THE BRAILLE MONITOR

Vol. 42, No. 3                                                                                                            April, 1999

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

ISSN 0006-8829

Vol. 42, No. 3 April, 1999

Contents

Why Am I a Federationist?

Legislative Agenda and Fact Sheets for 1999
        by James Gashel

Leave the Blind Guy Alone
        by David Milner

The Little Red Rabbit
        by Jeffrey T. Altman

Food and Fun in Atlanta
        by Al Falligan

Gray Pancakes and the Gentleman's Hat
        by Marc Maurer

A Federationist at Work

The Missing Piece
        by Barbara Walker

Finding Her Way
        by Karen Crowe

Let the Medals Jingle
        by Tonia Valletta Trapp

1999 Convention Attractions

Recipes

Monitor Miniatures

Copyright (c) 1999 National Federation of the Blind

[LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION: Every year in early February Federationists gather in their hundreds in Washington, D.C., to meet with their elected representatives about the issues of most pressing concern to blind citizens. This gathering provides the opportunity as well for divisions and committees to get together for specialized seminars and meetings. As usual, the first official meeting of the 1999 Washington Seminar itself was the 5:00 p.m. briefing on Sunday, January 31. The meeting was standing-room only again this year as President Maurer discussed recent events and Jim Gashel and Kristen Cox discussed legislative details. Pictured above are the first several rows of the audience and those seated at the head table.]

Why Am I a Federationist?

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Each year, usually on the last Saturday of January, the National Association of Blind Students (NABS) conducts a daylong seminar for students in conjunction with the National Federation of the Blind's Washington Seminar. This year was no exception. On Friday, January 29, high school and college students poured into Washington from across the country. The party that evening was great. The division finally resigned itself to the inevitable and admitted that the party was now just too big to fit into a hotel suite, so it was moved to a public room where the group had enough space to spread out and mingle.

Saturday morning Michael Baillif, an NABS Past President and now a tax attorney with Davis, Polk, and Wardwell, delivered the keynote address, which was a highly unusual exercise. Michael undertook to deliver a thoughtful speech entirely in words of one syllable.

The seminar was filled with excellent presentations, but one of the best was a panel presentation comprised of three students. Angela Howard is currently a Womens Studies Major at Guilford College in North Carolina. Mariyam Cementwala is on leave from the University of California at Berkeley and is a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Eddie Bell is a graduate student at Louisiana Tech. Their stories were deeply personal and moving. This is what they said:

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: Angela Howard]

Angela Howard

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A line from Lucille Clifton's poem "Listen":

We have always loved each other, children,

All ways; pass it on.

As a child I was loved as a daughter, as a student, and as a friend; but I was never loved as a blind person. I learned at a very early age that blindness was not a lovable characteristic. People told me over and over again how lucky I was that I had at least some vision--I wasn't completely blind. My parents repeatedly asked me if I could read that street sign or this newspaper. It seemed of absolute importance that I could. My teachers emphasized that I didn't have to use Braille or a cane, that I could get by without using the things that blind people found necessary. Through all these interactions I came to understand that it was not respectable to be blind--that blindness meant inferiority. I spent a great deal of time pretending that I could see. But deep down inside I knew that I was blind, and I had no hope of ever leading a happy life.

But the blind have our own consciousness which, though we have been organized since 1940, stretches back to the heart of every blind person whose life chances were diminished by negative attitudes. Our history encompasses every blind person who ever dared to imagine that one day things would be better for the blind. Since 1940 our consciousness has taken the form of the organized blind movement, and we have demanded that in all ways blind people be given the respect and opportunities afforded to every first-class citizen.

I had my first taste of organized love at the age of thirteen when I attended the first children's program at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. The staff at the Center offered me Federation love when they taught me Braille, showing me that I could read at competitive speed without headaches or embarrassment. They offered me Federation love when they put a long white cane in my hand and forced me to use it so that I could experience freedom of travel. And they offered me this love when they challenged me to face the important questions: Why are you ashamed to use alternative techniques when you know that they are more efficient? Why don't you think it is respectable to be blind? In all these ways they offered me the deepest of human love. They recognized that I was an individual, capable of freedom and dignity. This was a gift that I had never before received, and I accepted it gratefully.

I was overjoyed to learn the good news that blindness did not have to mean tragedy, dependency, or shame; and I was excited to spread the good news to the folks at home. I learned very quickly, however, that some are slower to accept good news than others. My family still spoke of the ways in which my life would be limited by my blindness. I began using a cane everywhere I went, and many of my friends were uncomfortable with this. One day I asked a friend if she wanted to go to the movies with me that night. "I don't know," she said. "Are you going to bring that?" She was pointing at my cane.

I spent a year in South Carolina when my father was on sabbatical. For part of that time I attended class with other blind students. Every day, when it was time for lunch, the teacher would line us up according to how much sight we had. The students would hold hands, and those with more sight would lead the others to the cafeteria. I would have none of this. I'd already tasted freedom and dignity, and I wasn't about to go back. So every day the students would hold hands and walk to the cafeteria, and I would walk by myself with my cane.

Back in Louisiana my teachers insisted that I use the CCTV instead of Braille. Concerned by my new radical philosophy, they asked another teacher who was herself visually handicapped to explain to me that I needed to accept that there were certain things I just couldn't do. They weren't talking about driving a car. They were talking about carrying my own tray in the cafeteria, managing the crowd in the junior high hallways, and competing on terms of equality with my sighted peers. These teachers eventually adopted a more positive philosophy about blindness, but nevertheless I learned a valuable lesson from my experiences. I learned that I needed a family of other believers. I learned that I needed a constant reminder that the organized blind have always loved me, have always believed in my capabilities. I learned that I needed the National Federation of the Blind.

I'm a Federationist for two reasons. First of all, I need the Federation. I have called on you many times during my years as a college student. When I wanted to take part in a three-day excursion into the wilderness, everyone else told me I was crazy. You told me that, though I might be crazy for wanting to do it, I wasn't crazy for believing that I could. I've turned to you for answers to logistical questions: what is the best way to go about hiring readers? How did you handle your lab science courses? But, most important, I've turned to you for those much-needed reminders that there are others in the world who believe that blind people can truly live lives of full participation. You have often reminded me that you too are chipping away at negative attitudes and that someday the wall will fall.

I'm a Federationist because I need the Federation, but I am also a Federationist because the Federation needs me. The Federation needs each and every one of us. This movement, which has been growing in strength and number since 1940, will not survive on its own. It is up to us to continue to carry the torch of freedom and dignity.

Last week as a friend and I were walking home from the swimming pool, I tripped on a flight of stairs and did not walk, but flew my way to the bottom. We laughed for at least five minutes, and then she asked me, "Why weren't you using your cane?" I realized in that moment that I had made a Federationist out of her. A non-Federationist would never have laughed at a poor blind person who fell down the stairs. A non-Federationist would have apologized profusely for not warning me of the obstacle ahead of time. But my friend did what any good Federationist would have done in that moment--she made fun of me.

This is how we are going to make life better for blind people. It's by changing the attitudes of everyone we come in contact with. Sometimes we'll do it in little ways, and sometimes we'll do it in big. But we must continue to do it. We owe it to ourselves, to those who came before us, and to those who come after us to continue and always contribute to this movement. This means using our energies and love to strengthen the bonds among us. This means to work on our attitudes in our own daily lives. This means to offer to others the gift of Federation love, which we have so graciously been given. This means to pass it on.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mariyam Cementwala]

Mariyam Cementwala

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Why am I a Federationist? I joined because it seemed to be the right thing to do. I'll begin by talking about Kantian ethics, which is based on the premise that you do everything based on a motive, and if the motive is right, then the deed is right. When I joined the Federation, I did not follow Kantian ethics because--I suppose it is time for me to confess--like several of you--maybe many in this room--I joined the Federation for what I now think of as all the wrong reasons. But I stayed around for all the right ones, so the deed is right, but maybe the motive was wrong.

Let me tell you how I got involved. I was a scholarship winner in 1997 at the New Orleans Convention. So of course there was the money. I got involved for the money. At the New Orleans convention I met many charming, handsome people, men--yes they were men. Nathanael [Wales] also got it right--the chocoholics' bar. I discovered that place on my last night. Otherwise I would have been a regular there--they would have had to save a seat for me, maybe a bedroom. As I say, I joined the Federation for all the wrong reasons, but I stayed for the right ones.

What attracted me to the Federation was the fact that I saw people who were comfortable with who they were, who were humble, and in their own way amazing, but they were amazing not because they were blind. I came to the Federation because I made many friends, and they say that your friends are your chosen family. One friend asked me to come to the California state convention in 1997. So I went hesitantly, trepidatiously, thinking, well, all right, so I'll go to the state convention, but really what's in it for me? (At some level aren't we all here because we all think: Why am I here; what's in it for me?) There were a state scholarship, interesting people, food, and the glamour of the Federation. After all, you get to travel places and do things.

It was fun to meet new students, and it was also kind of scary because I came from what I would describe as the gray zone, where you live in the dimness of night and the half light of day. What is that? People say to you, "You can still see some." But you realize that you really can't. So you go about your life pretending in the little things. You see, I had great goals; I still do. I'm a political science major at Berkeley and an Arabic minor, and I want to go into middle eastern relations. Those are great goals, but there are so many little things in life that I was overlooking. In high school I was a very two-dimensional person. People saw me as two-dimensional--they saw me as smart and they saw me as that girl who couldn't see well, who was half blind. The Federation was the first place where I learned that I was really blind and that it was okay to be blind.

I lived in this world of the light and the half light--I could see during the day and not at night. It was a very strange and crazy situation because retinitis pigmentosa can be strange. How do you conduct yourself when you can see part of the time and not the rest? I was afraid of the little things like going to dark restaurants. When I go to a restaurant, I must have a chocolate milk shake, and, of course, I love the fact that these chocolate milk shakes come in huge glasses, but then you have a steel pitcher which is filled with another chocolate milk shake, but you have to pour that pitcher into the glass. And it's dark, so how do you do it without a spill? Well, the Federation was really the first place that I asked. I asked a friend, "How do you do it, and you are totally blind?"

My friend said, "Well you just kind of feel." My friends have taught me many things. They taught me how to be a good traveler. I used to use a short cane, and I thought it was the best thing on earth. I remember last year, when I had my first Washington Seminar, Maria Morais said to me, "Mariyam, how can you walk with that cane!" In a subtle way the Federation changed me into a person I didn't know I had the potential to become. Now I use a long white cane and am in the process of learning Braille and building my speed at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. The Federation got me involved in training and gave me the desire to learn blindness skills. That was important.

But those are changes which mark a greater change in my personality. Before I met the Federation, I said that I could do things. But actually doing things and doing them independently is very rewarding. Without the Federation I would never have gone alone across the country on a train trip to Vermont, which is sort of in the middle of nowhere, to learn Arabic for nine weeks in a very intense and rigorous summer program. I had to bite the bullet because I didn't have all the blindness skills, so my grades definitely suffered a bit. But because I had the confidence actually to pursue something, I realized that things can be done, that blind people really can live independent, competent lives. People in the Federation showed me how to live just by being who they were, being physicists and chemists--when I thought blind people could never do science--by traveling to Paris alone on a whim because they felt like it. That was the really exciting part about being in the Federation.

Leaders in the Federation teach us many things, and some leaders in society do too. A good leader teaches you how to respect him or her. But a great leader teaches you how to respect yourself. I will close by saying this: all of us go through times in life when we are in the doldrums. For me it wasn't even about blindness; it was just about finding out who I was and where I was going and about realizing that life isn't about just getting by but about setting higher expectations for myself. I didn't know what to expect and where to go and what to do and who to go to.

People in the Federation did something remarkable for me, whether they were friends, staff at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, or people I had just met. When I was going through the doldrums, they saw in me the potential to be a leader and to give. By giving me time, advice, support, and instruction, they taught me that in big ways and small I can give too. They also taught me by helping me to understand what a remarkable experience it is to receive the gift of friendship and support and to give these to somebody else. For these things I am eternally grateful.

In March of 1997 I spoke to a group of fifty blind high school students. I asked a friend what I could say to these kids. They were students at the California School for the Blind or came from other schools in California. But either they didn't quite know that they were blind or they weren't sure what to do about it. My friend said "Mariyam, they really aren't going to remember what you say; all they are going to remember is that somebody who was blind and who was also confident came to talk to them. They will remember that she told them that things were okay and that she was doing fine. Their conclusion will be that they can do fine too." In a small way that is what my Federation friends have taught me about the Federation. They have taught me how to give, and I encourage you to do the same because it is deeply rewarding.

Back to my beginning point about Kantian ethics. You see, I joined the NFB for all the wrong reasons, but I'm here today at my second Washington Seminar for all the right ones. I think what I've received is the spirit of the Federation. Dr. Maurer put it well. He said, "Mariyam, the money will come and go, but it's the spirit that started this organization, and it's the spirit that's going to keep it alive." That's why I'm here; that's why I am a Federationist.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: Edward Bell]

Edward Bell

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What is life? Does it simply mean having breath in your body and a strong heartbeat? Well, maybe, but to most of us it means a great deal more. It means learning, experiencing, loving, and finding a purpose in our existence. We all have life, but we don't all have the same opportunity truly to live.

I grew up as a pretty normal sighted child. My family lived in a poor section of Albuquerque, where my father worked in construction and my mother was a homemaker. My siblings and I did not have many material possessions, but we had a strong, loving, happy family. Life was pretty good until I reached age fifteen. In 1990 my father passed away after a long bout with cancer. Within a year my family was evicted from the low-income housing which had been our home. After some disagreements with my mother, I moved in with my brother, and our family kind of split apart. It was about this time that life started to seem discouraging and unpleasant. I began going through the motions of school and work but not really enjoying life. I started skipping school, partying, and generally going down the wrong path.

Then, in 1992, I was shot in a drive-by shooting, which resulted in total blindness. Knowing nothing about blindness except the negative stereotypes and misconceptions, I was in total despair. After leaving the hospital, I returned to my brother's house and waited to die. It was at this time that I stopped living altogether and simply continued existing. In 1993 my sister and nephew were in a horrible car accident, and I also lost several friends to street violence.

Not knowing what else to do, my mother began researching available services that might help me adjust to blindness. Fortunately she found the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. I attended the training center, where I spent seven months learning cane travel, Braille, and the necessary skills of blindness. More important, however, I found the National Federation of the Blind. Please understand me: I didn't run to this organization with open arms. I was skeptical and did everything I could to avoid becoming involved. I had never belonged to other organizations and saw no reason to begin with a group of blind people. Nevertheless, I attended my first National Convention in 1993, but the importance of the National Federation of the Blind did not strike me until I began attending college and obtained my first job.

I had no desire to return to college, but constant support and encouragement from friends in the National Federation of the Blind finally convinced me to give it a try. Beginning college forced me to start facing life again and finding purpose for my existence. Working for the Louisiana Center for the Blind in 1994 offered me my first opportunity to give back some of the skills, knowledge, and confidence I had gained. My early successes made clear to me that none of it would have been possible without the National Federation of the Blind.

Let me speak for a moment about vision. When we think of vision, most of us think of eyesight. What I am thinking about requires a much broader definition. I am talking about a vision of life, specifically, that which the NFB has helped me to regain. When I was a child, I had dreams of joining the military, raising a family, and acquiring money and status. In the early 1990's, however, I lost this vision and focused only on my blindness and limitations. Not only had I lost my eyesight, but I had abandoned my dreams and hopes for the future.

Slowly but surely I have regained my vision. My eyes are as blind today as they were six years ago, but I now have the vision that I had truly missed. This vision began returning only after I became active in the NFB--attending state and National Conventions, making new friends, succeeding in college, and gaining stability in my personal life. These have been the tools that have assisted me in rebuilding my hopes and dreams for the future. Because we are blind, we often spend too much time focusing on eyesight and convincing others that we are capable of normality. But by investing my time in the efforts of the NFB and focusing on my own plans, I have begun to regain the vision I was missing. Like many blind people I thought that only eyesight could improve my life. I now know that persistence and a wise investment in the National Federation of the Blind can give you more vision than any doctor or rehabilitation plan.

So what is a Federationist, and why am I one? I believe that a Federationist is someone who has devoted his or her life to the organization. I do not mean devotion simply because someone else said it was a good idea but because of witnessing firsthand its importance. In fact, many Federationists will tell you that they cannot conceive what their lives would have been like without the NFB, and I believe them.

Those of us who call ourselves Federationists with pride have found a niche in this organization and a common purpose that we believe is worth working toward. There is no secret initiation, no key to becoming a Federationist. Most of us have the capacity to be Federationists even if we don't know it yet. Everyone who seeks happiness, success, and a place where we fit and know we belong can find a home in the NFB.

Why am I a Federationist? Words are inadequate. I can say that the NFB has truly given me my life back and an even better one than I thought existed. You may be thinking, "But you're still blind. How can you think such a thing?" I can say it because I now have something much more important than eyesight; I have insight into my own potential and an accurate vision of the life that I am already acquiring. This realization has motivated me to dedicate my life to the work of the National Federation of the Blind and makes me proud to call myself a Federationist.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: James Gashel and Kristen Cox]

Legislative Agenda and Fact Sheets for 1999

by James Gashel

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From the Editor: Hundreds of Federationists armed with blue NFB presentation folders swept through the six Congressional office buildings for three days beginning Monday, February 1. They sat down with Senators, Representatives, and members of their staffs to discuss issues of importance to blind Americans. Here are the texts of the legislative agenda and the three fact sheets they delivered and discussed:

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LEGISLATIVE AGENDA OF BLIND AMERICANS:

PRIORITIES FOR THE 106TH CONGRESS, FIRST SESSION

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Public policies and laws affecting blind people have a profound impact throughout our entire society. Most people know someone who is blind. It may be a friend, a family member, or a coworker on the job. In fact, as many as fifty thousand Americans become blind each year, and the blind population in the United States is estimated to exceed 700,000. By themselves these numbers may not seem large, but the social and economic consequences of blindness directly touch the lives of millions and, at least indirectly, have some impact on everyone.

Public policies and laws that result from misconceptions or lack of information about blindness are often more limiting than the loss of eyesight itself. This is why we have formed the National Federation of the Blind. The Federation's leaders and the vast majority of its members are blind, but anyone is welcome to join in the effort we are making to win understanding and equality in society.

Our priorities for the first session of the 106th Congress reflect an urgent need for action in three specific areas of vital importance to the blind this year.

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(1) Congress should reinstate the policy of an identical earnings exemption threshold for blind and senior citizen beneficiaries under title II of the Social Security Act. This proposal seeks to reduce (or eliminate altogether) the work disincentive of the Social Security earnings limit as it now affects blind beneficiaries. In spite of a 1977 law to maintain the same earnings exemption threshold for blind people and age-sixty-five retirees, a decision was made to exclude the blind when the threshold was raised for seniors in 1996. This means that a lower blind persons' earnings limit of $13,320 is now in effect as compared to $15,500 for seniors. By 2002, when the seniors' exemption becomes $30,000, the blind persons' lower limit will be less than half that amount unless the law is changed.

People of working age who are blind must not be forgotten as Congress considers further changes in the earnings limit or the elimination of the limit altogether. Just as with hundreds of thousands of seniors, the positive response of blind people to higher earnings exemptions will bring additional revenues into the Social Security trust funds. The chance to work, earn, and pay taxes is a constructive and valid goal for senior citizens and blind Americans alike. For more details and an explanation of the need for this legislation, see the fact sheet entitled "Winning the chance to earn and pay taxes: How the blind person's earnings limit in the Social Security Act must be changed."

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(2) Congress should amend the Copyright Act to require the deposit of a nonvisual, electronic format edition of any publication submitted to the Library of Congress for registration. This proposal seeks to create a workable and cost-effective means for publishers to support the efficient conversion of printed matter for nonvisual use. For blind people, the inability to read standard printed text can severely limit both the quantity and type of information available. Of the 62,000 books published each year, less than 4 percent are reproduced in accessible formats for the blind, largely because of the difficulty and expense of converting printed matter into electronic text suitable for nonvisual use.

The proposal would reduce the work and cost involved in making this conversion. Section 407(a) of the Copyright Act requires two copies of the "best edition" of a work to be submitted to complete copyright registration. The proposed amendment would add the condition that an electronic version, prepared in accordance with standards prescribed by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress, must also be submitted. Also, since authorized nonprofit or governmental entities have the right to reproduce published works as specified in section 121 of the Copyright Act, the amendment would provide access for such entities to obtain copies of electronic works submitted to the Library of Congress.

