. Usually, though not always, a link that moves you on the same page will be announced as a “same page link” or something similar. Links can also be “visited,” meaning you have used that link in the past, or “unvisited” meaning that you haven’t used that link before, (or occasionally that your computer forgot that you used it). This can be useful because you can choose to quickly retrace your steps to an especially helpful page by moving directly to visited links, or you can skip to only those you have not used before.
We have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the different signposts or elements you can use when browsing the web. There are many more yet to explore: graphics, edit fields, checkboxes, buttons, lists, tables, and even plain non-interactive text. Your screen reader has commands for moving to most if not all of these item types. Experiment a bit with jumping by different item types on different pages, and see which ones give you the best results. Those we covered above are usually the ones that I try when first looking over a page because they are often used to convey structure, but if you are looking for the search box on a website or the first field in a form, you might find that using E for edit field or F for form element will produce better results. In future articles we will discuss several of these element types in more detail, so stay tuned.
Sometimes you just don’t care about everything on a webpage. In fact, as you continue to practice browsing, you will likely find that you don’t care about the majority of information on some pages. The techniques above will certainly help with cutting down on the clutter, but sometimes you need just a bit more when you are in a hurry or on a mission.
Sometimes it is helpful to get an overview of a site that is just a little more comprehensive than what you can collect by using your hotkeys for jumping from element to element. Sometimes you find yourself on a webpage with 400+ links, and about 200 of them are “read more.” Sometimes you are on a site you’ve visited dozens of times, and you know that the link you are looking for, “Candied Ginger” (don’t judge, I’m hungry,) is most of the way down the page. Are there any tools you can employ to shift into the fast lane and just get your project done?
Of course there are. I wouldn’t tease you like that if they didn’t exist. In each of our primary screen readers, you can find a command that will bring up lists of elements by type, which you can quickly navigate by first letter. In NVDA, the list is called the “Elements List” and it can be accessed with NVDA-F6. In the dialog that opens, you can switch between three tabs. One of these contains links, one contains headings, and the third contains landmarks. Navigate to the item you want in the list and you can then choose to activate it if it is a link, or navigate to that item on the page. JAWS users get the same sort of functionality in the “Links List” and “Headings List” (JAWS-F7 and JAWS-F6 respectively). VoiceOver handles its element lists a little differently and calls its function the “Item Chooser.” This can be enabled with VO-U, and you are able to arrow between different element types with the left and right arrow keys and to navigate any given list with up or down arrow. Pressing Enter will place you in that item’s location on the page. No matter what you call it, these lists can be powerful tools for moving quickly on busy webpages. I will note, however, that due to some changes in the way that new pages are being created and other factors these lists are not quite as reliable as they used to be, so you may still need to fall back to another method for browsing if this does not yield the results you seek.
Sometimes you come across an article or a long document that is in large part just not that relevant, but you suspect that there are a few nuggets of gold buried in that muddy morass of prose. (Yes, I am fully aware of the irony. Word has in fact informed me that I am on page eight of this article.)
Well, I have some good news for you—skim reading is powerful and easy. You can do this two different ways:
Sometimes even skimming is going to be a waste of your time. All you need is to find the contact phone number for the plumber… and you do not want to browse any longer than you have to. Or perhaps you are shopping, and the site is very cluttered. All you need to find is “Tide.” But there are over 300 links, and you just don’t care any longer. These are the times to invoke the “Find on Page” command. Each screen reader calls it something different and has a different way to invoke it, but the idea is the same across them all. Press your key command, (in my case, NVDA-Ctrl-F) type the word you are searching for, and press Enter. If the string of letters you searched for exists on the page, your screen reader will move to its location and read it out to you. Once you have been relocated, you can use any other browsing technique you like to gather the information you need surrounding that text.
Great to see you all again. I’ve signed the waiver for all of your learner’s permits. You are officially fledgling drivers on the information superhighway. Your homework is simple—go put some miles on your vehicle of choice. Find something new and interesting. Just try to avoid any drag racing please. I’m not bailing you out.
