Braille Monitor

Vol. 54, No. 5                                                           May 2011

Gary Wunder, editor

Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by

The National Federation of the Blind

Marc Maurer, president

National Office
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, Maryland  21230
telephone: (410) 659-9314
email address: [email protected]
Website address: http://www.nfb.org
NFBnet.org: http://www.nfbnet.org
NFB-NEWSLINE® information: (866) 504-7300

Letters to the president, address changes,
subscription requests, and orders for NFB literature
should be sent to the National Office.
Articles for the Monitor and letters to the editor may also
be sent to the National Office or may be emailed to [email protected]

Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per year.
Members are invited, and nonmembers are requested, to cover
  the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to
National Federation of the Blind and sent to:

National Federation of the Blind
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998


        ISSN 0006-8829



Orlando Site of 2011 NFB Convention

The 2011 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Orlando, Florida, July 3-8, at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort at 9939 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32819-9357. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with the Rosen Shingle Creek staff only. Call (866) 996-6338.

The 2011 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins, $63; and triples and quads, $67. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 12.5 percent. No charge will be made for children under seventeen in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $75-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2011. The other 50 percent is not refundable.

Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2011, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold our room block for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.

Guestroom amenities include thirty-two-inch flat screen television with NXTV; two telephones; laptop safe; coffeemaker; hairdryer; and, for a fee, high-speed Internet access. The Rosen Shingle Creek Resort has a number of restaurant options, including two award-winning restaurants, and twenty-four-hour-a-day room service. It has first-rate amenities and shuttle service to the Orlando airport.

The schedule for the 2011 convention will follow the dates of last year’s:

Sunday, July 3             Seminar Day
Monday, July 4            Registration Day
Tuesday, July 5           Board Meeting and Division Day
Wednesday, July 6      Opening Session
Thursday, July 7          Business Session
Friday, July 8              Banquet Day and Adjournment


2011 National Convention Preregistration Form

Please register online at <www.nfb.org/preregistration> or print all requested information legibly on this form and mail to the address below.

Registrant Name ___________________________________________________
Address _________________________________________________________
City ____________________________________________________________
State ___________________________________ Zip ____________________
Phone __________________________________________________________

___ I will pick up my registration packet at convention.
___ The following person will pick up my registration packet:
Pickup Name ______________________________________

Please register only one person per registration form.
One check or money order may cover multiple registrations.
Check or money order (sorry, no credit cards) must be enclosed with registration form(s).

Number of preregistrations x $15 = ____________
Prepurchased banquet tickets x $50 = ____________
Total ______________

All preconvention registration and banquet sales are final (no refunds).
Mail to: National Federation of the Blind
Attn: Convention Registration
200 E. Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, MD 21230
Registrations must be postmarked by May 31, 2011.



Vol. 54, No. 5                                                           May 2011


Lead Photo

Science Meets Magic in Michigan
by Christine Boone with Expert Commentary by Fred Wurtzel

Rosen Shingle Creek Resort Geography
by Mary Ellen Jernigan

Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National
Library Service for the
Blind and Physically Handicapped, Retires
by Marc Maurer

An Interview with Frank Kurt Cylke
by Gary Wunder

The Evolution of Braille:
Can the Past Help Plan the Future?
Part One of a Three-Part Article from the
Braille Authority of North America (BANA)

Over There
by Robert Kingett

Two Weeks at the Center
by Father John Sheehan

Access to Electronic Books, a Comparative Review
by Wesley Majerus

Light for the Blind in the Philippines
by Susan Jones

That Well-Known Road
by Nancy Burns

A Young NFB President
Responds to a Faithful Federationist
by the Staff of the Jacobus tenBroek Library

Board Ousts Carroll Center for the Blind's President
by Brian McGrory


Monitor Miniatures


Copyright 2011 by the National Federation of the Blind


An important part of the Jernigan Institute is the tenBroek Library. Pictured here are students from the West Virginia School for the Blind as they listen to Dr. Ed Morman explain the process of organizing Jacobus tenBroek’s papers, creating the most comprehensive history of our organization and of blind people that has ever been assembled in one place.


Science Meets Magic in Michigan

by Christine Boone with Expert Commentary by Fred Wurtzel

From the Editor: In the summer of 2010 the NFB of Michigan became the second NFB affiliate to sponsor a camping experience for teens that also offered exploration in science. Christine Boone was one of the affiliate leaders who helped bring this exciting idea to reality. In the following article she describes the adventure. This is what she says:

There is a magical place in Michigan called Camp Tuhsmeheta. I never understood the magic until I came to Michigan in 2006 and experienced Camp T for myself in 2007. A long time ago, before the closing of the school for the blind in this state, a far-sighted administrator purchased this 300-acre tract of wilderness for school use. Today this track is all that remains of the once excellent Michigan School for the Blind—the very school that graduated a generation of Federation leaders—Fred, Mary, and George Wurtzel; Allen and Joy Harris; and Larry Posont, to name a few; and these were all classmates of Stevie Wonder.

Many of the trails that crisscross Camp Tuhsmeheta were carved out by these same blind people and their comrades. The raised beds in the vegetable garden, the campfire site, and even the camp store and office were all designed and constructed by blind people. It is this spirit of adventure, energy, and innovation that still characterizes Camp T today, which is fortunate indeed, for the heavy hand of the Department of Education continually threatens the very existence of Camp T.

The idea for Michigan’s first science camp revealed itself to Fred Wurtzel, president emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, sometime in the winter of 2009. Fred himself is a lover of science and possesses considerable scientific acumen though his modesty will never let him admit it. He wanted to share the amazing world of scientific investigation, experimentation, and discovery with school-aged blind youth. The problem was that the one thing that Camp T has very little of was money. How were we going to put on a science camp without money? How could we be assured of having Camp T for a week during the busy summer camping season?

Enter one very generous donor. This big-hearted person, who has chosen to remain anonymous even within the Michigan affiliate, donated $20,000 toward the 2010 summer camping season. Whereupon the affiliate’s newly elected president, Larry Posont, approached the director of Opportunities Unlimited for the Blind, OUB, the small non-profit cooperative group that managed the Camp and told him that the Federation would donate enough funds to support three weeks of camp on condition that those three weeks could be planned and taught by the NFB of Michigan. Since this donation would nearly double the summer’s budget, Larry’s offer was accepted with alacrity.

The NFB worked closely with the staff of Camp Tuhsmeheta, creating an effective partnership that would benefit everyone. During one week in June we ran a Braille camp, and a culinary camp took place during a week in August. Science camp took center stage during the third week in July. All of the camp counselors, mentors, and administrative staff (more than half of whom are blind) continued with their usual duties during these three weeks. The Federation chose the curriculum, brought in teachers and experts, and planned each day’s educational activities while the camp staff managed the recreational schedule, meals, and some of the evening activities.

Some of our own affiliate members are excellent Braille readers, while others do fine work in the kitchen. When it came to science camp, though, it was not so easy to uncover the talent we desperately needed. For starters, Fred asked Larry Posont and yours truly, Christine Boone, to assist him in putting together Michigan’s first-ever science camp for blind youth. As I have already mentioned, Fred himself possesses an impressive understanding of all things scientific, and Larry can hold his own. As for me, I am an illustration of why we desperately need to have science camps for our young people. Having attended public school back in the days when strange, now extinct creatures roamed the earth, I was not at all engaged in the science classes being offered. I was allowed to “watch,” and you can imagine how effective that was for a blind kid. The result is my embarrassing dearth of understanding of science. So what could I bring to the planning of a truly brilliant science camp?

Both Ed and Kate, Doug’s and my college-age kids, are majoring in environmental science, and Kate is especially interested in the hardest sciences: biology, chemistry, and physics. Because she finished high school here in Michigan, Kate developed some especially close relationships with a couple of her science instructors. Thus it happened that we approached Karen Taylor, honors biology instructor at Portage Central High School, and Karen said that she would be delighted to volunteer as long as Kate worked side by side with her as our second instructor. Karen figured that, having grown up around blind people all her life, Kate would be able to teach her how best to reach our young people, and she was also excited to see what is being taught in science classes on college campuses these days. Karen Taylor had twenty-five years of experience as a high school teacher, instructing chemistry, physics, and biology as both college prep and honors courses. As for Kate, she was delighted for the chance to work with Karen again and honored to be given such an opportunity of collaboration and field experience in an area that she loves deeply. Having completed the first semester of her junior year in the spring of 2010, Kate had already finished a number of courses in her major fields of environmental restoration and water science and geology (hydrogeology).

Fred, Karen, and Kate began to put together a curriculum that took advantage of some of Camp Tuhsmeheta’s best features. A surprising number of biomes exist within these 300 pristine acres. You will note that Christine was not part of the curriculum-development team, though the others did let me listen to their plans so that I would not feel so left out. Science camp taught me that a biome is a particular type of habitat, like a bog, a marsh, a meadow, or a forest. In addition to all of these, Camp T has three lakes within its boundaries, as well as a significant amount of old growth timber. What a playground for a bunch of biologists!

The planning group decided for a number of reasons that this first science camp would focus on the study of biomes. Camp T seemed to lend itself perfectly to the study of organisms in nature. Studying them would require plenty of field work, which would allow us to get the kids moving and exploring the world around them in a way that few blind children ever experience. Finally, campers would be able to run a number of basic tests on soil and water, providing excellent feedback for discussion.

Plans for the camp were well underway when I attended last summer’s NFB national convention in Dallas. One afternoon I found myself sitting in a seminar, listening to our newest Federation PhD, Cary Supalo, talk about his company, Independence Science, and its newly developed equipment allowing a blind scientist to take measurements of soil and water temperature, pH levels, density, viscosity, and all manner of other scientific data independently. He told us how the high school students at the Indiana School for the Blind had alpha-tested the device during the school year and that several of them were actually considering careers in science for the first time.

Listening to Dr. Supalo, I could hardly wait to search him out after his presentation. Could our science camp students possibly be permitted to alpha-test the Talking LabQuest? We didn’t have much time. I should have contacted him much sooner, if only I had known that this LabQuest would be just the thing to distinguish Michigan’s first science camp for blind youth, from any other camp that might be offered across the state. What an honor this would be! But the first day of Camp was just over two weeks away. Fortunately for me, Cary Supalo is a wonderfully generous person. Fortunately, too, he and I were scholarship winners together in 1994, though I was already getting old then, and he was just eighteen. Most fortunately of all, Cary’s partner in developing the Talking LabQuest, Mick Isaacson, was excited about our camp, willing to volunteer his time, and living within driving distance of the Camp. When Mick said that he was available and willing to bring the Talking LabQuest to us and to train our teachers and volunteers in its operation, I knew that this was going to be an incredible experience for everyone involved.

On the Saturday before camp started, Kate and I drove up to Camp T and checked into the Radisson. Readers should know that the Radisson is not what you might think. It is a tent, one of only four or five available, each of which serves as private quarters for volunteers and staff who do not want to stay in the girls’ or boys’ cabins. One of these tents, twice as long as the rest, was fittingly named the Hilton several years ago. Not wanting to feel like second-class citizens, Kate and I promptly named ours the Radisson since it was situated right next to the Hilton.

Volunteers Fred Wurtzel and Melinda Latham had arrived before we did, while our lead teacher, Karen Taylor, and Mick Isaacson, our man with the Talking LabQuest, arrived on Sunday afternoon. Everyone got to work roaming the trails, woods, and streams one more time, just to be sure they had selected the very best sites for the week; organizing the plethora of donated equipment from the Portage Public Schools and the Indiana School for the Blind; going through our list of campers, learning their names and a little bit about each of them; and meeting the wonderful staff of Camp Tuhsmeheta. As soon as possible we all gathered in Mick’s newly made classroom, to learn everything we needed to know about the Talking LabQuest. He trained Karen, Kate, Fred, Melinda, and even Christine in the operation of this small piece of technology that opened many avenues for scientific research for blind people. Karen and Kate were thrilled to discover that the unit was based on the same data-collection program they had used in the past, and Mick was a wonderful instructor.

Along with being a great person, Mick is a music lover, and he brought a guitar, not that he got to play much. Tony, one of the campers, is a gifted guitarist, though his genre is pretty much foreign to some of us older (might I say mature) folks. Tony borrowed Mick’s guitar and graced us with his talents in almost every free moment.

Tony was just one of the great kids from around Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois who attended. Teaching can be gratifying when the kids are heard talking about the gender of trees or how cool it is to explode Diet Coke and Mentos. The campers were incredible. They personified such words as energy, enthusiasm, searching, curiosity, and hope. We knew we were doing a good thing when we heard those all-too-common stories of isolation, loneliness, and alienation that some of them felt in their home schools and how they loved having people around who believed in them and encouraged them to take a risk or get dirty along with everyone else.

Every activity in the science, culinary, and Braille camps was designed to include pieces from the Expanded Core Curriculum for Blind Children and the National Agenda and covered science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. Our intention was to augment and support home and school learning in the regular school year. Most important, we wanted to open the campers’ minds to the possibility of science, technology, engineering, or math as potential career paths for them as blind people. With plenty of blind role models as teachers, counselors, and support staff, Camp T along with the NFB provides a positive environment in which this process can take place.

Highlights from the Science Camp Schedule

Sunday July 18, 2010

2:00–4:00 Check-in. Ten campers meet their cabin counselors and mentors for the week. For some this is their first visit to the camp, while others have long considered it their summer home.
4:00–5:30 Waterfront and swim tests: The lake at Camp T is approximately thirty feet deep right off the dock, so a large pool has been set in the center of the dock for those whose swimming ability is still developing. The pool is about four feet deep all over. All campers’ goal is to pass the green swim test so that they will be allowed to swim in the lake any time a life guard is on duty.
5:30–6:00 Change.
6:00–7:15 Dinner: Dinner is usually served family style at Camp Tuhsmeheta. Campers must serve themselves, pass both hot and cold dishes around the table, and pour their own milk or water. For Federationists who attended schools for the blind, this skill is old hat, but in these times of full inclusion it is rare indeed that a blind child is permitted to serve himself in public, even when the fare is finger food. Pouring drinks is an even greater challenge for some, while nostalgic counselors and volunteers still recognize the cold steel pitchers that were brought here from the Michigan School for the Blind.
7:30–8:30 Campfire, with introductions all around, lots of songs, stories, and laughter.
8:30–8:35 Flag-lowering: During each flag-lowering ceremony a new camper learns how to bring the flag down the pole and fold it properly for the night. This is a quiet, respectful time and is especially moving after the hilarious hour just spent around the camp fire.
9:30 Lights out

Monday July 19, 2010

8:20–8:30 Flag-raising: once again, during each morning’s raising of the flag, a new camper learns to unfold the flag respectfully, attach it to the pole, and raise it, letting the Stars and Stripes fly over Camp Tuhsmeheta for another day. As soon as the flag is raised, a signal is given to start the Pledge of Allegiance.
8:30–9:15 Breakfast: With more passing of bowls and pouring of juice, but it gets just a little easier each day.
9:30–10:00 Discussion about lakes, rivers, and streams—today’s topic.

Tuesday morning, 9:30–12:00 Science at the stream: The first order of the day is the three-quarters-of-a-mile walk to the culvert. This is the place where the stream runs right underneath the dirt road on which we had been walking. In order to reach the water far below, campers got to climb down a steep hillside nicely covered with trees, brush, and rocks, and certainly with no path, before taking off their shoes and stepping into the icy water of the stream. Their slides were strategically placed in various channels of the water. These would be used later to measure various elements left behind by fast- or slow-moving water. Then each camper used the Talking LabQuest for the first time, to measure both the temperature of that water (about forty-eight degrees) and its pH level (between 5.8 and 6.7, depending upon the spot where it was taken). Several students had never stepped into a streambed before, and most had never traversed such rough terrain. Since not everyone could work in the water at the same time, those who waited up on the road heard a lecture about old growth timber and reforestation. On the way back for lunch, students gathered soil samples for later testing.
12:00–12:30 Wash-up and change.
12:30–1:15 Lunch.
1:30–2:15 Rest period: A forty-five-minute rest period is required each day, according to the Michigan Department of Education. This is not really for the kids at all.
7:30–8:30 Exploding Diet Coke: After a day of hard work it was time for a little easy fun. Anyone who has put Mentos into Diet Coke will know what a blast this can be.