In an age in which timely access to information is more crucial than ever before, amendments to the Copyright Act could help the blind by putting a process in place for the prompt conversion of published works into specialized nonvisual media and by supporting that process with a workable, logical, and cost-effective approach. For more details and an explanation of the need for this legislation, see the fact sheet entitled "Access to information for blind persons: How copyright amendments can help."

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(3) Congress should promote literacy among the blind through efforts to expand the national telephone-access NEWSLINE(R) network. In 1931 Congress created a national Books for the Blind program. This program, administered by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) of the Library of Congress, is the principal source of books and magazines for blind adults. Due to the time required for reproduction of Braille or audio editions, however, reading matter that is time-sensitive (such as daily newspapers) is excluded from the NLS service.

Now there is NEWSLINE for the Blind(R). This is a service which uses modern telecommunications technology to bring newspapers directly to blind readers at the time that the print publication is released. With NEWSLINE(R)--and a touch-tone telephone to access the service--blind persons can select articles from local or national newspapers and listen to the information in full-word synthetic speech. NEWSLINE(R) started in 1994 with a pilot demonstration site in the Washington/Baltimore area. Since that time the network has expanded to serve forty-eight communities in twenty-two states. However, the need to bring this service into states and communities not being served is substantial. With the help of members of Congress blind people in each state and Congressional district could have access to the necessary information found in newspapers. For more details on this service and the help which every member of Congress can provide to build the NEWSLINE(R) network, see the fact sheet entitled, "Technology and Literacy: Reaching the Blind in the Information Age."

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Blind people are asking for your help to address the priority issues described in our current agenda. By acting on these priorities in partnership with the National Federation of the Blind, each member of Congress can help build better lives for the blind both today and in the years ahead.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: The Honorable Robert Ehrlich stands in the Conference Room at the National Center for the Blind immediately before a press conference announcing his intention to introduce legislation re-establishing linkage. Mary Ellen Jernigan and Barry Hond can be seen in the picture.]

FACT SHEET

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WINNING THE CHANCE TO EARN AND PAY TAXES

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HOW THE BLIND PERSON'S EARNINGS LIMIT IN THE

SOCIAL SECURITY ACT MUST BE CHANGED

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Proposed Legislation--Short Title: "The Blind Persons' Earnings Equity Act"

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Purpose: To restore the linkage between the earnings exemption threshold for blind persons and the exemption allowed for retirees at age sixty-five under title II of the Social Security Act

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Background: As the result of a 1996 law to raise the debt limit, senior citizens age sixty-five to seventy are encouraged to continue working while retaining entitlement to Social Security benefits. This is being done by annual changes in the exempt earnings threshold, which is $15,500 in 1999 and will increase to $30,000 by the year 2002. In making the case for this change, advocates in Congress explained that more senior citizens would have the opportunity to work, earn, and pay taxes, since they would not lose income from Social Security by working.

In spite of a law passed in 1977 to establish the earnings exemption threshold for blind people at the exempt amount used for seniors, a decision was made in 1996 to exclude the blind from the higher exemptions. This means that a lower earnings limit of $13,320 for blind people, as compared to $15,500 for seniors, is now in effect for earnings in 1999. By 2002, when the exemption for seniors becomes $30,000, the lower limit for the blind is expected to be approximately $14,800.

Earnings of this amount for a blind person who is age sixty-four will cause the complete loss of Social Security benefits until the individual becomes a retiree at age sixty-five. At that point the same individual is allowed to earn more than twice the amount allowed for the blind. This is the inequity that now exists.

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Existing Law: Section 216(i) of the Social Security Act defines "blindness." Therefore, blindness--as with age--can be determined with reasonable certainty. By contrast, "disability" is not precisely defined and is determined on the basis of "inability to engage in substantial gainful activity." Compared to evaluating blindness, this is a complex and fairly subjective determination in many cases.

Although blindness is precisely defined, monthly benefits are not paid to all persons who are blind but only to those whose earnings (if any) are below the annually adjusted limit. Personal wealth not resulting from current work activity does not count as earnings and has no effect on eligibility. Only work is penalized. It was the recognition of this fact that led to the greater exemption of earnings now allowed for seniors, and the situation for blind people is precisely the same.

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Action Requested: Congress should reinstate the policy of an identical earnings exemption threshold for blind and senior citizen beneficiaries under title II of the Social Security Act. Legislation to achieve this objective has been re-introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate during the 106th Congress. Although similar bills did not advance beyond introduction in the 105th Congress, an impressive list of cosponsors indicates that substantial, bipartisan support exists in both the House and the Senate.

The National Federation of the Blind strongly supports this legislation. By creating a lower earnings limit for the blind, the action in the 104th Congress has resulted in a harsh work disincentive policy which is widely regarded as an inequity created in the rush to pass the 1996 debt-ceiling bill.

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Need to Remove Work Disincentives: Mandating the adjustments in the earnings limit for blind people in the manner now allowed for age-sixty-five retirees will provide more than 100,000 blind beneficiaries with a powerful work incentive. Most blind people could then not lose financially by working. Moreover, the mandated earnings limit changes would be cost-beneficial since among those of working age most blind people are already beneficiaries. At present their earnings must not exceed a strict limit of $1,110 per month. When earnings exceed this exempt amount, the entire sum paid to a primary beneficiary and dependents is abruptly withdrawn after a trial work period.

When a blind person finds work, there is absolutely no assurance that earnings will replace the amount of lost disability benefits after taxes and work expenses are paid. Usually they do not. Therefore few beneficiaries can actually afford to attempt substantial work. Those who do will often sacrifice income and will certainly sacrifice the security they have from the automatic receipt of a monthly check.

This group of beneficiaries--people of working age who are blind--must not be forgotten now that the earnings exemption has been raised for seniors. Just as with hundreds of thousands of seniors, the positive response of blind people to the higher earnings exemptions will bring additional revenues into the Social Security trust funds. The chance to work, earn, and pay taxes is a constructive and valid goal for senior citizens and blind Americans alike.

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FACT SHEET

ACCESS TO INFORMATION FOR BLIND PERSONS:

HOW COPYRIGHT AMENDMENTS COULD HELP

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Background: For blind people the inability to read standard printed text can severely limit both the quantity and type of information available. This is due in large part to forces of the marketplace which favor mass production of printed matter to reach sighted people who will buy it and use it. Simply put, publishers do not consider formats other than standard print to be cost-effective since Braille or audio formats are expensive and complex to reproduce.

Therefore the conversion of reading matter into Braille or other usable formats for the blind is done by nonprofit or governmental entities as a public service in virtually every instance. While recent changes in the Copyright Act now allow these entities to convert information without permission from the publisher, performing the work involved is still lengthy, expensive, and cumbersome. This is so because producing a specialized-format version from the printed text of the publication involves a labor-intensive process of scanning or manual input of the original information. As a consequence the quantity of printed matter so converted for use by blind people will continue to be quite small until a means to maximize the use of nonprofit or governmental resources is devised.

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Existing Law: Section 121 of the Copyright Act limits the exclusive rights of copyright owners by allowing "authorized entities" to reproduce and distribute non-dramatic literary works in "specialized formats" for the exclusive use of blind or disabled persons who qualify for services through a national program supported by the Library of Congress. The term "authorized entities" includes nonprofit or governmental agencies that have a primary mission to provide specialized services relating to training, education, adaptive reading, or information access needs of blind or other persons with disabilities. "Specialized formats," which can be reproduced under this section, include Braille, audio, or digitized text used for exclusive distribution to blind or disabled persons.

This right to republish text in specialized formats resulted from a 1996 amendment to the Copyright Act which swept away the prohibition on converting printed works into Braille or audio versions without the publishers' consent. The change has helped, since obtaining permission--as required by prior law--led to needless and time-consuming delays in the production of books for the blind. The delays which remain could be reduced even further, or virtually eliminated, with the use of modern-day electronic communications methods. Significant improvements in publishing for people who are blind will not occur, however, unless the effort is supported by further changes in the Copyright Act.

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Proposed Legislation: Congress should amend the Copyright Act to require the deposit of a nonvisual, electronic-format edition of any publication submitted to the Library of Congress for registration. This proposal seeks to create a workable and cost-effective means for publishers to support the efficient conversion of printed matter for nonvisual use. Registration, as now performed under section 407(a) of the Copyright Act, is handled by the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress and presently requires two copies of the "best edition" of a work to be submitted to complete the copyright registration. The proposed amendment would add the condition that an electronic version--prepared in accordance with standards prescribed by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress--must also be submitted in order for the registration of the copyright to be complete.

Also section 407(b) of the Copyright Act specifies that the copies required for registration "shall be deposited in the Copyright Office for the use or disposition of the Library of Congress. Therefore, in order to support the efforts of "authorized entities" under section 121 of the Act for reproduction of published works in specialized formats, the proposed amendment would require the Library of Congress to provide such entities with access to the published versions of electronic text. The electronic text would also be immediately available for use by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress for convenient and cost-effective use in its book production process.

Need for Legislation: In passing the 1996 amendments creating a right to republish in specialized formats, Congress acknowledged the barriers for the blind in obtaining access to literary works intended for mass distribution. In light of this the proposed amendments are the next logical step to take toward a comprehensive, national solution. At present fourteen states have already enacted laws to require publishers to supply electronic versions of textbooks sold to school districts. However, these provisions are largely not effective because no single national standard or process exists for depositing or retrieving the electronic text files.

In contrast to sighted people, who are able to purchase a plethora of reading matter from readily available commercial sources, blind people have tax-supported, specialized libraries as virtually their only source of published literature. Consequently, even though approximately 62,000 new books are published in the English language each year, fewer than 4 percent are reproduced for use by the blind. Moreover, much of that which is reproduced becomes available for blind people long after its general circulation in print.

For blind people this means that information of value for learning, work, and social integration may not be available when the need exists. In a society whose members increasingly depend upon access to information for successful living, blind people cannot afford to endure a growing gap in access to knowledge. Amendments to the Copyright Act could help, however, by putting a process in place for the prompt conversion of published works into specialized, nonvisual media and by supporting that process with amendments to the Copyright Act for a workable, logical, and cost-effective approach.

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FACT SHEET

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TECHNOLOGY AND LITERACY
REACHING THE BLIND IN THE INFORMATION AGE

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Background: In 1931, with the passage of the Pratt-Smoot Act, Congress created a national "Books for the Blind" program and placed it within the Library of Congress. Before that time the efforts to provide reading matter to the blind were scarce and scattered throughout the country, and a coordinated approach to transcribing books into Braille did not exist.

Today, after sixty-four years of operation, the program known as the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has been an unqualified success, demonstrating the wisdom of national coordination in the specialized transcription of books and magazines on behalf of blind people. In fact, the NLS is the principal resource used to provide Braille and recorded reading matter through cooperation with state and local libraries throughout the United States.

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Current Constraints: With an annual appropriation of $46,824,000 for fiscal year 1999, the NLS program can only pay for approximately 2,405 books and 72 popular magazines to be reproduced in Braille or recorded audio versions. This means that newspapers, which are read and discarded by sighted people often within a day or two of publication, cannot be reproduced.

For example, using current production methods, the publication of even a single daily newspaper for distribution in Braille would require several weeks for preparation and delivery. Therefore reading matter that is time-sensitive (such as daily newspapers and most magazines) is excluded from the NLS service.

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Inventing NEWSLINE(R): Based on the lessons learned from national coordination as demonstrated in the success of the NLS program, a service for the rapid distribution of electronic text within minutes of its publication--NEWSLINE(R)--has been developed by the National Federation of the Blind. With NEWSLINE(R) blind persons can select articles from seven national newspapers and listen to the information in full-word synthetic speech presented on the telephone.

The national papers include USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Toronto Globe and Mail. Papers of local interest and other information provided on special channels can also be received on the phone.

With the touch-tone keypad, the voice presentation can be individually altered in speed, pitch, and tone quality. For security purposes each blind or physically disabled person eligible for the service is issued both a six-digit personal identification number and a four-digit security code. Once admitted to the system, the reader can use the touch-tone keypad to select a newspaper or other information found on the menu. Combinations of numbers on the phone can then be pressed to move quickly from section to section within a paper and from article to article within a section.

These interactive features allow the reader to find items of interest quickly without having to listen to the entire text. If the user has questions regarding any of the keypad's functions, an on-line help feature is also included.

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Building the Network: From a pilot site set up in 1994 to provide USA Today to blind readers in the Washington/Baltimore area, NEWSLINE(R) is growing into a national network with local service sites now in place from New York City to Los Angeles, California, and from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to San Antonio, Texas. At present the network reaches blind people in forty-eight local communities located in twenty-two states.

The network command center is located in Baltimore, Maryland. This center receives, processes, and redistributes electronic text by using the Internet, by satellite link, or by modem-to-modem transfer of files supplied every day by all national or local cooperating news organizations. The papers selected by each local dial-in site are distributed to the site electronically and are available to callers early in the morning of publication. The process for receiving the news text and converting it into a format compatible for NEWSLINE(R) is completely automated. In fact, the entire transfer of text from the cooperating news organization to each blind or disabled reader's telephone is entirely electronic and does not require human intervention. The news is simply there when the caller dials in.

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How Members of Congress Can Help:

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(1) Support efforts to bring the NEWSLINE(R) technology into every state and every Congressional district; and

(2) Join with the National Federation of the Blind in promoting the use of NEWSLINE(R) among blind and visually impaired constituents of all ages who may be eligible for this service.

With present funding provided through a variety of state, local, and private sources, there is still great potential for the NEWSLINE(R) network to grow. Fewer than half the states are served. However, with the acquisition of funds to support the cost of a local dial-in site--approximately $50,000 in first-year costs to establish and operate the site--any community can join the growing NEWSLINE(R) network almost immediately. Once in place, NEWSLINE(R) can be continued from year to year and can reach thousands of people at a minimal annual cost.

In the approximately 215 Congressional districts in the twenty-two states now served by NEWSLINE(R), members of Congress can help by spreading the word of this service among potentially eligible constituents. And in areas not now served efforts to acquire the necessary funding must be made. When this is done, blind people will have equal access to timely information--including the daily newspaper--through a twenty-first century communications network available throughout the United States.

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Have you considered leaving a gift to the National Federation of the Blind in your will? By preparing a will now, you can assure that those administering your estate will avoid unnecessary delays, legal complications, and substantial tax costs. A will is a common device used to leave a substantial gift to charity. A gift in your will to the NFB can be of any size and will be used to help blind people. Here are some useful hints in preparing your will:

* Make a list of everything you want to leave (your estate).

* Decide how and to whom you want to leave these assets.

* Consult an attorney (one you know or one we can help you find).

* Make certain you thoroughly understand your will before you sign it.

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For more information contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: David Milner]

Leave the Blind Guy Alone

by David Milner

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From the Editor: David Milner is a Federationist who lives in Austin, Texas. In the following article he tells an all too familiar story with an encouraging new twist. This is what he says:

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On October 12, 1998, Buddy Brannan and I were going home after a visit to Buddy's workplace, where I had just finished applying for a job. Once we had gotten off the DART train, we made our way to the bus stop for the final leg of the trip to Buddy's apartment. Neither of us was expecting anything unusual.

We noticed that the bus we needed to take was already parked at its stop with the doors closed. We approached the bus, ready to get on. First the driver opened the doors, but when Buddy and his dog guide Karl attempted to board, the driver said no pets were allowed on the bus and closed the bus doors, hitting Karl in the process. When the bus driver saw that we weren't going away, he opened the doors again and Buddy and I climbed aboard.

As we sat down, the driver again said that Buddy couldn't bring Karl onto the bus, and Buddy informed the bus driver that he was wrong since Karl was a dog guide. At the same time I also told the driver that Karl was a dog guide, thinking that this worthy might for some reason be under the impression that Karl was a pet, even though Karl was in harness. I felt sure that, once the bus driver made the connection, Buddy would be left alone, and we would all be on our way.

Unfortunately, this individual did not seem to know about the rights of dog guide users in the United States. He got up from his driver's seat and again demanded that Buddy and Karl get off the bus, informing us that the bus would not move until Karl was gone. To this Buddy said, "Well, looks like we'll be here a while." I've ridden city busses in several cities for twenty years, and this was the first time I had ever seen a bus driver refuse service to a dog guide user. I was honestly stunned by this driver's lack of comprehension of state and federal law.

I was also beginning to worry a bit. The bus should already have left the train station, and our fellow passengers were beginning to get restless, wanting the bus to get moving. I knew about the times blind people have had to brave the abuse of travelers in crowded busses and aircraft while asserting their humanity and defending their rights. Would we be arrested, dragged from the bus like criminals? I didn't know. The one thing I was sure of, however, was that neither Buddy nor I was leaving the bus until it arrived at our stop.

Perhaps the driver sensed the mood of the crowd because he appealed to them, asking if they weren't afraid of Karl. He was surprised, I believe, to find that his assessment of his passengers was incorrect. Some of them laughed at the bus driver, and others made disdainful noises. Their reaction was best summed up by one passenger who said, "No! We ain't scared of him! That dog just looks like he wants to go to sleep!"

The driver told Buddy that, if he didn't leave the bus, the driver would have to get a transit policeman to remove him. I informed the driver that Karl was allowed to go anywhere Buddy went, according to federal law. Buddy said, "Go get the policeman, then." The bus driver was gone for about five minutes. During that time the comments from the crowd ran the gamut from "That driver can't do that" to "He should just get in that seat and drive this bus."

The Park Lane DART light rail station has no shortage of Dallas transit police officers, so it was puzzling to Buddy and me that it took so long for the bus driver to locate an officer. We speculated later that the driver had probably gone from one officer to another until he found one who would back his demand that Buddy and Karl leave the bus.

The bus driver returned with an officer in tow who wanted Buddy and Karl to get off the bus. Buddy said that he had the right to ride the bus with his dog guide. As I had done with the driver, I informed the transit officer that Buddy was within his rights under the law to take Karl with him on the bus.

By this time something like a siege had developed. The bus driver and transit officer were receiving light jeering from the other passengers, who were making comments such as "Leave the blind guy alone, and let's go!" and "He can ride this bus with that dog!" The mood was beginning to become unpleasant.

The transit officer consulted his supervisor by radio; and, not surprisingly, the supervisor confirmed that dog guides were indeed allowed on DART busses. The bus driver had heard the radio message, and the officer told him to proceed with his route. Then the transit officer turned on the bus passengers, warning them against interfering with transit personnel. The bus left the train station with Buddy, Karl, and me on board, and the rest of our trip home was without incident.

Buddy and I analyzed the incident at the train station once we had returned to his apartment. I observed that I was impressed with the way our fellow passengers had come to the defense of Buddy and his rights as a dog guide user.

Later that evening we were saddened to hear that Dr. Jernigan had just died. As I'm sure other blind people around the world did once they received the news, Buddy and I talked of the positive influence Dr. Jernigan had had on the overall condition of blind people. The very day of his death was indicative of his impact in several ways. Before Dr. Jernigan's participation in the National Federation of the Blind, gainful employment and heading one's own household were only a dream for most blind people. Most of us would not have thought of moving from city to city by ourselves or applying for and getting jobs in mainstream industries.

What struck me as most significant, however, was the way the man in the street has become more and more aware of the capabilities and rights of the blind. Much has been said about the world today, changed by the Federation, which in turn Dr. Jernigan cared for and strengthened through many years of struggle. In the end, however, for me the measure of his impact came down to the day of his death, when a crowd of people on a city bus defended the rights of a blind man. These weren't members of the NFB or advocates for the blind--simply ordinary people who knew the law and weren't about to see it ignored, even if it meant that they themselves were inconvenienced.

