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Braille Monitor

Vol. 62, No. 10                                   November 2019

Gary Wunder, Editor

Distributed by email, in inkprint, in Braille, and on USB flash drive, by the

The National Federation of the Blind

Mark Riccobono, President

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

THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND KNOWS THAT BLINDNESS IS NOT THE CHARACTERISTIC THAT DEFINES YOU OR YOUR FUTURE. EVERY DAY WE RAISE THE EXPECTATIONS OF BLIND PEOPLE, BECAUSE LOW EXPECTATIONS CREATE OBSTACLES BETWEEN BLIND PEOPLE AND OUR DREAMS. YOU CAN LIVE THE LIFE YOU WANT; BLINDNESS IS NOT WHAT HOLDS YOU BACK. THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR OURSELVES.

        ISSN 0006-8829


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Contents

Vol. 62, No. 10                                   November 2019

Illustration: Show-Me Meet the Blind Month

United States Supreme Court Denies Petition from Domino�s Pizza
by Chris Danielsen

Expanding Opportunities, Protecting Rights, and Ensuring Accessibility: A Report from the Advocacy and Policy Department
by John Par� and Gabe Cazares

Eleven Years of BELL Academies: Gaining Skills, Enhancing Opportunities, and Building Relationships
by Karen Anderson

Mujeres of the Federation
by Mary Fernandez

Leave a Legacy

Leadership, Partnership, and the Pursuit of Financial Accessibility
by Doug Marshall

Exploring the Layers: A Blind Researcher, Mom, and Federationist Enhancing the Understanding of Disability
by Angela Frederick

Philosophy in Practice
by Angela Howard

A Dream Come True
by Leslie Hamric

The Status of the Orbit Reader
by Curtis Chong

Keeping the Blind in Sheltered Workshops in the Afterlife
by Justin Salisbury

Meet the Sighted Month

A Contest to Promote Literacy that is so Fun it Won�t Seem Like Work
by Sandy Halverson

The Continued Significance of the National Library Service for the Blind: Expanding Braille and Implementing the Marrakesh Treaty
by Karen Keninger

Electronic Braille Reimagined: The Revolution of the Canute 360
by Ed Rogers

Message from Buna Dahal Regarding 2020 Washington Seminar Reservations

Accelerating Accessible Content: Progress through the DAISY Consortium
by Richard Orme

The Future of Recipes

Monitor Miniatures

Copyright 2019 by the National Federation of the Blind

Show-Me Meet the Blind Month

October was Meet the Blind Month, and across the country NFB affiliates, divisions, and chapters held events to introduce sighted people who might not know or meet a blind person in the normal course of their lives.

In Missouri the Jefferson City Chapter held a walkathon talkathon on November 6. Friends from other cities visited, as well as members of the local Lions Club, and the weather cooperated in making it a wonderful day for fellowship and sharing our message. But it wasn’t all tame walking. The Jefferson City Chapter had set up two guide ropes, and members of the Jefferson City and Columbia Chapters ran races, stamping out the idea that blind people can’t run to any who watched.

In Columbia, Gary and Debbie Wunder visited a local preschool. Debbie brought along the harness her now-retired guide dog wore at work, as well as the small white cane that would fit any in the audience who cared to use it. Gary demonstrated the use of his Perkins Braillewriter, embossing index cards with children’s names so that they could see how blind people read. Then came the fun part for the students, approaching with their cards in hand to see if that code using dots really worked.

Sometimes we wonder if people really want or need to meet the blind, but the enthusiasm of these children take the question off the table. They do, and we must.

United States Supreme Court Denies Petition from Domino’s Pizza

by Chris Danielsen

From the Editor: Chris Danielsen is our energetic director of public relations, and he writes this short follow-up to the article in the October issue entitled “Accessibility and Accountability: Drive-by Lawsuits Leave Pothole-size Problems.” In that piece Chris mentioned the request by Domino’s Pizza that the Supreme Court declare that the Americans with Disabilities Act did not apply to the internet. Here is his recounting of what just happened:

In last month’s Braille Monitor, we mentioned a petition pending before the United States Supreme Court brought by Domino’s Pizza. Domino’s had filed what is legally known as a petition for certiorari, or “cert petition,” which is a legal document asking the Supreme Court to review a lower court’s ruling. Each year the Supreme Court hears a select group of cases drawn from such petitions. Domino’s wanted the Supreme Court to overrule a decision by the Federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, based in California. That ruling had affirmed the right of a blind man, Guillermo Robles, to sue the company under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because he couldn’t use its website to order a pizza. Domino’s argued that the Supreme Court should put an end to such lawsuits by ruling that the ADA does not apply to websites, or, if the court wasn’t willing to go that far, to at least rule that it was unfair to allow such lawsuits in the absence of federal regulations setting accessibility standards. So far, the United States Department of Justice, which enforces the ADA, has declined to issue such regulations. Obviously, any ruling along the lines Domino’s wanted would have made it much harder, or perhaps impossible, for the National Federation of the Blind and others to bring ADA claims regarding inaccessible websites.

The Monitor went to press before Monday, October 7, the “first Monday in October” that begins each Supreme Court term. Thus, it was unclear at the time whether the Supreme Court would take the case. On that exact first Monday, the Supreme Court issued an order denying the petition. This means that the ninth circuit’s ruling stands and that Mr. Robles’ case will go forward. More importantly, it means that for now the ability to bring website claims under the ADA remains intact.

Expanding Opportunities, Protecting Rights, and Ensuring Accessibility: A Report from the Advocacy and Policy Department

by John Paré and Gabe Cazares

From the Editor: The energy is always high at convention, and this presentation was certainly no exception to that. When introducing the two presenters, President Riccobono noted, “Together they represent the dynamics of what we do in our advocacy space in the National Federation of the Blind. They come from different backgrounds, from different generations, but they share many traits. Chief amongst them that they are tireless, thoughtful, and positive representatives for us in the halls of power in Washington, DC, and they bring those strengths to us in a strategic way. They help me to coordinate the tremendous amount of work that we get done on an annual basis, both with our members and our staff. Their talents and especially the heart that they bring to the work of this organization are critical in helping each and every one of us achieve success in our advocacy work in this organization. Their job is to put the National Federation of the Blind in the right place at the right point in every conversation that we need to be in in Washington, DC, and they’re doing an awesome job.” Here is what John and Gabe had to say:

John Paré: Thank you, President Riccobono. E pluribus unum. As most of you probably know, this Latin phrase was the original motto of the United States. When translated it means “Out of many, one.” The thought behind this phrase was that, through the union of the original thirteen colonies, a single nation was born. Out of many, one. I am in awe when I think about our nation’s founders as they set about this grand experiment in self-government that we know today. I feel that same sense of awe when I stand up here in front of all of you and imagine the unlimited potential of what we might accomplish when we work together.

To further illustrate this point, I’m going to go back even further in time, more than two thousand years to ancient Greece and the storyteller Aesop. One of Aesop’s fables is about a father and his children. The father gives each of his children a twig and asks them to break it. The children are easily able to snap the twigs with their hands. The father then takes a bundle of twigs, ties them together, and asks his children to break the twigs now. Each child tries, but none succeed. The father tells his children, “When you stand alone, you are easily broken. But when you stand together as one, no one can break you.” [applause] The moral behind this story is that union gives strength. When many stand together for a common cause, they become one, and that one is unstoppable. Aesop knew this immutable fact 2,500 years ago; the founders knew it in 1776; and I know it right now as I stand up here before all of you.

It is no coincidence that the written history of the National Federation of the Blind is titled Walking Alone and Marching Together. It is this sense of teamwork that has resulted in our recent legislative successes: here are two examples.

On June 28, 2018, the United States Senate passed the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act. The House passed it on September 25, and it was signed into law on October 9. The Marrakesh Treaty Resolution of Advice and Consent was also passed by the United States Senate on June 28. The treaty ratification paperwork was signed by the president on January 28, 2019, and deposited in Geneva on February 8. Both the law and the treaty were passed by unanimous consent. This is a perfect example of our teamwork. It was all of you working in every state, every county, every city which resulted in the ratification of the first multilateral treaty specifically intended to benefit blind people. [applause]

At last year’s convention I discussed and reported that the House and the Senate had included language in the National Defense Authorization Act to permit veterans with a service-connected permanent disability rated as “total” to participate in the space-available program, but there was a problem. The House and Senate language did not match, and we needed the House to agree to the Senate language. Again our advocacy paid off, and on July 23, the House agreed to the Senate language. The president signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law on August 13. In a congress divided by acrimony and turmoil, our teamwork gets things done. [applause]

Turning to our current work, on March 14, 2019, Senator Boozman of Arkansas and Senator Cardin of Maryland introduced the Access Technology Affordability Act. This legislation would create a $2,000 refundable tax credit for use over a three-year period for the purchase of access technology. The bill currently has fourteen cosponsors including Senator Wyden of Oregon, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. On April 4 Representative Mike Thompson of California, the chair of the House Select Revenue Subcommittee, and Representative Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania introduced identical legislation in the House. The House bill has eighteen cosponsors.

On January 29, 2019, Senator Casey of Pennsylvania introduced the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act. This legislation phases out subminimum wages for workers with disabilities over a six-year period and then sunsets section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. [applause] It also authorizes $300 million in grants to facilitate the transformation from subminimum wages to competitive, integrated employment. The bill currently has seven cosponsors. On January 13, Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia, the chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington introduced identical legislation in the House. The House bill has fifty cosponsors.

We are working with Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois to introduce the Greater Accessibility and Independence through Nonvisual Technology Act. This bill would establish a minimum nonvisual access standard for home-use medical devices, home appliances, and fitness equipment. [applause]

The National Federation of the Blind continues to promote the development of autonomous vehicles that are fully nonvisually accessible. We have participated in congressional policy briefings, presented at industry summits, and submitted regulatory feedback. We have also pivoted our excellent relationship with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers from the quiet car issue to autonomous vehicles. You will be hearing from Dave Schwietert tomorrow.

Let’s talk a little bit about NFB-NEWSLINE®. As President Riccobono announced, NFB-NEWSLINE now includes the core elements of KNFB Reader. [applause] You can now use NFB-NEWSLINE to read your newspaper, check the weather, look up your favorite television program, find a job, or use it to take a picture of almost any printed text and have it read back to you aloud. NFB-NEWSLINE is available in forty-five states plus the District of Columbia, with Maine scheduled to come online later this fall. It has 125,000 subscribers and more than five hundred publications. On average we receive 5,700 calls per day, and some portion of NEWSLINE is accessed every 1.8 seconds.

The weather portion of the service includes detailed seven-day forecasts, emergency alerts, and other useful information such as air quality and heat index (it’s about 106 right now). [laughter] The TV listings include content from every cable and broadcast provider, specific channel mappings for your cable and satellite provider, and information on video description.

Our job listings include every job listed on CareerBuilder and USAJobs. Note that the iOS app now includes four pages or tabs. The first page is the Highlights page and provides quick access to announcements, your favorites, and the weather. The second page contains links to all of the major content categories. The third page now is KNFB Reader. [applause] The fourth page contains overall app settings.

Late last year NFB-NEWSLINE was released as an Amazon Alexa skill. [applause] You can now access NFB-NEWSLINE hands-free on any of the Alexa family of products. To get started, just say, “Alexa, open National Federation,” and the skill will walk you through the login process.

As you can see, the past year has been incredibly successful for the Federation in terms of our advocacy. You—each of you, every one of you, all of you—you were the key to that success. But there is still much more work left to do. The demand is great, but we are equal to the challenge. It will take all of us working together as a team to achieve that success. When one of you calls your congressional representative, they take a note. When ten of you call, they pay attention. [applause] When a hundred of you call, they realize we mean business. And when all of the members of the National Federation of the Blind call, they understand that we cannot be stopped. They understand that we demand to be recognized. They understand that we demand for our voices to be heard. And they understand that we demand our civil rights. [applause, cheers]

Our many voices together create a single unified voice that rises above the din of partisanship in Washington. Out of many, one. E pluribus unum. Through our union we become stronger, and that strength makes us, the National Federation of the Blind, unstoppable! [applause, cheers]

Alright, turning to our next speaker. So much of what happens is a result of our entire team and our group in Baltimore, and the next gentleman does an incredible job leading that effort. His intelligence, his passion, his in-depth knowledge of education policy, the work he does to help organize and run our Washington Seminar, and most recently his incredibly effective testimony that he delivered to help ensure appropriate funding for the National Library Service, here is the manager of government affairs, Gabe Cazares.

Gabe Cazares: Howdy, my Federation family. It is a joy to be up here. I tweeted earlier this week that the energy is electrifying. You don’t understand how powerful you are.

In 1857 Frederick Douglass, the escaped Maryland slave turned abolitionist and orator wisely observed, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.” All of us gathered here in this room know all too well this to be true. Ten years ago an insecure, shy, closeted, Latinx blind kid stumbled upon a ragtag group of folks who called themselves the National Federation of the Blind of Texas. [loud cheering from Texans] Those folks were fiercely independent, committed to one another, and, more importantly, to a larger movement, the National Federation of the Blind. [applause]

Fast forward five years from the initial interaction. Since May 18, 2019, I have had a front-row seat to the steely determination, collective power, and unwavering resolve of my Federation family from across the country. Over the last four years I have witnessed my Federation family spring into action to successfully advance a multilateral treaty many thought was dead, and simultaneously pass its implementing legislation. All of this we did while charging forward to tackle a broad policy agenda from the accessibility of electronic instructional materials in higher education to protecting our right to cast a private and independent ballot. [applause] From protecting the rights of blind parents to our continued push for the elimination of subminimum wages for blind and other workers with disabilities, the depth and breadth of our organization’s policy agenda is the envy of many. And because John Paré, Kimie Eacobacci, Stephanie Flynt, and I are frequently on Capitol Hill wheeling and dealing, many get to thinking that we are the driving force behind our organization’s policy success—and side note, here, we do have an excellent policy team—but boy do I enjoy telling them that they are wrong. Make no mistake: the only reason why John and I are able to stand before you today highlighting the policy successes we have achieved over the last year is due to President Riccobono’s steadfast leadership and your relentless advocacy.

You see, one of the many lessons I have learned from my Federation mentors is that even when the odds are against us, I will still bet on my Federation family every time, because I know my Federation family will always get the job done.

After the famous (or infamous) 2016 presidential election, security and voter protection were thrust front-and-center into our national dialog. Politicians were tripping over themselves to be the first to call for securing the integrity of our electoral process. Over the subsequent two-and-a-half years, politicians and pundits alike have offered their “expert” opinion regarding election security. Often the discussion turns to the method by which ballots are cast. This inevitably leads to their foolproof solution: casting hand-marked paper ballots. When introducing the Protecting American Votes and Elections Act (or PAVE Act for short—DC loves its acronyms—Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said, “The PAVE Act scraps insecure voting machines that are juicy targets for hackers and replaces them with reliably secure, hand-marked paper ballots.” I know I don’t need to point out to this crew the obvious problem with the Senator’s observations, and to be completely honest, I didn’t think I’d have to point out such a glaring discrepancy to congressional staff. These ballots would be so secure that they would deprive blind and other voters with disabilities from our right to cast our ballots privately and independently. We fought this battle during the consideration and passage of the Help America Vote Act of 2001, and we won. We have tasted freedom, and we will not go back. [applause]

Now to Senator Wyden’s credit, and thanks to the work of our Oregon affiliate, the Senator’s staff attended an election security conference which was held at the Jernigan Institute in May of this year. As a follow-up to that conference, we met with Senator Wyden’s staff and proposed major changes to the PAVE Act that balance the need to protect the integrity of our electoral processes and the necessity that we not compromise the privacy and independence of voters with disabilities. We fully expect these changes to be implemented.

