Braille Monitor                                                         July 2007

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News from the Federation Family

The Metro Chapter of the NFB of Minnesota held its annual elections at its May meeting. The following people were elected to the board: president, Pat Barrett; first vice president, Sheila Koenig; second vice president, Lori Brown; secretary, Charlotte Czarnecki; and treasurer, Jeff Thompson.

Tennessee Vendors Take a Stand:
We recently received the following brief article that appeared in the Spring/Summer issue of the Merchant Messenger, the publication of the National Association of Blind Merchants:

The Tennessee Business Enterprises Program, long considered to be one of the shining stars in Randolph Sheppard, has survived a recent legislative attack. The blind vendors, led by a group of NFB and Tennessee Association of Blind Merchants members, stood strong and fought off the challenge.

A bill was introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly to exempt jails from the state’s Little Randolph Sheppard priority. Tennessee has been recognized nationally for the success it has had in securing inmate commissaries for its blind vendors to manage and operate. "Jail commissaries are our most lucrative vending facilities," explains Kim Williams, TABM president and NABM secretary. "That explains why they are after us." Six of Tennessee's top-ten earning facilities are inmate commissaries. "We don't have troop dining in our state," Williams explains. "These are the equivalent of our troop dining facilities."

Thanks to the efforts of the blind vendors, the legislative sponsors could not get enough votes to pass their ill-intentioned bill. However, they weren't ready to quit, so they amended their proposed legislation to call for a legislative study committee of the entire BE program. They thought the vendors would not oppose a study committee, but they were wrong. The vendors knew that this wasn't a real study committee. Instead it was a witch-hunt and a way to get information that they could use to hurt the program. "If it had been a fair and open study, we wouldn't have opposed it, but we knew the sponsors had their own agenda and that we would not get a fair shake," Williams said.

The vendors fought on and gathered more and more support for their position opposing the study. The bill was eventually killed, and Tennessee's vendors celebrated the victory. The vendors fought the good fight and are pleased about the support they received.
"We've learned a lot about politics in Tennessee," Williams laughs. "The good news is we have more people on the Hill who are proud of our program than those who want to destroy us."

It is eerie how similar Tennessee's situation is to what we see happening on the national scene. They are targeting the high-income facilities. There's talk about opening up the program to other disabilities. And then they call for studies in hopes of finding something they can use against the program. But a victory in Tennessee sends a signal to vendors in other states. We have a program to be proud of, and we need to defend it.

Ready or Not, Here It Comes:
With October just a few months away, it is time for your chapter to begin making plans for 2007 Meet the Blind Month activities. There are plenty of opportunities to locate suitable venues if you begin planning soon.

Many communities have fall festivals that allow your members to talk to their neighbors about blindness. Sometimes the festival organizers provide tables and signage for the exhibitors. If this is the case, then your team just shows up with handout literature. Many chapter organizers have found Wal-Mart or other big-box stores an excellent location to meet and greet hundreds of people in a short period of time. At these types of venues a fundraising component can be added to make the day both educational and profitable for your chapter. If you have Krispy Kreme in your area or a local bakery, speak with them about selling some of their specialties.

Our Braille Is Beautiful program is designed so that it can be shared with a class of students or at a service club meeting like the Lions or Rotary. The Braille Is Beautiful video set is available to chapter leaders at no cost if they make arrangements for members to present the program to children or adults.

Whatever programs you choose, remember to provide an opportunity for your members to demonstrate techniques that show that you accomplish everyday tasks, just in a slightly different way. Assistive technology, such as the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader, can also be demonstrated to add a high-tech component to your display.

This year it is easier than ever to share your plans with the national office and order free literature at the same time. NFB literature, including Braille alphabet cards, is available again in multiple-size packets to speed up the order process. Find Meet the Blind Month information and order forms on our Web site ( Because of the popularity and continued growth of Meet the Blind Month, the literature order shipment cutoff date this year is Friday, September 14. To guarantee your delivery of materials for October activities, be sure to place your order by that date. For more information or to brainstorm about activities you can plan, contact NFB Director of Special Projects Jerry Lazarus by calling (410) 659-9314, extension 2297, or by sending an email to <[email protected]>.

In Brief

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.

