Vol. 62, No. 1 January 2019
Gary Wunder, Editor
Distributed by email, in inkprint, in Braille, and on USB flash drive, by the
The National Federation of the Blind
Mark Riccobono, President
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National Federation of the Blind
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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.
Each issue is recorded on a thumb drive (also called a memory stick or USB flash drive). You can read this audio edition using a computer or a National Library Service digital player. The NLS machine has two slots--the familiar book-cartridge slot just above the retractable carrying handle and a second slot located on the right side near the headphone jack. This smaller slot is used to play thumb drives. Remove the protective rubber pad covering this slot and insert the thumb drive. It will insert only in one position. If you encounter resistance, flip the drive over and try again. (Note: If the cartridge slot is not empty when you insert the thumb drive, the digital player will ignore the thumb drive.) Once the thumb drive is inserted, the player buttons will function as usual for reading digital materials. If you remove the thumb drive to use the player for cartridges, when you insert it again, reading should resume at the point you stopped.
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The 2019 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place July 7 to July 12, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, 3950 South Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, Nevada 89119. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with the Mandalay Bay Resort staff only. Call 877-632-9001.
The 2019 room rate of $99 per night applies to singles and doubles as well as triples and quads. Hotel and sales taxes are 13.38 percent and 8.25 percent, respectively. The resort fee (normally $37 a night) will be waived for NFB convention attendees. However, fees for internet access, local and toll-free calls, and fitness center access may apply. The hotel will take a deposit of the first night’s room rate for each room and will require a credit card or a personal check. If you use a credit card, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately. If a reservation is cancelled before Friday, June 1, 2019, half of the deposit will be returned. Otherwise refunds will not be made.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2019, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold our room block for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.
Among its features is an aquatic playground called Mandalay Bay Beach which has real sand, a wave pool, and a lazy river. The hotel is also home to an aquarium with more than 2,000 animals including sharks, green sea turtles, and a Komodo dragon. Plus, it offers top-notch entertainment including Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque du Soleil.
The schedule for the 2019 convention is:
Sunday, July 7 Seminar Day
Monday, July 8 Registration and Resolutions Day
Tuesday, July 9 Board Meeting and Division Day
Wednesday, July 10 Opening Session
Thursday, July 11 Business Session
Friday, July 12 Banquet Day and Adjournment
Vol. 62, No. 1 January 2019
Illustration: A Choir Serenades the National Federation of the Blind
American Nightmare: How Workers with Disabilities are
Denied Economic Prosperity
by Mark A. Riccobono
Shaping Automotive Innovation for the Future: An Alliance
with the Blind of America
by Mitch Bainwol
Inaccessible Medical Devices Have Life or Death Consequences
by Anil Lewis
Leave a Legacy
Busting Myths about Disability and Personal Finance
by Kane Brolin
Las Vegas Calls to the Members of the National Federation of the Blind
by Terry Rupp
I Voted Twice
by Dan Burke
Leading with Conviction: Making Equality for People with Disabilities a
Priority for the United States of America
by Neil Romano
New JAWS and ZoomText Annual Home Licenses Now Available
through the Freedom Scientific eStore
by Curtis Chong
This is Not a Stick
by Nancy Burns
Are We Handicapped, Disabled, or Something Else?
by C. Edwin Vaughan
Building the Federation Brand Part 4: A Second Look at Our Brand Values
by Chris Danielsen
The Future Is Ours
by Ronza Othman
Why We Question the Wisdom that Leads to Low Expectations for the Blind
by Gary Wunder
Of Elvis and Structured Discovery
by Karl Smith
Copyright 2018 by the National Federation of the Blind
Each year we open our doors for tours. Some of them are for sighted people who need to learn more about us and why we exist. Some are for our members who already know what we do but deserve to see our headquarters that they are a part of building and maintaining. Some of our tours are for people from other countries, and they provide the opportunity for us to learn, teach, and extend a helping hand to our fellow blind men and women throughout the world.
We were recently visited by a delegation from the Guatemala School for the Blind. Our visitors were members of a ten-person choir, the students being composed of boys and girls ranging in age from eight to fourteen. They were accompanied by three adults, one being a blind teacher who was in charge of the choir. Of the three adults, one could speak English, so she acted as the interpreter.
Those of you who have heard the most recent presidential release received part of the gift the choir left with us. They asked to do another song which turned into a twenty-two-minute concert. It was delightful and can be found at: https://nfb.org/images/nfb/audio/misc_2018/
guatemalan-choir-1.mp3 or https://nfb.org/images/nfb/audio/misc_2018/guatemalan-choir-
The delegation was interested in many things they saw during the tour. One was the rocket made by the blind in 2004 at our Rocket On! event; they were also intrigued by the books depicting the stars. But the object that drew the most attention was Dr. tenBroek’s old cane. It is a relatively short, thin, and fragile device, and it was clear that at the time it was being used, the purpose was more for alerting the sighted to the presence of a blind traveler then to giving that blind traveler information to navigate the world independently. That cane, of course, was just the beginning of a revolution in travel that would change the cane’s primary purpose from a signpost to a badge of independence allowing for safe and efficient travel.
The children were absolutely astounded at the length of some of the canes they saw and were particularly interested in the length of Anil Lewis’s cane. They couldn’t believe that anyone would use a cane that long, so the obvious question they wanted answered was, “How tall is he?” To his initial distress, they proceeded to find out, each of them trying to reach the head of this tall, cane-using blind man.
Anna Kresmer, our librarian at the Jernigan Institute, said, “I work here because of the good things we do, but some days make it absolutely clear why this is where I belong. When they left the library, I felt very happy because it confirmed once again why this is where I work and the difference I can make.”
by Mark A. Riccobono
From the Editor: This article first appeared in The Hill on November 30, 2018, and can be found online at https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/civil-rights/419107-american-nightmare-how-workers-with-disabilities-are-denied.
“Workers paid only a few dollars per hour.” “Disabled workers exploited for profit.” “Employers pay next to nothing for manual labor.” If you read these headlines at the top of your newspaper, would you think you were reading about sweatshops in some distant, developing country? If someone were to tell you that every day hundreds of thousands of workers with disabilities are paid less, typically far less, than the minimum wage in cities like Boston, Los Angeles, Cleveland, or Salt Lake City, would you believe them? Would the thought ever cross your mind that this could happen right here in the United States?
The stark reality is that everything you just read is true. People with disabilities are paid subminimum wages, and it’s completely legal for companies to do so.
The Fair Labor Standards Act, passed in 1938, was a landmark law enacted with the specific intention of protecting the rights of American workers. It established such modern norms as a forty-hour workweek, overtime pay, restrictions against child labor, and the federal minimum wage. However, it also introduced an exception to that minimum wage with the inclusion of Section 14(c), which allows employers to obtain a special wage certificate granting the permission to pay people with disabilities at a rate “lower than the minimum wage.” There it is in black and white, discrimination codified into United States law.
According to the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, 321,131 Americans with disabilities are currently employed under 14(c) certificates. That is more than 300,000 people who are legally able to be paid less than the minimum wage by employers like major restaurant and hotel chains, consignment stores, and school districts. Even more disturbing is that the vast majority of these organizations are nonprofits, which receive set-aside government contracts for hiring workers with disabilities while paying those same workers subminimum wages. This is perhaps the most insidious and cruel form of “double-dipping.”
Many argue that giving disabled Americans something to do, even if it means paying us next to nothing, is better than us doing nothing. They will argue that earning a paycheck, even if a week’s check amounts to just a few dollars, provides a sense of dignity for disabled Americans. They argue that providing some place for disabled Americans to go, even if it is a workshop where we perform repetitive and mind-numbing labor, is better than sitting at home. They argue that all of these things foster feelings of pride and independence in disabled Americans. This misguided notion of charity is actually pity and is insulting to disabled workers because it presumes we do not know and can’t understand the value of money. I’m not convinced that anyone can feel proud and independent when their paycheck for a week of work is not enough to afford a value meal at a fast food restaurant. Are you?
To put it bluntly, Americans with disabilities do not want your pity. We want your respect. We want you to respect us enough to extend the opportunity to work in a meaningful job, to work side-by-side with you toward a common goal, and most importantly to earn a living wage so that we can be independent.The American Dream is generally understood as the opportunity for anyone, regardless of background, to achieve success and prosperity through hard work and determination. Section 14(c) creates a second class of citizens, based solely on disability, who are unable to experience the benefits of that dream. Americans with disabilities are determined, we are willing, and we are most definitely able to work hard, but regardless of how hard we work, success and prosperity will always be well out of reach as long as Section 14(c) is on the books. Our nation’s commitment to end discrimination against people with disabilities must include ending the payment of subminimum wages, otherwise it is nothing more than a hollow platitude.
by Mitch Bainwol
From the Editor: At the 2018 National Convention on the afternoon of July 8, 2018, Mark Riccobono said, “I have pages and pages of introduction for our speaker. The most important thing for you to know is that Mitch Bainwol has the responsibility of leading the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an organization that has come to be a true friend of the blind of America and has helped us provide leadership in both pedestrian safety and in the emerging area of autonomous vehicles. As you heard in the presidential report, we were honored to be part of a number of events in the autonomous vehicle space with the alliance over the past year that demonstrate that they recognize that when it comes to making sure that the automotive industry of autonomous vehicles thinks about equal access for blind people, there’s one organization to call, and that’s the National Federation of the Blind. Here is our friend, our colleague, Mitch Bainwol.”
Good afternoon, everybody. It’s great to be here in Orlando. I’ve been in the room for about an hour, and I can tell you I am blown away by the joy, the energy, the passion—congratulations to Hans [a cofounder of Be My Eyes, who received a Bolotin Award] and all the other award winners. So I’m going to take a few minutes and talk about our partnership and talk about technology. I’m really proud to represent the auto industry in Washington and in all fifty states, especially at this remarkable time for mobility, and I bring greetings from the most dysfunctional city in America—so thanks for the excuse to escape.