Next time we will focus on working with interactive elements and making our way through tables and forms.
(Students rush out of the room, and engines begin to roar!)
From the Editor: This press release from March 19, 2018, demonstrates our firm commitment to helping and encouraging blind people to learn Braille and to become proficient in its use. We offer our congratulations to all of the winners and encouragement to all who will again participate in the contest:
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation’s leading advocate for Braille literacy, has announced the winners of its 2017-2018 Nationwide Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest. The competition was sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois in partnership with the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB), which is also an NFB division. Eighty-one students from twelve states took part in the contest. The participating states were Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Virginia.
Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “I am delighted that the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille and our Illinois affiliate have brought back this beloved contest. This year’s participation shows that Braille Readers Are Leaders is once again in full swing. The ability to read and write Braille competently and efficiently is the key to education, employment, and success for the blind. Through this contest, we encourage blind children to enhance their love of reading and their Braille skills so that they will be prepared to live the lives they want. Congratulations to all of the winners of this year’s contest and to all of the students who took part.”
To compete in the contest, students submitted reading logs, counting the number of Braille pages they read between December 15, 2017 and February 1, 2018. The contestants with the top three page counts in each of five grade categories were awarded cash prizes: $25 for first place, $15 for second place, and $10 for third place and honorable mention. Every student who submitted a reading log received a package of Braille-related gifts. Here is the complete list of the 2017-2018 Nationwide Braille Readers Are Leaders winners:
First Place: Cameron Gooden, Carterville, IL
Second Place: Ander Mielke, Havre, MT
Third Place: Kenji Torihara, Chicago, IL
Honorable Mention: Anastasia Marinos, Burr Ridge, IL
First Place, Aisha Safi, Chevy Chase, MD
Second Place: Preston Rose, Eagan, MN
Third Place: Anna Sayles, Peoria, IL
Honorable Mention: Ely Giraldo, Staunton, VA
First Place: Jonah Rao, Columbia, MD
Second Place: Isaiah Rao, Columbia, MD
Third Place: Karli Copes, Oak Grove, LA
First Place: Holly Connor, St. Louis, MO
Second Place: Nicholas Tarver, Many, LA
Third Place: Anthony Spears, Mattoon, IL
First Place: Maria-Luisa Montero-Olivero, Marietta, GA
Second Place: Marie Presume, Staunton, VA
Third Place: Kaelyn Kinlaw, Staunton, VA
Kelly Doty Awards
The Kelly Doty Awards of $25 are given to students who overcome special challenges to achieve fluency in Braille reading. Such challenges include, but are not limited to, having disabilities in addition to blindness or being an English-language learner. The following students received 2018 Kelly Doty Awards:
Alan Bunay, Spring Valley, NY
Miracle Douglas, Peoria, IL
Isaiah Rao, Columbia, MD
Jonah Rao, Columbia, MD
Aisha Safi, Chevy Chase, MD
Nicholas Tarver, Many, LA
by Justin Salisbury
From the Editor: Justin Salisbury is a strong Federationist who lives in Hawaii. He spends a lot of time thinking about blindness and how to make the most of his life. His work also leads him to think about how to help others do the same. In this article he wrestles with how we get others to see that we are contributors and how to convince ourselves that indeed we have something to offer. Here is what he says:
I am not sure how I learned it, but I remember entering the college application process with a clear understanding that minority status was a positive indicator of application success. Diversity is a popular thing today, and I was once happy to ride any ticket that could take me where I wanted to go. Perhaps it was a matter of my own uncertainty about how and where I would gain opportunities; perhaps I felt as if I needed to be able to depend on some kind of credential that would not change, be taken away from me, nor be invalidated.
