Braille Monitor

Vol. 64, No. 5                 May 2021

Gary Wunder, Editor

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

The National Federation of the Blind

Mark Riccobono, President

telephone: 410-659-9314
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        ISSN 0006-8829

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Vol. 64, No. 5                        May 2021

Illustration: Doing Our Part to Conquer the Pandemic

Open Letter on Safety and Support Progress
by Mark Riccobono

A Virtual Welcome to Maryland
by Chris Danielsen, Sherria Young-Smith, and Dezman Jackson

Stay True to You: Blindness Isn’t All of Me, but One of Many Pieces That Define Me and What God Has Blessed Me With
by Tasnim Alshuli

Structured Discovery: Setting the Gold Standard for Access Technology Training (HTML)
by Matt Hackert

Women’s History Month: A Celebration of Black Women Leaders in the National Federation of the Blind
by Denise Avant

On Chainsaws and Changing What It Means to Be Blind
by Ana Martinez

You Can Make a Difference

Did I Say That Was OK with Me? Understanding Consent and Boundaries
by Sarah Meyer

Overreliance on Overlays is Counter to Enculturation of Accessibility
by Anil Lewis

The 2020 NFB Inclusive Publishing Conference Recap
by Kennedy Zimnik

Independence Market Corner
by Ellen Ringlein

Cruise to Sponsor Racecar Driver Dan Parker in National Federation of the Blind’s 2021 Blind Driver Challenge

From Chicken Coop to Pandemic
by Suzanne Turner

The Entrepreneur’s Ultimatum
by Mike Calvo

A Simple Resumé Format
by Dick Davis

Time to Write Resolutions
by Sharon Maneki

League of Women Voters and Security Pundits Oppose Accessible Voting in Colorado
by Curtis Chong

The MiniVision2: A Solid Basic Cell Phone
by Karl Belanger


Monitor Miniatures

Copyright 2021 by the National Federation of the Blind


[PHOTO/CAPTION: Nick Lambright and Jenn White steer people through the line.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mark Riccobono gets his first vaccination.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: An NFB member watches over staff who have received their vaccine for the required fifteen minutes.]

Doing Our Part to Conquer the Pandemic

Since March of 2020 many who work for the Federation at our Jernigan Institute have been officing from home. Visits to the building have been well coordinated to ensure social distancing and thorough cleaning of areas that are visited. As we now have vaccine to deploy, one of the activities at the Institute on April 5 was conducting a clinic where staff and members of the blind and disabled community could receive their shots. Approximately 150 people got their first dose, and a second will be made available on May 3.

We were assisted by our partners at the Maryland Department of Disabilities and the Maryland Vaccine Equity Task Force. Shots were administered by pharmacists from Rite Aid, and hats off to our Maryland Affiliate for helping coordinate all of this.

Open Letter on Safety and Support Progress

by Mark Riccobono

Content warning: This article mentions instances of abuse and sexual misconduct. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, you are not alone. The National Sexual Assault Hotline offers free, confidential support, 24/7, at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or at online.rainn.org.

Dear Federation Family:

On December 16, 2020, I wrote to you about the pain of Federation members, former members, and other people within our blindness community. This letter is a follow up to that communication and part of my accountability to you as your President.

In this letter, as with the work we have been undertaking since December, I will not address specific allegations. We will focus instead on the steps we are taking to ensure our movement is as safe as possible for everyone. It is also my hope that it clarifies misinformation circulating about our work and our intentions, as well as the depth of our efforts and the plans ahead.

We begin this letter by thanking each of you who have given your time, emotional energy, expertise, and heart to helping our community move forward. Thank you for making our movement what we all want it to be. I continue to be humbled and deeply informed by each powerful personal story that is shared with me by survivors. There is still much work and healing to be done, but together our work is making a real difference every day.

In the December 16 open letter, the following initial priorities were laid out to guide our safety and support initiatives:

The following is a summary of the steps we’ve taken:

Survivor Leadership and RAINN Partnership

At the beginning of 2021, we announced a partnership with RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, and established the Survivor Task Force to help provide guidance on behalf of blind survivors. Working with RAINN, we have created and conducted mandatory trainings for all national board members; national division and affiliate board members; NFB training center staff, students, and boards; national staff; scholarship committee members; and task force members. Nearly one thousand people will have received this training by the end of April.

Our experience with these trainings will inform development of our next phase of training, expected to roll out this fall. This will include training for chapter-level leaders and expanded training offerings for those working with youth. In the meantime, training is planned to ensure that all individuals involved with our 2021 summer programs including NFB BELL and NFB EQ are appropriately trained and clear about our expectations for working with minors. Training is in addition to background check processes that were already in place.

Special Committee Independent Investigation

On January 6, 2021, the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind unanimously established a special committee to oversee and direct an internal investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse by NFB members, participants, or staff at NFB or NFB-affiliated events, facilities, or training centers, and the adequacy of NFB's and its affiliates' response to such allegations. The committee directs its own work and has complete authority to examine all aspects of the organization. Its independent work has guided and continues to guide the steps we are taking to create a safer culture across all NFB affiliates, events, and programs. The committee hired an outside law firm, Kramon & Graham, to help with the internal investigation. The four members of the special committee include an attorney, two affiliate presidents, and a current NFB board member. None of these individuals have been named in any allegations being reviewed by the special committee. To ensure the independence and integrity of their investigation, the special committee will communicate directly about its work in the coming weeks and months.

Code of Conduct Independent External Investigator

Since December 2020, all reports of sexual misconduct, abuse, and harassment are reviewed by an independent investigator, Tonya Baña LLC, to preserve their confidentiality. Once a report is thoroughly investigated, a report of findings is submitted to the Federation for action. The report is considered by a two-member panel of national board members who do not have conflicts of interest in the case. Recommendations are forwarded by the panel to the President who issues rulings. All rulings are appealable. To date, all final rulings have been completely consistent with the recommendations of the external independent investigator.

Climate Assessment Survey and Report

As an additional initiative, RAINN will execute a climate assessment by gathering feedback from NFB community members to help inform recommendations for further sexual misconduct prevention and response programming. This effort will assist in determining additional and continuous training, which will ultimately provide consistency across the organization. This is a baseline measurement to target our future efforts and will continue to be assessed as a component of our accountability measures.

Please participate in the assessment survey which is expected to be available later this month. The anonymous survey will result in RAINN delivering two reports: one internal and one public-facing, detailing findings and implications that will be shared at the time of our 2021 National Convention.

Response Protocols and Code of Professionalism

The NFB Code of Conduct remains in place to set expectations within our organization, and we have published the Code of Conduct FAQs to improve clarity and ease of understanding. All current reports submitted will be reviewed, regardless of when the incident occurred.

In addition, we are thoroughly reviewing our code of conduct. This work is ongoing. We have instituted the following immediate changes based on your feedback, as well as input from RAINN, the survivor-led task force, and the independent investigator.

In addition to the immediate changes we have made, prior to July, RAINN will be leading us through the development of a set of customized and actionable standards of professionalism to address sexual misconduct and strategic response protocols. The standards will clarify and emphasize appropriate behaviors for members of the NFB community and act as the foundation for a safer, healthier organizational culture.

Training Center Coordination

The directors and board chairs of our three training centers have been coordinating improvement efforts. In addition to training for staff and students, each center has been examining its policies and procedures to ensure correct practices are in place. In addition, the Federation has been reviewing and updating its oversight of affiliated training programs.

We are also working with our training centers and RAINN to strengthen and implement protocols to ensure we have a uniform approach, that all local regulations are clearly followed, and that we have consistent communication throughout the Federation. That work will be fully implemented after our convention this summer.

Next Steps and Our Commitment to You

Every member of the Federation should be proud of the work we are undertaking and the speed with which it is happening. But there is still much more to do. We need all leaders of the Federation to continue to reflect the expectations of our code of conduct and to help facilitate a supportive culture when survivors disclose information about incidents within the organization.

We continue to seek feedback from members and nonmembers regarding safety and support. Your voice and experiences in these efforts are crucial. Open meeting announcements, ways to become involved with the work of the Survivor Task Force, and an archive of updates and resources can be found at nfb.org/survivors.

We will be making another report of our progress and next steps at the 2021 National Convention. These decisions will be grounded in ongoing deep listening and best practices that result from working with RAINN, input from our survivor-led task force, recommendations of the special committee, and the input of all of you. Your voice is critical in this process.

We promise to march with you to a stronger future that we build together. More than words, we know that trust is built through actions that are meaningful, visible, and sustainable. We continue taking all necessary steps to earn that trust and ensure blind people can lead their best lives. We are not yet done with our changes, and together we will move closer every day to fulfilling the commitments we have made in our movement.


Mark Riccobono, President
[email protected], 410-659-9314

The National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors shown below affirms our support and commitment to the content of the above letter from our President. Each of us are available to answer questions and concerns from members. We continue to encourage the reporting of any incidents so they can be independently investigated.

Pam Allen, First Vice President and Board Chair, [email protected], 318-251-2891
Ron Brown, Second Vice President, [email protected], 317-213-7031
James Gashel, Secretary, [email protected], 808-234-9259
Jeannie Massay, Treasurer, [email protected], 405-600-0695
Denise Avant, [email protected], 773-991-8050
Everette Bacon, [email protected], 801-631-8108
Amy Buresh, [email protected], 402-440-4722
Shawn Callaway, [email protected], 202-352-1511
Norma Crosby, [email protected], 281-968-7733
John Fritz, [email protected], 608-622-7632
Ever Lee Hairston, [email protected], 323-654-2975
Carla McQuillan, [email protected], 541-653-9153
Amy Ruell, [email protected], 617-752-1116
Joe Ruffalo, [email protected]
Terri Rupp, [email protected], 702-524-0835
Adelmo Vigil, [email protected], 575-921-5422

A Virtual Welcome to Maryland

by Chris Danielsen, Sherria Young-Smith, and Dezman Jackson

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland is pleased to welcome our fellow Federationists from anywhere and everywhere to our state, albeit virtually, for the 2021 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. We are excited about the opportunity to show off Maryland, which is sometimes called “Little America,” because, although it is one of the smallest states in our nation in terms of population and area, it is also one of the oldest and has a great deal of geographic, demographic, and historic diversity. We thought we would tell you a little about it.

Maryland’s geographical features range from sandy dunes dotted with seagrass in the east, to low marshlands teeming with wildlife near the Chesapeake Bay, to gently rolling hills of oak forests in the Piedmont (or foothills) region, and pine groves in the mountains of the western part of the state. The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, nearly bisects the state, and the counties from the east of the bay to the Atlantic Ocean are known collectively as the Eastern Shore. When Marylanders have plans to vacation in the popular Eastern Shore beach resort of Ocean City, they like to say they are going “down the ocean.” The Patapsco River empties into the Chesapeake Bay at Baltimore, forming the city’s famous Inner Harbor, from which everything from pleasure craft to freighters to cruise ships depart.

Like the rest of our nation, Maryland was first home to Native Americans, specifically a mix of Iroquoian and Algonquian peoples. When the English began to colonize America, King Charles I granted Cecilius Calvert, Second Baron Baltimore, a royal charter in 1632. Officially, Maryland Colony was said to be named for Henrietta Maria, King Charles’s queen, although the devout Calvert may have in fact named it for the mother of Jesus. Calvert was a Catholic and wanted Maryland to be a haven for those who shared his faith, since they were often persecuted in their homeland after the establishment of the Church of England. As it turned out, however, Catholics remained a minority, although a very significant one, and tensions between Catholics and Protestants, which sometimes escalated into violent conflict, were a feature of Maryland politics until anti-Catholic laws were officially abolished. Maryland’s first settlement was St. Mary’s City, now an archaeological site, and its capital was established at Annapolis in 1695.

A notable Marylander from its early history was William Paca, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Paca was born in Abingdon, Maryland, on October 31, 1740. After serving in the Continental Congress, Paca went on to become the state’s governor and a delegate to the 1788 convention in which Maryland became the seventh state to ratify the United States constitution. A major downtown street in Baltimore bears his name.

Maryland played a significant role in the Revolutionary War. In particular, a militia regiment known as the Maryland 400 bravely covered General George Washington’s retreat at the Battle of Long Island in 1776, allowing the remainder of his forces to get safely back to Manhattan. Washington later thanked the soldiers of the “Old Line” for their bravery, thus giving Maryland one of its nicknames, the Old Line State. Maryland further distinguished itself during the War of 1812, when the valiant defense of Fort McHenry against a British naval bombardment inspired Francis Scott Key, an American prisoner aboard one of the British ships, to write his poem “The Star-Spangled Banner.” This patriotic verse was later set to the tune of an English pub song, and in 1931 Congress designated the combined words and music as the national anthem of the United States.

Because of its favorable geographic situation on the Chesapeake Bay, with easy access to the waterways and tributaries that feed it, Maryland, along with its largest city, Baltimore, thrived. In 1828, construction began on the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) canal, which threatened Baltimore’s trade supremacy. In response, city leaders obtained a charter from the Maryland General Assembly to build a railroad from Baltimore westward, and in 1830 the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad, which has since become familiar to generations of Monopoly players, opened its first section of track to the historic Maryland town of Ellicott City. The B&O was the first chartered railroad in the United States, reached the western end of the state at Cumberland eight years before the C&O Canal did, and ultimately became the first railroad to reach the Ohio River from the eastern seaboard. Eighteen other railroad lines were built from Baltimore by the middle of the nineteenth century, amplifying the city’s importance as an industrial center. Today the B&O Railroad Museum is an extremely popular and respected Baltimore historical institution, and the city remains an important freight railroad hub and major stop on Amtrak’s northeast corridor.

From its early days, Maryland was dependent on the growth of tobacco, and plantations were worked by enslaved people and indentured servants. After the Revolutionary War, many, but not all, plantation owners freed their enslaved workers, making Maryland the state with the most free Blacks in the country. Harriet Tubman was born an enslaved woman on a plantation in Dorchester County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, in 1822. Archaeologists are currently trying to locate the site of the cabin where this extraordinary freedom fighter originally lived. After escaping her own enslavement in 1849, Tubman became a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. From 1850 to 1860, she made an estimated thirteen trips and rescued around seventy enslaved people, including many members of her family. She also provided many others with information and resources to help them travel north to freedom. For her efforts, she earned the nickname Moses, after the Biblical figure who led the Israelites out of enslavement in Egypt. The 2018 film Harriet, widely available with audio description, is a good summary of her life and work, although some elements are fictionalized for dramatic purposes.

Strong abolitionist sentiment in some parts of the state, as well as its high population of free Blacks, made Maryland officially a Union state during the American Civil War, although many Marylanders went south to fight with the Confederate Army and anti-Union sentiment led to bloody riots in Baltimore in the early part of 1861, the first official bloodshed of the conflict. One of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles, known as the Battle of Antietam, was fought in Maryland, and although it was technically a draw, turned the tide of the war in the Union’s favor after early Confederate victories. We cannot mention Civil War history without speaking of Clarissa Harlowe “Clara” Barton, a nurse from Montgomery County, Maryland, who founded the American Red Cross.

After the Civil War, Democrats ultimately re-established power and implemented Jim Crow laws, but Maryland Blacks were arguably somewhat better off than those further south because many had been free and acquired their own land before the conflict. The state, and particularly Baltimore because of its industry, also attracted many immigrants, and it was difficult to craft laws that disenfranchised Blacks without harming immigrant communities as well. As a result, the denial of voting rights common in the south was not common in Maryland. Meanwhile, Baltimore continued to thrive as industry increased and philanthropists like Johns Hopkins and Enoch Pratt helped to establish it as a center of learning and culture. Johns Hopkins University is internationally well known for its medical school and hospital, and the Enoch Pratt Free Library system is well respected throughout the nation. The Pratt Library’s former executive director, Dr. Carla Hayden, is the current librarian of Congress.

Throughout the remainder of the nineteenth and the early twentieth century, Maryland established itself as a prosperous industrial center. This was particularly true in Baltimore, where major manufacturing concerns like Bethlehem Steel built or acquired factories. The city’s blocks and blocks of row houses, built as homes for its many industrial workers, are a standing legacy to this period. Baltimore did suffer a major setback in 1904, when a fire burned for more than thirty hours, destroying 1,526 buildings, and spanning seventy city blocks. More than 1,200 firefighters from Baltimore and beyond worked to bring the blaze, later dubbed the Great Baltimore Fire, under control. With the nation’s entry into World War I in 1917, military facilities like Fort Meade and the Aberdeen Proving Ground were established, and existing ones like Fort McHenry were expanded. Maryland’s refusal to pass laws enforcing prohibition gained it the nickname “the Free State” in the 1920s, a designation coined by the editor of the Baltimore Sun and amplified by its most famous columnist, H. L. Mencken. Baltimore was also a major military production center in World War II.

