THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 45, No. 6 July 2002
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 45, No. 6 July 2002
Perkins School for the Blind Sues Maxi-Aids
by Barbara Pierce
Timely Textbooks for Blind Kids
An Idea Whose Time Has Come
What's in Your Toolbox?
by David Evans
Interim Report from Arkansas
From the Editor's Mailbox
Kids Reach Out to Federation
Raise Funds to Help the Blind
by Aloma Bouma
by Sarah Saffian
Will the Real Thérèse-Adèle Husson
Please Stand Up?
by Buffa Hanse
Soon Everyone Will Be Listening
by Amit Ahuja
Young Federationists Do Their Part
Impressions of a New Member
by Neil Schoonmaker
NFB-NEWSLINE® Hits the Big Time
Letter to the Reader's Digest
by Sandy Ryan
Motivating Chapter Members
by Nancy Burns
Justin Dart Dies
Copyright © 2002 National Federation of the Blind
[LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION: Thomas and Esther Clement smile together as they examine a Bagel Biter.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Lillian Lee examines canes on display at the fair.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jim Deremeik of the Wilmer Eye Institute discusses magnification devices with a table-ful of interested seniors.]
On May 22, 2002, and with the assistance of the Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center of the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University; Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped; Charlestown Retirement Community; and Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, the NFB hosted 130 seniors for the first ever Low Vision Resource Fair for Seniors conducted at the National Center for the Blind. A grant from Kaiser Permanente helped to make the event possible. We began by serving a delicious lunch and presenting a program in which Federation leaders discussed how they have adjusted to vision loss. Then, divided into smaller groups, the visitors moved through a series of learning centers on reading, mobility, newspapers, computers, magnification devices, helpful hints, and gadgets and gizmos. The presenters enjoyed their contact with interested seniors, and the visitors reported that they learned a lot and were grateful for all they had received. Many seniors had to be turned away after the available places were filled, so we hope to repeat this event again soon.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Maxi-Aids logo]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marvin Sandler]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Perkins Brailler]
Perkins School for the Blind Sues Maxi-Aids
by Barbara Pierce
In the December 2001 issue of the Braille Monitor we reported on the motion filed by Independent Living Aids (ILA) against Maxi-Aids, alleging behavior that constituted contempt of court. One of the claims made by ILA was that Maxi-Aids had illegally diverted charitably subsidized Perkins Braillers from South Africa and had sold them in the United States in violation of Perkins's policies.
During the proceedings leading up to the court hearing of the ILA motion, Elliot Zaretsky, the patriarch of the Zaretsky family, submitted a sworn affidavit disputing ILA's claims and including the statement, "I respectfully submit that, if anyone has the right to complain about Maxi-Aids's purchases of these Perkins Braillers, it is only either Howe Press or the Perkins School."
At the hearing before the judge the attorney for Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys stated in open court, "I would submit to your Honor that it is Howe Press's business to enforce their rights, not the plaintiff's [ILA's] business to enforce their rights."
Mr. Zaretsky and his attorney have gotten their wish since the Perkins School for the Blind has now responded to their challenge by filing action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Perkins has sued Maxi-Aids as well as Elliot Zaretsky, Mitchel Zaretsky, Harold Zaretsky, and Pamela Zaretsky Stein.
The lawsuit filed by Perkins is based largely on information developed by ILA in its contempt-of-court motion, which was reported in considerable detail in the December 2001 edition of the Braille Monitor. To summarize that information, it should be noted that the price of Perkins Braillers in the United States is $640 each, and for overseas customers it is $660. In an effort to reduce the price to blind people in developing countries, Perkins and its Howe Press division developed a program in conjunction with the South African National Council for the Blind (the SANCFB) through which Perkins would ship component parts to SANCFB for assembly by blind workers in a sheltered workshop in South Africa. This would result in a lower assembly labor cost, which was supplemented by a grant of $100 a machine from the Hilton Foundation, a charitable organization established by the Hilton Hotels Corporation. The net effect of the lower labor cost and the charitable subsidy was to bring the price down to $375 for Braillers sold to blind people and organizations in developing countries. Perkins was clear: its intent was that these machines were to be sold to customers in developing countries.
Elliot Zaretsky apparently learned about these charitably subsidized Braillers and attempted to place an order for them. His attempt was rebuffed, and the director of the SANCFB sent him a fax advising that it could not ship these Braillers to the United States. At the same time Kevin Lessard, the director of the Perkins School, personally called Elliot Zaretsky and informed him that Braillers assembled by the SANCFB were intended for sale only to individuals and entities in developing countries, for use by blind people in those countries. He also told him that, if he or Maxi-Aids wanted to purchase standard Perkins Braillers, the Braillers would have to be purchased directly from the Howe Press for $640 each.
Apparently the price differential of $265 per machine ($640 from Perkins versus $375 from the SANCFB) was more than the Zaretskys and Maxi-Aids could resist. The ILA motion and now the Perkins lawsuit allege that Elliot Zaretsky masterminded a scheme to obtain subsidized Braillers despite the admonitions of SANCFB and Perkins. Both the ILA motion and the Perkins lawsuit claim that Zaretsky had a confederate in South Africa who placed orders, using the names of legitimate organizations serving blind people in countries such as Botswana, Mozambique, Kenya, and even Lebanon and then picked up the Braillers at the SANCFB warehouse and shipped them to Maxi-Aids in New York. ILA claimed to have identified 1,520 Perkins Braillers diverted in this way, resulting in an illegal profit to Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys of $402,800, of which $152,000 was charitable money donated by the Hilton Foundation.
The Perkins lawsuit adds a completely new dimension, not only to the story involving the Braillers but also to the impact and consequences of Elliot Zaretsky's continual misconduct in the blindness field. For years, dating back as far as 1994, the National Federation of the Blind has unequivocally stated our opposition to the way Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys have done business, and we have reported the well documented lawsuits filed by ILA against these business tactics. We stated our position clearly and told the world that we did not approve of their ethics and that under no circumstances would we do business with Maxi-Aids unless and until they cleaned up their act. Many readers of the Braille Monitor shared our sentiments on ethical grounds and stopped doing business with the company. Unfortunately, many other people, agencies, and even vendors apparently read our articles with bemused and disengaged interest, writing off the issue as nothing more than a fight between two commercial entities vying for market share. That has all changed, as the Perkins lawsuit and other developments in our field and within Maxi-Aids itself make clear.
As mentioned above, the Perkins lawsuit, at least at this point, is based largely on information and facts uncovered by ILA during its motion that Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys be held in contempt of court. That motion was denied on a legal technicality, but the judge said in open court and on the record that "ILA has presented a thorough and persuasive presentation that strongly suggests that the defendants are indeed improperly obtaining subsidized Braillers intended for use in developing countries and selling them at retail prices in the United States." The ILA motion was largely a matter dealing with unfair competition and alleged violation of a court injunction. The Perkins lawsuit goes further and not only involves claims of deceptive practices and misrepresentations made to a manufacturer but begins to touch on the impact on purchasers of the Braillers, as well as the human cost to blind people in developing countries. It is almost certain that these issues will be developed in greater detail as the case winds its way through court.
The lawsuit filed by Perkins is nineteen pages long and contains eleven counts, which Perkins alleges have caused harm and for which it is claiming monetary damages. It is also asking for punitive damages to punish Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys for what they have done, as well as injunctions to prohibit them from engaging in behavior of this type in the future.
Over and above the damage done to Perkins, both financially and through harm to its reputation, some of the counts make claims that indicate potential problems for purchasers of the Braillers that should give pause to anyone contemplating purchasing products from Maxi-Aids. The ILA motion for contempt of court included evidence demonstrating that someone at Maxi-Aids had opened the factory-sealed boxes of Braillers and torn off the covers from the instruction manuals, substituting a Maxi-Aids cover instead. This removed the address and phone number of the Howe Press division of Perkins. The boxes were then resealed and a sticker placed on each advising that for repairs the purchaser should contact Maxi-Aids, whose phone number was listed on the sticker. This effectively altered the warranty, since the machine was now to be repaired by someone at Maxi-Aids (or a person or company acting on Maxi-Aids's behalf) and was not going to be repaired by a Perkins-trained and authorized service person.
As reported in the December 2001 Braille Monitor, Perkins has announced that it would no longer do business with Maxi-Aids. This means that, not only would the repairs not be done by factory-trained service people, but that there was no longer assurance that repairs would be done with genuine Perkins parts. Although the matter of altered warranties is part of the lawsuit and will be litigated by Perkins on the issue of damage to their reputation, every purchaser of those Braillers must now consider his or her own self-interest with respect to the reliability of repairs and service. This inevitably leads to the question: how many other products is Maxi-Aids selling that have been obtained sub rosa and therefore do not have genuine manufacturers' warranties? Remember the NFB's experience years ago with Maxi-Aids watches that were purported to be Swiss-made when they were not. If ever there were an example of let the buyer beware, dealing with Maxi-Aids would certainly appear to be it.
If the issue of self-interest were not enough to give a buyer second thoughts about doing business with Maxi-Aids, the devastating human cost of what the Zaretskys have done should be cause enough for condemnation. It is axiomatic in our field that more than 70 percent of the employable blind population is unemployed, and 85 percent of those who are employed are Braille-literate. These figures are so universally accepted that many states and federal law now include a Braille literacy requirement in order to give blind kids a fair chance at a decent economic future. While this country has sufficient resources to ensure that blind children have access to Perkins Braillers, this is not the case in developing countries. In those areas Braillers are bought by schools and organizations helping blind people and are shared by numbers of students. The 1,520 Braillers diverted by Maxi-Aids would have been used by many thousands of kids--kids who have now been condemned to an uncertain educational and economic future by the greed of the Zaretskys.
When we interviewed Kevin Lessard, the director of the Perkins School, for our December 2001 story, he characterized the diversion of Braillers intended to reach children in the developing world to buyers in the United States as "outrageous." Reflecting on the implications of this situation, the words "immoral" and even "evil" come to mind. Surely it is not too strong a statement to say that an evil act has been perpetrated against innocent children in developing countries, and we condemn this act and any who have been party to it.
On the other hand, we do applaud a recent action taken by the American Council of the Blind. In April we learned that the ACB board of directors decided at its mid-winter meeting to prohibit Maxi-Aids from exhibiting or advertising at its annual convention. While we believe that this action is overdue, we certainly welcome the ACB's recognition that Maxi-Aids has acted unethically and perhaps illegally and that the ACB should take some action. It is never too late to take a stand against an immoral act.
We have learned of a further development that is both an astonishing revelation and an illuminating insight into the workings of Maxi-Aids and the Zaretsky family. Elliot Zaretsky and his son Harold have summarily removed Mitchel Zaretsky as president of Maxi-Aids and have fired him from the company. Although this occurred in November of 2000, we only recently found out about it because Mitchel has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, demanding dissolution of Maxi-Aids and an accounting of the assets of the corporation. Mitchel filed a sworn affidavit alleging that Elliot and Harold had been wasting and looting the corporation's assets, and it also mentions "further loss and destruction of the good will and business of the corporation."
As part of his sworn affidavit, Mitchel detailed the ILA lawsuit, the judgment against Maxi-Aids of $2,779,806.98, and the subsequent bankruptcy filing by Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys. He then discussed at length the proposed debarment by the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as its consequences, and concluded with the sentence: "Ultimately, Maxi-Aids was able to avoid debarment by entering into an administrative agreement which restricted the manner in which Maxi-Aids could conduct its business affairs." The affidavit then went on to describe some of the terms and conditions which Maxi-Aids was required to meet in order to avoid debarment.
The affidavit then contained this revealing accusation: "Notwithstanding the clear and unambiguous terms of the administrative agreement and the manifest injury that would occur to the corporation and its shareholders were Maxi-Aids to default under the terms of said agreement, Elliot Zaretsky and Harold Zaretsky have, over the objection of petitioner [Mitchel] ignored the terms of the administrative agreement and repeatedly caused Maxi-Aids to default thereunder." There's no question that this is powerful stuff. Readers should know that Mitchel was the person who signed the administrative agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on behalf of Maxi-Aids, and now he is the one accusing his father and brother of repeatedly causing Maxi-Aids to violate the agreement. Mitchel's statements echo the claims made by ILA when it laid out the diversion of Perkins Braillers and the establishment of Able-Vision as a sham company to circumvent the debarment, as reported in the December 2001 and January/February 2002 editions of the Braille Monitor.
Whatever Mitchel's motives, the fact remains that he was unceremoniously dumped as a result of his efforts. His affidavit describes how "on November 3, 2000, Elliot Zaretsky and Harold Zaretsky called a special meeting of the shareholders and directors of the corporation for the express purpose of voting your deponent [Mitchel] out of the corporation as both an officer and employee." We don't know the outcome of Mitchel's lawsuit, or even if there has yet been an outcome.
When we began gathering the material to write this story, we contacted Kevin Lessard at Perkins. He confirmed that Perkins had indeed filed its lawsuit against Maxi-Aids, but he would not comment further about the case. Marvin Sandler, President of ILA, was also unwilling to comment on these matters. We then contacted Michael Solomon, the attorney for Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys. He said that he could not and would not comment on the case since it is only beginning. He professed to be unable to comprehend why we were interested in covering a story that has not yet been tried. He said that he now understood that we are prepared to publish any papers at all that Marvin Sandler and his attorney Jack Dweck pass along to us with a request for publication. He went on to say that, if we were trying to sell daily newspapers, he could understand why we would publicize a story like this as it unfolded. But, he went on, we are a magazine in a small and narrow field, in which blind people are dependent on the products which Maxi-Aids sells. Why, he asked, would we want to stir up these people and make them suspect the motives of Maxi-Aids when there had never been any question about the company's products before this trouble with the Braillers?
Those who have read our coverage of this unfolding saga since 1994 and who understand just how important it is for people to know what they are buying in this field will recognize that we feel responsible to let blind people know what is happening and what problems are unfolding in this small market. We believe that we have seen compelling evidence and had painful experience of Elliot Zaretsky's business practices, and we have concluded that we must allow would-be buyers to understand the accusations being made and the evidence upon which they are based.
When we printed the article in December of 1994, it concluded with a statement from Dr. Jernigan saying that we had stopped buying anything at all from Maxi-Aids, even if its price was the lowest to be had, because we did not like its behavior or dealings. Even before Perkins filed its lawsuit, President Maurer wrote an article in the January/February 2002 edition, which declared, "We have determined that we will do no business with Maxi-Aids under any circumstances. In fact, we believe that Maxi-Aids's conduct has been sufficiently questionable that others should follow our lead." He concluded the article by saying, "Our policy about Maxi-Aids has not changed."
