Braille Monitor                         August/September 2020

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Convention Miniatures

Division Reports

The Writers Division
The Writers Division held its seminar on Tuesday, July 14, in which writing styles and what makes them different were covered. Also covered were some ways to improve writing such as the old one, reading, and asking questions in dialog to move forward. We also discussed the general progress of a writer’s journey from learning to write to publishing and holding a book in your hand.
Our division meeting on Thursday featured two presentations: one from Anthony Candella on Bookshare and his road to publishing, and one from the division president, Shelley Alongi, on self-publishing, the state of self-publishing, and the general inaccessibility of websites.

One of our goals for 2021 is to start a discovery phase into what kinds of experiences are had by blind writers with self-publishing websites. We want to improve the accessibility of websites and will spend this year gathering experiences and finding ways to start conversations about this important aspect of the new writing landscape. We want to look into any forays into making self-publishing websites accessible—a big goal reached one step at a time.

The division increased membership from nineteen to thirty-five and drew in as many members in one week as would normally be gained in one year. One of the goals from 2019/2020 was to build up the division and become more active and get the division name out in the Federation. This goal was accomplished, and we are off to a running start!

Community Service Division
Did you hear who attended the Community Service Division’s seminar? Well, allow me to spell it out for you: H E R O E S! When you have a lineup jam-packed with hope, empowerment, resources, outreach, entertainment, plus supernatural vision, you walk away with superpowers to serve globally. The Superpower Hour honored everyday heroes in our community who turned this pandemic into opportunities to serve. The presenters have been volunteering for crisis hotlines, donating free groceries, offering no-cost virtual trainings and social activities, sharing local resources, partnering with nonprofit organizations, spreading their gifts and talents ensuring “Blind People Feel Better,” and providing supernatural vision beyond our current view. Our division’s seminar had additional heroes who have unleashed their powers to volunteer at church, work, and from their homes. The principle theme of our seminar underscored that COVID-19 does not have the power to stop the movement of fearless Federation members who serve with love, hope, and determination changing our communities one service at a time.

Krafters Division
The Krafters Division was filled with anticipation, excitement, and a bit of sadness. Yes, that is an interesting variety, but we bet you totally understand. Thanks to Rebecca for her assistance in making our meeting a possibility! Smile! Hats off to Rebecca!

Everyone understands the anticipation of all of the new ways we have had to adapt over the last few months, but we just continue to move forward. By moving in a positive direction and using the Zoom platform, the Krafters Division has gotten so excited. During the past in-person meetings, we had between twenty and thirty interested people participate in our meeting. This year we were thrilled to have nearly ninety participants. Wow! The most common thing said was, “I just found out about you.” WELCOME! We welcome anybody that is interested in crafts. Another common statement was, “I thought I had to give up … because my vision got so bad.” We respond with a list of classes and invite her/him to come join us.

Crafts may sound like such an unnecessary activity to some, but to the Krafters Division it brings confidence and the potential to give back to our community. The side benefits are great as well. By sharing our skills with others, we grow friendships. We consider our crafts very therapeutic and relaxing. Hold onto your hat, some people even make their craft into a business. Yes, some of our members do such a nice job and have the confidence to sell their items.

This year we replaced our in-person marketplace with a virtual marketplace. Come check it out at If you are interested in selling your handcrafts with us, you are invited to do that as well. The nice thing about this market is there are no lines, no social distancing required, and you can get started on that Christmas list. Smile!

The sadness in the list was over the loss of a special crafter, Cindy Zimmer. Her contributions to the Krafters Division were so greatly appreciated and will be dearly missed. As a way of moving forward, we offered a time during our four-hour meeting to share a few small crafts as teasers. This portion was called “Cindy’s Extravaganza.” We hope we did Cindy proud! What a way to honor her, doing what she loved doing most.

In conclusion, we invite you to come check us out. We have chats, classes, and a listserv. A few of our classes are set up as “ongoing classes.” You can join the class anytime during the year, and we will work with you collectively and individually. A few of our classes are offered for a one-time slot or over a few days. The nice thing about being on our listserv is if you have a craft question or maybe are interested in getting a class going, you can post it on the listserv. Many of our classes develop from request.

We can’t share all of the wonderful benefits and opportunities our division offers in this article, but you can check out what happens at Here you can explore our calendar, join the listserv, and even become a member. Our annual dues are $20, which gives you access to all of the classes you want. If you have questions, you can contact our president, Tammy Freitag, at [email protected]. You are welcome to join us and share this information with others. We look forward to having more crafters.

