Braille Monitor

Vol. 62, No. 2                                    February 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

telephone: 410-659-9314
email address: [email protected]
website address: http://www.nfb.org
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Letters to the President, address changes, subscription requests, and orders for NFB literature should be sent to the national office. Articles for the Monitor and letters to the editor may also be sent to the national office or may be emailed to [email protected].

Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation about forty dollars per year. Members are invited,
and nonmembers are requested, to cover the subscription cost. Donations should be
made payable to National Federation of the Blind and sent to:

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


        ISSN 0006-8829

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

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

Las Vegas Site of 2019 NFB Convention

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. 2                                    February 2019

Illustration: NFBEQ Making a Difference for Young People

A Message from Our President
by Mark Riccobono

Fifty Years After tenBroek: The Right to Live in the World Today and Tomorrow
by Stacy Dubnow

Three Out-Castes of American Society
by Professor Jacobus tenBroek

On Expectations: Average vs. Amazing
by Lisa Ferris

Dear Teachers, Please Assume Competence When You Work with My Child
by Crystal Kostick

Speaking Over Me Won’t Stop Me
by Aaron Rupp

Betty Capps Dies
by Gary Wunder

The Secret to Winning a National Federation of the Blind Scholarship
by Cayte Mendez

Leave a Legacy

Bengsten Offers Insight into Living without Sight
by Jake Doetkott

Spaghetti with Chopsticks
by Justin Salisbury

The Eltrinex V12Pro Talking Digital Recorder
by Curtis Chong

Improvising Independence: Finding My Own Solutions for a Career in Music Therapy
by Kaiti Shelton

Braille Letters from Santa are a Little Christmas Magic

How the Louisiana Center for the Blind Helped Prepare Me for College
by Vejas Vasiliauskas


Monitor Miniatures

Copyright 2019 by the National Federation of the Blind

NFB EQ Making a Difference for Young People

It is important to observe that some of the best jobs in the twenty-first century are in science, technology, engineering, and math. It is enlightening to realize how few blind people are in these fields. It is easy to explain how often the blind are pushed away from entering these because they are considered impractical. But once that discouragement has been noticed, it is critical that someone take action to bridge that gap between blind people and the most lucrative jobs in their generation. The National Federation of the Blind has been that someone for years, addressing how to get blind people into these professions and beginning to provide the experiences that sighted people take for granted and too many people who work with the blind don’t believe possible. Few blind people get to build things or observe in the objects around them the way they are built. What is the difference between houses built today with studs and those built in earlier times using columns and beams? Other than the use of skins, cloth, or canvas, how does the construction of a teepee differ from construction using columns and beams? If you can't touch these structures in some detail, you likely won't understand the way any of them are built and the strengths and weaknesses that are a part of their design.

How do engineers design things? Usually they develop design specifications. So what is reverse engineering? Students found out by examining Cheetos and determining the length and weight that constitutes one of these delicious snacks.

To learn about various construction techniques, students in the NFB Engineering Quotent class visited Jerusalem Mill Village, a museum in Baltimore featuring structures that represented many techniques throughout history for creating houses, barns, and other buildings. Then it was time to see what the students could do.

Using the creativity of a team, can blind people create a structure out of wooden dowels and rubber bands that all of them can stand under? Indeed they can, and this was quite an accomplishment for some who came to the program having never played with LEGOS or other building blocks. All too often blind people are taught to avoid things that are sharp, things that might hurt the hands. Imagine the surprise when students realized they would be using small saws and had to suffer the occasional burn when using a hot glue gun and coming in contact with hot glue. But they built, and they were empowered.

Of course, in most construction one draws before building, so this too was a challenge addressed at the 2018 event. Being able to interpret and make drawings will increase the likelihood of success for any blind person in STEM, so we start by figuring out how to teach the skill and then helping students to master it. Drawings had to include a floor plan as well as the front and side elevation for the building. Some drew houses, some drew castles, and some drew high-rises. All drew inspiration from the learning, from the adventure, and from the knowledge that their blind brothers and sisters believe in them.

[PHOTO CAPTION: Ahbee records the mass of Cheetos on her Braille display as her partner Ethan puts them on the talking scale]
[PHOTO CAPTION: Brandon, Jaden, and Mili complete their structure made of wooden dowels and rubber bands]
[PHOTO CAPTION: Chasity works on drawing her house’s design]
[PHOTO CAPTION: EQ students in a barn at Jerusalem Mill]

A Message from Our President

by Mark Riccobono

December 28, 2018

Dear Colleagues:

Since our revolutionary start on November 16, 1940, the National Federation of the Blind has carefully crafted strategies built upon the priorities of the membership and executed by the leaders of the organization resulting in tremendous growth. Over the years, the growth of the organization has brought great opportunities and increased complexity to the movement. Consequently, we must continuously review, revise, and communicate the evolved plans of the organization. The enclosed strategic plan is built on that tradition and reflects the organization’s priorities for our next phase of growth. The plan is significant for what is not included in it as much as what is included.

This strategic plan is rooted in our national convention. To quote our constitution, the convention is the “supreme authority of the Federation.” Our convention is where dreams are developed, policies are established, priorities are adjusted, and leaders are elected. This plan, like everything we do, is subject to review and adjustment by the national convention. During our 2018 convention in Orlando, Florida, focus groups with a diverse range of members identified a number of important themes for strengthening and expanding the reach of our movement. There are no references to the national convention in the plan itself, because the convention is what everything is built upon. There may be other specific programs not directly mentioned; you can be assured that we continue to review and execute all aspects of the Federation that are now well-established programs and activities. This means that the plan does not represent the entire scope of our work but rather key areas of focus for the next few years.

Our current strategic plan has four pillars to organize our next phase of growth: Education, Rehabilitation, and Employment; Membership and Community Building; Advocacy; and Development. Each pillar contains objectives to drive our focus in that particular area. The board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind identified strategies and goals to assist in measuring progress toward those objectives and will regularly review and update them as progress is made and new opportunities are realized. All of the pillars are a natural extension of our progress as a movement and advances we have made during the past decade.

As the elected President of this organization, I have the humbling responsibility of leading the implementation of this plan. I have been deeply involved in the development of the plan including spending time reviewing the extensive notes from our focus groups with members. I am filled with hope, energy, and determination when I imagine what the prospects for blind Americans will be once we have met the objectives in this plan. It will take the collective efforts of our thousands of members across the country to achieve all that we imagine. I look forward to your participation in reaching our goals for this strategic plan. Once these objectives are achieved, we will generate new objectives in order to continue raising expectations and advancing our march for independence.  

In closing, this plan represents the details of the promise we make to each other in this organization on a daily basis: a promise that is fulfilled in the large-scale strategic work we are doing to build our movement and the small acts of friendship that are shared among members on a daily basis. That promise is that together with love, hope, and determination, we will transform dreams into reality.

Let’s go build the National Federation of the Blind.


Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind

National Federation of the Blind
2019-2021 Strategic Plan


Welcome to the blind movement! Together with love, hope, and determination, let’s transform dreams into reality. The National Federation of the Blind is a community of members and friends who believe in the hopes and dreams of the nation’s blind. Through the efforts of the blind pioneers before us, we are the largest and oldest organization of blind people continuously working toward securing independence and respect for all blind and low-vision people including adults, seniors, veterans, students, and children. To carry out our vital mission, we develop and implement strategic plans based on the priorities of our members.

Our Strategic Plan for 2019-2021 consists of four major pillars. Each pillar outlines objectives and strategies to drive engagement and growth to its particular focus. As a result, numerous goals and action plans will emerge to pursue. This plan invites active participation of all of our stakeholders as we continue raising expectations and advancing our march for independence.

Strategic Pillars
Pillar I  - Education, Rehabilitation, and Employment
Pillar II - Membership and Community Building
Pillar III - Advocacy
Pillar IV - Development

Vision, Objectives, and Strategies


The National Federation of the Blind develops, leads, and supports high-impact programs and initiatives that offer best practices to rehabilitation professionals, educators, and employers, while also ensuring blind people build skills and confidence to thrive in twenty-first-century classrooms, careers, and everyday life.

Objective #1: To increase employment readiness of blind people

Objective #2: To ensure that blindness professionals understand what blind people need to succeed and what skills are required to help blind people turn their dreams into reality

Objective #3: To set high expectations for and by blind individuals, their families, and the community in education, rehabilitation, and independent living

Objective #4: To ensure that employers make employment decisions based on skills and capacities of potential employees, not misconceptions based on blindness


The National Federation of the Blind has an active, diverse, coordinated, and ever-growing network of affiliates, chapters, and divisions across the country. Engagement in our innovative and empowering initiatives attracts lifelong members who build a community unified in our purpose.

Objective #1: To develop and implement a more formal and standardized new membership process for the National Federation of the Blind

Objective #2: To ensure that chapters and affiliates are executing common brand and program priorities and organizational practices

Objective #3: To strengthen tools and strategies for leadership development at all levels of the organization

Objective #4: To further develop methods and practices for recruitment of new diverse members from a diverse pool


The National Federation of the Blind is the leading advocate for all blind Americans in areas such as education, employment, transportation, voting, and civil rights. Blind people, their families, agencies for the blind, corporations, and the government turn to our organization for expert advice on programs, skills building, encouragement, nonvisual access, and technology that level the playing field for blind people.

Objective #1: To strengthen the advocacy capacity of National Federation of the Blind members

Objective #2: To establish and strengthen our relationships with industry and federal, state, and local government officials

Objective #3: To increase public support to achieve acceptance, full integration, and equal opportunity of blind people


The National Federation of the Blind builds synergistic community and corporate relationships that are mutually enriching. The stories of our impact and of members' achievements are widely known and celebrated. Our brand is so well recognized and respected that it empowers our members and enables us to expand our reach to our community, new members, and the world.

Objective #1: To ensure that we have the financial resources needed to continue and expand the transformational work we do

Objective #2: To create new relationships and develop existing partnerships into true synergistic collaborations

Objective #3: To ensure that the general public and the blindness community understand that the National Federation of the Blind makes a difference, creates opportunities, and is the voice of the nation’s blind

Fifty Years After tenBroek: The Right to Live in the World Today and Tomorrow

by Stacie Dubnow

From the Editor:  Stacie Dubnow’s writings are a welcomed addition to the pages of the Braille Monitor. She is a project manager at the Jernigan Institute, is a lawyer with thirty years of experience, has two published books on Amazon, and is a keen observer and chronicler of meetings in which she participates. I have more to say about her, but this is just the first of many articles she will write for us, so I’ll save some of it. Here is what Stacie has to say about the Jacobus tenBroek Symposium:

On March 22 and 23, 2018, the National Federation of the Blind hosted its eleventh Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium, "Fifty Years After tenBroek: The Right to Live in the World Today and Tomorrow." The symposium examined Dr. Jacobus tenBroek’s impressive legacy through a present-day lens, focusing on many of the timeless themes addressed in his publications and speeches during his lifetime. More than two hundred disability rights attorneys, scholars, educators, advocates, and others examined topics such as the integration of students with disabilities in the public education system, disparities in healthcare, law enforcement and disability, and discrimination in employment, housing, and transportation.

Dr. tenBroek, after whom the symposium is named, founded the National Federation of the Blind in 1940 and served as its president (with the exception of a brief interval) until his death in 1968. Blinded in a bow and arrow accident during early childhood, his family enrolled him in the California School for the Blind at Berkeley, where he came to be mentored by a great innovator in education of the blind, Dr. Newel Perry.1 Dr. tenBroek graduated with honors from the University of California and the University Law School; not only did he earn five college degrees, but doctorates from both Harvard University and the University of California.2 He became renowned as a brilliant constitutional law scholar, an influential civil rights activist, and an inspirational teacher, writer, and orator.

At the forefront of Dr. tenBroek’s advocacy and scholarship was the goal of achieving for the blind “equal treatment under the law, equal opportunity…, and equal rights within society.” Dr. tenBroek persuasively advocated that there was no one better qualified to improve the lives of the blind than the blind themselves, since “[o]nly the blind themselves can be fully aware of their own problems…” and “…feel an unremitting motivation to secure their rights and further their welfare.”3 Under the leadership of Dr. tenBroek, the National Federation of the Blind became a symbol of independence. During the National Federation of the Blind’s annual national conventions, Dr. tenBroek eloquently spoke on this issue:

It is fundamental to the uniqueness of our group that we are the only nation-wide organization for the blind which is also of the blind. The composition of the NFB, indeed, is living testimony to the fact—unfortunately not yet accepted by society as a whole—that the blind are capable of self-organization: which is to say, of leading themselves, of directing their own destiny.4

Federationism is the synonym of independence—the antonym of custodialism and dependency. It is the blind leading themselves, standing on their own feet, walking in their own paths at their own pace by their own command.5 

Dr. tenBroek became a champion for the rights of the disabled to participate on a full and equal basis in the life of their community. His writings on self-determination, the treatment of minority groups as “separate and unequal,” and the state’s use of police powers to deal with the poor and disabled are as pertinent today as they were sixty years ago. During the 2018 Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium, keynote speaker Mark Riccobono, the current President of the National Federation of the Blind, reiterated this key principle when he explained: “The Federation’s legal work is central to our mission of full integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality, and this forum is part of our key work to advance the rights of blind people and all people with disabilities very much in the spirit and direction that Dr. tenBroek set for us many years ago.”

President Riccobono posed the question to the participants of the 2018 symposium: “How can we enhance the right of the disabled to live in the world, with all of the liberty, equality, opportunity, and security of our democracy?” He proposed five essentials to doing so. First, ownership—the necessity for people with disabilities to control the direction of the disability rights movement. Second, community—a forum in which members share a common purpose, connect with each other to combat isolation, learn to protect their legal rights, and build leadership skills. Third, power—the need for people with disabilities and disability rights experts to develop positions of leadership, influence, and authority to raise the profile of blind people and the organized blind movement. Fourth, awareness—the importance of advancing public awareness about the capacity of people with disabilities. And fifth—improved tools for self-advocacy and self-expression, which President Riccobono described as key to empowering people with disabilities to protect their rights, oppose inaccessibility and other barriers, and effect change.

The idea of achieving the “full integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality” is embodied in the Declaration of Independence and incorporated into the Fourteenth Amendment.6 Michael Tigar—Professor Emeritus of Law at Duke Law School and Dr. tenBroek’s student, mentee, colleague, and friend—eloquently addressed at the 2018 symposium the right of the blind to live in the world and how “…the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to impose on states the duty to enable them to do just that.”

The symposium’s speakers and workshop facilitators explored ways in which the rights of the disabled have been advanced in recent years, as well as the work that remains to achieve equality and integration. One arena in which speakers reported some recent success was healthcare. Jessica Roberts, the George Butler Research Professor of Law and director of the Health Law & Policy Institute at the University of Houston Law Center, as well as others addressed historical issues people with disabilities have faced accessing healthcare, such as architectural barriers, lack of accessible medical equipment, inaccessible documents, and lack of effective communication. Although individuals with disabilities still encounter myriad obstacles accessing healthcare, Professor Roberts described important strides forward with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). She described the Act as “[o]ne of the most substantial civil rights victories for people with disabilities in history,” praising the ACA’s prohibition by insurers from using health status when making eligibility determinations. By eliminating consideration by insurers of preexisting conditions and prohibiting rate-setting discrimination, the ACA provides people with disabilities enhanced access to healthcare coverage.