Now everyone who reads this article must decide where he or she stands, morally and philosophically, not to mention with respect to simple self-interest. We caution buyers--individuals and state or federal agencies--to think about the warranty problem with respect to Perkins Braillers and whether you have bought or are considering buying products that do not actually have warranties. In view of the deceptive way the Braillers seem to have been obtained by Maxi-Aids, it would be well to remember some of the issues in the original ILA lawsuit--including customs fraud, counterfeiting, and sale of refurbished products passed off as new merchandise. Every would-be buyer now has cause to wonder about the pedigree of merchandise being offered by Maxi-Aids.
Even vendors have something to think about. Perkins probably assumed that it would never have to become involved in the minutiae of business. Yet it now finds itself in the midst of litigation to recover a very substantial amount of money. Even ordinary vendors have to use caution. They should remember that, when the court awarded a judgment of $2,779,806.98 against Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys, they almost immediately declared bankruptcy in an effort to avoid payment. This left several hundred vendors out on a limb, worrying that they might collect no more than pennies on the dollar for merchandise they had sold to Maxi-Aids. They were bailed out only when ILA agreed to a settlement of $1,600,000, which enabled the vendors to collect in full. If Perkins prevails in its lawsuit and is awarded punitive damages, who can doubt that Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys will file for bankruptcy again to avoid paying a judgment?
Although the NFB's stated policy of refusing to do business with Maxi-Aids for the past eight years has left us financially protected and confident of the quality and pedigree of the products we sell, we believe that conscience obligates us to continue to take a firm stand against immorality in the marketplace of the blindness field. We also believe that those who choose not to take a stand are acting immorally. The old dictum, "Those who do not condemn, condone" is as true today as it ever was. As we said earlier in this article, it is never too late to take a moral stand. We call upon the Department of Veterans Affairs to review its administrative agreement with Maxi-Aids in view of the affidavit of Mitchel Zaretsky. We also call on VA officials to discontinue purchasing Perkins Braillers from Maxi-Aids immediately.
Not a court judgment resulting in the payment of $1,600,000 to ILA, nor the attempts of Mitchel Zaretsky to get Maxi-Aids to clean up its act, nor ILA's motion for contempt of court, nor the ACB's prohibition on exhibiting, nor the threat of debarment by the VA have had a constructive effect on the conduct of Elliot Zaretsky. Perhaps denying him a market for his allegedly illegally obtained Braillers and a strong stand by customers and suppliers alike will get him back on the moral high road. Until that day we can only restate our position loud and clear. Our policy about Maxi-Aids has not changed. We will not do business with the company under any circumstances.
Timely Textbooks for Blind Kids
An Idea Whose Time Has Come
From the Editor: On April 24, 2002, the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act was introduced in Congress. Congressman Tom Petri's bill is H.R.4582, and Senator Chris Dodd's bill is S.2246. More cosponsors are needed on both pieces of legislation, but both are considered fairly noncontroversial because the American Association of Publishers worked with us to write the language. The entire blindness field agrees about the importance of getting this bill signed into law. Federationists attending the Washington Seminar have been talking about this concept on Capitol Hill for better than two years, and it finally looks as if we are making real progress. A Senate hearing is scheduled for the end of June, which will give the bill some much needed visibility, but it's still important for all of us to encourage our Representatives and Senators to cosponsor the legislation and urge that it come to the floor for a vote as quickly as possible.
Several excellent stories have appeared in the weeks since the April 24 press conference that was called to mark the introduction of the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act. Here are a couple of samples. On April 29, the New Haven Register published a fine one. Here it is:
Dodd Bill Urges Availability of Learning Materials for Blind
by Lolita C. Baldor
Jessie Kirchner had to tell her Guilford High School teacher last week that she couldn't take her history quiz because about fifty pages of her textbook turned out to be blank.
Kirchner's book is on tape. And because she is one of more than 900 blind students in the state, she must rely on tapes or Braille textbooks that can often be outdated or defective.
Last week the high school junior was in Washington with Senator Christopher J. Dodd, D-Connecticut, to urge support for federal legislation that would require states to have Braille and other electronic learning materials available to visually impaired students at the same time that regular textbooks are given to other students.
Dodd's bill also would create a uniform electronic format for books to make it easier to convert them to Braille.
"By providing books for the visually impaired, we can open up new opportunities and horizons for countless Americans," said Dodd, whose sister is blind and is a teacher in Connecticut. "This measure ensures that disabled Americans have equal and fair access to better educational materials."
According to the National Federation of the Blind, blind students often must use old textbooks because newer versions aren't converted to Braille.
Although the Americans with Disabilities Act requires equal treatment for individuals with disabilities, the law does not cover publishers, and there are no uniform procedures to convert printed textbooks into Braille or synthetic speech formats.
"In the absence of a specific law requiring publishers to support creation of textbooks in Braille, blind students in community schools are being segregated from the general population," said NFB President Marc Maurer.
That was the New Haven Register story. On May 13 the Boston Globe also carried a fine piece about the need for this legislation. Here it is:
Lack of Brailled Textbooks Leaves Blind Students in Bind
by Sandy Coleman
Close your eyes and envision a complex math problem. Now, solve it, imagining the formulas and graphs‑-without a book. That's what Newton North High student Tasha Chemel, who is blind, had to do for three months in her junior math class because the Braille version of her textbook didn't arrive until after the school year began. The sixteen‑year‑old, who has been blind since birth, has to have all her textbooks converted to Braille. Most years she doesn't get them on time.
"One year someone forgot to order the ones I needed . . . Last year, my history book took forever to come. In the interim I had to listen to it on tape, which doesn't work very well," said Chemel. "It's been a pain." Advocates for the blind say such delays deny blind or visually impaired students equal access to education. They are pushing for legislation recently introduced in Congress that would require states to make sure that such students get their books on time. Publishers would have to produce electronic copies of textbooks and furnish them to a national access center for distribution to schools nationwide.
Eileen Curran, director of educational services for the National Braille Press in Boston, compares the measure to laws that require schools to build handicapped ramps. "The only thing preventing a child in a wheelchair from getting a full education is being able to enter a school. . . . The only piece that is lacking in [visually impaired students'] education is the access to their materials."
Converting printed textbooks into Braille is so elaborate that it takes about three months. It means textbooks have to be ordered far in advance of the school year, but officials often have to wait until budgets are approved in the summer to order books. And sometimes teachers haven't made their selections or change their minds at the last minute.
In Massachusetts regular textbooks are converted at the National Braille Press. A transcriber must first turn the printed material into an electronic format, usually by scanning the pages. However, scanners often make errors, said Curran.
Advocates and publishers estimate that there are 90,000 blind or visually impaired students in the country. In Massachusetts there are about 2,000, 200 of whom are Braille readers.
The numbers may be small, but the problem is not, said Peter Leofanti, assistant principal and Chemel's math teacher at Newton North. "The big deal is the state tells us that [blind and visually impaired students] have to be educated in a mainstream situation," he said. "I agree with that. But they require a lot of support, and anything that makes this easier and facilitates it should be considered."
Sometimes, when Brailled books don't arrive on time, teachers such as Anne Spitz do the Braille themselves on home machines. That's what she did last year when parts of a reading series didn't arrive in time for her third‑grade students.
"Parents of sighted children would be appalled if their children were sitting in class without materials," said Spitz, who teaches visually impaired students at Bridgewater Elementary School. At a time when high standards and literacy are being pushed, no student can afford to fall behind, she said.
Currently only twenty-six states require publishers to provide electronic copies of textbooks for visually impaired and blind students. Massachusetts is not one of them. The big problem for publishers has been that electronic file format requirements vary from state to state, making it time‑consuming to produce books in the appropriate format, said Stephen Driesler, executive director of the school division of the American Association of Publishers.
"The system has not worked well for the blind kids. It takes sometimes six months or longer into the school year to get their books," he said. The new legislation would require publishers to create only one type of file, saving time and money, he added.
The Instructional Materials Accessibility Act is currently awaiting committee hearings in Congress. It was introduced last month by the National Federation of the Blind, along with Senator Christopher Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, and Representative Thomas Petri, a Wisconsin Republican. The American Association of Publishers worked two years with advocacy groups and educators to draft legislation that all sides could support.
However, it will take up to three years to set up an electronic access center and cost $1 million to run annually. Another $5 million will be needed initially to train staff and provide technical assistance to schools. Moreover, only books published after the legislation is enacted would be available electronically.
Still advocates hope the legislation will provide some relief.
At one point this year, when Chemel's book hadn't arrived, Leofanti improvised, squeezing goo out of a tube to create graphs that Chemel could feel and study. "We had to do a lot of things orally, and I had to repeat and repeat," he said. "She's been a very resilient and resourceful kid. She took it philosophically. She said we'll do the best we can with what we have."
But Chemel is angry, particularly as she heads toward college, where the workload will be increased and she may be facing similar book problems.
"I should have books as accessible as anyone else," she said. "I shouldn't have to waste my time chasing down materials. I want to focus on academics."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: David Evans, cane in one hand and the bugle he sounds at convention in the other.]
What's in Your Toolbox?
by David Evans
From the Editor: The following article appeared in the Spring 2002 issue of the Florida Federation Focus, a publication of the NFB of Florida. David Evans is a member of the NFB-F board of directors. Sometimes it seems to me that people are just looking for excuses not to begin learning Braille. I am certain that they do not enjoy the frustration of functional illiteracy. Of course learning the code brings with it frustrations of its own. The difference is that the pains associated with learning any new skill have about them an aura of the constructive. In the same way, a person who is in poor physical condition experiences pain climbing to the eighth floor when the elevator is out of order and also when beginning a rigorous exercise program. Both activities hurt, but one is healthy and positive while the other is simply unmitigated misery.
David Evans offers some great reasons and a fine role model for those who wish things were different in their own lives. This is what he says:
Braille will be around as long as paper and ink are. As long as the sighted use paper and ink, there will be a place for Braille. I am not very good at it yet, but I am trying. I think that the hardest thing for me to overcome was the mental image of me trying to read big books in Braille.
What helped me was this thought: the most important person I have to communicate with is myself. I needed some way of writing down small, short personal messages and the ability to read them back anywhere and at any time. Pocket tape recorders work well for some things, but what do most sighted people do in the same situation? They write it down on a piece of paper and put it in their pocket. Well, if writing things down on a piece of paper is the most common and practical technique for the sighted, then using Braille on paper should be a very good way for the blind.
I decided that I could picture myself reading information on a three-by-five-inch card written in Braille. So I decided to learn Braille, or at least enough to write those personal messages, and, if I went no further than that, at least I could copy down a person's name, address, phone number, an appointment time or date. I tried getting someone from DBS [the state agency for the blind in Florida] to teach me, but I will just say that this person did not work out.
Then, while I was attending a national convention, a friend told me about the Hadley School for the Blind. I called its toll-free number, (800) 323-4328, and explained what I was interested in learning. They sent me a test to take about the rules of the school and then sent me my course, called "Relevant Braille"--all free of charge. This was an at-home course in Grade I Braille using a slate and stylus. They sent me directions on tape that were easy to follow and broken up into sections that explained everything. I followed the instruction to do at least one card or fifteen minutes a day. Being the impatient type, I did all of the lessons at once and was writing and reading Grade I Braille in about three weeks. By this I mean that I was using a slate and stylus to write all of my personal communications down on three-by-five cards and using them to keep my life organized. I did eventually get around to finishing and sending in my course materials and getting my certification in Grade I Braille.
I think that learning to write and then read using a slate and stylus is the best way to learn. This teaches you to write Braille right-to-left and to concentrate on dot position. Most people I have met who learned on a Brailler seem to have a hard time making the switch to a slate, but those who learned on the slate do not have any problem going to a Brailler for greater speed.
I like the slate because I can carry it anywhere, and now I am rarely without one, even though I do most of my note-taking on a Type 'n Speak. I found that the trick to learning Braille is just learning the first ten letters. Once you learn them, you repeat the letters in order while adding dot three at the bottom. Then you do the same thing again, adding both dots three and six at the bottom until you have all twenty-six letters of the alphabet.
The only oddball is "W" because Braille was invented by a Frenchman named Louis Braille, and at that time the French did not use the letter "W" in their alphabet. The Hadley course also teaches the numbers and punctuation symbols. Learning the first ten letters also gives the student the ten digits when paired with the number sign. Last year I went back to the local Lighthouse and began learning Grade II Braille, all 200 contractions of it. This is where you get faster with Braille. Grade II turns Braille into a form of shorthand that speeds up both writing and reading. I am still very slow, mostly because I do not practice enough and because I have diabetes, but I am still using Grade I Braille because speed is not the most important thing; the ability to read it is.
I believe that, like all people, blind people need their own toolbox--special tools and skills that help get the work done. It is wise for all of us to include in our toolbox any and all tools we think may help us to do the job. And as with any collection of tools, they should be kept sharp, in their proper place, and available whenever they can do the best job. By the way, the friend who gave me that tip about Braille and the Hadley School was Doctor Jernigan. He could read over 400 words a minute in Braille. The average sighted reader reads between 225 and 250 words a minute.
Who says that reading Braille has to be slow?
Interim Report from Arkansas
From the Editor: In 1999 Arkansas was one of the first states to enact legislation requiring state government to purchase only computer hardware and software that could be made accessible to disabled users if needed. The law passed was a version of the NFB's model technology act, legislation that Federationists across the country are encouraging their state legislatures to enact. Everyone cheered the action of the Arkansas legislature and praised their willingness to take the lead.
Almost immediately Arkansas hit rough water. It's just plain hard for some people to understand that such legislation has implications for them. Among these were the Arkansas officials in charge of implementing a statewide accounting system for state government. Blind people could not use it efficiently, so the fat was in the fire. The National Federation of the Blind brought suit, recognizing that unless a flagrantly illegal program like this one could be fixed or removed, such legislative protections as the Arkansas technology-access law would be worthless. Nothing has yet been resolved, but on April 1, 2002, the following story appeared in the Paragould Daily Press. It accurately describes the current situation and the magnitude of the problem. Here it is:
System Doesn't Provide Needed Access
by Gail Jackson
Arkansas's new accounting system, called AASIS, was supposed to streamline record processing, but difficulties in working with the system drove employees in the state's Agency for the Blind to sue to have it improved or removed. "It should never have been put online. It is not accessible to the blind, and it keeps blind people from doing their jobs," said Agency for the Blind Supervisor Larry Wayland, who along with co-worker Donna Hartsell initiated the legal action.
