Vol. 51, No. 7 July 2008
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
telephone: (410) 659-9314
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 51, No. 7 July 2008
Reflections of a Lifetime Reader and Library Maven
by Marc Maurer
The Role of the Blind in a Democratic Society
by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek
Making Lemonade from Lemons
by John Bailey
Responding to the Sunday Times
by Avraham Rabby
Progress and Stalemates: The Complexities of Creating a Textbooks-on-Time
System for Blind Students
A Report by Pat Renfranz, Sandy Taboada, and Jill Weatherd
Making a Difference
by Barbara Loos
What It Is and Why It Works
by Ruby Ryles
Hearing Words versus Reading Words
by Robert Leslie Newman
Keeping Our Promises—Braille Competency Test Now a Reality
by Louise Walch
Brief Biography of a Federationist
by Everette Bacon
Copyright 2008 by the National Federation of the Blind
When the Johnson Street reception area of the National Center for the Blind was converted to offices in April 2008, the bust of Dr. Jernigan and the portraits of the three long-term NFB presidents had to find a new home. The bust now resides in the new reception area, against the north wall of the atrium on the fourth floor of the Jernigan Institute. The portrait of Dr. tenBroek and new portraits of Dr. Jernigan and President Maurer have been hung in a specially lighted alcove in the hallway that leads east from the reception area to President Maurer’s office and the lunchroom. Pictured here left to right are portraits of Jacobus tenBroek, Kenneth Jernigan, and Marc Maurer.
by Marc Maurer
From the Editor: President Maurer delivered the following
address at the national conference of the National Library Service for the Blind
and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress in San Antonio, Texas,
May 5, 2008.
Insofar as I remember, I have never previously been called a maven. In my position as president of the National Federation of the Blind (and in certain other roles), I have been called many things—but “maven” is not one of them. I thank you for the compliment, and I hope that I can live up to the billing.
Books have been important to me for as long as I can remember. When I was a small child, my mother read them aloud to me. When I attended the school for the blind at the age of six, I discovered that books had been recorded on great big records. The teacher would play them for us in the afternoon. One of the first I ever heard was Sharp Ears—The Baby Whale by John Y. Beatty. As I listened, I was worried about the whale.
In 1960 a library for the blind was established by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan in the state of Iowa, where I lived. I could get books simply by asking for them. They came in big packages from the post office. The first recorded book I ever received was White Falcon by Elliott Arnold: a story about a pioneer child captured by Indians and raised to become a leader of the tribe.
I did not have a record player, but our family owned a stereo that we kept in the living room. If my homework had been completed, and if nobody else was watching television, I could listen to recorded books on our stereo. My father had connected a speaker to the stereo so that he could listen to music while he worked in his carpenter shop in the basement. The volume control of the stereo adjusted both the volume of the speakers in the living room and the volume of the speaker in the basement. I discovered that, when other family members were watching television, I could turn the volume of the stereo down. I could not hear the recorded book in the living room. However, if I stretched out on the workbench in the basement with my ear next to the speaker, I could listen to the book even with conversation or television watching in the living room. The workbench was covered with sawdust, but I didn't care. To avoid missing pieces of the recorded book, I had to get from the living room to the basement in a hurry. In order to hear what I wanted to know, I would start the stereo and race to the basement so that I would miss the fewest words. Sometimes the basement was a little cold, but I got to read anyway. It was worth it.
The post office also brought me big packages of Braille. The books were wrapped in brown paper with string tied around it. I would untie the string very carefully and save it. I would also unwrap the paper from the books and fold it carefully to be reused in returning them to the library. In a pocket under the front cover of the first volume of each book I would find a mailing label. This was to be used to return the books to the library. When I had finished reading them, I rewrapped the bundle, tied the string, and licked the label so that it would stick to the package. I had to be careful to cover my address with the new label so that the package would go where it belonged. When I first began receiving the Braille books, I did not know that the postman who brought them would also carry packages away. I got permission from my mother to carry the packages to the post office to be shipped back to the library. I had learned that they needed no postage—that they would go as Free Matter to the library. I came to know the people who worked at the post office, and I was delighted when I discovered that they would indeed take charge of my Braille.
The Braille was more versatile than the recorded books. I could read it wherever I went. I could keep a Braille volume under my bed and sneak it out at night after I was supposed to be asleep. This system also worked at the school for the blind. Special reading rooms (little cubicles containing a chair, a desk, and a Talking Book machine) had been built for listening to talking books. However, I could read the Braille anywhere. One time I did sneak off at night to read a Talking Book. I thought it would be better not to turn on the light in the reading room. The houseparent did discover me there after a while, but he thought I had fallen asleep while I was reading and missed the bedtime bell. It did not seem prudent to me to correct his error in thought. However, if I was in bed, he didn't check to see if a book was under the covers.
When I reached high school, the library offered to lend me a Talking Book machine. I could listen to books in my own room at any time. This was liberating. Some of the books I wanted to read were for recreation, and some of them were assigned literature. At one point I invited some of my classmates to listen along with me to William Golding's Lord of the Flies. My Talking Book machine went with me to college, and I have had one or another model of it wherever I have been since I first obtained one in high school.
When I was fourteen years old, I lived in Boone, Iowa, a small town about forty miles north of Des Moines, where the library for the blind was located. I had been borrowing books from the library for about five years. A listing of books would arrive in the mail. Because it was a printed document, my father would read the list to me. I would tell him what books I wanted to read. Eventually he got sick and tired of helping me make my selections because he thought some of the books I picked were too racy for me to read. Mostly I don't think he edited my lists of requests, but I think he skipped some of the books listed in the catalog.
He would mail my requests to the library, and the packages of books would arrive from the post office. I usually got two (and on rare occasions three) books at a time. When I mailed them back, more would come. I loved getting the big fragrant volumes to read whenever and wherever I liked.
I told my mother one summer's day when I was fourteen that I would very much like to visit the library. To my amazement she said that I could go. My younger brothers, Max and Matt, who were eleven and nine, planned to go with me. I was responsible for watching over them and seeing that they and I did not get into trouble. I saved my allowance until I had enough money for a bus ticket. The Greyhound bus stopped at a little bookstore in our town. We went to the station and bought bus tickets to travel to Des Moines. We knew that we would be visiting an important government facility, so we dressed in our Sunday clothes.
The bus depot in Des Moines was only a couple of blocks from the library for the blind in those days. We arrived there in a little more than an hour, and we found our way to the building housing the books. The receptionist directed us to the fourth floor, where we met library personnel. They seemed bemused that a blind kid would visit the library without being accompanied by an adult. They showed me the stacks, and I began to look joyously through the rows upon rows of Braille books. After a time one of the staff members at the library brought me a chair. I selected a volume and sat down to read it. My brothers, who were through enjoying the library in a very short time and who were tired of watching me read books, said that they would go outside to look around. I said this would be all right but that the bus for our return trip was leaving shortly after four o'clock. I urged them to be back in time for us to catch it, and they said that they would be there. They left me, and I spent the remainder of the day reading Braille.
When my brothers returned shortly before four o'clock, they told me that they had explored the state capitol building and climbed all of the stairs to the top of the dome. We had spent all of our money to buy the bus tickets to come to Des Moines. We were penniless, and we had not had the forethought to bring any lunch. However, I was permitted to borrow two books from the library. On the bus ride home, we were hungry but satisfied with our adventure, and I had two new books to read.
At the school for the blind those of us in the first grade who had very little remaining vision were taught Braille. We started by studying flash cards, but fairly soon we graduated to the Dick and Jane book. Sixteen of us were in the class arranged in two rows of eight. My desk was the sixth one from the front in the first row. We were told to open our books to page one. The teacher asked the first student in the first row to read the Braille page. When the student had trouble reading the Braille, the teacher corrected the errors made by the student. Then the teacher called upon the second student in the row and again corrected the errors that student made. Before the teacher came to me, we had been through this exercise five times. When my turn came, the teacher asked me to read page one. I put my fingers on the page and spoke the words that were there. I was called to the front of the room, praised, and given a gold star to paste onto page one of my book.
We lived more than a hundred miles from the school. On weekends my father came to pick me up for the drive to our home. When he appeared in our first-grade class on Friday afternoon, my teacher advised me to take my book home with me to show to my mother. My mother had learned Braille because she thought she might need to know it to communicate with me or to help me with my homework. I carried my book with me on our trip home; I explained what had happened in class; and I showed my mother my gold star. However, my mother is a suspicious woman. She asked if she could borrow my book, and I gave it to her. Later during the weekend she brought me a piece of Braille paper with words on it, and she asked me to read it. When I told her that I could not, she explained to me that it was an exact copy of page one of my book.
When I had completed the first grade, during the summer months,
my mother took me in hand. She decided that I was to learn Braille. For an hour
each day she taught me to read. I objected. My brothers didn't have homework
during the summer; I was the only one. But my mother insisted, and I had no
alternative. By the end of that summer I had learned to read. I returned to
the school for the blind in the fall, and I discovered the school library. By
the time I had finished the fifth grade, I had read every book in the school
library that the librarian would let me have. Some of the books in the library
were too advanced for me, she said. I have wondered ever since what they were.
I have read Braille to myself for study and pleasure; I have read Braille to my children; I have read Braille to judges in courts of appeals; and I have read Braille to tens of thousands of blind people. My mother taught me to read it, but the librarians gave me the chance to become efficient with it and to learn the thoughts of great minds by reading it. Perhaps it is possible to do the work that I have undertaken without Braille, but I don't know how it could be done. I have sometimes heard people argue that libraries are a luxury, but I cannot imagine how anybody with perspective could believe this.
During my time at the university, I sat with Thucydides's Peloponnesian War under my hands, and I heard in my mind the stentorian tones of Pericles's Funeral Oration. Later I studied the clauses of the United States Constitution in the same way, and I wondered what they had meant to Abraham Lincoln. History is the record of what people have done. Literature is the record of what people have thought. Poetry is the record of the song of the spirit. In 1776 Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations, declaring that this wealth is based upon labor and the efficient methods of using it. At about the same time Benjamin Franklin said that, if you want to be remembered, you should do something of sufficient importance that somebody else will want to write about it or write something worth reading. Much of the wealth of nations is contained between the covers of books. The librarians are charged with maintaining this wealth.
Within the last two years a substantial argument has raged regarding the importance of the Books for the Blind program, now known as the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Should the technology employed in this service be upgraded to provide access to recorded material in digital form? Is the library of sufficient value to justify expenditures for continuing present services and for upgrading those that have not kept pace with the developing needs of the blind community and with modern technology? The answers to such questions depend on the estimated value of the population to be served. If the intended population will not read the books, or if (even if they read the books) the people who get them will accomplish nothing or almost nothing with the information, little is lost if the library fails to provide the service that might be expected from it. On the other hand, if those who read the books gain potential thereby and undertake development of intellectual property and socially useful programs, depriving this population of reading material is not only a dramatic mistake but an act equivalent to gross and intentional negligence. It is equivalent to discarding a valuable commodity, and it diminishes the society in which we live. This is no small matter; it affects the lives, the futures, and the destinies of an entire class of human beings.
Will the lives of this group of human beings be stultified, diminished, belittled, or circumscribed? Or, on the other hand, will they be expanded, encouraged, and enlivened? One of the most common experiences encountered by any blind person is to be told to wait. The lives of blind people are important, yes, but not as important as something else. Wait. We will get to you. We will get to you as soon as the current emergency has come to an end. We will get to you as soon as the other priorities have been met. We will get to you when the important things have been managed. Wait. Is it any wonder that sometimes blind people feel that something needs to be done now? Is it any wonder that blind people have trouble understanding why everything else seems to be important, but our lives can be conveniently moved to the back burner? Is it any wonder that after a time restiveness becomes a primary characteristic of this so frequently underserved population? Is it any wonder that, when the National Library Service determines that a modest sum is needed to give us literacy, we feel betrayed by public officials who tell us that, one more time, our right to read must be postponed?
The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped serves in excess of 700,000 blind people in the United States. Estimates are that 1.3 million blind people live in the United States. Well over 50 percent of the target population uses the services of this program. This rate of use of the Library for the Blind is substantially higher than the rate of use of libraries for the sighted. These numbers may reflect the reality that the only substantial source of readily available reading matter for the blind is the National Library Service. Experience indicates that blind people read in the neighborhood of thirty books per year on average. This is many, many times the number of books read by the average sighted person. Blindness is a tremendous social disadvantage and a moderate physical one. However, literacy is a way to compensate for the disadvantage. In the 1950s Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, then president of the National Federation of the Blind, estimated that between 1 and 3 percent of blind people were employed. At the time of the founding of the National Federation of the Blind in 1940, the employment rate for the blind was under 1 percent. Today it is estimated that as many as 30 percent of blind people are employed. This is at least ten times as many as were estimated to have employment in the 1950s. The difference may be measured in rehabilitation programs for the blind and in library service, with the greatest emphasis on library service.
The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped was established more than seventy-five years ago. The standard of excellence that it has enforced in the production of Braille materials and in the creation of recorded documents is the envy of programs serving the blind throughout the world. This standard is so thoroughly met by the National Library Service that it has become an article of faith. If material is produced by the Library, it is right. If it is produced by the National Library Service, it is good. A book from the Library will be without error. Can this standard be universally met? Of course exceptions occur, but this high standard is so frequently a part of the Library program that the occasional error is an aberration.
The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is committed to producing materials in Braille that are second to none in quality. This program also produces recorded matter of exceptional quality. Historically the Library has been committed to ensuring that the best available long-term technology is incorporated in the production of materials. Today the transformation to the Digital Talking Book is a high priority. The National Library Service believes that it has a fundamental contribution to make to the growth of opportunity for the blind of the nation, and its commitment to quality has never been compromised. The network of libraries throughout the nation that provide most of the distribution of materials to patrons has demonstrated the same commitment to quality and excellence. The people who have produced the materials, distributed the books, repaired the machines, answered the questions, and offered an encouraging word have enhanced literacy and changed lives.