Wednesday morning: 9:30–12:00 Science of the wetlands: Since Camp T has both a bog and a wetland, we trekked to both of them, collecting more soil samples and taking the opportunity for some more off-roading. Many of our campers had never before been allowed to leave the path while walking in the woods. How amazed they were to see what lay beyond the trail’s edge. Naturally some of us had to plow our way through the cattails, just to see how close to the lake’s edge we could get without falling in. This was a great hit, especially when no one with any vision was allowed to come along. I was continually astonished at what our young people did not know. “So, if we swim in the lake from the dock, how can the same lake be over here beyond these cattails?” “If we step off the path, will there be anything to stand on?”
2:30–4:30 Measuring scientific data: Once again we turned to the Talking LabQuest. Campers tested the pH levels in the soil samples taken from bog and wetland today, and from the drier places along the forest trail yesterday. They also collected the slides from the creek and looked at the slimy solution that had formed on the little glass plates that had spent the night in the slow-moving channel of the stream. They discovered that the glass that had rested in the swiftly flowing water did not gather nearly as much slime.
4:30–5:30 Discussion: By this time we had many things to discuss about blindness. The students, so hesitant on Sunday and even Monday morning, were really getting excited about what they were learning. So much was possible for a blind person...who knew?
7:00–8:20 Anointed Archers: This archery club comes to Camp Tuhsmeheta several times each summer, sets up a whole lot of balloons as targets, and teaches campers how to hold and shoot a bow and arrow.

That was not the end of Science Camp, but you get the idea. this was one of the most exciting weeks I have ever spent. Both Fred Wurtzel and Kate Boone are already talking about this year’s opportunities. Our campers were very excited about fire last summer. They told us that nature was a very interesting part of science and a great place to begin learning, but explosions, infernos, and conflagrations--now those would be challenges that blind teens really should experience. What did we think? I think the jury may still be out on that one.

Here is the press release that was prepared by Purdue University, where the Talking LabQuest was developed by Dr. Supalo and his colleague Mick Isaacson:

Software from Purdue Research Park-Based Firm
Assists Blind Students at Michigan Camp

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana--Blind and partially blind students who attended Camp Tuhsmeheta in Greenville, Michigan, for a week in July gained hands-on experience in collecting data in various ecosystems, thanks to software developed by a Purdue Research Park-based firm. When text-to-speech software developed by Independence Science, LLC, is implemented in the LabQuest--a device that collects and stores scientific data such as wind speed and moisture levels--the information displayed on the device's screen is made audible. The text-to-speech software was funded by the National Science Foundation.

"Students affected by blindness and low vision who cannot access the LabQuest data visually now can receive it aurally," said Cary Supalo, president and founder of Independence Science.  During hikes along streams, bogs, and forests students used the LabQuest device and the text-to-speech software to collect and report data while learning about environmental biology.

"The opportunity to use the software that enables blind students to use the LabQuest device and probes was exciting. The campers used the probes to measure pH levels and temperature by themselves," said Karen Taylor, co-science educator at Camp Tuhsmeheta. "For most students, it was the first time they were able to do such data collection. They were impressed with the system and that they could collect the data themselves."

Kate Boone, co-science educator, who studies hydrogeology and soil science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Ginny Beauregard, Great Lakes Watershed Educator from the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based Cranbrook Institute of Science, worked with Taylor during the camp. Independence Science provided the LabQuest devices, and the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired provided the probes.

Christine Boone, one of the camp organizers, said the software may have long-term benefits for blind students. "Generations of blind students have sat in classrooms, where their participation in science experiments and learning exercises has been limited at best and nonexistent as a rule," Boone said. "The software from Independence Science for the LabQuest device has the power to change that forever, leveling the playing field for all blind youth as they make their way through primary and secondary education."

The science camp, funded by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, was the first formal one held at Camp Tuhsmeheta. The success of making science more hands-on for the students may lead to future camps, said Mick Isaacson of Independence Science and Purdue University's Department of Educational Studies. "Future camps with curricula that include other scientific disciplines such as chemistry and physics are being planned for next year. Organizers are optimistic that they will be able to forge collaborative relationships with institutions focused on the education of blind and partially blind students, universities throughout the Midwest and possibly beyond, and other applicable organizations," Isaacson said. "Science camps such as the one at Camp Tuhsmeheta are important, not only for the education of blind students, but also for fostering the belief that they have the capacity to do science."

Fred Wurtzel, another camp organizer, said students' increased enthusiasm for science may impact their career choices. "The Independence Science software is a wonderful window through which blind children may have access to science on an equal footing with their sighted student peers," Wurtzel said. "Our campers were enthusiastic about the equipment, and their increased access to data provided a way to be personally involved in all aspects of scientific investigation. We are all excited to imagine the future for blind persons to participate in science-related careers. The future equipment promises to be even more liberating to blind scientists."


Giving a Dream

One of the great satisfactions in life is having the opportunity to assist others. Consider making a gift to the National Federation of the Blind to continue turning our dreams into reality. A gift to the NFB is not merely a donation to an organization; it provides resources that will directly ensure a brighter future for all blind people.

Seize the Future

The National Federation of the Blind has special giving opportunities that will benefit the giver as well as the NFB. Of course the largest benefit to the donor is the satisfaction of knowing that the gift is leaving a legacy of opportunity. However, gifts may be structured to provide more:

NFB programs are dynamic:

Your gift makes you a partner in the NFB dream. For further information or assistance, contact the NFB planned giving officer.


Rosen Shingle Creek Resort Geography

by Mary Ellen Jernigan

From the Editor: For decades now Mary Ellen Jernigan has taken an active part in planning and coordinating convention arrangements. Since Dr. Jernigan’s death she has chaired this effort. Among other things this means that she knows the resources and layout of our convention hotels better than anyone else in the NFB. She has also been providing verbal descriptions of buildings since she joined the organization. Here is her description of the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort. If you read through it carefully several times, you should be well-equipped to make sense of hotel geography when you arrive in July. This is what she says:

In recent years I have written descriptions of the convention hotels for publication in the Monitor. By relating those descriptions to our various convention activities, I hope that this article will give you a head start on navigating the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort when you arrive. The hotel is situated at the headwaters of the Everglades on a 230-acre site along the Shingle Creek. Travel time to the Orlando International Airport is about ten minutes.

Although I have tried, I haven’t been able to come up with an image as memorable as “a high top tennis shoe lying on its side” to picture the footprint of the hotel. Nor can I speak easily about north, south, east, and west, because, if you were to walk in the front door of the hotel with compass in hand (which I did), you would find that you were heading not south, not east, nor even southeast, but a little east of southeast—120 degrees to be exact.

Even so, I think you’ll find navigating the hotel to be quite easy—probably easier to do than to describe. It seems to me that the best approach to mastering the Shingle Creek geography is to think of the hotel as being made up of several distinct areas and to learn how to move about within each area and how to travel from one area to the next.

The first thing to understand about the hotel is that the meeting rooms are located in an area that is totally separate from the sleeping rooms. The sleeping room elevators do not go to the meeting room levels. This means that the starting place to find any meeting room is always the main lobby of the hotel. I will give directions to the meeting room areas after I have described the main lobby and the elevators serving the sleeping rooms and the lower lobby.

Vehicles arriving at the hotel stop immediately outside the main door of the lobby. When you have come in the front door, the bell stand is on your right, and the hotel registration desk is located to your left along the same wall as the front door. Directly across from the front door toward the far side of the lobby, you will find the Birdcage, a tall, free-standing structure about three feet across filled with colorful, chirping tropical birds that is used by hotel staff and guests alike as a major landmark and meeting place. Just beyond the Birdcage is a balcony railing overlooking the level below. Since the odd compass orientation of the hotel makes speaking of facing, turning, or walking north, south, east, or west not particularly meaningful, I will use the following terms in describing the lobby: front door side of the lobby, balcony side of the lobby, facing the balcony, facing the front door, and standing at the Birdcage.

Two sets of elevators are in the main lobby. One set serves the lobby, the lower lobby, and floors 1 through 10. These elevators are located inside a short, free-standing elevator corridor perpendicular to and directly across from the hotel check-in desk. The corridor has an opening at both ends—one end opening toward the hotel check-in desk, and the other end opening toward the balcony side of the lobby. If you turn right as you exit the elevator corridor at the balcony end, you will be heading directly toward the Birdcage.

The second set of elevators serves the lobby, the lower lobby, and floors 10 through 14. To find this set of elevators from the front door of the hotel, cross the lobby to the Birdcage (at this point you will be facing the balcony rail overlooking the lower level) and turn right, walking until you dead-end at a display case outside of the entrance to the Cala Bella restaurant. The elevators are now immediately on your right.   

The numbering system for the sleeping rooms is based on the floor and the wing in which the room is located, with the floor number given first followed by the wing designation and then the room number. On each sleeping room floor, as you leave the elevator area, a tactile placard on the wall gives a diagram of the wing layout. The letters and numbers on these placards are cut quite deeply into the placard and can be read tactilely.

If you are standing at the Birdcage facing the balcony rail, the staircase leading down to the lower level will be to your right along the balcony rail. Farther to your right is the fine-dining Italian bistro, Cala Bella. If you are facing the balcony rail and turn left at the Birdcage, you will be walking along the balcony side of the lobby. You would pass the opening into the 1-to-10 elevator corridor on your left, and, continuing, you would find the concierge on your right. Immediately beyond the concierge’s desk is a small single elevator which serves only the lobby level, the lower lobby level, and sleeping rooms located on the third floor. Just beyond this elevator is the entrance into the spa. In this corner of the lobby you will also find men’s and women’s restrooms and a staircase leading to the third floor sleeping rooms.

Located on the lower level of the lobby is the large Café Osceola, which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offering both buffets and ala carte menu options. Also on this level is the 18 Monroe Street Market, which is open twenty-four hours a day and is a combination convenience store and quick-service restaurant. The restaurant part of the operation opens at 6:30 a.m. and continues well into the evening, offering hot and cold deli-style sandwiches, salads, pizza, hot entrées, and desserts for either dine-in or take-out to your room or the outside eating area near the pools. This is a large area containing tables and chairs. The tables are shaded with awnings. The hotel fitness room is also located on the lower lobby level.

The hotel swimming pools and hot tubs, outdoor function space and recreation areas, and the Cat-Tails Pool Bar and Grille are all accessed from the lower lobby level. All of this outdoor space is located on the rear side of the hotel. 

The dog relief area closest to the sleeping room section of the hotel is accessed from this lower lobby level. An additional dog relief area is near the meeting rooms.

Outside the hotel on the front entrance side at the lobby level is a stand-alone facility housing a steakhouse restaurant, called A Land Remembered, and the Shingle Creek Clubhouse Grille. As you leave the hotel, a long covered walkway to the right of the front entrance leads to these restaurants. The Clubhouse Grille is open for lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. A Land Remembered is open for dinner only. 

Meeting Space

The meeting space part of the hotel is connected to the main lobby and the sleeping rooms by a wide passageway accessed only from the lobby level. Starting at the Birdcage, facing the front door side of the hotel, walk across the lobby to the front door, and turn left just before the door. This places you at the entrance to the passageway connecting the lobby and the meeting space. If you are coming into the hotel through the front door, make a right turn immediately after passing the bell stand. This also places you at the entrance to this passageway. Along both sides are restaurants and shops. As you walk toward the meeting space, the first thing on your left will be Smooth Java, a full-service coffee bar featuring Starbucks coffees, followed by the Headwaters Lounge, which serves appetizers, salads, and sandwiches, as well as beverages, and finally the Banrai Sushi Restaurant. The right side of the passageway as you walk toward the meeting space has a guest services counter, where you can obtain tickets and transportation to various local attractions or arrange for an Enterprise rental car, followed by a number of retail shops, and the Tobias Flats and Watering Hole, serving soups, salads, grilled flatbread sandwiches, and desserts. 

After passing by the retail shops and eateries, you come to a large rotunda, which serves as the entryway to the hotel’s meeting space, sometimes referred to as the Convention Center. Continuing straight, crossing to the far side of the rotunda, you will find a wide, short flight of steps leading to Level 2 of the meeting space. At the base of the steps to the right and the left are escalators and staircases leading down to Level 1 of the meeting space. The escalator and staircase on your right take you to the Panzacola-Sebastian wing of the meeting space on Level 1. All of our meetings and activities on Level 1 are in the Panzacola-Sebastian wing. The escalator and staircase on your left lead to the Gatlin wing of the Level 1 meeting space. A small escalator located to the right of the steps also leads up to Level 2 of the meeting space. 

None of our meetings and activities takes place in the Gatlin wing. If you go down that escalator or staircase on the left, you cannot get to our meeting space in the Panzacola-Sebastian wing except by coming back up to the rotunda and taking the other escalator or staircase leading to the Panzacola-Sebastian wing.

The staircase is located between the up and down escalators. A small elevator also serves the meeting space in the Panzacola-Sebastian wing on Level 1, the rotunda, and the meeting space on Level 2. Please note that a small elevator also goes from Level 2 to the rotunda and to the Gatlin wing on Level 1. This means that, if you happen to take the Gatlin wing elevator from Level 2, you need to get off at the rotunda. Remember, if you end up in the Gatlin wing (by taking either the wrong elevator, the wrong staircase, or the wrong escalator), you need to return to the rotunda to get to the Panzacola-Sebastian wing. Level 2 of the meeting space is also served by two short escalators going only between the rotunda and Level 2—the down escalator being near the small elevator serving the Panzacola-Sebastian wing, and the up escalator being near the small elevator serving the Gatlin wing.

If you continue straight ahead after you reach the top of the short flight of steps leading to Level 2, you enter a corridor containing the ten Wekiwa meeting rooms. These rooms are along both sides of the corridor with 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 on the right and 10, 9, 8, 7, and 6 on the left.

If at the top of the steps you were to turn left and continue walking as far as possible and then turn right, you would enter a corridor containing the eleven Suwanee meeting rooms. These rooms are along both sides of the corridor with 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 on the right side and 21, 20, 19, 18, 17, and 16 on the left. Restrooms are just ahead of you before you make the right turn into the Suwannee meeting room corridor. Also located on Level 2 are the St. John’s meeting rooms, which we do not use for any of our meetings.

The general sessions, the board meeting, the banquet, the exhibit hall (which this year includes the Independence Market), registration and preregistration, resolutions committee meeting, and a number of our other activities and meetings are located on Level 1 in the Panzacola-Sebastian wing, which contains the Panzacola ballroom and the Sebastian ballroom—both of which divide up into many smaller meeting room sections. The names of the sections of the Panzacola ballroom begin with F, G, or H. The names of the sections of the Sebastian ballroom begin with I, J, K, or L.

As you enter the Panzacola-Sebastian wing from the escalator, staircase, or small elevator, you are entering an L-shaped passageway. As you continue walking straight ahead, you are walking along the short arm of the L. The Panzacola meeting rooms F-4, F-3, F-2, and F-1 (in that order) will be on your left. No rooms will be on your right. This short arm of the L is about two-hundred feet long and ends at the Panzacola registration counter. (We are not using the Panzacola registration counter, but it is a good landmark to use to find the intersection of the long and short arms of the L.) Turning left at the Panzacola registration counter, you enter the very long (about five hundred feet) arm of the L. Along the left side of the long arm of the L passageway (also known as the Panzacola-Sebastian Pre-function area) will be entryways (in this order) to the Panzacola G and H rooms, and the Sebastian I, J, K, and L rooms. Along the right side of the passageway are glass doors and windows to the outside of the hotel, restrooms, and the Sebastian registration counter. Preregistration on Monday, July 4, will be at the Sebastian registration counter. Registration on Monday, July 4, for those who have not preregistered will be farther down the L beyond the Sebastian registration counter. Later in the week all registration will be at the Sebastian registration counter. During much of the convention the hotel plans to offer buffet-type fast food service (quick breakfasts, beverages, soups, sandwiches, salads, chips, and perhaps some hot entrées) in the Panzacola-Sebastian Pre-function area.

General sessions will be held in Sebastian I and J. The exhibit hall will be in Sebastian K and L, which is the last section of the Sebastian ballroom at the very far end of the five-hundred-foot passageway. Doors across the far end of the passageway lead outside to the event parking lot, where the CARS Division Auto Show and the Blind Driver Challenge™ demonstrations will take place. Exiting these doors and turning left will lead to another dog relief area.