At that point in my life I had met many blind people, but not a single one of them were, at the time, what I would call a good blind role model. If I had found the National Federation of the Blind before my college search process, I would have done many things differently. Since I did not, I did not consider myself to be much of a contributor besides by showing up places and being blind. How often is a decision made in the public name of diversity but the unspoken spirit of charity? I still had enough dignity that I did not want to show up at a university where my only real business in being there came from a diversity ticket. As time went on and I met the National Federation of the Blind through affiliate-level scholarship programs, student divisions, and eventually national events, my confidence grew, and I began to strive for the things which were previously beyond illusionary limits. I began to realize that I really did have something to contribute, a process which has only accelerated as I have ventured further into my participation in the organization.
A person's college years are usually a period of intensive exploration and identity development, as I think they should be. This was true for me, too, both through the organized blind movement and through the other cultural communities to which I belong. By the time I was deciding what to study in graduate school, my cultural identity and resulting worldview was very much informing the type of work I sought to do. This is probably true for anyone at any point in life, but I know that mine had recently undergone substantial development at this point. I was more aware of it, and the impact was something I have come more and more to understand.
After college I applied for a few international scholarship programs that would have given me the opportunity to study abroad in Europe, broadening my horizons and preparing me for doctoral study. As part of the selection process for one of these prestigious international scholarship programs, a candidate may participate in a panel interview. In my essay I had attempted to outline the experiences that had influenced my desire to attend my proposed academic programs and what I expected to do afterward to contribute to the world with my new skill sets and expanded worldview. One of my interviewers, rather than asking a question, told me that in my essay it appeared that I was just talking about blindness to show them that I had a diversity card to play. She said that I didn't make it meaningful and probably should have left it out. I was genuinely hurt. I was quite sure that she made no effort to read my essay because I had spent hundreds of words explaining it. She may have only skimmed my essay and then allowed her own attitudes about blindness and minorities to preempt her opportunity to absorb any of what I had written.
I tried to explain how my experience as a blind person guided my active participation in government affairs and experiences as a native person of North America nurtured my passion for environmental preservation, but I was talking to a wall. I didn't get that scholarship, but I think I learned a few things from the experience. People do filter us, often with a default expectation that we are attempting to use our diversity qualifiers to gain an extra leg up with the generosity shown to underprivileged populations. Maybe we are attempting to appear more valiant for overcoming something difficult. If we do embrace society's rhetoric about how blindness is inherently difficult, it contradicts the message communicating our capacity to contribute for as long as we are blind. If our goal is to selfishly shut the door behind us as we secure an opportunity for ourselves, by all means we should take every opportunity to encourage the public to think of us as unique for functioning competently while blind. We have the opportunity to make ourselves look good while reinforcing negative stereotypes.
On the other hand, if we want to prop that door open behind us as we pass through, we must spend the time and energy to change the rhetoric. We must help society see the blind experience as normal so that our accomplishments are appreciated for their true worth, rather than artificially elevated due to the circumstance of blindness. This increases initial expectations but ultimately provides more opportunities than that diversity ticket would.
Often when I hear someone say that they are giving someone an opportunity, it is sold as an act of generosity rather than an expectation to get something from them. If people lower the bar to give us an opportunity as a matter of charity, then they are failing to put proper focus on our ability to contribute meaningfully. We want employers and other groups to take us with the intention of milking us for all we are worth. This is how we advance. This is how we develop and grow. If people have low expectations for our growth and development, then they are limiting us. If they expect us to show up and add our blindness as a diversity component to their group or organization, then we are not compelled to become any greater than we already are. There certainly have been blind people who have taken jobs where expectations were low, who worked hard and excelled, and who raised the expectations for themselves and other blind people. In the world we hope to shape, though, we who are blind will not have to do this anymore because of our work to raise expectations. Since blind people are a true cross-section of society, there are inevitably going to be some blind people out there who will be perfectly happy to stagnate; however, most of us do not just want to float like an amoeba; we want to make change in the world. Some blind people will be happy just to have any job; they might have been the same were they sighted, but they also could be doing it because it is all that they have learned to expect of themselves. If society teaches blind people to relegate themselves to a position of mediocrity, then that person has untapped potential. Stephen Jay Gould is famous for saying, "I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein's brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops."
