39, No. 10
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 39, No. 11 November 1996
Who Are the Blind Who Lead the Blind
Why I am Building Reading Machines Again
by Ray Kurzweil
Braille Readers Contest Makes a Difference
by Miki Causey
Literacy, Learning, and Louis Braille
Is It Too Late to Rescue Braille Literacy?
by Emerson Foulke
Window of Opportunity
by Susie Stanzel
1997 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship
Frank Kurt Cylke Receives 1996 Dr. Dayton M. Forman Memorial Award
by David Pillischer
Optacon User Alert
by Steve Britt
NPR Hears From Montana's Blind
Copyright ® 1996 National Federation of the Blind
The National Federation of the Blind has become by far the most significant force in the affairs of the blind today, and its actions have had an impact on many other groups and programs. The Federation's President, Marc Maurer, radiates confidence and persuasiveness. He says, "If I can find twenty people who care about a thing, then we can get it done. And if there are two hundred, two thousand, or twenty thousand, that's even better." The National Federation of the Blind is a civil rights movement with all that the term implies.
President Maurer says, "You can't expect to obtain freedom by having somebody else hand it to you. You have to do the job yourself. The French could not have won the American Revolution for us. That would merely have shifted the governing authority from one colonial power to another. So, too, we the blind are the only ones who can win freedom for the blind, which is both frightening and reassuring. If we don't get out and do what we must, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We have control of the essential elements."
Although there are many organizations and agencies for the blind in the United States today, there is only one National Federation of the Blind. This organization was established in 1940 when the blind of seven states--Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and California--sent delegates to its first convention at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Since that time progress has been rapid and steady. The Federation is recognized by blind men and women throughout the entire country as their primary means of joint expression; and today--with active affiliates in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico--it is the primary voice of the nation's blind.
To explain this spectacular growth, three questions must be asked and answered: (1) What are the conditions in the general environment of the blind which have impelled them to organize? (2) What are the purpose, the belief, and the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind? (3) Who are its leaders, and what are their qualifications to understand and solve the problems of blindness? Even a brief answer to these questions is instructive.
When the Federation came into being in 1940, the outlook for the blind was anything but bright. The nation's welfare system was so discouraging to individual initiative that those forced to accept public assistance had little hope of ever achieving self- support again, and those who sought competitive employment in regular industry or the professions found most of the doors barred against them. The universal good will expressed toward the blind was not the wholesome good will of respect felt toward equals; it was the misguided good will of pity felt toward inferiors. In effect the system said to the blind, "Sit on the sidelines of life. This game is not for you. If you have creative talents, we are sorry, but we cannot use them." The Federation came into being to combat these expressions of discrimination and to promote new ways of thought concerning blindness. Although great progress has been made toward the achievement of these goals, much still remains to be done.
The Federation believes that blind people are essentially normal and that blindness in itself is not a mental or psychological handicap. It can be reduced to the level of a mere physical nuisance. Legal, economic, and social discrimination based upon the false assumption that the blind are somehow different from the sighted must be abolished, and equal opportunity must be made available to blind people. Because of their personal experience with blindness, the blind themselves are best qualified to lead the way in solving their own problems, but the general public should be invited to participate in finding solutions. Upon these fundamentals the National Federation of the Blind predicates its philosophy.
As for the leadership of the organization, all of the officers and members of the Board of Directors are blind, and all give generously of their time and resources in promoting the work of the Federation. The Board consists of seventeen elected members, five of whom are the constitutional officers of the organization. These members of the Board of Directors represent a wide cross section of the blind population of the United States. Their backgrounds are different, and their experiences vary widely; but they are drawn together by the common bond of having met blindness individually and successfully in their own lives and by their united desire to see other blind people have the opportunity to do likewise. A profile of the leadership of the organization shows why it is so effective and demonstrates the progress made by blind people during the past half century and more--for in the story of the lives of these leaders can be found the greatest testimonial to the soundness of the Federation's philosophy. The cumulative record of their individual achievements is an overwhelming proof, leading to an inescapable conclusion.
DR. JACOBUS TENBROEK
Author, Jurist, Professor, Founder of the National Federation of the Blind
The moving force in the founding of the National Federation of the Blind and its spiritual and intellectual father was Jacobus tenBroek. Born in 1911, young tenBroek (the son of a prairie homesteader in Canada) lost the sight of one eye as the result of a bow-and-arrow accident at the age of seven. His remaining eyesight deteriorated until at the age of fourteen he was totally blind. Shortly afterward he and his family traveled to Berkeley so that he could attend the California School for the Blind. Within three years he was an active part of the local organization of the blind.
By 1934 he had joined with Dr. Newel Perry and others to form the California Council of the Blind, which later became the National Federation of the Blind of California. This organization was a prototype for the nationwide federation that tenBroek would form six years later.
Even a cursory glance at his professional career shows the absurdity of the idea that blindness means incapacity. The same year the Federation was founded (1940) Jacobus tenBroek received his doctorate in jurisprudence from the University of California, completed a year as Brandeis Research Fellow at Harvard Law School, and was appointed to the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School.
Two years later he began his teaching career at the University of California at Berkeley, moving steadily up through the ranks to become full professor in 1953 and chairman of the department of speech in 1955. In 1963 he accepted an appointment as professor of political science.
During this period Professor tenBroek published several books and more than fifty articles and monographs in the fields of welfare, government, and law--establishing a reputation as one of the nation's foremost scholars on matters of constitutional law. One of his books, Prejudice, War, and the Constitution, won the Woodrow Wilson Award of the American Political Science Association in 1955 as the best book of the year on government and democracy. Other books are California's Dual System of Family Law (1964), Hope Deferred: Public Welfare and the Blind (1959), The Antislavery Origins of the Fourteenth Amendment (1951)--revised and republished in 1965 as Equal Under Law, and The Law of the Poor (edited in 1966).
In the course of his academic career Professor tenBroek was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Palo Alto and was twice the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation. In 1947 he earned the degree of S.J.D. from Harvard Law School. In addition, he was awarded honorary degrees by two institutions of higher learning.
Dr. tenBroek's lifelong companion was his devoted wife Hazel. Together they raised three children and worked inseparably on research, writing, and academic and Federation concerns. Mrs. tenBroek still continues as an active member of the organized blind movement.
In 1950 Dr. tenBroek was made a member of the California State Board of Social Welfare by Governor Earl Warren. Laterreappointed to the board three times, he was elected its chairman in 1960 and served in that capacity until 1963.
The brilliance of Jacobus tenBroek's career led some skeptics to suggest that his achievements were beyond the reach of what they called the "ordinary blind person." What tenBroek recognized in himself was not that he was exceptional, but that he was normal--that his blindness had nothing to do with whether he could be a successful husband and father, do scholarly research, write a book, make a speech, guide students engaged in social action movements and causes, or otherwise lead a productive life. In any case, the skeptics' theory has been refuted by the success of the thousands of blind men and women who have put this philosophy of normality to work in their own lives during the past fifty years.
Jacobus tenBroek died of cancer at the age of fifty-six in 1968. His successor, Kenneth Jernigan, in a memorial address, said truly of him: "The relationship of this man to the organized blind movement, which he brought into being in the United States and around the world, was such that it would be equally accurate to say that the man was the embodiment of the movement or that the movement was the expression of the man.
"For tens of thousands of blind Americans over more than a quarter of a century, he was leader, mentor, spokesman, and philosopher. He gave to the organized blind movement the force of his intellect and the shape of his dreams. He made it the symbol of a cause barely imagined before his coming: the cause of self- expression, self-direction, and self-sufficiency on the part of blind people. Step by step, year by year, action by action, he made that cause succeed."
Teacher, Writer, Administrator
Kenneth Jernigan has been a leader in the National Federation of the Blind for more than forty-five years. He was President (with one brief interruption) from 1968 until July of 1986. Although Jernigan is no longer President of the Federation, he continues to be one of its principal leaders. He works closely with the President, and he continues to be loved and respected by tens of thousands--members and non-members of the Federation, both blind and sighted.
Born in 1926, Kenneth Jernigan grew up on a farm in central Tennessee. He received his elementary and secondary education at the school for the blind in Nashville. After high school Jernigan managed a furniture shop in Beech Grove, Tennessee, making all the furniture and operating the business.
In the fall of 1945 Jernigan matriculated at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville. Active in campus affairs from the outset, he was soon elected to office in his class and to important positions in other student organizations. Jernigan graduated with honors in 1948 with a B.S. degree in social science. In 1949 he received a master's degree in English from Peabody College in Nashville, where he subsequently completed additional graduate study. While at Peabody he was a staff writer for the school newspaper, co-founder of an independent literary magazine, and a member of the Writers Club. In 1949 he received the Captain Charles W. Browne Award, at that time presented annually by the American Foundation for the Blind to the nation's outstanding blind student.
Jernigan then spent four years as a teacher of English at the Tennessee School for the Blind. During this period he became active in the Tennessee Association of the Blind (now the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee). He was elected to the vice presidency of the organization in 1950 and to the presidency in 1951. In that position he planned the 1952 annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind, which was held in Nashville, and he has been planning National Conventions for the Federation ever since. It was in 1952 that Jernigan was first elected to the NFB Board of Directors.
In 1953 he was appointed to the faculty of the California Orientation Center for the Blind in Oakland, where he played a major role in developing the best program of its kind then in existence.
From 1958 until 1978, he served as Director of the Iowa State Commission for the Blind. In this capacity he was responsible for administering state programs of rehabilitation, home teaching, home industries, an orientation and adjustment center, and library services for the blind and physically handicapped. The improvements made in services to the blind of Iowa under the Jernigan administration have never before or since been equaled anywhere in the country.
In 1960 the Federation presented Jernigan with its Newel Perry Award for outstanding accomplishment in services for the blind. In 1968 Jernigan was given a Special Citation by the President of the United States. Harold Russell, the chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped, came to Des Moines to present the award. He said: "If a person must be blind, it is better to be blind in Iowa than anywhere else in the nation or in the world. This statement," the citation went on to say, "sums up the story of the Iowa Commission for the Blind during the Jernigan years and more pertinently of its Director, Kenneth Jernigan. That narrative is much more than a success story. It is the story of high aspiration magnificently accomplished--of an impossible dream become reality."
Jernigan has received too many honors and awards to enumerate individually, including honorary doctorates from three institutions of higher education. He has also been asked to serve as a special consultant to or member of numerous boards and advisory bodies. The most notable among these are: member of the National Advisory Committee on Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (appointed in 1972 by the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare); special consultant on Services for the Blind (appointed in 1975 by the Federal Commissioner of Rehabilitation); advisor on museum programs for blind visitors to the Smithsonian Institution (appointed in 1975); special advisor to the White House Conference on Library and Information Services (appointed in 1977 by President Gerald Ford). In July of 1990 Jernigan received an award for distinguished service from the President of the United States.
Kenneth Jernigan's writings and speeches on blindness are better known and have touched more lives than those of any other individual writing today. On July 23, 1975, he spoke before the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and his address was broadcast live throughout the nation on National Public Radio. Through the years he has appeared repeatedly on network radio and television interview programs--including the "Today Show," the "Tomorrow Show," and the "Larry King Show."
In 1978 Jernigan moved to Baltimore to become Executive Director of the American Brotherhood for the Blind and Director of the National Center for the Blind. As President of the National Federation of the Blind at that time, he led the organization through the most impressive period of growth in its history. The creation and development of the National Center for the Blind and the NFB's expansion into its position today as the most influential voice and force in the affairs of the blind stand as the culmination of Kenneth Jernigan's lifework and a tribute to his brilliance and commitment to the blind of this nation.
Jernigan's dynamic wife Mary Ellen is an active member of the Federation. Although sighted, she works with dedication in the movement and is known and loved by thousands of Federationists throughout the country.
Speaking at a convention of the National Federation of the Blind, Jernigan said of the organization and its philosophy (and also of his own philosophy):
As we look ahead, the world holds more hope than gloom for us --and, best of all, the future is in our own hands. For the first time in history we can be our own masters and do with our lives what we will; and the sighted (as they learn who we are and what we are) can and will work with us as equals and partners. In other words we are capable of full membership in society, and the sighted are capable of accepting us as such--and, for the most part, they want to.
We want no Uncle Toms--no sellouts, no apologists, no rationalizers; but we also want no militant hell-raisers or unbudging radicals. One will hurt our cause as much as the other. We must win true equality in society, but we must not dehumanize ourselves in the process; and we must not forget the graces and amenities, the compassions and courtesies which comprise civilization itself and distinguish people from animals and life from existence.
Let people call us what they will and say what they please about our motives and our movement. There is only one way for the blind to achieve first-class citizenship and true equality. It must be done through collective action and concerted effort; and that means the National Federation of the Blind. There is no other way, and those who say otherwise are either uninformed or unwilling to face the facts. We are the strongest force in the affairs of the blind today, and we must also recognize the responsibilities of power and the fact that we must build a world
that is worth living in when the war is over--and, for that matter, while we are fighting it. In short, we must use both love and a club, and we must have sense enough to know when to do which--long on compassion, short on hatred; and, above all, not using our philosophy as a cop-out for cowardice or inaction or rationalization. We know who we are and what we must do--and we will never go back. The public is not against us. Our determination proclaims it; our gains confirm it; our humanity demands it.
Attorney and Executive
Born in 1951, Marc Maurer was the second in a family of six
children. His blindness was caused by overexposure to oxygen after his premature
birth, but he and his parents were determined that this should not prevent him
from living a full and normal life.
He began his education at the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, where he became an avid Braille reader. In the fifth grade he returned home to Boone, Iowa, where he attended parochial schools. During high school (having taken all the courses in the curriculum) he simultaneously took classes at the junior college.
Maurer ran three different businesses before finishing high school: a paper route, a lawn care business, and an enterprise producing and marketing maternity garter belts designed by his mother. This last venture was so successful that his younger brother took over the business when Maurer left home.
In the summer of 1969, after graduating from high school, Maurer enrolled as a student at the Orientation and Adjustment Center of the Iowa Commission for the Blind and attended his first convention of the NFB. He was delighted to discover in both places that blind people and what they thought mattered. This was a new phenomenon in his experience, and it changed his life.
Kenneth Jernigan was Director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind at the time, and Maurer soon grew to admire and respect him. When Maurer expressed an interest in overhauling a car engine, the Commission for the Blind purchased the necessary equipment. Maurer completed that project and actually worked for a time as an automobile mechanic. He believes today that mastering engine repair played an important part in changing his attitudes about blindness.
Maurer graduated cum laude from the University of Notre Dame in 1974. As an undergraduate he took an active part in campus life, including election to the Honor Society. Then he enrolled at the University of Indiana School of Law, where he received his Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1977.
Marc Maurer was elected President of the Student Division of the National Federation of the Blind in 1971 and re-elected in 1973 and 1975. Also in 1971 (at the age of twenty) he was elected Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana. He was elected President in 1973 and re-elected in 1975. During law school Maurer worked summers for the office of the Secretary of State of Indiana. After graduation he moved to Toledo, Ohio, to accept a position as the Director of the Senior Legal Assistance Project operated by ABLE (Advocates for Basic Legal Equality).
In 1978 Maurer moved to Washington, D.C., to become an attorney with the Rates and Routes Division in the office of the General Counsel of the Civil Aeronautics Board. Initially he worked on rates cases but soon advanced to dealing with international matters and then to doing research and writing opinions on constitutional issues and Board action. He wrote opinions for the Chairman and made appearances before the full Board to discuss those opinions.
In 1981 he went into private practice in Baltimore, Maryland, where he specialized in civil litigation and property matters. But increasingly he concentrated on representing blind individuals and groups in the courts. He has now become one of the most experienced and knowledgeable attorneys in the country regarding the laws, precedents, and administrative rulings concerning civil rights and discrimination against the blind. He is a member of the Bar in Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, and Maryland; and he is a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Maurer has always been active in civic and political affairs, having run for public office in Baltimore and having been elected to the Board of Directors of the Tenants Association in his apartment complex shortly after his arrival. Later he was elected to the Board of his community association when he became a home owner. From 1984 until 1986 he served with distinction as President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. An important companion in Maurer's activities (and a leader in her own right) is his wife Patricia. The Maurers were married in 1973, and they have two children--David Patrick, born March 10, 1984, and Dianna Marie, born July 12, 1987.
At the 1985 convention in Louisville, Kentucky, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan announced that he would not stand for re-election as President of the National Federation of the Blind the following year, and he recommended Marc Maurer as his successor. In Kansas City in 1986, the convention elected Maurer by resounding acclamation, and he has served as President ever since.
Teacher and Agency Director
Joyce Scanlan was born in Fargo, North Dakota, in 1939. She received her elementary and secondary education at the North Dakota School for the Blind. Having a strong love of reading and theater, she went on to earn a B.A. in English and history and a master's degree in English at the University of North Dakota.
For the next five years she taught these subjects, along with social studies and Latin, in high schools in North Dakota and Montana. Then glaucoma took the rest of her vision, and Scanlan lost her self-confidence. She says, "I quickly fled from the job because I had never known a blind teacher in a public school, and I had had such a struggle those last few weeks in the classroom that I was positive no blind person could ever teach sighted children."
She had trouble finding another job, but as she points out, her own attitudes were as bad as those of her prospective employers. She told a counselor who visited her in the hospital: "I've never seen a blind person amount to anything yet, so there's no reason to think I can."
In 1970 the National Federation of the Blind convention was in Minneapolis, and Scanlan attended the meeting of the NFB Teachers Division. She says: "I met many teachers there who were blind. In fact, I met blind people from all over the country who were engaged in a great variety of occupations. I learned what the NFB was all about and realized what blind people working together could do." At that convention she also met Tom Scanlan, whom she married four years later.
Joyce Scanlan became active in the NFB in Minnesota. In 1971 she organized a statewide student division. In 1972 she was elected Vice President of the NFB of Minnesota and President in 1973. That same year she was appointed to a newly created Minnesota Council on Disabilities--the only representative of a consumer organization on the Commission. Until 1988 she served on the advisory council to State Services for the Blind, a body established in large measure because of the work of the NFB of Minnesota.
The most exciting undertaking of the NFB of Minnesota, however, has been the establishment of its own rehabilitation center for the adult blind, with Joyce Scanlan serving as its executive director. BLIND, Inc. (Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions) admitted its first class, consisting of two students, in January of 1988. This center is establishing a new standard for rehabilitation services in the Midwest. It is easy to understand why the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota enjoys both respect and prestige. It is also easy to understand why Joyce Scanlan is regarded as able, tough, and determined.
Scanlan was elected to the NFB Board of Directors in 1974 and has continued to serve in that capacity ever since. In 1988 she was elected Secretary of the organization, and in 1992 she was elected First Vice President. She says: "The Federation has made a great difference in my life. I still try to spend time attending the theater and reading, but I want to give as much time as possible to working in the NFB. I wish I had known about it before 1970. I want to be sure every blind person I ever meet hears all about the Federation. If I have any skill as a teacher, I'll use it to benefit the Federation."
PEGGY PINDER ELLIOTT
Attorney, Political Activist, and Community Leader
Born in 1953 and raised in Grinnell, Iowa, Peggy Elliott attended regular schools until the middle of the ninth grade. When her eye condition was diagnosed as irreversible decline into total blindness, her father cried for the first and only time in her life--at least, as far as she knows.
Elliott then spent what she characterizes as two and a half unhappy years at the Iowa school for the blind. Academically she learned nothing that she had not already been taught in public schools. The students were discouraged from learning to use the white cane and were never allowed off campus unless they were accompanied by a sighted person. But most soul-destroying of all, the students were discouraged from aspiring to success or from setting themselves challenging goals. Elliott resisted the stifling atmosphere and drew down upon herself the wrath of the school administration, which refused to permit her to complete high school there, forcing her to go back to public school. Knowing that she was not prepared to make this transition, she and her parents sought help from Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, then Director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind. Elliott enrolled at the Orientation and Adjustment Center, where she mastered the skills of blindness and explored for the first time the healthy and positive philosophy of blindness that has subsequently directed her life.
Elliott went on to Iowa's Cornell College, where she achieved an excellent academic record and edited the Cornellian, the school newspaper. She then completed law school at Yale University, receiving her J.D. degree in 1979.
After graduation from law school, Elliott passed the Iowa Bar in January, 1980. She then began a difficult job search. Although her academic standing at Yale was better than that of most of her classmates, she did not receive a single job offer as a result of the intensive interviewing she had done during her final year of law school. Virtually all Yale-trained attorneys leave the university with offers in hand. The inference was inescapable: employers were discriminating against Elliott because of her blindness. She was eventually hired as Assistant County Attorney for Woodbury County in Sioux City, Iowa, where she prosecuted defendants on behalf of the people.
Elliott's lifetime interest in helping to improve the world around her has been expressed in politics as well as in Federation activity. In 1976 she was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Kansas City, during which she appeared on national television and in a national news magazine, acquainting the public with the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind and the real needs of blind people. At the end of the convention she seconded the nomination of Senator Robert Dole to be the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States.
In 1986 she ran for the Iowa State Senate as a Republican in District 27. She campaigned hard in a district eighty by thirty miles in size and containing about 60,000 residents, a distinct minority of whom are Republican. Like many candidates, Elliott was not elected in her first bid for public office, but she made a strong showing and is often asked when she will run again. Her interest in participating in her community has continued through her service on the Grinnell City Council and in other community organizations.
Elliott's work in the National Federation of the Blind has been as impressive as her professional career. She held office in the NFB Student Divisions in Iowa and Connecticut, and then served as President of the national Student Division from 1977 to 1979. In 1981 she was elected President of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa, an office which she continues to hold. Elliott was first elected to the NFB Board of Directors in 1977, and in 1984 she was elected Second Vice President.
Since 1984 Elliott, a 1976 winner herself, has chaired the National Federation of the Blind's Scholarship Committee. Every year approximately twenty-five scholarships, ranging in value from $3,000 to $10,000, are presented to the best blind college students in the nation.
On December 28, 1993, Peggy Pinder and Doug Elliott were married in Grinnell, Iowa, where the couple continue to live happily in their hundred-year-old home. Before their marriage Doug was President of the NFB of Nevada. He is a medical social worker and serves as President of the Human Services Division of the National Federation of the Blind.