Literacy has meant that blind people have capacity, but it has even greater significance. The literacy of blind people has provided a mechanism for the blind to gain inspiration and hope. We read of what others have done, and we imagine how we can do likewise. A book in the hand today frequently means an act of courage in the future. This is what library service has meant to us—more reading, more recreation, more participation in community activities, more education, more employment, more contemplation of a brighter tomorrow, more building, more joy! All of this comes from the Library, and we thank you for the enormous, the incalculable contributions you have made.
by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek
From the Editor: Last July we published the archived text of the speech that Dr. Jacobus tenBroek delivered at the Andrew Jackson Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, on Saturday, July 12, during the first afternoon session of the 1952 NFB convention. It was broadcast nationally by NBC. His speech was not listed in the draft agenda, suggesting that the opportunity to generate a national broadcast developed late in the preparations for the convention and was available only on Saturday afternoon. The speech has not been reprinted in many years if ever. Last year we planned to use the recording of that broadcast in the cassette edition. That is how we discovered that the text had been significantly edited before delivery. It is clearly addressed to a broad national audience. In parts its message still rings with dismaying truth. At the same time we can observe places in the social fabric of the nation in which blind citizens have made clear progress. It is instructive to compare this version with the unedited text that was published last year. Here is the text of the actual radio speech:
I should like to ask you to join with me in seeking the answer to what may seem an easy question: Have the blind a right to a place in the sun—or only to a shelter?
In more conventional terms, the subject I shall discuss with you this afternoon: the role of the blind in a democratic society. No doubt that sounds like a simple and straightforward issue, clear enough in its meaning if not in its solution. But I fear that the appearance of simplicity may be greatly misleading; and so, before proceeding further, I shall ask you to bear with me while I attempt to clarify the principal terms involved--the big word "democracy" and that other term "the blind."
"Democracy" of course means many things to many people; and no doubt
its accents and implications have altered somewhat over the years. But after
a century and a half of living with the idea and the practice, most Americans
would probably agree that whatever else it may suggest, the essence of democracy
consists in four indispensable guarantees to the individual citizen: the guarantees
of liberty, equality, opportunity, and security. Full membership in a democratic
society, that is to say, entitles the individual to liberty in thought
and action, equality of treatment, opportunity to develop
his potentialities, and security against the calamities of fortune
over which he has no effective control. The withholding or withdrawal by society
of any of these fundamental rights from an individual leaves him at best in
a role of probationary membership, of second-class citizenship, and to that
extent refutes the practice and violates the spirit of democracy.
To come quickly to the point: Something more than a quarter of a million Americans today are denied full membership in their society--restrained in liberty, forbidden equality, refused opportunity, and threatened in security--for the reason only that they are blind. Moreover, their tragedy is heightened by the seeming paradox that this denial of rights of citizenship is sanctioned by a society motivated wholly by benevolence and for the most part unaware of its intolerance.
This brings us squarely up against the second of our crucial terms: "the blind." What does it mean? According to Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, the word "blind" means, first of all, "sightless." But it also means (and I quote) "2. Lacking discernment; unable or unwilling to understand or judge; as blind to faults. 3. Made without reason or discrimination; as, a blind choice. 4. Apart from intelligent direction or control; as, blind chance. 5. Insensible; as a blind stupor; hence, drunk. 6. Made without knowledge or guidance or judgment; as, a blind purchase."
The word "blind" then, like the word "democracy," has many different implications; but as this list of Webster's so graphically reveals, they are virtually all implications of inferiority, of incompetence, even of stupidity. Language habits, as we all know, arise simply as a response to our inarticulate thoughts and feelings; and it is therefore of the greatest significance that society has come to speak of an unreasoning choice as a "blind" choice, and an insensible stupor as a "blind" stupor. Unless something is done to alter drastically the habits of thought which have given rise to these expressions, it is clear beyond a doubt what the role of the blind must be in society. It must, in brief, be a role outside society, or at best on its outer fringe: a role of inferiority and assumed incompetence: the role of a pariah class.
The issue before us is not whether the blind are deserving of humane treatment; they are getting that. The issue is whether they are deserving of human treatment--consideration as normal human beings and full-fledged citizens, with all the rights and responsibilities which that entails in a democratic society. To many of you it may seem obvious that the blind are entitled to such consideration. I have still to prove my thesis that in fact they are denied this right: that with regard to the crucial four freedoms of democracy--liberty, equality, opportunity, and security--the nation's blind are the victims of a policy of containment and their efforts to achieve responsibility remain effectively smothered beneath a tyranny of kindness.
Years of research in the field of rehabilitation and years of
demonstration by blind individuals have established that, given competent guidance
and sufficient opportunity, the person who has lost his sight can once again
make rich contributions to his own well-being and that of his community. Individual
blind persons are today successful in a vast range of jobs in industry, commerce,
agriculture, and the professions. I personally know blind people who are dairy
farmers; chicken farmers; rabbit farmers; potato farmers; bee keepers; stenographers;
switchboard operators; beauticians; cabinet makers; radio repairmen; machine
tool operators; mechanics; lawyers; doctors; engineers; university professors
of law, philosophy, medicine, mathematics; businessmen; restaurateurs; grocery
men; and a wide variety of salesmen. One blind man, Dr. S. Bradley Burson presently
attending our national Federation convention, is a nuclear physicist doing experimental
atomic research at a project of the Atomic Energy Commission. In addition to
these there are blind people in many unskilled or ordinary occupations. All
of these examples, however, are individual instances of success hard won over
almost insurmountable and altogether unnecessary obstacles. For the vast majority
of the blind, the story is quite different. If they seek employment in private
industry, in the public service, or in many of the common trades, callings,
and professions, they will find the door of opportunity shut in their faces.
Their own demonstrations of ability will have little bearing on the treatment
they receive. Not their ability, but their disability will hold the attention
of employers and boards of governors; and not their disability, but its false
concomitant of inability will determine their fate. All will agree that they
are more to be pitied than censured, but more to be censured than hired.
Recently in the state of New York a blind man was denied the renewal of a certificate of extension of authority to practice osteopathy despite the fact that he had been granted a license to practice osteopathy in the state of New York in 1919, that since that date he had engaged in the practice of the profession in the state of New York down to 1941, except for a period of two years when he was an instructor at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathy, and despite the fact that at least eighteen affidavits were submitted by blind persons currently successfully practicing osteopathy medicine in other states.
Recently a young blind lawyer passed several civil service examinations for the position of junior legal assistant. The United States Civil Service Commission removed his name from the register solely on the ground of his blindness, despite the fact that there are known to be at least 120 blind persons successfully practicing law in this country and that the blind person involved then secured an appointment as junior legal assistant with a bureau of the federal government not covered by civil service, which he has filled with notable success. In cities, counties, and states throughout the land similar obstacles are placed in paths of blind people regardless of their competence by civil service commissions, licensing officials, governing boards of trades and professions, schools and colleges. Acting on the same conception of blindness, personnel managers and employers in business and industry generally exclude blind persons from employment by applying arbitrary physical standards which have no relationship to the tasks to be performed. When the blind turn to individual enterprise as a solution to their employment problems, bankers and other lending institutions almost universally treat them as bad risks.
What prevents the blind from practicing the rights and enjoying
the fruits of membership in society? Quite simply, it is the refusal of their
neighbors to take them at their word and deed; it is the reluctance of the vast
majority of Americans to relinquish their comforting and charitable conception
of the blind individual as not only sightless but helpless, and not only helpless
but hopeless. Viewing him through this ancient stereopticon, they come to regard
him as finally and permanently disabled despite clear evidence to the contrary;
and with the greatest good will in the world, they lead him by the hands off
the busy main avenues and into the sheltered back streets of society.
Exclusion from the main channels of social and economic activity and thereby the lack of opportunity for self-support: these constitute the real handicap of blindness far surpassing its physical limitations. The absence of economic opportunity is more than the absence of economic security; it is the disintegration of the personality. It is men living out their lives in social isolation and the atrophy of their productive powers. The curse of blindness is idleness, idleness, which confines the blind to the sidelines of life--good players warming the bench in the game that all should play.
When this groundless discrimination against the blind is brought to an end, when employers and personnel managers seek and accept the talent and labor of the blind on a rational, rather than an arbitrary basis, when the blindness workers are evaluated on individual merits rather than supposed class D merit, government and industry will soon come to acknowledge the great contribution which the blind men and women of America have been waiting to make to the nation’s economy.
It will perhaps be objected at this point that the picture has been overdrawn; that the blind of America are not any longer condemned to total isolation without aid and without comfort. For have we not, through our government, established a variety of welfare and rehabilitation programs? We have indeed, but it is precisely at this level unfortunately that we encounter still another real tragedy in the situation of the blind. For the pervasive social stereotype of blindness as incompetence and inferiority is accurately reflected in these programs. Instead of helping the blind man to escape the deadly inertia of emotional, social, and economic isolation, our public assistance program actually reinforces that isolation. Instead of assisting him to become psychologically and financially self-reliant, it intensifies his utter dependence on others. The pervasive assumption of incompetence also underlies and qualifies most rehabilitation work for the blind. Case finding is almost nonexistent; and counseling, guidance, training, and placement are severely limited. All too frequently the end of this process is graduation into a sheltered workshop, sidetracked into these literal blind alleys by his training and his trainers, the blind client will find himself at last at the dead end of the road.
With the reinforcement of dependence by the public assistance program, with the custodial treatment by rehabilitation agencies, and with the exclusion of the self-rehabilitated blind man from industry, commerce, government, and profession, we have come full circle. The initial shock of blindness casts the blind person into what by all scientific and rational standards should have been a transient state of frustration and insecurity. But the general public falsely supposed that he was permanently helpless and treated him accordingly. Welfare agencies assumed that he was incapable of employment and built their system on that premise. Rehabilitation workers considered him limited to the economic back streets and led him there. Business and industry, government and profession prejudged him before his appearance and found him wanting. And the blind man himself soon became convinced that these attitudes were impossible to fight and finally that they were true.
The four great rights of liberty, equality, opportunity, and security
have gained a firm foothold in the ideological structure of American democracy.
With respect to the blind, however, as our analysis has shown, they are more
honored in the breach than in the observance. We the blind people in the National
Federation of the Blind ask that the blind be given the liberty of action which
is the groundwork of human dignity, the equality of treatment which is indispensable
to self-support, the security of mind and body which is necessary to rehabilitation,
and the full degree of opportunity which will enable them to prove their economic
value and their social worth. But neither the National Federation of the Blind
nor any other organization can itself grant the rights, which will restore the
blind to a role of full and equal membership in our society. Only you, the people,
can finally decide whether the blind of America are deserving of a place in
the sun or must be kept forever in a shelter in the shade.
Consider a Charitable Gift
Making a charitable gift can be 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. Special giving programs are available through the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).
Points to Consider When Making a Gift to the National Federation of
• Will my gift serve to advance the mission of the NFB?
• Am I giving the most appropriate asset?
• Have I selected the best way to make my gift?
• Have I considered the tax consequences of my gift?
• Have I sought counsel from a competent advisor?
• Have I talked to the planned giving officer about my gift?
Benefits of Making a Gift to the NFB
• Helping the NFB fulfill its mission
• Receiving income tax savings through a charitable deduction
• Making capital gain tax savings on contribution of some appreciated gifts
• Providing retained payments for the life of a donor or other beneficiaries
• Eliminating federal estate tax in certain situations
• Reducing estate settlement cost
Your Gift Will Help Us
• Make the study of science and math a real possibility for blind children
• Provide hope for seniors losing vision
• Promote state and chapter programs and provide information that will educate blind people
• Advance technology helpful to the blind
• Create a state-of-the-art library on blindness
• Train and inspire professionals working with the blind
• Provide critical information to parents of blind children
• Mentor blind people trying to find jobs
Your gift makes you a part of the NFB dream!
by John Bailey
From the Editor: How often have you found yourself representing the NFB in a situation in which you need to do or say something different from what you were prepared to present? I have walked into what I thought was going to be a high school class only to be confronted by a range of students as young as six. I have also faced political science high school students armed with identification games appropriate for an elementary school class. Here is a tale of a different sort of emergency requiring quick thinking and radical change of plans. John Bailey describes what he did and what he said. We can all learn from his creativity and readiness to scuttle plan A as soon as it was obvious that it would fail. This is the way he described his experience in the May 2008 issue of the NFB of Fairfax Newsletter.
Fairfax Chapter Representative Speaks at Local School
On April 8 I was invited to represent our chapter at a potluck dinner hosted by Holmes Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia. The Holmes organization, Parent Education Advocacy Training Center (PEATC) organized the evening so that parents of disabled children who are attending the school could meet community organizations that help the handicapped.
Sara Astrow, parent liaison at the school, asked me to talk to several of the students with vision problems. Unfortunately, none of those students or their parents were there, and this caused a problem. I was to give a short introductory speech about our organization, but none of those present had any interest in blindness organizations. I needed a way to connect with them even though they did not have a blind child.
An indicator of the difficulty I was going to have reaching them was their nearly complete lack of interest in the NFB literature I had brought. I could not even give out any of the NFB's Freedom Bracelets to the kids. There was complete indifference because the parents were looking for organizations that could help their children and their nonvision-related issues. One grandmother stopped by for a short time to tell me that she had no need for our organization because her child was not blind and to tell me about the difficulties he had with cerebral palsy.
I decided to take a different approach. Rather than give them
apparently useless facts about an organization that could not directly help
their kids, I introduced them to the Federation philosophy of empowerment and
presented it in a way that would resonate with them. Following is the speech
Recently, I received a phone call from a parent who had a blind son. Her son had lost his vision from head trauma in a violent crime. The mother was at her wits’ end. She asked me over and over again, “What will happen to my son when I die?”
My name is John Bailey, and I am president of the Fairfax Area Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. Our organization is different from most other blindness organizations because we were organized by the blind to help ourselves. Rather than having sighted professionals tell us what we are capable of, our blind members decide for themselves what they want. The NFB does not believe that we are limited by our disabilities.