The most enduring social change is that which is recognized and championed by the people themselves. Dr. Jernigan's tireless work in nurturing the National Federation of the Blind has enabled the message of the humanity of blind people to be heard and understood by those who would otherwise have been unaware of it. Among everyday people ignorance and superstition concerning the blind are fading away. They are being replaced by a growing willingness to welcome us into society as equals. This basic social evolution is, in my view, Dr. Jernigan's most enduring legacy.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jeff and Deb Altman with their daughter Jenna]

The Little Red Rabbit

by Jeffrey T. Altman

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From the Editor: As long as human beings continue to live and think and interact with others, we can expect to change. Our willingness to accept the new and our success in responding constructively to it determine in large part whether the changes result in growth or decay in our personalities. Jeff Altman, a Nebraska Federationist, has been looking back over his life as a blind person. His evolution from an insecure young man dependent on his remaining vision to a confident, contented cane-travel teacher is instructive and reassuring. This is what he says:

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With the recent passing of Dr. Jernigan, I found myself reflecting on my own experience with blindness. My transition into blindness began only a few months after my high school graduation when I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. The plans and dreams I had held up to that point seemed like the broken pieces of a bombed-out building. I sat shell-shocked for nearly a year wondering what would become of me and wanting it all to have been a simple mistake or a bad dream.

I soon realized that sitting at home doing nothing could not continue, and my parents and I contacted the office for the visually handicapped. It took a while, but in the fall of 1977 I entered the training program for the blind located near Pittsburgh and began what I had been told was the best training available anywhere for blind people.

Of course, I wasn't really blind--not yet anyway. Oh sure, the doctor said I was legally blind, but I could still see to get around and do almost anything I wanted to do. Maybe with the right low-vision device I could even drive a car, at least for a while. This was what I firmly believed. You can imagine my shock when on the first day at the training center I was told that I could not even walk outside without using a sighted guide. I was told that I could not go anywhere until the orientation and mobility (O and M) instructor had given clearance for me to travel, and if I went beyond the limits he set for me, I could be thrown out of the program. I was young, and I listened, but still something about this seemed very wrong.

Over the next few days I met my O and M instructor, and he began evaluating my ability to travel using my vision in the daylight. He agreed with me that I could travel just fine, and he even showed me a few techniques that would help me use my vision a little better. Just when I was getting to like the O and M stuff, he told me that he wanted to do a nighttime evaluation. I did not consider this to be a big deal. Sure, it was a little harder to travel at night, but I didn't think it was all that much of a problem. After all I really wasn't blind--not yet anyway.

I was about to get my next big shock in the form of a mobility cane. My instructor told me that I would need to have a cane to travel safely at night, but for now we would work mainly on developing my ability to travel using my remaining vision.

The next week I was introduced to two new things: the mobility cane, which was silver, and my instructor's little red Volkswagen Rabbit. I began learning to walk in step with the cane, and the Rabbit became my means of transportation to almost every place I went to learn about traveling with my remaining vision. It also became the counseling office in which I learned almost everything I should believe about blindness and safe travel. My instructor was teaching me important skills, I enjoyed talking with him, and I listened.

Soon I was traveling all over the Pittsburgh area, and I was enjoying it. Even on those occasions when I was under the sleepshades learning to travel with the cane, I was having a good time.

This was a skill that came naturally to me, and my confidence grew with each lesson. The little red Rabbit became a central part of my life; it even followed the buses that I rode on during my longer independent routes. It had become something of a friend, a safe, comfortable place to sit down for the ride back to the center. I could relax after a stressful lesson and talk about how independent I was becoming.

One day in the middle of my training my instructor asked me to go get my cane and meet him at his car. When I approached the little red Rabbit, he was already inside and listening to something on the radio. I did not pay any attention to the person speaking as I climbed in, but my instructor was reacting very strongly to the commentary. He shut off the radio and announced in an angry tone, "He's a lunatic! What an idiot!" I was taken aback by this behavior. I asked who he was talking about, and he said, "Kenneth Jernigan."

I asked, "Who is he, and what was he saying that is so crazy?" My instructor's voice shifted into its normal, professional, matter-of-fact tone, and he said, "He is the leader of a radical organization of blind people called the National Federation of the Blind, and he thinks that blind people should be O and M instructors." I felt a spark inside. I loved to travel with the cane, and the thought of teaching others how to do this excited me as nothing else had since I became blind. I said, "That sounds like a great idea to me!" I was quickly corrected and told that it was neither safe nor effective for a blind person to teach mobility. "After all, there are some things that a blind person simply cannot do." These words brought sadness to me, not unlike the sadness I had felt nearly a year earlier when the reality of my blindness had begun to sink in. I believed in this man's knowledge and skill. He had taught me how to use the cane and helped me to rebuild my confidence, so I listened.

Some weeks later I was once again riding in the little red Rabbit, returning from a nighttime route. My instructor told me that my training was coming to a conclusion, but he added that as my vision grew worse I would need to return for further training. My confidence was shaken by this statement, and I asked why he thought this was necessary. He explained that I was doing very well with the skills I had learned, combined with my remaining vision, but these skills would not meet my needs as my vision became worse. He also said that I might need to have an O and M instructor show me around new places, such as a college campus. Yes, I listened once again, but I felt my body stiffen, and I pushed back uncomfortably against the car seat.

I returned to my dorm room at the center that night filled with confusion and some anger. The problem was that I didn't know whom to be angry with. Should I be angry with my instructor for leaving me in a state of continued dependency or myself for not fighting back.

Despite what had just happened, I had come to respect this man greatly. He had been right about so much of what I was experiencing, and I was convinced that his training as an O and M instructor made him far more knowledgeable about blindness than I was at this point in my life. Even so I felt something was wrong with the way the training had been provided to me. My parents had always taught me to believe in the value of learning and to believe that any good learning experience provided skills to build upon to deal independently with future changes.

I resolved after much thought to make certain that, if at all possible, I would never have to call upon the assistance of another O and M instructor. I was determined to solve any future problems for myself, and I did not intend to be quite so open in future to others' giving me advice about my blindness. I also left the training center still very dependent upon my vision, and I continued to make one serious mistake. I planned my future around my current level of vision. Each time it changed, I struggled until I found some alternative that would meet my current needs. This pattern became a critical factor in my life and the cornerstone of perhaps the most difficult lesson I have had to learn.

I went to college, and my remaining vision, my limited blindness skills, and my own determination, along with my parents' pushing me to succeed, carried me through rather well. I discovered that I had a strong interest in the social sciences, and after college I began looking for work in this area. I applied in many places, but I was certain at the time that the public's attitudes and, to a lesser degree, my lack of experience left me out of luck. Finally I applied at a group home serving developmentally disabled adults and was told that I did not have the experience necessary for the position.

However, during the interviewing process I learned that one of their clients was blind and in need of developing better personal skills. I decided to beat them at their own game and volunteered to work with this fellow. I worked with him on some alternative techniques for dialing the telephone. As it turned out, he also needed to learn how to travel to the other group homes located in the apartment complex. I decided that, since this was a relatively safe environment with little or no traffic, I would try my hand working with him.

The words my former O and M instructor had said years before were still ringing in my head, and since the client I was planning to work with needed a new cane, I called him and talked it over. He was very hesitant, but as I described the conditions in which we would be working, he seemed a little more comfortable. He asked me how my vision was now, and I told him that it had not changed to any great degree. He seemed much more relaxed about the situation based on this information, and he agreed that, as long as I did not take the client anywhere near traffic, it would probably be okay.

I truly enjoyed teaching this client the routes and helping him to improve his cane skills. The supervisors of the group home often told me that they were impressed with the work I was doing. Within a couple of months a position opened at this organization, and with confidence I applied. No, this story does not have a happy ending. I was told that, since I could not drive, I was not qualified for the job, even though there would be another counselor on duty who could handle the driving. This was before the days of reasonable accommodation. I called a college friend who was looking for work and could drive. Because I knew he had less experience than I did in this area, the organization's response to his application would resolve my suspicions about the real reason for my having been passed over for the position. He applied and got the job, and I decided to move on.

A few months later I heard about a program in Arkansas that trained blind people to work for the Internal Revenue Service. It sounded like something I would not particularly enjoy doing, but it also promised a very high potential for employment. Of course I went for the opportunity. I did very well in the training, but once I got to the job, my declining vision and lack of alternative skills soon caught up with me. After one year I was again unemployed. At this point my self-esteem was at the lowest level it had ever been. It was nearly four years before I found employment again, but this experience had many important benefits for me.

My experience at the training center in Arkansas taught me that the treatment I received and their treatment of other blind people attending the facility were terribly wrong. It was now very clear to me that as people we deserved the same respect as those with vision. I met some people from the National Federation of the Blind, and although I wasn't ready to accept fully what they had to say, at least they didn't appear to be the crazy monsters that I had been led to expect.

I made some good friends, and I also met some folks who were being trained to work as O and M instructors in other countries. The fact that these folks were training to become O and M instructors was not in and of itself surprising to me, but the fact that they were blind was something of a shock. From my work experience I learned that I could not afford to continue trying to reach my goals without learning better alternative techniques and that it is very foolish to seek employment in a field you do not enjoy.

All of these pieces began to come together in 1988. A letter from a friend I made in Arkansas informed me of a job opening in eastern Pennsylvania for an O and M instructor. Incredibly, the employer was looking specifically for a blind person to do the job. I called the number, and the next week I was flying to Philadelphia for an interview. I was told that I had the job as long as I could obtain some form of certification that would be acceptable to the agency's insurance company. I had to find a school that could and would give me this training. My state counselor and I looked at several programs, including the one in Arkansas, but they said that they would never train and certify a blind instructor to work in the United States. Finally we settled on the one in Nebraska because it was conducted by a state agency, which meant the insurance company would gladly accept its certification.

Everything seemed fine until I started the program. They expected me to wear sleepshades eight hours a day, five days a week. They expected me to learn to work with dangerous power tools. They didn't use the same kind of cane that I had been using for years, and their approach to teaching the skills was very different from the methods used when I learned to travel. Even worse, I learned that they embraced much of the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. For several years I had been involved with another national organization of blind people, but the only philosophical information I received from this experience reinforced what I had learned during my earlier training in Pittsburgh and a number of stories regarding everything that was supposed to be wrong with the National Federation of the Blind. I was certain I had made the mistake of a lifetime, but I really wanted this job. I decided that I better take the risk and commit myself to the program.

I did not give up my beliefs easily. And given my previous experience, this time I wasn't as open to listening. Soon I received a warning from Dr. Nyman, the agency director, and Richard Mettler, who handled staff development for the agency, that I was going to return to Pennsylvania without certification if I didn't learn to shut up and listen. Given this good advice, I became a much better listener.

Among the things I began to listen to were the writings of Dr. Jernigan and other members of the National Federation of the Blind. While I didn't exactly accept this message with open arms, I was finding it more and more difficult to argue against the Federation's point of view. I also began to recognize that the criticism of the National Federation of the Blind was very short on facts and strangely charged with emotion. I had a lot of thinking to do, and I was certain that my training would be completed before I had sorted it all out.

I left Nebraska feeling much better about sleepshades and using power tools. I still didn't like the long fiber-glass cane, but I was at least thinking about the structured-discovery method, which encourages the student to learn to solve travel problems independently. I left just before Christmas with a Christmas gift that I found especially disquieting. One of the instructors had given me a membership in the National Federation of the Blind. Still a member of the other organization of blind people with its beliefs continuing to shape my thinking, I felt anything but comfortable with this gift. A struggle was taking place inside of me, and the experiences I faced as I assumed my new duties in Philadelphia would decide its outcome.

I went to work believing that I could handle anything that came along. I attempted to teach cane travel in the same way my instructor in Pittsburgh had taught me many years earlier.

This did not last long--it just didn't work. On the other hand, I knew that the techniques I had learned in Nebraska worked well there. Slowly I adopted and adapted these techniques to fit my own style and the environment I was working in. At the same time I began to discover that the attitudes of the agency I was working for were little different from the ones I had been exposed to while a client of the programs in Pittsburgh and Arkansas years before.

I was also faced with the same attitudes from many of the blind people that the agency was serving, including those that belonged to the national organization that I had been a member of for several years. The general public was also a source of attitudes that reinforced the idea that blind people would have to live in a state of dependency and could not expect to hold positions of true responsibility or even achieve anything beyond basic existence. These attitudes weren't overt, but they were clearly present and destructive to any blind person exposed to them. My instructors in Nebraska had warned me of this possibility, but I simply was not prepared for the conflict. I suddenly found myself in a cold war of attitudes, and I was basically standing alone. That was when I met Ted Young, the District Supervisor for Blindness and Visual Services in Philadelphia and state president of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania. He invited me to a meeting of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter, and suddenly I wasn't alone anymore.

Other things became more clear to me. The skills I had developed during my training in the Nebraska orientation center were making a real difference in my life. My vision, or the lack of it, didn't seem to be an issue for me anymore. Also a funny thing started to happen with the cane that I had been using for so many years. I found that I was bumping into a lot of obstacles and tripping over things far too often. I spoke with the university-trained O and M instructor who worked with me at the center, and he told me that I needed to slow down and that my technique was probably not consistent. This wasn't the answer I was looking for. Why should I have to slow down when all I was doing was walking at my natural pace, and my cane technique had never been a problem before? I began experimenting with a longer cane. Soon I was using and issuing longer canes as a normal practice. Later I also tried out an NFB cane and made a real effort this time to understand how it worked. I haven't considered going back to the aluminum cane since. It seems that structured discovery learning works on more than one level.

After six years working in eastern Pennsylvania, I began looking for a change. Dr. Nyman and his staff back in Nebraska gave me an important opportunity. I was offered the position of Lincoln District Supervisor. With only limited experience I wasn't sure that I was right for the job, but knowing that someone was willing to give me this chance, I was determined to put forth my best effort. For more than three years I did my best, but I came to realize that my heart wasn't in it. My first love is teaching cane travel, and I truly wanted to return to being an instructor. By this time Dr. Nyman had retired, and I talked with our new Director, Dr. Pearl Van Zandt, about my feelings. She understood and respected my desire to return to teaching travel.

As it turned out, my timing could not have been better. Although I was not aware of it when I approached our director, an opportunity to make this change had arisen. The process of making it a reality would be complex, but Dr. Van Zandt was determined to go the extra mile for me. I am now the Travel Instructor for our Orientation Center in Lincoln. I know in my heart that an agency like the one here in Nebraska, where showing true respect for blind people is a natural part of our daily work, would never have come into existence without the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind and the leadership of people like Dr. Kenneth Jernigan.

Since 1990 my wife and I have attended several state conventions, and in 1997 we attended our first national one. We returned last year to the Dallas convention, and we will be attending future ones as often as possible. On October 9, 1998, with our two-year-old daughter we attended the first joint state convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska and the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa. All of us attending the convention felt a strange mixture of excitement at the event unfolding before us and great sadness knowing that Dr. Jernigan's battle with cancer was nearing its end.

In what proved for me a strange turn of events, our Orientation Center staff had planned for a couple of months to visit the Iowa Orientation Center on the Tuesday and Wednesday of the week following the state convention. Sadly, this turned out to begin the day after Dr. Jernigan died. On that Wednesday morning I found myself sitting in the apartment where Dr. Jernigan had lived when he was the Director of the Iowa program, discussing travel techniques with one of the staff members of the Iowa center. The glass of juice my host provided helped to soothe the lump in my throat that I was doing my best to hide.

I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Jernigan only once. He was everything I had come to expect and none of the things I had once believed of him. I wish that the National Federation of the Blind had been a part of my life from the beginning of my blindness and that I had accepted and understood the philosophy of our organization earlier in my life. Dr. Jernigan, thank you for the radio message that I didn't get to listen to that day in the little red Rabbit.

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[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: The picture shows a baseball stadium filled to capacity with cheering fans. CAPTION: "Take me out to the ball game" at the home of the Atlanta Braves.]

Courtesy of the Atlanta National League Baseball Club, Inc., copyright 1998 all rights reserved.

Food and Fun in Atlanta

by Al Falligan

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From the Editor: Al Falligan is NFB of Georgia's National Convention arrangements chairman. This month he provides us with a little information about the area of Atlanta near our convention headquarters hotel. This is what he says:

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April is here, which means that there are just over two months to go to our first convention ever in Atlanta June 30 through July 6. If you haven't made your travel plans yet, you had better do so today. If you're lucky, the bargain fares Sue Kable of Glyndon Square Travel has been finding for Federationists will still be in effect. Call Sue at (800) 875-9685. With your travel arrangements settled, you can then make your room reservation with the Marriott Marquis Hotel. The rates this year are singles, $57; doubles and twins, $59; triples, $61; and quads, $63, plus a tax, which at present is 14 percent. Children rooming with parents and not requiring an extra bed are free.

To make your reservations, write directly to Atlanta Marriott Marquis, 265 Peachtree Center Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30303, or call (404) 521-0000. Do not call Marriott's national toll-free number. Reservations made through this national number will not be valid. They must be made directly with the hotel. The hotel will want a deposit of $60 or a credit card number. If a credit card is used, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $60 check. If a reservation is canceled prior to June 4, 1999, $30 of the $60 deposit will be returned. Otherwise refunds will not be made.

Of course, each year we gather in our thousands at NFB conventions to carry out the business of the most dynamic organization of the blind in the world today, to check out the latest developments in technology, to network with blind people from across the country who share our interests, and to help determine the direction the organized blind will take in the months and years to come. In 1999 the NFB of Georgia is welcoming the organization to Atlanta for the very first time. We are looking forward to showing off the greatest city in the South to everyone in the Federation.

Atlanta is filled with memorable restaurants and extraordinary opportunities for shopping. And at the Marriott Marquis and the Hilton you will be at the heart of it all. Dozens of shops and eateries, part of the world-famous Peachtree Center, are actually connected to our headquarters hotel. No matter how busy you are during convention, you will have to eat occasionally, and the range and excellence of restaurants available within three blocks will astonish you.

The Mall at Peachtree Center is located in the heart of Downtown Atlanta on the corner of Peachtree Street and International Boulevard. A stroll through its rich marble walkways, more than seventy unique shops, restaurants, quick-bite eateries, and services galore makes shopping at this Center a must. The three-level, glass-enclosed Mall is part of the renowned Peachtree Center Office Complex and, in addition to the Marriott Marquis, is also connected to the MARTA rapid rail station. The Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood are practically next door, and the Georgia World Congress Center, the Atlanta Market Center, Centennial Olympic Park, and other major points of interest in Downtown Atlanta are quite nearby. At least nine restaurants are close to the Marriott, including Benihana; Charlie & Barney's Bar & Grill; and the Tap Room, which offers an Old World Southern Italian cuisine with an upscale urban bar.

While strolling on Peachtree Street, you'll have easy access to the Savannah Seafood Restaurant, where fresh seafood meals are served daily. At the Steak and Ale, prices are $9.95 and above, and Brick Oven Pizzeria prices range from $5.95 to $14.95. For a special treat, why not enjoy a memorable dining experience atop the seventy-third floor of the Peachtree Plaza Hotel in the Sundial Restaurant? Prices start at $25. While dining here, you will have a panoramic view of the Atlanta skyline. The restaurant slowly revolves, making a 360-degree revolution hourly. If it's not a smoggy evening, Stone Mountain can be seen. This is only a tiny sample of the dining adventures awaiting you in Atlanta.

As we mentioned in the tours article last month, on July 6 the Atlanta Braves will be playing the Florida Marlins at Turner Field. The Georgia affiliate has purchased a limited number of tickets for this game on the final night of the convention. Tickets are $12 each. To order, send money orders, cashier's checks, or personal checks payable to NFB of Georgia to Alfred Falligan, Convention Chairperson, 6240 Mozart Drive, Riverdale, Georgia 30296, or call (770) 997-7462.

Don't put off making your plans to attend the NFB convention this July. It's the last time you'll be able to do it in this century. We are going to have a wonderful time, but it won't be the same without you.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marc Maurer]

Gray Pancakes and the Gentleman's Hat

by Marc Maurer

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From the Editor: The following story is taken from Gray Pancakes and Gold Horses, the fourteenth in the NFB's Kernel Book series of paperbacks. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introduction:

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How important is appearance? More than most people think. As readers of the Kernel Book series know, Marc Maurer is not only the President of the National Federation of the Blind but also the father of two sighted children, David and Dianna. The Maurers, like others who are blind, keep bumping into the matter of appearances. Here is what President Maurer has to say about it:

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I have been given (along with almost everybody else I've ever met) the advice that I should not judge a book by its cover--that the intrinsic value of a thing is more important than its appearance--or that beauty is only skin deep. The problem with most of the people who have given me this advice is that they ignored it themselves much of the time. Those who try to live so that they may disregard the covers of books or the packaging on the outside of a commodity or the stylish cut of somebody else's clothes are regarded as crazy and ostracized.