As I bring this article to a close, I offer one final navigation tip. If after studying this material you remember only one thing, it should be this: To go to any meeting of any kind from inside the hotel, you must get yourself to the rotunda.

See you at the rotunda!


Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Retires

by Marc Maurer

On February 28, 2011, Mr. Frank Kurt Cylke retired from employment in the Library of Congress. From 1973 until very shortly before his retirement, he served as director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). He assumed the position because it was felt by those in the Library of Congress that he had the personality to manage what had become a turbulent and chaotic program. He brought to his directorship not only a steady hand but a commitment to high-quality service for the blind and imaginative development of new products and services. Mr. Cylke’s tenure in office represents the most successful management of Library Services for the Blind that has ever existed.

I became acquainted with the NLS when I was nine years old. A Library for the Blind had been established in my home state of Iowa, and my father, who learned about it from the newspaper, signed me up for service. I had learned Braille two years earlier, and I could borrow Braille books from the library of the school for the blind during the school year. I could borrow only one volume at a time which I would hide under my bed until I heard the shoes of our houseparent walk by after the bedtime bell. Then I would slide the volume out and read until I could no longer stay awake.

However, I had no access to books during the summer. Then I became a borrower from the Iowa Library for the Blind. Big packages of books wrapped in brown paper and tied with string would come to my house through the mail. No longer was I restricted to a single volume or even to a single book—I could have two or even three at a time. Part of my responsibility involved shipping these books back to the library. They had to be unpacked with extreme care because I needed the paper and the string to repack the precious volumes. Each piece of paper had a label on it showing my address. Under the cover of the big Braille books inside the package were address labels to be used for mailing the books back. These labels were in the little pocket where the library card might go. In wrapping the packages for shipment to the library, I had to be certain that the label bearing my address was wrapped on the inside. When I had tied the string around the package, I glued the new shipping label onto it. Then I carried the big Braille book package the mile and a half to the post office. I did not know that I could leave the package at the mailbox for the mail carrier. The long walk was part of my responsibility if I wanted to receive books.

Years later I learned that I could borrow Talking Books. These were recorded on 33 rpm, twelve-inch records. The Maurers owned a stereo that played 33 rpm records. I was permitted to use it to listen to my Talking Books if the living room was not occupied by others. If company was visiting, if the television was being used, or if something else was happening in the living room, I could not listen to the books. Almost every evening somebody watched television. With two parents and six children in the family and with only one television (multiple-television households were largely unknown in those days), the living room was not available for my books with any frequency. However, my father had installed a remote speaker in the basement of the house, where he kept his woodworking tools. Although the television was blaring away in the living room, I learned that I could listen to the Talking Book records if I turned the volume very low. I would place a Talking Book record on the stereo, start the machine, and race for the basement. I had to climb on my father’s workbench and press my ear close to the speaker. I lost the first few words at the beginning of each record, but I heard most of the book. It was one more way to get at the reading matter I loved.

When I was in high school, a blind fellow who lived in our town died. He had obtained a Talking Book machine, a large, heavy record player that played the 33 rpm disks. Somebody asked me if I wanted the machine. I could put this device in my bedroom and listen to books any time I pleased. It was a liberating experience.

I suspect that the thirst for books experienced by many blind people is generated (at least in part) by the scarcity that existed when we were first trying to get them. Today, with the downloadable books from the Library that have come to be a part of the program Mr. Cylke created, blind people are collecting dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of books to read. Having one precious book is a delight. Having a selection at hand of two or three dozen different types of literature that can satisfy the mood, provide inspiration, offer information, or tickle the fancy is equivalent to discovering a treasure trove.

Mr. Cylke began to direct the library while I was in college. What he wanted was more service to more patrons provided more efficiently with more books than had previously been available. His administration of the program was not flashy but steady and competent. Immediately upon becoming director of the program, he initiated a series of semiannual meetings with consumer groups to gain insight about the nature of the service and to learn about methods for improving it. He sought mechanisms to change from recordings on disk to recordings on cassette, and he insisted on quality.

When it appeared that recordings on cassette would become a thing of the past, Mr. Cylke sought to gather as much information as possible about the nature of recorded material in times to come. After studying the trends in electronic storage and retrieval systems, Mr. Cylke and his team of engineers concluded that solid-state flash memory would likely be the best long-term solution for maintaining a substantial collection of recorded books. With deliberation he set about the process of recording books digitally and creating a digital Talking Book player. When the player was delivered, the failure rate for the devices was well under one tenth of one percent.

The joy of reading, the stimulation of a new idea, the lilt of language contained in imaginative poetic feet, a belief in the blind constituents who borrow the books—these are the driving forces that have inspired Frank Kurt Cylke to devote his life, his energy, and his imaginative commitment to the National Library Service. He came to be not only a beloved librarian but also a supporter of programming for the blind in the United States and beyond our borders. He served for decades as a delegate to the World Blind Union North America/Caribbean Region. In discussions of programming for the blind in this region of the world, he challenged delegates to the World Blind Union to live up to the promises they made for increasing the independence of the blind. Mr. Cylke believed that we should find a way to bring hope to those who are without it. One element of that hope was contained in the books he helped to reproduce in forms usable by the blind. However, he wanted us to work with each other to make this hope more all-pervasive than could be achieved with only a book. His service to the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped was that of a thoroughly competent and imaginative administrator. He remains a champion of independence for the blind and a friend who will give all that he has to bring reality to the dream of a more productive life for his constituents.


An Interview with Frank Kurt Cylke

by Gary Wunder

It seemed fitting to mark the conclusion of Kurt Cylke’s extraordinary career as director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped by inviting him to look back over his professional work and the NFB’s association with him. Each year, when he has addressed our national convention, he has mentioned how long it has been since he celebrated Independence Day with his family. We hope he enjoys the holiday with his loved ones this July; his Federation family will certainly miss having him with us. Here is our conversation:

Wunder: What was your experience before coming to the director's position?

Cylke: I've been in the library business since I was sixteen years old—not professionally, but I started working at the Yale University Library at that age. My family were librarians. My father met my mother at the Yale Library; my aunt met my uncle at the Yale Library; I met my wife at the New Haven Public Library. Actually I don't know whether you were a Boy Scout, but my favorite merit badge was the reading badge, where we had to get involved with libraries. My father sent my brother to work at sixteen to the First New Haven Bank, and he became an economist. I went to work at the Yale Library at sixteen and became a librarian, so I guess that's the way life works. It was just ordained that I was going to be a librarian.

When I graduated from college, I went to Pratt institute in Brooklyn, New York. I took a job at a boarding school in Palm Beach, Florida, where I was the librarian and an assistant sailing master.

Wunder: What an interesting combination—librarian and sailing master?

Cylke: For a young man that was a nice job. This was at the Graham-Eckes School, and we had a lot of those children who enjoyed sailing and had their own boats. It was on North County Road in Palm Beach, Florida, and it was the most interesting place to be because it was at the time of the Kennedys and all of that social world. This was all foreign to me; I did not come from a social background of that sort.

I then went to the Bridgeport Public Library, from Bridgeport to New Haven, from there to Providence, and then to the government. I came to the NLS in the early 1970s and stayed for thirty-nine plus years.

Wunder: When you came to the NLS, did you have any particular interest in libraries for the blind?

Cylke: No I did not. The Library of Congress, NLS, was experiencing an awkward patch with the NFB. The Librarian of Congress sent me to NLS—I did not solicit it—but my personal philosophy, one that many people share, "His food I eat; his song I sing," so, when I got there, I said to myself that "I know nothing about this, but let me throw myself into it because this ought to be interesting.”

Shortly after I went there, I found that from my perspective the Library's position was the wrong one and untenable. They had committed a serious social and political breach, and it was up to me to correct it. I worked very hard to do so, and fortunately Dr. Jernigan was of a similar mind--he held my position much earlier than I did, but I believe he was correct. We came to a rapprochement.

Wunder: What was the misunderstanding?

Cylke: A young employee was scheduled to visit the NFB convention (don't ask me which convention) and did not attend or call to say he was not attending. This was an affront to the organization, and Dr. Jernigan took it that way. In retrospect I believe he had a right to. My predecessor chose to defend his staff member's actions, and that's what initiated the problem. It was an affront to the NFB to have a national conference with a featured speaker and not to have that speaker call to excuse his absence. Anybody is rational enough to understand that there could be a crisis in your life, but not to tell the NFB was a problem--anyone can make a phone call.


[I interrupt to insert what the Braille Monitor from September of 1971 has to say about the matter.

An occurrence most unusual in the history of NFB conventions took place when the scheduled panel on "Library Services-Today and the Decade Ahead" was introduced at the Thursday morning session. It seemed that one panel member, James M. Hahn, assistant chief for reader services, Division for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress in Washington, was not on the platform. After calling for him through the convention's public address system and having him paged by the hotel, it was decided to proceed with the program and meanwhile make further inquiries.

While the Convention listened to Mrs. Lois F. LaBauve, director of the Division for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Texas State Library, speak with interest about the work of a Regional Library, the search for Mr. Hahn continued. It was eventually discovered that he was not in Houston. Since the date, place, hour, and subject had all been confirmed by phone and correspondence, the effort to locate Mr., Hahn was extended, and he was finally reached by telephone at his desk in Washington, D. C. His failure to appear before the largest group of consumers of his services was the first time a scheduled speaker did not deem it important enough--for whatever extenuating circumstance--to inform the officers of the organization that he would not be present.

The Convention unanimously adopted a strong resolution asking that Mr. Hahn and his supervisor, Robert S. Bray, be reprimanded. Copies of the resolution and Mr. Hahn's correspondence with the president of the National Federation of the Blind accepting the invitation have been sent, under a cover letter from our chief executive, to the president of the United States, the librarian of Congress, and to every member of the United States Congress.

Now back to the interview and comments from Mr. Cylke.]


Thankfully our relationship got better and better as the years went by, and frankly I will tell you that after almost four decades being the director was the most interesting thing I have ever done. I knew nothing about blind people and had never met a blind person before. That's why I was put there--the library perceived I would be a neutral person without an ax to grind.

Wunder: What would you say were the highlights of your service?

Cylke: I'm not being patronizing here, but I think the highlight of my service was making a rapprochement with the organized blind community, understanding how important the library program was and is for information and recreation to the community, and turning the program into a consumer-oriented program. We have set up various committees--the collection development committee, the machine committee--and we base our whole program on what the consumer wishes, blending that with the obvious professionalism of the library side in selecting the appropriate books, magazines, and delivery services. I also established a point of consumer liaisons, a position held from the very beginning by Judy Dixon as it still is, but that position is set aside specifically for a member of the user community to make sure that there is involvement in all of the decisions at NLS and that a consumer voice is heard.

I had two other interesting experiences I would identify as highlights. One was introducing the four-track cassette, and at the end of the line introducing the digital Talking Book. We learned a great deal between these two changes in technology: from the disk to cassette and from the cassette to the digital. I believe the digital has gone so well because we learned a lesson which was inculcated in us by the NFB of listening to the consumer. When we designed the digital machine, we had the full involvement of two consumer organizations. We tested it in fourteen different locations, and the test involved a representative from the NFB as well as from an organization for the physically handicapped in Wisconsin. We tested with all sorts of users: bright and slow, young and old, those without physical handicaps and those with physical handicaps, those with perfect listening and those without. The reception of the machine has proven this to be an ideal way to go about it. Batelle was doing the hardware, HumanWare was doing the software, and the NFB was working on testing.

Wunder: Everyone I talk with loves the machine.

Cylke: Everything is a compromise. The machine could be a little smaller, could be a little bigger, but I think, building a machine for a broad population, it came out pretty well. This, of course, could not have been done without a fine engineering group at NLS. There's a fellow named Michael Katzmann, who is our lead engineer. Believe it or not, he has thirteen Emmys. Without asking me, he copied me on an e-mail he sent to his staff, and to paraphrase, he said, “If you've wondered whether you've done a good job or not, some statistics have come to my attention. So far we have produced 330,000 machines, and we have had 110 problems.” That's fantastic. I mention Michael because it's awkward when the head of the organization gets all the attention. Obviously a great deal of the work is done by the people at home. Michael is one of those guys at home who deserve a great deal of credit.

Wunder: I know the NFB and the NLS have weathered some hard times together, from the attempts to take money from NLS for other library programs, to the flap over Playboy’s being distributed in Braille to the blind. What can you tell me about these?

Cylke: The internal library situation I'd rather not comment on. There have been bad times—we were there together—and there will be bad times in the future. I guess the interesting thing about the Playboy situation was that it was a member of the press corps, on a hot July day, who went to a Congressman from Ohio (now deceased) and showed him a Braille copy of Playboy and the Congressman said, "This is horrendous that government money should be spent on this," and therein started the tale. It got to the point where the Library's budget was brought up on the floor of the House, and, when that specific point was made, they deducted the cost of the production of that magazine from the budget. The interesting thing was that we then went to court, and Congressman Jerry Lewis and Vic Fazio, both of Ohio, came to testify as friends of the court on behalf of the Library and had the money restored. My perspective was that, once they called for a roll call vote, nobody, regardless of their political view, wanted to vote for Playboy in Braille, but they didn't really oppose it because we got the money back and continued to do it.

I should say that, in my almost forty years of running the program, Congress has been very generous to the library for the blind program. We never asked for money that we didn't need, we never asked for money that couldn't be justified, and in every case we received the money that we asked for. Now in some cases it became a public discussion when we were asking for a big shot of money (seventy-five-million) to execute the digital program, and the NFB, unsolicited, served the NLS very well.

Wunder: "I remember that you were very active on and supportive of the JOE (Joint Organizational Effort) Committee. Can you describe your role in getting it started and working as a part of it?

Cylke: Well, I'm not trying to be humble, but the JOE Committee--that was really Dr. Jernigan's idea, and he brought together all in one room the NFB, ACB, CNIB, NLS, and AFB. At that time there was a lot of friction among the groups. He brought them together very well, and there were several projects where we all worked together. We had different ideas about our user base. One project that members of the committee funded was a contract with the Census Bureau to get us some numbers. There were other projects, but as for JOE, Dr. Jernigan gets the credit for bringing the organizations together, for starting the committee, and for supporting it. When you look at all that Dr. Jernigan accomplished, it is really amazing.

Wunder: Are there other amazing moments in your life you think readers might find interesting?

Cylke: I was there when Ray Kurzweil brought the concept of his reading machine to Dr. Jernigan at one of the conventions, and I consider that one of the highpoints of my life. Ray was a young kid—a PhD student at MIT, I think—and he was selling Dr. Jernigan on the concept. Just to observe Ray selling it and Dr. Jernigan coming from zero to grasping it to embracing it was amazing. And to think there's now this little machine that you can hold in your hand—that's something.

Wunder: What do you think the future holds for the NLS?

Cylke: The budget problems of our nation, whether you want to cut six-billion dollars as the Democrats want or sixty-billion as the Republicans want, will have an impact everywhere, including the Library. In any organization you have to have a fairly strong leader to back the efforts of the suborganizations so that funds aren't siphoned away for other uses.

Wunder: What about factors other than the budget? What, for example, is the future for regionals and subregionals as more and more patrons download what they want?

Cylke: This is obviously my personal view, but there are two things that can happen. Currently 10 percent of the users of the program use the download, so 90 percent don't. That will change over time, I'm convinced. Right now you have 60 percent of the users over sixty and somewhat hesitant to use computers. In the future that will change, and more people will be doing the download. Nature will make this change: older people will leave the program, and the younger people who are more computer savvy will become the majority. A second factor brings us back to the budget with the recession or depression or whatever you want to call it. Many state libraries have been severely affected in a negative way. The question will be whether the libraries can continue to exist, or will their funding be cut or eliminated. Some states have put all of their federal discretionary money into their regional libraries, so, if that federal money goes away, there is no regional library unless they take money from other sources and put it there. So the regional libraries could slowly become less important because of the growing interest in and use of computers and because of the lower funding levels.

Wunder: When I called to set up this interview, you told me you were training as a volunteer in your new job. What is it? Can you tell me about your training?