The right of the disabled to live in the world not only includes a right of equal access to healthcare, but also an equal right to education. During the 2018 disability law symposium, plenary session speakers and workshop facilitators addressed the impacts of integration of students with disabilities into the public education system, the US Supreme Court’s 2017 decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, separate and unequal education for students with disabilities, and the legal rights of students with disabilities in correctional facilities.

As symposium presenters explained, the law provides that individuals with disabilities do not just have a legal right to an education, but they have the right to a free public education appropriate to the student’s individual educational needs in the least restrictive environment.7 That means that children with disabilities to the greatest extent appropriate are required to be educated with children who are not disabled in the same school and classes that the disabled child would attend if not disabled.8

During the symposium, Dr. Wanda Blanchett, dean of Rutgers Graduate School of Education, reviewed the historical treatment of students of color and students with disabilities in the public education system. She explained the history of racial segregation in the United States, including the import of the US Supreme Court’s decisions in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 and Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. In overruling the “separate but equal” doctrine established in Plessy, the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education ruled that state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional.9 Dr. Blanchett explained that this landmark decision inspired the disability rights movement to mobilize in pursuit of the desegregation of schools for children with disabilities. If black children were entitled to an integrated education with white children, then children with disabilities were entitled to an integrated education with children without disabilities. In 1975 the disability rights community celebrated the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act,10 establishing equal protection under the law for students with disabilities regardless of disability. This was a beginning, but it did not go far enough. To this day, parents and disability rights advocates continue the battle to raise the low bar that still governs the educational benefits students with disabilities are entitled by law to receive in public school.

Ruth Colker—Distinguished University Professor and Heck Faust Memorial Chair in Constitutional Law at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University—addressed this topic during the symposium in the context of the recent US Supreme Court decision Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. The case, which involved an autistic child moved from public to private school when the parents determined the public school was not meeting their child’s educational needs, addressed the standard for determining whether a child with disabilities is receiving a “free and appropriate education.” The issue was whether, if the public school failed to provide a free and appropriate education, the parents could receive tuition reimbursement for private school. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that to meet its substantive obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a public school is required to offer an “individualized education program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in the light of the child’s circumstances.”11 The court further held that children should be in the regular classroom whenever possible and that every student has a right to meet high standards and “challenging objectives.”12

Although many considered this decision a victory, Professor Colker expressed ambivalence on two grounds. First, the end result of the case was a placement of a child with disabilities in a private educational environment likely more segregated than the public school environment from which the child had been removed. And second, Professor Colker expressed concern about judicial interpretations of the Endrew decision to justify segregation of children with disabilities rather than to raise the standards for their education.

In addition to addressing the policy of integrationism in the context of the integrated education of disabled children, Dr. tenBroek persuasively advocated for integrated employment for disabled individuals.13 In “The Cross of Blindness,” an address delivered at the 1957 Annual Convention banquet, Dr. tenBroek summarized current day pronouncements by educators, social workers, historians, public officials, and others about the vocational potential for the blind. These purported experts concluded “that employment possibilities for the blind are confined, with only negligible exceptions, to the purview of sheltered workshops…”14 Dr. tenBroek quoted a well-known historian of blindness saying:

‘[T]here exists in the community a body of men who, by reason of a physical defect, namely, the loss of sight, are disqualified from engaging in the regular pursuits of men and who are thus largely rendered incapable of providing for themselves independently. … Rather than let them drift into absolute dependence and become a distinct burden, society is to lend an appropriate helping hand through the creation of sheltered, publicly subsidized employment.

This cynical view was publicly confirmed by Civil Service Commission brochures that concluded that the blind are proficient in manual occupations “requiring a delicate sense of touch” and well-suited to jobs involving repetitive work.15

More than fifty years later, significant discrimination against the blind persists in the area of employment, and disabled people continue to battle paternalistic public attitudes. During the 2018 disability law symposium, Regina Kline, a partner of Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP, reported that approximately half a million workers with disabilities continue to be paid subminimum wages. Addressing the continuing struggle for equality in employment by the blind community, Ms. Kline focused on the rights of workers with disabilities in sheltered workshops under Title I of the ADA. Given that sheltered workshops are “employers,” the blind and other disabled individuals employed in these workshops have a legal right under Title I to individualized assessments for reasonable accommodations and, following assessment, to be provided reasonable accommodations. She posed the questions: “If folks were given the accommodations they’re entitled to, would we continue to have subminimum wages?” “Would they have access to greater promotion advancement opportunities within this shop if they were evaluated with the accommodations they needed to be successful?”

Despite the lawsuits that continue to challenge ongoing discrimination against blind employees, courts often ignore the mandate to broadly construe the ADA to further its remedial purpose of eliminating discrimination on the basis of disability. Brian East, a senior attorney at Disability Rights Texas, provided the example during the 2018 symposium of a recent restrictive interpretation of what constitutes a reasonable accommodation. In the 2017 case of Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft Inc., the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit concluded that, despite the fact that employers must consider leave to an employee as a reasonable accommodation absent undue hardship, a multi-month leave of absence falls outside the scope of a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.16

In addition to the challenges faced by blind and disabled individuals in obtaining equal and integrated employment, they also face barriers in the exercise of their right to equal and integrated transportation. During the 1960 National Convention, Dr. tenBroek aptly noted that “in the routines of daily living … the keynote of our way of life is mobility: the capacity to get around, to move at a normal pace in step with the passing parade.”17 In 1966 he further addressed the right of the blind to move about the world independently, with the same ease of access as everyone else, when he posed the following questions:

Once they [the blind] emerge, must they remain on the front porch, or do they have the right to be in public places, to go about in the streets, sidewalks, roads and highways, to ride upon trains, buses, airplanes, and taxi cabs …? If so, under what conditions? What are the standards of care and conduct, of risk and liability, to which they are held and to which others are held with respect to them? Are the standards the same for them as for the able-bodied?”18

These questions are as relevant today as they were in 1966. During the 2018 Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium, participants addressed how changing technology is creating new challenges for disabled individuals. Tim Elder of TRE Legal Practice described how the move to a “sharing economy” has affected equal access and integration into society for people with disabilities in the arenas of housing and transportation. As technology platforms like Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft have gained popularity, the blind have had to fight discrimination to refute a contention by these companies that their independent contractors providing services through these platforms are not required to comply with the ADA.

During the symposium, Mr. Elder reported that, as a result of legal efforts and advocacy by the National Federation of the Blind, its affiliates, and counsel, important steps have been taken to end discrimination against the blind. In particular, he described the widely publicized, nationwide class-action settlement with Uber, which requires Uber to transport blind individuals traveling with guide dogs on an equal basis with other passengers. This was the first case of import to apply the ADA to the sharing economy.19

And finally, this year’s disability law symposium addressed the right of the disabled to live with safety and security in the world. The overarching question—framed by speaker Leigh Ann Davis, program manager for the Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability—was, “How can we actually create an inclusive society for people with disabilities when we’re ignoring the reality that they face such a higher risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system?” Topics on this subject included law enforcement and disability, ending police violence against people with disabilities, and the right of all people under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution to be free from unreasonable seizures and the use of unreasonable force.

Fifty-six years ago Dr. tenBroek spoke urgently about the threats to the welfare of the blind posed by police power.20 He understood that an attack against the poor and needy was akin to an attack against the blind and other disabled.

Out of this invasion of welfare by the spirit of crime and punishment comes another vital challenge to our whole system of personal and social security—a threat to the rights of the individual. To call the police is to invoke, not the general welfare powers of the Constitution, but its police powers. …The constitutional powers of the police have in fact been generally relied upon to …. safeguard the health, safety, morals, and wellbeing of the comfortable and the fortunate rather than to relieve the distress and improve the opportunities of the unfortunate. …. Problems of poverty and immorality, of social crisis and economic depression, all are perceived by the law of crimes in the same narrow focus of personal responsibility, to be solved by arrest and investigation, by penal sanctions and retributions.21

Speakers and workshop facilitators during the 2018 disability law symposium addressed the grave threats that people with disabilities face from the criminal justice system. The largest psychiatric inpatient facilities in the United States are jails, and each year, of the thousand shootings resulting in death, a quarter of them involve a person with a disability. Symposium participants discussed the rights of the disabled under the Constitution and the ADA upon arrest, interrogation, detention, and incarceration, including but not limited to the right to be free from unreasonable seizure and cruel and unusual punishment, the right to accommodations, effective communication, and adequate medical care. Although speaker Melissa Reuland, a senior program manager at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a research fellow at the Police Foundation, described a number of programs underway to better educate and train law enforcement to identify individuals with disabilities and afford them their legal rights, police interactions with the autistic, the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and individuals with mental and other intellectual disabilities remain at high risk for wrongful arrest, injury, and indignity. 

The 2018 Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium provided a forum for disability rights advocates from across the country to address current and future issues concerning the rights of the disabled to live lives of dignity, equality, and full participation in society. While much has been accomplished since Dr. tenBroek wrote, spoke, and advocated for the rights of the disabled more than fifty years ago, much remains to be done before disabled individuals will truly live in the world with equal liberty, opportunity, and security.

In 2019 we once again will bring together the best minds to consider the future of disability law. We hope you will join us when we host the twelfth Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium on March 28 through 29, 2019, at the NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore. The 2019 symposium will address the rights of disabled individuals through an examination of the impact of public attitudes and stigma on their right to live in the world, exploring the intersection of law and public attitudes about disability. We will focus on how public attitudes about disability induce negative stereotypes of the disabled homeless, immigrants, and people with mental health diagnoses, as well as how these attitudes influence treatment under the law of people with disabilities in education, healthcare, employment, housing, and the criminal justice system. Finally, we will explore strategies for combating the stigma and systemic discrimination against individuals with disabilities by, among other methods, exploring how we frame the image of disability in advocacy. 

1. National Federation of the Blind (1990). Jacobus tenBroek: The Man and the Movement, Introduction, 2.

2. National Federation of the Blind (1990). Jacobus tenBroek: The Man and the Movement, Introduction, 2.

3. National Federation of the Blind (1990). Jacobus tenBroek: The Man and the Movement, 1952 Banquet Address, 6-7.

4. tenBroek, Jacobus (1957). 1957 Banquet Address, Banquet of the Annual Convention, “Cross of Blindness,” 1.

5. tenBroek, Jacobus (1964). 1964 Banquet Address, Banquet of the Annual Convention, “The Parliament of Man … The Federation of the World,” 2.

6. tenBroek, Jacobus, & Tussman, Joseph (1949). “The Equal Protection of the Laws.” California Law Review, 37(3), p. 341.

7. 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400(d)(1)(A),(B); 20 U.S.C.A. 1412(a)(5).

8. 20 U.S.C.A. 1412(a)(5).

9. Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

10. 88 Stat. 773, Public Law 94-142 (94th Congress, 1st Session, 1975).

11. The Supreme Court in Endrew explains: “The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) offers States federal funds to assist in educating children with disabilities. The Act conditions that funding on compliance with certain statutory requirements, including the requirement that States provide every eligible child a ‘free appropriate public education,’ or FAPE, by means of a uniquely tailored ‘individualized education program,’ or IEP. 20 U.S.C. §§1401(9)(D), 1412(a)(1).”

12. The Supreme Court’s decision in Endrew overruled the decision of the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which had concluded that “a child’s IEP is adequate as long as it is calculated to confer an ‘educational benefit [that is] merely . . . more than de minimis,…’ 798 F.3d 1338.” Endrew F. v. Douglas Country School District, 580 U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 988 (2017).

13. tenBroek, Jacobus (1966). “The Right to Live in the World: The Disabled in the Law of Torts.” California Law Review, 54(2), p. 843.

14. tenBroek, Jacobus (1957). 1957 Banquet Address, Banquet of the Annual Convention, “Cross of Blindness,” 6.

15. tenBroek, Jacobus (1957). 1957 Banquet Address, Banquet of the Annual Convention, “Cross of Blindness,” 6.

16. Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc., 872 F.3d 476 (7th Cir. 2017).

17. tenBroek, Jacobus (1960). 1960 Banquet Address, Banquet of the Annual Convention, “He Walks by a Faith Justified by Law,” 2.

18. tenBroek, Jacobus (1966). “The Right to Live in the World: The Disabled in the Law of Torts.” California Law Review, 54(2), p. 842.

19. Mr. Elder and other disability law symposium speakers urged the disability rights community to continue to think creatively and strategically about how to best address ongoing problems encountered by blind individuals attempting to independently access self-service kiosks at train stations and airports, and websites to purchase tickets on buses.

20. tenBroek, Jacobus (1962). 1962 Banquet Address, Annual Convention Banquet of the American Brotherhood for the Blind, “Welfare of the Blind: Perils and Prospects,” 1-3.

21. tenBroek, Jacobus (1962). 1962 Banquet Address, Annual Convention Banquet of the American Brotherhood for the Blind, “Welfare of the Blind: Perils and Prospects,” 1-3.

Three Out-Castes of American Society

by Professor Jacobus tenBroek

From the Editor: The previous article discussed the 2018 Jacobus tenBroek Law Symposium, and it is clear that Jacobus tenBroek was an advocate not only for blind people but for others he considered disadvantaged in American society. I believe that the message he sent reinforces the need for integration of blind people into the broader society and reinforces the notion that we must be concerned about more than just people who are blind. We are careful as the elected representatives of blind people to speak only for the blind, but our caring goes far beyond our own selfish interests, and we are keenly aware of situations in which we share similar problems with other minorities.

In running this article without editing I realize there are some who may be offended by its language. I have not tried to apply any standard of modern political correctness to it, feeling that to make such changes would detract from the historical import of the article. Here is how it was originally introduced in November 1961 in the Blind American: The following address by the President of the American Brotherhood for the Blind was delivered earlier this year before the congregation of the University Christian Church of Des Moines, Iowa.

All of us know the Ten Commandments—the Decalogue of Divine law recorded in the Book of Exodus. But how many of us remember the numerous other commandments, no less sacred and no less binding, set forth elsewhere in the Holy Bible? How many recall, for example, the commandment contained in Leviticus: "Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling-block before the blind."

How different would have been the social progress of the blind, and how improved their present status, if that Divine directive had been taken to heart by all who have professed their faith in the Good Book!

The ancient term "stumbling-block"—whose original reference was literally and specifically addressed to the blind—has since come into our common language chiefly in the figurative sense in which a modern dictionary defines it: namely, "an obstacle or hindrance to progress or belief." This is as it should be. Ever since the days of Moses, it has been the figurative stumbling-blocks—the intangible obstacles or hindrances to progress and belief—which have lain most perilously athwart the path of the blind. The meaning of the commandment, for us today, is as specific as it ever was; its message is not only literal but symbolic as well. It says to us: "Thou shalt not put a stumbling-block before the blind whether of wood or stone, whether in law or in vocation, whether of substance or of spirit, whether of discrimination or prejudice neither shalt thou suffer any to remain in their path."

But it is not the blind alone before whom are placed stumbling-blocks. I should like to speak this morning about a sinister stumbling-block in the path of our democracy—which takes the form of a social caste system. More exactly, what I want to talk about is a system of "out-castes."