While I was a boy, attending the School for the Blind, I was forcibly made to realize the difference between the way a thing looks and the way it feels. The School for the Blind collected blind children from all over the state of Iowa, and we attended classes together. The boys living in dormitories were divided by age. The Cottage was a building for the little boys--the kindergartners and first graders. The second and third graders got to move into one wing of the boys' dorm. This was a major step in our growing up. When we lived in the Cottage, we attended classes and ate our meals in the Cottage. The classrooms and dining room for the small boys were all in the same building.

However, when we got to the second grade, we had begun to be counted among the bigger boys. We slept in the boys' dormitory, but we attended classes and ate our meals in the administration building.

One of the Saturday morning rituals for the boys in the fifth and sixth grades at the School for the Blind was shoeshining. We did this in the janitor's room. Each boy was required to have a can of shoe polish--cost, ten cents. A dauber, a shoe brush, and a polishing cloth were provided. I wasn't all warmed up about the shoeshining assignment because anything that interferes with the enjoyment of free time on a Saturday for a fifth grader is bothersome. However, I thought if I got the polishing out of the way, I could go somewhere else; so I started in with a will.

I soon discovered that polishing shoes has its disadvantages. I daubed the polish onto the leather, rubbed the shoes with the shoe brush for a time, and followed up with the polishing cloth. The shoes felt perfectly clean and smooth to me. I figured that I had finished the job and could go my way. But this was not the case. The house parent, the master of the shoeshining and general arbiter of boys' lives, came to inspect. The shoes were not shiny, he said. I was told to begin again. So I started once more--this time with extreme care. I put on more polish, making certain it covered every part of the leather. I rubbed vigorously with the brush, and then I took up the polishing cloth. I polished diligently for a time, and I thought that they must certainly be done by now! But the inspector, the house parent, informed me that I had failed a second time. I started polishing my shoes for the third time and wondering whether I would be through polishing before lunch.

After the third try (another failure), the house parent asked an older boy to show me what to do. He took the polishing cloth and made a few swift passes over the shoes. Then he said, "See how easy that is?" I couldn't figure out why his polishing worked but mine didn't. From the perspective of many years, I have concluded that the speed of his polishing put the final shine on the shoes. They felt the same after I had polished them as they had after his effort. But they didn't look the same, and I understood the importance of getting them to look right.

The next step was to clean my hands. During the first attempt at polishing, I had kept my fingers out of the can of polish and away from the moist surfaces of the shoes. But when my polishing job was rejected, I decided that my fingers must tell me how much polish was being applied. My hands carried the unmistakable evidence; my fingers, my nails, and my knuckles were black. Shoe polish is intended to be reasonably waterproof. I washed my hands thoroughly; they felt perfectly clean to me. However, they were still black, and I was sent back to the basin to wash a second time. After several sudsings, my hands became clean; and I understood for the second time that the way a thing feels isn't the same as the way it looks.

Today I know that appearance is important. The substance of a thing is more important, but often we don't explore the substance unless the initial appearance is attractive.

As readers of the Kernel Books know, my children, David and Dianna, are sighted. My wife and I are both blind. Much of the time we do not discuss the subject of blindness or its implications, but sometimes the difference in approach taken by a blind person from that of the sighted is significant.

I do much of the cooking for our household. One evening I decided to make potato pancakes for supper. This requires taking fresh potatoes and grinding them up before mixing them with flour, salt, and other ingredients to make pancake batter. When the pancakes are fried crisp and hot (and served with apple sauce, sour cream, or fruit compote), they are delicious. Most people peel the potatoes before grinding them up for the batter. However, I thought that I would grind the potatoes with their skins. Potato skins, I have been told, are very good for you--they contain many vitamins and minerals.

Soon I had a nice pile of potato pancakes, crisp and hot. I called the family to eat them, but my children would not take the first bite. My wife and I thought the pancakes tasted just right, but we couldn't tempt the children. When I asked why, David gave me the answer. My pancakes were gray. Apparently, not peeling the potatoes before putting them in the pancake batter makes the pancakes come out gray, and gray pancakes are not very appetizing in appearance. They tasted great, but they looked awful. So the children ate chicken noodle soup, and my wife and I finished the pancakes. Since that time I have considered (even if fleetingly) both the appearance and the flavor of the things I cook.

As I said earlier, I believe that appearance counts. My experience tells me that those who are most conservatively dressed are often taken most seriously. I dress conservatively, wearing white shirts, black wing tip shoes, and dark suits. A number of years ago a friend took me to get a wool top coat. She told me that the winter coat I had been wearing was not suitable and that I needed a gentleman's coat. Along with the coat I obtained a pair of black gloves. However, I was never sure how to complete the ensemble. What should I wear for a hat?

I grew up in the state of Iowa, which frequently has a cold winter. As a boy I was given a jacket with a hood. I disliked the hood because, when I wore it, I had trouble hearing. I used my hearing to learn about my surroundings and to help me in traveling with my cane. A stocking cap is much better than a hood. It can be worn so that it completely covers my ears without interfering with my ability to hear.

My stocking cap became my good wintertime friend. I did cause myself trouble with it one time. On a particularly cold day, I pulled it down over my face. A stranger apparently felt outrage at my appearance. He said that I looked like a fool, and perhaps I did. After that, I wore the stocking cap in the customary manner, and I had no more trouble. However, a stocking cap would not do with my gentleman's coat.

I went to a hat shop to look at all the hats, and I asked for lots of advice. I finally selected a black felt Saxon style with a black band. I was told that it was exactly the right kind of hat to go with the gentleman's coat. I bought it mostly for style, but I hope that it also has some practical use as well. I am now learning about the language of the hat. For example, what does it mean to "tip" a hat, and when should the tipping occur? What other odd customs are associated with the hat, and how will I come to learn them?

If the purpose was to keep my head warm, I would go back to the trusty old stocking cap. But the purpose is to combine a practical function with the proper appearance.

In the National Federation of the Blind we are doing what we can to help blind people become a meaningful, contributing part of our society. In order to make a contribution, we must learn enough so that the talent that we possess is useful. However, talent is not enough. We must also present the appearance of talent, and we are helping each other gain the proper appearance. Some people think our method of traveling from place to place with a cane or dog is odd or that some of the other alternative techniques of performing ordinary tasks used by blind people are unusual. Because some of the methods that we use to do ordinary things are unfamiliar, some sighted people seem to feel uneasy in the presence of a blind person. Of course there is no need to feel this way. Some of what we do is unconventional, but we have the same hopes and dreams, the same fears and frustrations, the same willingness to work and longing to make contributions that others have.

Through the National Federation of the Blind we are focusing this willingness to work and longing to contribute, and we are helping the dreams of blind people come true. We will do our best to remember that the pancakes should not be gray, and we will tip our hats at the proper time.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: Steve Booth]

A Federationist at Work

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From the Editor: Not often does a national newspaper profile the job of a blind person and manage to give an accurate notion of the sophistication of the work while resisting the temptation to throw around all those inspirational or pitying adjectives that drive competent blind people to distraction. But on December 29, 1998, Irene Sege, a reporter for the Boston Globe, managed this feat in fine style.

The subject of her story was Steve Booth, Treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts and production coordinator for National Braille Press. The story gives the reader a clear glimpse into the various demands facing a production manager while simultaneously demonstrating the breadth of NBP's projects and the common-sense approach Steve takes to his job and his blindness. Here is the article:

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Seeing to Braille Press's Growing Business

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Steven Booth arrives in his office, his cubicle really, shortly before 9:00 a.m., and already he's been working on his laptop on the commuter train from Salem, checking the production schedule for the day. He puts his takeout coffee on one side of his computer and his laptop on the other and flips on his terminal. No papers clutter his desk, and he carefully makes sure his stapler is in its proper place. He has no pictures on his walls, no family photographs on his desk.

Booth is a blind man leading the blind--and the sighted--in his job as production coordinator for the National Braille Press, Inc. On this day he tracks some 100 jobs, from getting transcribers started on a Braille reprint of a user's guide to the Macintosh version of the Duxbury Braille Translator to making sure a mailing of 2,044 Braille copies of the latest issue of the religious magazine Discovery is ready for pickup.

For decades Braille literacy among the blind was on the decline, the result of the movement to educate blind children in public schools rather than special residential schools and of the notion that the rise of books-on-tape and talking computers made reading raised dots obsolete. In 1997 5,400 children and teens used Braille as their primary reading method, down from 9,000 in 1963, according to the American Printing House for the Blind. Now, after years of advocacy by the blind, thirty states, including Massachusetts, have enacted laws requiring that blind children be taught Braille, and last year Congress passed similar legislation. The Braille numbers in recent years have begun inching up again.

National Braille Press, founded in 1927 and tucked between Northeastern University and Symphony Hall, is one of five presses in the country authorized to produce books in Braille for the Library of Congress. Of thirty-three employees, thirteen are blind or legally blind. The press does $1.2 million in contract work a year and also publishes its own material, including cookbooks and computer guides and print-Braille children's books in which transparent plastic pages of Braille inserted between printed pages enable sighted parents and teachers to introduce blind youngsters to Braille as they read aloud.

Booth oversees all these operations. He's been blind since he was born prematurely forty-five years ago, and the oxygen used to aid his nascent lungs destroyed his vision. He was introduced to Braille at five when his parents enrolled him in the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown.

First order of business on this particular morning is to enter on his computer the new job for the Westford-based Duxbury Systems, Inc., aided by a device that converts what's on the screen to speech. Project due in twenty working days. Booth's fingers fly over a Braille calendar. He enters January 18 in his database.

The computer is an old DOS model because the graphics-heavy Windows system is tough to convert to speech. But DOS is obsolete, so Booth has a Windows computer at home and a talking screen reader he bought for $800. "I'm hoping by the time we convert here I'll know something about it," he says.

That Optacon scanner on Booth's office desk is obsolete too. He runs a scanning wand over a printed page and puts his other hand in a small device that looks like a nail dryer and converts the scanned words into Braille. It's how Booth tells whether a printed cover is in the proper spot on a page. The scanner is no longer made, so there will be no replacing it when it breaks.

"I'm not looking forward to that. It saves me a lot of sighted help I don't need," Booth says. "I'll have to learn to do it another way as I've done so many times."

Next stop is the transcription room upstairs. Booth has the job order in hand, detailed once in computer printout and once in a Braille note he punched with the Brailler on his desk. He puts the strap of his Braille Lite around his neck and reaches for his cane.

The Braille Lite is a $3,300 notebook-sized laptop with six keys--one for each position on the six-dot Braille cell--and a Braille display. This is how Booth reads the climatological report he downloads each morning before he leaves home because he's fascinated by weather. It's where he keeps the files that he works on while riding the train, where he has a copy of the book, Getting to Yes he's reading and the copy of Charlotte's Web on disk that he's testing. It is especially handy because Braille is bulky. Not only must it be printed on paper thick enough to hold raised dots on both sides, but a page of print often fills as much as two pages in Braille.

One look at the desk of chief transcriber Melissa Hirshson and you know she can see. Her purse lies on top of a haphazard stack of papers, and there's barely room for the unopened Nestle Crunch bar on her desk. Hirshson has been interested in Braille since she wrote a report in fifth grade on Helen Keller.

She tells Booth she's transcribing the book Don't Scream. She's cut the pages and run them through a scanner, and now she's proofreading the text on her screen because sometimes the scanner, top-of-the-line though it is, misses things. The ideal situation is when the printed material is already on disk. Next Hirshson will convert the text to Braille using Duxbury Translator software, and from that a metal plate will be embossed in Braille, all of which is much easier than the days when Braille transcription was done by key punch by hand.

In comes chief proofreader Christopher Devin, who reads paper proofs of the embossed Braille plates before the plates go to press. He works with headphones and fingers in an unlit room next to the transcribers, guided by taped text read by readers who mention every punctuation mark. Sometimes a dot on the embosser doesn't fire, and it's important to catch those mistakes before a book is printed. A Braille version of Webster's New World Dictionary fills seventy-two volumes and one wall of the proofreaders' room.

Each morning Devin, who is blind, tells Booth the status of various jobs. "Superfine Valentine" is ready. So is Syndicated Columnists Weekly. Melissa's working on Don't Scream. They haven't started Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. As Devin reads his Braille list, Booth types the information into his Braille Lite.

"Blindness can be reduced to an inconvenience. The production management I do here has nothing to do with my being blind," Booth says. "But I don't want to make it trivial. It's at once an inconvenience, and it's all-consuming. You can't spend your life meditating on it. You wouldn't get to the fun stuff."

Back in Booth's office, printer Khith Nhem, who operates ink and Braille presses, delivers his status report. Nhem is leaving for vacation, and Booth wants as many ink jobs as possible done by then because ink always precedes Braille. Otherwise a second run through a press would crush the raised dots.

Underfoot Booth can hear the rumble of the Braille presses downstairs. "We call it the heartbeat of the press," Booth says. "If you don't hear it, something is not going well."

Next stop is the bindery upstairs, where hardcover Braille books are bound, as many as 250 Braille pages per volume. The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook fills eleven volumes. Piles of unbound pages of Inner Chimes, a book of children's poetry, line a long table, awaiting the insertion of clear Braille pages. Each month the press prints 500 to 600 of these print-Braille children's books, then offers them for the same price as book stores sell the print version. The other 75 percent of the cost to produce these books comes from fund-raising.

Booth has held this job since 1994, after working for six years in technical support for Xerox Imaging Systems, traveling the country training sales representatives. He's worked in customer service at a bank, screened callers for radio talk shows, and staffed a library's talking-book section. "Coming here, I have a career," he says, "Braille is still here. We're going strong, so likely this will be a good job for me."

Finally Booth checks the ground-floor pressroom, where John Daniels is running 3,500 copies of the Blazie Engineering catalog on a converted ink press with blotters to cushion the Braille plates. To print Braille legibly on two sides of a page, the plates must be misaligned by precisely 1/16 of an inch. Once the pages are printed, they await collating in stacks of fifty. Any more pages in a pile and the Braille would be crushed.

In the cavernous room beside the pressroom, Daniels's wife, Dorothy, supervises the collating operations. Everyone in this department has some kind of disability, and everyone, even the blind, rotates through all the jobs, including running the stitching machine, which is the only station where Daniels insists on a no-talking rule. Daniels herself, her eyes distorted behind thick glasses, has been legally blind since she was injured in an automobile accident at the age of ten. She's on schedule for getting Discovery magazine out the door, she tells Booth, but she could sure use another postal crib to store them.

"My work here," says Booth, "is sometimes exciting and sometimes boring. It's exhilarating if you produce a product that people like."

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: Barbara Walker]

The Missing Piece

by Barbara Walker

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From the Editor: Barbara Walker is a long-time leader of the National Federation of the Blind and a frequent contributor to these pages. She delivered the following speech at the 1998 convention conducted jointly by the NFB of Iowa and the NFB of Nebraska. Here it is:

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In his book, How Good Do We Have to Be, Rabbi Harold Kushner tells a story he read in a book which he calls a fairy tale for adults. It is called "The Missing Piece," and it goes like this:

"Once there was a circle that was missing a piece. A large triangular wedge had been cut out of it. The circle wanted to be whole, with nothing missing, so it went around looking for its missing piece. But because it was incomplete, it could only roll very slowly as it rolled through the world.

"And as it rolled slowly, it admired the flowers along the way. It chatted with butterflies and enjoyed the sunshine. It found lots of pieces, but none of them fit, so it left them all by the side of the road and kept on searching.

"Then, one day, it found a piece that fit perfectly. It was so happy. Now it could be whole, with nothing missing. It incorporated the missing piece into itself and began to roll.

"Now it was a perfect circle, and it could roll very fast--too fast to notice the flowers, too fast to talk to the butterflies.

"When it realized how different the world seemed when it rolled through it so quickly, it stopped, left its missing piece by the side of the road, and rolled slowly away, looking for its missing piece."

When I first read that story, I felt uneasy. Even as a child I didn't like fairy tales that seemed either far-fetched or unfinished. Life is teaching me that reality itself is often far-fetched; and the journey can be worthwhile, regardless of the outcome.

Still I felt disturbed. After all, why couldn't this one have ended with the words, "satisfied with its new-found wisdom" rather than "looking for its missing piece"--especially since it had already found the piece? Had it so soon forgotten? What was going on?

As I read and thought about what Rabbi Kushner said that the lesson of the story was for him, I found myself thinking about the first time I met Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. He was then both President of the National Federation of the Blind and Director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind. Perhaps some of you will find yourselves connecting with your own thoughts of Dr. Jernigan, Dr. Maurer, or others who have influenced you as I share some of what Rabbi Kushner had to say:

"I suggested in my sermon that the lesson of the story was that, in some strange sense, we are more whole when we're incomplete--when we're missing something. There is a wholeness about the person who can give himself away--who can give his time, his money, his strength to others--and not feel diminished when he does so. There is a wholeness about the person who has come to terms with his limitations, who knows who he is and what he can and cannot do; the person who has been brave enough to let go of his unrealistic dreams and not feel like a failure for doing so.

"To be whole before God means to stand before Him with all of our faults as well as all of our virtues and to receive the message of our acceptability. To be whole means to rise beyond the need to pretend that we're perfect; to rise above the fear that we'll be rejected for not being perfect. It means having the integrity not to let the inevitable moments of weakness and selfishness become permanent parts of our character."

As I mentioned before, this description of wholeness took me back to my first meeting with Dr. Jernigan. It happened on December 4, 1974, at the Iowa Commission for the Blind in Des Moines. I was there in response to an opportunity presented to me through my work at Nebraska Rehabilitation Services for the Visually Impaired to go and observe any agency for the blind in the country. The purpose was to learn about how work with the blind was being done elsewhere and possibly to find new methods we could use in our fledgling Orientation and Adjustment Center in Lincoln.

I admit that I chose the Iowa Commission with ulterior motives. I had heard that it was run by the National Federation of the Blind and that people there were forced into membership. My only knowledge of the Federation was from people at the Nebraska School for the Visually Handicapped (NSVH), who, on the rare occasions when they talked about blind adults at all, said that Federationists were pushy radicals who badgered people if they didn't get their way.

I recall now only two vivid first-hand encounters with the Federation prior to my trip to Iowa. The first was in 1971, when our Nebraska affiliate was being reorganized. Mary Ellen Anderson (now Jernigan) and Arlene Gashel (now Hill) visited my sister and me on the campus of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, to talk about the upcoming meeting and offer us a subscription to the Braille Monitor. We decided not to go to the meeting in Omaha because transportation wasn't provided. And when the Lincoln chapter was formed, I opted out. I said, which was true, that I was very busy with my studies. What I didn't say was that many articles in the Monitor made me nervous and I didn't want to share the struggle which reading it was causing in me.

The other encounter was when my sister and I were invited to entertain at a Lincoln Chapter meeting when some Iowans had come to discuss pending legislation. They certainly were blatantly frank in their comments on the issues at hand. I chalked it up to the Federation pushiness I had heard about at NSVH and wondered why they came all that way to interfere with Nebraska legislation. I also wondered why, if it was so important to the Nebraskans there, they didn't just handle it and let the Iowans go home and deal with their own legislation.

With these things in mind I went to the Iowa Commission to see for myself what Dr. Jernigan and the National Federation of the Blind were about. It is no exaggeration to say that the few days I spent in an environment where the underlying assumption was that it is respectable to be blind changed my life. And my meeting with Dr. Jernigan was the climax of that visit. He answered my pointed questions directly and without apology or equivocation.

His message was both clear and compelling: with the proper training and opportunity the characteristic of blindness can be reduced to the level of a nuisance, making it possible for the average blind person to do the average job in the average place of business as well as his or her sighted neighbor. This was, he said, the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. The organization was founded on November 16, 1940, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and blind people from seven states who intended to work collectively to make the philosophy a reality. When I met him, Dr. Jernigan was both living this philosophy and helping it to reach fruition in the lives of his students, staff, and colleagues in the movement.

I went there about half of my life ago, having lived almost twenty-four years searching for, or trying to compensate for, my missing piece. I believed then that I knew what that missing piece was. It was the fact of my physical blindness.

But for the first time I wasn't hearing about being incomplete or unwhole because I was blind. I wasn't hearing that the only viable answer for earning full inclusion in the world was to find a way physically to see.

I left both exhilarated and unnerved. It buoyed me up to know that, to this experienced, highly-respected blind person, I had neither to pretend nor to prove anything. But at the same time it was sobering to accept the responsibilities inherent in the kind of wholeness Dr. Jernigan both embodied and offered to me.

