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Braille Monitor

Vol. 65, No. 9                October 2022

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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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. 65, No. 9                      October 2022

Illustration: BELLS that Ring in the Head and the Heart

As Gratitude for Knowing Replaces the Pain of Losing
by Audrey T. Farnam

Together Again: A Family Reunion in NOLA
by Liz Wisecarver

Accelerating Our Blind Driver Challenge: Raising Expectations at 211.043 Miles per Hour
by Dan Parker

How Silver BELLS Led Me from Fear to Freedom
by Debra Hill

The Technology around Successful Hybrid Chapter Meetings
by Curtis Chong

Guide Dog or Cane: It’s Not Either/Or for Me
by Heather Bird

Objection Sustained
by Deborah Kent Stein

Chad Allen: The Blind Magician Strolling Magic with Sighted Guide
by Chad Allen

Owning Our Future: Continuous Revolution in Training through the Organized Blind Movement

The Elephant in the Room: Where the Blind Work
by Maurice Peret

Connected to Her Purpose: An Interview with Mississippi’s Barbara Hadnott
by LaShawna Fant

Monitor Miniatures

Copyright 2022 by the National Federation of the Blind

Illustration: BELLS that Ring in the Head and the Heart

For more than ten years, blind children ages four through twelve have been participating in our NFB BELL® Academy. In 2020 and 2021, due to the pandemic, children attended virtually through our NFB BELL Academy In-Home Edition. This year, we were thrilled to have some of our NFB BELL Academies getting back together in person. Students worked on reading and writing Braille, learned new nonvisual techniques, and went on field trips, all while being exposed to blind role models and the positive philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. These blind children are well on the way to being our future leaders.

[PHOTO CAPTION: Students and mentors pose for a picture with New Jersey firefighters in front of their fire truck.]
[PHOTO CAPTION: A BELL participant concentrates on checking the Braille she just created using a Braillewriter.]
[PHOTO CAPTION: Louisiana BELL participants do yoga outside with instructors.]
[PHOTO CAPTION: In Connecticut, BELL students try their hands at “gold” mining during a visit to the Dinosaur Park.]
[PHOTO CAPTION: Student with mentor at table doing a Braille lesson during the New Jersey BELL Academy.]

As Gratitude for Knowing Replaces the Pain of Losing

by Audrey T. Farnam

From the Editor: Losing those we love always comes hard; especially is this true when it seems to happen too early as it has with the passing of Jeannie Massay, born August 24, 1968, and taken from us on May 21, 2022. Here is what one of the people she valued most has to say about her. May we all be so lucky to have one who remembers us in this way:

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Jeannie Massay? For me, it's her laugh. It still echoes in my head and makes me smile. I think about all the times I used it as a beacon to find her in hotels and banquet rooms at conventions and other large gatherings. Meeting Jeannie somewhere? Just get to the general vicinity, and wait for the laugh. It worked every time. As I navigated my way around national convention in New Orleans, I didn’t have Jeannie’s laughter to guide me, and I felt her absence deeply. My beacon is gone. But as I reflect on Jeannie, I am also struck by how she was a beacon to so many of us, not just with her infectious laughter but with her leadership, her strength, her love, her tenacity, and her never-wavering belief in the mission and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.

Jeannie and I met, not in Oklahoma as you might think, but at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Massachusetts, where we attended personal adjustment to blindness training in 2006. My first impression of Jeannie was that she was strong, intelligent, and determined to face blindness on her terms. She knew what she wanted to do, and her top priority was to get the skills needed to be successful. Helplessness was not an option. Up to that point, all I really knew about the Federation were the stories and warnings people gave me about those crazy, angry, militant blind people. In fact, Jeannie and I had a lengthy discussion about the Federation while we were at the Carroll Center where we discovered that we both decided against NFB affiliated centers because of the biases and misperceptions about the Federation that have taken root in Oklahoma and were shared with us by blindness professionals in the state. I had been to a few meetings of other organizations and never felt like I belonged. In late 2008, I learned that Jeannie had started up an NFB chapter in Edmond, Oklahoma. Upon discovering that the smart, funny, confident, amazing woman who I met at the Carroll Center had been somehow lured into the Federation, I started to question all those dire warnings and odd stories I had grown up hearing about the NFB. I attended my first chapter meeting near the end of 2008 solely because Jeannie seemed perfectly rational to me. We shared common attitudes about blindness, so if Jeannie believed in the Federation enough to start a chapter, I reasoned that perhaps it might be worth looking into and that I might find my place in the Federation as well. I did, and I will be forever grateful to Jeannie for helping me realize that I am one of “those” blind people.

My dear friend didn’t stop at getting me to the Federation. It wasn’t long before I realized she was nudging me into taking on leadership responsibilities. I never saw myself as a leader, but Jeannie recognized things in me that I never recognized in myself. Every time I took on a new challenge and was surprised by my success, she would always tell me, “I told you.” Jeannie believed in me more than I believed in myself, and she was always there to encourage me, push me into trying new things, and celebrate my accomplishments. Jeannie mentored and encouraged countless blind people like me during her service with the National Federation of the Blind. She believed whole-heartedly in the capacity of blind people. She was passionate about the Federation and above all wanted to share her belief that, “our hopes, dreams, goals, and aspirations are no less real simply because we do not see.”

Jeannie always referred to the NFB as her “Federation family.” She loved sharing the message of hope and raising expectations. If you were blind, she wanted to welcome you into the family to help you achieve your dreams. When I first started attending state conventions, there were twenty-five to thirty-five people in attendance. Prior to COVID, our attendance had grown to about one hundred. She helped so many Oklahomans reach their goals by encouraging them to get blindness skills training, which would be the foundation for success on the journey through college or finding that dream job. She helped advocate for newly blind people navigating their way through the state rehabilitation system. When a rehab counselor told one of our members that blind people couldn’t be chefs, Jeannie denounced those low expectations and helped ensure that the young woman was able to go to culinary school. Jeannie firmly believed with proper skills and opportunity, blind people could live their dreams, and she worked tirelessly to help people achieve their goals.

Our friend and colleague’s influence was felt far beyond the borders of Oklahoma. I was overwhelmed by the number of Federationists from across the country who reached out to me after Jeannie’s passing and while I was at national convention to tell me stories about Jeannie. I heard stories from her former scholarship mentees, people who received advice and encouragement from Jeannie, people who attended a memorable state convention where Jeannie was the national rep, and stories of fun times and special memories. When I was hurting and missing my friend, the Federation family reached out and picked me up with memories of love and affection for Jeannie. I loved hearing how she touched so many people and learning that the qualities I loved most about Jeannie were also loved and enjoyed by countless others.

Jeannie was a wonderful friend. She loved food, coffee, a good fantasy book, anything purple, and dogs. Most of all, she loved sharing her love of things with her friends and delighted in sharing in the things that made her friends happy. Going to a restaurant with her was always a treat. Not only could she pronounce all those fancy items on the menu that I had never heard of, but she could tell me what they were and then recommend about five other places I could go to get that fancy thing somewhere else. She loved her coffee. She always had great snacks in her room at conventions. She always bought me a box of my favorite Girl Scout Cookies every year. She listened to my endless rowing stories with enthusiasm when most people just wanted me to shut up about it already. She listened to me rant when I needed to blow off steam, then gave me good advice and input when I was ready to stop ranting and start dealing with it rationally. She listened without judgment when anxiety and depression were becoming too much for me to handle on my own, and helped me to reach the conclusion that therapy was okay and not shameful or weak. And I think the thing that might be most amazing about Jeannie is that she did all these gestures of true friendship and kindness for so many, even when she was going through unimaginable loss and deteriorating health.

Before I close, may I share the words of President Riccobono as he wrote to the NFB Board of Directors where Jeannie served so well as a member and an officer:

Dear Friends,

With deepest sadness I am writing to share that our friend Jeannie Massay passed away in her sleep early this morning. I received a call from her sister-in-law Jan about two hours ago. Jeannie fought hard all the way to the end, and she decided on her own terms to stop fighting. Last evening she told her brother she was ready for hospice. In true Jeannie form, she did not wait for the bureaucracy to get it done for her. She simply passed away quietly in the night, knowing with peace that she left everything she had on the field.

As you know, I had the opportunity to visit with Jeannie a month ago. We had hoped that we would get another trip in to visit her before convention, but that did not happen. I can share with certainty that she knew the love that each of you shared with her. She believed so much in this board and in the shared community of the National Federation of the Blind. It changed her life, and I am certain that her wish for us is the strength, wisdom, and faith to continue building that community.

Like me, I am sure you feel the big hole this leaves in our Federation family and on this board specifically. I want you to know that I am here for you to lean on, especially since I expect to be leaning on you…. The poem below came to mind when composing this note to you. It is by Rumi, and it expresses the way I knew Jeannie to live.

Guest House—Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

[Audrey continues] I miss my friend every day, and although I no longer have her laughter to guide me through banquet rooms and noisy restaurants, I have the memories we shared, the wisdom I gained from knowing her, and the love of our Federation family to guide me through all the challenges to come. Even now, when I have doubts, I can hear Jeannie saying, “You’ve got this.” Jeannie’s influence as a mentor and friend will be felt in the Federation for years to come, and it was my honor to call her friend.

Together Again: A Family Reunion in NOLA

by Liz Wisecarver

From the Editor: Liz is the chairman of our Communications Committee and a very active member of our affiliate in Texas. Liz wrote this for our Voice of the Nation’s Blind blog, and we gladly reprint it here. Last month you were offered a long version of our convention roundup, but here is another perspective that is shorter and captures the enthusiasm that many of us felt:

Finally, we were back together again for the National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind in New Orleans. There were over 2,500 participants in-person and over 1,000 joining in virtually! Many of us, myself included, dusted off our cane-travel skills and had to remember how to prepare for a week packed with exhilarating presentations, social outings, and opportunities to network with blind people from across the country. Thankfully, it was not too difficult to get back in the swing of things and enjoy everything national convention had to offer.

This national convention truly did feel like one big family reunion. I met up with many old friends and ventured out to new restaurants in the French Quarter. The hotel was easy to navigate, and most everyone was willing to give directions or volunteer as talking signs. I worked a shift at the NFB-NEWSLINE® table in the Exhibit Hall and later at the cane table in the Independence Market. I highly recommend working in the Exhibit Hall or Independence Market if you can fit it into your convention schedule. You’ll meet so many interesting people and can give back to others by sharing your knowledge or by simply using the CrowdCompass app to look up where a vender is located. It was reinvigorating to hear hundreds of tapping canes throughout the conference hotel and around town.

The Texas affiliate brought nine young blind adults as part of our CAREER Mentoring Program. The group included students from the Texas School for the Blind (TSB). None of the students had been to an in-person national convention before, and traveling alone without parents was new for many of them. Our mentors helped them organize their convention schedules, find plenty of food options, and taught them how blind people gather information to navigate through crowded convention halls. It was rewarding to see them grow and build their confidence as they explored the hotel, made new friends, and experienced the National Federation of the Blind’s positive philosophy about blindness firsthand. One of our mentees is now applying for the Louisiana Center for the Blind adult training program! A special thanks to the teachers and staff from TSB who have been so supportive and were able to join us in New Orleans.

Even though we wore masks and took COVID-19 tests before arriving at the hotel, some people did get sick. But we stepped up to help our sick members stay as comfortable as possible while they were isolating. We took care of members by having test kits available, making hotel arrangements so they could isolate themselves, and bringing them what they needed to recover, including hand-delivering banquet meals and dropping off snacks and medicine.

I took a COVID test during convention and was able to independently complete and read the results of one of the Ellume COVID-19 Home Tests available to participants. Thankfully, mine was negative. It was empowering to administer the entire test myself, and I hope more medical home test manufacturers will follow Ellume’s example by making their products fully accessible to the blind.

The 2022 NFB National Convention was definitely a success. I especially enjoyed sessions about diversity and inclusion, the tactile art room, and learning about new developments from Aira. The General Session opening ceremony was particularly impressive with a marching band passing out Mardi Gras beads and a live demonstration of how to cook authentic pralines with samples for everyone. That will be hard to beat next year in Houston. I’m glad many of the meetings were streamed live so we could listen from anywhere, and those who could not join us in person could participate. You can find recordings of the sessions on our YouTube channel and on nfb.org.

No matter how you participated, I hope you had a wonderful national convention experience this year. The NFB of Texas is looking forward to hosting everyone in Houston next year! Let’s keep up our renewed energy, hope, and determination, as we continue to build the Federation in our own towns and around the world.

Accelerating Our Blind Driver Challenge: Raising Expectations at 211.043 Miles per Hour

by Dan Parker

From the Editor: Sometimes I find myself reflecting on how fortunate I am to be at the right place at the right time and observing something spectacular. This was the case on July 8 when I was a part of the audience listening to the words of Dan Parker as he described setting a Guinness World Record in a car he designed for the competition of land speed racing. Dan lives in Columbus, Georgia, and unlike some of the folks we help, he does not see the Federation as simply a sponsor but as an integral part of what he has done, what he intends to do, and who he intends to benefit from our work together. Here is the presentation Dan gave to a spellbound audience on that special Friday afternoon:

MARK RICCOBONO: I won't spend too much time introducing this next item, but before I introduce the speaker, we have a short audio presentation.