You all know the meaning of "caste," as social scientists use the term. A caste is a social class which has become rigid and immobilized which neither moves itself nor permits movement out of it. In such countries as India, where caste is hereditary, one's very life and livelihood may be permanently fixed by the caste one belongs to. The status of high caste is displayed like a badge; that of low caste is worn like a brand. The lowest castes of all—the pariahs or Untouchables—are less a part of their community than apart from it.

Every society, primitive or modern, may be said to have its own Untouchables—or reasonable facsimile thereof. They are the out-castes, dwelling on the margins of society: among them are the disadvantaged and disfranchised, the deviant and deprived, the "beat" and the offbeat.

Nor is America an exception to the rule, for all its vaunted classlessness and social mobility. There are more such groups among us than I have time or competence to describe. Three conspicuous out-castes of American society are the blind, the Negroes, and former convicts.

Few social groups, on the face of it, appear more radically different from one another than these three. And indeed each of them is unique in its origins and its distinctive needs. Among the three only the blind present a problem which has its source, if not its main expression, in physical disability. The special dilemma of racial minorities, and in particular of the Negro, arises from an accidental variation in skin pigmentation which has taken on as well a kind of "cultural coloration." Finally, the peculiar problem of the ex-convict springs originally from his own individual action—in contrast to the others, whose "guilt," if it may be called that, is by association.

There are other differences, scarcely less definitive, among these social out-castes. The histories of each are widely divergent. The heritage from which the blind still seek to be liberated is one of custodialism and charity; for the former felon it is a tradition of lifelong condemnation and social exile; for the Negro it is the inextinguishable memory of slavery.

As the three groups differ in their backgrounds, so do they differ in many of their needs. The blind alone require such services as physical retraining, adjustment, and vocational rehabilitation. Only the Negro finds himself barred on sight from the ordinary restaurants, churches, schools, and residences of the community. In his turn, the former convict faces problems no less distinct: branded by a requirement of public registration, his privacy invaded, his right of anonymity destroyed, his credit nullified and his freedom of contract impaired, his citizen's rights to vote, to hold office, to sit on juries, to enter public service, all cast in jeopardy.

The differences among these groups are numerous and profound. Yet I wish to speak here not of differences but of similarities—for the likenesses among these three out-castes are no less striking and scarcely less profound. In fact, they are so compelling that for certain practical purposes of life and livelihood the three groups may almost be treated as one.

Most important of all is the fact of their common stigma as social out-castes. All three groups labor under a social handicap—a stereotype fixed upon them by the community which sets them apart from its main body and keeps them out of its main stream. In short, they are all victims of public prejudice and of the active discriminations it engenders—however much that prejudice may differ among them in both its roots and its fruits.

What these out-groups share most in common, in other words, is not some physical trait or innate characteristic, but a social and psychological image. It is not something in themselves, but something outside and around them, which provides the parallel. That parallel, of course, is closest and most obvious with respect to the blind and the Negro. Thus, for example, one recent study of the blind has called attention to what its authors term "the minority parallel." In both instances, they maintain, "the phenomenon is one of a group of people whom the majority insists on endowing with special characteristics, for whom a stereotype has been evolved which each member of the minority is supposed to exemplify, and the essence of which is the imputation of inferiority." We may wish to qualify this diagnosis with respect to some minorities; but I think we would all agree that in the cases of the blind man and the black man society does indeed clothe its venerable practices of exclusion and discrimination with a sweeping assumption of inferiority—if not also of abnormality and incompetence.

This is the crux of the matter. Both of these out-castes—the blind and the Negro—aim above all at integration and away from the segregation which has been their lot. The official motto of the National Federation of the Blind is "Security, Equality, Opportunity." That motto might equally stand, without change, as the slogan of the NAACP. Each of these objectives, moreover, depends upon the others: there can be no genuine security without access to opportunity; there can be no effective opportunity without an acceptance of equality. The attack upon that American dilemma which we know as the "Negro problem"—as upon the less publicized but no less profound dilemma which confronts the blind—is therefore a three-pronged attack. It is an attack on the economic front, for the expansion of job opportunity; it is an attack on the political front, for the enactment and enforcement of fair employment practices and an end to segregation; and it is an attack on the educational front, for the diffusion of knowledge and understanding and the consequent erosion of the stereotypes of inferiority and incompetence.

I said earlier that the blind person and the Negro may be distinguished from the former convict by the fact that their guilt in the eyes of society is strictly guilt by association. The American who is blind or colored finds himself judged not on his individual record or performance but by his involuntary membership in a socially defined (if very imperfectly defined) class: that of the "blind" or of the "colored." But there is an important sense in which this stereotype-casting is equally the fate of the ex-convict. For he also is a member of a defined if spurious class: the class of "criminals." It is a class from which he cannot easily graduate, however full his penance or firm his resolve. Despite the remarkable advances of the last century in criminology and social science, popular attitudes remain largely in the horse and buggy era of Lombroso—as expressed in the dreary homilies that criminals are born and not made, that the purpose of prisons is retribution not rehabilitation, and that he who has walked a crooked path cannot ever go straight. The very term "ex-convict" carries its own irony; for that "ex," which should be a sign of emancipation, symbolizes instead the mark of the jailhouse which can never be quite erased.

The case of the former convict is in many ways a special one; but with respect to the paramount problems of life and livelihood the minority parallel is scarcely less compelling here. Our democratic American faith enjoins discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, or "previous condition of servitude." Although this latter phrase was intended originally to apply to former slaves, it has a literal application to the former convict. His social condition is in fact very much like that of the Negro freedman after the Civil War; although officially released from penal servitude, he too is the victim of a prejudice which has not yet been liberated. Although in theory he has atoned for his crime and paid his price, he is not welcomed as an equal but shunned as a pariah. Not only is equality denied him; his opportunity is critically circumscribed. Often the only references he can offer to employers are those supplied by his former jailers; typically he is relegated to the menial and undesirable jobs which others turn down, at lower wages than those who work with him. If by dint of exceptional effort he struggles upward to a position of responsibility, his record will return to haunt him. And not only equality and opportunity are refused him but dignity itself. Just three years ago the Supreme Court of the United States upheld a Los Angeles city ordinance requiring all ex-felons to register with the authorities upon entering the community. By its action the court in effect under-wrote the doctrine that a prison record is so crucial a fact about a man that he may be compelled to subject himself to police harassment for the remainder of his life wherever he goes in the land. For numbers of our cities have enacted such ordinances in order to be able to round up all ex-cons when a crime is committed. The effect upon the individual is obvious. "This registration" as one expert has concluded, "is a vicious practice for it exposes the conscientious ex-prisoner to intimidation and perhaps even blackmail by insecure police officers or those who are badgered by their superiors to arrest someone." The Supreme Court, by the way, took note of the fact that such enactments were on the books of numerous communities across the country. But the justices were not prepared to face the question whether this discriminatory requirement rests upon the assumption “once a criminal, always a criminal”—the dictum that a wrongdoer's debt to society is never paid but rather goes on accumulating interest which can be met only by periodic drafts upon his dignity, privacy, and freedom of action.

The loss of civil rights by the former prisoner within our states is thoroughly shocking in its depth and extent. Here are only a few of the rights of which he may be deprived, in many or all of our states: the right to vote; the right to hold public office; the right to make a contract; the right to serve as a juror or testify as a witness; the right to employment in the Federal or State Civil Service; the right to marry at will; the right to enter numerous businesses, professions, or occupations—such as those pursued by doctors, lawyers, cab-drivers, and pawnbrokers—in which "good moral character" is a formal requirement. In these circumstances, what is remarkable is not that many former criminals return to the scene (and environment) of their crime—but that any of them do not. "The world's thy jailer," wrote the poet John Donne; four centuries later, his words convey an awful truth for the man released from an American prison.
The peculiar "marginality" of the ex-felon stems, in short, from the fact that he is poised precariously between two worlds: that of conventional society and that of organized crime. To the extent that the world rejects him, the underworld is waiting to embrace him. The community, looking out from its glass houses of prejudice, righteously demands of the former convict that he change his ways. But the demand is hypocritical unless the community is also prepared to change its own ways—by extending to this rejected minority, as well as to others, the genuine prospects of security, equality, and opportunity.

Let me now try to draw the minority parallel among these groups a little tighter. It has long been recognized by social scientists that the field of employment is at once the area of the worst discrimination against minorities and the one in which practical reforms have the best chance of success. It is surely the economics of prejudice which work the greatest hardship upon the blind, the Negro, and the ex-convict. Moreover, it is also in this field that the minority parallel is closest, especially between the first two groups; for the blind are subjected to much the same kinds of treatment as Negroes in the job market. Both minorities find themselves denied access to certain "higher" vocations and industries, on grounds of their supposed inability to handle the work; both find themselves segregated within special establishments (called "Jim Crow" houses in the one case, and sheltered workshops in the other). Both are typically confined to the most menial and rudimentary of occupations, as well as to those which are in any way unattractive to "normal" or "white" employees.

Most similar of all in their effects are the widespread suppositions of the inferiority and incompetence of Negroes and the blind. I have never seen this attitude better expressed, with reference to the blind, than in a brief communication I received a few years ago from a public administrator, in reply to my question whether blindness by itself was a factor in deciding on an applicant's fitness for employment. "Your letter," he wrote, "raises the old question of whether we, as civil service administrators, are to adhere to the principle for which we were brought into existence of securing the most highly competent employees obtainable for the public service, or whether we should take into account other considerations than competency. Helping the blind has its strong appeal to the sensibilities of everyone. On the other hand, we should avoid making the public service an eleemosynary institution."

I can't resist one more anecdote on similar lines—this one told by an eminent figure in the rehabilitation field, Dr. Henry Kessler. It illustrates as well as any I know the stereotype of incompetence by which the employment of blind persons in opposition to all the facts, continues to be regarded as an essentially charitable if not rather foolhardy proposition:

"While I was out on the west coast during the war period, when it was difficult to secure labor and manpower, there was an employer who required some help in his office. He had filled his quota of employees from the War Manpower Commission. It was suggested to him by the WMC that he secure the services of a blind Dictaphone operator, and he replied, 'Do you think she can do the work?' 'Why, of course,' was the answer. 'I will underwrite her.' Reluctantly, he accepted the proposal and he hired this blind Dictaphone operator, and she almost revolutionized the work of his office. She did the work of five girls. He prospered, and he needed more help. Again he applied to the WMC. They suggested to him, 'Why don't you get another blind Dictaphone operator?' Whereupon he arose in all his dignity and said, 'I have done my bit.'"

Until fairly recently, to be sure, there was some point to the reaction of this patriotic employer. For while the attitude of all who came into contact with the blind—teachers, social workers, psychologists, employers, and the community in general—was one of pity and protection, it was hard indeed for the blind person not to share the common view of his low estate. Set off from the moment of affliction in a special caste, his vocational preparation was limited almost exclusively to the so-called "blind trades"—i.e. mop-making, chair-caning, basket-weaving, and perhaps (for the superlatively gifted) piano-tuning. When this was all that blind people were allowed to learn, it was easy to believe that it was all they were capable of doing.

The monotonous routine of the blind trades is still commonly the fate of those who become blind. But in recent years there has appeared a discernible crack in the stereotype, and a widening rift in the gloom. Today there are blind lawyers by the scores across the country—at least as many blind schoolteachers, and growing numbers of college professors like myself. I number among my own acquaintances a blind nuclear physicist, a blind chemist, a blind judge, a blind ex-congressman, and (perhaps most unexpected of all) a blind electrician. In fact, whenever I think that at last I have discovered a job or profession which the blind cannot perform, I soon discover some sightless man or woman making a flourishing career of it.

The wartime record of the blind in competitive industry, like that of the physically handicapped in general, was—or should have been—a revelation to employers. Not only were blind workers in the defense industries equally as efficient and productive as their sighted colleagues, they were considerably more stable and reliable in their employment. When, during a manpower shortage, the blind were given a fair chance at normal competitive jobs, together with adequate training and selective placement, they quickly surpassed the expectations of everyone—including, no doubt, themselves. Unhappily, in this particular marketplace, truth was not quite strong enough to vanquish error in open combat. When the war ended, the exiled stereotype of the helpless blind man was speedily restored to its former prominence; those who were the last to be hired were the first to be fired. Society, as it seemed, had only been economically willing to take them on as extra hands; it was not yet psychologically prepared to take them in as equals.

Full membership in society is today withheld from America's blind population—much as it is from her major minority groups—through unreasoning and largely unacknowledged public attitudes, which interpret physical disability as total inability and tend to smother efforts at improvement beneath a blanket of shelter and protection. The integration of the blind and minority groups into society hangs largely upon their assimilation into the economy; for lacking economic security men cannot develop their capacities or contribute to the community, and lacking economic opportunity their citizenship is in a real sense "second-class."

Fortunately, it is in the field of employment that prejudice and discrimination are most susceptible of reform—and where the significant steps are presently being taken. Indeed, it is not too much to say that the nation's blind stand today on the threshold of a new era of full and equal participation in their society. But for this prospect to become a reality, a sweeping new approach is needed in all areas of welfare and employment. This new approach is admirably exemplified by the work of your own Iowa Commission for the Blind in its new orientation and training center, in its vending stand program, in its vocational rehabilitation program, and in the philosophy and atmosphere which pervades all of its activities. The "charity" approach, the "custodial" approach, the "sheltered" approach, even the "humanitarian" approach—all must give way to a new spirit of equalitarianism which centers uncompromisingly around the root concept of the normality of those who are blind. It must be recognized that the overriding problem of blindness is one not of physical disability but of social handicap. Eliminate the handicap and the disability will take care of itself—or, more precisely, the disabled will take care of themselves.

In the New Testament the words appear: "We walk by faith, not by sight." The lesson is plain. For the blind to walk the thoroughfares of society, to enter its mainstream in fraternity and freedom, requires a double faith: a faith in themselves and their own abilities, and a faith in society and its ability to remove the stumbling-blocks of prejudice from their path.

It is much the same with the former convict. The way of the transgressor is no less beset by stumbling-blocks which society alone has the power to remove. Here too the age-old approaches to crime and punishment need to be thoroughly swept away. The primitive approach of vengeance and retaliation; the punitive approach of deliberate cruelty and deprivation; the fearful approach of the criminal stereotype—all must be given up in favor of the rehabilitative and democratic approach centering around the concept of equality and the presumption of normality. The motto of a just society was coined long ago: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."

Finally, the massive stumbling-blocks in the path of the Negro must be clearly recognized, and the bulldozers set to work to root them out. The greatest block of all is the racial legacy of slavery itself, which first created the out-caste of color and carried with it a separate cultural pattern and style of life to match the transiency and degradation of existence as a human chattel. The stereotypes of Negro character which are still brutally purveyed in film and folklore—those of shiftiness and shiftlessness, of promiscuity and vice, of irresponsibility and ignorance—all are related to the background of bondage and the subsequent reluctance of white society to create opportunities for adjustment and integration on democratic terms. No social scientist worth his salt speaks any longer of racial differences in IQ or aptitude, ability or ambition; when the stubborn specter of Jim Crow has at last been given decent burial, we may be confident that the myth of Negro inferiority and incompetence will perish with it. All the traditional approaches which lend aid and comfort to these legends—the approach of "white supremacy," the approach of "separate but equal," the approach of Uncle Tom and Aunt Jemima (those models of servility imposed upon a race)—all must be discarded in favor, once again, of the simple democratic precept of equality.