He helped me to understand that my missing piece--the thing that kept me from feeling and being perceived as whole--was not the physical fact of blindness. At least part of it consisted of the misconceptions which I and all of society around me had about blindness and blind people.

His words and his presence awakened something in me that gave me courage to try harder to find ways to participate more fully in life. But along with that came the realization that, if I were to be honest with myself and others, I must be willing to question behavior either in them or in me which would stifle growth. For me this was the hardest part of accepting the gift of that knowledge of wholeness. I really don't like making waves.

But Dr. Jernigan that day gave me something every bit as precious as the recognition of my wholeness just as I was. He gave me, as he has to so many before and after me, the key to the National Federation of the Blind--the vehicle through which we, the blind, are finding for ourselves the missing pieces of security, equality, and opportunity for all blind people in our society and putting them into place.

It is hard to articulate the difference that knowing this wholeness and being part of the Federation have made in my life. Perhaps a recounting of something tangible may help me to express it.

During my first meeting with Dr. Jernigan he offered me some banana chips and other snacks I had never tasted. The banana chips were my favorite. Over the years thoughts of that meeting have often brought those chips to mind.

In the spring of 1997 I saw an infomercial on television about a food dehydrator. My first thought (after considering the cost, of course) was, "I could make banana chips with that." It was wonderful to have that instantaneous response. I did not feel, as I once would have, anxious about cutting myself while slicing, hung up about making uniform slices, troubled about the possibility of burning myself on whatever generated heat for drying things, or convinced that I would need sight in order to use the machine effectively. I made room in my budget and placed an order, thanking God and the National Federation of the Blind for the changes in my attitude which made this possible.

Later that same year, as both an expression of gratitude and a symbol of my progress as a blind person, I gave Dr. Jernigan some banana chips and other fruit I had dried myself. It was a small gesture, but his gracious and understanding acceptance of my gift made it a poignantly unforgettable moment for me. It is, I believe, mostly through such simple, day-to-day actions and statements that each of us comes closer to finding the missing pieces in our lives.

It is neither necessary nor possible for everyone to make the tremendous and far-reaching impact in the world that our Founder, Dr. tenBroek, our President Emeritus, Dr. Jernigan, and our current President, Dr. Maurer, have made and are making; but it is necessary and possible for each of us to do and be what we can to reach out to give the gifts of knowledge of wholeness and the National Federation of the Blind to all blind people so that we can search on an equal footing with our sighted peers for that ever-present, still-elusive missing piece--whatever and wherever it might be.

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Finding Her Way

by Karen Crowe

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From the Editor: Kids who read the January/February, 1999, issue of American Girl magazine know a good deal more about what it's like being a blind teen-ager than they did in 1998. That's because the issue carried a wonderful story about Federationist Cortney Osolinski from New Jersey. The reporter did a great job of accurately describing Cortney's day and her methods for getting her work done. But Cortney also did a fine job of helping the reporter to understand what Cortney was doing and what she thinks about being blind. Here is the article:

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Cortney Osolinski is hurrying to get ready for school. She checks the time by feeling the raised dots on her watch. To choose her outfit, she feels the texture of the clothes in her dresser and pulls out a soft ribbed shirt. Cortney, thirteen, has special ways of getting ready in the morning because she can't see.

Cortney has been blind since birth, but being blind has not kept this New Jersey girl from doing things that other girls her age do. She's just developed different ways to do them. We spent a day with Cortney to learn how she uses other senses and skills to find her way through her world.

After dressing, Cortney heads downstairs to the kitchen. She can see blurry, light- and dark-colored shapes as she walks, but she can't tell what those shapes are. So Cortney has memorized the layout of every room in her house. She knows where the furniture, windows, and doors are. Things like floor coverings and the beads hanging in her bedroom doorway are clues.

Downstairs Cortney chooses her breakfast by reading the bumpy Braille labels that she makes for the cereal boxes. Braille is a code of small, raised dots that can be read by touch. Each letter of the alphabet corresponds to a different arrangement of up to six dots. Here is how Cortney spells her name in Braille:

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[GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION: The Braille letters of Cortney's name appear here. CAPTION: Cortney Osolinski]

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After giving her mom and dog goodbye hugs, Cortney grabs her backpack and white cane and heads for the bus stop at the end of her street. Some blind people use special guide dogs to help them get around, but Cortney's dog, Kelly, is just a pet. Guide dogs are professionally trained and require lots of discipline, so Cortney must be sixteen before she can get one. "I think having a guide dog would be great because then I could have a friend with me all the time," says Cortney. Most blind people use canes instead of dogs to help them find their way, since canes are more convenient and require no care.

To get to the bus stop, Cortney taps the ground with her cane to find where the grass meets the road. She uses the street's edge as her guide to the corner. "Hi, Cortney!" her friends call out. She knows the bus stop is just ahead.

When Cortney's teacher asks the class to write sentences using their spelling words, Cortney turns to her Braille writer. It's like a typewriter, but it has only six keys--one for each dot in the Braille system. Cortney presses different keys to make the correct combination of dots for each letter. The machine creates a Braille page for Cortney and a printed copy for her teacher.

Cortney weaves through the busy hallways at her school. As she walks, she swings her cane back and forth in front of her to detect objects in her path. Cortney has taught the kids at school that her cane is her eyes and that it's supposed to bump into things--even people--so that she doesn't!

The first few days of every year, friends help Cortney find her new classrooms. She memorizes the route, using doors, trash cans, and drinking fountains as landmarks. But the first time Cortney came to this school, she got lost. "It was a little scary," she says. "Now I just ask for help if I need it."

At her locker Cortney stores her many books. Because Braille type takes up much more space than printed type, Cortney often has several Braille books for every textbook her classmates have. Her social studies book takes up fifteen Braille volumes! Cortney has a special lock on her locker. To open it, she counts the lock's clicks and lines up her secret combination by feeling the tabs.

At lunchtime kids in Cortney's class tell her what foods are on the menu as they go through the line. "I can always tell when it's pizza day by the smell. That's my favorite lunch!" Cortney says.

She's also learning some tricks for keeping track of paper money: Cortney keeps $1 bills flat, folds $5 bills in half lengthwise, folds $10 bills in half widthwise, and folds $20 bills in quarters. If a coin is dropped, she can identify whether it's a penny, nickel, dime, or quarter just by the sound.

Some people think Cortney's skills are extraordinary. But to her, life isn't difficult and her skills aren't unusual. "I just pay more attention to details like sound than most people do," she says.

Cortney's friend Christina Gountas often visits after school. Christina is also blind. Sometimes they draw together using thin strips of sticky wax. They can feel the shapes they make on paper. The girls also like to play descriptive videos in the VCR. As the movie plays, a voice describes scenery and action that blind people can't see. When the movie Titanic wasn't available as a descriptive video for Cortney's slumber party, her sighted friends described the action for her and Christina.

Cortney has been taking Tae Kwon Do classes for three years. Instead of watching her teacher demonstrate moves, she learned to kick, punch, and flip people by feeling her teacher's arm or body position, then copying it herself. Cortney participates in most of the activities in her gym class at school--even running on the track. She just takes a classmate's hand and joins the race. At the summer camp she attends, Cortney and other blind kids play kick ball with a ball and bases that beep.

Cortney climbs into bed, taking along a Braille version of the novel Jurassic Park. She says that books help her see the world. "They have such in-depth descriptions, like how a raptor moves its head, or the scenery, or even the temperature," she says. "They really make you feel like you're there."

Cortney's dream is to become a paleontologist, a scientist who studies dinosaurs. She knows she'll have to study hard, but Cortney also knows her blindness won't stand in her way. "I don't think being blind is hard," she says. "I think of it as being unique."

Cortney's Tips for Kids:

Cortney helped write a list of courtesy rules to tell sighted people how they can treat blind kids with more respect. Here are some of her tips.

* Please don't say "Guess who I am" or expect me to know you by your voice. This will embarrass me if I don't know.

*When greeting me, say your name, like "Hi Cort, it's A.J., what's up?"

*In group situations, say my name first when addressing me. Then I'll know you're talking to me.

* Please don't move my body--for example, turn me for directions or place my hands on something. Spoken directions are much more helpful and considerate.

* My cane is used for what I can't see with my eyes. I keep it with me all the time. Please don't move it without me knowing.

* Don't think that I'm amazing because I read Braille or can find my way using a cane. I'm just an ordinary person who is blind. You or anyone could do it if you were taught the skills.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: Tonia Valletta Trapp]

Let the Medals Jingle

by Tonia Valletta Trapp

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From the Editor: The following story first appeared in Gray Pancakes and Gold Horses, the first of the two 1998 additions to our Kernel Book series of paperback books for the general public. Since Tonia wrote this piece, she has married Gregg Trapp, an attorney in New Mexico. Here is the story as it first appeared, beginning with Dr. Jernigan's introduction:

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Tonia Valletta is a superb gymnast. She has also found and come to realize the importance of the National Federation of the Blind. Here is what she has to say about both:

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I remember how surprised I was when, during my eighth grade year, a fellow student in my Spanish class approached me and said admiringly, "Hey, I was doing some research, and I found a picture of you in National Geographic World magazine. I didn't know you used to do gymnastics!" My mom has collected all the newspaper articles about me since I was three years old; they are tangible proof that being blind, let alone a blind gymnast, is a big deal to the rest of the world. But it was not the numerous articles, the swell of being notorious, the people who said, "You've inspired me so much," or the medals and ribbons that I loved so dearly: it was being a gymnast.

Mr. Roltsch was the coach who agreed to take me into his gym and teach me gymnastics when I was seven or eight years old. "I had never taught a blind gymnast before," he told me later, "so I was hesitant and a bit skeptical when your Mom called me and asked me to teach you. But, when your Mom brought you over, and I took you down into the gym to test you out, I decided it was worth the challenge to take you on as a pupil." He had a deep, powerful voice that I was drawn to because it said, "I expect 100 percent grit from you, and if you don't give it to me, I will be disappointed." At the same time his voice was gentle and reassuring. He never hesitated to correct me, and he had a not-so-subtle way of telling me when he knew I was cheating him out of valuable time by slacking off. I rejoiced at every compliment I got from him, for he gave them only when my performance was nearly perfect enough to merit them.

Mr. Roltsch was a demanding coach and a darn good one. Those of us on the team who appreciated gymnastics as both a sport and an art, just as Mr. Roltsch did, gave him every ounce of strength and determination that we had, and he, in the course of a few years, transformed us from hesitant, clumsy little marionettes into gymnasts.

The Roltsches' gym was built into their basement, and to get to it, you had to walk down a steep, spiraling sidewalk that curled around the house and led straight to the door of the upper deck of the gym. Up there we all pulled off our sweat suits and socks, tossed our shoes against the wall, and scampered down the thirteen planked stairs onto the floor mats below. The gym had its own smell, which I came to associate automatically with the sweat of grueling workouts and the sweet, paralyzing exhaustion that always accompanied them.

I quickly became addicted to the anesthetic effect of the draining workouts, so much so that whenever I entered the gym, even before I had stripped down to my leotard, I could feel tender, invisible fingers gently massaging and stretching my muscles in preparation for the next two hours of leap, tumble, and swing.

My first victory in gymnastics came when I turned my first cartwheel. Someone had tried to show me what a cartwheel looked like by using a Barbie doll, but I could not understand. In my eight-year-old mind, I was a little girl, not a doll, and I was not able to imagine my body manipulating itself the way the doll moved in the hands of my coach. For weeks, maybe even months, I tried mechanically to turn a cartwheel, putting down slowly first one hand, then the other hand, then one foot, then the other foot. I felt like a long-limbed gorilla slapping the mat with my hands and clumping with my feet as I tried to force my body to turn itself properly.

Then one day it happened without my even trying; in fact, that must have been why it happened. All of a sudden I found myself sliding smoothly through the air and landing in the same position I'd started in. I knew as soon as I landed that this was how a cartwheel was supposed to feel. I still did not understand exactly how I'd done it, much less what it looked like, but I did know what one felt like, and that was all that mattered.

The next challenge was to train myself to do a straight cartwheel, so I turned wheel after wheel using the crack between the mats as my guiding line. It took the horse a while, but finally it learned to pull the cart straight down that line.

The "floor ex," short for floor exercise, was my second favorite event. I didn't like doing balance beam because I couldn't keep myself from falling off; and, because I could not run straight down the thirty-foot runway to the vault, I could not build up enough power to hurl myself over it. But the floor (I especially liked its more modern version, the spring floor, that was carpeted and bounced slightly when you fell on it) for me consisted of gravity, the expansive flatness, and the infinite space above it through which I could leap and twist and somersault to my soul's content.

Truly, to be off the ground, buoyed up in the air, restrained by nothing, and surrounded by an exhilarating nothingness for just an instant is the sweetest liberation I have ever known. For that reason my favorite move on the floor was the double front handspring, because keeping my body in constant motion during those three to four seconds electrified me every time I did one. I would launch onto my right foot as though I were skipping; then, after my left foot hit the ground once, I lunged forward and boxed the floor with open palms as my feet sailed in an arc over my head and landed in front of my hands, which sprang from the floor, rocking me forward into a standing position once again. I would then repeat the move, except this time without the skipping start because the momentum of the first handspring catapulted me into the second handspring.

For the record, I admit that throughout my six years as a gymnast I had to work extremely hard at being both flexible and graceful. However, when it came to the floor and the uneven bars, I was the queen of brute strength and aggression: the two bars levitated in space, the gravity, the nothingness, and the expansive flatness were all my subjects, and I forced them to work as hard for me as I did for them.

My favorite event, as well as my best, was the uneven bars. I received my highest score ever, an 8.25, doing a class four bar routine. Other coaches worked with me on floor, beam, and vault; but when it came time to work on the uneven bars, Mr. Roltsch was my coach to the exclusion of all other coaches and assistant coaches. When he realized that I loved the bars best and was strong and daring enough to take them on, he dedicated himself to the challenge of helping me to perfect my bar routine.

Gradually, yet unmistakably, the bars ushered themselves into the center of the gym as I visualized it--and I, the bars, and Mr. Roltsch pressed on toward ultimately unachievable perfection.

At my first gymnastics meet I did only my bar routine because it was my best and most practiced. I remember that day well. The rest of the team were already at the meet doing their other three routines. It wasn't yet time to join them, so Mom dropped me off at the Roltsches' house. Mr. Roltsch met me at the door and took me through his house and downstairs into the gym. There he helped me warm up on the bars and run through a few routines so I would be ready at the meet. Then we went back upstairs, I dressed, and we sat outside on his porch drinking lemonade. I don't remember what we said, but I know that I felt loved and protected sitting with Mr. Roltsch on his porch. We then drove to the meet, and I did my routine. I was scared, but I made it through and got a score of 6.65. My coach was happy with that score.

A few years passed, and I turned eleven on May 13, 1985. I was a fifth-grader, and school was almost over. Some time before that a friend had told me, my mom, and Mr. and Mrs. Roltsch about a national sports competition for the blind that happened every year during the first week of June. This year Nationals, sponsored by USABA, the United States Association for Blind Athletes, would be held in Trenton, New Jersey. By now my bar routine had improved considerably, along with my other three routines; I now competed all-around, doing all four events in the meets I went to. So my coach, my mom, and I talked it over briefly and decided that I should go to New Jersey.

Soon I was sitting quietly in the back seat of the Roltsches' car as we drove north; my parents followed the next day. On the morning of the competition I was more terrified than I had ever been in my entire life. I felt sick to my stomach, and I could hardly swallow the chocolate milk Mr. Roltsch told me I had to drink. All had gone well in practice, but now was the real thing, my one and only chance to prove myself to all those who would be watching, including my parents.

Floor, beam, and vault came and went in a haze; I fell off the beam four times and set a national record with my score on the floor exercise. Then came the uneven bars. I was psyched, I was ready--and I was scared. There was one move in the routine I was particularly worried about. It was the hardest move in the routine, and if I didn't get the timing absolutely right, I would miss it completely.

Perching on the low bar facing forward, I would do a single-leg shoot through to straddle the bar, then reverse grip and raise myself from off the bar to circle swiftly around it. This move was called a mill-circle catch because in mid-rotation I would let go of the low bar about 7/8 of the way around to reach for the high bar. If I let go too early or too late, I wouldn't catch the bar, and Mr. Roltsch would have to touch me to keep me from falling. If he touched me, the judges would deduct half a point from my score. We had practiced this move hundreds of times, and I knew I could do it perfectly. But, would I? Or would I clam up and not let go at all?

I was up. I splashed chalk on my hands and positioned myself standing on the mat in front of the low bar. I touched the bar, saluted the judge, and began my routine. It was swift, tight, and powerful. Pausing for not even an instant, I shot my leg through to straddle the low bar, reversed grip, raised myself off the bar, and...whapp! I had done it: I had caught the high bar. The audience gasped in a hushed voice, and I heard my Dad exclaim in astonishment, for he had never seen me compete before. I finished my routine, and Mr. Roltsch hugged me as the applause raged and surrounded me with love.

As I stood on the top level of the make-shift platform with one girl standing below me to my right and another below me to my left, I cautiously lifted my hands to my neck and felt the thick, wide ribbons that cascaded down my chest. There were five medals spread out just below my chest: four gold and one silver. I had won the first-place all-around medal, which meant that I was now the reigning national champion blind gymnast. I kept smiling while pictures were snapped of me with the second and third place winners--it was wonderfully easy to smile.

As we all left the gym victoriously, the medals at my chest began to jingle rhythmically as I walked. After a few steps I put my hand over them to quiet them because I was afraid that the people walking with me would think I was being obnoxious. "Tonia," my friend exclaimed jubilantly, "take your hand away. For goodness sake, let those medals jingle!" The others agreed heartily, so I removed my hand, and the medals at my chest began to swing and bounce wildly with a glorious chink...chink...chink ....

The blind athletes' competition was my first encounter with a national organization involved with blind people. More recently I have come to be a part of the National Federation of the Blind. After being urged by my friends to attend the National Convention, I decided that the most godly and appropriate thing for me to do would be to attend with an open mind and heart. To my great surprise and delight, as I met one Federationist after another, I encountered blind people who were friendly, polite, and confident in their own abilities. And I noticed other characteristics of Federationists that impressed me very much. Most notably, I observed a contagious enthusiasm and energy, together with a strong, binding sense of commitment to bettering the position of blind persons in society.

I found myself compellingly attracted to this group of people who shared my enthusiasm and willingness to work hard to accomplish set goals, so I decided to join the National Federation of the Blind and to search for ways to use my own special gifts and abilities to further the independence, goals, and aspirations of all blind people.

There are many ways to let the medals jingle.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: Each year Safari Clubs International conducts a Sensory Safari at the beginning of our conventions. Pictured here, Nikki Zimmerman gets acquainted with a cougar.]

1999 Convention Attractions

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From the Editor: Every year's National Convention is an absolutely unique event. The agenda items, the exhibits, the new friends and business acquaintances: all these give each convention its own character and significance. Some activities lend a luster to the convention in part because they do take place every year and provide helpful fixed points in the whirl of events. In this category are the meetings of the Resolutions Committee and the Board of Directors, the annual banquet, and the many seminars and workshops of the various divisions and committees. Here is a partial list of activities being planned by a number of Federation groups during the 1999 Convention, June 30 through July 6. Presidents of divisions, committee chairpeople, and event presenters have provided the information. The pre-convention agenda will list the locations of all events taking place before convention registration on Thursday, July 1. The convention agenda will contain listings of all events taking place beginning that day.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: The 1998 Blind Professional Journalists meeting with Bryan Bashin and Liz Campbell at the head table]

Blind Professional Journalists

by Deborah Kendrick

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Are you a print or broadcast journalist or studying to become one? Join others in your field to share ideas, techniques, and tricks for getting the story and getting it into print or on the air. Getting the job and getting visual information, managing drivers and readers, and finding the right technology--these and other issues will be discussed by working journalists, both blind and sighted, on Friday, July 2, from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. Convention activities for blind journalists this year will be coordinated by Deborah Kendrick and Bryan Bashin.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: NFB campers playing Simon Says]

NFB Camp: It's More than Child's Play

by Carla McQuillan

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About the Director: NFB Camp is under the direction of Carla McQuillan, the executive director of the Main Street Montessori Association, operating two Montessori schools, a teacher-training program, and parent education classes. Mrs. McQuillan was recognized for her nineteen years of teaching experience in early childhood education when she received the Blind Educator of the Year Award presented by the National Federation of the Blind at our 1996 convention in Anaheim. Carla is also the mother of two children and the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon.

