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Braille Monitor

Vol. 64, No. 11                 December 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

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National Federation of the Blind
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Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998

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

ISSN 0006-8829


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Contents

Vol. 64, No. 11                      December 2021

The 2022 National Convention: It’s Time to Start Our Planning
by John Berggren

Why Should We Do DEI?
by Ronza Othman

What it Means to be a Federationist
by Jennifer Bazer

When Print-Only Documents Preclude Privacy
by Valerie Yingling

Twenty Truths Never to Forget
by Dr. LaShawna Fant

Transforming and Accelerating Accessibility: The Need for the Organized Blind Movement to Innovate through Inclusive Design
by Sina Bahram

Blind Equality Achievement Month: Yet Another Thing that Makes October Special

From Seed to Harvest
by Jerry Moreno

You Can Make a Difference

Words Matter
by Maurice Peret

Reflections on Race, Religion, Disability, Sex, and Broader Issues
> by Kenneth Jernigan

NFB 2022 Scholarship Program
by Cayte Mendez

The 2022 Blind Educator of the Year Award
by Robin House

The 2022 Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award
by Carla McQuillan

2021 Social Security Updates
by Jesa Medders

How about One New Year's Resolution for Your Federation Family
by Gary Wunder

More on Equality vs. Equity
by Daniel Garcia

Christmas Recollections
by Mary Ellen Gabias

Independence Market Corner
by Terry Boone

Keystone Chapter’s Second Annual Virtual Talent Show Is an Even Bigger Success This Year!
by Lisa Bryant

Monitor Miniatures

Copyright 2021 by the National Federation of the Blind

The 2022 National Convention: It’s Time to Start Our Planning

by John Berggren

From the Editor: John Berggren is the coordinator of Convention Organization and Activities. He is also a member of our national staff at the Jernigan Institute and handles more than any one person should be expected to do with competence and kindness second to none. Here is his annual convention update:

An idiom dating back to the 1800s tells us the “third time’s the charm.” After two years of pandemic, quarantine, and virtual conventions, we are counting on a healthy dose of charm. Our virtual conventions were successful beyond expectations, but it has been far too long since we have had the opportunity to gather in one place and experience the power and strength of the Federation in person. We intend to do just that when we convene in New Orleans next summer for the National Federation of the Blind’s 2022 National Convention.

Those of you who are longtime Federation convention goers may recall our 1997 convention when we were last in New Orleans. We set our current in-person attendance record that year. Wouldn’t you like to be part of the next attendance record? Mark your calendar for January 1 with a note to make your reservation for our triumphant return to normal-ish.

The Marriott New Orleans will serve as our headquarters hotel while right across the street is the Sheraton New Orleans providing the balance of our sleeping rooms and activity space. The hotels sit astride the storied Canal Street at 555 and 500 Canal Street respectively, only blocks from the mighty Mississippi River and even closer to the historic French Quarter. Both hotels offer a range of dining options as well as fitness centers. You’ll find a rooftop pool at the Marriott while the Sheraton features a Starbuck’s in its atrium lobby.

The nightly rate for both the Marriott and the Sheraton is $109 for singles and doubles. Triples and quads can be booked for $119 per night. In addition, the combined sales tax and tourism support rate is 16.2 percent, and there is a hotel occupancy fee of $3.00 per night. To book your room for the 2022 convention, call 1- 800-654-3990 after January 1. For each room, the hotel will take a deposit of the first night’s room rate, taxes, and fees and will require a credit card or a personal check. If you use a credit card, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately. If a reservation is cancelled before Monday, June 1, 2022, half of the deposit will be returned. Refunds will not be issued for cancellations made beyond that date.

The 2022 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be a truly exciting and memorable event, with an unparalleled program and rededication to the goals and work of our movement. The action begins on Tuesday, July 5 and will conclude on Sunday, July 10 when the gavel falls at the conclusion of the banquet. The agenda will again be chockfull of seminars, committee and division meetings, and other breakout sessions. Open to all, the National Federation of the Blind’s Board of Directors will hold its annual meeting. General convention sessions will be filled with informative and inspirational presentations. And of course, attendees can look forward to exploring the exhibit hall and capping the week off with the banquet. 

Remember that as usual we need door prizes from state affiliates, local chapters, and individuals. Once again prizes should be small in size but large in value. Cash, of course, is always appropriate and welcome. As a rule, we ask that prizes of all kinds have a value of at least $25 and not include alcohol. Drawings will occur throughout the convention sessions, and you can anticipate a grand prize of truly impressive proportions to be drawn at the banquet. You may bring door prizes with you to convention or send them in advance to Tammy Green of Louisiana’s Greater New Orleans Chapter at 4401 Kennon Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70122.

The best collection of exhibits featuring new technology; meetings of our special interest groups, committees, and divisions; the most stimulating and provocative program items of any meeting of the blind in the world; the chance to renew friendships in our Federation family; and the unparalleled opportunity to be where the real action is and where decisions are being made—all of these mean you will not want to miss being a part of the 2022 National Convention. To assure yourself a room in the headquarters hotel at convention rates, make your reservations early. We plan to see you in New Orleans in July.

Why Should We Do DEI?

by Ronza Othman

From the Editor: This article was taken in large part from the Maryland Spectator, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. Ronza is our affiliate president and is very active in our diversity, equity, and inclusion effort. She makes a splendid argument that all of us bring to the organization those things we value and make us who we are. At the same time, she makes it clear that we need to be respectful of others and not let the things we value put off others who hold different points of view. We are an organization made stronger by including people of all religions, all races, and all identities. If blindness is a cross-section of society, to be representative we must also be that cross-section. As you read her remarks, really try to be in her place and feel what she has felt. Ask how we can conduct ourselves in a way that honors our faith while also honoring the faith of others.

Included here is the editor's note that introduced her article in the Maryland Spectator:

[Editor's Note: In recent years the National Federation of the Blind and the Maryland affiliate have begun devoting time, energy, and resources to incorporating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) principles into our thinking and programming. One question some have asked is why the NFB has placed such an emphasis on DEI and how DEI impacts our core mission of helping blind people live the lives they want. The article that appears below attempts to answer that question and will hopefully spark a dialogue among the membership.]

How does an organization with thousands of members from different backgrounds, experiences, and interests but with one shared commonality come together to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)? We listen, we hear, we think, and we grow. This is how we've faced every challenge in our eighty-year history, and we'll be stronger for the experience.

In the past few years, I've been visiting with members of all of our chapters and divisions to talk about what diversity, equity, and inclusion means to each of us and how we can incorporate DEI into our programs. I've learned that on this issue, like every other, our members are a cross-section of society. Some believe DEI is critical to our future and integral to our present. Some believe DEI is important but will over time enhance what we do and that societal shifts will be absorbed into the NFB naturally. Some believe DEI is not something on which we should focus our energy and resources because we have other more important work to do.

I fall into the camp of individuals who believe we need to take active steps to incorporate DEI into our programs. More, I believe we need to talk about DEI in a way that changes thought patterns. I don't believe DEI should solely be programs we operate or trainings we give—though both are important. I believe DEI is a mindset, and I believe it is critical to our future as an organization.

Diversity means understanding all of the ways we are different from one another. This may be based on protected factors like race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, sex, gender identity, LGBTQ status, and so on. But different characteristics may also include political affiliation, generational membership, life experiences, ideology, economic status, geography, and basically any other characteristic we can think of. Equity means creating full access, opportunity, and advancement for everyone irrespective of their differences. Inclusion is the extent to which people feel a sense of belonging within an organization. Diversity is about our differences, equity is about fairness regardless of those differences, and inclusion is about the culture that celebrates those differences, makes everyone feel welcome, and fosters fairness. All three are interrelated but distinct from one another.

I believe that the NFB has come a long way in terms of incorporating DEI into its mindset. But I believe some of our members haven't yet understood or bought into the need for it in what we do organizationally. This is why I am writing this article.

I am brown. I am Palestinian-American and the daughter of refugees whose family won the green card lottery days before I was born. I am Muslim, and Arabic is my first language. I am a cisgender woman. My family was very socio-economically disadvantaged when I was growing up. I am an attorney. I am a survivor of trauma. I am blind. These are some but not all of the characteristics that comprise me. These are some of the characteristics that make me diverse, and when I join most groups, these are some of the characteristics that make me different, or these are some of the characteristics that make me the same as others.

For example, most members of the NFB, but not all, are blind. Our sighted members are statistically fewer than our blind members, but we need their perspectives and experiences for the NFB to work, e.g., parents of blind children, educators, sighted partners, and family members. I am cisgender, and statistically I am in the majority. But we need all gender identities to participate and feel included in order for our organization to work. I am brown, and statistically that means I am in the minority. But we need people of all races in order for this organization to work. I am Muslim, and that means I am in the minority, but we need those from all faith backgrounds and also those who don't ascribe to a faith tradition to participate and feel included in order for our organization to work.

I didn't always feel that my differences were welcome in the NFB and in the blindness community as a whole. I struggled a great deal early on as a result of being a Muslim. I have severe dog allergies, so if I tried to avoid being around service animals, people made comments about how my entire religion hates dogs (which is untrue). I remember a state convention when an invocation was very spiritual, and the speaker commanded everyone to "stand up and embrace Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior." In Islam, though we believe in Jesus, it is sacrilegious to refer to Jesus as the Lord and Savior. I did not stand up, and another member sitting next to me began pulling on me, physically forcing me to stand. I told her I was intentionally not standing, and she told me I was being rude and disrespectful. I tried to resist, but in the end her physical strength forced me to my feet. It wasn't possible to make this a teachable moment during an invocation where people are supposed to be silent. This was a humiliating and demoralizing experience. It could have been avoided though, if my neighbor would have respected my differences and created an inclusive environment for me. It also could have been avoided if the speaker thought ahead of time about the fact that many members of the convention were not Christian and had given a more inclusive invocation.

More recently, I attended a chapter meeting that began with a prayer. I was not expecting the prayer, and it echoed some of the same language about Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior. I felt blindsided by it and did not have the opportunity to step away. I thought long and hard about whether to share my discomfort, and ultimately, I decided I had an obligation to do so. If I, as a state president, stay silent, then how could I expect non-elected leaders to speak up? I realized it was my duty to share this perspective. This too is why I am writing this article.

The NFB is an organization founded around our shared commonality of blindness. We come together to educate, advocate, and lead on issues important to the blind. We bring our differences with us because they are integral to who we are. We possess shared differences, e.g., our race, our religion, our gender, and gender identity. But we also have to recognize that sometimes, by incorporating a particular characteristic that is important to some of us but not all, we are excluding others of us.

I've heard from people who have said they believe the NFB is a Christian organization and that they do not feel welcome as non-Christians. I understand why they feel that way because sometimes my fellow members impose their particular characteristics on me, so I feel that way too. This is the anatomy of a majority—the majority doesn't often realize that others think differently or have different characteristics. This is usually not intentional—it is just how majorities work. I believe we have come forward a great deal, but we still have work to do. Every member should feel welcome in the NFB irrespective of any characteristic they possess, and it is incumbent upon all of us to create that inclusive culture.

I have also heard from some that the people who are insisting on incorporating DEI are trying to prevent people with certain differences from participating in the organization, e.g., those who are religiously devout. I challenge that notion and vehemently disagree. Those of us who come from underrepresented communities have had to carve out our space so we can educate everyone on our particular characteristics. This is true in society, in history, everywhere. The majority has a lesser need to carve out its own space because it already has space in the mainstream. The majority should not be silenced but should be open to listening as well as speaking, to learning as well as teaching, to hearing new ideas as well as sharing its own.

Let me be clear. We are asking for people who are not part of underrepresented populations to be inclusive; we are asking them to think about things they say and do that impose their particular characteristics on all of us. I am not, for example, asking blind Christians to stop being Christian. I am asking them to consider that words they use in an invocation may more than exclude me—their words may alienate me. I will commit to do the same when thinking about people who possess characteristics that are different from my own.

I believe we in the NFB have made a great deal of progress in DEI during the past decade. I believe we have more progress to make. The NFB Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee is leading the way for us nationally, and the NFBMD DEI Committee is providing advice and guidance to the affiliate and local chapters. I implore each of you to remember that DEI isn't a concept to be advanced only by those who are underrepresented. It is the responsibility of each and every member.

What it Means to be a Federationist

by Jennifer Bazer

From the Editor: Jennifer is the president of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina. Each week her affiliate generates a brief newsletter called "Positive Note," and this is issue 1837. Here is what she says about being committed to the National Federation of the Blind and then showing that commitment through work:

Greetings Fellow Federationists. I have some thoughts about what it means to be a Federationist. This has been weighing on my mind for a while. I hope that I can convey the intent of my thoughts.

If the Federation is near and dear to your heart, why do some members come to one meeting a year just to vote but never the eleven other meetings during the year? Why only give suggestions or criticisms but never be willing to help make things better? Why only complain but never actively be involved in committees, chapters, divisions, or groups? Why pick and choose chapter or division members who get called and reminded of a meeting or a special event and conveniently forget about those who may not agree with our views, who frustrate us, or who we don't think are cool? As leaders, officers, and members, why don't we promptly return calls, emails, or texts? It is great that we have fun in our chapters and divisions, but why do we often lose sight of doing the work of the Federation? During our meetings, we should be focusing on explaining and demonstrating the NFB philosophy, planning ways to advance the quality of life of the blind, and sharing news about local, state, and national NFB activities. Why do we want so badly to hold office and to have a title, but then not actively and consistently participate? What good is the title if those holding it aren't willing to also put in the hard work to build the Federation?

In Luke 12:48, it states, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." I say these things not to lambast anyone but as a call to arms for us all to step up our game. Let's all put in the time, the work, the sweat equity, elbow grease, late nights, and early mornings. Let's show up to meetings and activities, not just because we want to be there, but because it is what is asked of us as Federationists. Let's build our friendships with one another so that when conflict does arise, we can address it in a positive, thoughtful way, come to a resolution, and continue on the road toward success. Let's show others in our cities, counties, states, and nation that we are a unified movement that can support our members, carry out our plans, and still power on to do the work we have chosen to do. We each have paid our dues to be a member. No one has forced us to do so. If we are moved enough to become a member, let's put the work into it, so we are making the most of the time we have together and to learn about the many and varied things this awesome organization has in store.