The basis for the lawsuit is a 1999 Arkansas law that prohibits the state from purchasing any software or hardware that is not accessible to the blind or the visually impaired. "Shane Broadaway sponsored the 1999 bill, and Arkansas legislators seemed to be very proud of the fact that they passed it," Wayland said, also pointing out that there are federal laws that prohibit having a system that prevents blind employees from doing their jobs and--according to the Americans with Disabilities Act--if it's not accessible, that law needs to be changed.
The AASIS system tracks inventory, employee records, timesheets, and processes checks. Wayland's department uses it to access employee files. It's supposed to have a keystroke echo feature and a speech feature that allows blind employees to command the system to read back information, but it doesn't. Another feature that poses problems is that some of the data is arranged in cells of dynamic rows and columns. The only way to go from cell to cell is to use the tab feature. "In order to do their jobs, employees have to hit the tab key four, five, six, seven hundred times to get to a particular cell to change a file," Wayland said.
The system was supposed to be designed so that everybody could do their own work, but it could cause visually impaired employees to need assistance. Because of that, Wayland foresees that the AASIS system, as is, could cost a lot of people their jobs. He said, "It's not just us, but it's the possibility that other people would apply for a job that would be required to use the system. Look, if you want blind people to work, you've got to make it possible for blind people to work--that's what this agency is all about."
Wayland knew in advance the Department of Finance and Administration planned to supplant old accounting procedures with the Arkansas Administrative Statewide Information System. Since it's his responsibility to assess the technical aspects of the jobs within his department and make recommendations on equipment that best suits the needs of the blind and visually impaired, he asked if AASIS would be accessible to the visually impaired. He said he was told it would be and that it would be more accurate than the previous record-keeping system, but it hasn't panned out.
The system was blamed for child support checks not going out, but Dan McDonal, administrator for the Office of Child Support Enforcement, said that had nothing to do with AASIS. He said child support payments are handled through ARCSIS, the Arkansas Child Support Information System, and that the two systems are not connected whatsoever.
H.C. Lemmons, administrator at the Greene County Department of Human Services, said AASIS has streamlined some procedures, as intended, and is a big improvement over the old system, but Wayland said other departments have complained about problems.
Wayland said the state had already tested the program and knew when it went online July 1 that it wasn't working. Arkansas purchased AASIS for $19 million in 2000, from SAP, a German company. Ron Hopper, who was in charge of the system at first, was replaced, and the state has spent additional millions (the estimate is more than $50 million including the purchase price) making adjustments to the system. There's no time limit on getting the bugs out, and the end is not in sight.
"I know I'm seeing an awful lot of timesheets that I didn't have to sign before. I was under the impression that this was supposed to eliminate all this paperwork," Wayland said.
"They're not even saying it can be done. And as the bugs are all worked out, it could cause more work. The people working on this just got raises while agencies are having to cut their budgets a lot, including the Agency for the Blind," he added.
Arkansas legislators recently criticized spending so much money on the system and questioned spending more to contract with outside sources to study the system.
Wayland and Hartsell acted to require the state to make the AASIS software system accessible to the blind in a suit filed by the National Federation of the Blind, after the system went online. An attempt was made to contact the Little Rock attorney and the head of the Federation of the Blind at the national headquarters about the suit, but neither responded. The state appealed the lawsuit, but the appeal was thrown out of court.
Wayland hopes that if they win, AASIS will be made accessible within a specific time frame. "If it can be made accessible, it could open doors," he said.
From the Editor's Mailbox
Jerry Whittle's article "Read Until You Bleed" in the April 2002 issue has generated a good bit of comment. Some people have found it encouraging, while others have complained that it makes learning Braille as an adult sound too difficult. Everyone who has made comments to me has agreed that the rehabilitation professionals who discourage adults from attempting Braille on the grounds that mastering the code will be too difficult should be denied permission to read or write print visually for a year to see how well they get along communicating and managing their lives using tape and speech-access only.
I become more convinced every day that learning to read well as a young child is key to successful mastery of Braille as an adult. I certainly understand that learning Braille during the formative years is the best of all methods of mastering the code, but I suspect that those of us who never saw efficiently enough to learn to read print well as children have a harder time achieving reading speed in Braille as adult learners than those who once read print efficiently.
Clearly research must be undertaken in order to discover how best to assist those who are attempting to make the most of the Braille instruction they are now receiving as adults. As further encouragement to this group of would-be Braille readers, here is a letter I recently received. Heather Peterson wrote to contribute her personal experience and perspective to the conversation. This is what she says:
Jerry Whittle's helpful article in the April Monitor on Braille literacy for adults reminds me that, since I became visually impaired last year, I've run across two statements over and over, both here and in other publications for the blind. I'm afraid I don't have the extensive experience that most of the people who make these statements have since I have not worked with other blind people, but may I offer my personal perspective?
The first statement often made is, "Learning Braille as an adult is exceedingly difficult." The more optimistic‑minded members of the blind community go on to add, "But it can be done."
I had this statement made to me so many times before I started to learn Braille that I approached the task with terror, all the more so because I have a long history of being poor at learning languages. It was thus a pleasant shock for me when I discovered that I was able to teach myself Braille I in the space of two months (it took me that long only because I had a hard time locating the proper materials) and Braille II in the space of two weeks. Naturally my reading speed was quite slow at the beginning, but I found learning Braille to be much easier than any skill I ever learned in school. By contrast the penmanship I learned in elementary school was a much bigger challenge.
I'm not sure why Braille is thought to be such a difficult form of writing to learn; I suspect it may be because some students are asked to memorize every rule of Braille before they get to the point of being allowed to read texts. This method of teaching works quite well for students with a methodical frame of mind, but some of us learn better under the immersion method that has been so successful in teaching foreign languages: learning a minimum of rules and then plunging into the text and learning the remainder of the rules as time goes by. I don't know how commonly this method is used in teaching Braille; I certainly hope that it's offered as an alternative to students.
The second statement often made, usually by implication, is, "Braille literacy consists of reading Braille fast." Could I offer a revised form of that statement? I would like to suggest that Braille literacy consists of reading Braille at the speed that is most helpful to the individual.
When I was in elementary school, I encountered a tale about a prisoner of war who was allowed to take only one book into prison with him, so he read the book at a rate of one sentence per day. I envied him. Already at that age I had become a compulsive speed‑reader, and the problem increased over the years; by the time I lost the ability to read print last year, I was utterly incapable of reading any book, even a book I much loved, without skimming it. Since I'm a freelance writer and hone my skills by careful reading, this compulsive skimming had a detrimental effect on my career.
Learning Braille was therefore a wonderful breakthrough for me and for my professional life. For the first time in my life I have been forced to read books slowly, savoring the contents. As it happens, I'm fortunate enough to have acquired the ability during this past year to read limited amounts of large print, so I now have two alternatives: to read quickly with my eyes or to read slowly with my fingers. I certainly prefer to read with my eyes when skimming material such as index pages. But given a choice between reading a novel in print and reading it in Braille, I prefer to read it in Braille.
I don't want to suggest that my circumstances are typical. But I do want to suggest that, in encouraging students to learn to read fast, the Braille community should not lose sight of the fact that slow reading may sometimes be preferable, depending on the circumstances faced by the student. When I was in high school, we were taught that dialect is not inferior to Standard English but that a person should reserve dialect for appropriate circumstances, such as informal dialogue. Likewise, I hope that teachers of Braille will not forget to tell their students, "Learn to read quickly so that you can do so when you need to, but don't be afraid to read slowly if you want to."
I would like to end this letter by saying I am grateful that I was initially unable to read large print, because otherwise I might never have had the incentive to learn Braille. I strongly agree with members of the blind community who argue that people with low vision should be offered the opportunity to learn Braille; my own life is richer because I was given that opportunity.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Five students get a workout using Hula Hoops.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Six students enjoy jumping rope.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: In the gym students dribble and make baskets using all five basketball nets.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: After all the activity the students gather in what shade they can find for the presentation of the check to Mrs. Maurer.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mrs. Maurer addresses students, parents, and teachers following the presentation of the check to the NFB. The seven youngsters who raised the most money are clustered around Mrs. Maurer.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION:One of the seven students holds the certificate Mrs. Maurer has just presented, and another examines a picture of the National Research and Training Institute.]
Kids Reach Out to Federation
Raise Funds to Help the Blind
by Aloma Bouma
From the Editor: Aloma Bouma is Assistant Director of Community Relations for the National Federation of the Blind. She wrote the following article to commend a wonderful group of elementary-school students and to explain a great idea that can be duplicated everywhere. This is what she says:
No doubt about it, kids today know the value of the Internet and how to make full use of it. This point was recently driven home by a group of dedicated and energetic fifth graders at Pointers Run Elementary School in Clarksville, Maryland. Together with their parents, nearly two hundred students planned and organized the first-ever sports-a-thon at the school designed to raise funds the students would donate to a chosen charity.
Each of the seven fifth grade classes was divided into several small groups, and these groups were then assigned to research various charities and non-profit organizations on the Internet. The goal was to find a worthy recipient of the funds raised by the students. As each group made its presentation and appeal to the individual class, one charity was voted the choice of that particular class. The seven finalists were then presented to the entire fifth grade, and the National Federation of the Blind was voted by the entire group to be the best choice.
Once the kids had selected the National Federation of the Blind, they wanted to know even more about the organization they had chosen. After all, these kids wanted to raise as much money as they could, and they needed to learn about the NFB in order to convince their friends and families to support their cause. As she often does, Mrs. Patricia Maurer, wife of NFB President Marc Maurer and director of community relations for the NFB, accepted an invitation to address the fifth graders and talk with them about blindness, the National Federation of the Blind, and the new National Research and Training Institute for the Blind. To help the kids learn even more about the Federation, she gave each student a copy of the brochure, "What Is the National Federation of the Blind?" and an NFB Braille alphabet card.
Then the kids had about three weeks to plan their event and raise donations. The sports-a-thon was scheduled for Wednesday, May 29, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Together the kids and parents came up with ideas for seven different competitions. Each student would participate in three to five events. The seven classes rotated among the seven competitions, and those students not participating at any given time served as helpers for other events. Rather than asking for donations based on length or success of participation in specific competitions, the students requested flat donations in advance of the sports-a-thon.
The competitions included a quarter-mile walk/jog, a target softball throw, soccer, a Hula-Hoop contest, a jump rope competition, football punting, and a team basketball game. Each rotation lasted for approximately fifteen minutes. To liven things up even more, a special teacher's competition was held at the end of the sports-a-thon. The kids were even more excited to learn that reporters from their local newspaper, the Columbia Flier, and from the Baltimore Sun were to cover the event.
Finally, at the end of the sports-a-thon, the tired but proud students were ready and eager to present their hard-earned donations to Mrs. Maurer. They had kept the total amount of money raised a surprise until the actual presentation of the check to the NFB. And, to Mrs. Maurer's great astonishment and appreciation, the check was in the amount of $4,500.
In accepting the generous contribution, Mrs. Maurer told the students, staff, and parents: "We are very excited to have been the organization you have chosen to benefit from this special event. You have all put a lot of thought and effort into making this a success that will help the blind. The students have worked very hard to raise contributions, and they have learned a great deal about blindness and what the blind can accomplish. We are proud of all of your efforts, and we appreciate your generosity very much." Mrs. Maurer went on to tell the participants how the funds will contribute to the development of the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind and will lead to programs benefiting thousands of blind people in the years to come.
During the presentation ceremony Mrs. Maurer awarded a special certificate of appreciation from the National Federation of the Blind to the fifth grade class at Pointers Run Elementary School, and every student who participated in the sports-a-thon received an NFB T-shirt. The text of the certificate read:
Know All Men and Women
by These Presents that
The National Federation of the Blind
welcomes and thanks
the Fifth Grade Class of
And that this certificate is presented
in grateful recognition of the generous assistance
given to help the blind achieve better lives
Marc Maurer, President, National Federation of the Blind
We commend the fifth grade class at Pointers Run Elementary School in Clarksville, along with their parents and teachers, for their generosity and dedication to the blind. The accomplishments and success of the National Federation of the Blind have been built not only through our passion and dedication but also with the hard work, understanding, and support of thousands of others. These students are a shining example of what can be done with a little thought, some planning, and a lot of effort. The $4,500 raised is an outstanding achievement; yet we know this feat can be multiplied over and over in our schools, church groups, and community-service partners. It's up to all of us to take this and similar ideas to groups in our own communities. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Pointers Run fifth grade was the first of a long line of school and community groups to join hands with us as we build the future for blind people?
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sami Osborne reads a book to his little brother Luca.]
by Sarah Saffian
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the June 2002 issue of Rosie. Sami Osborne's family has been to the National Center for the Blind several times to learn what they can about blindness. The fact that they have acquired healthy attitudes about Sami's blindness and are well on their way to seeing that Sami grows up a happy, normal child is amply demonstrated in the following story. Here it is:
[subtitle] Sami Osborne, who's blind, was walking with a cane when he was only two years old. At four he's ready to take on anything.
Sami Julien Osborne takes swimming lessons every Saturday morning with his mother Isabelle at the YMCA in their hometown of Nyack, New York. He has his own library card, and he goes regularly with his father Brian to the Nyack library to borrow books--The Roly-Poly Man and Geraldine's Blanket are among his favorites. He says he "feels good" about being the older brother of Luca Marc, born last September on Sami's own birthday; he likes to kiss Luca's head and shake his hands. Last fall Sami started prekindergarten in a class at the Montessori school in nearby Suffern. When he grows up, he says, he'd like to be a fireman, "to help people."
Right now, though, Sami, who was born blind, is having an average four-year-old kind of day. It's a warm afternoon, and he's dressed simply in a T-shirt and shorts. Moving slowly, but with assurance, Sami opens the refrigerator, takes out a bottle of water, and climbs into his booster seat to eat lunch: cheese crepes and chocolate custard. Sami's independence is something Brian and Isabelle have focused on developing from the time their son was an infant.
Instead of manually guiding Sami, they assist him by describing his surroundings--in both English and Isabelle's native French, in which Sami is also fluent. "By two years old Sami was confident enough to use a cane," says Isabelle.
"He was sitting up at four months, walking with help at a year, comprehending everything--he developed normally," Brian adds. "But there are still experts who insist, `No, no. We don't teach a cane till first grade.' This is a bad idea, because the cane gives tremendous confidence. It's really liberating."
Brian, forty-seven, and Isabelle, thirty-seven, met in 1994 in the postdoctoral biology program at the University of California at Berkeley, and they were married two years later. (Brian now works for a pharmaceutical company in Tarrytown, and Isabelle is a full-time mom.) Sami was born at 11:00 a.m. on September 1, 1997, full term, seven pounds, two ounces-- "a beautiful baby," says Brian. Because an infant's eyesight develops gradually, it wasn't until about two months later that his parents realized there might be something wrong. "He had some crossing of the eyes, which is not uncommon for newborns," Isabelle says. "But then I started to notice while breast-feeding him that his pupils were unusually big and reflected the light--like the eyes of a cat--and that his irises were different sizes and colors." During Christmas vacation in France with Isabelle's family, she and Brian worried about their child's vision. "I'll never forget that evening flight to Paris, when I stayed awake, thinking about it," Brian says.