Cylke: Well I have been a birder, I guess you'd say, since college. I'm very fortunate to live in a town called Great Falls, Virginia, and there's a national park here. For twenty-five or thirty years I'd go on a bird walk every Sunday morning. I got to know the park and volunteered some years ago when there was a big drug craze and we were losing six or seven people a year in the Potomac River at this park. They wanted people to have a presence in the park, and they felt that, if a fellow put on a uniform and a hat, those addicted to drugs wouldn't feel they should jump into the water. I walked around there on Sundays for a couple of years with my hat and my uniform, and I never met a druggie, and I never knew whether I stopped or caused anybody to jump. But I found all of this interesting, and I got outside, and I got to know people from all over the world who would come to the park, so, when I retired, I said that I wanted to go down and volunteer. Now I'm like nineteen years old again because I am attempting to earn my uniform shirt, my uniform hat, and a radio. The people training me said, "We'll let you know, Kurt, when we think you're ready," and I think that's pretty good because it's like starting all over again, working in public service and trying to interpret the park to the people.

Wunder: Is there anything I have not asked you that you would like to say?

Cylke: This is very presumptuous, but the one thing I'm left with is that the situation of the blind community is not widely and publicly known and accepted. I wound up with library services for the blind and physically handicapped, and everybody in this blindness world is aware of it, but the general public isn't. I think the NFB's effort in having Mark Riccobono drive around in that automobile was wonderful because it will cause people to say, "Oh, a blind person driving a car," and the students from Virginia Tech working on this are saying, "Wow, we're going to help blind people drive a car." It's amazing.

I can remember sitting at a dinner in Kenneth Jernigan's home when this topic first came up, and I will admit that I said, "My goodness, is this man reasonable?" I didn't say this to him, but I had it in my head. I'm confessing to you that I was saying in my head that "I just don't understand this; how could that ever be?" And going from there, maybe fifteen years ago, to see it on the Today Show last Sunday, and then reading in the paper two days later and seeing that Ford is working on the same thing—I look at that and think what a small mind I have.

Let me say one other thing, and this sounds hokey, and I guess I am hokey, but, when I look back on my life, and my whole professional life was with the blind community, what I want to say is, "Thanks for the memories." I guess I'll tell you, but the first thing I did the day after I retired is I went out and joined the NFB. I couldn't do that when I was a worker because I had to be balanced and approach both organizations equally. I haven't yet gotten my first Monitor, but I've sent my dues in at any rate.

Wunder: Congratulations on being a member, and welcome to the Federation.

Cylke: Thank you and it’s been a pleasure.


The Evolution of Braille:
Can the Past Help Plan the Future?
Part One of a Three-Part Article from the Braille Authority of North America (BANA)

From the Editor: BANA, the Braille Authority of North America, is important to blind people because it helps to determine the symbols we feel when we read Braille publications.  Often what BANA does is controversial--it isn't that it intends to be, but, anytime you consider revising a code, a language, or even a procedure, lots of people want to know why.  What's wrong with it the way it is? they ask. The proponents of the change sometimes find themselves complaining about why it wasn't more dramatic, meeting only part of the identified need.

What is fascinating about the following article is that it proves that one of our fundamental assumptions is flawed: the assumption that print never changes, so why should Braille do so? Print does change,  so Braille must change as well.  These changes are driven not only by changes in print, but by the changes in what blind people now demand to learn.  The Braille code was created primarily to bring literature to the fingers of the blind, but, if we are to be employed and to converse in the twenty-first century, we must be able to read and write in the language of scientists, mathematicians, and even computer geeks who keep bringing new words and symbols into our daily conversation.

Keeping Braille relevant and current without changing it so much that it is unrecognizable to those of us over forty is BANA's mission, so here is part one of a three-part article outlining how it intends to meet this challenge:


Braille has been instrumental in making possible the integration of blind people into society, and, in turn, this increased integration has driven developments in the use and production of Braille. The more integrated blind people have become, the greater are the demands placed on sources of literacy. Are the literacy tools keeping up?

The purpose of this article is to illuminate the changes in the way Braille has been produced and used over the past fifty years and to discuss some of the reasons for and the impact of these changes. Clearly a number of overarching and complex issues influence the teaching, learning, and use of Braille—teacher shortages, teacher competency, service delivery methods for Braille learners, the role of Braille in employment, and more. However, this article will focus on the evolution of the communication methods used by Braille readers; it will also look at other evolutions that have occurred such as how blind children are educated, the range of available technologies, and the evolution of Braille and print.

This article is divided into three parts. Part 1 traces the use of Braille as a viable reading medium from the 1960s to the present and the way print has changed over the same period. Part 2 discusses the more technical aspects of Braille translation, challenges faced by transcribers of current codes, the need for accurate forward and backward translation with the least amount of human intervention, and the impact of the use of refreshable Braille displays. Part 3 discusses the future; it explores the options for change and examines Unified English Braille (UEB) and the Nemeth Uniform Braille System (NUBS) as examples of code unification.

The development of Braille and of its use in the United States is a long and fascinating story. The history is well-documented, so this article begins with a look at the evolution of Braille in the United States beginning in the 1960s. First, however, it may be helpful to answer a frequently asked question: "Print does not change; numbers are numbers, parentheses stay the same, a dollar sign means dollars. So why all this tinkering with the Braille code?" Let's take a quick tour of the relevant changes in print during the last fifty years.

Print Changes

In the early 1960s, print was, believe it or not, quite a different thing from what it is today—not only in its methods of production and distribution, but also in the way it looked. For starters, individuals could produce print either by handwriting or with a mechanical or electric typewriter. Print produced on a typewriter was very symmetrical with rows and columns of characters. The primary tool for showing emphasis was underlining. In 1961 the first IBM Selectric typewriters had a rotating typeball that could be changed in mid-document, for the first time allowing different fonts in the same document. This meant that people could produce a document with bold or italicized text, and they began to do so with abandon.

Still, symbols that could be represented by typing were limited. If one wanted to place an accent mark over a letter, such as in the word resumé, it had to be done by backspacing over the final e and using an extra keystroke. Multiple copies could be made only using carbon paper or mimeograph machines, and, if a print document could not be hand-delivered to its intended recipient, it had to be sent in the mail. Color and graphics could be produced only by professional printers or publishers using expensive and complex methods, and they were not used in the way we see today. Classroom textbooks were generally full of text, which was usually meant to be read straight across a column or page.

Beginning in the 1980s, people began to have computers and printers in their homes. At first printers created text much as typewriters did—in columns and rows. In fact, a common kind of printer at this time was the daisy wheel printer, with technology not much ahead of the Selectric typewriter. The daisy wheel had a spinning sunburst of petals, each with a character on its end, and only the characters available on that wheel could be printed. Copy machines improved, and fax machines became common, so it was easier to reproduce and distribute print documents. Still, although floppy disks for computers could be hand-delivered or mailed, paper was key in the distribution of print. Print began to show variations of font and style. Creativity abounded, and people were continually looking for ways to make the print appear more attractive to readers.

By the 1990s, the world of print was evolving at a tremendous rate. Using laser printers, personal computer users were able to print complex text with multiple character sizes and various fonts and styles on a page. It was even possible for a person to create an entirely new print character if the current range of characters did not happen to include what was needed. People liked what they saw, and the vast varieties of possible print continued to expand. Color print was at first quite expensive for individuals to produce but became more economical with the introduction of the inkjet printer.

As the possibilities have expanded, the nature of print on a page has become more and more non-linear, with an extensive use of graphics. Today both K-12 and higher-education textbooks are full of photographs, diagrams, charts, graphs, boxes, and sidebars presented for visual appeal, and the content necessary to convey the meaning is displayed in a variety of layouts and arrangements on a page. Because technology is so much a part of the daily life of people, the boundaries between what is technical material and what is purely literary are increasingly blurred—Web addresses, symbols that stand for letters, and even mathematical equations can frequently be found in everyday books and magazines.

Often written documents never even make it to paper; rather, they are presented and read using computer screens, cell phones, or other electronic devices specifically meant for on-screen reading. For example, in 2008 the Colorado Community College system announced that students could access all their textbooks online for a flat fee. Online textbooks have the advantage of including hyperlinks, definitions, links to additional information, interactive graphics, and much more. Classrooms in general are much, much more computer-based. Gone are the days of a teacher writing on a chalkboard—the teaching demonstrations, the assignments, even the tests are increasingly conducted in an online forum.

Print conventions have changed. For example, there are now many styles of enclosure symbols like parentheses—brackets, curly braces, and angle brackets. Bulleted lists are ubiquitous. Changing technology has made it easier to change font, color, and print size—even within the same sentence— and has brought new words into our language, spelled in new ways with capital letters and periods in the middle of words. Plus signs, dollar signs, trademark and copyright symbols, asterisks standing for letters, question marks with spaces on either side run rampant, not just through text messages, but through everyday magazines and newspapers.

Braille Changes

Before the 1960s blind children were usually educated completely separate from sighted children, mostly in residential schools for the blind. The main source of leisure reading materials in Braille was the Library of Congress. Educational materials were Brailled mostly by a few Braille publishing houses, using human Braille transcribers who wrote every word of the material into Braille. The number of titles that needed to be transcribed was limited by the fact that blind children attended only a relatively few schools. Most of the teachers who worked with blind students knew how to read Braille and therefore could comfortably create Braille materials and did not need to rely on a print copy to read the students' materials. Print page numbers were not generally shown in Braille books. Outside of the Braille publishing houses or schools for the blind with access to Braille presses, transcribers could produce Braille only by hand, using either a Perkins Braillewriter or a slate and stylus. Multiple copies of a document could be produced only using a thermoform machine, which was an expensive and laborious process.

The literary and the mathematics Braille codes had generally been developed and then evolved with an eye toward saving space. For example, in order to use fewer cells, the percent sign and units of measurement such as "cup" were always Brailled before the number, regardless of the order in print. Part of the role of the Braille transcriber was to make the judgment calls that were sometimes needed to decide how to transcribe a given symbol. To save space and use less paper, it was common practice to divide words between lines when there was room for part of a word at the end of a line. This practice required time-consuming consultation with a dictionary to ensure proper division, and saving space and paper was more valued than saving time. The code for rendering mathematics in Braille changed several times during the first half of the twentieth century, and by 1972 the Nemeth Code for Science and Mathematics Notation was the standard.

If a blind person needed to produce something in print, the person either used a manual typewriter, often having written the material in Braille first, or dictated the material to a sighted person to handwrite or type. Reading Braille always meant reading from hard copy—primarily paper but also thermoform plastic.

Many factors in the blindness field began to change in the 1970s. In the educational arena Public Law 94-142 provided that blind children should be educated in the “least restrictive environment.” An increasing number of blind children had already begun to be educated in the public schools rather than in specialized schools for the blind, and the law accelerated that trend. This shift required many more titles to be transcribed because not every school used the same textbooks, even within the same state, and this led to an increased need for Braille transcribers.

The organization responsible for developing the Braille code had changed in composition and in name many times over the preceding century. In 1976 this group became known as the Braille Authority of North America (BANA), and it included national consumer organizations, Braille producers, the Library of Congress, transcribing organizations, and others. While continuing to fine-tune the literary Braille code, in the late 70s, BANA developed a system that included print page numbers in Braille books so that mainstreamed blind students could follow along with their print-reading classes. The system included additional symbols and formats not covered in the literary code but needed for the meaningful transcription of textbooks used in mainstreamed classrooms.

To some extent the Braille code moved away from specialized practices, such as inserting apostrophes in Braille where none existed in print, and toward giving the reader an accurate representation of print. Library books, magazines, and the like were still transcribed using the literary code. The textbook code was substantially updated in 1997 and is now known as Braille Formats: Guidelines for Print to Braille Transcription. Many conflicts between the literary Braille code and Braille formats still exist today.

Literary Braille provides only one way to indicate a change in font showing emphasis. Its one indicator, the italic sign, has to represent italic, boldface, underlined, or colored type. The Formats guidelines allow for italic, boldface, and various colors. These are needed when a textbook gives an instruction such as: “Copy the new vocabulary words (shown in italic type) into your notebook and study the review words (shown in boldface type).”

The literary Braille code instructs the transcriber to substitute a word for symbols such as + (the plus sign), - (the minus sign), and > (greater than) that are shown in print. Braille Formats has Braille characters to use for many such print symbols. For example, in a sentence such as "John + Mary = True Love," Braille Formats would use symbols similar to but not exactly like those in the Nemeth Code. If literary Braille is followed, the words "plus" and "equals" would be used for the print symbols. (Part two of this article will discuss the conflicts that can arise when symbols from different BANA codes are considered for adoption into literary Braille.)

Print textbooks make use of a variety of enclosure symbols, including parentheses, square brackets, curly brackets (also referred to as braces), angle brackets, and enlarged versions of all of these symbols. The literary code provides for only parentheses and square brackets. Braille Formats adds curly braces and angle brackets. In some texts it is critical for students to know which enclosure symbol is shown in print. Mainstreamed students and employed blind people are expected to be able to produce print similar to that of their fellow students or colleagues at work. Their textbooks need to help them prepare for this.

Additionally, to try to ensure greater clarity in the representation of computer-related material that was becoming more prevalent, BANA developed a specific computer Braille code. While this made computer programming easier for Braille readers, it added a new set of symbols. For even the most casual Braille reader of general literary material, symbols from this code abound today in email addresses, Websites, and even the names of common companies such as Amazon.com.

In the 1970s Braille translation software, although still in its infancy, started to become more common, and by the early 1980s Braille embossers were being used by larger organizations. Transcribers could either use six keys on a regular computer to enter the Braille by hand or insert special codes into a print document to produce the proper formatting. Embossers provided an easier way to make multiple copies, but reading Braille still meant reading hard copy. Electronic Braille displays had started to arrive, but they were mostly incorporated into stand-alone products that did not interface with mainstream devices, and most people did not have access to them.

In the late 1970s and the 1980s, the typewriter and dictation were still the primary methods for a blind person to produce print. However, in K-12, Braille-reading students could often write out their assignments in Braille, and then the special education teacher or transcriber would "interline" the Braille, i.e., write print above the Braille so that the classroom teacher could read it. Most blind students who grew up during this era never had the experience of being able to read directly-written communication from their classmates (no passing messages, no copying class notes), because most of their classmates were print users who did not know Braille.

In the late 1980s speech output became possible on personal computers but was far from commonplace. Blind people with access to this technology could check and edit their own typing and could share their work by printing it out on paper. There was still no way to fill out forms or pay bills without using a human reader and no way to share documents without printing them first.

Beginning in the 1990s, the further proliferation of the personal computer and the rise of the Internet began changing the interaction of print and Braille and drastically increasing blind people’s access to written information. Today all kinds of print-origin documents are more directly available to Braille readers. Now, with various combinations of Internet media, speech output, Braille displays, scanning and OCR, Braille-translation software, and Braille embossers, blind people can read, in a matter of moments, virtually anything created by anyone—a pop quiz from a classroom teacher, a popular new book that appeared in stores yesterday, a Web page created by someone two minutes ago in France. Job applications, registration forms, order forms, and the like are readily available online, and bill statements are available electronically to everyone. Blind people are accessing the same material in the same format as their sighted peers. Braille readers use technology to render these materials accessible, not depending on a sighted reader or transcriber. Of course human readers are still the most efficient means of accessing some information, but the need for them is not as great as in times past. Some online material is inaccessible, but it is now easier than ever for blind people to have direct access.

Refreshable Braille displays have become more adaptable to mainstream computers, and notetakers with Braille displays are common. These devices allow blind people to read directly what others produced in print without the need to emboss onto paper or have someone transcribe it. The same files or messages that sighted peers access by looking at the screen on their computers or devices can be accessed by viewing using a Braille display—no other intervention required. Although these displays are quite expensive now, they are in the hands of more and more Braille readers, and no doubt cheaper production methods will become available. With Braille displays any number of daily newspapers can be read in Braille, no waiting required and no elimination of articles because of limited space in a Braille publication. When surfing the Web with a Braille display, blind people can click on a Braille cell using a device, and soon there is another page of Braille. Hence, unprecedented access to books of all types in Braille is now available. The Gutenberg Library, Web-Braille, and Bookshare™ have made tens of thousands of titles available electronically, and it is now possible to read these books in Braille using the technology available. Additionally, as optical character recognition technology has improved and the price of scanners has fallen, an electronic version of any print book is within the Braille reader's grasp even if it is four o’clock in the morning, and there is no print reader for miles.