In the postwar years, the character of the state began to change with the gradual suburban expansion of the Washington, DC, area and the construction of the interstate highway system, as well as the decline of Baltimore’s factories. While Baltimore’s struggles continue as it transitions from an industrial city to one more in line with today’s economy, the state remains prosperous overall, with major universities like Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland, historically Black colleges and universities like Morgan State, federal agencies and military installations, and new businesses driving its culture and economy.

Maryland has had and continues to have an outside influence on our nation in the areas of culture, sports, and politics, with many famous names coming from or living in the state. One of America’s greatest jazz singers, Billie Holiday, grew up in Baltimore, and the late rapper Tupac Shakur attended art school there. Notable women who hail from Maryland include current Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (born Nancy D’Alessandro in Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood), prolific Silver-Spring-based bestselling novelist Nora Roberts, and multiple Grammy-award-winning singer Toni Braxton (originally from Anne Arundel County.) Athletes include multiple Olympic gold-medal swimmer Michael Phelps, world-champion figure skater Kimmie Meisner, and of course, the Baltimore Orioles’ famous “Iron Man,” Cal Ripken Jr., known among other things for his record-breaking string of consecutive games played.

For the foodies among our coming virtual visitors, we can’t forget about Maryland’s famous blue crabs, which of course are key ingredients in Maryland crab cakes and Maryland crab soup. You may know that oysters and other seafood delicacies are also harvested from Maryland waters by the state’s many watermen—a term that is still used although they are, of course, not all men. What you may not know is that Maryland is also the birthplace of the cold, tasty treats known as snowballs, which paved the way for similar summer refreshments. Surely, during convention, many of you will be enjoying them or one of their derivatives. We hope that this brief article has given you a flavor (see what we did there?) of our state. Now you can visit us with a good appetite, some knowledge for any trivia contests we might dream up, and a better appreciation for how “Little America” has shaped the entire nation.

A Stay True to You: Blindness Isn’t All of Me, but One of Many Pieces That Define Me and What God Has Blessed Me With

by Tasnim Alshuli

From the Editor: Tasnim Alshuli, a blind Muslim Arab-American woman, is a doctoral student at the University of Arizona. Her research focuses on STEM education (primarily mathematics education), cognitive science, and visual impairments. She is also a teaching assistant and a research assistant at the University of Arizona. Tasnim serves as the Chair of the NFB Muslims group, the Treasurer for the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona Student Division, and is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona, Tucson Chapter. Tasnim received a NFB Scholarship in 2018 and an NFB of Arizona State Scholarship in 2017. Tasnim loves the outdoors, making art, photography, creative writing, spending time with family and friends, and so much more. You can reach her at [email protected]. Here is her article:

Which of your self will you choose? Which of your self will be accepted? And which of your self is included in the nation of our beloved Federation?

Although these questions have not been asked and are by no means intentional, in my experience they have been indirectly and unintentionally implied.

It all started in 2017 during a huge transition in my life. The early days of 2017 were a time of big decision-making and new beginnings. I was just a year old in the Federation in the Charlotte, North Carolina, Chapter, and the humongous decision to move across the continent to continue my doctoral studies was looming over my future. Aside from finding a program, a home, and getting situated, I knew deep down that I wanted to find a community, a family that would be as welcoming in the new state of Arizona as I was welcomed and embraced in North Carolina.

Naturally I reached out to the Tucson Chapter. After a few rings of a number listed on its website, Mr. Bob Kresmer, with his friendly and welcoming voice, answered. I right away felt as if I was speaking to my grandfather on the other side of the phone. After introducing myself, the excitement in his voice increased, and the encouragement to be involved was greatly echoed in our conversation. Mr. Kresmer instantly became a dear mentor and someone who I still look up to. Mr. Kresmer encouraged me to apply for the NFB of Arizona state scholarship for that year—the deadline to apply for which was vast approaching. With no time to spare, I jumped on this opportunity. I don’t know why, but I was strongly confident that I would receive the 2017 NFB of Arizona scholarship.

A mental vision came to my mind of me, one of the two scholarship winners, meeting all NFB of Arizona members at one time during the convention. This vision was very encouraging and heartwarming, as if it were a welcoming party just for me in a new place, which was exactly how it turned out for me.

This very vivid vision motivated me to start my essay and application immediately. During the application process and as one of the requirements, I met with the current state president, Mr. Donald Porterfield, on the phone while standing right outside a door of a local mosque (house of God) where a religious gathering and prayer was going on inside. It was one of the summer evenings of the Holy Islamic Month of Ramadan. Our conversation lasted for more than an hour, during which I got to know the affiliate and specifically the Tucson Chapter through the lens of the Arizona president. During and after the conversation, I had a feeling of welcoming and sense of celebration of me being a newcomer.

One of the questions for the applicant in the interview was to see if I could attend the three-day state convention, which was the first weekend of September. I hesitated immediately because I knew that one of the Islamic holidays, Eid al-Adha, fell on the convention date.

Eid al-Adha, or the Day of Sacrifice, is a holy day where Muslims commemorate the story of Prophet Ibrahim’s (Peace and blessings be upon him (PBUH)) test of faith, when Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) was commanded by God to sacrifice his son, Prophet Ismail (PBUH). As Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) was about to do what he was asked, God had placed a ram (i.e., sheep) in place of Prophet Ismail (PBUH) for Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) to sacrifice instead. Eid al-Adha is also the holiday concluding the period of Hajj (the pilgrimage to the holy city Mecca in Saudi Arabia) and right after the Day of Arafah (or Day of Standing), which is the last day of Hajj where the pilgrims stand on Mount Arafat praying and asking for God’s forgiveness. Day of Arafah is not just for Muslim pilgrims, but Muslims around the world observe this holy day by praying and asking for God’s forgiveness, and it is one of the holiest days in Islam.

So I asked if I could be excused for one day or at least a couple of hours on the specific day that Eid al-Adha falls on because of my religious observances. Unfortunately, one of the requirements is to attend the state convention in its entirety when you are awarded a scholarship, or you will be disqualified.

My primary intention for applying for the scholarship, although it is a great financial help, also was a means of connecting to my new community in Arizona. It was certainly a great honor to be recognized with this award and at the same time to join as a new member of the community.

Reassembling my identity for the sake of belonging had me struggling between my right hand and my left hand: my beliefs, values, celebrations, and practices versus the newest family I chose. So, I chose in that instance, my new family—only for the sake of meeting my newly adopted community in the new world I was embarking on.

My vision came true in every sense. I was welcomed within the Arizona affiliate with honor and pride. The 2017 convention was the first time I was introduced to everyone. I felt blessed meeting so many members from Arizona, and I felt like they were happy to meet me as a new member and as a scholarship winner. They were very accommodating in that they were very understanding of my need to step out to pray during the day. Also, unsuspectedly, Kathryn Webster was the representative from the National Association of Blind Students (NABS) at that convention. I was so happy to see her there. I actually had met Kathryn briefly in North Carolina at the time when she served as the student president of the North Carolina Student Division. It was nice to see someone from my past family, making me feel more at home in Arizona.

The first day of Eid al-Adha, which was during the 2017 NFB of Arizona State Convention, was a time of struggle and solitude for me even though I was physically surrounded with kind, welcoming, and generous people. Keeping up with the schedule of the convention, going in and out of sessions, was very exciting and very energizing. Nevertheless, sitting in those sessions/meetings, I kept on withdrawing and continuing to remind myself that I’m witnessing one of the happiest, joyful, blessed, and peaceful days of the year: to mentally force the holiday into existence and allowing myself to mentally observe and experience it while at the same time physically sitting in a room discussing topics centered on blindness. Islamic holidays and practices are usually very social and collaborative. If you are not in the mosque, you are usually with your family, friends, and loved ones: praying, sharing love, joy, and great food. Instead of being surrounded with the celebrations of the holiday, I was internally chanting, all alone, the prayers and joyful verses of exultation and remembrance of God, our Creator, and verses of our endless blessings that God has bestowed upon us. Mentally screaming at the top of my lungs with the happiest tune and joyous verses; internally smiling the biggest smile, while at the same time wiping the tears falling from my eyes and pressing my aching heart.

For me the holidays are a very big deal. Even though I have passed a quarter of my life, I still feel as if I am five years old, waking up at the earliest possible time along with the sun, anticipating the joyous day.

I knew I couldn’t stay quiet, so during my speech accepting the scholarship award and recognition time allotted for me, I announced to everyone that the day before, that same day, and the day after are days of Eid al-Adha, which is one of many Islamic holidays that Muslims observe. I wanted to share that joyous news with my new family, so I had a sort of celebration along with them all. With that, I finally felt that I didn’t have to choose which of me belonged. Members of the Federation were congratulating me as well as wishing me a happy and blessed day. Just at that beautiful moment, I finally felt accepted and included as a blind Muslim woman.

Since this experience, and along with others where my religious observances were hardly recognized or even taken into consideration, I eventually convinced myself that there is something that needs to be done, and I want to be the one who leads it. I want to be the voice here who encourages my beloved NFB and other communities in America and beyond to become familiar with the true Islam as a faith and its beautiful message, practices, observances, and holidays. Certainly I want to keep people from falling for the negative notions spreading in the media. I want us all to recognize and keep in mind the Islamic practices, observances, holidays, and other holy events just as we do with other religions when planning for events and activities such as state and national conventions. Most of the NFB affiliates, chapters, divisions, and groups would not even consider scheduling a convention over Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, etc. We also should refrain from Federation events over Eid al-Adha, the Day of Arafah, Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr (or the Day of Breaking the Fast, which is a holiday ending the month of Ramadan and starting a new Islamic month.)

After my commitment to speak out and do something, the journey began. I got the opportunity to meet other Muslim NFB members the following year during the 2018 convention in Orlando, Florida, where I was also honored and blessed to be one of the thirty National Federation of the Blind scholarship winners. I, and others, expressed the idea of creating a group where we can all gather and be a support for one another. As a result, a WhatsApp group was generated to create a sub community within the National Federation of the Blind. We were an informal group with the intention of just coming together, and what brought us together is our identity as Muslims and members of the Federation. Despite the two links that bind us together, we are a very diverse group of Muslims from all over the world living in the United States and Canada with various experiences and backgrounds. We proudly embrace our diversity and unity.

However, in early 2021 we found it urgent that we create a formally-established group under the National Federation of the Blind. We reached out to President Mark Riccobono for permission to establish a formal NFB Muslims group on March 8, 2021. Very shortly after, the NFB Muslims Group became an official group, and I am currently serving as the chair. Our group is working on an agenda to push for more recognition, inclusion, and equitable policies within the Federation for blind Muslim NFB members. The purpose of the NFB Muslims Group is to provide advocacy and education related to challenges and opportunities unique to blind Muslims, to change negative perceptions about Islam in the blindness space related to service animals and other areas, to increase access to information in accessible formats for blind Muslims (e.g., Braille Qur’ans and texts), and to serve as mentors and supports for one another.

A listserv under the Federation has also been created, and anyone is welcome to subscribe by writing [email protected]. The listserv is used to share any updates and news, helpful resources, and our meeting dates and information. Since mid-March of this year, we have been meeting weekly on Sundays at 3:00 p.m. Arizona time on Zoom. Our membership is slowly increasing, and we welcome more members. And as always, all are welcome.

This beautiful journey I have walked, with God’s grace, has not weakened me nor discouraged me from advocating, alongside others, for access, recognition, and inclusion. It actually has allowed me to continue walking with strength. In order for individuals to belong, we must recognize and accept who they are, where they come from, and what they bring with them. After recognition, we must make spaces for these individuals to belong. This is exactly what happened in our case. President Riccobono recognized our identity and has provided us with the space to advocate for inclusion within our Federation. What strengthens the Federation is the willingness to embrace diversity and stand along with individuals, as well as empowering and inspiring these individuals. And that is how the Federation is continuing to build itself. Assalam alaikum warahmatu Allah wabarakatuh: translated as, “Peace, mercy, and blessings be upon you all”.

If you would like to continue the conversation around identity, inclusion, and belonging, as well as Islam and Muslims within the NFB, or to join our group and meetings, I would love to hear from you. You can always reach me at the NFB Muslims group listserv at [email protected] or using my personal email address at [email protected].

Structured Discovery: Setting the Gold Standard for Access Technology Training

by Matt Hackert

From the Editor: Matt is a nonvisual access technology specialist working in our Blindness Initiatives Program at the Jernigan Institute. He has shown his talent several times before as a contributor, and here is what he has to say:

As an access technology trainer with certification as a rehabilitation teacher of the blind, I understand that technology can help level the playing field, but this is only true when blind people understand how to make use of it. Moreover, I recognize the importance of the NFB’s philosophical approach to blindness skills training and the benefit of integrating our philosophy with access technology training.

NFB’s “Teaching Access Technology Using Structured Discovery Techniques” conference, based on the popular train-the-trainer model, took place September 24-25, 2021, and focused on the NFB’s Structured Discovery method of learning, commonly associated with cane travel instruction but applicable to navigating new environments in technology as well. Approximately 150 attendees learned how to encourage exploration and active learning in their students so that they will be empowered to utilize new technologies and systems without the need for gratuitous re-training on simple updates. The conference targeted technology-training professionals from across the country.

Our program provided insight, guidance, and sharing among access technology trainers on integrating the Structured Discovery methodology into their training. Structured Discovery, an approach using questioning and problem-solving rather than rote memorization, was initially applied to teaching cane travel, but this conference sought to help people expand its application beyond orientation and mobility. During this two-day event, access technology trainers from state-run and privately-run training centers, both in and outside of the NFB, shared their thoughts and experiences of incorporating the Structured Discovery model in teaching blind learners of all ages.

The first session of this conference was “So You Want to be an Access Technology Trainer,” a moderated panel of access technology trainers who work in college/university settings, state-run vocational rehabilitation training centers, private training centers, and our NFB training centers. The panelists shared the challenges they face, the strategies they have learned over the years, and some student success stories. The panelists spent significant time addressing how and when students should transition along a spectrum from more structure to more discovery. The key is to focus on the strengths and needs of each individual student and to challenge all of them to continually move toward self-reliance rather than depending on structured delivery of information. The ultimate goal is to encourage the students’ desire to discover for themselves in order to foster greater independence.

We were thrilled to have Dr. Edward Bell offer comments on the “Foundations of Structured Discovery,” a presentation about teaching access technology through Structured Discovery that offered a contextual history and understanding that defined the value of our training philosophy. Structured Discovery was first applied to the teaching of orientation and mobility (cane travel) in 1984 and was trademarked as Structured Discovery Cane Travel (SDCT®) in 2009. The methods and principles that undergird Structured Discovery come from the lived experiences of blind people who have shared their learnings, attitudes, and techniques with each other through the organized blind movement since 1940.

Structured Discovery training is now a unique instructional service used to teach independence to individuals who are blind in a meaningful, robust, and lifelong manner—a rehabilitation teaching strategy that is substantially and recognizably different from conventional, traditional approaches of teaching individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Structural discovery instructional services consist of nonvisual techniques, problem-solving strategies, experiential learning, and confidence building experiences. It relies heavily on Socratic questioning (i.e., the asking of strategic questions to guide the learner in solving the problem) and the role modeling of nonvisual techniques, which demonstrates their effectiveness while correcting misconceptions about blindness. These teaching strategies are used across all adjustment categories, including cane travel, Braille literacy, home management training, computer/access technology, woodshop, and seminars and other activities which focus on coping with blindness and confronting attitudes about blindness.

As with most trainings, you start with the fundamentals, and a fundamental skill that blind technology users must possess is the ability to use keyboard commands. Quinten Price offered a presentation on “Utilizing Native Keystrokes,” which builds a user’s basic knowledge of how the keyboard can be used to access the features and functions of most software. Many sighted individuals use a mouse to increase their productivity. Blind users must be able to exploit the use of technology in order to remain competitive. Use of the keyboard can be enhanced to allow a blind person to be equally productive using a keyboard. Chancey Fleet took keyboard use to the next level with a presentation on “Customizing Keyboard Commands,” demonstrating that some keyboard commands are more efficient than using a mouse.

