Vol. 61, No. 10 November 2018
Gary Wunder, Editor
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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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Vol. 61, No. 10 November 2018
Respecting Blind Workers and the Laws that Protect Them
by Gary Wunder
Effectively Reporting Accessibility Issues to Developers
by Karl Belanger
Sharon Gold Dies
by Barbara Pierce
The 2019 Blind Educator of the Year Award
by Edward Bell
by Lauren Merryfield
Living Beyond Adversity
by Brock Brown
The 2019 Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award
by Carla McQuillan
The 2019 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards
by James Gashel
Copyright 2018 by the National Federation of the Blind
It is hard to believe that the National Federation of the Blind has been headquartered for more than half its life in Baltimore. For some of us the Federation’s headquarters was at 2652 Shasta Road in Berkeley, California. For many the address 218 Randolph Hotel Building in Des Moines, Iowa, will be a familiar address. But being the home of the National Federation of the Blind’s headquarters for four decades brings with it publicity, awareness, and recognition.
In recognition of the fortieth anniversary of the National Federation of the Blind moving its national headquarters to Baltimore, on Tuesday, September 18, the Baltimore Orioles became the first team in American professional sports history to incorporate Braille lettering into their gameday uniforms. Wearing specially-designed jerseys with Braille lettering of both “Orioles” and player last names, they took the field to play the Toronto Blue Jays. Afterwards the jerseys were autographed, authenticated, and auctioned on the Oriole’s website to benefit the National Federation of the Blind.
It wasn’t just about special jerseys or the accessibility features at Oriole Park, either. On this historic night National Federation of the Blind President Mark Riccobono threw out the ceremonial first pitch of the game. The National Federation of the Blind YouTube channel has video of this with commentary by the park announcers, watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JW6fHfK0E5M. The first 15,000 fans in attendance received a co-branded NFB/Orioles Braille alphabet card, distributed by volunteers from the NFB. Additionally, members of the NFB were at the OriolesREACH Community Booth near Gate D during the game.
by Gary Wunder
With the completion of the October issue of the Braille Monitor, the Monitor staff started to work on a lead article for November. Our goal was to briefly explain the history of how and why sheltered workshops came to be. Then we would explain the federal government’s involvement in creating a system to give these shops advantages in procuring federal contracts. We would then give the names and roles of the agencies that have, for eighty years, made up the system that has provided work for many blind people. Lastly we would reveal the changes AbilityOne has made in the area of contracting for the blind, how it violates several federal laws, and what we in the Federation plan to do about it.
It turns out that our lawsuit against the AbilityOne Commission and the press release announcing it came before the would-be article took shape, and the result is something better. That something is the very filing we made in federal court on September 26, 2018. It meets all of my objectives, gives our readers first-hand source material, and the only thing missing will be the gentle transitions from one point of fact to the next, from one allegation to the next, and from one prayer to the court to the next—easier for the staff of your magazine, and faster for our readers.
First you will read our press release—an introduction to what is to come. Then comes what the court is being given: the history, the current issues, and what we are asking the court to do based on them. I hope you will enjoy, as I did, the brilliant writing of the talented staff and lawyers who have crafted our complaint. As a Federationist I feel proud to be associated with them, with these documents, and with an organization that can so effectively bring such injustice to the attention of a system with the ability to set it right. Here is our press release and our complaint:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Federation of the Blind Sues US AbilityOne Commission
Alleges Violation of Federal Transparency Laws and Regulations
Baltimore, Maryland (September 26, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind Americans, filed suit today against the US AbilityOne Commission, which oversees a federal program that is supposed to advance work opportunities for the blind and other Americans with disabilities.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Maryland, alleges that AbilityOne violated the Administrative Procedure Act and federal grantmaking and contracting laws when it designated the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) as a “central nonprofit agency” (CNA) in the AbilityOne program and signed a long-term agreement with AFB. The Administrative Procedure Act requires federal agencies to give public notice and an opportunity for public comment before making changes to their programs and the requirements for federal grants and contracts require competitive procedures to ensure the most qualified bidders are able to apply.
The AbilityOne program was created in 1938 specifically to increase employment opportunities for the blind. It requires federal contracts to be preferentially awarded to contractors that primarily employ workers with disabilities. Currently, over $3 billion in goods and services are purchased from over five hundred AbilityOne contractors each year, with more than half from the Department of Defense. The AbilityOne Commission oversees the awards of these contracts and compliance by the contractors. It does so through two CNAs: National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and SourceAmerica.
Without notice and comment or any opportunity for other bidders to apply, AbilityOne made AFB a third CNA as of July 26, 2018. The National Federation of the Blind is challenging this action and asking the federal court to reverse it. If it had been apprised of the opportunity, the NFB would have bid on the contract to become a CNA with the goal of leveraging the power of its fifty thousand members, its nearly eight decades of experience representing the interests of blind workers, and its three affiliated rehabilitation training centers, to move the AbilityOne program toward the full participation of blind people in competitive integrated employment, including new and emerging industries that pay prevailing wages, offer opportunities for advancement, and provide required accommodations and new technologies.
The National Federation of the Blind and other disability groups have criticized the AbilityOne program and repeatedly called for its reform because it is based on outdated beliefs about the capabilities of people with disabilities. Many of the contractors given preferential treatment under the program segregate workers with disabilities from workers who do not have disabilities and require the disabled workers to perform menial jobs that do not prepare them for mainstream work. In addition, fifty of the AbilityOne contractors pay workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage—pennies per hour, in the worst cases. Furthermore, both the Government Accountability Office and Department of Defense have issued reports highlighting a lack of transparency and oversight of the activities of the CNAs and calling for significant changes to the AbilityOne program to increase integration and reduce the risk of fraud.
The AbilityOne Commission’s selection of a new CNA seeks to “provide a framework for a new CNA model in the AbilityOne program that places the focus on increasing job placement and career advancement opportunities in knowledge-based positions” and identify “innovative employment opportunities, careers and lines of business for people who are blind” over five years.
“We appreciate that AbilityOne is pursuing a new CNA to support innovative jobs and careers for people who are blind. The move toward integrated real-world employment for people with disabilities is long overdue. Thanks to federal laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act, blind people have proven we can do real jobs and do not need to be segregated or relegated to menial work,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “However, AbilityOne’s decision to authorize a new CNA with no input from the public or from blind individuals is an example of the inside dealing and lack of transparency that have long pervaded the program. As the nation’s leading membership organization of blind Americans, the National Federation of the Blind is taking this action in solidarity with the blind employees who work on AbilityOne contracts. Blind workers deserve to have input into the future of the AbilityOne program. In addition, as an organization with seventy-eight years of experience helping blind workers find and succeed in competitive, integrated employment, the NFB has expertise and insight about innovations to support blind individuals to pursue the jobs of today and the jobs of tomorrow. We stand ready, willing, and able to help AbilityOne build the future. But we will not tolerate the AbilityOne Commission flouting the law and ignoring the voices of the blind Americans who will be affected by its decisions.”
There you have the release. Here is what we have said to the court. In some cases citations have been removed for readability, but a link to the full filing is included here
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, MD 21230,
Civil Action No. 18-cv-2965
U.S. ABILITYONE COMMISSION
1401 S. Clark Street, Suite 715
Arlington, VA 22202-3259
THOMAS D. ROBINSON
In His Official Capacity
U.S. AbilityOne Commission
1401 S. Clark Street, Suite 715
Arlington, VA 22202-3259
In Her Official Capacity
U.S. AbilityOne Commission,
1401 S. Clark Street, Suite 715
Arlington, VA 22202-3259
COMES NOW, Plaintiff, The National Federation of the Blind, Inc., by and through its undersigned counsel, and hereby brings this action against Defendants, U.S. AbilityOne Commission (“Commission”) (formerly the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled), Commission Chairperson Thomas Robinson, in his official capacity, and Executive Director Tina Ballard, in her official capacity, and in support thereof state as follows:
1. The AbilityOne program is a federal procurement preference program that requires all participating contractors to ensure that 75% of all direct labor hours by the contractor are performed by people who are blind or have severe disabilities. The term “direct labor” includes all work required for preparation, processing, and packing of a product, or work directly relating to the performance of a service; but does not include supervision, administration, inspection, or shipping. 41 U.S.C. § 8501(3). Federal agencies in need of the products or services available from an AbilityOne contractor are required to purchase from the AbilityOne contractor without competition.
2. Approximately 46,630 workers engage in contract work under AbilityOne. While hourly wages vary from less than $5.00 to about $15.00 an hour, nearly ten percent of these workers are paid less than minimum wage.
3. Currently, over 550 contractors participate in the AbilityOne program, and every year, the Commission awards them approximately $3.3 billion in federal contracts for the sale of goods and services to the federal government.
4. The AbilityOne program was created by the Wagner-O’Day Act in 1938. The AbilityOne Commission (formerly known as the “Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled”) is a federal agency, created by the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act (“JWOD Act”) in 1971, to oversee the AbilityOne program. 41 U.S.C. § 8501, et seq.
5. The JWOD Act authorizes the AbilityOne Commission to designate Central Nonprofit Agencies (“CNAs”) to “facilitate the distribution, by direct allocation, subcontract, or any other means, of orders of the Federal Government for products and services on the procurement list among” qualified contractors. 41 U.S.C. § 8503(c).
6. Since 1938 and 1974, respectively, the contractors participating in the AbilityOne program have been managed by two CNAs—National Industries for the Blind (“NIB”) and SourceAmerica (formerly a consortium of organizations that developed into the “National Industries for the Severely Handicapped” or “NISH”). 41 C.F.R. § 51-3.1. NIB manages the relationships between and among the AbilityOne Commission and the contractors whose employees are blind. SourceAmerica does the same for contractors whose employees have other severe disabilities.
7. Each CNA is responsible for, inter alia, representing AbilityOne contractors before the Commission, evaluating their qualifications and capabilities, making recommendations to the Commission regarding products and services to be included on the Procurement List, distributing contracts among its contractors, and ensuring contract compliance. 41 C.F.R. § 51-3.2 et. seq. Thus, CNAs are responsible for recommending to the Commission products and services to be included in the program and determining which contractors should receive the contracts.
8. The actions, or inactions, of CNAs have significant effects on how, when, and where the sizable contract revenues in the AbilityOne program are distributed. In addition, CNAs are required to assist the more than 500 contractors of the program “to meet the statutory and regulatory requirements” of participation in the program. Therefore, CNAs play a critical role in oversight and administration of the AbilityOne program. Id. at § 51-3.2(j).
9. CNAs perform responsibilities delegated to them by the AbilityOne Commission, but they are independent of the Commission and, until recently, did not have contractual agreements with the Commission. The Commission only has 27 full-time staff, and relies heavily on the CNAs to plan, coordinate, and administer contracting and oversight functions, as specified in the program’s implementing regulations. 41 C.F.R. § 51-3.2 et. seq. In this regard, CNAs bear the full delegated responsibility of facilitating by direct allocation, subcontract, or any other means, distribution of the government’s orders for products or services among the program’s many contractors. Id.
10. NIB takes a fee of 3.9% of each contract awarded to one of its contractors, and SourceAmerica takes a fee of 3.85%. These fees provide approximately $100 million annually in combined revenue to the CNAs.
11. NIB manages approximately 84 contractors eligible to receive contracts through AbilityOne, and SourceAmerica manages approximately 500 contractors. Together, NIB and SourceAmerica have more than $100 million in reserves and assets.
12. In addition to their administrative duties, the CNAs may also act as prime contractors to federal agencies for products and services on the Procurement list, thus allocating federal contracts to themselves, for which they then choose subcontractors.
13. The AbilityOne program continues to be based on the assumptions about people with disabilities and about the nature of work existent at a time before the modern understanding of disability, before the enactment of modern disability rights laws, before the development of federal and state vocational rehabilitation programs and effective employment supports for people with disabilities in competitive integrated employment, and before the emergence of the information and technology-based economy of today.
