Braille Monitor                          August/September 2019

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Awards Presented at the 2019 National Convention

From the Editor: Of the many wonderful things that happen at national convention, one element that many Federationists look forward to each year is the presentation of awards, both to Federationists and those who are not members of our organization but go above and beyond in helping the Federation in the pursuit of our goals and agenda. Some awards are presented annually, others only when a truly deserving candidate is recognized. The energy, joy, and satisfaction shared by the committees who bestow the awards and the audience watching their presentation is something that we hope comes through as clearly in print as it did in-person at the convention:

Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award

presented by Carla McQuillan

Every year the National Federation of the Blind recognizes a teacher of blind students who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to meet the needs of his or her students and specifically to uphold the philosophies of the National Federation of the Blind, teaching Braille and other techniques of blindness. This year the 2019 Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award is being given to Adrienne Shoemaker of Concord, Massachusetts. [applause, cheers]

Adrienne has been a teacher of blind students for ten years and is currently the only teacher of blind students in the Concord public school system. In addition to her teaching of blind students, Adrienne has helped to develop a program for teachers of blind students and has taught the Braille courses that are part of that curriculum. She has also served as a liaison between the Massachusetts Department of Education and the University of Massachusetts Northeast Center for Vision Education, recruiting candidates to be teachers of blind students.

Adrienne received her master of special education in 2010 from the University of Boston, Massachusetts. She has also, in 2018, received her orientation and mobility certification. In 2014 she was one of ten teachers chosen by the National Federation of the Blind to be part of our STEM2U program. She is an effective advocate for Braille and is helping to train future teachers of blind students. These qualities and her willingness to go above and beyond have made her an excellent candidate for this year’s Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award.

I have here a plaque that I’m going to give to Adrienne, and the plaque reads:


Adrienne Shoemaker


For your skills in teaching Braille and other
alternative techniques of blindness;

For graciously devoting extra
time to meet
the needs of your students,

and for empowering
your students to perform
beyond their expectations.


JULY 9, 2019

Along with that—oh wait, the best is yet to come—although the plaque will last longer, we have a check here for $1,000. [applause] Congratulations.

Adrienne Shoemaker poses with her award and her student, Abby DuffyAdrienne Shoemaker: My sincerest thanks to the National Federation of the Blind for this incredible recognition. As a teacher of blind and visually-impaired students and as an orientation and mobility instructor, I share your passion for high expectations and teaching skills that will enable my students to live their best lives. I have witnessed the power of Braille and the many opportunities it gives students for participating, accessing, and creating work. Having solid orientation and mobility skills leads to greater sufficiency and confidence. Skills in the use of technology increases independence and creates access to information at the same time as sighted peers.

I get so much joy from watching my students develop self-advocacy skills as they navigate through the education system in preparation for college and career. I love when my students are working collaboratively with sighted peers, and the only difference is that my student is using Braille and accessible tools and materials. So much learning is happening in these moments, and I am thrilled that sighted peers are getting exposure to what someone who is blind is capable of doing and achieving. [applause, cheers]

I am so thankful to Penny Duffy, first vice president of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, who also happens to be the mother of one of my students, Abby. Over the years she had shared information with me about the NFB. Through her I learned about the National Reading Media Assessment, Structured Discovery, and the summer and weekend opportunities that her daughter Abby was participating in. Through these programs Abby was gaining incredible skills and forming relationships with other blind students. They have attended the annual convention for many years, and I’m always excited to hear about what they have learned and the experiences that they have had. It truly helps to make me a better teacher.

It is incredible being a part of convention this week. I now truly understand how the NFB is like a big family. Thank you again for recognizing educators and for the programs that you provide to students. The work being done by the NFB and the support to students, parents, and teachers is amazing and makes a positive impact on the lives of all of those involved. Thank you. [applause]

The Blind Educator of the Year Award

presented by Dr. Edward Bell

The Blind Educator Award was created through the National Federation of the Blind many years ago to recognize blind people who had successfully worked in the education field. Teaching is one of those professions that blind people are very well suited to but have not always had an easy time getting into, and those who get into the field change lives forever. It is our honor to be able to recognize individuals who make significant contributions in this field.

The 2019 recipient of the Blind Educator Award is a person who was a sighted individual and was a teacher of general education kids. After losing her vision she continued with her passion for teaching and obtained her graduate degree in teaching blind children. In 2013 she began working in the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning program in her state and by 2014 was coordinating it statewide. In 2015 she started monthly Braille enrichment programs to help continue to get blind kids Braille throughout the year, rather than just a little here and there. In 2017 she became the transition coordinator in her state, where she continues to work with blind children and blind teenagers. Please help in congratulating Ms. Allison Steven of Idaho. [applause, cheers]

Here is a plaque for you, and included with this plaque is a check for $1,000. I’m going to read the language on the plaque:


Presented to
Allison Steven

In recognition of outstanding accomplishments
in the teaching profession.