Throughout January 1998, which Brian describes as "a month of many tears," he and Isabelle took Sami to several specialists at different New York hospitals. "There's this searching and despair, when parents think the ultimate tragedy has occurred," Brian says. "Meanwhile, we have pictures of Sami from that time, and he was a content baby--starting to smile, becoming a person." After a month of tests and a gradual elimination of diagnoses, doctors determined that Sami's retinas hadn't developed normally. His total blindness was confirmed and deemed untreatable. "In a way, after all the uncertainty and false hope, the straightforwardness was a relief," Isabelle says. "This is it--he can't see; there's no treatment--and we move on from there."
And so Brian and Isabelle set about making Sami's condition simply a fact of their lives. "It wasn't that hard an adjustment after a month or two, because we learned as much as we could," says Brian. Isabelle has completed a Braille course through the Library of Congress; Brian, who is currently at a first-grade level in Braille, plans to learn to read along with Sami. When Sami started walking, around age one, they took him to Terry Principe, an orientation and mobility specialist with the Association for the Visually Impaired, for an evaluation. "He was walking at a young age," Terry says, "even though he never crawled." (She says this is common for blind children, who don't like the position of being on their stomachs.)
As Sami approached school age, his parents had to decide whether they would send him to a specialized school for visually impaired students or to a regular program with sighted children. Brian and Isabelle ultimately determined the latter would be better for their son. "We wanted Sami to have teachers who didn't have preconceptions and wouldn't underestimate him. That's where a specialized school can fail, when the teachers figure they already know everything and focus on the disability, not the child," Brian says.
Over the summer Terry, now Sami's mobility teacher, oriented him to the school. "We learned how the classroom was set up," says Terry. "So when the teacher says, `We're going to the art corner,' Sami can get up and go over there like everybody else."
Rather than worrying that Sami's classmates would tease him for being different, his parents were actually more concerned that the other children would be overly solicitous. As it turned out, Brian and Isabelle were right. "A couple of the girls have tried to take him under their wing and drag him around, and the teacher praises their helpfulness," Terry says, laughing, "but she also explains that he can do things by himself. Overall, the kids have accepted Sami as part of the class. Having him there is an extra piece of education for them." On the first day of school, for instance, some of the other students learned how to type their names on the Brailler, a typewriter with Braille keys.
Sami has learned different techniques to help him stay on track with his classmates, such as putting sandpaper under his drawing pages (he feels the texture to determine where he's colored already) and using scented markers to distinguish between colors. "Of course he'll hear kids talking about things they see, concepts difficult for him to understand, like clouds in the sky," says Sue Ellis, Sami's Braille teacher. "But blind kids learn a response to that: `I see with my fingers.'"
Sami is enjoying school and thriving academically, particularly in his favorite subjects, music and Spanish. A quiet child by nature, he is still reserved; but he is learning to socialize, both in the classroom and at parties and playdates.
Today, once Sami finishes lunch, he's headed to a new playground in the nearby town of Piermont. "Sami, your sneakers. Let's go," Brian says, placing the small white shoes on the floor. Following the sound of his father's voice, Sami approaches the sneakers and puts them on, fastening the Velcro straps. Brian watches as Sami finds his cane, feels for the door handle, opens the door, and heads outside.
"Good job, mister!" says Brian.
Walking toward the playground, Sami uses his cane sparingly and with ease. Brian describes the layout of the park: "There are two slides, no seesaw, a climbing rock." Sami moves boldly on the large, gray plastic rock, despite its irregular levels and the few scattered handles to grab onto. "It's kind of tricky without your cane, because you can't tell where the steps are," says Brian. But Sami makes his way, with steady determination, all the way to the top. Two other kids watch his progress with curiosity and then resume their playing. On the way home Brian and Sami make plans for the rest of the afternoon. "Sami, there are two soccer games on television. Want to listen to them with me?" Sami smiles and nods yes.
Sami's brother's eyesight is developing normally. But even before Luca was born, Brian and Isabelle weren't concerned. "It doesn't sound like it could be true, but my worry was always that the next child wouldn't be like Sami, because Sami is such a remarkable and rare little boy--funny, calm, affectionate," Brian says, looking at his first-born son with pride and love. "If Luca had turned out like Sami--so happy, so smart, and blind--his blindness would have been almost a non-issue. Initially Isabelle and I just saw Sami's blindness--it's natural at first. But at a certain point you see the child again. And the child is always there."[PHOTO/CAPTION: Buffa Hanse]
Will the Real Thérèse-Adèle Husson
Please Stand Up?
by Buffa Hanse
Reflections: The Life and Writings of a Young Blind Woman in Post-Revolutionary France by Thérèse-Adèle Husson, Translated and With Commentary by Catherine J. Kudlick and Zina Weygand, New York University Press, 2001.
From the Editor: Buffa Hanse is an active Federationist who has earned a Ph.D. in comparative literature. She has taught English, world literature, and Braille at the college level and now teaches Braille and audio technology for the Kentucky Department for the Blind. Cathy Kudlick, the American author and translator who contributed to this book, is a professor of history at the University of California at Davis. She is a specialist in French history and is interested in disability studies. Zina Weygand is a researcher at the Laboratoire Brigitte Frybourg pour L'Insertion Sociale des Personnes Handicapées at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers in Paris and author of Les causes de la cédité et les soins oculaires en France au début du XIXe siècle (1800-1815). Here is the review:
Kudlick and Weygand translate, edit, and discuss Thérèse-Adèle Husson's Reflections on the Physical and Moral Conditions of the Blind, the first known writings on the subject by a blind woman. This text and her more personal "Notes on the Author's Youth," a preface to one of her novels, appear in fluent English as part of NYU's History of Disability Series.
Like the recent discovery of the Laura Bridgman materials in the Perkins Library (see Deborah Kent Stein's review reprinted in the October 2001 Braille Monitor), Husson's undated manuscript lay unnoticed over 100 years in the archives of the Quinze-Vingts [insert circumflex above the o] Hôpital. In fact, had it been published when written, it would have predated Alexandre Rodenbach's Letter on the Blind Following That of Diderot (1828) and been the first known work on blindness by a blind person. But Husson didn't have the Belgian's connections. Rodenbach, who would soon sit in the newly established Belgian legislature, responded to Diderot's philosophical investigation Letter on the Blind for the Benefit of Those Who See (1749). He and Husson share comment on colors, the deaf, and the appropriate education of the blind. Weygand and Kudlick suggest the two may have had similar influences, except, of course, for Husson's discussion of womanhood.
Weygand and Kudlick's archival research from a myriad of sources makes Restoration France, the subculture of the blind, and the intriguing ambiguity of attitudes and conventions embodied in the life and work of Thérèse-Adèle Husson come alive. Weygand and Kudlick open their detective story about the twenty-two-year-old blind Husson from Nancy with an introduction that sets the scene in Restoration France. After the turmoil of the Revolution, the short-lived new France beginning in 1789, and the conquest of Napoleon, the return of the Bourbons and the Catholic Church to power is no surprise. Despotic as it was, this regime restored some order and stability to the existing chaotic economic and social conditions.
Weygand and Kudlick describe the precarious lot of the blind in the first half of the nineteenth century: how they faired living with families, on their own, or in the Quinze-Vingts, the only facility specifically for the blind, founded by Saint Louis in the thirteenth century. Even a definition of blindness was vague, as our authors report, and the number of blind in the country uncertain. The diversity of livelihoods, meager as most were, does suggest a lively and diverse community, although a poor one. Whether they were among the lucky-- "a useless mouth" fed by family (p. 6) or parish, widows, orphans, beggars, musicians, animal trainers in traveling shows, wheel spinners, hawkers, sellers of pins or matches, or sellers of lottery tickets--the average blind person struggled on the margins. But the very diversity of jobs is a marvel in itself. And the delight on the faces in the cartoon of the Café des Aveugles, one center of the blind community, hints that the blind then as now could live with a certain joie de vivre. Even those in the Quinze-Vingts, who performed more morally acceptable jobs such as chair caning, holy-water dispenser, or storekeeper on the institution's grounds, could only supplement their income equivalent to ninety centimes with these meager earnings.
In contrast, and to develop the milieu of the blind, the authors illustrate how a privileged few blind men, and even an occasional woman, might succeed in French society with enough "resources and drive"(p. 7). The life of the Chevalier Marie-Charles-Joseph Pougens, who was blinded in adulthood, became a linguist and writer, and was accepted into a French Academie, a mark of acceptance among the elite, serves as an example. Like Adèle Husson, without Braille he used secretaries as scribes.
Bonnie G. Smith sets the literary stage in her provocative foreword, which the authors amplify and detail in their essay. Smith points out that disabled characters in literature have functioned as foils, as in Dickens, or as "symbols of character flaws" for sighted writers, but have never spoken for themselves. Diderot's Letter clearly presented the blind as objects of scientific study. The blind became quite a literary fashion, and almost any student of late-nineteenth and twentieth- century French literature recalls André Gide's Symphonie Pastorale, one of the later works in this genre.
But unlike the others, Husson was not speaking for the blind but was among the blind speaking for herself, though determining just what her voice says remains an open question. Her work and her life often contradict one another. In 1826, she marries, a blind man no less, Pierre-Francois-Victor Foucault, a former student of the Royal National Institution and a musician. But in her Reflections she adamantly recommends that blind women never marry.
The tone and juxtapositions in Kudlick and Weygand's essay remain interrogative, puzzling over the clues that enlighten but never resolve the ambiguities of this mystery. For instance, how many of her ideas were meant as a conventional plea to gain entrance to the Quinze-Vingts Hôpital (the only publicly supported institution with internal and external places for the blind)? How many ideas were her own, and in what way were they influenced by the two scribes who penned the manuscript of the Reflections? What did she really think about disability, religion, the role of women, and notions of the self (p.75)?
Because Husson's manuscript was clearly written as a plea for admittance into the Hôpital, one would expect her to be poor, but as the authors point out, the choice of words and literary style suggest a fine education. And her father and step-father belonged to the lower bourgeoisie, at least until the young Adèle determined to be self-supporting when the family found themselves in great debt. Thus the contradictions between her life and writings invite question. Did her manuscript influence La Croix d'Azollette, an official of the Quinze-Vingts? What happened to her after she arrived in the capital?
The authors accidentally found a notation confirming that the novelist Madame Foucault was born Thérèse-Adèle Husson in Nancy, and on further investigation discovered that she wrote ten novels after her Reflections and died at twenty-eight. This lucky detective work and the authors' skills illustrate their historical use of clues, cross-checking, and even a cautious use of fictional techniques to delve into the possibilities that created the voice of Thérèse-Adèle Husson.
Husson, in her foreword to Reflections, demonstrates an ambiguity of purpose. First she openly suggests that her friendship with her now deceased blind friend Charlotte provides happiness through the commonality of perception and life as blind women, but Husson laces the introduction with the somewhat formulaic gratitude and obedience to God necessitated by her plea to the Hôpital and social conventions. In her first-person voice she entreats her friend to intercede with God so that Husson "can accomplish the task pity has imposed on her, the strong wish to be of use and pleasing to all blind people" (p. 19). From this experience Husson determines she has the right to make generalizations about the blind. She wonders aloud why those blind with "sound judgment" and "devotion" don't feel as she and her friend Charlotte do.
In the first ten chapters of Reflections, drawing on her experience, Husson describes the nature and characteristics of the blind. Her subjects include the gait of the blind and the reasons for it, the significance of touch, the character of the blind, their responses to a sweet voice, the joys of hearing, their concepts of the sun and moon, questions about animals and people, perceptions of furniture and flowers, and a chapter about how they eat.
With practical and illustrative detail about the way blind people learn, Husson compares her understanding of the stars in the sky to sequins on a veil, although she is clear to note the ubiquity of the sky and her recognition that stars aren't really like sequins. Her discussion of the sun demonstrates that she "judges it by sensations it brings us" (p. 36).
Though she attributes characteristics to our innate nature and God's grace, points of view consistent with beliefs in her time, she uses an empirical model when teaching or demonstrating the knowledge of a blind person. For her, and no doubt for those in French society who have bothered to think of it, the sensitivity of the blind, their perception of sound, and their acute touch, are seen as gifts from God or innate characteristics. But the fear and slow gait of the blind clearly result from overprotective parents who would not, unlike her parents, allow the blind child free rein to explore. In contrast she thinks the sound of the voice is central to identity: the "sound of voice directs our judgment" (p. 38).
Despite her clear ability and strong character, Husson's sad chapter on how the blind eat shows her awareness of her own shortcomings. She points out that the blind raised with their families (like herself) often eat more "clumsily" than those raised at the Royal National Institution [for Blind Youth] because the former are "spoiled" and not used to being self-sufficient. Weygand and Kudlick demonstrate their perceptive reading of archives here by referring to Royal National Institution documents that support Husson's allusions to the students' routines of daily life.
Chapters 11 through 15 compose Husson's educational plan for the blind (women predominantly). In keeping with the importance of character education in Restoration France versus specific instruction in subjects especially for women, Husson urges parents to teach their blind children "humble submission," "patience," and "sweetness" (p. 45), traits necessary for their "status" in the world. Teaching a "lightheartedness" and "cheerfulness" will allow them to draw positive attention rather than "pity."
Continuing in the same vein, Husson urges parents first to teach their children to pray and to dress themselves. Parents and teachers should describe objects as they actually are when showing them to the child.
Husson believes that "If they [the children] have virtues, they can belong" (p. 48), but her own experience calls this assertion into question. She was denied a place at the end of her life. Weygand and Kudlick trace the spiraling downward mobility of Husson, her husband, and her child through the departments of Paris almost as if their words were lifted from Émile Zola. Her morality was probably questioned and her marital status, normally an asset in French society, became an obstacle to her survival.
Speaking directly to blind adolescents, Husson, in keeping with the Romanticism of her day, urges the young blind to be careful of their oversensitive hearts. They should never read Rousseau or Voltaire, for instance. Choose wisely among friends of the opposite sex, and flee from addresses with "sickly compliments" (p. 50). Her words recommend "virtue," "good deeds," and not taking advantage of others; her very act of writing and her way of life suggest that she is less submissive than her words imply.