14. AbilityOne contractors are out of step with current disability law and policy because they often do not provide reasonable accommodations to their workers with disabilities to allow them to increase their productivity, they often do not employ the tools of supported and customized employment to assist their workers with disabilities to be more productive, and they often do not support their workers with disabilities to move into mainstream competitive integrated employment.
15. AbilityOne contractors require many workers with disabilities to work in segregated facilities where the vast majority of workers are people with disabilities, and in segregated groups of people with disabilities within otherwise integrated facilities.
16. Although AbilityOne contractors are paid the fair market price for their products and services, many hold certificates under the Fair Labor Standards Act allowing them to pay below the prevailing wage, and 50 contractors pay below the minimum wage to their workers with disabilities.
17. Leading national organizations representing people with disabilities have called for reform of the AbilityOne program to increase integration of workers with disabilities as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (“Section 504”), to use supported and customized employment techniques, to require payment of minimum and prevailing wages, to include contractors that are owned by people with disabilities in the program, and to increase oversight and transparency and eliminate conflicts of interest in the program. See https://nfb.org/leading-organizations-americans-disabilities-call-reform-abilityone-program.
18. The Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities also recommended to the Department of Labor and Congress to reform the AbilityOne program to align its outcomes with federal disability rights law and employment services best practices. See Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities, Final Report (September 15, 2016), available at https://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/pdf/ACICIEID_Final_Report_9-8-16.pdf.
19. The Government Accountability Office has found significant problems with oversight and transparency of the roles of the CNAs, which have only recently begun to be addressed. See Government Accountability Office, Report to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, House of Representatives, “Employing People with Blindness or Severe Disabilities: Enhanced Oversight of the AbilityOne Program Needed” (May 2013), available at https://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654946.pdf.
20. In December 2015, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (Public Law 114-113), required that the Commission enter into written agreements with the CNAs to increase transparency and oversight over the program, and specified that the AbilityOne Commission create an Office of Inspector General. As a result, in 2016 the Commission entered into Cooperative Agreements with National Industries for the Blind and SourceAmerica. Since 2016, the Commission has entered several modifications to the Cooperative Agreements with NIB and SourceAmerica.
21. In June 2016, the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General (“DoDIG”) issued an audit report about the AbilityOne program, OIG Audit Report, DODIG-2016-097, “DoD Generally Provided Effective Oversight of AbilityOne Contracts,” that identified problems with oversight and specifically documented the need to make the CNAs more accountable and transparent.
22. In 2017, Section 898 of the National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) called for the Secretary of Defense to appoint a panel of senior level representatives from DoD (“Section 898 Panel”), the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, and other agencies and representatives, to address, inter alia, the problems identified in the DoD audit report including the effectiveness and internal controls of the AbilityOne Program related to DoD contracts (which comprise $2.1 billion in prime contracts out of the program’s $3.3 billion in contracts).
23. In June 2018, the DoD Section 898 Panel submitted its first report to Congress, recommending, inter alia: (1) “[m]ore oversight is needed of the CNAs”; (2) “[m]ore safeguards need to be in place to assure that CNAs do not show favoritism;” (3) “[i]ncrease transparency” in CNAs’ contractor recommendation process, (4) and significant program changes, including to the JWOD definition of “Qualified nonprofit agency for the blind,” were necessary to “create an integrated employment environment.” Section 898 Panel, First Annual Report to Congress, available at https://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/cpic/cp/docs/First_Annual_RTC_on_the_Panel_on
24. The National Federation of the Blind, Inc. (“NFB”) is the oldest and largest national organization of blind persons. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation duly organized under the laws of the District of Columbia and headquartered at 200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, Maryland. It has approximately 50,000 members and affiliates in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The NFB and its affiliates are widely recognized by the public, Congress, executive agencies of state and federal governments, and courts as a collective and representative voice on behalf of blind Americans and their families. The organization promotes the general welfare of the blind by assisting the blind in their efforts to integrate themselves into society on terms of equality and by removing barriers that result in the denial of opportunity to blind persons in virtually every sphere of life, including education, employment, family and community life, transportation, and recreation.
25. The ultimate purpose of the NFB is the complete integration of blind individuals into society on a basis of equality. This objective includes the removal of legal, economic, and social discrimination. One of the NFB’s primary initiatives is its Employment and Rehabilitation Program, with the goal of increasing the employment rate of working-age, legally blind adults and to develop innovative employment interventions and model rehabilitation programs that allow blind Americans to work and succeed in typical places of employment otherwise known as competitive integrated employment.
26. To further its mission and achieve these goals, the NFB operates three training centers: BLIND, Incorporated in Minneapolis, Minnesota; the Colorado Center for the Blind, in Littleton, Colorado; and the Louisiana Center for the Blind, in Ruston, Louisiana. Each offers independence training programs, vocational rehabilitation programs, and training and employment programs for the blind, as well as public education programs about blindness. Like the NFB Itself, they are guided by the philosophy that blind people are like everyone else and can be expected to perform on a par with everyone else when provided effective training, and to be employed by mainstream employers in the community. Graduates of these centers work in every conceivable form of employment.
27. Defendants are the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, also known as the U.S. AbilityOne Commission (“Commission”), current AbilityOne Chairperson Thomas Robinson, and Executive Director Tina Ballard. Mr. Robinson and Ms. Ballard are sued in their official capacities.
28. The Commission is an independent federal agency that oversees the AbilityOne Program (“AbilityOne”). AbilityOne was established by the JWOD Act to create employment opportunities for people who are blind or have severe disabilities.
29. As the Chairperson for the Commission, Mr. Robinson is responsible for its administration in accordance with law, including adoption of rules and regulations pursuant to the procedures set out in the federal Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. Chapter 5, §§ 551, et seq.
30. As the Executive Director for the Commission, Ms. Ballard is responsible for its administration in accordance with law, including adoption of rules and regulations pursuant to the procedures set out in the federal Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. Chapter 5, §§ 551, et seq.
31. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 5 U.S.C. §702 and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 2201.
32. This Court has authority to issue declaratory relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201.
33. Venue is properly in this Court under 28 U.S.C. §1391(e)(1)(C), because the United States, its agencies, and its officials acting in their official capacity may be sued in the federal judicial jurisdiction in which the plaintiffs reside, so long as no real property is involved in the suit. For purposes of venue, an association is deemed to reside in the judicial district in which it maintains its principle place of business. 28 U.S.C. §1391(c)(2). Plaintiff NFB’s principal place of business is in Baltimore, Maryland.
34. Upon the signing of the Wagner-O’Day Act in 1938, NIB was incorporated as the designated CNA to represent contractors employing the blind and, until now, has been the exclusive CNA to act in this capacity for eight decades.
35. In 1973, the AbilityOne Commission issued regulations, after notice and public comment, re-designating NIB as the CNA to represent contractors employing the blind, and six organizations (Goodwill Industries of America, International Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, Jewish Occupational Council, National Association for Retarded Children, National Easter Seal Society for Crippled Children and Adults, and United Cerebral Palsy Association) as CNAs to represent the contractors employing people with other severe disabilities. 41 C.F.R. § 51-3.1 (1974); 38 Fed. Reg. 16318 (June 21, 1973); see also Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 38 Fed. Reg. 6076, 6078 (March 6, 1973) (providing notice of and soliciting written comment on the proposed regulation that would designate these six agencies as CNAs).
36. In 1976, the AbilityOne Commission issued regulations, after notice and public comment, withdrawing the designation of the six organizations mentioned above and designating SourceAmerica (formerly NISH) as the sole CNA to represent contractors employing people with other severe disabilities. 41 C.F.R. § 51-3.1 (1977); 41 Fed. Reg. 26905-6 (June 30, 1976); see also 41 Fed. Reg. 21359-60 (May 25, 1976) (providing notice of and soliciting written comment on the proposed regulation). During the same year, NIB continued as the designated CNA for the blind. Id.
37. After approximately 80 years of operating with a single exclusive CNA designated in regulations to represent blind Americans in the AbilityOne program—NIB—on July 26, 2018, the AbilityOne Commission announced that, without commencing a rulemaking process, it had designated the American Foundation for the Blind (“AFB”) as a new AbilityOne CNA and entered into a Cooperative Agreement (“Agreement”) with AFB, effective the same day. See “U.S. AbilityOne Commission Designates American Foundation for the Blind as a New AbilityOne Authorized Central Nonprofit Agency” (July 26, 2018), available at https://www.abilityone.gov/
38. The Agreement dictates that AFB will move through three phases over the course of the next five years: Research and Studies (18 months), CNA Capability Development (30 months), and then finally Phase III, Transition to Full CNA Functionality (12 months).
39. The AbilityOne Commission designated AFB as a new CNA, and consequently entered into a contract with AFB, without public notice and opportunity for comment, and without following the federal statutes and regulations for entering into cooperative agreements or contracts.
40. Although the Agreement claims that it “provides a framework for a new CNA model in the AbilityOne Program that places the focus on increasing job placement and career advancement opportunities in knowledge-based positions,” the public has seen no proposal or other evidence that AFB is the organization best equipped to implement a new CNA model focused on propelling the blind into knowledge-based positions in competitive integrated employment.
41. The Agreement stipulates that AFB will require an 18-month “Research and Studies” phase to determine how to develop a new CNA model, before it can even enter Phase II to begin to execute some of the full functions of a CNA, as set forth in JWOD’s implementing regulations. During this Research and Studies phase, AFB is charged with identifying “innovative employment opportunities, careers and lines of business for people who are blind” and “identify[ing] multiple ways to identify blind veterans seeking employment, identify the type of employment they desire, and provide them employment.” The need for this “Research and Studies” phase indicates that AFB is not, in fact, currently qualified to operate as a CNA.
42. Despite AFB’s lack of qualification for the role of CNA, the Commission, through the designation and the Cooperative Agreement, has automatically granted AFB the role of a CNA in 18 months, without competition or exploration of whether more qualified CNAs are available.
43. Through the Agreement, the Commission took the extraordinary step of exempting AFB from meeting the full regulatory requirements of CNAs for five years during initial phases of program development, even though the Agreement promises AFB that at the final phase it will be assured the full and active role of furnishing CNA services, including by working with contractors to place products or services on the procurement list and to collect fees for doing so.
44. If the Commission had provided adequate notice to the public of this opportunity, the National Federation of the Blind (“NFB”) would have submitted a proposal requesting that it be considered for designation as a CNA. Moreover, given its ample knowledge of innovative employment opportunities, careers and lines of business for people who are blind, and the interests and needs of blind veterans, NFB would not have required five years before it was qualified to meet JWOD’s regulatory requirements. The NFB is uniquely situated to implement a new CNA model with a focus on increasing job placement and career advancement opportunities for blind people in knowledge-based positions in competitive integrated employment.
45. Designating AFB as a CNA without notice and comment, effectively deprived the NFB and its members, the public, and other federal agencies, of the opportunity to provide comment about an important policy issue with corresponding and significant economic effects. In particular, interested and expert stakeholders were not permitted to comment about whether AFB is qualified to effectively identify knowledge-based jobs. Nor were public stakeholders and experts in the field given the opportunity to assess and advise the AbilityOne Commission about whether the selection of AFB would respond to the problems identified by the DOD Section 898 Panel with CNA transparency and accountability, and the need to ensure that employment opportunities are identified in “integrated employment environments.”
46. In addition, as CNAs maintain authority to provide oversight over AbilityOne contractors, the public was deprived of the opportunity to comment about whether AFB has sufficient arms-length relationships with current contractors to provide reasonably effective oversight. In fact, the Agreement assigns the AFB the task of conducting research to identify, inter alia, “incorporat[ion] [of] accountability, oversight, and integrity into the government business model,” and asks AFB to report about internal controls and business ethics programs it has in place to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse by June 1, 2019. The Agreement does not indicate that AFB already has these structures in place. Nevertheless, without comment or public examination of these and other issues, AFB was designated as the agency that will receive CNA fees during Phase III.