The Future Is Now

Today blind people can communicate in writing with classmates and coworkers with the greatest of ease by email, text messages, or social media sites or by simply passing files back and forth using a host of methods. The method of writing is not nearly as tied to the method of reading as it was. For instance, someone can type an email message using a device with a refreshable Braille display, and the recipient can read it in print on his or her cell phone screen, print it on paper, etc. Likewise, someone can use a cell phone keypad to enter a text message, and with the right technology the recipient can read it in Braille. This means that blind students can now produce assignments for their teachers more independently than ever before. They can receive the handouts by email or Web page, access them directly in Braille, and submit the assignments directly, again using email or Web page.

Braille translation software interfaces well with more and more mainstream applications. Braille embossers, now more widely available, can produce reams of paper Braille. Because the existing technology makes it possible to produce Braille more easily, it is often used in cash-strapped education settings by people who are not necessarily knowledgeable about Braille itself. On the other hand, the work of knowledgeable transcribers, still extremely important, can be far more efficient with this technology. Translation software and Braille embossers, combined with the ability to scan documents and the availability of electronic source files from publishers, has created the potential to speed the transcription of Braille books greatly. Transcribers are now able to invest less time in entering text and more time in preparing the proper structure and format for books that will be translated. Greater ease of Braille production correlates with a greater availability of Braille textbooks, even in higher education. Thus the stage is set for quicker, cheaper Braille.

Increased technology has aided Braille readers in their methods of Braille production as well. Besides using a slate and stylus or a Braille typewriter, blind people can use Braille translation software with a PC to create Braille for embossing. Refreshable-display devices allow users to type either in six-key Perkins Brailler style or with a QWERTY keyboard to get either uncontracted or contracted Braille.

Rather than being paper-based, Braille for work and communication is now mostly electronic-based. Original documents can be copied infinitely, manipulated, and customized. The same file with a few keystrokes can render a document in uncontracted, contracted, or partially contracted Braille, with print page numbers or without them, on narrow or wide paper, and on paper or on a refreshable Braille display.

BANA has continued to make minor changes to the Braille codes from time to time, most of them moving Braille toward greater similarity with print. For example, the placement of the percent sign and items of measurement has been changed to follow print, and symbols such as the copyright and trademark symbol were added. These changes are intended to give the Braille reader more accurate information about what is shown in print and to give the transcriber greater freedom to focus more on issues of formatting the material rather than assuring that each word is rendered correctly. Since a human transcriber is not always present, it becomes increasingly important for our translation software at least to be able to render the words and symbols correctly. That need factors strongly into the code changes as well and will become increasingly necessary as print continues to evolve.

Since its invention in the early nineteenth century, Braille has remained vital to the literacy of people who are blind, and it continues to thrive despite the predictions of some to the contrary. As we have seen, however, until the last thirty years, people who use Braille had relatively little direct interaction with print and read Braille that was delivered in a fairly standard way. Now Braille users generally interact directly with print-origin material routinely, and the boundaries between what is in print and what is in Braille are becoming virtually nonexistent. While print has undergone tremendous changes in appearance, delivery, and conventions, the Braille code itself has changed relatively little.

We have painted a rosy picture here about what is possible in theory today with so much access to Braille. However, we should make no mistake about it: there are great challenges as well. In the next installment of this article, we will discuss in more detail the workings of BANA; some of the challenges in today's Braille production by Braille display, translation software, and human transcriber; and the reasons why maintaining the status quo in Braille code development in this country will not be a viable option for much longer if Braille is to keep up with our changing written language and remain the primary tool for nonvisual literacy.


Over There

by Robert Kingett

From the Editor: Robert Kingitt is a member of the National Federation of the  Blind of California.  He makes his living by writing and doing inspirational speaking.  He is blind and has cerebral palsy.  Here is a humorous take on something we've all encountered.

As I stood in line at the checkout of the River City Market, I asked the cashier what I considered a simple question: "Where are the napkins, please?"

Her response was hurried but sincere, "Over there.”

Emerging from the light rail for the first time, I managed to catch the attention of a passer-by, "Please, sir, can you tell me where I can catch bus 10?"

A kind voice offered a pleasant response before disappearing into the cacophony of early afternoon, "You can catch it over there."

So many things reside over there--napkins, bus stops, pencils, pens, clothing racks, department stores, and even my shoes! A never-ending supply of important and indispensable items and locales reside in this place shrouded in mystery and intrigue.

I stand in perplexed silence after learning that something is “over there.” It is a place I have never been and have no hope of finding on my own. My cane is quite skilled in finding chairs, stairs, elevators, and escalators and helping me cross streets and even finding the Diet Pepsi display at Food Town; however, when I try to find "over there," my cane hits nothing. My cane hits all sorts of things in front of me, in back of me, to the left and right of me, but the one thing my cane and I just cannot find on our own is “over there.” We will not be going "over there" today. “Over there” has caused me a bit of vexation and a lot of confusion and on occasion has made my heart race.

I have discovered that "over there" can be a dangerous place. One day, while crossing a street, I heard a driver's irritated voice shout warning of a truck bearing down on me from “over there.” I artfully dodged the oncoming vehicle and pulled my cane and me to the safety of the curb. Our hearts were both racing as we took a few moments to compose ourselves. Close encounters with “over there” can be frightening experiences.

Although many blind people have wondered about the exact location of "over there," few have dared to venture forth in an actual exploration of that mysterious place. One day, while standing in line at the supermarket, I asked the clerk where I might find the aspirin. With a cheery smile in her voice, she informed me that the aspirin was located "over there.” With a weary sigh, I decided that I would take the extra step that would unravel the mystery which had vexed my compatriots since the beginning of time.

Taking a deep breath and attempting to look nonchalant, I smiled at the clerk, "Where," I asked, "is over there?" I imagined the girl's shocked expression. I felt her exchanging condescending and concerned looks with her fellows in the store. The silence grew palpable as they mulled the possibility of allowing a blind person access to the forbidden land.

She had no choice; she would have to tell me how to find "over there." I had won! Exhilaration swept through me as I waited in breathless anticipation. A victorious smile crept to my lips, my hand tightened on the handle of my cane; we would soon be going “over there.” The clerk's voice dripped with resignation as she made her decision. "That way," she said, pointing.


Two Weeks at the Center

by Father John Sheehan

From the Editor: Father John Sheehan is the chairman of the Xavier Society for the Blind in New York. Many will remember his spirited address at our 2010 national convention and his participation in our protest of the Authors Guild after it pressured Amazon to disable the text-to-speech facility in some books, fearing that a text-to-speech feature might cut into audio sales. Not only is this a bizarre supposition easily disproved by observing the reaction of audio readers to the strange voices produced by synthesized speech, but it is a fundamental violation of the right of the consumer to purchase a book and have it read in whatever form he or she desires--reading it in print, scanning it for transcription into Braille, or listening to it read aloud by a human or using synthetic speech. Father Sheehan understands this principle and has been an articulate spokesman for the right of blind people to have access to books, no matter how they are presented, but our recent partnership has introduced him to the National Federation of the Blind and the NFB to a scholar, a gentleman, and a fighter for the rights of blind people.

Father Sheehan recently enrolled as a student for two weeks at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. In this article, which first appeared on the Xavier Society’s Website and which he has adapted for and generously provided to the Braille Monitor, he describes his abbreviated blindness training, what it has meant to him as a sighted person, and the value blind people receive in mastering the skills and adopting the attitudes of the National Federation of the Blind. Here is what he says:

From January 16 to January 31, I was in Ruston, Louisiana, at the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB). I was a guest student, taking courses in home management, cane travel, shop, Braille, and computers--all wearing sleepshades. I wore the shades a minimum of nine hours a day, and some days darkness lasted as long as thirteen hours.

The hardest question for me to answer is, “Why did you do this?” When I first learned that several NFB centers around the US do this kind of work and that I would be welcome as a guest, I felt it was something I needed to do as chairman of the Xavier Society for the Blind to share at least some of what our clients (and some of my friends) experience as blind people. Now that I have done it, I am still reflecting on the experience.

Note--The word “blind” includes a range of conditions from seeing nothing to seeing light and shadows to seeing things distinctly in a very small part of the visual field. In fact, many of the students at the LCB have some sight, but all wear sleepshades when undergoing training and attending classes. Many of the faculty are blind, but all have taken the LCB program, and many of the sighted instructors wear sleepshades when they are teaching.

Another note—sleepshades are a large, black covering for the eyes, originally developed by the military. They are lined with foam so that they rest away from the eyes—you can open your eyes under the shades—but they completely block the light so that you can sleep. They are useful for training purposes, and blind organizations and individuals use them a lot. They have the advantage of warning others that the person wearing them is not able to see. Unbelievably (to me, at least) many people do not realize that a long white cane means that the user is blind. The shades are fairly comfortable, but my eyebrows itched, and it was difficult to scratch anything around the eye. You want the shades tight enough to keep out the light but not so tight that they compress your sinuses or crunch your ears. I know, it sounds funny, but, when you’re wearing these things nine hours or more at a pop, this gets to be relatively serious.

I was met at the airport and taken to my apartment. The next day I took the bus to the center. I was given my sleepshades and cane, my slate and stylus (for writing Braille—more on those later), and my class schedule. I was walked to my first class, home management, and my adventure began.

Since this is not a day-to-day account, I’m going to talk about each of the areas of training. Home management includes cooking, budgeting, cleaning, polishing shoes, and tying a necktie. I learned to vacuum but also to take a vacuum cleaner apart and put on a new belt. We were given a list of foods that everyone needed to cook, including homemade noodles and pastry. We had to learn to use a blender, a crock pot, and a long list of other equipment. Each student must prepare a lunch for eight (by invitation only) and a lunch for forty, which everyone enjoys. Each of those exercises has a budget, which influences menu planning.

Each student learns the layout of the kitchen, the use of the appliances, and the way food items are stored and identified (salt is in the peanut butter jar, and the honey bear holds virgin olive oil—I never did learn where they keep the honey). Mistakes happen—one young man used a cup of whole wheat flour as part of the four cups of confectioner’s sugar in the frosting of a red velvet cake. He had measured three cups before he ran out of sugar. The resulting frosting wasn’t bad, but it was also not according to the recipe.

I fixed bacon and eggs my first morning and eventually biscuits, brownies, a beef stew, and fried pickles. I learned how to sew on a button although fulltime students have to sew four or five kinds of buttons (remember this is all done while being blind, and I now can thread a needle more easily with my eyes closed than ever I could with them open). I can now tie a Windsor knot (on those rare occasions when I do wear a tie, it’s a simple four-in-hand knot). I learned how to handwrite a check, use a signature guide, and write on a blank page. Some students who are blind from birth have never learned to write, so they are taught the shapes of the letters by touch.

Cleaning is also part of the curriculum and includes dusting, bathroom cleaning, and laundry. Each apartment is inspected regularly, and hints are offered about how to take better care of the space. Each student lives in an apartment—some singly, some with a roommate—and students take care of their own rooms, their own laundry, and their own shopping and cooking. The goal is instilling confident independence, and everything taught is geared toward that goal.

Probably the most dramatic of the classes is shop because for many students it is so removed from anything they have done before and because a tremendous amount of responsibility is placed on the student. The only specialized tool is the click rule. Every other tool in the shop, whether hand tool or power tool, is unmodified, exactly the same as you would find in any woodworking shop. The shop instructor, however, doesn’t remove the safety guards as other shops often do, and safety with tools is a constant theme. Whenever a major power tool is to be used, the student prepares and, when ready to cut, calls for a check and is approved by one of the instructors, who either visually or manually checks for safety.

The student is given a series of arithmetic problems and then is taught to use the click rule. After mastering the click rule, he or she has to score a piece of wood with a scratch-all to create a checkerboard pattern, mark the intersections, and then drill a hole at each intersection. Since a blind carpenter cannot see a drawn line, the scratch-all becomes his or her pencil. Another series of exercises introduces the student to other tools, and in the course of two assigned projects the student will have learned to use every tool in the shop confidently.

At that point the second instructor walks the student through selecting and designing a final project. It can be a mantel clock, a grandfather clock, a chest of drawers, a chair. The student picks the project; designs it, and, when the design is complete, builds it. There are no predetermined plans; the whole design process comes from the student. The process takes anywhere from three to five months. Cuts must be within a tolerance of one-eighth of an inch, or the cut must be redone. Students take great pride in their projects, and they work hard at them. They learn precision and responsibility, and the work they turn out is very professional.

Cane travel is a foundational course because that’s how the blind move. In the first week or two, depending on a student’s experience and skill, he or she is cleared to travel and is no longer allowed to take the bus to and from the center. Students have to walk and learn to deal with carrying loads, facing bad weather, and walking at different times of the day. Basic techniques are taught and re-enforced, and students are given routes to walk. Other exercises include a drop (in which the student and usually a teacher, both wearing shades, are dropped by car at an unknown location and required to find their way back to the center). Checkerboard is an exercise in which a group of students goes out, and at each corner a different person chooses the direction to take. Eventually the teacher selects one person to start going home, and at each corner the teacher picks another student to be the guide. It doesn’t always work out the way you planned.)

As I went through the courses, I heard some of the same themes being repeated. “Don’t overthink” was one. True in shop, true in cane travel, true in the kitchen, true when trying to read a line of Braille. “Keep up the pace” was another. True in the Braille room, true when walking with a cane. “Keep your focus” —in the kitchen, in the shop, on a travel route. These are all lessons for life, not just for cane travel or cooking. These are things we all need to do, to know, to practice in our lives, and they are true and important whether we are blind or sighted.

One dimension I had not considered is the prevalence of diabetes as an illness among the blind. I don’t know how widespread that is, but certainly in the kitchen great care was taken to include recipes using Splenda and to teach students how to use Splenda in cooking. Regular sessions with a nutritionist were scheduled for those who needed it, and students looked out for one another. A student who wanted to try a piece of cake that a friend had made was refused “because there is too much sugar in it for you.”

When I was given my slate and stylus, I wondered how I would do since I had had only a little practice reading Braille with my eyes and none using my fingers. I found I learned the alphabet quickly, starting with writing rather than reading. I soon got the hang of using a stylus and found I could churn out a fair amount of correct Braille in a short time. Of course I was using only the alphabet. Braille also contains contractions, and, as you get more experienced, you come across more contractions, which make it possible to read Braille at over 400 words a minute. That is a very fast Braille reader but not terribly unusual. For instance, a letter standing alone represents a word. Thus “b” = “but,” “k” = “knowledge,” and so on. There are many contractions and combinations, and grade 2 Braille includes them all.

I also learned to use the Perkins Braillewriter. That too came fairly quickly, and in my last class I filled two pages with material. Reading was more difficult since, although I knew the letters, my fingers found it hard to distinguish between them. I was taught to read with both hands at once, emphasizing the left on the left side of the page and the right on the right. I am right-handed, but my left hand is actually better at reading than the right. My teacher constantly said not to “scrub” the Braille, i.e., move the fingers up and down to identify the pattern; move straight across the line, maintaining the pace, repeating entire words as necessary. Reading Braille comes very slowly, but it is coming. Every student at the center learns to read and write Braille.

For me the computer class was a survey of what’s available. Everything on the computer is sound-reinforced, from having the screen-access program echo the letters or words entered, to reading material on the screen. No matter how fast the voice reads—and it can read so fast I can’t understand it, although they say that I would with practice—it is still slower for me than reading with my eyes. Another lesson—patience. Sometimes I just had to stand or sit and wait my turn. In the kitchen I was always running late; everything took more time than I had expected. Walking took me longer. Reading and writing took more time. After all, I was there for only two weeks of instruction in skills that were completely new.

Playing with the computer programs I had heard about for years was fascinating. The technology is changing almost daily, and blind users are becoming more and more proficient at using it to increase their access to the Internet, to jobs, and to the world.

I Don’t Have to See to Know Where I’m Going.”

My biggest post-event reflection is that being blind is not extraordinary. The blind and visually impaired students are being helped to realize that they can do almost anything a sighted person can, and the staff uses everyday activities as the platform to reinforce that conviction. The center develops basic skills for everyday living (many sighted people could undergo this program to great benefit), and the students graduate with both skills and personal confidence based on experience. While extraordinary people are part of this program, both students and instructors, what the center does is simply to make it possible for its graduates to do what everyone else does.