Although we may not always agree, when we are invited to the table, we endeavor to negotiate in good faith. But when we are excluded, my Federation family has no problem kicking down the door, pulling up our own chair, and inviting ourselves to the table. Power concedes nothing without a demand. [applause]

For several years now our National Association of Blind Students has been leading the effort to pass our Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act (AIM HIGH). First we were negotiating with the higher education lobby—and I’ve got the higher blood pressure to prove it. Then we were convincing congress to take our bill on. Now we have language, we have congress’s support, and our bill will be reintroduced in the 116th Congress with the goal of having it included in the larger higher education package that is expected to move before this congress adjourns. [applause] And I’ll tell you a secret, just for us in this room and everybody listening to the stream: the lawyers are going to love this. Our bill will be introduced without a safe harbor for institutions of higher education. [applause, cheers]

My Federation family is not afraid of doing the hard work of negotiating, persuading, and mobilizing. I know that with the energy and enthusiasm of our students, we will get AIM HIGH across the finish line. [applause]

Eighty-one years ago congress passed the Wagner-O’Day Act, and in doing so authorized the creation of the Committee for Purchase from People who are Blind. Amended in 1971 as the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act and expanded to include nonprofits employing blind and other people with severe disabilities, the committee was also rebranded as the AbilityOne Commission. While the originally intended goals of the program are noble, the current structure falls short of those ideals by failing to equip workers with the necessary skillsets to compete in the twenty-first century workforce. Not to mention that the AbilityOne Commission’s failure to adequately manage their own financial resources and display an appropriate level of transparency has eroded public confidence in the program.

It’s no secret that the American workforce is changing. Automation has transformed almost every industry. Yet many workers with disabilities employed under the AbilityOne program are assigned repetitive tasks which do nothing to equip them with the skills needed to succeed and advance in the modern workforce. However, the biggest failure in the AbilityOne program is not that it creates artificially inclusive work environments, nor that some of the specialized nonprofits participating in the AbilityOne program pay workers with disabilities subminimum wages, but rather that the founding statute of the program incentivizes the exclusion of blind people from advancing to administrative, supervisory, and managerial positions.

We know that blindness is not the characteristic that defines us or our future. We have come to understand through our participation in the organized blind movement that society’s low expectations are the true obstacle between us and our full potential. Together we will reform the AbilityOne program to reflect the changing workforce, to better prepare blind workers to meet the needs of the twenty-first century, and to ensure that blind employees are employed in all industries at every level, from the private to the public sector. [applause] No more will we settle for artificially integrated workplaces. No more will we allow contracts to prohibit blind people from climbing the ladder of opportunity. No more. Together we will advance the Disability Employment Act, which will allow for-profit as well as nonprofit entities to bid on contracts through a newly created commission. We will ensure that workers with disabilities have the same earning opportunities as their nondisabled colleagues by prohibiting the use of 14(c) certificates and by requiring employers to pay workers with disabilities at least the minimum wage, or, if greater, the prevailing wage. Oh, and by the way, we will protect our blind entrepreneurs by ensuring that the newly reimagined commission honors the Randolph-Sheppard priority for all military dining contracts including cafeterias. No more will we allow the AbilityOne Commission to ignore the Randolph-Sheppard Act and unilaterally threaten the livelihood of our blind merchants. No more. Our bill changes the composition of the commission, restructures the way contracts are awarded, and creates a trust fund to support the organic integration of workers with disabilities into the mainstream workforce.

Revolutionizing this program won’t be easy. In fact some folks have told us that we don’t truly understand what we are attempting to do. My response is simple: you don’t truly understand the members of the National Federation of the Blind. [applause, cheers] We will transform the AbilityOne program, and we won’t rest until the job is done.

My Federation family, I could spend more time telling you more about the countless ways your advocacy, your dedication, and your commitment to our movement continues positively to influence the reputation of our organization in the halls of power. I could talk more about how in January over five hundred of you stormed Capitol Hill bringing our priorities to congress at our Washington Seminar. Or that in May over one hundred blind merchants hiked The Hill to protect and expand employment opportunities under the Randolph-Sheppard Act. I could talk about the great strides we have made over the last twelve months to ensure that no blind parent is ever torn away from her child solely because of the low expectations and ignorance of a social worker. A dozen states have now enshrined permanent protections for blind and other parents with disabilities, with Alabama and Georgia passing such laws.

There is no question in my mind that in the field of blindness, we are the only real game in town. But our policy successes are only possible because we are committed to our movement as well as to one another. Ten years ago the shy, awkward, Latinx blind kid would never have believed that he would be here today celebrating the policy successes of such a powerful movement.

We are changing what it means to be blind through public policy, yes. But through our active participation in the movement we are also showing those who are newly blind as well as those who are losing vision as well as black and brown blind kids, kids who look like me, that we can live the lives we want. “Puedo vivir la vida que yo quiero. Mi ceguera no es que lo me impide.” Blindness is not and will not hold us back. Together with love, hope, and determination, we are and will continue to transform our collective dreams into reality. [applause] So here’s my invitation to you here today: join me, and together let’s go build the National Federation of the Blind.

Eleven Years of BELL Academies: Gaining Skills, Enhancing Opportunities, and Building Relationships

by Karen Anderson

From the Editor: Our first BELL Academy was held in Maryland in 2008, and since then it has expanded to include almost every affiliate in the nation. It is a direct-service program that gives students ages four to twelve blind role models and helps move them from being spectators to players.

Karen Anderson is the NFB director of education programs, and here is the article she has written to inform and inspire:

On my clock at home I have a collection of bells, each signifying an experience in my life that allowed me to grow. The bell with the eagle on top is the one I received when I graduated from the Louisiana Center for the Blind. The one with the ship’s wheel is the bell I got after running my first summer program for blind teens. And the bell with the plastic handle is the bell I took with me after running my first BELL Academy in Nebraska. That bell reminds me of how much my students grew in two weeks. I remember the six-year-old boy who learned to put on his seatbelt by himself, the eleven-year-old girl who was sure she couldn’t do things without using her vision and ended up making a cake in a cup while wearing her learning shades, and the fourteen-year-old girl who’s family traveled to Lincoln and stayed in a hotel so she could learn Braille because the school was not willing to teach her. At the end of the program I had the privilege of giving bells to each of these children who had come so far in such a short time. As I handed one to each student, I hoped that when they rang it throughout the year, they would remember how much I believed in them, and that they would continue to believe in themselves.

These days my favorite bells are the BELL (Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning) Academies we hold every summer. Started in Maryland in 2008 by Federationists who realized our blind children were not being exposed to nearly enough Braille, there are now more than twenty-five states holding BELL Academies each summer. Just like the bells that sit on my clock at home, each summer’s BELL Academies signify opportunities for blind children to learn and grow.

In 2019, we held thirty-five BELL Academies in twenty-six states. This means that more than 250 children between the ages of four and twelve were exposed to Braille in a way that made literacy fun. The New Jersey BELL Academy started each day by having each student read a joke that had been Brailled for them and matched their personality. By having fun with reading, students’ confidence grew along with their knowledge of the Braille code. In New York, one nine-year-old boy began the program with very little knowledge of the code. Upon learning most of the letters, he was excited to be able to read and exclaimed, “I’m like a superhero. I can now read in the dark!”

One parent from New Jersey said, “For nine years of my son’s life it has been recommended that he lean on his vision. Attending Bell Academy, my son learned the complete Braille alphabet in a mere two weeks, something that eluded us for nine years. What sticks out is how simple it was to start Braille and the shame it is that the world resists.”

In each of our programs, children use learning shades so they can practice doing things without using their residual vision. This can be challenging for kids, and sometimes it takes a while for students to get comfortable with their learning shades. Jenny Carmack from Missouri sent us this story about a returning student:

We do an activity for some of our children who are new to Braille, called Treasure Hunting. In this activity children must dig through dried pasta, beans, or rice to find what kind of treasure is in there such as bells, gems, or animal shaped beads. This is done with only their fingers, no vision. Last year one of our children did not like to do any activity in which he could not use his eyes. This year he was excited to turn off all of the lights and treasure hunt with his fingers.

Additionally, other students can serve as great encouragers for their classmates. One little girl in New York made a switch to try and encourage her classmates. “Instead of shame on you, let’s try shades on you.” She even made a song out of it.

Cooking and food are great motivators for many kids. In Utah, students got to make bread in a bag. They read a Braille recipe, measured and combined ingredients, and baked the loaves using nonvisual skills they had learned at the program. Other programs made playdough, banana animals, brownies, and even individual pizzas. One student in New Jersey took the skills he was learning at BELL home with him and came back the next day with cookies he had baked for everyone with very little help from his parents.

Students also work on things that will help them be more independent at home. Stacie Gallegos from Texas sent us this story:

During the 2019 BELL Academy, I had the opportunity to work with Randy, one of our veteran BELL students. One of Randy’s long-term goals has been to learn how to tie his own shoes. Randy was able to complete the first two steps but had difficulty with mastering the task of the bunny ears. During the second week, we worked on shoe tying at the end of the day’s lessons. By the end of the week, Randy was able to make bunny ears and, although they were really big, he managed to tie his own shoes. I had the opportunity to speak with a group of parents, including Randy’s mother. I demonstrated to mom the steps Randy and I followed for shoe tying. I encouraged mother to work with Randy a little each day on this task. I feel confident that with practice and the opportunity to do so, Randy will be tying his own shoes next Summer.

For years BELL Academies have offered students the opportunity to be artistic and creative. Students get to decorate their long white canes using things like multi-colored duct tape, yarn, beads, and bells. This makes the cane, which is often awkward for students, feel like their own and helps make it more fun to use. In addition to decorating, many academies find other ways to introduce students to tactile art. This year several of our academies partnered with local businesses that teach students to work with clay. In Baltimore, students worked on a mosaic that will be displayed at our Jernigan Institute, and in Mississippi students got to work on several clay projects including writing their names in Braille.

This year, thanks to the generosity of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, each BELL participant was given an intact Sketchpad which helped them develop an understanding of tactile art and graphics. One child in Texas, who had previously only drawn using her limited vision, was able to create a fish with her hand, write her name and feel what the print letters look like, and draw several other shapes of her own choosing. One twelve-year-old student from New York has never liked drawing and was very resistant to drawing in the program. Once he learned to use the Sketchpad, he was ecstatic and exclaimed, “Yeah! I can play Pictionary with the family now!” In South Carolina, three students who loved art used the Sketchpads to draw their favorite Minecraft characters so the volunteers could feel what they looked like and gain a better understanding of one of their favorite games. In all these cases, students were developing tactile literacy skills.

As is so often the case with kids, some of the most impactful lessons come through play. Briley O’Connor from Minnesota sent us this story:

During recess one afternoon, we decided to go to the park across the street from BLIND, Inc. This park has no playground equipment, so I suggested the boys play a game of tag. Ben (age six) said he’d never played tag before. Silas (age four) said, ‘How can he play tag? He can’t see anything.’ Challenge accepted. I told Silas he should be ‘it’ first and make a loud noise as he ran so that way Ben could chase him. Silas took to this suggestion immediately, taking off at the count of three yelling ‘beep, beep, beep,’ as loudly as possible. Ben took some time to get used to running without help outside, but after a round or two, they needed no assistance from me. One blind child learned that he could run freely, and another learned that you don’t need any vision at all to enjoy a game of tag.

As wonderful as all these activities are, it is the relationships that our teachers and volunteers form with students and parents that make the most difference. For some, we are the first successful blind people their family has ever met. One parent from Missouri posted on Facebook that her daughter, who has attended BELL for the past four years, looks forward to it every year. She went on to say that the best thing about the BELL Academy, in her opinion, is the fact that the staff who volunteer their time are blind and are great role models for the children. Other families are heartened to have found a group of people who believe in their children, have high expectations for them, and are willing to help the families fight for what is best for their kids. A mom from New Jersey said, “As parents who have recently found the NFB we are relieved to know that we are not alone and are fully supported moving forward.” One grandmother in South Carolina plans to stay in touch with the Federation so she knows what she should ask in her grandchildren’s IEP meetings. She wants to make sure they are being raised with high expectations.

Then there are the families who are not new to the Federation. BELL gives their blind kids an opportunity to be around kids like them. This story comes from Briley O’Connor, who, in addition to being the Minnesota BELL coordinator, is also the mom of a blind son:

As the coordinator, I knew this program would be great for my four-year-old son, Silas. I’ve done this before and have seen firsthand the positive impact BELL Academy can have on a child. What I did not anticipate was how dramatic a difference it would make in his understanding of himself and his identity as a blind person. Silas is in that tricky low-vision space where his parents refer to him as a blind person, his parents are blind, many of the people in his life are blind, but he still has a degree of useable vision which makes him feel like he can see. Convincing a kid at this age to eat his vegetables is hard enough, much less to understand the value of the alternative techniques of blindness, so the cane and Braille have been a bit of a hard sell for a while. Every day we would have him leave the house with the cane, and every day it’d be a battle of wills with the refrain of ‘But I can see, I’m not blind like you,’ echoing in our ears. After decorating his cane at BELL, being around other children who are using a cane like his, a positive blind instructor (Miss Michell) constantly reminding him to have it in his hand, and a curriculum that makes learning nonvisual skills fun, his attitude has improved significantly. He now refers to himself as ‘mostly blind,’ which is an enormous shift over such a short period of time. He will take the cane when we leave the house without an argument, and he uses it more effectively when we travel.

Because I spent a lot of my career as a teacher and I’m a blind person, I assumed Silas would have an easier time than he has accepting his blindness. I’m grateful for the BELL Academy and for the National Federation of the Blind for making this possible. Parents are so important, but without this village, we’d still be fighting every day at the front door about the cane.

These stories, and the hundreds like them, are the reason I choose to be so involved in the Federation. They are why members across the country volunteer hours of their time, talent, and creativity. We know that blindness does not have to hold these kids back, and programs like BELL help them and their families realize that, too. I love to imagine more than 250 blind kids across the country ringing their bells at the end of summer—a whole bell choir of freedom and independence.

Mujeres of the Federation

by Mary Fernandez

From the Editor: Mary Fernandez is a woman who brings and shares with the world her intelligence, her passion, and most of all her honesty. As Monitor readers will remember from past articles that she has written, she goes where others dare not go, and she does not let blindness get in the way, even when people fear that her going into impoverished neighborhoods will expose her to unacceptable danger because she is blind.