"There is neither Greek nor Jew, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free. ..." Thus spoke St. Paul two millennia ago. And so it must be with us today in this broad land. There is neither Jew, nor Greek, nor African, nor blind man, nor former convict—but only the free man and citizen in the society of equals to which we aspire.

On Expectations: Average vs. Amazing

by Lisa Ferris

From the Editor: Lisa Ferris lives with her husband, three boys, two guide dogs, and three guinea pigs in Portland, Oregon. She is co-owner of an adaptive technology company. This article was first posted on her business site blindmast.com, and it is with pleasure that we print these insightful remarks:

My husband and partner, Nik, and I teach blindness skills to blind clients. He is blind, and I am deafblind. Nik has a saying that I think gets misunderstood a lot. It’s something along the lines of “We are working towards average” in our work with our clients who have vision impairments.

This has more to do with overall expectations of what blind people can do. It is not a judgment on any individual blind person. People are unique and have individual needs and strengths, preferences, likes and dislikes, goals, and ambitions. All of our clients are amazing in their own ways, and we hope that, in their own way, they use the skills they learned while working with us to go on and do whatever amazing things they want to do with their lives. We just help to develop the skills to meet their goals.

Our philosophy is this: it is an average thing for a blind person to be able to get around independently. It is an average thing for a blind person to be able to use a computer or mobile device to manage his/her life and vocation. It is average for a blind person to be able to cook, clean, and manage his/her personal hygiene, wardrobe, and other tasks around the house. It is average for a blind person to have a job in competitive employment in the community. It is an average thing for a blind person to participate in hobbies, sports, community groups, and religious groups. It is average for blind people to marry, parent children, or participate fully as aunts, uncles, and grandparents and other family relationships as full contributing members of the family. And on and on from there.

These things are not special, amazing, or worthy of any kind of major CNN news story or viral Facebook post of astonishing feats. This is just normal, everyday stuff.

Or it should be. Statistically, many blind people are not doing these things. There are a lot of factors as to why. Some of it has to do with lack of training opportunities. Some has to do with lack of funding and access to equipment. Some has to do with lack of access and discrimination. These are very real problems that keep blind people from being and doing average things. However, these issues are not inherent to blindness or vision loss itself. The problem lies in low expectations and standards. The problem lies in people’s idea that doing these average things are not average, but superhuman feats that only a few “elite” blind people can do. Herein lies the problem.

When Nik moved to a new city and went to a vocational rehabilitation office for the first time, he looked up the directions, asked questions, found out which buses to take, and got there with no issues, just like he gets to any place he wants to go. But when he got there, the VR counselor exclaimed how amazing it was that he got there himself. Now, she knew that Nik was not a person who just recently lost his sight. In that case it would be understandable if someone couldn’t get around without help if they had not learned travel skills yet. She knew that he had been blind for decades, employed, a parent, etc. And she still found it amazing that he got to the office himself. This is an example of low expectations. This is an example of someone thinking that what should be average and expected is unusual and amazing. And it doesn’t bode well for services and overall expectations of blind people.

Again, this is not a judgment of anyone who cannot get around independently. Here is the thing about average: it’s a tip of a bell curve. There is room for variations in skills and strengths. But here is where we set average. We know that some people have extenuating circumstances. Some blind people have other disabilities that factor in to what they can do. Nik can hear way better than I can. This affects our abilities in travel. I can read UEB contracted Braille a bit better than him because he grew up reading Swedish Braille. He can use VoiceOver better than I can because of his hearing, and I tend to use my tactile and olfactory senses in ways he hasn’t thought of.

Some people are going to love cooking so much they will become five-star chefs. Others really like their food delivery service apps like Uber Eats. Both are feeding themselves, right? It’s all ok. None of us, whether we are disabled or not, are truly 100 percent independent. We all sort ourselves out by where we want help and where we are great doing it on our own. Nik is much more tech savvy than me. When the router is offline, I just let him fix it. However, I know that I can fix it myself. But it would take me longer, I would have to look up stuff online, I might have to call tech support. Whereas its easier for him just to fix it in five minutes. So, it’s not about being 100 percent independent all the time. It is about knowing that you could manage if you had to. You have a toolbox of ways (even asking for help somewhere else or using additional resources.) It’s about that knowledge being average.

We have great clients, and I love to hear about the clients learning new skills and meeting their own personal goals. We have clients who are deafblind, we have clients with dementia, with neuropathy, with mobility impairments, with complex health issues, and with other extenuating circumstances. We work with them to find out where they are and where they want to go. We know some of them are not going to want to or be able to do all of the “average” things we consider pretty normal on the bell curve for blind people. That’s perfectly ok. But one thing we will never do is to say, “No, you can’t do that.” “No that is not a realistic goal for you.” “No, you are expecting too much.” The sky is the limit for what our clients can do. Our expectations will never be a barrier for them. We think that is one of our greatest strengths.

Our expectations are just that the average blind person can do average things that average sighted people do. Of course there is room for variance and individual strengths and weaknesses, preferences and desires. But in the end, blindness skills are just average ways of doing everyday things. They may be different ways than sighted people use, but they are not amazing, they are average.

About being “amazing”…

It’s pretty common for sighted people to see us doing everyday tasks and call it “amazing.” They mean well and this amazing feeling probably mostly comes from their minds being opened a little and seeing a way to do something that they didn’t know existed before. That mind opening feeling can feel amazing.

However, this doesn’t really mean what the blind person is doing is all that amazing. I’m not suggesting we chastise well-meaning people who don’t know better for calling us amazing. However, I do think we need to be careful to not believe that hype about ourselves. I think it can be a little dangerous.

Maybe the first time you read something in Braille, made your way down to the bus stop by yourself, or cooked your own meal by yourself without vision, you did feel absolutely amazing! I have had those feelings, too. It’s a great feeling to figure out how you can do something that you didn’t think you could do (or were told you couldn’t do.) That’s perfectly understandable. Give your friend a high five! Have a celebratory drink! Tell yourself, “Good job! You did amazing today!” However, if you are still doing that after you’ve read 400 novels in Braille or cooked for twenty years, some of your fellow blind people might start to give you a little side-eye.

When my sons took their first steps, I thought it was amazing! I was so excited. When my eight-year-old spent an afternoon riding up and down the alley teaching himself to ride a bike, I jumped up and down and cheered. However, this is because it was a big step for them where they were at. Not because kids learning to walk or ride bikes is amazing, especially. I did not call the local news to come see my child’s amazing bike riding prowess. His bike video did not go viral on Facebook, and he was not called “inspirational and amazing” in his bike riding ability. Now that my sons have been riding bikes and walking for years, I no longer jump and cheer for them. They would be really annoyed if I did that. Bike riding and walking is average for most kids. To act otherwise would be infantile and condescending to them.

Now, sometimes blind people do really amazing things that are amazing by anyone’s standard. Erik Weihenmayer climbing the Seven Summits is amazing because it is a rare accomplishment for anyone to do that. Haben Girma meeting several world leaders in her work is amazing because that is a rare thing that most people do not accomplish. Brad Snyder winning multiple gold medals in the Paralympics swimming events is amazing because being an Olympic gold medalist is amazing for anyone to be. So, it certainly isn’t that blind people can never do amazing things. However, it’s not beneficial for us to think of regular blindness skills—everyday things any average blind person can do—as amazing. These things should be standard and average.

When I see average blind people doing average things and acting as though they are amazing, I cringe a bit. I want to tell them not to believe the misconceptions of the nondisabled world. The reason it is a problem is because when blind people act like the everyday things they do are amazing, it reinforces the concept for sighted people. They are led to believe that the average thing is not normal or usual—that it is exceptional, special, and very difficult and rare among the blind. This can affect their view of us as potential employees and also lead them to believe that including us by making things accessible is a rare and difficult thing to do that doesn’t happen very often.

It’s a fine line between educating the public and misleading them by being just a little too amazed with ourselves. Here is an example I remember from a few years ago. Once I saw a story about a blind man who was a carpenter and was making wooden toys to sell. The story talked about how amazing he was and how inspirational he was. It talked about how specialized his training was. It made him sound like he himself thought he was pretty rare and amazing. (I don’t know if he meant to give that impression. It could have been editing by the news organization.) Now, it’s just fine that he is a carpenter. He is one of several blind carpenters I am aware of. In fact, several blindness training centers have woodshop training taught by blind carpenters. I took a woodshop class myself and learned how to use a table saw, band saw, radial arm saw, etc. It’s really, really common for blind people to have taken carpentry class and have some of these skills. Some, like myself, don’t go on to become great carpenters, but some take it to the next levels and become talented woodworkers. Blind people knowing how to do carpentry is common and average.

A few weeks after this story aired, I was with my son in a woodshop that also provided classes. An employee came up to me and asked me if I had seen the story of a blind carpenter and how amazing it was. I said I had seen it. I asked if he would consider having blind students in his classes now that he had seen the story. He said no, he couldn’t. He did not have the special equipment and have special training to teach the blind. I said there really was hardly any special equipment needed, and I could set him up with a knowledgeable blind carpenter who could help him learn techniques to teach blind students. (At this point, if he took me up on it, I knew I was going to have to take the class!) But he declined because he said the carpenter from the story was amazing, he must have special skills or senses that allowed him to do that. If blind people could really be carpenters, it wouldn’t be a story on CNN, would it? What do you think he would do if a blind woodworker came to him for a job?

It’s a tough thing to educate the public and expose them to the ways we do average things while not getting thrown into this type of being “too amazing to include” trap. Sometimes, despite our best efforts to educate, it happens anyway, and there isn’t too much we can do about it. But I think it is very important that we make sure that our expectations for ourselves aren’t perpetuating it. If we are going along with our lives, managing things, going places, living the lives we want (as the National Federation of the Blind motto says) that’s being pretty average, and for us to be thought of as average is a good thing. Being “amazing” can be more of a burden than a compliment, and it certainly doesn’t lead to being thought of as equals.

That is why we say we are training people to be average. After that, it’s up to you to do something truly amazing! We’d love to watch where you go from here!

Dear Teachers, Please Presume Competence When You Work with My Child

by Crystal Kostick

From the Editor: This article first appeared on October 28, 2018, on the web community The Mighty. The Mighty is a digital health community created to empower and connect people facing health challenges and disabilities. Though the little girl in this article is not blind, she still faces low expectations from her teachers, and just like Federation parents, her mother doesn’t plan to let those low expectations pass unchallenged. She addresses it with humor, but is serious about making sure her daughter gets the education she deserves. Here is what Crystal has to say to her daughter’s teachers:

“Oh, she is just so sweet!”

“What a precious little angel you have!”

“Is she always this easy-going?”

Umm… nope. Nuh-uh. No way.

It’s laughable, really. If you spend some time in our home and get to know my lovely little girl, these statements are so far from our experience. And yet, these are the type of comments I hear most often from teachers, aides, principals, etc.

Well guess what? They are all being played.

Now before I continue, because the internet likes to mom-shame and some people take things way too seriously, I feel like I need to interject here the fact that I love my kid. She’s probably the coolest one alive, and I am basically obsessed with her sheer awesomeness.

However, that being said, she is no angel (but is any child, really?) This girl is so many things: smart, sassy, goofy, mischievous… but sweet, angelic, and precious are not the first things that come to mind. And I honestly love that about her.

My daughter sustained a severe brain injury during her birth and as a result has been diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), cerebral palsy, and epilepsy. She has significant delays and obviously needs some extra support at school. But she is extremely bright, and her levels of manipulation and impishness are right on track for her age.

She is only five years old, but she has already caught on to the idea that she is cute.

Like, really cute. She is cute, and she has a disability, and people feel sorry for her (insert eye-roll).

Please, make her work!

She is not at school to be cute for you. She is not there to learn new and creative ways to get out of working. And she is definitely not there to watch other people doing everything for her.

It’s not OK. Yes, she is cute. Yes, she has a disability and will need extra help in some areas. But as her mother I need to know that you are seeing her potential and helping her to reach it. She is very capable of many things, and I need to know that you know that.

Sending your child off to kindergarten is hard… for any mom. But for a mom with a child who has disabilities, it is downright terrifying. This is my biggest fear: that she will be coddled and bombarded with help. I want my daughter to have as close to a typical experience as possible, and I want her to learn. School is not glorified daycare.

She can do hard things. Repeat after me: she can do hard things! It may not look hard to some, but all the while, she is learning about resilience, toughness, and persistence.

So please, be tough on my kid. Don’t let her get away with not trying. She doesn’t have to be able to do everything correctly, but make sure to give her the push and the time to make the effort.

Presume the utmost intelligence and competence, and give her a sturdy platform to stand on—just like you would with any other child. I want her to be educated and be the best possible version of herself. I may not know just what that looks like, but I sure know what it doesn’t look like.


A “mean” mom who cares deeply and expects the same of the world.

Speaking Over Me Won’t Stop Me

by Aaron Rupp

From the Editor: Aaron Rupp is the husband of Terri Rupp, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada. Their daughter Marley is in school, and when you have a blind student in a public school, you have the challenge of working on an individualized education plan (IEP). It can be difficult to be a parent negotiating for one’s child when you feel your comments are disregarded by people who think your lack of professional certification means that your comments weren’t worth the time taken to listen to them. Here is Aaron’s reaction to a recent IEP for his daughter Marley:

Sitting in this chair, my heart is pounding. Seriously pounding, to the point that I have to consciously focus on breathing to stay calm to be able to conduct myself appropriately and stay focused at this critical moment. But the pounding is almost all I hear and feel.

At the table with me is my wife Terri, mother of our daughter Marley, and Marley's educational "team." And sitting across the table from me is the school district's cane travel instructor, discounting me and my wife every time we speak.

The discussion surrounds the selection of which cane Marley is to use. We want the longer, lighter white cane, while she feels that the shorter, three-times-heavier cane with a big ball tip is the best choice. Every time we speak about what the white cane means or mention the philosophy of advocacy and higher expectations/standards we live by and expect for ourselves, including Marley, a look of sheer disgust smears across this teacher's face, followed by a heavy roll of the eyes and pulling of her brows as high as she can, finishing off with a sarcastic smile to the others (Marley's principal, kindergarten teacher, low vision teacher, and special services coordinator) clearly saying, without using words, who the blank do you think you are to make decisions for your daughter, and I can't believe we're wasting our time listening to his rantings, folks.

This is the look, but the words she uses are, "What training and credentials do you have in orientation and mobility (O&M)?" The implied question is, why do you think you should have a say in the course of your daughter's independence development? What she says is, "I have a masters in O&M and years of experience. Marley's white cane with the metal tip is a danger to others."

I look at these divine and almighty credentials of hers as a hindrance. She has had six years of formal training on how a sighted person tells a blind person what's best for them, and she has been teaching subprime methods that do not encourage confidence or allow our children to navigate through life at an equal pace with their peers.