Leaders in an organization sometimes try to convince people that their contributions are meaningful in order to keep them happy and keep them around, but this can be harmful if we are not really capturing the full benefit of their capacity to contribute. I have many times heard the lines about how my contributions were meaningful when I was hardly doing anything at all. In those situations, I have understood full well that these leaders were not interested at all in the actual contributions that I wanted to make. Sometimes I believe this has been related to my blindness and their low expectations of me. Sometimes it has been a result of a desire to keep relative newcomers at arm's length. In either case, it is not a welcoming feeling, and it does not help any of us grow.
One day in the spring of 2017 as the end of the workday was approaching, Shannon Cantan, a friend, coworker, and fellow Federationist stopped by my office. He told me that after work he was going to a get-together for young people involved in politics, and he invited me to join him. I had never thought about myself as someone involved in politics, but I knew that I loved working on advocacy and policy issues through the National Federation of the Blind. I had already dabbled in other advocacy and policy arenas outside the Federation, so I figured I might fit in just enough to belong in a setting like that. I decided to give it a shot and maybe make a new friend or two.
The way the bus schedules worked, we got there about an hour before the event. Since it was at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, we spent some time exploring the campus, but then we sat down in the meeting room to be the first ones to greet everybody else. A guy came into the room and introduced himself, and we could tell that he was planning to set up the food. He started to ask, "Can you guys . . ." and then he trailed off, noticing that we were blind, saying, "Oh," with the sound of recognition that we would not be able to help. Shannon and I were of the same mind, and we knew exactly what cue he had given us. We both jumped up and told him we could do whatever he needed. We followed him around a few corners, up and down a few staircases, and out to his car, which was about a quarter-mile away. We started to figure out who would carry which food item back into the meeting room. One of the items that needed carrying was one of those giant cylindrical Gatorade coolers with a drink dispenser valve, like what football players dump on a winning Super Bowl coach. I wondered what this guy's plan had been because I really couldn't picture him carrying it all that way, but thankfully Shannon is a big guy and was able to carry the dispenser back to the meeting room with one arm while using his cane in the other. It was obvious to all observers that the ability to carry it had nothing to do with eyesight.
We set up for the event, and we showed that we could contribute. Since that day, he and I both have been making tons of friends in that network, and people react to us like we really have something to contribute. Today, when I go into the state capitol, the legislators and their staff often greet me by name, and I am often called upon to contribute on topics reaching beyond disability. Maybe one day we will come upon a scientific discovery that all intelligence and potential to make meaningful contributions is housed in the visual cortex. Until that unlikely day arrives, I hope that blind people will continue to contribute everywhere that we go.The National Federation of the Blind works to ensure that society does not miss out on the meaningful contributions that blind people can make. Our approach frequently includes raising the expectations of blind people because low expectations create obstacles which make it more difficult for the broader society to benefit from our contributions. If we have full and equal access to the mainstream channels of society, then mainstream society has full and equal access to our contributions. Like anybody else, we want our communities to consider us contributors.
by Ed McDonald
From the Editor: Ed McDonald is a long-time member of the Federation whose active service has included time as the president of the National Federation of the Blind of West Virginia. Ed and his wife Karen both love radio, celebrating, and taking stock of the good things that have come into their lives. They believe in the true integration of blind people, and what Ed did on his birthday shows how he makes it real in his life. Here’s what he has to say about how he celebrated another year of living:
Turning sixty-eight is not one of those landmark birthdays like forty or fifty, sixty-five or seventy-five, so it really doesn't lend itself to a big party or other special celebration. On the other hand, this birthday has turned out to be an interesting snapshot of the life of a blind guy growing older and "living the life he wants" in a small town.