SPEAKER: And this is just the beginning. This is the start of it.

DIFFERENT SPEAKER: We are good to go. Proceed when you are ready.

DAN PARKER: Out to the racetrack.

MARK RICCOBONO: Officially amazing.

SPEAKER: Race car is ready. Race car is ready.

DAN PARKER: Is the track clear?
Is the course clear for Tim?

SPEAKER: Course is clear.

MARK RICCOBONO: So part of the excitement is there's an important chain of history and mentoring happening here. The founders of the National Federation of the Blind in 1940 could not have really even imagined that we would be standing here today. They laid a foundation of blind people organizing, working together, self-determining our own future, taking control of our own destinies.

PAM ALLEN: I am Pam Allen, and I am the director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, and we are so proud of Dan as a graduate of our program.

ANIL LEWIS: The thing that really brings me here is not just the job, it's just being able to be part of something this dynamic. This is mind blowing.

DAN PARKER: As a racer, this is just another day. But when you only have one chance to set history, you know the pressures get enormous.

SPEAKER: We're here at the north end of the runway, and we've just made our first pass with Dan driving. Dan hit a top speed of 187 on this pass.

After the first run on the nitrous, Dan asked the tuner, Erroll, if he would delay the nitrous just a little bit longer to get more miles per hour, and that helped make the car more stable. The next round will be faster.

When Erroll got out of the truck he said, “Dan made the call. I did just what he asked, and he hit 205. He's such a racer.”

(Race car accelerating, leveling off, and then decelerating)

SPEAKER: Dan, today you hit a speed of 211.043 miles per hour, a new Guinness World Record title! [Cheers and applause] Here is your certificate. You are officially amazing! Great job! [More applause]

Amazing.

MARK RICCOBONO: You know, I think the only other thing to say, Dan, is let's go build the Federation.

DAN PARKER: Let's do it together.
(Audio ends)

MARK RICCOBONO: During the Presidential Report, you heard the sound from the outside of the car, and in the audio piece you heard what it was like for Dan inside the car. I don't know that there's too much more to say to introduce our next speaker except here is Dan Parker [applause]
(Music playing, "Kryptonite")

DAN PARKER: Thank you, everybody. I think I want to hear a replay of that motor singing at seven thousand RPM and making almost one thousand horsepower to go 211 miles an hour. That's pure music to my ears.

I'm honored to be here today. It's been a special occasion. It's been a special year. And I ask everybody the question: who here has seen the movie The Field of Dreams? [Applause]

It's a good movie. For those who haven't, you need to go back and watch it. In the movie the character Ray, played by Kevin Costner, is an Iowa corn farmer on the verge of bankruptcy, and he hears a whisper while he's working in the fields: "If you build it, they will come."

And against all odds, with family ridicule, and on the verge of bankruptcy, he cut a baseball diamond in his corn field, and the ghosts of baseball legends past appeared, including Shoeless Joe Jackson. Today I want to share with you my field of dreams.

I was born into a racing family. I get emotional thinking about it. I'm sorry. [is crying a bit and receives applause] I was born into a racing family. Early on I realized I absolutely sucked at stick and ball sports, but I was attracted to anything mechanical: bicycles, mini bikes, go carts, you name it. If it had an engine, I wanted to rev it up. After high school I started bracket racing on a weekly basis under my father's guidance. He taught me how to maximize efficiency of combinations, to be a true racer, to be a sportsman. In late 1999 I became the official driver for Bill George Motor Sports and in 2005 we won the ADRL (American Drag Racing League) Pro Nitrous World Championship.

A pro modified car is the fastest car on the planet Earth that still has a working left door and a short wheel base. It is a three thousand horsepower car, requiring real handling to say the least. They can accelerate from zero to one hundred miles per hour in a little over one second. That is 3.2Gs out of the starting line.

On March 31 we were testing a new motor combination, and on the first full pass the car made a hard right turn into the wall, tore it down, went to tumbling, and cut the car in half. They tried to life flight me out of there. They couldn't because there was a storm between the University of Alabama (UAB) Hospital and the racetrack. So they put me in an ambulance with my girlfriend riding shotgun. They bounced off the speedometer to try to keep me alive until they got to UAB. They did something I never heard before nor since. I was in such bad shape that they called ahead and had another ambulance meet mine on the side of the highway for that EMT to get into the ambulance and help my EMT keep me alive.

I suffered broken ribs, a collapsed lung—my whole right arm was completely destroyed. I have a skin graft site on my leg to repair a patch in my armpit and numerous other injuries. I came home with a traumatic brain injury, which is by far the worst injury.

When I woke up, my family noticed that my eyes didn't look right. My pupils stayed dilated. They weren't constricting. When somebody would walk by my hospital bed, it would startle me when they spoke. The neuro-ophthalmologist was called in the next day, and I was given the news that I was now 100 percent blind for life. My optic nerve had been compressed while my brain was swollen and cut it off, and that was it: That was the ballgame.

I spent another two weeks in the hospital and came home into my new world of darkness—broke, beaten up, and blind. I fell into a deep depression. I did not want to live. I don't say that to be tragic today or to be dramatic. But somewhere here today I know we have somebody who is newly adjusting to blindness or may be new at a training center, and you're scared. But I promise you one thing: you are right where you need to be. [Applause] You are here in your family of blind brothers. Today is your opportunity to network with other blind individuals, successful blind individuals, and those who have achieved great things: lawyers, teachers, musicians, whatever it is. You're in the right place.

So after about six months of depression, one night I went to bed thinking about my late brother and my late mother. My brother absolutely loved the Bonneville Salt Flats, a dry lake bed 120 miles west of Salt Lake City, where people have been setting land speed records since 1914. So my field of dreams came in the middle of the night. I woke up at 2:00 a.m. with a complete vision that I would become the first blind man to race the Bonneville Salt Flats. [Applause]

So I had my vision; I had my dream; but I didn't have a path. I didn't know what to do or how to accomplish this. Needless to say, when I proudly announced to my family and some of my friends what I was going to do, that went over like a whoopee cushion in church. [Laughter] So here I was, broke, blind, and trying to build a motorcycle after almost dying just six or seven months earlier, but I started doing research, and I found the Blind Driver Challenge. I listened to that video so many times on my phone that I had just gotten and started learning how to use.

One day I made the phone call that changed my trajectory. One day I called the National Headquarters in Baltimore. I told the receptionist what I wanted to do and what my ideas were, and she put me on the phone with Joanne Wilson. That day changed my life forever. [Applause] Joanne listened to my story. About every month or so she would call and check on me, and I would give her a progress report. I would call her and give her a progress report. The motorcycle was coming along, and we decided with my friend Patrick Johnson that we were going to be able to get a guidance system with audible feedback so I knew how to correct my steering. Following the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind and the Blind Driver Challenge, we would do this independently.

As we got closer, Joanne invited me to come to Baltimore, meet then President Maurer, Mark Riccobono, and share with them my vision, my project, and my goal. They agreed to sponsor me, so in 2013 we went to Bonneville. Mark Riccobono was there with us as the executive director of the Jernigan Institute. We made history together, with me becoming the first blind man to race Bonneville independently with a speed of 55.331 miles per hour. [Applause]

Something special happened that day. Right before I made my historic run, Mr. Riccobono handed me a Louis Braille coin that President Maurer handed him when he drove in the Blind Driver Challenge vehicle in Daytona. I returned it to him after that significant day.

I returned the next year and set my F.I.M. (Fédération Internationale De Motorcyclisme) class record for the first blind man to ever hold official F.I.M. class record with no exemptions for blindness as I raced against my sighted peers with no human assistance. This time I hit 62.05 miles per hour. [Applause] During that time I was enrolled at the Louisiana Center for the Blind--Go LCB. I graduated on March 31, 2015, exactly three years to the day of the wreck. It was then I had my Freedom Bell.

Once I came home, I knew there was more fruit hanging on the tree for land speed racing: the title for the Guinness World Record for the World's Fastest Car Driven Blindfolded, also known as the World's Fastest Blind Man, held by Mike Newman in England at 200.51 miles per hour.

So I set out on a four-year journey to prove that blind people can design a race car. We can be involved in STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math. And we can control our own destiny. [Applause] I did not choose the easy path. The easy path would have been to go rent a Lamborghini or Ferrari or whatever it is to show off my helmet and fire suit and go for the record. But I designed the car 100 percent myself, and with friends and volunteers, we built it over the next three years. The car is a 2008 Corvette. It's painted bright red. It has a full belly pan undercarriage that is belly painted for aerodynamics, a Ram-Air I designed for aerodynamics, a full safety cage, and duel steering wheels so that while we were testing the guidance system, I'd have a passenger. We put in an onboard fire extinguisher system, and a nitrous oxide system. The nitrous and the motor together makes over one thousand horsepower.

In the fall of 2019, the car was getting close. The producers of Jay Leno's Garage approached me; they were intrigued by my story and wanted to film an episode. The latest they could film was February of 2020, and luckily the East Coast Timing Association was having an event at the Spaceport which was invitation only. We finished the car, and on my first full pass, which was the pass I had to film for Leno, I went 153.8 miles per hour. [Applause]

Then COVID hit and affected everything we know in our lives, including me. Racing stopped. Everything came to a halt. I didn't know what the future of my car was.

But late in 2020 I got the call that changed my life forever. President Riccobono called me and asked me if we wanted to get the band back together for one more run. [Laughter] Did we want to go for the Guinness Book of World Records for the ten-year anniversary of the Blind Driver Challenge. Of course, yes!

In March of 2020 I brought this car to the Arkansas East Coast Timing Association to try to test it. I had two horrible runs, and I knew I had to go back and figure out a plan. I knew that, just like anything, practice makes perfect. I knew I needed a car that I could practice with on a weekly basis because the race car is like a thoroughbred: you can't just take her out around the block.

A friend sold me a 1994 Corvette cheap. We built a second guidance system and put it in. Patrick flew in from Huntsville. We took it out to a local drag strip. We beat the car up about two hours at a time. Then Patrick would fly his plane back home.

I was getting prepared, and we were hoping to set the record in November of 2021, the ten-year anniversary of the Blind Driver Challenge. But sadly, Steve Struck, the owner of the East Coast Timing Association, who was going to provide the insurance, got COVID and was on a ventilator. He was in bad shape, but by a miracle of God, he came home. [Applause]

So we postponed our attempted world record event to March of 2022 because the weather reports for January and February were not conducive to racing, between snow and extreme cold. We could only rent the track Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, so we chose the end of March for the best chance for having good weather.

Prior to the race—three weeks—the car had no motor, no transmission, and a hole in the transmission tunnel about a foot big to prepare for the new transmission I felt was going to be more reliable for us. We worked twenty-four-hour days from time to time, but we got it done. Dynoed the car just in time to head out on a twenty-eight-hour nonstop path to the Spaceport.

The team convened on Monday, the 26th, as our teams consisted of volunteers who sacrificed their vacations from California to New Hampshire, to Florida, to North Dakota, to Huntsville, Alabama. We had engineers, land speed gurus to engine specialists, and everything in between. We went over the car, and we found a problem. I had ordered the torque converter too tight, so that means when you drop it in gear, the motor wants to stall. Tuesday the winds were horrible. We had fifty-miles-per-hour side winds; typically land speed racing has to stop at seventeen miles per hour. So we couldn't practice on Tuesday. I took the test car out, made multiple runs around 110-120 miles per hour, staying in a ten-foot-wide path with a fifty-miles-per-hour side wind. I knew I could do it; we just needed a little luck on our side.

On Wednesday the car was getting closer. I made a half-mile pass at 158, turned it around, started it at the three-quarter mile mark, and went 176 miles per hour. When the dust settled Wednesday afternoon, I had not been up to two hundred miles per hour. I did not sleep hardly at all Wednesday night. I woke up at 1:30 in the morning, and I designed a push bar in my head that we could build with what tools and material I had in the trailer. So if I couldn't get the car to leave the start line, we would push it with the practice Corvette up to thirty miles per hour, and I would drop it in gear. You see, “quit” was not in our vocabulary. We were going to do whatever it took to come home with an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. [Applause]

As the sun was rising on that Thursday, the last day, me and the team were grinding. I was in the trailer grinding on parts and deburring parts while Jeff Pope was out with blankets, covering the welder because the wind was messing up the welding. We finished the push bar. Jason continued testing.

At 12:00, I had still not been over two hundred miles per hour. I was getting really worried. The weight of the world was on my shoulders. But I felt no pressure from my brotherhood in the Federation. Everybody was there supporting me. They had faith. They said, "We know you can do it. We're here for you." That gave me peace of mind that we were in this together.

At 12:30 or so, Jason came to me and said, "It's ready. The car is yours."