Recreational Opportunities for Folks with Disabilities throughout Vermont:
Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports is a nonprofit organization empowering and providing recreational opportunities for individuals with disabilities. We promote independence and further equality through access and instruction to sports and recreational activities. We have a number of locations for summer programs throughout Vermont--Stoughton Pond in Springfield, Lake Bomoseen in Bomoseen, and the Lake Champlain Sailing Center in Burlington. Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports provides opportunities to clients with a wide array of cognitive and physical disabilities. We provide adaptive techniques and equipment to accommodate the needs of each client.
Summer programs are offered seven days a week starting June 25 and provide sailing, canoeing, kayaking, cycling, horseback riding, hiking, and rock climbing. Group and private outings available and scholarships offered. For more information contact Donna Stanley for southern Vermont programs (802) 786-4991, <[email protected]>, or Maggie Burke for northern Vermont programs (802) 343-1193, <[email protected]>.

Touchtalk Quilts Available:
A retired artist and quilter at Eyepatch Studio offers Touchtalk Nap Quilts. Pick your colors, themes, and some textures. These are tactile, textile-art quilts measuring about five-by-six feet in four sections. Each section uses raised items like beads, zippers, buttons, and pockets to help parents, teachers, and close caregivers interest and challenge blind or low-vision children. Quilts can carry out favorite themes such as dinosaurs, animal friends, etc. Costs range from $75 to $125, which includes no profit for the artist. She is happy to provide textile samples and a cassette lecture in the design phase and activity instructions when quilt is complete. Call for an order form in print or on cassette (248) 874-0049. Ask for CT Walker.

Blind Volunteers at Work:
David Houck, director of the Federation Center of the Blind, reports as follows in the May 23, 2007, NFB of South Carolina “Positive Note”: Saturday, May 19, was a beautiful sunny day with just a slight breeze as twenty-six Columbia Chapter blind volunteers made their way throughout the day to the Second Annual Rosewood Crawfish Festival. We did not come just to listen to the bands, eat crawfish, or participate in the many avenues of entertainment available (although many did do just that). We came wearing our light green Crawfish Festival staff T-shirts to work twenty-seven of the thirty-six entry-gate volunteer slots. Imagine blind individuals being the first point of contact for the estimated 8,000 to 10,000 festival goers, taking pre-sold festival tickets, receiving their $10 entry fee (even making change whenever necessary), and placing the entry wrist bands on their wrists. One person at each gate was responsible for stamping the arm of anyone leaving the festival but intending to come back.

This was a great opportunity for the sighted public, not to mention the Rosewood Merchants Association, who put on the event, to see that blind people were doing things normally accomplished by the sighted. Incoming traffic was high throughout the day, and we received compliments about our work. Those who participated in last year's first Crawfish Festival were glad to come back and volunteer again this year. As was the case last year, the Federation Center was named a recipient of a portion of the festival proceeds. In 2006 the Federation Center received $1,000. The point is that to many of us who are blind this was a demonstration of what we know we can do; to the sighted public it was proof that we really can do what we say we can.

NBP Seeks New President:
The National Braille Press, a leading nonprofit Braille printing and publishing house, currently seeks a new president. Founded in 1927 to promote the literacy of blind children through Braille, NBP has recently completed a three-year strategic plan, enabling the organization to expand its services and further its mission of supporting the integration of blind people into society, the workplace, and their communities by providing equitable access to information.

This position represents an exciting opportunity to take an organization that has earned widespread respect and credibility in the field of blindness to its next level of excellence and growth, both nationally and internationally. The president will serve as NBP's chief spokesperson, building and maintaining governmental and inter-organizational alliances and participating in public initiatives that relate to NBP's mission. She or he will be responsible for implementing and executing the initiatives of the long-range strategic planning process, as well as providing leadership in staff and board recruitment, fundraising, and administration.

The board seeks a charismatic, articulate leader with a proven track record of sound, effective leadership in a business or large nonprofit environment and with evidence of excellent management, relationship-building, and organizational development skills. She or he should possess an entrepreneurial spirit with experience leading change and/or raising the visibility of an organization in addition to an understanding of fundraising. The ideal candidate will have recognized expertise in the field of blindness.