An interesting highlight of the conference was the “Structured Discovery Training in Linux” presentation by David Hathaway, a freelance technology trainer who runs a program offering instruction in Linux administration. His students are directed to deliberately damage the virtual machines in order to demonstrate that, even in the worst-case scenario, they have the ability to recover a backup of their system. By realizing they can recover from any problem that may result from their interaction with the technology, they gain confidence by successfully employing the troubleshooting and problem-solving skills they have learned. Moreover, David removes the barrier of fear that might otherwise inhibit his students from taking the risk of learning by doing.

In life we want to find things that will help us in our endeavor to do great things. Technology can help us or hinder us depending on how it is used. As technology continues to advance and integrate into every aspect of our lives, it is important that we learn to maximize its efficiency while still maintaining one’s personal self-efficacy, problem-solving skills, and travel skills. Joanne Gabias presented the session “Integrating Technology with Cane Travel/Mobility Instruction.” This presentation discussed best practices for integrating technology use in cane travel instruction.

Participants learned about the foundational travel skills required to properly use technology in cane travel. Technology that was covered included the Compass app, Moovit app, transit apps, Google Maps, BlindSquare, Google, rideshare apps, note-taking, recordings, and technologies such as Aira. There was a great discussion of real-life examples of how these types of apps and technology can be utilized while traveling. Participants came away with strategies for implementing Structured Discovery training with their students while integrating technology and cane travel.

Another session during the conference that drew the parallels between technology and travel training was “Technology, Travel, and Structured Discovery in a Parallel Universe,” presented by Nancy Coffman. This session took a look at how Structured Discovery applies to learning in the communications and technology classroom. As with travel, the students start by learning the basics, and as discussed earlier, the students need to learn to navigate the keyboard. Students learn the cardinal directions of the computer (up, down, left, and right) as they develop their typing skills. Also, as with travel training, mental mapping is used to build points of reference, and things come up that are extra challenging along the way that may require a slight detour. Technology training should also complement other training. In travel, students may need to run an errand to the grocery store to purchase items for their meal for forty in their home economics class. They could Braille their grocery list but may need to use technology if they have not yet become proficient enough to use Braille for this purpose. Projects and assignments become more complicated as the students become more proficient in the use of all of the alternative skills of blindness, including technology. Eventually, students are encouraged to complete projects that relate directly to their vocational goal. The hope is that Structured Discovery will provide the basic skills and opportunity for students to develop techniques for lifelong learning.

The final agenda item was “Curiosity, Active Listening, and Self-Directed Instruction: Foundational Skills for Lifetime Success” by Jack Mendez. This talk provided instructors with perspectives on self-directed learning and how the Structured Discovery process guides the student into a lifetime of learning. The presentation provided examples of active-listening strategies, guidance to help students ask targeted questions, and methods how the student and the instructor together can learn to adjust learning objectives while learning new technology. In addition, there was an emphasis on helping students appreciate their accomplishments by using a combination of guided discovery and exercising their own judgment and problem-solving. This strategy helps to motivate both students and instructors.

The Structured Discovery model has grown and evolved for more than thirty years, but we have only consistently begun using the Structured Discovery nomenclature in the last decade or so to distinguish our consumer-driven approach as compared to the more traditional, top-down, rote instruction. These access technology experts were speaking the same language—the language of Structured Discovery—which provides the foundation for this profession. Although there is not a university-based degree program for training Structured Discovery access technology professionals, there is a clear body of knowledge, group cohesion, local and national associations dedicated to the advancement of this model, and even local training groups dedicated to its teaching—all of the hallmarks of a true profession. The National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB), the professional certification body which holds the responsibility for the credentialing of these professionals, is in the beginning stages of the development of a national certification to be earned by these individuals. This credential, the National Certification in Access Technology for the Blind (NCATB), is poised to set the gold standard for high quality access technology professionals and will help to further distinguish these individuals as consummate professionals.

Women’s History Month: A Celebration of Black Women Leaders in the National Federation of the Blind

by Denise Avant

From the Editor: Denise Avant is a current member of the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors. She has been an affiliate president in Illinois and is currently very active in the American Bar Association. Here is an article she wrote that focuses on our efforts at diversity and inclusion:

The National Federation of the Blind has as one of our core values diversity and full participation in our mission to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for all blind people. In 2017, President Mark A. Riccobono established the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion to help the Federation achieve these core values. I am a member of the Black Leaders Serving for Advancement (BLSA), one of the subcommittees of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Since 2017 we have put on events prior to national convention to highlight the leadership and potential leadership of Black members in the Federation. We expanded our awareness efforts this past year to put on programs throughout the year.

In his 2018 banquet speech, President Riccobono recognized and celebrated the vital contributions of blind women leaders in the Federation. March was Women’s History Month and BLSA celebrated the month by putting on a program with powerful, intelligent, and dynamic Black women leaders: Dorothy Griffin, president of the NFB of Georgia; Barbara Manuel, president of the NFB of Alabama; Suzanne Turner, first vice president of the NFB of Ohio; and Sabrina Simmons, second vice president of the NFB of Michigan. I had the privilege to serve as the moderator, and Harriet Davis from the NFB of the District of Columbia served as our Zoom host. We were joined by President Riccobono and our Chairman of the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors and First Vice President, Pamela Allen. Many others also joined in our deliberations, sharing their insights on leadership, their thoughts on attributes of successful leaders, their challenges, and their women mentors and so much more. They spent time with the audience, answering questions about leadership, participation in the Federation, and facing issues about blindness. These women shared their love of serving people and passion for the work of the Federation. Here is some of what they shared:

Dorothy Griffin:

Dorothy Griffin is the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia and serves as president of the Atlanta Metro Chapter. Her sister Joanne Johnson invited her to join the Metro Chapter when she moved to Atlanta. Dorothy held many roles at the chapter level: fundraising chair, secretary, second vice president, first vice president, and finally president. She was asked twice to become the affiliate president, and she turned it down. When initially asked, she said, “I don’t know what it takes to be an affiliate president.” Finally, after talking to her husband and praying, she decided to run. President Riccobono told her that if she were elected, she would be the “commander and chief.” She was elected. “I take my role very seriously.” She loves and respects our brand, our values, and people. She wants to help transform their dreams into reality.

Dorothy understands that running the affiliate is a team effort. Her honesty, transparency, and love for people has helped her be a successful affiliate president. “If it’s something that I don’t know, I am not afraid to say it.” She is not hesitant to reach out to people and learn.

Dorothy loves helping people, frequently taking calls from blind people at all hours of the day and night. The calls motivate her because, “It just touches my heart and I just want to help them move to the next level, where they want to be.”

One of the challenges she faces is that some men do not like to follow women leaders. “I struggle with that. I can’t change who I am. All I can do is continue to be there for everyone.” If an individual has a problem, she is willing to discuss the matter with them and allow the person to figure out a resolution. “A lot of times, people just want to talk, and you just give them some things to think about.” She gets involved only if necessary.

In addition to her Federation activities, Dorothy works for NFB-NEWSLINE®, has her own business, and is a deacon in her church. Her husband is a truck driver, and they have a blended family of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, most of whom do not live in Georgia. Her affiliate and NFB-NEWSLINE work provide her even more of an opportunity to reach out to blind people. In addition to working two phones, she stays well organized by keeping color-coded binders and spiral notebooks for her business, NFB-NEWSLINE, the Federation, and her home. Her Federation members urge her to take time for herself, which she will do.

Barbara Manuel:

Barbara Manuel has been the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Alabama since 2018, and she was re-elected this past March. A close friend would talk to her about the Federation. She joined the Federation in 1986. The affiliate had a convention in her city. When she heard the speech by the national representative, “I immediately knew this was a movement I had to be a part of.” She joined the Mobile Chapter and later served as its president for eleven years. She served on the Alabama affiliate board for many years, eventually moving to first vice president and becoming president when Joy Harris stepped down due to health reasons. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Blind Merchants.

Barbara says, “It has truly been a joy for me to serve in the National Federation of the Blind. My heart is one of service.”

Barbara is successful in her role as president because she is blind, and she knows how blind people are treated. It is this understanding that helps her step into her role as an advocate when she gets a call from a blind person telling her that they have been mistreated or discriminated against. Second, she loves bringing people together to do work in the affiliate. “Everyone has tools and talents that they bring to our affiliate to enhance it, and I want to give them the opportunity to do so.”

Barbara finds that being an African American and a woman can sometimes be challenging in her leadership role. When issues arise, she tries to assess herself first. But she still finds there are times that she does not receive needed support because of her race and gender. Nevertheless, she does not dwell on the problems but relies on the members that do support her. “At the end of the day, if we’re touching one life, I can endure all of the other biases that take place in this journey.”

Barbara also finds it challenging at times being a new president because she doesn’t have all of the answers. Yet she is comforted by the knowledge that people at our national office in Baltimore and Federationists across the country are willing to and do help her. “I am open and willing to learn,” she says.”

Barbara is a blind merchant. In her first years as president, she admits that she really did not balance things very well. When she was working, she would find time to work on Federation matters because there was so much work to be done. Federation tasks would spill over into her personal time. But she learned to address issues without them overshadowing her entire day. Barbara stated that this last convention left her feeling burnt out. She has decided to devote affiliate matters to certain days, and this seems to be working out.

Suzanne Turner:

Suzanne Turner came to the Federation in the 1980s. She was elected as president of the Cleveland Chapter at her first meeting. She stepped down after one year. It was difficult for her to lead effectively because she did not know much about our organization. After retiring from her job in 2010, she went to a state convention. “Barbara Pierce and Richard Payne sparked fire in me. I rejoined, and I have been running ever since.”

Suzanne’s attendance at one of the national leadership seminars helped her to understand where she wanted to be in the organization and the work she wanted to do. The books, “Building the Lives We Want” and Walking Alone and Marching Together” changed her life. She recalled that the chapter “A Passion for Humanity” about Isabelle Grant resonated with her. Subsequently, she became the president of the Cleveland Chapter and took on roles at the affiliate level. When the first vice president of the affiliate left to take a job in California, Suzanne stepped into that position. She was elected to the position of first vice president in 2020.

Suzanne believes that her honesty, consistency, transparency, and professional brand are the attributes that have made her a successful leader. Telling her story shows her honesty and demonstrates her shared experiences with others. It’s her personal brand that she tries to convey to community partners, members, and potential members.

Suzanne believes that the key to resolving resistance to leadership is negotiation. She has an open-door policy in her chapter that encourages members to talk to her directly. She works to understand the perspective of the person. She examines herself to make sure she is not the source of the conflict. If she is not the problem, she will work with the member to try to move forward.

Suzanne does not feel any burnout yet, “though I probably should.” She is just happy to be involved doing the work of the Federation. She explained that she reaches out to people by phone and is constantly on her computer emailing and checking Facebook. Her goal is to build trust with people so she can influence and delegate. Suzanne loves problem-solving and seeing people flourish.

Sabrina Simmons:

Sabrina Simmons is second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan and chapter president of the Detroit Chapter. Sabrina was invited to an NFB of North Carolina Christmas party in 2012. She had a great time at the party and joined the chapter. When she moved back to Detroit, Michigan, she searched for the Federation. Someone told her where to find the Detroit Chapter meeting, and she attended on a Saturday afternoon. She was excited by what she heard and decided to get involved with the chapter and then with the affiliate. She served on the chapter board and three years ago became the chapter president. She was elected to the affiliate board and then to the second vice presidency.

In 2015, Sabrina won a Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship and attended the national convention. Her affiliate president and vice president showed her the ropes, and when she heard Pam Allen speak at the Rookie Roundup, she became excited. “When you hear our leaders say, ‘The NFB turns dreams into reality,’ it has done that for me.”

When dealing with her members, she tries to be transparent. She also tries to learn from other leaders and allow others to learn from her.

When facing challenges in her chapter, she takes a person-to-person approach. One of the biggest struggles she had was not being liked by people. But someone shared with her that she wasn’t going to be liked by everyone. She explained that you have to have sympathy for people because, “Everyone thinks and acts in a different way. People come into blindness at different levels, and people come into the organization at different levels of blindness. Some people are resistant because of their personal thoughts and fears about blindness. Some people are resistant because they are hurt by blindness at a young age. They never really develop good friendships and things of that nature. So it is good to know people and where they are coming from. Find out where they are coming from and help them move forward in their talents.”

Sabrina balances her work and Federation activities because she owns her own business as a technology trainer. This enables her to do Federation work when she needs to get something done. Her friends and family are also supportive of her in everything she does, whether it was caring for her teenage son, now an adult, her business ownership, or her Federation work.

Sabrina says she is available to talk to her members and yet still has down time for self-care and to meditate.

Whether it was mother, grandmother, sister, a close family friend who was a congresswoman, or other Federationists, Dorothy, Barbara, Suzanne, and Sabrina told us that throughout their lives many women have acted as their mentors and role models, helping shape them into the leaders they are today. Ever Lee Hairston and Pam Allen have served as mentors to all of the women. Barbara says, “I appreciate their wisdom and willingness to give direction to those who are new.” Suzanne notes that Pam Allen’s wisdom, poise, and grace has helped her to flourish and has given her an opportunity to be better. Suzanne is an admirer of Dr. Isabelle Grant, who went around the world spreading the positive message about blindness. Suzanne says of Dr. Grant, “She spread diversity and inclusion across the world.” Sabrina noted that one of her panel members, Dorothy Griffin, whom she met at a leadership seminar in 2017 is a mentor to her. Dorothy is always willing to talk to her if she has something on her mind, “If we’re at Washington Seminar or convention, I always find time to share a moment with her.”

The Committee on Diversity and Inclusion is looking for ideas to help foster diversity and inclusion in our organization. If you have ideas, please email them to our co-chairs, Shawn Calloway and Colin Wong at [email protected].

On Chainsaws and Changing What It Means to Be Blind

by Ana Martinez

From the Editor: Ana is a gifted writer as will be clear just as soon as you get through reading my note of introduction. She loves the outdoors, playing board games, performing missionary work, and still manages to be the president of the Louisiana Affiliate’s Student Division. I look forward to you meeting her as I have been blessed to do, so here she is:

Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I learned the importance of giving good impressions, and I was blessed to have people in my life who held high expectations for me. One of these people was my mom—she expected me to do chores around the house, and expected from me good grades at school. She made sure to teach me those skills that eventually would make me competent in the real world. And, just like most blind people, I also faced the hard reality of low societal expectations since I was very young.

Another place where I learned the importance of good impressions was at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. In all of my classes, in seminars, and in other interactions with my instructors and peers, the importance of making a good impression as a blind person was emphasized. I learned that my blindness did not define me. But I also learned that society can have very negative attitudes toward blind people and that I had a sense of duty to combat these misconceptions not only for my own benefit but also for the good of those who will come after me. I know some in the blind community may think that it is not fair for us to always have to be the ones paving the way for everyone else or that we should not always have to present ourselves in a perfect way just to gain respect and credibility in the sighted world. I can empathize with those feelings. A few times in my life I’ve struggled with the idea of paving the way for others and of having to go above and beyond in order to be viewed as an equal. However, I have proof that the way we carry ourselves as blind people and the good impressions we strive for are extremely worth it!

As a faithful member of the Catholic church, I’ve been involved in ministry for the past three years. One day Jesus turned my life upside down, and I’ve been blessed with the grace to follow him ever since. I started getting involved in retreats, Bible studies, and conferences, both as a participant and as part of the staff. All these things were very good, and they produced much fruit in my spiritual life and in others. And although at times I encountered minor instances of low expectations or negative attitudes toward blindness, I was able to participate in those things and was viewed as an equal for the most part.

As I spent more time doing ministry, a desire to go on a mission trip started growing in my heart. But whenever the idea popped into my head, I quickly tried to discard it. I loved the idea of going on missions. Sharing the gospel with others and going to a new place were all very exciting. However, as much as I felt called to it, I wasn’t sure if I would be allowed to participate. Lots of questions went through my head: What if the mission leaders or my fellow missionaries did not let me participate in certain things? What if there were activities or projects that I could not do because of my blindness? How would I handle accessibility barriers that might come up? I didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars or fundraise for it and go somewhere only to have people tell me, “We got it; you can just sit in the corner.”