JULY 9, 2019

Congratulations to Allison. [applause, cheers]

Allison Steven with her awardAllison Steven: I’m overwhelmed; this is incredible. I had no idea. I am very grateful for this. I’ve always had this imposter syndrome thing in my head where one day someone’s going to realize I don’t know what I’m talking about. [laughter] I am very grateful to the National Federation of the Blind because I’ve only been a member for about six years, but I have learned so much. I believe that we never stop learning. I had no idea of the direction my life would take, and it’s an honor and a privilege to have been called to work with blind individuals and particularly with kids. I want to thank my chapter and the Idaho Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and also Louisiana Tech because that’s where I got my masters. [applause] I’d also like to honor the memory of my friend and mentor Becky Sherman, who died just recently, for everything that she put into my life. Thank you so much for this award. I am so glad to receive it for doing something that I love. [applause]

The Jacobus tenBroek Award

presented by Marc Maurer

Good evening, fellow Federationists. I'm mighty glad we’ve got a President like Mark Riccobono. I come tonight as the chairperson of the Jacobus tenBroek Award Committee. Dr. Jacobus tenBroek was our first president. He came into the presidency in 1940, he was our first president, and he served until 1961. He resigned in that year, but he came back into the presidency in 1966, and he served until his death in 1968. He was an innovator; he was a scholar; he was a leader; he was a man of towering intellect; he was a demanding soul; he was a person who dreamed of a time different from the one that he inherited; he was a teacher, and he taught himself and the next generation. When something demanding needed doing, he could be counted as among those who would do it. He was a man who planned and caused change.
We give our Jacobus tenBroek Award to people who are like Dr. tenBroek, who have a history, who have a passion, who have the ability to lead, the ability to teach. And we don’t give it every year, but only as often as we find somebody among our company who is deserving of such an award. 

Now I serve as the chairperson of this committee, and I want to thank the members who serve with me: Pam Allen, Jim Gashel, Barbara Loos—they are people who are thoughtful, argumentative, [laughter] demanding, argumentative, [more laughter] great people to work with, and they sound just like Federation members, don’t they? [laughter, applause]

And after deliberation we have identified a person whose characteristics emulate those of our founding president, a lady who has been a member of our organization for some time, and who attended her first convention in the year that I began chairing conventions in the National Federation of the Blind, that is 1987. It was in Phoenix, Arizona. [cheers] A very interesting convention: Patricia Maurer was about to give birth; I persuaded her to come anyway. She waited until after she got home, which was just as well. [laughter] She’s not the recipient, because she attended her first convention much earlier than 1987.  

The person that we selected is also a leader, not just in the National Federation of the Blind, but also in the civil rights movement. So Ever Lee Hairston, [long, loud cheering and applause] while you make your way to the platform, I would like to say a word or two about you.

She was raised in a log cabin. I know we’ve all heard about wonderful people who were raised in log cabins. It was on the Cooleemee Plantation in North Carolina. She is the daughter of sharecroppers who were on the plantation, and when she was ten or eleven—somewhere in there, maybe twelve years old—she learned that her job was to pick cotton. Now, it doesn’t take a long time picking cotton to find out that there could be some other way of life that’s more fun. She wanted to be a nurse, but she was rejected because of her blindness. She decided, however, that she had to go to college. But she didn’t have any money, and there wasn’t anybody to provide it. She went to New York. She heard that she could get a job being a maid, and she spent time there in the summers being a maid so that she could earn enough money to go to college. She got a degree to be a teacher. [applause] She taught for a time, but she also learned that there was a civil rights movement in the United States, and she joined Martin Luther King Jr. in marches to protect the freedom for everybody in our country. For if one is not free, all share in the failure of freedom. [applause] The sheriff’s deputies came when she was demanding equal treatment, equal opportunity to work, and they threw her in jail. She didn’t know whether she would be required to stay there indefinitely; thankfully it was not long before she was released. But she also stood with Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington for the most famous public address given in the twentieth century, the one which said, “I have a dream.” [applause, cheers]

I didn’t know Ever Lee then. I didn’t meet her until later. She came to her first convention in 1987, as I say. She learned that there was another civil rights movement, and she was attracted, although she had—as so many of us have from time to time—been faking it, and she hadn’t learned all the techniques, either. But she found that there were things to know and ways for her to be free that she hadn’t realized in the past, and eventually--after founding a chapter in New Jersey—she became its president, and she became vice president of our New Jersey affiliate for fourteen years. I kept trying to get her to run for president of a state affiliate. She resisted, but I finally got it done when she ran for and was elected to the presidency of the National Federation of the Blind of California. [applause, cheers]

She has a good many honors in her life: she has received from the NAACP Los Angeles chapter the Unsung Hero Award. She has been recognized as Woman of the Year. She has appeared on the "Sixty Minutes II" program nationally to talk about how it is that the white part of her family, which had owned the black part, hadn’t treated the black part very well. The white man, who was then a judge and was the head of the family, was taken aback when she demanded that he recognize that equal treatment demands more than just letting a person in the front door now and then.