What does the short cane mean to me? Because it is shorter, instead of picking up on obstacles and landscape variations several feet in front of the traveler, they discover steps and walls when the obstacles are literally inches in front of their toes. Short canes set the expectation that safe travel means far slower, less confident walking, and that is a fact. Short canes equal tenseness because the reaction time must be immediate.

The standard cane being pushed by the school is heavier, two to three times heavier than her long white cane, with a weighted stub at the end that is meant to be pushed/dragged, grinding against forward motion with every step. It catches on every crack, rock, and twig the user encounters. This does not allow the cane traveler—including my daughter—to move freely or on par with her peers. Again, it reinforces the foundation of lower expectations and standards. That is a fact.

Most importantly, the difference symbolically from the short, red-ended heavy cane versus the long white cane is immense. The standard cane originates in the UK circa 1921, created by James Biggs, who found himself newly blind and painted his walking stick to become more visible (White cane, Wikipedia.org). The long cane was developed in 1958 by the Iowa chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, designed to "enable us to walk faster without diminishing either safety or grace” (“The Nature of Independence” by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, NFB.org) One was created from a "discomfort from the amount of traffic around his home," and designed for the purpose of "being more visible." From the inception of its development in England in the 1920s to France in the 30s and the Lions Club in America in the 50s, the main theme to its development and adoption into law has been the concept of visibility, alerting others to the presence of a blind person. In contrast, the long white cane was created as a result of dissatisfaction with the, as Dr. Jernigan put it, “the short heavy wooden type, and we youngsters associated carrying a cane with begging, shuffling along, and being helpless.” This new cane was designed for the purpose of helping blind people advance on the road to freedom and independence. This shift was mentioned many times by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and these are facts.

In short, one symbolizes "Look out, I am a handicapped person, and I can't get around that good," while the other symbolizes "Look out, I'm a handi-capable person, and I'm coming through!"

This lady's perspective and decisions regarding the training and foundation for Marley and countless other children are based on conventional education and only values input that supports her lower expectation standards. Our perspective and decisions are framed from lifetime experience, Terri being blind since childhood, and me having been partnered with her for the past eleven years. As a child Terri went through a system that enforced the negative promotion model of blindness. She learned using a short cane, and Braille was not encouraged. When we got together, she was in college. Staying up all night trying to keep up with the required reading, with her face pressed down into the book on the table, was common. Reading at fifteen to twenty words a minute was why it took so long and caused the physical problems that come with trying to read what one cannot see and therefore cannot read efficiently. Walking into light poles and fire hydrants were a part of her days, all because someone had a different idea—a professional idea—of what a blind person should be and what devices she should use. It wasn't until she adopted a positive promotion model that she dared to have the audacity to live the life she wanted. She got the proper training. Now she runs 5k's, navigates airports solo, is an amazing mom, and reads faster than George W. speaks!

Do you think a formal education experience ever landed this teacher in a room of several thousand successful blind people cheering at the top of their lungs in celebration of their independence, or meeting blind doctors, Harvard graduates, Everest climbers, and elite triathletes? Probably not, which is why her expectations and view of the blind are unwittingly discriminatory and are exemplified by her insistence on subprime and archaic teaching methods.

Cane travel skills are like handwriting skills. Am I to expect my five-year-old to be writing in cursive? Of course not; it is a development of fine motor skills that she is working through. I would be equally unreasonable to expect her to execute impeccable discipline and precision in her cane usage. But forcing her to use a tool that will not serve her in the future will slow her down in the present and set a life trajectory of lowered expectations on a deficiency model. This is like forcing her to learn only large bubble letters before she is allowed to learn Braille. No! We have high standards for our life, and we expect the same for Marley.

I was expecting to be met with a different philosophy and lower expectations for a standard of independence, but I wasn't expecting to be met with condescension and disgust. This is not the first time some stranger in his/her ignorance has attacked Marley's progression. Past actions from the school include refusing Braille, physically taking her cane away, and holding her hand instead of letting her run with her classmates.

At what point does life experience have any validity in the face of a formal education? Are my words worthless because I don't have a degree in O&M? What am I supposed to do, get a masters in every aspect of my life to be able to advocate for my daughter? If there is any term I can think of that depicts what my daughter is up against, it is institutionalized discrimination.

Betty Capps Dies

by Gary Wunder

Helen Betty Capps started making the world a better place on May 5, 1931, and she continued to do so until December 17, 2018. Many of us knew Betty in the way she wanted to be known—as part of the team known as Don and Betty Capps. If there was light to be shined as a result of her work, she preferred that it be shined on Don, and this was very much in keeping with women of her generation.

Few virtues are more important than loyalty, and the name Betty Capps is synonymous with this most admirable of qualities. Betty married Donald in 1949. Together they had two children, Craig and Beth. Beth preceded Betty in death, and knowing that once again they are together is a source of comfort for the family in these difficult times.

For sixty-five years Betty Capps was everything her husband could have desired in a soulmate, a helpmate, and a trusted soldier in the movement they both shared in growing and nurturing, the National Federation of the Blind. Where you saw Don, there you also saw Betty. Where Don traveled, there you would find Betty. He did not like to fly, so she drove them across the country to do the work that helped blind people have the Federation we enjoy today. "The only place Mom didn't drive Dad was Hawaii. She liked to fly, but he didn't, so that was that," said son Craig. “She was just as much an advocate, but she helped in different ways,” he said. “She had three priorities: being a mother to her children, helping my dad, and being an advocate for the blind.”

While she certainly helped with traditional tasks such as driving and reading, she was much more central to the team of Don and Betty. She could help him read a group, devise a strategy, be a part of his institutional memory, and give her sage advice reflective of her education, good manners, southern traditions, dignity, and her ample supply of common sense. It may go without saying, but the success and dedication of a couple requires two committed people, and no one was ever more committed to another than Don to Betty. In talking about his considerable work and success, Don did not say I; he said Betty and I—the manifestation of profound love, and gratitude to the creator who saw to it that they found and embraced one another.

Betty was kind to everyone but was reserved by nature. Her close friends were few in number, but they knew they had no better friend than she. As Lois Tucker said, "When you had Betty as a friend, you had the best friend possible, and you had a friend for life. There were so many things I could tell you that Betty has done for others, but part of Betty's being a friend was doing things quietly and without notice. She was always so nice to our children, and even with all the traveling she did, it was clear that her own children would continue to receive the best of care and love."

Marshall Tucker remembers being required to move to Columbia, South Carolina, to change jobs. For three months he lived with the Capps family. "When Don heard that I was staying at the YMCA, he immediately invited me to stay with his family. Of course, Betty was the one who did the work of making a space for me and seeing that I had something to eat. For three months she made their home my home. I will never forget this kindness."

Craig treasures his mother for being many things, but the thing he values most is the role she played in her family. “Mom always insisted on our being together for Christmas. When for many years I lived in New York, Mom would start calling around September to make sure I was coming and to find out when I’d arrive. Those calls continued until she had a firm yes and a firm time when I’d be there.”

Gracious, a lady in the finest tradition, a mother second to none—all of these descriptions and more only begin to hint at the person Betty was and to the character that has shaped the lives of her children and has made better so many lives for people who are blind. We thank Betty for the person she was and for the opportunity to know her. Those who knew her knew love, for she exemplified it. Whether we knew her personally or by reputation, we have all been blessed by her life and her life’s work.

The Secret to Winning a National Federation of the Blind Scholarship

by Cayte Mendez

From the Editor: Cayte Mendez is the chairperson of one of the most important committees of the National Federation of the Blind. She and her committee are charged with advertising our scholarship program and choosing thirty students who demonstrate academic success, leadership, and commitment to helping others. Here is Cayte’s announcement about the 2019 scholarship program:

Each July at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind, our organization awards a broad array of scholarships to recognize achievement by blind scholars.  Our thirty scholarships, of which the $12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship is the largest, are all substantial and prestigious enough to inspire any student to complete a competitive application.  The NFB Scholarship Program is our investment in the future of blind people who demonstrate scholastic aptitude, leadership, and service. I encourage every blind college student to apply.

What exactly is the secret to winning an NFB scholarship? Over the years I have heard quite a bit of speculation regarding the answer to this question.  To be sure, there are some non-negotiable eligibility requirements.  All applicants for these scholarships must:

While these are the concrete requirements, what exactly is the secret to becoming an NFB scholarship winner?

Many think the single key to becoming a scholarship winner is a high grade point average.  While an applicant’s GPA certainly has value, because it demonstrates his/her ability to learn and be successful academically, this is by no means the only attribute that influences the decisions of the scholarship committee.  Likewise, others believe that the secret to winning is abundant participation in extracurricular activities.  Recognizing an applicant’s willingness to take on commitments outside of school and/or work can help the committee develop a portrait of a well-rounded individual; however, this is also not sufficient in itself to justify a scholarship award.

Still others think the magic scholarship winning ingredient is an applicant’s level of commitment to the NFB.  It is certainly true that the scholarship program provides our organization with a tremendous opportunity to develop future leaders of the National Federation of the Blind, but scholarship awards are by no means restricted to members of the organization. The National Federation of the Blind is dedicated to creating opportunities for all blind people. Recipients of NFB scholarships need not be members of the National Federation of the Blind. Many of our past winners were not even aware of the NFB before they applied for our scholarships.

Finally, there are those who speculate that the committee looks for winners among applicants from specific fields of study or specific demographics.  However, over the years, students of all ages and in widely differing fields have become finalists. The class of 2018 included students entering their freshman year, as well as older students who were nearly ready to write their PhD dissertations. Past scholarship winners are working toward credentials for employment in many diverse fields.

So what exactly is the secret to becoming an NFB scholarship finalist?  It is just this—you must apply!  Each November the new, updated scholarship application forms are posted on the web at www.nfb.org/scholarships, along with important information about the contest, links to information on past winners, and a page of frequently asked questions. The application form for 2019 is already online. It will remain up until March 31.  The process can be initiated with an online application, which we prefer, or students can ask for a print application by contacting our scholarship office at [email protected] or by calling (410) 659-9314, ext. 2415.

A complete application consists of the official application form and a student essay, plus these supporting documents: student transcripts, one letter of recommendation, and proof of legal blindness. Each applicant must also complete an interview with the NFB affiliate president of his/her state of residence or the state where he or she will be attending school. High school seniors may also include a copy of the results of their ACT, SAT, or other college entrance exams.

Unfortunately, some applications are incomplete, so the committee is unable to consider them fairly.  Applicants must ensure that all of the required information and supporting documentation has been received by our scholarship office either online by midnight EST, March 31, or by mail postmarked by March 31.

Students should carefully consider who can do the best job of writing their letter of reference. A letter should support the application by being full of facts and observations that will help the members of the committee see the applicant as a smart, active student and citizen. Students can write their essays using word processing software. They should remember to use the spell checker (or a human proofreader) before uploading, printing, or copying and pasting their work into the online application form.

In an effective essay the applicant will talk about his or her life in a way that gives the committee insight into him or her. The essay should cover the ways in which he or she lives successfully as a blind person and describe the applicant’s personal goals for the future. Information about positions of leadership is especially helpful. Committee members give the essay a great deal of attention.

The NFB scholarship committee is comprised of dedicated, successful blind people who will review all applications and select the top thirty applicants who will become the scholarship class of 2019. Note that students submit just one application to the program; the scholarship committee will choose the thirty finalists from all applications received. These thirty scholarship finalists will be notified of their selection by telephone no later than June 1.

During the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind, to be held July 7 through July 12, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada, the scholarship committee will decide which award will be presented to each winner. Attending and participating in the entire national convention is one of the requirements to become an NFB scholarship winner. Of course, attending the convention is also a significant part of the prize.

The National Federation of the Blind’s national convention is the largest gathering of blind people to occur anywhere in the world each year, with 2,500 or more people registered. Those chosen as scholarship finalists will have the opportunity to network with other blind students, to exchange information and ideas, and to meet and talk with hundreds of blind people who are successfully functioning in many occupations and professions. Our past winners often comment that the money was quickly spent, but the contacts they made and the information they gathered at convention have continued to make their lives richer than they ever imagined.

Often students apply more than one year before winning a scholarship, so applicants are encouraged to reapply. The NFB may award three or more scholarships to men and women who have already received one Federation scholarship in the past if their scholarship and leadership merit another award. Individuals receiving a second NFB national scholarship are recognized as tenBroek Fellows.

So now you know the secret.  The key to success for the NFB scholarship program is as straightforward as carefully reading the application on our website, and then providing all of the required information and supporting documentation before the deadline of March 31.  I look forward to receiving your applications!

Leave a Legacy

For more than seventy-five years the National Federation of the Blind has worked to transform the dreams of hundreds of thousands of blind people into reality, and with your support we will continue to do so for decades to come. We sincerely hope you will plan to be a part of our enduring movement by adding the National Federation of the Blind as a partial beneficiary in your will. A gift to the National Federation of the Blind in your will is more than just a charitable, tax-deductible donation. It is a way to join in the work to help blind people live the lives they want that leaves a lasting imprint on the lives of thousands of blind children and adults.

With your help, the NFB will continue to:

Plan to Leave a Legacy

Creating a will gives you the final say in what happens to your possessions and is the only way to be sure that your remaining assets are distributed according to your passions and beliefs. Many people fear creating a will or believe it’s not necessary until they are much older. Others think that it’s expensive and confusing. However, it is one of the most important things you will do, and with new online legal programs it is easier and cheaper than ever before. If you do decide to create or revise your will, consider the National Federation of the Blind as a partial beneficiary. Visit www.nfb.org/planned-giving or call 410-659-9314, extension 2422, for more information. Together with love, hope, determination, and your support, we will continue to transform dreams into reality.

Invest in Opportunity

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. A donation to the National Federation of the Blind allows you to invest in a movement that removes the fear from blindness. Your investment is your vote of confidence in the value and capacity of blind people and reflects the high expectations we have for all blind Americans, combating the low expectations that create obstacles between blind people and our dreams.
In 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 Donation

General donations help support the ongoing programs of the NFB and the work to help blind people live the lives they want. Donate online with a credit card or through the mail with check or money order. Visit www.nfb.org/make-gift for more information.


Even if you can’t afford a gift right now, including the National Federation of the Blind in your will enables you to contribute by expressing your commitment to the organization and promises support for future generations of blind people across the country. Visit www.nfb.org/planned-giving or call 410-659-9314, extension 2422, for more information.

Pre-Authorized Contribution

Through the Pre-Authorized Contribution (PAC) program, supporters sustain the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind by making recurring monthly donations by direct withdraw of funds from a checking account or a charge to a credit card. To enroll, visit www.nfb.org/make-gift, complete the Pre-Authorized Contribution form, and return it to the address listed on the form.

Bengsten Offers Insights into Living without Sight

by Jake Doetkott

From the Editor: This article was first published in the Sauk Rapids Herald weekly newspaper on October 27, 2018. They have graciously given us their permission to reprint. This article is a fine example the way all of us should be working to make Meet the Blind Month stand out in our annual calendars. Here is the article:

Gayle Bengsten was thought to have been born completely blind, but to her family's shock she could track motion and see color. Doctors had assumed her optic nerves were dead. "I consider it a miracle," Bengsten said. "However, my partial eyesight did get in the way early on. I'd always be staring down at my feet instead of learning to use a cane."

