THE STUDENT SLATE, Fall/Winter 1998

THE VOICE OF ORGANIZED BLIND STUDENTS IN AMERICA

Published on cassette and on the Internet by the
National Association of Blind Students Subscription requests, address changes, and articles for
THE STUDENT SLATE should be sent to Shawn Mayo at:

634 South National, Apt. #404
Springfield, MO 65804
Telephone: (417) 869 - 1078
E-mail: smmayo@worldnet.att.net

Copyright National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1998.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

From the President

Competing on Terms of Equality as Blind Students....................... by Fred Schroeder

Asking the Right Questions.......................................................... by Angela Howard

On Blindness and the Study of Civil Engineering........................... by Nathanael Wales

The Difference a Mentor Makes................................................... by Shawn Mayo

On Art, Alternative Techniques, and Nude Models........................ by Angela Sasser

Truth, Freedom, and Community Activism................................... by Angela Howard

Circles of Transformation............................................................ by Sheila Koenig
[note to reader: pronounced "Kay-nig"]

History of the National Association of Blind Students.................... by Michael Baillif

Capitol Hill Adventure ..................................................................by Michelle Bruns

Obtaining a Congressional Internship............................................ by Marina Eastham
[note to reader: pronounced "East-ham"]

On Track...with RFB&D............................................................. by Annamarie Cooke

The Right Tool for the Job.......................................................... by Edward Bell

The 1999 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Program
[note to reader: This article is slightly different from the one used in the November Monitor]

From the President

By Shawn Mayo

Greetings! This time of year, all of us as students have many things going on: finals, the holidays, and the travails and triumphs of a new semester keep life interesting. Wherever you receive this Fall/Winter 1998 issue of the Student Slate, I hope that it finds you healthy, happy, and looking forward to what the new year has to offer.

Of late, NABS has been active in many projects. One of our primary goals is to continue building and strengthening the student division. Towards this end, a membership committee has been established to facilitate interaction among the national, state, and local levels. Committee members are undertaking an extensive telephone campaign to contact personally as many of our members as possible and to discuss all sorts of issues, ranging from new developments in NABS to specific strategies for competing as blind students. Our correspondence lists are perpetually being updated. So, if you are not contacted by a committee member and would like to share thoughts and ideas, please get in touch with me and I will see that you are placed on the membership committee's contact list.

As a public forum for the exploration of ideas, we also have enhanced the student list-serve, NABS-L, to discuss issues of relevance to blind students in every major. On NABS-L we can ask questions, offer suggestions, and share experiences. There will also be occasional posts concerning issues of major importance to the blind as well as announcements concerning activities of the National Association of Blind Students and The National Federation of the Blind.

To subscribe to the NABS listserv, send a message to listserv@NFBnet.org. Leave the subject line blank. In the body, type subscribe nabs-l. If you would like to receive messages in digest form, where all the posts from the last 24 hours come as a single message, type subscribe nabs-d in the subject line.

We have a big event coming up. Saturday, January 30 will mark the tenth anniversary of the NABS Student Seminar, held in conjunction with the Federation's Washington Seminar. Start making your plans now to join the celebration. The agenda will provide opportunities, not only to hear thought-provoking presentations, but also to interact with your fellow blind students. There are sure to be some new topics presented in an innovative way. The day's events will culminate in an evening banquet, with a key-note address delivered by our national president, Dr. Marc Maurer, that you simply won't want to miss. Be sure to arrive at the Student Seminar in time to mingle with other blind students and Federation leaders at the student party, held on Friday evening from 8:00 p.m. until we get closed down!

Finally, let me say just a few words regarding Dr. Jernigan. As you all undoubtedly are aware, Dr. Jernigan died on October 12. The scope of his achievements and the power of his example almost defy description. Two of the most important lessons he taught us, however, are to engage our world and to give back to other blind people so that we may all grow and become better together. Let us as students take these lessons and build of them a legacy of which Dr. Jernigan would be proud.

Until we see each other at the Washington Seminar, best wishes in all of your travels and endeavors. If you have any thoughts or questions relating to NABS in particular, or to living the life of a blind student in general, please contact me, Shawn Mayo, via phone or email. In the meantime, here is the Fall/Winter 1998 issue of The Student Slate. Enjoy!

Competing on Terms of Equality as Blind Students

By Fred Schroeder

(EDITOR'S NOTE: In gearing up for this edition of the Student Slate, I was looking back through the student archives at prior issues. To my delight, I came upon an article published in the Fall - Winter 1987 Student Slate, written by Fred Schroeder, who at the time was a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, and was also the Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. Today, Dr. Schroeder is the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration. The article is valuable and timeless, and seemed like the perfect way to kick off this new edition of the Student Slate. It is here reprinted in relevant part, and I hope you enjoy the article's rediscovery as much as I did.)

We are all familiar with the words of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, Executive Director of the National Federation of the Blind, who told us that, given proper training and opportunity, the blind can compete on terms of equality with the sighted. The truth of this statement has been affirmed time and time again through the achievements of blind persons in virtually all fields and professions. Blind persons work as lawyers, teachers, engineers, scientists, computer programmers, secretaries, independent business persons, and in each case, perform at levels comparable to their sighted peers. The question, therefore, becomes not whether the blind can compete, but rather how the individual blind person can best equip him/herself to function on terms of equality.

Far too often, we as blind persons are led to believe that functioning on terms of equality means nothing more than producing an equivalent product. This thinking leads to the assumption that if a project is placed before us, we are functioning competitively if we are able to complete the product adequately. For the blind student, this concept is often applied, since the nature of university training is frequently outcome-based. The university instructor routinely gives reading assignments and assigns various projects and term papers, each with a deadline for completion. For this reason, the blind student may grow accustomed to assessing his or her ability to function competitively solely in terms of whether he or she is able to complete assigned work within the prescribed time period. The problem with this way of thinking is that it overlooks the need to function competitively within the process. It is not enough simply to be able to produce a high quality term paper. The process by which the paper is research, organized, and eventually written and produced is of equal importance.

When I was in college, I knew a blind student who maintained a 4.0 grade point average. However, to maintain this average, this individual told me that he never took more than six to nine hours each semester. This fellow did not know Braille. When I asked him how he took notes, he told me that he recorded every class session, and later at home hooked two tape recorders together so as to make an edited or condensed copy of the lecture material. Since this process meant that for each class hour it was necessary to spend an additional hour to hour and a half to edit the tape, nine class hours during the week would require an additional nine to fourteen hours in preparing recorded notes. To make matters worse, this fellow told me that he handled textbook material in the same manner. He would order texts on cassette from Recording for the Blind (RFB), and hooking two tape recorders together, would make a condensed version of the portions he felt to be most important.