47. While the Commission has the authority to “conduct continuing study and evaluation of its activities . . . to ensure effective administration” of the program, under 41 U.S.C. § 8503(e), this authority is statutorily distinct from its obligation “to designate a central nonprofit agency or agencies,” under 41 U.S.C. § 8503(c). Without recognizing this distinction, the Commission granted the AFB a non-competitively bid contract to study the program and, in turn, it at once converted that promise into a contract to eventually run the program, without notice and comment or compliance with the applicable grantmaking and contracting laws.
48. Because the CNA designation violates the federal Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. Chapter 5, §§ 551, et seq., the federal Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, 2 C.F.R. § 1.100, et seq. (“UAR”), or, alternatively, Federal Procurement Policy, 41 U.S.C. § 1708, and the Federal Acquisition Regulations, 48 C.F.R. § 1.101, et seq. (“FAR”), Plaintiff, on its own behalf and on behalf of its members who are or may benefit from the designation of a new CNA by the Commission, ask the Court: (1) to declare the designation of AFB as a CNA in violation of the law, (2) to enjoin Defendants from implementing the Agreement between the Commission and AFB, and (3) to enjoin Defendants to engage in notice and comment and in proper federal contracting and grant procedures to designate any new CNA.
49. The Commission may adopt rules, regulations, and policies to assure effective implementation of the JWOD Act. 41 C.F.R. § 51-2.2(a).
50. The Commission is directed by statute to “designate a central nonprofit agency or agencies to facilitate the distribution, by direct allocation, subcontract, or any other means, of orders of the Federal Government for products and services on the procurement list among qualified nonprofit agencies for the blind or qualified nonprofit agencies for other severely disabled.” 41 U.S.C. § 8503(c).
51. Federal agencies must comply with the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”) when adopting “an agency statement of general or particular applicability and future effect designed to implement, interpret, or prescribe law or policy or describing the organization, procedure, or practice requirements of an agency . . . .” 5 U.S.C. §551, et seq.,
52. The designation of a Central Nonprofit Agency is subject to the APA’s requirements.
53. The APA requires that courts “shall … hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings, and conclusions found to be … arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law...[or] without observance of procedure required by law…” 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A), (B), (D).
54. The APA requires that covered actions proposed by a federal agency must first be published in the Federal Register, with the terms or substance of the proposal, the legal authority for the proposal, and specific information regarding when a public hearing on the proposal will take place. 5 U.S.C. § 553(b), (d).
55. Under the APA, the proposing agency must give interested persons an opportunity to submit data, views, or arguments and must consider, prior to adoption of the proposal, the relevant information submitted by interested persons regarding the proposal. In adopting the proposal, the agency must provide a concise statement of its basis and purpose. 5 U.S.C. § 553(c), (d). This set of APA provisions for publication and consideration of comments is referred to as the “notice-and-comment requirement.”
56. The Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, 2 C.F.R. § 1.100, et seq. (“UAR”), govern grant awards and cooperative agreements by federal agencies. The UAR requires, inter alia, that, prior to entering into a cooperative agreement or competitive grant award, the agency publish notice of the opportunity, 2 C.F.R. § 200.203, establish and apply a merit review process, 2 C.F.R. § 200.204, and evaluate the risks posed by potential awardees, including their financial stability, quality of management systems, history of performance, audit reports, and ability to effectively meet legal requirements, 2 C.F.R. § 200.205(b).
57. In designating AFB as a CNA and entering into a cooperative agreement with AFB, the Commission did not follow the pre-award procedures of the UAR.
58. Federal Procurement law requires any federal agency intending to enter into a contract exceeding $25,000 to publish a notice of solicitation. 41 U.S.C.§ 1708. The Federal Procurement statute also requires federal agencies conducting procurement for property or services to “obtain full and open competition through the use of competitive procedures in accordance with … the Federal Acquisition Regulation.” 41 U.S.C. § 3301. The statute requires an agency preparing for procurement to “specify its needs and solicit bids or proposals in a manner designed to achieve full and open competition for the procurement” and designate its specifications for the procurement. 41 U.S.C. § 3306. The statute further requires solicitations to provide a method for submitting proposals. Id. at § 3306(b)(2)(B).
59. The Federal Acquisition Regulations (“FAR”), 48 C.F.R. §1.101, et seq., implement the Federal Procurement statute and apply to all federal acquisitions of property or services. 48 C.F.R. §1.104; § 2.101. For federal acquisitions expected to exceed $25,000, the FAR requires, inter alia, that the federal agency publish notice in the Governmentwide Point of Entry (“GPE”) website. (Currently, the GPE is the Federal Business Opportunities (“FedBizOpps”) website, available at https://www.fbo.gov/.) 48 C.F.R. § 5.201. The notice must be published at least 15 days prior to soliciting or proposing the contract action. 48 C.F.R. § 5.203(a). A federal contract solicitation must provide a response time sufficient to “afford potential offerors a reasonable opportunity to respond to each proposed contract action” but at least 30 days. 48 C.F.R. § 5.203(b), (c).
60. The FAR also requires, with limited exceptions not applicable here, that federal agencies “provide for full and open competition in soliciting offers and awarding Government contracts,” 48 C.F.R. § 6.101, and provides competitive procedural requirements. 48 C.F.R. §§ 6.100-6.102.
61. A non-competitive, or “sole source” contract may not be commenced unless the agency justifies its action in writing, certifies the accuracy and completeness of the justification, and gets approval. 48 C.F.R. § 6.303-1. Such a justification must be made public. 48 C.F.R. § 6.305.
62. The FAR provides for special acquisition requirements for contracts for services “which require the contractor to provide advice, opinions, recommendations, ideas, reports, analyses, or other work products [that] have the potential for influencing the authority, accountability, and responsibilities of Government officials. These contracts require special management attention to ensure that they do not result in performance of inherently governmental functions by the contractor and that Government officials properly exercise their authority.” 48 C.F.R. § 37.114.
63. If this Court finds that the cooperative agreement between the Commission and AFB is a federal contract, rather than an award covered by the UAR, the Commission did not follow the pre-contract publication requirements of the FAR, did not permit competitive bids, and did not properly justify a sole source agreement with AFB.
64. The Commission did not follow the requirements of the UAR, Federal Procurement statute, or FAR, as applicable, in its designation of and cooperative agreement with AFB.
65. 5 U.S.C. §702 creates a cause of action in federal court for any person who has suffered legal wrong because of, or been adversely affected or aggrieved by, an agency action or failure to act as required by the APA, the UAR, the Federal Procurement law, and the FAR. The statute waives the sovereign immunity of the federal government for such a lawsuit, so long as the lawsuit is against a federal agency or a federal employee who acted or failed to act in her official capacity or under color of legal authority, and the suit does not request monetary damages.
66. 28 U.S.C. § 2201 permits this Court to issue a declaratory judgment that the Defendants have violated 5 U.S.C. Chapter 5, the UAR, the Federal Procurement law, and the FAR in naming AFB as a CNA, as identified below.
Violation of 5 U.S.C. Chapter 5, §§ 551, et seq.:
(Failure to comply with notice and comment requirements)
(for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief)
67. Plaintiff repeats and incorporates by reference each and every allegation contained in the preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
68. This Court is empowered by 5 U.S.C. §§ 702 and 706 to hold unlawful and set aside final agency action that the Court finds to have been adopted without observance of procedure required by law.
69. This Court is empowered by 28 U.S.C. § 2201 to declare the rights of Plaintiff and other interested parties regarding the issues presented in this Complaint.
70. The AbilityOne Commission is an “agency,” as defined under 5 U.S.C. § 551(1).
71. The designation of AFB as a CNA, resulting in the Cooperative Agreement between AFB and the AbilityOne Commission, is covered by the APA.
72. The Commission has violated the APA, 5 U.S.C. Chapter 5, §§ 551, et seq., by designating the AFB as a CNA without complying with the notice and comment requirements of the APA.
73. The adoption of AFB as a CNA is not merely an interpretation, a general statement of policy, or a statement of agency organization, procedure, or practice.
74. No public notice of designation of AFB as a CNA was provided to interested persons, and interested persons were given no opportunity to provide comment on it before it was adopted. No explanation, reason or rationale was provided for the unilateral designation.
75. Plaintiff has been injured in that the Commission designated a new CNA without Plaintiff having an opportunity to submit a proposal for CNA designation, as well as without Plaintiff, Plaintiff’s members, or other members of the public having an opportunity to provide the Commission with their considered and experienced views on the proposed action.
76. Plaintiff is entitled to a declaratory judgment that the designation of AFB as a CNA as described in this Complaint was adopted without compliance with Chapter 5 of the APA, and is, therefore, illegal.
77. Plaintiff is entitled to an order vacating the designation of AFB as a CNA, enjoining Defendants from implementing that designation, and, requiring them, before attempting to adopt any similar provisions, to comply with the notice and comment requirements of the APA, 5 U.S.C. Chapter 5, §§ 551, et seq.
Violation of 5 U.S.C. Chapter 7, §§ 701, et seq.:
(CNA designation is arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law)
(for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief)
78. Plaintiff repeats and incorporates by reference each and every allegation contained in the preceding paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.
79. This Court is empowered by 5 U.S.C. §§ 702 and 706 to hold unlawful and set aside final agency action that the Court finds to be arbitrary, capricious, or not in accordance with law.
80. As discussed below, by designating AFB as a CNA and entering into a cooperative agreement with AFB without publishing its intent to do so or inviting other bids or applications, the Commission violated the requirements of the UAR, 2 C.F.R. § 200.205(b).
81. Alternatively, as discussed below, by designating AFB as a CNA and entering into an agreement with AFB without publishing a notice of its proposal to do so, without soliciting bids or providing a reasonable period in which to respond, without justifying a sole source contract, the Commission violated the Federal Procurement statute, 41 U.S.C. § 1708, and the FAR, 48 C.F.R. § 5.201.
82. Because it violates the UAR, or the Federal Procurement law and the FAR, the Commission’s designation of AFB and Cooperative Agreement with AFB are not in accordance with law and, therefore, violate the APA.
83. The Commission’s designation of AFB as a CNA is also arbitrary and capricious because the Commission has provided no rationale for its selection of AFB and no rationale for its selection of AFB without soliciting or considering other bids by more qualified applicants.
Violation of 2 C.F.R. §§ 1.100 et seq.
(Failure to Comply with the Requirements of the UAR)
(for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief)
84. The Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act of 1977 provides that a federal agency must follow the rules for cooperative agreements when “(1) the principal purpose of the relationship is the transfer of money, property, services, or anything of value to the … recipient to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by a law of the United States… and (2) substantial involvement is not expected between the executive agency … and the … recipient when carrying out the activity contemplated in the agreement.” 31 U.S.C. § 6304.
85. The Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (“UAR”), 2 C.F.R. § 1.100, et seq., governs all federal awards, including federal agencies’ adoption of cooperative agreements such as the one between the AbilityOne Commission and AFB. 2 C.F.R. § 200.100(b); § 200.101.
86. The Commission has violated the UAR by entering into a cooperative agreement with AFB without first announcing the funding opportunity in a public notice, as required by 2 C.F.R. § 200.203.
87. The Commission has violated the UAR by entering into a cooperative agreement with AFB without first designing and executing a merit review process for applications, as required by 2 C.F.R. § 200.204.
88. The Commission has violated the UAR by entering into a cooperative agreement with AFB without first establishing a framework for evaluating the risk posed by AFB, including its financial stability, quality of management systems, history of performance, reports and findings from audits, and ability to effectively implement legal requirements, as required by 2 C.F.R. § 200.205(b).
89. The Commission has violated the UAR by failing to publish the required information regarding the Cooperative Agreement with AFB on www.USAspending.gov, as required by 2 C.F.R. § 200.211(a).