We took the car to the top of the runway. The next pass was 205. [Dan's voice breaks, and the crowd applauds.] The clock was ticking. We only had the Spaceport rented until five o'clock. I went to Alice and Chris Lopez and I said, "Listen, I know our lease is up at five, but we have insurance. What are our options?" They told me, "You just keep fighting. We'll worry about this."

On the 205 pass, I felt something was just not right with the car. It had what was called bump steer; when I hit a bump, the car wanted to move to the right. I told Jason to take it back to the pits, jack it up, and put three rounds of compression on all four shocks. We worked on the steering. We installed a moon disk which is an aerodynamic wheel cover that gives you more top speed. We put a fresh nitrous bottle in it, and it was showtime.

We towed the car to the top end of the runway. We wanted to go against the wind on our first run so we would know how to adjust for the backup run. For the Guinness World Record, you don't do it one time; you have to do one pass and within one hour turn the car around, and make a return run. The average of your two runs is your Guinness record. My first full pass was clocked at over 210 miles per hour. [Applause] We got the car turned around on the top end and the team jumped on: packing the parachutes, changing the water in the cooling system, while I sat in the car trying to maintain my calm. I didn't take off my helmet; I didn't even take off my seat belt or racing gloves. I told Jennifer, my fiancée, "Just try to be my gatekeeper. Don't let anybody distract me. This is showtime. I must maintain my focus."

So the coolant cart lost its prime. I had no idea. The team was back there drastically trying to change fifteen gallons of water from one water tank into the car. They were using Solo cups, water bottles—anything they could to transfer the water.

When we cranked up the car, we had twelve minutes left on our one-hour turnaround time. So I ease into the throttle and at about the three-hundred-foot mark, I was able to go wide open. The sound of RPMs was music to my ears. I went through the finish line. The guidance system calls out and I deploy the parachutes with my pinky finger. We were running out of runway because the brakes were heat soaked. They were fading fast. But we brought it to a stop with only about three-hundred feet left on the runway.

Immediately the Guinness officials came up, took the SIM card out of the GoPro cameras to prove the in-car shot that I was the one in control going for the record. Immediately we took the car to the trailer to the applause from all the NFB family there cheering me on. The Guinness official looked at all the GoPro videos and the laptop, and then certified our record—211.043 miles per hour. [Applause]

But that record—you know, the racer side of me recognized that 211.043 as an important number—but that's just a small part of this record. This record is about every one of us in this room, everyone watching on LiveStream, everyone in the blind community. That record is to prove what we can do. If we're given an accessible world, we can compete with our sighted peers in the workplace, at school, or on the racetrack. [Applause]

We all have our own field of dreams, something deep in our heart we want to accomplish. As we all start going our different ways on Monday, know that your Federation is behind you. Take it one day at a time. Take the doubters out of your life. Surround yourself with supporters. Anything is possible. [Applause] I know we will continue to work for the National Federation of the Blind and the Blind Driver Challenge, and together we will build the Federation. [Applause]

President Riccobono earlier was talking about the museum, and a little while back I called him and told him that when the museum is built, I will donate the motorcycle for the display of the Blind Driver Challenge. [Applause] We still have more records to set with that Corvette. [Laughter] One day hopefully it will be there too, but it ain't over with yet for it.

Today I want to present President Riccobono and the NFB one of the moon disks, one of those aerodynamic wheel covers that made the difference between the 205 and the 210 and the 212 passes that came off the car. It has an inscription; I'll have Beth read it to us in a minute, but I have more. Erroll, the tuner of the car, has a son, and he printed a plaque with all the wording on the moon disk in Braille. So when President Riccobono takes it back to Baltimore and they put it on the wall, right beside it will be the Braille inscription of exactly what the significance is of that wheel cover and the meaning and historical part of the Blind Driver Challenge it played. So Beth, are you here?

BETH BRAUN: I am. Do you want to hold it? And this one also, President Riccobono?

DAN PARKER: This wheel cover is spun aluminum with a dome shape to it with six holes where it bolts to the wheels so we can take them on and off to service the wheels and brakes, etc.

BETH BRAUN: “On March 31, 2022, Dan Parker, representing the National Federation of the Blind, the Blind Driver Challenge, and Tragedy to Triumph racing, set the Guinness World Record for the fastest car driven blindfolded, 211.043 miles per hour." Then there's the Blind Driver Challenge logo, the National Federation of the Blind logo, and the Guinness logo. And it says, "This moon disk was a race-used wheel cover that provided an aerodynamic improvement on the record run.” [Applause]

DAN PARKER: Thank you so much to everybody. I know we're so blessed to be back in person at convention. The energy here this week has been great. As I sat here behind President Riccobono listening today, it's just amazing what we have accomplished together. I'm a proud member of the NFB, and we're going to continue working for everything we have to do. [Applause]

MARK RICCOBONO: Thank you, sir! Great job! Great job! [Applause]

How Silver BELLS Led Me from Fear to Freedom

by Debra Hill

From the Editor: What do we do for seniors? Too often we stop at saying we give them hope, but what tangible things do we do to make that hope real? This article begins to answer that question. In Missouri we are getting ready to host a program, and I hope we move people in the same way Ms. Hill has been moved. Here is what she says:

I lost my sight completely over seven years ago due to complications from diabetes type 2. I have had many years, therefore, to adjust to the tremendous changes blindness has brought to my life. With the daily support of my husband and the helpful interventions of my family and friends, I thought I had settled into a safe, well-organized, and secure life.

As I listened to the Zoom meeting about the National Federation of the Blind’s new program, Silver BELLS, I began to feel an uneasy fluttering of butterflies in my stomach and nervous tingling in my palms. I heard the encouraging words of the instructors as they spoke of the upcoming Silver BELLS weekend in Richmond, Virginia. My heart beat a little faster as they spoke of the various training programs that would be offered to attendees. I asked myself why I needed to learn all that when I so conveniently had my friends and family literally at my beck and call? My husband reads my emails and writes down what I need to remember. I haven’t cooked for years, and Door Dash knows my home address by heart. Braille sounds much too complicated, like learning a foreign language, and I stopped using my cane years ago, since it is far easier to hold on to a willing elbow and have a human guide warn me about obstacles ahead.

Suddenly it dawned on me that the comfortable life I had created for myself actually had become a life of dependency, not independence. I can now see that sometimes I unfairly took advantage of the kindness and support of my friends and family while limiting my own knowledge and personal growth. Perhaps it was time for me to face my fears and trust that I can challenge myself to live the life I want to live.

Sitting in the passenger seat as my husband drove thirty minutes from our home in Richmond, Virginia, to the Hyatt Hotel in Short Pump, Virginia, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. I was proud that I had decided to face the challenges of this four-day weekend. However, I was reassured that everything would be done to make this a great experience for all the participants.

The Silver BELLS weekend from beginning to end provided a welcoming atmosphere, a supportive learning environment, and community bonding. The sixteen participants were divided into four intimate teams of four persons. I was amazed to hear about the diverse careers, family structures, the hobbies, and the learning goals of my group members. I met six women who, like myself, loved to sing gospel music. By the last day, we had formed a choir we fondly named “The Silver BELLS Singers.” I could never have imagined that this Silver BELLS program would bring so many new friends into my life.

Each day of the Silver BELLS weekend was packed full from early morning to evening with skill-building courses and times to mingle with staff and participants over meals. The four training classes covered techniques for using the white cane, communicating using Braille and other devices, safe cooking skills, and phone and computer technology tools.

Every instructor enthusiastically presented a ton of information and patiently answered questions. Although there were some technical difficulties, particularly during computer-related demonstrations, the teachers remained in good humor and assured everyone that they would be sending follow-up emails covering all the information that was shared in each class. By the end of each lively day, I was happily exhausted and fell asleep before my head hit my pillow.

As my husband and I said our goodbyes to everyone on the last day, I reflected on what I had experienced over the weekend. I was so thankful to all the staff who had encouraged me to face my fear. I learned that there are so many tasks that I can do on my own. As a singer and writer, I look forward to using VoiceOver on my iPhone and reading programs on my computer. As for me, for now I think I will stay away from sharp knives in the kitchen, but I can help with cleaning counters, measuring, pouring, stirring, and using the microwave. Amazingly, I picked up Braille concepts very quickly and discovered it is a language I can learn. Finally, I am determined to practice, practice, practice using my white cane. I have learned to accept it as an extremely valuable aid to help me navigate safely and efficiently in the world.

I courageously look to the future, having become a new member of the National Federation of the Blind. I will continue this life’s journey toward greater independence with new friends and resources.

The Technology around Successful Hybrid Chapter Meetings

by Curtis Chong

From the Editor: If I was asked to identify someone who most exemplifies a Renaissance man, someone who knows a little bit about many things and a great deal about a few of them, Curtis Chong would have to be at the top of my list. If it has a cord on it, he probably knows how to use it and has an opinion about it. The same is true if it is labeled a cordless device. But as impressive as his knowledge is, the more impressive thing about Curtis is that he can communicate what he knows in a way that makes the rest of us feel a little bit smarter and informed. Here is what he has to say about the best way to invite a good hybrid experience into our chapter meetings:

A hybrid meeting is a meeting where members and friends can attend in person or remotely using a platform like Zoom. Not only is the meeting streamed over the internet, but remote meeting participants can raise their hands, speak, and be heard by everyone in the meeting, regardless of whether they are attending in person or remotely.

What technology makes for a good hybrid meeting? First, you cannot hold a hybrid meeting unless you have a reliable Wi-Fi or mobile phone connection to the internet. If you plan to use a laptop computer to host a Zoom meeting instead of an iPhone, a Wi-Fi connection is a must. If, however, you plan to use a smartphone, a strong cellular network connection will serve as a good substitute.

The next thing that needs to be considered is support for audio coming into or out of the meeting through the internet. After all, you need everyone in the meeting to hear the person (or persons) speaking remotely, and the remote participants need to hear anyone who is talking at the in-person location. The internal microphones and speakers on laptops and smartphones simply will not do the job. In my experience, this is because of Zoom’s tendency to suppress background sounds which meeting participants might need to hear, such as someone talking from a distance or music playing in the background.

To build my understanding of how a hybrid chapter meeting might be conducted successfully, I bought two conference phone speakers from Amazon: the Jabra Speak 510+ and the Plantronics Poly Sync 20+; the plus denotes a Bluetooth dongle which, when plugged into your computer, enables a wireless connection between the computer and the speaker. Assuming you have a good wireless connection to the internet or good signal for a phone call, either one of these speakers can connect to a Windows computer, an Apple Macintosh, or your smartphone, and both speakers offer decent audio which a small group can hear quite nicely and a built-in microphone which picks up audio probably up to a distance of twenty feet or so. The electronics in these speakers is smart enough to eliminate the feedback and audio ducking which you often get when you use separate speakers and microphones. Also, having one unit to keep track of instead of a speaker and a separate microphone relieves the Zoom host of having to keep track of yet another device in support of the meeting.

I have tested the Jabra Speak and the Poly Sync in Zoom meetings using both my Windows laptop (with a Bluetooth dongle connection) and my iPhone (using the iPhone’s built-in Bluetooth). Here are my findings so far:

Both the Poly Sync 20+ and the Jabra Speak 510+ have some form of voice guidance built in. I believe that it is easier to hear the verbal prompts generated by the Poly Sync 20+. On the Poly Sync 20+, the voice guidance consistently lets you know when the unit is turned on or off. The Jabra Speak 510+ is not so reliable in this regard.

The Jabra Speak 510+ does not have any physical buttons or controls. The touch controls for this unit are located on a circular ring and are in fixed positions which can be learned with a bit of orientation. A click is heard if you touch one of the controls.

The Poly Sync 20+ uses a touch strip with controls for volume, muting/unmuting, and answering a phone call. Different tones are heard when you touch these controls. The Sync 20+ also has two physical buttons on one side which are used for turning the unit on or off and establishing Bluetooth connections.

Both the Jabra Speak and the Poly Sync have a built-in USB Type-A cable which you can use to connect to a Windows computer. Both devices (note the + in the name) come with a Bluetooth dongle which you can use instead of the USB cable to provide a wireless connection to your computer.

In my humble opinion, the documentation for both products is less than perfect. The manuals can be downloaded as PDF files, but the shapes and meanings of the various touch icons are not spoken through your screen reader.

The two conference phone speakers discussed here are intended for meetings with fewer than twenty participants. Anticipate paying somewhere around $150 for either device unless you are very good or lucky at bargain shopping.

If you are thinking about a hybrid chapter meeting where the room and number of participants is much larger, consider acquiring two Poly Sync 40 units and pairing them together. When you do this, you now have two good speakers and two good microphones, all of which are communicating quite nicely with your computer or smartphone. Place the first unit near the person who chairs the meeting and the second unit at the other end of the room, and you have a winning combination.

I have successfully hybridized one local chapter meeting using the Poly Sync 20+. There were no complaints about the audio. For those of you who use a screen reader such as JAWS or NVDA, you will definitely want to switch your screen reader to another audio device such as an earphone. Fortunately, both screen readers offer this capability on a laptop computer but not so much on a smartphone.

