Braille Monitor                                                    February 2009

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The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards

by Gary Wunder

Dr. Jacob Bolotin simultaneously reading Braille and typing. This photograph was published in a 1914 newspaper shortly after Dr. Bolotin graduated from medical school.From the Editor: Gary Wunder is secretary of the National Federation of the Blind. He chairs the Bolotin Awards committee. Here is his announcement about the 2009 Bolotin Awards:

The National Federation of the Blind is once again pleased to announce our acceptance of nominations for the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards. The first cash awards were issued in 2008 at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind, and the winners and their acceptance were described in the August-September issue of the Monitor. The Bolotin Award is a new way to recognize individuals and organizations working in the field of blindness that have made outstanding contributions toward achieving the full integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality. Named for a pioneering blind physician who practiced in the early twentieth century, these awards are made possible through the generosity of his late nephew and niece. Their bequest, the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust, will allow the National Federation of the Blind to provide direct financial support to people and organizations that are improving the lives of the blind throughout the United States.

Dr. Jacob Bolotin was a blind physician who lived and practiced in Chicago in the early part of the twentieth century. As chronicled in his biography, The Blind Doctor, by Rosalind Perlman, Bolotin fought ignorance and prejudice to gain entrance to medical school and the medical profession. He became one of the most respected physicians in Chicago during his career, which spanned the period from 1912 until his death in 1924. He was particularly known for his expertise on diseases of the heart and lungs. Bolotin used his many public speaking engagements to advocate for the employment of the blind and their full integration into society. Interested in young people in general and blind youth in particular, Dr. Bolotin established the first Boy Scout troop consisting entirely of blind boys and served as its leader.

Jacob Bolotin’s wife Helen had a sister whose husband died suddenly, leaving her to raise a son, Alfred Perlman. The Perlmans moved in with the Bolotins when Alfred was eleven, and for four years (until Jacob Bolotin's untimely death at the age of thirty-six), "Uncle Jake" became Alfred's surrogate father. Alfred later married Rosalind, and the couple worked on a book about Dr. Bolotin's life. After Alfred's death in 2001, Rosalind dedicated the rest of her life to completing and publishing the book. In her will she left a bequest (the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust) to the Santa Barbara Foundation and the National Federation of the Blind to publish Dr. Bolotin's biography and establish the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Program. Blue Point Books published The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story in 2007.

Award Description

The National Federation of the Blind will distribute cash awards totaling $50,000 in 2009. The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award committee will establish the number of awards and the amount of each, based on its determination of the relative merits of the pool of applicants. The committee will determine the total amount to be distributed each year based on the trust income received. Each year one or more awards will be presented to individuals and one or more to corporations, organizations, or other entities. Both blind and sighted people may apply. The committee may also accept nominations made by third parties.

Who Should Apply?

Individuals: Only individuals who are over eighteen years of age may apply for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. Applicants must demonstrate that they have shown substantial initiative and leadership in improving the lives of the blind. Examples of such initiative include but are not limited to developing products or techniques that increase the independence of the blind, directing quality programs or agencies for the blind, or mentoring other blind people. All individual applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have worked on their projects related to the advancement of the blind within the twelve months prior to submitting their applications. Applications by individuals must include at least one letter of recommendation from a person familiar with or directly affected by the work done by that individual to improve the lives of blind people.

Organizations: Organizations may apply for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award in order to help them further programs, services, techniques, or technology that has assisted and will continue to assist the blind. Organizations applying for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award must be able to demonstrate that their programs or services include substantial participation by blind people as developers, mentors, administrators, or executives, and not merely as clients, consumers, or beneficiaries. For example, an organization operating a program for blind youth might demonstrate that a substantial number of the counselors, teachers, or mentors involved in the program are blind. The organization must be able to demonstrate that it has substantially aided blind people within the twelve months prior to application and that a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award would allow it to build on previous successes. The application must also include a testimonial from at least one blind person who has benefited from the programs or services.

With respect to both individuals and organizations, all award recipients must be domiciled in the United States of America, and their work must primarily benefit the blind of the United States.


Application materials are available on the Website of the National Federation of the blind, and online nominations, letters of support, and other relevant materials should be submitted in this format. The URL is <>. Applications for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award for any given year must be received no later than April 15 by the award committee chairperson. Candidate recipients will be notified no later than May 15 that the committee intends to present them with a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. All decisions of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award committee are final. The awards will be presented in July during the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Individuals who are selected to receive an award must appear in person, not send a representative. Organizations may send an individual representative, preferably their chief executive officer. Recipient candidates must confirm in writing that they will appear in person to accept the award at the National Federation of the Blind annual convention. Failure to make such written confirmation by June 1 will result in forfeiture of the award.

Ineligible Persons

Individuals employed full-time by the National Federation of the Blind may not apply for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award for work performed within the scope of their employment. Students may not apply for both a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award and a National Federation of the Blind Scholarship in the same year.


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