Before I jump in, let me thank President Mark Riccobono, Vice President and Board Chair Pam Allen, the NFB’s amazing staff, and all of you for this warm welcome. I really appreciate it. I hardly ever travel on Sundays, and I’m going on from here later today to California. I’m going to be with Secretary [of Transportation Elaine] Chao in San Francisco, but I really wanted to take this opportunity to be here to say thank you and to share some thoughts about the amazing technology that is revolutionizing transportation today and what these developments mean for society and for you.
While I’m honored to be here as a speaker, I’m even more humbled and delighted by the productive and uniquely strong relationship we’ve forged in recent years. Our partnership between the nation’s foremost advocacy group for the blind and its foremost alliance of automobile manufacturers is sure to make a difference. The faster the pace of change, the better. Working together we can and we will accelerate the enormous benefits innovation offers for everyone.
Topping the list in our collaboration has been the Coalition for Future Mobility, a pioneering network that joins dozens of advocacy groups, associations, and companies together in the fight to speed up the deployment of self-driving vehicles. This is an active coalition, and everyone in the game has stepped up. But no organization has been more committed or more effective than the NFB. [applause] NFB’s push for a regulatory framework in Washington and the states that will foster the rapid development of these AVs, [autonomous vehicles] the partnership has already yielded success: we passed the bill in the House of Representatives unanimously. When passed by the Senate, this act will create national rules facilitating the development and testing of self-driving cars, cut through the chaos of different state laws, and provide a mechanism for large-scale testing once key safety standards have been met. That large-scale testing is essential to get these cars on the road so that you can be in them.
Importantly, this testing will also offer special provisions to protect access by the disabled, including people with visual impairments. The NFB has been invaluable in this mission. Self-driving technologies promise to yield a huge dividend for the mobility of persons who are blind across the states. You know that, but politicians didn’t know that, but they’re learning fast. Together, we’re going to push for Senate passage, and I’m optimistic that this common-sense, bipartisan bill will soon become law.
I was also honored last September to join Mark at an event in Michigan with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao when the secretary unveiled a paradigm-shifting revision in the government’s policy for autonomous vehicles. That Mark was featured at the event shows the respect and importance the NFB plays in the policy process at the very highest levels of government. At that event Mark said it very well, he said it perfectly: “The development of self-driving vehicles will remove the artificial barriers of the past that have hindered mobility and accessibility for the blind and push toward a future in which sightedness does not determine mobility.”
Secretary Chao’s vision of the future focuses on three highlights: vehicle safety for all, flexibility for auto makers to experiment with new technologies, and clarity in the legal framework. In recognition of our ongoing partnership and the NFB’s pioneering push toward the self-driving future, the Auto Alliance this past January recognized Mark with the inaugural Autos2050 Innovation Award. He was up there in a room with about seven or eight major innovators from across the globe who are working with the technology. Mark is obviously driving not the technology but the policy, and everybody has got a huge piece of this puzzle. [applause]
All of these initiatives, as Mark mentioned, built on our earlier collaboration on the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, which mandated that a sound be added to electric vehicles so that people who are blind or visually impaired can hear the vehicles approaching. I’m eager to see how our partnership moves forward into the future.
So where are we? Let me tell you where we are: the answer is we’re in the midst of an historic transportation revolution. It began a long time ago in 1956 when then-President Eisenhower signed the law establishing our nation’s highway system linking every major city in the country into a seamless network of high-speed roads. It enabled the growth of suburbs and allowed the movement of people and goods with remarkable speed and convenience. This is still the paradigm we operate with today, but the system is under strain. Congestion is everywhere. Americans spend billions of hours every year in traffic. Roads are far safer than they were in 1950 by a factor of probably seven to one, but an unacceptable number of injuries and fatalities still plague our streets and highways. And for many the freedom of mobility remains unnecessarily and unacceptably elusive. Dramatic change is coming, though; it’s happening as we meet.
Looking ahead, by 2056, one hundred years after Eisenhower’s visionary leadership on automotive transportation, autonomous vehicles will be virtually ubiquitous. Every car on the road in 2055 or so will be self-driving, revolutionizing the way we conceive of mobility yet again. Self-driving vehicles, enabled by cutting-edge sensors, can travel faster and closer together, cutting commute times, easing congestion, saving fuel costs, and lessening harmful emissions. They can free occupants to work on other tasks in the car, enhancing freedom and productivity. And most importantly, self-driving cars will all but eliminate the more than 90 percent of traffic accidents and fatalities that occur from human error. For you, however, the impact of self-driving cars will be far more personal, be more transformative, and more powerful. Mobility in most of the US today depends on driving. Those who are unable to drive see their opportunities for employment and education diminished. Many people who are blind are forced to rely on costly ride-sharing services or taxies—you know this better than I—or depend on inefficient public transportation and paratransit providers. In rural areas in particular, options are even more limited. This reduced mobility is a major factor contributing to the higher rate of unemployment among the blind.
Auto makers want to help solve this problem. We’re approaching a future in which every blind or visually impaired person can own and operate a car, offering seamless point-to-point service through voice-operated self-driving technology. I’m going to say that one more time: we are approaching a future in which every blind or visually impaired person can own and operate a car offering seamless point-to-point service through voice-operated self-driving technology. [applause] The simple ability to commute by car to work, school, doctor’s appointments, restaurants, cultural opportunities, church, and more—taken for granted by most—will finally, finally be made available to all.
This transformation is already begun. Nearly all major auto companies are hard at work creating the autonomous vehicles of the future, and self-driving technologies like parking assist, lane correction, and automatic braking are already standard features in many new vehicles.
Change is coming, of that we are sure. The only real question is the timetable, the speed of change. In my experience there are two types of politicians: those who are cautious to a fault, hesitant to allow new innovations for fear of the consequences. They’re more concerned with how things have been done in the past than how they’ll be done in the future. They prefer protection to innovation. Perfection is the standard they demand, even if that standard ultimately equals paralysis and stagnation. The second type of politicians are those who embrace the future, who foster the next generation of solutions, and welcome transformative change. These to me—and I suspect to you—are the real heroes. The questions around autonomous vehicles are more political than they are technological. Some states like Nebraska just weeks ago have chosen to lead in the new frontier, allowing manufacturers to test new technologies and eliminating fees on self-driving vehicles. Right here in Florida, State Senator Jeff Brandes and Governor Rick Scott also have been leaders in getting self-driving vehicles on the road by eliminating legal and regulatory obstacles. They’ve ensured that autonomous vehicle technology will be considered in future planning by Florida cities. Other states have opted to go the opposite way: taxing these vehicles, restricting their operation, and putting road blocks in the way of deployment. Developments in Washington and in state capitols over the coming months will determine which approach prevails: the leaning forward approach or the leaning backward approach.
The alliance will always push for innovation and progress, but we cannot do it without your voice. The NFB has been an invaluable partner in the push for standardized, forward-looking, national framework for self-driving vehicles. Those who are blind and visually impaired have too much at stake to allow trepidation and fear to impede progress toward a future that prioritizes mobility for all. We can’t slam the brakes on progress, and we won’t. This is a battle we will fight, and we will win. Your passion—which I’ve seen evidence of in the room today—can make the difference.
I want to close with this call to action for each of you. Make your voices heard where ever you live from Augusta to Honolulu, from Tallahassee to Olympia, and especially in Washington, DC. Remember that line from the movie Network, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” That should be our theme, it should be our message, and that is our joint calling. Make it known that self-driving vehicles will revolutionize the way you live your life, and dare any politician to deny that simple human urge of free movement. No more excuses: let’s pass the law and liberate mobility. [applause] The future is in our hands; we only need to reach out and take it. I’m proud to say that the nation’s auto makers will fight this fight with you every step of the way. Thank you, and congratulations on a great conference. [applause]
by Anil Lewis
From the Editor: In successfully dealing with blindness we talk a lot about alternative techniques. If I can’t see when the bacon is crisp, is there another way to tell? Yes, there is. If I’m pouring a cup of coffee, can I tell when the cup is getting full, short of it overflowing? Of course. When using equipment made for the sighted, we can often figure out alternative ways to memorize the buttons, learn the calibration of the knobs, or count clicks. Sometimes we can set the temperature of an oven if we know that each time it is started, it begins at a specific temperature and that each beep raises or lowers the temperature by five degrees. All of these techniques let us use equipment out of the box, but when we talk about medical equipment, the consequences of error are significant. If my oven begins with a temperature of 325, I try to set it at 450, and because I miss a beep I am at 425, this is usually not a disaster. A few more minutes in the oven means I come out with a clean knife. But if I am measuring an injectable drug, one missed beep may completely change the effect of the dose. Even this assumes that the medical equipment being used accurately beeps for each incremental change or that it beeps at all. Not all equipment does. Pressing a button to elevate the dose may cause an increase of one unit; accidentally holding that button a little longer often means that the unit scrolls more rapidly, so all bets are off in terms of the number that I have when I remove my finger. Again, the result is far worse than burned bacon or biscuits.
Blind people should not have to guess when it comes to settings on a piece of equipment that is digital. What can be displayed can easily be spoken. Whether equipment uses buttons or touch screens, we have examples of programs that allow blind people to use both. The quality of life for blind people is too important to leave to chance or even to the development of alternative techniques if we can devise them. When it comes to equipment that can determine life or death, a blind person should not have to be at the top of his or her game to figure out some innovative way to make a device for a sighted person work for one who is blind. Here is what the National Federation of the Blind is doing about this most insidious issue:
Diabetic retinopathy is one of the largest causes of blindness, yet the technology that allows individuals to monitor and cope with this disease remains fundamentally inaccessible to blind people. Blind people, as a subset of society, are also affected by other diseases like cancer but have no independent access to the technologies that help manage these diseases. Medical technology that allows individuals to independently administer dialysis and chemotherapy treatments in the home is inaccessible and creates an unnecessary dependence on others. The National Federation of the Blind is working to increase the accessibility of medical technologies so that blind people can live the lives we want.