According to Husson, a blind young man should react with a "modest" smile, "sound mind," and "good character." He should invite the "sacrifice" of a sighted woman. He should repay her care with "boundless tenderness and unconditioned trust" (p. 53), for this sighted woman serves as his "guide," "protector," and "guardian angel."
Husson, assuming that women by nature are sweet and patient, suggests that marriage to a blind man would be limiting and that one would have to entrust the raising of children to strangers. They would not see their parents as authority figures; so how could the parents punish them? If a blind woman married a sighted man, he would only seek her money, and "cold indifference" would be her lot after her youth. She encourages women with any means to keep their freedom and make good use of their possessions. Does she foreshadow Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, or is she only suggesting this because the women are blind? Blind women should "profit from their independence" (p. 55). Is she accusing herself too of "lacking common sense" since she married a blind man?
Husson suggests, in Ways to Console All Blind Women, that sweetness of temperament, good deeds, and "correct mind" will attract female friends (p. 59). She recommends the education of a friend or sister's child to provide the necessary attachment of the heart but with the reign of reason. Finally, she recommends religious consolation and the next world, as she does at the conclusion of almost every chapter. In her exhortation to blind people Husson reiterates her call for a tempered life of peace, calm, and belief, and a "noble frankness" (p. 62) for the basis of relationships among the blind.
In Note on the Author's Youth, Husson expresses her perception of her youth. She claims to have been ignorant until the age of thirteen. She says her parents felt that "the supreme good for me was being dressed, fed, and sometimes flattered." Comparing her happiness and lack of knowledge to her sister's, the young Husson clearly became depressed. Through three benefactors she was educated in a convent, learned some piano, and was encouraged in her writing career. When her family experienced debt, she "put all her faith in her resolve" and left with two hundred francs to launch a literary career in Paris. She quickly experienced all manner of suffering, married a young blind man, and saw her first novel The Converted Jewess published. Husson concludes with the now familiar undercutting of her talents and begs for gratitude from her audience (a common literary tradition of the day).
Through this work and its analysis, Weygand and Kudlick finally leave the reader with many of the questions with which we might approach such a book, but through their careful use of historical fact, in imagination these are now questions embodied in time, place, and genre to create a memorable life and work central to our history as blind men and women. With this history we, unlike Husson, often have the means and freedom to embrace similar questions in our daily lives. So does Thérèse-Adèle Husson, as Bonnie Smith asks, challenge "norms in a way that merely emphasizes her own exclusion from them--her own difference--or [is there] something bold and resistant in her way of life" (p. XIV)? Though one will never know, as a Federationist I would think that, notable as she is, Husson, like most blind people, is both, at different times and with respect to different issues in her life. Therefore one might conclude that there is no categorical real Husson, but an imagined one in the play of archive, art, and reader's experience. Thus one might ask, isn't her existence poised between exclusion from society and resistance to it?
Soon Everyone Will Be Listening
by Amit Ahuja
From the Editor: Amit Ahuja is a doctoral student in the Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan. He holds an undergraduate degree in economics from St. Stephen's College at the University of Delhi and a master's in development economics from the University of London.
His enthusiasm about the kind of rehabilitation for blind adults that he discovered at the Louisiana Center for the Blind is echoed by students at both the Colorado Center for the Blind and BLIND, Inc., in Minneapolis. No wonder blind people across the country who learn about these programs are clamoring to attend them. This is what he says:
Far from the land of shivering spring flowers, espresso highs, and car-city blues, I found myself in quiet, humid, and lovely Ruston, Louisiana, a few weeks ago. A phone inquiry about some data on blindness-related issues brought me into contact with Dr. Ron Ferguson. He was interested in my research ideas, and I wanted to visit the Louisiana Center for the Blind. I had heard about what is happening in Ruston from Christine Brown, who is a graduate of the Louisiana Tech master's program in orientation and mobility and now works in the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities at the University of Michigan.
Two weeks later I was the Fergusons' guest in Ruston. I definitely felt a quiet sense of anticipation and much curiosity about the center and its activity; however, what I found in Ruston was nothing short of a revolution in rehabilitation.
I spent one day of my visit as a serious student at the center, and I spent three days with those involved with the Professional Development Research Institute on Blindness (PDRIB, as the Rustonites refer to it). My visit to Ruston left me in no doubt that the blind rights movement has well and truly arrived. This model of blindness rehabilitation needs to be replicated in the future, not only in this country but across the world, to bring dignity, pride, and ambition into the lives of blind people. The emphasis in the program is on creating self-confident, productive, and independent individuals who will join the national mainstream as successful taxpaying citizens.
The Awakening Under Sleep Shades
Even though I spent only one day in the center as a student, it was obvious to me that the regimen is demanding. No one among the diverse body of students and the very talented teachers takes this lightly. Jan Ferguson's mischievous smiles had warned me that my experience under sleep shades was going to be interesting. Nevertheless, the first few minutes of moving under the dreaded shades took me dangerously close to freaking out. Working under them may be tough in the beginning, but having spent limited time under them, I understand and appreciate the rationale for their use. I was suddenly more attentive to my environment as perceived by my other senses.
Blind people should be trained to use these senses effectively for maximum advantage in building skills in cane travel. Given that disorientation can occur very easily while relying on minimal sight, these skills go a long way in keeping one in charge of one's actions and also send a signal to the onlooker that one is in control.
I spent the first couple of hours at the center in the kitchen area trying to cook a simple omelet. Two hours later what stared at me from the pan could be defined in many ways, but calling it an omelet would have been stretching it. Next on my schedule was the philosophy seminar. That day Dr. Jernigan's article "Don't Throw the Nickel" was the piece under discussion. After Pam Allen finished reading the piece in Braille, we had a discussion about how best to react to the assistance extended to blind people in everyday life. We talked about the importance of becoming independent and developing confidence in our abilities. I found the discussion especially refreshing because I had wondered about some of these issues for a long time but had never been in a forum devoted to discussing them.
The next sessions I visited develop very different skills, but they are run with the same objective: that of becoming self-reliant. JD [Jerry Darnell] offers a course in Industrial Arts, and John Fritz and Jewel Lightfoot make sure that the blind students who come to the center are not on the wrong side of the digital divide in a class that brings students up to the mark in most of the computing skills one needs to work efficiently in today's world. I experienced Jerry Whittle's contagious enthusiasm for training his students in Braille and instilling confidence in them. I also attended Roland Allen's legendary course in cane travel. I was fortunate to get glimpses of all these classes. Glimpses they may have been, but they left me convinced that I had to return to be part of this experience.
The Movers and Shakers
My interactions with the various forces that have generated this miracle were both delightful and inspiring. Each one of these people brings to this project enthusiasm and belief in the idea that the blind are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves and leading successful lives; what is needed is proper training and a positive mindset. All of them actively practice this mindset, and they are successful individuals who have chosen to dedicate their precious expertise to bringing this dream to fruition.
The warmth I experienced in Ruston was not just climatic. It was the real human warmth that keeps this team moving. In people like Dr. Fred Schroeder, Dr. Ron Ferguson, Jim Omvig, Pam Allen, and too many others to name here, this movement has found guardians for the revolution and visionaries who have tried to instill in the blind the value of dreaming big.
There is nothing remarkable about blind people realizing their potential to accomplish whatever they wish for themselves. The Louisiana Center students are stars in their own right because of their talents, abilities, and basic human desire to lead productive lives. The center is the embodiment of the NFB's philosophy preparing blind people to take complete control of their lives in every possible way. With every student who graduates from this center, a living message is being reiterated: the blind can be independent and successful. These students have found role models at the center, and, as they step back into the world, they will be role models to others.
Pooled Income Gifts
In this plan money donated to the National Federation of the Blind by a number of individuals is invested by the NFB. Each donor and the NFB sign an agreement that income from the funds will be paid to the donor quarterly or annually. Each donor receives a tax deduction for the gift, the NFB receives a useful donation, and the donor receives income of a specified amount for the rest of his or her life. For more information about the NFB pooled income fund, contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, phone (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
<[PHOTO/CAPTION: April Jones]
<[PHOTO/CAPTION: Amanda Jones]
Young Federationists Do Their Part
From the Editor: Early in their lives April and Amanda Jones made friends with Dr. Jernigan at national conventions. He enjoyed talking with the twins and showing them things. They are now in high school, and it's clear that they have learned their Federation philosophy well and practice it every day. The following article appeared in the May 1 edition of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Here it is:
by Jan Galletta
Blind since birth, Amanda and April Jones use briefcase-sized Braille machines to take tests, record notes, and to do course work at Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts.
In geometry class the fifteen-year-old twins form shapes like triangles and squares, using a glue gun and a waxy substance called Sticky Wicky. They rely on a special computer's audible cues for conducting Internet research.
With white canes to run interference and tactile signs on all campus rooms, they say they're as mobile as their peers. In fact, their biggest problem may be toting textbooks; it takes fifty-one Braille volumes to cover the contents of the printed biology textbook that sighted students use.
"It hasn't limited us," said April of her vision impairment. "In most ways we fit in here at school," added Amanda. But it was a different story at a summer camp the sisters attended a few years ago at a state institution for the blind, according to Amanda.
"We hated it. They treated us like we're not normal," she said. A generation ago the Jones sisters probably would have attended a school exclusively for visually impaired children, or they might have been homeschooled by itinerant teachers.
But nowadays, by law, most kids with disabilities go to class with their nonhandicapped counterparts, as public education tries to meet their special needs within an ever tighter budget. In Hamilton County, where the annual education budget is $230 million, special education students comprise about 6 percent of the total student census. Some $28 million, slightly more than 8 percent of the budget, funds their needs.
They are children age three to twenty-one who have one or more of seventeen kinds of disabilities, according to Irise Chapman, director of exceptional education. Nearly all benefit from inclusion with typically developing peers, she said.
"Most children with disabilities are not cognitively impaired. They learn differently but have the ability to learn equally with their peers," she said. "Students with disabilities function at a higher rate of learning within the regular classroom because the expectation for their learning is equal to that of their peers."
To do so, they may need accommodations such as wider doorways or adaptive equipment like electric lifts, according to Jane Dixon, exceptional education supervisor for the school district.
"One of our children has a trach (trachea tube) that requires suctioning. He needs oxygen, and a nurse is assigned to care for him in class. We also have children who live in nursing homes and some who are home-bound because of immune-system problems," she said.
"We have some children as severe and profound as Orange Grove has."
Orange Grove Center, which is geared to those with more than one developmental disability, is one of the private agencies with whom the county contracts to provide services for a handful of its students, according to Ms. Dixon.
But with some physical modifications to buildings, adaptive equipment, alternative curriculum, and staff members' critical skills, the majority of disabled youngsters are mainstreamed into the public program, she said.
For Lyndon Stamper, sixteen, that means keeping track of his elevator key.
"Three of my classes are upstairs," said the Tyner Academy tenth-grader, who is a wheelchair user.
Ramps accommodate his chair when he goes to freestanding buildings on campus. It fits everywhere except through the cafeteria line, he said.
Because Lyndon's cerebral palsy affects his fine-motor skills and handwriting, he uses a laptop computer for class work. But only in gym class are the course requirements different for him, he said.
Once, in physical education class, Amanda crashed into the bleachers while running laps around the gym, an activity she wasn't required to do.
"I don't like it that, if somebody gets hurt and they're sighted, one or two people might go over to help them. If I get hurt, I'm the center of attention," she said.
"I'd rather not stand out as being different from any other student."
Impressions of a New Member
by Neil Schoonmaker
From the Editor: The following article appeared in the Spring 2002 issue of the Gem State Milestones, a publication of the NFB of Idaho. Neil Schoonmaker is a relatively new member of the Idaho affiliate. He has already become a hard-working member, serving on the state scholarship committee. He attended his first state convention in March and delivered a wonderful presentation. I too attended that convention, and it was truly a fine one. It is gratifying to read the comments of a new member and find them very much to the point. State conventions are important events, and it takes the hard work of many people to make them valuable to all who attend. This is what Neil has to say about his first convention:
I have attended numerous business seminars and conventions over the years, but none of them have measured up to the NFB of Idaho's convention held at the Coeur d'Alene Inn over the Saint Patrick's Day weekend. This is my first NFB convention, and ever since I left the snowy late-winter Panhandle setting, I have been asking myself this question, "Why haven't I involved myself in NFB activities in the past?"
As a new attendee to an organization's convention or a business seminar, I have certain expectations of what I will take away from the event. I hope to learn something about the culture of the organization. I hope to gain an awareness of the recent achievements, and I also wish for specific information about future goals and activities. My expectations were exceeded at this year's convention.
Kudos to Al Spooner, Panhandle Chapter President, and other members of the local chapter for coming through with a well-supplied hospitality room and for attending to all the assorted details inherent in putting on a successful event. Al's coordination of the behind-the-scenes work was a perfect foundation for one of the most significant outcomes of the convention--people coming together to update each other on career developments, family news, and ongoing personal endeavors. Beyond sharing, some offered support and a willing ear to those enduring crises or difficult circumstances such as poor health or a recent loss. Friendship and support of one another are most definitely an important part of the culture of the National Federation of the Blind.
With what seems to be an ever shrinking availability of public funds, the blind of Idaho face the challenge of securing political support for programs vital to employment and equal-access opportunities. President Streeter's address to the convention outlining the success of the legislative dinner and a report of the fund-raising successes by the local chapters highlighted the successes of the NFB of Idaho in the prior year.
Being new to the NFB, I attended activities and engaged in discussions on organizational policy. The seeds of the NFB's position on issues are sown in the Resolutions Committee meeting. Because all formal meetings are open to NFB members, everyone has an opportunity to contribute to organizational policy. The group-writing process to finalize convention resolutions mostly consisted of clearly defining the NFB of Idaho's formal position on a funding strategy for NFB NEWSLINE®.
Each person attending the Resolutions Committee meeting offered both content and wording contributions as Ramona Walhof skillfully edited and re-edited the official language of the resolutions using a Braille Lite. The final drafts of all resolutions were approved unanimously. The NFB also acknowledged legislative support by passing a resolution commending the work of State Legislator Gary Young.
The NFB was established over sixty years ago and has substantially affected the lives of thousands of blind people over the years. It has flourished because of outstanding leadership and a conscious effort to pass on its heritage to successive generations. This tradition continued at this year's convention in the form of two important actions--a $1000 scholarship award to Andrea Travis, an energetic, community-minded, college-bound student from Idaho Falls, and the formation of a student division of the NFB of Idaho formally dubbed the Idaho Association of Blind Students (IDABS). The future of the NFB in Idaho is assuredly bright since the next generation of leaders is well versed in the tools of independence such as technology and mobility. They already possess outstanding leadership qualities and are a promising reflection of the founders and past leaders of the NFB.