This example highlights a variety of problems, both technical and attitudinal. It is clear that the method used by this student was, at best, cumbersome and inefficient. Nevertheless, from a purely outcome-based perspective, his system seemed to work. That is, he maintained a 4.0 grade point average, albeit taking in excess of six years to earn a baccalaureate degree. I could not help wondering whether upon graduating from college this fellow would realize that his methods of functioning placed him at a real disadvantage. I am sure that he did not consciously think that an employer would happily assign him half as much work as his sighted peers or, alternatively, that he would expect to work twelve to sixteen hours a day to produce at the same rate as his co-workers.

I suppose if the problems were merely technical, then my friend the student, intelligent as he was, could surely have been made to understand that process and product must be taken together as a whole. I believe that the real problem faced by my friend was, in truth, related to his attitudes and beliefs about blindness. He had never taken the time to learn Braille. Not because he was too dim-witted to learn it, rather, I suspect because Braille is associated with blindness and he was reluctant to regard himself as a blind person. If a person believes that blindness necessarily encompasses inferiority, then the individual will predictably avoid thinking of him/herself as a blind person. The tragic twist in this example is that, in an effort to avoid thinking of himself as blind, my friend rejected the skills that would have made him competitive in lieu of techniques which in practice made his performance inferior.

During the era I was in school, portable cassette recorders emerged on the scene and were heralded as the fundamental tool by which blind students could function competitively. No longer were blind students encouraged to use the slate and stylus; instead, we were told that with a tape recorder in class, we could no longer risk missing vital information. With this reasoning, we cashed in a note-taking device, which would have us ending each class period with a half-dozen pages of concise notes, for a device which consolidated nothing, providing us merely with a verbatim record of the hour's lecture. Mostly, I found that I never got around to listening to all the tapes I made during a semester. Therefore, rather than making me more competitive, the tape recorder resulted in my performance declining. I am ashamed to admit that had I been honest with myself, the real reason I cashed in my slate and stylus for a tape recorder was that I did not truly believe that as a blind person I could compete on terms of equality and, therefore, I was willing to settle for an inadequate system which placed me at a disadvantage.

Of course, tape recorders serve a purpose and, when used properly, can result in efficient use of time. The problem comes in when a tape recorder is used so that an individual can put off learning the skills of blindness which, in the final analysis, will allow him/her to truly function on an equal footing with others.

For the current generation of students, a new panacea has burst onto the scene. I refer to the current fascination and preoccupation with computer technology. As with the cassette recorder of a decade and a half ago, the computer is touted as the single most significant tool for today's blind students. I do not mean to suggest that computer technology is not useful. In fact, this article is being prepared on an IBM PC. The computer is terrific for editing text, revising drafts, checking for typographical errors, and so on. However, I think we should be careful to keep the computer in perspective.

Today, there are blind students who, like my friend of years ago, do not know Braille; and, like my friend, many of today's students who do not know Braille will argue that Braille is bulky, tedious, and in a word, antiquated. They contend that speech technology gives them technological literacy without the long hours of study necessary for good Braille reading and writing. When I said that a computer should be kept in perspective, I suppose the best way to look at it is in terms of whether the computer is being used to avoid dealing with blindness or thinking of yourself as a blind person. It is necessary that as blind people, we do not sell ourselves short, nor do we settle for inadequate training, placing us at a disadvantage.

For blind students, the measure of effectiveness needs to be whether you are functioning competitively both in terms of outcome and process. If you believe that blindness makes you inferior, then you will settle for inferior methods of functioning. You will come to believe that a tool that allows you to do more is good rather than considering whether a variety of tools applied correctly might enable you to perform on an equal basis with your sighted peers. Functioning better is not good enough. We, as blind people, must insist on the training which will allow us to function equally with the sighted.

It is vital that blind students seek training in the skills of blindness before pursuing academic training. Once the student is proficient in cane travel, the use of Braille, and other techniques used by capable blind persons, then he/she will be able to keep in perspective the other tools that become available. The skills of blindness not only allow you the techniques to function fully, but provide enough means through which true self-confidence can be established. Before an individual can function as a whole human being, he/she must believe that he is a whole human being. Conversely, to truly believe in yourself as being equal with others, you must have the skills to put your beliefs into action. I have been told by ambitious blind students that they cannot afford to interrupt their studies to acquire training in the skills of blindness. The cost of this decision is often paid through settling for less than adequate techniques and, worse, through assuming that you cannot be expected to function at a level comparable to your peers.

Computers are valuable tools as are cassette recorders, but it is the skilled craftsman who knows both the abilities and the limitations of each tool and when best to employ their use. Perhaps the single best means for learning the skills of blindness is through participation in the National Federation of the Blind. The skills of blindness were not given to us by the educational or rehabilitation establishments, but rather come to us through the collective experience of tens of thousands of blind men and women. The techniques, together with an attitude about blindness which assumes full participation, are necessary to be able to truly compete on terms of equality. Thousands of blind people will meet at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. It is in this setting that real progress for the blind in society can be realized. As a part of the National Federation of the Blind, you will have the opportunity to join with us and promote both the training and attitudes necessary for full participation so that we, as blind people, will be able to demonstrate to ourselves and to others that we can compete on terms of equality.

Asking the Right Questions

By Angela Howard, Secretary, National Association of Blind Students

The minute I set foot into my first sociology class, I knew that this field would become an integral part of the way I experience our world. And indeed, sociology has dramatically shaped the manner in which I analyze a problem or approach a situation. One of the most important lessons sociology has taught me is that questions are keys that have the ability to unlock endless numbers of doors. The shape in which we form our keys will determine the doors that they will open. The questions we choose to ask will determine the answers we find. A good sociologist learns how to ask the questions that will lead him or her to new and exciting answers.

But the art of asking the right questions is not a skill which should only be mastered by sociologists. In every discipline and in every life-task in which we engage, we should ask ourselves, "Am I asking the right questions?" As blind people, asking the right questions about our capabilities and our place in society can mean the difference between a free person and one who is a prisoner of misconceptions.

Because we live in a culture that holds as truth many misconceptions and negative attitudes about blindness, our first tendency probably will be to ask the wrong questions about our capabilities. One question I hear asked over and over again by blind people as well as sighted people is this: "Can a blind person perform this task?" Built into this question is the assumption that there are at least some and perhaps many tasks that blind persons simply cannot perform efficiently. This question leaves room for an answer that says, "No, a blind person cannot perform this task." If we leave ourselves room for a "No" answer, we are likely to give up the search before we find the "Yes."