At our 2016 National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind, our members passed Resolution 2016-16. This resolution highlighted the “Technology Bill of Rights for Individuals with Diabetes and Vision Loss” that asserts meaningful access to the same life-changing diabetes information, diagnostic tools, and treatments as are available to others. These rights should be universal to blind people regardless of their medical condition.
Blind people struggle to use the limited, makeshift tools and strategies available to us to care for ourselves, while the rest of the world is on insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors that they can fully access safely and independently. Using workaround strategies in order to access medical equipment puts blind people unnecessarily at risk. We seek to remove this risk by making the technology nonvisually accessible to the blind through tactile markers, speech, large print, and/or Braille access. When done correctly, this is simpler than most people think and enhances innovation with little to no additional cost.
In January of 2018, we launched the NFB Accessible Medical Technology Working Group, a forum through which we can identify priorities and share ideas for increasing the accessibility of medical devices and apps, because unlike most other technologies, medical devices have life-or-death consequences.
Medical technology that can be used in the home, accessed using a smartphone app, and sometimes worn on the body empowers individuals with confidence, convenience, flexibility, and improved quality of life. These devices can collect and transmit information directly to medical professionals, eliminating the need for in-person doctor visits and reducing overall medical expenses.
It is imperative that blind people be involved in the process of making these devices accessible. Blind people interested in working on this taskforce should join our NFB Accessible Medical Equipment Discussion Group by visiting: http://nfbnet.org/mailman/listinfo/accessible-medical-equipment-discussion-group_nfbnet.org. As a member of this discussion group, you will be informed about our current efforts, be able to provide input and suggestions, and volunteer to assist with the evaluation and development of accessible medical technology.
Through our NFB Accessible Medical Technology Working Group, we are seeking to establish relationships with manufacturers that will allow us to leverage their desire to develop innovative, life-sustaining medical technologies with our expertise in accessibility. Through this initiative, we are working to get ahead of the curve by encouraging the developers of these technologies to take accessibility into consideration during the design and development phase.Manufacturers of medical technology interested in partnering with the National Federation of the Blind should email email@example.com with the contact information for your representative and information on your product. We will follow up to determine how we can work together to make your product accessible.
For more than seventy-five years the National Federation of the Blind has worked to transform the dreams of hundreds of thousands of blind people into reality, and with your support we will continue to do so for decades to come. We sincerely hope you will plan to be a part of our enduring movement by adding the National Federation of the Blind as a partial beneficiary in your will. A gift to the National Federation of the Blind in your will is more than just a charitable, tax-deductible donation. It is a way to join in the work to help blind people live the lives they want that leaves a lasting imprint on the lives of thousands of blind children and adults.
With your help, the NFB will continue to:
Plan to Leave a Legacy
Creating a will gives you the final say in what happens to your possessions and is the only way to be sure that your remaining assets are distributed according to your passions and beliefs. Many people fear creating a will or believe it’s not necessary until they are much older. Others think that it’s expensive and confusing. However, it is one of the most important things you will do, and with new online legal programs it is easier and cheaper than ever before. If you do decide to create or revise your will, consider the National Federation of the Blind as a partial beneficiary. Visit www.nfb.org/planned-giving or call 410-659-9314, extension 2422, for more information. Together with love, hope, determination, and your support, we will continue to transform dreams into reality.
Invest in Opportunity
The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. A donation to the National Federation of the Blind allows you to invest in a movement that removes the fear from blindness. Your investment is your vote of confidence in the value and capacity of blind people and reflects the high expectations we have for all blind Americans, combating the low expectations that create obstacles between blind people and our dreams.
In 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.
Vehicle Donation Program
The NFB now accepts donated vehicles, including cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, or recreational vehicles. Just call 855-659-9314 toll-free, and a representative can make arrangements to pick up your donation—it doesn’t have to be working. We can also answer any questions you have.
General donations help support the ongoing programs of the NFB and the work to help blind people live the lives they want. Donate online with a credit card or through the mail with check or money order. Visit www.nfb.org/make-gift for more information.
Even if you can’t afford a gift right now, including the National Federation of the Blind in your will enables you to contribute by expressing your commitment to the organization and promises support for future generations of blind people across the country. Visit www.nfb.org/planned-giving or call 410-659-9314, extension 2422, for more information.
Through the Pre-Authorized Contribution (PAC) program, supporters sustain the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind by making recurring monthly donations by direct withdraw of funds from a checking account or a charge to a credit card. To enroll, visit www.nfb.org/make-gift, and complete the Pre-Authorized Contribution form, and return it to the address listed on the form.
by Kane Brolin
From the Editor: Kane Brolin and his wife Danika have been self-employed for nearly twenty years. Most recently, Kane has been working as the owner/operator of a financial planning and brokerage business based in Mishawaka, Indiana. Having been totally blind since infancy, Kane serves as president of the Michiana Chapter in the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana, and when this article was posted, he was serving as president of a small private school board as well.
But Kane has vivid memories of a seven-year stretch of time when he was unable to land full-time employment, even after attaining a bachelor’s degree and even though he had worked continuously part-time for years. That struggle to land work—or even a second interview for a job—is something he can call to mind as clearly now as if it had happened yesterday. It gives him a heart for the 70 percent of blind, working-age Americans who are unemployed, even now in 2019. Experience has taught him that the condition of unemployment is not always caused by a lack of jobs. Sometimes blind Social Security or Medicaid recipients choose to remain unemployed because they are frightened they will lose benefits—especially health benefits—that have been critical to their financial survival. Now that the most recent recession is over and given that jobs and accessible technology solutions are more plentiful than ever, Kane feels we are living in a window of opportunity like never before. While that window remains open, it’s time for us to step up and raise our own expectations of ourselves and to realize that getting a job does not have to threaten our survival, nor does it have to lead to our being deemed ineligible for the government-sponsored benefits that have served us as a lifeline. Here is what he says:
It seems the internet has become a great leveler. Just a click or two can make any of us sound like an expert. And let’s face it: The only thing more stimulating than taking part in a heated debate is feeling like we’ve won that debate. But would you trust your child’s financial future—or your own, for that matter—to an internet search engine or an online discussion forum?
Recently while perusing an email list for parents of children who live with visual impairment, I ran across some well-intentioned advice meant to help one of the listers figure out how to save for her daughter’s college education. There was only one problem: the advice presented was wrong.
As a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional, I have learned over more than a decade that often the best thing I can do is prevent a client from making irreversible, costly mistakes. While qualifying to hold the Chartered Special Needs Consultant™ designation, I learned that if you’re investing for the future needs of a son or daughter with a disability, some mistakes are so costly that they may disqualify your family member from receiving critical, government-sponsored benefits such as Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid. At the very least, not understanding the characteristics of the investment product you could be buying could dramatically lower the amount of money your son or daughter will have access to when it comes time to spend some of it. So let’s bust two myths that I find to be annoyingly persistent in today’s marketplace.
If I am the recipient of SSI, SSDI, Medicare, or Medicaid, going to work will cut off my benefits. It’s not worth it. Not only is this statement false, believing it prevents many people with a disability from attempting to earn higher education, because they think that working full-time at any job eventually will deprive them of health benefits or much-needed home- and community-based services from Medicaid. Why try for a college degree if there is no way to use that degree later without risking financial ruin? What a lot of people don’t realize is that the Social Security Administration has an incentive program called Ticket to Work whose purpose is to help recipients of SSI, SSDI, Medicare, and Medicaid transition into the workplace without sacrificing their benefits. By drawing from expert advice, keeping good records, and wisely using impairment-related work expenses to offset earnings from employment on your income tax returns, working gainfully might be more lucrative and less painful than you think. To find a Work Incentives Planning and Assistance program that serves your area or an employment network with a benefits counselor, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 866-968-7842 or for TTY users 866-833-2967 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time.
If I’m disabled, even if I have prosperous people in my family who could contribute to my standard of living, I must remain destitute, or else I lose eligibility for SSI, SSDI, Medicare, or Medicaid. Not necessarily true. You would do well to remember a couple of facts that many miss. First, if it is Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) that you receive, “there is no limit to the amount of assets, cash, or resources you own.” SSI and Medicaid do impose strict limits on the value of cash or investment assets that may be held in your name directly. But, thanks to the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, signed into law in 2014, disabled Americans now have access to the ABLE account. This account, which can receive contributions from many different sources, is a place where money can grow through tax-favored capital gains, dividends, and interest income. Then, it may be used for your benefit without jeopardizing your eligibility for government programs. How may this money be used? For “qualified disability expenses” related to the individual’s disability or blindness and made for his/her benefit in maintaining or improving health, independence, or quality of life, including:
So take heart. Living with a disability can be challenging on many levels. But don’t let the fear of enforced impoverishment stop you from taking risks, gaining skills, and working toward a productive and affluent future. Do your homework, seek the advice of legal and financial professionals, and—above all—don’t let the fearful things some people say stop you before you start.
Taken from SSI Spotlight on Impairment-Related Work Expenses, published by the Social Security Administration.
See Money Mondays: Wage Reporting - Myths, Tips and Ticket to Work, published on May 15, 2017, by the Social Security Administration.
Quoted from Is There a Social Security Disability Asset Limit? | DisabilitySecrets.
Taken from Promoting Access and Inclusion in ABLE Programs: New Opportunities for Saving, Financial Inclusion, and Economic Security for Individuals with Disabilities and Their Families, published by the ABLE National Resource Center.
by Terri Rupp
From the Editor: Terri Rupp is the energetic president of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada. The Nevada and Idaho affiliates are our hosts for the 2019 National Convention, and here is how Terri tempts those of us who will join her in Las Vegas:
We all waited anxiously for the big announcement last July revealing where the 2019 NFB National Convention would be held. I had my suspicions, but I would not confirm them to anyone. At the end of the national board meeting, when the final reveal was made, the crowd erupted with whoops of excitement. During the week of July 7 through 12, 2019, our Federation family will gather at the Mandalay Bay Resort in fabulous Las Vegas.
The first recognizable thoughts to make it out of my head from the news that the national convention was coming to my hometown were, “This is going to be great! Vegas isn’t going to be the same after #NFB19. Talk about an amazing opportunity: I get to welcome my Federation family to my hometown.”