So back to the question of why I haven't involved myself in NFB activities in the past. I have attended college and held a full-time job for the past fifteen years. In short, I haven't had the time. Another way to look at it, however, is to say that I have been too busy benefiting from the infrastructure of support created by the NFB and other organizations to make a time commitment to help. In some ways I would like to think that attending college and taking advantage of an opportunity to advance in my career are consistent with the goals that the NFB has had for blind people since 1940. The Coeur d'Alene convention, however, has shown me that participation in the NFB by all blind people will strengthen the infrastructure and increase the opportunities for everyone. I am planning on participating in NFB activities and attending future conventions. I hope to see you there.
NFB-NEWSLINE® Hits the Big Time
From the Editor: Since March 1 NFB-NEWSLINE® has been available to every blind resident of the U.S. who wants the service. A number of newspapers have called attention to this expanded service during the past few weeks. One of the best stories appeared on April 19, 2002, in the Quad‑City Times in Iowa. Here it is:
Newspaper Readers Now Can Listen
by Ed Tibbetts
To many people the day begins with reading the morning newspaper. To many blind people, even those with Internet technology and radio reading services, doing that is a challenge. If they miss the radio program or do not have the online technology, they miss out.
That has changed for the better.
The National Federation of the Blind has vastly expanded its NFB-NEWSLINE® service, making it possible for the estimated 750,000 blind people across the United States to listen to fifty-two daily newspapers from across the country being read in much the same way a reader scans sections and stories in their daily printed paper.
For several years the NFB-NEWSLINE® service has been available in the Quad‑Cities, but with access most recently to only four newspapers. With the expansion the selection of papers has grown substantially. And instead of only 40 percent of Iowa having the free service, the entire state is now covered.
"Hog heaven," is the way Peggy Elliott, of Grinnell, Iowa, describes the new service.
Elliott is a Grinnell City Council member who is blind and has often found herself being asked about city issues covered in the local newspaper that she could not read. The NFB-NEWSLINE® service has been available in Des Moines, but she could only access it by calling long distance and paying the extra charge.
The same was true in the Quad‑Cities. Now the Federation has premiered a toll‑free number. Blind people can sign up for it at no charge.
The National Federation debuted the service last month, and there have been a slew of requests for the service in Iowa since then, said Elliott, who is also the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa.
"We are just absolutely being flooded with applications right now," she said Thursday.
The federal government approved a $4 million grant that made the expansion possible.
Participating newspapers provide digital text of articles to NFB-NEWSLINE®'s headquarters in Baltimore. Using high‑speed computers, the text is converted to synthesized speech.
"For blind people or even seniors who can no longer read small newsprint, this means more than being able to enjoy a morning ritual observed by Americans," U.S. Senator Charles Grassley, R‑Iowa, said. "It also means being connected to the social and political life of the community in which you live and work."
"This is a very fundamental citizenship issue," Elliott said. She said the entire Iowa Congressional delegation was supportive of the expansion, but Elliott cited in particular the efforts of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, and U.S. Representatives Tom Latham and Jim Nussle, both Republicans.
"Some basic, simple things we take for granted are pretty challenging for people who don't have sight," Nussle said.
It is possible, with a certain piece of technology, for a blind person to use the Internet and read newspapers, just as sighted people do, but relatively few blind people have the equipment, according to the National Federation. And the elderly, who make up a large part of the blind population, have even less access to it.
Among the features of the NFB-NEWSLINE® toll‑free service is the ability to choose sections and stories, listen to portions of stories more than once, and choose the rate of speed, even the type of voice, that is used to read the stories.
Debra Smith of Davenport said being able to get the paper at any time of day is valuable to her because she works.
"It's available whenever I want it," said Smith, who is the vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa.
Because the previous system was based on calling a local number, the new service, with its toll‑free number, adds the advantage of portability. People who use cellular phones can dial up the number and read the paper while commuting, for example.
The expansion in the number of newspapers helps people who want to read a local perspective on an event.
For example, when Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan was killed during his bid for a U.S. Senate seat in 2000, scores of people were interested in the coverage of the event within his home state.
"We had blind people calling from all over the country, wanting to read the Missouri papers," said Peggy Chong, the program manager for NFB-NEWSLINE®. "We know there is interest all over the country in reading a local perspective." Many retired people who have moved away simply want to catch up on the news back home.
Among the newspapers in Iowa that are included in the service are the Quad‑City Times and the Des Moines Register. Until last month Quad‑Citians could hear only the Times, Register, Chicago Tribune, and Wall Street Journal on the service, Chong said. "If you want to read the Tampa Tribune or Honolulu Advertiser right now, you could," she added.
The Federation's goal is to have at least two newspapers from every state on the service by the end of the year.
Letter to the Reader's Digest
by Sandy Ryan
From the Editor: Sandy Ryan was a 1985 NFB scholarship winner. Like most of us she lives a full and satisfying life, filled with family and community activities. When she is disturbed by something she reads, she recognizes her responsibility to try to set the record straight. In the following letter she makes the attempt with the editors of the Reader's Digest. The response she received from the publication gives no indication whether or not she was successful in making her point, but she made the attempt, and who knows what impact it has had on the outlook of those who read and considered her position. This is what she said:
Dear Reader's Digest Editors,
I just finished reading the reprint of Helen Keller's article "Three Days to See" in the April  issue. I read the article from the Braille edition of the magazine, and it upset me to think that you would find this article worth reprinting. I had begun to hope we were past the dark ages when people wanted to read about how much better they had things than the disabled.
When Miss Keller wrote the article more than seventy years ago, a longing to see was probably not uncommon among the blind. Blind people were thought inferior, and Miss Keller seemed a phenomenon because, blind and deaf, she was able to live a more or less normal life, meeting world figures and the like. But she lived that life at the mercy of those around her, constantly dependent on others. No wonder she longed to walk through the world alone, free of her encumbrances!
In seventy years things have changed. Blind people (and yes, deaf-blind people) hold jobs, have much improved means of communication, and for the most part make their own way through the world. In 1940 a small group of blind people met in Wilkes- Barre, Pennsylvania, to establish the National Federation of the Blind. They created a community that has grown to more than 60,000 members and worked together to reach toward independence. They began the task of teaching our sighted families and friends the truth--that blindness is a characteristic, at most a nuisance, and needn't ruin one's life. Because of the Federation and its philosophy--given proper training, a blind person can do anything a sighted person can do--thousands of blind people have jobs, lead independent lives, and know that vision is not necessary to a successful, happy life.
I have been blind from infancy, and I can honestly tell you there have been only three times I have fleetingly wished I could see. None of those times did I wish to see everything in the world. On my wedding day I would have liked to see the love my groom felt for me reflected in his eyes--and to have been able to reciprocate. But I felt that love in his hand when he took mine. I heard it in his voice as he said his vows. I felt how deep it was in his embrace. My joy was not diminished by not seeing him. People who see do not feel deeper emotion. In fact, I wonder if they may be more easily distracted from deep emotion. In any case vision is but one way to show emotion and to recognize it in others.
The other two days I might fleetingly have wished for sight were the days I gave birth to my two beautiful sons. I know they were beautiful; I counted all their fingers and toes. I stroked their faces and their hair. I gently held them and talked to them. And do you know, we bonded just as we would have if I could have seen them! I didn't miss a thing. And if I touched them slightly more than the seeing mother, then perhaps we bonded a little more deeply.
In growing up, my sons never said, "Mommy, I wish you could see." Occasionally well-meaning sighted adults, believing they were sympathizing with needy children, said it: "Wouldn't it be wonderful if your mommy could see?" More often than not, my children expressed dismay at others' lack of knowledge about blindness and unwillingness to accept me. They did not suffer from having a blind mother. During a conversation about my being blind when my older son was six, he said, "Mommy, you can't drive, but you can give me hugs and kisses and read to me and go for walks with me. You're a good Mommy." At twelve my younger son said to his father and me, "I wish I had money for Christmas presents for you. You're such good parents. You help me know how to live, but you don't make stupid rules, and you don't change your mind all the time." I didn't need a present, and I didn't need to see to give him a hug or to feel the pride and joy I felt in being his mother.
My children were often made uncomfortable by adults' assumptions, which were sometimes passed to them through their friends. When my younger son's fifth grade student teacher asked, "Marcus, when did you know your mom was different?" he knew what she meant.
His answer: "My mom's different?"
When my older son's second-grade friend asked how I could know how much noise they were making, Matt pointedly told him, "She's blind, not deaf, you dummy."
Neither of the boys understood or accepted the assumption that they were my caretakers. People often said to them, "I bet you're a big help to your Mommy. Do you help her find things?"
Once Marcus was confused by an elderly friend's question: "Marcus, are you out walking your mom?"
When we'd passed his house, he said to me, "Mommy, I think he thinks you're my dog!" He was four at the time and didn't even really understand that I couldn't see. It happened to be a beautiful night, and we were out for a walk together. I held his hand because sometimes, being four, he forgot to stop at intersections and look both ways.
On my journey through life I have not missed out on the beauty of nature; the intimacy of close relationships; the fulfillments of education, employment, and giving to others; or any of the joys and sorrows that fill a life. I have been richly blessed, and I would not change a thing--including having experienced life through my ears, nose, tongue, and fingertips rather than my eyes. Those who can see would not willingly choose blindness, nor would I expect them to. But the belief that sight is the only--or at least the best--way to experience the world is a fallacy, and the time has come to lay it to rest. I reject Miss Keller's "Three Days to See." What a waste of three days! And if you think your life is fuller, richer, better than mine because you can see, I think you are wrong.
Sandra J. Ryan, MS, RD, LD
<[PHOTO/CAPTION: Nancy Burns]
Motivating Chapter Members
by Nancy Burns
From the Editor: The following good advice appeared in the Fall/Winter 2001 issue of the NFBC Journal, a publication of the National Federation of the Blind of California. Nancy Burns is the affiliate president, with years of experience in chapter and affiliate work. This is what she says:
The topic of motivation is an ongoing concern for all chapter presidents and officers. As a result of participating in many discussions and workshops on the subject, I present the following information and suggestions.
It is extremely important to keep every chapter member interested and motivated. Our common goals often provide this impetus, but from time to time circumstances may arise which require some additional thought on the part of the officers and members. Perhaps the following information will be of value.
Each of us is a unique individual; yet we share many of the same traits and characteristics. We each need to be recognized and valued for our accomplishments. The NFB is an organization based on love, understanding, and encouragement. As such, we can each be teachers and mentors in our own right. We may never know how we have affected the life of another person. It is extremely important to keep this thought in mind as we come together in chapter meetings. We need to encourage those members who need such encouragement and to compliment those who are contributing to the success of the chapter.
We also need to look at what we are contributing individually. Are there tasks that we could perform but simply have not volunteered to do? Do we know a blind person we should invite to a chapter meeting but haven't? Conducting a chapter meeting is the responsibility of each of us and not just the president and officers.
If someone has contributed to a specific meeting, don't hesitate to compliment him or her. Be certain the compliment is deserved and sincere. We all love to receive sincere compliments; it validates our worth. If you are able to contribute to a person's sense of self-worth, what a wonderful thing you have done.
A Job for Everyone
The need to be needed is a common characteristic. Be sure that every member of your chapter has a responsibility. Not only does this get all members involved, but it creates cohesiveness within the chapter. A good president delegates, and there are always tasks to be done in order for the meeting to run smoothly. If each member feels his or her job is important, the person will perform to the best of his or her ability.
A good president and board should pay close attention to every member and acknowledge attendance. With larger groups this may be more difficult, but indicate to the group that each person's attendance is appreciated. Don't take your membership for granted.
When a chapter enters into a new project, it is a good policy for the president to ask the group for advice and suggestions. Listen to people's ideas. If the entire group feels involved from the beginning, the members are more likely to participate in the project. Remember, involvement is the key.
Members who feel they have no voice in chapter meetings or projects will probably drop out. By taking the time to ask others for their advice, you have made this project their project.
Dealing with Difficult People
Occasionally a difficult person begins attending meetings--the person who constantly criticizes, complains, but rarely contributes. This presents a challenge and a test of our human-relations skills.
The obvious behavior to avoid is openly to criticize or in any way to demean that person in public. We must carefully watch our own attitude when working with such a person. If we enter a conversation believing it will be difficult, it certainly will be. It may take some time and effort, but you can generally find some positive attribute in such a person that can be acknowledged and nurtured. Keep trying to involve the difficult person, and if anything positive occurs, give a sincere compliment.
I hope that you will read and give careful consideration to these suggestions and that you can implement them. Good luck to each of you in your important Federation responsibilities.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Justin Dart, August 29, 1930, to June 21, 2002, is pictured here with President Bill Clinton as he received the National Medal of Freedom in 1998.]
Justin Dart Dies
From the Editor: As we were going to press, we received word of the death of Justin Dart, a warrior of great stature in the battle for civil rights for disabled people everywhere. He was a longtime friend and colleague to the Federation. At our golden anniversary convention in 1990 he presented the Presidential Service Award to Dr. Jernigan on behalf of President George H. Bush.
The last time I spoke with Mr. Dart was the day following the death of Dr. Jernigan. He was calling from his own hospital bed to express his personal sadness at our loss. His voice was weak, but his spirit was as strong as ever, and his concern for Mrs. Jernigan and Dr. Maurer personally as well as for the organization as a whole was deeply touching. The following obituary was widely circulated immediately following Mr. Dart's death. We join the disabled community around the world in extending heart-felt sympathy to Justin Dart's family and friends.
Justin Dart, An Obituary
by Fred Fay and Fred Pelka
written at Justin Dart's request
Justin Dart, Jr., a leader of the international disability rights movement and a renowned human rights activist, died last night at his home in Washington D.C. Widely recognized as the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the godfather of the disability rights movement, Dart had for the past several years struggled with the complications of post‑polio syndrome and congestive heart failure. He was seventy‑one years old. He is survived by his wife Yoshiko, their extended family of foster children, his many friends and colleagues, and millions of disability- and human-rights activists all over the world.
Dart was a leader in the disability-rights movement for three decades and an advocate for the rights of women, people of color, and gays and lesbians. The recipient of five presidential appointments and numerous honors, including the Hubert Humphrey Award of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Dart was on the podium on the White House lawn when President George H. Bush signed the ADA into law in July 1990. Dart was also a highly successful entrepreneur, using his personal wealth to further his human-rights agenda by generously contributing to organizations, candidates, and individuals, becoming what he called "a little PAC for empowerment."
In 1998 Dart received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award. "Justin Dart," said President Clinton in 1996, "in his own way has the most Olympian spirit I believe I have ever come across."