Keep your word; live with authenticity, integrity, and passion. Don't let others steal your joy. Have high expectations for yourself and others. Be a light in someone else's darkness. I am asking all of us to show up, step up, and rise up. Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind!

When Print-Only Documents Preclude Privacy

by Valerie Yingling

From the Editor: Valerie is no stranger to these pages. She handles many of our legal issues, and her extension is one of the most dialed at our Jernigan Institute. She coordinates much of our legal work and is the primary collector of information when we need examples that should be addressed. Here is what this outstanding member of our staff has to say about documents being made usable by the blind:

Applying for, renewing, and modifying state benefits such as Medicaid, SNAP, and TANF should be a private, independent, and accessible process for all applicants and beneficiaries, including those who are blind. State agencies with practices of sending print-only communications and/or using inaccessible websites and web forms violate the effective communication requirement in the Americans with Disabilities Act1 and jeopardize blind individuals’ ability to secure health care coverage and food and cash assistance.

This is why in 2019 the National Federation of the Blind and members of the NFB of Indiana, Christopher and Sarah Meyer, filed a lawsuit against Indiana’s Division of Family Resources and Family and Social Services Administration. The lawsuit demanded that the state agencies send notices and communications in Braille or in an accessible electronic format, when requested by applicants or beneficiaries, and that the agencies remediate access barriers on their websites.

For years, Indiana’s Division of Family Resources and Family and Social Services Administration told Christopher that they simply did not have the capacity to produce Braille communication. Even after attorneys contacted the agencies on behalf of Christopher and Sarah, and the agencies agreed that they would provide Braille communications, they still did not send any Braille. Both Christopher and Sarah lost critical state benefits because they were not notified in a format they could read of time-sensitive requests for information.

The NFB knows that Christopher and Sarah’s experiences are not unique. NFB’s legal program hears from members across the country who request but do not receive accessible communication related to government services and from members who have lost needed health care coverage, food assistance, and cash assistance because benefit information and notices are not accessible.

President Riccobono has stressed that “state and federal agencies that administer government benefits and programs have been required to communicate effectively and accessibly with all current and potential beneficiaries for decades. Today, technology makes effective communication easier than ever, but agencies throughout the nation are still failing to meet this legal and moral obligation. The National Federation of the Blind is committed to fighting for blind people like Christopher and Sarah Meyer when state agencies flout the law.”

We are now closer to securing equal access for our members, but the devil is in the details, and the struggle is ongoing. Earlier this year, the NFB and Christopher and Sarah Meyer resolved our lawsuit against Indiana’s Division of Family Resources and Family and Social Services Administration. The agencies agreed to many settlement terms that have improved access to health care coverage, food assistance, and cash assistance for the blind in Indiana. The agencies agreed to:

The full settlement agreement is available via NFB’s legal webpage: https://nfb.org/sites/nfb.org/files/files-pdf/Meyer%20Settlement%20Agreement%20ACE%20with%20all%20signatures.pdf.

This settlement is worthwhile reading. It is not only an important resource for blind residents of Indiana; it can be a powerful tool for NFB members in states that do not yet provide accessible benefits-related communication. The settlement terms provide an effective how-to guide for states needing to implement alternative format, web accessibility, and other related processes. It can help these states avoid expensive and time-consuming litigation; and most important, it can raise expectations and afford blind individuals with the same access to state benefits and services as our sighted peers.

For further reading, please visit:

Twenty Truths Never to Forget

by Dr. LaShawna Fant

From the Editor: It is always with joy that we find new authors coming to these pages, and though LaShawna is not new, she is close enough to it that we appreciate her finding a place for her talent in the Braille Monitor. I find these truths uplifting and quite fit for the holiday season:

As we navigate through life, we should learn and gain more wisdom. It is central for us to possess gratitude and appreciation for our lives. The following list is not all-inclusive and is not in any specific lineup based on importance. Indisputably, the fabric of life certainly adorns some lovely and outstanding moments.

  1. As long as you have a pulse, there is time to make a change.
  2. Wherever you go in life, be positive, polite, and true to yourself.
  3. Maintaining peace of mind is priceless.
  4. Exercise and healthy eating have numerous significant benefits.
  5. There is always one reason we can be thankful.
  6. Give people their flowers while they are living.
  7. Time is something you can never get back.
  8. Happiness and worth are not based on the quantity of worldly things you acquire.
  9. Sticking to your financial budget helps you rest well at night.
  10. If you fall, do not stay there. Get up and do better the next time.
  11. As much as possible, try to start early and plan. Procrastination can yield countless unhealthy results.
  12. Life is short; make the best out of every day!
  13. Tell the truth, even when it is not popular.
  14. You are never too old to learn something new.
  15. Whatever you do for others, always do it from your heart.
  16. Secure a circle of friends who are strong for you and not a drain.
  17. Respect and manners will take you a long way.
  18. Be sure to tell your loved ones how much you adore and appreciate them.
  19. Your life still has value, purpose, and meaning.
  20. You can live the life you want. Blindness is not what holds you back.

Transforming and Accelerating Accessibility: The Need for the Organized Blind Movement to Innovate through Inclusive Design

by Sina Bahram

From the Editor: This presentation was one of the more exciting we received during our 2021 National Convention. One of the things that made it exciting is that it was delivered by a former scholarship winner who has gone on to create a business based on innovation and accessibility for all. The thrust of his presentation is simple: don’t just think of yourselves as you advocate for accessibility, but act in a way that you would have others act when it comes to accessibility for you. Here is what he says:

SINA BAHRAM: Mr. President, thank you for such a kind introduction. You can tell it's been a long day. Good evening, everyone. My name is Sina Bahram coming to you from North Carolina under this thunderstorm late in the evening. I want to tell you a little bit about what I do and talk about inclusive design.

I run a company called Prime Access Consulting or PAC for short. It is a really cool job. I'm incredibly privileged. This week alone, one conversation was around how we make holograms accessible. The other one was when I was told, “We have an immersion room, and we have only projectors and no electricity on the walls. So how do we make things inclusively designed for everybody whether you can see or hear or use your feet to walk around?”

These are some of the conversations I get to have and some of the amazing spaces I get to play in. And the reason that I get to play in those spaces is because of this philosophy of inclusive design.

We all talk about accessibility: those things that are done especially for persons with disabilities. Sometimes it is defined as the things done for those who depend on assistive technologies. But really what it comes down to is that there's a difference between that and inclusive design. Inclusive design is a way of thinking that allows us to design experiences, places, buildings, services, products, what have you, in such a way that it is usable by the widest possible audience—in such a way that it doesn't introduce barriers. It means doing things upfront and not making things accessible after the fact.

The common example of this stuff is things like the curb cut, right—critical for some audiences like those with mobility differences. But it is augmentative and helpful for everybody. Easy examples are parents with strollers or people with luggage at the airport.

We don't think of certain other things as inclusive design but they are. Think of audio description that is not only helpful for those of us who are blind and use it on services like Netflix and so forth but also my friend who is autistic uses it. I was over at his house. We have a pretty irreverent relationship. “You know you can see, right?”

“Yeah, I do. But I use it for the emotional content I want to know in certain dramas in which it is hard for me to detect emotional content.”

We see this with visual description in art galleries. It is useful for those who can see, not just for those who can't because it lets you know what's going on. And it lets you have a guided looking experience.

So if you really want to think about this difference, here is one way of looking at it. At the National Museum of African American History and Culture, there is the Greensboro County counter. It is an exhibit on segregation, detailing the violence portrayed against the men of color that sat at the counter during the civil rights movement in this country.

If you go there and you're a wheelchair user, you're asked to roll down to the end of the counter where it's been lowered a couple of inches. Now this is accessible, right? But we think in the work that we do at PAC that if you're a black woman in a wheelchair rolling up to this thing, you're asked to roll down to the end of the counter. It is accessible and legal, but it is in no way inclusive. That's the work that we try to do. That's the kind of situation that we try to avoid in the world.

So we need to remember that a lot of us know these facts, these numbers. We hear them all the time. Twenty-five percent of the people in the world have a disability. Your chances of experiencing a disability is one out of two over the age of thirty-five. We all have different abilities and skills and ways of interacting with the world, and we need to get out of these silos.

A lot of the work we do concentrates on understanding we need to be able to build coalitions amongst groups of persons with disabilities, whether it's deaf folks and blind folks and autistic folks and so forth because only together can we overcome some of the incredibly significant challenges that are facing us today and in the near future. We need to understand this doesn't take away from our individual causes; making the world more inclusive is not against the mission of the NFB. But we need to understand we have these amazing talents and expertise that we can bring to these conversations and only together through realizing that when something is inaccessible or othering for one group of people, it is inaccessible and othering for all of us. That's the underlying ethos behind the work that I do and what I tend to believe in.

Why does this matter? It matters because we live in the most accessible time in the world! And you know what else is simultaneously true? We live in the most inaccessible time in the world. We've become pretty complacent as persons with disabilities when it comes to the way we think, especially about technology. A lot of us are enamored with our various touchscreen devices—Phones and iPads that have built-in accessibility, and those are wonderful things. They should be celebrated. The thing is that, over the next four years, there will be more inaccessible experiences created than in the history of humanity. That's the nature of exponential progress. That is what we're up against. If we don't do something about that and we don't do something about that together, then we are absolutely out of luck.

You see, we can't be talking about accessibility because if we're having a conversation around accessibility, it is already too late. That's a post facto conversation. We need to be talking about inclusion and inclusive design upfront.

Take for example some current events. The ACLU right now has a major campaign against facial recognition. They are not bad people, but they are really stigmatizing facial recognition as a technology and for good reason. Facial recognition technology has been used to perpetuate massive harm and violence, especially against marginalized groups such as persons of color in this country. Here's the thing: a lot of us use facial recognition all the time not only to do something like unlock our phones but to understand who's in a photo because Apple has built in artificial intelligence into our devices. Someone who is autistic can use facial recognition technology to detect emotional content either on a video stream or through image recognition. These things really matter, but these policies that are being put forth are being put forth by well-meaning people. They're being put forth by folks who want to do good and prevent harm in the world. However, they're deeply ableist. They're deeply naive solutions to complicated problems.

So we need to work together and have a unified voice, especially amongst all persons of varying abilities. Otherwise, my friends, we have absolutely no chance of solving these problems and making sure our voices and our roles in the world are represented in the way that we want them to be.

This is a little bit of doom and gloom, so what can we do about it? We can think inclusively. When we have an experience, we don't only think about ourselves in terms of was that described or was this available in Braille? Go beyond that. Was there sign language? What would I have done if I didn't have the privilege of being able to walk there? Was there a ramp to get access to that thing? We need to be thinking about all of our brothers and sisters and fellow humans that have various abilities because we need to then be surfacing these issues and problems when we notice them in the world. So, to state what I hope is obvious, we can be helping each other and by doing so, of course, help ourselves. We need to also be able to bring on board allies. This means, for example, the individuals who are creating experiences. I work with thousands of designers and developers every single year. Me and my team work across hundreds of different products in the industry, whether it is health care or in museums in which we do a ton of work. A lot of these people are simply acting first from a lack of education about accessibility and inclusive design. And second of all, they come from a place of not knowing what it is they can do. They're told one thing and expected to quickly become an expert in certain matters, but they're not set up to win.

We need to be able to group together with other persons with disabilities—with other groups—to establish education pipelines, to establish unified messaging, and to really go after legislatures on this topic so that we are unified in our approach. This is so because there is an avalanche of new technologies headed our way. It will blow your mind what is going to happen between now and 2030. It is not a mathematical exaggeration to say that it will be more than all of humanity has experienced since there have been people on this planet. If we realize that that is true, we cannot be complacent and satisfied.

Now being unsatisfied does not mean being ungrateful. I have the privilege of working with some incredible people every single day. Some of those people say, "I didn't even know computers could talk." That's where some people start. Other people are like, “I think I know everything about accessibility,” and after a couple of conversations with my team, they realize they don't.

We all have different journeys we're walking on, but we cannot be complacent in that. We need to be grateful but pushing forward with incredibly fervent behavior. If we don't, then we're going to be left behind at a rapidly accelerating rate.

I invite you to think about your personal experiences. Think about going through the world in whatever capacity you do, whether it is education, whether it is in the practice of law, whether it is in technology or in music or in anything that it is that you do. Think about those experiences not only from the viewpoint and through the lens of blindness, which we in this group of people and in this virtual room do such a good job at. But also view this under the lens of making sure that these experiences and these environments that we have the privilege of existing in are as inclusive as we possibly can make them for our fellow humans.

Now this has some practical consequences. It means that when we notice something like there's no captions on a video, we need to be complaining about that just as hard as no audio description. It means that when we notice that there's no sign language interpretation at a dramatic event, it is just as important as not having audio description. Things like this are a way that we can start building consensus that there is a unified need. A lack of inclusiveness is not an option. We need to make our environments less disabling.

Remember that old argument about the real problem of blindness being physical disability or primarily socially constructed. It is not the individual who is disabled. It is the environment that is disabling. We need to work together to make sure that our environments are not disabling as we move forward throughout the world.

In closing I just want to say thank you so much to all of you for your time. Thank you, Mr. President, for your invitation to speak to the convention this evening. I hope everybody has a wonderful convention. Have a good night, everybody.

Blind Equality Achievement Month: Yet Another Thing that Makes October Special

In October one of the ways we introduced the shift from Meet the Blind Month to Blind Equality Achievement Month was by asking leaders in the Federation to write blog posts; one for each letter. We wanted to feature perspectives on what each of these things means to our movement. We’ve compiled the posts here in case you missed them on the blog. Your comments are welcome and encouraged both in the Braille Monitor and through our other communications channels, one being [email protected]. Here are the blog entries for each letter:

On Blindness, Equality, and Achievement: Who Defines Us

by Mark Riccobono

Language is a fundamental building block to creating patterns of understanding. For centuries the term “blind” has been used to articulate negative concepts and to identify individuals who, because they possess the characteristic of not being able to see, are assumed to be less capable than others. This began to change in 1940 when we, the blind of the nation, organized a movement to decide for ourselves what our future would be and to redefine blindness by shattering the stereotypes.