It wasn’t until the excitement fizzled just a bit that the words of the worried ones reached my ears. As blind people, we are all too familiar with the common myths and misconceptions that surround blindness. The same goes for Las Vegas. When I asked my friends and family in Facebook-land what their first thoughts were when they thought of Las Vegas, I heard the typical things like: the Strip, casinos, shows, crowds, etc. Then there were these other responses: endless desert beauty, great healthy food choices everywhere, family, community, home.
We all have our expectations of what something might be like based on things we may have heard from others or watched in movies. Before my first trip to Las Vegas, I had those same thoughts. I had no idea that the city was more like a large, spread-out suburb. I naively thought the famous Las Vegas Strip sat in the middle of a sandy desert. I paid no attention to who those people might be that worked in those big fancy casinos. Those people who clean the rooms, prepare and serve the food, perform in the shows: those people are people just like you and me. They go home to families, take their kids to school, spend time outdoors in the gorgeous hills that our valley is nestled in, and go on vacations to national parks, Disney World, and other typical tourist attractions. These people are part of what make up my community. The community where my children were born, the community that came together and healed together after tragedy struck our loved ones on October 1, 2017. This is the city I am proud to call home.
If you are wondering what an NFB National Convention will be like in Las Vegas, you are not alone. We have grown quite accustomed to planning our convention week in Orlando. It’s about time for some change. For instance, travel to Las Vegas is extremely inexpensive by air and can easily be made by road from our neighboring states of Arizona, California, Utah, Idaho, and Oregon. We will no longer be limited to the same food choices we’ve been eating. Get your taste buds ready to experience an explosion of flavors from simple quick-service food to extravagant fine dining prepared by famous chefs. Are you wondering if convention in Vegas will be family-friendly? I’d like to point out that I have two young children myself. This convention, like every other convention, is an event for the entire family, from the young to the old. Just like the Federation has something to offer for everyone of all ages, so does Las Vegas. When you’re not busy soaking up what you can in our seminars and workshops, when you’re not in general session with a few thousand fellow Federationists, soak up the sun in the lazy river or wave pool at the Mandalay Bay. Just be sure to remember the sunscreen and stay hydrated. Not a fan of the heat? No problem. I actually highly recommend keeping a sweater with you at all times because the hotels are kept quite cold. You can spend your down time with the kids touching sting rays and sitting inside a sunken ship with sharks swimming around you at the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef Aquarium. Want to venture off the resort property? Your choices are endless. Take Uber or Lyft to get up Las Vegas Boulevard to downtown where you’ll find famous Fremont Street, and hop on one of the double decker busses known as the Deuce. Many hotels are connected by sky bridges and a monorail as well. Whatever your pleasure, just be mindful that you’re not the only tourist. Most people you encounter on the Strip will most likely be visitors just like you and won’t know where they are going either.
As you make your plans for the 2019 NFB National Convention, I suggest planning an extra day for your stay for play. Lastly: don’t forget the sunscreen.
by Dan Burke
From the Editor: Dan Burke served as the president of the NFB of Montana for nine years and on the NFB board of directors for five years. Currently he is the public relations specialist at the Colorado Center for the Blind and teaches a college prep class there for students headed for higher education. Dan describes how despite electronic voting machines being physically available for Colorado voters, their actual functionality for blind voters was less than we have the right to expect. Here is what he says:
I wore a sticker on Election Day that said "I Voted," but it should have said "I Voted Twice!" I know a handful of other blind Coloradans who also voted two, sometimes three times.
Maybe a sticker saying, "I voted—again and again ..."?
This isn't about voter fraud. This is about the failure of equal access to our right to vote privately and independently. This is about blind voters standing firm in the face of this failure.
You see, our first times through the ballot were not recorded. The problem, and the reason we all voted again, was that the electronic voting system deployed across Colorado that the law requires to ensure our right to vote privately and independently failed us. Once, twice, and in at least one case three times it failed individual blind voters in Arapahoe County. And it happened in at least four different polling locations. One blind voter tried two times, and the system crashed each time. Finally, frustrated and worn out, he made the unhappy choice to revert to the dark age of voting for the blind—he told a poll judge what his votes were and trusted that they would be recorded accurately.
Those days should be behind us. As of 2006, all polling places were required by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to have electronic voting machines. That was in response to dimpled, pregnant, and hanging chads in Florida 2000. But the law also required that those machines—or at least some of them in every polling place—would be accessible to voters with disabilities, including blind voters. We in the National Federation of the Blind made sure that last was true, that a blind person could vote privately and independently with nonvisual access. That is the America we envisioned. And it's almost come true.
Frustratingly, it's only almost. It's only sometimes.
For years Colorado left the choice of accessible voting systems up to each county. In 2015 it decided to pick one vendor and have all the counties use that same system. That's how we got the present Dominion voting system. The trouble with the selection process was that blind people weren't at the table. We didn't even get a call until the field testing of the four finalists. On a day or two's notice, the NFB of Colorado was asked to send testers to three of the four locations testing individual systems. Another blind person had been found to test the system tested in Denver County. As it happens, that was the machine that was chosen. But blind people were just an afterthought. Not actually at the table, we were tossed table scraps. And then Colorado's Secretary of State made an eight-year agreement with Dominion.
Some counties just rolled out their Dominion systems this election, but Arapahoe deployed it in 2016. So far, I only know of Arapahoe County problems in 2018, which seems counter-intuitive. But the fact is that Julie and I voted in the primary in June without incident. The Wednesday before election day we went to a nearby polling place, and the judges couldn't get the system to the first contest, even with two phone calls to the elections help desk. We left after forty-five minutes without voting. Monday, the day before election day, we went to another polling place. We sat side-by-side at different machines. Julie's machine worked fine. Mine crashed after I completed all forty-five contests. By crashed I mean it reset itself. The poll supervisor was like an ER doctor trying to resuscitate an accident victim--valiant, but no hope. In Colorado our ballots are not recorded electronically. There is nothing to count until the ballot has printed, and you can drop it in the slot. For me, and all of my friends who voted more than once, the system crashed before we ever got to the point of printing the ballot. They too had to vote again. And maybe again.
In the twelve years since HAVA put accessible voting machines into polling places, I think I have experienced problems in voting as many as half the times I've been to the polls. And I go to the polls for every election. So this means the past five years since I moved to Colorado, and the preceding seven years in Missoula County, Montana. This just isn't good enough, and I hope by now you, dear reader, have the feeling that I'm mad as hell.
It only took a few swipes through my Facebook feed on election day to see that things are much the same with blind voters across the country. Many experienced flawless access, voting privately and independently. Many others experienced barriers. Nationwide, it seems, the promise of private, independent access for the blind is not yet fully realized.
I know we can work with our county clerk and recorder to figure out where the problems are and take steps to fix things that are within the county's control. But this is a statewide system, so we also need to contact Secretary-elect Jena Griswold. Dominion, the company who has our Colorado contract for six more years needs to step up. We want and deserve a system that does more than go "clunk" half the time. And one of the ways to ensure that is to have blind people testing and evaluating the system and modifications long before they hit our polling places.
We need to fix this, because we're not going away. All of us blind Colorado voters whose franchise was jacked around this week kept coming back, kept voting until it counted. That's because we count, and we will be counted. And I'll be damned if I report my vote to someone else to mark down ever again.
by Neil Romano
From the Editor: Saturday afternoon President Riccobono opened the session, and our first presenter was the honorable Neil Romano. Here is how the President introduced him:
"Our first speaker this afternoon is chair of the National Council on Disability, an independent, non-partisan federal agency that advises the president, Congress, and other federal agencies on disability policy. He was appointed to NCD [National Council on Disability] by Congress in 2015, and he's now in his second term. He has dedicated his career to the marketing of ideas and messages to help save lives and promote public policy, and he's been successful in a variety of endeavors. You may know him from his previous work. In 2007 he was nominated by President George W. Bush to be the assistant secretary of labor for disability policy and was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate. In that position he led disability employment policy initiatives across the federal agencies. And on February 26, 2018, the president of the United States appointed him the chair of NCD. He didn't waste any time on making it clear what his priorities would be. He has many priorities, but there's one that he's pursuing more doggedly than any of the others, and it is the complete elimination of 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. [applause] Here to address us in his hometown of Orlando is Neil Romano:"
Thank you very much, President Riccobono. I have to tell you it's rare that I'm in a room that is so alive, holy smokes. [cheers] I was saying to Congressman Soto before I got up here: I just keep waiting for someone to say, "The great state of Tennessee gives fifteen votes to president . . ." This is an amazing convention! Congratulations to the planning committee and all the folks who do this. What this means when a person comes to something like this, is that there's great leadership and great cause and great purpose that we are looking for here.
Obviously I'm delighted to be here to address the National Federation of the Blind for a lot of reasons, but I'd also like to take an opportunity to say thank you. Over the last so many years, every time it seems that I'm up for some appointment or other in the federal government—you know, no one ever knows how you get these things, it's some kind of magic, all of a sudden your name appears on a list. And then all of a sudden on that list you either rise or fall. You get really embarrassed. It shows up in the newspaper, and no one's ever heard of you. No one understands the alchemy or the magic of how it all happens, but I have to tell you, over the last number of years the NFB has consistently supported me in my efforts. I want to thank you for that, [applause] and I have to say that I am going to do everything that I can to make you happy and proud that you supported me. [applause, cheers] Oddly, it's not just because I want to make you guys happy. It's because I know that with the NFB, if I'm doing something that makes you happy, I am doing something that is good for people with disabilities and Americans. [applause] So thank you.
President Riccobono's responsibility is to give you an introduction of me; he has to say something about me. I don't come with the cache of a congressman. You know who that is. You know what he does. You know how hard he worked to get there. But who is this guy? He has to give you some background on me because the planning committee doesn't want you to think they just picked me up in the hallway to fill fifteen minutes. So you get this image of a person, and they tell you things like I was the director of communications for President Reagan, I served as assistant secretary of labor and on and on, and you heard all of that. But I have to tell you, hearing what I did doesn't necessarily communicate who I am, and more importantly, why I believe what I believe, and why you can understand that I will be consistent and hard-working for you as the chairman of NCD.