Some final comments should be made regarding Zoom audio settings for hybrid meetings. It is critical to change some of the default audio settings in Zoom. These settings are not available in the Zoom client for the iPhone, but they are available on a Windows or Macintosh computer. Making these changes will help to avoid music not being heard properly (e.g., sounding distorted) or wildly fluctuating volumes when people speak.

If you have any questions about my experience with or thoughts about the Jabra Speak 510+ or the Poly Sync 20+, please reach out to me by email or phone. My email address is [email protected], and I can be reached on the phone at 303-745-0473.

Guide Dog or Cane: It’s not Either/Or for Me

by Heather Bird

From the Editor: Heather wears many hats in the NFB. She is the chapter president in Rochester, New York, president of the affiliate’s guide dog users group, and the secretary of the Parents of Blind Children division in her state. She serves as the coordinator of the BELL Academy for the affiliate, and she enjoys her other hobbies and interests in what spare time she has left. Here is what she says about guide dogs and canes and not guide dogs versus canes:

I recently and suddenly needed to say goodbye to my guide dog Ilsa. She went in a matter of hours from an energetic, intense, and vibrant dog to an apathetic, lethargic, and distressed dog. Within two days, she was gone. This was due to a very fast-growing and therefore hard-to-detect cancer, and I was devastated.

I have been working guide dogs since age sixteen, and I have been a white cane user since I was a preschooler. I grew up watching my mother use a succession of guide dogs, as well as a white cane. She took me all over with her, demonstrating a variety of travel, advocacy, and problem-solving skills. My mother made sure that I had a tiny little toddler-size white cane in my hand when I turned two, fought with the school district to ensure that I learned Braille even though they were intent on pushing print, and refused to let me settle for lower expectations from those around me. I knew I wanted a guide dog from the time I was about five or six, and I also knew that I needed to have good cane and other travel skills before that was ever going to happen.

I graduated from The Seeing Eye in 2016 with Ilsa, and she had been at my side since the beginning of my relationship with the NFB. This was in the summer of 2016, when I met with the representatives from our state affiliate board in the process of chartering a chapter in Rochester, New York. Then, in the fall of 2016 when I attended my very first NFB state convention, Ilsa was there at my side when I accepted the charter for our chapter. Ilsa had been at every chapter meeting that I have led and took me to my first NFB national convention in 2017. She was there at my side when I was elected to serve on the board of NAGDU in 2019. She worked confidently through the streets of New York City whenever I traveled there to teach the parents workshop concurrent with our New York State BELL Program. She laid patiently under a table watching me wiggle and twist and jump around teaching some energetic dance/exercise moves on a large Braille cell on the floor while conducting a mini-BELL presentation at our 2019 state convention. She lay patiently as blind children petted her and explored her harness. I explained to them that, while it might be great to get a guide dog someday, they were going to have to have excellent white cane skills and orientation and mobility skills to be successful in life, regardless of whether they ever got a guide dog or not.

Ilsa heeled patiently along beside me or heeled not so patiently with my husband while I demonstrated cane skills to BELL students and their parents during our enhanced BELL activities in 2021. She had been at my side at every single NFB national and state convention, our New York State leadership training, and the BELL training, both held at the Jernigan Institute. She has been prominent at our state legislative seminars in 2017, 2018, and 2019. She loved dashing at high speed through the tunnel connecting the legislative office building to the Capitol building. The picture I supplied to accompany an article several years ago regarding the benefits of the free white cane program featured myself and my two children, all with our NFB white canes and Ilsa, sitting proudly up in her harness on the front steps of our home.

Ilsa was also there, ready to jump into my arms when I picked her up from guide dog daycare while playing at the Beep Baseball World Series. She rode the Hogwarts Express with me at Universal Studios. She was there on my son’s first day of preschool and kindergarten. She got very adept at helping me to sneak stealthily along behind my preschooler while he practiced independent cane travel on our ten-block-long route from home to preschool and back. The picture of Ilsa and me running together in a 5K has appeared on the screens during many Zoom meetings for NFB- and non-NFB related activities over the last two years.

I had an especially proud moment during the 2017 National Convention while I was assisting a friend who, due to a temporary medical concern, needed to use a wheelchair. The strategy we developed involved my propelling the manual wheelchair while my friend used her cane to check the area in front of us for obstacles. I had Ilsa on a special hands-free leash, and she walked nicely alongside and was especially helpful when we needed to explore a bit before proceeding. Our biggest concern was that we avoid the stairs. When we knew we were close, I left my friend temporarily and asked Ilsa to find them, which she did. I then turned around and squared off with the top of the stairs at my back and asked Ilsa to find my friend again. This she promptly did. With those two reference points, I was able to proceed onward, giving the stairs a wide berth. We used a similar strategy when I asked Ilsa to find the elevators. I confidently returned to my friend, knowing that muscle memory and navigation skills could get us efficiently to the elevator.

While walking along through one of the main corridors, Lucas Frank, an experienced and longtime trainer at The Seeing Eye, came up alongside us. “Oh boy,” I thought, “We’re in for it; he’s going to ask me why I’m not using my dog; he’s going to tell me what we’re doing is dangerous; he’s going to criticize me; he’s going to take my dog away!” All of these things flashed through my mind. Instead, he simply asked me, “Hey, how’s it going?” After I told him it was going well, he inquired, casual as can be, “Do you need any help?” When I told him, “No, we’ve got it,” in a relaxed tone of voice, he simply said something like, “Oh, OK, cool, see you around.” I was so proud. I was proud of myself, I was proud of Ilsa, I was proud of my guide dog school, I was proud of my friend’s cane skills, I was proud of the teamwork between the three of us—myself, Ilsa, and my friend—and I was proud of the respectful attitude and high expectations of my guide dog training program. I was proud to be surrounded by so many people traveling independently with their canes and guide dogs all around us.

When we left for the urgent care vet, Ilsa was tired and wobbly on her feet, and I was planning to simply take her on her leash. But I brought my harness with me in case we needed to take a rideshare at some point in our travels. She kept insisting on putting her head through the harness and seemed distraught, so I put it on her and worked her. Usually, you provide steady constant backwards pressure on the harness so that the dog can provide resistance and pull forward to guide you. This time I provided some pressure backwards but most of the pressure gently upwards. This was to help support Ilsa so that she could walk on her own and do the job that she loved doing so much. It’s not fair to expect the dog who is injured or ill to guide and help keep the team safe, so I used my cane in the other hand to check for obstacle clearance. This allowed me to safely give her back some of the independence and dignity that she has provided to me over the years.

The tagline of The Seeing Eye is “Independence with dignity since 1929,” and dignity is something that I value greatly. While it is not fair and it is not right, it is true that often the general public perceives guide dog handlers as more competent travelers than cane travelers. This incorrect assumption stems from the fact that most people don’t understand how white canes are meant to work. That is, when blind travelers encounter an obstacle with a tap or a bump, the ignorant public believes that this is an accident, a problem, a mistake, and it appears to them to be awkward, or, in their uninformed view, makes the cane traveler look bumbling or awkward. This, of course, is pure nonsense, since a cane bumping into something is doing exactly what it is intended to do—that is, to alert the user to the presence of an obstacle so that they can explore and then navigate around that obstacle safely.

I have spent a great deal of time over the years explaining to kids that they shouldn’t be afraid to find things with their canes. At the same time, I explain to their parents that panicking, grabbing their kids, or scolding them for contacting objects with their canes is ludicrous. However, being able to zip quickly from point A to point B using a guide dog has real advantages. This is so, especially in an unfamiliar environment, one that I don’t need to navigate again anytime soon. Certainly we face times when learning all the obstacles with a cane isn’t really necessary. Being able to maneuver without distractions with my guide dog while the public looks on appreciatively certainly helps enhance my sense of dignity. I don’t take that for granted and whenever possible I strive to educate the public that traveling independently can be accomplished by a competent traveler whether they have a cane or a harness in their hand. Further, I try to help them understand that canes and guide dogs are simply tools and that attitude, confidence, and a whole variety of skills including map reading, cardinal directions, route reversal, use of GPS, and other technologies goes into making a good traveler. This is so whether they use a cane, a guide dog, or both.

The tagline of the NFB is “Live the life you want” and for me, living the life that I want involves having a well-trained, well-socialized, and well-behaved guide dog as well as a cane of the proper length, weight, and style. Of course, these serve along with a whole host of other tools, techniques, and skills at my disposal to meet my travel needs.

By the time we had left the urgent care vet and were transitioning to the emergency vet, Ilsa was truly struggling to walk, and I picked her up and carried her. I used my white cane while I did it. Ilsa worked hard to keep us safe for six years, and because I kept my cane skills up, I was able to, in the time of her need, pick her up and help keep her safe or at least more comfortable. There was nothing anyone could do at that point to keep her safe from the cancer that was killing her. If I hadn’t brought my cane along or hadn’t kept my cane skills up, I might have had to allow someone else to carry her or been separated from her while she went on a stretcher or some other conveyance. Instead, I was able to hold her close and carry her where she needed to go.

When someone tells me, “When I get a guide dog, then I’m throwing my cane away and never using it again,” I tell them, none too gently, “Well, then you’re not being a very good handler are you? The two of you are a team, you are partners. That dog is responsible for helping to keep the two of you safe, as are you when your dog needs you. That cane that you hate so much should be a tool you can use to help return the favor. If you can’t do that, then you can’t fully care for your dog.” It may sound harsh, but that’s how I feel. When you’re responsible for a pet, a guide dog, or a child, then you need to use all the tools and skills at your disposal to do the best you can to care for them and keep them healthy, happy, and safe.

I have an acquaintance whose guide dog was suddenly injured (this was before ridesharing really existed), and she could not get a cab company to come and pick them up. None of their sighted friends or family were available to help. She went and got her kid’s wagon, lined it with blankets, put her dog in it, got out her white cane, and walked over twenty blocks to the veterinary clinic. Did her cane whack and smack and bang into all sorts of newspaper boxes, trash cans, and manhole covers on the way to the vet? I’m sure it did. And did it look awkward or bumbling to the uninformed sighted public who might’ve been watching? Yes, quite likely. Did that matter to my friend? Heck no! Did that matter to her dog? Absolutely not. Her dog’s injury was treated, and her guide recovered and was back to work soon. My friend’s cane skills saved her dog from a lot of suffering and waiting around. Her proficiency with a cane kept the two of them from being separated and got her dog care faster than she otherwise would’ve been able to if she had had to rely on a sighted person to come and pick them up hours later. Her dog trusted her just as Ilsa trusted me to keep her safe and take care of them, and with the help of our white canes, we did just that.

I can tell you that ugly crying for hours into a COVID mask can give one a heck of a migraine. By the time Ilsa passed away right around sunset, I was in severe physical and emotional pain. My head felt like it was going to explode, my heart was aching, and I felt empty inside, hurting like I’d been kicked in the gut. The well-meaning clinic staff offered to take my hand and offered me an arm so they could guide me out. Some people, when they’re hurting, want to fall into someone’s arms, get a pat on the back, or have someone hold their hand. I am not one of those sorts of people. I didn’t want to be touched by anyone; I didn’t want to touch anyone; I wanted to be by myself with my thoughts and my memories and my grief. Because I had my cane, I was able to make my own way out of the vet clinic.  I used my cane, I carried her harness, I cried, I called an Uber, I rode home in silence, and I walked in the door, and hung her harness on its hook, but this time I added her collar as well. Beside it I placed my white cane.

I knew I would apply for a successor guide and that I had hundreds of miles yet to walk, some with a cane and some with a dog. But right then, all I wanted to do was crawl into bed, cry my eyes out, and then sleep like the dead for about twelve hours.

Finding a new match could take a month or perhaps two years, because The Seeing Eye puts a lot of effort into finding the correct match. The school endeavors to call people into class, not based on how long they’ve been waiting or how prestigious they are or how much they’ve donated to the school or how much they call and pester the school for a class date. The important thing is to have a good match that will increase the success of the team. Whenever I find myself called up for a class, I know that I will walk in the door using a white cane, not walking sighted guide with a trainer. I will walk out the door holding a harness handle, with my white cane folded in my purse. On my way in and on my way out, I will walk with my head held high, with independence and dignity, living the life I want.

Objection Sustained

by Deborah Kent Stein

From the Editor: Debbie Stein needs little in the way of an introduction. She is a professional writer with many books to her credit. She is also a Federationist whose long and distinguished service would be the envy of any of us. For all of her accomplishments, the one barrier she has not broken is the one that stands between her and performing her duty as a citizen in participating on juries. Here is her story:

The morning I went for jury duty, I was braced for the challenge. Justice is supposed to be blind, but only a handful of blind people have ever been allowed to serve on juries in Illinois. I wasn't just there to do my civic duty; I was there to make a statement.

As I stood in line to be assigned to a group for selection, a hand seized my arm. With no introduction a woman ordered, "Come on. I'll give you a pass so you can go home."