The day began with a reminder that birthdays are indeed about growing older. Karen and I rode the local senior citizens' van to the doctor's office for the semiannual bloodletting which precedes next week's fall physical check-ups. Since the blood work required overnight fasting, the driver agreed on the way home to drop us at Denny's for a leisurely birthday breakfast. When the server brought the first plate to the "lady," Karen declared that she should have served me first because it was my birthday. The server, in turn, asked to look at my ID card which determined me to be eligible for a free birthday meal. This was not what we had in mind when we decided to go out for breakfast, but it was an unexpected nice touch.
Back home safely, we caught up on the morning's mail, messages, and phone calls. Then it was off to downtown Keyser for a visit to the bank—one of the few remaining businesses that I can still walk to. I deposited checks, withdrew cash, ordered new checks, and signed some financial paperwork for our local historical society.
On the way home, I stopped at the Main Street Bakery to pick up some doughnuts. I knew that would make my wife happy, so it seemed like an appropriate thing to do for a happy birthday. Unfortunately, the bewitching hour of 2:00 PM had arrived while I was dealing in high finance, and the bakery doors were locked up tight. However, as I turned to walk home with an empty backpack, the door opened and Marla—the baker and sole proprietor—invited me to come in. She was happy to sell me her last two doughnuts, a dozen cookies, two homemade pop tarts, and a pair of pepperoni rolls. On top of all that—since I am a "nice guy" and it was my birthday—she gave me a fresh cupcake with caramel icing and maple drizzles on top.
Earlier in the day I had decided to make a bold public statement on the condition of society by wearing an old, old sweatshirt which displays the question across my chest, "If ignorance is bliss, why aren't more people happy?" Well, the only person who noticed was the waitress at Denny's, and by the time I walked home from the bakery, the shirt was a little too warm for a seventy-degree October day.
Back home once again, we enjoyed lunch of pepperoni rolls and pastries. Then came an afternoon of domestic chores and a little studio work. A week or so ago we decided to try stocking up on wintertime provisions by ordering from Amazon, rather than dragging home soap, shampoo, toothpaste, napkins, and chicken broth from the local Wal-Mart. Well, several of those items arrived that day, so I actually had birthday packages to open. I also had to look for space in the basement to store the stuff.
Speaking of the basement, I took the little vacuum cleaner in hand and swept up the path from the back door to the studio. Over the next few days we have a few people scheduled to come to the studio to record spots for the radio station, and I wanted the place to be reasonably presentable.
The studio work involved taking an old LP (remember those big records with the little holes?) by West Virginia musician Billy Edd Wheeler and converting it to digital files to play on the radio. That called for using some recently-acquired production and editing skills.
By then it was supper time. Often we walk to the nearby Candlewyck for birthday dinners, but this time we decided to stay home and enjoy a wholesome meal of black-eyed peas which Karen prepared in the crockpot. While we were away earlier in the day, a friend left at our front door a bag full of homegrown turnips and homemade rolls. I cut up the turnips and roasted them with a little olive oil, sea salt, and ground pepper. Needless to say, it was a hardy and enjoyable dinner.
Along with all of the other activity, I was grateful for so many kind and thoughtful wishes by phone and by email. So as the day draws to a close, I sit there in my favorite rocking chair with Mountain Streams Radio playing in the background. Across the room sits my wife in her favorite chair, each of us has a lapful of BrailleNote, and I was wrapping up this little summary of the day's events.
You ask how I spent my birthday—well, there you have it! What more could I ask for, and it even left me with these few thoughts to share with my "Federation Family."
Thanks again for the good wishes. Number sixty-eight has indeed been a fine birthday.
by Ellen Ringlein
The National Federation of the Blind Independence Market is the conduit through which our organization distributes our empowering literature to our members, friends, and the general public. As a service we also operate a blindness products store, which sells mostly low-tech items, designed to enhance the everyday independence of blind people.
This month we want to highlight some publications we had been selling, but which now are available free of charge while supplies last. The items below will be of particular interest to those who want to learn more about the history of the National Federation of the Blind.