NABV Division (National Association of Blind Veterans)
The NABV meeting had forty-two attendees. Due to this being an off year, elections were not held. We had Laura Deck from Bookshare talk to us, and James Vale, the national service director for the BVA [Blinded Veterans Association] talk to us as well.

Performing Arts Division
Every year, the National Federation of the Blind Performing Arts Division seeks to break down misconceptions about blind performers and engage our members in gaining helpful real-life experience at national convention. Though the platform was virtual, this year was no exception.
During our annual business meeting on July 16th, we had a packed agenda and around one hundred eager participants. We took time and encouraged anyone to introduce themselves, which showcased the diversity and wide range of talent in our division. We heard several reports on the past year’s activities of the division, including our wildly successful Singing Telegram fundraiser, our Zoom workshops teaching skills from Braille music to beatboxing, our brand new Facebook group to facilitate networking and discussions among performers, and our continued efforts to foster inclusion and authenticity in the entertainment industry.

Rachel Grider, the brilliant mind behind creating the Virtual Convention Choir, shared about the rehearsal and production process. The final product of three songs was presented later at various key points throughout the convention. Julie McGinnity was recognized for her exemplary service in leadership for so many years. Next, Ryan Strunk, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota and an improviser and audio engineer, spoke about the immeasurable talent within the Federation and how we can best use it to further our movement and raise expectations.

Additionally, we had a fabulous panel with five wonderful contributors who are all successfully employed in performing-arts-related careers. They spoke about the challenges that arise in their fields, the methods they use to make a path for themselves, and encouragement for budding performing artists. The panelists were Jessica Victoria, Cristina Jones, Tom Page, Kaiti Shelton, and Tiffany Taylor, moderated by Lizzy Muhammad Park.

Lastly, we culminated our meeting with an interactive dance workshop, where Katelyn MacIntyre taught the basics of the Latin-inspired ballroom dance, Cha Cha. Everyone got up and got moving, learned purely by detailed verbal explanations, and ended up dancing to some great music together, demonstrating that blind people can achieve their dreams with the right training and opportunity.

If you would like to join us as we continue connecting with and advocating for blind performers, please visit You can contact our board at [email protected]. We would love to have you!

NFB in Communities of Faith Division
The NFB in Communities of Faith held its annual meeting using Zoom on July 16. The first agenda item was a panel discussion of publishers of faith-based literature for the blind. Those participating were: Craig Leeds, director of Braille Bibles International from Liberty, Missouri; Daniel Jenkins, vice president of ministry advancement, Lutheran Braille Workers from Yucaipa, California; Malaky Fallon, executive director of Xavier Society for the Blind from New York, New York; Jeri Lyn Rogge, executive director of Christian Record Services for the Blind from Lincoln, Nebraska; and Yvonne Pilot, executive director of Lutheran Braille Evangelism Association from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.

Braille Bibles International produces the King James Version and the New King James Version of the Bible. It also distributes the MegaVoice Audio Bible and cartridges of various Bible versions, which can be used on NLS players. Additionally, it offers some free books, as well as a Bible dictionary that may be purchased.

Lutheran Braille Workers produces the New International Version of the Bible and the English Standard Version in Braille. The Xavier Society for the Blind produces Bibles and other literature for the Roman Catholic Church. Christian Record Services for the Blind has books on loan. The Lutheran Braille Evangelism Association produces the Tract Messenger, a magazine for the blind, the Christian Magnifier, a magazine for the visually impaired, and has twenty versions of the Bible available in audio form on a device called the Bible Courier.

We next had a discussion from two blind people who serve as chaplains, Paul Grenier from Pennsylvania and Kelsi Watters who serves as a chaplain in North Carolina. We then heard from Gregory Martin and two other representatives from HOPE Ministries (Helping Other People Excel and Experience God). This ministry holds phone conference meetings each Saturday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and on Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m.

At our business meeting, the minutes and treasurer’s report were approved, and other routine business matters were discussed. We also discussed the subject of inclusion. Federationists are always welcome to participate in this division.

Division Elections at the 2020 National Convention

From the Editor: Here are the results from the division elections that have been reported thus far from the 2020 National Convention:

NFB in Computer Science Division
Brian Buhrow, president; Steve Jacobson, vice president; Louis Maher, secretary; Curtis Chong, treasurer; Jeanine Linebeck, board member; Harry Staley, board member; Jim Barbour, board member.

NFB Science and Engineering Division
John Miller, president; Ashley Neybert, vice president; Louis Maher, secretary; Harry Staley, treasurer; Nathanael Wales, board position one; Jamie Principato-Crane, board position two.