"I overheard a grandmother talking about her grandson when he was born. There were tubes coming out all over him and the doctor was saying that he would never talk, walk, or be able to take care of himself. The grandmother had thought, “Why bother to keep him alive then?” [Turning to the students directly] Is there a young man here who just finished performing in the musical, The Music Man? [A cheer arose from the students along with one raised hand.] The NFB believes in people and their potential. If you think your child is capable of going beyond what the professionals are telling you, I invite you to come talk to us.
I knew the speech had gone well because after that I gave away dozens of bracelets. Even though the parents may not have currently needed any resources from the NFB, they definitely went away with a really positive impression of our organization and our mission.
by Avraham Rabby
From the Editor: On February 10, 2008, the Sunday Times of London carried a story about plans to teach echolocation to blind students in Scotland and other places in the United Kingdom. The reporter clearly bought into the notion that producing sounds to help determine one’s location was a wonderful new concept. Longtime Federationist Rami Rabby had no intention of ignoring the opportunity to educate the reporter even if the newspaper chose not to publish his response. The reporter did reply, though it is fair to comment that he has not yet recognized his lack of understanding. Here is the story followed by Rami Rabby’s response:
Blind Taught to See like a Bat
by Mark Macaskill
Blind British children are to be taught a pioneering bat-style echolocation technique to visualize their surroundings. The children are learning how to build up detailed images of the world around them by clicking their tongue and interpreting the sound as it echoes back.
The technique is used by animals such as bats, dolphins, and whales
to navigate and hunt in the dark. Bats are able to maneuver around caves and
catch tiny insects on the wing by emitting short bursts of high-pitched noise
and reading the sound waves as they bounce back to their highly evolved ears.
There is emerging evidence that blind people can harness their sense of hearing--which
is often more acute--to interpret reflected sound and create detailed mental
images of their surroundings, including the distance, size, and density of objects.
The technique is being piloted in Glasgow, where ten children aged five to seventeen are being taught by staff from Visibility, one of the city's oldest charities for the blind. The children are learning how to make the clicking sound and how to use the technique even in noisy urban areas, including the underground system.
Blind people in America, where human echolocation was pioneered, have learnt to differentiate between people, trees, buildings, and parked cars by interpreting the pitch and timbre of the echo they produce. Practitioners say they can determine the height, density, and shape of objects up to one hundred feet away. People using echolocation can determine the distance they are from an object by the length of time it takes for the sound to travel back. Its position can be established by whether the echo hits the left or right ear first. The size of an object can be determined by the intensity of the echo. A smaller object reflects less of the sound wave. The object's direction of movement can be established by the pitch of the echo, which is lower if it is moving away from the source.
Echolocation has been endorsed by Professor Gordon Dutton, one of Britain's leading pediatric ophthalmologists, who wants the technique to be taught to blind and visually impaired people across the country. There are about 385,000 registered blind and partially sighted people in Britain. "It's very exciting," said Dutton, of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow. "I have seen echolocation being used--it's quite stunning. It has been demonstrated to me that it absolutely works. Of course there will be skepticism and doubt, but the benefits are without question. It will make a massive difference to the lives of blind and visually impaired people."
The project in Glasgow follows a visit last year by Dan Kish, a forty-one-year-old blind man from California, who pioneered the technique. Kish, who runs the not-for-profit organization World Access for the Blind, has also been commissioned by the charity Common Sense to present his method to the families of blind people in Poole, Dorset.
His command of the technique is such that he can ride a bicycle on public roads and distinguish between different types of fruit on trees merely by clicking his tongue. A video on the Website YouTube shows Kish and a number of his friends demonstrating their skills. Ben Underwood, a teenager who lost his sight when he was three, has also become a celebrity in America because of his ability to use echolocation to ride a bike and to go skateboarding.
Although there have been no scientific studies of echolocation, supporters say it can hugely improve the lives of blind and partially sighted children. While using a cane allows blind people to identify obstacles in their path, echolocation is said to provide 360-degree "vision" and can give them far greater freedom.
"It's a type of seeing in its own right, which probably uses similar brain imaging mechanisms to eyesight," Kish said. "Students almost invariably become more confident, move faster, and participate in more activities," he continued. "They show improved posture and regard themselves as more able to direct themselves through their environment with less need for others. They are freer, and better able to choose the quality of life they wish to achieve, rather than have this chosen for them."
Fiona Sandford, chief executive of Visibility, added: "This is a pioneering technique that will transform the lives of young blind children. We have trained four visually impaired adults, and they are now using their skills to train children. We hope to roll this out to adults. I have seen it being used, and it works."
Belgium's federal police use a unit of blind officers specifically for their acute sense of hearing in analyzing phone taps and bugged conversations in investigations of terrorism, drug trafficking, and organized crime. The detectives can separate the voices of different speakers and pick up sonic clues such as whether a suspect is in a railway station or a restaurant or whether the caller is using a landline or mobile phone. Some officers have even identified the make of car suspects are using.
A detective in Antwerp, Sacha van Loo, thirty-six, who is trained
in echolocation, correctly identified a drug smuggler as Albanian from his accent
when sighted colleagues thought the man was Moroccan. Hollywood has also depicted
the heightened senses of the blind. In the 2003 film Daredevil, Ben
Affleck plays a New York lawyer, blinded in childhood, who transforms himself
into a masked crime-busting superhero by night, using his acute hearing as a
radar sense to see through the dark.
In his article, “Blind Taught to See like a Bat” (Sunday Times, February 10), Mark Macaskill unfortunately created some serious misimpressions as to how blind people typically orient themselves in their surroundings. In the process he also promoted a false notion of what the central problem facing the blind is in today's society. Echolocation is not a "pioneering" technique; it is the method blind people have always employed to negotiate the environment around them. Some blind people do use tongue-clicking to generate the echo that helps them locate and identify objects in their immediate vicinity. Other blind people clap their hands or click their thumbs. However, most commonly and most effectively, blind people use the simple tapping of their canes to achieve the same result, as well as other ambient sounds, such as the noise of a passing car or the hawking of a street vendor. Blind people's hearing is not innately more acute than that of the sighted. We tend to listen for sounds and pay attention to them more than most sighted persons do, but that is a skill we develop with practice, each one of us to a greater or lesser degree. Finally, it is high time professional caregivers and the general public ceased trying to make us "see," in the belief that the crux of our problem is our blindness. We will only achieve true freedom when they accept us as we are, recognize that we individually have as wide a range of capabilities and shortcomings as any sighted person, and grant us equal employment opportunities and full participation in society.
Avraham Rabby, Tel-Aviv Israel
A Report by Pat Renfranz, Sandy Taboada, and Jill Weatherd
From the Editor: The authors of this report are parents of blind students and active leaders at the national level within the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) and the National Federation of the Blind. They are also well known as advocates for blind children within their states of Utah, Louisiana, and Wyoming. This article results from a report written as a textbooks-on-time committee assignment from the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). It is reprinted from Future Reflections, vol. 27, no. 1. It demonstrates one more area in which leaders in state and federal departments of education are short-changing teachers and students across the country. A law is in place that should ensure that blind students get their books on time, yet very rarely is it happening. Here is the NOPBC report:
Many parents of blind children struggle with the knowledge that the general educational community seems to believe that it is acceptable for blind children’s Braille, audio, or other accessible formats of textbooks (and, by extension, other educational materials) to arrive chronically late, long after classes have begun. As parents, we?the authors of this report?have been told by our school authorities that late-arriving books are “just the way that it is.” At the NFB convention this past July in Atlanta, many parents from around the country attended an evening seminar sponsored by NOPBC entitled “Textbooks on Time: Update on NIMAS and NIMAC,” hoping to learn more about new methodologies for obtaining textbooks on time. This article grew out of a report on that session.
Getting Braille or other alternative formats of textbooks on time is the consequence of a long series of events, all of which must work in a timely fashion. Some events occur sequentially, and others occur on a parallel track. Some steps involve people with little or no appreciation for the time and effort required to produce textbooks in alternative formats, while other steps involve those with directly applicable skills, for example, transcribing and producing Braille. Here are some of the steps:
1. Textbooks for all students must be adopted according to individual state rules. In some states texts are adopted at the state level. When one talks about textbook selection, such states are called adoption states. In this system local school districts (and sometimes individual schools) select which textbooks they will use from the state-approved list. Other states are considered nonadoption states. In these states texts are selected at the district level, or even sometimes school by school, from among all textbooks on the market. Textbook adoption comes in many flavors. School districts, in both adoption and nonadoption states, however, tend to adopt new textbooks every five to eight years.
2. Contracts for the purchase of texts are written, and states or districts purchase books as required by their schools.
3. Somehow this complex system of decision making also involves individual teachers who, in varying degrees, play a role in deciding which books will be used in their classrooms the following year.
4. At the district or sometimes local school level, the person in charge of ordering materials for a blind student must know which school the student will attend and each teacher that the blind student will be assigned to in the coming year. This person must contact each individual teacher to obtain a textbook list for his or her class. In many states or districts this task is assumed by the teacher of the visually impaired (TVI), but it may also be assigned to secretaries, administrative assistants, vice principals, or counselors. But let’s assume that it is the TVI. Once the TVI has the textbook list, he or she must check the student’s IEP to determine which formats are acceptable for which classes. ISBN numbers should be carefully checked, and, as the search for the textbook in the acceptable format begins, possible alternatives must be explored and identified as either acceptable or unacceptable. For example, if an older edition of a math textbook is available in Braille, but the more up-to-date edition the teacher will use is not, will the older version still be acceptable with minimal problems for the student and teacher?
5. The list of required textbooks and other required classroom books and materials is then cross-checked against various databases to see if the books or materials already exist in the required format. The TVI or someone else in the district or local school may be responsible for this, or it may be done by a centralized agency. In Utah, for example, the Educational Resource Center located on the campus of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind does this search. No one database is comprehensive, however. For example, the Louis database at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), while extensive and the primary source of textbook listings (especially Braille textbooks), does not list the recreational or literary books available through the Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) system. Sometimes commercially available materials from organizations such as Seedlings Braille Books for Children, Inc., or the National Braille Press are listed with these databases, and sometimes not. And books that have been individually Brailled by school districts probably are rarely registered with these databases.
6. Decisions must then be made about where to obtain the accessible materials. Textbooks can be purchased from an accessible material producer (such as APH); borrowed from another school or an agency specializing in the desired format (such as RFB&D—Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic); or produced in-state by the state resource center (if one exists) or under contract with, for example, a Braille transcriber.
7. After the search is completed and it is determined that one or more textbooks must be produced in the alternative format—Braille, recorded, or large print--then the order must be placed. Production complexity ranges dramatically depending on the type of textbook, when it was ordered, how many other orders the producer receives, how completely the district placing the order follows the instructions of the producer, and so forth. A book that requires many tactile diagrams, for example, could take many months to produce in Braille. A recorded book could be slowed down if the district sends the producer the incorrect edition or only one print copy of the text when two copies are required.
8. Produced materials must be shipped and delivered to the school. Shipments can be delayed, especially if they are shipped Free Matter for the Blind; shipments might arrive in the summer and be misplaced or lost before the school year starts; or the books might be shipped to the wrong school in the district. Braille textbooks are often cumbersome to store, and facilities must be adapted. A place in classrooms should be set aside where active volumes of books can be easily accessed by the student every day.
As you can tell, the concept of textbooks on time can fall through a lot of cracks. One year the textbooks for one of our children were simply never ordered; in another the incorrect edition of a math textbook was ordered. In some of our states textbooks are adopted so late in the year that it has been nearly impossible for accessible versions to be ready by the start of the school year.
This overview sets the stage for a discussion of the NOPBC workshop conducted at the 2007 NFB convention. The specific subject that the textbooks-on-time workshop panel addressed was the role of NIMAS. NIMAS stands for National Instructional Materials Access Standard. NIMAS addresses only one of the steps listed above: the production of a textbook in an alternative format. This step is a crucial one and can be extremely time-consuming. In order to learn more about NIMAS, Barbara Cheadle, NOPBC president, convened a panel of experts on this issue. The panel included Dr. Karen Blankenship (Iowa Department of Education and cochair of the Steering Committee of the National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities); Marty McKenzie (access technology coordinator and statewide vision consultant, South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind, South Carolina Department of Education); and Jim McCarthy (program specialist, NFB Governmental Affairs Office). We were also fortunate to be joined by Dr. Tuck Tinsley III (president of the American Printing House for the Blind).
We began with an overview of the National Instructional Materials Access Standard (NIMAS) and the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC). NIMAS was developed beginning in 2002 as a way to increase the accessibility of print instructional materials. It is, essentially, a standard that K-12 (kindergarten through twelfth grades) textbook publishers can use to format electronic files of their books. NIMAS is supposed to satisfy two concerns regarding electronic book files: (1) to protect the textbook from copyright infringement and (2) to standardize the electronic version of textbooks so that it is easier, faster, and more straightforward to produce a given textbook in an alternative format. NIMAS source files can be used to produce textbooks in student-ready specialized formats, such as Braille, audio, digital text, and large print. Currently NIMAS files can be used to produce books only for K-12 students with “qualifying disabilities.”
The NIMAC is the central repository for NIMAS files. The NIMAC is housed at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). Its function is to receive, store, and distribute publishers’ electronic files of print instructional materials in the NIMAS format. While NIMAC is housed at APH, Tuck Tinsley stressed that NIMAC is an entirely separate entity, thus freeing APH from any liability in regard to copyright infringement.
Educational materials covered by NIMAS are those considered to be core materials for K-12 students. Dr. Tinsley later clarified what this means. Within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the term “print instructional materials” means printed textbooks and related printed core materials that are written and published primarily for use in elementary school and secondary school instruction and are required by a state educational agency (SEA) or local educational agency (LEA) for use by students in the classroom. A continuing discussion between publishers and the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) conducts an ongoing debate about what specific materials are covered by NIMAS.