Ever Lee Hairston smiles as she holds up her plaque. Marc Maurer and President Riccobono smile and clap beside her.

She is a person who has come to be a central part of what we are. She has a stern and demanding voice when she insists that there be a little something for everybody. It is the honor of this argumentative committee and the honor of the National Federation of the Blind to present the Jacobus tenBroek Award to Ever Lee Hairston. [applause, cheers]


Ever Lee Hairston


JULY 12, 2019

Ever Lee Hairston: Federationists, this is truly an honor. I remember when I went to jail with Dr. Martin Luther King. I was a frightened young woman. Spending that night in jail for our freedom, I never imagined that I would be a part of another civil rights organization. [cheers] But becoming a part of the National Federation of the Blind has truly given me a new purpose for my life. And that purpose, I want all of you to hear, is about change—what our President has talked about in his speech tonight—change. What has it meant to me? Change has meant having courage. Change has meant gaining confidence in myself by going to the Louisiana Center for the Blind. [applause] Change has meant being competent, knowing and understanding that knowledge is power. The H in change stands for honesty: to thine own self be true. I have learned that no matter what I do in the Federation, I first must be honest with myself. A is the change that I have made: I know that all over the United States of America and in many of the islands, I have had to advocate for myself as well as others. N: Never say never. G: No matter what we do in life, we must have orderly directions, good orderly directions. That’s what G-O-D stands for, but for me it means God. Through Him I can do all things, for He strengthens me. And the E: the change that I have made in my life stands for enthusiasm. No matter what I have done, I realize that I must smile and be enthusiastic about it. I love you. God bless you. Thank you so much. [cheers, applause] This means so much to me.

Global Literacy Award

presented by Scott LaBarre

Justin Hughes smiles and holds his book-shaped awardFrom the Editor: Following a presentation by Justin Hughes about the negotiation and passage of the Marrakesh Treaty, Scott LaBarre came to the podium to say a few words to Mr. Hughes and the convention:

So Justin, we have a little surprise for you. The work of the treaty was arduous and difficult. One of the reasons was because this was the first time that an intellectual property treaty was exclusively dedicated to a consumer interest and not granting further rights to rights-holders. So obviously all these huge companies were very afraid of the treaty. That's why Exxon and others opposed it. There were so many moving parts, and one of the most skillful negotiators was in fact Justin Hughes. We want to recognize your role in getting the treaty adopted, not only internationally. You played a big role with the United States delegation—the US governmental delegation to the Marrakesh Diplomatic Conference made a huge difference in getting the treaty adopted. By the way, one of the other members of the US delegation, because she was in the government at the time, was Eve Hill. [applause] She helped out as well.

But once we got Marrakesh adopted internationally we had to get it ratified in the US, and, as Justin said, it took five years. And we had to essentially relitigate all the same issues again. And once Justin got out of the government, he wanted to help. Now he didn’t go to the publishers and say, “Hey I’ll help you with the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty.” He didn’t go to the libraries; he didn’t go to anyone else except the National Federation of the Blind. [applause, cheers] He came to us to help us get the treaty ratified, and more critically, help us get the implementing legislation written so that we could implement the treaty in a practical way. Justin sat on our side of the table as we negotiated with the publishers again and negotiated with the libraries. He played a critical role in helping us draft the language that would make everybody happy. So in recognition of that work, Justin, we’re going to give you an award.

It’s in a beautiful box. We’re going to take it out of this beautiful box, hold it up here. It’s a beautiful, heavy, crystal award. The award reads like this:

Global Literacy Award

National Federation of the Blind

For your commitment to making the world’s literature available to all;
For your dedication to accessibility for the blind;
For your imaginative leadership in eliminating the barriers
to sharing equal access across borders;

We, the organized blind movement, confer upon

Justin Hughes

this Global Literacy Award.

In recognition of your significant leadership
in making a worldwide book treaty for the blind possible.
You have facilitated effective sharing of accessible,
published works around the world;
You are a true friend of the blind and a champion for literacy.

July 11, 2019

Justin Hughes: I’m not going to say anything but thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you.

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