The idea of going on a mission trip got farther and farther away, until this past fall when I once more felt like the Lord was inviting me to reconsider the possibility of getting involved in one. I didn’t have much to do that winter, and this particular mission trip I felt called to was two hours away from campus. I applied and got accepted.

A few months later, excited and a little nervous, I hopped on a Greyhound into the unknown. I didn’t know anyone going on that trip, and I didn’t know what to expect.

I was pleasantly surprised at how open-minded my fellow missionaries and the leaders were about blindness. The day we arrived we learned that instead of doing evangelism work, our main tasks that week were going to involve a lot of manual labor. I was a little nervous because manual work has never been my strongest skill. Quite honestly I started doubting my abilities as a blind person. However, once we were assigned our groups and started doing some work, my fears vanished, and I quickly felt more confident with what I was doing.

One night we were all sharing stories about our day, and one of the groups talked about how much fun they all had cutting trees using a chainsaw! The mission leader told my group that that’s what we would do the following day. I felt a little jealous. I wasn’t sure if it was even possible for a blind person to use a chainsaw successfully, and I didn’t like the idea of being left out of having that experience.

The next morning we all loaded up in the van and went to the mission site where the trees needed to be cut. One of the mission post volunteers was waiting for us there and showed us how to use the chainsaw. Then, one by one, he started teaching us how to do it. While one of us cut the tree logs, the rest of us were in charge of picking up branches and piling them up out of the way. All the members of my group were invited to have a turn using the chainsaw. After one of my friends was done with her turn, I asked her, “How was it?”

She said, “It was fun! You should try it. It’s not that hard.” I was surprised at her comment, and I thought “Me?” I didn’t even know what a chainsaw looked like, much less how to use one. But her comment really encouraged me to at least ask our mission volunteer if he could teach me. I went to him, mentally prepared for the expected answer of “No, it would be too dangerous for someone like you.” However, when I approached him he answered excitedly, “Yes, of course!” He let me feel the chainsaw and patiently explained where all the buttons were and their functions. He told me that cutting with a chainsaw could be done by feel for the most part. Once I was ready, he let me feel the trees I had to cut. He first helped me cut a few logs by doing the hand-under-hand technique so I could get a feel of what I was expected to do. But once I felt confident enough, I started cutting on my own with minimal verbal cues from the instructor.

This and other experiences on the trip were very empowering and reinforced the importance of high expectations. I was also reminded how important it is for us as blind people to have high expectations of ourselves and to carry ourselves with confidence even when we are nervous or unsure. If it weren’t for my friend who encouraged me to give the chainsaw a try, I probably wouldn’t have done it. But she encouraged me because she believed in my ability to do it. The reason she believed in me was because of the way I carried myself and because of the way I did the same things everyone else was doing.

This is why it is important for us as blind people to gain the skills of blindness and to surround ourselves with mentors who will push us, not shelter us. Was my trip perfect? No. I still had to educate my fellow missionaries a few times, but overall it was a great experience that I wouldn’t have been able to have without the grace of God and the skills of blindness I learned at LCB!

If you feel called to serve Christ, don’t let anything or anyone get in the way—not even yourself. Jesus calls everyone, and that includes you. Your disability should not be an excuse to say no to him. So don’t be afraid, say yes to him, and get ready for a life-long adventure you’ll have with him!

You Can Make a Difference

Blind children, students, and adults are making powerful strides in education and leadership every day across the United States. For more than eighty years, the National Federation of the Blind has worked to transform the dreams of hundreds of thousands of blind people into reality. With support from individuals like you, we continue to provide powerful programs and critical resources for decades to come. We sincerely hope you will plan to be a part of our enduring movement by including the National Federation of the Blind in your charitable giving and in your estate planning. It is easier than you think.

With your help, the NFB will continue to:

Plan to Leave a Legacy

The National Federation of the Blind legacy society, our Dream Makers Circle, honors and recognizes the generosity and vision of members and special friends of the National Federation of the Blind who have chosen to leave a legacy through a will or other planned giving option. You can join the Dream Makers Circle in a myriad of ways.

Fixed Sum of Assets

You can specify that a fixed sum of your assets or property goes to the National Federation of the Blind in your will, trust, pension, IRA, life insurance policy, brokerage account, or other accounts.

Percentage of Assets

You can specify that a percentage of your assets or property goes to the National Federation of the Blind in your will, trust, pension, IRA, life insurance policy, brokerage account, or other accounts.

Payable on Death (POD) Account

You can name the National Federation of the Blind as the beneficiary on a Payable on Death (POD) account through your bank. You can turn any checking or savings account into a POD account. This is one of the simplest ways to leave a legacy. The account is totally in your control during your lifetime and you can change the beneficiary or percentage at any time with ease.

Will or Trust

If you do decide to create or revise your will, consider the National Federation of the Blind as a partial beneficiary.

Visit our Planned Giving webpage 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.

Ways to Contribute Now

Since the start of 2020, 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 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. 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. You can call 410-659-9314 and elect option 4 to donate by phone. Donate online with a credit card or through the mail with check or money order. Visit our Ways to Give webpage 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 withdrawal of funds from a checking account or a charge to a credit card. To enroll, call 410-659-9314, extension 2213, or fill out our PAC Donation Form online.

If you have questions about giving, please send an email to [email protected] or call 410-659-9314, extension 2422.

Did I Say That Was OK with Me? Understanding Consent and Boundaries

by Sarah Meyer

From the Editor: Sarah Meyer has recently moved from Munsey to Indianapolis, Indiana, having completed her master’s degree and taken a job as a clinical mental health therapist. She loves being outdoors, horseback riding, and taking long walks. Sarah plays the piano and loves to sing. We are fortunate that she is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind and a proud graduate of the Colorado Center for the Blind. She was a national scholarship winner in 2015. She currently serves on the Survivor’s Taskforce, and here is what she says:

Content warning: This article mentions instances of abuse and sexual assault. If you are a victim or survivor of sexual assault and are in need of support, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline provided by RAINN at 800.656.HOPE (4673).

I’m standing at an intersection, listening and analyzing the flow of traffic and waiting for the safest moment to cross. I hear the parallel traffic and, with my cane out in front of me, I confidently begin to cross the street. Out of nowhere a “concerned citizen” grabs my arm and says, “This way. Let me help you.” I feel the familiar flush of anger and shame, the tightening of my throat, and the clenching of my stomach. My muscles tense as I wonder what gives this stranger the right to not only assume that I am incapable of crossing this street without their help, but to touch me without even asking first? Do I pull my arm free? Do I say, “No thanks, I’ve got this”? Do I just go along with it because I’m already so exhausted from the ongoing onslaught of microaggressions, constant accessibility barriers, and daily harmful assumptions that non-disabled people know what I need more than I do? In this moment in the middle of the street, unwittingly entangled with someone I don’t even know, I feel powerless. No response feels completely right, and I don’t know the best way to reclaim my power and confidence.

As blind people, we are all too familiar with this scenario. It might be when we encounter construction, new barriers in a familiar environment, or when we are in a store, bank, or restaurant. We have the shared experience of unwelcome interference by strangers, acquaintances, and even friends and family members.

Imagine a recent incident when you may have experienced some of the sensations, emotions, or thoughts that I mentioned above. These are all signs that someone has neglected to ask for your consent and has violated your boundaries. In order to understand consent, we need to talk about boundaries.

What are boundaries? Boundaries are:

Understanding and defining your boundaries help you to know where you end and others begin and enable you to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable treatment from anyone you encounter.

We all have boundaries, whether we are aware of them and are able to articulate them or not. Setting healthy boundaries requires self-awareness, empathy, and respect for our own needs and the needs of others. When we do not learn about boundaries as children, we move through the world without an understanding of our own limits and the ability to set them and are at a greater risk of experiencing emotional or physical harm.

Why does consent matter?

Consent is not just the absence of a “no;” it is a freely given, enthusiastic “yes.” As people with disabilities, our boundaries—even if we are able to articulate them—are so frequently ignored that it can be difficult to understand what enthusiastic consent does and does not look like. With every unsolicited touch from a stranger, teacher, or parent (even if it is done seemingly for the purposes of instruction), we are taught that our bodies do not belong to us. When consent is so rarely requested from us in a non-sexual context, it is no wonder that people with disabilities are at a significantly higher risk of experiencing sexual or intimate partner violence.

Sometimes, I have a visceral reaction to the frequent boundary violations committed by others because they remind me of other times I felt helpless, of the experiences that have given me the title of “survivor.” In a few milliseconds, I am no longer in the street with a stranger; I am a small child being sexually and physically abused by a family member that I trusted; I’m a young adult, hiding from my drunk boyfriend who is breaking furniture and yelling at me; I am at Washington Seminar and national convention, feeling hands on my skin that I never asked to touch me; I am at another student’s apartment after a party at the training center apartments where I have come to search for my independence, but instead wake up to find a man raping me while I silently cry. The same thread woven throughout these experiences is the thread of powerlessness and self-blame.

What I know now, after years of therapy and learning about boundaries and consent, is that I was not to blame in these situations. Yes, my power was momentarily taken from me, but that does not make me responsible. When I was a child, I could not consent simply because I was a child and had not been taught that I had the right to boundaries and autonomy. When I was assaulted as an adult, nothing I did gave someone the right to take advantage of me without my consent; this includes going over to the student’s apartment and consenting to kissing. Consent is ongoing, can be withdrawn at any time, and consenting to one activity is not a license to advance to another. Now that I have been taught what healthy boundaries look like, I’m better equipped to practice self-compassion, and am empowered to teach others their importance so we can build a culture of consent. As we work toward that, hopefully fewer people will experience the trauma that I have.

What does it look like to set boundaries or ask for consent?

I recently attended an intensive training for a form of trauma therapy called EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). A coach who was assisting me by describing training videos asked me if I would like to touch her hand and arm as she demonstrated the signature actions that are necessary for this type of therapy. If my movements were incorrect, she asked me if I would be okay with her touching my hand and arm to make an adjustment. She asked if she could either tap on my knees or cue me verbally to tap on my own knees so I could learn the pace and duration of the tapping, which is essential to my understanding of how to deliver this modality as a blind therapist. In all of these instances, the coach sought my permission and feedback on my comfort level with her actions. If I had said “no” at any point, I am confident that my boundaries would have been honored and a different solution discovered.

My consent, needs, and autonomy being valued in these ways helped me to feel seen, heard, and valued. As I reflect back on this experience, I recognize how strongly it contrasts with the feelings of shame, anger, and powerlessness I experience in those all-too-common scenarios when someone swoops in and commandeers my body, time, or sense of control without my permission.

Maybe next time I am crossing that street, and a well-meaning person grabs me to provide help I do not need or want, I’ll recall this experience where my boundaries were beautifully honored and my consent was desired. Maybe I’ll remember that I do have power and that it is never rude to expect others to respect my body and personhood.

Just because we’re disabled, it doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to consent, autonomy, and our own decision-making power. This applies throughout the entire process—from sexual misconduct or other consent/boundary violations, to the sharing and use of our survivorship stories, to our path of processing and healing from trauma and boundary violations.

It is never too late to start the practice of honoring your own and others’ boundaries. Every time you set a boundary and someone respects it, and every time you ask for enthusiastic consent from another, you are both healing the wounds in others and also healing your own.

Overreliance on Overlays is Counter to Enculturation of Accessibility

by Anil Lewis

From the Editor: As an organization representing the blind, new technology almost always presents us with promise and peril. Few companies come to the blind to understand our needs before developing their products and advertising them as being responsive to us. Nothing about us without us seems never to have occurred to them. Our challenge is to deal as constructively as we can with what they propose and see if we can make it something that really enhances our lives and, in this case, our access.

As Anil states in the article that follows, we want to reveal false promises for what they are, whether made by companies advertising artificial intelligence or by those using human coders who fall short. Anytime a company over promises and under delivers, they are doing a disservice to blind people and the businesses they are promising to serve. At the same time, we do not want to react in a way that means we are no longer in discussions and at the table as new technologies emerge to solve an ever-increasing problem as we try to take advantage of the internet. Here is what Anil has to say about what we desire, where we want to be, and where we currently are when it comes to the accessibility of the internet and the web:

There has been an ongoing growth of entities that offer overlays, “a broad term for technologies aimed at improving the accessibility of a website by applying third-party source code (typically JavaScript) to make improvements to the front-end code of the website." (https://overlayfactsheet.com/) Some companies claim that these accessibility toolbars, apps, widgets, or plugins allow the user to enable various accessibility functions such as optimizing for screen readers, increasing keyboard accessibility, and enhancing color contrast. Some companies even profess that their overlays are the simple accessibility solution for businesses and organizations that can make their websites compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and protect them from lawsuits.

Access to the products and services made available through accessible websites increases the ability for the blind to be competitive and attain a greater quality of life. With the proliferation of the development of inaccessible websites and the lack of qualified, skilled developers to address the problem, our ability to use these products and services continues to be threatened, and it is imperative for the National Federation of the Blind to evaluate any potential strategies that may address this concern.

Let me state emphatically and unequivocally that the preference of the National Federation of the Blind is for all technology, including websites, to be accessible at implementation through the integration of development best practices that include accessibility during the design and development phase. This has come to be referred to as “born accessible.” Moreover, we encourage that companies strive to enculturate accessibility throughout the entire organization.

Through enculturation, accessibility becomes part of the normal course of doing business. However, enculturating accessibility does require an evolution in the way business should be conducted, and when done correctly, an organization reaps the benefits of reduced cost and a broader customer base. There is definitely a business case for creating the infrastructure necessary to develop accessible web experiences. Accessibility opens a company up to millions of blind and low vision customers. Furthermore, with accessibility becoming more of a requirement for contracting with public entities, these lucrative opportunities will only be available to those companies that meet the accessibility requirement.

With the proper staff training, a company’s existing information technology resources can be used to code accessible webpages, produce accessible web content, prepare accessible documents, and procure accessible third-party software, devices, and equipment. This strategy helps an organization increase diversity and inclusion, meet compliance requirements, and increase the value and effectiveness of its products and services. Conversely, the overlay only professes to address the accessibility of the website; it does nothing to assist the executives, managers, and frontline workers to understand the policies, procedures, and systems required to enculturate accessibility.

Some feel that mainstream enculturation of accessibility seems unrealistically aspirational at this time. Others feel it is not the answer to the problem of inaccessible websites, nor will it lead to meaningful accessibility overall. I imagine many people felt the same about the mainstream integration of accessible ramps, doorways, and bathrooms. However, laws, common sense, and yes, the business case have prevailed, and this has come to be more and more of an expectation. Accessible architectural design did not become the expectation overnight; it took time. The same will be true for nonvisual accessibility because it is not just making websites and other products and services accessible to the blind—it is making them easier and more enjoyable for everyone. Therefore, we will remain focused and committed to achieving an expectation for products and services to be born accessible.

Although born accessible is unquestionably our preference, the problem is that the need for accessible sites far exceeds the supply. With an estimate of 380 websites being created every minute (https://siteefy.com/how-many-websites-are-there/), the need for individuals who have the education and training to create accessible websites is woefully insufficient to meet the demand. The Teach Access movement seeks to address this dilemma by integrating the instruction of accessible design strategies into mainstream classrooms, resulting in the developers’ knowledge of accessibility as part of their overall training. After all, as my friend Jeff says, “Accessible coding is just good coding.”

“Teach Access envisions a fully accessible future in which students are equipped to enter the workforce with knowledge of and skills in the principles of accessible design and development and the needs of people with disabilities, which results in technology products and services that are born accessible.” (https://teachaccess.org/)

Teach Access holds the future promise that developers who receive formal training will be able to create accessible websites as part of the design and development process, rather than as an afterthought or add-on. Unfortunately, many of the individuals creating websites today have not been able to obtain formal training that integrates accessibility; they are self-taught using online resources like YouTube and other instructional sites, which may not teach accessibility.

It is true that many of these alternative online methods of learning do not address accessibility, and some reinforce poor accessibility practices. However, an ever-growing number of the online resources do a great job of providing instruction in accessible coding that results in the development of accessible websites, and individuals—when pointed to the proper online learning tools—can also learn to code using accessibility best practices. Some web authoring tools such as Drupal and WordPress are promoting the use of templates which, if followed, generate accessible code. Apple, Google, and Microsoft are making it easier to create born accessible documents, presentations, and graphics by integrating accessibility features into the tools that everyone uses to create them. Therefore, the answer is to promote more awareness of the need, availability, and benefit of building accessible products and services.