Qualifying disabilities are defined as “blind and print handicapped.”
Our understanding was that disagreements in defining “print handicapped” initially
led to difficulty in establishing a NIMAS format with which publishers would
be satisfied. This in turn has made Braille production from NIMAS files more
laborious than it might have been. However, Tuck Tinsley later said that, within
the language of IDEA, the term “blind or other persons with print disabilities”
means those who qualify to receive books and other publications produced in
specialized formats in accordance with the federal act entitled “An Act to provide
books for the adult blind” (2 U.S.C. 135a; 46 Stat. 1487).
The Association for Educational Publishers, in a memo dated November 27, 2006, to the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs, states that, “Indeed, no child will have access to all of the textbooks and core related materials to be submitted to the NIMAC, only to those that are used in their classroom.” This means that the NIMAS file of an accessible textbook is not available to your student if it is not in use in his or her specific classroom, even if that textbook was adopted by your state. Our research shows that the textbook publishing industry is also very concerned that NIMAS files used to produce an accessible textbook for one qualifying child could be subsequently used as a textbook for another child, qualifying or not. The U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs, however, states that, “If students are NIMAS eligible, an SEA or LEA can use the specialized format already derived from NIMAS file sets for other NIMAS-eligible students. However, SEAs and LEAs may not share these specialized formats with students who are not NIMAS eligible, even though they may benefit.”
Not every state has opted into the NIMAC system. However, according to IDEA 2004, regardless of their relationship with the NIMAC, both the state and local educational authorities are responsible for ensuring that accessible specialized formats are provided to students with print disabilities in a timely manner. On our NOPBC panel at the convention, Marty McKenzie (South Carolina), noted that there is really no good reason why a state would choose to opt out of participation in NIMAC. The states that have chosen to opt out do so typically because of fear of copyright infringement lawsuits.
Each state, we have learned, has its own process for adopting textbooks for K-12. Depending on the state, textbooks can be adopted at either the state or local level (or both). Publishers are required to provide textbook files to NIMAC after a state (or other purchasing agent) has contracted with a publisher to provide them. Indeed the requirement to send the electronic files to NIMAC should appear in the contract. Textbook adoption deadlines become important when states adopt textbooks late in the school year because this delays deposition of NIMAS-formatted electronic files of textbooks into NIMAC, which in turn delays the production of the book in an accessible format. The good news is that, according to Tuck Tinsley, as of September 2007 approximately two thousand certified file sets are in the NIMAC repository, a very large number of which have been contributed by publishers voluntarily in advance of a purchase contract requiring their submission. Dr. Tinsley later noted that state and local representatives are still in the process of learning how to write contracts requiring the deposition of files from publishers and also how to convert the NIMAS files once they get them.
According to a presentation about NIMAS by Julia Myers and Nicole Gaines at the 2007 Getting in Touch with Literacy conference, as of October 15, 2007, forty states were coordinating with NIMAC, fifty-one authorized users of NIMAC, and forty-three registered Accessible Media Producers. Forty publishers were thus far participating, contributing 2,109 files, with 527 downloads. Tuck Tinsley told us that he has been “pleasantly surprised at the number of publishers who are working in advance of receiving contracts and are preparing and submitting files for materials they are currently marketing for new contracts.”
Deposited textbook files, however, are not formatted books. One important distinction that parents must recognize is that these formatted textbook files are not electronic copies of the book that can be directly embossed into Braille or placed on a student’s electronic note-taking device. The NIMAS files are not student-ready, and no one ever intended for them to be seen or used by students in this raw form. The files must first be converted to the finished specialized format by an AMP (Accessible Media Producer). NIMAC, in fact, does not work directly with students, individual schools, teachers, or parents.
When a state educational authority agrees to coordinate with NIMAC,
it designates a small number of authorized users of NIMAS files. An authorized
user can download the files comprising a textbook and can also designate an
AMP to download files as its agent. Only these authorized users and their designated
AMPs can download files from the NIMAC. So, once a book order comes into the
state’s NIMAS program, the authorized user can choose the AMP to use during
the ordering process. AMPs can include individuals such as Braille transcribers
at your state’s school for the blind or organizations and agencies such as Prose
and Cons, Bookshare, and RFB&D. Downloaded files can be converted into formats
that allow for Braille production, audio production, digital-text production,
and large-print production.
A list of authorized users is not publicly available. Primary state contacts for NIMAS/NIMAC are available at <http://nimas.cast.org/about/resources/nimas_nimac_contacts.html>. The over two hundred AMPs can be found at <http://www.aph.org/ampdb.htm>.
Learning how to access NIMAS file sets and how to convert books from NIMAS files into user-friendly files is a challenging endeavor. With time AMPs will gain the experience required to convert NIMAS files into the necessary specialized formats, especially Braille. According to APH President Tinsley, training on how to do this conversion is offered by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). In the meantime SEAs and LEAs are still trying to figure out how to handle NIMAS and NIMAC.
Marty McKenzie, resource center director from South Carolina, remarked that, once an authorized user has converted the NIMAS file into another format, the user can share the reformatted file with, or produce the textbook for, others and perhaps list it on the Louis database at APH. This could potentially save a lot of time and duplication of effort among individual Braillists or other AMPs. However, textbook publishers, as represented by the AAP and the AEP, are understandably wary about the easy transfer of downloaded files (they have their profit margin to protect, after all) and about how NIMAS-produced materials might be made available to students who do not qualify as blind or print-disabled. As reported in the meeting minutes from the NIMAC Development Committee Meeting in January 2007, publishers are quite concerned about what happens to digital media after an AMP has made it accessible. Can an AMP make money selling the product to multiple users? Can an AMP make the product available to students who do not strictly qualify under NIMAS criteria? Where is the protection for the intellectual property that a textbook represents? The publishing industry is formidable; hence the existence of NIMAS file formats, authorized users, authorized media producers, and tight rules and regulations governing the use of NIMAS file sets.
There is some question whether publishers must submit materials to NIMAC that have been published after July 2006, or if they must submit materials that are being sold after July 2006, independent of the copyright. If the requirement is interpreted to mean that only textbooks published after July 2006 are subject to the NIMAS rules, and the typical life of a textbook is five to eight years, then a book published anytime before July 2006 could be marketed and used in your child’s classroom until 2011 or later without being subject to the NIMAS requirements.
Another important issue is that there is currently no method for using NIMAS to produce math textbooks (or other core materials in Nemeth Braille Code), nor are NIMAS files compatible with the production of tactile diagrams. Furthermore, descriptions of figures are included in the NIMAS file only if provided by the publisher. Since math and science textbooks are more difficult to produce in an alternative format in the first place, clearly we need to work with publishers to establish a file format that is compatible with science and math material production; progress is being made in this regard for good digital audio production. There is also currently no best method to determine the “pedagogical intent” of a diagram, figure, or graph and how to include that information in NIMAS files. Many users and supporters of NIMAS are trying to encourage publishers to include figures and graphs in a file format called SVG. This format allows for the best (so far) translation into a tactile format. Students who receive high-quality tactile graphics in their textbooks will learn the material better and will also perform better on high-stakes tests in which such professionally produced tactile graphics are highly likely to be present.
At the 2007 NOPBC workshop, several parents asked whether APH could monitor textbook production, including timeliness and quality. Dr. Tinsley was very clear on one thing: APH’s goal is for all students to receive their textbooks when needed. However, he later told NOPBC that APH cannot, unfortunately, require states to send data about when students receive their textbooks. APH could request that its ex officio trustees provide this information. (APH ex officio trustees are representatives from each state designated to collect the data APH requires for the management and distribution of the federal quota fund materials to that state.) He explained that APH had surveyed trustees to determine estimated percentages of students who do not have textbooks when needed and the time lag until they actually received them. He further said that APH plans to conduct another such survey soon.
But it seems to us that there are some potential problems with this type of survey. Essentially APH is asking the trustees, who have a stake in how their state’s educational programs for blind children are rated, to make a good faith effort to identify not only systems that work but also those that need improvement. Although Dr. Tinsley said that “timely manner” is considered to be the first day of school or the first day of the particular class, some authorities may think that merely making a good faith effort is sufficient to satisfy the goal of on time. These biases may influence the ability of trustees to answer these questions objectively. Is "timely manner" defined state by state? As one parent has said, the reason we have NIMAS is that people's "reasonable efforts" kept resulting in late textbooks. NIMAC’s role (remember, NIMAC is administered by APH, but it is totally separate from other APH functions) in this process is only one piece of the puzzle: providing immediate access to files needed to create the accessible formats.
There is some good news and, we hope, progress. In October 2007 the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) was awarded nearly $5 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education to speed the delivery of accessible teaching materials to students with disabilities. CAST has organized the Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) Consortium that will, according to the CAST press release, “explore the most efficient means to provide students with disabilities the materials they need to access, participate, and achieve in the general educational curriculum.”
The AIM Consortium includes Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The goals include developing state systems to increase the timely provision of accessible materials. If your state is listed as a member of the consortium, it may be worth contacting the person in charge in your state to see if he or she requires feedback from users (our children) of the materials for timeliness and quality.
What needs to be done, and what can we--the consumers acting individually and collectively through NOPBC and the NFB--do to monitor and encourage continued progress toward making textbooks-on-time a reality? Here are some ideas, some of which were generated by the 2007 NOPBC workshop, some by our NOPBC committee research, and some through a recent committee meeting with the NFB Jernigan Institute Education Programs, the NFB Governmental Affairs Office, and the NOPBC:
1. If your state opted out of using the NIMAC and your student does not get his or her textbooks on time (the first day they are needed), make sure to report this to your state education agency and send a copy to the NFB governmental affairs office, attention: Books on Time. Check the NFB Website for details, <www.nfb.org>. The NFB is looking for information and trends that will help us determine if or what actions might be taken to move us closer to the goal of textbooks on time.
2. Your state may be an opt-in state, but your child or student may continue to have problems with getting textbooks on time. Again, report this to your state education agency and send a copy to the NFB governmental affairs office, attention: Books on Time (see above).
3. We must support efforts allowing the production of math textbooks in the Nemeth Braille code directly from NIMAS file sets. We want to find a way to get textbook publishers to encourage their authors to include instructive descriptions of figures, where appropriate, in the NIMAS file set and, further, to encourage illustrators to format graphics so that tactile diagrams can be straightforward to produce. If you have knowledge, ideas, or connections that will help us achieve these goals, contact our NOPBC Textbooks on Time committee chairperson, Pat Renfranz at <[email protected]>.
4. States or school districts should be required to adopt textbooks in a timely manner so that there is time to produce them in the needed format. We can educate our LEAs and SEAs about this need and help them realize that "textbooks on time" needs to be taken literally. We can work within our state NFB affiliates and other advocacy organizations to find solutions within our states.
5. It is currently difficult to find up-to-date listings of states participating in NIMAC. We can encourage NIMAC and CAST to list states that have opted to participate in the NIMAC program and also to list the registered users on a state-by-state basis.
6. Some blind or visually impaired children are served under Section
504 of the Rehabilitation Act but are not being provided special education services
under IDEA. Access to textbooks through the NIMAS is a condition of IDEA, not
the legislation that governs rehabilitative services. There is some question
in the industry about whether 504 students are eligible to use NIMAC-deposited
files or products derived from them.
Summary by Pat Renfranz
My father is a retired engineer. When I spoke with him about this article and the complexities of getting textbooks in alternative formats on time, he told me about Critical Path Method (CPM), a technique used in project engineering that ensures that all the steps required to complete a complex project are done on time and to proper specifications. Maybe it’s time we apply CPM to textbook ordering so that it can be a streamlined process. This would include (1) a list of all activities required to complete the project, (2) the time that each activity will take to completion, and (3) the dependencies between the activities. CPM determines which activities are critical and which can be delayed without making the project longer. In my view any delay that results in that sinking feeling that my child has when her materials are not ready would be unacceptable.
This Website has a lot of detailed information about NIMAS and an excellent FAQ page: <http://nimas.cast.org>.
This Webpage from the Department of Education has a section devoted to NIMAS/NIMAC: <http://idea.ed.gov/explore/home>.
To find out how textbooks are selected in your state, go to this site from
the Education Commission of the States:
The listing of primary state contacts for NIMAS is available at <http://nimas.cast.org/about/resources/nimas_nimac_contacts.html>.
Anyone can search the NIMAC database to see which textbooks have been deposited by publishers by going to the Website: <http://www.nimac.us/> then selecting the link “Enter the NIMAC Repository.”
Additionally, over two hundred alternative media producers are currently listed on APH’s AMP Database. You can search this database by visiting: <http://www.aph.org/ampdb.htm>.
The NIMAS program is filled with lots of jargon, acronyms, and organizations with which parents may not be familiar. Here are some definitions and resources that may be of interest to you:
NIMAS stands for the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard, which is used by K–12 curriculum publishers to produce source files of a given textbook. These files can subsequently be used to produce the textbook in a specialized format such as Braille, digital text, or audio for students with print disabilities. Standardizing the file format makes it more straightforward to convert a textbook into an accessible format. For a given textbook the full set of files includes XML content files, a package file, images, and a PDF file of the title page (or whichever page contains ISBN and copyright information).
NIMAC stands for the National Instructional Materials Access Center; in other words, this is the site where the textbook files are deposited by the book publisher. The NIMAC repository was established at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH).
CAST is the Center for Applied Special Technology. It is a nonprofit organization that, among other things, hosts the federally funded NIMAS Development and Technical Assistance centers for the delivery of accessible instructional materials. CAST is not focused exclusively on blind or visually impaired students.
SEA and LEA are the State Educational Authority and the Local Educational Authority.
AAP and AEP: The Association of American Publishers and the Association of Educational Publishers are two large trade organizations that represent publishers of textbooks and other educational materials.