Until the end Dart remained dedicated to his vision of a "revolution of empowerment." This would be, he said, "a revolution that confronts and eliminates obsolete thoughts and systems, that focuses the full power of science and free‑enterprise democracy on the systematic empowerment of every person to live his or her God‑given potential." Dart never hesitated to emphasize the assistance he received from those working with him, most especially his wife of more than thirty years, Yoshiko Saji. "She is," he often said, "quite simply the most magnificent human being I have ever met."
Time and again Dart stressed that his achievements were possible only with the help of hundreds of activists, colleagues, and friends. "There is nothing I have achieved, and no addiction I have overcome, without the love and support of specific individuals who reached out to empower me . . . There is nothing I have accomplished without reaching out to empower others." Dart protested the fact that he and only three other disability activists were on the podium when President Bush signed the ADA, believing that "hundreds of others should have been there as well." After receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Dart sent out replicas of the award to hundreds of disability rights activists across the country, writing that "this award belongs to you."
Justin Dart, Jr., was born on August 29, 1930, into a wealthy and prominent family. His grandfather was the founder of the Walgreen Drugstore chain, his father a successful business executive, his mother a matron of the American avant garde. Dart would later describe how he became "a super loser" as a way of establishing his own identity in this family of "super winners." He attended seven high schools, not graduating from any of them, and broke Humphrey Bogart's all‑time record for the number of demerits earned by a student at elite Andover prep. "People didn't like me. I didn't like myself."
Dart contracted polio in 1948. With doctors saying he had less than three days to live, he was admitted into the Seventh Day Adventist Medical University in Los Angeles. "For the first time in my life I was surrounded by people who were openly expressing love for each other and for me, even though I was hostile to them. And so I started smiling at people and saying nice things to them. And they responded, treating me even better. It felt so good!" Three days turned into forty years, but Dart never forgot this lesson. Polio left Dart a wheelchair user, but he never grieved about this. "I count the good days in my life from the time I got polio. These beautiful people not only saved my life, they made it worth saving."
Another turning point was Dart's discovery in 1949 of the philosophy of Mohandas K. Gandhi. Dart defined Gandhi's message as "Find your own truth, and then live it." This theme too would stay with him for the rest of his life. Dart attended the University of Houston from 1951 to 1954, earning his bachelor's and master's degrees in political science and history. He wanted to be a teacher, but the university withheld his teaching certificate because he was a wheelchair user. During his time in college Dart organized his first human rights group--a pro‑integration student group at what was then a whites‑only institution.
Dart went into business in 1956, building several successful companies in Mexico and Japan. He started Japan Tupperware with three employees in 1963, and by 1965 it had expanded to some 25,000. Dart used his businesses to provide work for women and people with disabilities. In Japan, for example, he took severely disabled people out of institutions, gave them paying jobs within his company, and organized some of them into Japan's first wheelchair basketball team. It was during this time he met his wife, Yoshiko.
The final turning point in Dart's life came during a visit to Vietnam in 1966, to investigate the status of rehabilitation in that war‑torn country. Visiting a rehabilitation center for children with polio, Dart instead found squalid conditions, where disabled children were left on concrete floors to starve. One child, a young girl dying there before him, took his hand and looked into his eyes. "That scene," he would later write, "is burned forever in my soul. For the first time in my life I understood the reality of evil, and that I was a part of that reality."
The Darts returned to Japan but terminated their business interests. After a period of meditation in a dilapidated farmhouse, the two decided to dedicate themselves entirely to the cause of human and disability rights. They moved to Texas in 1974 and immersed themselves in local disability activism. From 1980 to 1985 Dart was a member, and then chair, of the Texas Governor's Committee for Persons with Disabilities. His work in Texas became a pattern for what was to follow: extensive meetings with the grassroots, followed by a call for the radical empowerment of people with disabilities, followed by tireless advocacy until victory was won.
In 1981 President Ronald Reagan appointed Dart to be the vice‑chair of the National Council on Disability. The Darts embarked on a nationwide tour, at their own expense, meeting with activists in every state. Dart and others on the Council drafted a national policy that called for national civil rights legislation to end the centuries-old discrimination of people with disabilities--what would eventually become the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
In 1986 Dart was appointed to head the Rehabilitation Services Administration, a $3 billion federal agency that oversees a vast array of programs for disabled people. Dart called for radical changes and for including people with disabilities in every aspect of designing, implementing, and monitoring rehabilitation programs. Resisted by the bureaucracy, Dart dropped a bombshell when he testified at a public hearing before Congress that the RSA was "a vast, inflexible federal system which, like the society it represents, still contains a significant portion of individuals who have not yet overcome obsolete, paternalistic attitudes about disability." Dart was asked to resign his position, but remained a supporter of both Presidents Reagan and Bush. In 1989 Dart was appointed chair of the President's Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities, shifting its focus from its traditional stance of urging business to "hire the handicapped" to advocating for full civil rights for people with disabilities.
Dart is best known for his work in passing the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 1988 he was appointed, along with parents' advocate Elizabeth Boggs, to chair the Congressional Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of Americans with Disabilities. The Darts again toured the country at their own expense, visiting every state, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the District of Columbia, holding public forums attended by more than 30,000 people. Everywhere he went, Dart touted the ADA as "the civil rights act of the future." Dart also met extensively with members of Congress and staff, as well as President Bush, Vice President Quayle, and members of the Cabinet. At one point, seeing Dart at a White House reception, President Bush introduced him as "the ADA man." The ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990, an anniversary that is celebrated each year by disability pride events all across the country.
While taking pride in passage of the ADA, Dart was always quick to list all the others who shared in the struggle: Robert Silverstein and Robert Burgdorf, Patrisha Wright and Tony Coelho, Fred Fay and Judith Heumann, among many others. And Dart never wavered in his commitment to disability solidarity, insisting that all people with disabilities be protected by the law and included in the coalition to pass it--including mentally ill "psychiatric survivors" and people with HIV/AIDS. Dart called this his "politics of inclusion," a companion to his "politics of principle, solidarity, and love."
After passage of the ADA Dart threw his energy into the fight for universal health care, again campaigning across the country and often speaking from the same podium as President and Mrs. Clinton. With the defeat of universal health care, Dart was among the first to identify the coming backlash against disability rights. He resigned all his positions to become "a full‑time citizen soldier in the trenches of justice." With the conservative Republican victory in Congress in 1994, followed by calls to amend or even repeal the ADA and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Dart and disability rights advocates Becky Ogle and Frederick Fay founded Justice for All, what Dart called a SWAT team to beat back these attacks. Again Dart was tireless--traveling, speaking, testifying, holding conference calls, presiding over meetings, calling the media on its distortions of the ADA, and flooding the country with American flag stickers that said, "ADA, IDEA, America Wins." Both laws were saved. Dart again placed the credit with "the thousands of grassroots patriots" who wrote and e‑mailed and lobbied. But there can be no doubt that without Dart's leadership the outcome might have been entirely different.
In 1996, confronted by a Republican Party calling for "a retreat from Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln democracy," Dart campaigned for the re‑election of President Clinton. This was a personally difficult "decision of conscience." Dart had been a Republican for most of his life and had organized the disability constituency campaigns of both Ronald Reagan and George Bush, campaigning against Clinton in 1992. But in a turnabout that was reported in the New York Times and the Washington Post, Dart went all out for Clinton, even speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The Darts yet again undertook a whirlwind tour of the country, telling people to "get into politics as if your life depended on it. It does." At his speech the day after the election, President Clinton publicly thanked Dart for personally campaigning in all fifty states and cited his efforts as "one reason we won some of those states."
Dart suffered a series of heart attacks in late 1997, which curtailed his ability to travel. He continued, however, to lobby for the rights of people with disabilities and attended numerous events, rallies, demonstrations, and public hearings. Toward the end of his life Dart was hard at work on a political manifesto that would outline his vision of "the revolution of empowerment." In its conclusion he urged his "Beloved colleagues in struggle, listen to the heart of this old soldier. Our lives, our children's lives, the quality of the lives of billions in future generations hangs in the balance. I cry out to you from the depths of my being. Humanity needs you! Lead! Lead! Lead the revolution of empowerment!"
Today disabled people across the country and around the world will grieve at the passing of Justin Dart, Jr. But we will celebrate his love and his commitment to justice. Please join us in expressing our condolences to Yoshiko and her family during this difficult time. Keep in mind, however, that it was Justin's wish that any service or commemoration be used by activists to celebrate our movement and as an opportunity to recommit ourselves to "the revolution of empowerment."
This month's recipes were submitted by members of the NFB of Mississippi. They provide fine southern summertime eating.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Prentice and Judy Horton]
Magnolia Cream Cheese Brownies
by Prentice Horton
Prentice Horton is serving his second term as president of the Hazlehurst Chapter. He is also president of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille in Mississippi.
4 1-ounce unsweetened chocolate squares
4 1-ounce semisweet chocolate squares
1/3 cup butter or margarine
2 3-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups sugar, divided
6 large eggs, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups (9 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Method: Microwave first three ingredients in a one-quart bowl at high, two minutes or until melted, stirring once. Cool and set aside. Beat cream cheese and 1/4 cup butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar, beating well. Add two eggs, one at a time, beating until blended. Stir in one teaspoon vanilla. Fold in two tablespoons flour and 1/2 cup chocolate morsels and set aside. In large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed, beat remaining four eggs and two teaspoons vanilla extract. Gradually add remaining one and a half cups sugar, beating well before gradually adding melted chocolate mixture. Beat until well blended. Sift together one cup flour, baking powder, and salt, and beat into egg mixture. Fold chocolate batter into flour mixture until blended. Then stir in remaining one cup chocolate morsels. Reserve three cups chocolate batter, and spread remaining batter evenly in a greased 13-by-9-inch pan. Pour cream cheese mixture over batter. Top with reserved chocolate batter, and swirl mixture with a knife. Bake at 325 degrees for forty to forty-five minutes. Cool and cut brownies into squares.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Gwen Stokes]
Chicken Pasta Salad
by Gwen Stokes
Gwen Stokes is the first vice president of the NFB of Mississippi.
1 cup spiral pasta, cooked and drained
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
2 cups fresh snow peas, with strings removed and then blanched (can substitute sugar snaps)
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup water chestnuts, sliced
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted for garnish
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger (can use freshly grated ginger)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Method: Prepare dressing by thoroughly blending mayonnaise, soy sauce, sherry, ginger, and pepper. Combine cooked pasta, chicken, snow peas, green onions, and water chestnuts, and toss with dressing. Refrigerate overnight. Sprinkle with toasted almonds before serving.
by Barbara Hadnott
Barbara Hadnott is the second vice president of the NFB of Mississippi and board member of the Jackson Chapter.
24 frozen yeast rolls
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup melted margarine
1 small package vanilla pudding mix (not instant)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Method: Butter bundt pan. Mix brown sugar with pecans. Cut rolls in half. Alternately layer the rolls, brown sugar-pecan mixture, melted margarine, pudding mix, and cinnamon. Cover with a towel and set on counter overnight to rise. (Dough will double in size.) Bake approximately forty minutes at 325 to 350 degrees, depending on your oven. If top browns too quickly, cover with foil until done. Bread will sound hollow when tapped and will be golden brown when done. Tip loaf out onto rack to cool.
by Cassie Branum
Cassie Branum is president of the Hazlehurst Chapter. She received the Member of the Year Award 1997 through 2001.
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 banana, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 pint fresh strawberries
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 cups crushed ice
Method: Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Serve smoothies in chilled glasses.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The Rev. Sam Gleese]
Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream
by Sam Gleese
Sam Gleese is president of the NFB of Mississippi and a member of the national board of directors.
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
4 cups light cream, half and half, or milk
3 beaten eggs or 3/4 cup frozen egg substitute, thawed
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/3 to 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
24 packets Equal or 7 1/4 teaspoons Equal Measure
Method: In a medium saucepan combine the gelatin and 2 cups of light cream. Let stand 5 minutes to soften gelatin. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture just comes to a boil. Gradually stir about one cup of the hot mixture into eggs, which you have beaten. Do this slowly enough that you do not allow the eggs to cook. Return egg mixture to saucepan. Cook over low heat, and stir for two minutes more. Do not allow mixture to boil. Remove from heat. Stir in the remaining cream and vanilla. In a large bowl combine cocoa powder and Equal. Gradually blend in egg mixture until smooth. Chill just until cold, stirring occasionally. Don't over-chill. Freeze in a 4-quart ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. Makes about 1-3/4 quarts (fourteen half-cup servings).
Southern Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish
by Wade Branum
Wade Branum has been a member of the Hazlehurst Chapter since 1986 and is now serving his ninth term as treasurer.
4 4-to-6-ounce farm-raised catfish fillets
1/2 cup buttermilk or plain nonfat yogurt
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Method: Stir together buttermilk or yogurt and hot sauce. Brush over catfish and allow to marinate for ten minutes. Coat catfish lightly with cornmeal and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Melt butter and olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When skillet is hot, saute catfish about three minutes on each side, turning only once, until golden and crisp. Serve immediately, garnished with lemon wedges and with tartar sauce as an accompaniment.
News from the Federation Family
Math Mentoring Needed:
A blind man in Arkansas recently called the Monitor editorial office to entreat the help of Braille Monitor readers. He described his situation as desperate but was clear that he was not seeking pity. He has been trying for many years to complete a high-school equivalency program, but the math component has proved to be a real stumbling block. He cannot for whatever reason get the help he needs in his state, so he is turning to the blindness community in the hope that several people will come forward to serve as mentors by mail for him. He is looking for people willing and able to correspond with him by tape and/or Braille and devise exercises for him to work on mastering his addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. When he has mastered these skills, he can again try Hadley math courses.
If you have the time and talent to try helping a highly motivated student with serious problems that must be solved, please contact Mr. Robert Groff, Jr., 487 P. C. Circle, Quitman, Arkansas 72131, or call him at (501) 589-2886. Mail contacts should be on cassette or in Braille.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Captain Ronald Lewis, November 9, 1943, to January 26, 2002]
Donna-Lee Silba, treasurer of the Phoenix Chapter of the NFB of Arizona, writes in sadness to inform readers of the death of Captain Ronald Lewis, who died on January 26, 2002. Captain Lewis served as president of the Phoenix Chapter and as a board member of the NFB of Arizona. He will be missed.