Most large businesses already invest in an information technology staff to create their web presence, and with the proper training, the same staff can acquire the knowledge and skills to ensure that the experiences are accessible. Again, “accessible coding is just good coding.” It is not an additional expense beyond the training and professional development companies already provide. In addition, as a result of Teach Access, more and more graduates will be coming to the table with accessibility embedded in their skills set.

Of course, there is no guarantee that companies with the internal expertise will always create an accessible website. Even the best of developers will create websites that have problems with accessibility. However, rather than being dependent on an overlay strategy that will mask the problem, companies with internal expertise will have the knowledge and skill to identify and correct any errors that may have occurred during the development process without the added expense.

On the other hand, small businesses may not have the infrastructure to invest in the talent required to create accessible websites, and the implementation of an overlay strategy may seem to make accessibility affordable. This leaves the small business overly reliant on the overlay solution because the underlying code is still inaccessible. What happens when the overlay company’s fees begin to increase or the underlying code becomes too complicated to remediate? If the business is unable to hire the necessary information technology staff, the better alternative would be to contract with a third-party vendor that can develop an accessible website. Using this strategy, the company will have accessible code and access to a number of third-party vendors to assist them in maintaining the site if needed. They will also have the ability to develop the internal skill set to maintain their own accessible web presence and the peripheral benefit of applying that knowledge to the creation of other documents, policies, procedures, and systems necessary to make accessibility part of the organizational culture.

Until enculturation of accessibility becomes the standard, we are still faced with the immediate concern posed by the growing number of inaccessible websites and the overlay companies stating they offer a solution. This has become a fairly contentious statement with definite opinions on both sides. Overlay companies also promote that they can protect their business customers from being sued. This is simply not true. Using an overlay does not relieve the business customer of ultimate responsibility, and they will certainly be the target of a lawsuit if one is brought.

We have found that in some instances, implementing an overlay makes it more difficult for a blind person to use a website. There have even been allegations that some overlays, rather than making the website accessible, actually interfere with automated testing tools, providing false positives for websites that are really inaccessible. This means that the website will have the appearance of being accessible without necessarily meeting accessibility standards. (https://adrianroselli.com/2020/06/accessiBe-will-get-you-sued.html#Spoofs)

The overlay companies proudly display the names of the organizations that use their technology. Those companies that can readily implement proper internal accessibility strategies but choose to implement the use of overlays rather than enculturating accessibility throughout their organization should reconsider having their names so prominently displayed. Although this may be marketed as a demonstration of a commitment to accessibility, it is really a public admission of the implementation of an inappropriate practice. Not only is this a poor business decision for the company, but these organizations are also needlessly and irresponsibly perpetuating the false perceptions that threaten to leave blind and low vision citizens without a true commitment to accessibility.

There are those who feel we should condemn the use of overlays and advocate against any further implementation or future development. Although we intend to hold overlay companies accountable for what they do and what they say they can do, we are not prepared to make a judgment that artificial intelligence cannot be used in the future to solve coding problems.

It is important to note that we condemn the deceptive marketing strategies being used by some overlay companies but do not unequivocally condemn the use of overlays. By using the overlay to attempt to provide fundamental accessibility while working to correct the underlying problems with the code, the overlay strategy may be successfully used as an interim step to repair an inaccessible website. This is very much like securing a wound with a tourniquet until proper medical attention can be provided. We offer the caution that this strategy should not be overused because, like a tourniquet, if used incorrectly, it can harm more than heal. If the company does not have the internal knowledge and skill to correct the problem once it has been identified, the implementation of an overlay strategy may deter implementation of a more permanent solution.

In fact, many third-party AT consultants use a variation of an overlay as an interim accessibility strategy. The more responsible third-party providers will also work to train the staff of their customers to code correctly rather than promoting the overlay or even their continued services as the solution.

The National Federation of the Blind is committed to the development and implementation of innovative technology that offers us equal access to information, products, and services—in a way that is fully and equally accessible to and independently usable by the individual with disabilities so that the individual is able to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as users without disabilities, with substantially equivalent ease of use.

Although we have not established a formal policy related to overlays, our goal is for all technology, including websites, to be born accessible, and we encourage companies to strive toward the enculturation of accessibility throughout their entire organization. The overlay companies that engage in the false marketing of their product as a means to provide full WCAG compliance and absolution from litigation are counter to our goal. However, as with other proposed technology solutions, we will continue to rigorously examine the efficacy of the overlay and related artificial intelligence as a potential solution to inaccessible websites in the future.

To be clear, we will continue to call out those companies—all businesses, including the overlay companies—when they fall short of a truly accessible, usable experience. This will be so especially when they falsely advertise their product or service as a solution to a problem that plagues our ability to obtain equal access. This will surely be an item for consideration by our members as a resolution at our 2021 National Convention.

The 2020 NFB Inclusive Publishing Conference Recap

by Kennedy Zimnik

From the Editor: Kennedy is a nonvisual access technology specialist who grew up in Frederick, a large county in western Maryland. He went to Towson University where he studied information systems. Some of his favorite things to do outside of work are playing a drum set, working to become a D.J., and going to music festivals. Kennedy knows his technology, and he has a real gift for writing. Here is what he says:

I received my bachelor’s degree in information systems from Towson University, where I first learned about digital accessibility under the instruction of Professor Jonathan Lazar. Dr. Lazar is a longtime friend of the Federation, committed to accessibility, and integrates the tools of accessibility into the mainstream curriculum. As a result, I learned the importance of designing with accessibility in mind from the very beginning. Moreover, as a sighted person, I understand the benefits accessible documents have for sighted people as well as those who are blind or have low vision. I came to work at the National Federation of the Blind shortly after graduating, and it has been rewarding using my talents and training to create access to information that leads to greater opportunities, not only for blind people, but for everyone. Unfortunately, not everyone has come to understand this fact, and there is a significant need for providing professors and publishers training on the tools and strategies used to create accessible post-secondary instructional materials.

According to Essential Accessibility in 2017, “Eleven percent of all college and university students in the United States today have disabilities, which adds up to more than 2.25 million students.” When digital content is not accessible, it prohibits blind and low vision students from actively participating in the learning that will enable them to reach their highest potential.

In order to facilitate a commitment to the development and provision of accessible post-secondary educational materials, the National Federation of the Blind Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access (CENA), with support from the Maryland Department on Disability (MDOD) through the Non-Visual Accessibility Initiative (NVAI) grant from the state of Maryland, established an Inclusive Publishing Conference Planning Committee of accessible publishing professionals and publishing company representatives to assist with the development and execution of an inclusive publishing conference.

NFB CENA hosted an inclusive publishing conference on October 1, 2020, that provided educators and publishers training on the tools and techniques required to create content that everybody can use, regardless of disability. Our conference featured presentations from fourteen experts in the creation of accessible digital content. We emphasized that all content can be “born accessible.” Born accessible is a term that describes digital content that has been created, or “born,” in a manner that is fully accessible to users with disabilities. This applies to documents, websites, videos, and other multi-media content. A host of publishers, librarians, educators, and technology developers attended the conference.
To appeal to the greatest number of attendees, the conference was split up into two tracks: educational and technological. The educational track was created for teachers, students, professors, and others that were new to born accessible, and it introduced digital accessibility concepts and how to implement them without prior training in accessibility. This track covered the following topics:

The technological track was created for people who have some experience with digital accessibility and wanted to expand their knowledge. This track was a deeper dive into the backend of digital accessibility and consisted of the following topics:

We brought the two tracks back together for a publisher’s panel discussion among Laura Ciporen, senior digital product developer, McGraw-Hill; Rachel Comerford, senior director, Content Standards and Accessibility at Macmillan Learning; Ben Schroeter, product manager, Accessibility at Pearson; and Tzviya Siegman, information standards principal, Wiley. The conversation started with each publisher discussing its overall philosophy on digital accessibility and the strategies it uses to incorporate accessibility into its publications from start to finish. The panelists moved into a discussion of how the need for the implementation of virtual education strategies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the need for the immediate provision of accessible instructional materials and online courses. This was a difficult transition because many teachers were new to virtual schooling and especially digital accessibility. The discussion then moved to EPUB and the benefits of using EPUB file types instead of PDFs. Basically, EPUB files allow for more in-depth interaction with the content through page navigation, extended descriptions for images, and dynamic content. The publishers acknowledged a few technology vendors that provide a high level of access to their content. A few of the vendors discussed were Red Shelf, VitalSource, and Bookshare. Finally, the panelists discussed the quality assurance processes and procedures they use for the development of new content.

The principle of born accessible was prevalent throughout the inclusive publishing conference and is an idea that can and should be implemented into the design and development of all digital content. During the session, "Best Practices for Insuring Accessible Content for Your University Courses," the presenters did a great job of demonstrating strategies to ensure that accessibility is considered when designing assignments. For example, they described the accessibility pros and cons of MS Word accessibility versus PDF accessibility, and how whenever possible, students should be provided Word documents instead of PDFs.

Each session had a tremendous amount of information to share, and we would like to express our sincerest gratitude to all of our presenters:

We depend heavily on the feedback from our post-conference surveys to help shape our future trainings. The following is some feedback from our Inclusive Publishing Conference participants:

The main goal of the inclusive publishing conference was to introduce and enforce the idea of creating content that is “born accessible” so that as many people as possible can access the content. It isn’t just about people with a disability; having accessible content means it is better and more accessible for everybody. I encourage you to visit NFB.org/CENA to learn more about upcoming events related to digital accessibility.

Independence Market Corner

by Ellen Ringlein

As a service to our members and the general public, the National Federation of the Blind operates a blindness products store known as the Independence Market, which sells mostly low-tech items, designed to enhance the everyday independence of blind individuals. We will be highlighting a different product every month and listing sale products from time to time.

Micro-Speak Talking Digital Voice Recorder (8 Gig): $60.00
A portable voice recorder is a useful tool for managing information on the go, especially for those who are no longer able to read print or are not yet able to use Braille. This easy-to-operate, palm-sized, voice recorder can record up to ninety-six hours. Features include record, playback, rewind and fast-forward within a recording, navigation to previous and next recordings, and volume control. It has both a speaker and a headphone jack, but earphones are not included. An audio recording of the user manual is ready to play when the unit is turned on for the first time. The status of the internal rechargeable battery is spoken each time the recorder is powered up. The device is charged via USB, and this same port can be used to transfer files.

Wilson Digital Voice Recorder (Version 8): $42.00
If you are looking for a simple digital voice recorder, this product may be for you. The recorder features easy three-button operation: record, play/pause/stop, and delete, and has relatively large buttons with beep tones for audio feedback. Now the recorder can announce the number of messages on the unit and users can move through the message list forward from the first message or backward from the current message. The unit can record either six hours in standard mode or twelve hours in long play mode. The recorder features a 2.5 mm headphone jack, and a single ear bud is included. The device uses two AAA batteries (included).

The following items are close-out specials, and the prices have been reduced:

For more information about the products available from the Independence Market, contact us by email at [email protected] or by phone at (410) 659-9314, extension 2216, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. eastern time. Our staff will be happy to assist.

Cruise to Sponsor Racecar Driver Dan Parker in National Federation of the Blind’s 2021 Blind Driver Challenge

From the Editor: Dan Parker is a racecar driver, engineer, and Federationist. Although he lost his sight in a racing accident, he was determined to continue doing what he loves and went to the Louisiana Center for the Blind to acquire blindness skills. Working in the woodshop there helped him to know that he could return to working on racecars, and he decided to try and drive again as well. He has worked with the organization previously in successfully navigating a motorcycle on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah without the use of vision. He has also appeared on our convention agenda to talk about the technology, the dream, and the chance to advance not only his goals but the aspirations of other blind people. Here is a recent press release to announce this collaborative event between Cruise and the National Federation of the Blind:

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) announced today that San Francisco-based zero emission self-driving company Cruise will sponsor racecar driver Dan Parker in his fall 2021 attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the “Fastest Speed for a Car Driven Blindfolded” as part of the Blind Driver Challenge. Parker, who lost his sight in March 2012, is aiming to reach speeds over 200.5 miles per hour, which is the current record held by Mike Newton of the United Kingdom.

The collaboration is part of the acceleration of the NFB’s Blind Driver Challenge™—an initiative that aims to call attention to the importance of breaking barriers in mobility and to demonstrate the incredible achievements of blind people.

This year’s Blind Driver Challenge builds on the inaugural event that launched ten years ago when Mark Riccobono, now President of the National Federation of the Blind, independently operated a modified Ford Escape hybrid on the Daytona International Speedway Road Course. Mr. Riccobono navigated the course’s turns and steered the car around dynamic obstacles by following haptic prompts generated by input from the vehicle’s GPS, cameras, and LIDAR sensors.

Today, as autonomous vehicles offer the potential to unlock independence for millions of blind people, the Blind Driver Challenge showcases the opportunity to push the boundaries of what’s possible by making history and by transforming everyday reality.

“Our Daytona Blind Driver Challenge demonstration changed the perceptions of blindness held by society, including the perceptions that we ourselves held as blind people,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “It further demonstrated to the world that the expertise of the blind is critical to the development of nonvisual interfaces. We are now accelerating the challenge because the need for urgency in the development and implementation of accessibility in emerging technology is even greater. Dan Parker will take the demonstration of the capacity of blind drivers to a new level by driving faster than any blind person ever. We thank Cruise for its support of this demonstration and look forward to working with this innovative company and others on new technology that will ultimately transform the dreams of the blind for complete freedom of mobility into reality.”

Dan says, “I am proud and honored to collaborate with the National Federation of the Blind and Cruise to bring the Guinness Book of World Records for fastest car driven ‘blindfolded’ home to America. Of course, for me the blindfold will not be necessary! My 2008 Corvette is a purpose-built racecar, and I designed every aspect of it. With the work of the Blind Driver Challenge, we will not only demonstrate that a blind person can drive a vehicle safely, but that we can do it at over 200 mph. Together we hope to inspire blind people and to demonstrate our capacity, make history by setting a new world record, and show the potential of new technology like self-driving cars to help blind people break barriers in everyday mobility.”

“The future of autonomous vehicles is making the world more accessible for blind drivers like Dan, who want to be able to get around in the world on their own terms,” said Rob Grant, Cruise’s senior vice president of government affairs and social impact. “Transportation remains one of the areas where blind Americans face the greatest obstacles to participation, and Cruise’s mission is to transform the problems in our current transportation system that aren’t accessible or inclusive by creating new opportunities for all. We’re excited to continue our important work with the National Federation of the Blind and support Dan Parker in this incredible feat to push the boundaries of what’s possible.”

From Chicken Coop to Pandemic

by Suzanne Turner

From the Editor: Suzanne is the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio and so much more. She is the diversity officer for the Ohio Democratic Party Disability Caucus; serves on the executive board for Services for Independent Living; is a member of the Cuyahoga County Advisory Board for Persons with Disabilities, which is comprised of persons with disabilities and community partners; is a member of the Diversity for Success Toastmasters Club, where members connect from around the world; and she is the only member with a disability. We will hold some of her other titles for a future article, but we must note that she adopted two daughters and now is a grandparent of three students who will be learning Braille. Here is her article:

During the 2020 Ohio State Convention, I was asked to give a speech on finding a job in the pandemic. I pondered over and over about what I could offer the audience. So I came up with a story that I have not shared publicly. Also, as a member of the National Federation of the Blind Employment Committee, I am always looking to elevate individuals by providing open communication. Therefore, I was honored to tell my story with the hope it was inspiring.

The theme of my speech was “From Chicken Coop to the Pandemic.” Yes, that’s correct: I am familiar with both. Here is my story!

We all have encountered indelible events in our lives that have left a mark and have shaped who we are. Just take a moment and think back about how many jobs, how many volunteer efforts, and how many barriers you’ve overcome. It doesn’t matter how big or small; they have developed you into a success, be it as the cleaner of your house or as a well renowned scientist. Your purpose, talent, and skills are your own, which gives you a unique edge.

Enjoying this success is that golden moment that sets you apart from others. I will talk about the golden moment a little later.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, the oldest of four siblings, I was the only one with a disability. As I understand, Abraham Lincoln and I have the same hereditary disorder. Both of us were destined to be tall—lanky as physicians say—meaning long limbs. In addition, dislocated lenses that have affected our vision is also a factor. I heard this almost every year at my annual physicals.