SVG refers to Scalable Vector Graphics. This is a digital language used to
represent graphical figures.
by Barbara Loos
From the Editor: Barbara Loos is a longtime leader of the National Federation of the Blind and a frequent contributor to the Braille Monitor. In the following little essay she exactly captures the tug-of-war we all feel sometimes when the desire to provide a good role model slams full tilt into the fear of failing. Here is her story:
When I first heard about Make a Difference Day, I felt conflicted about participating. Doing so would mean skipping the Lincoln Chapter meeting of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska, which meets on the fourth Saturday of the month. I didn’t want to miss the October meeting. I was to have responsibilities there, including reporting on my involvement in AmeriCorps, since NFB-N is my host site. On the other hand, one of my goals as an AmeriCorps member is to increase the involvement of the blind in the community, and here was a chance. But this would be one of those big group ventures, complete with transportation hassles, logistical nightmares, and the possibility of a token role only for me, in which my own incompetence might make all blind people look bad. Wouldn’t my time be better spent fulfilling responsibilities I knew how to handle? But how could I report to the NFBN that I had chosen not to participate in a community event, when part of what I had agreed to do in taking the AmeriCorps assignment was to promote our equality by example?
Thus I argued with myself until I received an email message that helped me to decide. It said, in part: “I wanted to ask you how you felt about coming to this service day even if we figure out transportation. It seems like it may be hard for you to be involved with the activity. I am worried that it won't be very easy for you to be involved with cutting down the plants and navigating around the bumpy ground of the garden. What do you think? Another possibility is that I pick you up just for the lunch so that you can come hear about Community CROPS. Let me know. I want you to be involved as much as you would like.”
There they were again, those familiar, seemingly unlikely companions, Stereotype and Encouragement, each offering me an invitation. Since they had been presented to me as one, I responded to both simultaneously, writing back: “I do want to participate in Saturday's activity. One of my goals for being an AmeriCorps member is to stretch myself. Another goal is to help create opportunities for other blind people. Yet another is to help others want to include blind people in all aspects of life and work. If I shy away from either things I don't know how to do or activities others aren't comfortable with my doing, I defeat my goals and cheapen AmeriCorps in the process.
“Bumpy ground, both physical and mental, is very familiar to me. I haven't had much experience cutting down plants but am willing to give it my best effort. I learned a long time ago that, if we take away all chance of failure, we also remove any possibility for success.
“It would be embarrassing to me to come just for the lunch and presentation. I would feel like a slacker alongside my fellow members. I want to raise expectations for blind people, not lower them.
“There have been times in my life when, sensing others' discomfort with my participation, I have bowed out in order to allow everyone else her/his comfort zone. I'm not doing that this time. I hope we all have a positive experience.”
To my immense relief it was Encouragement who replied: “Barbara, You have impressed me many times already this year with the way you speak up and get involved. Please let me know if I have offended you or ever do in the future when talking about your abilities. I am glad you are part of this team, not only because you are teaching the other members about working with someone who is blind, but because you are a strong member with a positive attitude. I am glad that you will be part of the team on Saturday. Thank you!”
When fellow member Isau and her boyfriend Travis picked me up the day of the garden cleanup, I was grateful for the ride but still a bit apprehensive about the project. Isau’s up-front approach, though, soon dissolved my apprehension. She said she had been asked to help me during the activity but wasn’t sure what that meant. What did I need for her to do? I said that I wanted to really participate, so if, for example, someone said to get tools right here and use them in the plot over there, gesturing to indicate what they meant, it would be helpful to know where “right here” and “over there” were. And if someone pointed out visually which plants to pull, showing me physically by placing my hands on them would be useful--things like that. I did not need a sitter. When she laughed, handed me an extra pair of garden gloves she had brought (I had mentioned that mine had disappeared when I had moved last), and said that she didn’t see any problem with doing that, I took a deep breath of the crisp October air, stepped out of the car, extended my cane in front of me, and walked confidently beside her into the unknown.
Looking back on it, I’m still a bit surprised that I, who came,
folded paper towels in hand, to my children’s bedsides asking where they had
thrown up so I could clean it up without touching it, willingly, even enthusiastically,
volunteered to shovel manure and rake slimy, stinky grass clippings on the morning
of Make a Difference Day. And I’m still uplifted by memories of conversation
and camaraderie while working with fellow members that afternoon. As we pulled
out whatever dared to cling to the soil of our second garden, I felt not only
the tangible difference our weeding was making for whoever had cultivated that
ground, but also the exhilaration that uprooting and discarding misconceptions
about blindness always brings. Thank you, AmeriCorps, for this chance to make
a difference, both in our community and for me personally.
by Ruby Ryles
From the Editor: The following presentation was part of a panel discussion at a conference sponsored by the Rehabilitation Services Administration in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2002. The other members of the panel were Dr. William Weiner, Donna Sauerburger, and Dr. Edward Bell. At that time Dr. Ryles directed the orientation and mobility graduate program at Louisiana Tech University that Dr. Bell directs today. Dr. Ryles now directs the programs for teachers of blind students. Those interested in learning more about teaching orientation and mobility or teaching blind students should contact the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at (318) 257-4554. What Dr. Ryles says here is as true today as it was when she delivered these remarks. This is what she said:
In this session we are looking at two models of instruction in the teaching of orientation and mobility: (1) the historically dominant model based on what Richard Mettler and other authors term the “vision paradigm,” which uses guided learning, and (2) the more recent instructional model based on the cognitive paradigm that employs structured-discovery learning.
The vision paradigm of the traditional model is characterized by the necessity to operate from a visual model of the world in order to travel independently. In this paradigm vision is synonymous with safety; vision loss is synonymous with danger; and specifically without vision is considered difficult and hazardous. O&M instructors approximate the visual experience through verbal reports of the instructor’s own visual observations of the environment. Two clear commitments arise from the conventional model of O&M instruction: (1) that travel students need constant and ongoing monitoring throughout their training, and (2) that it is necessary to conduct that monitoring visually to insure that students receive accurate visual information about the environment. An awareness of the fact that this model relies strongly on a visual understanding of the environment answers many questions.
In the cognitive paradigm of the structured-discovery model, the role of the instructor is not to approximate the visual experience and constantly monitor the student during training, but to assist the student in becoming increasingly able to relate the physical mechanics of cane travel to the cognitive skills that define independent travel. Richard Mettler sums up a basic commitment of the discovery-learning model for us: travel instruction doesn’t begin until the student no longer thinks he requires external monitoring. Up to that point in the discovery-learning method, learning has been guided. But structured-discovery learning depends on a Socratic method of teaching. From this point forward in training, learning is structured so that the student discovers critical travel concepts rather than having them presented by an instructor. In the early lessons the student is placed in such a secure environment that concerns for safety are actually issues for counseling rather than genuine safety concerns. At the very heart of the structured-discovery method of teaching travel is an unwavering belief in the ability of human beings to travel independently without sight.
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan defined independent travel as “the ability
to go where you want when you want, without inconvenience to yourself or others.”
In order to instill the kind of confidence that underlies true independent travel,
orientation centers and university O&M training programs must cast aside
the ideology that travel without sight is inherently dangerous; in other words,
we cannot teach fear.
The travel environment is designed for and by sighted people. A fear of navigating the environment without sight is a key issue that instructors should address before the first travel lesson begins. Independent travel means the blind student takes responsibility for his own safety and does not feel the need to depend on sight--either his own nor someone else’s--for safety. Independent travel means that the average blind person who has good training can navigate any pedestrian situation that the average sighted person can navigate. It means that, once training is completed, a blind person does not need an O&M instructor to orient him to a new campus, community, or job site; rather he is capable of orienting himself to his new environment.
Because the structured-discovery method is a nonvisual method of learning to travel, travel students in training wear sleepshades during all lessons. Why not use residual vision during training? After all, when training is completed, no one will wear sleepshades to travel, right? People seek O&M training because using their vision to travel no longer works for them. They come to us for help because they feel limited in the daily routines of their lives; they feel unsafe and unwilling to travel alone in new environments. Instead of using magnifiers and gadgets that depend on fluctuating and often failing vision, why not teach nonvisual travel? By simple definition; if you are learning nonvisual techniques of travel, you can’t use your vision. Therefore it is reasonable and necessary to occlude vision to learn nonvisual techniques.
Here it should be noted that a little sleepshade use is worse than none at all, because what you have really taught is fear. When you decide to teach nonvisual techniques, you need to commit thoroughly to it. If the instructor understands the need for nonvisual training, then sleepshade use is not even an issue to be discussed. In other words, you let students know that sleepshades are a part of the curriculum and why. And, as I’m sure we all know by now, informed choice does not mean that students can choose not to use sleepshades. Sleepshades are a part of the curriculum. They cannot be used for a few hours or a few weeks. Because students don’t have enough time to get over the fear of thinking of the world in nonvisual terms, the entire curriculum should be taught under sleepshades. If we agree that blind people need to learn nonvisual techniques, I don’t know how it can be done without using sleepshades.
Instructor Competence: It is truly embarrassing even to state this principle because it is simply common sense. It is foundational to this method of teaching travel: the instructor must be a model of nonvisual travel skills for students. Blind instructors must be excellent cane users and independent travelers; sighted and partially sighted instructors must be excellent cane users and independent travelers under sleepshades. That shouldn’t be hard to understand. In no other field do we endorse teachers who are personally unable to perform the tasks they are hired to teach. The teacher who can do only basic math would not be hired by a school district to teach algebra; none of our own children were taught to read by individuals who themselves could not read. Blind people deserve no less from their mobility instructors.
Blind Mobility Instructors: Because structured discovery is a nonvisual method of learning to travel, blind instructors often have an advantage. A skilled blind traveler has typically encountered and solved normal travel situations that sighted instructors often view as travel problems to be avoided by the blind--large parking lots; bus, train, and subway stations; airports; wide streets with various turn lanes and islands; street and sidewalk construction sites; and on and on--all are a part of daily travel for skilled blind travelers and sighted pedestrians alike. How totally effective from an educational standpoint for an instructor to teach by sharing travel experiences with his students--any teacher does it. It is simply good teaching.
But can a blind instructor both teach and monitor travel students? A large percentage of us in this room know the answer to that. Prominent agencies for the blind in the United States have sought out blind instructors for decades. The Nebraska agency has a long and distinguished history that spans years of recruiting qualified blind instructors; Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa, Louisiana, and more recently Texas are just a few of the agencies providing excellent travel training to their states’ blind citizens using blind mobility instructors.
But, when you hire a blind mobility instructor, two issues are paramount. First, the instructor must have outstanding personal travel skills--meaning that, if he is not totally blind, he must be an excellent traveler under sleepshades. This is an absolutely fundamental part of structured-discovery learning for sighted and blind instructors alike.
Second, it is absolutely critical that blind and low-vision instructors understand and use the alternative techniques of blind instructors while teaching and monitoring O&M students. In the conventional model of teaching O&M, blind instructors who have residual vision are taught to use their sight to teach and monitor students. Infinite travel situations arise daily in which a blind instructor’s partial vision is simply dangerous to depend on, specifically in the early stages of training when their students cannot be expected to be responsible for their own safety and must depend on the skills of the blind instructor.
This brings me to an example of the primary problem in the university training of blind instructors. I am very concerned about the implication of a statement made to me by the head of a university O&M degree program. University O&M programs know they cannot refuse to accept otherwise qualified blind applicants for O&M programs. The Louisiana Tech program actively recruits blind and sighted candidates. About three-quarters of our students are blind--and yes, all graduates have multiple job opportunities. This director said to me, “Ruby, because of ADA and other civil rights laws, we know we have to [admit blind students to our degree program], but, we don’t know what to do with them.” We don’t know what to do with them--his concern about the safety of blind mobility instructors was correct. His university program uses the traditional model of training--a visual model--and he was just being honest. He had no idea how a blind instructor would safely monitor students. The director of this university program was right on. A blind instructor must know and use the alternative techniques that are specific to blind instructors, and those skills depend on the blind instructor’s own personal level of travel skills. We cannot jeopardize the safety of blind people for politics.
Canes: The Louisiana Tech University O&M program teaches the structured-discovery learning method of O&M, and like the orientation centers that use this method, our students learn to travel using the long, rigid fiberglass cane. We have found this cane to be a better fit for the structured-discovery method of learning and teaching for several reasons. (1) It is lighter than traditional aluminum canes, making constant use of a cane less tiring (2) This method of learning depends on senses other than vision, so the cane needs to provide good tactile and auditory feedback from a wide variety of surfaces. These canes were designed years ago by blind cane users to do just that. Aluminum canes with nylon tips, particularly the folding ones with joints and elastic cord through the shaft of the cane, tend to mask tactile feedback, and they make the teaching of tactile cues very difficult and limited. We find that longer, lighter canes with metal tips provide pronounced tactile feedback, allowing the user to discern (with practice) far more subtle differences between tactile surfaces than traditional heavier aluminum canes allow. Being able to tell the difference between concrete and asphalt surfaces gives the student valuable information about the environment. (3) Because of the design and composition of the tip--called a glide tip--this type of cane provides good auditory feedback to both users and instructors. The clean click of the cane tip on various hard surfaces and its ability to glide easily over minor cracks provides not only valuable information to the traveler, but also greater ease of use. As with the cane, the tip too was designed by blind cane users.
The fiberglass cane is designed for use as a long cane--measuring from a person’s chin or nose, depending on the individual. This length allows for a more natural stride and walking speed because the length of the cane increases reaction time. The long cane eliminates the need to extend the arm in order to use the cane because the cane itself provides the extension and allows a more relaxed grip on the cane and position of the hand and arm. Centers and instructors using discovery learning insist that students use the long rigid cane and not folding or collapsible canes while they are in training.
It could be said that one drawback of the structured-discovery method is that it takes longer to learn. Remember that Mettler says that travel instruction doesn’t begin until the student no longer thinks he requires external monitoring. Before getting to the point where O&M instruction can begin, students need an entire curriculum of skill training, much of it guided by the instructor. Probably six to nine months with daily hour-and-a-half-to-two-hour travel lessons will allow for the development of the student’s ability to solve travel problems set up by the instructor. The instructor provides observed and independent travel assignments that contain increasingly difficult travel problems as the student’s ability to handle these situations increases.