Here is a presentation that Mary gave at a seminar of the 2019 National Convention. It was advertised with these words: “This bilingual event features a keynote address from a dynamic Latina leader. It will provide inspiration and mentorship opportunities for the next generation of blind Latina trailblazers.” Here is what she says:

I spent much of my childhood in Cartagena, Columbia, where my story unfolded in binary terms: dos and don’ts. Like other kids, I did have chickens as pets. I did have room to be rambunctious—often, running around the house so fast that I crashed into a wall, denting the middle of my forehead. I did try to shave my imaginary beard with a real razor at the age of four. And then there were the things I was not allowed to do, most painfully, not attend school. I would wistfully watch my brother go off on the bus, books under his arm, and I’d just have my radio and chickens to pass the time.

So how does a young uneducated girl from Colombia, whose only odd claim to sophistication was a love for classical music, grow up to have a successful career, attend two prestigious institutions of higher education, and walk into spaces where people like me aren’t seen? There are three elements that have been essential to my success. My mother, who not only encouraged and inspired me to do my best, but who also made many sacrifices to insure I’d have a bright future, is central to my achievements. Second has been the role models and mentors who continue to demonstrate what is possible regardless of disability. Third, somewhere along the way I realized that vital to my success are authenticity, resilience, and gratitude. I’m going to share stories from my personal and professional lives that highlight these elements.

In 2013 I applied for a position with a highly selective federal agency. To my utter amazement, a month after applying, I got a call to initiate the year-long, eight-step, grueling interview process. And guess what? I received a job offer! I quit my very safe job, signed everything, and enrolled at the Louisiana Center for the Blind to obtain blindness training while the security clearance process was underway. However, six months after leaving a perfectly secure job, I got a one-page letter withdrawing the job offer. I remember standing in Pam Allen’s office, crushed and dumbstruck. I had no idea what to do or where to go. I went to the bathroom and ugly cried while I called my mom. Later, I went home to ugly cry again. Funny thing about life though, is that you may be going through the hardest part of your life, but the world doesn’t stop, even when we think it should. So, I woke up the next day, and my stubborn streak kicked in. I had started this training program, and I was going to finish it. I was going to get a damn job too!

I often think back to this time in my life and all the ways it could have gone differently if I had gotten what I thought was my dream job. I would have never set off on a path toward business school. After completing blindness training, I went back home to New Jersey and was hired as a youth transition program coordinator, creating something from the ground up. While fulfilling, a year-and-a-half later I left that safe job, knowing that there was something else out there for me. I did all the contract work that I could find. I even worked as a customer representative for a cottage cheese company. Never mind that I literally had never tasted cottage cheese in my life! Hustling helped me realize the value of my network. It enabled me to explore my interests and eventually brought into focus my next step. I woke up one day and thought, “I really need an MBA. Then people will take me seriously, and I’ll have many more options. And this plan actually worked!

Attending business school at Duke has tested my resilience like no other time in my life. I don’t know many blind people, even in the NFB, who obtained an MBA. But I did know many blind pioneers, so I had no doubt I could do it. The journey has been challenging. First, you take all the classes that the world usually tells you blind people, particularly girls, aren’t good at, like stats, and econ, accounting, and my absolute favorite, finance. Second, institutional bias in higher education means that students with disabilities are set up to fail. I went through my first two quarters essentially with no accessible materials. When I say none, I don’t mean I was getting a bit of stats but not all of it—I mean none. Our quarters are only six weeks long, so falling behind even by a week means it’s hopeless. Third, there is recruiting. Recruiting season is when about a hundred employers visit campus to present on their companies and to network with students. After full school days we switch into networking mode, hoping that insightful conversations and brilliant questions will translate into a summer internship opportunity. Standing out was the goal, and at least my being the only blind one helped me get that part down.

I survived, and I pushed forward. It comes down to resilience, which is being able to persist even when you are bruised and battered. Resilience isn’t lack of failure; it’s being able to fail over and over and getting back up. Resilience doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when you are punched to the ground; it means you feel the hurt and make it back up. Resilience can’t be taught; it is something we develop. And if I know one thing about immigrants, it is that we are damn resilient. We continue to work and succeed and contribute even when the message we are hearing is that we are not wanted.

Three months after recruiting started, and a number of unsuccessful interviews later, I finally accepted a job offer with Cisco. Working at Cisco was a dream come true. I worked on the Global Talent Brand team—we do marketing for talent acquisition. The Cisco culture is truly inclusive, and the people are brilliant, welcoming, and warm, a combination that is hard to find anywhere. However, as we move into spaces that people like us—blind Latina women aren’t usually seen, no matter the company culture, these characteristics become a focal point. Often, the curiosity grows from a desire to learn and understand our experience. For me, it quickly became exhausting being the new intern at this global corporation and the in-house accessibility and disability expert. In this instance I had to set boundaries. At the same time, it’s important to leverage our lived experiences to influence inclusion at all levels whenever we can. That’s what I did, resulting in guiding the team to create more accessible marketing materials.

I’ve learned that in situations where my intersecting identities become a prominent feature, authenticity, boundaries, and using my lived experiences help me navigate. Authenticity is a strength. It is important to bring our true self, values, and integrity to work. If we do that, we will always find the best path forward. If we do not, we will not fail, but we will not grow; we may please others but not ourselves, and ultimately, we will stunt our personal growth. Do not ever allow anyone to make you the token x. I set limits around what I will and will not tolerate. At the same time, recognize and accept that you are representing others. This acceptance allows us to better control our narrative. If it’s inevitable that a story will be told about us, then we should make sure we create that story. Leverage your knowledge and experiences to pave the path for those who will come after you.

So, here is what I want you to remember. First, play to your strengths. Second, embrace failure, because failure leads to resilience. Third, live authentically, live your truth. And last, be grateful. I could not have gotten to where I am today without an army of supporters behind me and trailblazers before me. Gratitude engenders joy and confidence, so hold it close to you. When you play to your strengths, when you are authentic to your values and beliefs, when you are courageous, you will leave an indelible mark in the world and blaze a path for those who will follow.

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 2018 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.

Bequests

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, and complete the Pre-Authorized Contribution form, and return it to the address listed on the form.

Leadership, Partnership, and the Pursuit of Financial Accessibility

by Doug Marshall

From the Editor: Doug Marshall is the executive vice president and chief digital and product officer for BECU (the Boeing Employees’ Credit Union) in Tukwila, Washington. As President Riccobono said during his introduction, “BECU is one of many organizations we are partnering with to further better accessibility. When we came to them with our concerns, they did not protest; they said yes, we need help, and it is on this foundation that we began to build a relationship. Here is what Doug Marshall had to say to the convention on Wednesday afternoon, July 10:

Thank you, President Riccobono. It is a pleasure to be here this afternoon on behalf of BECU. We are one of those companies that Eve was referring to [Eve Hill proceeded Mr. Marshall’s presentation.], so we’re pleased to be here today to share our journey toward digital accessibility. Before I do that, I’d love to share just a few things about BECU because, other than our Washington contingent way in the back, my guess is that most of you don’t know anything about us. As you know, we are based in Washington. We have about 1.2 million members. We have about $20 billion in assets, and that makes us about the fourth-largest credit union in the country. We have about 2,100 employees, and we’re really pleased about our place in the market out there in Seattle.

As I move into why we did this work, I think it’s important for all of you to understand the why as well as the what, so first we will talk about the why, we’ll talk about the how we did it, and then we’ll talk about where we are right now so you can get some sense of how this journey unfolds.

For us the why starts with our values, and probably a lot of the organizations you work with talk about having values. We do that, but the three that are most relevant to this discussion are these: we have a value called members first. Our customers are called members because we are a cooperative. We are owned by members, not by shareholders. Our second value is called people helping people, which seems very relevant to this discussion as well, because ultimately we’re all just people. Finally, and maybe the most important one for this discussion, we have a deeply, deeply embedded sense of doing the right thing, and as President Riccobono alluded to, that’s what really prompted us to move forward in doing the right thing. It started as a legal issue; it rapidly became a moral issue for us. So that is some context. [applause]

Again, most organizations have values, so the second part of the why for us is the fact that we actually try to live those out. I could talk with you all day about examples where we try to live those values every single day with every single member, but I won’t. Just trust that our culture has those values deeply embedded.

The third thing that is behind the why is our history. Just to go back for a moment, we have a long history of solving problems. We were founded in 1935, so over eighty years ago, in the depths of the Depression. I think our founding story is relevant to this discussion. We were founded by eighteen machinists who pooled fifty cents each to raise nine dollars. We are worth $20 billion today, so we started with nine dollars. They then made a loan for $2.50 to a fellow machinist at Boeing because back then you had to buy your own tools. So in order to have your job, you had to buy tools, and in order to have tools you had to have money. Our members raised that money so that person could have a job. That’s the very first problem we solved, and ever since we’ve been trying to solve problems, sometimes successfully, sometimes not as much.

So with that history we thought it was important to listen when we heard from our members that we were having some problems around accessibility. It started in 2016 when we heard from some members directly in our call centers. They said they were having difficulty using our online banking tool. In 2017 we then made an enhancement or two or three to our mobile app. Most of you know what a mobile app is and how important it can be to people’s lives. We made some fixes that helped some of our members, but inadvertently we made our mobile app much less accessible for our blind and sight-impaired members. That was a mistake. So we started to hear from some of our members, and in fact some of them are in the back of the room, so they can attest to this. Things weren’t working. We were starting to take some action to address that, and then, as President Riccobono alluded to, we heard from him, Eve Hill, the attorney general, and at least as importantly, some of our members who were in the room that day. I’ll never forget that day. It was in early 2018, and I had not had a lot of exposure to the blind community. Some of our members shared their stories. We didn’t actually ask any questions because we knew it was important that we try to understand where we should start. They told us that, rather than being able to use our mobile app to make a check deposit, for them it would require a two-hour plus trip to get to one of our branches. They would get on one bus, get on another bus, and they would have to walk a ways and catch another bus. So as we heard that story, again it made it very, very clear to us that we did not have the time to wait to get this addressed.

That’s a little bit behind the why of why we tackled this. What you may be caring more about—I know I would—is how do we tackle this? We drove back down from Seattle to beautiful Tukwila, sat down right away, and began to plan how we were going to tackle this. Ultimately we ended up with six different things. Frankly it was a lot that we had to do. First of all we worked with our internal team and laid out a plan, and that plan included, first and foremost, how we would prioritize the work. I know you’ve talked a lot about websites, and they are critical. But in our case we had digital properties including our mobile app, our online banking—sort of our desktop experience—and then, of course, our site itself. We collectively agreed that it was important to tackle the mobile app first because that actually allows you to bank. Second would be the online banking experience for the same reason. Finally we would tackle the website itself. All of these other things were important, but we had to make some choices and prioritize.

The second thing we did, and this was even without pressure, was to develop detailed plans. We ended up with eighteen different bodies of work that we identified, and each of those plans had committed dates and specific efforts to make sure we met those dates.

The third thing we did was to invest resources. Again, you’ve heard that sometimes this work is not that expensive and that it doesn’t have to be. In our case we had to invest significant resources. We added some user experience resources. In fact one of those resources is right here in the room today. We added some outside development teams. We have a development team who does that work, but we had to bring in outside help because again this is relatively new to us. I can go on, but basically we invested a lot to make this happen.

We then engaged our vendors. What you may not know is that in many cases in addition to doing the work ourselves, we work with outside partners. I talked about our values earlier, and the great news for us is that when we vet our vendors before we select them, one of the things we look hard at is whether they share our values. So when we showed up and said that we have an issue here, that being to improve accessibility, and you need to help us, the response wasn’t, “No we don’t.” The response was, “Well, of course we have to.” They have been a really, really important part of this puzzle, and we’ll talk about that in just a minute.

Finally (almost), we developed policies and procedures to ensure that once we got this work done, it would be sustainable. The last thing we want to do is invest in this effort, get accessibility where it needs to be, and then go backwards.

As you heard me say, we are a members-first organization, so along the way, as the sixth initiative, we had our members help us test. We worked with them to see if the changes we had made had in fact made things better or perhaps worse. This is very important because along the way we discovered that sometimes we got it right, but a couple of times we got it very, very wrong. So we had to go back and make a change, make a change, make a change. It was really important to have our members involved all along the way.

That is the how, but many of you may be wondering (I know I would be) where are we: what did all of that work result in? I can start by saying that we’re not done yet. I guess you’re never ever done, but we’re not quite where we want to be but thought it was important to come today and share at least where we are now. We’ve made great progress on those eighteen bodies of work. About three of those eighteen we’re not quite done with, and again, thanks to the collaboration with Eve Hill and others, we know we have to get that work done, and we will.

Second, we realized that as we add new features—for example there is a product called Zelle that is very similar to Venmo, which some of you may use. I believe it is an accessible product, but I’m not 100 percent sure. As we add those products, we want to make sure that they are also accessible, so that’s the second thing we have embedded in our process and procedures so we don’t go backwards.

The next thing we are doing is that we are continuing to add resources. In fact, one of my colleagues is here today and attended the employment session. We’re actively looking for two people to join BECU to do quality assurance testing. They need to be blind to do the work right, so if you know someone, send them our way. We’d love to hire them. [applause]

We’re continuing to lead our vendors. Our vendors are not done, and they’ve actually told us that our work with them has forced them to go and do an even better job with some of their other financial services partners. So we think we’ve raised the bar for our vendors, and we hope we’ve done the same thing for other financial institutions. We’ll see.

Finally, and this is probably the one that has been most personally gratifying, we started with digital accessibility, because that is vital in an increasingly digital world. But what I love about our organization is that we have this deep commitment to getting better. As we started to think about it, we realized that the kiosks in our branches that are used to check in to make an appointment with one of our consultants are digital, and they’re not accessible. We’ve already realized that we need to get that fixed, and in fact we met someone today at the booth who is going to help us get that done. [applause]

We have realized that even some of our marketing material—I mean who doesn’t want to be marketed too—isn’t compliant. So we have embedded closed captioning and textual descriptions of pictures.

The last thing is the one that I’m most proud of. It’s a very small one, but it means a lot to us. As we looked around, we realized that the checks we provide to all of our members—including a large-font check for members who have difficulty using checks with the standard font size—were more expensive than they needed to be and should be. We went back to our check vendor and said, “Explain to us why a check that has a large font is more expensive than a check that has a smaller font. Clearly the additional ink you need can’t be that much more expensive.” And they said that we were right. Now we are charged the very same price for small font checks as we are for large font checks. [applause]

So again, we know that we are on a journey, but we feel like we have made tremendous progress and that we really embedded this more deeply in the organization. I’ve heard several of you today as I’ve spoken with you that it’s all about culture, and it is.

To wrap up, if I was thinking about tackling this issue from your perspective and I was going to approach an organization of any kind, I think I’d say this: First, enter into a dialogue: many of you have, and many of you will. Make sure you are involved in a conversation. Again, that first meeting we had was a conversation, and we are grateful for that. Don’t be afraid to share your stories. The entire meeting was great, but that story was a very powerful part of the puzzle for all of us who were in that meeting. Second is that, when you work with that organization, make sure that you understand the organization, the environment that they work with, figuring out whether they have vendors, whether they have a complicated architecture. Don’t let them off the hook, but do make sure that you understand. The third thing, as we did, is work together with that organization to help develop a plan. Make sure there are hard commitments, but work together with that organization. Don’t leave it to them, and don’t leave it to you. And then, make sure that plan is sustainable. Because, as you’ve heard throughout the afternoon, we can’t stop doing this stuff.