As Federationists, we are committed to asking ourselves the right questions about blindness. We in the Federation do not ask "Can?" but "How does?" Because we have challenged ourselves to ask new and exciting questions about blindness, we have come to many different conclusions about our capabilities than most. The answers we have found help us to live productive, fulfilling lives. We have asked the right questions and come to the conclusion that we can manage the big tasks in life, as well as the small, with the utmost efficiency.

However, learning how to ask the right questions in a society that does not do so is a lifelong task. As members of a culture that continues to ask "Can?" it takes much determination to constantly ask "How does?" We will sometimes find ourselves asking the wrong questions about our capabilities and, consequently, coming to the wrong conclusions.

Last semester, I fell into the trap of asking the wrong question as I was thinking about how I could solve a minor nuisance in my life caused by blindness. I wanted to find an efficient way to leave messages for people when they were not in their rooms. I could have printed out a message, hand written one using a writing guide, or stopped a stranger in the hallway to ask for assistance; but I needed a method that was much more efficient than these options offered me. I wondered how I could solve this problem. And here is where I fell into the trap of asking the wrong question: "Can I really expect myself to find a way to leave written messages efficiently?" After some half-hearted pondering, I came to the expected conclusion that, no, this was something that a blind person simply could not do efficiently.

However, a few weeks later, a friend mentioned to me that one of our faculty members, in order to save paper, recycles her messages by writing them on note cards and reusing them when needed. Here was the alternative technique that I needed. All I had to do to solve my dilemma was to have a reader pre-write messages on note cards, retrieve them from my friends after delivery, and reuse them when I needed to do so. The answer was not far away, but because I asked the wrong question, I may never have found it. So far this semester, my message writing dilemma has not arisen, but as soon as it begins to present itself again, I will know how to handle it in a way that satisfies me.

Though we in the Federation are continuing to work to replace out-dated notions about the incapacities of blind people with new truths that we are discovering about ourselves, we will sometimes find those old notions sneaking back into our hearts and minds. But we know which shape we want our philosophies to take, and if we continue to ask ourselves, "Am I asking the right questions?" we will make life better, both for ourselves and for other blind people in the future to come.

On Blindness and the Study of Civil Engineering

By Nathanael Wales

(Editor's Note: Nathanael Wales is President of the California Association of Blind Students.)

Some blind students may think of science and engineering as impossible majors. Well, I am blind and a full-time student at the University of California at Davis, majoring in civil engineering. So far, I have survived my entire math, physics, chemistry, and half of my lower division engineering requirements. Here are some of the approaches that I have used.

To begin with, I make out my class schedule by sitting down with a reader that I pay personally. The reader reads me the printed information, and I figure out what schedule works for me. The California Department of Rehabilitation assists with the cost of tuition and books, although I have to supply all the necessary information they require. It is important to be organized and stay on top of things because the bureaucratic process can be slow. I explore the campus and find my classrooms myself. Traveling, registering, dealing with Rehab, and getting my books and supplies independently are very important because my sighted peers also have to take responsibility for these things Practicing these skills in school will prepare me for being a competent, independent blind person in the workplace.

Here are some of the specific alternative techniques I employ. Braille is my most essential tool. Depending on my need, I use a slate and stylus, a Braille writer (for matrices and Differential Equations), or a Braille Lite. A Braille Lite is a computerized notetaker with a Braille display that is helpful for math, physics, chemistry, and engineering work. Since most of my books are not available on tape, I frequently use readers to read my texts to me. In my labs, I work with a lab partner or hire a lab assistant to help with making visual observations and reading gauges. Braille and readers allow me to work so competently and efficiently that I have found no need to use a CCTV or other type of magnification device.

Readers and lab assistants should be paid and, thus, function as your employee. You need to find them, hire them, manage them, and if necessary, fire them. All that the rehabilitation services or the Disabled Student Services (DSS) office should do is provide funding to pay the readers. While I have hired some readers that the DSS office recommended, I normally post flyers around campus and network with friends. I decide when my readers come and what they read. For tests, I make arrangements with my instructor to take the test in a separate room using a reader.

At times, I use the adaptive computers located in the library, including the screen readers, speech synthesizers, scanner, and Braille printer. However, most of the time I use my own equipment, which was provided by Rehab, to write papers, do homework, and do research on the Internet. My scanner is helpful for reading textbooks and handouts from class.

These are the alternative techniques I use for studying civil engineering. Schoolwork, however, does not take up all of my time. I am also involved in extracurricular activities on campus. For example, I am active in the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Each year we build and race a concrete canoe. I have helped with mixing and pouring of the lightweight concrete, designing the mold, and finishing the canoe. Last year we even took second in the regional competition. I also enjoy being very active in my church's college fellowship.

Many engineers take five years to graduate. Even though my first two quarters were spent getting training in alternative skills of blindness at an NFB training center, I am on track to graduate in four years. With the guidance of successful blind mentors in the National Federation of the Blind, with the support of other blind students in the National Association of Blind Students, and with my training at an NFB training center, I am able to compete successfully and on terms of equality with my sighted peers in the field of civil engineering.

The Difference a Mentor Makes

By Shawn Mayo, President, National Association of Blind Students

(Editor's Note: The following speech was delivered by Shawn Mayo at the annual meeting of the National Association of Blind Students held as part of the 1998 National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind.)

How many of you think you learn something new every day? How many of you have learned something new today at this convention? Tonight I would like to share some of the experiences from which I have learned, and some of the factors that brought me to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).

My first interaction with other blind people came as a national scholarship winner of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) in 1993. Even though I was not required to, I attended their convention, and I had a great time seeing San Francisco! I think I attended only two sessions; one of which was the scholarship ceremony.

Upon returning home, I found myself with three big problems. First, I found myself elected to the national student board after joking about it at the bar. Second, I did not know why I should learn Braille. And, third, I thought it was okay if I did not use a cane, especially since I had some remaining vision. During the convention, when a group of students went out on a guided tour of the city, I was told that I should let a totally blind student use my arm as sighted guide because I had some vision -- and it did not matter that I did not have any travel and cane skills of my own! By the end of the week, I thought the Department of Rehabilitation would take care of me. What's more, I had never even met my state president or any other leaders in the ACB. Now, I mention all of this not to bash the ACB, because we don't have the time to bother with that, but to illustrate the contrast between the two organizations that affected my choice to become involved in the NFB.

The following fall, I won a state scholarship from the NFB of Illinois. Immediately, I noticed a difference between the two organizations. I returned home from this convention questioning what I wanted for myself as a blind person. I wanted to read without getting ink stains on my nose. I wanted the positive attitude, confidence, and independence that was evident in so many of the people I had met. That next summer I won a national scholarship from both the ACB and the NFB. I attended the NFB convention and quickly found out it was not going to be a vacation spent sight-seeing in Detroit. I actually had the chance to meet leaders of this organization. They asked questions of me, and I had the chance to ask questions of them. They explained their philosophy to me; they were mentoring me.