Jacobus tenBroek: The Man and the Movement edited by Kenneth Jernigan
Jacobus tenBroek was our organization's founder and first leader who played an instrumental role in shaping the NFB's philosophy on blindness. Upon his death in 1968, then-President Kenneth Jernigan compiled the collection of recordings of some of the memorable addresses and occasions in the life of Dr. tenBroek and the National Federation of the Blind which tell the story of the establishment and growth of the organized blind movement. Dr. Jernigan's introductory remarks give historical context to the speeches and other materials chosen. The Man and the Movement was reissued in 1990 in print and Braille for the NFB's fiftieth anniversary. Available in Braille (one volume) and print.
Walking Alone and Marching Together: A History of the Organized Blind Movement in the United States, 1940-1990 by Floyd Matson
This comprehensive volume, published upon the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the NFB, focuses upon the actions and aspirations of the organized blind themselves. We follow the progress of the movement from its historical origins, through the early years and "civil war," renewed harmony, and then explosive growth. In the process the reader is introduced to a remarkable group of leaders at the national, state, and chapter levels who contributed mightily to the evolution of the NFB, making it into a genuine people's movement. The book includes many key speeches, which have shaped the NFB's philosophy on blindness. Available in Braille (eleven volumes) and print.
Kenneth Jernigan: The Master, the Mission, the Movement edited by Marc Maurer
Kenneth Jernigan was our second great leader who played a key role in shaping our movement as well as redefining what successful rehabilitation looks like for blind people. After his death in 1998, this compilation of some of his writings with an editorial introduction and notes on the text was published the following year. It includes speeches such as “Blindness: Handicap or Characteristic” and “The Nature of Independence,” which we still consider to be fundamental expressions of NFB philosophy. Other speeches and articles address the changing role of the NFB and the blindness field. The book also includes excerpts from many Kernel Books, a series Dr. Jernigan created and initially edited, in which individual blind people write about their experiences of living with blindness without sentimentality, breaking down the misconceptions surrounding blindness. Available in Braille (two volumes) and print.
NFB Songbook (1991 Edition)
One of the more unique organizational traits of the National Federation of the Blind is the central role that songs have played in the community that is the Federation. Since 1969 members of the NFB have used the power and emotion of song for a variety of situations and for many reasons, but the three main sources for inspiration have been to protest against people and organizations believed to be acting against the interests of blind people, to define and vocalize Federation philosophy, and to celebrate what became known as “the organized blind movement.” Song topics have included ineffective, inept, and custodial rehabilitation; mismanagement of services for the blind by the government and various agencies; the battle with airlines to hold onto canes and sit in exit-rows; and the struggle against the National Accreditation Council for Blind and Low Vision Services (NAC). Reviewing our songs is another way to look at NFB history. The booklet of lyrics is available in Braille (one small volume) and print.
To request free Braille or print copies of the above books, please contact the Independence Market. Please note that you will be asked to cover the cost of shipping the print versions of these titles; they are not eligible for free matter shipping because the font is smaller than fourteen-point.
For more information about the products and literature available from the Independence Market, visit us online at https://nfb.org/independence-market. Our catalog and supplement are available for download as MSWord and BRF files. You may also request a catalog in Braille or in print by contacting us using email at email@example.com or by phone at 410-659-9314, extension 2216, Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Eastern time. Our staff will be glad to assist.
Recipes this month come from the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky.
FRESH FRUIT SALAD
by Lora Felty Stephens
Lora Felty Stephens became a part of the Federation family when she was a national scholarship winner in Charlotte, NC in 1992. Several years prior, she was one of the winners in the first Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, although she did not really know about the Federation at that time. Since finding the Federation again, Lora has served the Kentucky affiliate in various ways over the years. Currently Lora is secretary of the NFB of Kentucky. She has served as chairperson of the Kentucky scholarship committee since Kentucky began its scholarship program in 1997. Lora is president of the Ashland Chapter of the Kentucky affiliate, and she and her husband, Todd, co-edit the Kentucky Cardinal; the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky. Lora has worked for twenty-three years as the teacher of the blind and visually impaired for the Ashland Independent Schools in Ashland, Kentucky.