So I'm now going to tell you a little about me, as briefly as I can.
You are hearing from a person who has suffered—I wouldn't say suffered—but who has serious dyslexia and spent much of his life ashamed of his limited ability to read and write and truly understands the crushing weight of low expectations. I'm going to stop and tell you something funny—oh my God, he just killed his dramatic line. Well I've got a couple more; don't worry about it. I've got a couple of real nasty barbs too—I come from a working-class Italian-American family back in Brooklyn. [cheers] Let's hear it Brooklyn, let's hear it New York, New Jersey—thank you guys.
When I was selected to be the assistant secretary of labor for the United states, it was shocking to me. I was in a store buying CDs, and I got a call on my cell phone. The person on the other side of the call said the president would like to talk to you, and I said, “Yes, of course I’ll speak to the president of the United States.” I think the woman behind me thought it was just the most amazing pickup line I was making up.
He said, "Neil, you know you've been complaining and moaning and going around the country talking about this 14(c) thing that you hate and all these other things. How'd you like to put your money where your mouth is and be my assistant secretary?"
I said, "Well, Mr. President, when you put it that way, what can I say? Of course."
So what did I do? I hung up, and what would any good Italian kid from Brooklyn do? I picked up the phone and called my mom. I said, "Mom, I just got off the phone with the president, and he's asked me to be the assistant secretary of labor." My God, we're printers, my family. My mother was extraordinarily quiet, quiet to the point where I thought she'd fainted. I thought, oh my mother in Brooklyn is laying on the floor; this is awful. I finally said, "Mom, are you okay?"
She said, "Yeah, I'm fine. But does the president know you can't spell?" [laughter]
Sometimes low expectations are just inherent, and they're not always mean. It's just what people believe. You also don't know that I was raised with a cousin with Down syndrome my entire life. She taught me that her hopes, her dreams, her desires were not the slightest bit different from mine. [cheers, applause] And she had within herself the most pronounced idea of freedom I have ever known. Which makes it interesting when I hear people say to me, "Well, they don't really know what they want. They don't really want to make money."
That's not their expectations. I guess you need to know that my father's best friend his entire life until the day he died was a blind evangelist who some of you may have heard of. He was from here in Florida, and his name was Ralph Montanus. We never marveled at the fact of what he could do as a blind man. We marveled at the fact that a man who's dedicated to other people could really affect the lives of millions of people worldwide. My understanding of blind people is based on an executive who worked very, very hard and achieved. I have a brother who recently passed who was a Vietnam veteran who was a quadriplegic from the war. And I got to see what love means in a family that makes people in bad situations do better. But I also saw the obstacles caused by bureaucracy that often make the care of loved ones a full-time and lonely job.
Finally, my resumé doesn't give you any indication at all that standing before you is an older man who grapples with the daily effects of leukemia and now faces the unexpected physical and often emotional changes of knowing the name of what will take him.
I tell you all of this because you need to know that as your chairman—your chairman—of NCD, I'm not someone who's learned my lessons from things I've read. I'm not someone who's taken the time to learn things from books, and I have no constituency besides you. I have no constituency besides us! [applause]
Let me talk a little bit about—you know, I'm running out of time already, which is shocking. They're probably saying, "When the heck is he getting to the NCD stuff?" Well, eventually. But John [Paré] already took away my 14(c) piece; what's next? Anyway, at NCD we have a series of priorities, and I'm going to run through them. We have many of them, but I'm just going to highlight four that mean a great deal to us. One of them is—it's funny, I have an intro what 14(c) is, but I don't think I need it in this room, do I? Can you imagine, for one moment, a law which allows Americans with disabilities to be paid less than minimum wage? Can anyone imagine any other group in America that would allow that and that there would not be civil war? Can you imagine if one day there was a law that said that women under the height of 5' 1" could not work in America, or if they hadn't achieved a certain weight couldn't do something? It would be a war, and rightfully so, because it's unfair. But we have a codification, a law, that indeed says it is so, there are people who cannot do productive work. I do not accept that, and neither do you. [applause]
NCD will be redoubling our efforts to eliminate this practice by answering the often-deceptive claims and scare tactics of the lobbyists who slither their way through our halls of Congress offering their dogma of gloom. This year NCD will visit the six states and numerous programs that have voluntarily eliminated their 14(c) certificates and have not experienced the dire consequences predicted by those merchants of hopelessness. NCD will also continue its much, much, much appreciated partnership with this organization as we continue to do things like congressional briefings and strategy meetings, which are more often than not led by some of the people in this room, including my good friend over here, John Paré. [applause]
Another priority that NCD is going to be looking at has to do with what we call cradle-to-grave bioethic issues. These are issues that generally don't get talked about. These are issues that people are sometimes quite afraid of. These are issues that as we talk about healthcare in America for people with disabilities don't often get raised, but they have the most significant impact emotionally and ethically on some of those decisions. We're going to ask the question is it acceptable to use genetic testing as a tool to eliminate entire categories of people with genetic differences and have the audacity to call that a cure? [applause] Do we agree with the medical model that sometimes considers some lives less worthy of life because of the potential of a disability? Is it possible that this very mindset is one of the reasons why people still have negative attitudes about people with disabilities in America?
You know, I have to say something, and I'm just going to say it. I have literally heard people say, "Can you believe that that person had that child, even though they knew he would be born blind?" I'm sure some of you have heard it. And is there anything more terrifying than someone making a statement like that? Should we be having a debate in 2018 about whether people with disabilities should be allowed organ transplants? And is it acceptable under any condition for the words "guardianship" and "assisted suicide" to be spoken in the sentence—ever?
We move to transportation—and I'm moving along quickly—but frankly this is a real simple one. NCD has been one of the leaders in the field of autonomous vehicles because we understand a simple thing: if you can't get to work, you can't work. [applause] I mean, there isn't a lot more that you can say about that. If you can't get around, it makes your experience and your ability to find happiness and financial support and security almost impossible. So we're working with the United States Department of Transportation on almost a daily basis to make sure that your views and the views of people with disabilities across this country are represented in the private meetings and in the conference rooms where things like autonomous vehicles are being discussed.
And finally, I'm just going to touch very briefly on parental rights. NCD recently issued a report on the abuse of parental rights for people with disabilities. I asked my team to put together a brief summary that tells me what the problems are, even though I worked on the survey, and what some of our solutions were. You know what: after they sent me this nice forty-page paper, I decided to sum it up this way: no parent should ever have a child taken away from them simply because they have a disability. Period. [applause, cheers] Disability is not a crime. Period. [applause] And I'll be darned if I am going to accept some judge somewhere who makes a decision that they have a better idea what to do with our children than the love of a parent. [applause]
In closing, I just want to say that these are fundamentals to us as Americans. You know that we have the Constitution, but the Declaration of Independence says that we are "endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Everything we talked about today has to do with that statement, and it's our responsibility—everyone in this audience, everyone at NCD, my friends in Congress, all of us—to remember daily that it's our responsibility as citizens to pay forward the promise of liberty and to make America more inclusive and more equal for every human being. Thank you. [applause]
by Curtis Chong
From the Editor: Curtis Chong has a long history of advocacy for blind people, holding many offices in the Federation, working as our director of technology at the Jernigan Institute, and working for several state agencies in roles involving the purchase of or training in technology. He has now retired and has moved to Colorado. “For all the free time I’m supposed to have, I still find myself incredibly busy,” he says.
One of the major problems for blind people wanting to use computers has been the initial and ongoing cost of screen-reading software. Just as the software industry is changing to become subscription-based rather than purchasing and upgrading, so too is the assistive technology industry. Here is Curtis’s announcement about Vispero and the way it is now marketing its assistive software products:
I am pleased to pass along some exciting information about new annual licenses for JAWS and ZoomText that are now available from Freedom Scientific. With these new annual licenses, blind or low-vision computer users in the United States can now purchase ZoomText Magnifier/Reader or JAWS for as little as $80 or $90 (respectively) per year without paying hundreds of dollars up front. Instead of spending $400 for ZoomText, $600 for ZoomText Reader/Magnifier, or $900 for JAWS, you can now shop online and pay as little as $80 a year for ZoomText Magnifier with Speech or $90 a year for JAWS. You have the option of purchasing options for one, three, or five years, and as long as your license is current, you will always receive the most up-to-date version. You will not have to pay any more to obtain new versions of ZoomText Reader/Magnifier or JAWS as they are released. Moreover, you will be able to run these programs on up to three of the computers you use, and if needed, you can remove the license from one computer and activate it on the computer of a friend or family member whom you may happen to be visiting.
The ZoomText or JAWS annual home licenses are currently available only through the Freedom Scientific eStore at https://store.freedomscientific.com/. Here, you can search either for "ZoomText Magnifier/Reader Home Annual License" or "JAWS Home Annual License."
Admittedly, this may not be a big deal for those of us who have already spent the money to purchase ZoomText or JAWS licenses; it is certainly not of any interest to people who need the ZoomText or JAWS professional licenses because they use these programs in an employment situation. However, for blind people who have not purchased JAWS or ZoomText because of the hundreds of dollars that they cannot afford to spend, or for people who have avoided paying maintenance charges to keep their JAWS or ZoomText licenses current, this is a really big deal.
I have had some conversations with the folks at Freedom Scientific, and it is clear to me that the long-term plan is to have this subscription model available for both the home and professional user licenses. For now, I think that Freedom Scientific should be commended for taking this first cost-saving step to reduce the cost for JAWS and ZoomText.
by Nancy Burns
From the Editor: Often in these pages we talk about the history of blind people. Very often it is concrete and can be documented. Sometimes it is speculative, and what we relate is more parable than literal. Thus is the case with this piece by Nancy Burns.