Business Woman and Public Relations Executive
Born in 1944, Ramona Willoughby Walhof was the second in a family of three blind children, but the word "blind" was never used when they were small, especially by the ophthalmologists. Nevertheless, even the large-print books ordered for the children by the schools did not make reading possible. In the competitive world of the classroom the truth could not be avoided--they were blind. So they were packed up and taken more than two hundred miles away from home to enroll in the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School. Walhof remembers that her parents found facing this alternative easier than struggling with a public school system that could not find a way to teach three bright youngsters who could not see print. A school for the blind was better than a school that didn't educate.
Walhof remembers learning to lie about what she could see. She didn't think of it as telling falsehoods, but she says, "It made adults happy when they thought I could see things, and at school (even though it was supposedly a school for the blind) one had privileges and responsibilities to the same degree one had usable eyesight."
During the summer following second grade Walhof commandeered her brother's Braille slate and stylus and taught herself to write Braille because the school considered her too young to learn it. She was taught to read using Braille, but she understood from the beginning that reading print (if only she could have managed to decipher it) would have been better.
In 1962 Ramona Willoughby graduated from high school, valedictorian of her class, but she says "with an extremely limited education and very little experience." Between high school and college, she took a short course of training at the Iowa Commission for the Blind Orientation and Adjustment Center. It was then that she met Kenneth Jernigan, the Commission's Director. She refused to learn much about the NFB although she now says, "The Federation had already begun to have a profound influence on my life." She found college difficult, she says, because her academic background was so weak. Nevertheless, Walhof graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., in 1967 with a degree in Russian language.
In 1968 Ramona Willoughby married Chuck Walhof of Boise, Idaho. During the next several years she was busy. She and her husband had two children, and she taught two sessions of Headstart and one course in college Russian. She also managed two vending facilities. After the death of her husband in 1972 she returned to Des Moines, Iowa, first as a teacher and then as an assistant director at the Orientation and Adjustment Center of the Iowa Commission for the Blind.
In 1979 Walhof moved to Baltimore, Maryland, to take a position at the National Center for the Blind as the Assistant Director of the Job Opportunities for the Blind Program, operated jointly by the NFB and the U.S. Department of Labor.
In 1982 she returned to Idaho to assume the position of Director of the state Commission for the Blind. Her reputation for innovative approaches and dynamic forthrightness soon reached far beyond the borders of Idaho. In 1984 the blind of the state recognized her achievements by giving her an award in public ceremonies.
Later that year she left government employment to go into private business. Today she operates extensive multi-state public relations and community outreach programs for the blind and other groups.
Ramona Walhof has written widely on topics relating to blindness, including the following books: Beginning Braille for Adults (a teaching manual); Questions Kids Ask about Blindness; A Handbook for Senior Citizens: Rights, Resources, and Responsibilities; and Technical Assistance Guide for Employers.
In 1988 Walhof became president of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho and was also elected to membership on the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. In 1992 she was elected Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind.
Teacher and Wrestling Coach
Allen Harris of Dearborn, Michigan, was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind in 1981. In 1985 he became Secretary, and in 1988 he was elected Treasurer. He says, "I take some satisfaction in many of the things I have accomplished in my life, but nothing has given me more pleasure and reward than my work in the Federation."
Harris may well take satisfaction in his accomplishments. Blind since birth in 1945, he completed high school at the Michigan School for the Blind in Lansing. He says of this period, "The two most valuable things I learned in high school were wrestling and typing. Although I could certainly have used some other things, these two skills have served me well ever since." Allen Harris was a championship wrestler throughout high school and college. He was also a champion debater at Wayne State University and graduated magna cum laude in 1967.
Harris then began looking for a teaching position and enrolled in graduate school. At that time high school teachers were much in demand. He sent out 167 applications and went to 96 interviews without receiving a single job offer. After a year of futile search Harris was depressed, and his friends were outraged. One friend went to a meeting of the Dearborn school board. She spoke openly about the blind applicant for a teaching position who was qualified yet was being ignored by scores of school districts. The tactic worked. School officials said that they were unaware of Harris's candidacy although he had submitted an application. He was called for an interview and hired to teach social studies. In addition to a full-time teaching schedule, he coached high school wrestling, as well as swimming and wrestling for boys from age five to fourteen. He has coached at least six high school wrestling teams that have won league championships and one high school state championship team. His age group swimming teams have won five state conference championships, and his age group wrestling teams have won six. Harris also worked for several years administering the age group program, and the Dearborn teams continued to excel.
In 1982 Allen Harris was transferred to Edsel Ford High School in Dearborn as a social studies teacher. He became head of the social studies department in 1984. Because of limited time, he decided to give up the head coaching job and now works only with the ninth graders, who have not lost since he has been their coach. In 1985 Harris was selected by the National Council of Social Studies as one of two outstanding social studies teachers in the state of Michigan.
Harris says that he was aware of some Federation materials when he was looking for his first teaching position and that he found them helpful, but his real knowledge of and involvement in the Federation began in 1969 when an organizing team came to his door to pay a visit. They told him there was to be a state convention of the Federation that weekend in Lansing and that he should go. He did, and he was elected Secretary of the NFB of Michigan. He served as President of the Detroit chapter of the NFB from 1970 to 1975 and has been the President of the NFB of Michigan since 1976. Harris was the recipient of the prestigious Blind Educator of the Year Award in 1992 and also received recognition that year from the NFB of Michigan for his lifetime of achievement in the work of the Federation.
In recent years the NFB of Michigan, under the leadership of Allen Harris, has established a Saturday School for blind and visually impaired children, which provides instruction in Braille, cane travel, and other skills of blindness and includes recreational opportunities. When asked about the Saturday School, Harris fervently responds, "This is among the accomplishments I hold most dear. Mastering the skills of blindness is absolutely central to living a full and productive life as a blind person. For too many blind kids this is impossible. Because of Saturday school in Michigan it isn't."
During the years of Allen Harris's presidency, services to the blind in Michigan have been consolidated into a single and separate commission for the blind, a major victory indeed. In 1983 Harris was appointed by the governor to the board of the Michigan Commission for the Blind and served as Vice-Chair of the Commission until 1991.
Allen Harris was married to Joy Osmar in 1994, the second marriage for both. They have five children ranging in age from 15 to 25. They are Eric, Scott, Katie, Jennifer, and Bryan.
STEPHEN O. BENSON
Teacher, Rehabilitation Specialist, Administrator, and Press Assistant
President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, Stephen O. Benson was born in Kewanee, Illinois, in 1941. Blind from birth, he attended the Chicago Public Schools using large- print books through the first four grades. He was not excited about attending Braille classes the next year, but he did so and for the first time in his life learned to read well. He also began to learn the other skills of blindness, which he found more efficient than using sight. In high school Benson was barred from taking physical education although he would have liked to do so. He found this prohibition disturbing and nonsensical since he was permitted to take the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) course, swimming in the same pool that the physical education classes used. In fact, in Boy Scouts he was able to earn his swimming merit badge and took lifesaving. Benson found ROTC a positive experience and enjoyed scouting, but he never could understand why regular physical education classes were off limits.
In 1965 Benson graduated from De Paul University with a major in English and a minor in education. Before he decided to specialize in English, he had intended to major in psychology. The state rehabilitation agency for the blind threatened to cut off financial assistance to him because of his change in plans. According to the experts, blind people could not teach in public schools, and as a result, the rehabilitation officials refused to finance such an absurd major. Benson remembers that his attitude at the time was "I dare you to try to stop me!"--and the government agency backed down.
After graduation he prepared himself for the usually difficult task of job-hunting. Surprisingly, he found employment rather quickly as a tenth-grade teacher of honors English at Gordon Technical High School in Chicago. While classroom interaction provided challenge and reward, the drudgery of paperwork caused Benson to explore other teaching opportunities. In 1968 he sold insurance while looking for another job; he found one in 1969 with the Veterans Administration Hospital in Hines, Illinois, as a teacher of Braille and techniques of daily living. His title was Rehabilitation Specialist. He continued to work at Hines Blind Rehabilitation Center, Veterans Administration Hospital, until 1983. In 1984 he became assistant director of the Guild for the Blind in Chicago.
Since 1991, Benson has worked as a Press Assistant in the Communications Office of the Chicago Public Library. Benson married his wife Peg in 1984. They have one child, Patrick Owen, born in 1985.
Benson first joined the National Federation of the Blind in 1968 when a new affiliate was being formed in Illinois. He was immediately elected to the state Board of Directors. From 1974 to 1978 he served as President of the Chicago chapter, after which he became President of the NFB of Illinois, a post which he has held ever since. He was first elected to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind in 1982.
Benson has received many honors and appointments. In 1963 and '64 he was president of Lambda Tau Lambda fraternity. From 1976 to 1981 he served on the governing board of the State Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in Illinois. He has served on the Advisory Board of the Illinois State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and on the Advisory Board to the Attorney General's Advocacy for the Handicapped Division.
"Although I have had good blindness skills for many years," Benson says, "my involvement in the NFB has imbued me with confidence and perspective on life and blindness that have focused my activities and energized my efforts on my own behalf as well as for other blind people."
CHARLES S. BROWN
Attorney and Federal Official
With a bachelor's degree from Harvard and a law degree from Northwestern, Charles Brown should have found the job market both exciting and receptive in 1970, a year of expanded economy and bright prospects, but this was not the case. Even though he had impressive credentials and good grades, his job search was difficult. He was blind. It was not the first time he had observed adverse and extraordinary treatment of the blind, but it was the first time he had personally faced such serious discrimination. It took him an entire year and more than a hundred interviews before he found a job.
In 1971 Brown became a staff attorney in the Solicitor's Office at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and earned regular promotions. He eventually became the DOL's Counsel for Special Legal Services. After twenty years, Brown left the DOL in 1991 to join the legal staff at the National Science Foundation (NSF) as Assistant General Counsel. Brown is the NSF's Designated Agency Ethics Official, responsible for managing the Foundation's ethics counselling, conflict-of-interest prevention, and financial disclosure programs.
Brown has received numerous awards. DOL presented Brown with achievement awards five times--in 1979, 1985, twice in 1986, and 1987. In 1982 he received the Distinguished Career Service Award, one of the Department of Labor's highest honors--often presented at the time of retirement. But Attorney Brown was chosen for this honor after only eleven years of service. He capped off his DOL career by receiving the Secretary of Labor's Recognition Award in 1991. NSF has, so far, presented Brown with two Merit Awards, in 1994 and 1995.
Born blind in 1944 with congenital cataracts, Charlie Brown entered a family that expected success from its members, and he met the expectation. He attended Perkins School for the Blind until the eighth grade. Brown then attended Wellesley Senior High School in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and graduated in 1963, going immediately to Harvard. When he applied to Northwestern Law School, questions were raised about blindness. He answered them satisfactorily and believes he was one of the first blind law students ever to study there.
During summer jobs in 1966, 1967, and 1968 at agencies serving the blind in Chicago, Brown learned firsthand of the abuses of the sheltered workshop system for the blind in this country. It was also at that time that he met Dr. Kenneth Jernigan and made his initial contact with the National Federation of the Blind. Jernigan was speaking at a national conference which, among other things, was considering ways of improving methods of instruction and increasing the availability of Braille. After the meeting Brown talked with Jernigan and began to subscribe to the Braille Monitor, the Federation's magazine. It was not until 1973, however, when Brown received a personal invitation from a chapter member in Northern Virginia, that he went to a Federation meeting.
Through a chapter in Northern Virginia Brown officially joined the Federation in 1974 and later that year was elected to office. In 1978 he became President of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia and has been re-elected to that position for successive two-year terms ever since. He was first elected to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind in 1984.
Brown has always taken an active part in the life of the United Church of Christ. He has been a deacon, taught Sunday school, and serves energetically on committees at the Rock Spring Congregational Church. Brown has served generously at the Church's national level. In 1979 he was elected a corporate member of the United Church Board of Homeland Ministries (the body that oversees the missions work of the United Church of Christ). Within two years he was named Chairman of the prestigious Policy and Planning Committee and a member of the Executive Committee, both positions that he filled with distinction for four years. He continues to be active in the Board's alumni group.
Brown met his wife Jacqueline during law school, and the couple now has two sons, Richard (born in 1974) and Stephen (born in 1978).
Brown says: "I used to believe that one had to overcome blindness in order to be successful, but I have come to realize that it is respectable to be blind. Our challenge as Federationists is to persuade society of this truth."
DONALD C. CAPPS
Insurance Executive and Civic Leader
Few more compelling examples of personal independence and social contribution can be found among either sighted or blind Americans than Donald C. Capps of Columbia, South Carolina. Since the inception of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina in 1956, he has served thirteen two-year terms as President and was elected to serve a fourteenth term in August of 1996. Capps was elected to the second vice presidency of the National Federation of the Blind in 1959 and served in that capacity until 1968 when he was elected First Vice President and served with distinction in that position until 1984 when, for health reasons, he asked that his name not be placed in nomination. In 1985 Capps (restored in health) was again enthusiastically and unanimously elected to membership on the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, a position which he still holds.
Born in 1928, Capps was educated at the South Carolina School for the Blind and later in public schools. Following his graduation from high school, he enrolled in Draughon's Business College in Columbia and after graduation joined the Colonial Life and Accident Insurance Company of Columbia as a claims examiner trainee. By the time of his retirement, he had risen to the position of Staff Manager of the Claims Department.
Capps first became interested in the organized blind movement in 1953 and the following year was elected to a two-year term as President of the Columbia Chapter of the Aurora Club of the Blind (now the NFB of South Carolina), before assuming the presidency of the state organization. Under Capps's energetic leadership the NFB of South Carolina has successfully backed twenty-eight pieces of legislation affecting the blind citizens of the state, including establishment of a separate agency serving the blind. Capps edits the Palmetto Blind, the quarterly publication of the NFB of South Carolina. In 1960 Capps directed a campaign which led to construction of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina's $250,000 education and recreation center, which was expanded in 1970, and again in 1978. He now serves as a member of its Board of Trustees. He has been instrumental in establishing full-time daily operation of the Federation Center and has served for more than thirty years as the fund-raising chairman of the Columbia Chapter.
In December, 1972, the Colonial Life and Accident Insurance Company presented Capps with an award for "twenty-five years of efficient, faithful, and loyal service." In 1985 Don Capps retired from the Colonial Life and Accident Insurance Company after thirty-eight years of service.
In 1965 Donald Capps was honored as Handicapped Man of the Year, by both the City of Columbia and the State of South Carolina. Capps has held numerous appointments on community and state boards and bodies. He has been a leader in Rotary, church, and civic organizations. In 1977 he was elected Vice Chairman of the South Carolina Commission for the Blind Consumer Advisory Committee. Also in 1977, at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind, Don Capps received the highest honor bestowed by the organized blind movement, the Jacobus tenBroek Award. In 1981 he was appointed by the Governor of South Carolina to membership on the Board of Commissioners of the South Carolina School for the Blind, where he serves as Vice Chairman.
Betty Capps has been an active Federationist as long as her husband has. The Cappses have two grown children, Craig and Beth, and three grandchildren. Although Donald Capps has retired from business, he continues to be as active and effective as ever in the Federation, exemplifying leadership and confidence. His ongoing dedication to the National Federation of the Blind provides inspiration and encouragement to his many colleagues and friends within and outside the Federation.
Businessman and community leader
In September of 1952 a ten-year-old boy enrolled in the fifth grade at the Tennessee School for the Blind. Though no one knew it at the time, it was to be the final year in which Kenneth Jernigan taught at the school--in the spring he would lose his job for defending students being abused by members of the teaching and administrative staff. The name of the child entering the fifth grade was Wayne Davis, and although he did not have Dr. Jernigan as a teacher that year, he remembers that he was well aware of the respect and love in which the students held this young and courageous teacher. He never imagined at the time what a profound impact Kenneth Jernigan would have on his life in later years.
Davis was born in Abingdon, Virginia in 1942, and his family soon moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where his father worked at the Atomic Energy Commission. From his earliest years it was clear that Wayne's vision was poor and becoming poorer. Luckily for him his special education teacher in the public school recognized his need to learn Braille, so they tackled memorizing the code together.
Attending the School for the Blind for several years enabled Davis to master Braille and other useful techniques, but by the time he finished the eighth grade, he was ready to return to public school, where he graduated with honors. Since Davis was interested in pursuing a career in music (he played both guitar and bass), he decided not to attend college.
For a number of years he made his living playing in country and rock bands and supplemented his pay by doing anything he could turn his hand to, including training horses and doing telephone sales.
In 1972 he met and shortly afterward married a blind woman originally from Cuba, Carmen Florida. Their only child, a son David, was born a year later. Davis entered the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Program and worked in a number of locations first in Georgia and then in Florida before leaving to work for radio station WIOD in Miami. Among other duties, he reported on traffic. He then left to open his own business scanning emergency frequencies and reporting the information he gathered to insurance companies.
In 1988 Wayne and Carmen Davis discovered the National Federation of the Blind. They threw themselves enthusiastically into the Federation's work. Wayne became President of the Greater Miami Chapter that year, a post he held for six years. Also that year he began serving on the state affiliate's board of directors. A year later he was elected First Vice President, and when the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida resigned for personal reasons in 1990, he completed her term as President. He has been reelected every two years since. In 1995 he was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind.
The Florida affiliate has flourished during the years of Wayne Davis's presidency. Five of the sixteen chapters have been organized under his administration, and there are plans to create several more. Wayne Davis says: "The NFB of Florida works hard to improve the lives of the state's blind citizens. But it is more than a committed group of volunteers; it is a loving community of those who share a vision of what life can be for blind people. Both Carmen and I were only children. We never knew the joys and sorrows of a large family of brothers and sisters, but in the years since we joined the Federation, we have found our true home. We have discovered that we actually have fifty thousand brothers and sisters, all of them members of the National Federation of the Blind."
Businessman and politician
Richard Edlund preaches Federationism every chance he gets--as the newspapers of Kansas attest. In one article he is quoted as saying: "Any loss of one of the body's senses is naturally going to create a problem. But it is little more than that if a person has some training and the right attitude." In another interview he said: "We maintain that blind people can be just as competitive as anyone else if they have the proper training. All we're saying is give the blind the same chance as the sighted person." Or at another point in that interview: "We've got to change public attitudes. Today, if a blind person is very successful, he's labeled an exception in the blind community. If the public would only give us a chance to prove ourselves, we could make cases like this the accepted rule."
Dick Edlund knows whereof he speaks. Born in 1924, he was blinded at the age of sixteen as the result of a blasting cap accident, and he soon learned to hold his own and do his share. As he later told a reporter: "My parents let me know that, just because I was blind, I wouldn't get any special treatment. I had to get back to work and take my place in the family." After high school Dick Edlund wanted to become a lawyer, but a counselor told him it would be impossible because he was blind. He has held a variety of jobs, including owning and managing an airport. He successfully took courses in engine repair and has taught those skills to other blind people. For more than thirty years he owned and operated a hardware store outside Kansas City.
Dick Edlund is an energetic leader of the organized blind in Kansas and across the nation. From 1974 to 1990 he served as President of the NFB of Kansas. He also served as Treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind from 1974 to 1988. For many years Dick worked intensively to protect the rights of blind sheltered workshop employees across the nation. He was in the forefront as these workers fought successfully for the right to collective bargaining before the National Labor Relations Board and in federal court.
In 1990 Dick Edlund was elected to the Kansas Legislature, where he served for six years. Among his legislative accomplishments was the passage of a strong state Braille literacy law in 1991. Even in retirement Dick Edlund continues to work for passage of laws that will protect the rights of blind citizens. Eileen Edlund, Dick's loyal wife of many years, died in September of 1995 following a long illness.
Homemaker, Girl Scout Administrator, and Community Activist
In 1938 Priscilla Pacheco Ferris was born in Dighton, Massachusetts. From the time she was a small child she knew she had weak eyesight, but she and her family did not know that the condition, retinitis pigmentosa, would deteriorate into total blindness. During her early school years Ferris used print, but three years later, when her brother (who had the same eye condition) entered school, the staff refused to teach two blind children. So the Pacheco youngsters enrolled in the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts.
When Ferris entered Perkins, she was beginning the fourth grade, and she was expected to learn Braille immediately even though she could still read large print. She remembers that it took her about a month. She didn't feel put upon; it was simply a challenge. Today she recalls this when she must deal with debates about whether a blind child should read Braille or print. "Teach both," Ferris says unequivocally. "Low-vision children were able to learn both when I was a kid, and things haven't changed that much since."
After high school graduation in 1956 Priscilla Pacheco worked first in a curtain factory and then in a cookie factory, doing whatever needed to be done, including assembly line work, packaging, and packing. She married Jack Ferris in 1961, and in 1963 she resigned from her job to begin a family. The Ferrises now have two grown daughters and two grandchildren.
In 1977 Priscilla Ferris attended business school, where she earned a degree and graduated with distinction. Then she found a job as secretary for the Fall River Public Schools, where she worked until funding cuts eliminated her job.
From her cookie factory days until her own daughters were involved in scouting, Ferris led Girl Scout troops from time to time. In 1974 she began fourteen years as town administrator for the Girl Scouts in Somerset, Massachusetts, a job in which she was responsible for the entire scouting program for the city. She quips that, not only can she light a fire in the rain, raise a tent in a storm, and dig a latrine almost anywhere, but she can teach anyone else to do the same. In 1986 she was elected to the Board of Directors of the Girl Scout Council of Plymouth Bay and served two consecutive three-year terms. She continues to volunteer her time and experience to help the Scouts.
Ferris first heard of the National Federation of the Blind when a new chapter was formed in her area in 1961, but she did not join the Federation until 1973, shortly before losing the remainder of her eyesight. In 1976 Ferris was elected President of the Greater Fall River Chapter of the NFB of Massachusetts and served in this capacity until 1991.
In 1977 Ferris was elected Second Vice President of the NFB of Massachusetts and in 1981 First Vice President. In 1985 she became President of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts, and she has been re-elected for succeeding two- year terms ever since. She was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind in July of 1987. Today she serves on numerous advisory councils and boards in the blindness field. She also works as a community outreach educator at an independent living center near her home.
Businessman and Ordained Minister
In 1947 Vicksburg, Mississippi, was not an ideal place for a black child to be born with congenital cataracts. For years no one even noticed that little Sam Gleese had difficulty seeing, least of all Sam himself. He simply assumed that everyone else saw things with the hazy imprecision that he did.
One day, when he was in the second grade, the teacher in the segregated school he attended sent a note home, asking his mother to come to school for a conference. To the Gleese family's astonishment she told them that Sam had significant difficulty seeing to read and do board work. By the fourth grade the bouts of surgery had begun. Glasses (which Sam hated and forgot to wear most of the time) were prescribed. But none of this effort enabled young Sam to glimpse much of what his friends could see. Then, in 1962 when he was fifteen, Sam underwent surgery that gave him enough vision to show him by comparison just how little he had seen until that time.