Kenneth Jernigan set forth one of the strongest articulations of our understanding about blindness in the 1960s with his reflections on "A Definition of Blindness" (https://nfb.org/sites/default/files/images/nfb/publications/books/books1/kj07.htm). This understanding has been reframed and restated in many ways including in my own writings. Consider my 2020 banquet speech “Language, Action, and Destiny: The Lived Experience of the Organized Blind Movement” (https://nfb.org/resources/speeches-and-reports/banquet-speeches/language-action-and-destiny-lived-experience). As I note in that speech, use of the word “blind” is not merely appropriate, it is essential to reflecting the belief that it is respectable to live and compete on terms of equality as a blind person. We use the word “blind” because we reject the outdated notion that blindness is a tragedy that limits the possibilities. For us, the word “blind” has power and meaning. For those who are vision-centered, “blind” evokes fear and uncertainty. Language reflects belief, and we will not sell out our beliefs. We, the blind, follow our words with the action of living the lives we want. The result of our persistent and collective action is our shattering of the old meaning of blind and creating a new, stronger, authentic meaning.

People frequently tell me that people know what blind means, and it cannot be changed. That is not my experience. I thought I knew what the word “blind” meant until I met the members of the National Federation of the Blind. They demonstrated something different, and they helped me own the word and define its meaning in a new way in my own life. When I used the word with confidence and began backing it up with actions—like traveling independently—my confidence and beliefs grew. This was a process of understanding for me, and the growth and learning continues even today. I want to help others have that same transformational journey.

People sometimes say to me that when we use the word “blind” it leaves them out because they still have some eyesight. This demonstrates that we have more to do toward creating understanding that blind is a broad definition. We want those experiencing progressive changes in their eyesight to recognize that they have a common interest and bond with other blind people even if they do not yet fully identify with others who are blind. It is in fact the diversity of experiences with blindness that have helped shape our philosophy about living the lives we want as blind people.

I do not think about being blind anymore. It is part of who I am and how I experience the world. Before I embraced blindness as a characteristic and learned the techniques to compete in the world, I thought about what I could or could not see all the time. Lifting that burden gave me the freedom and power to focus my energy on the things I need to do to pursue my own dreams.

October has long been an important month for teaching others about the capacity of blind people. We used to designate it as “Meet the Blind Month.” That work was valuable as it helped us get to be better known in our communities. However, we are rebranding it this year as “Blind Equality Achievement Month” in order to raise the expectations even farther. We want more than to just be met; we want you to stand with us for equality, opportunity, and security. We want our nonblind friends, family, and colleagues to come to know that the definition of blind is best shaped by our lived experience not by the misperceptions of those who have not lived with the characteristic of blindness every day. For those who are not blind, yet, as it certainly may happen if you live long enough, that when that day comes we want you to know that it is a new beginning and not an end.

We, those individuals who identify as blind people and who will not let that one characteristic define our future, have determined to redefine “blind” in the world. We invite you to join us in sharing this new definition, this authentic understanding, so that all blind people may live the lives they want.

Finding My Way to Equality: Coming ‘Home’ to the Federation

by Linda Melendez

As long as I can remember, I’ve never quite fit in with the intersecting communities in my life. Although I’m of Puerto Rican descent and my full name is very much Latin, I’m white-passing so the Latinx community didn’t accept me. Meanwhile, my fair skin, freckles, and red hair didn’t get me very far within the white community. They kept me at arm’s length because of my name and accent. Needless to say, I had to fight for equality within these spaces.

When my son Logan was six years old, I attended my first National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey convention on my own. The following year, Logan came with me, and though I enjoyed myself at both conventions, it wasn’t until my son was nineteen that I really became an active member; Logan’s encouragement and belief that I needed the Federation in my life convinced me to join. By this time in my life, I had experienced discrimination and exclusion because of my race, being a single mother, and my blindness. I came in to the NFB hoping that I would find a place where I fit in.

We fight tirelessly as an organization for equality in areas from education to legislation, employment to health care and so much more. I have never felt as though I had to fight for equality within the Federation family. As a newer member of the organization, I benefited when Joe Ruffalo took me under his wing, and through his mentorship, I have felt empowered to push for equality for all blind people. I’m honored to be leading the charge here in New Jersey as affiliate president. 2020 was my first year in this position, and I advocated for the rights of blind parents before the state judicial committee. The expectation is for the bill to be signed into law before our next National Convention. I’m also proud to say that to date, two-thirds of our representatives have signed on to the Access Technology Affordability Act (ATAA), another piece of legislation that gives blind people equal footing in society.

When I attended my first National Convention, President Riccobono said something that really sealed the deal for me. During the Rookie Roundup, he said to new members, “welcome home.” Those words truly changed my life. For the first time, I felt that I truly belonged. I felt accepted and equal to everyone else within the movement. All of the things that kept me from full and equal participation within my community are now strengths that I use in the Federation. I like to think of myself as “Abuela [Grandma] President.” I am teaching my two-year-old grandson, Lucas Matthew, to see people as equals no matter our background. I proudly pay membership dues for Lucas every year and will do so until he’s eighteen. My hope is that he is inspired to lead his generation to the place where equality for all is the rule, not the exception.

Celebrating our Milestone Achievements

by Anil Lewis

I made my decision to become a member of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) after attending an NFB of Georgia meeting and listening to the speaker make an impassioned plea for the membership to do everything possible to ensure that a young blind student receives Braille instruction in his classroom. I soon pledged to participate actively in the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind and have subsequently shared in many significant milestone achievements as part of the world’s most transformative group of blind people.

Reclaiming my life through the acquisition of the alternative skills of blindness (Braille, cane travel, access technology, and independent living skills) all nested in the NFB philosophy of belief in the true capacity of blind people was a significant personal achievement. Establishing a positive self-concept of myself as a blind person, developing the necessary problem-solving skills, and recognizing the need to fight for full participation while accepting full responsibility allowed me to achieve professional success and serve as an active member of our movement.

I shared in securing several significant achievements as a member of the Georgia affiliate of the NFB. In addition to securing Braille instruction for many more blind students, NFB of Georgia members were able to support the passage of the Audible Universal Information Access services legislation, which funds the NFB-NEWSLINE® in Georgia. We were able to work in concert with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office to make Georgia the first state with nonvisually accessible voting machines in every precinct and every election.

The struggle is real, and progress does not come as quickly as we would like. We have overcome many of the barriers of the past that prohibited us from being considered as equals, and if the world was static, we may have achieved the fundamental equality we seek. However, the world continues to evolve, and we must evolve with it. Therefore as the methods of providing education evolve, we will still need to struggle to ensure that blind students receive appropriate Braille instruction and have access to accessible learning materials. As voting technology evolves, we will still need to struggle to ensure that blind people have the right and ability to cast a private independent ballot. Likewise, as the nature of the jobs and the skills required to perform them evolve, we will still need to struggle to eliminate the barriers that prevent blind people from securing competitive integrated employment.

In fact, this month, we have an opportunity to reach a tremendous milestone in the elimination of Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which allows employers to legally pay workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage. A Proposed Rule by the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, known as the AbilityOne Commission, has recently been posted to the Federal Register instituting a prohibition on the payment of subminimum wages under 14(c) certificates as a qualification for participation as a nonprofit agency under the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Program (https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/10/12/2021-22118/prohibition-on-the-payment-of-subminimum-wages-under-14c-certificates-as-a-qualification-for). Each of us should take time to comment so that we can all celebrate this milestone once it is achieved.

Blind Equality Achievement Month is a time for us to intentionally focus on celebrating our milestone achievements to remain motivated to continue along this sometimes difficult and frustrating path toward full citizenship. As we remain focused on our destination, we should revel in our journey. As we continue to make rational, incremental progress toward achieving our goals of equality, opportunity, and security, we will measure our progress by the many milestones along this path to freedom.

The Magic of a Month and Should We be Celebrating?

by Gary Wunder

For the last few weeks, we have been writing about Blind Equality Achievement Month, focusing a bit of attention on each letter that encompasses our approach to October and the effort that we make to change people’s perceptions about what it means to be blind. We saved the toughest questions for last: Why a month? Have we achieved enough to celebrate? And why should the blind get special attention?

So, what is a month? Merriam-Webster says it is “a measure of time corresponding nearly to the period of the moon's revolution and amounting to approximately four weeks or thirty days or 1/12 of a year.” So as much as I respect and rely on Merriam-Webster that really doesn’t get us very far because it tells us what we already know. I could play a little bit with the romantic notions about the various stages of the moon, but I’m not sure that would tell us anything about why a month is the appropriate measure of how long we should celebrate the achievements of the blind or focus our energy on receiving equal treatment.

Maybe we can start by admitting that a month is an arbitrary period when we are talking about how long a celebration should be. Perhaps what we should be discussing is not why a month is the obvious choice for our program but instead figure out how to take best advantage of this measure of time.

If we want to send a message to people, we must realize that they are busy and offer it at times when they may be available to receive it. A month lets us choose from all the weekdays that end in Y, and we may take the same advantage of weekends to catch those who are otherwise occupied during the week. A month is long enough to let us schedule multiple activities and not wear people out by trying to squeeze those activities into a week.

Some people are concerned less about the unit of time but instead are focused on the appropriateness of celebrating achievements by blind people. They ask why we should be celebrating when there is so much work still to do. The acknowledgment of achievement suggests that work pays off, and this is important if in fact we have more work to do, which we most assuredly do. We need some time to do cheerleading to get people excited about what blind people have done but, more importantly, about what blind people can do. For some this excitement may translate into extending opportunities to people they had previously considered incapable. For others it may mean taking a step that they previously thought foolish, unrealistic, or imprudent. Encouraging a person to dream is a positive step, but helping them to act on that dream is truly a noble leap forward.

One question that is periodically raised is why blind people should highlight our own achievements given there is already Disability Awareness Month? If we are engaging in needless duplication, it is a poor use of our resources and time. A compelling argument for me has always been that blindness is feared more than any other disability, and polls have suggested that it is feared second only to cancer when it comes to health conditions. A significant reduction in eyesight is specific in the life changes it can bring about, and answering those fears must be equally specific. Generic terms are fine when crafting legislation to broadly address human rights or trying to define large groups of people. But when it comes to problem-solving, people are looking for specific solutions, and being responsive must mean we are specific in discussing our life experiences and the alternative techniques we daily employ.

Is there a reason to focus energy and attention on the quest for equality and the achievements that have sprung from it during the month of October? The answer isn’t found in some book of wisdom; it is found in us. If we believe that the pursuit of equality of opportunity is worth it, we share that passion with the public. If we believe that our achievements are worth sharing with the world that too often undervalues us, we will do it. If our life experience is that “we should do that sometime” is less effective than “let’s do that next week,” then we will rally behind the idea of Blind Equality Achievement Month and focus on making who we are, what we do, and what we can bring to our communities more visible in the thirty-one days October gifts to us. I think we should, know we can, and fervently believe we will.

From Seed to Harvest

by Jerry Moreno

From the Editor: Jerry lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and he has been in the Federation since May 1994. Within a month of being introduced to the National Federation of the Blind, he found himself on a bus to visit the National Center for the Blind, now known as the Jernigan Institute. He remembers being very impressed by Joe Ruffalo and thought that he had never met anyone with more enthusiasm. One thing he learned on that bus was that if you didn’t want a job, you shouldn’t sit anywhere near Joe Ruffalo. At the time Jerry did not consider himself a blind person but only a person who might be losing his vision. He refused to use a cane, no matter the bruises that came from being unable to see what was ahead of him.

Jerry is now retired but worked as a social worker, and at one point in his career he was the manager of an office that found him supervising 170 people. He recalls walking up to the door, reaching for the door handle, and being asked by a bystander “Can you manage.” His response was, “I hope I can; I’m the director of this office.” Here is what Jerry has to say about nurturing the right kind of attitude that will lead to employment and the many benefits that come from it:

 WHY NOT WORK? This question is asked by many blind people. However, some blind folk ask ... Why work? They ask this question because of a lack of understanding. For if they only realized that in them is the potential to succeed, that the possibility already exists in them to succeed, they would not even think of failure.

Consider a tomato plant seed. It has all the potential to become a fruit-bearing plant given the proper set of circumstances. All that is necessary to become a tomato is already in the seed. Contemplate that for a while. Think of yourself as a seed. Are you planted in fertile ground or are you on the shelf?

A seed on a shelf is useless. It cannot produce anything. It will stay a seed for all its life. Until planted, it will never bear fruit.

However, with the proper conditions the planted seed will bear fruit. What are the proper conditions? Conditions such as prepared soil, sufficient water and nutrients, sunlight and heat, and a weed-free and obstacle-free environment are important in the growth process. These will enable the seed to grow and flourish.

What conditions do you need to produce fruit? You start by understanding that you are like a seed. All you need to be successful is already in you. You need to foster the proper conditions for growth.

Your ground needs to be broken up or plowed. This means that you must understand and believe in yourself that you can make it. If you do not, you can never rise above your own expectations. It would be like a seedling trying to pierce the hard soil or roots trying to pierce hard ground. Without the ground being broken, the seedling cannot pierce the top soil or the roots cannot absorb sufficient water or nutrients. In the example of the tomato plant, it would grow a little but never produce any fruit. Eventually it would shrivel up and die.

As for you, if you do not believe in yourself, you would exist but not prosper. You would never succeed at the game of life.

But, if you do believe in yourself, you start the process of growth. Once you break the shackle of ... I CANNOT ... you allow thoughts of success to enter your mind and begin to nourish your victory.

Like a seed would have trouble growing in hard or stubborn ground, a stubborn mind will do the same for success. Break up the hard ground and allow your victory to grow!

Once the ground is broken, then the seed can be planted. Sufficient water and nutrients are needed at this next level of growth. Water and nutrients represent education and training.

Without the sustaining force of water and nutrients, a fledgling seedling will dry up and die. The same will happen to you if you do not seek training or an education.