I was raised by my Native-American and Black paternal grandmother, who stood all of four feet nine when barefoot. She was quite spunky and a wonderful influence on life. She knew a little about everything. My grandmother also taught English in the Manhattan, Long Island, and Staten Island School Districts. We called her “Big Mama” until it was clear that she was going to be our primary parent. Then her title changed to Ma until she passed at the age of ninety-nine years and ten months. She educated me and my siblings on everything from grammar to reciting our grace in Spanish.

At the age of ten, Ma decided to move us back to her hometown in Mississippi to a small rural town called McClain. I would like to take a moment and paint you a picture of the contrast between Brooklyn and McClain.

Brooklyn had traffic lights on every corner. McClain had only one traffic light. Brooklyn had corner stores at the end of the streets. McClain had one grocery store in town. Brooklyn had all paved streets. McClain had a number of dirt roads where we lived.

But what was most shocking was that now we lived on a farm and no longer in the city. Most of you who understand the workings of a farm know a little about shucking corn, shelling peas, and slopping the hogs. Likely you also know about picking rows and rows of cucumbers, tomatoes, peas, and more in the wee hours of the morning. This had become a new daily event for us.

However, the coolest thing about that experience was our animals. We had horses, goats, and those whom I call relatives. Those were our chickens, and they became family. They walked beside, in front of, and behind us as we did our chores. We spent more time inside the chicken coop then they did.

Now that I look at it, it was the chicken coop that provided me my first skill set. Searching for eggs required an ability. You had to research where the chickens laid their eggs, handle those eggs with care, and finally transport them to a safe place. This was a delicate job. It required patience, tracking, and management. I do not know why my grandmother made that transition from schoolteacher to running a farm, but we all learned hard work and the value in it.

Most of you know that after I graduated from high school, I attended Jackson State University in Mississippi studying music. Because of the loss of more vision, I dropped out. During that time I had a rehabilitation counselor who did not believe in the white cane if you had some residual vision. So I struggled traveling and socially. This is when I became employed at Royal Maid Industry for the Blind packing flatware into boxes for less than minimum wage. Sound familiar?

But, as I performed that task, hard work was still at the forefront. I did not slack. I worked to produce with grace. As I worked harder to earn the minimum wage by packing more and more each day, it did not make a difference in the eyes of the bosses. Somehow I excelled at that. Then I was put on a high and powerful machine clamping metal plates on sponges for mops that were rolled out to area stores. I excelled at that as well. I do believe that it was partly because of that chicken coop that gave me the self-discipline to conquer that. Moreover, I had patience and endurance to make it through. Hard work propelled me and made me determined to earn that minimum wage. You see, I had hard work and determination in my DNA, though I did not learn this until later in life.

After working at Royal Maid for five years, I relocated to Cleveland, Ohio, with a goal to attend college. It was my grandmother’s whisper that was always at the forefront telling me and my siblings that achieving a higher education was what would make a way for us to be productive in our lives. When I set out to accomplish that dream, I hit a roadblock. Once more it was a rehabilitation counselor, this time in Ohio, who refused to assist me with my informed choice. He explained that I had a fourth grade education, and I did not have the ability to succeed. I enrolled anyway on my own. In 1996 I earned a BA in social work and later my master’s in public administration.

After a few months obtaining the BA, I was hired as a teleservice representative at the Social Security Administration. I now was a competitive employee working for the federal sector. It was the SSA that provided me an opportunity to develop, evolve, and rebrand myself into who I am today.

Why did I need to do this you may ask? First, I was passed over for a promotion because I was not among an office click. I only did my job and went home. Then, I did a lot of overtime, thinking that I would be considered for a bonus. However, I was passed over for that as well. It wasn’t until I attempted to teach a class on a subject that I knew forward and backwards or so I thought! It was a disaster to say the least. I was not prepared. There is something about preparation when it comes to conducting a thorough presentation or training. I certainly learned the hard way. Research coupled with talent is necessary and generally goes a long way. Winging anything is definitely not advised.

Because I was great at my job, which was affirmed to me by the manager of quality assurance, I could not figure out why I was being overlooked. Was it that I needed more than hard work and determination in my toolbox in order to standout? Sure it was. I needed to perform at a higher level. I needed to develop that golden moment.
I had technical ability, but I was not a very sociable coworker. I had to learn to interact beyond my easy and immediate scope. This is why I am a big proponent of socialization skills. I was an introvert and ashamed of my blindness. I had to learn to be more sociable, better at open communication, and comfortable when networking with others, which is called “integration.” The lack of this trait caused me to score low on my performance appraisals. The supervisor explained that it was important to interact with coworkers and that this could benefit the office. She went on to say that technical ability and the interpretation of policies were needed not only by fellow-coworkers but from me as well. Therefore I stepped out and studied how to express, converse, and articulate on various levels. Clarification is vital when providing the public with laws that affect their lives.

Although I was promoted twice in that agency, have been employed at an insurance company, and have worked at a nonprofit for the blind, I am still a work in progress today. Having an extensive work history does not preclude me from working hard to perform at a higher level. Hence, when you use a talent and skill, you share it, and it benefits others. You can find solutions, lead a team, problem-solve, and more, and all of these are a part of success.

Remember that earlier I mentioned the golden moment? Well, it has become my secret weapon. Essentially it is that element where you have something no one else has! It is that something that helps you to achieve and excel at a higher level. Typically you believe in yourself. You are noticed by others because you have that factor which others want; you are positive, energetic, effective, motivated, and inspiring. This comes from focusing on yourself.

When I was told that I had a fourth-grade education and was passed over for a promotion, experiencing something that was not right turned into a positive force for me to prove them wrong. I began rebranding myself. I began working on developing new skills and homing in on my talents. What does this mean? When you have a talent and a skill, it saves time, which helps you to narrow down your choices—like choosing a college course, a profession, and some activities. It gives you a boost in self-confidence. You feel positive, and there are no limits. It is that golden moment that helped me find a job in the pandemic.

So now I have a vast knowledge database with secured information that includes education and competence. My background fulfills exceptional needs. Consequently, I gravitate toward job positions and endeavors that are in my skill set. Because I have that database of information that I have amassed and acquired such as long-term service and life experiences as well as my scholastics and talent, I now have the golden moment; it is everything I have experienced rolled up and shaped into who I am and who you are.

In order to get to that golden moment, let me tell you what I had to do. I took countless courses in writing, sentence structure, and narration. I read articles on personality identity, leadership, public speaking, and networking. I became proficient in Microsoft systems, medical transcription, medical terminology, motivational interviewing, and more. I took notes, and I practiced and practiced. I learned to memorize, to negotiate, and I challenged myself. I came out of the corner, smiled and talked more, and listened attentively. And most of all, I changed my mindset by accepting my blindness and understanding that it is respectable to be blind. This is a little of what I had to do to become marketable.

My conclusion and advice to you is this: you have to decide what will make you unique and help you move closer and closer to that golden moment. These skills that I worked on were in my field and were ones that employers look for when hiring. Maybe you want more than a job; maybe you would like to sit on a community board. Well, they measure you by the same standards. They look at your strengths, weaknesses, educational background, and community involvement. They want to know about your talent, skills, hard work, ethics, and more. Therefore, rebranding takes time.

Leadership is important in the Federation. It is easy to want to be president, but are you ready for the work? If not, prepare yourself. Find out what you are good at, develop your talent, and find new skills. Take a course; learn more about technology. That skillset is needed more than ever during the pandemic. When my resumé hits a desk, it speaks for itself. But then it is my job to mirror what the employer is reading and make them believe it. Furthermore, networking is highly important as well. Of course, a friend can refer you, but they cannot get that job for you.

As a former and retired federal employee who has entered back into the private sector, I did so because it was familiar. I got three job offers in the same month. I researched them all and narrowed them down to the one that would most benefit my lifestyle. You have to put in the effort and stay ahead at all times. Of course, there are barriers that we face. We must dust ourselves off and get back up. Find a circle of friends who are positive and can empathize. Mentors can provide you with access to a wealth of knowledge and resources. They may even become a lifelong friend. Nevertheless, if you want to be the best, you have to examine and rebrand according to time, occupation, interviewing styles, the job market, and even the pandemic. Work on yourself by being current, ready, and open to change. Do not worry if you are limited in knowledge. We all were at one time. Step out, and by next year, today will be in your past, and you will be further along.

While you pursue your dream job, be patient and persistent. Don’t sweat it! It will come in time as you prepare yourself. Use your experience to shape yourself into exactly who you want to be and what you are looking for. But targets move and things change. That job may not exist, so continue doing your research. Determine what you can live with by combining your passion, interest, values, strength, and turning that weakness into an ally. Everyone should have an action plan. Fifteen years might be too far in advance. But one year from now is more predictable, and your goals will be more attainable.

In conclusion, from the woman who has experience with chicken coops and finding a job during the pandemic, I encourage you to start by considering taking a personality test to see where you are, not just for employment opportunities but for your community involvement as well. There is a test called a SWOT analysis. It is a way for you to find out what your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are in relationship to beginning the rebranding process.

Thank you for reading my story. I am a cross section of the broader society, and I am not a broken sighted person. Blindness is not the characteristic that defines me or my future. I will continue to live the life I want. This is my testimony: to tell you and the world that blindness has not held me back, and I am leaving a legacy of golden moments that are transferable to anyone that I come in contact with both now and in the future. I aspire to be the change that I want to see! I gladly share this opportunity with you!

The Entrepreneur’s Ultimatum

by Mike Calvo

From the Editor: Mike Calvo is a seasoned blind entrepreneur who disrupted the assistive technology industry with unconventional practices to get more products into the hands of blind consumers. His philanthropic efforts have benefited blind communities in developing countries. Now a CEO at Pneuma Solutions, Mike is hard at work moving his entrepreneurial spirit into a new chapter of development, and in this piece he gives a few thoughts on how others can follow a similar ambitious track to move their plans from ideas to reality.

Do you want to know the secret to my success? I got tired of not having access to those things I needed out of life. As a blind person, it can be frustrating to be denied those aspects of technology other people take for granted.

I enjoy today’s virtual assistants as much as anyone else. Would it surprise you to learn I was enjoying some of today’s features as early as the late 90s? I understood I was the most invested person in my dissatisfaction, so little by little I set out to build a series of products and user interfaces that ultimately led to the creation of what became Serotek Corporation.

Here, in no particular order, I want to share some of the driving principles that have guided my entrepreneurial philosophy in hopes that it will help you in your own success.

1. Dare to Dream

I know. That probably sounds like a tidbit straight out of an after school special. It’s helpful enough. You should dream big, and then go out and pursue that dream relentlessly.

Here’s the missing half from that piece of advice though: Every dream worth following is going to require hard work. No matter how much you enjoy the pursuit, inevitably the pursuit will start to feel like a job. It’s okay for it to become an occupation. Unless you’re giving away your services for free (and there is a good place in your life for philanthropy), people will hand you their hard-earned money and expect a good product or service in return.

The difference between those who work for a living and those who live for their dream is that those who live for their dream will never see the job as an obligation. I have woken up some mornings with the weight of responsibility for my employees and the community I serve. I have never woken up thinking, wow, I have to drag myself to the office again...

2. Write Down the Fundamentals

Every good entrepreneur, blind or sighted, needs a vision and mission. The first will tell customers what you believe, and the second will tell them how you achieve it.

A business plan is essential to running a business. There are people who devote pages upon pages of charts and figures to illustrate the market research they did to prove the necessity for their business. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but too many people allow themselves to be intimidated by the idea of a long and complicated document. If the business plan does not make sense to you, you will never be able to lean on it to communicate to people what your business is about.

Also, a business plan is your single best method of keeping your ideas straight. Often as a technology developer, you face enormous criticism from customers who feel you should have done things this way instead of that. You should always take feedback in stride, but you should always remember the core motivation that led you to run your business the way you do.

3. Anything is Possible

Take it from a guy who was not born into a life of privilege. With enough time and resources, anything is possible.

By now you probably figured out there is a caveat. Time is not infinite. If you want your plan to move from an idea to a business, you are going to have to make certain sacrifices. You are going to have to make the business a priority.

As to the point about resources, I cannot stress enough the importance of networking. You may not possess all the resources to get your operation off the ground, but someone in your extended network may know someone who does. It is in your best interest to meet with and communicate with a diverse pool of people. Maintaining a healthy network will better help you understand both the market you serve and the market you have not yet tapped. Putting business interests aside, you might find yourself in a position to help someone else, and that is the most compelling means of paying it forward.

4. Understand the Reality of Failure

Failure is not defined by those things that did not work out. The true essence of failure is never following through on your ideas. Here are just three reasons why this brand of failure is especially destructive:

First, if you don’t act on your idea, someone else will. Do you want to lead your own operation, or do you want to work for the guy who took initiative?

Second, life is full of risks. I would never advocate you put your family’s well-being in danger. With proper planning, however, or that is to say, with a good business plan, you can minimize some of these uncertainties. You won’t be able to eliminate all risk, but then, if life were that predictable, there would be no need for articles like this. Speaking from experience, taking calculated risks is half the fun.

And finally, don’t let pessimists trick you into believing business success is all about luck. Yes, there are a certain number of odds involved in determining whether or not you make it as a businessperson, but you swing those odds in your favor the more you knock on doors and proudly talk about your business venture as though it was your love interest. You will only fail if you sit on your butt. The guy who said if you build it, they will come was sorely misguided.

5. Experience Always Trumps Academics

Let me be clear. There is always a place for college. I believe it can be a fine opportunity to learn about yourself and the world around you.

I’m specifically speaking to would-be entrepreneurs who believe they might be interested in post graduate studies in order to get a slight edge. As someone who has hired a myriad of people in the course of my entrepreneurial life, I will always value the guy or gal who can show me what they’ve done with their skills a little more than the guy or gal who can only say they’ve learned the skills. If you have to pick between business school or real world, always pick the real world. It will do a much better job of preparing you for the intricacies of leading an effective business.

In closing, I have a vested interest in seeing the blindness community excel. The more we collectively push past custodial views and misconceptions, the more we can all uniformly benefit from everything life has to offer. Sometimes it means abandoning ideas whose time has passed. People have a hard time believing me when I say I always set out to put Serotek out of business. I always understood that when that day came, it was because we had done enough to make that style of business no longer relevant.

I met my own objective for that season in my life. Now I am interested in a new set of priorities. I have been around the block enough times to feel confident about the path ahead, but risk is always lurking around the corners. Yet, I have a deep passion for what I do. I believe in my abilities and have a firm plan for how I will overcome challenges. Quitting is never an option.

And you know what? I think you can do it too.

I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

A Simple Resumé Format

by Dick Davis, chairperson, National Federation of the Blind Employment Committee

From the Editor: Dick Davis is one of the strongest advocates dedicated to helping blind people get and keep jobs. He heads several of the Federation’s employment efforts, and though he has recently retired from BLIND, Incorporated, he is still managing to keep Federation activity on a schedule that now includes more travel than before retirement. Dick has had the coronavirus, has survived it, and is looking forward to our national convention. In the meantime, he offers this article about preparing a resumé:

Resumés: it seems like nobody knows how to write one! Here’s an easy format I have used for years with the employment classes I taught at BLIND, Inc. The concept behind this is to make it easy for you to write and update based on the job for which you are applying. Never send a generic resumé to an employer; always customize it.

Studies have shown that the average resumé screener will spend between five and fifteen seconds looking over a resumé before deciding to screen it in or out. This resumé format is designed to make sure the important stuff shows up in the first half of the first page. That’s where five to fifteen seconds takes the reader. References are included because many employers like to check them first.

Generally, a business style resumé should be one and no more than two pages. If you use a second page, put your name on it in case it gets separated. Never duplex a resumé (print it on both sides of the page) because if it is copied the second page may be lost.

Remember that your resumé is a sales document. It is a summary of what you can offer an employer. Anything that is not relevant to the job in question should be omitted. If there are gaps in your work experience, you can put the word “Relevant” in front of “Employment” or “Experience.”

Remember to leave out first person singular in a resumé. Start your sentences with verbs. Use the strongest verbs you can, while avoiding lying to the employer. People who do that get fired. Some people may tell you that resumés are obsolete. That is nonsense.