He graduated from high school in 1966 and enrolled that fall at Jackson State College, where he majored in business administration. Looking back, Sam is sure that he was legally blind throughout these years, but he never considered that he might have anything in common with the blind students he saw on campus. His struggle was always to see, and that made him sighted. Occasionally he was forced to deal with his difficulty in reading, particularly when a fellow student or teacher pointed out what he seemed to be missing, but for the most part he denied his situation and resented those who tried to make him face his problem.
After graduation in 1970, Sam joined a management training program conducted by K-Mart. Everyone agreed that he was excellent on the floor and dealing with employees, but, though he did not realize it, he was extremely unreliable in doing paperwork. He consistently put information on the wrong line. His supervisor confronted him with the problem and told him he had vision trouble. Sam hotly denied it, but within the year he was out of the program.
During the following years Gleese applied repeatedly for jobs that would use his business training. When he supplied information about his medical history and his vision, would-be employers lost interest. Finally in late 1972 he got a job as assistant night stock clerk with a grocery chain. He had a wife to support--he and Vanessa Smith had married in August of 1970-- and he needed whatever job he could find. Gradually he worked his way up to assistant frozen food manager in the chain, though it wasn't easy.
Then in 1979 his retinas detached, and within a few weeks late in the year he had become almost totally blind. For a month or two he was profoundly depressed. His wife, however, refused to give up on him or his situation. Gradually Gleese began to realize that she was right. He could still provide for his family and find meaningful work to do. He just had to master the alternative methods used by blind people. Early in 1980 he enrolled in an adult training center in Jackson, where he learned Braille, cane travel, and daily living skills. He is still remembered in the program for the speed with which he completed his training. By the following summer he was working as a volunteer counselor at the center, and in the fall, with the help of the state vocational rehabilitation agency, he and his wife Vanessa were working in their own tax preparation business.
It was difficult, however, to maintain a sufficient income year round, and the Gleeses had a daughter Nicole, born in 1976, to think about. In 1983 Sam decided to try taking a job making mops in the area sheltered workshop for the blind. He worked there for two years until a staff member pointed out that he could do better for himself in the state's Randolph-Sheppard Vending Program, which had finally been opened to African Americans in 1980-81.
In January of 1985 Sam Gleese was assigned the worst vending stand in the state of Mississippi. Because of his degree in business administration, his phenomenal record in personal rehabilitation, and his work history in the grocery business, officials decided that he needed no training but could learn the program in his own location. He spent two years in that facility, mastering the business and improving his techniques. Then he moved to a better location for a further two years. He now operates a small lunch and snack facility in the federal building in Jackson, Mississippi, while he waits for a better location to come along. In 1992 he bid on an excellent facility and appealed the decision which awarded it to another vendor. Though the appeal decision which eventually came down did not help him directly, it did correct unfair practices that had plagued many vendors in Mississippi for years.
Gleese has always been active in the Missionary Baptist Church. From 1973 to 1990 he taught the adult Sunday school class in his own church, and in 1980 he became a Deacon. In the fall of 1991 Gleese began attending night classes at Mississippi Baptist Seminary part-time. He had to drop out for a year, but he expects to graduate in 1997. He was ordained to the ministry in November of 1992 and now teaches the church's new members and heads its scouting program.
Sam Gleese first heard about the National Federation of the Blind in the early 1980's and attended his first National Convention in 1983. He reports that from that moment on he has been a committed Federationist. Vanessa has worked steadily beside him through the years as he has struggled to improve the lives of Mississippi's blind citizens. He became President of one of the state's local chapters in 1985, and the following year he was elected state President. He has continued to serve in that office ever since. Under his leadership the number of chapters in the Mississippi affiliate has nearly tripled.
In 1992 Gleese was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. He has dedicated his life to educating the public, blind and sighted alike, about the abilities of blind people. According to him, too many people in Mississippi believe, as he did for so many years, that blind people can do nothing and belong in rocking chairs and back rooms. Sam Gleese is making a difference everywhere he puts his hand.
C. ED MCDONALD
Broadcaster and Small Business Owner
Ed McDonald was born in Keyser, West Virginia, in 1949. Totally blind from birth, he received his entire elementary and secondary education at the West Virginia School for the Blind in Romney. As far back as he can remember, McDonald was fascinated by radio. He spent hours listening to radio--not just for the entertainment and information but also to learn all he could about the medium itself and the way the business worked. He visited radio stations whenever he could and believed without question that he would grow up to be an announcer. At the School for the Blind he and several fellow students launched a low-power radio station on campus. Although it was probably illegal according to federal regulations, school officials permitted and sometimes assisted and encouraged the endeavor. A few years later the school even secured a license for a bona fide FM station.
Near the end of his junior year in high school, McDonald sought summer employment at his local station. The manager said that first he would need to obtain a commercial radio license from the Federal Communications Commission. He then gave McDonald a study booklet to help him prepare for the test. Ed studied hard and scheduled an appointment with the FCC to take the test. However, when he and his parents arrived at the FCC office in Washington, they were told that the commission was not prepared to administer the test to a blind person. Understanding little about patterns of discrimination against blind people but knowing instinctively that what had happened was not right, they sought help from their local Congressman, who happened to serve on a committee which oversaw the FCC. It was not long before McDonald received an invitation to come to Washington again to take the exam. When the license was finally issued--sometime midsummer--the station manager congratulated Ed on his success but conjured up another reason to delay giving him a job. The lessons he learned through this entire experience were painful but useful in the long run, and they did nothing to dampen his interest in radio.
McDonald attended Bethany College, a small liberal arts institution in West Virginia, where his hard-earned commercial radio license enabled him to work at the college radio station. He graduated from Bethany in 1972 with a degree in communications, which encompassed journalism, advertising, public relations, and speech, as well as broadcasting.
After college McDonald's first full-time jobs were entry-level positions at small commercial radio stations in southern West Virginia. They didn't pay much, but they offered a wide range of experience--gathering and writing news, writing and recording commercials, doing on-air DJ work, and even keeping the station clean.
In 1976 McDonald enrolled in a master's program at the Ohio University School of Radio-Television in Athens. This experience redirected his interests toward non-commercial or public broadcasting, and upon completion of his degree he was hired by the University's public radio station, WOUB. Much of his work there involved producing and occasionally hosting various programs distributed for broadcast on other stations.
Four years later he returned to Bethany College to teach courses in broadcasting and to supervise the student-operated radio station where he had worked throughout his undergraduate years. He soon discovered that his heart was really in the studio, creating radio programs, and not in the classroom. Mcdonald's undergraduate experience had introduced him to bluegrass and related styles of folk and traditional music. As this interest grew, he found opportunities to present it on the air, in addition to his other work in radio. When he learned that a new public radio station was about to go on the air in Kentucky and that it planned to offer a program schedule consisting mostly of folk music, he wasted no time in applying for a job as a producer/announcer. He got the job and became a member of the initial staff at WNKU Radio at Northern Kentucky University in suburban Cincinnati.
While in Kentucky he also became increasingly interested in the history and cultural roots of folk and traditional music. As a result, he eventually returned to West Virginia, where he enrolled at West Virginia University in Morgantown. His studies there included Appalachian regional history, culture, literature, and music.
In August of 1996 Ed McDonald married Karen Chandler, whom he describes as a childhood sweetheart from the School for the Blind. Their wedding took place during the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of West Virginia. Ed and Karen currently live in Keyser, West Virginia, where they own and operate an audio production company. Together they produce and record programs for sale to both commercial and public radio stations. Using their fully equipped recording studio, they also do recording projects for local musicians.
Ed McDonald joined the National Federation of the Blind during his freshman year of college and attended his first state convention in 1969. He was soon elected Second Vice President and later First Vice President of the affiliate. At various times he has also served as President of three local chapters in the state. In Kentucky he became Secretary and then Third Vice President of that affiliate. In 1991 the West Virginia affiliate elected him President, and he was first elected to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind in 1994.
"I am fortunate to have learned Braille, cane travel, and other basic blindness skills at the school for the blind," McDonald said. "My involvement with the National Federation of the Blind for more than twenty-five years has given me confidence, perspective, and the understanding of blindness to take full advantage of those skills." In remarks made to the convention when he was elected to the national board, McDonald described his life in the Federation as a sort of spiritual pilgrimage. "The work and words of Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and President Maurer have been the inspiration; and my fellow Federationists-- fellow pilgrims, as it were--have been my support and strength in that pilgrimage, except that it hasn't had just one destination.
There have been many milestones along the way, and this election is one of them. It brings with it a lot of opportunities for me, opportunities for growth and learning and more work and more contributions. I can say to you that I will do my best to recognize and seize those opportunities and make the most of them."
Medical Secretary and Agency Director
Diane McGeorge was born in 1932 and grew up in Nebraska. She was blinded by meningitis at age two. She says that she was "slightly educated" at the Nebraska School for the Blind. Upon graduating she learned that no blind person--regardless of how well-qualified--has an easy time in the job market. She enrolled in a Denver business college to learn typing and transcribing before going on to the University of Colorado to train as a medical secretary, her profession for a number of years, with time away to raise her family.
McGeorge spent eight years as a full-time homemaker and mother, including stints as den mother, Sunday school teacher, and PTA officer. Throughout these years she was a passive member of the Federation. She served on committees and prepared refreshments, but she did not consider that she had any part in the struggle of the blind against discrimination. Her husband Ray was much more active in the Federation. She ignored or overlooked the instances when she had been turned down by landlords or barred from restaurants because of her dog guide, describing her actions as "looking on the bright side."
However, McGeorge attended the 1973 NFB convention in New York City and discovered for herself the power and commitment that derive from shared experience and determination to alter the status quo. From that moment her life began to change. This is the way she tells it:
"One bitterly cold day in December, Ray and I stopped at a run- down coffee shop. It was the only warm place available, or we wouldn't have set foot in it. We did so, however, and when we did, the proprietor told us we couldn't bring my guide dog in. I was so furious I almost burst into tears. I walked out, but I thought and thought about that experience--and I said, deep in my heart, that nobody was ever going to make me feel that way again. I had been a coward to let it happen.
"About six months later we attempted to go to a movie, and the manager said we couldn't bring the dog into the theater. I was well acquainted with Colorado's White Cane Law, so we had what turned out to be a two-hour battle over the issue. I came away from there not feeling cowardly or guilty or as if I were not quite as good as the manager because he could see and I couldn't."
In 1976 Diane McGeorge assumed the state presidency of the NFB of Colorado, and she served in that office for fifteen years before deciding to step down in September of 1991. She was again elected to the presidency in 1995. Under her leadership the NFB of Colorado has become one of the strongest state affiliates in the Federation. In January of 1988 the NFB of Colorado took a giant step forward in serving the blind of the state. The Colorado Center for the Blind, an adult rehabilitation center with Diane McGeorge as executive director, opened its doors for business. Four students enrolled initially, and the numbers have been growing ever since. These students learn the skills of blindness from teachers who believe in the fundamental competence of the blind. But even more important, they learn positive attitudes about blindness. Diane retired as agency director in late 1995.
In 1977 McGeorge was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, an honor and responsibility which she continues to hold. From 1984 to 1992 she served as the organization's First Vice President. In 1982 Diane and Ray McGeorge were presented the Jacobus tenBroek Award for their work in improving the lives of the nation's blind.
McGeorge says of her life since 1973, "These years have been more stimulating and rewarding than any previous period in my life. I don't wish to imply that I was unhappy prior to becoming active in the Federation--quite the contrary. I was busy, and the things I was doing were important. But they were not as important as the Federation's agenda. Each thing the NFB does affects tens of thousands of people. Part of what I have learned is that what I do matters.
"I suppose," she says, "it is a commentary on the way I used to feel about myself; but until the last few years, it never occurred to me that anyone could do what I have done and am doing --let alone that I could. I would have been astonished to learn that thousands of blind people could and would work together to make real changes that affect all of us profoundly."
Rehabilitation Instructor and Outreach Educator
Born in 1934, Betty Niceley was largely raised by her grandparents, who managed a series of country stores in Southeastern Kentucky. She remembers three of these, each one larger than the previous. The family lived beside the stores, doing whatever needed to be done. It was all part of the family lifestyle--stocking shelves, filling orders, cashiering; and it was good experience for a blind child, who might have had trouble finding work elsewhere.
At the age of eight, Betty Niceley left home to attend the Kentucky School for the Blind in Louisville. There she believes she got a good educational foundation. However, she transferred back home to Bell County High School, where she graduated. Her senior class chose her as queen and the person most likely to succeed.
Niceley attended Georgetown College in central Kentucky, where she received a bachelor's degree in English and a secondary teaching certificate. She met her husband Charles at about this time. The Niceleys now have a daughter and two grandsons. Niceley's first real job after college was with the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville. She did public relations and development work as well as filling in wherever Braille expertise, poise, or common sense was needed. After thirteen years at the Printing House, she changed jobs and began teaching Braille at the Rehabilitation Center operated by the Kentucky Department for the Blind. When the state's Independent Living Center opened in the fall of 1980, she joined the staff and again found herself doing whatever needed to be done. She taught Braille, techniques of daily living, and rudimentary travel skills to people of all ages. She also did virtually all the outreach education for groups who needed instruction about blindness and dealing with blind people. Since January of 1993 she has held her present position of information specialist in charge of public relations and community outreach for the Kentucky Department for the Blind.
Betty Niceley first joined the Federation in 1967 although she had known about it for a long time without, as she puts it, "finding the time to get involved." Then she joined, and it was not long before her commitment and performance were such that she was elected Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky. At about this time she also became President of the Greater Louisville Chapter, a position she held until 1975. Niceley has served as President of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky since 1979.
In 1976 the State of Kentucky created a separate Department for the Blind, responsible directly to the Governor. Niceley points to this as one of the NFB of Kentucky's many accomplishments of which she is especially proud. "When my poor vision worsened and I became totally blind in my senior year of college, I had little trouble adjusting. I had learned to read and write Braille as a child and had kept up both skills. That is one of the reasons I have been so excited about the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille" (NAPUB), a division of the National Federation of the Blind. Betty Niceley was elected its first and so far only President. She was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind in 1985 and has been re- elected for successive two-year terms ever since.
Teacher and Agency Director
Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1946, Joanne Ziehan Wilson moved with her parents to Webster City, Iowa, when she was seven. When she was 3, doctors discovered that she had retinitis pigmentosa. She remembers everyone's attitude toward her poor eyesight. No one regarded her as blind, but everyone knew her eye condition could lead to blindness, a fact which friends and family did not want to confront. The whispers taught Wilson that this being "blind" was a dreadful thing. She learned to pretend she could see to avoid the pity that would follow if she could not. And she learned to avoid thinking about blindness. It was too awful. Never once can Wilson remember discussing blindness with a teacher or friend at school. She never met a single blind person. All she knew was that she did not want to be blind or think about the possibility. Being blind wasn't respectable.
After Wilson graduated from high school, she enrolled in a junior college. At that time the Iowa Commission for the Blind conducted a career day for blind students, which she attended. For the first time she met blind people. They were confident and capable. She decided that at the end of her second year of junior college she would take time out to attend the Orientation and Adjustment Center. Those nine months she describes as "the most exciting time of my life. I found freedom, and it wasn't always easy."
In 1969 Joanne Wilson graduated with honor from Iowa State University, where she received a B.S. in Elementary Education. During one quarter she was selected as a Merrill Palmer Scholar to do advanced work in education in Detroit, Michigan.
For the next four years Wilson taught elementary school (second and fourth grades) in the Ames, Iowa, public school system. In 1971 she received a master's degree in Guidance and Counseling and Administration. During this time Wilson helped to organize the North Central Iowa Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, and she served for several years as its president. From 1977 to 1979 she was First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa.
In 1973 Wilson had stopped teaching to begin a family. She is now the mother of 5 children ages twelve to twenty-two. In 1979 she and her family moved to Louisiana, and here she continued her Federation work. In 1981 Wilson led the formation of a new NFB chapter in her hometown of Ruston, Louisiana, and forty people attended the first meeting. It was the eighth chapter in the state. Today in Louisiana there are twenty-two chapters.
Joanne Wilson was elected President of the NFB of Louisiana in 1983 and has been elected for successive two-year terms ever since. In 1985 Governor Edwin Edwards recommended to the State Legislature that money be appropriated directly to the NFB of Louisiana for a training center for blind adults, and the prestige and reputation of the organization were such that the legislature responded affirmatively.
The Louisiana Center for the Blind opened in October of 1985 with Joanne Wilson, who has received certification to teach visually-impaired students, as its director; and the program which she has built is rapidly coming to be recognized throughout the nation as a model of excellence. Well over three hundred fifty students have now enrolled in the program, and they graduate ready for competition in the mainstream of society and convinced that it is respectable to be blind. In the spring of 1991 Joanne, who had been divorced from her first husband for a number of years, married Harold Wilson, a quiet man who shares his wife's dedication to improving the lives of blind people everywhere.
Senior Programmer Analyst and Electronics Technologist
Gary Wunder was born three months prematurely in 1955, the oldest of four children. His family lived in Kansas City, Missouri, and Wunder remembers that since he was blind from birth, he managed to persuade everyone in his family except his father to do precisely what he wanted. It would be many years before Wunder could appreciate his father's instinctive understanding that Gary had to learn to do things for himself.
Wunder tells with amusement the story of his dawning awareness of his blindness. When he was quite young, his home had sliding glass doors separating the living room from the patio. When those doors were closed, he could not hear and therefore did not know what was happening on the other side and assumed that no one else could either. One day he found several soft drink bottles on the patio and broke them. His father then opened the doors and asked if he had broken the bottles. Gary said he had not and that he did not know how they had been broken. His father then astonished him by saying that both his parents had watched him break the bottles and that his mother was now crying because she had thought surely her baby couldn't tell a lie. Gary's response was to say, "Well, she knows better now."
Wunder attended grades one through five at a Kansas City public school. When he was ten, a boy who attended the Missouri School for the Blind persuaded him that he was missing real life by staying at home. At the school, his friend told him, kids rode trains and buses. They could bowl and swim and didn't have to listen to parents. As a result Wunder did some persuading at home and was on hand for sixth grade and some necessary but painful lessons about that real world.
At the close of seventh grade Wunder returned to public schools, having learned several vitally important lessons: he knew the basics of using a white cane; he recognized that his father's demands on him had sprung from strong love and eagerness for his son to succeed; and he understood that people beyond his own family had worth and deserved his respect. But he had also learned that the school for the blind was not the promised land, and he was delighted to be once more in public schools for eighth grade and high school. He was elected to the National Honor Society his senior year but struggled with the mechanics of getting his work done. Braille was not readily available, and readers were hard to recruit without money to pay them.
Wunder planned to attend the University of Missouri at Kansas City in order to live with his grandmother, but after a taste of freedom at the orientation center in Columbia, Missouri, the summer before college he decided to enroll at the University's Columbia campus, where everyone walked everywhere and where he could contrive as many as three or four dates an evening if he hurried from place to place.
Wunder enjoys recounting the adventure which persuaded him
that a blind person should always carry a white cane: "I was having dinner
with a young woman who lived near me, so I had not brought my cane, figuring
that I wouldn't need it. To my consternation and her distress, my plate of liver
and onions slid into my lap. She asked if I wanted her to walk me home so that
I could change. I was already so embarrassed that I assured her I would be right
back and that I did not need her assistance. The busiest intersection in Columbia
lay between me and clean slacks, and after I successfully survived that street
crossing, I swore that I would never again be caught without my cane."
Wunder decided to major in political science and philosophy
because he felt compelled to avoid the science and math that he loved but feared
to take. During his sophomore year he met a professor from Central Missouri
State University who suggested that he was ducking the challenge. Together they
explored the question of whether or not a blind person could follow schematics
and read voltmeters. The answers seemed to be yes, so Wunder transferred to
Central Missouri State, where he graduated in 1977 with a degree in electronics
technology. He had done well with the courses, but he did not see how he could
run a repair shop with its responsibility for mastering hundreds of schematics
for appliances. He could teach electronics, but the professors from whom he
had learned the most were those who had firsthand experience. He didn't want
to be the theory-only kind of teacher.
Wunder looked for interim jobs after graduation while he tried to decide what to do, and he discovered the hard way that blind job-seekers have to be better than the competition in order to be considered at all. He vowed to become so well trained at doing something that would-be employers could not ignore him. Wunder enrolled in a ten-month course in computer programming offered by the Extension Division of the University of Missouri. No blind person had ever entered the program before, but Wunder completed it successfully and was hired immediately (in the fall of 1978) by the Pathology Department of the University of Missouri Hospital and Clinics in Columbia. Years and promotions later, Wunder is successfully working at the hospital and is now a senior programmer analyst in the Information Services Department.
Wunder first learned about the National Federation of the Blind
the summer before his senior year of high school. He says, "In the beginning
I thought this talk about discrimination was a pretty good racket. No one did
those things to me, and I assumed that all this Federation talk about jobs'
being denied and parents' having children taken away from them was an effective
way of raising funds. I didn't realize that my father's name and reputation
in my hometown were protecting me from the worst of real life. So far I had
gotten what I wanted, including a motorcycle to ride on our farm and my own
horse. It was some time before I recognized that these talented and committed
blind people whom I was getting to know in the Federation were trying to teach
me about the world that I was going to inherit. They frightened me a little,
but more and more I wanted to be like them."
In late 1973, several months after Wunder started college in
Columbia, Missouri, a Federation organizing team arrived to establish a new
chapter, and he took an active part in the preparations. Wunder was elected
president, and when he transferred to Central Missouri State two years later,
he organized a chapter in Warrensburg. In 1977 Wunder was elected First Vice
President of the NFB of Missouri, and in 1979 he became President. Except for
one two-year term, he has continued in that post ever since. Wunder was elected
to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind in 1985.