Bengsten is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota and has been spreading awareness of the disability for seventeen years even when certain aspects of blindness are tough to convey. Bengsten delivered her most recent presentation in Sauk Rapids on October 17 as part of National Meet the Blind Month. She shared her experiences, courtesy rules, and accessibility concerns with a group that gathered at Russell Arms Apartments.

"I love answering questions, but sometimes I wish I could throw sleepshades on people and have them go about their day like I would," said Bengsten, who joined the Central Minnesota Chapter of the Federation in the 1970s. "In terms of how I see, all I can say is there's a place for everything, and everything has its place. It's about remembering where things are."

Along with her long white cane, Bengsten carries a humorous attitude and a plethora of idioms. "A sense of humor goes a long way," Bengsten said. "I've had moments where people have jumped over my cane, thinking I'd hit them. I say, 'Beware the long white cane,' in a spooky tone to diffuse those situations."

During her talk, Bengsten explained courtesy rules of the blind. "Never touch blind people without consent, and don't pet a harnessed guide dog; it means they're on the job," Bengsten said. "We [people who are blind] can be independent and prefer to be, so don't take us by the hand unless we ask."

A growing concern for those who are blind is the noise reduction of vehicles. Bengsten urged electric and hybrid vehicle drivers to be alert to those trying to cross the street, especially those with a white cane in hand. "Many of us were taught to listen for traffic, but newer cars, and especially hybrids, aren't as loud as past models," said Bengsten, who uses a cane rather than a seeing eye dog to assist her mobility.

Although concerns remain, Bengsten appreciates how accessibility has improved since her youth.

In the ninth grade, Bengsten learned Braille, a letter system of raised bumps that offer the blind a way to read by sense of touch. "I'd use audio books or have people read to me before," Bengsten said. Braille opened new opportunities for Bengsten.

"First I was just happy to write my blind friends, but the Braille signs in public buildings were a benefit that greatly increased my independence," Bengsten said. "Public Braille sign locations aren't uniform though. The garbage room was a well-hidden secret to me for some time living at Russell Arms Apartments."

Another monumental accessibility improvement was computer screen-reading software. Bengsten uses NonVisual Desktop Access to relay what is on her computer's monitor via text-to-speech. Bengsten uses a combination of Braille and computer notes for personal organization. "Screen-reading software was a godsend for my independence," she said. "I wish it existed sooner."

Another improvement was cane resizing. Canes were formerly measured from the breastbone to the ground. Now, they typically extend to the bridge of the nose. "You'd hit things before your cane would," Bengsten said. "Over time we've discovered the longer the cane the better."

During her talk, Bengsten recommended the film Love Leads the Way: A True Story for its educational power. The movie shows a blind man's struggle with legal constraints that limited the use of his guide dog in public spaces.

"Although we've resolved some of the film's dilemmas, issues of guide dogs in public remain," Bengsten said.

Through involvement with the Federation and by spreading awareness in her community, Bengsten continues to help people meet the blind on more than a monthly basis.

Spaghetti with Chopsticks

by Justin Salisbury

From the Editor: Justin is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Hawaii, and he also works at the Ho’onopono Center for the Blind teaching cane travel. He is young enough to remember what it was like before he embraced the philosophy of the Federation, and he is articulate enough to explain how he felt before, the way he felt during the transition, and how much he wants others to share in what he has found.

Indeed much separates real freedom from route travel and the knowledge that one can learn from other blind people or even learn on his or her own. The difference has something to do with skill training, but attitude often determines whether or not one is willing to try. Here is Justin’s latest perspective on coming to know the liberation training has provided to him:

Back in 2011, when I was a student division president in North Carolina for the first time, one of my contributions to the student division was the idea that our student seminar could include an exhibit hall filled with vendors from across the country. I did not understand the philosophy of our movement as well as I could have, but I understood the importance of connecting students with resources that could help them. At the last minute, somebody had the idea that we ought to invite the three training centers run by the National Federation of the Blind. I was only barely aware of the existence of these, and I had previously fixated on inviting guide dog schools to come represent. We had plenty of guide dog schools, but why not float out a last-minute email to Pam Allen, Julie Deden, and Shawn Mayo? I remember my own embarrassment when talking to Pam Allen about it on the phone; I could not understand why she was so interested in sending someone last-minute to a seminar hosted by a little student division in North Carolina that nobody outside the state would know.

BLIND Inc. sent George Wurtzel, an industrial arts instructor, who had previously lived in North Carolina. He told me that he had worked in a mattress factory in Winston-Salem, which sounded to me like an interesting deal. I did not really understand the sheltered workshop concept, but I understood that this was a blind guy who had worked a variety of jobs. I understood that he was there to represent a training center, and I assumed that what he was offering was largely irrelevant to me because I had already been to training.

During my high school years, I attended some summer programs at a privately-run training center operating under what I now know as the “vision-centered approach.” I love how specific and accurate this term is, and we owe President Riccobono for introducing this term to the world in his 2017 banquet address. In that training center, I was taught how lucky I was that I could still see somewhat, and I was taught how to maximize the use of my vision. I was taught that it was not important for me to learn nonvisual techniques if I could use visual ones. If I ever lost more vision, I could always come back to the training center for more training. They told me that some people who were still hanging on to their vision for as long as they could would come back to the training center every few years when they could no longer see well enough to manage with the visual techniques they had been given in their prior stay. It sounded like a fun thing while I was still young and without a family, especially since they made us so comfortable there, and they always told us that we were good enough just the way we were. For those with more adult commitments, I figured it must have been hard to keep a job if they had to keep leaving. Then again, these guys were the professionals, so I figured they must have known what was best for blind people. Plus, it’s hard to disagree with people who keep you well-fed, comfortable, and entertained with all the group leisure activities.

At the student seminar our vice president Preston Johnson had taken care of the catering. He had done some great work getting food donated for breakfast and lunch. He and his team of student volunteers had set up a nice buffet area where students could indulge in whatever they needed. When it came time for the lunch line, I continued taking care of simple event details and finally joined the end of the line, as I have always been taught that it would be proper for me to eat last in such a setting. In front of me was George Wurtzel. As we waited, he commented on how, if I ever came to visit BLIND Inc. I should do it when a student was serving a meal for forty people. Students cooked and served everybody else, not the other way around.

Suddenly, in that moment, I understood that the training at BLIND Inc. was an entirely different kind of training than what I had received previously. At my previous training center, we would wait in line to enter the cafeteria, where we would deposit our canes in a docking station by the door, pick up a prepared lunch tray from the window, and walk carefully to find a seat. We had to walk in a counterclockwise direction to help avoid collisions with other students, and there would be a sighted person or blind person with some residual vision available to monitor our movement. That monitor would call out to us if we ever got too close to one another, subsequently telling us how to get out of a jam, or if we violated the counterclockwise walking rule. Instead, this guy was telling me that students at BLIND Inc. cooked a meal for everybody, and students handled their own affairs as they went through the entire dining process. The differences in the expectations of blind people were stunning, and I have never forgotten that moment that got my attention so clearly.

When I was first meeting Arlene Hill, my cane travel instructor at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, we talked about my previous experience with using a cane. I told her about what I called “orientation and mobility.” She gently told me that she was going to teach me cane travel. She figured she could assume that I was already mobile but just needed to learn how to use a cane and to do it without my vision. I voiced my frustrations about how limited I felt still trying to use my vision and how my vision-centered instructors had spent all this time getting me to optimize using something that still was not good enough. Ms. Arlene said that she did not need to teach me how to use my vision because I came to her already knowing how to use it as well as possible, just like every other student does. Society teaches people how to use their vision, but LCB was going to teach me how to do things the nonvisual way. That was part of what society had not taught me.

In some adjustment to blindness training programs, students learn how to perform one task or another using a preordained set of scripted and sequential techniques. Whether the techniques are visual or nonvisual is often varied based on how much a person can see. This idea is discussed quite often. What is less often discussed, but in my opinion is at least equally important, is the notion that teachers are basically attempting to teach students how to follow a rigid script for every little thing they want to do. It is almost like they believe teaching a blind person is like programming a computer: setting forth every instruction and allowing for no variation in its execution. If the blind person wants to learn how to do something else, they can just call up the vocational rehabilitation agency and ask for an instructor to be sent to teach them whatever new thing they need to know. That’s where I was at the beginning of college. By the end of college, I was calling upon local Federationists to come show me how to do things, and I did not care whether they could see. I still needed to be shown because I lacked the confidence and problem-solving skills to go out and try new things on my own.

At the Louisiana Center for the Blind, I learned how to take risks—not dangerous ones—but the right kinds of risks. I learned to experiment, and I stopped doubting myself every time I had to do something involving a new skill set. This is a major part of the emotional adjustment to blindness that a blind person must have in order to function at full capacity. Before training, I could have made all the clear and convincing arguments of how capable I was, but I did not feel it in my heart. I knew theoretically that vision was not a requirement, that low expectations (including those which I had internalized) were the real problem, but theoretical knowledge and emotional adjustment are two different things. Fast forward a few years; I ended up graduating from LCB, attending a PhD program in agricultural economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and leaving that to earn a master’s degree through the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University. I hung around Ruston contract teaching at LCB until I had accepted a full-time job.

Since I had attended a high school on the campus of a large university, I had learned a little bit about chopsticks by this time. When I arrived in Hawaii, I really had no idea how Asian it was going to be. I did not look up any data on race and ethnicity, and I doubt that this would have been meaningful to me. In Hawaii it is common for people to try to argue that there is no racial or ethnic majority because the different Asian and Pacific Islander groups are separated: i.e., Japanese from Chinese from Korean, etc., which creates artificially smaller percentages. Someone who belongs to multiple Asian groups, Filipino and Chinese for example, is classified as multi-ethnic, which makes another category. Then, these numbers are compared to entire races, and no group appears to dominate the data set. The Asian and Pacific Islander cultures dominate the culture of Hawaii, meaning that the prevailing customs and trends of the local culture are derived from their ways. If someone “looks local,” that frequently means that they appear to be substantially Asian or Pacific Islander by descent. Local cuisine is dominated by these cultures, as well, so chopsticks are everywhere. Since I moved to Hawaii, I have gotten into the habit of using chopsticks so frequently that I don’t even think about the fact that I’m doing it most of the time. This was not the case when I lived on the mainland.

One of our students recently served her large meal, and I did my duty to eat this feast. It is not only a free lunch; it is an opportunity to participate in the community celebration of a student’s progress in training. Everyone has the experience of going through the buffet line, finding a seat, and eating the meal under sleepshades. Newer students can go through the process with a more advanced student who can role model the skills and confidence, too. After her dining experience, one of my colleagues re-entered our auditorium, where I was still eating, and she asked me in a loud and surprised voice, commanding attention, “Justin, you’re using chopsticks to eat your spaghetti?” I told her that it was now more natural for me to eat pasta with chopsticks than with a fork. Another staff member said, “You’re officially kama‘aina now.” That word basically means local. When we get local discounts, for example, they are called “kama‘aina discounts.” It is used the way that the word local is used in many places on the mainland.

For a long time, before training, people had told me that Braille was slow and that I did not benefit much from using a cane. In a way, they were right, but it was only because I had not polished those skills enough to reap the benefits of what they could offer. I had also never really used a screen reader, unless you count the AppReader functions on ZoomText. Society was telling me that I was more successful using magnification instead of Braille, and I kept hearing how amazing I was as a traveler. I could not fathom using a computer without looking at the screen, but LCB’s Josh Boudreaux and Jack Mendez made me figure it out. The problem before training was not that those techniques were ineffective, but I had not been immersed in a setting where I was pushed to develop those techniques and skills myself. Now that I have developed those skills, I have new preferences. If I need to use a sighted person’s computer to show them a website or something, I can do it without a screen reader, but it feels so slow compared to what I can do with JAWS. With the chopsticks, I’d never really developed proficiency before moving to Hawaii, and I’m sure I have plenty of skill development left ahead of me. For example, the same coworker who called me kama‘aina can hold a piece of fried chicken in her chopsticks while she eats it so that she never gets any grease on her fingers. I don’t have to get to that level for chopsticks to be useful, just like not every blind person needs to be as good a traveler as Roland Allen in order to benefit from using a cane and be confident while doing it. I had to develop my skills for using a screen reader in order to have a meaningful comparison to my skills with using a computer visually. I could not imagine writing this article without a screen reader; I bet it would take forever and half a bottle of painkillers. Whether I am going to eat pasta, read an email, or testify in a public hearing, I am going to use the skills and techniques which work best for me. The only way that I can truly compare the nonvisual techniques to the visual techniques is if I invest my time and energy into developing those nonvisual skills because society has already taught me how to maximize the visual ones. For any blind person who has not yet had it, I want to encourage them to consider training at one of our centers so that they exercise truly informed choices to make the most of their potential.

The Eltrinex V12Pro Talking Digital Recorder

by Curtis Chong

From the Editor: Curtis Chong is a balanced man, but even he has eccentricities. One of them is an extraordinary appreciation for the pocket digital recorder. To put it mildly, he is a collector. Don’t bother asking his favorite: he can tell you why he has one of each, citing strengths that make them unique. I think this particular recorder stands quite high in his estimation, so here is what he says:

I have been using hand-held digital recorders of one form or another for more than two decades. For the most part, I use these convenient little devices to dictate short notes to myself when I want to capture information such as a phone number, an email address, or the proper spelling of a person's name. Whenever I leave the house, I carry a digital recorder in my pocket. It is so convenient that it is hard to justify not carrying one with me wherever I go.

Recently, I had occasion to buy the Eltrinex V12Pro Talking Digital Recorder. While the price of $169.95 seemed a bit steep, the voice guidance capability of the V12Pro strongly appealed to me. Before the Eltrinex V12Pro, two things always troubled me about the commercial digital recorders on the market.

First, most of the digital recorders I bought did not speak to me at all. If I wanted to change a setting that was buried deep within a menu (for example, the quality of recording or the microphone sensitivity), I had to memorize a sequence of commands. More often than not, if I did not use the sequence very often, I found myself scrambling to remember what to do, usually at the least opportune time. I was happy when Olympus released its series of talking digital recorders. Most of the menu items would talk, and it was nice, when I turned the recorder on, to hear the level of the battery charge: high, medium, or low. But I was disappointed that I could not set the date and time without sighted help. Nor could I move or copy a recording from one folder to another.

Secondly, for most of the digital recorders I used, once a person finished a recording, the audio file could be played or deleted but never changed. Only certain Sony digital recorders (which did not speak at all) had the ability to add to an existing recording after it was finished.

Now consider the Eltrinex V12Pro. All menu items and settings are verbalized with its voice guidance system. You can, without sighted help, set the date and time and specify whether the time is expressed with a twelve-hour or a twenty-four-hour clock. In addition, for each recording that is created, you can add information to the beginning of the recording (referred to as a label) or to the end of the recording (appending to the original recording). For each recording that you create, you can hear the file number in the folder where the recording is saved, how much time the recording takes, and how many more hours of recording time you have left. You can protect or unprotect each recording using speech output alone—no visual assistance required. The same is true if you want to know the charge in the battery. Even better, you can independently move or copy individual recordings from one folder to another.