Roots search after water and nutrients, not the other way around. The roots actively seek these life-sustaining forces. You, too, must vigorously explore all possibilities of enhancing your job marketability. Adequate education and training will strengthen your abilities and allow you to grow into the employee that is inherent in you. After you receive sufficient education and training, you can enter the job market knowing you have something to offer, a fruit worthy of harvest!

Sunlight and heat contribute to the growth process of the plant. The lack of the sun's life-producing rays would leave a plant weak and listless. Eventually, it would wither and die.

Sunlight and heat symbolize networking and camaraderie. The sun's rays shed light on the plant thus enabling it to produce fruit. Networking's illuminating effect sheds light on things such as available services, training, and adaptive equipment. The fruit of employment is nurtured by these and many more.

Networking leads to job opportunities, the fruit of any prospective employee. However, to hear about these opportunities, you must be in contact with those who know. You must turn to people who already are working and ask them how they got their job. As a leaf gravitates toward the sun and turns toward it, you also must seek out those that are presently employed and learn from them.

Various plants have a diverse tolerance to cold. A prolonged cold spell will greatly affect the size and amount of any fruit. Without networking, you run the risk of no harvest, that is, no job! Throughout the United States, there are meetings of chapters of the National Federation of the Blind that you can attend. You can get on the Jobs-nfbnet.org mailing list. The only way you can find out about these things is by asking. Do not be left out in the cold; come to chapter meetings, conventions, and in so doing you will network!

The warmth of camaraderie will nurture you and give you companionship. Knowing that there are blind people who have already traveled the road you are about to take will alleviate any fears that you may have.

Associating with successfully employed people will have an advantageous effect on your attitude. It is always better to identify with positive people than negative. Do not be dragged down; be lifted up, and associate with those who can help you.

Weeds and obstacles can have an adverse effect on the growth of any plant. Weeds can choke a plant to death. There are those in society who have hindered the opportunities of blind people to succeed. Most are unintentional, due to a lack of education or information. Nonetheless the result is the same. The choking effect of misconception and ignorance need to be pulled up as a weed from the root and destroyed. As a plant needs a weed-free environment to be fruitful, when given a weed-free environment, the blind can be just as fruitful as their sighted peers.

Some obstacles to plant growth may have nothing to do with soil or climatic conditions. Improperly planted seeds may become fodder for the birds. Shallow-planted seeds will not survive. If you are not prepared for employment, or even greater, for life, you run the risk of being eaten up alive.

Most obstacles are either avoidable or removable. Knowledge and wisdom will help to expose and extract any obstacle in your way. To be fruitful, you must first learn what the obstacles are and then how to avoid or remove them.

How sad is it when you see someone who thinks they have Mount Everest in their way when it is only an anthill. The rich history of the National Federation of the Blind is replete with examples of dislodged Mount Everests. Floyd Matson's Walking Alone and Marching Together chronicles many a mountain turned anthill. This book is essential reading for all blind people.

Do not be weighted down with excess baggage. Life has enough of its own. Learn and be unshackled from unnecessary burdens. Glean from those who have walked in the past and join them.

A seed cannot be planted upside-down. The position it starts in does not have any effect on the harvest. When a farmer sows seed, he is not interested in how the seed lands on the ground but is concerned with how the ground is prepared and maintained. He knows that proper preparation and care will promote a plentiful harvest, a harvest worthy of his effort.

Like the seed, no matter what position you find yourself in, you have the potential to be fruitful. It might take some effort on your part, but it can be done. If you give up and stay at home, like a seed on a shelf, you would have the capacity to bear fruit but would not be fruitful.

After you plant a tomato seed, do you expect to grow a tomato overnight? No, everyone knows that some time has to elapse between the time you sow the seed and the time you enjoy the fruit of your labor.

Yet, some people who have planted themselves in the employment field lose hope when they do not see instantaneous results. Just like there is a growing season for tomato plants, there is a growing season for you. If you do not realize this, you can become discouraged and quit. This would be like the farmer planting a seed today and digging it up next week because he could not see any growth. Quitting interrupts the growth cycle and never leads to fruit. A farmer would never dig up a seed to see if it is growing! How foolish this sounds, for this would ruin any chance for a harvest. Knowing that he has done all that he could, he has enough confidence in the idea of seedtime and harvest to wait with anticipation. If you have been diligent and set the growth process into motion, you can wait patiently with expectation.

You should look over your circumstances as the farmer might look over his newly planted field. He would stand there and picture the prospective harvest. Picture yourself employed and successful. You must be just as pregnant with success as that field is with a crop.

The farmer is in control of everything except the weather conditions. Common sense dictates what and when to plant. You would not plant oranges in Alaska. Therefore, using common sense and good farming techniques, a farmer can logically expect a bounteous harvest. So, too, you can expect to produce fruit in the same way.

Why not work? The choice is yours. You decide if there will be an employment harvest or not. It starts with a decision. Make the right choice, and the growth process is set in motion. Make the wrong choice, and you will remain unemployed.

Remember, a seed on the shelf bears no fruit. By following the aforementioned principles, you can learn to overcome any and all obstacles. Plant yourself and produce a bountiful harvest!

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 2019, 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.

Words Matter

by Maurice Peret

From the Editor: In this time of social change, I find that I particularly like the title of this article. Although I do my best to stay up-to-date, listen to every point of view I can, and seem to spend most of my time reading, there are many terms I do not understand, yet I see them used in our literature, some of which I have some responsibility for editing. Several years ago someone wrote an article in which they opined that this condition really sucks. I replaced the word, and my young assistant laughed. She said it was a commonly used word and that I should not shy away from it. She said she could well understand the origin of the word that I initially understood but that it had changed and was now part of the common parlance. Of course she did more than laugh at me. There are times when she cautioned me against words that I wanted to use. I wanted to refer to Dr. Jernigan and Dr. tenBroek as intimates, but again she suggested that there was a disconnect between my understanding of common day usage and what I was intending to say.

I have been reading a book by Ibram X. Kendi about being an antiracist, and I was struck by these sentences: “Definitions anchor us in principles. This is not a light point: If we don’t do the basic work of defining the kind of people we want to be in language that is stable and consistent, we can’t work toward stable, consistent goals.”

As a reader of the Braille Monitor, I’m not sure that I have ever been properly introduced to the term “othering.” I believe it means to consider a group different from oneself and to see that difference as negative rather than positive. The Oxford dictionary offers these synonyms: rejected, excluded, shunned, spurned, rebuffed, snubbed, scorned, ostracized, and repudiated. I take from this that the term refers to a group considered so foreign that I pretend that I cannot relate to their experience or feel I have no obligation to see the world as they experience it.

So what about other terms that float into the language? One I recently questioned was “woke.” This word can be troublesome because the definition is not as clear. It depends on when the word was used and by whom. In its simplest form it means to have passed from sleep to consciousness, but other definitions definitely exist, and this is when things get complicated. To some the word woke means to be mindful of current issues and to be supportive of them, particularly as they relate to social movements. To some the word means a decision to be aware that what is reflected in your life may be very different in the lives of others. To some the word evokes all that is offensive about political correctness, and to call someone woke is not to flatter or compliment but to say they have bought into division and the fragmenting of society. To them it embodies all of the evils of “cancel culture,” yet another term, and the ideology of victimhood. So when we use words like this one, we better be certain that we understand the different meanings it has and think about whether our concept can be explained as well with other words that make clear our meaning.

All of this is to say that I want us to be careful in the language we use. The Monitor should not be a tool that divides us, but neither should it be so antiseptic that we avoid understanding the issues our fellow blind people experience.

Now for a word about Maurice before he begins speaking for himself. He is not easily categorized politically. He spends a lot of time reading, and some of the characters that are treated unfavorably in our culture are ones he believes are misunderstood. If he believes that Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin have points of view with which he agrees, the fact that we print his comments does not mean that the National Federation of the Blind or the Braille Monitor has an opinion about these revolutionaries. What it does mean is that we believe Maurice has opinions that we benefit from organizationally if we share them, come to understand them, and can then decide with reason what we will take and what we will reject in our own view of the world.

So, in furtherance of better communication about issues of importance to us today, here is what Maurice has to say:

I have previously written in these pages about the pitfalls of popular social trends such as is engendered in identity politics while we in the National Federation of the Blind continue to celebrate and embrace our differences and “otherness.”

An interesting debate from 2019 about whether identity politics is tearing our society apart can be found via a British program called Intelligence Squared at https://youtu.be/hVMYfuzhbxk.

I recently engaged with some leaders of our diversity and inclusion initiative about the use of the term "ally" as part of the conversation around diversity. Popular linguistic conventions creep up in social discourse, which we sometimes accept by rote without much analysis. We could discuss the efficacy of the use of the “N” word, the "B" word, “queer,” or other language adopted by some members of marginalized groups. Parenthetically, it has become difficult for me to keep up with all the alphabetic augmentations encompassed in the LGBTQAI+ category. I know what L, G, T, B, and Q stand for, but I wonder what the AI is for and whether the plus simply is intended to include those not yet integrated into the acronym.

My personal measure has been to consider whether any of these terms are ever used to uplift rather than disparage others. I never heard the term “blink” in reference to a blind person or “gimp” in referring to someone who uses a wheelchair until I went to college. While it might sound playful to some within the disability community to implore terms such as these under the justification of “taking the term back” and rebranding it for our own purposes, I don’t think a very strong argument can be made that they are anything but derogatory. Others may argue that it is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder.

In another more recent instance, the term “cisgender male” was used in reference to me. I had never heard this term before that utterance. While this came from a colleague whom I admire and respect, I have wondered ever since about it being hung around my neck. It is not a term that I claimed nor necessarily accept. A person who used the term frankly did not know me well enough to put me into such a box. One might say that, well, Maurice is married and has children and thus and such, but as we all know, these are not definitively exclusionary criteria. We must be careful in our pursuit of group affinity and identification with oppressed people groups not to unwittingly alienate ourselves from a broader and stronger majority whom, together, I am confident can conquer all remnants of racism, nationalism, sexism, ableism, and all forms of oppression.

A reference was made during our exchange to the civil rights movement in this country. It is noteworthy to consider the substantial number of Caucasian people—freedom fighters—who literally positioned their bodies as shields to defend black protesters under the tremendous disciplined leadership of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Black Panther Party, as well as a host of other Black-rights organizations. It is true that young people from many racial groups and backgrounds shed blood in the struggle. The term that unified these fighters was "Freedom Riders," not allies. In the huge militant industrial labor battles of the 1920s and 1930s in this country, made up in large part of immigrant workers, solidarity was a concept shared among comrades, again, not allies. Ally was a term reserved for those individuals, and they were usually heroic individuals of which history is plentiful with examples, but who were nonetheless from alien class forcers or interests. For example, they would include secretaries and messengers of bosses who were planning attacks on striking union workers. Their contributions to the struggle were no less appreciated, but they were not strictly "comrades-in-arms union members."

The reason why I respectfully but firmly reject the term ally is that it creates a socially-artificial and embattled barrier among us and can imply a certain hierarchy. For instance, we hear of allies when studying interimperialist wars throughout history. Most United Nations or so-called peacekeeping military adventures are dominated by United States military brass, (read Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Afghanistan), as was true during the two world wars. In those instances, a hierarchy existed between European, British, and smaller and weaker powers and the dominant United States Armed Forces. In every theater of operation, United States political and military leaders gave the orders to all other operational troops.

Just as a way of contextualizing where I am coming from, my political and historic orientation can be summed up as not fitting neatly within political conventional categories of left or right. Instead, I adhere to a historic continuity that goes back to Marx and Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, Eugene V. Debs and Hellen Keller, and other past leaders of revolutionary caliber. Within that proud tradition, it would not necessarily be inaccurate to say that my views are rather orthodox. The problem is that my views are neither very popular nor widely well understood, which I think is quite sad since it represents an important part of our collective history. I have always had a deep and abiding interest and appreciation for folks who come from so many varied backgrounds and nations. My mom, a single parent and French immigrant who raised me, possessed what I consider a healthy distrust of power and authority. I evolved my thinking beyond merely iconoclastic rebellion chiefly because I am more interested in results in matters of justice and equity. I am more interested in expressing what I am for as opposed to what I am against, which is too easy for all of us to do. I look to leadership from the likes of those such as Malcolm X., Nelson Mandela, Cesar Chavez, Ernesto Che Guevara, and others who have demonstrated a capacity to lead truly mass movements. In so doing, I would joyfully submit myself to the discipline and conduct inspired by such leadership. That would, in my humble opinion, make me a soldier in the struggle rather than an ally. Colin Wong expressed this beautifully in his wrap-up as moderator of the diversity panel presentation during the NFB 2021 National Convention. I am so heartened and inspired by strong and vibrant leadership that is represented in our various areas of work in the Federation, which I believe to be the hope and strength of our movement in all its diversity and inclusivity.

President Riccobono’s banquet speech was most illustrative as he recounted the rough racial waters the Federation navigated during the 1950s and 1960s Jim Crow era, along with the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, this has not always been so prolific in the literary historic account of our movement. It is often said that history is always written from the point of view of the victors, although this is rather simplistic. I look at this from a decidedly internationalist perspective, as well. Malcolm used to remind us that while African Americans, Latinos, indigenous Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, along with those of us with disabilities suffer the indignities of a minority class in the United States, that fact is not reflected in much of the world’s composition. In building truly effective mass movements, therefore, I believe we must come to understand our capacity to come together in united action. Our experiences are not the same, and I would not suggest otherwise. To consider another angle, the so-called progressive left liberals in this country completely missed the mark in maligning whole swaths of people who could and should have been considered “allies,” to borrow the term, in the political theater that led to the election of Donald J. Trump. They wrote off these people by consistently vilifying working-class voters throughout the Midwest, Appalachia, and the South who voted in large numbers for Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries but for Trump in the general election. Many of these folks have been and continue to be economically, socially, and culturally devastated by the steady economic decline and slow-burn deindustrialization occurring over the past several decades. Many of these workers hold bitter memories of the Clinton dynasty’s dismantling of the social net, “ending welfare as we know it,” bloating the prison population in the name of the “war on drugs,” far more than occurred even under the Reagan administration, etc. It has been observed that the last true liberal president this country had in terms of policy was Richard M. Nixon.