Here’s the resumé format:

Cell phone and email
Personal website or LinkedIn page (optional)

Objective (or Goal):
This should state exactly what you are looking for. If you are applying for a specific job, that is what you put here. If not, be as specific as you can. The people who screen these things want to know if you are applying for something they have. If not, they will stop reading at this point.

This is the other important part. It depends on what kind of job you are applying for. Use bullet points and include only those things that are important. If possible, include outcomes. Everything can be measured in some way.

Experience (employment) or education comes next, depending which is more relevant to the job. Let’s assume it’s education:

Wichita State University, Wichita, KS: BS, Science 05/2020. Studies included Physics, Chemistry, Physical Science, and Science Education. Worked four years in chemistry lab. Developed creative presentations to encourage blind persons to consider STEM careers. Received honor scholarships from National Science Foundation, National Federation of the Blind, and Wichita State University. Research projects included: “The Effects of Hallucinogenic Drugs on Muskrats.”

Chemistry Laboratory Assistant, 09/2016 through 05/2020: directed the enrollment of students into the lab, signed out lab coats and equipment, taught safety methods, helped students and answered questions, reported to professors on student progress in achieving lab goals.

The above are of course, complete fabrications but should give you the idea. If you have more than one job or source of education, use bullets to separate them. You don’t need to use them to separate duties, as that makes the resumé too long.

(Optional) Activities (or Interests):
This is where you put in anything relevant to the job that could not be included above. Anything that would show you to be a caring, community-oriented individual or cause the reader to say “Wow!’

References (three to five):
Name, connection (supervisor, professor, etc.), name of organization, phone, email.

You add references because many employers like to check people out before deciding to interview them, and you want to meet their needs.

I have found this resumé to be easily customizable and to work well. Use Word and avoid weird formatting. Arial is the most impressive font. You can do up to two pages for a resumé, but an academic CV can go on much longer, as can a federal resumé, both of which require more extensive written documentation.

Time to Write Resolutions

by Sharon Maneki

From the Editor: If you have heard the words WHEREAS and BE IT RESOLVED, you have no doubt heard the voice of Sharon Maneki. As demanding as her performance is on stage, it comes long after she begins to advertise for, collect, edit, and distribute resolutions for committee consideration. Sharon is a woman who manages detail when micromanagement is required and functions at the 30,000-foot level when the big picture is important. She makes this process look easy; she makes it effective. Here is what she has to say about the resolutions process for 2021:

President Riccobono and the National Board of Directors have made a few changes to the resolutions process. All resolutions will be placed on the NFB website shortly before the committee meets at convention on July 7. This change will give the membership a chance to look over the resolutions before the meeting and lobby the committee members to support or defeat the resolutions if you wish. As usual, only committee members can speak during the meeting, but having the resolutions in advance will give you more opportunity to think about the proposed policy positions we should take.

Because we are placing resolutions on the website before the committee meeting, the deadline to submit resolutions will be earlier than usual. To ensure that your resolution will be considered by the committee, please send it to President Riccobono or to me by June 7, 2021, one month before the committee meeting. Since things are always busy leading up to the convention, sending them earlier will be appreciated. If you send a resolution to me by email and do not receive a response acknowledging your email in two or three days, please call or send it again. If you miss the deadline, you must get three members of the committee to sponsor your resolution and then get it to the chairperson before the meeting begins. I will be pleased to accept resolutions by email at [email protected], or by mail at 9013 Nelson Way, Columbia, MD 21045.

The job of the membership is to make sure the committee has resolutions to consider. Do you think we should change a government policy, take a stand concerning an agency for the blind, or create new regulations? If you do, consider writing a resolution. Here are a few reminders to help you as well as some questions to think about:

  1. Has a resolution already been written on your subject? If so, are you adding something new?
  2. Is the resolution necessary, or would a letter from the National President accomplish your goal? For example, a letter from the National President commending an organization might be a better alternative than a resolution.
  3. Did you do your research to ensure the accuracy of the resolution?
  4. If the subject of the resolution would be of interest to a division, did you discuss your resolution with the division president?

Here are some reminders, taken from the January 2014 edition of the Braille Monitor, offered by Gary Wunder and Barbara Pierce. These reminders are as applicable today as they were in 2014.

Guidelines for Resolution Writing

A resolution is one very long sentence divided into two parts. In the first part, a case is made that certain events have taken place that require action. The events are described in short statements that begin with the word WHEREAS. These statements should clearly set forth the reason a resolution is being written, without being so detailed that they make the reader wish the resolution had never happened. The second part of a resolution explains what will or should be done based on the argument laid out in the first section. Resolves are used to say what the NFB will try to persuade others to do. These, too, should be brief and to the point: long enough that they are not ambiguous and concise enough that they avoid repeating what has already been said.

The most efficient way to write a resolution is to make a simple outline or list of premises which you will turn into the WHEREAS clauses and a similar simple list of phrases for the RESOLVED clauses. In fact, you should begin by determining what your RESOLVED clauses are, that is, how many there should be and what their basic thrust is. You will know how many by the number of entities we need to address or the number of problems we need to fix. After you decide specifically how you want the problem fixed, determine the smallest number of concepts you need to explain to a person unfamiliar with the problem that there is a problem. The best resolutions can be picked up by a person unfamiliar with the issue and hold that person's attention (in other words, they are as short as possible) while still actually explaining the problem and the solution or solutions. This method, deciding the ending first and then crafting the arguments to reach it, will result in the simplest and clearest resolution. Then, when you actually write the formal resolution, you can focus on the writing and the style, having already done the planning part.

Here are the punctuation and layout rules for writing resolutions:

  1. Each argument begins with the word WHEREAS, indented and all caps. BE IT RESOLVED and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, which introduce the RESOLVED sections, are also indented and written in all caps. Note that WHEREAS is followed by a comma, but the two versions of BE IT RESOLVED are not.
  2. Each WHEREAS before the final one ends with a semicolon and the word "and." This is true of the word "RESOLVED" as well.
  3. The final WHEREAS ends with a colon, the words "Now, therefore," and a hard return. Please note that “Now” is capitalized.
  4. The final RESOLVED ends with a period. This reflects the fact that the entire resolution is a single sentence. Sometimes one is taxed to refrain from writing sentences within WHEREASes, but inserting a complete sentence is not playing the game fairly.
  5. A blank line separates the elements of the resolution.
  6. In the beginning of the first RESOLVED, surround the year and the state with commas. The formula looks like this: “BE IT RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the city of Atlanta, Georgia,” Note also that the c in city is not capitalized.

Remember that the resolves are couched in the subjunctive mood, which is rarely used in English. This means that the third person singular verbs look like plurals when they are actually singular: the organization urge, the NFB condemn and deplore, etc.

The rather strained form of the resolution makes it sound unnatural and formal. Do not attempt to add to this effect by indulging in jargon and verbosity. Even though resolutions are frequently long, brevity is a virtue. Each argument should be made concisely but clearly. Jargon never helps this process. Substituting "utilize" for the short, vigorous word "use" and always referring to people as "persons" or "individuals" are good examples of counterproductive inflation of the pomposity quotient. On the other hand, because resolutions are formal statements of a policy position, you should avoid slang or informal words like "exams" instead of "examinations" or "quotes" for "quotations." Verb forms like "hunker down" or "get going" are also a bit too casual for use in resolutions.

You will remember that the NFB is on record as opposing people-first language, except as it happens for some reason to sound euphonious. Despite this fact, we are increasingly saddled with awkward people-first language in our resolutions that serves no function but to lengthen the argument, sound pompous, and contradict our own policy. Remember that there is nothing wrong with the terms "blind people" or "blindness field." Yet increasingly our resolutions are cluttered with "persons who are blind" or “individuals with blindness or visual impairment."

Capitalization should be consistent. Do not capitalize words for emphasis. Quotation marks should not be used for this purpose either. "Federal" is not capitalized unless it is part of an actual title or is the first word of a sentence. Since WHEREASes begin with capital letters, federal is almost never capitalized in resolutions. "Congress," on the other hand, is, as are "House of Representatives" and "Senate." Names of departments and organizations are capitalized, but terms like "departments of education" or "vocational rehabilitation agencies" are generic and should not be.

Resolutions often pile up nouns as adjectives. When this happens, the terms should be hyphenated: access-program producers.

Bill numbers are written H.R. 0000 or S. 0000.

Resolutions are an important part of the work of the national convention. The Braille Monitor is a good sounding board for new ideas and new policies. Consider writing an article about your new idea or policy so that the conversation can begin, and you will be ready to write your resolution for 2022. However, the most immediate task is to start working on the resolutions for 2021. Resolutions guide our organization. Put your thinking cap on, and get your fingers typing. Let’s make sure we have a great set of resolutions for the 2021 convention!

League of Women Voters and Security Pundits Oppose Accessible Voting in Colorado

by Curtis Chong

From the Editor: The right to vote privately and independently would seem to be one of those things everyone could get behind. A system already exists for military people away from home to vote electronically, yet our issue is far too often argued against in terms that we can’t just open the system up to everyone. The systems should be opened so that every legitimate voter can vote privately, independently, and in a manner that doesn’t require extraordinary effort and negotiation. One of the warriors out to see that this happens in Colorado is Curtis Chong, and this is what he says:

In an article entitled Vote by Mail Ballot Now Accessible to Blind Coloradans (see the Braille Monitor, January, 2020), I reported that Colorado had established an accessible ballot marking system which registered voters with disabilities, including the blind, could use to accessibly mark and print their ballots. Disabled voters would visit the appropriate website, bring up their ballots, mark and print them, and mail the ballot and signed ballot application to their county clerk. The system worked well, as long as the voter had a working printer. For voters who did not have access to a printer, this new and accessible ballot-marking system was not available to them. It turns out that a lot of people did not have printers. So, last fall, the members of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado voted unanimously to change this situation.

With the help of our good friend state Senator Jessie Danielson, SB21-188 was introduced during the 2021 Colorado legislative session. This bill would enable voters with disabilities to return their ballots electronically. The National Federation of the Blind of Colorado met with representatives from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. We agreed that electronic ballot return for voters with disabilities would include fax, email, and a secure web portal—exactly the same methods used by overseas and military voters. We also agreed on a method whereby voters who could not sign their names on screen could use their state IDs in lieu of a “wet” signature. At no time during our discussions did the Secretary of State raise any concerns with us about security issues surrounding electronic ballot return. In fact, we were gratified at the tremendous display of support for SB21-188 conveyed by the people with whom we met.

Once SB21-188 went public, advocates from the disability community started to receive emails opposing the bill. Consider the following email from the League of Women Voters dated April 3, 2021:

Dear Ms. Reiskin (CO Cross-Disability Coalition), Mr. LaBarre (NFBCO) and the CO Center for the Blind,
I’m part of the team of Colorado League of Women Voters (mostly volunteer) lobbyists that is following election bills this year. We recently became aware of SB21-188 – Electronic Ballot Return for Disabled Voters. We would like to discuss the bill with you. A colleague has also reached out to the bill sponsor and received more details, and I listened to the SB19-202 hearings two years ago, where Mr. LaBarre was the first speaker providing testimony. On a personal note, I grew up with a blind grandmother, and my mother-in-law is legally blind and on her third guide dog. My husband is also disabled; his entire left arm was amputated in 2004.
The national LWV takes voting very seriously, as you probably know. LWVUS wants to empower voters, but also ensure election security as much as possible. The gold standard for elections is a voter-verifiable paper ballot. An electronically submitted ballot is not a paper ballot that has been verified by the voter. Whenever possible, LWVUS encourages submission of a paper ballot. Military personnel stationed for six months in a submarine in the ocean or an astronaut on the International Space Station need the ability to submit a ballot electronically, and we don’t want to disenfranchise anybody, but we don’t want to open wide the floodgates to excessive submission of electronic ballots. We risk jeopardizing Colorado’s reputation as a leader in election security if we allow the one in six Americans who are disabled to submit ballots electronically.
Two years ago, before passage of SB19-202, also sponsored by Sen Danielson, the bill was amended to clarify that voters who receive an electronic ballot under the disability provision are required to print out and submit a paper ballot. We have spoken to election integrity experts about the new SB-188 bill. The integrity of our elections continues to mandate that the voter submit a paper ballot whenever possible. The “Stop the Steal” movement and accusations against Dominion Voting Systems (headquartered in Colorado) have only served to increase the level of distrust in our elections.
We are wondering if the problem of not having a printer could be solved by a disabled person applying for an emergency ballot. Currently, there are two groups of people who can submit a ballot electronically–UOCAVA (military and overseas) voters and emergency ballot voters. More and more people want to do everything online, but voting over the internet is not secure and does not protect the secrecy of the ballot. We should discourage internet voting while ensuring that nobody is disenfranchised. We should reserve electronic submission of ballots for those who really need it. Would an emergency ballot application be any more work than applying for an electronic ballot using the disability provision?
An argument for allowing electronic submission of ballots is “convenience,” which in turn leads to increased voter turnout. The League strongly supports increasing voter turnout, but continues to have concerns about electronic ballot submission. Apparently, a more widespread obstacle to returning mail ballots, especially for young people, is finding a postage stamp. Some other states currently have, and LWVCO would probably support, postage-paid ballot return. Such a change would facilitate convenience for many voters, including disabled voters, without jeopardizing election security.
The testimony in SB19-202 highlighted lack of privacy and secrecy when blind people cast a ballot because, if a blind person did not successfully use an audio-enabled ballot-marking device at a voter service and polling center, then they had to reveal their ballot selections to the person manually filling in the ballot. We are wondering if disabled voters realize that their electronically submitted ballots are not secret ballots and a CO voter must waive their right to a secret ballot when submitting an electronic ballot.
Thank you for listening to our concerns. We look forward to continuing this conversation with you.
Celeste Landry

On April 6, SB21-188 was heard before the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. Here is my summation of the points made by the folks opposing the bill:

  1. Colorado’s election system is already fraught with security loopholes—even that part of the system which today permits voters with disabilities to receive and mark their ballots electronically.
  2. If electronic ballot return becomes a reality, the one in six Coloradans who have a disability will swamp the system. Even worse, voters who do not have a disability will want to take advantage of the convenience that electronic ballot return has to offer and falsely claim a disability simply to take advantage of this convenience.
  3. If a person with a disability does not have a printer and cannot, therefore, use Colorado’s existing electronic and accessible ballot marking system, this is more of an inconvenience—not a barrier to equal participation in the electoral process.

Noel Runyan, a blind electrical engineer and computer scientist from California, said in his written testimony that,

“…I don't think we should currently be legislating any systems that allow electronic return of ballots.…We currently do not have solutions that can assure adequate ballot privacy nor solutions that can limit electronic ballot return to only the voters who need accessible voting and cannot personally print their ballot.… Allowing voters to self-identify themselves as needing electronic ballot return could lead to an uncontrollable voting fraud disaster.”

The opposition of the League of Women Voters and security pundits notwithstanding, SB21-188 was voted out of committee on a partisan vote on April 6, and on April 9, it passed the full Senate on second reading. After its third reading, we expect the bill to move on to the Colorado State House of Representatives.

In response to Celeste Landry, Noel Runyan, and the other people who oppose SB21-188, I have these closing points to make:

  1. Colorado’s accessible ballot marking system has been used successfully in no less than four elections without a whiff of significant fraud. More importantly, the voters who used this system were empowered and gained increased feeling of independence.
  2. Colorado’s system enabling overseas and military voters to return their ballots using fax, email, or secure web portal has likewise not been plagued by any widespread fraudulent activity. Enabling voters with disabilities to use these same systems poses no additional risk.
  3. SB21-188 in no way abandons the gold standard of a paper ballot. Even if a ballot is delivered electronically, secure procedures are in place to print the electronic ballot using the same layout and paper as every other ballot, thus maintaining a paper record and the anonymity of the voter with a disability who chooses to use the system. Today, this same procedure is used for ballots returned remotely by overseas and military voters and by voters with disabilities who have a printer, receive their ballots electronically, and mail in their voted ballots.
  4. The number of voters in Colorado who used the existing electronic accessible ballot marking system during the last general election was relatively small—numbering less than two hundred. The assertion that an electronic ballot return system would be saturated with fraudulent voters and dishonest votes is, at best, wild speculation.
  5. Electronic ballot marking and return are not “conveniences” for people with disabilities, contrary to what some people have claimed. Electronic ballot marking and return offer a level of access which puts people with disabilities on an equal footing with other voters.
  6. Today, a lot of sensitive information moves securely across the internet. We use the internet to send documents, pictures, sensitive legal information, and even money. For many of us, having the ability to deposit a check into our bank account using our smartphone has become a necessity in light of the coronavirus pandemic. It is difficult to imagine how returning my ballot electronically can be any less secure than using the internet to move large sums of money between my bank accounts. In the final analysis, returning my ballot electronically is an action which I, a person who happens to be blind, should be able to choose, knowing that there might be some risk involved with the transaction.
Well-intentioned but misguided security advocates who want to look after blind people like me—in spite of our proven ability to look after our own interests—harkens back to the days when service agencies for the blind inappropriately regarded themselves as our caretakers instead of providers of needed service. We, the blind, have every right to speak for ourselves, and I for one do not appreciate an organization such as the League of Women Voters, which is supposed to stay clear of politics, lobbying against something which the blind and otherwise disabled citizens of Colorado clearly want—that being the right to submit our votes without having to visit a polling center, regardless of whether or not we happen to have a printer.