Since then, I have learned a great deal about the NFB and blindness, and I continue to learn today. I selected a couple people as my mentors. To this day, I observe them. I ask questions of them. I challenge them, and they do the same to me. Other mentors have just stepped in without being specifically picked by me. At my first NFB convention, someone stopped me and showed one of the NFB's long white canes. This person took the time to let me use his cane and worked with me on using the cane properly and comfortably.

With any type of mentoring, there comes a responsibility. Having received mentoring, we must then commit our time to mentor others. It is part of the learning process which continues throughout our lifetime. It is, in part, what keeps the NFB going.

Now I will tell you how I first shared my new found philosophy. When I returned home from the NFB national convention, I received a phone call from the scholarship chair of the ACB. After he questioned and lectured me about not being at their convention, I told him what I had learned from the NFB -- how Federationists had mentored me, and how I was proud to be blind, proud to be a member of the NFB, and wanted to exemplify Federation philosophy. It does not matter if this is your first convention or your fiftieth, there is always something new to learn. Why else would thousands of people return to our conventions every year? We come to learn -- to learn the philosophy of the NFB, to learn about the issues affecting the blind, to learn about equality, security, and opportunity.

We in this room are part of the future of our organization. My challenges for you are these: 1) pick a mentor and let him or her know it, 2) take some of the things you learn at this convention and teach them to someone who was not here, 3) share ideas and network with others in the student division here and 4) have fun!

If you give a little energy to learning and teaching this week, I guarantee that you will grow more at this convention than you have in the last semester. The education you gain here through participating in the mentoring process will last a lifetime.

On Art, Alternative Techniques, and Nude Models

By Angela Sasser, Board Member, National Association of Blind Students

It was a Friday and my second grade class was preparing to go on a field trip to a local art museum. I was excited because I had never been to an art museum before and it seemed as though it might be fun. My little feet took huge steps to make it up the stairs in the front of the building. When I opened the door, the cool air conditioning hit me, and I felt as though I were entering a magical place.

The walls were covered with paintings of various artists. As I looked around, I knew that I wanted art to be a part of my life. I wanted to create the kinds of things that would hang in museums -- the kinds of things people would enjoy. As my big, blue eyes took it all in, my mind was constantly filling with the idea that I wanted to be an artist, just like those people whose paintings were on display.

It has been quite awhile since I was in second grade, but my passion for art has not died. There was a time about six years ago, however, when I thought that I was going to have to give up art forever. Due to unexplained pressure on my brain and optic nerve, I became blind. I was not worried so much about living a normal life as a blind person, but rather living a life without being able to do what I loved. I did not know how a blind person could do art, but I soon found out.

After returning home from the hospital, I continued my private art lessons as part of getting back to my usual routine. It was during these lessons when I began trying to paint, to draw, and to use other media as a totally blind person. Sculpture and weaving were possible without having to create any alternative techniques. As I found out, drawing and painting did not require terribly complex adaptations either. Because I developed some techniques, I have been able to be a successful art major as well as a successful artist.

Last semester I was enrolled in a Life Drawing class. In this class, a nude model posed in front of everyone so that we could draw the figure to practice drawing form and perspective. I had never done anything of this sort before and I was not sure exactly how I was going to do it. The first day of class, I was a little nervous. I sat down, poised my drawing pencil, and began to draw. The professor had explained to me how the model was sitting and where the light was coming from so that I had an idea about shadows.

To draw, I usually use a door screen mounted on wood underneath my paper. This provides texture as I draw on the paper. I started to draw the model, but soon became frustrated. It was my first drawing class in college and I had never drawn a person before. I stared blankly at my paper, wondering what to do. I was almost in tears when my professor came over to talk to me. He said that drawing was difficult for everyone. He then gave me the choice of sticking with it or dropping out of his class. So I hung in there, and started my drawing again, using the alternative techniques that I had employed in previous drawings. At the end of the class period, the professor said that my drawing was the best in the class and moved me to the Advanced Drawing class.

Finding alternative techniques for painting is also easy. If I draw the picture before I paint it, I use a reader to tell me where my lines are or I have them trace my lines so that I can feel them. If I paint directly onto a canvas, I paint a little and let it dry. Then I can feel where I have painted. I also label all of my paints, colored pencils, and other supplies, so that I know their colors. I have found that these techniques work quite well. They have given me the chance to have my work hung anywhere from living rooms and dens to the White House and the Smithsonian. Painting, as well as drawing, is difficult for many people. But for me, the creation of these art forms continues to be possible.

Art is often considered a "visual" field, but I do not believe that at all. Art is created from within, through one's mind and passion. It is affected by experience and the environment. Like anything, art is possible if you have enough motivation and creativity to do it. I do not consider myself amazing or wonderful because I am blind and I continue to do art. It is something that I have always loved and I do it simply because of that. I do not consider myself a "blind artist," but rather an artist who happens to be blind. The dream of that second grader, who was so taken by the field trip to the museum, is still alive and probably more so than ever.

Truth, Freedom, and Community Activism

By Angela Howard, Secretary, National Association of Blind Student s

(Editor's Note: The following speech was delivered by Angela Howard at the annual meeting of the National Association of Blind Students, held as part of the 1998 National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind.)

A wise woman once said, "We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes." Last semester I received Guilford College's Hazel Steinfeld award given each year to three students who have demonstrated a commitment to peace and justice issues. Receiving this award forced me to take some time to reflect on what it means to truly be committed to creating a better world.

Do you consider yourself an activist? You should. All of us in the National Federation of the Blind are activists. An activist is one who believes in a truth that the rest of society has not yet come to understand and who works in partnership with others to offer this truth to the world. We in the National Federation of the Blind know the truth about blindness. We know that the problems facing the blind are not due to lack of sight, but to negative attitudes and misconceptions about blindness. We know that, given proper training and equal opportunity, blind people can compete on equal terms with our sighted peers. And we know that, though blindness may be a nuisance, it does not have to be the major factor that determines where we go or what we do.

But we in the National Federation of the Blind are not activists simply because we believe in a truth. We are activists because we have formed a community that is committed to this truth. We are a community who doesn't just speak the truth about blindness, but lives the truth every day. We are a community who continues to work to understand our truth in new and exciting ways. And we are a community who is committed to giving others the opportunity to explore the truth for themselves.

I learned how to be an activist in the National Federation of the Blind. It is this organization which taught me how to hold on to my beliefs, even when those around me do not share them. It is this organization which taught me how to know when it is time to take the lead and when it is time to lick the envelopes. And it is this organization which continues to teach me many lessons about the importance of community.