I need to interject here that an independent travel assignment is meant to be just that–independent. The student has reached a point where the instructor has confidence in his or her skills and ability to work through travel problems independently. The instructor does not covertly follow the student on an independent travel route, lurking behind bushes to appear and rescue the student from confusing travel problems. Independent means solo, alone, unmonitored, unaccompanied, by yourself.
There is a great deal of misinformation about the structured-discovery method of learning and teaching O&M. One is the concept of teaching multiple students. Structured-discovery learning recognizes the value of teaching multiple students, but normally two, and no more than three in a class. And it is the responsibility of the instructor to know the skill levels of his students because student skill levels must be comparable or teaching is not possible. Teaching multiple students is a wonderful way to encourage the development of problem-solving skills among students. Again students learning from one another is and always has been good basic educational practice.
Structured-discovery learning is as much about what we don’t teach as it is about what we do teach. We don’t teach sighted guide. Not because it isn’t useful--it is. We teach nonvisual independent travel; sighted guide is neither nonvisual nor independent. I guess that really isn’t true. Roland Allen is Louisiana Tech’s award-winning program instructor. He is certified NOMC and did tell me he spends about fifteen minutes of his total curriculum time teaching students sighted guide. With or without instruction, blind people use sighted guide at various times--we don’t need to spend valuable program time teaching our O&M students something most blind people have been using all their lives.
We don’t teach task analysis. You know what that is--when common activities, such as finding a chair or turning around in an elevator are broken into numerous unnecessary steps. O&M is not a science; it is common sense.
We also don’t teach O&M through distance education. In most
universities today professionals can obtain degrees never having even met a
blind person until they are ready to begin teaching. You can learn about blindness
from textbooks, professional literature, and lectures, but to know blindness,
you need to learn with and from blind people. We do not want our O&M students
to be in a position of authority over blind people until they have learned from
blind instructors, spent countless hours with blind acquaintances and blind
professionals, and know quite literally hundreds of blind people. The Louisiana
Tech O&M students spend much of their program time immersed in the Louisiana
Center for the Blind doing those very things. The respect that the students
gain for blind people--both as a class and as individuals--cannot be taught
in a standard academic setting. The lessons they learn from the immersion experience
change their attitudes and expectations in a way that is impossible to achieve
in any way other than getting to know blindness by knowing blind people.
If to you independent travel means “the ability to go where you want, when you want, without inconvenience to yourself or others,” your students will not need to call on an O&M instructor to show them how to get around a new campus, new community, or new job site. Not only are problem-solving skills transferable, but by design the locus of control is transferred early from the instructor to the blind student. If this is your definition of independence, your students will not need to return for more training when additional vision loss occurs because they already know how to handle travel problems with no vision.
“Independent travel”--those words are probably the most commonly used phrase in the field of O&M, but it is our definition of independent travel that determines our expectations for our students. Probably the next most common phrase is “but we do that,” which is often said by those not trained in the structured-discovery method and who just don’t get it. But then the O&M field is very territorial, and some people just don’t want to get it. Structured-discovery-trained instructors are providing agencies and consumers with a choice. The blindness field has always had choices of types of training in various centers and agencies across the country. Now the O&M field offers a choice of instructor training.
In this amount of time it is impossible to do even an adequate job of explaining the structured-discovery method of learning and teaching travel. At the very heart of this method is an unbending, unshakeable, gut-level, resolute belief in the abilities of blind people. You can’t understand and certainly can’t teach this method without it because that belief is the very spirit that drives structured discovery and the professionals who use it. The structured-discovery method of teaching travel is like the definition of independent travel–either you get it or you don’t. I know a lot of you in this room get it, and I know Ed Kunz gets it. Thank you for listening.
by Robert Leslie Newman
From the Editor: Robert Leslie Newman is president of the NFB Writers Division. As the editor of the Braille Monitor I agree with the points he makes in the following article:
It happened to me again--I wrote something based on what I had heard read aloud, and it was spelled wrong. It was the name of a friend, and I misspelled it because I assumed it was spelled like the name of another friend. I hate it when I make mistakes like this, and I really don’t have a good excuse because I am a Braille reader. But alas I must confess that I read most of my email and longer pieces using speech, either by synthesized voice on my computer or the recorded human voice from my Talking Book machine. So I feel compelled to write about this hearing-of-the-written-word thing versus the reading-of-the-written-word method. On the one hand I appreciate the convenience of voiced material; however, when I realize the magnitude of its negative impact on my literacy and feel how surely I am its victim, I do acknowledge that it is my responsibility to manage this deficit by using the blindness alternatives available to me.
First, let me go on record by saying that Talking Books or reading by any auditory medium in and of itself is not a bad thing because keeping up with information that comes through newspapers, magazines, and books is an endeavor worth doing, no matter how we accomplish it. In fact, for the largest group of blind people, those of us who used to be print readers, listening to recorded material is an immediate and easy fix for the deprivation of print, since it requires little to no new learning, just becoming familiar with the Talking Book player or screen-reading software.
But what are the limitations of listening to the written word and not reading it yourself? Talking Books by their very nature provide a quick and inexpensive presentation of material. The rules governing Talking Book narrators preclude description of the way the passage is laid out. It is rare to have the name of a person or place spelled or to be informed of punctuation or formatting. The goal is to provide an easy-to-listen-to flow of the material. So how would a reader/listener know if two names pronounced the same way were spelled differently? Additionally, though we may learn punctuation rules in the classroom, most of us cement them into our writing by seeing them used correctly in the material we read.
What are the consequences of listening versus reading? When we speak of the reading process, it is important to note the significant difference between reading through listening and reading through the fingers or eyes. Considered as mental activity, listening is passive. Reading tactilely or visually, on the other hand, is active, and active learning has a positive effect on building short- and long-term memory. Guess what happens to anyone who reads using voiced material only when the intent is actually learning, not just enjoying? Think of the consequences to a student who uses recorded books as the primary method of reading. Consider the quality of a writer’s work if he or she depends solely on listening to read style or reference material.
The nonprint student or reader who wishes to write for others has reading options, and it is his or her responsibility to learn what they are and make use of them. The first and most obvious alternative is Braille. However, we are in an era in which Braille is not widely encouraged, even though it is more available than ever because of the ease with which the written word can be digitized and translated into Braille. Braille translation software has made conversion fast. File storage is extremely efficient, and refreshable Braille displays have made most hard copy unnecessary. Almost best of all, the price of acquiring Braille is less than ever. So is Braille for everyone? Of course not. But if you don’t read using Braille and are reading with a computer, it is imperative when using names of people or places to develop the discipline to stop on unfamiliar words to note their spelling. Additionally, if using the spell-check when writing, examine each so-called misspelled word and check to be sure that the program has not flagged a word that you know to be spelled correctly. If you believe that the spell-check has the word in question in its dictionary, look down the list of suggestions for the correct word. Assuming that the first choice or the first word that sounds right is the one you should choose can get you into bad trouble. It is easy to choose a similar-sounding word or a homophone (a word that sounds the same but may be spelled differently from the one you really want). You can also use the grammar checker in your screen-reading software that provides information about punctuation and formatting. This will catch many errors, but it is not perfect; it makes lots of mistakes and flags many perfectly good word choices. Finally, if you are a reader who does not use Braille or the computer, good luck correcting spelling and format. Your task is multistep, time consuming, and dependent on feedback from other readers.
In conclusion, I would say that, if you want to learn to tell
stories, any form of reading, Talking Books, screen readers, or Braille will
help. But if you want to learn how to write a story down, you must find a way
actively to read good writing, not just listen to it. So be smart; develop and
use effective blindness alternatives.
by Louise Walch
From the Editor: Louise Walch is the National Certification in Literary Braille (NCLB) coordinator employed by the National Professional Blindness Certification Board. In the following article she summarizes the evolution of the effort to acknowledge and certificate those who demonstrate their competence to read, write, and teach Braille.
During the 1990s leaders in the blindness field urged
the National Library Service (NLS) to create a test to measure expertise in
dealing with the literary Braille code and to validate the results of the tests
of those who took it. The NLS developed that test but became bogged down during
the validation process. In 2005 they handed the project over to the National
Federation of the Blind, who updated, pilot-tested, and completed validation
of the test’s content. We also conducted some pilot tests. The NFB then sought
an entity to manage the ongoing administration of the test because we were not
interested in supervising test administration permanently, so in 2007 the National
Blindness Professional Certification Board took over the effort and is now conducting
the tests for those interested in achieving this gold standard of Braille Competency.
So, as we said, Louise Walsh now coordinates national certification in literary
Braille testing. She describes the evolution of the test and the exciting future
we can all anticipate for it. This is what she says:
Everyone interested in the advancement of Braille literacy will be pleased to know that the long-awaited National Certification in Literary Braille (NCLB) is finally here. At times such as these, when literacy among blind people is critically low, we recognize the need to establish some minimum standard of Braille competence for teachers of the blind. The standard has now been established, the test has been devised and thoroughly piloted, and the first NCLB certificates have been awarded with the expectation of many more to come.
The process of testing and certifying literary Braille users has now been entrusted to the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB). The test materials have been modified only slightly to reflect changes in purpose and target population. The test has not been substantially changed from its earlier version administered by the NLS. However, those who now take the test have the advantage of becoming candidates to receive the National Certification in Literary Braille (NCLB). All NCLB certificants are entitled to present their certification to employers and to list the NCLB title as part of their professional credential.
The test, sometimes known as the National Literary Braille Competency Test (NLBCT), is used to measure the level of a person’s ability to read and write contracted literary Braille. Although anyone can take the test, it is intended primarily for teachers and future teachers of Braille.
This written test is used to measure an applicant’s ability to read, write, and understand literary Braille. The examination consists of four sections:
1. Braille writing using a Braillewriter
2. Braille writing using a slate and stylus
3. Proofreading, identifying Braille errors
4. Multiple choice questions, correct usage, and rules
Those who pass all four sections of the exam receive the NCLB certification. Up to six hours are allotted to take the entire test. A typical test schedule consists of two test sections in the morning and two in the afternoon, with several scheduled breaks throughout. Test results are based solely on individual performance, and the areas covered by the test are basic knowledge in letters and numbers, contractions, punctuation, composition signs, and formatting. Grading is based on accuracy. Speed is not currently tested, except that the applicant must complete the test within the given time. Speed may be tested at some future point, but as yet no firm plans have been made.
The National Blindness Professional Certification Board was established initially to ensure that professionals working in the blindness field maintain high standards. To this end, the question of retesting is one to which the NBPCB has given considerable thought. Braille is like many other skills; it may erode over time if it is not being used. If a candidate were certified indefinitely, the NBPCB could not verify to employers that that person’s Braille literacy is in fact still current. Thus one change made in the interest of maintaining high standards is that all certificants will need to retake the NCLB examination every five years.
The current cost for retesting is $250, the same as for the initial test because the cost of administering the test is the same. The five-year retesting policy was established to ensure not only that candidates are competent at the time of their initial test, but that they maintain this competence throughout their professional careers. Most people would agree that this is the only responsible way to ensure that qualified instructors provide Braille literary skills to children and adults.
Notwithstanding the efficacy of Braille, recent history has seen a dramatic decrease in Braille literacy. In the mid-eighteen hundreds, when schools for the blind emerged, Braille was almost inevitably an essential component of the education of blind children. Throughout the next century or so, blind children could generally be assured a reasonable education--one which included basic literacy. At that time everyone recognized that for a blind child literacy meant reading and writing Braille. Consequently Braille was a daily component of education for children who attended residential schools for the blind.
In the 1960s education of blind students began to shift toward mainstream instruction; that is, blind children began to attend their local public schools. This came about in large part due to overcrowding in the residential schools for the blind. Simultaneously educators began thinking that blind children would do better learning in a real-world environment. This might have been true if blind children could have attended public schools and still have had sufficient access to education in alternative blindness skills. Sadly the public schools were not able to provide the necessary Braille instruction for blind children. They did not have the material resources or qualified staff to teach Braille. Consequently the literacy rate of blind children declined.
A way had to be devised to improve the literacy situation for the blind. With so few qualified Braille teachers, large print became the medium of choice for all blind children with any residual vision. In the midst of such a crisis, some literacy was better than no literacy at all. This undoubtedly served to crystallize the presumption that some sight was better than no sight. Because large print afforded some degree of literacy for those blind children who could get by using it, the visually impaired child seemed to have an advantage over the totally blind child in a Braille-starved educational environment. Thus emerged the current situation in which children who would otherwise have learned Braille now hunch awkwardly over large print. Rather than enjoying the freedom and utility that Braille affords, with magnifiers in hand they crane their necks and strain their eyes while struggling for literacy.
The apparently overlooked factor in this scenario is that Braille is the great equalizer in literacy for the blind. When a blind or visually impaired child learns Braille early and consistently, it becomes as useful to him or her as print is to the fully sighted child. Of course time and consistency are essential to effective learning. Increasing the number and quality of blindness professionals is a significant factor in improving literacy rates among blind students. While we recognize that the existence of a Braille standard will not itself produce the number and quality of teachers needed, the introduction of national certification does provide an incentive for teachers to improve their skills. Thus in the 1980s the NLS began developing the original test on the recommendation of a joint committee, which included leaders from the American Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Blinded Veterans Association, the Canadian Council of the Blind, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind, and The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) of the Library of Congress. For greater insight into the history and need for the test, refer to “National Literary Braille Competency Test: New Partnerships, New Possibilities” in the January 2006 issue of the Braille Monitor.
In 2005 NLS officials asked the NFB to take over leading the development of the test. In 2006 a series of pilot tests was conducted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Anaheim, California. For more information on the history and development of the test, refer to “United We Stand for Braille Competency Testing: Closing the Gap between Dreams and Reality" in the Winter 2006 issue of the DVIQ and a subsequent article, “A National Test of Braille Competency Achieve: Where Do We Go from Here?” in the Winter 2007 issue of the same journal.