National Association of Blind Students (NABS) Division
Trisha Kulkarni, president; Kenia Flores, first vice president; Justin Salisbury, second vice president; Elizabeth Rouse, treasurer; Mausam Mehta, secretary; Nina Marranca, board member; Johna Wright, board member; Robert Parsons, board member; Monica Wegner, board member.

NFB Diabetes Action Network Division
Debbie Wunder, president; Gene Brown, first vice president; Mindy Jacobson, second vice president; John TeBockhorst, secretary; Joy Stiegle, treasurer; Gary Wunder, board member; Eileen Leigh, board member; Bernadette Jacobs, board member; Wanda Sloan, board member.

National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU)
Raul Gallegos, president; Paul Sandoval, vice president; Jessica Snyder, treasurer; Aleeha Dudley, secretary; Heather Bird, board member; Jodi Witthaus, board member; Cindy Lou Ray, board member.

Performing Arts Division
Katelyn MacIntyre, president; Lizzy Muhammad Park, vice president; Cristina Jones, secretary; LaKeisha Holmes, treasurer; Chris Nusbaum, board member; Precious Perez, board member; Leslie Hamric, board member.

Writers Division
Shelley Alongi, president; April Enderton, first vice president; Chelsea Cook, second vice president; Shawn D. Jacobson, treasurer; Marilyn Smith, board member; Barbara Hammel, board member; Myrna Badgerow, board member.

NFB in Communities of Faith
Tom Anderson, president; Rehnee Aikens, vice president; Linda Mentink, secretary; Rev. Dr. Carolyn Peters, treasurer.

Seniors Division
Ruth Sager, president; Judy Sanders, first vice president; Robert Newman, second vice president; Diane McGeorge, treasurer; Duncan Larsen, assistant treasurer; Shelley Coppel, secretary; Jane Degenshein, board member; Glenn Crosby, board member; Wayne Marshall, membership chair.

Assistive Technology Trainers Division
Chancey Fleet, president; Nancy Coffman, vice president; Erin Lauridsen, treasurer; Amy Mason, board member; Chip Johnson, board member; Jim Portillo, board member.

Community Service Division
Jeanetta Price, president; Dr. LaShawna Fant, vice president; Samuel Gates, secretary; Natalie Segura, treasurer; Hattie Griffin, board member; Tyron Bratcher, board member; Linda Lankston, board member.

Human Services Division
Candice Chapman, president; Bre Ausbun, first vice president; Sarah Patnaude, second vice president; Jessica Snyder, secretary; Merry Schoch, treasurer; Dezman Jackson, board member; LaShawna Fant, board member.

National Organization of Blind Educators
Cayte Mendez, president; Angela Wolf, first vice president; Harriet Go, second vice president; Valeria Jacobs, secretary; Kaden Colton, treasurer; Kayleigh Joiner, board member; Brian Quintana, board member.

National Association of Blind Merchants
Nicky Gacos, president; Harold Wilson, first vice president; Edward Birmingham, second vice president; Sharon Treadway, secretary; Pam Schnurr, treasurer; Barbara Manuel, board member; Melissa Smith, board member; Zachary Snow, board member; Melba J. Taylor, board member; Michael Colbrunn, board member; Gary Grassman, board member; John Fritz, board member; Lewanda Miranda, board member; Joe Higdon, board member; Debra Smith, board member.
National Organization of Professionals in Blindness Education (PIBE)
Eric Guillory, president; Denise Mackenstadt, first vice president; Jackie Anderson, second vice president; Deja Powell, secretary; Krystal Guillory, treasurer; Jennifer Bazer, board member; Michell Gip, board member; Casey Robertson, board member; Carlton Walker, board member.

National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC)
Carlton Walker, president; Penny Duffy, first vice president; Kimberly Banks, second vice president; Carol Castellano, secretary; Sandra Oliver, treasurer; Michelle Murrey, board member; Corbb O’Connor, board member; Melissa Riccobono, board member; Casey West, board member; Jackie Anderson, board member; Sarah Erb, board member; Jean Fultz, board member; Pamela Gebert, board member; Carla Keirns, board member; Tabby Mitchell, board member.

Public Employees Division
Gary Van Dorn, president; John Halverson, vice president; Kay Baker, secretary; Marcus Soulsby, treasurer; Nicole Fincham-Shehan, board member; Katie Jackson, board member; Daphne Mitchell, board member.

National Association of Blind Rehabilitation Professionals
Amy Porterfield, president; Pam Allen, first vice president; Dan Wenzel, second vice president; Jennifer Kennedy, secretary; Amy Buresh, treasurer; Shirley Robinson, board member; Julie Deden, board member; Everette Bacon, board member.

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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