Violation of 41 U.S.C. §§ 1708, 3301, 3306 and 48 C.F.R. § 1.101 et seq.
(Failure to Comply with the Requirements of the FAR)
(for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief)
90. The Federal Acquisition Regulations (“FAR”), codified at 48 C.F.R. Chapter 1, govern acquisitions for all executive agencies. 48 C.F.R. § 1.104. Agencies can also adopt agency-specific acquisition regulations that implement or supplement the FAR. 48 C.F.R. § 1.101; § 1.301. The FAR are intended, inter alia, to ensure federal agencies “[c]onduct business with integrity, fairness, and openness.” 48 C.F.R. § 1.102(b)(3).
91. An “acquisition” subject to the FAR is defined as “the process of acquiring, with appropriated amounts, by contract for purchase or lease, property or services (including construction) that support the missions and goals of an executive agency….” 41 U.S.C. § 131.
92. The Commission has violated the Federal Procurement law and the FAR by entering into a cooperative agreement with AFB without first publishing a presolicitation notice or notice of solicitation for proposals, or soliciting bids, as required by 41 U.S.C. § 1708(a)(2) and 48 C.F.R. §§ 5.201 and 5.204, or otherwise disseminating information by synopsizing in the Governmentwide Point of Entry (“GPE”), as required by 48 C.F.R. §§ 5.101(a)(1) and 5.301(a).
93. The Commission has violated the FAR by entering into a cooperative agreement with AFB without providing a reasonable period to respond to the notice of solicitation, as required by 41 U.S.C. § 1708(e) and 48 C.F.R. § 5.203(b), (c).
94. The Commission has violated the Federal Procurement law by entering into a cooperative agreement with AFB before first considering other responsive and timely offers received in response to a notice of solicitation, as required by 41 U.S.C. § 1708(f).
95. The Commission has violated the FAR by entering into a cooperative agreement with AFB without first providing for full and open competition in soliciting offers and awarding the contract through the use of competitive procedures, as required by 48 C.F.R. § 6.101. See also 48 C.F.R. §§ 6.100-6.102.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff the National Federation of the Blind respectfully requests that this Court enter a judgment in its favor, and against Defendants, and:
a) Declare that Defendants’ designation of AFB as a CNA and Cooperative Agreement with AFB violated the UAR or the FAR;
b) Declare that Defendants’ designation of AFB as a CNA and Cooperative Agreement with AFB were not in accordance with law and beyond statutory and regulatory authority, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act;
c) Declare that Defendants’ designation of AFB as a CNA and Cooperative Agreement with AFB without complying with notice and comment requirements violated the Administrative Procedure Act;
d) Vacate and set aside the designation of AFB as a CNA and set aside the Cooperative Agreement Between the AbilityOne Commission and AFB, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 702;
e) Preliminarily and permanently enjoin Defendants, their agents, servants, employees, attorneys, and all persons in active concert or participation with them, from implementing AFB as a CNA;
f) Preliminarily and permanently enjoin Defendants to comply with the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act and the UAR or FAR, as applicable, in the designation of any CNA;
g) Appoint a Special Master to review and ensure implementation of the Court order, specifically compliance with the notice and comment requirement of the Administrative Procedure Act and the requirements of the UAR or FAR, as applicable, in the designation of any CNA, so as to protect the rights of Plaintiff during the pendency of this action;
h) Retain jurisdiction over this action until implementation of this Court’s order has been completed;
i) Award Plaintiff reasonable fees, costs, and expenses, including attorneys’ fees, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2412; and
j) Order such other and further relief that this Court may deem just and proper.
Dated: September 26, 2018
Eve L. Hill (Fed. Bar No.: 19938)
Emily L. Levenson (Fed. Bar No. 28670)
BROWN GOLDSTEIN & LEVY, LLP
120 East Baltimore Street, Suite 1700
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
T: (410) 962-1030
F: (410) 385-0869
Attorneys for Plaintiff
by Karl Belanger
From the Editor: Karl Belanger is a talented member of our access technology staff. I am delighted every time I get an article from him. I think this one is particularly timely. In addition to articles and suggestions for articles, the Braille Monitor gets many letters asking why this or that device is not accessible and what we plan to do about it. In these letters the frustration is clear: “Why don’t companies care?” “How can they be so callous?” “Why can people be so mean?” Sometimes inaccessibility may be deliberate as when companies simply make a decision not to include it, but, more often than not, developers don’t think that blind people will be using their software, have no idea how we could if we wanted to, and know even less about screen readers, Braille displays, and the need to include in one’s design a way to do all of the functions one does with the mouse using a keyboard. The way we deal with a company that is obstinate is different from the way we deal with a company that is ignorant. One requires confrontation, the other requires education. Here is what Karl has to say about doing something positive when encountering an accessibility barrier:
Whether browsing the web or using an app on our phones, we often come across accessibility problems that make the site or app less useful. Reporting these issues to the developers helps companies become aware of issues faster and may even be the first time a company has heard about blind users using their product. When describing an issue, it is important to describe what is going on in as much detail as possible, along with what operating system, browser, and access technology you are using. The more you give the company, the easier it will be for it to locate and fix the issue. However, before we can send a report, we need someone to send it to.
If you can find an accessibility contact at a company, that is always going to be the best place to report any problems you’re having. However many, probably most, companies do not have dedicated accessibility support. When this is the case, look through any “support” or “contact us” pages for anything related to reporting problems with the site. If the company has a staff directory, look for someone who deals with the site such as webmaster to reach out to directly. General technical support or inquiry emails are better than nothing but are less likely to directly reach someone who can take action. You might also consider using phone or chat support to inquire if you can get the email address of the person in charge of the website to report a problem that you’re having.
Below you will find extensive information on how to gather the information you will need, letter writing tips, accessibility resources, and more. If you’d rather start writing right away, here are the main parts of an accessibility report:
As stated earlier, it is important to give the company as much information as possible to help it fix the issue quickly. This information should include:
Once you know where to send the report and have all your information together, it’s time to start writing. How you formulate your letter is certainly up to you, but here are some pointers to help get you started. Start with introducing yourself and follow by briefly describing the access technology you use, especially if you are writing to a company that does not have an accessibility contact. Here is an example of how your letter might begin:
My name is Karl Belanger. I use a screen reader to access the computer, which is software that allows me as a blind user to access computers by reading out the content of websites and applications as I navigate them. I’m writing to you because I’m encountering some issues accessing your site.”
Follow this by describing the issue in as much detail as you can, including what you’re trying to accomplish, how your access technology reacts, such as “my screen reader does not read the form labels” or “when the calendar is magnified it overlaps with other content on the page,” and describe the impact this has on your use of the site:
“While attempting to submit the checkout form on your site, nothing appears to happen after pressing the submit button. After I explored the page, I noticed a message at the top of the form reading ‘Please correct the fields in red below.’ My screen reader does not announce colors, plus as far as I can tell everything seems to be filled in correctly, which means it is impossible for me to complete the form.”
It is often helpful to suggest what changes will make the site more accessible. If you are not sure what can be done, go ahead and skip this section:
“Several steps can be taken to make the form more usable. First, when the form is submitted with errors, the focus should be moved to the error message. Next, the error message should list which fields have errors and possibly provide a link to the fields. Finally, any fields which have a required format, such as MM/DD/YYYY for a date field, should have this format provided to help users avoid errors in the first place.”
Optionally, you can include some resources on web accessibility that the company may find useful, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or the Apple accessibility guide if you’re writing about an iOS app. See the accessibility resources section of this article for a list of resources I recommend.
Finally, end the letter. Offer to provide any additional information that they may need and ask to be informed of progress on fixing the issue.
Please remember that, while not being able to complete a task can be frustrating, it is important to keep the letter professional. Companies will respond much better to a clear, well-written letter than an emotionally charged one.
An increasing number of companies are handling customer support issues over Twitter and Facebook. These channels are often some of the fastest ways to get a response to your issue, and they can also be a great way to report accessibility issues. Check the company’s social media pages and see if it responds to customer issues or directs you to a support account. If you find it does technical support through social media, whether with the main or a support account, use some of the same tips from the letter section when engaging the company. If on Twitter, start with a mention describing briefly that you use access technology, what kind you use, and briefly describe your issue. It’s okay to use a few tweets to do this. If the company responds, try to either get into a direct message conversation or request the best email to send something to, so you’re not limited by the two-hundred-and-eighty-character limit. On Facebook, follow a similar process, engage the company first, and give all the details once you confirm you’re working with the right account.
There are many accessibility resources that you may want to give the company. The first and most important is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG. WCAG is a list of guidelines that apply to any website or app; they are the generally accepted web standard and have been incorporated into the recent refresh of the Section 508 guidelines for federal sites. Here is the WCAG overview page from the World Wide Web Consortium site: https://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/wcag. Also from the W3C are a series of videos, called Web Accessibility Perspectives, discussing how web accessibility benefits everyone, not just those with disabilities. https://www.w3.org/WAI/perspectives/ Another quality resource is Web Accessibility in Mind or WebAIM, which provides a number of articles and checklists relating to web accessibility as well as a tool for helping to determine some of a site’s accessibility problems. https://webaim.org/
Both Apple and Google have documentation and guidelines for developers to ensure that their apps are accessible. If you’re reporting an issue with an iOS app, you might consider including the Accessibility for Developers page on Apple’s site, https://developer.apple.com/accessibility/ or the similar accessibility page on the Android developers site, https://developer.android.com/guide/topics/ui/accessibility/index.html.
When reporting an accessibility issue, it’s common to get either a basic acknowledgement of the problem, or possibly no response at all. If the company was unaware of the need to make its site accessible, it’s possible you may get a canned response with unhelpful suggestions like resetting your browser, trying another one, etc. If you get a response like this, just reply and politely inform the company that these suggestions will not work and it needs to fix its site. If you get an acknowledgement or no response, it’s fine to follow up in a week or two to inquire about the status of the issue. Polite persistence can sometimes yield better results than just one email. Either way patience will likely be required, and your best efforts may unfortunately not lead to any better accessibility. That does not mean that you shouldn’t try, as many companies are simply unaware and want to make things right.
The volume of information that you should include in an accessibility report may seem overwhelming, but the whole process boils down to a few simple steps. Report the software and access technology you’re using, what you’re trying to do, and what problem you’re experiencing in sufficient detail for the company to be able to act upon it. Adding in possible solutions, suggestions, and accessibility resources are optional extras, but they may help the company better understand what it needs to do and generally learn more about accessibility.
Here is the sample letter, as started in the section above, on writing your issue:
My name is Karl Belanger. I use a screen reader to access the computer, which is software that allows me as a blind user to access computers by reading out the content of websites and applications as I navigate them. I’m writing to you because I’m encountering some issues accessing your site. While attempting to submit the checkout form on your site, at https://www.myshop.com/cart/checkout.html, nothing appears to happen after pressing the submit button. After I explored the page, I noticed a message at the top of the form reading ‘Please correct the fields in red below.’ My screen reader cannot announce colors, plus as far as I can tell everything seems to be filled in correctly, which means it is impossible for me to complete the form.
Several steps can be taken to make this form more usable. First, when the form is submitted with errors, the focus should be moved to the error message. Next, the error message should list which fields have errors, and possibly provide a link to the fields. Finally, any fields which have a required format, such as MM/DD/YYYY for a date field, should have this format provided to help users avoid errors in the first place.
There are many resources available for you to help make your site more accessible and usable to everyone. I would recommend starting with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. These guidelines are the commonly accepted standards for web accessibility and have been incorporated into Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act for federal websites. They provide a technology independent way of measuring and testing the accessibility of your site. A great site for articles and guides on web accessibility is WebAIM, which stands for Web Accessibility in Mind. They have checklists for the accessibility guidelines, articles on handling forms, graphics, tables, and more, as well as a tool to scan a page of your site and have it report some, though probably not all, accessibility issues.