Looking back over the years of his involvement with and commitment to the Federation, Wunder says: "Despite all I learned from my parents about honor, responsibility, and the necessity to be competent, what I could never get from them was a sense of where blind people fit in a world composed mostly of sighted people. Friends and loved ones had always told me how wonderful I was (wonderful for a blind person, that is), but until I came to know members of the National Federation of the Blind, no one had the experience or knowledge to say how I could expect to measure up alongside the sighted. The NFB was the first place where I didn't get a round of applause for performing the routine activities of life. If I wanted my Federation colleagues' recognition and admiration, I had to merit them. It sounds contradictory, but while I was learning that I wouldn't be applauded for insignificant accomplishments, I was also learning that I didn't have to possess special compensatory senses or talents to make my way in the world. When you believe that your only opportunity for success lies in being a musician but you know that your only musical talent is in listening and then you suddenly find that you are capable of doing the average job in the average place of business, your sense of freedom, hope, and possibility know no bounds."
by Ray Kurzweil
From the Editor: The word "Kurzweil" has become part of the vocabulary of virtually every blind adult in the country today, whether or not he or she actually uses reading machines. Ray Kurzweil is truly a friend to us all. For more than twenty years his creativity and brilliance have improved our lives. Here he is to report on what's new in the technology he first pioneered with the support of the National Federation of the Blind:
The Early History of the Kurzweil Reading Machine ("KRM")
In 1974 I started a company, Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc.
("KCPI") to pursue my interest in pattern recognition, part of the
broader field of artificial intelligence. In the field of pattern recognition,
we teach computers to recognize patterns, such as printed shapes, human faces,
speech sounds, land terrain maps (for cruise missiles), and other examples of
real-world phenomena. The other fields of artificial intelligence are devoted
to capturing human reasoning faculties (e.g., chess- playing computers, programs
that make financial investment decisions, etc.). It turns out that 90% of the
human brain is devoted to interpreting and understanding patterns, and solving
these problems is critical to capturing intelligence in a machine.
We attacked what at that time was regarded as a classic (and
unsolved) problem in pattern recognition, which was teaching a computer to identify
printed characters regardless of the type font they were printed in, the size
of print, quality of print, and other characteristics. Computer systems existed
that could recognize printed letters if they were printed in a special type
font (e.g., Courier or OCR A), but there were no systems that could recognize
printed letters regardless of their type face. Solving this problem required
us to teach the computer how to abstract the essential qualities of the concepts
behind each letter. There are hundreds of different shapes we all call "A,"
but it is not immediately clear what essential invariant properties distinguish
all A's from all other letters. We came up with an effective approach to this
problem. The question then became: what is this technology good for? It was
a solution in search of a problem.
We did some market research and quickly came upon the problem
of accessing ordinary print by blind and visually impaired persons. Braille
was (and continues to be) a vitally important medium, which provides full literacy
to blind persons as a system for both reading and writing. Recorded materials
(e.g., "talking books") also provide access to the world of literature.
But both methods suffered from a limitation: the range of available material
was restricted. Of the 50,000 new books published each year, only 3 percent
were transcribed into Braille, and only about 5 percent were available as Talking
Books. The availability of topical literature such as inter-office memos was
even more limited.
It quickly became clear that a print-to-speech reading machine
could overcome this handicap associated with the disability of visual impairment.
It would provide another important tool along with Braille to enable blind persons
to compete fully with their sighted peers.
There were several other key technology hurdles that we needed
to face in order to create the world's first print-to-speech reading machine.
Back in 1974 there were no CCD (Charge Coupled Device) flat-bed scanners. There
were no text-to-speech speech synthesizers. So we needed to create these technologies
as well. The three technologies we created--(i) omni-font (i.e., "any"
font) OCR (optical character recognition), (ii) CCD flat-bed scanners, and (iii)
text-to-speech speech synthesizers--ultimately evolved into what are today
A vital issue in creating the world's first print-to-speech reading machine was to gain an understanding of how to organize these resources in a machine and how to connect the user to these capabilities in an intuitive fashion. Another important issue of course was funding. As it turned out, the National Federation of the Blind played a critical role in helping our small organization in both of these areas.
Collaboration with the NFB
We presented our ideas and plans to many people and organizations
back in 1975. Most people told us that our ideas were interesting and ambitious
and to keep in touch. But two people were particularly responsive and promised
to help us to achieve our goals. One was Jim Gashel, who was then (and still
is) the Director of Governmental Affairs of the National Federation of the Blind.
Jim is one of the most energetic people I've ever met, and he wanted to work
closely with us as part of the project. The other was Jim's boss, Dr. Kenneth
Jernigan, then President of the NFB.
As an aside, when I was growing up in Queens, New York, in the
late 1950's and early 1960's, I belonged to a religious youth organization called
LRY for Liberal Religious Youth, organized by the Unitarian Church. We were
early participants in the civil rights movement and took part in some of the
early civil rights marches and demonstrations. I considered myself fortunate
to participate in this important phase of American history and was always inspired
by Dr. Martin Luther King's great oratory and leadership.
In my work with the National Federation of the Blind in the
1970's I came to feel the same way about Dr. Jernigan. At many of the NFB conventions
I attended, Dr. Jernigan reminded me of Dr. King, particularly during Dr. Jernigan's
inspiring keynote addresses. With his leadership the NFB has been in the forefront
of another great effort to provide equal opportunity for all Americans.
But I digress. I had the opportunity in 1975 to review my plans
for the world's first print-to-speech reading machine with Dr. Jernigan and
Jim Gashel. They agreed to work with me to help find funding for this effort
if I agreed to involve the NFB and, in particular, its blind engineers and scientists
in the design of the reading machine and its user interface and controls and
to help to evaluate and refine all aspects of its operation and functions. I
wasn't really expecting that request, but I was in no position to argue, so
I said "Sure, why not." As it turned out, this collaboration between
Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc. and the National Federation of the Blind worked
extremely well and in effect killed two birds with one stone. We were successful
in raising about $350,000 in funding from a number of foundations. I got to
know Jim Gashel quite well in this process as the two of us worked jointly on
these proposals in his Washington office, often late into the night.
The joint KCP-NFB Program also played the key role in creating
an effective reading machine from its constituent technologies. It is clear
to me that the Kurzweil Reading Machine would not have been an effective tool
if not for the key insights into its design contributed by the NFB scientists
and engineers. In fact the design came out quite different from what we had
originally expected and, as it turned out, was very well accepted by blind consumers.
With the intended users' having been intimately involved in every stage of the
design process, it anticipated the user's needs in ways that we as well-intentioned
sighted engineers could never have foreseen.
Many of the key ideas created in this KCP-NFB collaboration
still form the basis of the user interface of all print-to-speech reading machines
for the blind today. I'll provide one instructive example. We were going to
put little Braille labels on all of the user controls so that a new user would
know which control was which. One of the NFB engineers said that it would be
very annoying to feel these Braille labels hundreds of times a day, every day.
So I asked him, could a new user identify the controls without Braille labels?
He suggested putting another prominent button on the panel, which he called
the "nominator" key, and if a user wanted to identify a control, he
would simply push the nominator key, then hit another key, and that second key
would announce its name and describe its function. Then, after using the nominator
key to explore the keyboard for a few days, a user would know where all the
keys were and would not need to feel these annoying Braille labels hundreds
of times every day. That made sense when we heard it, but since we were not
the intended users of the invention, it is an insight that we would never have
realized on our own.
This is a lesson I have carried to other projects I have been involved in subsequently. With my music company we required all of the engineers to be musicians because there was no other way to be sensitive to the nuances of sound and the subtle interactions of feel and response in a musical instrument. In creating voice-activated medical reporting systems, I worked very closely with physicians. This collaboration was sufficiently successful to attract millions of dollars of funding from what is now the Department of Education and other government agencies.
The Announcement of the KRM
We announced the Kurzweil Reading Machine at a press conference on January 13, 1976. It seemed to strike a chord and was featured on the national evening news of all three networks. Walter Cronkite used the machine for his signature sign-off by having it read, "And that's the way it was, January 13, 1976." Incidentally, sitting at the controls that day was Jim Gashel. At a subsequent live television demonstration of the reading machine, we were a little nervous because we had only one working prototype at the time. And as one might expect, the machine stopped working just a couple of hours before we were supposed to go on the air. Finally, in frustration, our chief engineer just lifted the scanner and banged it on the table. This time-honored approach to fixing delicate electronic equipment seemed to work, and the reading machine started reading again. The presentation then went quite smoothly.
The Relationship with Xerox
In 1978 we introduced a version of the reading system for commercial
applications such as word processing and entering data into data bases called
the Kurzweil Data Entry Machine ("KDEM"). The KDEM was very successful,
and this attracted the interest of Xerox Corporation, which saw the technology
as a bridge back from the world of paper to the world of electronics. Most of
Xerox's products could create paper documents from either electronic documents
or other paper documents. Our KDEM technology allowed the user to go in the
other direction, from a paper document back to an electronic document. Xerox
invested in the company in 1978. In 1980 I sold them the company.
I remained Chief Executive Officer of KCPI as a Xerox subsidiary
until 1982. At that time I started two new companies. One was Kurzweil Music
Systems, Inc., which created the first computer-based musical instrument that
could recreate the sounds of the grand piano and other orchestral instruments.
I sold that Company to Young Chang, a large Korean musical instrument manufacturer,
in 1990. The other was Kurzweil Applied Intelligence, Inc. ("KAI"),
which created the first commercially marketed large vocabulary speech recognition
technology. A primary application of that technology is to enable hands- impaired
individuals to use computers, communicate, and control their environment. A
future goal is to create the opposite of a reading machine--a device which will
convert speech into print-- so that a deaf person can understand what people
are saying. KAI continues as a public company, and I have continued to be its
chief technology officer.
I also continued as a consultant to Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc. (which changed its name to Xerox Imaging Systems around 1990), from 1982 until 1995. This gave me the opportunity to continue to learn and gain insight into reading-machine design and the many technical and user-interface issues that arise. It also afforded me the opportunity to continue my relationship with many people in this field and, in particular, with Dr. Jernigan and the NFB.
My New Company: Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc. ("KESI")
Now in 1996 I have started another company, Kurzweil Educational
Systems, Inc. to create a new generation of reading technology. I am Chairman
of KESI. Mike Sokol, who headed up sales for XIS' Adaptive Products Division
for ten years is President. Two individuals familiar to many of you from their
years of service in this industry are involved: Dave Bradburn heads up marketing,
and Forrest Dobbs heads up sales.
I had several reasons for starting this new company. One was
that my twenty-three-year involvement in this field has been perhaps the most
gratifying in my career. Another is that in these years I have gathered insight
into the many subtle issues of how to design an effective reading machine that
I wanted an opportunity to use and express. Third, I felt that the enabling
technologies of personal computers and scanners had evolved to the point where
great advances were again possible in this field. Finally, and perhaps most
important, many people asked me to come back to this field to use my experience
to make a direct contribution again.
So that is what I hope to achieve with KESI. I have had the opportunity to gather together some of the best minds in this field in both technology and marketing, and we have introduced our first product, called OMNI 1000, which represents a new generation of print-to-speech reading machines for the blind. The design of this product was guided by several key principles:
Provide the highest possible level of OCR (optical character recognition) accuracy. The quality of a reading machine can never be better than its OCR. Having developed the first omni-font OCR twenty years ago, the KESI technology team and I were able to use these insights to provide a highly accurate OCR technology that combines image-enhancement software, basic OCR, and lexical post-processing. In addition to character accuracy, the ability of the software to understand complex page formats is also very important.
Provide high-quality speech synthesis that is natural- sounding and easy to understand. Omni 1000 uses a new speech synthesizer called FlexTalk from AT&T developed at Bell Labs (now called Lucent). In addition to natural- sounding synthetic speech, the system analyzes and parses the structure of each sentence to provide a natural- sounding phrasing, cadence, and prosodic contour.
Provide an intuitive user interface that is easy to learn and use. Here again we have worked and are continuing to work with our users, as well as benefiting from our own experience over the last twenty years. Heading up our user interface design for OMNI 1000 is Steve Baum, who was Chief Scientist at KCPI/Xerox Imaging Systems for ten years.
Provide a rich array of features such as immediately available dictionary definitions, voice commands, voice prompts, document management, multiple reading "personalities," a voice calculator, and many others.
Take advantage of the outstanding price performance of commodity computing components. Today's personal computers and scanners provide tremendous capability at very low prices. As soon as you start designing specialized hardware for a disabled population, you lose the price-performance benefits of commodity components. Take for example the issue of a book edge scanner. Commodity scanners do not generally provide a book edge.
Building a special scanner with a book edge is very expensive
and locks the designer into an older generation of components. We solved this
problem by using a large platen scanner (8.5 inches by 14 inches) and special
software. The user can now simply place both exposed pages of a book on the
scanner, and the software will (i) automatically recognize the orientation of
the book, (ii) compensate for the curvature near the book spine, (iii) eliminate
the dark ragged image the scanner picks up between the two open pages and (iv)
accurately read the two pages. This turns out to be even easier for the user
to use than a special book edge scanner because now the user can scan two pages
We are also introducing two other versions of OMNI. OMNI 2000 is intended for low-vision individuals who would otherwise use CCTV (Closed Circuit TeleVision) enlargement systems. OMNI 2000 enlarges print just like a CCTV system, but it does some things that a CCTV is unable to do, including reading the print out loud, highlighting on the image the words that are currently being read, automatically moving the image so that the user does not need to move the book on an X-Y mover, providing on-line dictionary definitions, voice commands, and many other features. This shows you the power of computers because the OMNI 2000 and contemporary CCTV systems are in the same general price range.
OMNI 3000 is intended for individuals with dyslexia and/or learning disabilities, i.e., people who have difficulty reading for reasons other than visual impairment. The OMNI 3000 enlarges print on a screen like OMNI 2000. It preserves the look and feel of the image of the page as it appears with all of the formatting, graphics, and color images displayed. It reads from the enlarged image of the actual page and highlights what it is reading. Based on this foundation, OMNI 3000 provides instructional software to help dyslexic students learn to read and to overcome their reading disabilities.
Let me return to the issue of taking advantage of the price-
performance of commodity computing components since I believe this issue deserves
additional discussion. Today we are witnessing a true revolution that is having
a profound impact on all facets of society. The information age is an extraordinary
and in my view permanent shift to knowledge, to intellectual property, to software
as the foundation of wealth and power in what I like to call the second industrial
The phenomenon that is fueling the information age is something
called "Moore's Law," which states that computing speeds and densities
double every eighteen months. In other words, every eighteen months we can buy
a computer that is twice as fast and has twice as much memory for the same cost.
Moore's Law is actually a corollary of a broader law I like
to call Kurzweil's law on the exponentially quickening pace of technology that
goes back to the dawn of human history. Not much happened in, say, the tenth
century, technologically speaking. In the eighteenth century quite a bit happened.
Now we have major paradigm shifts in a few years time. But that's another article.
But with regard to Moore's law, remarkably, this law has held true since the
beginning of this century, from the mechanical card-based computing technology
of the 1890 census, to the relay- based computers of the 1940's, to the vacuum-tube-based
computers of the 1950's, to the transistor-based machines of the 1960's, to
all of the generations of integrated circuits that we've seen over the past
If you put every calculator and computer for the past 100 years
on a logarithmic chart, it makes an essentially straight line. Computer memory,
for example, is about 16,000 times more powerful today for the same unit cost
than it was about twenty years ago. Computer memory is 150 million times more
powerful for the same unit cost than it was in 1948, the year I was born. If
the automobile industry had made as much progress in the past forty- eight years,
a car today would cost about a hundredth of a cent and would go faster than
the speed of light.
Moore's law will continue unabated for many decades to come.
We have not even begun to explore the third dimension in chip design. Chips
today are flat, whereas our brains are organized in three dimensions. We live
in a three-dimensional world: Why not use the third dimension?
Improvements in semiconductor materials, including the development of superconducting circuits that do not generate heat, will enable the development of chips, or I should say cubes, with thousands of layers of circuitry, which when combined with far smaller component geometries, will improve computing power by a factor of many millions. There are more than enough new computing technologies being developed to assure a continuation of Moore's law for a very long time.
The Price-Performance Improvement in Reading Machines Reading
machines for the blind have certainly benefited from Moore's law. I examined
this issue recently with regard to reading machines.
Let's compare the first reading machine, the Kurzweil Reading
Machine, which I introduced in 1976, to the OMNI 1000, which is the new reading
machine that Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc. has just introduced.
The 1976 Kurzweil Reading Machine had 64,000 bytes of memory.
The 1996 OMNI 1000 has 16 million bytes of memory. So that's a ratio of 256
The 1976 KRM used a cassette tape for mass storage. The 1996
OMNI 1000 has a billion byte hard drive and a half billion byte CDROM drive.
The 1976 KRM had a processor speed of a quarter of a million
instructions per second, or a quarter MIP. The 1996 OMNI 1000 uses a Pentium
100, which provides 100 MIPs. So that's a ratio of 400 to 1.
If we compare overall performance of the computer and scanner, of the optical character recognition, voice quality, and other features and characteristics, I think it is fair overall to say that the 1996 product provides about 256 times the performance of the 1976 product.
Okay, now the price of the first Kurzweil Reading Machine was
around $67,000. The price of the OMNI 1000 is around $4,000. So that's a ratio
of 16.75 to 1. When we take inflation into consideration, that's actually a
ratio of about 42 to 1 in constant dollars.
So we have a product that has 256 times the memory, 400 times
the computing speed, and 256 times the overall performance for a price that
is 42 times less. So that's an overall improvement in price-performance of 10,752
But before we congratulate ourselves, let's see what Moore's Law would have predicted. There have been 13 turns of Moore's screw since 1976. That is, Moore's Law predicts that we should have doubled the price-performance of computer-based devices thirteen times since 1976. Well 2 to the 13th power is 8,192. So we should have improved price-performance by a factor of 8,192. In actuality, the analysis I just went through shows that we have improved it by a factor of 10,752. So we've done a little better than Moore's Law. What is remarkable to me is that when you do comparisons of this kind, Moore's Law is remarkably accurate in making these kinds of predictions.
What the Future Holds
And, of course, Moore's law will continue to improve all aspects
of reading machine price and performance in the years ahead. Just recently two-dimensional
scanning chips have emerged, which can scan a full page of text with 300-spot-per-inch
resolution without any moving parts. These two-dimensional scanning arrays,
which have over 5 million pixels, are prototypes and are, therefore, expensive.
But within a few years these chips will permit the development of pocket-sized
scanners, the size of a small camera, that can snap a full page instantly. Thus
around the end of this decade a full print-to-speech reading machine will fit
in your pocket. You'll hold it over the page to be scanned and snap a picture
of the page. All of the electronics and computation will be inside this small
camera-sized device. You'll then listen to the text being read from a small
speaker or earphone.
You will also be able to snap a picture and read a poster on
a wall or a street sign or a soup can or someone's ID badge or an appliance
LCD display as well as many other examples of real- world text. This reading
machine will cost less than a thousand dollars and will ultimately come down
to hundreds of dollars. Algorithmic improvements will also provide capabilities
to describe non-textual material such as graphs and diagrams and page layouts.
These devices will also provide on-line access to knowledge bases and libraries
through the information superhighway. By the end of the first decade of the
next century, the intelligence of these devices will be sufficient to provide
reasonable descriptions of pictures and real-world scenes. These devices will
also be capable of translating from one language to another.
It is my sincere hope and personal goal that KESI will provide the technological leadership to create these future generations of reading machines. But for now we are proud of the OMNI 1000 that we have just introduced, proud of the excellent team that we've put together, and thrilled to be working again with the National Federation of the Blind and its many devoted and talented members.
If you or a friend would like to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:
"I give, devise, and bequeath unto the National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $ (or " percent of my net estate" or "the following stocks and bonds: ") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."
by Miki Causey
From the Editor: Each fall word goes out around the country
that the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest is again beginning. This event
is jointly sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
(NOPBC) and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB),
both divisions of the National Federation of the Blind. The contest provides
a chance for Braille readers from kindergarten through twelfth grade to see
how many Braille pages they can read between November 1 and February 1. The
1997 contest has just begun, and there is still time for Braille students to
enter it because the supervising adult can certify after the fact any pages
read after November 1 but before the student decided to compete. At the center
of the print editions of this month's issue of the Braille Monitor we have stapled
in an entry form for the convenience of those interested in putting it to use.
Additional forms are available from the Materials Center, National Federation
of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.
One way or another we make this announcement at about this time every year, and we sometimes forget just how important this contest can be in the lives of the youngsters who take part. But here is a letter Barbara Cheadle, President of NOPBC, received last February that provides a startling reminder to all of us of what a difference this contest can make in one child's life and outlook on the world. Good luck to every participant in the 1997 contest. Here is the letter Miki Causey wrote about her daughter Elizabeth.
February 7, 1996
Braille Readers Are Leaders
Dear Mrs. Cheadle,
I enjoyed talking with you this morning about my daughter Elizabeth. I hope a further liaison with people like you can help me guide her further as we continue this journey.
Last spring we were absolutely thrilled and so very proud when Elizabeth won first place in the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest. She had begun preschool in 1990 at the Georgia Academy for the Blind (GAB) as an ROP [retinopathy of prematurity] child in diapers, with severe eating problems and an uncertain academic future at best. Through much determination and perseverance on the part of the teachers and staff at GAB and on the home front, four years later Elizabeth won a reading contest!
As a result of this contest, Elizabeth was interviewed on closed circuit television at the Georgia Academy for the Blind; her picture was in the local paper along with that of her teacher; and she was on the local television news. In addition, winning this national contest boosted Elizabeth's reputation at school.
All this recognition, plus just winning the contest, has increased Elizabeth's confidence. Prior to the fall of 1994, Elizabeth had not read anything outside of her classroom. She was frustrated and uninspired and, quite frankly, did not like reading at all. Two things changed in her life to make a difference:
1. Elizabeth met a sighted friend a few years older than her. Nikki read stories to Elizabeth. Before this encounter, she apparently did not realize that children could read too. The revelation made her want to be like Nikki.
2. The Braille Readers Are Leaders contest put a competitive spark in Elizabeth that no one had previously seen. She constantly told us, "I want to win the contest," and she did! As a direct result of Elizabeth's endeavor, six children at her school participated in the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest this year. We hope that next year will be even better. What a wonderful way to encourage blind school children to read more Braille. Elizabeth is now looking forward each year to entering this reading contest. With the contest as her motivation, I hope she will continue to increase her reading skills. I believe it is a wonderful goal for her to strive towards.
Thank you again for having this contest. I truly believe Elizabeth Causey is a winner.
Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest 1997
14th Annual Contest for Blind Youth
Funded by Tree of Life, Inc.
Sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille
Purpose of Contest
The purpose of the annual Braille Readers Are Leaders contest is to encourage blind school children to read more Braille. It is just as important for blind children to be literate as it is for other children. Good readers can have confidence in themselves and in their abilities to learn and to adapt to new situations throughout their lifetimes. Braille is a viable alternative to print, yet many blind children are graduating from our schools with poor Braille skills and low expectations for themselves as readers. They do not know that Braille readers can be competitive with print readers. This contest helps blind children realize that reading Braille is fun and rewarding.