In order to be effective activists, we must commit ourselves both to our communities at home and to this community of believers, the National Federation of the Blind. We cannot change negative attitudes by simply speaking the truth about blindness. We must be living examples of our philosophy. If we are going to insist that blind students can compete on equal terms with our sighted peers, then we must be doing the competing. The beauty of knowing our truth about blindness is that we can never know it completely.

We all have areas in our lives where we could improve our philosophy and our beliefs in ourselves as blind people. Over my Spring Break, I worked at a homeless shelter. The shelter had this dish-washing machine that was enormous. At first, I completely avoided the dish-washer because I did not think I could handle it. After a while though, I summoned the courage to deal with the machine and found that running it wasn't difficult at all. Later, I was ashamed that I had ever doubted my capabilities. We will all face doubt, but we cannot let this doubt keep us from actively participating in our communities.

It is true, however, that the public has not yet come to understand the truth about blindness, and we will each face many obstacles on the road to full participation in society. This is why it is vital that we maintain an indestructible support system for one another. I did not attend this year's Washington Seminar. This is a mistake I hope I will never have to make again. I realized just how much I need a regular dose of Federation philosophy. We each have our own talents to bring to this community, and we need the support, the love, and the collective wisdom of those in our NFB family as well.

As you return home and continue to commit to your communities at school and to the National Federation of the Blind, keep the words of the wise woman in mind. We in the National Federation of the Blind believe in the truth about blindness, and we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

Circles of Transformation

By Sheila Koenig

(Editor's Note: Sheila Koenig is a former National Federation of the Blind scholarship winner. She is now a leader in the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri.)

One of my favorite poems by Wendell Berry begins, "within the circles of our lives/ we dance the circles of the years/ The circles of the seasons within the circles of the years."

Continuously, I am fascinated by the circles that life presents to us to dance through. I am a blind teacher beginning my first year of teaching in a public school. After Spanish class on the first day of school, one of my students asked to be moved to the front row; she couldn't see the board from the back of the room. During the next class, I noticed that after being moved to the front, she still walked to the board to copy things down. As I stood by the copy machine, enlarging pages of the book for her to read, I recalled my experiences as a blind student. Throughout my elementary and secondary school years, I read the same sort of large print pages.

Today, with horror and pity, I recall my face flushing a deep red as I was called upon to read aloud. The heat from my face would cause my glasses to steam up, and I then had trouble reading, which generally caused more anxiety and blushing. No one ever considered teaching me Braille. I wasn't really blind anyway; I could still read print slowly if I dragged my nose across it. For a moment, I am caught in the embarrassing memories of my early years, and a flood of relief sweeps over me as I remember that I am not that awkward, quiet, insecure girl anymore.

The winter before I started my student teaching, I panicked. I had sat down to practice some Braille that some Federation friends had started teaching me. I couldn't read it. How would I take attendance? How would I read class notes? How would I explain blindness to my students? Dr. Homer Page had given a presentation at one of the National Association of Blind Educators division meetings. He had said that in order to be a successful teacher, or a successful student teacher, one first needed the skills of blindness (Braille, cane travel, confidence). As I sat on my parents' sofa, unable to read the Braille in front of me, I realized something important. I knew I needed to attend a training center where I could obtain intensive training and gain these blindness skills that I needed so badly.

At this point in my life, I was familiar with the Federation. I had won a Wisconsin state scholarship and a national scholarship. But I was still dealing with the acceptance of my blindness, struggling to feel and believe that I was equal and competent. I was not using a cane, but had been wrestling with that issue for some time. So the panic I felt was genuine and horrific. I wanted to be successful and confident. I needed those skills.

I only had the opportunity to attend an NFB training center for three summer months. I will be the first person to tell you that I could have used more training than that. But those three months turned my life around. I used a cane, read Braille, and worked with power tools under sleep shades! Being successful at those tasks fueled me with confidence.

Just a few days ago, my classes were reviewing for a unit test. I had created a trivia game, with rows of note cards taped to the chalkboard. One of my kids decided that he wanted a sneak preview of the questions, so he walked to the board and turned over one of the cards. "Ah, man!" he said as he saw the questions written in Braille. I just smiled at him. I use Braille daily to take attendance, read class notes, and develop class activities.

Throughout life, experiences can sometimes fill up, or can sometimes steal from, our bucket of confidence. I loved student teaching tremendously! I tried new activities, created entire units, and whole-heartedly enjoyed the kids. I knew that teaching was the profession for me. While I hunted for a full-time job a few months later, however, I encountered a situation which left me full of doubts and questions. I received many calls for interviews. My resume was quite impressive with its list of awards, volunteer teaching experiences, and work in Mexico. So I went to interviews, talked eagerly with principals, but never was called with a job offer. I was told that I interviewed well, and so I don't think my interpersonal skills were the problem. Principals and administrators were afraid to hire me because of my blindness.

In order to further build my resume, I signed on as a substitute teacher for the Springfield Public Schools. Shortly after I began this endeavor, I realized that the substitute coordinator would not call me to sub at a middle school. "We wouldn't want to feed you to the wolves, honey" she once told me. Every night I tossed and turned, unsure that teaching was the profession I should choose. I doubted myself, and sometimes it took every ounce of strength to go to another interview. But in times of doubt, we must persevere. I initiated a meeting with the substitute coordinator and director of personnel to educate them about alternative techniques in the classroom.

On April 15, I interviewed at a public middle school in Springfield. On May 15, the principal called me, asking if I was still interested in the position. On August 24, students walked into my classroom. I've been teaching for over a month, and I love it! The kids, though sometimes challenging, are enjoyable and curious. They want to learn, especially about blindness. I have spoken with other classes about blindness, and as I leave the building, kids who aren't even in my class yell "Bye, Ms. Koenig!"

So now the circles move again, and I have a student in my Spanish class who is in the process of losing her vision. I want her to be better than I was: not to spend years of her life pretending that she could see, not to spend hours memorizing speeches and presentations, not to remain quiet and shy for fear of having to do something unfamiliar. There is much I can teach her simply in doing my own daily activities. With the help of the National Federation of the Blind, I have successfully and confidently danced through many circles. I now look forward to the next.

History of the National Association of Blind Students

By Michael Baillif

(Editor's Note: The following speech was delivered by Michael Baillif at the annual meeting of the National Association of Blind Students held as part of the 1998 National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Michael Baillif was President of NABS from 1987 - 1991.)

In a letter to a friend, John Lord Acton cautioned, "A word of advice to people thinking about writing history -- don't!" Henry Ford's view of the subject was, "History is more or less bunk!"