Access to Electronic Books, a Comparative Review

by Wesley Majerus

From the Editor: It is said that we live in the information age, and nothing is more reflective of this than the ever-increasing number of sources for books and devices and software with which to play them. Wes Majerus wrote this article shortly before leaving the National Federation of the Blind’s International Braille and Technology Center, where all of the hardware and software he discusses can be found under one roof. Wes now teaches computer and other technology at the Colorado Center for the Blind, and, as you will see in his article, there’s a lot out there to learn. Here is what he says:

The eBook market has become quite popular over the past few years. While the blind reader could previously access texts only through a few services like Bookshare™, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, access is now available through a number of sources, both specialized and mainstream. The aim of this article is to inform the reader about accessible services and how to gain access to them. Because some services require specific hardware for their access, we will provide limited descriptions of hardware. In addition we will compare digital Talking Book players currently on the market with respect to their capacity to access book sources that use DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System).

Inaccessible Services

A number of eBook resources remain inaccessible. Anything that uses the Adobe Digital Editions format does not provide access to blind users at this time. Adobe, however, is aware of this issue and is working to release a new, accessible version of Digital Editions. Barnes and Noble's Nook eReader, Nook readers for the Mac and PC, as well as their Nook Study format are also not usable by blind people. The same is true of Sony's Reader.

Mainstream Book Services

Amazon Kindle: Since its launch in 2007, the Amazon Kindle has not been accessible to blind users. The latest iteration of the Kindle, which appeared in August of 2010, does offer some features that might be considered accessibility enhancements but which are not fully developed. The device offers Voice Guidance, a system that reads menus and menu choices. This option must be enabled visually using the menus before it can be used. Voice Guidance is separate from the text-to-speech (TTS) that reads the digital content such as books, magazines, or newspapers. The reading TTS must be enabled for each document every time you want to read it. This is done through the menu once you have selected reading material. It should also be noted that the Kindle's onboard Web browser is inaccessible as of this writing. Content must be purchased from another device and then synchronized to the Kindle. For this reason it is important to set up an Amazon account before purchasing the Kindle so that it will arrive tied to that account. Reading of Kindle books is also contingent on whether the publisher allows text-to-speech to be enabled for that title. Blind readers can learn whether this is the case by viewing the description of the book on Amazon's Website. If a book cannot be read by the Kindle, you will see "Text-to-Speech: Not enabled" in the book description when viewing details about its Kindle edition.

Apple iBooks

Apple launched its iPad tablet computer in April of 2010. One of the many features that debuted with the launch of the device was the ability to use an online bookstore developed by Apple and called iBooks, which offers the ability to browse, purchase, and download books securely through the iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone with the latest iOS (iPhone operating system) version and a small iBooks application on the device. Once downloaded, users can read the book nonvisually through the VoiceOver screen-access package and its accompanying touch screen gestures that let you control the way the device reads, navigate through the book by page, and continuously read the book from the current location. You can also pause and resume reading, bookmark pages, and perform other actions. iBooks is a mainstream solution that allows blind users to obtain books at the same price and at the same time as their sighted neighbors do. In addition it is possible to sample a book free of charge and to download public domain books from Project Gutenberg through the iBooks Store.

As of this writing the current version of iOS is Version 4.2. This latest version of Apple's iPhone operating system offers the capability to pair a wireless Bluetooth Braille display with your device. Doing so lets you read iBooks content in refreshable Braille. It should be noted, however, that some issues exist with navigation through the book using Braille displays because you must still use the device's touch screen to turn book pages and refocus the Braille display on the book's text. In some instances you may be able to use shortcut keys Apple has provided for Braille display users. iOS 4.2 synchronized features between iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. To take advantage of Braille support and enhanced navigation through iBooks content, you must upgrade your iPad to the latest operating system. These enhanced navigation capabilities include the ability to move by word and character in the text and to look up word definitions in the iBooks dictionary.


Audible is a service that offers recorded audio books. Originally meant for mainstream audio book listeners, this service has gained traction in the blindness community over the past few years. Audio from Audible is downloaded in a proprietary format and can be played only on players that support it. Many popular MP3 players as well as iPods, the iPhone, and iPad will play Audible format. Audible content can also be played in the popular iTunes media management software package. Many Talking Book playback solutions and notetakers will also play Audible books.


Before analyzing other sources of digital books, it is important to discuss the DAISY format. Many services that offer books to the blind use this format because DAISY offers versatility by providing navigation that goes well beyond the plain text navigation used in the first electronic books for the blind. DAISY comes in a number of forms. The full audio DAISY book is the simplest, consisting of audio that has been pre-recorded either by a human reader or through the use of text-to-speech synthesis. At important points throughout the book, marks are inserted that allow playback hardware or software to navigate using these markers. Often books are marked up by sections and chapters. For finer granularity, or level of navigation, book producers mark up the beginning of each page so that users can navigate from page to page or tell their playback hardware or software to go to a specific page in the book. The extent to which navigation marks are inserted depends on the content of the book, how the book was recorded, and the time the producer put into it. Something recorded on cassette may require a producer to listen to the entire recording to determine where appropriate marks are to be inserted.

Full text DAISY is the next type of DAISY content. It consists simply of the book's text with markup added. As with the audio DAISY discussed above, the markup can be as simple as sections and chapters, or as complex as page and paragraph level markup. Depending on the producer, only the beginning notes and end notes may be marked up.

Some hybrid forms of DAISY also exist. In full-text full-audio DAISY, both pre-recorded audio and the book's text are present. These are synchronized so that, if your playback solution supports it, you can switch between the text and the audio, and they will be in synch with each other. This is beneficial if you want to perform a search on a specific word in the book or need to know how a proper name is spelled or for deaf-blind readers who want to read the text on a refreshable Braille display. With some hardware and software solutions, the Braille moves along with the audio playback so that you can read and listen at the same time. Some book producers provide a full-audio DAISY book with limited text included. At times this limited text is the titles of chapters, page numbers, or other material.


Bookshare is a DAISY service that has been available for approximately nine years. It offers downloadable books in text-only DAISY format. Depending on the quality and source of the book, the DAISY markup varies from title to title. Some titles may have pages, sections, and chapter navigation, while others, such as the freely available public domain books, allow navigation to the beginning and end of the book only. For those who do not want to work with DAISY, Bookshare offers downloads as plain text or as BRF (formatted Braille) files for viewing on a device with a refreshable Braille display. No matter which way you wish to download the books, recent titles are provided in ZIP format that must be unlocked with a password. Annual memberships to Bookshare are fifty dollars unless you are a student, in which case you can obtain a free membership as of this writing. Bookshare members may also do volunteer work for the service and receive credit for scanning or proofing books, and these credits are applied against the annual membership fee. A $25 setup fee is charged when a paid membership is established.

Open Library

The Open Library, run by the Internet Archive, is a repository for a number of books. Many of these titles have been scanned from print and are searchable from the <http:www.openlibrary.org> site. Public domain books can be downloaded in text-only format and in text-only DAISY. Markup for these books is sporadic, meaning that some books have page-level markup, while others have headings for the beginning of the book only. At the beginning of summer 2010, the Internet Archive announced that it was allowing access to some more recent titles in its collection through the DAISY format. Since these titles are not in the public domain, they are being offered as protected DAISY downloads that require a key to decrypt the books. As of this writing, Victor Reader Streams that contain the NLS authorization key will play these titles. Note that you must have the more recent authorization scheme from the NLS that contains three keys. The older scheme that came with streams authorized before early 2009 will not open the books.

The National Library Service

Probably the most well-known service for providing accessible books is the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). For some time its books were offered on cassette tape; however, the cassette program is quickly being replaced with digital offerings.

Web-Braille is a source of electronic Braille from the National Library Service and has been available since 1999. Web Braille offers the reader who qualifies for service the ability to download books in Braille Format with the suffix BRF. These files can be viewed on notetakers such as the BrailleNote, BrailleSense, and PAC Mate. Players like the Victor Reader Stream and BookSense will also generate synthesized text to speech using these files. These files are sequential presentations of books and magazines with no navigational structure; however, users can search the file using their playback device's search facility to find things like page numbers, chapter titles, or other words and phrases.

The NLS also offers audio titles in a digital format. These titles are available in DAISY and can be played back on the NLS Digital Talking Book Player, which is freely available from your regional library. Through the use of an authorization key, digital players like the Book Port Plus, BookSense, Plextalk Pocket, and Victor Reader Stream can access these books. Navigation through the book is available, but its granularity, is dependent on several factors. If the book was originally recorded on cassette, it will have fewer marks that the reader can use to skip around in the book. The type of book will also determine how much time and attention NLS puts into inserting navigation information. A novel requires less markup than a cookbook.

Books are downloadable from the NLS Braille and Audio Reading download site or can be obtained on a cartridge from your cooperating library. Visit <http://www.loc.gov/nls/> for further details.

Read How You Want

Read How You Want offers books for purchase from its online store. These books are produced in DAISY and incorporate recorded synthesized speech, full text, and images. Using a software player, you can choose either to read the text with screen-access software or to listen to the recorded audio. Its DAISY books will also play on hardware players. You may view samples of its work by visiting <www.readhowyouwant.com/humanware>.

Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic

Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) is another source of electronic books. Its titles focus primarily on academic subjects, but one can find some fictional works and how-to books such as computer programming tutorials, operating system manuals, and other instructional texts in the collection. Books can either be obtained on CD in DAISY format, or be downloaded through the RFB&D Download Manager. The Download Manager is compatible with Windows and Macintosh systems. Books are also downloadable in the Protected WMA format. Playback of DAISY books is available with a decryption key from RFB&D and a compatible player. Software solutions such as FS Reader, gh Player, Book Wizard Reader, and Dolphin Easy Reader will play RFB&D books. RFB&D offers a free copy of ReadHear™ to qualifying members. This software can be run on either Windows or a Macintosh. Though one copy of the software is free, additional licenses can be purchased for $20 each. Books can also be played on hardware such as the Book Port Plus, BookSense, Plextalk Pocket, and Victor Reader Stream, among others.


Victor Reader Stream: This is one of the most popular small digital Talking Book players. It was responsible for making small DTB players popular because of its versatility. As of this writing, the Stream is the only player to offer the capability to play EPUB formatted books, through a softpack that can be added to existing Streams or purchased with new units. By using consistent keys on its telephone-style keypad, users can change the level of navigation in DAISY books, move to the various types of content on the device such as books, music, audio files, and text documents, as well as navigate through text documents by word or character. It is one of the few players that lets you choose to work with either the text or audio portion of a DAISY title that contains both full text and full audio. It sells for $329 from HumanWare.

BookSense: This is another small digital Talking Book player. It is the only player that offers a model containing onboard memory and Bluetooth audio capabilities. The player uses a keypad and five-way directional arrow key set. Though the arrows are pronounced on the device, the keypad buttons can be difficult to feel for those with less sensitive fingers because the buttons are fairly flush with the unit's surface. If you find yourself listening to a number of books that do not offer recorded audio, you may find the BookSense's text-to-speech voices to be more listenable than other players on the market; the device uses the Neospeech VoiceText Kate and Paul voices that some people like because of their human-like sound. As with the Stream, it is possible to choose from the text or audio portion of a DAISY book that contains both text and audio. The BookSense XT, containing onboard memory and Bluetooth audio capabilities retails for $449. The standard BookSense, which requires secure digital memory cards for storing material, retails for $349. A model called the BookSense DS is also available. It contains a small LCD screen for reading text content.

The Plextalk Pocket: This is a small, flat unit that is about the size of a small cell phone. Its numeric keypad is discernible with convex, dome-like number keys. It also has a five-way arrow key set that has four buttons around it for navigation and bookmarking. The Plextalk has a guide voice and musical tones to help the user work in the menus and input values governing settings on the player. This guide voice is prerecorded, but it is comprised of samples of synthesized speech. Some may find this difficult to understand. In addition, the reading voices sound a bit compressed and thus are tinny to the ear. One major benefit of this player is its ability to create a DAISY book on the fly. This is achieved by adding headings at important parts of a recording. This can be done either as the recording progresses or as the user listens to the recording at a later time. This player does not provide access to the text portion of a DAISY book when that book contains an audio track. The built-in wireless networking capabilities of the Plextalk Pocket were recently activated, providing the capability to transfer files between a computer and the Plextalk Pocket over a wireless network. Future enhancements may also use this functionality.

Book Port Plus: This device uses the same hardware as the Plextalk Pocket. It is a small, candy-bar-type unit with well-defined number buttons, a five-way arrow set, and buttons flanking the arrows for navigation, menu use, and other functions. The Book Port Plus uses software written by the American Printing House for the Blind that is different from that of the Plextalk Pocket. The Book Port Plus still allows for recording of audio and eventual creation of a DAISY title. The means by which one navigates through a DAISY book differs on the Book Port Plus because keypad buttons are used instead of the arrow keys. Book Port Plus also uses a human voice for navigating through menus and changing settings on the device. The musical tones that provide audio cues on the Plextalk Pocket are retained in Book Port Plus's software. The speech engines that read text files and text-only DAISY titles also sound a bit compressed and may be difficult for some to understand. As with the Plextalk Pocket, users are unable to navigate to the text portion of a DAISY title if audio is present. Users can, however, edit text files on the Book Port Plus through the use of thumb Braille entry or by using the Book Port Plus's keypad the same way one would use a cell phone for entering letters by pressing the number on the keypad corresponding to a specific letter. Thumb Braille uses the keypad like a Braille cell. The Book Port Plus sells for $329 from the American Printing House for the Blind. Wi-Fi capabilities also exist within the Book Port Plus hardware, and future enhancements may use them.

NLS Talking Book Player: The National Library Service Talking Book Player is available to any patron of the Braille and Talking Book Service. The player uses cartridges sent to patrons from a National Library Service regional library. Blank cartridges are available from the American Printing House for the Blind for storing downloaded books from the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) site as well as other content. Content can also be played from a variety of USB flash drives that can be attached to the player through its side USB jack. The player does not have the capability to play text-only DAISY books or other text files. However, by placing MP3 or Wave files in a directory called "Audio plus Podcasts,” you can play music or other recorded audio using the device.

Braille Plus Mobile Manager and Icon: The Braille Plus Mobile Manager is a product of the American Printing House for the Blind. It contains a telephone-style keypad as well as a Braille keyboard for text entry. Output is available through speech using the unit's built-in speakers or Braille through a Bluetooth or USB-powered Braille display. It can support DAISY titles with text, audio, or both. In addition to playback of RFB&D-protected Audio Plus titles, Braille Plus can play the National Library Service Talking Books.

The Icon is a similar unit to the Braille Plus. Manufactured and distributed by LevelStar, Icon contains stereo speakers and resembles a large cell phone. The device can provide output through speech or refreshable Braille. Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic titles are supported as well as those from the National Library Service Braille and Audio Reading Download site.

BrailleNote: The BrailleNote from HumanWare is a notetaker and organizer. Available in Braille and QWERTY-keyboard models and with eighteen- or thirty-two-cell displays, the BrailleNote contains a Book Reader application that will access DAISY titles as well as text and formatted Braille documents. Books with recorded audio are played aloud, and those that contain text can be read either using refreshable Braille or using the built-in Eloquence or Keynote Gold speech synthesizers. Keysoft, the operating environment on the BrailleNote, is also available on VoiceNote units, which offer speech output only.

Braille Sense and Voice Sense: These notetakers are produced by HIMS. They come with either Braille or QWERTY keyboards and provide speech output. The Braille Sense can be purchased as either a full-size, thirty-two-cell model or as an eighteen-cell unit called the Braille Sense OnHand. All of these devices contain a DAISY reader that is capable of playing unprotected DAISY 2.02 and DAISY 3 titles. Control of the book can be achieved through the keyboard or by switching the front media keys into DAISY mode. If a title contains text and audio, playback of the audio is synchronized with text on the Braille display. Text-only titles can be read on the Braille display if available, or the unit's internal speech synthesizer can read them aloud.


AMIS: AMIS, pronounced A-Mee, stands for the Accessible Multimedia Information System. It is a free software package that was developed by the DAISY consortium to play DAISY titles on any Windows-based computer. The program is self-voicing, which means that it does not need a screen-access package to function. However, scripts have been written that enhance the player's capabilities with JAWS, including muting of speech when the player is talking and easy navigation to the text window of a DAISY title that contains text. AMIS does not permit the playback of protected digital books at this time.