The NFB of Georgia elected the following officers at its twenty-ninth annual convention: Anil Lewis, president; Robert Smith, first vice president; Thelma Godwin, second vice president; Rose Wheeler, secretary; Shirley Barksdale, treasurer. Five board members were also elected: Raj Mehta, Wayne High, Stephanie Scott, Barbara Turner, and Novice Allen. Roger Womble is completing a two-year term, which ends in 2003.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Melissa and Mark Riccobono leaving their wedding ceremony]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Fred and Jennifer Blinsmon after their wedding]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Gary and Debbie Wonder]
May 25, 2002, was the date of a true Federation wedding. Mark Riccobono, president of the NFB of Wisconsin, and Melissa Lehman, a Federation leader in her own right, were married in Madison, Wisconsin. Jennifer Lehman Wenzel, the bride's sister, was the matron of honor, and Jim McCarthy, Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs, was the best man.
On June 15 Jennifer Kotaska, president of the NFB of North Dakota, was married to Fred Blinsmon in Grand Forks.
Then, on Monday, June 24, Gary Wunder, president of the NFB of Missouri and a member of the NFB board of directors, and Debbie Houchen, a leader in the NFB of Missouri, were married in an outdoor ceremony in Columbia's Bethel Park. Dinner and dancing followed the ceremony, and many Federationists were present to wish the Wunders well.
Congratulations to all the newlyweds.
New Student Division:
The Idaho Association of Blind Students (IDABS) is a membership organization composed of blind students of all ages, particularly high-school and college students. It is a division of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho and an affiliate of the National Association of Blind Students.
The officers are president, Mike Mello, Moscow; vice president, Andrea Travis, Idaho Falls; secretary, Susan Bradley, Boise; treasurer, Al Spooner, Coeur d'Alene; and board member, Justin Brandis, Sandpoint.
The National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota elected new officers at its May 4 meeting. They are Karen Mayry, president; Mike Klimisch, vice president; Peg Halverson, secretary; Paul Schliesman, treasurer; and Ann Engberg, Bob Riibe, and Verlin Cavier, board members.
The Sno-King Chapter of the NFB of Washington was reorganized at a meeting on June 8, 2002. Eighteen people were present, and because we ran out of time, the all-important election had to take place in the library parking lot, Seattle-area rain and all. The new officers are president, Gary Mackenstadt; vice president, Duane Smith; secretary, Lauren Merryfield; treasurer, Jim Merryfield; and board member, Hy Cohen.
Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.
USA Aniridia Network:
A group of people with the serious eye condition aniridia have recently started a new organization, the USA Aniridia Network. The term aniridia means "without iris." Besides congenital absence of irises, other conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, and corneal degeneration are associated with aniridia. WAGR syndrome also carries aniridia as well as serious medical conditions such as cancerous tumors and retardation.
The purpose of the USA Aniridia Network is to educate, to inform members of the latest information and research, to provide emotional support, and to assist researchers in finding new ways to preserve vision by collecting data from members. The group will hold its 2002 minimedical conference this fall. Expert physicians will be speaking on aniridia and its associated conditions. If you have aniridia or know of someone with this eye condition, please visit our Web site. To join the network, to register for the conference, or to receive more information, go to <http://home.attbi.com/~usaan/>. You can e‑mail the organization at <[email protected]>. To fax your contact information to the group, dial (901) 757-4022, and someone will contact you.
GE Appliances Washer/Dryer Braille Overlay Kit Available:
General Electric Appliances has designed a special Braille overlay kit for specific GE washers and dryers. The kit consists of overlays for the washer and the dryer that provide both Braille nomenclature and buttons labeled in large black print on a yellow background. The kit also includes an audio tape version of the use and care instructions with installation instructions for applying the overlays to the units. For more information about ordering a Braille overlay, contact your local retailer or the GE Answer Center® at (800) 626-2000. You may wish to visit the Web site at <www.GEAppliances.com>.
Digital Talking Books Report Issued by Library of Congress:
An update report on the Talking Book Digital Conversion Project has been issued by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress.
"At this writing NLS has determined that digital services will begin to be offered in April 2008," says NLS Director Frank Kurt Cylke. "At that time approximately 20,000 audio titles will be available in a digital form, with full digital production of current titles to commence in 2004," Cylke noted.
The fifty-four-page report updates the digital project's first report, Digital Talking Books: Planning for the Future--July 1998. Articles by NLS senior staff include "Twenty Steps to Next-Generation NLS Technology-Update" by John Cookson, head of the Engineering Section; "Work Accomplished to Date" by Michael M. Moodie, research and development officer; "Nine Tasks to Implement the Use of Digital Talking Books" by Wells B. Kormann, chief, Materials Development Division; "Web-Braille Puts Braille Books on the Internet" by Judith Dixon, consumer relations officer; and a bibliography compiled by Linda Redmond, head, Reference Section.
Wells B. Kormann, who chairs the NLS Digital Audio Development (DAD) Committee, believes "NLS is on track to convert from an analog to a digitally based program by 2008. Great progress has been made in the twenty steps to digital technology. A reader of this updated report will readily comprehend the enormous task as well as the progress to date," he said.
Michael M. Moodie, who led the successful NLS effort to develop specifications for the digital Talking Book over the past four and one-half years, noted that on March 6, 2002, the standard (ANSI/NISO Z39.86-2002) was approved by the American National Standards Institute after members of the National Information Standards Organization voted their approval in December 2002.
In addition to building the ANSI/NISO digital Talking Book standard, NLS has completed a computer-based cost-analysis system that allows comparisons of costs for the current audio cassette program with costs likely in the deployment of a new digital technology. The system is called the Life-Cycle Cost Analysis Model. In 2001 NLS established a Digital Long-Term Planning Group made up of consumer representatives and network librarians, who with NLS staff will contribute to the planning for the deployment of digital information technology through the national network of 136 cooperating libraries in the years to come.
NLS has begun to create a digital collection with the development of digital recording systems, a low-complexity mastering system, experimental digital talking book production tools, and converting analog titles to digital. Finally, the NLS DAD committee has begun preliminary steps to design a digital player, beginning with a PC-based player. The group has also teamed up with the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) to sponsor a contest for industrial design students, challenging them to design the shell of a digital Talking Book player. The contest will be judged in June 2002, and the winner will be announced in July.
On August 24, 1999, NLS inaugurated its Web-Braille on the Internet program which currently has grown to allow access to more than 4,000 digital Braille book files, twenty-five national magazines, five national sports schedules, and various music materials. Today more than 1,800 users have signed up for the new Internet service. The free online Braille program provides a direct channel to thousands of electronic Braille files for individuals, schools, and libraries with Internet connections and Braille output devices such as Braille embossers or refreshable Braille displays. NLS has linked its International Union Catalog for Braille and audio materials to Web-Braille. As a result Web-Braille books may now be accessed directly from the catalog by using author, title, subject, language, keyword, and other search parameters.
A comprehensive bibliography in the report outlines these and other NLS digital research and development efforts over the past ten years. Free copies of the report are available in large print, Braille, and recorded cassette from the Reference Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, 1291 Taylor Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20542. To expedite requests, use fax (202) 707-0712; phone (202) 707-5100; or e-mail <[email protected]/ref>. The report is also available on the NLS Web site at <[email protected]>.
Announcing New Listservs for Tandem Cycling and Skiing:
Here is your chance to learn about or share your knowledge on the topics of tandem cycling and skiing. USABA‑ski is a list created to promote cross-country and downhill skiing opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired. We welcome everyone interested in getting involved as a blind skier or guide, experienced skiers and guides, representatives from adaptive ski programs, and anyone who is interested in skiing opportunities for blind people. Topics that may be discussed include getting involved; recruiting guides and skiers; announcements about recreational and competitive events; equipment; and general information about cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, and other winter sports.
To subscribe to the list, send a message to <USABA‑ski‑[email protected]>.
The USABA‑cycling list has been created to promote tandem cycling and to connect people interested in getting involved in tandem cycling. We welcome anyone who has an interest in tandem cycling or would like to support tandem cycling. All levels of cyclists from beginners to Paralympians will have the opportunity to engage in discussions on topics including how to get involved, locating captains and stokers, equipment, announcements of recreational opportunities, training camps, and competitive events. All disciplines of cycling (for example, road cycling and track and mountain biking) are potential subjects to be discussed.
To subscribe to the tandem cycling list, send a message to <USABA‑cycling‑[email protected]>. If you have any additional questions, please contact Lori Miller at <[email protected]>.
The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.
Brand new, unopened copy of Kurzweil 1000 version 5.0 scanning and reading software with Classic Literature CD included. Comes with built-in speech synthesizer and several voices, or you can use your current synthesizer. I love this software package and use it regularly (especially as a student), but I ended up with two copies. I will sell for $600 or best offer. Contact Robin at (303) 379‑8434 or by e-mail at <[email protected]>.
Inline CCTV system made by Magnisight, Inc., like new, only about two or three months' use. Uses a twenty-one-inch JVC television monitor, black and white output on screen, has line markers and various other settings, asking $1,200 or best offer. Contact Monty Cassellius at (804) 353-1128, or e-mail <[email protected]>.
Piano and Guitar Lessons Available:
Music courses on cassette tape are now available through your regional National Library Service library. Intro to the Guitar for the Visually Impaired, a beginning guitar course, and Intro to the Piano for the Visually Impaired, a beginning piano or keyboard course that talks the student through basics of playing the piano using no written or Braille materials or visual references, are now available. The courses are published by Valdosta Music and Publishing and can be purchased for $39 each, or you can borrow a copy through the Library of Congress by contacting your regional Talking Book library. A wide selection of tapes of individual songs for study by this method is also available for borrowing from NLS. To purchase a copy of either the guitar or the keyboard instructional program with a credit card or for more information, call (229) 249-0628. A complete list of the songs available appears on the Web site <www.musicvi.com/locnews.html>.
CCTV for Sale:
I have an Optelec Clear View video magnifier-‑five-to-fifty-times magnification. Ideal for reading newspapers and books and viewing photos. It includes video camera and seventeen-inch high-resolution B/W monitor. Like-new condition, still in original carton. Asking $1,375. Contact Nick Morris at (502) 587‑8273 in Louisville, Kentucky, between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., EDT.
We have two Braille Lite eighteen‑cell units, recently upgraded and fully serviced. They are like new, hardly used in the past. Asking price is $1,500 each including shipping and handling. Also available for sale is Optacon II R2B-‑latest model before it went out of production; never used. Original price was approximately $3,500, now asking $750, including shipping and handling. Please contact Jeffrey Bohrman by e‑mail at <[email protected]> or call Lisa Mclaughlin at (614) 261‑5792 during regular business hours.
Perkins Brailler with dust cover, good condition. $300 or best offer. Versa Braille II, with cables, Braille and print manuals. Good condition, in original box. $500 or best offer. Contact Henry Osborne, Jr., at (203) 876-1696, 127 Platt Street, Apt. D, Milford, Connecticut 06460-7542.
Wanted to Buy:
For many years I have had a 9:00-opening Braille watch, which is operated from a spring in the winding stem at 3:00. I have finally run out of parts to repair this old watch, so I would like to buy a similar one from someone who no longer has use for it. I could also use any parts of watches of this type to try to have my old one repaired. Please contact Phillip Fougere, P.O. Box 217, Thompson, Connecticut 06277, (860) 923-3115.
TeleSensory Vantage CCD, Model Number ER2A-W, fourteen-inch non-glare, black-and-white screen, three-to-forty-five-times magnification. This item is seven years old and very little used. Asking $600. If interested, contact Tom Ritch, 2068 Celestial Drive, N.E., Warren, Ohio 44484, (330) 609-6111.
Have you made your Campaign pledge yet? We need everyone’s help. Please take this opportunity to complete your pledge form. Without you our job will be just that much harder.
The Campaign to Change What It Means to Be Blind
Capital Campaign Pledge Intention
City, State, and ZIP:_______________________________________
Home Phone: _________________Work Phone:_______________________
City, State, ZIP:___________________________________________
To support the priorities of the Campaign, I (we) pledge the sum of $________.
My (our) pledge will be payable in installments of $ __________ over the next ____ years (we encourage pledges paid over five years), beginning _____________, on the following schedule (check one):
__ annually, __ semi-annually, __ quarterly, __ monthly.
I (we) have enclosed a down payment of $ ________________.
___ Gift of stock: _____________________ shares of _____________.
___ My employer will match my gift.
Please list (my) our names in all Campaign Reports and on the Campaign Wall of Honor in the appropriate Giving Circle as follows: _____________________________________________________________ __ I (We) wish to remain anonymous.
Signed: ________________________________ Date: __________________
1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230
NFB-NEWSLINE® APPLICATION/REGISTRATION FORM
City _______________________ State _________ ZIP __________
Home Phone ( ) ___________________ Work Phone ( ) _____________
I am registered with a state or private vocational rehabilitation agency for the blind.
m Yes m No
If yes, please give name: ____________________________
I am enrolled in a public school special education program for the blind or state
residential school for the blind. m Yes m No
If yes, please specify: _________________________
I am registered with a cooperating regional library under the program of The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress.
m Yes m No
If yes, please specify: ________________________
If you answered no to all the above questions, you must include with this application a letter from one of the following certifying that you are blind.
m Your doctor
m Social Security Award letter
m President of a local chapter or state affiliate of the NFB
I certify that I am blind or visually impaired and unable to read a printed newspaper.
SIGNATURE _______________________ DATE _______________
OFFICE USE ONLY:
ID# _______________ SEC# ______ DATE NUMBERS GIVEN __________
PLEASE RETURN THE COMPLETED FORM TO THE ABOVE ADDRESS.
The Bridge to Braille
Reading and School Success for the Young Blind Child
Carol Castellano Dawn Kosman
Illustrated by Lynne Cucco
The Bridge to Braille is a practical, step-by-step guide that shows parents and teachers how to help blind children progress from early literacy experiences all the way to full participation in the classroom. This book demystifies the education of blind children and enables parents and teachers to give ordinary help with spelling, homework, reports, and projects to children who happen to be blind. Topics included in the book:
Adapting Materials Beginning Braille Reading Doing Math in Braille
A Quick Braille Lesson Braille Writing in the Classroom Resources
Using Technology Independence in the Classroom About Braille Books
“Now I understand what to do to get my son off to a good start in school. Parents need this information right from the beginning, when their blind child is a baby.”
- Amy Kaiser, Parent of a blind child
“A much-needed adjunct to the information shared by a busy Braille teacher . . .The Bridge to Braille should be in the hands of every teacher who is going to have a blind student in class!”
- Debbie DeHaven, First Grade Teacher
The Bridge to Braille is available from: National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
Name________________________ Phone ( )_______________
Address ____________________________ City______________________
State _______________ ZIP __________________
The Bridge to Braille __________ Quantity @12.00 +$5.00 (S&H) = ________(Total Due)
Make check or money order payable to NFB and mail with this form to:
Materials Center, National Center for the Blind
1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD 21230
Phone: (410) 659-9314 E-mail: [email protected] Web site: www.nfb.org
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.