Please let me know if you have any questions, or if there is any more information I can provide. I look forward to hearing from you soon and working with you to get this issue resolved promptly.
by Barbara Pierce
Sharon Gold liked to say that she was eleven days older than the Federation. She died quietly after a long fight with cancer on the morning of September 10, 2018, following a stroke on March 29, 2018. Her devoted friend Sheryl Pickering was with her for sixty years to the end, advocating for and supporting Sharon and steadily educating medical personnel in the last days on the sensible and tactful way to deal with blind people.
Sharon served as president of the NFB of California from 1978 to 1995. For the first five years of this service the organization was called the NFB Western Division because of a nasty battle over who had the right to the name of the organization. The affiliate was under siege during these years, but Sharon led the affiliate with energy, imagination, and unswerving dedication to the principles for which the NFB stands.
She received the Jacobus tenBroek Award in 1983 in recognition of her extraordinary work rebuilding the California affiliate. In the presentation Diane McGeorge said, “We all know that, as president of the National Federation of the Blind Western Division, Sharon was faced with the monumental task of re-establishing a viable affiliate in California. Sharon has spent countless hours, not only holding the affiliate together, but also giving the kind of leadership which provided strength and encouragement for other California members so that this affiliate has grown into one of our strongest.”
Sharon served on the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors from 1993 to 1995. When she was elected she said: When I was born, there was no National Federation of the Blind. It was born eleven days later, so you’ll always know how old I am. But, if it weren’t for the National Federation of the Blind... It has led the way for me throughout my life—it has changed my life. But most of the time I didn’t know that, not until I was thirty-five years old. That’s very sad.
When I did learn about the National Federation of the Blind, I had been teaching school for almost fifteen years, a job that I would never have gotten but for this organization, because it was this organization that got the laws changed so that blind people could get a teaching credential. So I wouldn’t have been a tax-paying citizen had it not been for the National Federation of the Blind and for all of you people in this room. It is our collective work and our collective strength that bring the changes that make it possible to change the lives of all blind people, whether they are part of this organization or not, whether or not they even know about the organization. I’m a prime example, and I will never ever be able to repay the debt that I feel to my fellow Federationists.
It is a privilege to belong to this organization. It is an honor to be asked to serve on our national board. I appreciate the honor, I accept the responsibility, and I thank you very much.”
Sharon served on the expanded Scholarship Committee from its beginning in 1984 to 1999, and she funded a scholarship in memory of her parents for several years.
For twenty years Sharon taught sighted students in elementary school and was a reading specialist at Edwards Air Force Base. She was clearly an effective teacher judging from the Facebook tributes from former students and teaching colleagues that appeared upon the announcement of her death. One Christmastime she prepared a game with fill-in-the-blank Christmas questions for her class. In a sentence that read, “Santa Claus wears a red suit and has a long, white ______,” many children unhesitatingly filled in the word “cane,” proving how well they had acclimated themselves to a blind teacher.
After her retirement from teaching, Sharon attended law school long enough to acquire the advocacy skills she believed she needed to do her Federation work. She was tireless in providing advice and representing blind people who needed advocacy all over the state.
Generosity and hospitality were hallmarks of Sharon and Sheryl’s home. In Hazel tenBroek’s declining years they spent countless hours visiting and assisting her. Their home was always open to Federationists passing through Sacramento or in need of a place to celebrate holidays. Sharon mentored and trained a number of young Federationists through the years. She was active in the posthumous efforts of the tenBroek Society to organize dinners paying tribute to Dr. tenBroek’s leadership in the fields of law and teaching.
Sharon and Sheryl relocated to the San Antonio area of Texas in late 2001. Sharon was very interested in business from her early days of teaching and became active and successful in several companies. She made live presentations and presented on telephone conference call training sessions. She won a number of trips and six BMW bonus cars. After an illness and subsequent surgery in 2010 Sharon semiretired, but she continued teaching and training and assisting others in business.
Sharon was a member of First Protestant Church in New Braunfels, Texas, and an active member of the choir for fifteen years. The group toured extensively, performing in England, Wales, Scotland, and later in Germany, Austria, and Hungary.
In lieu of flowers those wishing to honor Sharon’s memory may donate to an organization of their choice or to one of three organizations that were dear to Sharon: First Protestant Church, 172 West Coll Street, New Braunfels, TX 78130; Hope Hospice, 611 North Walnut Avenue, New Braunfels, TX 78130; or the National Federation of the Blind, 200 East Wells Street, Baltimore, MD 21230.
Sharon Gold was smart, loyal, and generous with her time and talent. She believed in justice and the right of blind people to live out their dreams and contribute to their communities on terms of absolute equality. We were extraordinarily fortunate to have her as a colleague in the movement from 1975 until her death. Those of us who were lucky enough to know and love her will miss her deeply. We extend our deepest sympathy to Sheryl Pickering and Sharon’s family and friends in Texas and across the country. May she rest in peace.
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:
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.
The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. A donation to the National Federation of the Blind allows you to invest in a movement that removes the fear from blindness. Your investment is your vote of confidence in the value and capacity of blind people and reflects the high expectations we have for all blind Americans, combating the low expectations that create obstacles between blind people and our dreams.
In 2017 the NFB:
Just imagine what we’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.
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, and complete the Pre-Authorized Contribution form, and return it to the address listed on the form.
by John Olson
From the Editor: Most readers of the Braille Monitor will recognize John Olson as the pioneering developer behind 3DPhotoWorks. Although he has appeared several times in this publication, he was most prominently featured in our discussion of the Newseum exhibit which many Federationists attended during the Washington Seminar. On the afternoon of July 6, John was able to share with us his enthusiasm for opening the world of art and pictures to the blind and for his association with the National Federation of the Blind. Here is what he said:
You know, some months ago President Riccobono asked me if I would speak to this assembly. I seized the opportunity; I said yes immediately. He didn’t say I had to follow his address. [laughter] I would like to move that this be disallowed. Fabulous!
Federation members: what a convention. [applause] What a turnout; what enthusiasm. I’ve never seen one like this before.
I’m here today to update you on the development of 3DPhotoWorks fine art printing. This, as many of you know, is a technology that is currently delivering art, photographs, maps, and diagrams to members of the blind communities at six museums in the US and in Canada. As many of you know, it has been my goal from the very beginning to create a worldwide network of museums, science centers, libraries, and institutions willing to provide the world’s blind population with visual information using this tactile medium. Today I will also report to you on how successful a partnership can be when you have a joint unified vision, great leadership, and a highly motivated membership like the members of the National Federation of the Blind who are in this room today.
So what does this mean? It means that the goal 3DPhotoWorks set out to achieve ten years ago could not have been accomplished without the leaders in this room, without President Riccobono, without Dr. Maurer, and most importantly without the membership of the National Federation of the Blind.
So let me start by taking you back in time more than fifty years. Back then I was a highly motivated young man with a goal to become a world-class photojournalist and a war photographer. As a twenty-year-old US Army draftee, I made a series of photographs during an historic battle in Vietnam. They were published by the newspaper Stars and Stripes and in LIFE. This series launched my career, and it allowed me to travel the world for decades. Photography gave me access to people and places that only a few people can ever have.
Toward the end of my career, about ten years ago, I realized how critical images have been in my life. That caused me to wonder what it was like for those who didn’t have access to art, to photography. I wondered what it was like for the blind community, who couldn’t access visual information. It was at that moment, on a Labor Day weekend of 2008, that I set out to develop a means by which blind people could see art, could see photographs, and could acquire visual information. There were just three little issues I had to overcome: 1) I had no neuroscience training; 2) I had no engineering experience; and 3) I had never met a blind person.
Now I began my research by opening the Yellow Pages, where I looked under the category blind. There I found a number of organizations all located in New York City. I visited four of them in the same day. They were all very encouraging but said, “You really need to meet some blind people.” They said that I needed to show them [the blind people] some prototypes and ask for their input. So I learned of this event, a state convention to be held in Albany, New York, by a group called the National Federation of the Blind. I took an exhibitor’s table and showed them prototypes of our tactile printing, and I listened. I learned many things that day: 1) It’s okay to use the B word—Federation members got me over that hurdle very quickly; 2) Don’t leave your box lunch under your table with guide dogs nearby. A dog that will remain nameless ate my sandwich, my potato chips, my chocolate chip cookie—but he left me my apple. So, if Mike Robinson of New York is in this audience, we need to discuss this after the meeting. But the third and most important event of the day came when a man introduced himself saying, “My name is Mark Riccobono. I’m with the National Federation of the Blind. I’d like to invite you to meet with me and my team in Baltimore.” That meeting began an incredible journey of friendship and collaboration.
Many years ago I came to my first convention to conduct focus groups and testing. I asked you to tell me about your blindness, your interest in art, and in photography. You told me about your museum experience, and you helped me to evolve 3D tactile fine art printing.
By 2016 we had our international debut at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. It was a success, one that brought inquiries from a dozen museums: museums in Austria, Dubai, Mexico, the Philippines, and Germany. But not one inquiry did we get from the United States. But, like the NFB, we persevered.
Late in 2016 a small museum in Texas contacted me. They said they wanted to serve their blind community but needed to raise the money before they could proceed. I suggested that they get their donor base together in one room. I’d fly to Texas, and I’d speak to them. If they raised the money, they could pay my travel expense, and we’d do one tactile piece to start. If they weren’t successful in raising the money, no worries: I’d take the gamble, and I’d cover the expense on my own. They had 120 people in the room when I arrived. I spoke for seven minutes telling your story. Then I came off the stage.
Ten minutes later my contact came over to me and said, “We’ve just raised half of the $25,000 we need.” Within a few weeks they had raised the balance. Earlier this year the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum of Canyon, Texas, installed their first tactile piece, the artwork of Georgia O’Keefe called “Red Landscape.” They are now planning for their second tactile installation early next year.
In 2017 we had our second exhibition at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. It was another success, but still very few US inquiries.
Later in 2017 we broke some ice and completed an installation at Endicott College near Boston and an installation at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. In fact we did this installation for an exhibit builder and not directly for the museum. So I had no direct contact with the leadership there. Later that year, at the American Alliance of Museums meeting in St. Louis, the exhibit builder pulled me aside. He said, “We have a problem. Our client is very upset. He is very worried that the tactile piece we installed will fail.”
I said I needed more information. He said, “It’s so popular, there are so many hands on it all the time, that he wants to put it behind glass!”
I said, “No, no, no, no. Now I understand. I’ve got a better solution. Tell your client to take the art down, find a closet, lock it in the closet, turn the lights off, throw the key away, and it will never fail.” He understood. That piece is still standing in the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia today. I was there a few weeks ago, and they are discussing adding four more tactile pieces.
Earlier this year we had a break. As I mentioned, I started my career as a war photographer. The battle I photographed in 1968 turned out to be historic. Many historians say it was the turning point for US involvement in the war in Vietnam. Like many veterans I came back and spent nearly fifty years not talking about Vietnam. But as the fiftieth anniversary approached, I began to wonder what had happened to the eighteen-, nineteen-, twenty-year-old men that I had photographed in 1968. Now I didn’t know any of these men, but by chance I learned one of their names, and, over time, I located and completed audio interviews with eleven of them. The interviews were highly emotional as the fighting in Huế was violent, it was up close, and it was personal. I realized I had a powerful potential exhibit if only I could find a major museum to showcase it. Over the course of the year, every major museum in New York and Washington turned me down!
In late September 2017 I visited the Newseum in Washington regarding a small, tactile project. I took the opportunity to pitch the Vietnam exhibit and show them a PowerPoint presentation and let them listen to some of the audio. They were overwhelmed. Within three days we had a handshake agreement to produce both a conventional and a tactile exhibition. Now usually an exhibit like this would take eighteen months to two years to produce. We were given less than 120 days to make this happen.