To mention so-called “white privilege” to a laid-off coal miner in Kentucky; Pennsylvania; Alabama; or West Virginia, where I lived for several years, will likely provoke an animated response. That does not make these people definitively racist. Backward ideas about the “other” certainly exist throughout our society. I nonetheless hate to see so many of the gains we have made as a people be subverted by trendy language shortcuts as, again in my humble opinion, is used in the term “ally,” no matter how well-intended.

I am reminded of a speech presented by the late great Federation leader, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan in an October 1994 issue of the Braille Monitor entitled “Reflections On Race, Religion, Disability, Sex, and Broader Issues” in response to a letter accusing him of racially insensitive language in presenting a distinguished award to Ms. Doris Johnson. [That article appears immediately following this one.] In his article, Former President Jernigan stated “Despite the attempts of some of our detractors to create a race problem in the Federation, we have never had one, and I doubt that we ever will.” With the passing of some twenty-seven years and a different era in the Federation notwithstanding, this assertion can certainly be debated and discussed. Clearly members of our movement have experienced treatment beneath their dignity and worth as human beings and as comrades in our movement. Nonetheless, I believe that Dr. Jernigan passionately expressed the unified focus of our collective strength and power.

Finally, I believe that using the term “ally” condescends to set a lower standard of the capacities of folks who happen, by accident of birth or upbringing, to be Caucasian, Christian, or whatever dominant American cultural divide. To rise to a level of solidarity that inspires one to be willing to lay down their lives for their brother or sister of any background is a friend, a brother or sister, a fellow combatant or, if you will, a comrade is more than an ally. Those who help in a cause not directly their own should have a term that raises one to the level of an equal: not an overlord, not the driver of the cause, but not an underling whose investment of time, treasure, and even personal risk is discounted.

Reflections on Race, Religion, Disability, Sex, and Broader Issues

by Kenneth Jernigan

From the Editor: This is the piece Maurice referenced in the article that precedes this one. It originally appeared in 1994, so some of Dr. Jernigan’s perspective would certainly be different had he been in the audience when “Not Blind to Color in the Federation: A Panel on the Experience of Black and Blind in America” was presented by Ever Lee Hairston, Denice Brown, Ron Brown, Bobbi Pompei, and Tarik Williams at our 2020 National Convention. Those who believe they can predict how he would alter this article in 2021 fail to appreciate how often we who tried to guess his positions on things turned out to be wrong because he had more perceptiveness than we gave him credit for at the time. If we ever find ourselves in the position of not being able to read or consider articles, books, plays, television shows, and movies simply because they reflected how things were or how they were perceived when written, we will certainly subtract from not only our understanding of history but all the ways in which it has influenced the building of what we now consider to be the reality of today. I hope you enjoy this article:

The opponents of the organized blind movement have never understood our strength and unity. Failing to comprehend, they have made a mystery of it, hinting at all kinds of sinister controls and machinations. But the secret is no secret, and the mystery is no mystery.

We deal with only one set of issues--those related to blindness. As an organization we deal with nothing else. Moreover, if a thing is not a problem, we refuse to call it one even if somebody insists that it is. Finally, we treat each other like brothers and sisters--not the way some folks treat their brothers and sisters but the way they should treat them. We care about each other; we defend each other; and we consider each other's feelings.

Recently two Federationists (a husband and wife) wrote to me about something I said at this year's National Convention in Detroit. They felt that my comments about Doris Johnson when I presented the Distinguished Service Award to her at the banquet were inappropriate. They felt (and, incidentally, they are White) that the comments were racially insensitive. Despite the attempts of some of our detractors to create a race problem in the Federation, we have never had one, and I doubt that we ever will.

In the circumstances I might have answered these two Federationists superficially or simply have brushed their comments aside, but this is not the way we treat members of the family. These are sincere, thoughtful, dedicated Federationists. They deserved a reasoned response, and I did the best I could to give them one. I also took the occasion to expand the question and to write for a broader audience, you who read the Monitor. Here are the letters and the remarks I made at the banquet:

July 20, 1994

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

Greetings. We are both still catching our breaths after the whirlwind week of convention. We hope you had as wonderful a time there as we did.

We are writing to you concerning the Service Award presented to Doris Johnson at the convention banquet. While introducing her, you described her at length as an unsophisticated "self-effacing" volunteer who cheerfully toiled at "humble" tasks with no expectation of recognition or thanks. In our opinion, the portrait of Ms. Johnson was stereotypical and degrading, like the portrayals of Black women that have appeared in the literature for hundreds of years.

Our objection to the language used to describe Ms. Johnson stems from our fear of the repercussions that may come from such racially insensitive comments. It doesn't matter if Ms. Johnson is in fact exactly as she was described; she could even have written the portrait herself. What matters is the political message that such a description sends. We fear that some people may come to the conclusion that the Federation thinks all Blacks fit the stereotype of the introduction. This could only lead to a weakening of our organization, both in membership numbers and internal harmony.

Thank you for considering what we have said. We welcome your response if you have time to put it to paper, but all we ask is that when someone is introduced in the future, that the audience not be able to identify without a doubt the race of the person before they step onto the stage.

Respectfully,

cc: President Marc Maurer
Baltimore, Maryland
July 28, 1994

Dear:

Thanks for your recent letter. I have given careful thought to your comments, and it is hard to respond without sounding defensive.

As you know, I am not much for political correctness. What was said of Doris Johnson during the presentation of the award could with equal accuracy have been said of my daughter, who works by Doris's side doing the grueling preparation of seminar and similar meals. Except for the fact that she is my daughter, Marie would also have received a Distinguished Service Award, and the comments would have been the same.

In your letter you say:

"... [A]ll we ask is that when someone is introduced in the future, that the audience not be able to identify without a doubt the race of the person before they step onto the stage."

Surely you are not implying that what I said could not with equal accuracy have been said of a member of the Caucasian race, for that would imply that Whites are too good to work in the kitchen and that only Blacks can do such work--an insult to both races, and a fallacy into the bargain.

Doris's family (people of culture and good taste) were present at the banquet and heartily approved of what was said. In fact, they provided much of the background. They were deeply moved and, I am sure, would be hurt by any reflection on the nature and content of the presentation.

Be that as it may, your letter raises a broader question, one that deserves comment. Let me begin with something that may not on first examination seem relevant to what we are discussing. We do not have a Black caucus in the Federation, and I for one will fight to see that we never do. The concept is demeaning to Black Federationists. It implies that our Black members cannot make it in competition with the rest of us. I have talked with a great many of our Black members, and (not withstanding a dogmatic few) I believe the overwhelming majority are as opposed as I am to a separate Black bloc.

At times we have had as many as two Black national board members (one of them a Vice President) and as many as nine Black state presidents, all serving at the same time--not because they were Black but because they were dedicated Federationists, who were politically savvy and had fought their way up through the ranks just like everybody else. Of course, we have seven or eight Black state presidents today. I haven't counted lately. It doesn't matter.

If every member of the national board and every state president were Black, it should not be a matter of concern. It should not, that is, unless color was the reason for the election. By the same token (token, not tokenism) it should not matter if all national board members and all state presidents were non-Black--not unless color was the reason. But there are some (hopefully not very many) who would object to either situation.

Some time ago, somebody asked me whether one of our state presidents was Black. I said that I didn't know, and I was telling the truth. How would I have known unless somebody had told me? The old tired cliche that "you can tell them by their voice" is not only racist but also provably false. We had a reason not too long ago to fill out a paper concerning the racial composition of our staff here at the National Center for the Blind, and I was told that I had omitted one of our Black staff members. This person had worked for us for several years, and I had no idea what his color was. What difference did it make? I couldn't see him; I couldn't tell by his voice; and I had never asked. The people who hire in our organization are blind, and they don't use color as a litmus test.

There is a basic premise in the functioning of the Federation, one that goes back to the very beginning. It is easy to understand, objectionable to a few, and (in my opinion) largely responsible for the harmony and effectiveness we have enjoyed. It is this: we treat each other like brothers and sisters, and we deal with only one issue--blindness. We have Black racists, White racists, and mostly neither. We have pro-abortionists, anti-abortionists, and many who don't give a hoot either way. We have right wingers, left wingers, and people who claim they are centrists. We have religionists, atheists, agnostics, and many who don't bother about it. We have elitists, red necks, and plenty of pseudos. We have those who favor women's lib, men's lib, gay rights, the Nation of Islam, the Ku Klux Klan, and Rush Limbaugh. Yet, we live in harmony with each other.

The reason is no mystery. We deal with one issue, blindness--and we don't impose our non-blindness views on our fellow Federationists. All of us are happy to have the rest of us work in any other cause we like, just so long as we don't intrude that cause into the Federation--and especially just so long as we don't try to make each other discuss it and accept our view of it.

When the Vietnam War was at its height, one of our members (he called himself a dove) wanted us to discuss and pass a resolution condemning the war. I told him I would oppose it.

"Oh," he said, "so you are a hawk!"

"It doesn't follow," I said. "If somebody wants to introduce a resolution supporting the war, I will oppose that, too. More than that: I will oppose discussing the question at all. We are an organization to deal with blindness, not Vietnam--and not anything else." He wasn't very happy with me, but I believe the overwhelming majority of Federationists would have been.

When we were organizing in Florida three or four years ago, one of the members wanted us to go on record as opposing abortion. I was chairing that meeting, and I told him that I not only objected to our adopting the resolution but to discussing it. I told him that before we could consider the merits of the question, the members would have to agree that they wanted to talk about it. I further told him that the members had the right to decide not to discuss an issue. Everybody in the entire meeting except him thought we should not consider the matter, and we didn't--but I know that many of those present felt that abortion was wrong. None of us objected to his holding his view on abortion; none of us objected to his going out and trying to get the rest of society to believe as he did; but we felt that the Federation was not the proper forum.

For my part, the concept of a disability group or caucus in either of the major political parties would be counter-productive and offensive. We are not as helpless and incompetent as that implies, and if the idea should ever take hold, we would likely forever to be limited to minority status and disability matters. This is my personal view, one that may not be shared by other Federationists--and I am content to have it that way.

Having given you this background concerning Federation traditions and practices about race and similar issues, I want to return to the specifics of your letter. When you say that the audience could identify without a doubt the race of the person receiving the award before she stepped onto the stage, I am curious to know how. I have reviewed my remarks and herewith enclose a copy for your examination. As far as I am concerned there is not one sentence or word in the entire presentation which identifies race, with the possible exception of the fact that Doris attended Morgan State University. Even that is not definitive since a few White students now go there.

Was it that she grew up in a poverty-stricken rural area of the South? That is the setting in which I grew up, and so did many others in the Federation, White and Black alike. Was it because her family were share croppers? That is no identifier. My family had the same experience, living on somebody else's land. When I was a child, my father cut and hauled telephone poles for a dime apiece, and he often worked from sunup until dark for fifty cents. He milked the cows and did other chores after the day's work. Besides the share of a crop, the pay was often in apples or molasses or whatever else was available. There wasn't enough money to do otherwise.

Is it because Doris did cleaning chores and housework to pay her way through school? When I was a boy, I shined shoes with the same objective. Is it all right for White boys to shine shoes for low pay but not all right for Black girls to do similar work? Is it perhaps that Doris came from a large family? My father was the thirteenth child in his family, and I remember a neighbor woman (White, incidentally) who had twenty-one children. Was it that Doris worked in the fields when she was not in school? My brother and all of the other children in our neighborhood did the same thing, and I would have done it too if my family had believed I could instead of thinking blindness was a bar.

Then, if it was not Doris's childhood background, was it her adult experience--her training in home economics and cosmetology, her interest in her church, her volunteer work in hospitals? If not that, was it the description of her work in helping in the kitchen at the National Center for the Blind? Obviously somebody has to cook and clean, and equally obviously the somebody has to be either paid or volunteer. Have we come to the place where it is acceptable for a White male to do kitchen work but unacceptable for a Black female to do it?

If I have still not identified the reason why it was obvious to the audience that Doris was Black before she ever stepped onto the stage, was it perhaps my description of her attitudes and behavior--that she is modest, self-effacing, unassuming, and willing to work tirelessly without expectation of reward? Surely these characteristics (though admittedly possessed by a shrinking few regardless of race) are admirable, not demeaning. You say that these traits are the stereotype of Black women, and I answer: "Not today." Unfortunately the present-day stereotype of the Black female is that she is rude, pushy, bad-mannered, long on discussing her rights, and short on considering the rights and feelings of others. Although that stereotype fits some Black women (and a great many White ones, too, as well as a lot of males of all races), I think it is false, characterizing only a minority. Humility, good manners, willingness to work, a desire to give, and a spirit of dedication without a corresponding wish for self-aggrandizement are still (even in today's society of skewed values) worth recognizing, praising, and rewarding.

Let me move to another aspect of the situation. How should I have made the presentation? I might have said that Doris was an outstanding leader and that the award was being given to her for that alone. Such a presentation would not have been believable, would not have given pleasure to Doris, and would not have helped the organization. Doris is not an orator, a center-of-the-stage planner and rallier of the troops. She is a solid, hardworking member--and she likes it that way. Her contributions are of real value, and the Federation was recognizing that fact and telling her that she is appreciated.

I could have made the presentation in such a way as not to indicate the kind of work Doris does for the movement, but this would have been vapid and inappropriate. I could have talked of her work without mentioning her qualities of humility and avoidance of the limelight, but such a presentation would not have been accurate or complete. Moreover, it would have had racist overtones, implying that a Black person cannot be portrayed as gentle and service-oriented while a White person can.

Of course, we could have refrained from giving her the award at all because of the kind of work she does and because of her unassuming spirit. But that seems unfair and counter-productive. It would have been the worst kind of elitism.

Doris Johnson is a rare human being. She is strong without being "pushy." She is humble without being weak, modest without being spiritless. Unlike so many, she does not demand constant petting, nor does she insist on forever being told how great she is. She simply sees what needs to be done, and does it. I wish we had hundreds more like her.