There are a couple of less positive items that bear mentioning. The Eltrinex V12Pro takes about eight seconds to power up before you can actually start recording. Other recorders usually power up in less than five seconds. When a recording is stopped or deleted, the V12Pro takes about eight seconds to return to its normal operating mode.

The Eltrinex V12Pro is manufactured in Europe, and its documentation (available online) was clearly written by a person for whom English is a second language. While I myself had little trouble with the manual, I can understand how some people might find this to be a problem.

As of this writing, the Eltrinex V12Pro Talking Digital Recorder is priced at $169.95, and it is sold in the United States by LS&S Products. Refer to http://www.lssproducts.com/product/Eltrinex-Talking-Digital-Voice-Recorder/voice-recorders-and-personal-organizers to learn more about the Eltrinex and to buy one for yourself. The company’s main website is https://www.lssproducts.com, and their phone number is 800-468-4789. To read the online version of the user's manual, point your browser to http://help.talking-recorder.com/en-text-manual.php.

Improvising Independence: Finding My Own Solutions for a Career in Music Therapy

by Kaiti Shelton

From the Editor: Kaiti Shelton is a remarkable young professional who believes in what she does. She has been the beneficiary of music therapy, has worked with a blind role model, has experienced the roadblocks put in her way by professors who didn’t think she could perform in the field, and has demonstrated that, when toughness and creativity and thinking out of the box were required, she had what it took to persevere. She now shares her gift with others who can benefit from music therapy, and we are blessed that she is also sharing who she is and what she does with us. Here is what she has to say:

Music therapy is an evidenced-based, allied health profession in which highly trained and certified professionals use musical interventions to accomplish individualized therapeutic goals. Established in the 1940s, it has aided in the promotion, restoration, or maintenance of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health for countless clients from premature babies to nursing home residents and those receiving hospice care. Yet music therapy, like blindness, is still very misunderstood. In my experiences as a blind music student, I have seen misconceptions about my chosen career and misinformation about blindness combine. In a field in which disabled people are just recently starting to become the helpers in numbers rather than solely be the recipients of help, I’ve needed to find my own solutions to many complicated problems.

I received music therapy services as an infant as part of my early intervention program. My music therapist, who was totally blind herself, helped develop my social skills, enhance my communication abilities, and lay the foundation for an understanding of what it means to be independent. Music therapy was also a positive experience for my parents, because it was beneficial for them to see that a blind adult could be independent and successfully employed while I was still young.

When I needed service hours to maintain my high school student council membership, I asked my former music therapist if she could use a volunteer on Saturdays. She agreed, and I was put to work doing simple tasks like sanitizing instruments and manipulatives, helping the children to play their instruments, and running simple errands around the building. After a year, I announced to her and another music therapist there that I wanted to become a music therapist myself. Both of them served as my mentors as I finished high school and began my undergraduate studies.

My college years were a crash course in learning to quickly identify barriers and create solutions for them. It became apparent very early on in my sophomore year that I would need to work harder than my sighted classmates to access visual information. My college provided Braille music whenever I needed or asked for it, but there were some visual concepts in print music which just seemed so foreign to me as someone who accessed music in an auditory manner or in a linear fashion when reading Braille music. The struggle of interpreting and understanding music using different spatial concepts from anyone else in my classes would play out in various forms time and time again, from music theory classes which used a complex graphing system, to conversations in which I failed to understand what was being said because I didn’t know what print music notation looked like, to my conducting classes in which I spent time with my professor in office hours to learn how a conductor moved when I had never seen one before.

Similarly, in music therapy I heard a variety of questions from professionals, fellow students from different schools, and occasionally supervisors because I was often the only one who would need to do things differently. I remember sitting in class one day feeling totally at a loss as a supervisor talked about how important it was to see facial expression to document a client’s affect (their presented state of mood, usually described as bright or flat). Several people would question me over the years about how I could possibly document someone’s affect without being able to see facial expression. In other cases, people would ask in a doubting way how I planned to work with clients who can’t use spoken language or expressed concerns over my ability to keep clients safe. Many questions were raised about how I would manage groups and accurately observe all my clients. I was concerned about learning to do all these things independently, which I didn’t have much of an opportunity to practice in college when all students worked in groups or as partners for most practicum courses.

Of course, this had an effect on how I saw myself as a blind person. I was set on pursuing this career, but I felt I had very little support in finding solutions to problems. I reached out to my mentor a few times, but she was trained in a time when some of the requirements I had to meet were not as specific or stringent. I dove into the research literature and found one article written by a blind music therapist, but when I found it the article was ten years old, and the ideas provided therein didn’t address my specific challenges. The author of that article had set up a listserv for blind music therapists, but by the time I found it the listserv had lost traction. Sometimes I would leave meetings with professors feeling frustrated because neither of us knew what to do to solve an access problem. I didn’t know of any other students or young professionals I could talk to who would understand my specific challenges. I vacillated between thinking I was in a unique position to spark change and feeling discouraged and doubtful about my abilities. I knew that to effect change I needed to become a professional first, and I wasn’t sure if I could find all the solutions I needed by myself. My close friends saw the effects on my mental health as I internalized messages that I was unable to pursue the career I wanted, that I would always be judged as less capable compared to my sighted colleagues, and that there were many elements of a field dedicated to serving disabled people which were so inaccessible to someone like me.

During my internship I was tested in ways in which I had never been tested before. My supervisors expected me to learn to function independently and were supportive of my trial-and-error approach to find the strategies which worked best for me. They were happy to brainstorm with me and would hold me to task when they felt it was time for me to lead without their support. I learned to lead groups of preschoolers with energy, care, and a spirit of fun at 9:00 on a Monday morning. I documented affect by using the client’s posture and auditory cues such as tone of voice or their vocalizations. I worked with quite a few clients who were nonverbal or minimally verbal, and by being keenly aware of my visual aids, I was able to use pictures to help them communicate their wants and needs. I learned to be vigilant about safety concerns and intervene quickly when I saw a potentially harmful situation. I also found tricks and devices which help me to work more effectively, such as a vibrating pocket watch I hang on my lanyard and an accessible documentation form I created myself. I was thankful for the time I spent in my internship, finding what methods, techniques, and strategies were most effective for me.

Because music therapy is not well understood and is not a common career choice, young college students rarely know all the requirements and tasks they will be asked to complete in their curriculum. There was no way for me to prepare in advance for the specific challenges I would encounter in my major. No one on my IEP team ever considered that the advocacy strategies they were teaching me to use in my liberal arts classes would not be effective in my music classes, and as I headed off to college, my teachers, family, and I thought I had been very well prepared to advocate for my needs. Professors would look to me to tell them what I needed to be successful, and while I had answers ready for professors who taught lectures and labs, I had no immediate ideas when it came to the classes for my major. Another problem was that none of the accommodations I qualified for applied to experiential learning situations. On paper it appeared that I had been given everything most students would need to be successful, but extended time on exams and approval to use assistive technology weren’t applicable to my practicum sessions and offered no guidance to me or my supervisors when I needed to find alternative techniques. Had my professors not been willing to work with me to find reasonable accommodations for my practicum courses, I may not have completed my degree. I know of a few students who were turned away from music therapy because their professors didn’t think it was possible for a blind person to be a competent professional. Blind people and those with other disabilities deserve our care as clients just as much as they deserve support when they want to be the providers, and if they can meet the requirements with reasonable accommodations for their disability, they deserve a seat at the table, too.

Today, I have secured employment at a facility which serves adults and children with developmental disabilities in Indiana. This facility has been accepting and supportive of me ever since I applied, and I am looking forward to serving alongside the talented board-certified music therapists and other professionals there. Words can’t describe how empowering this feels. However, I know I would never have found myself in this situation had I given in to negative perceptions of my capabilities.

My experiences have taught me much about the harm of internalizing negative messages about the capabilities of blind people, but they have also taught me a lot about resiliency, self-care, advocacy, determination, and dedication to personal goals. They have also further invigorated my quest to help others who are being discouraged or turned away from my field due to negative attitudes or false information about blindness. I hope to publish my own articles and present at conferences to demonstrate that blind people are capable of being professionals with a lot to offer to clients, colleagues, and our understandings of disability and music therapy. I am continuing to rebuild my self-confidence and am thankful for being reminded by the National Federation of the Blind that negative attitudes and stereotypes, not my blindness, are the true barriers between me and the life I want to live.

Braille Letters from Santa are a Little Christmas Magic

From the Editor: The National Federation of the Blind has a special program taken on at the request of Santa Claus because he and the elves get so busy in November and December, and the NFB has the skills to help out. We assist Santa by Brailling letters to blind children in reply to letters that they have sent to him. This year we asked parents and teachers one question about this program: If you have participated in Santa Letters before, can you share with us what affect this program has had on you or your child/student? We’re reprinting a number of the responses we received to this question to share the holiday joy and magic that one Brailled letter can bring to a child’s life. Some of these have been edited for clarity. Here are some of the answers we received to that question:

“Zora loves receiving her letters from Santa, and we have been taking them with us when she visits Santa in person. It's exciting because many sighted people have not had direct contact with Braille.

“Louise absolutely loved getting the letter and trying out her developing Braille reading skills to read as much as she could of the letter. Nothing promotes reading like a letter from Santa! Last year's letter inspired Louise to Braille her own letter to Santa to leave with milk and cookies, since as she put it, "Santa must be able to read Braille if he can write it!" Thank you!”

“It has introduced my daughter to Braille. She may not be able to read independently but can feel it as I read it to her.”

“She looks forward to this every year. She will share the excitement with all her classmates and tell them how great Santa is. We have fun going through everything in the package together.”

“Salome has received a Braille letter from Santa for each of the past few years through your program and is always so excited to get the letter! She has loved the songs and other fun activities as well! She is now a very proficient Braille reader, but I remember when she was in kindergarten and she got her letter and how hard she worked to try to read it even though it was a challenge. Thank you so much!”

“This is our second year of participating, and it is even more exciting because Rosie is very familiar with her Braille books and will understand that she has a special letter. Last year this was a blessing for us as newly adoptive parents. We got to share with Rosie a tradition that our children and grandchildren have always enjoyed, and it encouraged us so much. Thank you for your kindness and hard work; you are greatly appreciated!”

“Clara loves getting a letter from Santa. She is at the age where it is getting harder for her to believe, and this is keeping the magic alive just a little longer!”

“He received the letter last year as well. He was super happy to receive the letter. And firmly believes in Santa.”

Students love receiving mail, especially from Santa.

“Last year was our first year of requesting a letter, and it was Harper's first year of some kind of recognition of Santa and Christmas. It was a great way to help with the season just for her. Now this year she really knows what is going on and is looking forward to her letter from Santa—I have told her we sent a request, but only the really good kids on the nice list get a letter direct from the Big Man himself!”

“My daughter Karlee has participated in the Santa Letter Program for one year, and she loved it. It helped her to build more excitement around the magic of Christmas. I appreciate the program, too, because it helps me to reinforce the importance of reading Braille in a positive way. Thanks.”

“Santa’s letter motivated my daughter to read for recipes when she was a new reader.”

Both children and parents seem to enjoy the letters from Santa.

“My son is so excited every Christmas to get his letter. He shows all of his friends.”

It gives them great pleasure to receive a letter from Santa that they can read themselves.

“Last year was the first time I had signed up for my daughter to receive the letter. Oh she giggled and was excited!”

“He loves getting a Santa letter! His brother gets one from another program; this helps keep them both included.”

“Kiara was so surprised and thrilled to receive a letter from Santa last year! She thought it was incredible that Santa knew Braille, too! She was very proud of it and took it to school to show her class. It was great reading practice for her also. She mentioned recently that she hopes he writes her again this year. Thank you for this wonderful gift!”

“It was wonderful and encouraging for both of my blind children. The reaction my daughter had to the idea that Santa knows Braille was amazing.”
“I am excited to report that Isabelle will be able to read some of the letters this year! She went from thirty minutes per week to up to thirty minutes a day in TVI. A start, she knows all letters and can read some words.”

“My son looks forward to his letter from Santa every year! This is so amazing that you guys take the time to do this!”

Every year the kids look forward to getting their letters from Santa. It makes them feel like all the other kids out there.

“We did this last year, and I put it in his baby book to read in the future. He was only one last year!”

“She enjoys that Santa knows Braille, and it makes her feel so special.”

This is such a great opportunity to make the world a little more accommodating.

“Marcise has enjoyed receiving Braille letters from Santa so that she can read it by herself!”

“My son loved it. He felt special receiving a letter and enjoyed the activity sheet.”

“It is extra special for our daughter to receive a lovely letter from Santa in Braille that she can read over herself, and it has been a wonderful encouragement to her utilizing Braille.”

“Paul really enjoys his letter from Santa each year!”

“My dad requested a letter for me when I was in high school, and it encouraged me to practice reading Braille when I was quite reluctant to do my Braille homework.”

“My daughter loves these and looks forward every year still. Thank you for doing this.”

“Zoe has received a letter before, and her mom tells me that she loves to read it!”

It's so much fun to see the anticipation they have when their letter arrives.

“Cheston loves getting his letter from Santa. His other siblings also get letters, and now he can read his own. Thanks for doing this program.”

“Myla loves and looks forward to her letter from Santa every year!”

“Luke loves to get letters he can read and loves the thought of hearing from Santa.”

“The student was surprised and excited to receive the letter from Santa. He's learning Braille, so it gave him additional practice with reading.”
“My daughter loves getting mail, and the fact that it is from Santa makes it even more special.”

How the Louisiana Center for the Blind Helped Prepare Me for College

by Vejas Vasiliauskas

From the Editor: Vejas Vasiliauskas is currently a student at Loyola Marymount University and is a junior majoring in English. He says he will likely become a paralegal, and he knows that being able to write clearly will put him in a good position to pursue any number of careers. Here is what he has to say about his decision to attend the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB) and the affect training has had on him:

I graduated from high school with a strong academic foundation. The VI program for the most part gave me the support I needed to get Braille material, and my O&M instructor taught me the routes I needed to get to my classes on campus. But as I started applying to colleges, visiting university campuses, and as graduation day approached, I increasingly realized that I was lacking the real-life skills to live independently on a college campus and that I wasn't adequately prepared to succeed in a technologically-oriented academic setting. I also had to admit to myself that I just did not have the O&M skills to freely travel around campus and the community.

Having attended the buddy programs at LCB and BLIND Inc. in middle school and through my NFB affiliations, I realized that I needed focused blindness-skills training. I was thrilled to receive my acceptance letter from Pam Allen at LCB, and I am so glad I took that gap year between high school and college.

LCB is a comprehensive blindness-skill training center. Students attend from all over the country and even all over the world, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. But one thing is for sure: everyone attending the program will be challenged.