I want to offer just a couple of thank you’s. First, thank you again for the opportunity to be here on behalf of BECU to share this. We know we’re not done, but we wanted to share some thoughts along the way. I’d like to thank my colleagues who are here: Jessica Schultz, Mike Ryan, and Obaid Khan, who are a big part of why I am up here talking. They made it happen, so thank you to each of you. Thank you again to Eve and President Riccobono for being the prompt that got us to get this done, and we appreciate that prompting. Last, thank you to our blind members way in the back. On a personal level they made us a better organization, and we always strive to be better, so thank you for that.

I will end on a personal note. I’ve been at this a while. If you could see me, you would know that I am old. I love what I do, but I’m always trying to learn. This experience, on a personal and professional level, has been one of the most interesting and engaging. Thank you for helping me stay young at this late time in my career. [applause]

Exploring the Layers: A Blind Researcher, Mom, and Federationist Enhancing the Understanding of Disability

by Angela Frederick

From the Editor: When most of us first met Angela when she was a national scholarship winner, we knew her as Angela Howard. Now she is married and has a child who seems to be as inquisitive, friendly, and socially aware as her mom and dad. On Friday morning Dr. Angela Frederick gave one of the most moving presentations of the 2019 National Convention. In it she talks about her personal journey to become a professor and what she has learned about intersectionality and her life. Her remarks make an incredibly moving case for strengthening our diversity and understanding of one another. Here is what she said:

Good morning, Federationists. Good morning Texas. [cheers] People are complaining about this microphone being too tall, but this entire podium is too tall for me.

In her classic essay, “The Outsider Within,” sociologist Patricia Hill Collins urged scholars from underrepresented groups to embrace the creative potential of our biographies. Documenting the contribution of black women intellectuals, Hill Collins employed sociologists to tap into the unique insights we bring as outsiders working within a traditional academic field.

I will share a difficult truth with you. During my doctoral training in sociology, I wanted nothing of the creative potential offered by my outsider status. I did not want to research disability. I wanted to be an insider. I wanted to be respected as a good teacher and researcher. I planned to land a tenure-track position as a professor. Disability had no place in my plan. I was terrified of being pigeonholed as someone who worked in a dusty, unrecognized corner of sociology. I knew I would be competing in an impossibly difficult job market. I wanted my identity as a blind person to be invisible, to just go away.

In April 2012 I received a call from the chair of a faculty search committee at a college in Memphis. He called to invite me to their campus for an interview. I was overly prepared for the moment. I took a deep breath and then cheerfully shared the news that I am blind. I was met with a long moment of silence. “I’m so shocked,” he finally replied. “Your research, your teaching—how?” I quickly decided that I should also let him decide that I am having a baby in three months when he picks me up from the airport next week. [laughter]

I knew that what I had to overcome in that daylong interview was tremendous. There has always been a unique kind of comfort I feel with other Federationists. We so deeply understand one another’s struggles to obtain employment and to overcome the social distance sighted people often put between us, and we enjoy the camaraderie of shared laughter over those absurd moments that only another blind person can understand.

Yet, blindness never exists in isolation. It exists in interaction with other aspects of our identities and experiences. I did not go on the job market for my first professor position as a blind person. I went on the job market as an expecting blind mother. In sociology we call this dynamic intersectionality. Developed by legal scholar Kimberly Crenshaw, intersectionality is an approach that considers forms of inequity not as separate but as intertwined. The heart of this approach is that we cannot add up people’s hardships and privileges as if they are points on the scoreboard. Instead we can think of each aspect of our identity as interacting with the others. To put this simply, I am not a blind person on Mondays, a white person on Tuesdays, a woman on Wednesdays, or a highly educated professional on Thursdays. I experience all of these aspects of my identity every day. They shade one another, sometimes in unique and surprising ways. This is the case for all of us.

I did receive that job offer in 2012. [applause] My daughter had been home from the hospital for just ten days when we moved from Austin to Memphis, and I started my first job as a professor the following week. To make our transition easier, my husband became a stay-at-home dad. [applause] I’ll let him know he got applause from you. Yet, even with his unwavering support, it was a grueling year of firsts for me. By day I wore the hat of bewildered new professor; by night I wore the hat of bewildered and sleep-deprived new mom. Maybe it was the freedom I felt from finally holding that title of professor. Maybe it was just the chronic lack of sleep. But that year I finally felt ready to embrace my outsider within.

After publishing my dissertation research, I began brainstorming what my next project might be. Even though I had not been trained as a disability scholar, I felt more and more strongly that sharing the story of disabled mothers was an important contribution I was uniquely poised to make. So I set to work. Over a fifteen-month period I interviewed forty-two mothers with physical and sensory disabilities. I also conducted three focus groups with blind moms right here at one of our national conventions. I would like to share a few of my findings today.

In one article I published titled “Between Stigma and Mother Blame,” I explore blind mothers’ experiences in hospital postpartum care. I found this moment was in an acute time when blind mothers in particular face high levels of scrutiny and misunderstanding. At this time these new moms need to be able to engage in trial and error, to figure out how best to perform the tasks of mothering without sight. Yet, in the same moment, they are under the gaze of medical professionals who are now trained to watch mothers closely for risks they may pose to their children.

I also took up social class as a part of this project. I found that social class privilege did not entirely shield the middle-class women I interviewed from being unjustly portrayed as inadequate mothers. Disability brings with it such profound forms of prejudice that it is not erased by being middle-class. But I also found that, when a problem arose, the middle-class mothers I interviewed were able to lean in on their social class status to successfully navigate the threat. Their social capital mattered. They were more likely to be networked in with advocates and professionals who helped them. Their cultural capital mattered. They knew how to speak the language of dominant institutions. As one mother put it, “You have to know lawyer speak.” These mothers were generally able to garner their resources and present themselves in ways that were favorable to those in power.

I remain deeply grateful to these mothers for sharing their powerful stories of grit, hardship, and triumph with me. My research on mothers with disabilities has been the recipient of two outstanding publication awards and an honorable mention from various sections of the American Sociological Association. [applause] Most meaningful to me, I was the recipient of the 2015 outstanding faculty award, selected by students on my campus. [applause] These recognitions have given me the confidence to know that I no longer need to fear being pigeonholed into a dusty, unrecognized corner of my discipline. Disability is an exciting and critical topic of inquiry. It belongs at the center of sociology and in the center of our classrooms.

My daughter turns seven years old next week. She has spent much of her life on the college campuses where I have worked: practicing piano, having family picnics, balancing along retaining walls, and receiving much adoration from students. Her favorite new campus activity is to sit in my office chair and teach first grade math to her pretend college students. We have traveled as a family to attend what she refers to as “mommie’s boring conferences,” and she knows some of my colleagues to be her aunts and uncles.

Just as my daughter has grown and changed over the last seven years, so too has my research trajectory. I want to take you now to a recent article I published along with my colleague Dara Shifrer. The article is titled, “Race and Disability: from Analogy to Intersectionality.” In this article we document the ways both race and disability have been used as analogy in American social movements. Disability rights activists have long drawn parallels between disability injustice and racial injustice to legitimate disability as a significant category of inequality. In fact we have often done this analogy work in our own organization. My colleague and I do not argue this analogy work is always harmful. It is common for social movements to draw from the successful frames of movements that have gone before them, and it can be an important first moment of connection to draw such parallels. We do argue, however, that important histories and important people are missed when we do this analogy work to the exclusion of intersectionality. Moving beyond analogy brings into focus important parts of our history as blind people, including the mistreatment of European immigrants with visual impairments as they entered our country through Ellis Island in the early 1900s, or our painful history of eugenics, or the long legacy of blind African-American musicians throughout American history which Terry Rowden has so eloquently documented in his book “Songs of Blind Folk.” Indeed, the histories of disability, race, and immigration do not happen to have similarities as analogies would suggest. They are inextricably intertwined.

I am passionate about being a sociologist. I love understanding patterns in our social world. I love deepening my students’ empathy by introducing them to the stories of others and by encouraging them to share their own. In many respects I have you, the Federation, to thank for the career I love so much. [starts to tear up] [applause] In my younger years it was you who taught me how to be a storyteller. Giving testimony is such an important part of the work we do in the Federation. It was you who taught me how to be a story receiver, to meet people where they are in their journeys, to gently accompany them in their next steps, and to allow others to shape my next steps in turn. These are the great lessons from the Federation I bring to my teaching and research. I also bring the Federation spirit to motherhood. My daughter is biracial, bicultural, and she has a mom who is blind on top of it all. [applause] I work every day to help her develop a strong sense of self. I know she will need to thrive in a world that isn’t always going to nurture her unique identity. I feel well-equipped to give her this gift because, in the moment in my life when I needed it the most, the Federation gave that gift to me. [applause] I also want my daughter to know the joy that comes from being part of a force for good that is bigger than herself. I feel well-equipped to give her this gift because you gave that gift to me.

My husband often marvels at our daughter’s industrious spirit. She can find a solution to any problem, he says. He thinks she inherited that spirit from me. I know she inherited that spirit from you. [applause]

Becoming an outsider within sociology has deepened my appreciation for what a unique and special community we are in the Federation. Social science research overwhelmingly demonstrates that Americans remain segregated in nearly every aspect of our lives. Most of us live in neighborhoods segregated by race and social class. We are largely educated in segregated schools. We worship in segregated spaces, and even our volunteer and advocacy work does not often put us in contact with people of different political perspectives. And here we sit; we are without a doubt one of the most diverse communities in our country. We are diverse not only by our racial and ethnic and social class backgrounds, but by our religious and political beliefs and by our gender and sexual identities and family configurations. We are even diverse along disability, as many among us manage more than one disability. Our diversity is our greatest asset. [applause]

I believe using intersectionality in our work only deepens our collective power. Working at the intersection helps us to frame our message in ways that resonate across cultural and community boundaries. Working at the intersection allows us to reclaim aspects of our own histories that might otherwise be forgotten. Working at the intersections gives us the tools to create space for us to honor the stories of those among us who contend with more than one form of inequity. We will inevitably experience tension as we work at the intersections. We all have a lot to learn. We are all going to mess up, and we are all going to be asked to give others grace when they mess up. This is the good work!

Intersectionality need never be a threat to our unity. Our diversity is the glue that binds our solidarity. Thank you.

Philosophy in Practice

by Angela Howard

From the Editor: As part of transcribing the address given by Angela Frederick at the 2019 National Convention, I looked for other things she has written and found one splendid offering about her work with homeless people in Atlanta, Georgia. It first appeared in The Student Slate and was published in the Fall/Winter issue in 1999. Angela is a fantastic writer, but it is the experience she details as much as the writing that persuades me that this article should be in the November issue. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:

When Martin Luther King, Jr. was growing up in Atlanta, he rode the public bus across town to school every day. Segregation laws forced him to take a seat in the back of the bus, even if the seats in the front were vacant. Unable to do anything about the situation at the time, Dr. King decided to leave his mind in the front seat and promised himself that one day he would put his body where his mind sat. Years later, Dr. King led African Americans in a movement to put an end to segregation.

The blind do not endure the segregation laws that once confined African Americans to the back of the bus. But, due to negative attitudes about blindness, we continue to endure a kind of spirit-squelching segregation that has threatened to confine us to a world of high unemployment and social isolation. Members of the National Federation of the Blind have developed a philosophy that has directed us to move toward a life of complete integration and full participation in society. Our movement for equality at one time demanded that we march and campaign in order to be heard, and this is still sometimes necessary. But, more often today, our struggle takes place in the work and play of our everyday lives. As Federationists, we struggle to put our bodies where the Federation has led us. We struggle for the opportunity to participate fully in our homes, schools, and communities.

Recently, my Federationism led me to a most special place. I spent the summer living with the homeless of Atlanta. The Open Door is a community of religious leaders and former homeless people who live together in service to those who are on the streets. I took part in this community as a resident intern. In the Federation, we like to say that blind people possess the same range of personalities that any cross-section of society would produce. I have become convinced that this holds true for every other group in society as well. I faced the same struggles against negative attitudes living with homeless people that I do in any new community in which I become a part. Most assumed that I would hold a marginal position in the community, and in the beginning, none expected from me what I was capable of producing. It was up to me to break down those walls that threaten to steal our right to full participation.

My struggle against negative attitudes began the first night I moved into the house. The woman assigned to be my spiritual advisor reviewed with me the general rules of the house. She then suggested, “We thought you would be good at handing out hard-boiled eggs to the homeless people at breakfast.” When I learned what my schedule was to be for the following week, it became clear to me that passing out eggs during breakfast was the only job they thought I could handle. After three days of handing out eggs from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. and having nothing else to do for the rest of the day, I decided that things were going to have to change.

I began to voice my belief that I could do much more than hand out eggs. I also developed another strategy for solving this dilemma. I was beginning to get to know many of the people living in the house and could sense which ones had the most faith in my ability. When I noticed that one of them was doing a certain job, I would sneak over and ask them to show me exactly how the task was performed. I even got them to let me try. Then during breakfast and lunch circles when certain jobs were delegated, I would raise my hand.

“Are you sure you can do that, Angela?” they would ask.

“I’ve done it before,” I would say.

My strategy worked. I found my schedule for the following week to be much more promising.

Phone and door duty is one job that is frequently delegated to resident interns. The responsibilities of this assignment include answering phones, answering the door, and supervising our homeless friends as they pick out t-shirts and socks from the sorting room. As you can guess, the leaders of the community did not consider the possibility that a blind person might be capable of meeting this challenge.

By the end of my first week, they decided that I might be able to answer the phones. I assured them that I could write out the important phone numbers in Braille and deliver messages personally rather than writing them out. They agreed to let me give it a try.

By the end of my second week, they trusted me to answer the phones, but fulfilling the other responsibilities of phone and door duty was out of the question. Another helper was always assigned to answer the door for me. I am not proud to admit this, but even I was not sure that I could handle the responsibility of managing a room of people who are often under the influence of drugs and who are known to try to get out of the house with as many things as they can. Pretty soon, however, all of us in the house learned a valuable lesson about blindness.

Phone and door duty is often a demanding job. I found myself quite naturally falling into the role of assisting the person in charge of managing the folks coming in and out. This gave me the opportunity to develop some alternative techniques for getting the job done. For example, I learned very early on, because it was not possible for me to describe someone visually, I needed to have another method of identifying the people I was letting in. When a homeless person would come to the door and ask to be let in to grab a t-shirt, I would ask for his or her name. This practice also helped me to develop good relationships with the regulars who came through our doors. I found that people appreciate being called by name rather than being directed by a finger. Developing relationships of mutual respect with many of the regulars put both them and me at ease. Soon, supervising the sorting room no longer seemed like an impossible feat.