Who Can Enter the Contest
Blind school-age children from kindergarten through the twelfth grade are eligible to enter. The student competes in one of five categories. The first category is the print-to-Braille beginning reader. This category is for former or current print readers who began to learn and use Braille within the past two years. This includes:
(1) formerly sighted children who became blind after they mastered print and
(2) partially sighted print readers who are learning Braille. (Kindergartners and first-graders are not eligible for the print- to-Braille category.)
The other categories are grades K-1; 2-4; 5-8; and 9-12. Students in ungraded programs should select the category which most closely matches the grade level of their peers.
Prizes for the Contest
First-, second-, and third-place winners are selected from each of the five categories. All winners receive a cash prize, a special certificate, and a distinctive NFB Braille Readers Are Leaders T-shirt. In each category first-place winners receive $75.00, second-place winners $50.00, and third-place winners $25.00. All contestants receive a Braille certificate and a special token for participating in the contest.
Awards are also given to the top five contestants, regardless of category, who demonstrate the most improvement over their performance in the previous year's contest. To be considered for the Most Improved Braille Reader award, the contestant must enter the contest for two consecutive years and cannot be a winner in the current, or any previous, Braille Readers Are Leaders contest. Winners of the Most Improved Braille Reader award receive $15 and a T-shirt.
Schools are encouraged to schedule public presentations of the certificates. Alternatively, presentations may be made in the classroom, at the local National Federation of the Blind Chapter meeting, or in some other appropriate setting. Members of the National Federation of the Blind will award the certificates and other prizes whenever possible.
Schools for the Blind
In addition to the individual prizes a $100.00 cash prize will be awarded to up to two schools for the blind for outstanding participation in the contest. All of the schools for the blind with students participating in the contest will receive recognition in Future Reflections, the National Federation of the Blind magazine for parents and educators of blind children.
Rules for the Contest
Winners will be chosen based on the number of Braille pages read. The one who reads the largest number of Braille pages will be the first-place winner; the second largest the second-place winner; and the third largest the third-place winner. The completed contest entry form must be received by the judges no later than February 15, 1997. Contestants must submit with the entry forms a print list of the materials read (see the last page of the entry form). Entry forms without this list will be returned to the sender.
The certifying authority is responsible for (1) verifying that the student read the Braille material listed and that the material was read between November 1, 1996, and February 1, 1997; (2) filling out and sending in the contest entry form in an accurate, complete, and timely fashion; and (3) assisting the student in finding Braille materials to read for the contest. Teachers, librarians, and parents may serve as certifying authorities. The certifying authority must also be prepared to cooperate if the contest judges have any questions or need additional information about an entry. All decisions of the judges are final.
For more information contact Mrs. Barbara Cheadle, National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; (410) 659-9314 or (410) 747-3472.
1. What if I didn't know about the contest until after it began. Can I still enter? Yes.
2. If I enter late, can I still count the Braille pages I have read since November 1? Yes, if your certifying authority will verify that you read those pages.
3. Can I count my Braille textbooks? No.
4. Can I count textbooks if they are not the textbooks I am now using for my regular class work? Yes.
5. What if I don't finish reading a book? Can I count the pages that I did read? Yes.
6. Can supplemental reading books to beginning reading series be counted for the contest? Yes.
7. What constitutes a Braille page? Each side of an embossed piece of paper is considered one page. If you read both sides, then you have read two pages. This is true even if there are only two Braille lines on one side.
8. Can I count title pages, tables of contents, Brailled descriptions of illustrations, etc.? Yes.
9. I have to transcribe books for my beginning reader. Most of these books have only a few words on a page. If the print book has more pages than my Braille transcription, how do I count pages for the contest? For the purposes of this contest, the number of Braille pages counted per book should never be less than the number of print pages in that book. This is so even if the teacher has transcribed the entire book onto one Braille page. To avoid confusion we suggest that the books be transcribed page-for-page, one Braille page for each print page, whenever possible.
10. I have trouble finding enough Braille material for my 6th grade and up students. Do you have any suggestions? Yes. The National Federation of the Blind has free Braille materials--stories, articles, etc.--suitable for blind youth. To request the NFB Selected Literature for Blind Youth order form, call or write National Federation of the Blind, Materials Center, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; (410) 659-9314.
Contest Entry Form
Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest
November 1, 1996, to February 1, 1997
Mail entry form to Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Birthdate Age Grade
City State Zip
Phone (Home) (Work)
Certifying Authority: Name
Position: Parent Teacher Librarian
City State Zip
Phone (home) (Work)
City State Zip
YES NO Did you enter last year's contest (1995-96)?
YES NO Have you been a winner in a previous Braille Readers are Leaders Contest?
Entries must be received no later than February 15, 1997 Category: (Check one)
Beginning Print-to-Braille (This category is for former or current print readers who began to learn and use Braille within the past two years. Children who began Braille instruction in Kindergarten or First Grade are not eligible for this category.)
Kindergarten and First Grade
Second through Fourth Grades
Fifth through Eighth Grades
Ninth through Twelfth Grades
One of the prizes for the contest is a special T-shirt. If you should be a winner, what size would you require? (Check one) Children's: S (6-8); M (10-12); L (14-16) Adult: S (34-36); M (38-40); L (42-44); XL
On the last page is a grid made of three columns across and twenty spaces down. At the top of the page is a line for name and total of Braille pages. The first column is titled Pages; the second column is Book/Magazine, then (mag. pub. date) just before the third column begins. The third column is Author/Title of Article. At the bottom of the page is a line for the certifying authority's signature, and above it is the statement: To the best of my knowledge, this student did read these Braille pages between the dates of November 1, 1996, and February 1, 1997.
From President Maurer: Braille literacy is a vital part
of the education of blind students. In the past several years we have concentrated
on increasing the use of Braille among blind children and adults. We have produced
the Braille video, That the Blind May Read; we have created the National Association
to Promote the Use of Braille; we have conducted Braille Readers Are Leaders
contests; we have founded the International Braille and Technology Center for
the Blind; we have supported the International Braille Research Center for the
Blind; we have produced large quantities of Braille books and magazines; we
have taught workshops to encourage Braille teaching through mentors in the states;
and we have promoted the use of Braille in local chapters and state affiliates.
The National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey conducted
a seminar on the importance of Braille at its 1996 convention. One of the real
problems with Braille is that it is regarded by many people as unusual. Almost
nobody feels that way about print. I am reminded of a conversation I once had
with Ray McGeorge, a long-time Federation leader and the husband of Diane McGeorge,
who is a member of the NFB Board of Directors and President of the Colorado
affiliate. Ray served as Denver Chapter Treasurer for many years.
Ray McGeorge has been blind most of his life. Sometimes he
has had a little remaining vision. Sometimes he has been totally blind. He learned
to read print early, and he found the availability of printed material fascinating.
At one point he regained a major portion of his vision, and one of the things
he wanted to read was the advertising on the cans, boxes, bags, and packages
in the grocery store.
Sighted people take print for granted. Print appears on virtually
everything and almost everywhere. For the blind it isn't like that. There is
more Braille today than there once was. However, it is still often hard to get.
To address the Braille literacy problem the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey has established a volunteer Braille- teaching program in the state. Anybody who wants to learn Braille can contact the President. The closest volunteer in the program will be assigned to teach Braille. The result is that there is now a group in New Jersey whose members share Braille experiences. Those in the group range from very young children to senior citizens. The convention presentations by members of this group demonstrate how concerted local action increases opportunity. Robert Kanish chaired the Braille panel. Here is what he said in introducing it:
Every year the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille,
commonly known as NAPUB, sponsors a Braille literacy contest for blind and visually
impaired children from across the United States. This year the National Federation
of the Blind of New Jersey decided to hold one also.
We asked our children from kindergarten through high school to submit Braille compositions about one of these topics: ways I use Braille; Braille readers can be leaders; or any other Braille-related topic. In our contest participants seem to have come mainly from the third and fourth grades. Katie Maunder's entry was judged the best and received first prize. I think you will agree that the winning composition deserves top rating. Listen now as Katie reads her very own composition about the ways she is using Braille.
That is what Mr. Kanish said. Katie Maunder is eleven years old, and this is her composition, which she delivered from the podium:
I started learning Braille when I was two. My mother made a special board for me. It was called the velcro board. My mother Brailled the cards on it from A to Z. Another way I learned Braille was that, when I was about three, Mom started labeling everything. Almost everything I walked into had Braille on it. If I walked into a table, it would have "table" written on it in Braille. If I walked into a chair, it would have "chair" written on it.
I used to have a keyboard which had all the knobs, switches,
and buttons Brailled so I knew which button was which. I also used Braille-display
card games like Uno, Happy Families, and a funny game called Hello Jack. I used
Braille to play a game called Scrabble, and I have Braille on my computers as
well. Two of the computers with lots of Braille were Speak and Spell and Speak
Music. The Braille is there so I can read what to do. I Braille all of my tapes
with a special label-making machine. You move the labeling machine to the letter
you want and press hard to make it come out.
I often think my Braille Writer is a hero because it always
behaves itself when I write on it. I even made up a song about my Braille Writer.
I use Braille at school too. I have a Braille Writer in my classroom, and I use it for all my work. Most of all, I use Braille to read. I have read lots of books in my lifetime. Roald Dahl's Matilda is my favorite book. Those are all the ways I use Braille. I am having fun reading, writing, and enjoying Braille.
Two presentations which followed Katie's were made by Kristen Diaz, an eleven-year-old fifth grader, and Donna Panaro, the mother of a four-year-old blind child. Kristen said:
Hello, I am Kristen Diaz. I am eleven years old and in the
fifth grade. About a year ago I started learning Braille with Mrs. Agnes Allen,
and now we are almost done reviewing the code. I am also homeschooled; that
means my mom and dad teach me at home. They also teach my younger brother Matthew.
I am legally blind, but I can enjoy a good book outside under a tree, under
the covers at night, in the car, or even at a friend's house. How do I do it?
I use Braille.
I have Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, which is a macular degenerative
eye disease. This means that I may lose my sight slowly and gradually over a
period of time. I might become totally blind later on down the road. Should
my sight become so poor that I am not able to read print, I will not need to
take time out to learn Braille, because I have learned it now. I will be able
to function well in the world of information because I already know the code.
When I read print, I need the right lighting and print size
conditions, or I need to use my reading glasses or CCTV [Closed Circuit Television].
When I read Braille, I don't need any of these things because I don't need sight
to read Braille. It takes a good memory and a well-developed sense of feel,
but other than that, learning Braille is rather easy.
My mother and I are looking for ways to use Braille in my daily
life so that I do not lose what I have gained. We have come up with a telephone
and address book, recipes, and reading, which I do now recreationally. I learned
Braille so that I may have a choice when I read. Right now I use Braille and
print for different things, and I enjoy them both equally.
The comments of the next presenter, Donna Panaro, demonstrate the importance of encouraging the use of Braille in the home. This is what Donna reported to the convention:
I am the mother of a four-year-old blind child. Her name is
Kristin. I decided quite early that I would learn Braille. I wanted to have
the opportunity to assist my daughter in learning. (I knew Kristin would receive
Braille instruction only two to four times per week at school, and I felt it
would be more beneficial for her to receive instruction on a daily basis to
become proficient in Braille. Sighted children learning to read and write practice
every day.) I also wanted to learn Braille so that I could communicate with
Kristin in writing. Numerous times I have heard successful Braille readers say
it helped tremendously that their parents knew Braille.
One day I was reading The Sounding Board (the newsletter of
the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey), and I saw an article about
a Braille tutoring service that sparked my interest. A person wishing to learn
Braille could call the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey and be
matched up with a tutor in the local community. Bob Kanish put me in contact
with a wonderful teacher named Lois Wencil, and it took me approximately one
year to learn to read and write in Braille. I met with Lois about two times
per month for a few hours, and she not only taught me Braille but she also taught
me important techniques for teaching Kristin, techniques that I might not have
been able to learn elsewhere. For example, I would Braille Kristin's favorite books. I would also make labels in Braille for many things
in our home.
I can't thank Bob and Lois enough for giving me this opportunity
to learn Braille, and in the future I would like to pass my knowledge on to
other parents who have the same interest. My purpose here today is to encourage
parents to learn Braille. Braille means literacy for our children--it gives
our children the ability to read and write. I can't think of a more important
job that we as parents have than to help facilitate teaching Braille to our
young Braille readers and writers of tomorrow so that they can learn to read
and write at the same rate as their sighted peers. We need to make sure this
happens if there is to be a better life for our children.
Again, our children should be on the same reading level as their sighted peers. We should expose our children to Braille early and make sure they keep up with the class. Our children can be age-appropriate--we must keep this in our minds and hearts at all times!
The final participant on the afternoon program was Agnes Allen,
one of the volunteer teachers of the Braille classes being
conducted by the chapter.
As a student at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind
in Pittsburgh back in the 1930's and early 1940's B.C. (before computers), I
learned to read and write Braille. Braille was a given in those days; it was
basic to everything else I learned in school. All my textbooks were in Braille.
Listening to a history or geography lesson on tape was unheard of. Oh, yes,
talking books were available for listening enjoyment if I chose to go that route
for entertainment and leisure-time activity. But for honest-to-goodness, hard-core
study purposes there was no substitute for Braille for me as a blind child.
And even my partially-sighted classmates had to learn Braille. Some of them
were compelled to read with aprons tied around their necks, which covered their
fingers as they moved across the page to prevent peeking at the dots. Looking
back now, I wonder just how often those kids succumbed to the temptation to
lift the apron for a peek at the dots when teacher was looking the other way.
But seriously, for me the mastery of Braille was the key to becoming literate,
just as print was for my fully sighted friends.
Because I was Braille-literate, I could go on to college to
become an English major, reading Chaucer and Shakespeare along with my sighted
peers. As a history student I could take copious notes, writing rapidly with
my wonderfully convenient and portable pocket slate and stylus. It was possible
to take six pages of notes during a single class, which I could study independently
at my own pace as I was preparing for a major test. After Brailling the examination
questions, I was free to work on my own, typing the answers for the benefit
of my sighted instructors. In a word, because I was Braille literate, I was
able to read and write my way to college honors at graduation time.
Because I was fortunate enough to have learned Braille music
at the School for the Blind, I was able to memorize works of outstanding classical
and romantic composers to play in recital during my junior year in college for
audiences of several hundred. I was later to have the opportunity to teach piano
to sighted children.
As a teacher of blind children and adults, I could give my knowledge
of Braille to others, helping in my turn to foster Braille literacy for them.
As a social worker and case worker in New Jersey, I kept Braille records for
every one of my clients. From these Braille files I could type continuing records
for children in foster care, for teenage runaway cases, and for the youngsters
known as truants and incorrigibles. In this way I could prepare for court reviews
and court hearings at which my recommendations for positive programs were sought
as a means of fostering a better quality of life for these troubled young people.
As a mother of three children in a single-parent household,
Braille labeling helped me deal with the monthly bills and keep the accounting
records of the funds coming in and going out. When my children were still minors,
a growing hearing loss for me caused a termination of regular employment and
necessitated seeking work in areas which did not require a keen sense of hearing.
A kind friend presented the idea of Braille proofreading. I latched onto this
possibility and studied for certification. For many years I served as a proofreader
for a private agency producing Braille books and magazines. Currently I work
as a part-time proofreader of Braille textbooks for blind children in our schools.
To sum up, Braille literacy skills have helped me to achieve
fulfillment in every major aspect of my life--as a student; as a teacher; as
a case worker; as an employee for a Braille production house; and, above all,
as a mother, dedicated to giving a real future to my children. I could not have
done it without the ability to read and write Braille.
Modern technology is fast, functional, advantageous, and handy. Using tapes and speech synthesizers can be an adequate way of obtaining vital information, but listening is not the same as reading, and talking is not the same as writing. The most marvelous and magnificent of all computers, the human brain, is available through the medium of Braille. I thank you, Louis Braille, for providing these six tiny dots--the nucleus from which the whole Braille system has evolved. With these six dots it is possible to retrieve a whole world of education and experience, to understand a lifetime of personal growth and happiness, and to achieve the highest level of independence. With your help and the help of my blind friends I have found opportunities which could not have been attained without you--I have discovered the promise and enjoyed the reality of independence.
by Emerson Foulke
From the Editor Emeritus: Dr. Emerson Foulke is a long-time
Federationist and one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind
of Kentucky. He is also a brilliant scholar and an authority in the field of
Braille reading and writing.
Dr. Foulke received his Ph.D. in experimental psychology
from Washington University in St. Louis and shortly thereafter (1959) accepted
a position as a psychologist at the Veterans Hospital in Knoxville, Iowa. In
1961 he went to Louisville to accept employment at the American Printing House
for the Blind and the University of Louisville. In 1961 he joined the faculty
of the University of Louisville full-time as a professor of psychology. He became
director of the Perceptual Alternatives Laboratory at the University of Louisville
in 1969 and continued in that position until his retirement in 1992.
For Dr. Foulke retirement has not meant reduced activity. He now serves as director of the International Braille Research Center and does extensive writing and research. The following paper is illustrative. It was given in March of this year at the World Forum on Literacy in Montevideo, Uruguay. Here it is:
Next to print, Braille is, to my knowledge, the best reading
and writing system ever devised. It is often read more slowly than print because
the finger tip's field of view is smaller than the eye's field of view and because
reading fingers cannot move as fast as eyes. However, like print, Braille is
displayed spatially on the page. Consequently, the advantage realized by print
readers because they can use spatial cues to search, retrieve, and read selectively
is also realized by Braille readers. The alternative approaches to reading that
blind children are too often encouraged or required to learn do not share these
For blind persons Braille is the path to literacy and all of
the advantages conferred by literacy. Blind persons who are good Braille readers
have opportunities not available to blind persons who read Braille poorly or
not at all. They have generally become educated and are engaged in productive
employment. Although the advantage conferred by Braille has always been obvious
to anyone who took the trouble to notice it, it is only recently that studies
have been undertaken to gauge the value of Braille to those who are competent
in its use.
The results of recent research (Schroeder, 1994; Ryles, 1996)
are beginning to confirm what competent Braille readers have always known. The
findings of these investigators indicate that blind persons who are competent
Braille readers are also much more likely to have had a good education, to spend
more time reading, to be productively employed, to be financially self-sufficient,
and to have higher self-esteem than blind persons who read Braille poorly or
not at all. A survey conducted by Kirchner (1988) revealed that 70 percent of
the legally blind persons in the nation are unemployed. Findings reported by
Ryles (1996) suggest that the 30 percent who are employed are much more likely
to be Braille readers than the 70 percent who are not. Spungin (1989) reported
a study undertaken by the American Foundation for the Blind in which the database
it maintains, called the Careers and Technology Information Bank (CTIB), was
examined and revealed that 85 percent of the blind persons in this database
who are primarily Braille readers are also employed.
In 1995 the Library Division of the Canadian National Institute
for the Blind (CNIB) conducted a survey of its blind patrons in order to assess
the impact of Braille literacy on the library services offered by CNIB to blind
Canadians. Survey results indicated that only 6 percent of its Braille-reading
patrons were unemployed: 52 percent had incomes higher than $25,000 per year,
and 14 percent had incomes higher than $50,000 per year. Eleven percent held
one university degree, and of that group 14 percent held more than one degree
The significance of these results can be gauged by comparing them with the results of a survey conducted by Statistics Canada, which found that 10 percent of all Canadians of employable age (sighted, blind, or otherwise) were unemployed, and that only 10 percent of all Canadians reported incomes higher than $25,000 per year. The study further indicated that only 8.8 percent of all Canadians held university degrees (Statistics Canada, 1990). As another indication of the advantage gained by using Braille for reading, the unemployment figure of 6 percent for Braille-reading patrons of the CNIB Library should also be compared with the unemployment figure of 75 percent for all blind Canadians of employable age that was found in another survey reported by Statistics Canada (1993).
The reason for the findings reported by Schroeder, Ryles, Spungin,
and CNIB are obvious. Education and the work people are able to do because they
are educated are predicated on the ability to read. Reading is the basic tool
on which all education depends, because those who learn to read can then read
to learn, and it is the reading of Braille that allows blind persons to become
When I began my education sixty years ago, most blind and visually
impaired children received their education in residential schools. Because these
schools were relatively few in number, they could easily reach an agreement
concerning the school books their students would use, and they could therefore
place book orders with a Braille printing house that were large enough to make
their production economical. Because all of the students would be depending
on Braille for their reading and writing, they received intensive instruction
in its use; and all of their teachers, not just their Braille teachers, were
expected to know how to read and write Braille as well. Furthermore, the teachers
expected their students to become good Braille readers and insisted on a high
standard of reading performance, and with few exceptions the students learned
to read well and enjoy reading.
In view of the role of Braille in making the option of literacy
available to blind persons, one would naturally suppose that the public schools,
where most blind children now receive their education, place as much emphasis
on the provision of adequate instruction in learning to read Braille as on learning
to read print. Sadly, this is not the case. From the time the enrollment of
blind children in public schools became the general practice to the present,
there has been a continuous decline in Braille reading ability (Rex, 1989; Mullen,
The Federal Quota Registry, maintained and published annually by the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), is an enumeration of the legally blind children in the nation, classified by reading ability and the type of reading in which they engage. Examination of this registry reveals that the number of legally blind children increased from 17,330 in 1963 to 52,791 in 1993. During this period the fraction of registered students who were taught to read Braille declined from 57 percent to less than 10 percent, and the fraction of legally blind students classified as nonreaders rose from a little over 0.10 percent to more than 45 percent (American Printing House for the Blind, 1963-1993). Some of this increase is due to the increased enrollment in public schools of blind students who have other handicaps, but it is clear that there has been a steep increase in the fraction of legally blind children who are taught to read by listening to recorded or live speech, or by reading large print or magnified print, or who do not read at all.
It is noteworthy that, although the APH Registry classifies
as readers not only those who use Braille for reading but also those who read
by listening or by visual perception of large print or magnified print, it is
only those who use Braille for reading that realize the advantages generally
associated with literacy. The findings just cited urge the conclusion that the
public school system de-emphasized the reading medium that gives blind persons
the opportunity to become literate and emphasized the reading media that have
been shown to be ineffective in achieving literacy (R. Ryles, personal communication,
As the increase in the number of blind children who read Braille slowly and inaccurately or not at all continued, the demand for books in Braille decreased. The declining demand for Braille books caused by inadequate instruction of blind children led to decreased production of Braille books, and because persons who do not read Braille well or do not read it at all do not ask libraries for books in Braille, libraries included fewer and fewer Braille books in their collections.