To express your interest, in confidence, about this position or to make a candidate recommendation, please contact Mary Wheeler or Jennifer Jones at DRG, Executive Search Consultants for the Nonprofit Sector. We thank you in advance for your help with this important search. Inquiries should be sent to <[email protected]>.

Brief Report from Guide Dogs for the Blind:
Erin Rumer with her dogAt last year’s national convention in Dallas, Charles Nathan and Brad Hibbard, the directors of training on the San Rafael and Oregon campuses, were given the opportunity to discuss some of Guide Dogs for the Blind’s hiring initiatives. At that time Charles and Brad discussed Guide Dogs’ ongoing efforts to be a model employer, and in support of that initiative they specifically discussed examining opportunities within the training department for blind applicants. During this process Guide Dogs for the Blind sought input and guidance from a variety of sources, including the National Federation of the Blind and Louisiana Tech University. In addition, during the past two years we implemented trial projects, each conducted by Guide Dog alumni, to determine the accessibility of two positions within the training department, a canine welfare technician, responsible for dog care and kennel enrichment, and a guide dog mobility instructor. We are very pleased to announce that we have filled five positions within the training department, and we are hoping that, by the time this article is printed, we will have filled a sixth position with blind individuals who we feel will bring tremendous value to our program.

Guide Dogs for the Blind alumni Leisa Sekhon and Jessica Gonzalez have joined Guide Dogs as canine welfare technicians. Stacy Patnode and Erin Rumer have recently filled newly created positions as training/class specialists, in which they will be responsible for providing insights into the guide dog training program from the perspective of a blind traveler who is proficient in both cane and guide dog use. These staff members will provide effective student education and mentoring during student class training, hands-on dog training and care, and staff education. We have also filled one residence attendant position with Alumna Erin Lauridsen, a position that will provide supplemental support to our instructor team by being present for students in our residential dormitory setting during off-peak hours of instruction, including overnight stays during the week. In addition, the residence attendant will assist students in training with theoretical and practical campus and town orientation, provide peer mentoring, and impart guide dog-related care and education. Stacy Patnode and Erin Rumer have been at the national convention in Atlanta this summer, where they enjoyed sharing some of their experiences working in their new roles.

Senior Site, New AFB Web Site:
A major public health issue is brewing in America. Over the next two decades rates of vision loss from diseases like age-related macular degeneration are expected to double as the nation’s seventy-eight million baby boomers reach retirement age. To help prepare for this dramatic increase in Americans with vision loss and to help the 6.5 million Americans over age 65 currently experiencing age-related vision loss, the American Foundation for the Blind has created a proactive virtual vision center that encourages older adults to live independently and productively with vision loss.

Available using a prominent link on AFB’s home page <>, AFB Senior Site focuses on common sense and daily living solutions to help seniors with vision loss better adjust to their changing eyesight. It will also connect seniors and family members to local services and spotlight the wide range of assistive living products available to people with vision loss.

The site has five main sections: Understanding Vision Loss, Finding Help and Support, Daily Living, Changing Your Home, and Fitness and Fun. Visitors to the site will also find inspiring video testimonials from seniors who aren’t letting their vision loss slow them down, as well as sections on exercise and travel and recreational opportunities for people with vision loss. In the near future Senior Site will also contain message boards, blogs, and support group links designed to foster a sense of community among seniors with vision loss and family members.

Like the rest of the AFB Web site, Senior Site is designed with adjustable text, color, and contrast to make it accessible to those with low vision. The site also meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines so blind or low-vision users can navigate the site using voice browser technology. Please send your comments and ideas for additional content to <[email protected]>.

Book for Blind Messianic Believers Available in Braille:
The life-changing book, Who Is Israel? Past, Present, and Future, by Batya Ruth Wootten, is now available in Braille (625 pages in six volumes). Using Scripture as her base, Wootten explains the Church and Israel. She explains that long ago the Father divided Israel into two houses, Ephraim (Israel) and Judah. They were sent in two directions to accomplish two purposes. Now, in this last day, He wants the two to come together, that they might confirm His truth in the earth (1 Kings 12:15,24; Hosea 1:11; John 8:17). Read this book and be encouraged in your faith.

For more information contact Penny MacPherson at <[email protected]>. To order your Braille copy, send a check or money order for $62.50 to the transcriber, Penny MacPherson, 18427 Moorhaven Drive, Spring Hill, Florida 34610.