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Camp Staff: Mary Wieczorek, the activities director for NFB Camp, is a long-time employee of Main Street Montessori Association. She has extensive experience planning and expediting programs for children. As in past years, we will be recruiting Head Start teachers from the local area to serve as our Camp Counselors. In addition we will be working with teachers and teens who volunteer at the Atlanta Center for the Visually Impaired. Annie Maxwell is the volunteer coordinator at the Center in Atlanta and is a new member of the NFB of Georgia. For several years now Annie has been organizing a six-week summer camp for blind children in the Atlanta area. She will draw on teachers, speakers, and teens who have worked and volunteered at her summer camp. We are truly blessed to have Annie working on our team this year. As always, we encourage blind teens to volunteer at NFB Camp throughout the week to acquire child-care experience in a positive environment with blind role models.

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Special Activities and Events: This year's convention setting offers a wide range of opportunities to explore areas outside the hotel. As most of you know from reading Monitor articles about the convention, the Marriott is connected to the Peachtree Center Mall. From our perspective this means the freedom to practice a wide range of cane-travel and orientation skills without ever stepping outdoors. The other exciting feature is the proximity of the subway trains, located just below the mall. We will be conducting philosophy discussions to complement the skills training taking place every day. Once again the children will enjoy daily art activities prepared by Corrinne Vieville of the National Federation of the Blind of California. We will feature afternoon matinees of our descriptive video collection. Back by popular demand, we will sing, dance, and play along with blind singer/songwriter Daniel Lamonds of Blind Ambitions. Each day during general sessions children will be encouraged to participate in games and activities both inside the hotel and out in the community. A schedule of NFB Camp activities will be available at the information table at convention. The program just gets better each year!

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Hours of Operation: NFB Camp will be open one half hour before the beginning of sessions and one half hour after sessions adjourn. Children must be picked up during lunch breaks. A late fee of $10 per child will be rigorously collected if children are not picked up from NFB Camp on time. The schedule follows:

Wednesday, June 30, 8:30 - 5:00 (Staggered Breaks for Staff)

Thursday July 1, Camp is Closed

Friday, July 2, 8:30 to 12:00 and 1:00 to 5:30 (This is also the day of our Kids' Trip to the Coca-Cola Museum.)

Saturday, July 3, 9:30 to 12:30 and 1:30 to 5:30

Sunday, July 4, 8:30 to 12:30

Monday, July 5, 8:30 to 12:30 and 1:30 to 5:30 and 6:30 to 10:30 PM

Tuesday, July 6, 8:30 to 12:30 and 1:30 to 5:30

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Many blind and sighted teen-agers at the convention are available for baby-sitting, and we urge parents to consider this option. You may get names and room numbers of teens interested in baby-sitting by contacting Loretta White, coordinator of teen activities. We highly recommend that parents pre-register children for NFB Camp using the form provided in the print issue or by providing the requested information written out on paper along with the correct payment.

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[PHOTO/DESCRIPTION: This picture evokes a 1930's-era soda fountain. CAPTION: The International Lounge at the Coca-Cola Museum.]

Kids' Trip: Coca-Cola was created in Atlanta in 1886. This year participants in Kids' Trip will be touring World of Coca-Cola Atlanta, located in a three-story pavilion adjacent to the one-of-a-kind shopping area, Underground Atlanta. Experiences at the museum will include a tribute to bottling; the largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia ever assembled; a replica of a 1930's soda fountain, where we will see how Coke was prepared and served before the invention of modern equipment; and complimentary drinks.

The charge is $10 per child to cover transportation, lunch, and the entrance fee. Children may bring extra spending money for souvenirs or shopping in Underground Atlanta. We will gather at 11:30 a.m. in the National Federation of the Blind Camp rooms on July 2, and we will be returning at 4:30. To insure your child's space for this trip, please register by May 30, 1999.

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Registration for both National Federation of the Blind Camp and the Kids' Trip should be made using the forms which appear in the print edition or by providing in writing the information requested on the forms. Send completed forms or required information together with your check (made payable to NOPBC) to the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, NFB Camp, 5005 Main Street, Springfield, Oregon 97478. For more information call Carla McQuillan at (541) 726-6924.

 

 

NFB Camp Pre-Registration Form

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Child(ren) Name(s)

_______________________________________________________Age ______

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_______________________________________________________Age ______

_______________________________________________________Age ______

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Parent/Guardian _________________________________________________________________

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Home Address _________________________________________________________________

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_________________________________________________________________

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Home Phone ( ___ )_______________ Work Phone ( ____ ) ___________

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Amount Enclosed

Rates:

First Child (full week) $60 ______

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Additional Siblings (full week) $30 each ______

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Daily rate per child $15 each per day ______

Banquet $10 per child ______

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Total Enclosed ______

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Make checks payable to NOPBC. Send this form with payment to Carla McQuillan, National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, 5005 Main Street, Springfield, Oregon 97478, (541) 726-6924

 

 

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Registration for 1999 Kids' Trip

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Child(ren) Name(s) __________________________________________________ Age __________

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Parent/Guardian _________________________________________________

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Phone # _______________

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Address _________________________________________________________

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Amount Enclosed ($10 per child) $__________

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Is your child blind? [ ] yes [ ] no (If more than one child is being registered, indicate which child is blind.)

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Does your child have special needs? (List the special needs, and indicate which child if registering more than one.)

 

 

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The Committee on Associates

by Tom Stevens

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The Committee on Associates will meet on Friday evening, July 2, at 7 p.m. We will review the final standings for the 1999 enrollment year, present awards, and see if we can gain consensus for goals for the year 2000. Recruiters are welcome, but so are those who are interested in making an impact on the misconceptions which bug all of us.

We will hold a short workshop at noon on July 3. Just as at the committee meeting, a guest speaker will be featured. Come one and all.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: Audience members at a Deaf-Blind Division seminar]

Deaf-Blind Division

by Joe Naulty

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This year the Deaf-Blind Division will again staff a convention table in the exhibit hall. We will have T-shirts, document bags, new specialty items, literature, and resource information on deaf-blind issues.

On Wednesday, June 30, the subject "Training Interpreters to Work Effectively with Persons Who are Deaf-Blind" will be presented by Mark J. Myers, Project Director, and Elaine Ducharme, Consumer Facilitator, National Interpreter Education Project, Northwestern Connecticut Community-Technical College.

On Friday, July 2, Susan Brooke Lascek, Regional Representative for the Helen Keller National Center, will speak on the subject, "Overview of Deaf-Blind Issues, Specifically Relating to Blind Persons Who Lose Their Hearing Later in Life."

On Sunday, July 4, the Deaf-Blind general business meeting will include reports from Board Members and committee chairpersons. A guest speaker will be announced.

Deaf-Blind Division members and guests are requested to communicate their individual interpreting requirements for the three meetings directly to the Deaf-Blind National Treasurer, Kimberly Johnson. Kimberly will be coordinating interpreting services; she will also be accepting 1999 membership dues, which are $5 annually. Contact Kimberly Johnson at 4060 South Grant Street, Englewood, Colorado 90110, (330) 761-2795. You may also communicate with Division President Joseph B. Naulty, 11943 Suellen Circle, Wellington, Florida 33414, (561) 753-4700.

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Diabetes Action Network

by Ed Bryant

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At the 1999 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, our Diabetes Action Network will conduct its annual seminar and business meeting on Friday, July 2, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. We are working on getting a podiatrist as our keynote speaker to cover diabetic foot care. An open panel discussion will follow this presentation, covering all aspects of diabetes (including talking glucose monitors). Once again we will have our Make-the-President-Pay diabetes quiz game, and President Bryant says he will give a nice donation to the Division for each right answer! Our seminar is free and open to the public.

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The Evaluation and Promotion of Technology Committee

by Jim Willows

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The NFB's Evaluation and Promotion of Technology Committee will meet at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 1. As usual we will hear brief presentations by vendors of technological products for the blind. They will tell us about their product lines and emphasize new developments. We will again begin the meeting with presentations of new technology soon to be announced as products for blind users. We ask our speakers to make their talks understandable by the less technically oriented members of the audience. This has made our meeting popular with convention attendees who want a general overview of the technology being displayed at our convention.

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Human Services Division

by Doug Elliott

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This year the NFB Human Services Division will meet at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, July 2. As usual we will hear from an interesting, thought-provoking keynote speaker. Two speeches will be given by blind human-services authorities. At least two panels of people working as blind therapists in social work, psychology, or vocational rehabilitation will stimulate group discussion with thoughtful presentations. Time permitting, we will conduct role plays with audience participation to help describe and solve problems. This is an election year. Please come ready to vote for your favorite candidates. I look forward to seeing you in Atlanta.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: Richard Ring demonstrates Windows 98 to a group of Federationists.]

An Introduction to Windows 98 and the Internet

by Richard Ring

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Windows 98 has replaced MS-DOS as the operating system of choice in the workplace and at home. For the sighted this has been for the most part a welcome change. No more complex command lines to remember. Instead all the sighted user need do is point and click the mouse, and programs run, files are moved, and the World Wide Web is accessed. But what about those of us who are blind? Can a blind person become a productive and efficient user of Windows 98? The answer is, yes! If you want to begin to understand how to accomplish this, an Introduction to Windows 98 and the Internet is a seminar you should attend. It will take place on Wednesday, June 30, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Curtis Chong, director of Technology for the National Federation of the Blind, and Richard Ring, supervisor of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, will host this seminar. What makes this presentation unique is its approach to teaching Windows 98. When sighted people attempt to teach blind people Windows 98, they often find it difficult to get beyond the point-and-click mentality. They are more interested in the physical layout of the screen than the best way to access the items and objects on display. We will show you how to navigate in Windows 98 using the keyboard, how to create shortcuts to your favorite programs, how to work with popular Windows applications, what it is like to surf the Web in Windows, and more.

Sometimes you just have to use the mouse pointer to access certain functions within a Windows application. However, screen readers provide a way for a blind person to manipulate the mouse pointer from the keyboard. This way a blind user can access programs that are not keyboard-friendly. We'll even show you how sounds generated by Windows 98 can serve as valuable cues, as well as providing a bit of entertainment.

Many blind people have expressed grave concerns about how well they can learn to work in Windows 98. What holds true for blindness in general is true for Windows 98. Given the proper training, a blind person can not only learn to use Windows but enjoy doing so. Though we cannot promise you that when you leave this seminar you will be a Windows expert, we can assure you that you will come away knowing that Windows need not be an obstacle to success. Join us and discover, as we already have, that blind people do Windows!

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The Louisiana Center for the Blind Players

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Long Ago When Freedom Rang is the title of this year's original play by Jerry Whittle. Two performances will take place on Friday evening, July 2. The play is the story of a Vietnam War veteran who loses everything in order to find himself. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Louisiana Center.

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Blind Merchants Association

by Donald Morris

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On Wednesday, June 30, the Blind Merchants Association and the National Buyers Group will cosponsor a huge food show featuring scores of manufacturers and hundreds of products. The time of the show will probably be 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., but check the pre-convention agenda for the exact time and place. The National Buyers Group will bring you many, many special offers, deals, and discounts. Be sure to attend this national show to learn how to take advantage of these special opportunities.

Once again the Blind Merchants Association will have a $1,000 raffle to be drawn at the banquet. One dollar tickets can be purchased from any member of the Blind Merchants Association or at the Merchants booth in the exhibit hall. Contact Wayne Shevlin at (919) 847-3470 for raffle tickets to sell.

Attention vendors: please contact Joe and Laura Van Lent at (515) 243-6843 to learn the time slot you will be assigned to work. Many slots are available; please call and volunteer so you can have the time slot you want.

As noted above, the Blind Merchants Association will again be present in the exhibit hall passing out free soft drinks, selling snack packs, and providing corsages and boutonnieres for the banquet at a truly modest cost.

The snack packs contain an assortment of munchies--candy, chips, and snacks. A nearly $20 value for $5. Vendors, contact Don Hudson, (303) 447-1615, to let him know the items you will be donating for the snack packs. Either bring your items to Atlanta by June 30, or ship them in advance to Kim Williams, 2806 Igou Ferry Road, Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee 37379, or call (423) 842-7582 or (423) 843-7298. Ship via UPS to arrive no later than June 25, 1999. Kim says to mark your shipment "signature not required for delivery."

Finally, our annual business meeting will occur from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. (unless we finish sooner) on Friday, July 2, 1999. I look forward to seeing you all in Atlanta--come early, stay late.

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Mock Trial

by Scott LaBarre

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The National Association of Blind Lawyers will sponsor the Second Annual Mock Trial at the 1999 Convention. This trial will reenact an old Federation case. Federation lawyers will be pitted against each other, arguing the merits of the two positions. We will revisit the 1986 Kevan Worley Case, which tackled the issue of whether a blind man had the right to refuse society's charity to the blind when that charity was being forced upon him. This case was tried to a jury and won by the Federation. See your favorite Federation lawyers strut their legal stuff.

The audience will serve as the jury. This year's trial promises to be as entertaining and thought-provoking as last year's. A nominal charge of $5 for the trial will benefit the National Association of Blind Lawyers. The trial will take place on Thursday afternoon, July 1, at 4:30 p.m. somewhere in the convention hotel. Consult the convention agenda for the exact place.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: Music Division members stand in line to register.]

Music Division

by Linda Mentink

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The Music Division will again conduct its Showcase of Talent at this year's convention. It will take place on Saturday evening, July 3. If you would like to participate in the Showcase, here are the guidelines: 1) Sign up no later than noon, Saturday. 2) Perform only one number, taking no more than four minutes to perform. 3) If you are using a taped accompaniment, be sure that the tape is cued up properly. Do not sing along with a vocal artist; you will be stopped immediately. 4) If you need live accompaniment, make your arrangements before the Showcase begins.

Children who plan to participate will be invited to perform first. The Showcase will be limited to two hours, about twenty-four performers. Come help us enjoy music.

The Music Division's annual meeting will take place Thursday evening, July 1. We are still working on agenda details, but you won't want to miss the meeting. This is not an election year, but, if you are serious about music, we hope to see you at Music Division events in Atlanta. Remember that division dues are $5 and may be paid any time before the meeting. Treasurer Ben Snow's address is 358 Orange Street, Apartment 409, New Haven, Connecticut 06511.

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National Association of the Blind in Communities of Faith

by Robert Parrish

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It is hard to believe that another NFB convention is around the corner. With this in mind the leaders of the National Association of the Blind in Communities of Faith are making plans for our annual meeting. The theme for this year's seminar is "Religion and Attitude."

The date is July 2. As usual, the time and location will be given at the convention. We are hopeful that we will have Dr. Elizabeth Browne as our main seminar speaker. As you will recall from the February, 1998, Braille Monitor, Dr. Browne is a professor of theology at Loyola University in Chicago and author of the book Disabled Disciple. A panel discussion, including audience participation, will follow her address.

In addition to the seminar, we will conduct a breakfast meeting to discuss what people have done and can do locally to strengthen our division. We will also be selling raffle tickets again this year. Tickets will be $4 each. The first prize will be $50. The winning tickets will be drawn during the convention.

As president of the NABICF, I invite you to participate in our convention activities, and I look forward to seeing you in Atlanta.

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National Association of Blind Educators

by Mary Willows

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The National Association of Blind Educators will meet on Friday, July 2, 1999, from 1:00 to 5:00 P.M. Teachers from all over the country will gather to share tips on techniques as well as support for each other with solid advice. Some of the topics which will be discussed will be readers vs. aides to accomplish everyday paperwork tasks; technology in and out of the classroom; and pulling your own weight on the playground.

This year we will hear from a recently retired teacher and department head who has seen and done it all when it comes to managing students, parents and colleagues. Allen Harris will tell us everything we ever wanted to know about teaching but were afraid to ask.

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The National Association of Blind Entrepreneurs

by Connie Leblond

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The National Association of Blind Entrepreneurs (NABE) will hold its annual division meeting in 1999 with increased momentum and enthusiasm. Agenda topics will include the right technology for blind business owners, mapping the future of this division, accounts of success by on-the-move blind business owners and much more. The networking of blind people, the sharing of resources, the collective action of this group of creative individuals have only just begun to be tapped. Your attendance is welcome and encouraged. We are changing what it means to be blind one business at a time.

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National Association of Guide Dog Users

by Gigi Firth

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The National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU) will conduct two meetings this year. The first one is the usual business meeting, which is scheduled on Wednesday, June 30, from 7 to 10 p.m. The second is the seminar "A Guide Dog In Your Life," to be held Saturday, July 3, from 7 to 10 p.m. The evening schedule was decided upon to allow members and other interested people to attend other activities with as little conflict as possible. Some of the topics to be discussed at these meetings are puppy-raiser contact, abuse and changing abuse laws, progress of the Hawaii suit, school updates, and a report on their activities from Ed and Toni Eames. We will also discuss what it's really like to have a guide dog, how you know if a guide dog is right for you, what preparation you need before going into class for a dog, how you know when it's time to call an instructor, and how you can best introduce a guide dog into your family.

Veterinary assistance and help with getting and applying flea-control medication will also be available. As before, Ed and Toni are heading the Canine Concerns Committee. This committee will procure the veterinary assistance and maintain the dog relief areas.

We hope to see anyone interested in working with or living with a guide dog at the meetings this year. Cane users who might wish to get a guide dog are encouraged to attend since some of the topics are aimed at this group.

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National Association of Blind Lawyers

by Scott LaBarre

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As the hot and humid days of our Atlanta Convention draw near, activity in the National Association of Blind Lawyers is beginning to heat up. First, I would like to invite all of you to join us in Atlanta to take part in the largest meeting of blind lawyers and legal professionals held anywhere in the country. The National Association of Blind Lawyers will meet Friday, July 2, 1999, from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta as part of the fifty-ninth annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind.

We will discuss many exciting topics on that afternoon. Speaking from their expertise, lawyers will give an update on the current status of laws affecting the blind. We will hear reports on various advocacy matters in which the Federation has been involved throughout the last year. We expect that officials from the American Bar Association, Georgia Bar Association, and Atlanta Bar Association will address the group about what's new and exciting in the organized bar of Georgia. Experienced practitioners will offer strategies on how best to conduct various types of cases. We will share strategies and techniques for securing the best possible jobs in the legal field. We expect to hear from West Group representatives about the latest developments in West Law and how the blind can access this important research tool. This and much, much more will take place at our annual meeting in Atlanta.

As NABL President I am also pleased to announce that we will be hosting our second annual reception after the NABL meeting for blind lawyers, law students, and legal professionals. This reception will give us the opportunity to get to know each other and share ideas. Blind law students will be able to learn how their predecessors did it. Practicing professionals will learn new tips from their colleagues.

With our regular meeting, the mock trial, and the reception the National Association of Blind Lawyers plans to be busy in Atlanta. Make your plans now and join us in the Home of the Braves and those Dirty Birds.

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National Association of Blind Secretaries and Transcribers

by Lisa Hall

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The National Association of Blind Secretaries and Transcribers is scheduled to meet on June 30 with registration beginning at 6:30 p.m. and the meeting beginning at 7:00 p.m. We are planning a couple of exciting things on the agenda. Anyone wishing to be a member can contact Lisa Hall, 9110 Broadway, Apt. J102, San Antonio, Texas 78217; Phone: (210) 829-4571; e-mail: <lehtex@concentric.net>.

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National Association of Blind Students

by Shawn Mayo

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The National Association of Blind Students is ready to take over Atlanta! This year's seminar will take a look at the history of the organized blind movement through some of our favorite songs, address what issues blind students currently face, and present speakers and panels that lead to thought-provoking discussion. Whether you are a student in the classroom or a student of life, you won't want to miss this year's seminar on Thursday, July 1, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m.

As students we also know how to have a good time. So get your poker face ready, and come join the National Association of Blind Students at Monte Carlo night on Sunday, July 4, from 8:00 p.m. to Midnight. Card games of all types will be played, and good fun will be had by all. Cash prizes are given to the first-, second-, and third-place winners. You will also find us at the NOPBC's Braille carnival. And be sure not to miss out on the student parties.