Nancy is a longtime leader in the National Federation of the Blind, and she quarrels with the idea that some will call the long white cane a stick. I appreciate her position while at the same time supporting a fundraiser done by the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri in which we sell shirts that say, “I drive a stick.” They have been popular at the national convention, and many people who see them when we travel appreciate the humor and the fact that we are functioning quite independently on our own. For all of the magic that the long white cane has performed in my life, I could easily advertise it as a wand, but let me not confuse the message of our author. Here’s what she says:
Long, long ago, in a land far away lived a young cave dweller. One morning as he cautiously slipped out of the safety of his cave for his morning walk, he unfortunately met up with a baby T-Rex and was knocked to the ground. This adventurous cave dweller escaped with his life, but he lost the sight in both eyes. He managed to return to the security of his cave and sat down and gave up all of his previous activities. One day while seated, his foot bumped against a stick which he picked up and used to explore the cave. He found that his stick could be used to keep him from bumping into the cave walls and from tripping over rocks. His stick gave him security. He regained independence and could once again explore his surroundings with confidence.
As the centuries rolled around to more modern times, the "stick" became longer and a little more sophisticated. It became recognized as a useful tool for foot travel for blind people during the 1800s. In 1944 long-cane mobility techniques were taught at the Valley Forge Army hospital.
During the 1900s several training centers sprang up throughout the United States. Unfortunately, the belief was that only sighted people could teach these mobility techniques. However, through advocacy and the demonstrated competency of the blind, it became more common for blind people to teach others who were blind. The long white cane became the preferred tool for use by active and mobile blind people. Once they learned the basics of cane travel, blind travelers took these basic skills and began exploring unfamiliar neighborhoods. The sense of hearing was recognized as extremely important so that the blind person could listen for traffic and other sounds. Using additional clues, such as the location of the sun or the direction of the wind, blind travelers became more confident and competent and were actually using what is now known as the Structured Discovery method. Although the method had been used for decades, it was not officially recognized until 1995. In the United States three NFB training centers for the blind have been created. The administrators and the majority of staff members are highly qualified blind people.
As is often the case with the sighted public, some attitudes about blindness remain back in the dark ages. The long white cane has far surpassed the efficiency of the primitive stick, but some continue to call our cane a "stick."
The National Federation of the Blind advances the philosophy that the long white cane is a tool of independence. It allows us to live the life we want. It is challenging to bring the attitudes of the public forward and to encourage them to think of the cane in this manner. As Federationists we have come a long way but have a long way to go in the education of the sighted public and in the eradication of misconceptions that linger.
In speaking with other friends who happen to be blind, it is apparent that well educated individuals in such fields as education, health care, law, and religion may not be educated in the fact that our white cane is no longer called a stick. The New Mexico Legislature passed the White Cane Law in 1967. This law protects the rights of blind citizens who use the long white cane or guide dog. The passage of this legislation is a continuation of the efforts of the Federation to protect the rights of blind pedestrians. The long white cane has truly become a symbol of our independence and allows us to move about and to live the life we want.
Editor’s Note: In support of Nancy’s conclusion, and in defense of those who appreciate and have benefited from our educational system, unless the public has direct contact with someone who uses the long white cane and refers to it with this language, they might be hard-pressed to arrive at our terminology without thinking it offensive or inaccurate. Just for fun we looked at several dictionary definitions. According to the Cambridge English Dictionary online, the definition of cane is as follows: “The long, hollow stems of particular plants such as bamboo: A cane is also a walking stick with a curved handle, used to help someone walk.” The Meriam Webster Dictionary says: “2: a stick typically of wood or metal with a usually curved handle at one end that is grasped to provide stability in walking or standing.”
From the foregoing definitions one can easily see that the cane is primarily thought of as a tool that allows someone who cannot move to be ambulatory. Therefore a sighted person might think it rude to refer to the tool clearly used by the blind as a sensory supplement with the same term and imply a greater physical impairment.
After our back and forth on all of this, Nancy concludes: This article was originally intended to just point out the lack of information certain professionals, especially in the medical field, thought about the cane. I sort of wondered off into a different direction. I really did not want to preach, but I think it did come out a little preachy. Anyway, it was fun to write.
by C. Edwin Vaughan
From the Editor: What is in a word? We have long debated whether words create our reality or reality creates our words. If the former is true, the word we use can be limiting and even devaluing.
We know that we are blind. Some of us can't see at all; others of us see so little that we primarily use the techniques of blindness to be productive. But beyond blind, what are we? Are we handicapped, disabled, differently abled, or are we “people with sight loss” or “people with visual limitations”? Though we have had thoughtful essays on the subject, we still lack clarity.
Dr. C. Edwin Vaughan is a former professor of sociology at the University of Missouri, Columbia. He is good at making us look at these hard questions, often pointing the way to what is wrong, but leaving to us the task of figuring out what is right. Here is what he says about the history of the words we use to describe us and their not-so-subtle implications:
For more than two decades the NFB has stressed that we are changing what it means to be blind. All blind people internalize notions about blindness acquired from parents, teachers, rehab workers, and the general public. The most significant barriers to our being integrated into the wider community come from the way blindness and vision loss are framed or portrayed in the wider community. Blindness is viewed as a characteristic that creates a large gulf between the sighted and people with lesser degrees of vision. Since examples of the framing of blindness come from the widespread use of the words “handicapped” and “disabled” as general descriptions of blindness, it is helpful to understand the origin of these two words.
John Simpson is one of the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary. He is also the author of a delightful new book, The Word Detective: Searching for the Meaning of It All at the Oxford English Dictionary (Basic Books, New York 2001). He has researched the history of a great many commonly used words and phrases. The words “handicap” and “disability” specifically caught his attention because his second daughter Ellie has Angelman Syndrome, “A rare genetic disorder causing severe mental disability and characterized by ataxia, creating a person who is affectionate and cheerful but blissfully unaware of many things, most especially the need for speech.” (P. 191) Simpson then applied his lexicographic skills to analyze some of the words used to describe people such as his daughter. Here is what he says:
Ability is another of those words that entered English in the Middle Ages from France. But the French didn’t give us disability. We had to work that one out for ourselves. Our first record of the term dates from 1545, in the general sense “lack of ability (to do something).”
But the specific application of the word to a person’s mental or physical incapacity also comes from around the same period: it was first noted in 1561, and contrasts strongly with many of the other words used at the time (such as imbecility, dumbness, etc.) for personal-disability terms which are now no longer regarded as acceptable. We might be surprised that a “neutral” word was so prevalent in the sixteenth century… Why did disability become the more acceptable term? The word handicap dates from the seventeenth century, over a century after disability. It comes from a time when the English enjoyed experimenting with new vocabulary. But at first the term had nothing to do with disability. In the beginning, handicap was a game. As the OED [Oxford English Dictionary]says, it was “a game in which one person claims an article belonging to another and offers something in exchange, an umpire being chosen to decide the difference of value between the two articles, to be made up in money by the owner of the less valuable one.” The handicap, then, is the difference between the value of two items, or the value you have to add to one to make it equivalent to the other...
By the eighteenth century, the word handicap attached itself to horse-racing, on the same logic. An official decided the extra weight to be carried by a horse to equalize its chances of winning. Originally the agreement was conducted between two principals with a cap, as in the game, but later bureaucracy took over. The meaning seeped into various sports in the eighteen and nineteenth centuries.
It wasn’t until around 1888 that the handicap was first applied to physical or mental disability. The earliest records for this come from the United States. At first it was regarded as a perfectly normal expression—an acknowledgement of the difference in ability between two people. But, by the later twentieth century, handicap had come to be considered generally unacceptable: an unfamiliar-looking word implying too marked and dismissive a distinction between the able and the disabled. Maybe the expression also seemed to imply going “cap in hand” to beg for public assistance (Simpson, 188-190).
Although the label “handicap” is out of favor we have institutionalized the concept of disability throughout the general culture. One of the most visible examples is the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In his 2018 banquet address at the NFB National Convention President Mark Riccobono observed that blindness has always been observed as a characteristic that distinguishes someone who lacks ability (speech as published in the August-September 2018 Braille Monitor). Are we making a mistake by accepting without questioning the concept of disability as it is generally applied to blind people? “Dis” is a negative prefix. No one likes to be dissed; why should we like to be disabled?
What does it mean to be able? Is every person with average vision able to do everything? Obviously not—sighted people are as variable as people with limited sight. Sighted people demonstrate an enormous range of what individuals can accomplish. Yet we apply this concept in a most general way to all individuals who are blind or have limited vision. For the general public ability is individualized: everyone is different. However, as a group all blind people are disabled.How can we as a social movement change the way our individuality is portrayed? Clearly words like differently abled buy into the same general problem. What concept can focus on our potential as individuals? If these ideas have merit, perhaps they can be developed and better analyzed in the many philosophic discussions that occur in chapter meetings and at our three national centers.
by Chris Danielsen
From the Editor: Chris Danielsen is our director of public relations and was one of the people who served a critical function in helping us arrive at and articulate our branding messages. Who better than Chris to help explain these further. Here is what he says:
In the May 2018 Braille Monitor, we discussed how one of the critical pieces of our brand architecture is a set of brand values. As we said, just as with personal values, brand values make up the code by which the organization lives. Our brand values define the principles upon which our staff, leadership, and members act and make decisions. They are the heart and soul of the organization and do not change very much over time.
The National Federation of the Blind lives by six carefully considered brand values: courage, respect, love, full participation, democracy, and collective action. Back in May we talked about the values of courage, respect, and love and gave examples of how they work in our movement. In this article we’ll consider the values of full participation, democracy, and collective action.
We assert that blind people have a right to live fully and equally in the world, and from this flows our expectation that society will not artificially prevent blind people from full participation. The world is better off when all its people can contribute all that they have to offer.