Monitor Mart

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.

For Sale:
Two Perkins manual Braillewriters for sale. First Brailler is brand new, never used, and includes dust cover and printed and Braille instructions. Asking $400 or best offer. Second Brailler is used but in perfect working condition. Asking $300 or best offer. Will ship within U.S. Please email Erika at <[email protected]> for more information.

Free Books and Equipment:
Ted Lennox hopes to find good homes for several items.

1. The Official Book on Formatting Braille Books (in Braille) was published by the American Printing House for the Blind about four years ago, so it is up to date.

2. The Laws of Prosperity by Catherine Ponder was published back in the eighties and is an excellent book on finances.

3. Two Braille ’n Speak Scholars with one Braille manual.

4. A VersaPoint Braille embosser is in excellent working condition, but the left side, where the paper is fastened, will not lock. The paper lock needs to be fixed. I believe the right handyman would be able to get this great piece of equipment working well. If someone wants it, I'd be glad to pay the cost of shipping. I'd just like to have it being used.

If interested in any of these items, contact Ted at email <[email protected]>, or call him at (313) 846-0318.

NFB Pledge
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts 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.

NFB Songs

The National Federation of the Blind has marched and sung its way to freedom over the last sixty-seven years. When Federationists gather, they often enjoy singing the songs that have rallied blind people and expressed the frustration and sometimes anger that the members of a minority group often feel. Here are the lyrics of three NFB songs.

The NFB Battle Song
Tune: The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Words by Floyd Fields and Josephine Huff
Blind eyes have seen the vision of the Federation way.
New White Cane legislation brings the dawn of a new day.
The right of the blind to organize is truly here to stay.
Our cause goes marching on.
Glory, glory, Federation
Glory, glory, Federation
Glory, glory, Federation,
Our cause goes marching on.
We have seen it in the action of four hundred chapters strong.
Good leadership and courage have righted many a wrong.
Let’s aid NFB’s program, and join in its battle song.
Our cause goes marching on.
tenBroek has sounded trumpet which shall never sound “Retreat.”
We have sifted out the hearts of blind before our judgment seat.
Oh, be swift all blind to answer, and be jubilant your feet.
Our cause goes marching on.
To aid the blind’s long struggle we have formed the NFB
To free them from their bondage of workshop and agency,
To give a hand to all the blind wherever they may be.
Our cause goes marching on.

I’ve Been Working in the Workshop
Tune: I’ve Been Working on the Railroad
Words by the (Pennsylvania) Liberty Alliance

I’ve been working in the workshop
All the livelong day,
And with the wages that they pay me
It’s just to pass my time away.
And when I ask about more money,
They give me the big lie.
“We’d like to give you lots of raises,
But you’ll lose your SSI.”
“Work is therapy,”
They keep telling me.
I’ve heard it till I’ve had my fill.
‘Cause if it’s therapy
I wish they’d let me be.
This therapy’s a bitter pill.

The Technology Song

Tune: The Marvelous Little Toy
Words by Debbie Brown, NFB of Maryland
When I wrote my rehab plan, my counselor promised me
The hottest screen access program of the 20th century.
I waited for six months, then gave my counselor a call.
He said, “Our budget’s frozen. You must wait until next Fall.”
It went “zip” when it moved and “pop” when it stopped and “whir” when it stood still.
I’ve never done a thing with it, and I guess I never will.
When my equipment finally came, my counselor explained
That I couldn’t get my hands on it ‘till I’d been thoroughly trained.
I said, “Let’s start tomorrow,” but my counselor told me,
“We have a six-month waiting list at our facility.”
I said I’d get trained on my own, but rehab made a fuss.
They said, “You won’t get funding unless you’re trained by us.”
Now my training’s finally done, and I’ve come home to wait.
If I ever get a job, my skills will be out of date.
Today I had an interview, but I didn’t get to go.
I called for para-transit, but my vehicle didn’t show.
The finest new technology won’t help us, it’s quite plain
Without good blindness training and a thirty-dollar cane.
It went “zip” when it moved and “pop” when it stopped and “whir” when it stood still.
I’ve never done a thing with it, and I guess I never will.
I’ve never done a thing in life – and I guess I never will.

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