So my first call was to President Riccobono. I knew that the Federation met every January in DC with members from all fifty states present, and I thought that possibly we could get a small bus to bring a few members to the opening. President Riccobono was thinking light years beyond me. I pulled off the road next to a Walmart on a drive between Georgia and Texas to have this conversation, and he was light years beyond my thinking. It was early on in that conversation that he proposed the possibility of the Federation being interested in sponsoring the event.
Now many of you know how the story ends. The National Federation of the Blind and Nikon cameras agreed to cosponsor this historic event. On January 30, 2018, 350 Federation members attended an opening at the Newseum where President Riccobono, four-star Marine General Walters, and I were there to say “Welcome.” [applause]
The exhibit, with twenty conventional photograph prints and ten tactile prints, has been so successful that it has been extended six months. The museum vice president in charge has said “From opening on January 6, 2018, to May 31, a little over 85,000 visitors were exposed to this incredible exhibit. We see a definite uptick in visitors among our blind guests. With the advent of this exhibit it is a wonderful thing to watch people who have not been embraced by the museum community be in an exhibit space where they can experience the content as fully as any other exhibitor.”
I believe this is my fifth convention. Today when I walked through these halls, I don’t see Federation members; I see friends, I see collaborators, I see technical advisors, and I see changemakers. We have just begun to scratch the surface in conjunction with the Federation. There is the possibility of developing an incredible technology, and with your help we’ll be there. Thank you.
by Edward Bell
From the Editor: Dr. Edward Bell is an experienced educator in his own right. He was named Blind Educator of the Year in 2008. He chairs the 2019 Blind Educator of the Year Award Selection Committee. This is what he says:
A number of years ago the Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by the National Organization of Blind Educators (the educators division of the National Federation of the Blind) to pay tribute to a blind teacher whose exceptional classroom performance, notable community service, and uncommon commitment to the NFB merit national recognition. Beginning with the 1991 presentation, this award became an honor bestowed by our entire movement. This change reflects our recognition of the importance of good teaching and the affect an outstanding blind teacher has on students, faculty, community, and all blind Americans.
This award is presented in the spirit of the outstanding educators who founded and have continued to nurture the National Federation of the Blind and who, by example, have imparted knowledge of our strengths to us and raised our expectations. We have learned from Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, Dr. Marc Maurer, and our current President Mark Riccobono that a teacher not only provides a student with information but also provides guidance, advocacy, and love. The recipient of the Blind Educator of the Year Award must exhibit all of these traits and must advance the cause of blind people in the spirit and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.
The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Honorees must be present to receive an appropriately inscribed plaque and a check for $1,000.
Nominations should be sent to Dr. Edward Bell, director, PDRIB, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail to PDRIB, Louisiana Tech University, PO Box 3158, Ruston, LA 71272. Letters of nomination must be accompanied by a copy of the nominee’s current résumé and supporting documentation of community and Federation activity. All nomination materials must be in the hands of the committee chairman by May 1, 2019, to be considered for this year’s award. For further information contact Edward Bell at 318-257-4554, or email@example.com.
by Lauren Merryfield
From the Editor: Lauren Merryfield is a longtime member of the National Federation of the Blind, a contributor to the Kernel Books we have published in the past, and a person who often reminds us that what is important about the way we function is not whether it is perfect but whether it is real, sustainable, and effective. What I like about Lauren’s perspective is her rejection of the idea that we need to learn route travel and that it is only through being shown that we can figure out how to move safely in the places we live, work, and play. I had been traveling for five years before someone convinced me that I could learn new travel routes on my own and that if I needed help it could come from someone other than a specially trained mobility instructor. It could even come from a blind person! I learned that it was okay to be lost and that being lost did not mean that I was in the jungle where I would soon be eaten. I learned about stopping to take stock of where I was, about attempting to reverse my route, and about asking other people to tell me the street that I was on and the street I would come to if I kept walking. Mostly what I learned was not to be overly anxious or afraid and that being lost was a part of the normal travel experience that blind and sighted people encounter all the time. This is the message that Lauren brings, and I love the way she does it. Here is what she has written:
Quite often when I am using my long white cane and now a walker, some people become perfectionistic about my getting from one place to another. I know there are blind people who make it from point A to point B without making any errors. However, I know of some blind people who do not even try to get around by themselves because they fear they will not do it perfectly.
My feet don't work right, so I generally do not walk a straight line, but I go anyway. In getting somewhere, I am sometimes likely to bump something with my cane or walker. This is what the cane is for—to tell me about things in my path. Some people will say that I am running into things, but if my cane strikes them and I do not, I am not running into them; I am simply detecting them.
Sometimes when someone is directing me, they are concerned when I don't make a straight shot without coming in contact with something. While using a ramp, they correct me so that I don't come in contact with the rail, but it is okay with me if I do this. I can always correct myself—this is just the way I travel.
I figure that as long as I get from point A to point B, that is the main thing. It would be nice if I could do it perfectly as some people do, but to me, it is not a requirement. I don't stay home, refusing to get out for fear that I will hit something and someone will see it. I have long since given up the worry that someone will see me hit something and assume that I and all blind people are clumsy.
I consider myself to be an investigatory blind person, for often when I come in contact with something, I want to check it out. At times, when I am in the process of checking something out, a worried person will tell me what the object is or where I am or assume that I am lost or about to get hurt or perhaps fall. I appreciate their interest but wish I could spare them the worry. This is the way I learn; this is part of my life with which I am very comfortable.
Last year I moved to a new apartment house. I learned the route, but occasionally I drift off. Sometimes people watching will become concerned, not knowing that part of my skillset is to learn by and from my mistakes. I tell them I am not as much lost as I am correcting myself. I explain that sometimes when I accidentally get off course, I actually learn more about my surroundings than if I go perfectly on my path.
I am surprised when some people get concerned about me going into a restroom—like, how far off course can one get in a restroom? Really! The concern is as misplaced as wondering whether or not I can travel up and down the aisle of an airplane—how can one go wrong?
Once a blind person told me he never got lost. I was skeptical. He considered it a compliment to himself when I thought he was being dishonest. My reasoning in rejecting his claim is simple: sighted people get lost, so why wouldn't blind people also get lost? Sighted people go from point A to point B with occasional errors, so why wouldn't blind people be likely to do the same on occasion?
When my second husband was driving, he occasionally became quite lost. We sometimes drove around for quite a while before getting our bearings. Sometimes we stopped to ask someone for directions. Sometimes he had a map that he consulted. Sometimes I was the one who told him where to go. But we always made it back home. He didn't decide that we couldn't go somewhere for fear he would become lost, like some blind people I have met.
I remember one time when I was walking along a strip mall looking for a certain store. On the way I made the wrong turn, finding myself at the door of an ice cream parlor. I could have panicked or anxiously asked the people inside for directions; but no, I stopped in for a treat before going on my way. I did not consider that I had made a mistake as much as adding something interesting to my day.
Sometimes blind people I know will confuse the reasons for my difficulty. They will assume that I lack good skills of blindness, when the truth is that there are other problems I have acquired as I have gotten older that play into my mobility challenges. What they also need to understand is that my goal is to be an exploratory traveler and not a perfect traveler. Most of the time I am comfortable if traveling from place X to place Y involves a detour. Often I can find value in this, and even when it is an inconvenience, it certainly doesn’t justify staying home and being isolated.
Though my determination to get somewhere by myself is my norm, due to chronic illness and pain I will occasionally ask for directions, refuse to go somewhere with someone unless they know their way, or resort to being taken somewhere by someone who knows the way. Some blind people may think this is the easy way out, even the lazy way out. I consider it simply an alternative. I don't want my having health issues to keep me from going somewhere and getting back home. So, yes, sometimes I have help getting from point A to point B. But I do not do this because I do not believe I could get there myself; I do it out of convenience or necessity if I am not feeling well. If I have a time constraint, I may likewise accept help from someone. If I am feeling bad, I may take more help than if I am feeling well. I think this has nothing to do with blindness and everything to do with realizing that each of us has options and that there is an appropriate time and place to exercise them.
Sometimes my travel leads to humorous experiences and exchanges. I am reminded of the time when I walked into the hotel in New Orleans for our National Convention, asking “Which direction am I going?” What I wanted to know was whether I was facing north, south, east, or west. The guy at the front desk said “Straight ahead.” That made me laugh. It also made me realize that sometimes it is just better for me to figure out things myself.
Often my traveling from point A to point B is more like a story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end; however, there are plots, subplots, and surprises along the way. To me the main thing is that when I embark on foot, the issue isn’t how straight or quickly I get somewhere, but getting there and being proud of the fact that I have the skills, the courage, and the mindset to go. This is what it means to be free; this is what it means to be independent.
The National Federation of the Blind is pleased to announce our 2019 scholarship program! We offer thirty scholarships to blind students from across the United States and Puerto Rico who will be enrolled in full-time post-secondary degree programs during the 2019-2020 school year. These scholarships range in value from $3,000 to $12,000 and will be awarded at our 2019 national convention in Las Vegas, NV.The application period begins November 1, 2018, and closes at midnight EST on March 31, 2019. Go to https://nfb.org/scholarships. To apply during the five-month open period, read the rules and the Submissions Checklist, complete the official 2019 Scholarship Application Form (online or in print), supply all required documents, and request and complete an interview by an NFB affiliate president. Remember, the only way to win is to apply!
by Brock Brown
From the Editor: In a physical sense most of our readers have a good understanding of blindness. But beyond the physical, what is it? Throughout history and in different civilizations, blindness has been viewed as a curse from God, a tragic condition that can never be more than partially mitigated by the charity of others. Some of us have been so bold as to say it is mostly a nuisance and an inconvenience, one characteristic among many that makes us who we are. But never until this article have I heard someone refer to the inability to see or see well as "the gift of blindness."
Lee Martin lives in Indiana and is an active member of his chapter, affiliate, and our national body. What follows is part one of a two-part article that appeared in the September issue of the Speedway Talk newspaper. Brock Brown writes for Speedway Talk newspaper, which has enthusiastically given us its permission to reprint this article.
As I sat waiting for a friend, I watched a blind man with a white walking cane come down the main corridor at the Healthplex. It appeared he was exploring. He was not in a hurry, and he didn't ask for help. I suppose he knew he would be back.
He now comes regularly and has his exercise routine on various pieces of equipment both upstairs and downstairs. (He does not use the elevator.) He sets his exercise machine on slow (steep uphills) and pushes and pulls hard, building strength.
When I saw him in the locker room shining his shoes, I introduced myself and mentioned I had never seen a blind man shining his shoes. He said in a patient way, "Well, I do want to look nice."
I think you'll find Lee Martin's story inspiring.
I met Lee at his office—where he runs a radio program and holds meetings with the Circle City Chapter of the NFB.
Lee: It took me a few years, but I learned how to be blind. You can live a full life, but the main challenge is the discrimination that's involved with the conditions of blindness. Everyone doesn't have the same capacities, but our society thinks that the blind are generally not capable at all.
Brock: We each have limitations, and we each have different abilities, and knowing what they are and figuring out how to work around the limits is a challenge.
Lee: Yes, but knowing how to work around them is the key.
Brock: It's how we become stronger.
Lee: That's right, and that's one of the gifts God gave us. I now believe He gave me the gift of blindness.
When I first came up with that little philosophy, I was talking to our chapter members. I was philosophizing one day and mentioned "the gift of blindness." One of our members said, "I don't know what you're talking about, this ain't no damn gift." And most are taught that. However, when you work with what you've been given to work with, things happen.
I heard a lady say one day, "God didn't choose you to be a blind, weak saint."
Brock: He chose you to live fully in this wonderful world.
Lee: Right. And for me, it's to direct and show others. It's the work we do with the National Federation of the Blind Newsline. I'll set this out for you.
The National Federation of the Blind Newsline provides the opportunity for blind, visually impaired, and print-challenged citizens to read newspapers and magazines independently, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for free.