"No thank you," I said, twisting free. "I just got here."

I had to say it twice more before she let me get back in line. When I reached the clerk, he told me, "Three C."

I followed a crowd of 3Cs to an auditorium, where we were told to wait. We waited for more than two hours.

Finally, a bailiff announced that the judge would speak to us in Room 214. As I followed my group out the door, another hand clamped around my upper arm. At least this time the stranger introduced herself. "I'm Sophie," she said. "The bailiff told me to take care of you."

"Let go of me, please," I said. "I'm fine."

Sophie let go, but she insisted on escorting me to Room 214. "I'll get you when the judge is done," she said. "Don't move."

Judge Matthias told us that being a juror is an important social responsibility. If we were chosen to serve, it was our duty to be impartial. We must not be influenced by outward appearances. We must listen to the evidence and make an unbiased decision.

As soon as he dismissed us, I headed for the door, and I managed to escape before Sophie came to get me. I followed the sound of pounding feet, found the stairs, and headed down. At the first floor I caught the rancid smell of cafeteria food, and when I descended to the basement, I followed the clatter of silverware. The line snaked out the door, but it moved pretty fast. The woman behind the counter dished up a burrito and fruit salad, and I loaded them onto my tray.

"What have you got?" asked the man at the register. "You gotta tell me. I'm blind."

"You are?" I cried. "Me too!" I reached for his hand and we slapped palms. He said his name was Thomas.

"I've got jury duty," I told him. "They tried to send me home, but I'm still here."

"Hang in there," Thomas said. "Don't let them take you down!"

Sophie caught up with me as I finished my fruit salad. "I told you to wait," she fumed. "I had to look for you all over."

"You didn't have to," I pointed out.

"I'll take you to the office now," she said. "They'll give you your check."

"Not yet," I said. "I'm due back in the auditorium."

In the auditorium Judge Matthias called on members of Group 3C one by one. He asked each person a series of questions. "Where do you live? How far did you go in school? What magazines do you read?" And finally, "Have you ever been the victim of a violent crime?" One by one people were sent to wait in another auditorium or told to go upstairs for further screening.

When my name was called, I stood up with my white cane in my hand. But the judge didn't ask me any questions. "Come with me," he said. "We need to discuss this."

I followed Judge Matthias into a back room. He introduced me to the defense lawyer and the lawyer for the prosecution. "Each lawyer has two peremptory exclusions," the judge explained. "That means either lawyer can say no to two jurors without giving any reason. But if I take you out of the pool myself, the lawyers won't have to use any of their peremptories on you. I just need to ask you a few things, to help me think this through."

No way was I going to serve. It was just a matter of who would exclude me. I remembered Thomas saying, “Don't let them take you down!”

"How could you understand the evidence that's presented?" Judge Matthias asked.

"I'll listen," I said. I couldn't resist adding, "Impartially."

"Other jurors take notes," the judge said. "I don't suppose you can do that."

"I'll take notes," I told him, "in Braille."

"Well, I suppose," the judge said. "But—but—I just don't feel comfortable. I have to take you out of the pool."

On either side of me the lawyers murmured in relief. Their peremptory exclusions were safe.

Hang in there, Thomas had told me. As I rose to leave, I said, "Your Honor, I'd like you to know a few things about me. I live in Chicago. I have a master’s degree. I read Smithsonian and National Geographic. And I've never been the victim of a violent crime." But not all crimes are physically violent. I wished I dared to remind him of that.

"I'll give this some thought," Judge Matthias said. "Maybe next time I face this situation, I'll make a different decision."

Sophie was waiting for me at the door. Of course she was. "I can get my check now," I said. "I'm done. For today."

Chad Allen: The Blind Magician Strolling Magic with Sighted Guide

by Chad Allen

From the Editor: The idea of a blind magician has always been fascinating to me, someone who can use illusion to play tricks on sighted folks but who does not enjoy vision himself. I revel in the thought because it hints at the wide diversity of occupations in which we who are blind can compete. But, when it comes down to it, I’m intrigued by this particular gentleman because my grandson wants to be a magician and a card mechanic, and through the kindness of Chad, Ethan was received courteously by a man willing to help him who had no obligation to do it.

Here is an article that speaks to many things: alternative techniques, the beauty of having a goal and achieving it, and the flexibility to operate within what is too often narrowly perceived to be the NFB philosophy. Here is the magic of Chad in his own words:

I am a blind magician. I love to entertain people with magic—no easy task. The mission is always to utterly astonish someone with something impossible. Every magician works towards this important goal when given the opportunity to do magic. It’s got to be a surprise!

My own personal achievements in the Art of Magic include: an appearance on Penn and Teller’s Fool Us and a performing membership at the World-Famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, California. I work on stage, at formal events, and for parties, celebrations, and birthdays. I typically perform for adults.

I recently performed for the American Printing House for the Blind, HumanWare, and the National Federation of the Blind in New Orleans at the 2022 National Convention of the NFB. I was hired to perform in celebration of these three organizations coming together to develop a tactile graphics and Braille display for blind users. I was expected to perform magic while guests ate, drank, and socialized with each other during the event.

This genre of magic called strolling magic lets the performer entertain guests with ordinary objects like playing cards, coins, napkins, wallets, or anything else that typically fits in a pocket. Magic is a lot about practice. There is a great amount of preparation involved in making a trick work. When performing strolling magic, I must be able to perform surrounded. I couldn’t find a reasonable way to perform under these circumstances while also using my cane. I always kept fumbling either the cane or the cards. I have the skills of traveling with a long white cane, and I can do magic, but I can’t do both at the same time. There’s got to be a way to make this work.

I had nothing. I was stuck. The best I could envision on my own was to either: 1) do it one handed (I’m not that cool), or 2) I don’t do the gig.

This is not the first time I needed to turn down strolling magic gigs. Sometimes, clients would allow me to set up a table in the corner of the room. However, that’s not strolling magic. This genre of magic happens to also be the most common kind of magic for hire. Many magicians perform strolling magic exclusively. There’s enough work out there to do that if you are ambitious.

In the past I felt forced to refer other magicians. I always strive as an artist to provide my audiences with nothing less than the impossible. I did not have the confidence to do it to my expectations. I explained this situation to the President of the NFB, Mark Riccobono, and he, without skipping a beat, said, “Why not use sighted guide? We’d be happy to provide you with someone so you can perform for us.”

I considered his recommendation and quickly knew that he was right. Sighted guide while I perform strolling magic. I usually felt weird asking potential clients for accommodations, but since this was a NFB event, everything made sense. I’ll do the gig. Chad Allen Magic is going to New Orleans!

Well, it worked. Jeff from the Jernigan Institute was asked to be my sighted guide. We met about ten minutes prior to the event, and I explained how I needed to know who was sighted and who wasn’t. I needed to know if the group I planned to entertain was willing or not to watch magic. I did not want to take away from people’s own amusements. You never know if an old friend or a new flame is happening at parties. Nobody wants magic over engaging conversation with a friend or a loved one. I choose to increase my odds by going to folks who are relaxed and in search of the next opportunity. Often, that group is the most accepting to experience magic.

Jeff explained to me who was eating and who wasn’t, who looked as if they were simply spending time together or not available? I asked him to check back from time-to-time to see if the people we passed over were free. I need to be sure that everyone who wants magic gets it.

My opening line was: “Hi, I’m Chad. And you are? I’m the magician and like a vampire, I need to be invited. Would you like to experience some magic?” We were in New Orleans, so the line was well received.

I made tiny red balls appear and disappear to the astonishment of guests. A ring vanished and reappeared on blind people’s thumbs with gasps of, “How did you do that?” and “What? I felt nothing. That’s impossible.” Braille playing cards signed by spectators found themselves impossibly hidden inside wallets and pockets throughout the small groups of guests. Coins moved without detection from hand to hand, and cards kept rising to the top of the deck magically. I was able to easily share my art with other blind people like me. It was wonderful. It was a blast!

I had not performed strolling magic professionally for almost twenty years. Now, I can’t wait to do it again! From now on, I’ll coordinate with clients to supply a sighted guide for me. Thanks, Mark, and the National Federation of the Blind for the lovely assist, and please feel free to contact Chad Allen Magic for your entertainment needs anytime. My doors are always open at: www.chadallenmagic.com. Mention this article and I’ll supply a ten percent discount for any of my performances. Thanks for reading!

Owning Our Future: Continuous Revolution in Training through the Organized Blind Movement

From the Editor: Often those who follow President Riccobono on the day of the Presidential Report make some reference to the difficulty in following him, but his construction of the agenda left no doubt that his report was to be the start of a fantastic afternoon. Dan Parker spoke with us about a race to the finish line, and in this presentation, our three center directors and the founder of the Louisiana Center for the Blind talked about our joint race to the top. Here is the way President Riccobono introduced this panel:

MARK RICCOBONO: We thought this item would be important to talk about—the training centers that participate specifically as part of the National Federation of the Blind. These are our training centers. These training centers are independently managed, and they have boards that are independent from the National Federation of the Blind that are responsible for their operation. However, they make a specific commitment to link to the National Federation of the Blind through a memorandum of understanding, and it's not just a written piece of paper. Not only do they bind their operations to be guided by the Federation and subject to the Federation's policies, which means that they're inevitably shaped by us, but they also make a significant contribution to this convention by shaping the expectations for blind people all over this nation. They shape the future that many blind people have the opportunity to experience.

What do I mean? Well, how many of you, like me, are a graduate of a Federation training center? [Applause]

Tell me they don't have an influence on the convention!

Here we have our current directors of our training centers, but also, we are honored to have with us on this panel the founder of the Louisiana Center for the Blind. So please welcome Joanne Wilson, Pam Allen, Julie Deden, and Jennifer Kennedy. [Applause]

JOANNE WILSON: Good afternoon. I'm Joanne Wilson, and as usual, I'm going to begin with one of my favorite stories. This story is about fleas. Now, if you take fleas and you put them in a jar, and you put the lid on the jar, the fleas will try and jump out of that jar. They'll jump once, twice, three times—each time banging their head on that lid and then falling back down into the jar. If you take the lid off of the jar, the fleas will continue to try and jump out, but this time they will jump just right below where that lid used to be. They never realize that, with one more push, they would be free of the jar and would have freedom!

The real problem with blindness is not the loss of eyesight. The real problem with blindness is the misconceptions, the misunderstandings, the stereotype notions that exist about blindness. And these misconceptions exist within blind people and the sighted public. We are often kept in the jar.

In 1940 there was a group of blind leaders who said: You know, if we are ever going to get out of this jar, we need to organize, and we need to speak for ourselves. We need to tell what the new truths are about blindness. So, the National Federation of the Blind was started.

In the 1950s, some of our Federation leaders—Jacobus tenBroek, Kenneth Jernigan, and others--said: we've got all these beliefs about blindness. But now we need to put them into action. We need to show that they really work so that the sighted world can see that our ideas work, and the blind can see that as well.

So, in 1958 Kenneth Jernigan took over the worst agency for the blind in the country. It was in Iowa and was the Iowa Commission for the Blind. It was there that he started our first NFB center. We had high expectations. He and we believed and continue to believe that blind people can live normal lives, that we can live the lives that we want. He put our philosophy into action with conviction, with passion, and with real belief.

I was a student at Dr. Jernigan's NFB center in 1966-1967. Dr. Jernigan used to have a lot of his students over to his apartment when he was entertaining public officials, state legislators, so that we could mix and mingle with them and educate them about blindness. I was at one such dinner one night, and the dinner was over, and I was hanging around the kitchen. Someone came up to me and said, "Joanne, would you go refill the coffee cups of the state legislators?"

I said, "Um, let Marge over there do it. She has a little more eyesight than I do." So, Marge took the coffee pot and went and refilled the coffee cups. I thought, whew! I got out of that one.
The next morning I got called into Dr. Jernigan's office. He sat me down, and he said, "Joanne, what do you want to do when you leave this training center?" By then I knew all the right answers: "Well, I'm going to go to college, I'm going to become a teacher, I'm going to get married and have children, and live a normal life as a blind person."

He said, "Joanne, do you really believe that?"

I said, "I do."

He said, "But you wouldn't refill the coffee cups last night?"

I thought, that doesn't make any difference. What's that all about?

He said, "Joanne, I want to tell you something. If you start saying no to filling the coffee cups, pretty soon you'll start saying no to crossing a busy street or cleaning your house or taking a college class.” He said, “Life is made up of a series of little things, and if you say no to the little things, pretty soon the days will pass, the weeks will pass, the months will pass, and the years will pass, and you'll never achieve the big things.” Dr. Jernigan always said, "Philosophy bakes no bread, but without a philosophy, no bread is baked."

Now let's fast forward to the 1980s. Diane McGeorge and the Colorado affiliate were running around trying to reform sheltered workshops in the state of Colorado. Joyce Scanlan and the Minnesota affiliate were running around trying to close homes for the blind in Minnesota. I and the Louisiana affiliate were trying to kill a particularly awful piece of legislation for the blind. Then suddenly, simultaneously, almost like spontaneous combustion, in 1985 the Louisiana Center for the Blind was started. In 1987, on the same day, the Colorado Center for the Blind and BLIND Inc. were started. We did not compare notes on this, you guys. We did not know what each other were doing. We had no idea that we were planning these things. There was no thinking ahead about it. It just happened because it was meant to happen.