The reasons for the changes just indicated are not hard to find. When blind children started going to public schools in large numbers, there were dramatic changes in the way they were educated. These changes had far-reaching effects, some of which were not anticipated and were far from desirable. The wish to have blind children educated in public schools was doubtless motivated by the best of intentions. It was held that blind children would reap the benefits of living with their families during their formative years and that their socialization would be facilitated by contact with their sighted classmates. They would become integrated into the society of the sighted, and the negative stereotypes concerning the blind would vanish.
With little in the way of analytical thinking, it was tacitly
assumed that blind children would receive adequate instruction in tool skills
such as reading and writing Braille. Unfortunately, in far too many cases this
did not happen. There were not enough competent teachers of Braille to meet
the instructional demands imposed by the influx of blind children (Stephens,
1989; Schroeder, 1989; Caton, 1991; Willson, 1993), and even if such competent
teachers had been available, there was not enough money in school budgets, short
of a radical change in priorities, to hire the number of properly prepared teachers
The result was that in many schools throughout the nation blind children received poor and infrequent instruction in Braille reading and writing. It was taken for granted that sighted children would require intensive daily instruction in print reading and writing, but in view of the shortage of teachers who knew Braille well or who knew it at all, and doubtless in view of the modest expectations held by school personnel concerning the possible achievements of a blind child, it was too often decided that the needs of blind children would be met well enough by as few as two instructional periods a week in the use of Braille.
This regrettable situation was made worse by the lure of specious alternatives. Anyone who could read aloud could record a book on tape for use by a blind student. Ordinary print could be enlarged by a copier or magnified by a lens, or a computer with the requisite software could be used to increase the size of the print displayed on the screen of the computer monitor (Paul, 1993). Perhaps the most important consideration was the belief that, if legally blind children could be taught to read print at all, their teachers could read what they were reading and could work with them more effectively.
Apparently people failed to notice that many of the legally blind children who were required to read print were reading slowly and inaccurately and that they found reading fatiguing. Why were these problems not noticed? Could it be the belief that the performance standard expected of sighted students should not be expected of students with an affliction as severe as blindness--regardless of the reading medium they used (Koenig, 1992)? Could it be that the poor reading of legally blind children required to read print went unnoticed because to notice this fact would have required schools to take remedial steps they were neither prepared nor willing to take?
What were the consequences of this failure to provide adequate instruction in reading Braille? It is now not at all difficult to find legally blind students who have been graduated from high school, often with good grades, who read print with difficulty and Braille not at all, who cannot pass any of the tests of achievement administered to high school students, who are unemployed, who cannot find a place in competitive employment, and who are functionally illiterate. It would not be at all difficult to find teachers who finally woke up to the fact that there were blind students in the sixth grade or higher who were not able to do the work expected of them because they could not read.
In many such cases school administrators abandoned the pretense of educating these children and solved the problem by arranging for their transfer to the residential school for the blind. When this happened, teachers at the residential school had the unenviable task of working with students who were twelve years or older and who did not know how to read in any meaningful sense-- students who, if given a grade placement commensurate with their current level of performance, would have to be placed in the second grade.
How could this happen? Could it be that there were teachers in public schools with very low expectations of the performance of which a blind child would be capable? Could it be that these teachers were prepared to praise blind students for performance that would have been unacceptable for a sighted student--teachers who, as an act of charity, gave them passing grades?
Some of the integration that was supposed to be the result of having blind children educated in public schools probably did take place, but it would not be surprising to find a school for the blind within the walls of a public school, where blind students spend most of each day in the resource room and have little social contact with sighted students.
An even more common case is the legally blind student who is
the only blind person in the public school he attends. He has been taught to
read large print or print enlarged by magnification. Because he reads slowly
and inaccurately and cannot read very long without experiencing fatigue and
headaches, he has been falling farther and farther behind, month by month and
year by year. His teacher, motivated by pity, has been giving him passing grades,
but his self-esteem is low because he knows that his performance is poor and
his grades unearned. His sighted classmates know that his performance is poor,
too, and they are not surprised. They have brought to school with them the negative
stereotypes concerning blindness taught to them by their culture.
They see him as different, handicapped, and simply unable to keep up with the rest of the class. Because they perceive him this way, integration has not occurred, and he is socially isolated. The consequences of inadequate instruction in reading Braille would have been obvious to public school administrators and teachers if they had been inclined to make the relevant observations, but these consequences failed to attract their attention.
For schools that were not prepared to offer adequate instruction in Braille, it was easy to conclude that, because there were less expensive; more convenient; and, as they saw it, more effective alternatives, Braille had limited utility (Thurlough, 1988). It became common practice to recommend instruction in Braille only as a last resort. Children with little vision were urged to read large print or magnified print, in spite of the fact that they read slowly and found reading fatiguing, and even though in many cases visual acuity would eventually decrease, culminating in total blindness.
True, when blind children first began going to public schools, it was difficult to get books in Braille. Because the number of public schools attended by blind children is much larger than the number of residential schools such students formerly attended, it is not feasible to seek an agreement concerning the textbooks to be used in the courses offered. Because the number of students needing any particular book was small, the book could not be transcribed into Braille economically by a Braille printing house.
If Braille books were used, the solution would have to be to rely on volunteer transcribers, teacher's aides, and resource teachers for the production of Braille textbooks; but at the beginning of the migration to public schools, the equipment available to transcribers was relatively primitive. By the time a book could be provided in Braille, the need for it was often past.
This excuse for not providing books in Braille is no longer
available. Scanner/OCR systems can now capture the text on the printed page
and save it in disk files. Translation programs can generate a Grade II translation
of the text. The translated text can be sent to a Braille embosser connected
to the computer. It is now relatively easy and inexpensive to produce even a
single copy of a Braille textbook needed by a blind student.
In spite of the equipment now available for producing Braille efficiently, its declining use continues in many school districts throughout the nation (American Printing House for the Blind, 1994). It is difficult to escape the conclusion that public school systems are guilty of perpetuating a self-fulfilling prophecy. They appear to reason that Braille is no longer as useful as it was when there were no alternatives because, as they see it, the alternatives to Braille now available have proved to be more effective. The declining demand for and use of Braille is the inevitable consequence.
As these schools see it, Braille had a role to play in bygone years, but it is well on its way to becoming an obsolescent reading medium that is little used and no longer needed (Mack, 1984). They do not consider the possibility that the use of Braille is declining because it is regarded by too many teachers and administrators as the reading medium of last resort. They do not consider that Braille would be a more effective reading medium if it were taught more frequently by more competent teachers. It has apparently not occurred to them that students who have received poor and infrequent instruction in the use of Braille for reading are not likely to express much demand for reading matter in Braille.
As a result of this vicious downward spiral, we ultimately reached a point at which there was reason to fear that Braille would lapse into disuse and would no longer be available. Fortunately, steps have been taken to reverse this dismal trend. Braille readers themselves have, by political action, caused bills to be passed in twenty-seven of the states in the United States (Schroeder, 1992). These bills require public schools to offer instruction in Braille that is adequate in both quality and frequency of instruction to the blind children who should be learning Braille. There are even signs that the educational establishment is at last becoming aware of the importance of Braille and the wrong done to blind children by neglecting it. We are beginning to reverse the downward spiral and to restore Braille to the position it deserves and never should have lost. The list of problems to be solved is formidable. Nevertheless, we must begin to seek their solutions immediately if we are to make literacy a generally available option for blind children.
To begin with, not enough teachers know how to teach Braille.
The reason is not hard to find. As already mentioned, the number of blind children
registered by APH increased from 17,330 in 1963 to 52,791 in 1993. During the
same period the Office of Education was gradually withdrawing the support it
had been providing for the university programs that prepare students to teach
blind children. As a result several teacher preparation programs were terminated,
and others experienced a reduction of staff. Some of the surviving programs
have a staff of one (Head, 1992).
One reason for this pernicious inverse correlation between the need for teachers who can teach children to use Braille for reading and the availability of such teachers is the belief promulgated by the Office of Education and various organizations representing the interests of high-incidence disability groups that the educational needs of blind children can be met adequately by teachers who have been trained as generalists in special education. This belief is simply wrong. If blind children are truly to compete in public schools, they must have mastered the necessary tools.
The schools they attend must give them the opportunity to become skillful Braille readers, skillful practitioners of independent mobility, and knowledgeable users of assistive technology. Generalists in special education are unprepared to teach these skills, and blind children who receive all of their instruction from generalists are almost certainly doomed to failure. This belief must be eradicated and replaced by the awareness and conviction that blind children must be prepared for success in the public school environment by specialists who can help them acquire the skills on which their success in school will depend. Placing blind children in public schools that cannot meet their instructional needs makes a mockery of "most appropriate placement." They are, in fact, the victims of "most inappropriate placement."
In order to restore Braille to its rightful place, the teachers and administrators in public schools must change their attitudes and expectations. When the staff in a public school attended by blind students believe that blind children cannot be expected to perform at the level of their sighted peers and believe that allowances must be made for blind children because the severity of their disability will inevitably subject them to lives of dependency, the resulting climate is devastating to their morale and self-esteem. The teacher who expects little in the way of performance from a blind student is willing to accept minimal performance. She asks for little, and of course she gets what she asks for. The fact is that children learn to expect of themselves what others expect of them and to accept the beliefs of others concerning their abilities and their worth.
Changing attitudes is difficult, but there are steps that can be taken. As a start the resource teacher, if there is one, or the itinerant teacher can express positive beliefs about the blind children in the school. He or she can talk with other teachers in the school, give them constructive articles to read, and try to persuade them to raise their expectations and demand better performance. Some teachers may come to understand that providing a positive educational experience for a blind child is an interesting challenge rather than an unwelcome burden. Of course, the resource or itinerant teacher must genuinely believe that blind children have abilities and that they will respond positively to more demanding expectations. And the resource teacher must not only know Braille in theory but must also be efficient in its use, both in reading and writing. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Here is a possible interim solution to the shortage of competent Braille teachers. I know a Braille teacher who is extraordinarily competent, highly motivated, and possessed of the ability to engender in her students her own enthusiasm for Braille. She found herself in the familiar situation of facing a critical shortage of teachers who could actually teach children to read Braille. She solved the problem by training teacher's aides to teach Braille.
She had impressive success, and she believes that other dedicated Braille teachers could do what she did--but only if the necessary conditions are present. Many teacher's aides either cannot or do not want to learn to teach Braille, and the Braille teacher must participate in the selection of the teacher's aide who is given that assignment, instead of merely accepting a person assigned at random by an uninformed administrator. In addition, the Braille teacher must provide close supervision of the teacher's aides she has trained. This approach will not, by any means, eliminate the shortage of Braille teachers, but it may be worth a try. And we may do well to remember that the university is not the only place a person can learn Braille and learn how to teach it.
The university programs where students receive the education that prepares them for work as resource or itinerant teachers often graduate students who have low expectations concerning the abilities of the blind children with whom they will be working, and these university programs must share some of the responsibility. The student teachers in these programs often learn from their professors and from the courses they are required to take that Braille is a last resort to be considered only if reading print by any means is impossible. The faculty members in these programs may communicate their own low expectations to the students they teach, and the courses they offer rarely provide for experiences that could convince their student teachers of the abilities of competent blind persons. They do not often provide opportunities for their student teachers to associate with competent blind adults and discover their capabilities. These are program defects that can be corrected by program directors if they can be made to believe in the necessity of making the corrections.
The students who enroll in teacher preparation programs usually receive inadequate preparation for teaching children to use Braille for reading. A student who has had a one- or two-semester course in Braille is not a Braille teacher, and certainly such a person is not likely to be a competent Braille user. A Braille teacher must know Braille thoroughly. A Braille teacher must have learned what is known about reading in general. A Braille teacher must be thoroughly familiar with all of the methods of teaching Braille that we currently know about and must be able to employ them selectively and appropriately. A Braille teacher must be able to motivate the children he or she teaches and must be able to convince them that learning to use Braille for reading is one of the most important skills they will ever learn. Above all, the Braille teacher must believe in the importance of Braille and must know how to communicate this belief, not only to the students he or she teaches but also to the teachers and administrators in the school or schools where he or she works.
The teacher who can meet these requirements is the teacher who not only will teach children to use Braille for reading but also will teach them to be self-motivated because they enjoy reading. In short, a Braille teacher is a specialist, and to become a specialist a student teacher must complete a program that includes more course work and training than is provided by the typical teacher preparation program.
One way to accomplish this might be to organize courses of study leading to the master's degree. Such courses would be taken by those students in special education who intend to become specialists. These students would take the courses not provided by the ordinary teacher preparation curriculum, would receive the training that gives them a thorough mastery of Braille, and would serve an internship under the supervision of a master teacher of Braille.
Implementing solutions to the problems just discussed will have a high cost. Finding and training enough Braille teachers will be expensive. Providing the assistive technology that makes it easier for blind students to be competitive in the public school environment will be expensive, and teaching them how to use such technology will be expensive. Organized efforts to change the attitudes and expectations of public school teachers and administrators will also be expensive. The implementation of these measures will require money--a lot of money. We will not undertake the changing of our priorities that would be required in order for us to find the money we need to prepare Braille teachers, or teachers of any kind for that matter, until we become convinced that an educated citizenry is a nation's most valuable resource, and there is reason for skepticism on that score.
American Printing House for the Blind. (1963-1993). Distribution of federal quota based on registration of eligible students. Louisville, KY: Author.
American Printing House for the Blind. (1994). Distribution of federal quota January 4, 1993 registration of eligible students. Louisville, KY: Author.
American Printing House for the Blind. (1995). Distribution of federal quota January 4, 1994 registration of eligible students. Louisville, KY: Author.
Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Library for the Blind. (1995). Understanding Braille literacy and its impact on library literacy services. Toronto: Author.
Caton, H. (1991). Braille literacy issues. Print and Braille literacy. p. 42. Louisville, Kentucky: American Printing House for the Blind.
Head, D.N., & Bishop, V.E. (1992). Current practices in the preparation of teachers for children with visual impairments and blindness. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 86, 241-245.
Kirchner, C., & Peterson, R. (1988). Employment: Selected characteristics. Data on blindness and visual impairment in the U.S., A resource manual on social demographic characteristics, education, employment and income, and service delivery. pp. 169-177. New York: American Foundation for the Blind.
Koenig, A.J. (1992). A framework for understanding the literacy of individuals with visual impairments. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 86, 277-284
Mack, C. (1984). How useful is Braille? Reports of blind adults.
Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. 78, 311-313.
Mullen, E. (1990). Decreased Braille literacy: A symptom of a system in need of reassessment. ReView, 23, 164-169.
Paul, B.J. (1993, Spring). `Low tech' Braille vital to high-level literacy. National Association of State Directors of Special Education, Counterpoint, p. 3.
Ryles, R. (1996). The impact of Braille reading skills on employment rates, reading habits, education levels and financial self sufficiency of visually impaired adults. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 90, 219-226.
Schroeder, F. (1989). Literacy: the key to opportunity. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 83, 290-294.
Schroeder, F. (1992 June). Braille bills: What are they and what do they mean? The Braille Monitor, 308-311.
Schroeder, F. (1994). Braille usage: Perspectives of legally blind adults and policy implications for school administrators. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
Spungin, S. (1990). Braille literacy: Issues for blind persons, families, professionals, and producers of Braille (p. 3). New York: American Foundation for the Blind.
Statistics Canada. (1990). Blindness and visual impairment in Canada: Special topic series from the health activity limitation survey. Ottawa: Author.
Statistics Canada. (1993). Statistics Canada. Ottawa: Author.
Stephens, O. (1989). Braille - Implications for living. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 83, 88-89.
Thurlow, W.R. (1988). An alternative to Braille. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 82, 387.
Willson, N. (1993). Braille: Bridging the gap between literacy and illiteracy. The Braille Forum, 31, 14-16.
by Susie Stanzel
From the Editor: Susie Stanzel is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas. In the July-August, 1996, issue of the Free State News, the publication of the NFB of Kansas, Susie wrote about her career as a computer programmer and the crucial role networking with members of the National Federation of the Blind has played in her success. This is what she says:
When I was seventeen, my stepmother worked for the R.C.A. Company,
where she had access to current technology magazines. She read several articles
that discussed the then new developments allowing blind people to enter the
computer field as programmers. While attending the Kansas Rehabilitation Center
college preparatory program, I researched this possibility. Four years later,
I graduated from Kansas State Teachers' College at Emporia, Kansas, holding
a bachelor of science degree in business with a specialization in data processing.
For the past twenty-five years I have been employed as a computer
programmer analyst, the first three years for the City of Kansas City, Missouri,
and twenty-two years for the United States Department of Agriculture. Has my
employment success been simply luck? Absolutely not! The first step, my stepmother's
influence, might have been luck, but that is where the luck ended. Informal
networking, as it is called today, and lots of hard work account for my success.
During my junior year of college I began corresponding with
Bill Adler, a blind computer programmer working for the Bendix Corporation.
I told him I had attended summer school for the past two summers but just didn't
want to do that again. I said that what I really wanted to do was find a job.
It never crossed my mind that it might really happen. I had never earned any
money before, but through his connections with other blind people, Bill contacted
Roy Zuvers, another blind computer programmer, working for the United States
Department of Agriculture and a longtime leader in the National Federation of
the Blind. Roy approached the management at U.S.D.A. about having a blind employee
for the summer. Because Roy was well thought of, I was interviewed and hired
for the months of July and August. It was hard to believe I was actually receiving
a pay check for doing something that was so much fun. Although I was pleased
when I was asked to return full time following graduation, I was anxious to
try to find a job outside the federal government.
I knew I really wanted my work to make a difference, and it
seemed clear to me that we needed more employment of blind people in private
industry. So here comes that old word "networking" again. In 1970
Bill Adler's wife was also a computer programmer. She worked for AT&T. Thanks
to her help, I interviewed at AT&T during the Christmas break and, as a
result, expected to attend a training class to be held in June. Like today,
times were hard in 1971. Companies were laying people off, and promotions were
few and far between. Due to tough times, AT&T canceled their June training
class and left me out in the cold.
Until that point I had had two job interviews and had been offered
two jobs. This extraordinary batting average came to an abrupt halt right then.
After about seventy-five more interviews I was again invited to come back to
the U.S.D.A. for permanent employment. I didn't really want to work for the
government, but that seemed to be the best thing to do. I accepted the position,
canceled a trip to California, and learned the Friday before I was to start
work that the position had been eliminated. I was devastated, but by Monday
I was ready to start job hunting again. Networking once again became important.
I didn't live in Missouri, but I did talk to Ed Reiman, the Placement Specialist
for the Bureau for the Blind in Missouri. My grandmother read the want ads to
me each Sunday, and we spotted an opening for an entry-level computer programmer
for the city of Kansas City, Missouri. Mr. Reiman had been talking to personnel
at the City about hiring the blind. When I went to the interview, I was just
another white-cane user in the crowded waiting area. Mr. Reiman said that he
hoped one of us would get the job. I was the applicant chosen.
During the next two years and nine months the employment market
in Kansas City remained poor. There were only thirteen programmers at the City.
Since no one left during this period, there were no promotions. I started the
parade of employees leaving the City. I had continued to talk with Roy during
my almost three years of city employment, and he eventually called to tell me
that the Department of Agriculture was doing some hiring. Once again I became
a federal employee. During my first day, I discovered I was not the only blind
person starting federal service on May 13, 1974. Dale Farasy from St. Louis,
Missouri, was also a new employee. He had just completed his training to become
a computer programmer. Roy's great success at the U.S.D.A. had already affected
the lives of two blind people. Success breeds success.
This year, after spending twenty-two years in the same branch and division, I felt it was time for a change. The Personnel Department established a mentoring program. I took full advantage of this self-improvement opportunity. Instead of becoming a mentor, I became a mentee and coupled myself with Joyce Scott, the assistant to the Deputy Director of Management responsible for the programming staff. During my two-month summer job in 1970, my desk had been directly in front of Joyce's. Now Joyce and I had several discussions about the evolution (perhaps revolution would be a better word) taking place in the data-processing industry. At her recommendation I attended a class called "Leadership for Reinvention."
During the six-day class we discussed the need for retraining
in today's employment market. I had been talking to Joyce about my continuing
problems with access to the new Microsoft Windows operating system and my frustration
at being under-utilized. She shared my concerns with her boss, and I was given
an opportunity to join the Equal Employment Opportunity staff, which is responsible
for technical expertise as well as statistical reports.
It appears that I am a welcome addition because of my computer
background coupled with my experience in the National Federation of the Blind.
My intent is to find solutions to current problems for our disabled employees
and to increase entry level employment and promotional opportunities within
the United States Department of Agriculture. Ironically, adverse circumstances
often lead to great changes. I'm happy to say that Microsoft's Windows barriers
turned into a window of opportunity for me. With a little bit of luck and a
whole lot of networking and, of course, the National Federation of the Blind,
I, like others, will continue to help blind people everywhere.
This year's scholarship program will be the fourteenth since
the organization determined to expand the number, variety, and value of the
scholarships we would present each year at our annual convention in July. Assisting
the nation's most talented post-secondary students to fulfill their academic
and professional dreams is one of the most effective ways for us to demonstrate
our conviction that blind people deserve the chance to enter whatever field
they demonstrate themselves equipped to succeed in.
Scholarships will be presented this year to twenty-six college,
vocational-school, and graduate students. The awards will range in value from
$3,000 to $10,000, and we will bring the winners as our guests to the 1997 convention
of the National Federation of the Blind to experience firsthand the excitement
and stimulation of a gathering of the largest and most dynamic organization
of blind people in the country today.
Again this year we plan to present three of the scholarships
to students who won scholarship awards in a previous competition. The purpose
of these special awards is to nurture in today's students an ongoing commitment
to the philosophy and objectives of the Federation. The students so designated
will be recognized and honored as the 1997 tenBroek Fellows. All current students
who were scholarship winners in previous years should take particular note of
this new program and consider applying for the 1997 National Federation of the
Every state affiliate and local chapter can help in spreading
the word of this extraordinary opportunity for America's blind students. Scholarship
applications have been or soon will be mailed to financial aid offices in educational
institutions around the country, but many of these will be filed away and forgotten
when students come to ask about financial assistance. It is very helpful to
have local representatives deliver or mail forms to the actual college administrator
who works with blind students. Being identified with such a valuable national
scholarship program gives the local chapter and state affiliate prestige and
respect, and the local touch insures that more blind students will actually
have an opportunity to apply for these scholarships.