We provide access to over 460 national and fifteen international newspapers. We have "breaking news" with ABC, CNN, Fox News, Huffington Post, and others. A patron can pick up their landline phone or an app for their cell phones. We also have a small device that's called the Victor Reader Stream. I can read any newspaper with that.
The Victor Reader Stream is a device that has multiple features on it. I can do podcasts; I can download books from the Talking Book and Braille Library.
I download a lot of books, and there's a lot of podcasts dealing with what's going on in the blind community. There's a lot of entities working within the blind community, and they have been doing so for long before I lost my sight.
Brock: How did you lose your sight?
Lee: They found an inflammation, scleritis, and it deteriorated my retinas. It turned them into wet tissue paper. So, there went my sight. It took a while for it to totally go, but when it did, I was forty-eight years old.
Brock: You must have realized something was going wrong with your eyes; you went to find out what it was, and they probably told you, "Well, there's no fixing this," or, "We'll try our best to—"
Lee: Yes, it took time. But finally I was told there's no point of return to normalcy as I would know it.
My mother—my wonderful adopted mother—I called her up. She was in her nineties at the time. I finally called her up to let her know why she hadn't heard from me too much because I had lost my sight. And her words were, "Well, that's God's plan. God knew this long before you did, and I expect for you to not be a weakling and be strong. Let Him guide you through this." That's what I basically did.
So, I would say after losing my sight, I lost a lot of friends and lost my job at Chrysler. That impacted my life because my family was ready to say, "Okay, so you're losing your sight. None of us know about blindness, but you're gonna have to come home, and we're gonna have to take care of you."
And I wasn't ready for that. I was recovering from the medicine. I was on a cancer-type treatment. I did all that chemo to try to bring back my sight. I was a single man, and it was hard on me.
I knew nothing about blindness. Where am I gonna go; am I gonna have to be taken care of the rest of my life?
I'm a Vietnam veteran, and I found there's a rehabilitation service for blinded veterans at Hines Hospital in Chicago and here in Indianapolis at Roudebush, the veterans' hospital.
When I did go to the Indianapolis VA, my initial visit as a blinded vet, they had a volunteer come out to my apartment. I was having all kinds of anxieties about this guy coming to my door. I don't know who he is, but he's in the system, and at that time we had high crime. You worry about all that you hear on the news. So, this gentleman came to my door; he identified himself, and I went with him to the VA hospital. Nothing bad happened.
I got there, and I'm sitting, waiting on the doctor, and I hear a guy coming with tapping, I hear this tapping.
He had an eye appointment, and the receptionist said, "Well, there's another blind guy right over here," and the guy turned around and introduced himself to me. We talked, and I told him I was new to the whole process.
He started informing me. Mr. Fred Edwards, I'll never forget him. He started informing me about the rehab that was going to be necessary for me and that there was a rehab facility in Chicago. He described the visual impairment service team at the Indy VA. He said, "I'm gonna introduce you to the coordinator, Tom." So, I got introduced.
I just took all that with a grain of salt. But, the following Wednesday, I got a call from the director, Tom, and he had gotten me all set up to go to Chicago.
I had to be there Friday. That means I would have to find someone to take care of my apartment, take care of my mail, take care of all my business. Then I would have to find someone to help me pack, get my clothes together, 'cause being blind you just don't have that. I didn't have all that.
A friend helped me get all that together in that short period of time. I had to trust her with everything I had, and that's hard to do at a moment's notice. Just think about it. If you were single and, all of a sudden, you would give your keys to your life, to your privacy, to your everything, to someone else.
I did it and got to the airport. The airline took care of me at the airport, and I got to O'Hare. A team member was waiting for me. And he got me to the Hines Rehab Center and got me all checked in with the medical staff. You have your own room, and they got me oriented with the center, relieving a lot of my anxieties. I was forty-eight and that was a big start. I was there for a year.
Brock: Is that the usual time?
Lee: The usual length of time was about six months for the first part of the program and then about four/six months for additional computer training.
I learned the orientation and mobility cane. They put me into an industrial class where they have power saws, drills, power drills, lathes; they would assign you a project to complete; you have to learn the machines and learn how to make all that kinda stuff. These were machines I didn't touch when I could see, so I had a lot of issues going into it.
Brock: A whole new world.
Lee: Yes! A whole new world. I'm saying, "Power saws? I don't use no saw! A band saw? Why am I messing with them? They are dangerous! Especially for a blind guy!"
Brock: Yeah, one slip and you could lose your finger.
Lee: Yeah, and I still have all of them. Once I made it through that, it gave me the encouragement that I could return to my job at Chrysler. That was a big thing. Then, with the mobility training and learning how to be out in the public again, I was really encouraged.
I stayed and got computer training; that's what took longer for me. But you had to qualify for it. The qualifications were you had to type thirty words a minute. One of the counselors came down, and he spoke to me in my room. I said, "Man, I haven't typed in years," and he said, "Well it's just like riding a bike, once you get on it." He took me to his office, and he set me up in front of this typewriter. I tried to find the home row, and I hit a key. It dinged, and I jumped back.
He said, "What's going on?"
I said, "I heard the ding from the carriage return, but I didn't hit the carriage return. I'm reaching for the carriage return bar."
He asked, "What are you reaching for?"
I said, "I'm trying to find the return bar."
And he said, "Oh my God, it has been a long time."
It took me a good week to get use to all of that. I managed to pass the test for the class. I was trained by a blinded veteran every day for about six hours a day. Nothing but computer training. I learned an enormous amount of information about how to navigate a computer. That's what I do now.
Lee was trained well and immediately returned to apply for a job with his previous employer, Chrysler. It became national news.
by Carla McQuillan
From the Editor: Carla McQuillan is the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, a member of the national board of directors, and the owner and executive director of Main Street Montessori Association, operating two Montessori schools. She is the chairman of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award Committee, and she has written this announcement seeking applications for the 2019 award:
The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind students at our 2019 annual convention, July 7 through July 12 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The winner of this award will receive the following:
The education of blind children is one of the National Federation of the Blind's highest priorities. We are committed to offering and supporting programs that enhance educational opportunities for this group. Please help us recognize dedicated and innovative teachers who provide quality education and meaningful experiences and opportunities for their blind students.
Q: Who is eligible for this award?
A: Anyone who is currently a teacher, counselor, or the administrator of programs for blind students.
Q: Does an applicant have to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind?
A: No, but attending the national convention in Las Vegas is required.
Q: Can I nominate someone else for this award?
A: Yes. Applicants can be nominated by colleagues, parents, supervisors, or friends who have first-hand knowledge of the individual’s work with blind students.
Q: How would I apply?
A: You can fill out the application at the end of this article or find it on our website at https://nfb.org/images/nfb/documents/pdf/distinguished-educator-of-blind-students-award-form-fillable.pdf
Q: What is the deadline to submit an application or make a nomination?
A: All applications must be received no later than May 1, 2019.
Please complete the application and attach the required documents specified in the application. If you are submitting a nomination for someone other than yourself, please answer the questions to the best of your ability. Your experience and observations of the nominee will assist the selection committee in their decision. Questions? Contact Carla McQuillan at 541-653-9153, or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deadline: May 1, 2019
Home Address: _________________________________________________
City, State, Zip: _________________________________________________
Phone: (H) ____________________ (W) ____________________________
City, State, Zip: _________________________________________________
Please list any awards or commendations you have received.
How long and in what programs have you worked with blind children?
In what setting do you currently work?
Briefly describe your current job and teaching responsibilities.
How would you describe your philosophy of blindness as it relates to the education of blind students?
What are your thoughts on teaching Braille and cane travel? When and at what age would you begin? How do you determine whether to teach print or Braille?
What was your most memorable experience working with blind students?
Why should you be selected to receive this award?
Email is strongly encouraged for transmitting nominations; letters of support and other relevant materials should be included as attachments. Applications sent by mail and postmarked by the deadline will also be accepted. Send all material by May 1, 2019, to Carla McQuillan, chairperson, Teacher Award Committee, email@example.com or by mail to 522 65th Street, Springfield, OR 97478; 541-653-9153.
by James Gashel
From the Editor: James Gashel is secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and chairs the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Committee. Here is his announcement about the 2019 Bolotin Awards program:
The National Federation of the Blind is pleased to announce that applications are now being accepted for the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards. These prestigious awards, granted each year as funds permit, seek to honor initiatives, innovations, and individuals that are a positive force in the lives of blind people and advance the ultimate goal of helping them transform their dreams into reality. Award winners will be publicly recognized during the 2019 annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Las Vegas, Nevada. Each recipient will be given a cash award in an amount determined by the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Committee and will also be honored with an engraved medallion and plaque.
Dr. Jacob W. Bolotin (1888-1924) was a pioneering blind physician, the first in history who achieved that goal despite the tremendous challenges faced by blind people in his time. Not only did he realize his own dream; he went on to support and inspire many others in making their own dreams a reality. The awards which bear his name are made possible through the generosity of his late nephew and niece. Their bequest, the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust, allows the National Federation of the Blind to present the annual cash awards.
As chronicled in his biography, The Blind Doctor by Rosalind Perlman, Dr. Bolotin fought ignorance and prejudice to gain entrance to medical school and the medical profession. He became one of the most respected physicians in Chicago during his career, which spanned the period from 1912 until his death in 1924. He was particularly known for his expertise in diseases of the heart and lungs. During his successful career Dr. Bolotin used his many public speaking engagements to advocate for employment of the blind and the full integration of the blind into society. Interested in young people in general and blind youth in particular, Dr. Bolotin established the first Boy Scout troop consisting entirely of blind boys and served as its leader.
Jacob Bolotin’s wife Helen had a sister whose husband died suddenly, leaving her to raise a son, Alfred Perlman. The Perlmans moved in with the Bolotins when Alfred was eleven, and for four years (until Jacob Bolotin’s untimely death at age thirty-six), "Uncle Jake" became Alfred's surrogate father. Alfred later married Rosalind, and the couple worked on a book about Dr. Bolotin's life. After Alfred's death in 2001, Rosalind dedicated the rest of her life to completing and publishing the book. Then, upon her death and as part of her will, Rosalind left a bequest to the Santa Barbara Foundation and the National Federation of the Blind to produce Dr. Bolotin's biography and establish the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award program. Her book, The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story, has been published by and is available from Blue Point Books, www.BluePointBooks.com.
Past award winners have:
In 2019 the National Federation of the Blind will again recognize individuals and organizations that have distinguished themselves in accordance with the criteria established to receive a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. The committee will determine both the number of awards and the value of each cash award presented. The Federation determines the total amount to be distributed each year based on income received from the trust supporting the award program. The award categories for each year are blind individuals, sighted individuals, and organizations, corporations, or other entities. Individuals may apply on their own behalf or may submit a third-party nomination, or the committee may also consider other individual or organizational candidates.
Individuals: Only individuals over eighteen years of age may be considered for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. Applicants must demonstrate that they have shown substantial initiative and leadership in improving the lives of the blind. Examples of such initiative include but are not limited to developing products, technologies, or techniques that increase the independence of the blind; directing quality programs or agencies for the blind; or mentoring other blind people. All individual applicants or third-party applicants nominating other individuals must demonstrate that the work to be recognized has been conducted within the twelve months preceding the application and/or that the work is continuing. Applications by or on behalf of individuals must include at least one letter of recommendation from a person familiar with or directly affected by the work to be recognized.
Organizations: Organizations may apply for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award in order to further programs, services, technology, or techniques of unique and outstanding merit that have assisted and will continue to assist the blind. Applications from third parties nominating an organization will also be considered. The organization category includes corporations, nonprofit organizations, or other entities, such as a specific division within an organization. Organizations or third-party applicants must demonstrate that the programs or services to be recognized include substantial participation by blind people as developers, mentors, administrators, or executives, and not merely as clients, consumers, or beneficiaries. For example, an organization operating a program for blind youth might demonstrate that a substantial number of the counselors, teachers, or mentors involved in the program are blind. The organization or third-party applicant must demonstrate that it has substantially aided blind people within the twelve months prior to application and that an award would support efforts to build on previous successes. The application must also include at least one testimonial from a blind person who has benefited substantially from the programs or services.