With all due respect to Henry Ford, however, and mindful of Lord Acton's admonition, I will take my chances and address the history of the National Association of Blind Students. Before beginning that discussion, though, let me say that I am far more interested in the history that those of you in the room tonight will make, than about that which has come before. Toward this end, I would like to put the upcoming historical discussion in context by telling an updated and condensed version of a story that I told seven years ago in my last speech as president of NABS. I think this story is, if anything, more relevant and more important to NABS today than it was then. It goes like this.

Once long ago, there was a commune located high up in the mountains. In its golden days, it had been busy and prosperous. Now, however, it was stagnant and withering away.

One day, the head of the commune called in his top advisor, and said, "We've got to do something. This place is falling apart. No one is joining up, and the work is not getting done. We're basically going to Hell in a hand basket. It's those Generation X kids. They don't believe in anything. They don't have any commitment. They don't want to be part of anything. What do we do?

The advisor pondered the problem for a moment and replied, "I think I might have an idea. Let me see what I can do."

A few days later, as the advisor was strolling in the vineyard, she looked up into the sky and shouted, "Hallelujah!" When asked what she had seen, all the advisor would say was, "a vision, a vision. The chosen one is either among us now, or will be very soon."

The reports of the advisor's strange prophesy went far and wide over the countryside. People said, "the chosen one, the chosen one is there at that commune." Soon, sometimes one by one, sometimes in groups, people started appearing at the commune doors, seeking to join. Even some of the skeptical Generation X kids began coming around.

Another more subtle change occurred as well. People at the commune, both new and old, started looking at themselves in a new light and began treating others differently. A person would think, "is he the chosen one, or could it be her, or, good heavens, could it be me?" People looked at each other and at themselves and saw not only the good that currently existed, but also the potential for greatness that each person possessed. They took new pride in their duties and found a new joy in the commune.

To this day, the commune remains prosperous. Interestingly enough, though, the chosen one has not yet arrived, or perhaps the chosen one is there, but has decided to remain incognito. Only the advisor knows, and she is not talking.

I believe that you, and the person you're sitting next to, may be one of the chosen ones within our own organization. Within this group here tonight are the current and future leaders of NABS, and in large part, the future of the National Federation of the Blind. Given this perspective, here is a thumbnail sketch of the history of NABS, which will provide the context for the work, the challenges, and the opportunities that await you as the chosen ones.

The National Federation of the Blind Student Division, as it was then known, was organized in 1967, by a group of students so few in number that they could meet in a single hotel room. It was the first of our national divisions to be formed and was conceptualized very much as a Young Republicans or a Young Democrats type of entity.

Jim Gashel was elected as the first president and served until 1971. Dr. Maurer then took over and was the only three term president the division has had, serving until 1977. Peggy Elliot then succeeded Dr. Maurer.

The purpose behind the founding of the student division was two-fold. (1) To help recruit students into the larger organization, and (2) to help give students who might not otherwise have the opportunity, the chance to experience leadership positions within the organization. Judging by the division's early leaders, this latter goal was achieved very quickly.

In the early years of the student division, it undertook three principle activities that in many ways were representative of the focus that the division has maintained ever since. First, it sought to help blind students deal with the problems caused by paternalistic disabled student service offices. Second, the division published a student handbook which functioned as both a resource guide and how-to manual for blind students at all educational levels. And third, some members of the division went up to Canada and helped them develop an organization of Canadian blind students. A few years later, the division dove into a fourth issue, that being the test administration and validation policies of those entities administering gateway tests, such as the SAT and the LSAT.

Over the years, the student division has successfully addressed many of the subjects to which it has turned. Other battles have come and gone of their own accord and still other issues plague us to this day. Nevertheless, the student division has remained true to its essential mission: to train leaders and to help the organization grow.

One event, the significance of which should not be over- looked in this process, was the implementation in 1984 of the scholarship program as it now exists. When I became president in 1987, four of the five members of the student board had been scholarship winners. By 1989, all seven of us had come through the scholarship program.

During this period, that being the later 1980s and early to mid - 1990s, the student division, which by now had become NABS, added a strong outreach component. Many social events such as parties and the Monte Carlo night were held during convention. Also, substantial emphasis was placed on organizing student chapters in state affiliates. At one point, student chapters existed in almost half of the affiliates around the country. Thus, up through the mid-1990s, NABS progressed, sometimes more quickly and sometimes more slowly in the means by which it helped develop leadership, helped advocate for the rights of blind students, and helped reach out to blind students, both in providing real life advise as to how to get things done, and in providing a social context that would bring blind students into the larger organization.

In a nutshell, this is the history of NABS through the mid- 1990s. The history of the late 1990s and beyond will be told in the future and will be determined by you, the chosen ones.

In the National Federation of the Blind, we desperately need a vital and energetic student division. We need students to go off and have raucous parties and do things that vaguely scandalize the rest of the organization. We need students to debate issues and to ask the questions that challenge us all and keep us from growing complacent. And we need students to be reaching out to other students in the way that only you can.

It is up to you to become leaders in the division and to ensure that it fulfills its role. Why should you do this? Because you have a unique opportunity to give to, and to receive from, the National Federation of the Blind.

Why do you think I am here this evening instead of in the bar, which I do not leave lightly. First, because I might say something useful. Granted, it's unlikely, but if I talk long enough, you never know, it could happen. Second, because I need and deeply value the reinvigoration I draw from this group. It stays with me throughout the convention and I carry it back with me for strength when I am alone in the day-to-day world. And third, because some of my best friends are right here.

This is the opportunity that you are offered, to give and to receive and to develop relationships that will last a lifetime. Those of you who have leadership in this division, exercise it. Those of you who don't seek it out and take it. Take the leadership of this division and make things happen. Take the leadership of this division and become the chosen ones. Take the leadership of this division and write a history of which you and this organization can be proud.

Capitol Hill Adventure

By Michelle Bruns

(Editor's Note: Michelle Bruns received a 1998 scholarship from the National Federation of the Blind of Texas, and is a leader in the Texas Association of Blind Students.)

Anticipation gripped me from every angle as the plane landed in Washington DC's National Airport. This overwhelming sense of fear was clutching at me, insisting that I give into its demands. Slowly, the plane began to descend, the great national monuments whizzing by beneath us. I knew I was in for an adventure, but I had no idea to what degree.

I had only been to the nation's capitol once before as part of a structured school trip. But now I had three exciting months to explore and digest as much of DC as I could. To me, the city seemed like it was a world unto itself.