My biggest challenge was figuring out how to keep people from taking more items than they were permitted. When people are struggling to meet their most basic needs, they are often forced to try to survive by manipulating others. Some of our homeless friends have been known to get out of the door with eight pairs of socks instead of one. I found that since I couldn’t monitor with my eyes how many pairs of socks someone was taking, it was easier for me to hand them the socks myself. I also learned to listen for clues that would tell me if someone were trying to get out with an extra shirt or two, such as a bag rustling too long or too many coat hangers being moved. I do not think that these alternative techniques were entirely theft proof. I am sure that some of our homeless friends snuck out with an extra shirt or two. But, it is an understood rule at the Open Door that our friends will leave the house with extra things. The key is to not let it be excessive. My alternative techniques worked, and after a few weeks, I was entrusted with all of the responsibilities of phone and door duty.

Phone and door duty was a most unpopular job among the resident interns. I hated doing it as much as anyone else. But, being expected to do the job gave me a sense of satisfaction that ran much deeper than my hatred of performing the task. Being assigned to phone and door duty meant that I was needed. It meant that expectations of me were as high as they were for any other resident intern. And, perhaps most important, it meant that I got the chance to complain how grueling the job was right along with my peers.

Creating allies in our friends and associates is an essential component of achieving full participation. Befriending the other residents of the Open Door, as well as many of the homeless people we served, helped me in my struggle for equality. Many volunteers stopped by the Open Door at random to help us out. Coping with the negative attitudes of new people day in and day out was a difficult challenge for me this summer. My roommates and I used to joke that we had to hear the amazing blind person speech every time someone new walked through the door. On several occasions, a new volunteer assumed that I was one of the people she was supposed to help. I found, however, that as those living in the house began to understand my struggle, they participated in helping me to educate the new folks.

Every morning after we served breakfast to the homeless, we would sit down with our own breakfast and reflect together on how the morning had gone. We learned many lessons about blindness during these reflection times. One morning I had been assigned to hand out tickets in the yard to those who wanted to come in for breakfast. A volunteer, who had just arrived the night before, shared in her reflection time that she was amazed that I could go out into the yard and hand out tickets.

She said, “I am afraid to go out there, and I can see.”

We in the Federation know that the “even I” compliment is no compliment at all, and I was preparing to give a little speech on the subject. Much to my surprise and delight, however, my housemates in the group picked up on the fallacy of her logic and called her on it.

One man said, “It ain’t got nothin’ to do with sight. You’re just scared of homeless people, and we’ve gotta help you with that.”

At that moment, I felt like a teacher whose student won the national spelling bee. Not only did my friends inside the house help me to educate people about blindness, but I found that my homeless friends also helped me to educate others in the neighborhood. I had one friend on the street who was particularly special to me. His street name is Bear. Bear is a crack addict and the most widely respected and feared person in the community. As one man put it, “Every homeless person and policeman in the city of Atlanta knows Bear.” Bear has a gift for being brutally honest and is a champion for justice in his own way. Once a man who had a reputation for paying homeless workers illegal wages came into the yard and asked who wanted a job. Many of the men began begging him to let them work, and it was Bear who said, “Don’t let that man take your dignity.” It came as no surprise to me that Bear would help me in my struggle for equality. Bear became my good friend and helped me to educate others. When someone would make a nuisance of himself by trying to help me too much, I would politely try to manage the situation. But Bear did not believe in sugarcoating words. He would say in his gruff voice, “Shut up, she don’t need no help.” Bear disappeared for several weeks in July, and when I saw him again, he was excited to inform me that he had seen people from our national convention downtown. I had told them all about the National Federation of the Blind and about our convention. “I saw all them people you were talking about downtown last week,” he told me with glee.

Bear and the other homeless people I befriended at the Open Door made this a summer I will cherish for years to come. I am grateful to all of my friends in the Federation who continue to push me to put our philosophy into daily practice. Let us continue to put our hands and feet where the Federation has taken our minds.

A Dream Come True

by Leslie Hamric

From the Editor: This article has been gratefully taken from the summer 2018 issue of the Illinois Independent, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois:

On a Friday night in May 1985, excitement twirled inside me. I walked to my chair using human guide with my stand partner, sat down, and got my cello into position. I was in third grade. I had started taking cello lessons in October 1984, and this was my first orchestra concert. I had memorized all four pieces from audio recordings made by the conductor weeks ago, and I felt well prepared. This was it.

A hush fell over the audience, and I knew the lights had dimmed; then there was silence. Before I knew it, we were playing the first notes of "French Folk Song." Enthusiastic applause followed. We played our other three pieces: "Long, Long Ago," "Chorale," and "Ready, Steady, Go." It was pure heaven playing these pieces with the group. I felt that my cello and I were one.

As the last piece came to a close, my stand partner gave me the verbal cue to rise. I stood up for the applause with the biggest smile on my face. We all sat down and stood up a few more times before the clapping faded. At last I put my cello down next to me, put in the endpin, and laid the bow on top as I was taught. We in the beginner orchestra had completed our performance with flying colors.

I was filled with a sense of accomplishment. Since I was the first blind person in the school district's orchestra program, I felt that I had set a new trend. Proving to myself and my orchestra conductor that I could play in an orchestra like any other musician meant the world to me. With a little planning and teamwork, it could be done. As I sat listening to the performances of the other two orchestras, I knew that I wanted to continue with orchestral playing. In fact, performing in my first concert had gone so well that now I had a dream to pursue: that of participating in a professional symphony orchestra someday.

My orchestral studies continued from elementary school through college. I played with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, Illinois Music Educators Association (IMEA) District and All-State Orchestras, Northern Illinois University Philharmonic, Aspen Festival Orchestra, and the New Eastman Symphony. While attending the Meadowmount School of Music in the summer of 2000, I fell in love with playing in a string quartet. In addition, I made sure to nurture my love of playing chamber music in graduate school and beyond.

After graduate school and completing coursework in music therapy in 2004, I decided it was time to start looking for a job. I started my first full-time job in 2004, but it was totally unrelated to music. Part of me was okay with having a job in a new field, because I felt that getting work experience was so important. However, another part of me felt unfulfilled, and I persuaded myself that I could both work and keep music as an important part of my life. How wrong I was! With commuting and working full-time, my days were long and busy. Practicing put me on such a high that afterward I couldn't fall asleep. I felt that music as I knew it was slipping away from me.

In March 2004 I auditioned for an orchestra, thinking that my talent would keep me afloat. Instead, I totally messed up on the audition. The conductor's comment that stood out most for me was that I was not dedicated enough to music. On that day my dream of playing professionally in an orchestra was shattered, and my life in music seemed to come to a devastating end.

When I got home from that audition, I wanted to run and hide. I was so distraught that I put my cello away for nine months and tried to block music from my life. However, I know now that I simply needed a break to reorganize. Slowly I got back into music, and it became a big part of my life again.

In 2005 I started singing with my church choir. I played for as many church services as I could. However, the missing part remained. After a couple of years I thought I'd audition for another community orchestra. However, as soon as I informed the principal cellist that I am blind, that was it. She was convinced that things would not work and absolutely refused to be educated about the alternative techniques I would use. In a way I was not surprised, but still, I was hurt and angry. I resigned myself to the fact that my professional orchestra dream was over.

When my son was born in 2010, I had no time for music for the next year-and-a-half. Yet I did a lot of soul searching to figure out what my next purpose would be. Through it all I still kept teaching. Teaching gave me hope and kept me going.

In 2015 I started getting a few gigs through the Chicago Cello Society and felt the familiar excitement returning. In 2017 I even had a gig with Eclectic Choral Artists and performed the “Holocaust Cantata.” As I was playing these gigs, I began to ask myself what would happen if I auditioned for our local orchestra, the Elmhurst Symphony. I consulted with a couple of contacts there and scheduled an audition for September 12, 2017. I got some excerpts transcribed into Braille and started practicing like crazy.

I called the conductor of the Elmhurst Symphony, Stephen Alltop, to inquire about sight reading. I mentioned that since I am totally blind and need both hands to read Braille music, sight reading while playing my cello is not possible. However, I explained that I have had experience sight reading in ear training and music theory classes in college. I waited to hear what would come next.

To my relief Stephen seemed very calm about my blindness and started asking questions. I felt that he was quite interested and wanted to know more. For once I did not feel that I had to be defensive.

Before the audition I did some role playing with a fellow Federationist, and we went through every kind of question I might be asked. My goal was to respond to each one calmly and directly. The most helpful advice I received was to let my cello playing speak for itself.

I decided to play my audition pieces at Oktoberfest, an annual fundraiser for the NFB of Illinois that draws a good-sized crowd. That was the weekend before my audition, and I figured Oktoberfest would be a good opportunity for me to get some feedback. I received positive comments from everyone who heard me play.

The day of the audition finally came, and I was nervous and excited, but I felt that I was ready. I had the most liberating feeling as my guide dog Gerry and I walked onto the stage and found the chair with minimal assistance. Stephen and I met in person for the first time, and then my audition began. Once again I felt that I was one with my cello, and I had the sense that the audition had gone well.

After I played, Stephen had a bunch of questions for me. They were all good questions, and I was able to answer them calmly and directly, just as I had practiced. I knew this was a time for me to explain how I could be an asset to the orchestra. It was also a time for Stephen to find out how I would learn my music and keep up with the ensemble.

Apparently my approach was successful, because Stephen told me he would like to give me a chance. I was shocked and excited. Here was someone who was willing to take on a new challenge with dignity and grace. Stephen acknowledged that this was new territory for him; he never had a blind person in his orchestra before. I responded that this was new territory for me, too. It was the first time I would be learning the material exclusively through the use of Braille music. We would be pioneering together.

The next day I went on some blindness listservs and asked questions about which alternative techniques I could use. Although I felt ready from a blindness standpoint, I had plenty of work cut out for me. I had to get my music transcribed, and then I had to memorize it.

Due to some health issues I couldn't attend my first rehearsal until February, and the first concert was scheduled for March. I was a little anxious about the first rehearsal, but once I was in that musical moment with the other cellists, with my guide dog asleep next to my chair, all nervousness disappeared. I was one of the group. I felt that way during every rehearsal after that.

The first concert I played in was performed twice, on March 10 and 11, 2018. The piece was Verdi's “Requiem,” the longest work I had ever memorized. Both performances went well.

As soon as the March concert was over, it was time to get cracking for the May concert. The second piece I was to play, Hindemith's “Symphonic Metamorphosis,” scared me to death. There were so many notes, and I had trouble keeping everything straight. At one point I thought I was going to have to back out and not play in the concert at all.

However, persistence and determination prevailed. I contacted another Federationist who plays classical music. I asked him if he had ever memorized a crazy twentieth-century piece and how he went about it. He advised me to memorize no more than four measures at a time and to put the sections together as I went along. I did a lot of listening and playing along with the recording. Little by little the Hindemith started to come together. I played in the last concert of the season, which took place on May 5, 2018. I am looking forward to next season, which starts in September. Stephen and I are in the process of getting next season's music so I can have it transcribed into Braille.

So far I've written about playing in an orchestra from my perspective. I want to take things a step farther by sharing the conductor's viewpoint. Here is what Stephen Alltop had to say:

Leslie Hamric auditioned for the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra in September of 2017 and showed fine skills and training as a cellist. She had studied with acclaimed teachers at excellent schools, and her playing reflects it. Leslie provided me with the names of two conductors who had worked with her in ensembles. Both of them gave rave reviews concerning her abilities to perform in a musical group.

The first work we performed together was Verdi's “Requiem.” Leslie had memorized the cello part of this eighty-minute work, an incredible feat. There is no doubt that she came to the first rehearsal the best prepared member of the orchestra.

In rehearsals I found myself trying to indicate starting places not just by measure numbers but by notes and harmonies so Leslie could also know where we were. As I had been told, she does a great job of taking cues from my breathing and the breaths of her section mates, and she seems to play as well with her section as anyone.

Leslie has invested so much in the art of music. I am so happy that she has found a fine orchestra in which she can have a challenging and rewarding experience.

I am delighted that I have found an awesome orchestra and a conductor who challenges me all the time. After thirteen years, my dream of performing in a professional orchestra has finally come true. This time I feel it will stick around.

Before I close I would like to acknowledge the things for which I am grateful. First, I will always be grateful to my first orchestra conductor back in third grade, who inspired me to love music and gave me such a moving first opportunity. Second, I am grateful to those who supported me through all the years in between. Third, I am grateful to the two church choir directors who gave me the chance to participate in their groups. Finally, I am forever grateful to have found the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra.

My advice to other aspiring blind musicians is this: as early as you can, learn and use Braille music, develop strong self-advocacy skills, decide on a goal, and prepare a game plan to get there. Then, go for it! You absolutely can play or sing in a musical group of your choice. You can even take things a step farther and have music be your career. All it takes is some planning, teamwork, alternative techniques, and the willingness to take on something new.

I can happily say that today I am living the life I want. I am doing what I love: enjoying the art of being a musician and taking advantage of all the musical opportunities that come my way.

The Status of the Orbit Reader

by Curtis Chong

From the Editor: Curtis Chong loves Braille and technology, so when they come together, you can bet he is going to put himself right in the middle of them. So it is that he writes this article about the Orbit Reader, the first-of-its-kind reader for less than six hundred dollars. This product was the first to come from the Transforming Braille Group, one in which the National Federation of the Blind was a founding member and has been very active both with ideas and the money to finance them. Here is what he says:

The Orbit Reader 20 was intended to be an attempt by the Transforming Braille Group to radically reduce the cost of refreshable Braille technology. When this device first came on the market back in 2017, it was the least expensive refreshable Braille display/note-taker, being priced at $449 and sold in the United States by the American Printing House for the Blind. At that time, there were both supply problems (there were not enough Orbit Readers available) and manufacturing issues (which showed up as Braille defects in the early units).

I was among the small handful of enthusiastic buyers who jumped at the chance to purchase an Orbit Reader 20 for $449. Since my initial purchase, I have had to send my unit in twice. The first problem was that, after a few months, some dots in the display simply did not come up. The second problem (which occurred early this year) was that my charging port stopped working. Both of my issues were resolved within a matter of weeks, and both issues required me to send my unit to Orbit Research.

For people who would say that this reflects badly on the Orbit Reader, I would point out that refreshable Braille technology is, by its nature, extremely fragile because of the many small parts needed to move the Braille dots. It is often the case that Braille displays need to be sent in for cleaning or repair, and the Orbit Reader is no exception.

The American Printing House for the Blind seems to have been the only organization in the United States selling Orbit Readers. Two years ago, when I purchased my unit, there were not enough of them to meet the demand. Customers were often told that the Printing House did not have any Orbit Readers in stock, and when units did become available, they were sold out within a matter of days.

Another issue with the Orbit Reader was that its firmware could not be updated unless a person was able to run an update utility on a Windows computer. This was not a problem for those of us who used Windows on a regular basis. However, there was a strong sentiment expressed within the community of Orbit Reader users that firmware updates needed to be available to people who did not have ready access to a Windows machine. After all, other popular blindness products could be updated simply by copying the update to an SD card. Why not the Orbit Reader?

It has been two years since the Orbit Reader hit the market. Since that time, two notable events have occurred. First, in April of this year, the American Printing House for the Blind announced that it was removing the Orbit Reader from its catalog pending further negotiations with Orbit Research. Secondly, on June 6, Orbit Research announced a new bootloader program which would enable the Orbit Reader to be updated from a binary file copied to an SD card.

On the plus side, there does not seem to be a problem with supply; it took about a week for an Orbit Reader that I ordered to reach me.