Of course these three centers had the same expectations: the high expectations that our first NFB center had. It had the same belief in the normality of blind persons. It had very, very rigorous courses in skills training. But the most important thing our centers had, and have, is that we help our students develop their own personal, defined philosophy about blindness. Our students are pushed by words and deeds. Old notions that they have about blindness, the old stereotype misconceptions, are taken out of their heads and hopefully replaced with new truths about blindness.

In 1998 there was the reauthorization of the Federal Rehabilitation Act. In this reauthorization, there was a new amendment called the Choice Provision. It was introduced by Congressman William Jefferson from Louisiana because members of the National Federation of the Blind asked him to introduce that. What did this mean to us, this new provision? It meant that disabled people that receive federal funds could choose where they wanted to go for training and what kind of rehabilitation center they wanted to go to. In this case, in this country right now, there are probably ninety residential training centers for blind people. But we had the right to choose, even if it is not in our own state, where we want to go for rehabilitation training.

In 2001 the National Blindness Professional Certification Board was started. This is a board that now certifies what we call Structured Discovery Centers or NFB Centers. The centers are still certified based on methods and philosophy. There are six such centers now certified in our country. There are three state ones and our three private centers.

I have one more very important and critical element that needs to be part of our NFB Centers. The centers need to connect our students with the NFB. Why? Because when the students leave the centers, they will have a structure, a support group that will continue to mentor them, give them role models, give them advocacy, give them a network so that they can keep growing for the rest of their lives as blind people.

Our students also need to be shown how to give back. And why not? We're blind people. So a logical thing to give back is to the NFB. Giving back is often thought as one of the secrets to happiness and true equality. You know, I think each of us desires to give our lives to something bigger than ourselves. You here in this audience right now who are listening to these words are part of our training. You are part of it because you are part of the National Federation of the Blind. Yes, you can be the force that pushes other blind people out of their jar and into new freedom. Thank you. [Applause]

I now want to pass the mic on to Julie Deden, the director of the Colorado Center for the Blind.

JULIE DEDEN: Good afternoon to my Federation family. I am honored to be part of this panel, to be up here today to talk to you about how our NFB training centers have transformed the lives of blind people across the country and the world.

In 1978, forty-four years ago, I attended my first convention of the NFB in Baltimore, Maryland. [Applause] I cannot believe that it was so long ago, because in so many ways it seems like it was just yesterday. I was eighteen and had just completed my first year of college at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I had floundered, and I was so scared that year because I did not use a cane, and I did not feel good about myself as a blind person. I was even afraid to go down for breakfast by myself. So I skipped it.

Walking across campus one day, I fell into a drainage ditch because I thought it was a sidewalk. I tried hiding my blindness, my identity.

I attended my first chapter meeting in April, and even though I did not know very much about the NFB, I picked up on everyone's passion and caring and their excitement to teach me about being proud to be blind. In May of that year, we all watched a film entitled "We Know Who We Are." I actually still remember sitting there, and at the end of the film, Dr. Jernigan says, "We know who we are, and we will never go back!” [Applause] This sparked something inside of me, and I began thinking that I did not need to feel ashamed about being a blind person.

Life for blind people in 1978 was very different from what it is now. There were no NFB training centers. Most of the training that blind people received was limiting. We the blind were not in charge, but rather we had sighted professionals dictate to us what we could and could not do. At my first convention, I observed that blind people mostly did not travel on their own. Blind people were not using canes. They latched onto each other fairly often because they didn't have the training they needed.

The Teamsters union came to that convention to help us organize because hundreds of blind people were being paid subminimum wages and being abused in sheltered workshops. We demonstrated at the Federal Aviation Administration because blind people were getting their canes taken away on planes. As you can only imagine, I loved my introduction to the National Federation of the Blind. [Applause]

I wanted to be part of this. I wanted to make a difference. But first I had to figure out myself as a blind person. Today, when I look back on my journey in the NFB, I can only thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for taking me in, for believing in me. I have learned and been mentored by so many and continue to always learn.

Diane McGeorge and her husband Ray took me under their wings. Ray encouraged me in his gentle way to use a cane. Diane took me to North Dakota and to Wyoming to teach me about building the NFB. In Wyoming she told me that I would need to be the emcee at a banquet. I was really scared and nervous about this. She said, "Julie, you can handle this."

It is often the case at our NFB training centers that we believe in our students long before they come to believe in themselves as blind people. Diane believed in me. This belief and the high expectations that we have for our students at our centers build them up and propell them forward so that they will believe in themselves.

In 1988 Diane became the first director for the Colorado Center for the Blind. Her love, commitment, passion, and understanding of the NFB, along with her strength and tenacity, were key to the center's success.

I never had the opportunity to be a student at one of our training centers. My training came from the National Federation of the Blind. I would not have had the understanding, passion, or belief to direct the Colorado Center for the Blind if I did not have a solid grounding and love for the NFB.

Several years ago many of us had a wonderful opportunity to visit each other's centers. In Louisiana I felt right at home. Pam began the day with announcements, just like we do in Colorado. She encouraged one of the students who had a challenging travel route. The energy at LCB felt just like the energy that I am lucky to experience every day in Colorado.

When we visited Minnesota, one of their students was serving her meal for forty, and there was so much celebration around this accomplishment. Students were playing air hockey, and we could hear the fun throughout the building. Blind people teaching blind people: this concept was not accepted in the blindness profession thirty years ago. Many still feel that it is dangerous and that the blind who have blind instructors truly can't learn anything.

We have worked tirelessly to change this attitude, and we'll continue to do this.

We have come a long way. Most of our staff members at our centers have been students themselves. They have the passion and the caring and the dedication that it takes, always encouraging, teaching, and working right alongside each student. Our centers have the best staff in the world, and we applaud them! [Applause] They too are grounded in the positive philosophy of the NFB.

At our centers, our students always come first. We never take what we do for granted, and we enjoy working with a wide variety of people who just happen to be blind. We want every student to feel welcome and to feel secure and excited to take on challenges. We know that skills alone are not enough. That extra edge, that confidence is the key to jumping into life and not letting blindness stop us.

Just the other day a student came into my office and said, "Julie, I really do not have time for rock climbing. I need to practice my Braille."

I said, "I know you might feel a little nervous about climbing, but I know you can do this." The student went climbing and came back to my office the next day to thank me. She told me that getting on the rock face and figuring out how to get to the top was exhilarating. Somehow she felt changed.

This is what our training is about. What do we want the future to bring for us as blind people? We have revolutionized the training center landscape. We still have a long way to go. Most of the agencies in the country are still run by people who have degrees but do not have intrinsic beliefs in blind people. We in the organized blind movement have shaken down many of the barriers that we have faced. We still have much work to do. Remember this: We know who we are, and we will never go back! Let's keep building! [Applause] Let's look forward to our future, where we are in charge of our training and our destiny. Thank you. [Applause]

Next, it is my true honor to introduce to you Pam Allen, director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind. I just want to say that we in our three NFB Training Centers work really closely together, and I love Pam and I love Jen, and I love Joanne. Here is Pam.

PAM ALLEN: Once upon a time, a long, long time ago in 1991, I was very new to the blind community. I had been selected as an NFB scholarship winner and had the opportunity to travel to this great city to attend my first convention. Luckily, I have amazing parents and family, but I needed to hear the positive message about blindness from blind people themselves. I could never have imagined where that path on which I embarked all those years ago would lead.

The year prior to receiving my scholarship, when I first came to the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston for an internship, I thought I was going to New Orleans. Clearly, I was geographically challenged. What I experienced at LCB was like no other blindness program I had ever seen. Joanne Wilson was the director, and she also had five kids, and somehow she juggled it all, making it look easy. Incredibly, Jerry Whittle as my Braille instructor, Ruth Sager as my cooking and home management instructor, Suzanne Mitchell, assistant director, and Arlene Hill as my travel instructor were also all blind and were managing their lives and families effortlessly. Joanne's love and mentoring were invaluable!

When I came to the center for that May term, Barbara Pierce told me that I would be immersed in the "heart of NFB philosophy" and I could not have been nurtured in a more loving and challenging environment. LCB was a place where people who barely knew me gave me opportunities to grow and learn so many lessons. Joanne and the staff and my peers believed in me and had high expectations for me.

At LCB, I met incredible people who changed and enriched my life. Many of them have become my closest friends and mentors. Roland Allen and I worked together, and ultimately fell in love and got married, and I could not imagine my life or this work without him. Today as then, the dedicated staff share the journey with students to build rapport, model independence and respect, and cultivate lasting and meaningful relationships.

The NFB training model has transformed the landscape of our field. We believed in the fundamental abilities of the blind and that, with the right training and attitude, blind people could live productive, independent, rich lives, the lives we want. Our philosophy on blindness was perceived as radical at first (and in some spaces still is). But as our students went out into the world and did remarkable things previously not done by the blind, the expectations in the field correspondingly changed. Once we proved that it could be done, others began following our lead. The result is higher expectations, better training, better philosophy across the country, and brighter futures for all blind people.

We partner with various entities throughout the country to ensure high quality adjustment to blindness training. Among the most impactful partnerships is that of LCB with Louisiana Tech University. The idea that blind people could run a university program and train both blind people and sighted colleagues who believed in our philosophy was unheard of. Just like our centers, many waited for the Louisiana Tech program to fail, but it not only succeeded, it flourished. The dream Joanne began and that Dr. Bell and our dedicated team continues has revolutionized our field and changed the lives of thousands. Now so many of our Louisiana Center for the Blind and Louisiana Tech graduates are teaching others, determining policy, serving as change-makers, and leading in the field of rehabilitation.

The consumer-based Structured Discovery model sets our graduates apart. Our alumni come from diverse backgrounds, life experiences, may have additional disabilities, but they all are seeking hope, possibility, and connection to other blind people, which is the greatest gift of the NFB.

This hope, sense of possibility, and culture of shared connection with other blind people is not fostered by one person alone, or even a handful of people. It is cultivated through all of us—including every single person in this room, those listening at home, and those who came before to make our training center possible. This hope, sense of possibility, and culture of shared connection is the embodiment of the hopes and dreams of blind people who themselves experienced the life-changing impact of training, those who never had the opportunity to attend training but believe in its power to transform the lives of others, those who may never get the opportunity to attend training and yet know the difference it can make so they help others to get there. It is about the countless people at this convention who are serving and leading and connecting in big and small ways to demonstrate that message of hope and resiliency!

I see the tangible impact of our philosophy when I encounter students heading out to find the theater to see Hamilton or when I hear about a new job someone just accepted in corporate America or when I ring the bell for someone who used their cane around their family, or when I witness someone begin to view their blindness in a more positive way or when I learn that someone was elected to their child's school's parent-teacher organization or local city council or when I hear stories of how people traveled abroad. The list goes on and on.

Someone who worked at a non-NFB affiliated training center once visited LCB and asked, "I hear everyone talking about positive philosophy. What is this philosophy? We do not have a philosophy of blindness at our center." I thought, "Oh, but you do! And therein lies the problem!" Our philosophy is steeped in the generations of advocacy, transformative thinking, love and self-determination that gives us the freedom from fear, low expectations, and isolation. We embrace and amplify this philosophy and reject the limitations society tries to place on blind people each and every time we ring our Freedom Bell!

Our centers work, our students succeed, and our philosophy transforms because of our shared story regardless of when we became blind. The analysis and critical thinking we cultivate through Structured Discovery, the high expectations we set, the communities we build, the safe and inclusive spaces we cultivate, the transformation we engender. It not only changes the lives of the individuals who attend our programs, but it changes the landscape for the blind and the communities where we live, work, contribute, and thrive!

The Federation remains invaluable in guiding us as we continue revolutionizing and shaping the next generation of adjustment to blindness training. Our shared philosophy on blindness was informed by Federationists who had an unshakeable belief in the inherent abilities of blind people. That positive philosophy serves as the heartbeat and cornerstone of everything we do in the Federation, including at our training centers.

Success of our NFB training centers is attributable to: 1) the importance of philosophy regardless of a person's individual learning style or experiences; 2) the sincere, unwavering belief in blind people and their abilities; and (3) the power of the ongoing connection with the NFB. For those contemplating training, please know that you start where you are, and we will meet you there; that blindness may feel overwhelming but it does not have to stay that way; that you will be challenged to grow but also supported in the process; that training will open doors; that blindness doesn't define you; that you are surrounded by people who care and by thousands who are there for you; that you are not alone; that we and the world need your ideas and contributions; that you can be successful, productive, and independent; that you do have choices about who you become. You are the author of your story, and the possibilities are limitless!