The MiniVision2: A Solid Basic Cell Phone

by Karl Belanger

From the Editor: Karl Belanger is a most talented technologist, and on top of that, he can evaluate and write as well as anyone I know. Here is his most recent offering:

With smartphones now ubiquitous, the basic cell phone has mostly gone the way of the cassette tape. That said, there are still those who want a phone for basic calls and texts. Among blind people, options are even more limited, as most of the few options for basic phones lack accessibility features. That’s where the MiniVision2 comes in. The MiniVision2 is a phone with a large button keypad, full speech readout, low vision features, and a suite of programs which provide several useful capabilities. The voice is clear, and the device is responsive. The internal software, while much simpler than that of a smartphone, still provides enough added value to entice users looking for more than basic texting and calling. The MiniVision2 costs $299.99 and only works on AT&T, T-Mobile, and prepaid carriers using those networks.

Unboxing and Getting Started

The MiniVision2 comes with several accessories in the box. In addition to the phone, charging cable, and wall plug, there is also a charging stand, a case, and the phone’s battery which must be installed. To install the battery, there is a notch on the bottom right of the device which can be used to remove the back cover. The correct orientation is with the notched end of the battery toward the bottom of the phone and the notch facing out. It will only go in one way. There is also a SIM card slot under the battery. Once the battery is installed, snap the back cover in place. Also in the box are a charging stand, a silicone case, a Micro USB cable, and a wall charger. The battery in my unit was mostly charged, but it’s usually a good idea to charge any new device first. The charging stand has a slot at the front with some pins at the bottom to charge the phone and a Micro USB port on the back. The phone goes into the stand with the buttons facing out and the screen at the top. If the phone is turned on, a sound and announcement will play when the device starts charging. Unfortunately, the silicone case doesn’t have cutouts for the charging stand, so you will need to plug the cable directly into the phone if you want to charge it in the case.

Getting Started

The phone is a candy bar style phone, in that it doesn’t fold. It has a screen on top, with navigation buttons beneath, and a standard telephone keypad below that. The edges are empty, except the bottom, which has the headphone jack, charging port, and the pins for the stand. The keypad has two context sensitive buttons at the top, with Call and End buttons beneath that. In between these buttons is a four-way directional button with an OK button in the middle. Below this is a standard telephone keypad with a raised line on the five. To turn on the phone, hold down the End button. The phone will vibrate and play a short tune a few seconds later. The phone will speak and announce the time and that you are on the home screen.

The MiniVision2 Interface

From the home screen you can either start dialing a number or press Down to open the menu of the device. The menu contains the various apps on the phone, plus settings. At any time, pressing left or right will bring up the volume control. Use Up and Down to select the volume to change, either voice, ring, or alarm, and use Left and Right to change it. Pressing OK on any menu option will launch an application or go to the next level menu. Pressing the top left button (Menu) will open the context menu for the current application. The top right button (Back) will take you back to the previous level of the menu. Text is entered using the keypad, pressing two for ABC, three for DEF, and so on. You will need to do this for activities like entering contacts and sending text messages.

MiniVision2 Accessibility

The MiniVision2 comes up talking out of the box. All menus and applications speak, meaning this phone is fully usable by a totally blind person. The voice speed can be adjusted and can get slow enough for a new user. One nice touch is that, unlike many devices directed at the less technologically savvy, the voice can get plenty fast enough for those of us accustomed to using screen readers. You can also download one of two premium voices for each language, a male or female voice. The voices are from the Vocalizer collection of voices, which will be familiar to users of iOS.

Kennedy, my colleague, looked at the low vision features of the MiniVision2. Here is what he has to say:

I am very impressed with the low-vision accessibility aspects of the MiniVision2 due to how customizable it is for all users. The keypad has large enough numbers and letters while saving room for the display screen. The MiniVision2 customizable accessibility settings make it easy for users to pick up and use just the way they want to. There are five different fonts you can choose from, including “open dyslexic,” a font specially designed for people with dyslexia. Font sizes are customizable as well. To account for large menu items on the screen, a scrolling effect scrolls the text from right to left so the user can get the information when focusing on a menu item with the keypad. You can adjust the scrolling speed of the text as well and the delay time before the text starts scrolling. The range starts at 0.25-second delay (almost instantaneously) and going to four seconds. Text and background colors can be changed to high-contrast settings including the default, white text on a black background, yellow text on a blue background, and black text on a yellow background.

MiniVision2 Apps and Features

The MiniVision2 has a number of simple but useful apps on the phone. Since it is a basic phone, it does not have an app store, so additional functionality cannot be added by the user. In addition to the phone, contacts, and messages apps, the phone also includes a camera app, money reader, color detector, light detector, weather app, voice recorder, notes, and a “Where Am I” feature. All the apps are very simple, with straightforward menus and limited configuration. For example, the weather app only provides information for your current location and not other cities. The “Where Am I” feature also only gives your current address and does not allow for route-making or other GPS features.


As with any cell phone, making calls is one of the primary purposes of the device. Pressing the Call key will open the phone app from anywhere. You can also simply dial a number from the home screen. I don’t have a SIM card to test calling with, but the phone does support all the usual in-call features including muting, holding, call-waiting, and handling multiple calls. Contacts does what one would expect, letting users add and manage contacts. Interestingly, it lets you import contacts from a VCF file, which can be loaded from a Micro SD Card. This may be a useful feature for helping seniors get important contacts onto their phone. The app only lets you add a name, phone number and type, and a notes field. You can also set a ringtone for a specific contact.

FM Radio

The FM radio uses an attached pair of headphones as an antenna. Pressing Up and Down on the keypad moves up or down the frequencies, and holding Up or Down seeks up or down to the next station that it can receive. The radio also lets you set favorites that can be accessed by holding down one of the keys on the keypad. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a way to type a frequency, and the radio does not support recording.

Money Reader

The money reader uses the camera to recognize bills. There is no way to select the currency to identify, so it is likely that US dollars are the only currency that can be read. In my testing, I found it rather difficult to get the camera to recognize the currency, but when it did, the recognition was accurate.

Color and Light Detectors

The light detector simply makes a tone that rises or falls depending on how much light the camera sees. The detector can also announce percentages instead of the tone.

The color detector detects and announces primary colors that the camera detects. It can detect either all colors or alert when it detects a specific color you choose. Kennedy also reviewed the color detector’s accuracy. Here is what he had to say:

The color detector wasn’t perfect but was able to identify solid colors that didn’t have many others near. On the middle of the screen in a small square, you can visually see what the camera sees, or the viewfinder, and the outer box around the viewfinder changes to the detected color and announces through the screen reader.

My Impressions

The MiniVision2 is a solid device that provides just enough features above basic calling and texting to make it appealing for a wider range of people. The voice is clear and understandable, and everything feels very responsive. The apps, while simplified, are functional and provide useful features. Many previous phones have been excessively large, had low quality voices, were slow and unresponsive, or didn’t read all menus. The MiniVision2 manages to avoid all of these pitfalls. The end result is a solid, accessible phone with an interface simple enough for almost anyone to use, and with just enough extra features to interest those who want a little more from their device. Overall, the MiniVision2 is the best execution of a basic accessible phone I have had the pleasure of testing.


Recipes this month were contributed by members of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina.

Shrimp and Brown Rice
by Herbert Boykin

Herbert Boykin retired in 1991 as a stucco mason from New Jersey. In 1992, Herbert Boykin joined the Sumter Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina. He enjoys preparing creative one-dish meals.

1 pound of frozen or fresh medium-sized peeled shrimp
2 bags of boil-in-the-bag brown rice
1 small onion diced
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 cup of chicken broth
3 shakes of garlic, red peppers, and ginger

Method: Boil the two bags of rice in a separate pot for ten minutes. Then pour two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté shrimp and diced onions together in skillet. When the rice is done, add to the sautéed shrimp and onions and stir together in the skillet. Add chicken broth, one can of diced tomatoes, three shakes of each spice. Stir together and simmer for fifteen minutes. Ready to serve four to six. Enjoy!!!

Apricot Orange Glazed Chicken
by Melanie Torrance

Melanie Torrance is a Type 1 diabetic who enjoys cooking and staying active. She also loves exercise, crafting, and reading historical fiction. Prep time: 15 min. Cook time: 35 min.

1 whole roasted rotisserie chicken
3 tablespoons no-added-sugar apricot preserves, divided
3 tablespoons no-added-sugar orange marmalade, divided
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
Nonstick cooking spray
1 large onion, quartered
1 clove garlic, minced

Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In small bowl, blend 1 tablespoon each apricot preserves, marmalade, and vinegar. Place chicken in baking pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Brush chicken with preserve mixture. Combine the remaining preserves, marmalade, vinegar, onion, and garlic and spoon around the chicken. Roast, covered, for twenty-five minutes. Uncover and roast for ten more minutes, until onion is tender.

Nutritional Information per serving:
Serving size: 1/4 of recipe
Calories: 278
Fat: 9 grams
Sodium: 110 milligrams
Cholesterol: 100 milligrams
Protein: 34 grams
Carbohydrates: 15 grams

Grandpa’s Southern Banana Pudding
by Jennifer Bazer

Jennifer Bazer is the president of the South Carolina affiliate. She enjoys spending time at ballparks watching her son Cade play baseball and at meets watching her daughter Kaylin compete in gymnastics. She loves swimming, kickboxing, reading, public speaking, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

3 (3.4 ounce) packages instant pudding mix
6 cups cold milk
1 (12 ounce) container whipped topping, thawed
1 (16 ounce) package vanilla wafers (I like the mini ones)
6-8 bananas peeled and sliced

Method: In a large bowl, combine milk and all packages of pudding; stir until mixture is thick and combined. Allow to chill in refrigerator for thirty minutes. Fold in whipped topping. In a 9 by 13 deep pan, layer half the package vanilla wafers, half the sliced bananas, and finally half the pudding and whipped topping mixture. Repeat the process until all vanilla wafers, bananas, and topping mixture are used. Chill in refrigerator for thirty minutes. Enjoy!

Gotta Little Kick Chili
by Jennifer Bazer

2 pounds 90 percent lean/10 percent fat ground beef (you can also use 93 percent /7 percent or 96 percent /4 percent)
2 envelopes chili seasoning (you can choose mild, medium, or hot depending on your taste buds)
2 (10 ounce cans) RO-TEL tomatoes with chilis
2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes (you can choose your flavor depending on your taste buds)
1 (28 ounce) can Bush’s Sweet Heat Baked Beans

Method: In a large skillet, brown ground beef; drain well. Add drained ground beef to a large stock pot. Add both envelopes of seasoning; stir well. Combine rest of undrained canned ingredients and mix well. Let simmer on medium heat for fifteen minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn to low heat for an additional thirty minutes to ensure all ingredients are well combined. You can also cook on low for two hours in a slow cooker once ground beef is cooked and drained. Enjoy!

Modifications: To tone down the spice of the chili: if you do not prefer RO-TEL with chilis, replace them with 2 (14-ounce cans of diced tomatoes for less spice) making that 4 (14-ounce) cans of tomatoes. Use envelopes of mild chili seasoning. Use another kind of beans instead of sweet heat.

Blueberry Buckle

by Shannon Cook

Shannon Cook has so many titles and accomplishments that even to say this is condensed is an understatement. She is celebrating thirty years in the National Federation of the Blind, is currently a state officer, has often been on the affiliate’s board, and has been a chapter president.

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups flour
4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Streusel Ingredients:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Method: Cream ten tablespoons of butter and sugar until very light. Add eggs, vanilla, and dry ingredients. Fold in berries. Pour into greased and floured 9-inch round pan and sprinkle on streusel. Make streusel by mixing the dry ingredients with a flat beater or fork for about 45 seconds. Pour in melted butter. It will look like wet sand. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 55 minutes. Cool on rack. This is delicious at room temperature or still warm from the oven.

Brunswick Stew

2 pound boiled chicken, deboned and chopped
1 pound browned ground beef
1 can cream style corn
1 pound can tomatoes
1 large chopped onion
3/4 cup ketchup
3/4 cup Heinz 57 sauce
2 teaspoon of chili powder

Method: Put ingredients in a large pot. Cook on medium heat until ingredients blend. Then turn on low heat for 45 minutes or longer or until onions are tender. Stir often.

Buttermilk Cinnamon Coffee Cake

2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp cinnamon, divided
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
3/4 cup canola oil
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In bowl, mix flour, both sugars, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, salt, ginger, and oil.

Remove 3/4 cup of mixture. Add nuts and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Mix well. Set aside to use as topping.

To remaining batter, add baking soda, baking powder, buttermilk, and egg. Mix, small lumps are fine. Pour batter into well-greased 9 x 13 x 2 pan. Sprinkle topping over mixture. Bake 40-45 minutes.

Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

16 ounces macaroni cooked and drained
1 tall can of Pet Evaporated Milk
2 cups sweet milk
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups medium cheese
1/2 stick butter, melted

Method: Mix all ingredients, grease crock-pot, put ingredients into pot, and sprinkle cheese on top. Cook on high one-and-a-half to two hours.
Emma’s Vegetable Soup

1 can Le Sueur peas
1 can diced tomatoes
1 6 oz can Hunts tomato paste
1 12 oz. niblet corn
3 carrots, sliced bite-size
2- 1/2 to 3 pounds chuck roast, cubed
3-4 potatoes, cubed
1/2 package frozen small baby lima beans
1/2 package frozen okra
1-2 medium onions, diced
Accent seasoning to taste

Method: Cook cubed meat in water until tender, thirty to forty minutes. Add potatoes, carrots, onions, tomatoes. Cook until tender. Add other ingredients. Simmer on low for enough hours to meld the flavors and cook the vegetables.

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.

Now on Be My Eyes: Verizon, Jobs for Humanity, and More
by Will Butler

Great news on new additions to Be My Eyes! We're extremely excited to share that we have our first telecommunications company bringing video customer support to our community: Verizon has joined Be My Eyes!

This is fantastic news—it truly rounds out our offering of tech support, personal health, and assistive services, and it will mean more engagement for other organizations' Specialized Help profiles as well!

Here are also some social media posts you can share if you'd like to help welcome Verizon to Be My Eyes: Facebook post, Twitter post, LinkedIn post.

To make things even more exciting, we've announced our first careers partner, Jobs for Humanity. With the launch of its new job board, jobsforhumanity/blind/, it already has more than 1,000 positions available around the world, where employers have committed to interviewing the top visually impaired candidates. This is pretty amazing stuff, and it’s holding open office hours on Specialized Help a few hours per week to help people get familiar with the service it provides.

As a final reminder, we're now up and running with the Department of Health in the UK–which means anyone in the UK who needs help with a home COVID test can get it easily with Be My Eyes.

With all these new partners on board, we're putting the wheels in motion for another partner call, so stay tuned for details on that as well. I hope you're all doing well and hope to connect with you again soon.

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.

Cassette Recorder/Player Needed:
My name is Dr. Aziz from San Diego, California. I need an APH GE cassette player-recorder model 3-5198A. If you know where I can get one, please contact me by telephone at 858-997-7753. I am open to purchasing this unit, and we can negotiate a price.

Braille Blazer for Sale:
I have a Braille Blazer embosser that comes with an installation disk and a cassette tape containing the manual. My asking price is $500. Anyone interested should contact Vinny Tagliarino at 716-681-1645.

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.