In your letter you say: "It doesn't matter if Ms. Johnson is in fact exactly as she was described; she could even have written the portrait herself." As you reflect on the matter, I hope you will decide that this is not exactly what you meant. It is all very well for us to care about classes of people, but I think it is even more important for us to care about individuals. What Doris wants and how she feels are important factors in the equation. If we move human beings like pieces on a checkerboard to accomplish overall strategies and to satisfy the needs of this or that segment of society, we dehumanize ourselves and the entire process.

You wrote to me in unadorned candor. I hope you are willing for me to do likewise in response. I respect you (both of you)--and for many of the qualities that earned Doris her award. I hear good things about you and believe you have a great future in the movement. It must be obvious that I have given time and careful consideration to your letter. Think about what I have said, and tell me how you feel about it if you want to. Whatever your reaction, let us work together to make the Federation better and stronger than it has ever been.

Sincerely,
Kenneth Jernigan
President Emeritus
National Federation of the Blind

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD PRESENTATION: DORIS JOHNSON

Doris Johnson was born and raised in South Carolina, the second of nineteen children--all with the same parents if anybody wants to know. She has always been a hard worker. She worked her way through high school by cleaning the principal's house before classes every morning. She then caught the train and went to school. After getting home, she would work in the fields until dark. (Her parents were share croppers.) After it was too dark to work outside, she would study for school the next day.

After high school Doris went to Baltimore, where she worked her way through Morgan State University, graduating with a degree in Home Economics in 1956. She has always been active in her church and was the secretary of the church Sunday school for many years. While teaching at a Baltimore beauty and barber college, Doris earned the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award on two separate occasions. She also helped prepare many students for their state licensing examination. For many years Doris went to Montebello State Hospital in Baltimore and did the patients' hair as a volunteer.

Let me turn now to Doris's work with the Federation. Because she is quiet and unassuming, few people know how much she does. She does over a thousand hours of volunteer work every year at the National Center for the Blind. She does everything from erasing tapes and labeling cassettes to manning (or, if you like, "womaning") NFB booths at local events. In the kitchen she is invaluable. She comes early and stays late, until the last dish is done. When there is a seminar or a meeting of any other kind, Doris is always willing to help in whatever way she is needed. Doris, you exemplify the spirit of our movement, the best that is in us, and the essence of service to others. I have here a brass plaque on polished walnut wood that I want to present to you. It is the tangible manifestation of the love we have for you and the appreciation of what you are and what you do.

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD
PRESENTED TO
DORIS JOHNSON

YOUR ENERGY AND COMMITMENT ARE FREELY AND ABUNDANTLY GIVEN
YOUR DEVOTION AND SPIRIT INSPIRE YOUR COLLEAGUES

No task is too humble
No hour too early
No job too much

THE BLIND OF THE NATION GIVE YOU THIS AWARD
WITH LOVE AND APPRECIATION
JULY 6, 1994

NFB 2022 Scholarship Program

by Cayte Mendez

The National Federation of the Blind is pleased to announce our 2022 scholarship program. We offer thirty scholarships to blind students from across the United States and Puerto Rico who will be enrolled in full-time post-secondary degree programs during the 2021-2022 school year. These scholarships will be awarded at our 2022 National Convention, which will take place in New Orleans.

The application period begins December 1, 2021, and closes at midnight EST on March 31, 2022. Go to www.nfb.org/scholarships. To apply during the four-month open period: read the rules and the submission checklist, complete the official 2022 scholarship application form (online or in print), supply all required documents, and request and complete an interview by an NFB affiliate president. Remember, the only way to win is to apply!

The 2022 Blind Educator of the Year Award

by Robin House

From the Editor: Robin House is an experienced educator in her own right, with many titles to her name. She was named Blind Educator of the Year in 2018. She chairs the 2022 Blind Educator of the Year Award Selection Committee, and she holds a Master of Education, is a Licensed Professional Counselor, and is a Registered Play Therapist. What is harder to convey is that, for the tremendous admiration we have for her accomplishments, the thing that makes us blessed is that Robin is Robin and that she chooses to be an active part of us. This is what she says:

A number of years ago the Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by the National Organization of Blind Educators (the educators’ division of the National Federation of the Blind) to pay tribute to a blind teacher whose exceptional classroom performance, notable community service, and uncommon commitment to the NFB merit national recognition. Beginning with the 1991 presentation, this award became an honor bestowed by our entire movement. This change reflects our recognition of the importance of good teaching and the affect an outstanding blind teacher has on students, faculty, community, and all blind Americans.

This award is presented in the spirit of the outstanding educators who founded and have continued to nurture the National Federation of the Blind and who, by example, have imparted knowledge of our strengths to us and raised our expectations. We have learned from Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, Dr. Marc Maurer, and our current President Mark Riccobono that a teacher not only provides a student with information but also provides guidance, advocacy, and love. The recipient of the Blind Educator of the Year Award must exhibit all these traits and must advance the cause of blind people in the spirit and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.

The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Honorees must be present to receive an appropriately inscribed plaque and a check for $1,000.

Nominations should be sent to Ms. Robin House by email to [email protected] or by mail to Stix ECC, 647 Tower Grove Ave., St. Louis, MO 63110. Letters of nomination must be accompanied by a copy of the nominee’s current résumé and supporting documentation of community and Federation activity. All nomination materials must be in the hands of the committee chairperson by May 1, 2022, to be considered for this year’s award. For further information contact Robin House at 314-265-6852, or [email protected].

The 2022 Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award

by Carla McQuillan

From the Editor: Carla McQuillan is the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, a member of the national board of directors, and the owner and executive director of Main Street Montessori Association, operating two Montessori schools. She is the chairman of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award Committee, and she has written this announcement seeking applications for the 2022 award:

The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind students at our 2022 National Convention taking place in New Orleans, Louisiana, from July 5 through July 10, 2022. The winner of this award will receive the following:

The education of blind children is one of the National Federation of the Blind's highest priorities. We are committed to offering and supporting programs that enhance educational opportunities for this group. Please help us recognize dedicated and innovative teachers who provide quality education and meaningful experiences and opportunities for their blind students.

Q: Who is eligible for this award?
A: Anyone who is currently a teacher, counselor, or the administrator of programs for blind students.

Q: Does an applicant have to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind?
A: No, but attending the 2022 convention of the National Federation of the Blind in New Orleans is required.

Q: Can I nominate someone else for this award?
A: Yes. Applicants can be nominated by colleagues, parents, supervisors, or friends who have first-hand knowledge of the individual’s work with blind students.

Q: How would I apply?
A: You can fill out the application at the end of this article or find it on our website at https://nfb.org/images/nfb/documents/pdf/distinguished-educator-of-blind-students-award-form-fillable.pdf

Q: What is the deadline to submit an application or make a nomination?
A: All applications must be received no later than May 1, 2022.

Please complete the application and attach the required documents specified in the application. If you are submitting a nomination for someone other than yourself, please answer the questions to the best of your ability. Your experience and observations of the nominee will assist the selection committee in their decision. Questions? Contact Carla McQuillan at 541-653-9153, or by email at: [email protected].

National Federation of the Blind
Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award
2022 Application

Deadline: May 1, 2022

Name: _______________________________________________________
Home Address: _________________________________________________
City, State, Zip: _________________________________________________
Phone: (H) ____________________ (W) ____________________________
Email: ______________________________________________________
School/Program: ______________________________________________________
Address: _____________________________________________________
City, State, Zip: _________________________________________________

Please list any awards or commendations you have received.

How long and in what programs have you worked with blind children?

In what setting do you currently work?

Briefly describe your current job and teaching responsibilities.

How would you describe your philosophy of blindness as it relates to the education of blind students?

What are your thoughts on teaching Braille and cane travel? When and at what age would you begin? How do you determine whether to teach print or Braille?

What was your most memorable experience working with blind students?

Why should you be selected to receive this award?

Email is strongly encouraged for transmitting nominations; letters of support and other relevant materials should be included as attachments. Applications sent by mail and postmarked by the deadline will also be accepted. Send all material by May 1, 2022, to Carla McQuillan, chairperson, Teacher Award Committee, [email protected] or by mail to:
 522 65th Street, Springfield, OR 97478, Phone: 541-653-9153.

2021 Social Security Updates

by Jesa Medders

From the Editor: Each year we update vital numbers about Social Security for recipients and those contributing to Social Security so that our readers can get what they deserve from this crucial program. We cannot make you an expert on all of the provisions that might apply to you, but this is a very good general update and can point you to areas in which you should do further self education.

It's that time of year again when we provide you with information regarding annual adjustments to the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. In 2022, approximately seventy million Americans will see a 5.9 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase in their benefit amounts. Thus, come January, monthly checks will be higher.

The 2022 amounts are below along with some general concepts pertaining to the Social Security and Medicare programs, in case you want to better understand or refresh yourself about your rights. The COLA (if any) is based on the consumer price index (CPI-W), which measures the rate of inflation against the wages earned by the approximately 173 million workers across the nation over the previous four quarters starting with the third quarter of the previous year.

Tax Rates

FICA and Self-Employment Tax Rates: If you are employed, you know that you do not bring home everything you earn. 7.65 percent of your pay, for example, is deducted to cover your contribution to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Fund and the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund. 6.20 percent covers OASDI, and 1.45 percent is contributed to the HI Trust Fund. Additionally, your employer is required to match this 7.65 percent for a total of 15.30 percent.

For those who are self-employed, there is no "employer" to match the 7.65 percent, which means a self-employed individual pays the entire 15.30 percent of their income. These numbers will not change in 2022 regardless of whether an individual is employed or self-employed. As of January 2013, individuals with earned income of more than $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly) pay an additional 0.9 percent in Medicare taxes; this does not include the above amounts.

Maximum Taxable Earnings

There is a ceiling on taxable earnings for the OASDI Trust Fund, which was $142,800 in 2021 and will jump to $147,000 in 2022. Thus, for earnings above $147,000, there is no 6.20 percent deducted for OASDI. As for Medicare, there is no limit on taxable earnings for the HI Trust Fund.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Quarters of Coverage

The OASDI Trust Fund is kind of like an insurance policy. You have to pay a premium to participate. Therefore, to qualify for Retirement, Survivors, or Disability Insurance benefits, an individual must pay a minimum amount of FICA taxes into the OASDI Trust Fund by earning a sufficient number of calendar quarters to become fully insured for Social Security benefits.

In 2021 credit for one quarter of coverage was awarded for any individual who earned at least $1,470 during the year, which means that an individual would need to earn at least $5,880 to be credited with four quarters of coverage. In 2022 the amount increases to $1,510 for one calendar quarter or $6,040 to earn four quarters of coverage for the year.

A maximum of four quarters can be awarded for any calendar year, and it makes no difference when the income is earned during that year. Basically, the taxes you pay into the OASDI and HI Trust Funds are your premiums to take part in the Social Security and Medicare programs. The total number of quarters required to be eligible for benefits depends on the individual's age. The older the individual, the more quarters are required. Furthermore, a higher average income during an individual's lifetime means a higher Social Security or SSDI check when benefits start. Remember the above quoted numbers for quarters of coverage to become fully insured are only minimum amounts.

Trial Work Period (TWP)

This concept is often misunderstood. The amount of earnings required to use a trial work month is not based on the earnings limit for blind beneficiaries but instead on the national average wage index. In 2021 the amount required to use a TWP month was only $940, and this amount will increase to $970 in 2022. If you are self-employed, you can also use a trial work month if you work more than eighty hours in your business, and this limitation will not change unless expressly adjusted.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

The earnings limit for a blind beneficiary in 2021 was $2,190 per month and will increase to $2,260 in 2022. Again, it's important to remember this is not the amount of money an individual makes to use a trial month. This is to say that the TWP can be exhausted even if your income is well below $2,260 per month. See the above information about the TWP.

In 2022 a blind SSDI beneficiary who earns $2,260 or more in a month (before taxes but after subtracting unincurred business expenses for the self-employed, subsidized income for the employed, and impairment-related work expenses) will be deemed to have exceeded SGA (Substantial Gainful Employment) and will likely no longer be eligible for SSDI benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

The federal payment amount for individuals receiving SSI was $794 in 2021 and will increase to $841 in 2022. For married couples, the federal monthly payment amount of SSI will rise from $1,191 to $1,261.

Student Earned Income Exclusion

In 2021, the monthly amount was $1,930 and will increase to $2,040 in 2022. The annual amount was $7,770 in 2021 and will be $8,230 in 2022. The asset limits under the SSI program will remain unchanged at $2,000 per individual and $3,000 per married couple.

ABLE Act

Signed on December 19, 2014, the ABLE Act has a significant impact on resource limits associated with the SSI and Medicaid programs for those who were blind or disabled by the age of twenty-six. Traditionally, SSI beneficiaries have been required to adhere to strict resource limits: such as a maximum of $2,000 in the bank for an individual receiving SSI benefits. Under the ABLE Act, however, the amount deposited in an ABLE Account can be much higher. ABLE Account contributions must be designated specifically for purposes such as education, housing (with a cautionary warning to follow), employment training and support, assistive technology, health, prevention and wellness, financial management, legal fees, and funeral and burial expenses. The required implementing regulations are being enacted in most states. Check with your financial institution of choice for a status of ABLE Act regulations in a specific state and to see if an ABLE account is right for you.

As to the warning about ABLE Account contributions for housing, it is important to note that SSI beneficiaries may still face the traditional $2,000 resource limit for ABLE Account funds designated for housing. Thus, SSI beneficiaries should consider the many other purposes not subject to the traditional resource limits when making ABLE Account contributions, since there are also tax advantages associated with ABLE accounts.

For more information write to [email protected].

How about One New Year's Resolution for Your Federation Family

by Gary Wunder

When people are kind enough to give critical feedback about our Braille Monitor and other publications of ours, two suggestions emerge: run more articles on more subjects and draw more authors to our pool of contributors. Both of these are completely consistent with my hope for our flagship publication, so I'd like each reader to think about becoming an author. So many of us fail to realize that our story is worth telling and that, whether we consider ourselves writers or not, we at the Monitor can help.