The journey I began in 1991 is not my journey alone, and it is not a unique story. Our several thousand graduates share this journey and story. They give the gift of our philosophy every day as they interact with their families, friends, colleagues, and communities. It is the greatest and most humbling honor and responsibility of my life that I am part of our shared story, and I'm so excited to be part of the journey as we write our next chapter together. Let our Freedom Bells ring! (Rang bell) Thank you!

I am so fortunate to work with dedicated colleagues here with me. I love Joanne and Julie and Jen. It is now my pleasure to introduce to you the director of BLIND Incorporated, Jennifer Kennedy. [Applause]

JENNIFER KENNEDY: As you have heard from my colleagues, many of us have impacted the abilities within the rehabilitation field. For me, my journey in blindness began by not knowing anyone. At the age of fourteen, I decided it was no longer a journey that I felt the medical professionals could make. They couldn't change it. The only thing that could change was what my future would look like.

My family and I struggled to understand why. Why had this happened? What would my life be like? Who would marry a blind woman? What kind of work would she do?

I had no idea that when Carl Jacobsen called me in the summer of 2001, those dark clouds that had surrounded us for four years as we grieved vision loss were about to part. I entered the hotel in 2001 at the Philadelphia National Federation of the Blind annual convention as a scholarship winner. Never before had I seen so many blind people moving about happily, not being concerned about the tools they were using or where they were going. They were just out living. I couldn't figure it out. There were people who had less vision than me who were kicking my butt! They were finding their mentors in the audience with no problem. They were not hunting through the hotel to find the perfect lighting to read their large print agenda. How did I get to be that kind of blind person?

They also called themselves blind. It didn't matter how much vision you had; they were all blind people. I realized something: the hierarchy of sight, the idea that your value is based off of how much vision you had. I had internalized that in the three years that I was a blind person. I didn't know it, but I really believed that I would only be successful based on that residual vision. The people who called themselves blind with that residual vision did so proudly. How did I get to become that person?

Well, Pam already mentioned it: my training at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. [Applause] I took a year off between my first and second year of undergrad and spent eight months walking through rainstorms similar to the one we had yesterday, suffering through handmade pasta, transcribing Michael J. Fox's very first autobiography, and walking seven miles for a hamburger down a little road we call I-20. I figured if I could do all of that, then crossing a college campus probably shouldn't be that hard.

I gave consideration as to what I would do next. I even considered moving to Louisiana and starting my college career over. But what would that mean? Did I really have the skills to continue as a blind person? I knew I couldn't do that, that I had to prove whether I really believed and could act on what I had learned. So, back to Kent State University in Ohio I went.

Going back out into the sighted world meant taking a risk. It meant I had to face the demons of not being able to keep up with the work. It also meant that I needed to leave my dorm room and not order pizza three nights a week as the prisoner that I had become.

Over the next four years I did indeed live the life I wanted as a college student. I stayed up late cramming for finals, and pouring over research notes so that I could finish my papers on time. I joined the Delta Zeta sorority and lived in a house with twenty-nine other women. If you've never lived with that many people, you should; there's endless numbers of people willing to take you to Taco Bell at two o'clock in the morning. [Laughter] And let us not forget the pivotal change of spending too many hours on this thing called the Facebook.

Throughout my college career, I also continued to immerse myself in involvement in the National Federation of the Blind. I spent summers out building NFB chapters in Maryland with Richie Flores and Sandy Halverson. I spent summers teaching at the Louisiana Center for the Blind Buddy and STEP programs. It was through teaching that I realized two things. First, I loved teaching. I loved the process of people learning, the excitement that they had. Second, I hated teaching technology and Braille. It was too monotonous. There wasn't enough creativity. I needed something to let me get up and move.

I was convinced though, as I was wrapping up my senior year in 2006 and 2007 that I had to be part of this movement. I was already part of the people's movement--the National Federation of the Blind--but I decided that the field of blindness rehabilitation was mine for the taking. Off to the Louisiana Tech program I went.

I want you to think about your very first cane. For many of us the cane that was prescribed was the appropriate cane based on your height and the hypotenuse to the ground by which mathematically your stride should fit. It was at a national convention that Derrick Williamson gave me my first NFB cane lesson and showed me how incredibly important this tool was. Remember, I knew that teaching Braille and technology weren't giving me that same jolt. But I knew the Louisiana Tech program was using this cane, and I had proven to myself over the many miles that I traveled that this cane was powerful, beautiful, and the taller the cane, the faster I could move. This meant I could keep up with my students who were taller than me, which is hard to do when you're five feet tall. It also meant I could wear whatever shoes I wanted at Washington Seminar because the heel size no longer mattered.

As I worked my way through that rigorous course, I was reminded of all the things that had happened and all the people who had made that college possible. I was joining a small crowd of trailblazers in 2007 once more. I was entering into a program that not only said that the hierarchy of sight was false; it didn't take vision to teach; it didn't take vision to be safe.
You could also build a high quality program with our Structured Discovery approach to learning through a university program. This, of course, was thanks in part to Joanne Wilson, Dr. Ruby Riles, and Mr. Omvig. [Applause]

Structured Discovery to me is a nonvisual approach to thinking about the world, gathering information, and a strategy for our students to evaluate the world and make their own decisions. It is not about how I perceive the world, how we as professionals prescribe that you do something. The Louisiana Tech program has grown many other professionals who are sitting among you today.

I run an NFB center, right, but that's not exactly how I got here. I felt that there were some things that I still needed to prove to myself, much like my journey in blindness training. Rather than going to apply for a job at a training center where Structured Discovery was the norm, I found a few fellow Federationists in Virginia who would take me on. Melody Roan, the director at the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind, and Maurice Peret were my confidants in my first job. Because of Maurice's spirit and grip and some of his really bad jokes, we were able to keep the naysayers at bay. Nobody thought the blind guy would last. And heaven help us when it was two blind travel instructors running around the building! We made a great Bonnie and Clyde for a number of years, and thankfully we only had a handful of run-ins with the police.

I felt myself needing a change, and I knew that I had a lot to share. But I also knew that I was interested in other places and how they operated. Thus, I moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, and worked for the Division of Services for the Blind. [Applause] Now, the state agency in Utah—mind you, while they were a little bit further ahead in their understanding of blindness—was just a little skeptical about a blind travel instructor. A gentleman by the name of Nick Schmittroth paved the way for me. Nick was one of our very own Louisiana Tech graduates. He had been challenged with a number of situations that I learned about after I took my job. This included a supervisor who refused to supervise him. That supervisor said, "Nope, I'm not going to do it. It's not safe." Your own boss doesn't even believe that you can do it. So he was required to report to what I believe was either an assistive technology person or someone with a slightly lower rank. He was given the hardest students that they had, those having multiple disabilities and language barriers. But Nick stuck with it. It is because of that, because of his commitment to what they were doing in Utah, that I believe I was called to go. You see, Nick's time among our rehabilitation professionals was cut short when he lost his battle with melanoma. I am today still the only recipient of the National Federation of the Blind scholarship in the name of Nicholas R. Schmittroth the Third. [Applause]

While I did not know Nick well, I have always felt the spirit that he and many others have had in their fights for us to be considered real rehabilitation professionals. Now, as the executive director of Blindness, Learning in New Dimensions, I am the first of our Louisiana Tech University graduates to run one of our own training centers. [Applause] While I did not come into this position with quite the same challenges and struggles that Joyce Scanlan did in the 1980s, I certainly feel that pressure to make sure that the training opportunities for the blind of Minnesota and the nation are always at the forefront of what we do.

Additionally, this organization is governed by blind people, run by blind people. I'd never worked at a place like that. In some ways it is a little bit similar to state government because I have seven bosses. However, these seven bosses are all sitting among us with the highest of expectations, a much more fearful meeting than I ever had working in the state agencies. This is an empowering thing to be thinking of: to be the blind speaking for ourselves thirty some years later in our training centers. Our centers are constantly challenged to address new ways, new thinking methodology, and still remain true to the confidence that we build today. After all, that's what we do here in the National Federation of the Blind. We challenge one another to examine our own beliefs, the angles by which we approach things, try to find ways to feel respected and welcomed among our community members, and find value in each and every member.

We must continue to develop the teaching techniques that are used by our blind brothers and sisters and our blind-at-heart members because we do it best. Whatever comes our way, we have risen to that challenge. This includes running training centers during the time of the COVID pandemic. The Louisiana Center for the Blind, the Colorado Center for the Blind, and BLIND Incorporated were the only training centers in the nation that were open for face-to-face instruction for a number of months. I cannot imagine being a director and having to have my staff for twelve, fourteen, or sixteen months working from home, and I'm so glad that the National Federation of the Blind believed that we, too, could operate safely in the time of the pandemic. [Applause]

We kept all of our employees. We did not furlough them, even when times were tough. We knew how important it was to maintain employment and a sense of purpose in a time when so many of us felt lost. Pam, Julie, and I had many calls going, "What are we doing? How do we handle this?" And it was comforting to know that we were all trying to figure this out together. After all, it's kind of scary when you're the new guy in the group.

We are required by our various state contracts to do things that are related to employment, and we always have. We looked at ways in which we could revamp our career programs so that they call attention to things like reasonable accommodation, sexual harassment, misconduct, diversity and inclusion, racism, building a more welcoming community, and understanding boundaries and consent, because that is what is required in the workplace and that is what is required of a National Federation of the Blind training center staff member. [Applause] I can tell you that with all of the work that we have done and the meetings that we have had with the directors across the nation of various blindness agencies, they too recognize how important this is to the success of employment for blind people.

I am often asked why BLIND Incorporated was not named the Minnesota Center for the Blind. In my research of this, I will offer you the following: Joyce Scanlan, our founder, thought hard about the name. She wanted "blind" to be the prominent word. Much like me and my understanding of what vision loss was, she wanted blindness to be the thing that was in your face, and it was a thing to be proud of. Structured Discovery really is exactly learning in a new dimension. So blindness learning in our new dimensions fits perfectly with the work that we do. We only fear the word blind because of what society has thought that it is. We only fear blindness because for many of us, myself included, it is the unknown. And it is only because of the community of members in this room that I believe and live out every day the conviction that blindness need not be the thing that defines you, and it is not the tragedy that society tells you it is. [Applause] I proudly describe myself as a blind person. I encourage our students to describe themselves as a blind person. And most importantly, I encourage all of my staff and students to participate in the National Federation of the Blind. It is because of each of you, both in person and now online, that our programs have the track record that they do. It is because of you that we continue to find people in all corners of the country and the positive stories to share with each other. It is because of you that for the last two and a half years I have been in this job, I am still sitting here today. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for believing in our training centers, and thank you for believing in all of the work that was done to get us here. [Applause]

MARK RICCOBONO: Let's hear it for our NFB training centers! [Applause] We will continue to shape them, and they will continue to shape us. Thank you to the leaders and founders of our centers for giving us this legacy that we can continue to build on.

The Elephant in the Room: Where the Blind Work

by Maurice Peret

From the Editor: Maurice is enthusiastic about many things but none more so than helping blind people get good jobs. When he is passionate about something and decides to write about it, we are the beneficiaries. Here is what he has to say:

As we celebrate Blind Equality Achievement Month in October, I would like to highlight the Where the Blind Work series from our Center of Employment Opportunities (CEO), one of our Blindness Initiatives programs. You can read more about it at https://nfb.org/index.php/programs-services/employment.

This is an ongoing opportunity for us to hear from blind and low-vision workers and professionals performing in a wide range of jobs and careers. As we get the word out about this program, it may contribute to helping to change perceptions and attitudes of employers and of ourselves about what we can do by hearing from blind people doing them.

As of this writing, we have heard from blind people performing in professions such as:

And Educators,

With over twenty years of professional experience in the field of work with the blind, I have been employed in a variety of private, integrated and non-integrated, and nonprofit work environments that ranged from newspaper delivery and subscription sales to telemarketing and fund-raising, industrial assembly work, teaching cane travel and coordinating rehabilitation projects, talent recruiting and human resources, and, presently, coordinating the National Federation of the Blind Career Mentoring and Employment Programs. One might surmise that if I can claim expertise in anything based upon how much time I spent doing it, it might be in searching for jobs. On this journey, I have directly confronted public misconceptions and addressed employer inquiries about blindness. Probably the most common curiosity that I have either implicitly or explicitly encountered from employers, the proverbial elephant in the room, has been what can a blind employee actually do, and what will the cost be to the organization? If there is one thing that I have learned well in my many years as a job seeker, it has been the internalization of my responsibility to successfully demonstrate an ability to perform the essential functions of the job and to sufficiently articulate what adaptations are needed to ensure success.