Anyone can order scholarship forms from the Materials Center,
National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.
State Presidents and members of the 1997 Scholarship Committee will also be
sent scholarship forms. These may be copied as long as both sides of the form
are reproduced. Here is the text of the 1997 National Federation of the Blind
scholarship application form:
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND 1997 SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
Each year at its National Convention in July, the National
Federation of the Blind gives a broad array of scholarships to recognize achievement
by blind scholars. All applicants for these scholarships must be (1) legally
blind and (2) pursuing or planning to pursue a full-time post-secondary course
of study in the fall semester of 1997. In addition to these restrictions, some
scholarships have been further restricted by the donor. Scholarships to be given
at the National Convention in 1997 are
listed here with any special restrictions noted:
1 SCHOLARSHIP FOR $10,000
American Action Fund Scholarship -- Given by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, a nonprofit organization which works to assist blind persons. No additional restrictions.
3 SCHOLARSHIPS, EACH FOR $4,000
Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship -- Given in memory of Melva T. Owen, who was widely known and loved among the blind. She and her husband Charles Owen became acquainted with increasing numbers of blind people through their work in the "Voicepondence" Club. Charles Owen says: "There shall be no limitation as to field of study, except that it shall be directed towards attaining financial independence and shall exclude religion and those seeking only to further general or cultural education." Two National Federation of the Blind Scholarships; no additional restrictions.
22 SCHOLARSHIPS, EACH FOR $3,000
Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship -- Dr. Isabelle Grant endowed this scholarship in memory of her daughter. Winner must
be a woman.
Mozelle and Willard Gold Memorial Scholarship -- Endowed by
the energetic and effective former President of the National Federation of the
Blind of California, Sharon Gold, in loving memory of her mother and father,
both of whom were dedicated to creating opportunity for their daughter and for
all blind persons through Braille literacy and dedication to service. No additional
Frank Walton Horn Memorial Scholarship -- Given by Mr. and Mrs.
Charles E. Barnum, the mother and stepfather of Catherine Horn Randall. No additional
restrictions, but preference will be given to those studying architecture or
Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship -- Given in loving memory
of her parents, Charles Albert Kuchler and Alice Helen Kuchler, by Junerose
Killian, dedicated member of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut.
No additional restrictions.
E. U. Parker Scholarship -- Endowed by his wife, who joined
him in a lifetime of Federationism, this scholarship honors a long-time leader
of the National Federation of the Blind whose participation in the organization
stood for strong principles and strong support of the Federation's work.
Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship -- Winner must be studying
or planning to study in the fields of law, medicine, engineering, architecture,
or the natural sciences.
National Federation of the Blind Computer Science Scholarship
-- Winner must be studying in the computer science field.
National Federation of the Blind Educator of Tomorrow Award
-- Winner must be planning a career in elementary, secondary, or post-secondary
National Federation of the Blind Humanities Scholarship -- Winner
must be studying in the traditional humanities such as art, English, foreign
languages, history, philosophy, or religion.
Thirteen National Federation of the Blind Scholarships; no additional
CRITERIA: All scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic
excellence, service to the community, and financial need.
MEMBERSHIP: The National Federation of the Blind is an organization
dedicated to creating opportunity for all blind persons. Recipients of Federation
scholarships need not be members of the National Federation of the Blind.
MAKING APPLICATION: To apply for National Federation of the
Blind scholarships, complete and return the application on the reverse side
of this sheet, attaching to the application all the additional documents there
requested. Multiple applications are unnecessary. Each applicant will be considered
for all scholarships for which he or she qualifies. Send completed applications
to Mrs. Peggy Elliott, Chairman, National Federation of the Blind Scholarship
Committee, 805 Fifth Avenue, Grinnell, Iowa 50112; (515) 236-3366. Form must
be received by March 31, 1997.
REAPPLICATION: Those who have previously applied are encouraged
to apply again. It is the intention of the National Federation of the Blind
to award not fewer than three scholarships to men and women who have already
received one Federation scholarship in the past if enough strong and worthy
WINNERS: The Scholarship Committee reviews all applications
and selects the scholarship winners. These winners, the same number as there
are scholarships to award, will be notified of their selection by telephone
by June 1 and will be brought to the National Federation of the Blind convention
in July at Federation expense. Winners will participate in the entire convention
and in the scheduled scholarship program activities, beginning with functions
on Sunday, June 29, 1997. This is in addition to the scholarship grant. All
decisions by the Scholarship Committee are final.
The National Federation of the Blind convention is the largest
gathering of blind persons (more than 2,500) to occur anywhere in the nation
each year. You will be able to meet other blind students and exchange information
and ideas. You will also be able to meet and talk with blind people who are
successfully functioning in your chosen profession or occupation. Federal officials,
members of Congress, and the makers and distributors of new technology attend
Federation conventions. Above all, a broad cross section of the most active
segment of the blind population of the United States will be present to discuss
common problems and plan for concerted action. It is an interesting and exciting
AWARDS: The day before the convention banquet the Scholarship Committee will meet to determine which winners will receive which scholarships. The scholarship awards will be made during the banquet.
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION FORM
Read reverse side of form for instructions and explanation.
Form may be photocopied but only if reverse side is also included.
To apply for a scholarship, complete this application form and mail completed application and attachments to Mrs. Peggy Elliott, Chairman, National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Committee, 805 Fifth Avenue, Grinnell, Iowa 50112; (515) 236-3366. Form must be received by March 31, 1997. Name (please include any maiden or other names by which you have been known):
Date of birth:
School phone number:
Home phone number:
Institution being attended in spring semester, 1997, with class standing (freshman, senior, etc.):
Cumulative grade point at this institution:
Institution to be attended in fall of 1997, with class standing:
Send by separate letter if admitted to school after submitting completed application:
List all post-secondary institutions attended with highest class standing attained and cumulative grade point average:
High school attended and cumulative grade point:
State your major:
Awards and honors (attach list if necessary):
Community service (attach list if necessary):
Attach the following documents to completed application:
1. Personal Letter from Applicant. NFB scholarships are awarded
on the basis of scholastic excellence, financial need, and service to the community.
Send us a letter which tells us, in light of these criteria, why you rather
than someone else should get an NFB scholarship. In writing your personal letter
and in gathering your other attachments, design your application to put your
best foot forward for us.
2. Send two letters of recommendation.
3. Provide current transcript from institution you are now attending and transcripts from all other post-secondary institutions attended. If you have not yet attended such an institution or have not completed one year of study, send high school transcript.
4. Send a letter from a state officer of the National Federation of the Blind evidencing the fact that you have discussed your scholarship application with that officer. We prefer that you discuss your application with the Federation state president, but a letter from any Federation state officer will suffice. President's address provided upon request.
From the Editor Emeritus: It is no secret that I think Frank Kurt Cylke is doing a good job as head of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress. Obviously others share that opinion. I think Monitor readers will find the following release of interest. Here it is:
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) Library
for the Blind Board announced that Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National
Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress,
was the inaugural recipient of the Dr. Dayton M. Forman Memorial Award. This
annual award, introduced in 1996, is offered in memory of Dr. Dayton M. Forman,
who was an exceptional humanitarian and longstanding CNIB volunteer leader.
It recognizes outstanding leadership in the advancement of library and information
services for blind and visually impaired Canadians.
The award is a silver medal bearing the likeness of Dr. Forman
and a suitable inscription in print and Braille. Mr. Cylke was honored at a
special award presentation event, hosted by the Chair of the CNIB Library Board,
at the annual Canadian Library Association Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia,
on June 8. In announcing the award, Nancy Campbell, Chair of the CNIB Library
Board, said, "Kurt Cylke has distinguished himself in Canada and throughout
the world as a library leader who has made a difference for hundreds of thousands
of people who are unable to read print." She highlighted Cylke's leadership
in negotiating and obtaining distribution rights for an estimated 70% of the
unabridged books in Braille and audio formats available for blind and print-disabled
people to borrow from libraries across Canada. Among many other significant
accomplishments, Cylke conceived and has overseen the development of a database
of library materials available in alternate format from libraries around the
world, enabling ready access to these materials through interlibrary loan.
Dr. Euclid Herie, President and Chief Executive Officer, CNIB,
said, "There can only be one first! Kurt, we are all agreed that no one
person has earned the respect and merit commensurate with this award more than
your contribution to library services for the blind in your country, Canada,
and throughout the English-speaking and developing world. In a conversation
with Joan Forman on Sunday afternoon, she expressed her delight at your selection
with the comment that `It would have been Dayton's choice.' There can be no
greater tribute than that personal endorsement, and so I am sharing that with
you along with my own enduring respect for your contribution and the excitement
that there will be a very public and permanent recognition on the part of the
CNIB and your many friends and colleagues."
In 1994 Mr. Cylke was the choice to receive the Joseph W. Lippincott
Award, bestowed by the American Library Association (ALA) for a lifetime of
distinguished librarianship. The award was presented during the ALA Annual Meeting
in Miami Beach. Under Mr. Cylke's direction the number of users of Library of
Congress services has increased to more than 750,000 persons, ranging in age
from preschool to over 100. The budget of NLS has grown from $9.9 million in
fiscal 1973, when Mr. Cylke was named director, to almost $45 million in fiscal
1996. He joined the Library in 1970 as executive director of the Federal Library
Committee (now called Federal Library and Information Center Committee).
by David Pillischer
From the Editor Emeritus: From time to time different vendors
and producers of technology submit articles for consideration by the Braille
Monitor. The present offering is a case in point. David Pillischer has been
in the blindness field for a great many years in a number of situations and
positions. His present company, Sighted Electronics, both sells and repairs
a great variety of technology.
I know from personal experience that Mr. Pillischer has expertise in repairing and reconditioning Perkins Braillers because he has performed such service for us here at the National Center for the Blind. Also his prices are reasonable, and his work thorough and prompt. Anybody who needs to have a Brailler repaired or reconditioned (I assume the same would be true of the other technology he mentions in this article) would do well to contact him.
Other vendors and producers of technology are invited to submit articles to us for possible use in the Monitor. Meanwhile here is what David Pillischer has to say:
Sighted Electronics was established as a repair facility performing
CCTV and Braille-product repairs for V-Tek in 1983. Since then, as the industry
and technology have increased in scope and size, we have adapted to the changes.
Our policy is to stay current with an ever-changing industry. Sighted Electronics
employs people with extensive hardware and software backgrounds, investing a
great deal in their training. All of our technical personnel have had factory
training from various hardware and software providers.
We offer over twenty-five years of combined service excellence.
Sighted Electronics has provided technical support and service for products
from Perkins, Humanware, Pulse Data, TeleSensory, Thiel Braille Printers, Index
Braille Printer Company, Robotron (Ariea and Rainbow), TFI Engineering (Myna
Corporation), Papenmeier Braille Displays, and other companies in the adaptive
Sighted Electronics is the exclusive North American distributor and service center for Thiel Braille Printers and the Index Braille Printer Company. The Porta Thiel Braille Embosser is a low-cost, portable Braille solution. It weighs under ten pounds, has a carry handle fabricated into its design, and is available in single-side or interpoint-print versions. The big production Braille embossers we now carry are, of course, made by Thiel. Thiel high-end production embossers have often been called the world's most reliable Braille embossers. The new interpoint Thiel production embossers are capable of 800 pages of Braille per hour. We have new and rebuilt Thiel production units for sale.
The Index Braille embossers encompass revolutionary designs that are state-of-the-art, reliable, and available at very competitive prices. The Index Braille embosser has a speech-guided user interface available in many languages. It is a higher-speed, medium-production, single-side, or interpoint Braille machine. Index embossers are available with a tractor feed or multiple-page sheet-feed paper system. We provide localized support for these Braille embossers through our extensive dealer network, which enhances our ability to respond to your needs quickly. We can perform support and training on-site or in-house.
Sighted Electronics is an authorized distributor for Henter Joyce, Arkenstone, Digital Double-Talk, GW Micro, Duxbury, Zoomtext, and many other reputable companies in and out of the adaptive field. We are able to provide completely integrated computer solutions for work stations or students' classroom needs.
For further information about prices, availability of products,
performance features, or technology we can repair, please contact Sighted Electronics,
464 Tappan Road, Northvale, New Jersey 07647, telephone (201) 767-3977 or fax
(201) 767-0612 (An Equal Opportunity Employer). Visit us on the Internet http://village.ios.com/~sighted/
by Steve Britt
From the Editor: Steve Britt recently sent us the following short article. Mr. Britt is clearly a confirmed Optacon user, and his concerns seem to be shared by many who have found that piece of technology useful through the years. Here is what he has to say:
In a letter sent to state agencies by TeleSensory Corporation in January of 1996, the writer explains that TeleSensory is discontinuing production of the Optacon in December, 1996, and the company will continue to service existing units only until the end of the century. The letter further contends that there is enough new technology today, such as its scanner OSCAR, to make the Optacon unnecessary and outdated as an adaptive tool. I work as a programmer/analyst for the State of Illinois. I have been an Optacon user since 1979. I have also used OSCAR since 1993,and I would like to share my experience with interested readers.
1. Unlike the Optacon, OSCAR does not allow editing access to flow charts.
2. OSCAR works best as an adjunct to the Optacon, not as a
stand-alone system. Its scanning direction is horizontal, not vertical, or diagonal,
or backwards. It assumes that you know the format of a document before scanning
it. This means that, if you have no Optacon available, you will have no way
to look at a document before you scan it. OSCAR will tell you whether the page
is blank or if it's upside down. It does not tell you whether the copy is good
or poor. It will not tell you if the page has borders; in fact, it assumes no
borders. I got an incorrect scan recently when I forgot that a report form I
was scanning had
borders. You need to know whether the document is portrait (long dimension vertical) or landscape (long dimension horizontal).
OSCAR has an automatic columns detection default, but on a complex document such as an insurance form or some magazine articles, this default does not always work properly. For instance, I had to revert to the Optacon to read an article that had four columns spaced too closely together. OSCAR will not tell you if the text is underlined; it will not handle italics or inverse video fonts or mathematical expressions. I have not yet tried to read printed music with OSCAR. In short, with no prior knowledge of an incoming document's format, you might have to do several scans before your results are correct.
3. There are instances in which OSCAR will not give an accurate text translation. For example, suppose the document being read has an organizational logo, a script signature, or a diacritical mark to denote pronunciation of a word. OSCAR would probably show these items as stars, AT-signs, or tildes, depending on what the unrecognized character default is.
4. In some situations there are no one-for-one Braille equivalents for the printed characters. If you're a language student wanting to study an old or unusual language, such as Old English, or if you're a student of different cultures and want to study Sequoyah's Cherokee syllabary, using an Optacon would be the only way you could look at the characters.
5. OSCAR is not portable, as is the Optacon. You can't take it to a restaurant, hotel, or library; and you won't be able to take it to the next national election when it comes time to vote.
6. You will not be able to read instructions on a product's box or a TV dinner box with OSCAR.
I urge Optacon users to do two things:
1. Contact TeleSensory and make your concerns known about the
Optacon's discontinuation. Tell them how important your unit is to you, and
leave no doubt in their minds that the Optacon is a necessary adaptive tool
in today's world. The more input TeleSensory gets from Optacon users, the greater
the likelihood is that they'll rethink their decision. Remember, this is our
right as consumers.
2. Have your units checked regularly, and keep them working
for you as long as you can, while you still can.
From the Editor: The following article was taken from the Winter, 1996, issue of The Observer, a publication of the Montana affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind. Missoula Chapter member Dan Burke heard a piece on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" recently which prompted him to write a letter. A few weeks later a portion of his letter was read on the air. It is a good example for us all of the initiative we should take when we hear such nonsense. Here it is:
To: National Public Radio, Bob Edwards, "Morning Edition":
Re: Imprisoning the blind
Dear Bob Edwards,
Imprisoned by his blindness? Ah, the prisons of our minds; the
shackles and chains we place on the souls of our fellows! As I sat this morning
at my keyboard, working on an article about the ways language and attitudes
still discriminate against and limit people with disabilities, "Morning
Edition" sent an almost textbook illustration into the sanctuary of my
living room. It came in the form of your interview with the author (insert name,
I thankfully forget it) of a new James Thurber biography.
[Harrison Kinney] In the interview you, Bob Edwards, referred
to Thurber's "infirmities" which we later learned meant his blindness
and Thurber's anxiety not to be seen as blind. "Yes," said the biographer,
"He was imprisoned by his blindness." Bob, blindness is not a prison.
Yes, loss of sight is a loss. But what in life cannot be lost--innocence, possessions,
love, or breath itself? Neither is blindness black or white, as the author would
suggest. Also the vast majority of blind people have some vision. I am one of those. Having vision and being blind, therefore, are not
mutually exclusive. Certainly one might be tempted to wonder what Thurber might
have accomplished with his cartoons had he not lost his sight, but the suggestion
that he might have been diminished as a writer by his blindness is laughable
Imagine us saying, "Gosh, Paradise Lost is a pretty swell
book. It makes you wonder what old John Milton could have come up with if he
hadn't been blind." One can easily understand, then, why Thurber would
struggle with acknowledgement of his blindness, and insist (as he apparently
did) that he wasn't bothered by what other writers might be able to do.
Thurber's only mistake, it would seem, was to reject the blindness,
which he experienced as the cause of his shame. As Thurber's biographer amply
demonstrates via his own language, prejudice and limiting attitudes toward blindness
are the greatest barriers that Thurber confronted. The true prisons are the
confines of our minds.
I spent much of my life asking the jailor for the key--as Thurber seems to have done--and trying to trick my captors into letting me out on the premise of mistaken identity. It was not their mistake, but my own prison of attitudes about my blindness. The answer, I finally realized, was to get out yourself, to pick the lock or, even better, batter down the door.
Dan Burke, Access Coordinator
University of Montana
This month's recipes come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of Vermont.
by Dorothy Shiner
Dot Shiner, Frank Shiner's mother, has been active in blind issues in Vermont for over fifty years.
3 cups dry beans, (yellow-eyed, navy, or soldier)
4 tablespoons granulated or brown sugar
5 tablespoons molasses
2/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 pound salt pork
1 medium onion, if desired
Method: Pick beans over and let soak overnight in cold water.
Parboil in this water, adding a pinch of baking soda. Skim off froth as beans
boil. Let boil about fifteen minutes or until beans begin to soften slightly.
Drain and rinse with cold water. Place beans in bean pot or crock pot to bake.
Mix sugar, molasses, dry mustard, and ginger. Add hot water and stir until sugar
is dissolved. Slice salt pork and place around edge of beans in pot. Pour molasses
mixture over beans. Cover and let bake until well cooked. If beans become dry
on top, you may wish to add a little more water, and you may add more sugar
or molasses. If beans are too moist, cook uncovered for some time before serving.
by Kate Quinn
Kate Quinn is from Montpelier, Vermont. She is a new member with an interest in diabetic issues.
1 package yeast
1/4 cup warm (not hot) water
1 ounce maple syrup
1/2 tablespoon Tamari soy sauce
1 1/2 cup (or more) unbleached flour
2 ounces (or more) butter
1 cup milk (or more soy sauce) to make dough moist but firm enough to knead
Method: Combine and stir or beat all ingredients into a stiff
batter; add enough flour to make it a kneadable dough that is no longer sticky.
Form it into a ball after kneading. Place dough into a bowl that has been greased
with butter or oil. Cover with plastic or foil and place in a warm (80 degrees)
place (like the oven with only the gas pilot light for heat). Let rise for one
hour. Remove dough and knead. Return to same bowl and cover again with plastic
or foil. Let rise for ten minutes. Divide dough into as many balls as you want
rolls. (I usually make eight pretzel-shaped rolls.) Form rolls and place them
in a well-buttered baking dish with 1/4 inch between them. Cover the baking
dish with foil or plastic and let the dough rise for another ten minutes. While
you are waiting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and pop the uncovered baking
dish into the oven after the rolls have doubled. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees
after five minutes of the cooking time, which will vary but ought to be about
twelve minutes or a bit longer. When the rolls smell wonderful and are well
browned on top, they are probably done. Serve warm and soon.
CHICKEN WITH APOLOGIES TO THE ORIENT
by Kate Quinn
1 whole chicken (preferably a free-range bird that isn't too scrawny) or one pound of skinned, boned chicken torn into serving-size bites.
1 15-ounce can of Goya coconut milk (or a brand without sugar)
3 ounces peanut oil (more or less as needed)
3 ounces Tamari soy sauce (more or less as needed)
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1/2 ounce garlic powder
1/2 ounce onion powder
1 average carrot sliced into coins
1 small zucchini if in season or 1/2 package of frozen small peas
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger or a pinch of dried
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 to 5 dots of butter, margarine, or oil
Method: Clean the chicken. If it is whole, skin and bone it
and save the innards for soup. When chicken is in small, bite-sized pieces,
dredge them in flour and brown in a pan of hot peanut oil. Sprinkle on garlic
powder and onion powder and drizzle some Tamari sauce over the pieces as they
cook. Blend the raw onion bits into the drippings and sprinkle the ginger over
the chicken. Spoon the drippings over the chicken. Add the can of Goya coconut
milk and blend together with the juices. Add the carrot slices to the gravy
thus formed and put the whole thing in the oven at 400 degrees for about ten
minutes. Serve with rice or noodles. Will serve two very hungry people or four
by Kate Quinn
1 medium sized eggplant chopped into tiny pieces (skin on)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 garlic clove, finely minced
1 egg, or use tofu as a substitute
1/2 cup of bread crumbs (may need to adjust this amount)
1 tablespoon wheat germ
1 teaspoon nutritional (not baking) yeast
1 ounce peanut or other oil, approximately
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
1 pinch basil (or any herb you happen to like)
Method: Combine all ingredients in a bowl, except oil, adding
more bread crumbs if too moist to form patties. Form and pack the patties with
more bread crumbs or flour. Heat oil in the fry pan until very hot; cook the
patties on both sides adding a little more Parmesan cheese to the top and bottom
while cooking. Cook until golden. Remove and drain on paper towels or a clean
brown paper bag to make less greasy. Spatula patties onto a cookie sheet and
bake in a 350-degree oven for ten minutes. Keep warm until ready to serve. Serve
with rice or pasta, two vegetables, and a tomato sauce if desired.