As for the bootloader update which enables the Orbit Reader firmware to be updated from the SD card, units purchased from this point forward will have the bootloader update installed; future firmware updates can be installed directly from an SD card onto which the update has been copied. For Orbit Readers already sold, the process of updating the bootloader requires both a Windows computer and a firmware version that is at least at level B0.00.00.55r02.

In the United States, the Orbit Reader can be purchased directly from the manufacturer, Orbit Research, for $599. Orbit Reader 20's can once again be purchased from the American Printing House for the Blind for $699, and during this year's convention of the National Federation of the Blind (and some time thereafter) Orbit Reader 20 units were available for $549 (you can now purchase Orbit Reader 20's from our Independence Market for the retail price of $599)—as long as there are units available.

While the Orbit Reader has had its share of difficulties, it is today a robust refreshable Braille technology with very good Braille. It is disappointing that more organizations are not selling and supporting this viable product.

Keeping the Blind in Sheltered Workshops in the Afterlife

by Justin Salisbury

From the Editor: Justin Salisbury is a frequent contributor to the pages of this magazine. He works in Hawaii and is an instructor, an active advocate, and a man who is committed to thinking a lot about what it means to be blind both for those who have not had training and opportunity and for those who may benefit significantly from it. As this article is being edited, we are approaching the Halloween season, so perhaps, after spending some time contemplating the spirits, this will be a great way to conclude your Halloween festivities while at the same time thinking about how you will continue to enhance opportunities for blind people. Here is what Justin says:

When I was a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, I remember all the tension and nervousness as we prepared for Mardi Gras. I just got the feeling from my classmates. I did not know what exactly we should be nervous about, but many of them were, so I was, too. That nervousness can be healthy in the right doses. It can help a person to focus on what they’re doing and to feel empowered when they realize that they were able to manage that stress. We stayed on our game that week, and it was exhilarating. Side note: I wish we could take our students there from Hawaii every year.

While at Mardi Gras, students and staff choose the kinds of activities that they want to do. One of the activities that I chose was a ghost tour of New Orleans. We learned stories of old hospitals with amputee veterans, quadroon ballrooms, slave children who fell to their death while fleeing a beating, priest burials, a young orphan who grew up in a brothel with a sailor boyfriend, and so many other stories. The tour guide told us stories of love, loss, grief, fear, and untapped potential. So far as I can tell, it is still an inexact science to determine if the spirit of a person will remain in this world as a ghost. I do not say that to disrespect anyone’s spiritual beliefs, but I think it is safe to say that spirits exist and that something involving a strong emotion is commonly what tethers them to the location that their spirit occupies.

When I had my first experience with a residential center for the blind, it was in a really nice suburb of a large city in the northeastern part of the United States. It was founded by a Catholic priest, and I remember seeing a portrait of him hanging on a wall somewhere in the center, maybe the dormitory or the main building. I was told early on that his ghost was known to appear around the center campus. Sometimes, a sink would turn on while nobody was near it, or a light might be on after everyone was sure that they had turned it off. I was told that his ghost was there to continue looking after the center and, most importantly, the blind people in the center. This priest really cared about blind people, and he wanted to make sure that we were taken care of.

When I began my current job at the state-run vocational rehabilitation agency in Hawaii, which is called “Ho`opono,” as a nickname, I learned that there were also spirits in that building. The original administrator from many decades ago, Ms. Morrison, was known to still walk the halls of Ho`opono with her high-heeled shoes. I heard that there were many ghosts, or spirits, around the building, and I was advised that I might encounter them, especially if I was ever alone in the building. These spirits were never known to be malicious, and I resolved myself to be spiritually diligent with my spiritual practices. In Native American contexts, this means using sage, sweetgrass, and tobacco, and staying focused on my purpose for being there, at least for my nations. I have realized that Hawaiian spirits function differently, but I think they respect me.

The agency serving the blind in Hawaii has not always understood blindness the way that it does today. In recent years, even times that current staff can remember, we were a subminimum-wage sheltered workshop. We still have the unused stack of broom handles to show the people who come for tours, and then we point to the signs on the wall where the workers were directed to stack boxes of forks, knives, and spoons. Our agency used to be the only supplier for all the mops and brooms used by the state of Hawaii. In other words, if a mop was used on any island in Hawaii by a state worker, blind people made that mop in the subminimum wage sheltered workshop in the basement of the agency serving the blind. One of our vans is called “the Beast” because it is the biggest in our fleet. We sometimes use the Beast to drop students on drop routes or to carry the luggage when we go camping. The Beast used to be the delivery van that delivered furniture and other products made by the blind in our workshop. We still have showers in the locker rooms downstairs, but the large lockers have been moved upstairs to a hallway, where they replaced the smaller lockers that the sighted people used to use. Those larger lockers are now used by students in our residential adjustment to blindness program. The work benches from the workshop are now the work benches for our industrial arts class in our training program. We have repurposed the resources of our training center to fundamentally change what the agency does.

Many of us encounter spirits around the building, and it is believed that many of those spirits are those of workers from the subminimum-wage sheltered workshop. The old workshop has more spirits than any other place I know in Hawaii, and it is certainly highlighted as a hub for spiritual activity by the blind people I know. We often experience those spirits when we are alone. I distinctly remember being in the bathroom in the old locker room and hearing the sound of someone using a metal file. I walked out toward the industrial arts classroom to look for the sound, thinking I could compliment a student’s nifty idea on a project. It turned out that there was nobody there in the flesh. Some worker’s spirit, however, was still working in the workshop. Maybe that person was crafting a piece of furniture. I don’t know what exactly he/she was doing, but his/her spirit was still there, working in the workshop.

Sheltered workshops were once considered a viable opportunity for blind people to achieve employment and earn some money to supplement what they received in welfare programs. Eventually, we started to look at futures beyond the sheltered workshops, and so the sheltered workshops became framed as “stepping-stones,” to help them transition into competitive, integrated employment. Perhaps this is because people are afraid to deviate too far from the old status-quo, low-expectation model that leads people into the sheltered workshop, or perhaps it is because they are afraid to render the sheltered workshops irrelevant. For far too many blind people and people with other disabilities, the promise of the sheltered workshop has been a false promise, and we have been living in The Grapes of Wrath. Far too many of us have thought that we were on our way to prosperity but landed in a trap, where we are stuck in poverty, dependent on the charity of others for survival, and never really finding a way out.

The spirits can linger in the sheltered workshops, especially if that is the only connection with the outside world that they really know. Human beings in our settler society want to be industrious and useful. We want to make meaningful contributions to the world and create some value to the society around us. For some blind people in the sheltered workshops, especially those who were never introduced to the philosophy and blind role models like the ones available through the National Federation of the Blind, they may only feel connected through the workshop. They may not belong to community organizations. They may not engage with their sighted neighbors. They may live a highly segregated existence. Throughout history, there have been some little blind ghettos, where blind people were housed by some charitable agency in a group setting, which also got them away from the sighted. For some, their existence was merely being shuttled back and forth between the workshop and the happy home for the blind. Perhaps a family member would come to visit on Christmas and Easter, but that would be their lives. Some of the sighted people working in those establishments could have very sincerely believed in their hearts that they were doing something good for the blind by “giving us a place to go.” The workers died with so much potential that they never showed the world, and so many dreams that they never pursued. Maybe the spirits are still seeking that fulfillment.

Some people who hear our plight will speak from their position of sighted privilege and say, “If you don’t like it, then leave.” For us, it is often not that simple. We often have fewer options after we went into the sheltered workshops than we did before we started there. What makes this possible is partly a deterioration of a person’s confidence and self-esteem, but it is also a deterioration of their work habits. In sheltered workshops, specifically unproductive behaviors are often encouraged, such as sitting around and waiting to be cued because the sighted supervisor does not have work for you in that moment. In sheltered workshops, employees are required to attend but only “work” when there is an order of widgets to be produced. If I got into a habit of loafing around, it would make me less employable for my next opportunity.

The status quo bias can burn a blind person who is trying to transition out of a sheltered workshop. Some employers may not even know about sheltered workshops. Then, when they learn that the applicant has been working in a workshop for people with disabilities, they often start to think things like, “That is a good place for a worker with a disability,” and, subsequently, “I don’t think this job is a good job for a worker with a disability.” There is a tendency to think that, if those workshops are set up to give us jobs, that is where we should be working. It becomes the status quo that blind people will work in workshops for the blind, so it is more difficult for them to imagine us doing anything else.

Some administrators of sheltered workshops genuinely believe that they are doing a good thing for the blind by putting us in sheltered workshops. Others know exactly what they are doing to us. When exposed to respectful requests from members of the National Federation of the Blind, some of them use open minds to examine their practices and even migrate away from them. Others often resist and make every effort to suffocate the voices of the organized blind because we threaten the system that is so profitable to them financially and egotistically, and possibly because change requires mental effort. No matter where these administrators fall, if they can find it in their hearts to change their practices—and hopefully the beliefs that undergird them—I will eagerly become their friend and sing their praises. If not, then I will act however the Federation calls upon me to act as we work to liberate the blind from low expectations.

With the homes and the sheltered workshops, even if it is well intended, blind people literally remain there forever, even in the afterlife. It does not create opportunity; it gouges a hole in the hull of the ship that was heading toward opportunity. I know that there are spiritual interventions where I could hire someone to come into the old workshop and try to chase off the spirits, but I don’t want to do that. I don’t have a way to work with those spirits to improve their understanding of blindness and the opportunities that they could have had in life. I can make a difference, however, with the blind people who are alive today and who will live in the future. There are some little girls growing up in the Hawaii affiliate, and I am glad that they have the National Federation of the Blind. I want to be absolutely sure that those little girls never work in a subminimum wage sheltered workshop, but that still would not be good enough. I want the opportunity to be the one who teaches them about what subminimum wages used to be and what sheltered workshops used to be. Then, when they learn about the spirits at the old workshop, they will understand that they deserve a life full of opportunities and that they need not spend the rest of eternity in the workshop with a metal file.

Meet the Sighted Month

From the Editor: This little gem was making the rounds on Facebook, and we felt that Monitor readers who might not be on that social media platform also deserved to see it. October is officially Meet the Blind Month, but while the sighted meet the blind, the blind meet the sighted. And that’s where this little guide comes in handy to help the blind understand the limitations that the sighted labor under as they move through the world:

October is Meet the Sighted Month. Throughout the month, sighted people will hold events where we can mix and mingle and learn about the special equipment and techniques they use to cope with the presence of eyesight. Also, many sighted people will post invitations on Facebook encouraging us to ask them questions, any questions we want, about their sightedness. To kick off Meet the Sighted Month, I have put together this list of things to keep in mind when interacting with the sighted.

  1. Sighted people are often incapable of traveling, cooking, or doing much of anything without the aid of light. While we use our other senses to enable us to function perfectly well in the dark, sighted people have great difficulty developing these skills. When you welcome the sighted into your home, don't forget to turn on the lights.
  2. Sighted people often cannot understand synthesized speech, and the text on a Braille display is almost always unreadable to them. They must depend on special equipment such as computer monitors and phone and tablet screens to use their electronic devices. If you let a sighted person use your phone or computer and forget to turn the screen on, they will be very confused.
  3. Sighted people have difficulty learning from textual and verbal explanations or tactile models. They often must be presented with pictures. A good rule of thumb, when writing instructions for the sighted, is to include a picture with each step.
  4. Sighted people have great difficulty distinguishing auditory cues in their environment. While we can tell when to cross a street by the sound of traffic or where an entrance is by the sounds of people entering and exiting, sighted people often must rely on visual information alone.
  5. Sighted people rely heavily on an inaudible code called color. They use color to safely navigate by car and perform countless other tasks we can perform using auditory and tactile cues. Also, they are often quick to judge us based on what colors we present to the world. It is important to gain at least a working knowledge of color, so they don’t think we’re weird.
  6. Sighted people often communicate displeasure using a secret signal called a dirty look. I’ll admit, I’m not exactly sure what this entails, except that it sometimes causes sighted people to behave in ways which seem inappropriate to the situation, i.e. telling someone off for no apparent reason. As blind people immune to the effects of the dirty look, we can only try to teach the sighted to use their words when communicating displeasure with us.

So, there you have it. Keep these points in mind, and your next encounter with a sighted person should be as smooth as a brand new NFB cane tip.

A Contest to Promote Literacy that is so Fun it Won’t Seem Like Work

by Sandy Halverson

From the Editor: Sandy Halverson is in charge of the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest sponsored by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults (AAF). This contest was initially run by our national body, migrated to Illinois, and is now a project of the AAF. Here is what Sandy, whose skill in reading Braille is second to none and has served her well in her many careers, has to say:

Readers of the August-September 2019 Braille Monitor and 2019 National Convention attendees had an opportunity to learn about the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults century celebration. The American Action Fund Braille literacy programs have grown from the production and distribution of Twin Vision books with print and Braille text on facing pages with picture captions in parentheses to free slates and styluses and the Free Braille Books Program enabling blind children to build their own book collections.

Before we get into contest specifics, I want to thank our Illinois affiliate for its commitment to Braille literacy and organizing the Great Lakes Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest for the past three years. The number of states that participated in the 2018-2019 contest shows that our blind students are motivated to read recreational materials for seven weeks and challenge others to do likewise. In the past, participating affiliates made a $100 contribution to cover contest-related expenses. While the Action Fund is making this contest available to all of our affiliates, donations are always welcome to help with those expenses which include things like the cash prizes awarded for first, second, and third place winners in each category and the Braille-related prizes each participant receives.

This year we are promoting Braille literacy to children from K-12 grades and blind adults to encourage not only our NFB center students who are learning Braille, but others who might be motivated by a little cash and other Braille-related prizes, to participate in a contest. Teachers, parents, and adults may register for the contest from Friday, November 1, 2019, through Saturday, January 18, 2020—but you have to do a little more than just register. Each participant must keep a log with the book title, author, and number of pages read, which may not be the entire book or article. The actual reading period begins Sunday, December 1, 2019, and ends Saturday, January 18, 2020, but that is not a concern for today! By November 1, all contest-related documents will be available from our website (actionfund.org) and will be widely distributed by email and social media. The full text of these materials will be included in the December Braille Monitor.

Now is the perfect time to begin gathering books, magazines, and anything that is not a textbook that you’ve always wanted to read. You will have seven weeks in which to get it done.  ShareBraille is an excellent resource in addition to Bookshare and the Braille lending library in your state. 

You can help us by spreading the word to blind children and adults you know who want to improve their Braille efficiency. So on November 1, registration starts the fun!

The Continued Significance of the National Library Service for the Blind: Expanding Braille and Implementing the Marrakesh Treaty

by Karen Keninger

From the Editor: Karen Keninger is the director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), soon to be renamed as you will see from the article. Ms. Keninger clearly defines the role that the library plays and makes it clear that even with all of the other sources we have for material, nothing replaces our library. She also outlines what the library is doing to take advantage of new changes in technology and the work we must all do together to fully reap the benefits of the Marrakesh Treaty. Here’s what she said:

Good afternoon. I am delighted to be here. It’s a real honor and a privilege to stand here and tell you about the things that are happening in our library. NLS and its network form a free public library service for people who can’t read print. There was a time when it was the only source of accessible reading material that we had, but today that has changed. We have access to Audible, to Bookshare, to Learning Ally, to the internet. We have options, including an expanding trove of commercially available and pretty-well-narrated books. And we can read print titles with a whole bunch of different apps.