I cannot resist sharing a story that illustrates problem-solving and quick thinking on my feet. During a stint of unemployment while living in West Virginia, I received a phone call from the local employment office asking if I was still interested in working. I was rather taken aback since I could not recall ever having gotten a call like this from what has become known today as the American Job Center or AJC. The person on the other line informed me that the employer would be outside the mall where a Walmart was being set up, and workers were needed to unload tractor trailers. I vividly remember asking, “Do you know who you are speaking with?” I found it hard to believe that they were contacting me in the first place, let alone whether they were aware that I was blind. The caller clearly did not know me, but I quickly answered that I would show up at the designated spot. So, the next day off I went with my long white cane to find a few men standing around waiting for the trucks to arrive. After figuring out who the boss was, I announced that I was here to work. After a few awkward silent moments, he asked, “Can you see?” I answered frankly, “No.” Then came the negotiation. Since this was not, by far, the first time I would encounter a sense of surprise and even shock at my determination as a blind person to perform the job as advertised, I was prepared to answer his objection. I told him that I had a friend, a big guy who stood six foot five, who just happened to be laid off from the railroad and who would be willing to join me and provide whatever assistance it was thought might be needed. The boss muttered something to the effect of “I don’t have time to babysit you, but if you can come up with someone who you can work with, fine.” With this opportunity on the line, I called my friend and got his voicemail box, and I left a detailed message about the worksite. I quickly called up another friend, a man of more wiry and diminutive stature. He stood five foot six and was laid off from his regular job in the coal mines. He answered and ultimately showed up for the job. Eventually, my story was verified when the original friend that I had described and with whom I had left a message came out and put in a couple of days work along with the rest of us.

Although we began working together on the same truck, as the day progressed, my ability to work swiftly and independently became clear, and we each migrated to different trucks for the duration of the job. The boss made a point at the end to tell me that, despite his earlier doubts, he was convinced that I was perfectly capable of pulling my own weight and performing equally with my workmates.

In my present-day capacity as a blindness professional helping to prepare job seekers for success, the key elements I emphasize to blind job candidates include problem-solving skills, ability to navigate safely and independently in both familiar and unfamiliar environments, and an ability to adapt and learn new technologies. Outside of these blindness-specific elements, the expectations must be the same, e.g., strong resume, including educational and training background, effective oral and written communication skills, good work habits, etc. The National Federation of the Blind has a full complement of programs necessary to prepare blind employees to be successful, including comprehensive blindness emersion, confidence building, and academic and technical skills training.

The NFB’s Where the Blind Work series is designed to demonstrate the breadth and variety of jobs and careers performed by individuals who are blind or have low vision. Just as with everything we do as a people’s movement of the blind, this effort requires your help and support. If you or someone you know who is blind or has low vision is working in an interesting job or career, we need to hear from you! For the eighty years of our collective existence, we in the Federation have known that, given proper training and opportunity, we as blind people can and do compete on terms of absolute equality. The way we perform tasks might not always look the same, but we know how to get the job done effectively and efficiently. Through strategic partnerships between employers and the National Federation of the Blind, together we can ensure that opportunities for success begin to bridge the gap of societal inequality that stubbornly persists today.

Who will we hear from next in our Where the Blind Work series? You may hold the answer. For more information or to tell us about your interesting or unique job, contact Maurice Peret, Coordinator of Career Mentoring and Employment Programs at 410-659-9314, extension 2350 or [email protected].

Connected to Her Purpose: An Interview with Mississippi’s Barbara Hadnott

by LaShawna Fant

From the Editor: Lashawna is well-known to many readers, and one of her many talents is interviewing others so we may get to know them. Here is her latest and appreciated contribution to our becoming a closer family:

LaShawna Fant: Hello, Ms. Barbara. Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Let’s start with you introducing yourself to this publication’s audience.

Barbara Hadnott: My name is Barbara Ann White Hadnott. I was born and grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. My hobbies are singing, reading, and public speaking. I find fulfillment in encouraging and inspiring others. My fun time is spent shopping by way of TV, the internet, and delivery services.

LF: Please tell us about your family.

BH: I am the fourth child of the crew. Two of my sisters are also blind. We are very close-knit to our two other sisters and three brothers. My mother and father were great parents. They knew nothing about blindness, so they chose to bring us up by treating us just as they did the other siblings. They had high expectations of what we would do, how we would do it, and what we would become. For example, we were expected to say Bible verses before meals and before putting money in the offering plate. We were expected to bring home good grades and to participate in school, church, and community activities. We learned to roller skate, ride a bicycle, and twirl the baton while marching through the neighborhood along with the other kids.
LF: It’s wonderful that you grew up in a close-knit family. What has been your journey of being a member of the National Federation of the Blind?

BH: My journey with the Federation began one evening while watching the CBS evening news. It showed clips of the national convention, which was held in Baltimore, Maryland, in July 1981. Shortly after that, I listened to Dr. Jernigan as he was being interviewed on the Tonight Show. Closer to home, my long-time friend and adopted sister, Gwen Stokes Byrd, asked me to go to the national convention held in Phoenix, Arizona. This was in 1984. Of course, my sister, Patricia White Montgomery, and I went and had a great time. It was at this convention that I met Wilbert L. Hadnott Sr., who became my husband in August the following year. Also, that same year, my sister and I attended our first state convention which was held in Meridian, Mississippi. Fast-forwarding to 1994, while living in Shreveport, Louisiana, my husband and I joined the Jackson Chapter of the Mississippi affiliate. After his death on November 9, 1996, I returned home to Mississippi and continued to grow and serve in the Jackson Chapter and the state affiliate under the administration of President Sam Gleese. Some of the offices I held were affiliate 1st and 2nd vice president, secretary of the Jackson Chapter, and chapter and affiliate board member.

Chairing our annual walkathon and coordinating registration for our state convention were times of excitement, enjoyment, and fulfillment for me. My sister, Rhonda White, and I also became responsible for producing materials in Braille. I had a lot of help with everything that I did because most of my family and some of my friends were very active members and became involved and supportive of all of my endeavors. I still currently serve on the membership committee of the Jackson Chapter.

LF: What do you like to do for fun or hobbies?

BH: I am an avid reader of both audio and Braille books. I enjoy spiritual and inspirational books. I also like reading religious fiction, historical fiction, mystery and suspense, and books and short stories by African-American authors. I have always sung in various choirs, including church, school, and in the community. I will never forget being a member of the chorus of Porgy and Bess performed by the Shreveport Opera. I also sang in the Congress Choir during the National Congress of Christian Education of the National Baptist USA, held in Houston, Texas, in 1999. I will always remember this because I was only a few feet away from Rev. Jesse L. Jackson as he delivered the message that night. I also enjoy traveling, especially before the pandemic. I often tell people that I am still sheltered in place.

LF: I enjoy reading and singing, as well. Ms. Barbara, please let us know about your education and your vocational experiences.

BH: I received my early education at the Mississippi School for the Blind, where Mrs. Martha Louise Morrow Foxx served as its first principal, teacher, and house mother. The school had its beginning for black boys and girls on the campus of Piney Woods Country Life School, founded by Dr. Lawrence C. Jones. Actually, I attended the school while it was located on Capers Avenue in Jackson, Mississippi, and was valedictorian of the class of 1971. Four years later, I graduated from “Thee I Love,” Jackson State University in 1975. In fact, two of my sisters and I received our undergraduate degrees between 1974 and 1975. My field of study was Mass Communications. After graduation, I enrolled in graduate courses at Jackson State University in the same field of study. During the years that followed, I completed several correspondence courses through Hadley School for the Blind.

With regard to work, my places of employment include Mississippi Industries for the Blind, Mississippi Disability Determination Services, the Advocacy Center in Shreveport, Louisiana, Goodwill Industries of Mississippi, and Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, where I retired in 2016. Specifically, I worked at the Addie McBryde Rehabilitation Center for the Blind as an instructor of various assistive technology software and devices, interacted with the clients through various group-oriented programs, and was one of the faces and voices who provided outreach for the Center. After two years, I returned to the Center, where I continue to work part-time in retirement.

LF: Mentorship is important. Why have you mentored many people, especially those who are blind?

BH: Each of us has the ability to persuade others. I have always wanted to influence others in a good way. I wanted to encourage others to maintain a positive attitude and to be all they could be by reaching their fullest potential. I also wanted to keep others from making some of the same mistakes as I did and to help them avoid some of the obstacles and barriers that are still out there, especially for those who are blind. What better way is there to serve others than through counseling and teaching individuals to navigate through parts of their life journey?

LF: Who have been some of your inspirations and why?

BH: Time does not permit me to really answer that question, so I will mention a few groups of people. First of all, I would have to say, my family. They have always been supportive and have been there for me. Next would be the church. Through ministry and other experiences, I have learned a lot and have been able to share that knowledge and experience with others. The friends I have made through school and college have been a blessing for a lifetime. The Federation family, local and national, has been a life-changer for me. It has helped me to be more independent, grow personally, and bravely meet and overcome the challenges of life. My work experience has afforded me the best training possible in leadership and staff development and has enabled me to work with others successfully. Through Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., I have gratefully served the community by working with various projects and programs.

LF: Ms. Barbara, you have inspired so many along the way, too. How do you want people to remember you?

BH: I want people to remember me as one who believed in the almighty God and strived to live by His Word. I want my life to speak for itself. As an old gospel song says, “May the Work That I’ve Done Speak for Me.” Additionally, I want to be remembered as one who liked sharing with others by helping to meet their needs and providing some of their wants.

LF: Thanks again for sharing segments of your life in this interview. Do you have any final words?

BH: I would just like to say that life is precious, and for me, as a person who is blind, life is challenging, but it has been oh so rewarding and very fulfilling. I challenge others to live their life purposefully, intentionally, and Godly.

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 (https://www.nfb.org/get-involved/ways-give/planned-giving) or call 410-659-9314, extension 2422, for more information.

Together with love, hope, determination, and your support, we will continue to transform dreams into reality.

Ways to Contribute Now

Throughout 2021, 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 (https://www.nfb.org/get-involved/ways-give) 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 (https://www.nfb.org/pac) online.

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

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

A New Chapter in our Texas Affiliate:

On Saturday, August 20, the National Federation of the Blind of Texas formed its Bay Area Chapter. The chapter is located in Alvin, home to our affiliate office, and it serves Brazoria and Galveston counties. These are communities south of Houston.

Our officers are: president, Kayleigh Joiner; vice president, Tamer Zaid; secretary, Heidi Tran; treasurer, Emily Gibbs; and board member, Glenn Crosby. Congratulations to the new chapter and those who have chosen to and have been elected to serve.

First Blind User to Explore with New Tactile Map:

From the Editor: Nathan Ostergaard is the president of the Utah branch of the Blinded Veterans Association. He writes to tell us that he wants to share his good fortune at being given the opportunity to try a new tool.

As a result of an invitation of the United States Capitol accessibility office, I was given the opportunity to be the very first blind user of the US Capitol's new 3D tactile map. This new tactile map replaces its 1988 predecessor. It was installed the previous night, August 23, 2022.

At approximately 10:40 a.m. on August 24, 2022, I was able to demonstrate the use of the new and greatly improved tactile map displaying the US Capitol area in a quite detailed model of monuments and important buildings, streets, and other features with distinct textures for touch. This was a project overseen by the US Capitol accessibility office. I was able to experience both the old version on prior visits and the new version on this latest trip, and I am greatly excited about all the many new tactile features of this new map. It is very wonderful and a great new addition to the Capitol for blind and visually impaired visitors to our nation's capital.

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.

Applications Now Being Accepted for 2023 Ski for Light International Week:

The Forty-Eighth Annual Ski for Light International Week will take place from Sunday, January 29 through Sunday, February 5, 2023, in Granby, Colorado. Ski for Light, an all-volunteer nonprofit, organizes an annual, week-long event where blind and mobility-impaired adults enjoy the sport of cross-country skiing. The event attracts approximately 250 skiers, guides, and volunteers from throughout the United States, as well as international participants. During the Ski for Light week, each participant is paired with an experienced, sighted cross-country skier who acts as a ski instructor and on-snow guide.

This winter, attendees will ski and stay at Snow Mountain Ranch, part of the YMCA of the Rockies, located near Winter Park. In addition to skiing on one hundred kilometers of wide and wonderfully groomed Nordic trails, participants will have the opportunity to compete in the Olav Pedersen Race/Rally and enjoy many off-snow activities.

“I Discovered Ski for Light at the 2012 event, and my life changed. Through skiing and the opportunities to work with other Ski for Light enthusiasts, I began to imagine what was possible and spent less time and energy dwelling on what I could no longer do after experiencing vision loss,” wrote skier Tim McCorcle.

If you have never before attended what many have called “the experience of a lifetime,” please consider participating in the 2023 Ski for Light International Week. Registration forms and pricing for skiers, guides, and volunteers are now available at www.sfl.org. The website also provides additional details about the event and frequently asked questions. For more information about participation by individuals who are visually impaired or other aspects of the program, contact the Visually Impaired Participant Recruitment Coordinator, Bob Hartt, at [email protected], or call him at 703-851-8149.

Monitor Mart

The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.

For Sale:

I have a Bose Life Style V35 Home Audio Theater System. It Includes Jewel Cube speakers with an acoustic module, and all wiring connections. It is in excellent condition and provides excellent sound for music and movies. I am asking $2,600 or will entertain other offers. Please email Bob by writing to [email protected] or call me at 734-281-8025.
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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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