Book Wizard Reader: This is a DAISY playback program developed by APH for Windows-based machines. The system can create its own speech through a combination of human-recorded responses for its menus and messages and Microsoft's Speech API for the text to be read. It supports NIMAS files as well as DAISY 2.02 and DAISY 3 titles.

DAISYWorm: This is an iPhone and iPod Touch application developed by the Association for the Blind of Western Australia. The application supports DAISY 2.02 as well as DAISY 3 titles that contain audio. As of this writing it does not support text-only DAISY titles.

Dolphin EasyReader: Dolphin EasyReader is a Windows-based DAISY playback solution that supports a variety of formats. The product can access both DAISY 2.02 and DAISY 3 titles as well as protected EPUB and MathML expressions embedded in HTML or DAISY titles. In addition users can open HTML or TXT files with EasyReader. The product can work in conjunction with Dolphin's Supernova screen-access package, or you can use it with JAWS in conjunction with scripts that have been developed to make EasyReader more user-friendly with JAWS.

FS Reader: This is Freedom Scientific's DAISY playback solution. The reader supports DAISY 2.02 and DAISY 3 titles that contain text or audio. The product can be authorized to play RFB&D’S AudioPlus books. If a JAWS demo is downloaded, FS Reader is installed to the computer system and can be used with other screen-access packages. In addition to allowing DAISY playback on any Windows-based computer, FS Reader is also available for the PAC Mate notetaker. PAC Mate Omni users can download the program free from Freedom Scientific's Website if they are using a version of the Omni software before 6.5. PAC Mate Omni 6.5, a free upgrade from 6.2, contains FS Reader as a built-in application.

InDAISY: InDAISY is an application produced for the iOS family of devices from Apple. It is compatible with the iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone and offers capabilities to play back DAISY content that contains text or audio. Content is transferred to the device using an Internet connection and a built-in FTP server that bundles with InDAISY. The app sells for $19.99 and is available in the iTunes App Store.

Olearia: This is a free DAISY playback application for Macintosh computers. It is produced by the Association for the Blind of Western Australia and is available free of charge. The application is compatible with VoiceOver, Apple's built-in screen-access package. Support is available for books that contain text, audio, or both full text and full audio. Though Bookshare titles can be played with Olearia, there is no support for RFB&D or other protected titles.

ReadHear™: Originally released for the Mac in 2009, this is the new rebranding of gh's DAISY playback products. With new updates to the Windows-based gh Player, this software will also be known as ReadHear. The software supports playback of RFB&D and Bookshare texts, as well as other DAISY 2.02, Z3986 (DAISY 3), unprotected EPUB, and NIMAS files. When mathematical equations are imbedded in HTML or DAISY content using the MathML markup language, ReadHear will allow navigation through this content by word or character. RFB&D members are entitled to one copy of ReadHear for either the Macintosh or the PC as part of their membership. This RFB&D-branded copy will play only RFB&D titles. Future enhancement may allow for unlocking the RFB&D copy to play all supported content for a fee.



Light for the Blind in the Philippines

by Susan Jones

From the Editor: Susan Jones is a leader in the NFB of Indiana. Here is her report on efforts to help blind people and their families and teachers in the Philippines:

In 1972 a blind man named Dr. Arthur Lown retired from his job with the Atlanta Public Schools and set off with his wife Inez and their three children for the Philippines. They had been accepted and trained by Wycliffe Bible translators, and they were assigned to manage the guest house in Manila, where missionaries could stay when they needed medical treatment or had to conduct business in the city.

Not long after arriving in the Philippines, Dr. Lown was approached by three blind pastors who wanted Braille Bibles in their own language, Tagalog. Dr. Lown had experience providing Braille books for blind children in Atlanta. So he began the project, eventually providing Bibles in all three major Philippine languages in Braille, in large print, and on cassette. But he also realized that blind Filipinos’ needs were far deeper and more wide-ranging than simply providing Braille Bibles. Most were uneducated and lived in abject poverty. Being a man of vision and realizing it would take a team of people to begin to accomplish all that was needed, in 1988 he founded the organization that today is known as Resources for the Blind, Inc. (RBI).

In 1991 they began educational initiatives. They envisioned blind children integrated into public schools, much as they are in the States, learning alongside their sighted peers. The process was long, and the obstacles were numerous. Teachers had to be convinced they could teach blind children, and they needed training in the alternative techniques of blindness. Parents who saw their blind children as a burden with no potential or future hope had to learn that those children could grow into mature adults living purposeful lives, using their God-given potential to make significant contributions to society.

Like many other worthwhile initiatives, the ministry to blind people in the Philippines grew more multi-faceted. RBI has funded hospital-based training for ophthalmologists, paid for cataract operations, and held camps where blind children could work on skills, gain encouragement and support from one another, and experience the love of Jesus through caring mentors and the study of the Scriptures.

Today RBI holds workshops in the summer to train teachers to teach the blind and visually impaired children of the Philippines. It also prepares blind children and their families for full integration into public schools. It holds screenings for early detection of eye diseases. It performs about 3,000 cataract operations a year to restore sight to many who have lost it. It does early intervention with pre-schoolers, some with multiple disabilities, to prepare them for school and life. It provides counseling and rehabilitation services for people losing their sight and for parents to teach them how to raise their blind children. RBI partners with organizations such as IBM to provide computer and job skills training for high school and college students. It sends many of its finest teachers to the US and other countries to gain knowledge and experience with which they can return to the Philippines to train more teachers. RBI produces virtually all the Braille and large-print books blind children need for their education.

Last fall I was blessed to travel to the Philippines to see all of this marvelous work. I met the director, Randy Weisser, and most of the staff; I visited blind people in their homes and learned something about how they live their lives. The God-given inspiration and Asian ingenuity I witnessed were nothing short of remarkable. My goal in writing this article is to acquaint Monitor readers with this outstanding organization and invite you to consider supporting RBI in whatever way you can. With your support this organization has tremendous potential to expand into other countries where blind people desperately need the services they are prepared to offer. I encourage you to visit the Website <www.blind.org.ph>, where you can find a wealth of information to acquaint you further with Resources for the Blind, Inc., and its mission.


That Well-Known Road

by Nancy Burns

"Do you know where you are?" asked the elderly-sounding man who was in front of us in the checkout line, waiting to pay for a purchase. I suppose he asked this question because my husband and I were both using white canes.

I truly wanted to scream and say something like, "No, we are totally lost." This sort of inquiry is frequently directed to us. I bit my tongue because deep down I believed that the man was trying to assist but didn't have a clue how to do so. Such questions are demeaning and could have a powerfully negative impact on someone who was adjusting to recent vision loss. Since my husband and I are well-adjusted blind adults, such comments are simply annoying.

As a woman who happens to be blind, I have spent my adult life attempting to educate the general public that it is okay to be different, and specifically that it is okay to be blind. The majority of people don't see it that way. Being asked these questions puts me in a difficult position. My desire is to educate, but these belittling questions or comments are not always easy to respond to. There is a fine line between educating and alienating someone. For me it is like walking a tightrope, and I am never quite sure which way to lean. When the waitress asks my sighted friend, "What would she like?" she is making an erroneous assumption. I suspect she believes that, since I can't read the menu, I obviously don't know what to order. Or perhaps the all-too-common misconceptions about blind people kick in, and she just concludes that I am unable to function. Interestingly enough, some of these folks even speak louder, assuming that my hearing is also impaired.

In books, in movies, and in the media blind people are often portrayed as either amazing or helpless and dependent. Why is it so difficult for the general public to understand that blind people are in fact just people with all the abilities, hopes, and desires of the sighted world? If there are blind people (and there are some) who appear to be helpless and unproductive, could it be that the public’s inaccurate beliefs and false impressions about blindness have contributed to producing their inequality? If you expect nothing of us, nothing is what you will get. Societal attitudes about blindness or vision loss must change in order for those of us who are blind to truly be considered as normal (whatever that is) citizens. On the other hand, if you believe in equality--equality is what we will all achieve.


A Young NFB President Responds to a Faithful Federationist

by the Staff of the Jacobus tenBroek Library

From the Editor: The following is another in our series of historical documents in the Jacobus tenBroek Library. In December 1986, newly elected NFB President Marc Maurer received a Christmas letter from Federationist Virginia Reagan. A longtime member of the Missouri affiliate, Reagan used a wheelchair and lost her vision later in life. Surgeries resulting from her mobility problems had her in and out of nursing homes, but with the help of the NFB she found full-time employment and lived alone. She went on to join a Catholic religious order and worked as a mentor to young boys.

Active in the NFB and outspoken about the general public’s image of blind people, Reagan published articles in the Braille Monitor on three occasions. She sent yearly Christmas newsletters to Dr. Jernigan and later to Dr. Maurer. In these letters she complains about nothing, but simply expresses joy in life with a warm familiarity and an engaging sense of humor. The first letter she wrote to the NFB’s new president prompted this response:

Marc Maurer, President

December 22, 1986
Virginia Reagan
Brethren of the Cross

Dear Virginia:

I have the letter you sent to me dated December 4, 1986, and I must say that, among the many nice things that have happened to me in the last year, I think receiving your letter is one of the nicest. Of course, I have had the pleasure of reading letters you have written before, but I have never received one from you myself. As you have pointed out, we in the Federation are a family. It is not only that it makes good sense for us to care for one another, it is part of what makes us the people we are.

With the assumption of the duties of the presidency of the National Federation of the Blind, my life has changed. This change is gradual and continuing. Dr. Jernigan is participating in the administration of the NFB, which is all to the good. For close to forty years Dr. Jernigan has worked hard to make our organization what it is. I admire the work, and I like the organization. What has already been done has taken imagination, commitment, and enormous energy. I never met Dr. tenBroek. However, sometimes, when I was in college, I would read our NFB material in the middle of the night. Often I would begin by feeling depressed and finish the reading with the fierce determination that things could be changed. At such times I wondered what Dr. tenBroek read in the middle of the night. Those two voices, Dr. Jernigan's and Dr. tenBroek's, made a real difference to me.

I think about what we have to do in the future. There is so much. But I know we will do it. We will because we have faith in each other and because we know the Lord will give us strength.

I very much appreciate your letter, and I return your good wishes. I hope that the blessings of God are with you and that you have a good Christmas and a successful and happy New Year.


Marc Maurer, President

Sadly, Virginia Reagan passed away in 1993. But her strength, determination, and tireless support of the NFB live on in her Monitor articles and the letters she exchanged with members of her Federation family.


Board Ousts Carroll Center for the Blind's President

by Brian McGrory

From the Editor: Monitor readers will recognize the Carroll Center as one of the most famous blindness rehabilitation agencies in the nation. The following story appeared in the March 18, 2011, edition of the Boston Globe. Here it is:

The president of the acclaimed Carroll Center for the Blind was abruptly forced out by an emergency vote of the school's board of directors Wednesday night amid issues about his performance and an internal investigation into whether he harassed a visually impaired female employee, according to two officials affiliated with the school.

All but one board member voted in favor of removing Michael Festa, a former state elder affairs secretary in the Patrick administration and, before that, a popular state representative from Melrose. The lone exception abstained from voting, those officials said. Festa was named president of the institution, which sits on a five-and-a-half acre campus in Newton, in September 2009.

The two officials, who talked only on the condition of anonymity because it involved a personnel matter, said that an outside lawyer was hired to investigate concerns over inappropriate behavior by Festa and that the lawyer made a roughly ninety-minute presentation to the board during the emergency meeting in downtown Boston. The presentation focused on two incidents, both of which involved Festa touching female workers, the officials said. The first was allegedly at a school holiday party in December, and the second involved a witness seeing Festa embrace the visually impaired worker in the basement of the school, the officials said. The employee has not registered a complaint with school officials and has not taken any legal action against the institution or Festa, officials said.

Reached by telephone at his Melrose home yesterday, Festa described his termination as "an unfolding situation” that he was “not at liberty to discuss.” When asked specifically about the possibility of harassment, Festa sounded surprised and said, "That's totally out of the blue. I can assure you on my father's grave I've never heard any of that.”

Festa formally resigned yesterday afternoon in response to the board's push for his departure. He was not present at Wednesday's meeting. Carroll Center board member Joseph Abely confirmed that Festa had resigned, then read a statement saying, "Michael has made many significant, positive contributions to the center during his tenure as president. The board of directors of the center accepted Michael's resignation because it collectively felt a change in leadership was appropriate.”

Abely, the former chief executive of LoJack Corporation, was named by the board to be the Carroll Center's interim president as the school searches for a permanent leader. He declined to elaborate on why Festa was asked to leave. Half a dozen other board members similarly declined to comment. The Carroll Center lawyer, David Cifrino of McDermott Will & Emery, did not return a phone call.

Two officials said Festa had been previously warned by subordinates and one board member about his behavior following the December party, but had responded by referencing his Italian heritage—apparently meaning he was demonstrative and prone to physical contact.

At the same time that the board voted to terminate Festa, it also voted to reinstate a longtime vice president, Arthur O'Neill, whom Festa had fired earlier this winter, to his former position, the officials said. O'Neill's termination had caused significant friction between Festa and the board because O'Neill, who had worked at the Carroll Center for thirty-nine years, in many ways served as the face of the school to the larger community.

The two officials said law enforcement authorities have not been contacted because board members and the lawyers did not believe Festa's actions represented anything criminal. But it was a level of contact that the board deemed inappropriate for the institution's leader. The officials took pains to point out that the board of directors acted swiftly and decisively as soon as they were presented with the information about Festa. Most members first learned of the allegations when they received a notice late last week about the meeting. They gathered in a law office; listened to a presentation; and, after some debate, voted to seek Festa's resignation. One problem under Festa's leadership, officials said, is that the Carroll Center has suffered from lackluster fund-raising in the face of a stuttering economy, and its marketing efforts have lagged over time.

The school is revered by many of those who have turned to it during a painful time in their lives--after they have lost their sight. The school, which includes dorms for some students, specializes in giving new life skills to those who become blind, rather than people who are born without the ability to see. It offers an independent living program and a vocational transition program, among others, for all ages. It also hosts a widely lauded regatta for blind sailors on Boston Harbor.

But in many ways the Carroll Center is overshadowed by the Perkins School for the Blind, located about three miles and less than ten minutes away in Watertown. The Perkins School claims Helen Keller on its rolls of former students. It has a sprawling campus, a star-studded board of directors, and lists $229 million in assets on the latest filing with the Massachusetts attorney general's office. The Carroll Center, by comparison, claims $8.3 million in assets, according to the state filings.

For Festa this is an unlikely career development. He has been a longtime and well-regarded fixture in Melrose politics and then on Beacon Hill, a vocal progressive who, in nearly nine years in the Legislature, fought for gay marriage, more democracy in the often autocratic House chamber, and for an overhaul of state criminal sentencing laws.

He was appointed the state secretary of elder affairs by Patrick in October 2007, only to abruptly leave in January 2009, after reportedly butting heads with JudyAnn Bigby, the Health and Human Services secretary. When Festa left the elder affairs job, key advocates of the elderly sharply criticized the administration, saying that if it wasn't for Festa, cuts in senior programs would have been significantly worse.



This month’s recipes have been contributed by members of the NFB of Arizona.

Brown Sugar Pie
by Tony Sohl

Tony Sohl is a member of the Arizona Association of Blind Students board.

1 unbaked 8-inch pie crust
1 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons flour
Dash of salt (optional)
1 can evaporated milk
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using your fingers, mix brown sugar, flour, and salt directly in the pie shell and spread evenly. Slowly pour the evaporated milk over the mixture but do not stir. Dot top with small lumps of butter, sprinkle cinnamon over all, and bake for fifty minutes.

Hot Chicken Salad
by Sharon Omvig

Until recently Sharon Omvig was a member of the Tucson Chapter. She and her husband Jim have been Federation leaders for decades. In the past few weeks they have returned to Des Moines, Iowa, where they previously lived for many years.