In March 2007 the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB) learned that the NFB was seeking an organization to carry out fulltime administration of the test, and its officials stepped forward to assume the responsibility. The revised test is now in finished form and will be administered solely under the direction of the NBPCB. Thus the same certifying body that developed the National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC) now offers the National Certification in Literary Braille (NCLB). However, unlike the NOMC, which requires additional immersion training, the only requirement for earning the NCLB Braille certification is by agreement to abide by the NBPCB Code of Professional Ethics and to pass all four sections of the certification test.
Since the changeover to the NBPCB, the first full-fledged offering of the Braille test was held in Ruston, Louisiana, on January 12, 2008. With eighteen test candidates, the first NCLB test generated more interest than anticipated. The day went off without a hitch, and throughout the following three weeks a two-member panel of scorers determined the results. Overall, candidates had the highest pass rate for the multiple choice section and the lowest pass rate for the Braillewriter section. Of the eighteen candidates, eleven passed all four sections. So 61 percent of the candidates passed on their first attempt and received their NCLB certification. A further four (22 percent) of the eighteen candidates missed only one section. Thus far two of these four have now successfully passed that section and have been awarded certification. Three (17 percent) of the eighteen candidates missed two or more sections. One of these has now retested and successfully passed all sections. This gives a total passing rate of 78 percent, with fourteen out of the original eighteen candidates earning NCLB certification. It should be noted that a new version of the test is administered to retesters. Those who have missed only one section are given the option to retest in that single section, while those who desire to retest after missing more than one section are required to retake all four sections.
A subsequent version of the NCLB test was administered in Ruston on April 26, 2008, with eight candidates, five of whom were new. The remaining three were the retesters. As stated above, all retesters passed and received certification. Of the other five, three passed all four sections on their first attempt, and the remaining two missed only one section. Thus, after combining the results of both the January and April tests, fourteen out of twenty-three (61 percent) of candidates passed all four sections on the first attempt. Six (26 percent) missed only one section on their first attempt, and only three (13 percent) missed more than one section on the first attempt. Of those who have retested, all have passed on the second attempt.
The most recent NCLB exam was held in conjunction with the 2008 NFB national convention in Dallas, Texas. Results are now being assessed, and we look forward to welcoming a new group of qualified certificants.
A number of exciting things lie ahead for the NCLB. We are working on collaborations with leaders from different states who wish to help us make this certification available far and wide. One such team effort is developing between the NBPCB and Dr. Stuart Wittenstein, superintendent of the California School for the Blind. We are beginning to make plans to offer one of our next NCLB exams in California, and we look forward to sharing such opportunities in the home states of any interested participants. NCLB examinations will be convened wherever an appropriate venue can be procured and sufficient applicant numbers make it possible. Please contact the NBPCB for more details.
With the grandfathering of twenty-three certificants from the 2006 pilot, we now have forty current NCLB certificants, and undoubtedly many more are on the way. Those who meet the criteria for the NCLB are among the best and most qualified among blindness professionals. We wholeheartedly congratulate these certificants and indeed all who work toward gaining and maintaining excellence in their Braille skills. We extend our sincere thanks to all who have diligently worked to ensure that Braille literacy is central to the education of blind children and adults. We look forward to assisting all blindness professionals to reach their goals and to enable all blind people to have the best opportunities for Braille literacy and success.
For additional information, visit the NBPCB Website at <www.nbpcb.org>, call the NBPCB office at (318) 257-4554, or contact Louise Walch, NBPCB coordinator, at <[email protected]>.
by Everette Bacon
From the Editor: Everyone has a story, and that tale may be the inspiration that someone else can draw strength and inspiration from. I don’t know why Everette Bacon sent this sketch of himself to Ron Gardner last winter. Ron is president of the NFB of Utah. He recognized the potential these few paragraphs might have to inspire others, so he sent the email on to me. Now meet Everette Bacon. He did not have early training in the skills of blindness. His parents did not receive good advice about how to raise a blind son. Yet he is living a full and productive life and is clearly passing along what he has learned so that he can help others. This is what he wrote:
My name is Everette Bacon. I was born July 2, 1970. I grew up in Southern California before moving to Texas after I graduated from high school. I was born with what the doctors thought at the time was retinitis pigmentosa. It was hereditary on my mother's side of the family. Five of us were blind. I was the only boy, and for some reason I had better vision than the others.
For a long time I was told that I could pretend away my blindness because I had so much useable vision that there was a good chance I would not lose vision like the other family members. I went through high school looking down on other blind kids and never associating with them because I knew I was different. I was told I'd never need Braille or a cane, so for many years I didn't use one. Not until I entered college did I realize I was losing vision and that my life would probably have to change. I made it through college still holding onto the false hope that I was different. I met my wife in college and married her right after graduation. She was the first person to convince me that I needed to carry a cane. My family always believed the doctors when they said that I did not need one. I didn't have any training with the cane, but as I began using it, I felt more confident walking by myself in downtown Dallas and Houston.
We moved to Salt Lake City in 2004, and I met Nick Schmittroth, Ray Martin, Bill Gibson, Karl Smith, and Ron and Norm Gardner. These male role models, all blind and all carrying canes, changed my life. These were the kind of men I wanted to become, and they helped mold me into the Federationist I am today. I now work for the state vocational agency serving blind people as the assistive technology specialist. I have earned certification and a master’s degree in rehabilitation teaching. Fellow Federationists, I am living proof that you can do it.
This month’s recipes come from Ohio, where July is blueberry
by Barbara Pierce
In addition to editing the Braille Monitor, I have been president of the NFB of Ohio since 1984. My family began picking blueberries at a farm near our home when our children were small, and we have done so every summer since. Inevitably I have gathered many blueberry recipes through the years. We have always loved blueberry buckle though I never could understand why this blueberry coffee cake with a crunchy topping was a buckle. Then several years ago Monika Wilkinson, the proofreader for the Monitor, passed along the Cooks Magazine recipe for blueberry buckle. This publication undertakes to research recipes and come up with the best one. Reading the article on blueberry buckle, I discovered that true blueberry buckle has enough berries in it to make the cake buckle. This recipe begins with a batter that is almost cookie dough and then mixes in so many blueberries that the baked buckle sags in the center. If you are looking for a superb delivery system for antioxidants, or even if you just want to taste the best blueberry buckle you ever ate, I commend the following recipe to you:
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups flour
4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
Method: Cream ten tablespoons of butter and sugar till very light. Add eggs, vanilla, and dry ingredients. Fold in berries. Pour into greased and floured 9-inch round pan and sprinkle on streusel. Make streusel by mixing the dry ingredients with a flat beater for about forty-five seconds. Pour in melted butter. It will look like wet sand. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about fifty-five minutes. Cool on rack. This is delicious at room temperature or still warm from the oven.
Double Blueberry Pie
by Sylvia Cooley
Sylvia Cooley has served as assistant to the Monitor editor, photographer, and publication designer for the Ohio affiliate and a number of other affiliates since 1989. She too has picked blueberries in the local area, and she has just planted her own blueberry bushes. This is one of her favorite summer desserts.
6 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
2 tablespoons fat-free milk
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 9-inch baked pastry shell
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, divided
Sugar substitute (Splenda) equivalent to 1/2 cup sugar
Method: In a small mixing bowl beat the cream cheese, milk, and lemon extract until smooth and spread across bottom of pastry shell. In a saucepan stir cornstarch, water, and lemon juice until smooth. Mash two cups blueberries and add to the pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for one to two minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat and cool for fifteen minutes. Stir in sugar substitute. Spoon over cream cheese mixture. Top with remaining blueberries. Refrigerate for three hours or until set. Be sure to refrigerate leftovers. Serves eight.
by Debbie Baker
Debbie Baker is a member of the NFB of Ohio board of directors. She has taught blind students for thirty-one years and has been a recipient of the NFB’s Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award.
2 packets cinnamon grahams
1 stick butter or margarine
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 small container Cool Whip
1 can blueberry or cherry pie filling
Method: Crush cinnamon grahams and combine with butter or margarine to prepare the bottom crust. Press crumbs evenly across the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Beat cream cheese and confectioner's sugar until smooth. Then fold Cool Whip into cream cheese mixture until homogeneous. Carefully spread this over the cracker crumb crust, trying not to dislodge crumbs. Top with pie filling and refrigerate until chilled. The middle layer of this dessert is easier to spread if you have placed the crust in the freezer for at least five minutes to set while you prepare the filling.
Blueberry Drop Cookies
by Marilyn Donehey
Marilyn Donehey is a member of the NFB of Greater Summit County. Using the telephone, she teaches Korean students to speak English. With support of a pianist friend, she sings professionally at weddings and other events. She also chairs the board of trustees at her local agency serving blind members of the Greater Akron area.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup milk
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 cup fresh blueberries
Method: In a large mixing bowl cream the shortening, sugar, egg, milk, almond extract, and lemon zest. Mix well after the addition of each ingredient. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; blend into the sugar mixture. Fold in the blueberries. Cover and chill for four hours. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets, about 1-1/2 inches apart. Bake twelve to fifteen minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
Curried Fruit Sauce
1 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon Splenda or sugar
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 nectarines, sliced
1 banana, sliced
1/4 cup toasted almonds
Method: In a saucepan combine juice, cornstarch, curry, and sugar. Bring to a simmer. Add blueberries and nectarines; stir until sauce is slightly thickened. Add banana and almonds, then immediately remove from heat. Serve warm or cold over angel food cake, ice cream, pancakes, or waffles.
Blueberry Waffles with Sauce
3 egg yolks, beaten
1-2/3 cups milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup melted butter
3 egg whites, stiffly beaten
2/3 cup blueberries
1-1/2 cups blueberries
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Method: In a medium bowl whisk together egg yolks and milk. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt. Then stir in butter and set mixture aside for about thirty minutes. Preheat a lightly greased waffle iron. Fold stiff egg whites and 2/3 cup blueberries into the batter. Scoop batter into the prepared waffle iron using a measuring cup (the larger the cup, the larger the waffle) and cook until golden brown. To prepare the sauce, in a medium saucepan mix 1-1/2 cups blueberries, honey, and 1/4 cup orange juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Mix remaining orange juice and cornstarch in a small bowl, and stir into the blueberry mixture. Stir constantly until thickened. Serve warm over waffles
by Marilyn Donehey
1 cup salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup instant dried onion
1-2 tablespoons dried minced garlic
2 tablespoons sweet basil leaves, optional
2 tablespoons sage leaves, optional
Frozen turkey, any size
Water to cover bird
Method: Fill a large pan with water (large enough to immerse the turkey--I usually use my canner). Add salt, sugar, onion, garlic, and herbs if desired. Stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Place unwrapped frozen turkey in brine solution and allow to thaw in cool garage, cold basement, or refrigerator for two to three days and then a further twenty-four to thirty-six hours—a total of three days. Remove neck and giblets. (Boil these with vegetables and herbs. You can use both the chopped meat and the stock in dressing.) Rinse turkey and pat dry. Place on broiler pan or rack in large roasting pan. Place dressing in cheesecloth and fill neck and breast cavities with dressing, allowing cheese cloth ends to stick out. If you like, you can also place dressing under wings. Tuck wing tips behind shoulders. Sew or skewer cavities closed and tie legs together. Roast a small turkey (eight to fourteen pounds) at 375 degrees for one hour. Turn oven down to 200 degrees or lower and roast for twelve to fourteen hours or until done. (Wings and legs move easily when bird is done.) For larger turkeys (fifteen to twenty-five pounds) roast at 375 degrees for one and a half to two hours. Turn oven down to 200 or lower and roast for twenty-four hours or until done. Pull out cheese cloth pouch of dressing and transfer to serving dish. Reheat in microwave oven before serving if necessary. I usually cover the cooked bird and let it sit while I cook the rest of the meal. It comes out deliciously moist and flavorful with no basting. However, the skin will be dry and inedible.
100 Percent Whole Wheat Bread
by Marilyn Donehey
6 cups lukewarm water
2 packages (2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
12 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar or honey
1/2 cup oil
Method: Place water, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl. Let sit until yeast is bubbly. Add six cups of whole wheat flour and all other ingredients in bowl. Stir until well mixed. Let batter sit for fifteen minutes to break down wheat gluten. Add six to seven more cups of flour, stirring after each addition, until you have a soft dough. Knead for about ten minutes until dough is smooth and satiny. Place dough in large greased bowl and turn it once to grease the top. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm place until double in bulk, forty-five to sixty minutes. Punch down to release air. Cover and allow to rest for a few minutes. Cut dough into four equal pieces and roll each into a rectangle with a rolling pin. Roll jellyroll-fashion into loaf, sealing ends, and place in greased loaf pans. Cover again and let rise in a warm place until double. Bake in moderate oven (about 375 degrees) for thirty to forty minutes. Let cool for about five minutes in pans. Remove to rack to finish cooling. Store in plastic bags. This bread freezes well.
One to two cups of sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chopped walnuts, chopped
pecans, slivered almonds, etc., may be added during initial mixing. It is crucial
to let the batter rest for fifteen minutes where indicated in method. Otherwise
the bread will be dry and crumbly instead of moist.
News from the Federation Family
Time to Prepare for Meet the Blind Month:
Now is the time for your chapter to begin making plans for our October Meet the Blind Month activities. The planning process should begin at your meeting this month. Some of the activities your chapter could plan are:
1. Arrange to present the Braille Is Beautiful program to a class of students, a Boy or Girl Scout troop, or a service club. Braille Is Beautiful video sets and our Braille alphabet cards make it easy to share the basics of Braille with both youngsters and adults.
2. Contact your local Barnes and Noble Booksellers, Boscov’s department store, Macy’s, or other big box store in your area and speak with the community relations manager. Inquire about their fundraising programs and schedule a date on their calendar to have a meet-and-greet or fundraising activity.