SQUASH OR PUMPKIN PIE
by Jean Shiner
Jean Shiner and her husband Frank are members of the Vermont affiliate. Frank serves on the Board of Directors and is interested in technology.
2 cups sieved squash or pumpkin (both canned and frozen work well)
3/4 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
11/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
Method: Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Pour into an unbaked
pie shell. Bake in 350-degree oven. Pie is done when a knife inserted in center
comes out clean.
by Jan Dunlap
Jan Dunlap is from Bennington, Vermont.
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
5 turns cracked black pepper from a pepper mill
6 cloves garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
Method: Mix all ingredients in a large mason jar. Add to a mixture of two parts olive oil, one part balsamic vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon honey or sugar. This recipe should make a good bit of salad dressing, which can be stored in the refrigerator and used as needed. Begin with 1/2 cup vinegar and one cup olive oil. You may dilute further if the dressing is still too zippy for your taste. You can also try adding a little fruit juice to cut the sharpness of the vinegar. I use raspberry. Keep tasting till you get the flavor right.
More Good News about NFBNET:
David Andrews, the System operator for NFBNET, writes with the following information for Internet surfers:
If you have Internet access, you can now reach NFBNET, the National Federation of the Blind's official bulletin board service (BBS) from anywhere in the world at no cost. In response to many requests, we have finally put NFBNET on the Internet. You reach NFBNET using a function called Telnet. This service allows you to log in to a remote computer, namely NFBNET. We can support up to five simultaneous sessions at once, using a new digital phone service called ISDN. In addition, you can also send and receive Internet e-mail using NFBNET.
If you have a shell account, type "telnet nfbnet.org" (do not include the quotes) from your Internet service provider's system prompt. After a few seconds you will be connected directly to NFBNET. While most providers now automatically give you an eight- bit Telnet path, some do not. This means that you may have difficulty uploading and downloading files. If you have problems, send e-mail to email@example.com We will try to work your problems through. If you have a SLIP or PPP account, you will have to get a Telnet client for your computer.
Because of Internet limitations the smoothness of your connection can vary. Also upload and download speeds may fluctuate and are likely to be slower than with a modem. Also some people have reported problems downloading and particularly uploading. As we all gather more experience with these services, we will make additional information available.
As if this news weren't exciting enough, it is also now possible to subscribe to NFB Talk and Blind Talk, the two Fidonet-originated discussion conferences hosted on NFBNET. Yes, as a part of the Internet upgrade we were able to install an Internet mail gateway and Listserv software. To subscribe to NFB Talk, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org Leave the subject line blank and write "subscribe nfb-talk" (without the quotes) in the body of the message. To subscribe to Blind Talk, put "subscribe blindtlk" (without the quotes) into the body of the same or a different message. Note that one message can contain both subscribe commands.
If you wish to contact NFBNET in the old-fashioned way, we still have a modem number. It is (612) 696-1975. We look forward to serving you using this new and exciting medium. We have already had callers from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Egypt, and South Africa, as well as from all over the United States. Happy Internetting.
We recently received the following good news from the National Federation of the Blind of California:
On August 18 Jim Willows, President of the NFB of California, suffered a sudden ruptured aneurism in an abdominal vein and was rushed to the hospital. He underwent surgery and, after a forty- two-day hospital stay, is now home. He wishes to thank the many well-wishers who kept the cards and e-mails coming during the long siege. He is back at work and is beginning to reply to the mountain of e-mail still waiting. To add to the mountain, simply write to email@example.com. Your support of Jim and his family in the past months has demonstrated the close and loving community, which many, including Jim, have helped to build.
Quick Start Home Business Seminar:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Have you ever wished you could start a business in your home, doing something other than multi-level marketing, but just didn't know how? Now Talk-Me-Through Tutorials makes it possible. TMT Direct is happy to announce the release of the Quick Start Home Based Seminar by Phil Scovell. This six-tape seminar covers everything you need to get started, including more than 100 ways you can make money without ever leaving the comfort of your home. It will even assist the person who already has a home-based business by offering helpful tips, advice, and resources. Though using the talking computer for making money at home is the seminar's main focus, other avenues of home business which do not require a talking computer are also explored. What you need, on the other hand, is to get started, and now you have an affordable source of information.
Next year a special motivational talking magazine will be produced by Talk-Me-Through Tutorials. It will be directed toward helping you keep your business growing with helpful tips, resources, and personal interviews with successful people in business from all over the country. All those who purchase the Quick Start Home Business Seminar will receive a fifty percent discount toward this unique audio magazine subscription.
If you would like a detailed description of everything covered in the Quick Start Home Business Seminar, simply request it. Specify a response in e-mail, print, cassette, Braille, or diskette. For more information, contact Ray Lemos, 780 Post Street #26, San Francisco, California 94109, (415) 749-0240, e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
Important New Video Available:
It's OK to Be Blind, 1996, produced by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), filmed and edited by Myra Lesser, 1996, narration by James Omvig and Myra Lesser, is now available.
What is so special about the National Federation of the Blind National Convention? What can parents and blind children gain from this experience? Why should civic organizations, foundations, and other groups sponsor a family to attend this convention?
The National Federation of the Blind Convention is not just another excuse for a vacation. For parents of blind children it is a transforming, uplifting experience. Parents and their blind children frequently feel isolated and do not know where to turn for information and support. This event dispels feelings of fear and despair and replaces them with feelings of hope and confidence in the future for their children. Ignorance gives way to understanding through informative workshops and convention sessions. In the upbeat atmosphere created by some 2,500 blind people from all over the country, parents soon learn that it's OK to be blind.
This video, produced on home video equipment by Myra Lesser, a volunteer member of the NOPBC, depicts scenes from the 1995 NFB Convention. Parents and blind students at the convention talk about how the NFB, especially the NFB convention, has changed their lives. It provides compelling evidence of the need for parents of blind children to attend this event. The video is excellent for showing to civic groups, local parents' groups, educators, and any group possibly interested in sponsoring families to the National Federation of the Blind Convention.
The NOPBC has given a free copy of the video to every NFB state affiliate. Additional videos are available for $10 each. Make checks payable to NOPBC. Send to Myra Lesser, 137 Lesser Lane, Chicora, Pennsylvania 16025. For more information about NOPBC and the NFB Convention, contact Barbara Cheadle, President, NOPBC, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, (410) 659-9314.
The Merchants Division of the National Federation of the Blind met at the National Convention to elect the following to serve two-year terms: Charles Allen, President; Joe VanLent, First Vice President; Wayne Shevlin, Second Vice President; Kevan Worley, Secretary; and Don Morris, Treasurer. Elected to two-year terms on the Merchants Division Board were Norman Bolton, Carl Jacobsen, Don Hudson, and Larry Posont. Carry-over positions for two-year terms beginning July, 1995 are: Barbara Swygert, Pam Schnurr, Fred Wurtzel, and Jeff Pearcy.
Religious Materials Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I transcribe devotional leaflets and books by hand into Braille and send them free to blind and deaf-blind people. I transcribed The Miracle Book by Reverend Morris Cerullo into Braille and plan to transcribe other books into Braille. I am able to Braille scripture post cards, placing them in boxes which are known as "promise boxes" and available for a donation of $20 per box. (The metal boxes cost $12 each.) There are four different types of promise boxes.
Since my recent injury (broken ankle and back of foot) two surgeries, hospitalization, and nursing home stay, I'd like to correspond with people who are hospitalized and with those who are in nursing homes, because I know what it's like. I truly understand. I have tape-recorded a book, From the Valley of Death and Hell, to a New Lease on Life. It is available for a donation of $10 per copy. Would you like to hear from people who are in their own businesses? Contact Rev. Adelaide E. Wink, 59 S. Lee Street, Beverly Hills, Florida 34465-3640.
Natural Products Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Would you be interested in a line of all-natural products for yourself and family? I have information about such products. It costs nothing to sign up as a wholesale distributor. For information please contact (type or tape) Janet Triplett, 1818 S. 142 East Avenue, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74108-5526, or call (918) 438-3231.
Attention Optacon Users:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
TeleSensory recently launched the Optacon-Interchange Program to assist individuals interested in selling or purchasing previously-owned Optacons. The program makes available TeleSensory's resources for use by the Optacon community.
Sites have been created on TeleSensory's Web page and electronic bulletin board (BBS), where Optacon owners can post their units for sale. These sites will be administered by TeleSensory at no charge to participants. Owners wishing to be contacted directly by potential buyers should include contact information, selling price, and any other pertinent information in their listings. For those that prefer, the contact will be given as TeleSensory. TeleSensory will then forward information on interested parties as it is received. To be included in this service, contact Renee Clark at (800) 227-8418, ext. 3362. The Interchange Program also offers a ninety-day warranty option. Under this option, for a standard $95 service charge owners may send their units to TeleSensory for inspection and cleaning. Upon receipt, TeleSensory will examine the unit for defects and deficiencies and provide an estimate of costs for any needed repairs. The initial $95 charge will be applied to repairs performed.
Upon completion of any required repairs, TeleSensory will provide a ninety-day warranty covering parts and service. The unit will then be posted for sale on TeleSensory's Website and BBS with the notation that it has passed TeleSensory's Quality Assurance inspection and carries a ninety-day warranty. Any purchase inquiries will be forwarded to the current owner. It will be up to the current owner to negotiate any price changes and provide TeleSensory with written authorization to ship the product to the specified address. If the owner declines to repair his unit, it may still be posted for sale on the Website and BBS "as is," but it will be returned to the owner's possession. TeleSensory will hold repaired Optacons for a period of ninety days at no liability. If no instructions for sale have been received, the unit will be returned to the original owner.
Owners interested in the ninety-day warranty option should contact Emily Aguilar at (800) 227-8416, ext. 3211. The Optacon Interchange Program has been operating on a trial basis during the months of June, July, and August and may be discontinued at any time at TeleSensory's discretion. Any product still in TeleSensory's possession at the termination of the program will be immediately returned to the current registered owner. The program is available to U.S. residents only.
Jim Omvig, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona, recently notified us that Brad Craven, Husband of Carolyn Craven, the President of the Prescott chapter of the NFB of Arizona, died September 22 following a long battle with throat cancer. He had attended the Arizona affiliate's convention the week before his death. He was a loyal Federationist who will be deeply missed.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
National Technology for the Blind has for sale CCTV's from portable, handheld, lightweight See-More Auto Vision 5-inch and 9-inch ($850 to $1,350) and See-More Simplicity units, 14-inch to 20-inch desktop models, color or black and white. Prices range from $1,700 to $2,800. Call Clayton Wall at (207) 799-5091 for more information.
Also for sale, a used Braille 'n Speak 640 with Braille manual, cassettes, two disks, and PC-to-Braille 'n Speak cable, $950, will pay shipping. Call (207) 799-5091.
New Seedlings Catalog Available:
Seedlings Braille Books for Children announces that its new 1997 Catalog is now available. It contains over 270 low-cost Braille books for children ages one to fourteen. Thirty-eight new books have been added this year, including for pre-schoolers print-Braille-and-picture books like The Very Busy Spider and Pet the Baby Farm Animals; for beginning readers print-and- Braille easy-readers like Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat; for older children Newbery Award winners in Braille such as Shiloh; Walk Two Moons; Secret of the Andes; and selections from popular series such as The Baby-Sitters Club, Nancy Drew, The Boxcar Children, and Goosebumps.
Seedlings is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing high-quality, low-cost Braille books for children. To receive a free catalog or for more information, call 800-777-8552, or write to Seedlings, P.O. Box 51924, Livonia, Michigan 48151-5924 (and please note the new post office box number and zip).
Don Capps, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, writes to say that another new chapter raises the affiliate's chapter count to fifty-four. The York/Clover Chapter was organized on September 10. Elected to serve as new officers are the following: Franciena Hardy, President; Ted Mitchell, Vice President; Lenora Robertson, Second Vice President; and Demetris Hardy, Secretary/Treasurer.
Elected and Recovering:
We have recently learned that Lola Pace, one of the leaders of the NFB of Texas, is recovering after back surgery and hopes to join Federationists at the Washington Seminar and the 1997 National Convention. She reports that she is resuming the Presidency of the Wichita Falls Chapter now that 1996 scholarship winner Brenda Walburn has moved to Louisiana. Mary Barker will be replacing 1996 scholarship winner Jay Wolf as chapter Vice President.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Choco-Braille Braille greeting cards in chocolate: "Happy Birthday," "Thank You," "Season's Greetings," and more. The cost is $2.50 each, $3.25 with nuts. To place orders, contact Terry Dambinskas at 169-02 Crocheron Avenue, Flushing, New York 11358, (718) 359-4466.
We are saddened to report that on Friday, September 6, 1996, Jacqueline Doucette's twenty-five-year-old son James died suddenly. Jackie is President of the New Britain Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut, and James was engaged to be married. Our deepest sympathy goes to Jackie, James' fiance, Pam, and the rest of the Doucette family.
Bookstore with a Difference:
Tom Lally, a member of the Hartford Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut, reports that he has recently opened a book and gift store, The Complete Circle. Tom has a wide selection of self-help and recovery materials for individuals who are recovering from substance abuse, their families and friends, their counselors and care givers.
Tom is a relapse prevention specialist who invites you to call or e-mail him to discuss your individual needs. Some excellent books on tape are listed here. Each 60-minute book is $10 plus $2 shipping and handling. Send your orders to The Complete Circle, 62 Main Street, Stafford Springs, Connecticut 06076, (860) 684-2876. E-mail to Lallyo@aol.com
Books on tape: Choosing Happiness, the Art of Living Unconditionally by Veronica Ray; Intuition for Practical People, based on Helene Lerner-Robbin's Embrace Change and My Timing is Always Right; Men's Work, How to Stop the Violence That Tears Our Lives Apart, author Paul Kivel; To Thine Own Self Be True, the Relationship Between Spiritual Values and Emotional Health by Lewis M. Andrews, Ph.D.; Becoming Naturally Therapeutic, a Return to the True Essence of Helping, narrated by Jacquelyn Small; Co-dependent No More by Melody Beattie; Sunrise, Sunset, a Gentle Guide to Begin and End the Day by Christina Baldwin; Beyond Survival, a Guided Journey for Healing Childhood Sexual Abuse by Maureen Brady; From Anger to Forgiveness, Earnie Larsen with Carol L. Hegarty; The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie; and Beyond Co-dependency by Melody Beattie.
The Maryland Retailers Association, the retail industry's major statewide trade association, recently elected officers and
directors for the coming year. Don Morris, Treasurer of the NFB Merchants Division and owner of O'Leary's Emporium in Emmitsburg, Maryland, was chosen as one of the directors. Congratulations to Don.
Non-Traditional Casting Project Seeking Disabled Actors:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Non-Traditional Casting Project is updating its Artist Files, a national talent bank of artists of color, artists who are deaf or hard of hearing, or those who are blind or low vision or ambulatorily disabled.
NTCP was established in 1986 to address and seek solutions to the problems of racism and exclusion in theater, film, and television. The only organization of its kind in the country, NTCP's principal concerns are that ethnic and disabled artists are denied equitable professional opportunities, that this lack of participation is not only patently discriminatory but a serious loss to the cultural life of the nation, and that this has resulted in a theater that does not reflect the diversity of our society.
The Artist Files were established in 1987 to provide the profession increased access to actors of color and actors with disabilities. The Files have since been expanded to include all members of the production team (e.g. writers, directors, designers, stage managers, technicians, administrators). Resumes are accepted year-round. To date, the Files have been consulted for over 1,425 projects ranging from readings to regional theater to Broadway productions; independent films to features; daytime, prime-time, and television movies; as well as commercials, print ads, and industrials.
In 1992 NTCP began to develop Artist Files Online, a computerized version of the Artist Files. The Online system will allow users to access the Files from anywhere in the country. Both resumes and high resolution photographs will be transmitted over telephone lines for viewing on a computer screen. Artist Files Online is in the testing stage and should be fully operational by fall, 1996.
There is no charge for inclusion in the Artist Files/Artist Files Online. Actors should send one black and white photograph and resume to Angela Montague, Artist Files Online, NTCP, 1560 Broadway, Suite 1600, New York, New York 10036.
In addition, please indicate your cultural identification and, for disabled artists, any accommodation you may use. Directors or casting professionals who are interested in scheduling an interview will call you or your agent directly.
Arkenstone Maps Available:
We recently came across the following information:
The talking United States maps from Arkenstone are half price through December 31, 1996. Also Arkenstone now has a rent-to- purchase plan; you pay 8 percent per month for fifteen months. If interested in either program, please call (800) 407-5839 for details.
We have received a letter from a fourteen-year-old blind boy in Malawi, who would like to correspond in Braille with somebody in the United States. He is interested in English, mathematics, and history. He is: Latim Matenje, Palingunde F.P. School, P.O. Box A-36, Schiyala, Lilongwe, MALAWI.
New Edition of Classic Reference Work Available:
We recently received the following important notice:
James Wilson's classic editions of Biography of the Blind have been reissued with notes by research librarian Kenneth Stuckey of the Perkins School for the Blind in a commemorative edition sponsored by the Friends of Libraries for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals in North America (Friends) and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (NLS). James Wilson (1779-1845) was born in Richmond, Virginia, and raised in Belfast, Ireland. While on a voyage to England when Wilson was four years old, both of his parents died at sea, and he became blind due to smallpox. He was a self-educated man whose major literary interest was documenting the achievements of the blind.
Originally published in four separate editions from 1821 to 1838, this book, containing biographical sketches of blind individuals, is more than a look at past lives. It is a glimpse of the road that society has traveled in disabilities awareness up to the twentieth century in Europe and in America. The people portrayed by Wilson are blind men and women who vary in age, abilities, and status in life--from the legendary Homer and the mathematical genius Nicholas Sanderson to an obscure miser, Adam Mond. This reissue edition combines under one cover all the biographies found in each of the four Wilson editions.
To make this modern edition of Biography of the Blind more accessible, Mr. Stuckey arranges the biographies by field of interest and introduces each group with an essay giving up-to- date information as well as providing historical perspective.
As Kenneth Jernigan, president of Friends, states in his introduction, "Our [blind peoples'] dreams are also part of the historical fabric, reaching forward to the next generation as a heritage and a challenge and back through time to keep faith with James Wilson and others like him. History is not against us. The past proclaims it, the present confirms it, and the future demands it."
This reissue makes available to the public a book that, according to Mr. Stuckey, "gives an insight into the achievements and failures of the blind, a group within our society that too often has gone unnoticed and misunderstood."
The Friends will donate print copies of Biography of the Blind to all state libraries and selected international institutions. NLS will add the book to its collections in both Braille and audio formats, with availability to patrons anticipated in late 1996.
Individuals and institutions may purchase copies by contacting Friends of Libraries for the Blind, 1555 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 200, Washington, D.C., 20036, telephone (202) 462-9600, fax (202) 462-9043. Cost is $16.95 for the paperback edition, $22.95 for hardcover. Prices include shipping and handling. A free annual membership in Friends is included with the purchase of either edition.
For further information contact Robert E. Fistick, Head, Publications and Media Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., 20542, (202) 707-9279, (202) 707-0712.
Cookbook Tapes Available:
Yvonne Peacock, Secretary of the Odessa Chapter of the NFB of Texas, writes to remind readers of the availability of the chapter's cookbook. Variation Cookbook on Tape is for sale at $5 each. Note that the Tex Mex Hashbrown recipe featured in the July Monitor is on the tape. To place your order, write to Connie Eckard, 133 Peach Tree Road, Odessa, Texas 79763.
The NFB Materials Center has a new talking watch just in time for the holidays. It is a unisex watch and features hourly time report and alarm. Four styles to choose from: aquatic, geometric, paint splatter, and camouflage. Children and adults love them. Going fast at $10 each! (Include $3 handling).
Just arrived in time for 1997, a large-type 1997 appointment calendar. Large bold blocks for each day on a non-slick surface. Easy to see and to write on. These calendars are spiral-bound with a plastic cover. Cost is $10 plus $3 handling.
We also now carry a selection of low-vision items: large-type steno pad and bold-line writing pads, 20/20 pen, large-print check register, and large-print address book. For more information call the Materials Center, Monday through Friday 12:30 to 5:00 p.m. EST, (410) 659-9314, or write Materials Center, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD 21230.
Hoping to Buy:
Michael Floyd has asked us to carry the following announcement:
I am se. Children and adults love them. Going fast at $10 each! (Include $3 handling). Just arrived in time for 1997, a large-type 1997 appointment calendar. Large bold blocks for each day on a non-slick surface. Easy to see and to write on. These calendars are spiral-bound with a plastic cover. Cost is $10 plus $3 handling.
We also now carry a selection of low-vision items: large-type steno pad and bold-line writing pads, 20/20 pen, large-print check register, and large-print address book. For more information call the Materials Center, Monday through Friday 12:30 to 5:00 p.m. EST, (410) 659-9314, or write Materials Center, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD 21230.
Looking for Wildlife Videos:
We recently received the following inquiry from Ireland:
Although I cannot see, I follow most environmental/wildlife programs, and I would like to obtain videos of these. I would be delighted to get addresses where I might write to order them. Also, if readers might send me any that they no longer need, I would be ever so grateful for this. I would love to have a video wildlife collection. Contact Helen Lyne, 1 St. Brendan's Terrace, Station Road, Ardfert, Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland.
Instructional Music Tapes Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Traditional and popular Christmas music--for piano, keyboard, chord guitar, and organ (melody, chords, and words provided)--is available, clearly dictated on audio cassettes. Also available: classical, pops, show tunes, hymns, old favorites (beginners to advanced); piano method teaching and theory; and accompaniment tapes for instrumental and voice. I can also provide individualized instruction by correspondence. For more information call or write (no Braille, typed is preferred) Jeanine Linster, 409 30 Road, Grand Junction, Colorado 81504, (970) 434-8639. The name of the road really is 30.
New Yom Kippur Machzor Available:
The Jewish Heritage for the Blind is pleased to announce that a new large-print Hebrew/English edition of the Yom Kippur Machzor will be made available to those who have difficulty reading regular print. In order to obtain your free copy of the new Machzor, send your name and address; enclose a note from your eye care specialist confirming your condition; and mail or fax to the Jewish Heritage for the Blind, 1655 East 24th Street, Brooklyn, New York 11229, (718) 338-0653 (fax/phone). Please note that the Rosh Hashana Machzor is not available this year.
Hoping to Buy:
Michael Floyd has asked us to carry the following announcement:
I am searching for a used DEC Express for a friend. Please contact me if you know of or discover such an item. I will be most grateful. Contact Mike Floyd at 73442.2170@CompuServe.com.