Method: Use any fresh fruits you desire. Cut them into small pieces and put into a large bowl. Mix well. I recommend the above fruits for a delicious taste combination. I have added melons and mango, but these fruits don’t seem to add as much to the overall flavor of the salad combination. You can choose how much of each fruit to put in according to your preferences.
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar or Splenda
Method: Combine lime juice, water and sugar. Pour dressing over cut fruit and stir together. Refrigerate salad until ready to serve. The lime juice helps preserve the fruit and adds a delicious flavor. This salad keeps well in the refrigerator for several days. This salad pairs well with the Mountain Dew Cake for a light and tasty dessert.
GERMAN POTATO SALAD
by Cathy Jackson
Cathy Jackson has been president of the Kentucky affiliate for eighteen years and is also a member of the board of directors of the NFB. Cathy loves family gatherings, and she has provided two recipes she enjoys preparing and serving at these gatherings.
6 strips bacon
3/4 cup onions
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup dark vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup bacon grease
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
dash of pepper
Method: Boil potatoes until tender when stuck with a fork. Fry bacon until crisp (save grease). To make sauce, add diced onions to 1/3 cup hot grease. When onions begin to cook, add all dry ingredients, stirring thoroughly. Add water and vinegar. Bring to a full boil. Let boil about three minutes or so. Pour hot sauce over pealed diced potatoes. Crumble bacon into potatoes and stir. Leave some crumbled bacon to garnish top of salad.
Notes: German Potato Salad is to be served warm; using frozen diced onions saves time. Thick-sliced bacon yields more grease.
STUFFED GREEN PEPPER SOUP
by Hellena Emery
Hellena says about herself, “I have been a Federationist for over twenty years. These are a couple of my favorite recipes to make for myself, my family, and friends. Please enjoy!”
1 pound ground beef
1 package dry onion soup mix
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with garlic
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
3 large green bell peppers, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 beef bouillon cubes
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
4 cups water
1 cup cooked white or brown rice
Mozzarella cheese to garnish soup (optional)
Method: Brown ground beef and place in a six-quart crockpot. Combine diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and dry onion soup mix in crockpot. Add the peppers, onions, garlic, beef bouillon cubes, brown sugar and water. Then stir well. Sprinkle with oregano, black pepper and vinegar. Then stir. Cook on high four hours. Add cooked rice and cook for one additional hour. Serve topped with mozzarella cheese. Yield: 8 servings
by Hellena Emery
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 ribs of celery
1 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste
1 clove of garlic
1 cup grapes
1 golden delicious apple, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup pecans
1 ounce fresh grated parmesan cheese
Method: Cube chicken breast(s). Season with garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook until done, about twenty minutes. Drain and chop into smaller pieces. Chop celery, onion, pecans, apple, and grapes, and add to bowl. Add parmesan cheese. Stir in mayonnaise. Serve and enjoy!
ROTINI SKILLET CASSEROLE
by Cathy Jackson
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup diced onions
garlic to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon mace (this is a spice similar to nutmeg)
1 8-ounce jar Ragu spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup red wine
1 bay leaf
8 ounce bag rotini pasta
4 to 6 slices swiss cheese
Method: Cook Rotini pasta according to package directions. Brown ground beef and chopped onions in a large skillet. Drain excess grease. Add remaining ingredients to the meat and onions in the skillet. Stir and let simmer for thirty minutes. Then add the cooked rotini pasta. Top with Swiss cheese. Cover the skillet to let the cheese melt. Serve this dish with a salad and garlic bread for a delicious meal Enjoy!
MOUNTAIN DEW CAKE
by Lora Felty Stephens
1 yellow cake mix
1 small package vanilla instant pudding mix
1 cup Mountain Dew
1/2 cup oil
Method: In a large bowl combine the dry cake mix and dry pudding mix. Add the Mountain Dew and oil. Add the eggs to the bowl and stir to mix well. Spray a bunt cake pan or a nine-by-thirteen-inch pan with cooking spray. Pour batter in cake pan. Place in a 350 degree oven and bake for approximately forty-five minutes or until you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.