3. Check your local community calendar for fall events. Pick a day in October to plan a White Cane Walk or to participate at a community-sponsored fall festival.
NFB literature, including Braille alphabet cards, will be available
again at no cost, in prepackaged quantities to speed up the order process. Chapter
activities and literature order requests can be placed online. For more information
or to share ideas that have been successful with your chapter, contact Director
of Special Projects Jerry Lazarus by calling (410) 659-9314, ext. 2297, or email
him at <[email protected]>.
With sorrow Ed McDonald of West Virginia writes as follows: I am saddened to report the death of Denzil Jones of Parkersburg, a longtime member of the NFB of West Virginia. His wife Jenny called this evening to report that he died on May 21 following what was apparently a brief battle with lung cancer. He had been hospitalized since late April. Denzil was a proud veteran of World War II, and the service will include military honors.
Denzil worked for many years as a long-haul truck driver until
losing his vision sometime during the 1970s. He served for many years as president
of our Parkersburg chapter and represented the chapter on the board of directors
of the West Virginia affiliate. Jenny also served several terms as state secretary
and financial secretary. Both were inducted several years ago into the NFB of
West Virginia Hall of Honor.
I have always known Denzil to be a man of conviction and integrity. Together he and Jenny were warm, caring, and generous people. They were never involved in the NFB at the national level, so they are probably not well known beyond our borders. Nevertheless, here in West Virginia Denzil and Jenny are dearly loved and respected by our Federation family. We have lost a good man, and we will remember him with fondness.
Attention Blind Incorporated Alumni and Friends:
Twenty years have passed since BLIND Incorporated first opened its doors offering innovative, consumer-based adjustment-to-blindness training programs to blind Americans, the first of its kind in Minnesota. That means it’s time for a celebration. Although our plans are not yet fully set, here’s what we have so far: Saturday, October 25, 2008; 10:00 a.m. to midnight.
Plans for the day include: tour the center, catch up with everyone’s activities, reminisce about the program, share a picnic lunch in the front yard, make a video of attendees for the Website, review new BLIND Incorporated programs developed over the years, establish an alumni organization, begin making plans for our twenty-fifth anniversary in 2012/13, and conclude with a catered dinner followed by a dance or other entertainment in the evening. We welcome further suggestions.
Current students and staff are eager to hear stories of the past and let you know about today’s life at BLIND Incorporated. What has changed? What remains the same? What challenging activities do today’s students experience?
Please share this notice with others whose mailing addresses may
no longer be on our list. We want to reach everyone, student or staff, who had
a part in shaping the history of BLIND, Incorporated since we first launched
our program on January 4, 1988.
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.
Braillerman Brailler Repair:
When your Perkins Brailler starts to get sluggish or won’t backspace or whatever the problem, it is time to let Alan Ackley make it right. He has reconditioned more than five thousand Braillers from individuals, schools, and agencies in every state in the country. He was trained at Howe Press on the campus of Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts, and maintains a complete inventory of factory parts. He assures prompt turnaround and reasonable charges.
His interest in Braille blossomed when Kenneth Jernigan hired
him to the staff of the Iowa Commission for the Blind in 1974. He retired from
his post there in 2004 to devote his full time to servicing the Perkins Brailler.
He has been certified by the National Library Service as a volunteer Braille
transcriber, so he appreciates what good Braille should look like and how the
Perkins should operate. For more information call (515) 288-3931, or visit on
the Web at <www.braillerman.com>.
Passing of an Era:
On Thursday, May 22, 2008, an AP story by Zinie Chen Sampson appeared in the Newport News, Virginia, Daily Press and no doubt other Virginia newspapers. This is what it said:
The Virginia School for the Deaf, Blind, and Multi-Disabled in Hampton will close at the end of June, clearing the path to consolidate the state's two schools for students with visual and hearing impairments. The state board of education voted Wednesday to end state-operated programs at the Hampton school, including residential and day-program services, on June 30.
Forty students are enrolled in Hampton's programs this school year, and all but fourteen are graduating or moving to Staunton, according to state Department of Education spokesman Charles Pyle. School officials plan to work with those fourteen families to arrange for their continued education in their home districts, Pyle said.
The decision is part of a plan approved by the general assembly in 2006 to consolidate the Hampton school and the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind in Staunton onto the Staunton campus. The estimated price for the construction and renovation project is $71 million, Pyle said. The legislature decided during the 2008 session that no state funds would be available for construction or renovation in Staunton until the Hampton program shut down. The Hampton campus will become surplus state property on July 1, 2009.
The closing of the Hampton school will end a chapter of Virginia's
educational history harking back to the days of racial segregation. The Staunton
school opened in 1839 at a site provided by an Augusta County delegate, which
had served as a Confederate hospital during the Civil War. In 1909 the state
opened the Virginia State School for Colored Deaf and Blind Children in Hampton
to serve black students excluded from the other school. It enrolled its first
white student in 1964 and started educating students with multiple disabilities.
The schools have educated thousands of young Virginians with impaired hearing and sight but have seen steady enrollment declines since the mid-1970s, after federal special-education law began requiring that local school districts integrate more students with disabilities into regular classrooms.
Watch a Video Online:
Federationist Sahar Husseini works at the Orientation Center at the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. She recently notified friends that a new video about the adult rehabilitation program is now available online. It illustrates that with good training and healthy attitudes blind people can do what they choose. If you would like to see the video, go to <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPMZqAumZxA>. It is easy to get to and very interesting and inspirational. It is also very effectively described. Take a look.
Get Healthy With Yoga:
Beginning Yoga for the Blind and Visually Impaired is a dynamic, inspiring five-CD set produced by Gretchen Hein, a certified Kripalu yoga instructor, and Marty Klein, a blind author and workshop facilitator. The goal of the series is to help blind and visually impaired people use yoga to reclaim and sustain strong, flexible bodies. The series also provides encouragement and information about how to find a local yoga class that will be suitable for blind or visually impaired people.
The packaging has bold, dark lettering with a contrasting background
so it can be read by those with low vision. Each CD is numbered with bold markings
as well. Gretchen’s descriptions of yoga postures are detailed and explained
in language specifically intended to be clear to blind students, while Marty’s
comments and insights as a blind man create an informative and enjoyable learning
experience. The CDs are engineered so that each pose is on a separate track.
This allows the listener to design his or her own yoga sequence once the series
is familiar. The set also contains one CD that is similar to a yoga class. Another
CD has specific tracks that inform prospective yoga teachers how to be thoughtful
toward a blind student. Students are encouraged to share this CD with a teacher
of their choice. The cost of the five-CD package is $39.95 plus shipping and
handling. You can order the set at <www.blindyoga.net>.
Service Dog Census Project:
Eighteen years after Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which ensures the rights of disabled people to access public areas with their service animals, many still have to explain their medical history and educate the public about their rights. Blayne Douglas, who works at a deaf counseling, advocacy, and referral agency in California, often runs into acceptance problems with his hearing dog. "The lion's share of my day is educating the public about the use of hearing dogs. I'm always surprised by the number of people who think only guide dogs for the blind count as service dogs," says Douglas. "I've even experienced doubt by business owners who hesitated in providing us access because they didn't understand."
The service dog census project and the United States service dog
registry are working to change that. The registry offers free service dog registration
through a central online database. This allows service dog owners to register
their animals and receive a unique ID number. A look-up feature allows others
to verify the registration status securely while protecting the medical privacy
of the individual.
The purpose of the service dog census project is to provide detailed statistical data about the large number of service animals currently working in the United States. The data can be used for various positive purposes including advocacy, media references, university studies, and public support. “The response has been phenomenal,” says Marc Battaglia, executive director of the census. “Even during our beta-testing phase we had people registering from New York to California. We’ve received emails from people thanking us for initiating this project.”
The census is open to all service dog handlers, regardless of
certification or training status. Individuals using a service dog for any disability
covered by the ADA qualify for this count. (Please see <http://www.ada.gov/animal.htm>)
A service dog is any canine trained to provide assistance to an individual with
a disability. Therapy dogs and other working dogs provide many great benefits
but are not covered by the ADA and are therefore not eligible to be included
in the census. The United States service dog registry collects the data for
the service dog census project. To participate in this census, go to <http://www.usservicedogregistry.org>.
BANA Call for Participation:
The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) seeks knowledgeable and enthusiastic Braille readers, teachers, and transcribers to serve on various BANA committees. Much of BANA’s work is conducted by volunteer technical and ad hoc committees. BANA has nine technical committees and five ad hoc committees dealing with all aspects of Braille codes. These committees are charged by the BANA board with developing code, e.g., rules and symbols, revising and updating code, reviewing work from other technical committees, and responding to questions from constituents. In addition to committees dealing with the technical aspects of Braille codes, BANA also has committees dealing with publications, crafts and hobbies, and Braille signage and labeling. All committees have representatives from both the United States and Canada and consist of at least one Braille reader, one teacher (of children or adults who are blind), and one transcriber. Most work is done by email, so all committee members must have frequent and convenient access to electronic communication.
Several committees are currently seeking members. If you are interested
in serving on a BANA committee and would like to be considered, please fill
out the form found on BANA's Website at <www.brailleauthority.org> stating
your areas of interest and your qualifications (for example, years of Braille
reading, teaching, or transcribing experience, certifications, qualifications,
and so forth).
Settlement Agreement Ensures Accessibility at the International Spy Museum:
The Department of Justice announced on June 3, 2008, a settlement agreement with the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Working together, the Department of Justice and the museum have come to a settlement agreement under which the museum agrees to work to bring the content of its exhibitions, public programs, and other offerings into full compliance with ADA requirements so that its exhibits are accessible and effectively communicated to individuals with disabilities, including those with hearing and vision impairments. By focusing on visitors who are blind or have low vision and who are deaf or hard of hearing, the agreement establishes a new level of access for cultural and informal educational settings.
"We applaud the International Spy Museum for its innovative efforts to improve access to its exhibitions and programs for individuals with disabilities, and especially for those who are blind or have low vision and those who are deaf or hard of hearing," said Grace Chung Becker, acting assistant attorney general for civil rights. "This agreement will ensure equal access for people with disabilities who want to participate in the educational activities offered by the museum."
Of the fifty million Americans with disabilities, sixteen million have sensory disabilities. The agreement seeks to ensure that they will have access to the museum's exhibitions, audiovisual presentations, and programs, as required by law.
The museum fully cooperated with the Department's investigation and has demonstrated an effort to find innovative solutions to work toward compliance. It developed a proprietary technology for closed captioning of its audiovisual presentations and has retained experts to help provide effective access for visitors who are blind or have low vision. When it reaches full compliance with the settlement agreement, the Spy Museum will become a national museum leader in welcoming visitors with disabilities.
Under the settlement agreement the museum will provide tactile maps of the museum and floor plan that visitors can borrow; regularly scheduled tours with a qualified audio describer to describe audiovisual presentations, computer interactives or exhibits; a qualified reader to read exhibit labels; captions for all audiovisual, audio-only, and computer interactive programs or scripts or wall text to communicate the audio narration or ambient sounds where captioning is not an option; a sample of models and objects or reproductions of objects for tactile examination accompanied by audio description; and sign language and oral interpreter services real-time captioning upon advanced request for all public programs; advertisement of the availability of auxiliary aids and services; integrated wheelchair seating areas and companion seats at certain locations; and training for supervisors and managers on the ADA.
The settlement is the result of an investigation conducted after
the Department received a complaint from a blind individual who visited the
museum with a group. He claimed that the museum's exhibits and programs were
inaccessible to visitors who are blind or have low vision.
Title III of the ADA applies to private entities such as museums, restaurants, and stores. It requires that public accommodations ensure that no individual with a disability is discriminated against on the basis of a disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the entities' goods, services, and facilities. Where necessary, a public accommodation must also provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services in order to ensure effective communication. Title III also requires removal of barriers to access in existing facilities where it is readily achievable to do so. Any new construction or alteration to any buildings or facilities, including exhibitions, must be made in such a manner that those buildings or facilities meet the requirements of the physical accessibility standards.
The Spy Museum is located in the Pennsylvania Quarter neighborhood
in Washington, D.C., within four blocks of the National Mall. According to museum
officials, more than four million people have visited the museum since it opened
in July of 2002. People interested in finding out more about the ADA or this
agreement can call the Justice Department's toll-free ADA Information Line at
(800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TTY), or access its ADA Website at <http://www.ada.gov>.
Audio Darts Tournament:
Audio Darts of Pittsburgh will host its seventh biennial Harold Schlegel Dart Tournament the weekend of October 10 to 12, 2008. This tournament will be held at the Greentree Radisson, 101 Radisson Drive, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15205. The room rate for reservations made by September 26 will be $94.62 a night, including tax for up to five in a room. Call (412) 922-8400 for reservations.
Registration for the five events is $75, $20 for individual events. Total prize money will be approximately $3,600. All participants will be required to use occluders. No dart can exceed eight inches in length or weigh more than eighteen grams. Please mail your registration money and choice of team members to Louis Wassermann, 2503 Silver Oak Drive, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15220 no later than September 29, 2008. No refunds unless a substantiated emergency occurs.
We will begin Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. Specific events will
be determined when we know the definite number of participants. For sure we
will have 301 and 501 countdown events. We definitely will do singles, doubles,
and triples. We want to do one or two team round-robins, but numbers might dictate
double elimination. For additional information or questions, call Joe Wassermann
at (412) 287-5166 or Sue Lichtenfels at (412) 429-1727. Come one and all to
enjoy the weekend.
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.
Linda Dillon has for sale a Perkins Brailler in excellent condition. Asking $350. Contact her at home phone (916) 434-7371, cell (916) 580-5408, or email <[email protected]>.
Closed Circuit TV, Model NM1, NC-1, with 17-inch black and white monitor. It was manufactured in 1999. Price negotiable or best offer. Contact Argenys Caba at (732) 697-9112 or email <[email protected]>.
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.