2 cups cooked white meat, diced
2 cups diced celery
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 small can sliced water chestnuts
1/2 small jar diced pimiento
1 to 2 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
a little water
 1 small can French fried onions
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Combine chicken, celery, almonds, salt, pepper, one cup of cheddar, water chestnuts, and pimiento. Make sauce by combining mayo, lemon juice, and water and mix gently with chicken mixture. Use your own judgment about the amount of mayo. I like saucy casseroles, so I use whatever it takes to be saucy. Bake for thirty minutes or until bubbly. Layer the onions and half cup of cheddar over the top a few minutes before removing dish from oven.

Chocolate Bundt Cake
by Sharon Omvig

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
3 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup oil
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Method: Mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, and salt. Beat together the oil, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla, and beat into dry ingredients. Add 1 cup boiling water and beat again. Pour batter into greased and floured bundt pan and bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for sixty to seventy-five minutes.
Frosting ingredients:
1 square unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Method: Melt chocolate and butter together. Beat in remaining ingredients, and, if two teaspoons water isn't enough, add a little more until glaze is smooth and you can pour it thickly over the warm cake.

Double Date Loaf
by Bob Kresmer

Bob Kresmer is president of the Arizona affiliate.

1 cup Medjool dates
1 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup Miracle Whip
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten well
1 scant teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 cup pecan pieces, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method: Cut up dates and pour water mixed with baking soda over the dates. Refrigerate while mixing other ingredients. Mix Miracle Whip, sugar, egg, and scant teaspoon of salt. Mix with dates and water. Add two cups of flour and vanilla. Stir in pecans. Bake in a greased and floured loaf pan at 350 degrees for about an hour. Test with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the loaf is done. Let rest for fifteen minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Asparagus and Cheese Soufflé
by Bob Kresmer

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moon slices
1 pound asparagus, bottoms trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup roasted red pepper or pimiento strips
6 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup shredded Swiss or Monterey jack cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Vegetable oil spray, as needed

Method: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, squash, and asparagus and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are tender crisp, about three minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the pepper strips. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. In a large bowl whisk together eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the cheeses and the cooled vegetables. Spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with vegetable oil spray, line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper, and spray again. Pour the egg mixture into the prepared pan, and seal the pan with aluminum foil. Place the pan in a larger baking dish and place on the center oven rack. Pour enough hot water into the baking dish to reach halfway up the loaf pan. Bake until center is firm and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about one hour and ten minutes. Remove the soufflé from the oven and let cool for ten minutes. Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to release the soufflé. Turn out onto a cutting board and cut into 8 slices and serve hot or at room temperature.

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage
by Bob Kresmer

1 medium red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 to 3 pounds red cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/4 cups balsamic or cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method: In a twelve-inch skillet, sauté the onion and garlic in the butter over medium heat for 1 minute or until golden brown. Add the shredded cabbage. Add wine to deglaze the pan, loosening any browned bits on the bottom with a wooden spoon. Stir in the vinegar and sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent the sugar from burning. Reduce the heat and simmer about ten minutes until the liquid is reduced by half. Serve warm or cold.

Mountain Beans
Volunteer Poverty Status Pinto Bean Sludge
by Frank Vance

Frank Vance works at the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

1 pound dry pinto beans
1 pound lean chorizo sausage, beef or pork
1 medium yellow onion
5 fresh jalapeños
1 can diced or sliced olives
6 cloves fresh garlic
1 package red chili powder
Handful of salt
8-ounce package of grated cheddar cheese
1 package 10- to 12-inch tortillas

Method: Put the beans in a pot and simmer them for two hours or until they are somewhat softened. (They don’t always get soft enough while cooking in the crockpot.) Drain the beans and place them in the crockpot.

Brown the chorizo. It’s very important to drain all excess grease. If the chorizo is lean enough, there shouldn’t be much grease, but, if it is not high quality, there could be a lot. Add the drained meat to the beans. Cut the peppers in half down the middle. Then slice each half into pieces and add to the pot. Be bold and add the seeds as well. This is important because humans have only one soul, but chili peppers have hundreds of souls. Each seed has its own soul that yearns to be added to the mixture. Peel the skin from the onion and slice as you would for a hamburger. Then dice the discs. Place chopped onion into the crockpot. Add the can of olives. You’ll be amazed at how such tiny things can take the edge off the spiciness. Peel and press the garlic and add to the mixture. Next add the chili powder and a handful of salt. Start slowly. If you need more salt, it can easily be added. You’ve messed up this dish if you put in too much salt, so be careful with this step. Add enough water to reach nearly to the top of the mixture. Stir thoroughly. Place the lid on the crockpot and cook on high for four hours or so. (Optional) Brown tortillas on a griddle (not on the stove burner). Then place a scoop of beans in the center of the tortilla and roll the burrito.
Note that rolling burritos is an art, and only a select few can do it without resulting in leaky burritos. To achieve mastery of this important life skill, follow these simple steps:

  1. Heat the griddle until it is just too hot to touch.
  2. Place the tortilla on the griddle until warm. Flip it over and warm the other side. Don’t scorch it.
  3. Place warm tortilla on plate.
  4. Place scoop of beans so that you leave three inches of tortilla on the bottom and on both sides of the beans. You can add shredded cheese to cut some of the bite if you wish.
  5. Fold the bottom edge of the tortilla over the top of the beans. Barely tuck the edge of the tortilla under the beans.
  6. Fold the sides of the tortilla in. It’s important for the creases to be vertical and parallel. Make sure that no beans are exposed, or you’ll end up with a leaker.
  7. Roll the bean-filled part of the tortilla into burrito form.
  8. Enjoy.

Juniper Lamb Stew
by Carrie Taylor

Carrie Taylor is the Arizona membership chair.

2 pounds lean lamb, cubed small
6 ears fresh corn
6 spring onions with tops
3 sweet green peppers, chopped
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons lard or cooking oil
2 teaspoons dried wild celery (1/3 cup chopped celery tops can be substituted.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 dried juniper berries, crushed
2 teaspoons chili powder
4 cups water

Method: Mix seasonings and flour and coat meat. Brown seasoned lamb in hot lard or oil in heavy kettle. Cut corn kernels from cobs and add with remaining ingredients and water to meat. Cover and simmer for one hour or until meat is tender.

Napolitas (Cactus)
by Carrie Taylor

1 pound pork
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
1 large can stewed tomatoes
1 pound green cactus, peeled and diced
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, diced
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Season salt
3 cups water
Method: Cube the pork and fry in a skillet with onion and garlic. In a large Dutch oven, combine ingredients and simmer for one hour. Serve with crusty bread. Note: Prickly pear cactus (fresh, small, thick pads)--remove spines with knife and peel, or purchase at market in a jar, diced and packed in its own juices.

Minty Chocolate Brownies
by Allison Hilliker

Allison Hilliker is vice president of the Arizona affiliate.

1 package brownie mix, baked according to directions on box
Mint Frosting Ingredients:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons milk or cream
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
A few drops of green food coloring
Chocolate Glaze Topping Ingredients:
8 ounces chocolate chips (1 1/3 cups)
2 tablespoons butter

Method: When brownies are cool, combine mint frosting ingredients, spread over brownies, and let set in a cool place, refrigerator preferred.

Melt chocolate and butter, stirring often as it warms in the microwave. When smooth and well combined, drizzle over cooled firm frosting. Spread gently with spatula until surface is covered. Cool again in refrigerator until you're ready to serve and eat. It is better to let the brownies sit on the counter for a bit before cutting into squares. This will keep the top from cracking much.


Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

This year’s Braille Book Fair/Flea Market will take place from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 5, 2011. Consult the April issue for the address to which you should send your gently used Braille books in need of a new home.

Resolutions for Convention:
Here is a message from Sharon Maneki, who chairs the NFB resolutions committee:

Do you think we should change a government policy, take a stand concerning an agency for the blind, or create new regulations? If you do, consider writing a resolution. At the 2011 national convention the resolutions committee meeting will be held on Monday, July 4. The committee will debate and discuss resolutions on a wide variety of subjects. If passed by the Convention, these resolutions will become the policy statements of the organization.

To ensure that your resolution will be considered by the committee, please send it to President Maurer or to me by June 18, two weeks before the committee meeting. If you miss this deadline, you must get three members of the committee to sponsor your resolution and then get it to the chairman before the meeting begins. I will be pleased to accept resolutions by email, <[email protected]>; fax, (410) 715-9597; or snail mail, 9013 Nelson Way, Columbia, Maryland 21045.

Airport Shuttle Information for Convention:
The Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, our 2011 convention hotel, doesn't provide shuttle service to and from the Orlando airport. However, Mears Transportation does. Rates are $19 one way and $30 round trip. Compare this with the metered taxi ride that starts at about $45 and goes up in busy traffic. To make a reservation for shuttle transportation, call (800) 759-5219. The Mears Transportation desk is located on level one of the Orlando airport. It is not necessary to make a reservation ahead for the trip to the hotel. You can purchase a one-way or round-trip ticket at the desk. (Gratuity for the driver is not included in the ticket price.) The day before your return flight you must confirm the time of your hotel pick-up with Mears. You can, of course, buy a one-way ticket to the airport the day before your flight home.

The 2011-2012 board of the Honolulu Chapter was elected at the March 8, 2011, meeting. They are president, Kyle Laconsay; vice president, Jacob Kamanu; secretary, Finia Kachita; treasurer, Tammy Rober; and board members, Brenda Lucas and Kasmir Anthonyo.

In Memoriam
The following tribute is an abbreviated version of an article written by Joyce Scanlan for the Minnesota Bulletin, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. Here is Joyce’s tribute to a fine Federationist and friend:              

Andy Virden, a longtime, very active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, was on his way home from a Friday night fish fry shortly after 8:00 on March 11, 2011, when he was struck by a car and killed instantly. The accident is still under investigation.

Andy was a member of the Federation after 1951 and was instrumental in organizing the Central Minnesota Chapter in 1971. He served as chapter president for most of the time since; however, throughout the years he was always looking for others to take the office, and many young students from surrounding colleges and others who demonstrated interest received his encouragement and support in serving as president or in other leadership roles.

Andy loved attending national conventions. He was an active member of the National Association of Blind Merchants and served for several years on the resolutions committee. He loved seeing his Federation family each year. Wherever you went throughout convention sessions, in restaurants, at the merchants’ meetings, anywhere at all, you could hear Andy voicing his opinions on something important to him, greeting members, telling a joke, or laughing at someone else’s joke.

We all have countless memories of times spent with Andy. Everyone will miss him. He is irreplaceable. To say, “Rest in peace,” is pointless, because Andy will always be educating, advocating, changing attitudes, promoting progress, making new friends, and continuing in Heaven among the saints the work he always did when he was with us. And, Andy, keep on singing!

Guide Dog Association Launches Innovative Hotline:
The National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU), the leader in service animal advocacy, has launched an innovative new service. The NAGDU Education & Advocacy Hotline not only offers information about the legal rights of individuals who use service animals, it offers the option to speak with an advocate who is trained to resolve access denials. According to the new federal guidelines that took effect on March 15, 2011, a service animal is “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability” (28 CFR Part 35.104 & 28 CFR Part 36.104). The new regulations specifically state, “Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition.” In an effort to further clarify its intent, the Department of Justice specifically states, “The crime deterrent effects of an animal's presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.”

“We find that most access problems are the result of a lack of information,” says Michael Hingson, the Association’s vice president, who serves as project manager for the hotline. “This hotline is an excellent resource for accurate information.”

The NAGDU Education & Advocacy Hotline currently offers general information about service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as specific guidance concerning restaurants, taxicabs, and health care facilities. Callers needing immediate assistance can connect directly to a live trained advocate. Future plans for the hotline include summaries of each of the state laws concerning service animals, more industry-specific information, and guidance in a variety of languages, such as Mandarin and Arabic. The hotline is available anytime by calling, toll-free, (866) 972-3647.

The NAGDU Education & Advocacy Hotline was created by a grant from the National Federation of the Blind’s Imagination Fund, as well as with contributions from the California and Florida Associations of Guide Dog Users. The National Association of Guide Dog Users is a strong and proud division of the NFB. NAGDU conducts public awareness campaigns on issues of guide dog use, provides advocacy support for guide dog handlers who face discrimination, supports effective legislation to protect the rights of service animal users, offers educational programs to school and civic organizations, and functions as an integral part of the National Federation of the Blind. For more information about the National Association of Guide Dog Users, visit its Website at <http://www.nagdu.org>, or send an email message to <[email protected]>.

The National Association of Blind Merchants (NABM) announces a new partnership with the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute that will blast beyond the confines of the Randolph Sheppard Program. In collaboration with Tennessee Services for the Blind, NABM’s BLAST + will be held in Nashville, Tennessee, from Wednesday, September 21, through Saturday morning, September 24, 2011. Over the past decade Business Leadership and Superior Training (BLAST), has become the most authoritative and innovative conference for blind entrepreneurs.  BLAST + will be the most significant conference ever held to encourage, inform, and inspire the blind and vision-impaired embarking on or currently engaged in building profitable small businesses. BLAST has always had training elements easy to apply to any business venture. BLAST + expands that curriculum to include even more education and networking targeted to blind people seeking employment through entrepreneurship outside of or in addition to the traditional Randolph Sheppard Vending Program model.

Nicky Gacos, NABM president, said, “As successful as BLAST has been over the past decade, it is time to reach out to everyone interested in creating quality job opportunities through entrepreneurship. A partnership with the NFB Jernigan Institute just made sense for this expansion. If the backbone of our economy is small business, the blind must be a part of it.”

Announcing this collaboration with the nation’s leading association of blind business owner advocates, Mark Riccobono, executive director of the NFB Jernigan Institute, said, “The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute leads the quest to understand the real problems of blindness and to develop innovative education to help the world’s blind achieve independence. A central concern of the Institute is increasing employment opportunities for the blind.  This collaboration with NABM and other partners will improve the prospects for many blind people who want to be self-employed.”

In addition to the program items BLAST participants have come to expect, BLAST + will add a number of training sessions, symposia, and a luncheon which will focus on government contracting, business ethics, team building, network marketing opportunities, the access technology industry, free or low-cost resources, franchises, business loans, and business and financial planning. For years BLAST has had a robust trade show, featuring access technology, vending, and food service suppliers. Now it will be adding agencies, companies, and organizations which cater to different segments of small business operations.

Rooms can be booked now. Simply write or call the Nashville Airport Marriott, 600 Marriott Drive, Nashville, Tennessee 37214; (615) 889-9300. Tell them that you are booking for the National Association of Blind Merchants BLAST +. Rooms are available at the unbelievably low rate of $113 per night plus applicable taxes. These rates are effective from Monday, September 19, through Saturday, September 24, 2011. Music City is beautiful in the fall, and as always, space is at a premium. Act quickly to enjoy the party and promise of BLAST +.  The entire conference will be an event from which everyone involved in blind entrepreneurship will benefit. BLAST + registration, which includes all activities and training materials, will cost $200 with a $50 discount for registrations made before August 15, 2011. The registration fee may exclude some tours and events held outside the hotel conference center. Please register at <www.blindmerchants.org> or by calling (866) 543-6808, ext. 10.

In Brief

Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.

Appointment Setters Needed:
Seeking appointment setters to telephone people and invite them to an online live webinar. Names and phone numbers will be provided along with a script of the invitation. Each phone call should be under five minutes. Applicants must possess excellent verbal skills. You as the appointment setter are compensated for each actual webinar attendee plus substantial bonuses. Experience in appointment-setting, telemarketing, or phone sales is preferred. Telephone calls are to be made from your home or other location. To apply, call (206) 426-0316. Leave your name and phone number and spell your email address. Take thirty seconds to tell something about yourself. This employer was once a student at the Louisiana School for the Blind.

Jumbo Versatile Backpack Available:
This 18-by-15-by-8.5-inch waterproof, sturdy black backpack has red highlights, which set it apart from all the rest for identification. The padding against your back as well as on the handle and adjustable straps make it very comfortable. The huge, double-zipper main compartment has an extra padded pocket to fit up to a 17-inch laptop. The front has two zippered compartments with places for pens, phones, slates, ID, and more. Two mesh side pockets hold water bottles.

The price is $29.95 plus $9 shipping by postal service. Please make checks payable to:

Your Eternal Essence, LLC
c/o Ann Bliss
1307 Lakeside Road
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23455

You can email me to arrange a PayPal invoice, quantity discounts, or overseas shipping. My email address is <[email protected]>; my phone is (845) 282-0643.

NFB Pledge

I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.