Needless to say, I continued to be extremely nervous. Luckily, I had a week or so to settle in and orient myself to the transportation system and Capitol Hill. Furthermore, there are these tunnels that connect all of the Senate Buildings underground and I wanted to master that system as well.

With butterflies dancing around in my stomach, I began my internship with Senator Christopher Dodd that following week. When I arrived at the Senator's office, two other women were already waiting. Being the social person that I am, I quickly became acquainted with my colleagues. We were supposed to be there for our first day by 9:00 a.m. Soon I learned that no one on Capitol Hill begins work before 9:30 a.m. The intern coordinator was extremely nice, but very efficient. All of us could tell she expected great things out of us.

The following day, the real work began. At this point, I decided these experiences might be worth giving up my summer for. After my initial elation ended, I began doing "real work." My main task was to attend hearings, briefings, and markups. All of these meetings were directly related to issues that pertained to happenings that Senator Dodd was handling. The best way to describe the way I felt was capable and accomplished. My favorite issues to handle were matters concerning the Year Two Thousand Computer Crisis. Before going to Washington, I was not aware that this was such a big concern plaguing our country. Now I really feel as though I am educated on the subject and I can now inform others.

The remainder of the summer passed quickly. It was filled with handling some constituent mail, writing reports, and doing research. All of these are essential skills that will definitely assist me in my future endeavors. The adaptive equipment I used to complete my work, such as computerized technology, was very helpful and put me on an equal footing with the other interns. I am sure that the people who coordinate the intern programs were worried about how I was going to handle my work, but, confidently, I can say, I am sure I measured up to their expectations.

My adventures in Washington DC were truly exciting. This experience put me in situations that made me grow. I know I was influenced and educated by everyone that I encountered, and I am sure I educated them as well, not only about blindness, but about being independent and taking on new experiences.

In retrospect, I sincerely can say my summer was well spent learning about our government and all the events that happen within it. I know I could have spent my summer taking summer school, or lounging on a sandy white beach somewhere, but I would not give up the experience and knowledge that I had gained from this internship.

Obtaining a Congressional Internship

By Marina Eastham

(Editor's Note: Marina Eastham is President of the Connecticut Association of Blind Students.)

Partially as a result of my involvement with the National Federation of the Blind, I've had the opportunity to work on Capitol Hill for the last two summers. During the summer of 1997, I interned with Senator Christopher Dodd from Connecticut. Last summer, I worked in the offices of the Republican National Committee. Both of my summers were very rewarding and I highly recommend the Capitol Hill experience to all blind students.

One of the most important things that we do in the National Federation of the Blind is to serve as our own advocates. What better way to polish advocacy skills could there be, than to be a first-hand participant in the legislative process where so many of the decisions that affect us are made?

Working on Capitol Hill has two other benefits as well. First, for legislators and Capitol Hill staffers to see blind people functioning confidently and competently on a day-to-day basis is the most eloquent testimony we can offer to the doctrine of equality that we are attempting to teach. Second, working on Capitol Hill is a great resume builder and helps prepare us for bigger and better things, both as individuals and as representatives of the blindness community.

I was able to obtain my initial internship with Senator Dodd through participating in the Federations' Washington Seminar that occurs each February. Every year, Federationists from around the country travel to Washington and meet with our Congressmen regarding important national issues that affect the lives of blind people. In February of 1997, I was part of a delegation from the NFB of Connecticut that met with Senator Dodd. After the meeting, I remained behind in the conference room. I told Senator Dodd of my interest in working as an intern, and handed him a copy of my resume. He reviewed it right there, and offered me the internship on the spot. I was stunned!

Since then, I've helped two friends from the NFB obtain congressional internships which they also have found very rewarding. Here are a few suggestions that you might find helpful if you decide to take a crack at working on Capitol Hill as well.

Step 1: Credentials

Build, build, build your credentials. Before you apply for a congressional internship, do something to build a resume and set yourself apart: get a job somewhere significant, do an internship, do community service, or get good grades. Speaking of resumes, go to your college career counseling office or have a professional advise you on writing the resume and cover letter. There are also books on the subject that you can consult. One thing to remember, though, don't ever leave the job up to someone else. You should write, proofread, and rewrite the resume and cover letter until it is perfect. I have seen staff members at the Senator's make fun of applicants' resumes. It is not a pretty sight.

Step 2: Research

Learn about your congressman's background and find out about his/her views on issues. Go to the homepage of the congressman you have in mind via the internet at the address: http://www.house.gov/ or http://www.senate.gov/. Hopefully the congressman's homepage will talk about bills and issues he/she supports. In addition, the congressman's homepage should have a link where you can go to find out details regarding internships and the application process.

Step 3: Making and Using Contacts

If you know anyone in the office to which you are applying or know someone who knows someone in the office, have them speak to the congressman or to the intern coordinator on your behalf. Capitol Hill is known for filling jobs based on connections. Networking is an important tool that you will use throughout your career. There's no time like the present to begin mastering the essential techniques.

Step 4: Making the Approach

Assuming that all goes well, and you are able to get your foot in the door at the congressman's office, the key is to present the image of someone who would be an asset to the office. Whether your first introduction to the congressman is by means of the NFB's Washington Seminar, or comes after going through the more conventional internship application process, be prepared to make the most of your opportunity.

When you are going into the office for an interview, dress in professional business attire. Think ahead of time of the types of questions you likely will encounter and prepare various responses. Generally consider the impression with which you would like to leave the congressman or the staff member conducting the interview, and act consistently with this goal.

If you follow these steps, your odds of obtaining a Capitol Hill internship should be quite high. It takes hard work and perseverance, but it's worth it. Good luck!

On Track...with Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic

By Annemarie Cooke, RFB&D Sr. External Relations Officer

We at Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic are delighted with this opportunity to communicate with you during the times between the National Federation of the Blind's Washington Seminar and the national convention.

For those of you who don't know about us already, just a few quick facts: RFB&D is the largest library of academic textbooks on tape. If you're a student, either full- or part-time, on any academic level from K-adult, RFB&D is a valuable resource. Our library has 77,000 texts on tape and on computer disk.

For additional information and an application for service, check out our website at http://www.rfbd.org. You also can call our Member Services department toll-free at 1-800-221-4792. If you have specific questions and want to speak directly with me, call me at (609) 520-8079 or e-mail me at acooke@rfbd.org. We'll be using this page to let you know what's new at RFB&D, including new products and services.

GOOD-BYE TO RITCHIE AND PAM: By the time you read this, we will have a new CEO. Ritchie L. Geisel, whom many of you know, has served RFB&D as president and CEO for nine years. He and his wife, Pam Wilkison Geisel, are moving to Los Angeles where he will assume leadership of the Crippled Childrens' Society, an organization that provides a variety of educational, rehabilitation and other services to people with a range of disabilities. Both Ritchie and Pam hold as a personal priority the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Many of you may remember Pam as RFB&D's former Director of Consumer Outreach. As this is written, a national search for Ritchie's successor continues. Ritchie will begin his new post on November 1.