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NFB Amateur Radio Group

by D. Curtis Willoughby

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In accordance with long-standing tradition, again in 1999 the first meeting of the NFB convention will be the Emergency Preparedness Seminar conducted by the NFB Ham Radio Group. The seminar will be held at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 30. We will discuss frequencies to be used during the convention, especially those to be used in the event of an emergency call-out.

We will also discuss the architectural features of the convention hotels and other information that NFB hams must know about if an emergency response is necessary. The annual business meeting of the NFB Ham Radio Group will be held at noon on Monday, July 5.

Any Atlanta hams who would be willing to do a little frequency scouting before the convention are asked to contact Curtis, KA0VBA, phone (303) 424-7373, e-mail, <ka0vba@dimensional.com>.

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National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science

Computers, the Web, and More!

by Curtis Chong

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If you want to talk about computers, the World Wide Web, strategies blind people can use to deal with technological change in the workplace, and more, come and join the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science (NFBCS) at its annual meeting on Friday, July 2, from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Registration will begin at 12:30. Here is what we know about the agenda so far.

Dr. James Thatcher from the IBM Special Needs Systems group will be talking about the work being done by IBM to promote accessibility. Dr. Thatcher is a long-time favorite at NFBCS meetings. His talk is particularly timely in light of the tremendous amount of publicity we have been seeing regarding a new program called the IBM Home Page Reader.

We are organizing a panel of blind computer users to talk about technological change in the workplace. They will discuss the challenges brought about by changes and upgrades in software used by their employers and the strategies which have worked well to enable them to adapt to the changes.

Speaking of adapting to change and learning new technology, we will hear from Project Assist, a program which develops tutorials designed to teach you how to run an application such as a word processor, spreadsheet, or data base software with specific screen access programs.

There has been a flurry of activity surrounding a new and improved Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, including a mandate for the Federal Access Board to develop standards around procuring accessible electronic and information technology. The standards promulgated by the Board could have far-reaching effects upon all kinds of technology; the Federal Government is a very large purchaser of such things as computers, software, and other electronic equipment. Therefore it seems appropriate for us to hear from Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden, who directs the Trace Center operated out of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Dr. Vanderheiden is a strong champion of accessibility to technologies (both current and future) by people with disabilities. The Trace Center has done a lot of ground-breaking work in the area of access to electronic public information kiosks and other technologies.

If our plans come to fruition, we will once again hear from Microsoft about the work it has done and continues to do to ensure access to its systems and programs. A lot of work has been done by Microsoft, and many promises have been made. But have we, as blind computer users, seen the results of this work on the computers we must use at work, not to mention at home?

We are also trying to line up a presentation from the Web Access Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium. This is an effort to ensure that future developments in the World Wide Web do not push people with disabilities off the information superhighway. If this body does its work correctly, we have a very good chance of enjoying full access to all of the mountains of information available to us on the Web.

Last but not least, this is a year for electing new officers and board members in the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science. But you have to be a member of NFBCS to vote. Membership dues in NFBCS are $5 per year.

Come, pay your dues, and participate in the technologically enlightening discussions at the NFB in Computer Science meeting. Remember the date and time: Friday, July 2, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., at the National Federation of the Blind convention in Atlanta.

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NFB NET Training Seminar

by David Andrews

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At one time it was necessary to make a long distance telephone call to reach NFB NET, the official bulletin board service (BBS) of the National Federation of the Blind, unless you were lucky enough to live in the same city in which the BBS was located. This is no longer the case, thanks to the Internet.

It is now possible to reach the BBS through Telnet or FTP or by using a standard Web browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape, Lynx, PW Webspeak, or IBM's Home Page reader. NFB Net also hosts a large number of listservs or mailing lists. See the Braille Monitor, March, 1999.

The 1999 NFB NET Training Seminar will build on the information provided by Mr. Chong and Mr. Ring in the Windows 98/Internet training Seminar, which will be held earlier the same day and teach you how to access NFB NET on the Internet, using all of the methods just mentioned.

So, if you want to learn how to use NFB NET using the Internet from anywhere in the world, attend the 1999 NFB Net Training Seminar. It will be held on Wednesday, June 30, from 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. See the pre-convention agenda for location.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: Federation teens gather 'round to talk with Dr. Jernigan on the platform before a session of the 1998 convention.]

National Organization of Parents of Blind Children

by Barbara Cheadle

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For an increasing number of families and educators of blind children the National Federation of the Blind Convention has gradually become the place to be over the 4th of July. Although the events scheduled and sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children are their primary attraction, more and more parents and teachers have come to understand and appreciate the relevance of the entire NFB convention program to their blind children and students. That is why we do not schedule the entire week with parent workshops or programs. It is important for parents, children, youth, and teachers to have sufficient free time to prowl the exhibit hall, attend the NFB Board meeting, sit in on the NFB Resolutions Committee, take in a play performed by blind actors, compete in the Music Division's Showcase of Talent, see a NEWSLINE(R) Network demonstration, or take part in one or more of the numerous division or committee meetings, e.g., the National Association of Blind Students, the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, the Science and Engineering Division, the National Association of Blind Piano Tuners, and the National Association of Guide Dog Users.

So, as you look at the following parent workshop schedule, please remember that there is much, much more to experience at an NFB National Convention, and make your travel plans accordingly.

Wednesday, June 30: Note: pre-convention agendas with details on time and location of the following activities (and others) will be available Tuesday night and Wednesday morning at NFB information tables in the hotel lobby and in the NFB Presidential Suite.

* National Seminar for Parents and Teachers of Blind Children: All-day seminar (registration at 8:00 a.m., sessions from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) with a general seminar session in the morning and small-group workshops in the afternoon. Two of our seminar and workshop speakers will present some exciting information about computer technology for preschool through high school kids. Fee: $10 per person.

* NFB Camp for Kids: The main attraction will be the Kenneth Jernigan Braille Carnival. In honor of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, all of the activities at this special carnival--games, prizes, competitions, demonstrations, etc.--will have a Braille theme. But don't worry, you don't have to know Braille to enjoy the carnival. In fact there will be activities for any child, blind or sighted, between the ages of four and twelve. The fee for this NFB Camp- and NOPBC-sponsored activity is $5 per child, lunch included. NFB Camp workers and volunteers will supervise the children throughout all activities, so parents may participate fully in the seminar for parents.

Child Care: NFB Camp, under Carla McQuillan's directorship, will provide child care all day for infants and toddlers. Children registered for NFB Camp for the week pay no additional fee: others are asked to contribute $15 per child for the day. There is no additional fee for children receiving child care before and after the Kenneth Jernigan Braille Carnival.

* Discovery Day of Fun, Friends, and Fitting In: all-day activity for youth (blind and sighted) ages twelve to eighteen (or senior in high school). Conducted in the hotel simultaneously with the parents seminar. Fee: $15 per teen (includes lunch). Loretta White of Maryland will coordinate these activities. Loretta White will also coordinate a Teen Room, where teens can congregate during free hours to snack, talk, play games, watch movies, or just hang out. The room will be located next to Loretta's hotel room and will be supervised by adults at all times. Loretta will post and distribute a schedule to teens on Wednesday, June 30. Parents looking for baby sitters to hire might want to drop by the room to locate interested teens.

* Family Hospitality: Relax and chat with other parents, teachers, and blind adults while the kids roam and play around the tables (6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.). Snacks or light kid-friendly fare will be provided (donations requested). To add to the fun, door prizes will be awarded throughout the evening.

* Youth Convention Orientation: Get acquainted with the hotel the fun way--a scavenger hunt. Two sessions: Kids' Scavenger Hunt (ages nine through twelve), 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Teen Scavenger Hunt (ages thirteen through eighteen), 9:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Basic rules: Rule one--Have fun! Rule two--Everyone who participates must wear a sleepshade (blindfold). Rule three--Have fun! Rule four--Everyone who participates must carry a white cane. Sleepshades and canes will be available for loan during the activity.) Rule five--Please stay with your age group. Part of the purpose of this activity is to give kids and teens a chance to meet new people and make friends within their age groups. Rules six through ten--Have fun!

Thursday, July 1: This is the best day to register for the Convention and visit the exhibit hall. The registration fee in the past has been $10 per person and is required. The special room rates are contingent upon registration. You will receive a Convention agenda when you register.

* Conversation with Lilli Nielsen, Ph.D.: A two- or three-hour drop-in discussion and question-and-answer session. Inventor of the Little Room and developer of the Active Learning philosophy, Dr. Nielsen is known worldwide for her work with blind and multiply handicapped children. In recent years parents and teachers have discovered that her work also has implications for blind children who do not have additional disabilities. Location and time to be announced.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Katie Watson of Wisconsin demonstrates cane travel to other children and parents.]

* Cane Walk: This activity is directed by Joe Cutter, Pediatric Orientation and Mobility Specialist, with the assistance of student teachers from the Louisiana Tech University/Louisiana Center for the Blind O & M master's program. Parents, teachers, and blind children team up with instructors (most of them blind) and go on a cane walk throughout the hotel. Parents and teachers too have the option of using a cane and sleepshades. This Cane Walk is designed for the student who is relatively new to cane travel and for parents who need tips on how to help their children be more independent travelers. Age of child: toddler through high school teens (parents of infants may come, too). No fees, two sessions: 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Groups will gather outside the NFB convention registration room to begin the walk.

* Youth Hang Out: NOPBC and Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) Rehabilitation Program are again co-sponsoring a gathering place where youth (blind and sighted) ages twelve through eighteen can hang out, meet other kids, and become familiar with the NFB, the hotel, and the ins and outs of an NFB Convention. Time: 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Check the NFB Convention Agenda for room location. Rosemary Lerdahl, Director of the BISM Rehabilitation Program, will coordinate the teen room. Basic Rules: Rule one--no parents allowed! (parents, don't worry--adult volunteer counselors will be present at all times). Rule two--Have fun! (now you know the reason for rule one). Rule three--No younger siblings below the age limit! (there may be unusual exceptions, but we really want to keep this activity for teens only!). Rules four through ten--Have fun!

Friday, July 2:

* Annual Meeting of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. State Parent Division reports, door prizes, a presentation by the 1999 Educator of Blind Children Award winner, reports on new programs and initiatives for blind children: these are some of the exciting program items on the NOPBC agenda. We also have Dr. Lilli Nielsen from Denmark, who will give a presentation.

* Kids' Field Trip: Trip to the Coca-Cola Museum--see NFB Camp section for details. Volunteers under NFB Camp Director Carla McQuillan will accompany children on the trip, leaving parents free to attend the NOPBC meeting. NFB Camp Child Care services in the hotel will also be available during the NOPBC meeting for children too young for the trip or those who choose not to go on the trip.

Saturday, July 3:

* NOPBC Board Meeting: The newly elected NOPBC Board will meet from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., NOPBC members are welcome to observe.

* IEP Workshop: One of the first (and still the most popular) of the workshops conducted by the NOPBC at the NFB National Convention. Time: 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Marty Greiser, Second Vice President of the NOPBC, will moderate the workshop this year.

Sunday, July 4:

* Afternoon workshops for parents: Two or three years ago NOPBC began to schedule some workshops during the Convention's free afternoon. These workshops are generally less formal and more in-depth, intensive, and longer than the workshops on parent seminar day. Exact topics for these workshops have yet to be confirmed, but here are a few under serious consideration: Canes and Kids: Joe Cutter, Pediatric Orientation and Mobility Specialist. Joe has been conducting outstanding workshops for the NOPBC for several years. We hope to have him back again this year. Also under consideration is a technology workshop, exact title and focus yet to be determined. Workshops will be scheduled between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

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National Organization of the Senior Blind

by Christine Hall

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The National Organization of the Senior Blind will be holding its annual meeting at the NFB National Convention in Atlanta on Thursday, July 1, 1999, from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. At the time of this writing in January, the Board of Directors is planning an informative and stimulating agenda. We are pleased to announce that our new National Organization of the Senior Blind division brochure is hot off the press and will be available at the National Convention. Please come and join us. We will be registering new and old members and collecting dues of $5. We look forward to seeing you in Atlanta. For further information regarding the senior division contact Christine Hall, President, at (505) 268-3895.

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The National Association of Blind Piano Tuners

by Don Mitchell

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The National Association of Blind Piano Tuners will meet on Friday evening, July 2, 1999, at 7:00 p.m. Check your convention agenda for location. I look forward to seeing many of you this year. I am planning a visit to the Yamaha piano factory on the morning of Wednesday, July 7. If you wish to make this trip, please let me know and plan your return from the convention for Wednesday afternoon or evening. Send e-mail to <dsmitch@pacifier.com> or phone (360) 696-1985.

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Public Employees Division

by John Halverson

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Once again it is almost time for the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. The Public Employees Division will meet at 1:30 p.m. Friday, July 2, 1999, at the Marriott Hotel. We are planning an exciting agenda. This year's main topic may be of interest to more than public employees. We plan to have the director of the General Store as a guest speaker. The General Store is not a retail establishment selling everything from groceries to garden supplies. Rather it is a joint venture of the U.S. General Services Administration, other federal agencies, and state and local governments. The General Store offers answers to any government-related question. Subject matter experts are available to research anything of the kind. Let's try to stump them.

We also plan to demonstrate the use of the Internet for federal job exploration and to have updates on Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. This is the strengthened law which now may make it possible for blind federal employees and recipients of service to sue if they can't effectively use accessible computer and other office equipment.

Contact me if you wish to be on the agenda to talk about your job or if you have any suggestions for further agenda items: John Halverson, President, Public Employees Division, National Federation of the Blind, 403 West 62nd Terrace, Kansas City, Missouri 64113, (816) 361-7813, <johnhal@concentric.net>.

See you in Atlanta.

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Social Security Seminar

by James Gashel

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An outreach seminar (Social Security and Supplemental Security Income: What Applicants, Advocates, and Recipients Should Know) will take place on Sunday afternoon, July 4. The purpose of this seminar, which will be conducted jointly by the National Federation of the Blind and the Social Security Administration, is to provide information on Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for the blind. Seminar presenters will be Jim Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, and a representative to be announced from the Social Security Administration.

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The Masonic Square Club

by Harold Snider

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Dr. Jernigan often said that "A convention of the NFB is like the meeting of the Scottish clans." That is certainly true if one considers all the endeavors in which Federationists are involved. The Masonic Square Club is an NFB group comprised of those involved in one way or another in Freemasonary or its offshoots. If this includes you, you are invited to attend a breakfast meeting of the Masonic Square Club, which will take place at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 4. Any Master Mason, Scottish Rite Mason, York Rite Mason, or a member of the Tall Cedars or the Blue Grotto, or a Shriner or anyone ever in DeMolay is welcome to attend. Any member of the Eastern Star or the Daughters of the Nile or anyone who was ever a Rainbow Girl is also welcome to attend. The Masonic Square Club also recognizes all Prince Hall Masons. In other words, all Federationists who have ever been affiliated in any way with any Masonic body are welcome to attend the meeting of the Masonic Square Club at convention this year. All Masons are encouraged to bring their wives. Annual membership dues are $10, payable at the breakfast. Those interested in attending this meeting must make reservations with Harold Snider before Friday, July 2. Contact him at (301) 460-4142 or by e-mail at <hsnider@concentric.net>.

It is important that we have a good turnout at this year's meeting because the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Georgia has been invited to speak, along with the Sovereign Grand Inspector General of the Scottish Rite Temple of Georgia and the Imperial Potentate of the Shrine Temple in Atlanta. Other speakers are being considered. We must continue to convince our colleagues in Masonry not to discriminate against us on the ground of blindness.

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What Your Mother Couldn't Tell You

by Barbara Pierce

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For Teens Only: Are you interested in meeting other blind young women? Do you want to learn about fashion, flirting, dating, and other issues faced by blind young women? Do you want to become more assertive, a self-advocate, an action-oriented person? Do you want to learn about tips for putting on make-up, choosing clothes, cooking an elegant meal, or keeping track of your own stuff? Do you want to meet blind role models? Then come to the discussion group on Wednesday, June 30.

For sometime now the Committee on the Status of Blind Women of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union has been discussing ways blind adults might help steady the transition for blind kids from childhood to adulthood. Adolescence is hard on everybody, but some of the pressures facing blind teens are unique to their situation. Two years ago blind women gathered to discuss some of these issues in an effort to see how we might help young women move through these difficult years more successfully than many of us did. A number of women are interested in continuing these discussions and developing ways of working personally with groups of teens.

At this year's convention Dr. Sharon Sacks, assistant superintendent of the California School for the Blind, and I will conduct a discussion for young women ages thirteen to eighteen on Wednesday afternoon, June 30, from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. This will be a chance for some honest talk and the exchange of useful information. Dr. Sacks has developed instructional materials for adults working with blind teens and has a good deal of experience working directly with teens themselves.

The pre-convention agenda will list the location of this discussion. It will begin after the lunch provided for teens in the youth program that day. All blind and visually impaired young women between thirteen and eighteen, whether or not they have signed up for the youth activities, are welcome to join this discussion. Preliminary plans are being made for a similar group that afternoon for young men. Consult the pre-convention agenda for information.

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Writers Division

by Tom Stevens

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Best-selling authors, motivational speakers, newspaper reporters, and television anchor men have been among the featured speakers at workshops presented by the Writers Division of the National Federation of the Blind. Our 1999 seminar/workshop will convene at 1:30 p.m. on June 30, 1999, in Atlanta at the convention hotel. Everyone is invited to attend. We will charge a nominal fee of $5, unless we get a speaker of note who desires to be highly paid.

These presentations have been personal, revealing, entertaining, humorous, and somewhat instructional. It is our belief that, whether you are a writer or not, the time spent listening to our speaker will be most pleasing. We always end with a question-and-answer session, so interaction is also a part of our program. Block out the time and prepare for a most stimulating experience with these guests.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: Gigi Firth]

Recipes

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From the Editor: This month's recipes were provided by Gigi Firth, Secretary of the National Association of Guide Dog Users. She recommends them all. She also makes the following announcement: the National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU) is putting together a cookbook as a fund-raising activity. If you would like to help us with this project, please send some of your favorite recipes to Karla Westjohn, Editor, Harness Up, National Association of Guide Dog Users, 2009 Broadmoor, Champaign, Illinois 61821. You can send Karla your recipes in Braille or print or on cassette tape or disk in DOS files. Unfortunately, Karla doesn't currently have e-mail, so that option is not available.

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French Market Beignets

by Cathy Pinckley

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Cathy Pinckley is Gigi Firth's sister.

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Ingredients:

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons margarine or butter

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 package dry yeast

1 large egg

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Vegetable oil

Sifted powdered sugar

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Method: Combine milk, margarine, and brown sugar in a saucepan; cook over low heat until margarine melts. Stir often. Cool to approximately 105 to 115 degrees F. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and stir in yeast. Let stand five minutes; then stir in egg. Sift flour, salt, and nutmeg together. Add 1-1/2 cups of the flour mixture to yeast mixture. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer until smooth (1 or 2 minutes). Stir in remaining flour to make soft dough. Place dough in a well greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let dough rise in a warm place free from drafts about one hour or until doubled in bulk. Punch dough down and turn onto a lightly floured board. Knead four or five times. Roll dough into a 15-by-12-inch rectangle. Cut into 3-inch squares. Then cut each diagonally. Place on a floured surface and let rise in a warm place free from drafts about thirty minutes or until double in bulk. Pour three inches of oil into a fryer or Dutch oven. Heat to 375 degrees. Fry a few at a time about one minute on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm. Makes about forty.

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Cathy's Hush Puppies

by Cathy Pinckley

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Ingredients:

1 cup corn meal

1 cup flour

1 cup sweet milk

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 large onion grated

1 small can corn

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Method: Mix all ingredients together just before frying. Do not stir any more than absolutely necessary. Drop by tablespoonfuls into oil in electric frying pan or deep fryer heated to 400 degrees. Cook about four minutes on each side till hushpuppies are golden brown. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.

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Lemon Ice Box Pie

by Carolyn Fisher

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Carolyn Fisher is Gigi Firth's mother and the compiler of the family cookbook from which these recipes come.