I would like to take a few minutes to focus on the different areas of training and how I benefited from them. Orientation and travel were quite honestly my biggest challenges, and LCB was the perfect place to work on this. I had the real fortune of being able to work with Roland Allen, whom many of you know, and who is considered by many to be the best blind travel instructor in the country. Like it or not, I got O&M practice every day because my apartment was about a mile from the LCB campus, and after learning the route, I had to walk to and from school every single day. Roland challenged me and was amazingly patient but had high expectations well beyond those of most O&M instructors. He certainly was not quick to jump in and help me by bailing me out of a tough situation but expected me to push beyond myself and really figure things out. Route assignments started kind of on the easy side and quickly became increasingly difficult and more complicated, but soon I felt confident enough to take a taxi to the grocery store on my own and go grocery shopping, meet friends to go out to eat, and go to church on Sundays. I quickly developed enough confidence in my travel skills that I was able to join in many of the activities in Ruston's Louisiana Tech University Catholic group, including singing in the youth choir and practices, and participating in retreats and weekend socials. In fact, my dad was floored when he asked what I was doing next weekend, and I told him I was going tailgating—you see, I had never even been to a football game before.

It is important to realize that good travel skills and the ability to socialize freely go strongly hand in hand. Fast forward to my first week on campus. The university had told me that they would provide someone to help me get to my classes the first month, but upon arrival, surprise! They said they could not do that. On top of that, the O&M instructor who was going to orient me to campus had the misfortune of breaking her foot that week and was unable to help me. But because of the training I received, I took a deep breath and took advantage of the first few days to practice my routes a lot.

Again, my training paid off. I've been making it to class on my own. I am traveling around campus, participating in my church choir and the campus youth ministry program, and meeting up with friends on and off campus.

Now on to Braille. To be honest, I am a very proficient Braille reader, so I chose to work on my weakness, my slate and stylus skills, while at LCB. I also helped other students with their Braille. Now on campus without a VI teacher to organize my materials, I am using my advocacy skills to make sure I get my materials in an accessible format.

With respect to technology, throughout my elementary education I relied heavily on my BrailleNote and later incorporated the iPhone, but my computer skills were lacking. During computer class at LCB, I dramatically improved my typing skills. I learned a variety of ways to perform the same tasks and used these skills to complete research projects, all skills that I lacked when I graduated high school and now am actively applying as a freshman. A big part of the LCB program focused on living skills, both during class time and after hours. Since you live in a real apartment with a roommate off-campus, and because there is no cafeteria serving food, all students are expected to make all three of their meals every day. I learned all the aspects of managing an apartment, cleaning, cooking, laundry, and sharing a living space with another human being. I now feel very comfortable living on campus, along with 95-plus percent of the freshmen at LMU. I manage my dorm room. I buy some meals in one of the cafeterias or eating establishments on campus, but it is frequently much more convenient to warm something up in the microwave or eat food that I have purchased at the grocery stores near my school.

While at LCB, we also took many trips that were designed to be fun, to facilitate comradery and to challenge us in new environments. We went rock climbing, horseback riding, ziplining, traveled to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras, and attended Louisiana state convention.

So as you can all appreciate, I grew immensely during my nine months at LCB, and my time there really gave me the skillset that I needed to live independently on campus this year, to take advantage of all the social opportunities that school has to offer, and to succeed academically. It was truly an invaluable experience. But it is important for me to point out that although it prepared me for college, there were also many older students there who benefited from the skills that they learned to more fully take advantage of their family lives, their social lives, and their work lives.

As a Californian, you must want the training and be prepared to fight for it. You will need to build your case. I visited the various programs in California, and I wrote a strong justification letter explaining specifically why LCB would best suit my needs. I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank Mary Willows for her assistance in helping me formulate the letter. Thank you so much, Mary.

Lastly, I would like to wrap this up with one very important additional consideration: remember, you are only going to get out of the experience what you put into it, so I encourage you to apply yourself 150 percent. It truly is a golden opportunity to get the skills you need to succeed and live the life you want.

Thank you.


Recipes this month have been provided by the National Federation of the Blind of Mississippi.

Southern Fried Chicken
by Willie Cook

Willie Cook is a member of the Jackson Chapter. He became a member of the National Federation of the Blind eighteen years ago. Fried chicken and collard greens are two of his favorite delicacies.

3 cups buttermilk, divided
3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper, divided
1 broiler/fryer chicken (3 to 4 pounds), cut up
Oil for deep-fat frying
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika

Method: In a shallow bowl, whisk two cups buttermilk, one teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken; turn to coat. Refrigerate covered overnight. In an electric skillet or deep fryer, heat oil to 375°. Meanwhile, place remaining buttermilk in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, whisk flour, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and remaining salt and pepper. Place half of flour mixture in another shallow bowl (for a second coat of breading). Drain chicken, discarding marinade; pat chicken dry. Dip in flour mixture to coat both sides; shake off excess. Dip in buttermilk, allowing excess to drain off. For the second coat of breading, dip chicken in remaining flour mixture, patting to help coating adhere.

Fry chicken, a few pieces at a time, four to five minutes on each side or until browned and juices run clear. Drain on paper towels.

Collard Greens
by Willie Cook

2 tablespoon bacon fat, lard or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced from root to tip
1 ham hock
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 quart chicken broth
1 to 2 cups water
8 to 10 cups chopped collard greens, about 2 pounds
vinegar and hot sauce to taste

Method: Heat the bacon fat in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion in the bacon fat, stirring often until the edges begin to brown, about five minutes. Add the ham hock, smashed garlic, chicken stock, and water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for one hour. Add the collard greens to the pot and cook until tender, another forty-five minutes to an hour. Chop the meat, add to the greens: To serve, remove the ham hock, pull the meat off the bones and chop. Mix the meat back with the greens and serve with vinegar and hot sauce at the table.

Southern Style Black-Eyed Peas
by Ramon Holmes

Ramon Holmes is a member of the Tupelo Chapter. He has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind since 1995. He is a country man and loves black-eyed peas and cornbread.

2 cups dried black-eyed peas
8 ounces bacon, chopped into bits (can use more if desired)
1 cup white onions, diced
1 to 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
smoked salt & black pepper to taste

Method: Rinse peas thoroughly under cool water (discarding any weird-looking peas). Place peas in a bowl and cover with water. Soak for six hours or overnight. Drain and rinse peas. Set aside. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy. Drain bacon on paper towels, while leaving about one to two tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan. Add onions to the pan and cook until translucent. Add in garlic and cook until fragrant. In a large pot, add soaked peas, onions, garlic, and chicken broth. Add a bay leaf and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer just until peas are tender, about twenty to thirty minutes. When peas have reached your desired tenderness, add smoked salt and black pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley and a few dashes of hot sauce. Serve hot.

by Ramon Holmes


2 cups cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons bacon drippings

Method: Combine cornmeal, soda, and salt; stir in eggs and buttermilk. Heat bacon drippings in a ten-inch cast-iron skillet in a 400° oven for three minutes or until very hot. Coat skillet well with drippings. Pour any excess melted drippings into batter and mix well. Pour batter into hot skillet and bake at 450° for twenty minutes or until bread is golden brown.

Pound Cake
by Verdina Buckner

Verdina Buckner is the president of the Greenville Chapter. She has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind for seven years. She enjoys eating pound cake for a dessert.

1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
fresh berries for garnish

Method: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a twelve-cup Bundt pan. Tap out any excess flour. In a large mixing bowl, add butter and sugar. Beat on medium with a hand mixer until creamed. Add the vanilla extract and the eggs one at a time. Beat each egg in before adding the next. Scrape the sides of the bowl. In a separate bowl, add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine. Measure out the milk. Alternately add the flour and milk always starting and ending with the flour. I added the flour in three parts and the milk in two parts. Scrape down the sides and mix to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Spread it out evenly in the pan using a spatula. Place into the oven and bake for one hour to 1 hour and fifteen minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for five minutes and turn out onto a cake plate. Let it rest for another five minutes. Tap the Bundt pan with a knife to help loosen the cake from the pan.

Sweet Tea
by Larensy Rogers

Larensy Rogers is a member of the Magnolia Chapter, which is the chapter-at-large. She has been a member for two years. She is a senior in high school who highly favors sweet tea.

Some good ol’ tap water
1 cup of sugar
3 family size tea bags (I prefer Lipton)

Method: Fill a medium-sized pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Add the tea bags, remove from heat, cover, and let steep for about fifteen minutes. In a two-quart pitcher combine one cup of sugar with three cups of lukewarm water. Strain tea from pot into pitcher and fill the remainder of pitcher with water. Stir and enjoy over ice.

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

The NFB EQ for 2019:
Summer Opportunity for Teens! Explore and connect this summer, June 16-22. Join the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) at our NFB Engineering Quotient (EQ) program. NFB EQ is a weeklong adventure into engineering and problem-solving. No specific level of engineering experience required. Engage in activities designed to strengthen knowledge and grow interests. Connect with the twenty-nine other teen participants while also exploring the local community and participating in various recreational activities. Enriched experiences. New friendships. More independence. Apply for NFB EQ Now! www.blindscience.org/nfbeq. Have questions? Email [email protected].

2019 AAF Free Braille Books Program Launches with Here’s Hank Book Series Produced by National Braille Press of Boston:
The American Action Fund (AAF) for Blind Children and Adults has partnered with the National Braille Press (NBP) to produce and ship free Braille copies of the best-selling twelve-book series, Here’s Hank, written by Henry Winkler, award-winning actor, director, comedian, and author, and Lin Oliver, writer and film producer. The Here’s Hank series, geared toward the younger reader, features the character Hank Zipzer, who may not be the best at spelling, math, or reading but always tries his hardest.

“Lin Oliver and I are bursting with pride that Here’s Hank was chosen to be in Braille,” said Henry Winkler. “Comedy requires only a sense of humor, not sight.”

This is the first-ever Braille edition of this series, distributed free of charge to approximately 4,000 blind and low-vision children by the AAF through its Free Braille Books Program. Each month, a new book in the twelve-book series will be distributed starting on January 4, 2019, the birthday of Louis Braille, the inventor of the Braille code. The NBP will transcribe and proofread each book in the Here’s Hank series followed by pressing each book into Braille and collating them by hand before shipping to children in the AAF Free Braille Books Program.

“We are proud to launch the first Braille edition of the Here’s Hank series and make it available for free on the two hundred tenth anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille,” said Mark Riccobono, executive director of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults. “For one hundred years, the Action Fund has been dedicated to the advancement of Braille literacy, and we believe that these funny, inspiring books will delight young readers while enhancing their Braille skills and making the code a fundamental part of their lives.”

“National Braille Press is committed to promoting literacy for blind children,” said Brian MacDonald, president of National Braille Press. “We are very proud to work with the American Action Fund to produce the Here’s Hank series that will allow blind and low-vision children to experience these popular books just like their sighted peers.”

In the first book of the Here’s Hank series, Hank’s class is putting on a play, and he wants to be the lead role, Aqua Fly. After freezing during the audition, Hank is given the role of a silent bookmark. Although this role seems insignificant, when Hank’s enemy freezes during the play, it is up to Hank to save the day.

For more information on the AAF Free Braille Books Program visit: https://actionfund.org/free-braille-books

About American Action Fund
The American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, a nonprofit organization founded in 1919 and headquartered in Baltimore, helps blind people throughout the United States through programs and initiatives emphasizing Braille and tactile literacy, education, and independence. For more information, visit www.actionfund.org.

About National Braille Press
A nonprofit Braille publisher and producer of Braille products, National Braille Press promotes literacy for blind children through outreach programs and provides access to information by producing information in Braille for blind children and adults. For more information visit www.nbp.org.

Lee Martin Honored:
On Thursday, January 10, Lee C. Martin was awarded the twenty-eighth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Indiana Holiday Celebration Freedom Award on behalf of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, Indiana Black Expo, Inc., AFSCME Local 725, and the state of Indiana. The Freedom Award is granted to individuals or projects whose major societal influence includes breaking down barriers that have divided us in the past and/or building ongoing relationships that foster respect, understanding, and harmony in our community.

In Brief

Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.

The Secret Garden, Ramona Titles, and More Now in UEB:
Seedlings Braille Books for Children just added eight more titles to its Unified English Braille collection for independent readers, bringing the total to 148!

They are: The Secret Garden, Ramona the Pest, Ramona the Brave, Aliens for Dinner, Helen Keller from Tragedy to Triumph, If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620, Who Was Dr. Seuss? and Who Was Albert Einstein? Order at http://www.seedlings.org/browse.php?cat=12

All 310 of Seedlings' print and Braille books for younger readers are already in UEB! Order at http://www.seedlings.org/order.php

Seedlings is regularly adding more UEB titles for older kids. Keep checking our website to see what's new: http://www.seedlings.org.

BANA Elects Officers for 2019, Welcomes New Board Member:
The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) held its fall 2018 meeting November 1-3 at the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind in Salt Lake City, Utah. The meeting was hosted by the American Council of the Blind.

During its three-day meeting, the BANA Board reviewed semiannual reports from its eighteen general and technical committees, each of which works on specific charges from the Board—and acted on recommendations from these committees. Portions of the Thursday and Friday meetings were dedicated to further development of BANA's strategic planning and the steps that will implement this planning.

Cynthia Skandera, Horizons for the Blind representative, was welcomed as BANA’s newest Board member. The Board established the 2019 budget and elected officers for 2019. The elected officers are: chair, Jennifer Dunnam (National Federation of the Blind); vice-chair, Tamara Rorie (National Library Service); secretary, Dawn Gross (Alternate Text Production Center of the California Community Colleges); treasurer: Jessica Rivera (Associated Services for the Blind). Frances Mary D'Andrea serves as BANA's Immediate Past Chair.

BANA’s next meeting will be held May 2 through 4, 2019, in Toronto, Canada, and will be hosted by CNIB (the Canadian National Institute for the Blind).

Monitor Mart

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

Introducing the First-Ever Waterproof and Shockproof Talking Watch:
Are you tired of investing in multiple talking watches each year because they always seem to die after being bumped or soaked—no matter how careful you try to be? Or have you given up on wearing a watch altogether, even though you miss the convenience of hearing the time at the touch of a button anywhere you go? Introducing the first truly shockproof and waterproof talking watch we’ve ever seen.

You can wear this wristwatch twenty-four/seven because water will not damage the electronics. Leave it on as you wash your hands, take a shower, or go swimming. And never worry about removing the watch again or trying to remember where you might have left it this time. The simplicity and durability of this watch make it the ideal choice for blind and visually impaired people of all ages. Whether you exercise and sweat a lot or get caught in a giant rainstorm, this timepiece won’t give in to the realities of daily life.

Our Waterproof Talking Watch is fully accessible to a blind person. Press the button on top to hear the time. Set and configure all functions by listening for spoken prompts or clearly-differentiated beeps. If you have some vision, activate the built-in backlight by pressing a single button (with or without the time-speaking feature).

Though both men and women can wear this watch due to its coloring and design, some ladies may find it too bulky for their liking. Packed into a reusable tin box with a large-print quick start guide, the watch makes an attractive, practical gift for anyone … including yourself. (The instructions are also available on our website in a fully accessible, text-based format.)

Our first-of-its-kind Waterproof Talking Watch costs $19.95 with free shipping. To order yours from Blind in Mind, LLC, visit https://BlindInMind.com or call 1-800-213-4567.

Optacon for Sale:
I have an Optacon in working order with case and charger. I’m asking $600 for the unit. If you are interested please email Ben Vercelone at [email protected] or call me at 417-755-5285.

For Sale:
HIMS Blaze ET, perfect condition, in original box with Braille manual. Asking $450 or best offer. Contact by email at [email protected]

NFB Pledge

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