In his 1957 banquet speech “Cross of Blindness,” our founder, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, laid out the rationale for organizing and growing the National Federation of the Blind. He listed sixteen incidents in which blind people encountered discrimination or barriers to full participation in society. Some of these examples are much rarer today than they were when he made the speech, if they exist at all. It’s unusual today for a bank to flatly deny a blind person a safety deposit box or for an airline to deny us a plane ticket. Most of these barriers have all but disappeared because of the National Federation of the Blind. But other barriers still exist, and there are new ones. The inaccessibility of websites, apps, and other technologies comes to mind. So does the proliferation of household appliances that we can no longer easily label and use. As at our founding and in 1957, our goal is the full participation of blind people in society, and that means the removal of all the artificial barriers that stand in the way of that goal.
The National Federation of the Blind is the original and largest organization of the blind. By virtue of being a democratic organization open to all blind people, we represent the issues that are important to the blind openly and fairly. National, state, and local officers are elected by the membership of the NFB to ensure a representative form of government and democratic decision-making practices. Our membership-driven structure ensures that blind people can determine our own future rather than relying on others to advocate for us.
Understanding our commitment to democracy involves understanding how our leaders are chosen and how we arrive at decisions. The Constitution of the National Federation of the Blind was last amended at the 2014 National Convention. The national convention is the Federation’s supreme authority, so our constitution can only be amended there. The amended constitution was published in the January 2015 issue of the Braille Monitor and is available online at https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/bm/bm15/bm1501/bm150111.htm. Because the constitution lays out all our democratic processes, it’s useful for members to read and review it. Understanding how our organization is structured, how we elect our leaders, and how we make decisions helps all of us to more fully participate in our movement.
The primary purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is “to serve as a vehicle for collective action by the blind,” as stated in our above-referenced constitution. A core belief is that the blind can and will speak for ourselves. Embodied in this self-determination is the understanding that progress comes from blind people working together, sharing individual dreams, and speaking with a more powerful, unified voice than any one person could on his/her own.
Our democratic processes allow us to arrive at organizational decisions, either through the actions of our elected leaders or through direct votes by the convention (for example, on resolutions). Collective action encompasses the things we do in order to put those decisions into effect. For example, if we decide to support proposed legislation, then we tell Congress about our support for it—in person during Washington Seminar and through letters, emails, phone calls, and social media posts throughout the rest of the year. Sometimes we organize informational protests to inform policymakers, businesses, or government agencies that we believe that their practices or policies are unhelpful to blind people. Social media campaigns can do the same thing. We successfully put a stop to the Foundation Fighting Blindness’s misguided #HowEyeSeeIt campaign almost entirely through social media action. The key to collective action, whether direct or virtual, is that we all convey and amplify the same message. That is what gives our movement its power and influence.What other examples come to mind when you think about these values, or any other aspects of the brand that we have discussed? Share them with us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Ronza Othman
From the Editor: Ronza Othman was just elected as the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. She is a motivated person who has a very distinguished career within the Federation. Where Ronza is, activity lives and flourishes. Here is a speech that she gave at the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland’s 2018 convention:
“I am blind.” Those words are three of the most liberating words in the English language. But for many of us, they are some of the scariest words in the English language. Some of us need to hear them hundreds of times before we realize those words apply to us. Some of us need to literally fall in a hole, and we still won’t realize they apply to us. But thanks to the National Federation of the Blind, those words are liberating—an anthem of freedom that pierces the anxiety and frustration of trying to do things the sighted way when you have little or no sight.
I’d like to tell you a little about me, if I may. I was one of those who was slow to accept my blindness and slower to use the words. I always thought I was unique—my family immigrated to the United States from Palestine just days before I was born. I spoke almost no English when I started school, and I was the sixth of seven kids. My family is loud, funny, and each and every one of them is a Type-A personality—except me. #Sarcasm. My mom figured out when I was a toddler that I had “vision issues,” and like most parents she took me from doctor to doctor seeking a diagnosis, a reason, and a fix.
In the Middle East and many other parts of the world, cultural and political norms cause families of the blind to hide their disabilities and sometimes to hide the family members who have disabilities. The word “blind” has very negative connotations, and resources don’t exist, or if they do they are inadequate. Fortunately much has changed in the last quarter-century in much of the world. But for most refugees and immigrants, who are already trying so hard to “blend” and be unnoticed in American society, having a child with a disability such as blindness is an additional challenge. Having said that, though the Middle Eastern culture used to hide its blind, my mother rebelled against that notion from day one. So my unwillingness to use the word “blind” though perhaps had some societal cause, was in no way perpetuated by my mother or immediate family.
Yet English was my second language, and I was notoriously bad at it—I kept trying to add English endings to Arabic words, which as a little kid just sounds bizarre. You’ll still hear my accent come out when I’m tired, sad, or angry. Anyway, I went to kindergarten at my local public school, where I have fond memories of playing with blocks. That is all I remember about mainstream kindergarten.
I remember a test—I was five so I also remember really wanting the juice box they promised me if I finished the test—and they showed me three pictures: an umbrella, an apple, and a house. I knew the words in Arabic, but I didn’t know them in English. I told the juice box people what items were in the pictures, but I did it in the wrong language—no one but me spoke Arabic. And off to a resource school for the blind I went—oh and I got to repeat kindergarten too. And to add insult to injury, the juice box wasn’t even that good.
The resource school taught me to read, write, and speak English first. But they wouldn’t teach me more than rudimentary Braille or cane travel because I “had enough vision to get by without them.” They gave me large print books, and I believe that is when my need for a chiropractor originally began; a six-year-old shouldn’t be carrying such heavy books. I was mainstreamed into the “regular” classrooms within a few months of getting there, which made me wonder even at age six why I had to commute ninety minutes each way each day to just do what I would have done at my neighborhood school. I did ask that question—in English, I was precocious—but I never got a satisfactory answer.
I remember a particular time when I got behind my regular class in reading, and I worked out that my classmates were using context clues from the pictures in the book to learn words. Large print books in my day looked like over-sized coloring books, and for a blind kid, all I saw were a bunch of wavy lines—rather disorienting. I asked my “vision” teacher if someone could color in my book like the other kids so I could have usable pictures too, and I’m sure that was the most fun task one vision aide probably ever had, coloring my first-grade reader. I have fond memories of See Frog Jump as a result.
I went back to my neighborhood school after second grade and attended a religious parochial school for junior high and high school. I got the occasional visit from my vision itinerant, but mostly those were excuses to skip a math quiz or visit Taco Bell. It took me longer than most to finish my homework, and I slept very little in high school in order to keep up with the required reading. Oh, and I was a total nerd, complete with the public aid glasses—you know them, the ones that are huge plastic frames with bifocals—and my mother insisted I wear them on a string so I didn’t lose them. I didn’t go out alone at night, and I only went if I absolutely trusted the person whom I was with. I realize now that the people I was with were giving me nonvisual cues, but it was clear to everyone but me that I was blind.
All this time, when people asked me—and mind you they absolutely had to ask, I never volunteered or self-identified—I would say I was “visually impaired.”
When I went to college, I began figuring out something was different about me. I realized I was the only one working so hard to complete assignments. I got a job on campus I really liked but wasn’t brought back after freshmen year because I was “too slow in reading documents.” I realized Scantron Test Sheets were everywhere (they are the devil), and my absolute loathing for them was disproportionate from my fellow classmates. I fell in a hole—literally. Walking one night I jumped out of the way of a speeding car and ended up in a construction ditch. I hadn’t even known it was there, and had I used blindness techniques or mobility skills, I’d have known of its existence before I fell in it. I broke my ankle and two ribs. But I insisted to anyone who would listen that I fell because of a speeding car, not because I “couldn’t see well.” My vernacular was changing.
I applied for scholarships with the National Federation of the Blind, and I wish so fervently that someone had contacted me for more than the annual interview. My college experience would have been so different, and I may have avoided that hole. I finally did receive a state scholarship in Illinois when I was a first-year law student, and that state convention was my first exposure to adults who were blind and who were fine with their blindness. In fact, they were thriving.
I showed up at the convention fully planning to take the scholarship money and run—law school is expensive and really intense. But when I got to the hotel, I saw about 100 blind people who were laughing, talking, walking, navigating the hotel and parking lot on their own, and doing what many of us think of as basic things. But for me, this was all new. I thought I was doing great as a “low vision” person, but surrounded by people who had much less usable vision than I did, I felt like I was missing something fundamental.
At that convention, I met people like Patti Chang, Debbie Stein, Fred Schroeder, and Ryan Strunk. Fred Schroeder kept calling me “Runza,” and it took me three days to figure out he was teasing me by calling me the name of his favorite Nebraska sandwich. Then he talked to me about my own as well as cultural misconceptions about blindness—this was the beginning of a life-long conversation the two of us have been having about blindness and NFB philosophy. Ryan Strunk kept asking me annoying questions like “But how do you read?” and “How do you travel?” I got defensive because my answers didn’t satisfy him . . . or, I realized, me. I later thought long and hard about his questions and viewed them as a challenge to learn how to work smarter, not harder, and that meant learning blindness skills. Patti Chang showed me that lawyering could be done as a blind person quite competently—which was something I was very anxious about—and she took me under her wing (whether I liked it or not) and brought me into her family. Patti gave me one of my first jobs as a law clerk, and she worked me as hard as every sighted employee she had—I think she worked me harder. She taught me through words and actions what blind people could do in their lives, what blind lawyers could do, what I could do. Debbie Stein gave me the gift of literacy; she too grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I tried to take the money and run, but Patti and Debbie wouldn’t allow it, and Debbie taught me to read Braille.
I’ve been fortunate to meet thousands of Federationists since that state convention, and I’ve learned a great deal from so many of them. A Federationist, Nathanael Wales, put a long white cane in my hand for the first time and taught me how to use it. I had to lose a bet to do it, but some of us are slow learners. Federationists taught me cooking techniques. Federationists showed me that independent air travel is not only possible but easy. Federationists helped give me the confidence to move, alone, across the country to Maryland. They showed me what technology is out there. A Federationist, Joanne Wilson, helped me get my first federal job.