This recipe is a favorite of mine. It has a heavy texture, similar to a pound cake. It is very versatile. You can mix the flavor combinations and come up with a whole new dessert. Use a chocolate cake mix, chocolate pudding, and Coke to make a delicious chocolate cake, or try a strawberry cake, banana pudding and Sprite for a new flavor twist. Adding chocolate chips, nuts, or fruits to various combinations is great, too. Have fun with your experiments!
The Southeast Iowa Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa held elections at our regular chapter meeting in December 2017. The following were elected: president, Christie Steele; vice president, Jerry Jackson; secretary, Richard Webb; treasurer, Mark Schowalter; and board members Jim McElderry and Kim Brown.
New List for Small Appliances:
I am pleased to announce a new list on nfbnet.org. It is called "Small-Appliance-Cooking" and deals with blind people using small appliances for food preparation. Here is the official description of the list and instructions on how to join:
This list is sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind and the Krafters' Division of the NFB. It is for the discussion and sharing of ideas by blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind people in using small appliances for food preparation.
Many people choose to use small appliances because of blindness-related issues, convenience, space savings, economics, and many other reasons. Small appliances include but are not limited to crockpots (slow cookers), the Instant Pot® and other pressure cookers, microwave ovens, toaster ovens, air fryers, and other devices.
Discussion can include ideas, accessibility tips and questions, recipes, and anything related to the use of small appliances by blind and other disabled people.
The moderator of the list is David Andrews. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You should also contact him if you are having any technical problems with the list.
To subscribe to the list, either go to www.nfbnet.org/mailman/listinfo/small-appliance-cooking_nfbnet.org or send an email to email@example.com and put the word Subscribe on the subject line by itself.
The At-Large Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois is pleased to announce the results of its recent election: president, Marilyn Green; vice president, Danny Mandrell; secretary/treasurer, Charlene Elder; and board members Linda Hendel and Debbie Pittman.
NFB Employment Committee Tools for Getting a Job:
Many people have been asking about how to write resumes and other topics that are covered with materials on our NFB Employment Committee website. The following things may be helpful if you are looking for a job.
The first is the link to our NFB Employment Committee webpage, which is https://employment.nfb.org/. It has links to a number of resources: the signup for the NFB Jobs listserv, contact information for employers who have attended our past Job Fairs, and resources for job seekers.
Here is the link to the complete recording of our 2018 Job Seeker Seminar and some of the other things mentioned above. You can listen to the seminar in its entirety or choose what parts of it are of interest to you: https://employment.nfb.org/Convention%20Page.html. Also available on this page is a link to read or download the 2017 NFB Job Seeker Resume Writing and Interviewing Presentation. This is a great resource from Wells Fargo on how to write a resume. You can also listen to the recording of the presentation.
You can find a lot of job seeking, resume writing, and cover letter writing tips at the following link: https://employment.nfb.org/Job%20Seeking%20Tips%20Page.html.
Where the Blind Work had 2,500 contacts last year. It is a list of blind people who are working in a wide range of jobs. There is detailed information about what they do and how they do it. https://employment.nfb.org/Where%20The%20Blind%20Work.html.
I hope this helps a number of you. We are currently working on making our website more user friendly and will be adding more information to it in the future. Check it out to learn more about what we are doing at this year’s national convention.
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 Display for Sale:
My name is Francisco Salvador Crespo, and I'm trying to sell my Varioultra 40. It has a year of use but is intact. I'm providing it with the leather case and original charger.
I'm from Argentina, but I can ship it abroad with the firmware in the language of your choice. I will also be in Orlando for the NFB convention from June 30 through July 10. I could deliver it at convention or ship from there to a US address. I'm asking $2,500. We can negotiate the price, and I can accept payment in cash or Paypal.
If interested, please email me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.