I had a Federation friend tell me a story about some difficult times in his life. I was floored and asked him to write it. He thanked me for my enthusiasm about what he had said but told me he really wasn't a writer. I asked if he would consider letting me be a ghost writer, assuring him it would go under his name and that never would I reveal my role. He agreed, I had him tell me the story again, and I wrote it down. I was nervous because this was a fantastic story. I sent it to him and waited on pins and needles for him to call back. When he did, I couldn't contain myself! "Was the article okay?"

"It made me cry. You know, it wasn't until I saw it in writing that I realized just how emotional this was to me." We played with some factual changes, and the story ran. We are all the better for his sharing, and I loved being a silent partner.

Sometimes all of us have experiences we vow never to share and to take to our graves, but let's not make an important story one of them. This is your Braille Monitor not just as a reader but as a contributor. The same is true for our Blog and our Story Bank. Let your Federation family and others we have on our lists know about your experiences, your insights, and your thoughts about what should comprise our Federation agenda. Help us continue to be relevant, and let’s do it in a way that people find interesting.

Send your Monitor ideas to [email protected] or call me at (410) 659-9314, Extension 2360. Our Communications Team is always glad to get stories, so please write us at [email protected]. There is no downside to this. Let us all share and grow together.

More on Equality vs. Equity

by Daniel Garcia

From the Editor: Daniel is the president of the Kansas City, Missouri, chapter of the Federation and a member of the affiliate’s board of directors, serving as the corresponding secretary. He is a deep thinker, who is very courteous and deliberative in the expression of his opinions. He is a frequent poster to the chapter presidents’ list, and he is also good at sharing what he finds with others. Getting reactions is exactly what was hoped by the authors and by your editor, so thank you to Daniel and to others who have constructive thoughts. Here is his letter to the editor:

Until I read the October 2021 Braille Monitor article titled “Reframing the Fight for Civil Rights: Understanding the Discourse on Equality Verses Equity from a Social Justice Perspective” written by Dr. Evette Simmons-Reed, Dr. LaShawna Fant, Dr. Carolyn Peters, Mr. Kane Brolin, and Mr. Lee Martin, Sr., I thought that the words equality and equity were synonymous. I am very grateful to the authors for having taken the time to explain the not-so-subtle difference between the two words.
 
I do agree that blind people ought to take more ownership of the political process. Though we are a 501(c)3 organization and cannot support a particular candidate, I do think that as an organization we should strongly support the concept that blind people should run for office.
 
I have done much reflecting on this article, and it seems to me that equality is a more aspirational idea whereas equity provides the framework for how to achieve this objective. It is precisely for that reason that I do not believe that we should change our NFB pledge. When we recite the pledge, we are not thinking about the day-to-day tactics that we employ to move our movement forward. Instead, we recite the pledge to energize ourselves about what the future will bring.
 
In 2021 we use language differently than in 1974 to express political and social ideas, and I am sure that in 2074 people will use different language than we do. It would not be practical to keep changing the pledge to conform to the language of the time because if we do this often enough, the NFB pledge will cease to have meaning. Let us keep the pledge the way it is while using this article as a starting point to educate our members about how to achieve equality.

Christmas Recollections

by Mary Ellen Gabias

From the Editor: This article is reprinted from the December 2009 issue of this magazine. Here is the way it was introduced: Mary Ellen Gabias and her husband and four children live in Kelowna, British Columbia. She is a longtime Federationist, who has been sharing her insights about blindness with Braille Monitor readers for many years. This is what she has learned from trimming Christmas trees:

I’ve learned a lot about blindness from reading NFB speeches and from discussions with friends. But I’ve come to realize my deepest learning has resulted from moments seemingly unrelated to blindness.

Who would think the events surrounding our Christmas tree could teach so much about blindness and about living in a family? Our childhood Christmas tree ritual was unvarying. After the annual family party hosted by the parents of blind children in Toledo on the last Sunday before Christmas, Mom and Dad drove all five of us sugar-hyped children to the lot where a local charity sold Christmas trees. Mom and Dad decreed the price we would pay. My siblings argued vociferously about the aesthetic appeal of long versus short needles. I applied the sniff test. If a tree smelled good, it was all right with me.

Before the advent of commercial Christmas tree stands–devices designed to promote domestic tranquility–we plunked the tree in a bucket while Dad fabricated supports to hold it in place. By the time the tree was standing straight with the inevitable bare spot facing the corner where it wouldn’t show (or at least not much), we all understood why the Christmas promise of peace on Earth and good will toward men continues to elude humanity.

The world owes a profound debt to the inventor of modern Christmas tree lights with each bulb on an individual circuit. Earlier strings of lights operated from a continuous circuit. If one bulb burned out, the whole string was useless. My brothers and sister spent hours of frustration and tedium finding the precise bulb that had put a string of lights out of commission. I learned quickly to stay out of the way until the lights were finally shining.

I come from the find-an-empty-spot-and-stick-an-ornament-there school of tree decorating. One of my brothers agreed. We cheerfully hung bulbs and treasured family ornaments wherever we could reach. Mom and another brother believed in order and balance. They followed behind us, rearranging what we’d done so that colors and types of ornament were distributed according to a plan. To avert potential wrangling, Mom assigned each of us a task. One child hung all the balls. Another hung the homemade ornaments. Mom hung the delicate items. I put wire hangers or thread loops on any ornament needing them. Then I looked for a bare spot and asked the members of the family who cared about balance if the ornament in question fit into their aesthetic plan. At the end I hung the icicles.

I’ve never seen icicles like ours on any other tree. Other people had crystal icicles. Ours were plastic, but they looked like ice and were shaped like the icicles that hung from trees and fences after an ice storm. Mom bought them for her first Christmas as a new bride, and I made her tell the story every year. My brothers thought I was a little silly, but those icicles came to symbolize Christmas for me. Even after I was an adult living far from my family home, Mom would save the icicles for me to put on the tree when I arrived home for Christmas.

Nobody made any pronouncements about blindness during our annual ritual. Certain things were simply understood. Everybody had a role to play. Dad and the boys got the tree up while Mom and my sister told them whether it was straight. Dad supervised the stringing of the lights while Mom fixed supper. Then Dad sat back and stayed out of the way while the rest of us did the decorating. Blindness didn’t keep me from participating; it did affect how I participated.

Decorating a tree is such a family thing. When I moved away from home, I never bought a tree. I always spent Christmas with my family; why bother with a tree in an apartment that would be empty on Christmas anyway?

Paul and I were married in January, 1989. Like me, he traditionally spent Christmas with his family. In 1988, with our wedding less than two weeks away, we decided to spend our first Christmas together at my apartment in Baltimore. Paul is a university professor; at the time of our marriage he was teaching in Colorado. He arrived in Baltimore on December 22. We went shopping for our first Christmas tree on the way home from the airport. The pickings are pretty slim three days before Christmas. We did our best, but the tree that we finally strapped to the roof of Mary Ellen Thompson’s car belonged in a Peanuts holiday special, not a living room.

Our Federation friends came to the rescue. Someone loaned us a spare tree stand. John Cheadle led the crew that tied the tree up to a hurriedly installed bracket in the corner. Without the rope to keep it in place, the curved trunk was in danger of toppling. We bought strings of lights, and people began arriving, bearing ornaments as gifts. Even the Cheadle children got into the act; their homemade ornaments continued to hang on our trees every year for more than a decade. I brought out the food and hot cider, the tree was quickly trimmed, and its peculiar shape was forgotten in the fun of that impromptu party. Then, on Christmas morning, I opened a box of crystal icicles sent by my sister. Christmas was complete.

By the next year we were living in Fredericton, New Brunswick. We invited Paul’s university colleagues to a tree-trimming party. Once again we provided the food, and our friends ceremoniously hung the ornaments they had brought and told stories about their own Christmas tree experiences. It was a wonderful way to connect with people we were coming to know.

Visiting assistant professors lead a nomadic life. After one year in Fredericton, Paul accepted a position in Kelowna, British Columbia. By the Christmas of 1990, there were three of us. Joanne couldn’t walk, but at ten months she crawled very efficiently. We decided to build a barricade to protect the tree and keep her safe. We also chose not to have a tree-trimming party.

I don’t remember how we got the tree home and who helped us ensure that it was standing straight. I do remember Paul checking every light bulb on every string of lights and attaching the strings to the branches. “Wouldn’t it be better to get someone sighted to do that?” “How will you know if the lights are spaced correctly and look right?” All my assumptions rose to the surface.

“What’s so difficult about wrapping lights around a tree?” Paul asked me. “You can feel whether a branch has a light on it. You just have to be systematic.”

Before I began hanging ornaments, I had someone check. Paul was right. I found I could use the same principle for hanging ornaments. I asked my reader to check my work; I’d missed a few spots and made others too crowded, but the needed changes were really very minor.

Our family Christmas tree stories are every bit as human as the ones I lived in my childhood. We bought a tree the Christmas Paul’s mother died, but neither of us had the heart to decorate it. It stood bare in our home as a reminder of the hope that comes with Christmas.

Nobody got around to decorating the tree the year Jeffrey was born at home on Christmas Eve, either. One year our tree came home in a taxi. Big Al, the cab driver, teased us for years about how long it took him to get all the needles out of his car.

Whenever toddlers were in our home, my decorating principle was simple: block off the tree to prevent unauthorized climbing, and put only unbreakable ornaments near the bottom.

No matter how earnestly we might have wanted to recreate idyllic Christmases from famous pictures, we had finally to accept that Norman Rockwell never had to deal with real children. Paul found a wood lot where we could choose our tree and cut it down ourselves. What a wonderful tradition for the children! While Paul cut the tree the children had chosen, they complained about the cold and asked where to find the bathroom. Now we choose our trees at a local nursery, where hot apple cider is never far away.

Family history seems to be repeating itself. Paul and the children choose the tree. Now that they’re older, they help him set it up, and everyone has something to say about which way to turn it to hide the inevitable bare spot. The children check for burned out bulbs and help their father string the lights. As they get older, Dad’s role in this part of the project diminishes. I mediate decorating disputes between the order-and-balance contingent and the find-an-empty-spot-and-stick-an-ornament-there crowd. To this day the icicles are mine.

Independence Market Corner

by Terry Boone

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 every-day independence of blind people. We will be highlighting a different product every month and listing sale products from time to time.

PRODUCTS OF THE MONTH

MEN/LADIES 3-BUTTON POLO SHIRTS: These 100% cotton shirts come in sizes small to 5XL (men) and sizes x-small to 3XL (ladies). All are available in three colors – black, navy, and red.
IMP21 $24.00

MEN/LADIES LINED NYLON JACKETS: These jackets are perfect for those rainy, windy, or brisk weather days. Sizes small to 5XL (men) and sizes x-small to 3XL (ladies). Available in black, navy, and red.
IMJ21 $30.00

TUMBLER: Hot/Cold 16oz tumbler available in black with white NFB logo. Keeps beverages hot or cold for hours.
IMT21S $8.00

TALKING KITCHEN SCALE (VOX 3000): This scale can weigh up to 6.6 pounds (3,000 grams) with 0.1-ounch (1 gram) precision. Items can be weighed on the weighing platform or in the plastic bowl which is included. The bowl has a capacity of six cups. The scale also features a tare function that allows you to zero out the weight already on the scale.
AIK40T $35.00

TALKING KITCHEN AND MULTIPURPOSE SCALE (VOX-2): This scale can weigh items up to eleven pounds (5,000 grams) on its 5-inch, square, stainless steel weighing platform with 0.1-ounce (1 gram) precision. It also features a tare function, high/low volume switch, and speaks in four languages (English, Spanish, French, and German). The unit uses four AA batteries (included).
AIK47S $40.00

SALE AND CLOSE-OUT PRODUCTS

NINE MEN MORRIS GAME AIG74G $10.00
CUBE CLOCK AIG73S $5.00
CAMERA BAG AIA48B $1.00

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.

Keystone Chapter’s Second Annual Virtual Talent Show Is an Even Bigger Success This Year!

by Lisa Bryant

From the Editor: Lisa has of late been a frequent contributor here, and I, for one, am grateful. I love her spirit, her ability to communicate, and the diverse activities on which she writes. Enjoy her latest offering that springs from her commitment to our organization:

Last year, when the Keystone Chapter in Philadelphia began planning its first virtual talent show and fundraiser, one of the first things to decide on was its name. There were clever suggestions that attempted to incorporate blindness and talent, like Visions of Talent or Talent Beyond Vision. But it was Chapter President Harriet Go’s suggestion of Believe You Can that stuck. This past October, the chapter held its second annual show/fundraiser which also purposedly coincides with Blindness, Equality, and Achievement Month and White Cane Awareness Day.

Fourteen artists were featured this year (only slightly fewer than last year), representing a wide variety of demographics and forms of talent. Some did cover performances while a few other performed original works. Genres included rock, folk, R&B, and contemporary Christian. And for comic relief, Mike Karsok of the at-large Massachusetts chapter did a standup routine that took him to the finalist round. Many performers were from the Pennsylvania area, but Atlanta, Georgia; Vancouver, Washington; and Nashville, Tennessee, were also in the house–or rather on the screen. Winners were determined by audience votes.

Taking first place was Jasmine Eiland of Vancouver, who at thirteen years old is the show’s youngest performer. The win comes with a $150 cash prize. Jasmine, a singer, songwriter, and musician (playing over five instruments) covered “Wake Up” by Julie and the Phantoms. Although she has competed before, the Believe You Can show was her highest placement. But she’s not stopping there. Jasmine is currently auditioning for America’s Got Talent and plans to audition for The Voice next year.

For Jasmine, music is a deeply personal experience. On a recent podcast hosted by Keystone member David Goldstein, she described the inspiration behind self-learning a new song or instrument. “When I hear a song, I have to feel and embrace the lyrics,” she said, and she has already given thought to a musical career. “I would really like to go professional with my music and songwriting. I would like to be one of those artists that is well known by a select few people but not overly popular. I [want my music to] stand the test of time,” she said.

Jan Lattuca, 72, won second place for her rendition of Prelude in C Minor, by Chopin. The win comes with a $100 cash prize. As a classically trained pianist, it is not surprising that Jan also took first place in last year’s show. But for Jan, it is about more than just performing. “Winning the affirmation of many in the voting audience was something I'll never forget; but it was also a truly fun way to raise funds for the chapter.” She said.