Melissa Riccobono was the first friend I made when I moved to Maryland a decade ago. I learned from Melissa to be myself, that it is OK to make mistakes, and to never stop learning. The incomparable Sharon Maneki has influenced my life in so many ways. I’ve learned that I am capable of so much more than I thought I was. I learned that no one’s brain can store as much information as Sharon’s, but I like the challenge of trying to mine that brain. Sharon is also one of the funniest people I’ve ever known, but her humor is so unexpected that it takes you a minute to realize she made a joke. I’m so grateful for her faith in me as a leader, and I’m more grateful than I can ever express for her friendship and for her love.
These incredible Federationists and others helped shape me into the person I am. They taught me self-confidence and that the word “blind” is not negative but freeing. I hope to share the gift they’ve given to me with those who come after me. They showed me that with the proper skills and attitude, the future is ours. Because of them, because of you, my fellow Federationists, I can say with pride and confidence: My name is Ronza Othman, and I am blind.
by Gary Wunder
At the 2018 National Convention, President Riccobono flatteringly introduced Suman Kanuganti, the cofounder and chief executive officer of Aira, as a disruptive force in the field of blindness technology. There is no question that Aira is pushing the bounds of technology by asking a lot from the cellular networks in delivering real-time audio and video to give blind people another way to get visual information. In the Federation we are also disruptive, doing anything we can to raise expectations of blind people so that blindness is not the characteristic that defines them or their future. It is our observation that the traditions supporting low expectations have not been based on the real experience of blind people but on the perceptions that our society has unknowingly perpetuated. These low expectations have not been conscious or deliberate, but they are real. History is worth knowing and traditions are beneficial, but sometimes we need to look beyond them as we do our best to think outside the box and create the kind of future we want.
Some of my service on the National Federation of the Blind’s Board of Directors took place while Dr. Jernigan was an active and inspirational leader. I treasure having had that experience. One day he began after a brief coffee break with this poem. I hope it sparks in you both the amusement and the reflection it sparks in me:
by Samuel Walter Foss
One day through the primeval wood
A calf walked home as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.
Since then three hundred years have fled,
And I infer the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.
The trail was taken up next day,
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bellwether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bellwethers always do.
And from that day, o’er hill and glade
Through those old woods a path was made.
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged, and turned, and bent about,
And uttered words of righteous wrath,
Because ‘twas such a crooked path;
But still they followed—do not laugh—
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.
This forest path became a lane,
that bent and turned and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.
The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street;
And this, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare.
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half,
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.
Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed the zigzag calf about
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led,
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day;
For thus such reverence is lent,
To well-established precedent.
A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun,
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.
They keep the path a sacred groove,
Along which all their lives they move.
by Karl Smith
From the Editor: Karl Smith is a longtime member of the National Federation of the Blind, is a major pillar in our Utah Affiliate, and runs a successful business selling assistive technology. Karl loves to discuss history and philosophy, and this month he treats Monitor readers to reflections that combine those and some rather interesting personal experiences while on a trip. Here is what he says:
In recent years Federationists have become quite familiar with the term Structured Discovery. It is the method used by each of our three training centers in Louisiana, Colorado, and Minnesota. At these centers blind students are taught skills that help them familiarize themselves with their environment and through careful inspection learn to navigate and function fully in normal activities of daily life such as cane travel, shopping, holding a job, and more. The roots of Structured Discovery run deep throughout the history of our movement back to Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and many other early leaders.
Today highly qualified blind instructors routinely teach cane travel, cooking, and woodshop, along with other skills using the Structured Discovery method. It hasn't always been so. In the early 1980s a young student named Fred Schroeder was refused certification as a travel instructor by the AER (Association for the Education and Rehabilitation for the Blind) even though he had completed his university studies and was in every way qualified. Why? Because he was blind, and of course the professionals knew that it was dangerous for a blind person to teach another blind person cane travel.
As foreign as this attitude is to those of us who received training from highly skilled blind instructors, it is still very prevalent among the so-called professionals in the field including both teachers and administrators. They seem unable or unwilling to be convinced despite the evidence to the contrary that Structured Discovery taught by a teacher, blind or sighted, results in the most consistent long-term positive outcomes.
Imagine my pleasant surprise when I witnessed a real-world example of Structured Discovery used by someone who had likely never heard the term. It was during an extended international trip through New Zealand and Australia with my family along with Harold and Joanne Wilson. It happened on Christmas day of 2009 in of all places Christchurch, New Zealand, at the International Antarctic Center, a scientific complex and museum funded by a number of nations including the US. It is from here that most Antarctic expeditions leave for the South Pole and its environs. The museum features a lot of interesting and fun activities. These included a ride in a Hägglund, a large, tracked vehicle used to drive over the Antarctic ice. It can climb up and down hills at up to a forty-five-degree angle and tip from left to right up to thirty-five degrees. It can also float if necessary, as it did during part of the ride. The water actually came up above the windows at one point before we drove up the opposite side of the river. There is also a very large deep freeze with 50,000 tons of snow and ice inside where you can go and be blasted by an Antarctic storm. This room also features an igloo, a big slide made of ice, and a wind chill machine capable of producing temperatures of 50 below zero. Joanne and I did go down the slide, and fortunately I believe the incriminating pictures no longer exist. My two daughters hid inside the igloo during the storm.
The exhibit which made the greatest impression on me was the penguins. These are known as second chance penguins because they have been rescued after sustaining injuries from predators, being hit by cars, or being cut up by boat propellers. These are the lucky ones who would not have lived long in the wild in their condition. One of these penguins, Elvis, was blinded by a predator. His handler told us that he uses his beak as a cane, checking out his location and using his sense of smell to find things. She also said that as soon as he hears the rattle of the fish bucket he knows it’s feeding time and will come out of his burrow for dinner.
On this day Elvis decided not to come out when he heard the bucket. Someone asked if the handler would take the food to him. Her answer was very interesting: she said that she wouldn’t take the food to him because it is best for penguins to eat in the water. If she took the food to him rather than requiring him to find his way out to it, he wouldn’t learn to be independent.
How about that—naturally teaching the Structured Discovery method of orientation and mobility to a penguin. She thought it was just common sense. Wouldn’t it be nice if this sort of sensible thinking was the norm throughout the blindness system? Wouldn't it be refreshing to know that the professionals knew that blind people are at least as smart as penguins? I say, go Elvis!
Every summer, many NFB chapters hold a picnic. Since this would be difficult for those of us in the NFB of Minnesota At-Large Chapter, we decided to hold a “virtual picnic” at our August meeting. Below are some of the recipes presented – along with a couple more from other affiliate members. It is nineteen degrees as I am writing this … so a picnic sounds good!
by Rocky Hart
Rocky Hart, who is fifteen years old and in the tenth grade, attends the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind and is the secretary of the At-Large Chapter. We suspect he may be the youngest chapter officer in the NFB. We are benefiting from his enthusiasm, energy, and new ideas.
9 cups Chex cereal, any type
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
Method: Put the cereal into a large bowl, set aside. One twelve-ounce box yields just over 9 cups. In a one-quart microwavable bowl heat chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter uncovered on high for one minute and stir. Microwave about thirty seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Add vanilla and stir. Pour mixture over cereal, gently mixing until evenly coated. Pour into a two-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag. Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator. A paper grocery bag can be used instead of a large plastic bag. If you only have one-gallon plastic bags, put 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1/3 of the cereal in each bag, seal and shake. Spread onto waxed paper to cool.
by Jan Bailey
Jan Bailey is a long-time Federationist and president of our Rochester Chapter.
1 medium head cauliflower, cut up and steamed for about two minutes and then cooled
4 to 5 green onions
1 small can sliced olives
5 or 6 sliced fresh mushrooms
1/3 to 1/2 cup each sour cream and mayonnaise, mixed together
salt and pepper to taste
Method: Mix all ingredients. Marinate a while before serving.
Baked Beans and Pineapple
by Joyce Scanlan
Joyce Scanlan is a long-time Federationist who served as president of the NFB of Minnesota for many years, as well as founding and serving as executive director of BLIND, Inc.
1/4 pound bacon, diced
1 small onion, chopped (1/4 cup)
1/2 green pepper, chopped (1/2 cup)
1/2 to 1 cup pineapple chunks, drained
1 20-ounce can pork and beans
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup catsup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Method: Fry bacon until crisp. Stir in onion, pepper, and pineapple. Cook and stir until onion is tender. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into bean pot or large casserole. Bake uncovered at 300 degrees for two hours. Makes six to eight servings.
by Ryan Strunk
Ryan is the president of the NFB of Minnesota. He says: “While not strictly a picnic recipe, this one is very Minnesotan.”
1 12-ounce package chocolate chips
1 12-ounce package butterscotch chips
1 package miniature marshmallows
1 pound salted peanuts
1 cup peanut butter
Method: Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips in microwave. Add peanut butter and keep heating until you can stir the mixture smooth. Add peanuts and marshmallows. After it is mixed well, pour into greased twelve-by-thirteen-inch pan. Let sit until hardened. Cut into bars.
Jan’s Crockpot Calico Beans
by Jan Bailey
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 package fully cooked bacon, chopped
1 large can Bush’s original baked beans, drained
1 small can Bush’s original baked beans, drained
1 can baby lima beans, drained
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained
2/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup mustard
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses, optional
Method: Brown the hamburger and chopped onions together, and drain if needed. Place in six-quart crockpot, add all other ingredients, and stir thoroughly. Cook on high for four hours or on low for six hours.
Summer Vegetable Pesto Ribbon Salad
by David Andrews
David Andrews is the president of the NFB of Minnesota At-Large Chapter. He has lived and worked in many states, including serving as the first director of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind at the national headquarters in Baltimore.
2 yellow squashes
2 carrots, peeled
2 cups grape tomatoes
olive oil, for drizzling
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
2 cups fresh basil
1 cup fresh parsley
2/3 cup cashews
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
For the salad: Cut the ends off the zucchini, squash, and carrots. With a vegetable peeler, shave off as many thin slices as possible from vegetables, making a pile of thin ribbons. Transfer ribbons to a large bowl. Use a sharp knife to slice the tomatoes in half and add to the bowl with the shaved vegetables. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.
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