To qualify for an award both individuals and organizations must be headquartered in the United States of America, and their work must primarily benefit the blind of the United States.
More information, including an online application, can be found on the National Federation of the Blind website at https://nfb.org/bolotin.
Online submission of nominations, letters of support, and other relevant materials is strongly encouraged, but applications sent by mail and postmarked by the deadline will also be accepted. The 2019 deadline for application submission is April 15. Recipients chosen by the committee will be individually notified of their selection no later than May 15. Receipt of all complete applications will be acknowledged; only those applicants chosen to receive an award will be contacted by May 15. All decisions of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Committee are final.
The awards will be presented in July during the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Individuals selected to receive an award must appear in person, not send a representative. Organizations may send an individual representative, preferably their chief executive officer. Recipient candidates must confirm in writing that they will appear in person to accept the award at the National Federation of the Blind annual convention. Failure to confirm attendance for the award presentation by June 1 will result in forfeiture of the award.
Those employed full-time by the National Federation of the Blind may not apply for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award for work performed within the scope of their employment. Students may not apply for both a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award and a National Federation of the Blind Scholarship in the same year.
Recipes this month come from the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts.
Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies
by Heather Doray
Heather Doray is secretary of the Greater Springfield chapter of the NFB of Massachusetts. These are always a hit and bring in good money at our state convention auction.
2-1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 package Jell-O instant vanilla pudding (4-serving size)
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips
Method: Mix flour and baking soda, set aside. Cream together butter, sugars, and pudding mix. Add eggs, mix until creamy. Gradually add flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoon onto greased cookie sheets. Preheat oven. Bake at 350 for ten minutes. Let sit in pans for two minutes before removing to wire racks.
by Lori Feltberg, friend of NFBMA
3 medium apples (Macintosh or Cortland) peeled and cored
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups flour (1/4 cup at a time)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Method: Combine all ingredients with mixer or processor. Cut apples into thin slices and stir into batter. Pour batter into a greased Bundt cake pan and bake at 375 degrees in preheated oven for fifty minutes. Cool on a wire rack completely and then invert cake pan to a cake plate.
Black Bean and Rice Skillet
by Shara Winton
Shara Winton is president of the Cambridge Chapter and first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium-sized zucchini, diced
1/2 cup green pepper, diced
1/2 cup red pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 can (15-ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5-ounce) fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup frozen corn, defrosted
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup white or brown rice
1-3/4 cups water
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1 pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
Method: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté for about three minutes, until it begins to turn translucent. Add the diced red and green peppers, and zucchini. Sauté for about three more minutes. Add the corn, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt. Stir in the can of tomatoes, rice, and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then cover with a lid and simmer on low heat for about twenty minutes, until the rice is tender. (Brown rice will take about thirty to thirty-five minutes.) Stir in the beans and turn off the heat. Let stand for seven minutes. Top with cheese and serve. Enjoy. Note: If you don’t have zucchini, corn, or cheese, it is still fantastic without these ingredients.
Sweet Onion Cornbread
by Shara Winton
2 cups corn meal
1/2 cup self-rising flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup half-and-half
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
Method: Mix all ingredients in bowl and place into buttered cast iron skillet. Bake at 400 degrees for twenty-eight minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!
Mojo Pork Chops
by Shara Winton
Shara says about this recipe, "My family loves these pork chops. I like to serve them with black beans and rice on the side."
1 cup plus 1/4 cup orange juice, divided
1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, divided
1/4 cup vinegar
4 (1-inch-thick) bone-in pork chops
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1 tomato, chopped, for garnish
1/2 avocado, sliced, for garnish
Method: In a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag, combine 1 cup orange juice, 1/2 cup lime juice, and vinegar. Add pork and let it sit and marinate for about 1 hour in refrigerator.
In a small mixing bowl, combine all dried spices. Pat the pork chops dry with a paper towel and rub with the dry spice mixture.
Heat oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Place the pork chops in the pan and sear on one side until brown. Flip over and turn the heat down to medium-low. Add onion and sauté for two minutes. Then add the garlic and continue to cook until garlic begins to brown. Pour in the remaining 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup lime juice, and white wine. Simmer until the liquid is slightly reduced and begins to thicken. The chops should be cooked through.
Remove the chops from pan and put on a warm plate. Continue to reduce juices in pan by half. Pour over the chops and serve immediately. Enjoy!
Hamburger and Beans in the Crock Pot
by Shara Winton
Shara has this to say, "This recipe makes a lot and is great to serve if you have people over to just hang out, watch ball games and entertain family. You can serve it with a salad for a meal. My son loves to top it with tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, and sour cream."
1-1/2 to 2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 16-ounce can pork and beans, drained
1 15.5-ounce can kidney beans, drained
1 15.5-ounce can red beans, drained
1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
1 10-3/4 ounce can tomato soup, undiluted
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch cayenne or several drops hot sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 4-ounce can mushroom pieces, drained
1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
Method: Brown ground beef, onion, green pepper, and garlic in skillet on top of the stove. Drain. Add to crock pot along with remaining ingredients. Cook on low for about four hours until flavors have blended. Makes a three-quart crock pot about 3/4 full. Serve with toppings of your choice or with cornbread for a great meal.
Andrea's Carrot Cake
by David Ticchi
David Ticchi is a former president of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts and an experienced educator. He was recognized as Blind Educator of the Year in 1998, and would later chair the prestigious committee that had previously selected him for recognition.
2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups oil
2-1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt, sift together
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups grated raw carrots (use 1-pound pkg. baby carrots; grate in food processor)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or 1/2 cup wheat germ)
1/2 cup raisins (or 1/2 cup drained crushed pineapple)
Method: Blend all ingredients together in electric mixer Pour batter in greased and floured nine-by-thirteen-inch pan. Preheat oven. Bake at 350 degrees for fifty to sixty minutes. If using glass pan, bake less than one hour. Test for doneness using toothpick inserted in center. It should be dry. Cool on rack. When done and completely cool, frost with cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 16-ounce package confectioner’s sugar
Method: Put all ingredients into mixing bowl. Beat until smooth with electric mixer.
by David Ticchi
3 pounds boneless chicken breast (about five whole breasts, split in halves or use boneless chicken thighs)
1/2 cup of olive oil
4 tablespoons butter (not margarine)
4-5 slices provolone cheese
Mix in baggie:
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons parsley flakes or fresh parsley
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 12-ounce package fresh mushrooms, sliced in half or 1 8-ounce canned mushrooms, sliced and drained
2 28-ounce cans Hunt’s whole tomatoes, peeled with liquid (slice tomatoes in half)
1 cup or more good white wine (Carlo Rossi Rose)
Method: Coat chicken breasts in flour mixture, discarding extra flour. In a large frying pan melt butter and olive oil. Fry chicken in oil on both sides lightly, but do not brown. Add mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, and wine. Cover and cook slowly until chicken is done, about an hour. This may also be done in oven, after chicken is lightly fried, adding other ingredients on top of chicken and baking at 350 degrees for about thirty to forty-five minutes. At the end, just before serving, add slices of Provolone cheese on top of chicken and cook one minute until cheese is melted. Serve with mashed potatoes or polenta.
NFB Jernigan Institute Helps Santa Answer His Mail:
Santa Claus has made the staff at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute honorary elves. He has asked us to help him send letters in Braille to very young blind boys and girls (those under the age of ten) in the United States.
Between November 12 and December 14, parents can go online at https://nfb.org/santa-letters and fill out a Santa Braille Letter request form. The form can also be printed and faxed to 410-685-2340. Beginning December 3, the Braille letters from Santa will start going out to boys and girls around the country. The Braille letter will also be accompanied by a print copy (for mom and dad to read) as well as some other fun Christmastime activities.
The deadline for letter requests is December 14 to ensure that a return letter in Braille is received before Christmas. For more information, please visit our website at https://nfb.org.
Nationwide BRAL Contest:
The Second Annual Nationwide BRAL Contest is here!
The National Federation of the Blind of Illinois (NFBI), in partnership with the NFB Jernigan Institute and the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, announces the second annual Nationwide Braille Readers Are Leaders (BRAL) Contest for kids. Students must be K-12 and must reside in a state registered for the contest. Entrants compete to read the most Braille pages, going against other students in similar grades across all participating states.
The contest runs for seven weeks, encouraging students to be proud of their Braille-reading ability and to work to improve their Braille skills—while possibly winning prizes in the process.
All blind or visually impaired children in a participating state are eligible to enter the contest. However, an NFB affiliate in a state needs to submit an entrance fee to the NFBI to become a participating state. Those desiring to register their child for the Nationwide BRAL Contest need to be sure their state is a participating state. Contact your state affiliate president or the contest administrator as described below if you have questions.
Please put Nationwide BRAL plus the contestant’s name in the subject line. Alternatively, you can mail to: Deborah Stein, 5817 N. Nina Ave., Chicago, IL 60631.
In addition to awards in the five grade categories, the Kelly Doty Award is given to a student who has met unusual challenges in order to learn and read Braille. Such challenges include, but are not limited to, having other disabilities in addition to blindness or being an English language learner.
If you have questions, email the contest administrator, Deborah Stein, at firstname.lastname@example.org (please put “Nationwide BRAL Question” in the subject line) or by phone at 773-203-1394.
The NFB of North Dakota held its 2018 convention in Fargo, North Dakota, at the Holiday Inn Fargo during the weekend of September 7 to 8 with National Representative Joe Ruffalo. The following members were elected to serve the affiliate: president, Milton Ota; vice president/treasurer, Jesse Shirek; secretary, Sherry Shirek. Two board positions were filled: for a two-year term, Josh Biddle was elected; and for a one-year term the convention elected Richard Early. Congratulations to all who have assumed these positions, and thank you for carrying forward the positive work of the National Federation of the Blind.
Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.
eCarroll Technology Instruction:
The Carroll Center for the Blind is now providing computer instruction to individuals who cannot physically travel to a training center. eCarroll Technology Instruction brings technology training directly to blind and visually impaired individuals in the comfort of their own homes. Using Zoom meetings, an easy-to-use and accessible video and web-conferencing software, expert instructors offer individualized instruction in a wide range of areas: from the nuances of different web browsers to using pivot tables in Microsoft Excel. For a limited time, sign up now for a free thirty-minute lesson. To learn more about eCarroll Technology Instruction, view course details here: http://carroll.org/technology-services/ecarroll/.
Jim Debus of the Paralympic Sports Club of Columbus sent us this news:
Blind Soccer is coming to the United States, and we are particularly in search of totally blind athletes interested in starting up teams in their local communities. Although all visual classifications are encouraged to participate, Five Aside Football/Blind Soccer is played only at its highest level, the Paralympic Games, by athletes meeting the B1 visual requirement. We recently conducted a demonstration for over one hundred students at ten state schools as part of an athletic conference meet with the goal of planting a seed of interest in the young men and women in attendance. At present the only school for the blind offering the sport is Maryland School for the Blind with the only adult team practicing out of Columbus, Ohio. We would like to find participants willing to travel to Columbus in November for a development camp where they will train for a competition in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, on December 2nd through 10th. This will be the first representation of a United States team taking part in international competition. We are currently in need of between four and six totally blind B1 classification players and one sighted or partially sighted goalkeeper.
Anyone interested in attending the November camp should contact Jim Debus at 586-876-7359. or via email at email@example.com. We would encourage the members of the National Federation of the Blind to show their pride by Like/Following and Sharing our social media pages on Facebook, Ohio Blind Soccer—Five Aside Football; Twitter at Ohio Blind Soccer, #ohioBlind; and our website www.ohioblindsoccer.weebly.com. Let’s make a difference and put blind soccer on the map here in the United States!
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.