$50,000 IN AWARDS FROM RFB&D!: Are you an RFB&D member who is blind or visually impaired and in your senior year of college? Then you just might be eligible for the Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Awards which total $30,000.

Winners must have a B average or better and demonstrate outstanding leadership, enterprise, and service to others. Candidates must be students at a four-year U.S. college or university. Many of our SAA winners are Federationists! If you have a specific learning disability and are a senior in high school, you may be eligible for the Marion Huber Learning Through Listening awards. The same criteria is used in selecting the top three RFB&D members who will win a total of $18,000.

For information and an application, check out our website, http://www.rfbd.org, or call our Member Services department, 1-800-221-4792. This year, the entry deadline is February 21, 1999.

REFERENCE LIBRARIAN ON CALL: Need assistance with a paper or project for school? Or perhaps you're interested in what books RFB&D has in a specific subject area. Assistance is at hand with our reference service. A reference librarian can prepare a bibliography for you, send it to you via e-mail or snail-mail in hard copy and order the books for you. Reach our reference department by phone directly at (609) 520-8031 or by e-mail at reference@rfbd.org.

The Right Tool for the Job

By Edward Bell, Vice President, National Association of Blind Students

It dawned on me one day while I was assembling a credenza, just how important it is to have the right tool for the job. A tool is anything one uses to get a job done. It's the hammer used to build a house. It's the law used by the lawyer. It's the scalpel used by the doctor. And yes, it's the person used by blind people to get the job of reading done.

There is nothing cruel or cold in this definition about the use of another human as a tool. Most people who are good at their jobs take very good care of their tools. The artist carefully cleans her brushes after each time she paints. The doctor respects the instruments that make his job possible.Without the rig, the truck driver would not be able to accomplish his job. And the best employer compensates and rewards her subordinates for a job well done.

The blind person does much of the same with the person he or she hires to do the job of reading. When we make good use of a reader, we must first start by establishing an employer/employee relationship. It is most often best to pay someone to read rather than depending upon volunteer help. When you pay a reader, you are compensating them for their time and effort. Paying them by the hour also influences you to be as efficient with their times as possible. This is important because the job of getting the reading done is number one on our list of priorities, however, the reader has his/her own life which puts your reading further down on their list of priorities. That is why it is so crucial to pay the person and establish this employer/employee relationship. When you are paying someone the agreed upon wage, and acting as the employer, the reader must do what you ask them, within reason of course.

Perhaps the most important element in this relationship between the blind person and the reader is the issue of control. Only the blind person knows exactly what he/she wants, needs, and the manner in which the job is to be accomplished. Only when the reader follows the directions and thoughts of the blind person is the job done most effectively where the blind person is concerned. Anyone who has depended upon their mother or other relatives to do their reading can probably attest to the frustration that occurs when one has a great deal of reading to get done. Obviously everyone is just trying to help, but it is the blind person who is stuck working around others schedules, and must put up with Mom's motherly nature and ideas. You see, Mom has always told you what to do, and when she becomes the reader, it can be very frustrating to try and make Mom read the way you want her to. So by hiring help, you are able to gain more control over the times and methods of reading.

Every professional must also contend with finding, and using, the most appropriate tool for the job. The student who strives to be a lawyer will try to get into Yale, Harvard, or some other prestigious law school. The teacher must constantly seek to find the best text books and material for her class. And the doctor must carefully decide upon the best procedure for a given operation.

So too, the blind person must go about the finding, and using of, a reader in a planned and methodical way. Depending upon the type of reading which is to be accomplished, one may find a reader by advertising on campus, in the newspaper, through head-hunters, or just by word of mouth. Because we cannot predict or affect many circumstances that arise, it is necessary to have back-up readers who can fill in when necessary. Often it is wise to have several readers, who are all flexible, and may be satisfied with only a few hours a week.

As we move through life, we find that we need different readers for different purposes. In college, we may need to find someone who is willing to put in late hours, has a flexible schedule, and has enough education to read the subject matter. When we begin work, however, we may need someone who can commit to a structured schedule, is very dependable, and can handle whatever level of professionalism the job brings.

On the other hand, we may just need a reader for home. In this case, a schedule may not be as important, procedure is more lax, and the level of reading is usually not as difficult. But they must be flexible because you may be calling upon them to take you to the airport, read very personal letters, or pick up beer at the grocery store. In every situation, what is crucial is that they be dependable, and take direction willingly. When this all works out according to plan, there is often some very strong and lasting relationships which develop from the simple task of reading. You should always be kind, courteous, respectful, and reasonable. But you should only keep the reader if he or she does what you want, and does it the way you want it done.

So whether you are just beginning in college or working on your Ph.D., whether you are a lawyer or a doctor, whether you are reading budget sheets, or reading Ann Landers, make sure that you have the right tool for the job.

The 1999 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Program

(Editor's Note: This article is reprinted in part from the November 1998 issue of the Braille Monitor. Think strongly about applying for a 1999 NFB scholarship. As past scholarship winners will tell you, the benefits of winning an NFB scholarship far outweigh the monetary rewards.)

This year's scholarship program will be the sixteenth since the organization determined to expand the number, variety, and value of scholarships presented each year at our annual convention in July. Assisting the nation's most talented post- secondary students to fulfill their academic and professional dreams is one of the most effective ways for us to demonstrate our conviction that blind people deserve the chance to enter whatever field they demonstrate themselves equipped to succeed in.

Scholarships will be presented this year to twenty-six college, vocational-school, and graduate students. The awards will range from $3,000 to $10,000, and we will bring the winners as our guests to the 1999 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, to experience firsthand the excitement and stimulation of a gathering of the largest and most dynamic organization of blind people in the country today.

Again this year we plan to present up to three of the scholarships to students who won scholarship awards in a previous competition. The purpose of these special awards is to nurture in today's students an ongoing commitment to the philosophy and objectives of the Federation. The students so designated will be recognized and honored as the 1999 tenBroek Fellows. All current students who were scholarship winners in previous years should take particular note of this program and consider applying for the 1999 National Federation of the Blind scholarships.

Full-time employees interested in pursuing post-secondary degrees should take a close look at the scholarship form. Now one award may be given to a part-time student holding down a full-time job.

Anyone can order scholarship forms from the Materials Center, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. State Presidents and members of the 1999 Scholarship Committee will also be sent scholarship forms. These may be copied as long as both sides of the form are reproduced. Good Luck!

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