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Ingredients:

3 lemons (choose juicy ones)

3 eggs, separated

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Vanilla wafers

Butter or stick margarine

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Method: Crush vanilla wafers in the bottom of an 8-by-8-by 2-inch pan or round 9-inch pie plate. Drizzle enough melted butter over wafers to moisten all crumbs. Line sides of pan with whole wafers. In a bowl beat egg yolks until frothy. Add juice from the lemons and beat until mixed. Add condensed milk while beating. In a separate bowl make meringue. Egg whites will achieve better volume if they come to room temperature before beating. If still cold, set the bowl in a bowl of warm water until they warm up. Add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (or baking powder) and a pinch of salt to whites as you begin beating. Beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gradually add six tablespoons of sugar, one at a time, and beat until meringue is stiff and shiny. Pour lemon mixture into wafer-lined pan and top with meringue. Seal meringue to wafers. Bake at 400 degrees or until meringue is lightly brown (from five to ten minutes). Refrigerate until chilled through. Serves nine.

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Asparagus, George Style

by Polly Fisher

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George Fisher is Gigi's brother, and Polly is his wife.

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Ingredients:

1 pound fresh asparagus (must be tender, pencil-size is best)

1 teaspoon fresh chopped garlic

1/2 cup white wine (only good drinking wine)

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1 teaspoon canola oil

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Method: In large frying pan heat butter and oil. Saute garlic, stirring for about five minutes or until it begins to turn light brown. Add asparagus and saute for about five minutes. The asparagus should still be tender crisp. Add the wine and simmer for two to three minutes. Then serve. You can also saute fresh mushrooms or onions before adding the asparagus. Allow each to cook to desired doneness; however, the asparagus must be crisp. If not, George won't eat it! Any leftovers make excellent cream of asparagus soup.

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Broccoli Soup

by Carolyn Fisher

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Ingredients:

1 stick butter or margarine

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups reconstituted dry milk

16 ounces frozen broccoli

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon Tony Chacherie Creole Seasoning

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Method: Cook frozen broccoli in a small amount of water until tender. In an iron skillet melt butter, add flour, and stir until well mixed but not brown. Add milk, stirring constantly. Stir constantly until soup thickens. Add cooked broccoli and seasoning. Serve hot. Use larger package of broccoli if desired. The more broccoli the better it is. For those who like things spicier, add more Tony's to taste.

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Seafood Gumbo

by Carolyn Fisher

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Stock Ingredients:

2 packages dried shrimp

3 or 4 stalks celery, cut in 2-inch pieces

1 large onion, chopped

2 catfish fillets

Gumbo Ingredients:

1/2 cup oil

1/2 cup flour

2 large packages frozen shrimp (or equal amount of fresh shrimp)

1 package frozen crabs for gumbo or 1 can crab meat

3/4 cup green onions, finely chopped

Salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste

file (optional)

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Method: In a large stock pot with four or five quarts of water, combine all stock ingredients. Boil for thirty-five to forty minutes. Strain through colander. Rescue catfish and return to liquid. Discard the remaining solids in colander. Reserve stock. In a heavy skillet over high heat to begin with, heat the cooking oil and flour. When flour begins to brown, reduce heat and brown slowly, stirring constantly, until flour is dark brown. (A properly made roux is the secret to good gumbo.) The brown you want is almost black but never burned. If you get little black specks of burned flour, throw mixture out and start again. There is no way to rescue it. When roux is done, pour off excess oil, or skim off the excess from gumbo before serving. (Tip: If you have trouble getting the roux browned properly or if you are worried about browning it too much, add a teaspoon of Kitchen Bouquet per gallon of gumbo. This spice will darken the gumbo and add some flavor as well.) Add roux to liquid in stock pot. To this add frozen shrimp, package of frozen crabs for gumbo or 1 can crab meat, salt, pepper, and cayenne. At the last minute add finely chopped green onions. Cook gumbo only until shrimp are done. Do not overcook, or shrimp will be tough. Serve over rice and add file. Never let file come to a boil. File can be served at the table and added to taste by each diner. Since File cannot be reheated, in this way gumbo can be saved and reheated. There are many ways to make gumbo. Here are a few options for seafood gumbo. The celery and onions can be finely chopped and left in the stock instead of discarding. Parsley is also good. Add with green onions. The amount of seafood used can be varied to suit your taste (and pocketbook). Oysters can be added if you like them.

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Monitor Miniatures

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The Personal Organizer That Does It All:

Parrot Plus v3 is the third generation of Parrot pocket-size, voice-activated and -operated Organizers. It weighs 5.3 ounces and is .7 inches thick.

It uses the latest digital data storage and speech-recognition technologies to provide a talking organizer with a wide range of features. You can retrieve phone numbers and addresses by speaking a name and perform speak-to-dial functions from most phones. It also features a digital note taker, a vocal appointment book with reminder, a talking alarm clock, and a talking calculator.

Parrot Plus v3 is specifically adapted to the blind and visually impaired. It now has the following improvements:

* The default mode is set to accessibility. You don't have to go to the Control Panel to activate spoken menus and prompts when you get started the first time.

* All functions are spoken as you select them.

* The Control Panel options and settings all speak.

* Double clicking on the side click from the Control Panel speaks the amount of free memory.

* All digits are spoken as you type them in

* In the Calculator function operators and numbers are spoken as you type them.

Parrot Plus v3 is powered by four AAA batteries for a few months. No charger required. Parrot Plus v3 still costs only $200 from the NFB's Materials Center. Our entire supply of Parrot Plus units has been up-graded to version 3. According to those who have used it, it is an immensely helpful organizer. Get yours while the supply lasts.

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Simply Talker Screen-Reader Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Econonet International's Simply Talker 98 Screen Access for Windows 95 and Windows 98 has never been so affordable. This screen reader has a Smart-Tracking feature that reads with a human-like voice what the user is doing on the screen. It allows access to the Windows 95/98 desktop and provides ample support for thirty-two-bit applications using Microsoft's Active Accessibility API. It also enables access to the Internet with its very own talking Web browser, Simply Web 98.

Simply Talker 98 includes a U.S. English software speech synthesizer, which works through your existing sound card. A hardware synthesizer can also be used. Program requires 486 or better IBM-compatible computer, sixteen-megabyte RAM, Windows 95 or 98, and a sixteen-bit sound card or an SSIL/SAPI compliant synthesizer. Simply Web 98 requires Microsoft's Internet Explorer 3.02 or higher. Price: $50.

In addition to the U.S. English synthesizer, the International version includes one of the following ETI-Eloquence software synthesizers: French, Castilian Spanish, Mexican Spanish, German, Italian, and UK English. Price: $75.

For more information visit our Web site at <http://www.econointl.com/>.

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New Web Browser:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

EconoNet International announces the release of its free talking Web browser, Simply Web 98, which can be used in stand-alone mode because it includes a software synthesizer. It can also be used with a screen reader since it is speech friendly. It is 100% accessible when used in conjunction with our screen reader, Simply Talker 98. This Web browser uses Internet Explorer 3.02 or greater. However, optimum performance and accessibility are achieved when using it with Internet Explorer 4.01. If you have installed or purchased our latest screen reader, Simply Talker 98, you do not need to download and install this Web browser because it comes bundled with the program.

For more information or to download a copy of your free talking Web browser, go to <http://www.econointl.com/>, and follow the link that points to Simply Web 98.

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Elected:

The Capital Chapter of the NFB of Pennsylvania recently elected new officers. They are Fred Leader, President; Jerry Handel, Vice President; Cindy Handel, Secretary; Ann Leader, Treasurer; and Chris Boone, Norma Flinchbaugh, and Nick Peters, Board Members.

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Stamps Labeled in Braille:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

As members of the community that's the home of the Alabama School for the Blind, we at the Talladega, Alabama, Post Office take great pride in offering a new service to all sight-impaired customers. We are now selling stamps by mail with Braille labeling. Each book or coil comes with a Braille label attached indicating the value of the stamps and the number of stamps purchased. We also offer, free of charge, a retail products list printed in Braille. This list includes padded mailing bags, manila envelopes, mailing tape, etc. To order a free retail products list or to order stamps with Braille labeling, send a check or money order to Stamps with Braille, 127 East Street, North, Talladega, Alabama 35160-9998.

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Elected:

During the January, 1999, meeting of the Seattle Chapter of the NFB of Washington annual elections were conducted. The new officers are Dan Frye, President; Rita Szantay, First Vice President; Stephanie Yates, Second Vice President; Renee West, Secretary; Gary Deeter, Treasurer; and Ben Prows and Yelana Semenyuk, Board Members.

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[PHOTO/CAPTION: NFB of Arizona President Bruce Gardner (left) pins a U.S. flag lapel pin on Gus Ortiz's collar (right).]

New American Citizen:

We are delighted to pass along the following report from Bruce Gardner, President of the NFB of Arizona:

Gustavo (Gus) Ortiz of Chandler, Arizona, was sworn in as a new American citizen on February 5, 1999. Gus is an active member of the NFB of Arizona's East Valley Chapter. He attended his first National Convention in 1996 in Anaheim, and he has come to each one since. Gus will be starting training in the Business Enterprises Program soon. Congratulations, Gus.

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Elected:

The Columbia Chapter of the NFB of Missouri has elected new officers for 1999. They are Debbie Houchen, President; Bill Neal, Vice President; Carol Coulter, Treasurer; Tom Stevens, Secretary; and June Homan, Historian.

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For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Braille 'n Speak 640 for sale, carrying case, charger, and connecting cable, no flash. Asking $700, negotiable. Call Kathy, (617) 969-3496, between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

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International Music Competitions:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Czech Blind United announces the eighth International Competition of the Blind and Partially Sighted Music Composers and the ninth International Competition of the Blind and Partially Sighted Musicians.

The music composers competition is open to living blind and partially sighted music composers from all countries of the world. There is no age limit. In order to be accepted, compositions should be submitted by October 15, 1999, International White Cane Day. The competition for musicians is open to any blind or partially sighted musician between sixteen and twenty-three years of age. The preliminary registration form must be submitted no later than May 31, 1999, and the completed, obligatory registration form should be submitted no later than October 31, 1999. For detailed information regarding both competitions, contact SONS (Czech Blind United), Competition Secretariat, Karlinske namesti 12, 186 03 Praha 8, Czech Republic, phone +420 2 2427 7393, fax +420 2 2481 8398, e-mail <sons_zahr@braillnet.cz>. [The "e" of namesti needs a breve mark over it, but I could not find a Control-V command for it in WP.]

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Elected:

At its November 20, 1998, meeting, the Johnson County Chapter of the NFB of Kansas elected new officers. They are Carol Clark, President; Susie Stanzel, Vice President; John Thompson, Treasurer; Jeff Frye, Recording Secretary; and Don Payne, Corresponding Secretary.

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Business Reference in Braille and Large Print:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

The American Institute of Small Business announces the availability of its best-selling two-volume set of books entitled How to Set Up Your Own Small Business, in both Braille and large print. The new text is like an encyclopedia for starting and operating a small business.

The book contains examples and case studies. Subjects include choosing the right business, financing and where to go for funding, writing the business plan, advertising, public relations, site selection, franchising, legal considerations, bookkeeping, computer applications, sources of supply, sales and sales forecasting, home-based business, and more.

For information write or call the American Institute of Small Business, 7515 Wayzata Boulevard, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55426, (800) 328-2906.

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For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

DecTalk Express, hardly used, comes complete with driver software, $600 or best offer. Also for sale, JAWS for Windows 3.1, hardly used, comes with manuals, $400 or best offer. Contact Paul Amirian at <hkr@flash.net>.

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Goin' Fishing:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

The Helen Keller Fishing Club is now scheduling trips aboard boats for the 1999 season from ports along the North and South Shores of Long Island. The club is entering its fifty-first season and is the only deep-sea fishing club in the United States for men and women who are blind, visually impaired, or deaf-blind.

If you are interested in accompanying this unique club for a day of fishing and relaxation or want more information on becoming a member, contact Walter Bach at Helen Keller Services for the Blind, 57 Willoughby Street, Brooklyn, New York 11201, or call (718) 522-2122.

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For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

I am selling a Fast Charge Braille 'n Speak 640 for $800 and a Fast Charge Disk Drive for $200. The Braille 'n Speak contains the July, 1996, software revision. Both items are in great condition and come with a full array of hardware and software accessories, as well as the $50 Blazie Checkbook Program--no extra charge. Moreover, if you make your purchase during the month of April, I'll arrange to have the Braille 'n Speak updated on my nickel. You won't find another deal like this anywhere, so get it while it's hot. For more information contact Jason Farrar at 2711 Wilton Drive, Cambria, California 93428, Phone: (805) 927-0193, E-mail: <jfarrar@thegrid.net>.

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Interactive Training CD for Windows 95:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

NavigAide is a fully interactive training CD developed by the Bartimaeus Group to teach visually impaired people the basics of Windows 95. It contains between ten and twelve hours of training and is fully interactive, monitoring the keyboard activity of the user to provide feedback when mistakes are made. Its other major features include a bookmark, a go-to-page feature, variable speeds at which the courses can be played, a page-number command, and more. For more information on NavigAide contact the Bartimaeus group by phone at (703) 442-5023, on the World-Wide Web at <www.bartsite.com>, or by regular mail at Bartimaeus Group, 1481 Chain Bridge Road, Suite 100, McLean, Virginia 22101.

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Halt!:

Monitor readers who have been sending Braille for use abroad to 4433 7th Avenue, Sacramento, California 95820 are requested to stop. The recipients are now overwhelmed with the response and cannot handle more.

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Braille Books and Equipment Needed:

The National Institute for the Disabled of Bhutan seeks items for its library. Readers are encouraged to donate Braille materials in good condition in English with preference to novels, current events, popular magazines and periodicals, children's books, short stories, biographies, autobiographies, and books on Buddhism.

Also needed are Perkins Braillers, cassette recorders, talking book players/recorders, talking watches, talking calculators, slates and styluses, and white canes. The receipt of your gift will be acknowledged. Send items marked non-commercial to The National Institute for the Disabled, Khaling, P.O. Khaling, Bhutan.

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Information Needed:

Kristine Watkins recently wrote with the following inquiry:

Some years ago I bought a very nice little cassette recorder that played NLS-recorded books. I would like to know how to get another. It played and recorded on four tracks and had both speakers and ear phones. It was a truly user-friendly machine. Its most notable characteristic was that it required FIVE AA batteries. If you can identify this machine, please write to Kristine Watkins, 208 Bay Avenue, Cape Charles, Virginia 23310, call (757) 331-3111, or e-mail <kristinewatkins@erols.com>.

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Elected:

The Austin Chapter of the NFB of Texas elected new officers at its January meeting. They are Zena Pearcy, President; Wanda Hamm, First Vice President; Mary Ward, Second Vice President; Norma Gonzales Baker, Secretary; and Margaret (Cokie) Craig, Treasurer. Board Members are Mike Waddles and Diane Domingue.

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Materials Needed:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Fundacion Mundo Opportunidades (World Foundation of Opportunities) collects, refurbishes, and distributes materials for disabled children and adults in Costa Rica. This organization was started in 1998 by the First Lady of Costa Rica, Lorena Clare de Rodriquez. This is a nonprofit organization and will continue to function in succeeding administrations.

Materials needed include canes, slates and styluses, rulers and measuring tapes, abacuses, Braille writers, walkers, Braille paper, and visual aids. Please mail all donations to Despacho De La Primera Dama, Ministerio De La Presidencia, (Fundacion Mundo De Opportunidades) Casa Presidencia, Apartado 520-Zapote, Costa Rica, Central America.

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New Chapter:

The Dane County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin was recently re-established. Newly elected officers are President, Jim McCarthy; Vice President, Jodi Cowle; Secretary, Melissa Lehman; and Treasurer, Dave Ballman.

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New Hadley Course Catalog Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

The Hadley School for the Blind has just published a new edition of its course catalog. Available in large print and Braille and on audiocassette or computer disk, the catalog describes ninety-one courses offered to blind individuals. All courses are offered through distance education and are completely free of charge. Contact The Hadley School for the Blind, 700 Elm Street, Winnetka, Illinois 60093-0299, (847) 446-8111, or fax (847) 446-9916.

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For Sale:

Crystal McClain, President of the parents division of the NFB of Ohio, asks us to carry the following announcement:

The Parents of Blind Children of Ohio offer the following items for sale:

We are accepting orders for rhinestone NFB and guide dog pins. These pins are of high quality and are selling like hotcakes for $8.50 each, which includes shipping. The NFB pin consists of the letters NFB in clear rhinestones. The letters are approximately one-half inch high. The guide dog pins are clear rhinestones that make the outline of a dog's head. The pins are suitable for both men and women to wear to NFB banquets and on other dressy occasions. We also have Cane Walk T-shirts for sale. The shirt has two stick figures on the front (an adult and a child) both using canes. Above the picture in large letters are the words, "Take a Hike!" Under the picture it says "Annual White Cane Walk Sponsored by the Parents Division of Blind Children." The back of the shirt has a cane in a diagonal position with the message: The Long White Cane: a necessary tool for a blind kid to achieve independence, acceptance, safety, and a future! The shirts are available in royal purple with white lettering in the following sizes: youth: 10-12 or 14-16; adult: large, XL, or XXL. We also have bright yellow shirts with white lettering in youth sizes only: youth: 6-8, 10-12, and 14-16. The shirts are $12, including shipping. Send your order and a check made payable to Parents of Blind Children of Ohio, 1070 Twp Rd 181, Bellefontaine, Ohio 43311. For more information call (937) 599-5782 or e-mail <mcclain@loganrec.com>.

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Business Opportunity:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

An online shopping center making available electronically the goods and services of such well-known companies as Land's End, L.L. Bean, Hammacher-Schlemmer, Cabella, Rubbermaid, Kellogg, Franklin-Covey, Panasonic, New Balance, Botany, and a host of others. Electronic commerce is growing, and you can become a distributor by signing up now. Contact Kenneth A. Gatteys, Gatteys Enterprises, 5022 Highridge, Garland, Texas 75043, (972) 682-0269.

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Craft Books Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

I have compiled a wide selection of knitting, crochet, and cooking books at reasonable prices. They include several knitting afghan and blanket books, potpourri, sweaters for both adults and children, wash cloths, several books with hats, gloves, scarves, mittens, slippers, knit and crochet toys, knit and crochet baby shower books and lots more. Among the recipe books are Meals Across the Miles, several three-ingredient cookbooks, Lipton mix cookbook, and cookies galore. I have also started a general section which has to date a book of poetry and also one which is called Kitchen Cupboard Remedies.

If you are interested in any of these or wish to receive a catalog, please write to Marjorie Arnott, 1446 North Coronado Street, Chandler, Arizona 85224-7824, or call (408) 345-8773. You can also find my catalog on my home page at <http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~rowan/marjorie-crafts.html>.

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New York School for the Blind Reunion Announcement:

The Alumni Association of the New York State School for the Blind will hold its annual reunion in Batavia the weekend of June 11 to 13, 1999. We are looking forward to finding new members or people who have not renewed membership for a long time. If you ever went to our school, even if you did not graduate, you are eligible. If you can't come to the reunion, we invite you to join our Association. Dues are $5 per year and allow you to get the annual bulletin. Send checks to Alumni Association NYSSB. For more information contact Sukosh Fearon, 501 Broad Street, Oneida, New York 13421.

We are also producing two lists for alumni association members. One will contain all e-mail addresses for members who are online. The other will contain all ham calls of members. If we get enough participants, we will have Braille copies of each list at the reunion. To be on either list, contact Tim Hendel, 3619 Patton Road, Apartment 15, Huntsville, Alabama 35805, (256) 512-9988, or e-mail <tim@hiwaay.net>.

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Invitation to a Reception and Dance:

Members of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky cordially invite you to join us in Louisville for a gala celebration in the Galt House Hotel Ballroom from 7:00 p.m. to midnight on May 8. This wonderful evening is free of charge, except for the cash bar. An orchestra will play big-band music for your listening and dancing pleasure, and free food will be available for your enjoyment. We hope some of our Federation friends will come help us celebrate the successes of outstanding blind individuals and the progress made toward elevating the status of the blind during the twentieth century.

Short tributes will be given by dignitaries from the University of Louisville, the Kentucky School for the Blind, and the American Printing House for the Blind. If you are wondering what triggered this wonderful celebration and why we chose the eighth day of May, Dr. Marc Maurer, our own NFB President, is receiving the degree of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) from the University of Louisville earlier in the day. So naturally we want to celebrate. Y'all come!

For more information call NFB of Kentucky President Betty Niceley after 5:00 p.m. EDT or weekends at (502) 897-2632.

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NFB PLEDGE

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