So ladies and gentlemen, why is NLS still relevant today? I submit that the reason is precisely because it is our free public library. [applause] Nearly every town in America has a free public library. Why? Why do cities and counties and states and the nation spend tax dollars on the library instead of, say, roads? Well, Franklin Roosevelt put it this way:

To bring together the records of the past and to house them in buildings where they will be preserved for the use of men and women in the future, a nation must believe in three things: it must believe in the past, it must believe in the future, and above all it must believe in the capacity of its own people to learn from the past so that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future. Among democracies through all of the ages and the history of the world, building these permanent institutions such as libraries and museums for the use of all the people—all the people—flourishes. And that is especially true in our own land, because we believe that people ought to work out for themselves and through their own study the determination of their own best interest rather than accept such so-called information as may be handed out by certain types of self-constituted leaders who decide what is best for them.

Libraries are critical to our way of life, and NLS is our free public library. [applause] And it’s accessible. You don’t have to drive to it; you don’t have to have technical skills to use it; you don’t have to pay for it, and you don’t have to go it alone— we have professionals to help you find anything you’re looking for. With over 110,000 titles and counting on BARD, and about 20,000 magazine issues, it holds the content comparable to a mid-sized public library in a community. NLS is relevant because we as blind people have a right and a need for full accessibility to free library services, every bit as much as our neighbors and friends. We have a right to information, and we have a right to self-determination. [cheers, applause]

So what is our free public library system doing today? Let me talk about a couple of things. First of all, we are working on providing a Braille e-reader to the NLS program. [applause] Braille is our literacy medium, just as print is for the sighted. As print has moved into the digital realm, so has Braille, and I believe that every blind person should have access to digital Braille. [applause] So for the past seven years, with tremendous support from NFB and other partners, I have been working to make Braille e-readers part of the NLS program, and we’re on our way. As of today, we have two contracts in place to develop and distribute Braille e-reader technology to our program. [applause] Those contracts are currently under review by the Government Accountability Office, which will be completed later this month. We expect to do the development in the next several months, and by next spring we will be piloting these devices through our network libraries. I’ve been talking about this a long time folks, and this really is happening. We’ll have a limited number of devices and a limited number of libraries to start with because the purpose of the pilot is to refine the machine, make sure it’s what we need. It’s to refine the distribution, the training, the tech support, the maintenance processes, and all the other things that surround this project. We’ll be starting out with 2,000 machines, and we will be selecting a few Braille lending libraries based on their capacities to actually participate in the project. I know that people are interested in whether or not they can sign up to be pilot testers, and the answer is that that will probably be done through the network libraries. We will be providing some of these devices to NFB headquarters for them to give us their feedback as well. [applause]

 So we’re going to have 2,000 devices to start with, and we are requesting funding from Congress from 2020 through 2024 at this point for additional funding to continue to add to the project. We have a long way to go, so we’re going to need a fair amount of funding. But we’ve already had tremendous support on this particular piece of it from NFB, and I know you will continue to help us. I know that Congress is ready to give us the money, so I’m very excited about that.

So what is it going to look like? Initially it’s intended to read NLS books. That's its goal. It will render BRF files and TXT files (and there might be some others; I’m not quite sure where we landed on that.) It will have software that can be updated as time goes on. It's going to have twenty cells, and they’re going to be eight-dot cells. It will have a Perkins-style keyboard, and it will have search functions: bookshelf, bookmarking, all the things you need to read library books. It will have Bluetooth for connectivity to Bluetooth devices. It will have internal storage for standalone functionality and wireless capability so that you could go directly to BARD to download. [applause] If you don’t feel comfortable or don’t have the access to do that, books will also be distributed from the regional libraries on cartridges that will connect to the device, so you’ll have both options.

It will not have a notetaking capability, and it will not have onboard text-to-speech.

We expect that hard-copy Braille will continue for the near future, until we get these devices in place. We expect that we will continue to update the project as we go forward, and eventually we anticipate having hard copy Braille on demand, but we are a long way out from that. So that’s where we are with the Braille e-reader; thank you so much for all of your support as we move forward with this project. [applause]

As you know, the Marrakesh Treaty was ratified, and we are now full members of the Marrakesh Treaty. I wanted to talk a little bit about what impact that’s going to have on NLS and the United States.

The first thing that happened was that, as part of the ratification process, the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act was passed last October. That act changed the Chafee Amendment, which we have been using since 1996 to bypass having to ask for permission to create books. It also changed several things. It broadened the type of works we can do to include musical scores without having to ask for permission. It changed the eligibility issue—eligibility used to be dependent on whatever NLS said, but they’ve taken that away from the NLS program to say, “This is who an eligible person is under this amendment in the United States: a person who is blind, a person who has a visual impairment or a perceptual or reading disability that cannot be corrected, or a person who has a physical disability that keeps them from either managing a book or moving their eyes well enough to actually read the book.” So the definition is a little bit bigger, and one of the impacts that I think that’s going to have is that we will have more people with reading disabilities entering the NLS program. [applause] It has also changed the terminology from “specialized format," which we considered to be Braille or talking books, to “accessible format," which broadens the possibilities for the formats we can use. And it has added a separate paragraph that allows for import and export.

But the NLS program itself has another law; that law is our funding legislation, and it tells us how we can spend our money. Really, it often comes down to money, so we need to get our law to conform to the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act and the new Chafee Amendment so that we will be able to participate fully in the Marrakesh Treaty.

At this point NLS has submitted legislation which is right now in the Senate Rules Committee undergoing a standard process, and we are hoping to get it out and get a bill number so that we can really start advocating for it. That law that we’re hoping to get changed will give us permission to participate. It will conform our definitions to the definitions in the Marrakesh Treaty, and it will do some other things, one of which is to preserve priority for the blind and for veterans. If we have a lot more people coming into the program, we want to make sure that those of us who are the basic owners of the program will have priority. [applause] There are some other things that it does, but, as we said, we will be hoping to move this forward as soon as we can get the bill number and get it moving forward. We’ll also be changing our regulations to conform to the new laws, so there’s many things going on there.

NLS has been a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s project—which started out being called TIGAR, but now it’s called the Global Book Service—which has allowed some exchange of materials. We’ve gained a lot of information through that process, and we are still part of that process. We will be able to continue that on a limited basis. Basically what we are contending is that a one-for-one swap is not abusing our funding legislation, so we’ll be continuing that until we can broaden it. We know that we have need for Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, and a whole lot of different languages. We also know there’s broad interest in our own collection, but for now, as it affects us as patrons of the National Library Service, we will be adding what we can through the Global Book Service, and we will also attempt to fulfill requests specifically from patrons. If you take your requests to your network library and ask them to forward them to us, we will try to find the book for you.

So where do we go from here? Well, the legislation change needs your support. I know that we will have that support. I am very grateful for that. [applause]

Our funding requests are still on the table and will also need continued support. We have two funding requests. We have the one for the Braille e-readers, and we also have one to build out our IT infrastructure so that we can support more people. I know that we can count on all of your support for that as well.

In closing, I want to thank you again and again for your ongoing and proactive support of our free library services. So let us all, through the work of the NFB—and through our own individual efforts—let us all continue to work out for ourselves and through our own study the determination of our own best interests through our public library system. Thank you very much. [applause]

[She starts to leave the stage, exchanges a few words with President Riccobono, then returns to the microphone] Oops, I forgot something else. We are going to be changing the NLS’s name. I have talked with President Riccobono about this. We are changing it sort-of subtly. We are going to be calling it the National Library Service for the Blind and Print-Disabled. [applause, cheers] We hope to make that official in October.

Electronic Braille Reimagined: The Revolution of the Canute 360

by Ed Rogers

From the Editor: Ed Rogers is the founder and managing director of Bristol Braille Technology. Mr. Rogers lives in the United Kingdom and has been working with the National Federation of the Blind and the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults for quite some time. His device is truly revolutionary and a dream come true for many of us who have wanted a multiline Braille display. Here is what he said to the 2019 National Convention on Friday afternoon:

Thank you, Mark. We’ve been told by all sorts of people that they’ve been waiting for decades, so we have built, as you have heard, a multiline Braille e-reader. It has nine lines, forty cells each. That is 360 cells of refreshable Braille. And the cost: well, it is on sale in the UK at the moment for just over $2,000. It’s called the Canute 360. This has been in development for seven years. We are a not-for-profit company from Bristol in England. The Canute project has been an open and collaborative effort with associations of Braillists across the US, the UK, and across the rest of the world. Our common goal for all of us involved has been to make an affordable machine to increase the use of Braille everywhere.

The Canute 360 has hard Braille. It’s like signage Braille. It’s easy to feel, even for some people with neuropathy who might find soft Braille more difficult. It has quite wide line spacing, again making it easy for learners to keep tracking on their line. It reads BRF files from an SD card or USB stick. It will handle anything that you would send to an embosser or through your normal transcription software. There is even a preset now in Duxbury for the Canute, and we are very pleased about this. The Canute is a drop-in replacement for stacks of paper Braille when you don’t have the space for that. We know that not everyone has an entire room available for paper Braille.

When using the reader, you can insert bookmarks and navigate by page number. In other words, it is an e-book reader. It’s a very stripped down playing device for reading high-quality Braille files.

How many people here use Braille music, may I ask? [Cheers in the audience] You can read the left hand and the right hand of a piano piece without having to shuffle up and down and without having to carry three cubic feet of paper with you everywhere you go if you’re a traveling musician. We are happy to now be working with Dancing Dots and hope you will see something in the very near future.

Multiline Braille is also critical for technical subjects as I’m sure most of you know. How about generating a complex equation in Nemeth Code and viewing it on one display? You can track up and down the columns and see how they add up. How about generating two complex equations and putting them next to each other, still on the same display?

We are just beginning to find out how useful multiline Braille—refreshable Braille—will be in those subjects. One of the best uses for a 360-cell display is tables. When you’ve got forty cells in a line and nine lines, you can present times tables, spreadsheets, or from your favorite transcription software. You can present sports results for a whole league on one screen or a whole month of a calendar on one screen.

Back in Britain there is a friend of mine who is a programmer. She’s going to be using it to review log files. That might sound like a mundane usage, but it’s actually critical how much faster that can make someone’s job as a professional programmer and being able to scroll down a log file.  

But we haven’t even begun to see how powerful this can be for coding with all the correct whitespace and indentation. Think about using it for the creation of Python or something like that. This is just the beginning.

What about graphs and charts and vectors? This isn’t what the Canute was designed for; it was designed for Braille. But when you’ve got spatial Braille, you can start experimenting with bar graphs, showing route maps, and how about floor plans? Now you can really start experimenting with these things.

Finally, I would just like to ask how many people here read Braille for pleasure? [loud cheers and applause] Well, not everyone likes to read quadratic equations, and not everyone can read music Braille, but I think everyone can appreciate that it’s kind of nice to have a digital display that shows whole paragraphs. You can feel the shape of a paragraph. You can feel bullet points, and you can compare between them by running your hand up and down, and it keeps all the formatting. It will show a block quotation with all of the formatting that you would expect. In other words, you will get all the things you expect and now get from paper Braille. [applause]

But to get to this stage has been quite a marathon. I mentioned earlier the support we received from the National Federation of the Blind and the American Action Fund in order to get this far. All of that is essentially being honored, and we are therefore very honored by receiving the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award today. It means an awful lot to our entire team and the hundreds of people in Britain, America, and other places around the world who have been testing this and proving where we went right and where we went wrong. I can’t help but remember all of those times when we made a prototype and had to drive it two hundred miles to somewhere for testing. When we got there, it didn’t work, so we had to drive it two hundred miles back in the rain on a motorcycle. We had to drive it all the way back again after we fixed it. So those sorts of things really come together when you receive recognition like this, and earlier this year we were very pleased to receive the Touch of Genius Award from the National Braille Press at CSUN. I wasn’t expecting when I first went to see a Touch of Genius Award presentation in 2016 that I would pick that up, just as I wasn’t expecting when I first came to this convention three years ago that I would be standing up here getting frightened.

In fact we have been very lucky with our partners. We are very proud to be working in the United States with the Federation, with the Action Fund, and with the American Printing House for the Blind, which has the Canute on its stand and also sponsored us to go through this complex prototyping process. They’ll hopefully be selling this soon, so watch this space.

Outside America, we’ve been working with and helped found the Braillists Foundation. Now this may be unfamiliar to many of you, but this is an organization founded and very much inspired by the work that the NFB does. This is a mostly British organization which realized that there weren’t that many people in Britain who were trying to really promote new Braille projects and technologies and to support those inventors. We’ve now got 500 members, and we’d like to thank them for all that they’ve put in.

Techno-Vision, in the UK, is a distributor who has recently taken on the Canute 360. The CNIB in Canada is making great strides in testing how multiline Braille will work in Braille libraries. Many others are just starting their trials now.

As Mark said, we’ve been coming for several years now. It’s always been extremely educational, so we owe a great deal to the critique and the feedback we received over those years. In particular I’m going to name a few, but there have been more: the Office of the President, the Technology Evaluation Committee, the Research and Development Committee, the National Organization to Promote the Use of Braille, the Braille music committee, and of course the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults all get credit for helping us. Not least I want to thank all of the members in the room today who have come along after meetings and have given us valuable advice. Some of you stayed for up to an hour telling us what was going wrong in our presentation. If that hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t be here now, and the machine would not work. So thank you very much. [applause]

So far, we’ve run trials in eighty schools in England, Scotland, and Ireland. We have also worked with individuals and organizations. We’ve been running trials in Europe, in Zambia, in parts of India, and of course in Canada like I just mentioned. We’ve also run trials in Kentucky, in Boston, in Ohio, and in Baltimore. But now we need to know more about how we will all use multiline refreshable Braille. The Canute 360 is just the start of multiline refreshable Braille, and there’s a lot that everyone needs to know about how it will impact Braille production and the use of Braille. So any organization out there—be it a college, a center, or printing house—we think that their work or their pleasure reading will be improved by multiline Braille. We want to hear from you, and we want to run those proposed trials together. We want to know what impact this is going to have, what needs to happen, and what standards need to be set, so please talk to us.

I leave you with this then: whether you are an organization or an individual, please get in contact with us. Visit our website bristolbraille.co.uk. You can call or email us because we want you to tell us what you have been waiting to do on multiline Braille displays as you have dreamed about them over all of these years. Now it’s probably possible with the Canute 360. Oh yes, when is it available in the US? We hope that it will be available this year. Thank you.

Message from Buna Dahal regarding 2020 Washington Seminar Reservations

This message is to advise you that Washington Seminar will be held February 9 to February 13, 2020, with the Great Gathering In taking place on Monday February 10.

