Braille Monitor                                                           May 2007

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The Space to Try

by Tracy Soforenko

Tracy Soforenko is pictured here wearing his makeshift sleepshades.From the Editor: Tracy Soforenko is president of the Arlington Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. In the following article he puts his finger on one of the many benefits of attending a convention of the National Federation of the Blind. People who return to the convention year after year often express the same appreciation for the freedom to explore and investigate that the convention provides. This is what Tracy says:

At the 2006 National Federation of the Blind convention in Dallas, I purchased a ticket for the Tuesday night, July 4, barbeque sponsored by the Texas affiliate. I was happily enjoying a delicious dinner while meeting the other people at my table when I struck up a conversation with Joanne Laurent, a sighted orientation and mobility instructor who works with blind rehabilitation clients in the state of Washington.

I said, �The three days I spent at BISM (Blind Industries and Services of Maryland), a training center applying Federation philosophy, were the best orientation and mobility (O&M) instruction I have ever received. I was surprised how much more I experienced traveling under sleepshades. The instructors had confidence in my abilities and high expectations for what I could accomplish. I wish I could do more of that.�

Joanne explained how she had connected with the NFB years before as she proceeded through her orientation and mobility instruction. She had read material and spent time learning the structured-discovery (NFB) method of travel instruction. She had attended conventions occasionally to recharge her batteries.

This was my second national convention, so I was marveling at the large number of students from the NFB training centers who come to national convention and travel under sleepshades throughout the convention. I remarked to Joanne, �The convention hotel is enormous. These students are using the entire week as a learning experience. I wish I could do it too.�

Joanne surprised me by responding, �Why can�t you? Heck, I will do it with you.�

Joanne was right. It would be perfectly natural for one or two more people to be wearing sleepshades and getting turned around in that enormous hotel. I didn�t have any specific plans for the evening other than to enjoy the barbeque and the band included in the ticket price. My wife and children were in Arlington, Virginia, watching the fireworks across the river in Washington, D.C. Why not? Then fear crept in. I began looking for an excuse. I responded, �I don�t have sleepshades.�

Joanne mentioned that she thought she might have two pairs and that, if she didn�t, the hotel gift shop might have them as well. We agreed to meet in the lobby in thirty minutes. I went up to my room to see if I might have something packed in my bag that could work. I didn�t have sleepshades, but I did have a handkerchief and black men�s dress socks. I folded the handkerchief and tied both ends of the black socks. Placing the folded handkerchief over my eyes, then tying it on with the socks worked to block out all light. It was comfortable. If all else failed, this would work. I shoved them in my pocket and headed to the lobby.

Joanne was waiting for me with just one pair of sleepshades for herself. We went to the gift shop to see what they might have. The gift shop was selling pink Barbie Princess sleepshades with a faux rhinestone pattern and a matching purse for $19. I have my pride. I was not going to spend money to have my fellow Virginia Federationists tease me. If they were going to tease me, let them tease me for free.
Joanne and I traveled everywhere in that hotel together under sleepshades. At first we struggled. Then we started to challenge each other. I explained that I was nervous in really loud nightclubs with people dancing, and not being able to hear anything over the music. She routed us to the Crocodile Bar to navigate the stairs and dance for ten to fifteen minutes. We had a great time.

We kept wandering around the hotel, learning the layout without relying on the visual cues, asking questions of others along the way. The sound of the fountain between the atrium and the Tower was very welcome.

We headed back to the barbeque to check out the music and free beer included in the ticket price. After sitting at the table and enjoying the country music and half a beer, we decided to go up and dance with the others. After a few songs I wanted more of my beer. I said to Joanne, �Don�t worry, I can certainly find my way back to my beer. That is a skill I learned in college.�

She joked, �Finding your beer after dancing is not the defining measure of the competent blind traveler.�

I took this statement as a challenge. After a minor detour through the sound man�s equipment, Joanne and I headed back to the table where I had left my plastic cup with half a beer in it. At this point almost no one was sitting at the tables. I checked every table to find my beer. I had to prove that I could find it. Joe Cutter, a well-known orientation and mobility instructor from New Jersey, came over to ask with amusement, �What the heck are you doing feeling each table and each chair?�

I told him of Joanne�s challenge because she couldn�t stop laughing. Joe explained, �The hotel staff is clearing off all the food and drinks from the table. It is an open bar; get another beer. And, by the way, come see me tomorrow in the New Jersey delegation; I will give you real sleepshades.�

The point of this story is simple. The national convention is a great deal of fun. While there are great speeches, exciting technology, and numerous opportunities to network with the fabulous community that is the National Federation of the Blind, it is more than just the list of items on the agenda. The national convention provides an opportunity to stretch and grow. You can make friends from all over the country. If you haven�t been for a while, consider going this year. If you have never gone before, make this the year to attend. I have already made my reservations for Atlanta in July 2007. This time I will bring my shades.


An Overview of Planned Giving

Making a charitable gift is one of the most satisfying experiences in life. Each year millions of people contribute their time, talent, and treasure to charitable organizations. When you plan for a gift to the National Federation of the Blind, you are not just making a donation; you are leaving a legacy that insures a future for blind people throughout the country. Here are some of the special giving programs available through the National Federation of the Blind:

Charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts, and charitable lead trusts�income-generating gifts that allow the donor to make a gift of cash or other property in trust now and receive income for life.

Planned giving through wills provides for a clear and specific understanding about how you want to provide for the people and charitable organizations important to you.

Gifts of life insurance allow donors to ensure that the National Federation of the Blind will receive a death benefit that is larger than any gift they could make during life.

Memorials and honoraria in memory of a departed loved one or in honor of a loved one or a friend.

Gifts of appreciated securities generate a charitable deduction of the gift�s market value while avoiding tax for appreciation.

Gifts of real estate receive many favorable tax advantages. You may choose to make a deferred gift that allows you to use the property for life while giving the NFB future interest.

The National Federation of the Blind is a service organization specializing in providing the help to blind people that is not readily available to them from government programs or other existing service systems. The services of the NFB are specially designed to meet the needs of all blind people. By maintaining a widespread campaign of public education, advocating for the rights of blind children and their families, administering scholarship and mentoring programs for blind youth, providing financial and other specialized assistance, conducting seminars on blindness, evaluating and developing accessible technology, and providing information and services to senior citizens so that they can adjust to vision loss and live more accessible and independent lives, the NFB is changing what it means to be blind.

We will be happy to provide you with further information about the National Federation of the Blind or any of these giving opportunities. Please call or write us at:

National Federation of the Blind
Department of Outreach Programs
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 659-9314, ext. 2406
[email protected]

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