Simon Bonenfant, 19, also of the Keystone Chapter, placed third, winning a $50 cash prize. Simon, who began singing and playing the piano at four years old, performed “You Should Be Here” by Cole Swindell in remembrance of a friend who recently passed away. For Simon, music is somewhat of a ministry. “I want my music to inspire people. I hope it will bring them closer to God,” he said.

The success of last year’s show helped Keystone increase the prize monies offered for this year. And the chapter surpassed its 2020 fundraising by 20 percent. But that was only part of its mission, which brings us back to the name of the show.

“In the NFB, we know that blind people have the capacity to transform our dreams into reality,” Harriet said, “and this show is mainly about inspiration. Despite blindness, and whether a veteran or novice, we want our performers to believe in themselves as they reach for their goals,” she added. And the chapter hopes attendees were equally inspired.

More than half of the performers were new to Believe You Can including Harriett, who this year traded in her host’s hat and joined the virtual stage. Although a very new violinist (less than a year), seeing the great talent from last year boosted her confidence. “I thought, if others can do it, I can too,” she recalled.

The show also welcomed its first deafblind artist, Alice Eaddy of the Pennsylvania Association of Deafblind, performed an a cappella piece by Demi Lovato. This was Alice’s first time on the NFB stage, and she said the chapter helped make the event seamless. She found it helpful that the team directly involved her communication facilitator, and the mandatory sound checks before the show provided helpful feedback.

Now a signature fundraiser and awareness event, Believe You Can is already scheduled for Saturday, October 15, 2022.

For the White Canes Connect Episode on the 2021 Believe You Can Virtual Talent Show, go to: https://www.icantcu.com/white-canes-connect-episode-05/

To hear the full interview with Jasmin on the iCantCU podcast, go to: https://www.icantcu.com/believe-you-can-talent-show-winner-jasmine-eiland/

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

Elected:
The National Federation of the Blind of Indiana elected officers at its most recent convention October 10, 2021. Diane Graves, president; Ron Brown, vice president; Lee Martin, second vice president; Abby Fleenor, secretary; Kane Brolin, treasurer; and members of the board Ray Montgomery, Michael Lauf, Tammy Hollingsworth, and Tyler Sherck. Congratulations to our new officers and board members, and a heart-felt thank you to those who have served with distinction for so long.

What’s Buzzing with the National Federation of the Blind?
It’s that time of year when the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) gives a little help to Santa Claus. Through the Santa Letter/Winter Celebration Program, children ages birth to ten can receive a Braille letter from Santa or a Winter Celebration letter in Braille. Both of these letters will be produced in English and Spanish. The request form for this program will also be in English and Spanish. We are so excited to expand this program to not only folks who celebrate Christmas but also to those who celebrate other winter holidays or just the winter season itself.
Children will not only receive a Braille letter but other fun activities for you and your family to enjoy over the winter season. The letter and all of the activities will be sent in print too for those in your family who may not read Braille.

Beginning on November 8, parents, grandparents, and others can request the Braille packet online, via fax, or by email. The packets will start being mailed the first week in December. Make sure you get your request in early since the deadline is December 17. This will ensure that the packet is received before the winter season ends. You can find more information and request your letter at https://nfb.org/programs-services/early-childhood-initiatives/santa-letters.

Get our monthly e-newsletter, Imagineering Our Future:
Imagineering Our Future is the monthly e-newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind. It features a message from President Mark A. Riccobono and highlights our most recent news, stories from members, action items, and upcoming Federation events. Sign up to receive Imagineering Our Future in your inbox here: https://nfb.org/resources/publications-and-media/imagineering-our-future or visit our home page which has a link to subscribe.

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.

Justice Department Secures Agreement with Rite Aid Corporation to Make Its Online COVID-19 Vaccine Registration Portal Accessible to Individuals with Disabilities
The Justice Department and the US Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania today announced a settlement agreement with Rite Aid Corporation that will help people with disabilities get information about COVID-19 vaccinations and book their vaccination appointments online.

Rite Aid’s COVID-19 Vaccine Registration Portal, currently located at https://www.riteaid.com/covid-19, was not accessible to some people with disabilities, including those who use screen reader software and those who have a hard time using a mouse. For instance, the calendar on Rite Aid’s website used for scheduling vaccine appointments did not show screen reader users any available appointment times, and people who use the tab key instead of a mouse could not make a choice on a consent form that they needed to fill out before scheduling their appointment.

“Equal access to healthcare is one of the most important rights guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “As the nation continues its response to the COVID-19 pandemic — through booster shots, vaccinations for children under twelve, and ongoing outreach to those still in need of initial doses — people with disabilities must be able to schedule potentially lifesaving vaccine appointments as easily as people without disabilities can.”

Under today’s settlement, Rite Aid has agreed to make content about the COVID-19 vaccine, including the forms for scheduling an appointment to get the vaccine, conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), Version 2.1, Level AA. WCAG is a set of voluntary industry guidelines for making information on a website accessible to users with disabilities. Rite Aid also must regularly test the pages of its website about vaccine scheduling and information and quickly fix any problems that keep people with disabilities from being able to use these pages.

“As technology increases, the internet is where people gain access to information about COVID-19 vaccines and schedule a vaccination appointment,” said Acting US Attorney Bruce D. Brandler for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. “Individuals with disabilities, including those with visual impairments and those who cannot use a mouse, must be given the same access to that information and the ease of scheduling appointments online. Since the beginning of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, private companies have partnered with the United States. Today, with the help of Rite Aid, we make great strides in that continuing partnership by ensuring individuals with disabilities have the ability to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination independently and privately.”

This matter was handled jointly by the Disability Rights Section of the department’s Civil Rights Division and Civil Rights Coordinator Michael Butler of the US Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public accommodations like drugstores and grocery stores to provide individuals with disabilities with full and equal enjoyment of goods and services, such as vaccines. The ADA also requires public accommodations to ensure effective communication with people with disabilities, including by using auxiliary aids and services like accessible technology.

For more information on the Civil Rights Division, please visit www.justice.gov/crt. For more information on the ADA, please call the department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or visit www.ada.gov. ADA complaints may be filed online at www.ada.gov/complaint.

South Baltimore Gateway Partnership Announces $550,500 In New Community Grants
The South Baltimore Gateway Partnership (SBGP) is excited to announce $550,500 in new Community Grants to support thirteen projects across South and Southwest Baltimore. This round of funding was highly competitive, attracting proposals totaling more than $1.1 million. Since its establishment in 2016, SBGP has invested over $14.7 million through Community Grants and other initiatives. Community Grants are awarded based on previously determined criteria, including alignment with strategic goals. SBGP Community Grants funding is provided by the Local Impact Grants generated by video lottery terminals, including at the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore.

GraceCity Church’s “Good Neighbor Nutrition Education” program was awarded funding this cycle to provide sustainable nutrition education to families to cultivate enhanced cooking literacy and encourage healthy relationships with food. Executive Pastor Christin Hanigan states that the funding will “help fulfill SBGP’s commitment to the health and well-being of our friends and neighbors in Sharp-Leadenhall. As a result of SBGP’s generous support, we can build on our long-standing and productive collaboration with the families of this historic community to promote the success of all its extraordinary residents. We are profoundly grateful for this additional opportunity to serve.”

The LET’S GO Boys and Girls “Grow through STEM” program will serve the Lakeland and Westport communities. “This award will allow partnership between LET’S GO, schools, and community organizations in South Baltimore that will uplift youth social and emotional well-being. “Together, we will implement after-school STEM programs, youth employment and career readiness mentorship, and family engagement events. Holistically, our initiatives will create and sustain self-identity in South Baltimore youth that support successful careers, economic mobility, and the ability to make positive and meaningful change in their own lives and communities,” says Debbie Dininno, Regional Director for Baltimore.

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) was also awarded funding to develop the first museum dedicated to the civil rights movement of blind Americans. “As America’s transformative advocacy organization of blind people, proudly headquartered in South Baltimore’s Riverside community for over forty years, we are honored and pleased to receive this grant,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the NFB. “It will help us plan our museum dedicated to the civil rights movement of blind Americans, allowing us to share our story with and foster understanding among our neighbors in South Baltimore, as well as visitors from across our nation and the world.”

In addition to the projects described above, other funding awarded this cycle will support:

“Urban Runoff Reduction Project,” a school-based program designed to address environmental issues by involving students in stewardship to improve the watershed. (Living Classrooms Foundation)

“Reach High Baltimore,” a project aiming to improve diversity, year-round inclusion in rowing and access to the Middle Branch. It will include a pilot to feature robotics competitions and swimming instruction. (Baltimore Rowing Club)

“Preserving Families,” a program supporting pet families experiencing housing crises. (BARCS)
First floor renovation for the Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the oldest standing churches in Baltimore and a venue for community engagement and support. (Ebenezer Kingdom Builders, Inc.)

“There were so many amazing projects requesting funding this grant cycle. It’s very clear that the communities know what they need and want for their neighborhoods, and we’re honored to support them as they reach their goals,” says Brad Rogers, Executive Director of SBGP.

SBGP also funds Transformational Projects around the District, such as Reimagine Middle Branch and the Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center in Cherry Hill. Enhanced Services beyond the baseline services provided by the City are also supported by SBGP. In July 2021, SBGP announced $6 million of Enhanced Services funding for parks and programs in South Baltimore, including the future renovation for the Carroll Park recreation center, which will be overhauled after being closed to the community for 20 years.”

“We’re pleased to support the important work these organizations and their teams are doing to enhance Baltimore,” says Horseshoe Casino Baltimore Senior Vice President and General Manager Randy Conroy. “The more than $550,000 in Community Grants issued this cycle represents an ongoing commitment to improving the lives of Baltimoreans through a diverse range of initiatives that touch a wide range of needs in our city.”

A new round of SBGP Community Grants funding will be available this coming winter in 2022. Organizations can visit https://sbgpartnership.org/community-grants/ to learn more and apply.

Blind People Have a Chance to Make Corporate Contacts:
Disability:IN is the leading nonprofit resource for business disability inclusion worldwide. Disability:IN NextGen Leaders are college students and recent graduates with disabilities. Students are matched one-on-one with mentors from Disability:IN Corporate Partners across all industries like Google, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Boeing, and Pfizer. We are committed to increasing opportunities for individuals who represent all segments of diversity. POC [people of color], women, veterans, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community with disabilities are especially encouraged to apply.

The deadline to apply is January 7, 2022 at www.DisabilityIN.org/2022NextGenLeaderApplication.

You can read more about our program here https://disabilityin.org/what-we-do/nextgen-leaders-initiatives/apply-faq/.

US Department of Labor Relaunches EARN Website:
The US Department of Labor today announced the newly redesigned Employer Assistance and Resource Network on the Disability Inclusion website. Supported cooperatively by the department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and Cornell University, the EARN site offers resources to help employers of all sizes and industries recruit, hire, retain, and advance people with disabilities and develop disability-inclusive workplace cultures.

The redesigned website highlights four essential components of the employment lifecycle – recruitment, hiring, retention, and advancement and explores how including people with disabilities in each of these areas helps employers meet their workplace diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility goals.

The resources include online training courses, useful checklists, policy guides, videos, and recorded webinars on issues related to disability inclusion. The site also offers information on topics such as workplace mental health, employment issues related to coronavirus, inclusive telework, federal contractor requirements, and the benefits of neurodiversity in the workplace.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2021, ODEP promotes policies and coordinates with employers and all levels of government to increase workplace success for people with disabilities. The agency supports policy development and technical assistance centers, including EARN.

EARN is a free resource that helps employers tap the benefits of disability diversity by educating public-and private-sector organizations on ways to build inclusive workplace cultures. Visit the site at https://askearn.org.

Mastercard Launches the Touch Card:

October 25, 2021
Jill Davison, Global Communications, Mastercard
2.2 billion people around the world have visual impairments

Unique notches on the Touch Card's short side allow the person to distinguish it between a credit, debit, or prepaid card.

Mastercard extends its commitment to inclusivity by introducing a new accessible card standard for blind and partially sighted people, called the Touch Card. There are few effective ways for the visually impaired to quickly determine whether they're holding a credit, debit, or prepaid card, particularly as more cards move to flat designs without embossed name and numbers. Mastercard is addressing this challenge with a simple yet effective innovation.

"The Touch Card will provide a greater sense of security, inclusivity, and independence to the 2.2 billion people around the world with visual impairments," says Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer. "For the visually impaired, identifying their payment cards is a real struggle. This tactile solution allows consumers to correctly orient the card and know which payment card they are using."

With the new Touch Card, Mastercard has improved upon a current design standard by introducing a system of notches on the side of the card to help consumers use the right card, the right way, by touch alone. The new Touch Card credit cards have a round notch; debit cards have a broad squarish notch; and prepaid cards have a triangular notch. The standard has been designed to work with point-of-sale terminals and ATMs, ensuring it can be deployed at scale.

Mastercard's concept has been vetted and endorsed by The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in the U.K. and VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired in the U.S. The card was co-designed by IDEMIA, the global leader in Augmented Identity, providing trusted solutions in the physical as well as digital space.

"As the banking industry responds to new trends and developments, it's critical that any innovation brings progress for everyone, including those with a visual impairment," says David Clarke, RNIB's director of services. "We're very pleased that Mastercard understands how important it is that blind and partially sighted people have equal and independent access to their own finances."

"Innovation should always be driven by the impulse to include," adds Rajamannar, who is also the company's Healthcare president. "With one in seven people experiencing some form of disability, designing these products with accessibility in mind gives them equal opportunity to benefit from the ease and security of a digital world. No one should be left behind."

Mastercard has been embedding its signature melody at checkout counters worldwide, a signal to everyone—the sight impaired in particular—that their card transaction has gone through successfully.

Mastercard's launch of the Touch Card underscores its commitment to inclusivity. It follows the introduction of True Name™, designed in support of the transgender and non-binary communities. The company's commitment as a brand is to not only stand against inequity but to be an agent for change.

NFB Pledge

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

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