The firm deadline date to make a reservation is Wednesday, January 8. Reservation requests received after the deadline date will be subject to availability and prevailing rate.
You can reserve a room at the Holiday Inn Capitol (550 C Street, SW Washington, DC 20024) for Washington Seminar for check-in beginning Friday, February 7, and check-out Thursday, February 13. The rate is $198.00 per night. This rate does not include DC sales tax, currently 14.95 percent. You may begin booking reservations directly online by clicking on the weblink below. You may also make reservations by calling 1-877-572-6951 and referencing booking code N2F. Credit card information is needed at time of reservation. Individual cancellation policy is seventy-two hours prior to date of arrival to avoid one night's room plus tax cancellation charge on credit card provided. If your departure date changes, you must inform the hotel seventy-two hours in advance of departure to avoid a $100 fee. Please call 1-877-572-6951 and reference your confirmation number. Please obtain a cancellation number when cancelling a reservation. The direct link to book is: https://tinyurl.com/y5vebu73.

If you would like to hold a special meeting during the Washington Seminar, please email Lisa Bonderson at [email protected] just as you have done in past years. She and I will work with the hotel on the assignment of those meeting rooms. To ensure that you get the space you need, please let us know of your meeting space needs by December 10, 2019.

Lisa and I will always be available to help you with any problems you might experience with the booking of your hotel reservations. We have worked closely with the hotel staff, and they are looking forward to working with each affiliate or group wanting to make reservations.

Accelerating Accessible Content: Progress through the DAISY Consortium

by Richard Orme

From the Editor: There was a lot of energy in the room as President Riccobono introduced the following presentation: “This is continuing our theme to talk about accessible books and the Marrakesh Treaty. I believe the National Federation of the Blind has been an official member of the DAISY Consortium since about 2012. We have had a number of presentations at these conventions about accessible books, and we’ve heard about the work of the DAISY Consortium and the work that we’ve been doing. Our next speaker has a vast amount of experience in the blindness field. A bunch of it he worked at RNIB in the United Kingdom for over twenty years, but he’s got many other things on his resumé. He has been serving as the CEO of DAISY since 2015. His experience and leadership are critical components in our work to ensure that the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty is most effective for us as blind people. We’re pleased to have him here with us at this convention. Here's Richard Orme:”

[“Book of Love” by the Monotones plays as he walks up to the microphone.] I was wondering what kind of theme I’d walk up to here. [laughter] President Riccobono, thank you for the introduction and to all the members of NFB gathered here in Las Vegas for having me on your amazing convention. [applause] I presented on the main stage a few years ago on the topic of access to television equipment and to television programs. It’s great to be back; it’s been far too long. Now accessible television, that’s essential in today’s world. But as Mark said in his amazing, barnstorming presidential report, literacy is a prerequisite to independence. He’s in good company; Groucho Marx said, “I found television very educating. Every time someone switches it on, I go into another room and read a book.” [laughter]

I’m speaking to you today on the amazing progress to solve the longstanding issue of inequality of inaccessible books. Books are so important. As young children we are read to by our parents and our carers. We learn with textbooks at school. As young adults we follow our interests and learn about the world through books. When we go to college or university, we rely on textbooks and scholarly works for our learning. And as adults we enjoy the latest thriller, classics, self-improvement books, romance. Books can help us to be more employable and to progress in our chosen career. Books help us to learn about different cultures, other periods in history, to be better parents, to be better people. But since the invention of the printing press, people with print disabilities such as blindness have been disadvantaged. Our vision at the DAISY Consortium is that books, journals, magazines, newspapers, all published information is accessible to everyone irrespective of disability. [applause] Because in the information age access to information is a human right. [applause]

Now the DAISY Consortium was formed over twenty years ago in Stockholm, Sweden. Our association started with six members, a mix of organizations representing blind people and specialist libraries. Now in our DAISY family we have over 150 organizations in sixty-six countries. The NFB is a treasured member of the DAISY Consortium, and Scott LaBarre serves on the board of directors. As you can imagine, he admirably represents the interests of Federationists there. Guided by our board, there are three main pillars to our work: 1) support the special libraries, 2) extend the DAISY family, and 3) bring about accessible mainstream publishing. So let me unpack each of these in turn.

I guess some of you here have heard of DAISY books, let me hear you. [cheers] So DAISY is a technical standard for accessible books used all around the world. If you’ve read books from NLS, from Bookshare, or Learning Ally, you’ll have read DAISY format books. And in developing the DAISY format we developed the first standards for digital books and digital talking books. Blind people were listening to digital audio books and reading e-books twenty years ago. So to the typewriter, the fountain pen, and cruise control, we can add e-books and audio books as inventions by blind people that have later been adopted by everyone. [applause] And friends of the DAISY Consortium, commercial partners making hardware and software, make great products for reading these books, and it’s good some of them are here at the convention. These include HumanWare, that has built DAISY reading capabilities into its excellent audio and Braille products.

Our first pillar is to support special libraries and accessible reading services with the technical standards and tools for accessible content. The second pillar is extending the DAISY family. Many countries just don’t have special libraries converting books into accessible formats, or they may be using rudimentary and inefficient approaches. Our vision is to ensure that everyone with a print disability has access to publications wherever in the world they happen to live. By enabling organizations to efficiently produce accessible books—including textbooks in local languages—we extend accessible reading more widely. Our capacity-building program is led by DAISY Consortium team members who are themselves blind and from developing countries. They provide training to blind persons’ organizations, other nongovernmental organizations, and ministries of education. This year we’ve been working in India, Mongolia, Indonesia, Botswana, Nigeria, Argentina, and Uruguay; and next month we’ll be working in Egypt, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. There are blind people in every country in the world, but in fact most of the world’s blind people live in developing nations, countries with low resources and certainly very few accessible books in the hands of blind children and adults. Our work in extending the DAISY family provides essential tools, know-how, and ongoing support to create and distribute books to change this inequitable situation. In the next presentation you’ll learn more about the Marrakesh Treaty, but I just want to say that to efficiently exchange books across boarders it is critical that they are produced to internationally-adopted open standards. There are blind Americans who want to read or study in French, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, or any other language. And with books created to a common accessible this will be possible. [applause]

Now let me turn to the third pillar of our work at the DAISY Consortium. For more than twenty years I worked, as Mark mentioned, at the organization in Great Britain, the Royal National Institute of Blind People, and actually I still volunteer for them—so I work for them, but I just don’t get paid. Our talking book and Braille library is one of the flagship services, and we were proud to be adding more than 2,000 books to the collection every year. And yet every year in the UK more than 200,000 new print books are published. In the US that number is something in the region of 600,000. So despite all the hard work of the special libraries, the number of books that blind people cannot read is getting bigger every year; the injustice is getting worse. Our mission in the DAISY Consortium is to take what we have learned about accessible books over more than two decades and help the international industry of mainstream publishing to reach a point where accessibility is part of their business. This is possible in the new world of digital publishing—when books are born digital, they can be born accessible. When books are born digital, they should be born accessible. [applause] When books are born digital, they must be born accessible.

Over the last few years we have been building the best bits of the DAISY format into the publishers’ own standard for publishing e-books, which is called EPUB. We have just concluded a three-year project thanks to a generous grant from the Google Foundation. The outcomes of this initiative are transforming the publishing industry internationally and will increase the number of books available to you and to blind people around the world. The first thing we did in this project was to define a baseline for accessibility for EPUB. We got this agreed as a recommendation with the publishers. Once we had an accessibility specification, we developed a wonderful tool that checks EPUB books for accessibility. We call this tool ACE, or the Accessibility Checker for EPUB. The adoption of this tool has been beyond our wildest dreams. Not only is it used by publishers and their suppliers all around the world, but several large publishers and distributors will only accept books if they pass through error-free through ACE. [applause] And once they see and measure the accessibility of their books, publishers are now enthusiastically improving their new titles: they’re fixing accessibility issues, they’re adding descriptions to images, they’re adding extended descriptions. And some of these publishers, including Pearson and Wiley and others, have been here at the convention talking with you in the exhibit hall or conducting user research.

One of the requirements of this accessibility specification is that the book should contain information about the accessibility of the title, information such as: can you make the text bigger, can you change the font, does it contain images with descriptions? Does it have proper structure, and has it been certified as accessible by a third party such as Benetech? Now this is really important. How frustrating it is to find a book in an online store, buy it, download it, only to find it isn’t accessible. By providing information about the accessibility features in the catalog or in the store, including an easy-to-read summary, you can decide whether the book is for you. A professor can decide which book to adopt for a course based on the accessibility information. A university can decide to purchase only books that are accessible. [applause, cheers]

The first distributor to provide the accessibility information in its bookstore is a company called VitalSource. It is one of the leading textbook suppliers in college and higher education in the US. You may have met them at the convention in the exhibit area. We applaud their leadership in this space, and I know that other distributors are working on their catalogs so that before long information about which e-books are accessible and which are not should be transparent and a competitive advantage.

Ladies and gentlemen, these pieces are only just coming together now, and there’s much more to do. But these developments in accessibility in mainstream publishing are already changing the experience of blind students in the US. Last year blind students would have had to buy the print book, take the receipt to the disability service office, and ask them to source a digital version and then wait. And then the university would start the work of remediating the book chapter by chapter in order to provide the student with something they could use. This year the student is able to search for the accessible title in the electronic bookstore; download the book; read it on their smartphone, tablet, or computer with their screenreader; and some students have told the disability services, “Thanks, but I don’t need you to start getting the books for me this year. I’m already reading them.” [applause, cheers] If you or someone you know is a student, you should start asking for accessible EPUB. You’re going to love it. There are literally millions of EPUB e-books out there; that should keep you pretty busy.

Karen’s session just before me was entitled “The Continued Significance of the National Library Service," and I agree strongly that specialized library services will continue to be really significant. The longstanding inequality of access to books will not be solved for everyone overnight. For the reasons mentioned by Karen, special library services should continue to be supported, and the DAISY Consortium will continue to provide technology solutions and standards as we have done for the last twenty years. Through our capacity-building program I’ve described to you, we will extend information about accessible reading solutions to new parts of the world, supporting the practical implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty. By our leadership in the publishing industry we are ensuring that the books that are published today are accessible as they should be.

There has never been a more exciting opportunity in history than right now. DAISY is your organization, delivering the technical solutions to end the book famine, working at a global level, punching above our weight, and together with the powerful voice of the NFB in challenging injustice, we’re going to get this done. Happy reading. [applause]

The Future of Recipes

Recipes have been a regular feature in the Braille Monitor for nearly fifty years. It began in November 1971 with a single “Recipe of the Month.” In December of 1991 it changed to showcase multiple recipes provided by each state affiliate in turn. The original purpose of this change was to increase the opportunity to get to know the Federationists contributing the recipes and widen the variety of culinary offerings. The recipes shared have brought a lot of joy and connection. Sharing recipes is a traditional method of welcoming new members into the family, whether by marriage or membership. It can strengthen bonds and offer a touch a familiarity when someone has had to move to a new town or state.

That said, this is a feature that is nearly fifty years old. That doesn’t mean it needs to be discarded as out-of-date, but it does mean we need to take a serious look at it and decide whether to continue. Are the recipes something that are still eagerly anticipated, or with the rise of recipe websites is it unnecessary? Is it something state affiliates take pride and joy in contributing, or is it a chore that distracts a busy affiliate while organizing programming? Do we keep going as is, freshen it up with a change of format, or with love and regret decide that the time for it to retire has come?

We at the Monitor want to hear from our readers about this. We want to know what you think about it, and how you’d like to see the Monitor move forward with this feature. Please email [email protected] and let your voice be heard as we consider the shape of the Monitor going forward.

Monitor Miniatures

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.

Mike Robinson Joins Xavier Society for the Blind Board of Directors:
Xavier Society for the Blind is pleased to announce that Mike Robinson has joined its Board of Directors. Mr. Robinson is currently the president of the National Federation of the Blind of New York. His interest in working with the NFB stems from his own personal journey as a legally blind individual. Mike was diagnosed with myopic degeneration and cone-rod dystrophy at birth. Born and raised in Tonawanda, New York, he is a graduate of SUNY Delhi, where he received an associate degree in restaurant management.

After graduation, Mike worked in the Randolph-Sheppard Business Enterprise Program, managing stands in the Buffalo and Rochester areas. He also worked in the technical support field as a call center technician, and for the Internal Revenue Service.

Mike’s passion for working with the NFB began in 1988, after attending his first convention. Since then, Mike has been an active, involved member of the National Federation of the Blind. He served as second vice president of NYS for ten years and president of the Buffalo Chapter for eighteen years. Also during that time he was active in the Tonawanda Lions Club, the Knights of Columbus, and served two terms as Faithful Navigator for the Nelson-Baker Assembly. He constantly works to educate the public about blindness and strives to empower all blind persons with the tools and attitudes necessary to “Live the Lives They Want.”

Mike is married to Angie, his wife of thirty years, with whom he shares two sons. He supports the work of Xavier Society for the Blind and its essential purpose of helping those living with blindness and visual impairment to integrate religion and spirituality into their lives.

NLS Remains NLS but with a Name Change:
President Riccobono received this letter from Karen Keninger, the director of NLS. Here is what she said:

Dear President Riccobono,

Earlier this year, NLS received approval from the Librarian of Congress to change our name. NLS and the Library of Congress sought input on this change from stakeholder groups and gathered data through various public channels when considering our new moniker. We have been considering a change for some time, and we’re very pleased to see this day arrive.
As of today, October 1, 2019, our name will officially become “National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled,” though we will continue to be referred to by the abbreviation NLS. We are also introducing our new logo, which is in keeping with the new graphic identity the Library of Congress implemented in late 2018.  

With this name change, we intend to address the use of outdated language in our old name and more clearly communicate the breadth of those we serve. In addition, our name emphasizes the patron-centric perspective that is central to the library’s strategic plan.

We are proud to share our new name and graphic identity with you as we feel that the new name, as with all of NLS’s work, rightly puts the emphasis on the people we serve.

Touch of Genius Prize Seeking Applications:
National Braille Press’s Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation is quickly approaching, on January 10th! Please help us spread the word.

The Touch of Genius Prize was developed to inspire entrepreneurs, educators, or inventors to continue the promotion of Braille and tactile literacy for blind and deafblind people worldwide. This prize can be granted for innovative and accessible computer software applications, tactile hardware, or curriculum that promotes Braille and/or tactile literacy. NBP encourages all applicants to think outside the box to what can be used to help improve the lives of blind people.
The winner of this prize will receive up to $10,000, which will help them to continue to innovate in the fields of technology and education for blind people. Frank Gibney and the Gibney Family Foundation helped fund and establish this award in 2007, inspiring people to go beyond what was thought possible.

Full application details and more information can be found at www.touchofgeniusprize.org. All questions can be directed to my email, [email protected]. Thank you for your support!

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.

Windows Power User Guide Available:
Windows Keyboard Power User Guide is a new book which will make users more proficient in Windows, JAWS, and Word. MP3 and Word versions are available for $15 each, or both for $25. For more information and to order, visit https://techforblind.us.

We also want to make sure you know about “Top Tech Tidbits for Thursday,” a free blindness-oriented adaptive technology newsletter that has been published using email since 2004. If you’d like to join the other 6,000 people who receive it early Thursday mornings, visit http://flying-blind.com and click on the link that says Sign-Up Here to Receive Flying Blind, LLC Publications.
For assistance signing up for the newsletter, questions, or welcome feedback, please email Dean 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.

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