ISSN 0883-3419

Volume 21, Number 1     Barbara Cheadle, Editor       Convention Report 2001


Louisville Site of 2002 NFB Convention

NFB Camp: It’s More Than Child’s Play

by Carla McQuillan

NFB Camp Preregistration Form

The Serious Work of Play

NOPBC 2002 Activities Preregistration

NFB Conventions: 2001 and 2002

by Barbara Cheadle

What Freedom Means to Me

by Wayne Pearcy, Laura Wolk, and Nicole White

Equal Access: Technology and the Blind

by Steve Jacobson

Equal Opportunities for Blind Kids:
A Father’s Perspective

by Michael Wolk

My Life Outside of School

by Macy McClain

The Role of the Paraeducator in the
Education of Blind Children

by Denise Mackenstadt, 2001 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children

NFB – NEWSLINE® Goes Nationwide on March 1, 2002

by Peggy Chong

NFB – NEWSLINE® Application/Registration Form

Planning Your Child’s Individualized Education Program
(IEP): Some Suggestions to Consider

The 2001 Scholarship Class of the NFB

Slate Pals Application/Profile

September 11, 2001: Ground Zero

by Liz Regan and John Salka

Future Reflections Subscription

Copyright 2002, National Federation of the Blind

Louisville Site of 2002 NFB Convention!

[PHOTO: Galt House, Louisville, Kentucky]

The 2002 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Louisville, Kentucky, July 3-9. We will conduct the convention at the Galt House Hotel and the Galt House East Tower, together a first-class convention hotel. The Galt House Hotel, familiarly called the Galt House West, is at 140 N. Forth Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202. The Galt House East Tower, or Galt House East, is at 141 N. Fourth Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202. Room rates for this year’s convention are excellent: singles, doubles, and twins $57 and triples and quads $63 a night, plus tax. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $60-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 May 29, 2002. The other 50 percent is not refundable. For
reservations call the hotel at (502) 589‑5200.

Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made to secure these rooms before May 29, 2002, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold the block of rooms for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.

Our overflow hotel is the Hyatt Regency at 320 W. Jefferson Street, Louisville,
Kentucky 40202, phone (502) 587‑3434.

Those who attended the 1985 convention can testify to the gracious hospitality of the Galt House. This hotel has excellent restaurants, first-rate meeting space, and other top-notch facilities. It is in downtown Louisville, close to the Ohio River and only seven miles from the Louisville Airport.

The 2002 Convention will follow a somewhat different schedule:

Wednesday, July 3 Seminar Day

Thursday, July 4 Registration Day

• Friday, July 5 Board Meeting and
      Division Day

• Saturday, July 6 Opening Session

• Sunday, July 7 Tour Day

• Monday, July 8 Banquet Day

• Tuesday, July 9 Business Session Plan to be in Louisville.The action of the convention will be there!

NFB Camp: It’s More than Child’s Play

by Carla McQuillan

During convention week children between the ages of six weeks and twelve years are invited to join in the fun and festivities of NFB Camp. NFB Camp offers more than just childcare; it is an opportunity for our blind and sighted children to meet and develop lifelong friendships. Our activity schedule is filled with games, crafts, and special performances designed to entertain, educate, and delight. If you are interested in having your children participate in this year’s program, please complete and return the registration form provided. Pre-registration with payment on or before June 15, 2002, is mandatory for participation in NFB Camp. Space is limited, and each year some families have to be turned away.

About the Staff: NFB Camp is organized and supervised by Carla McQuillan, the Executive Director of Main Street Montessori
Association, operating two schools, parent-education courses, and a teacher-training program. Carla is the mother of two children, the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind.

Michelle Ros is this year’s Activities Director for NFB Camp. Michelle is a Montessori teacher employed by Main Street Montessori Association. Carla and Michelle will supervise a staff of experienced childcare workers and volunteers.

Activities and Special Events: The children are divided into groups according to age: infants and toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged children. Each camp room is equipped with a variety of age-appropriate toys, games, and books; and children will enjoy daily art projects. Blind teens will come in to read stories in Braille, and we will sing, dance, and play instruments with blind singer/songwriter Daniel Lamonds. In addition, the school-aged children will make excursions to local attractions of interest. On the final day of NFB Camp we will conduct a big toy sale–brand new toys at
bargain prices.

Banquet Night: NFB Camp will provide dinner and activities during the banquet. The cost for banquet activities is $15 per child in addition to other camp fees.

Fees: for the entire week (not including banquet), first child $80; siblings $60 each. By the day, each child (does not include banquet), $20; banquet, $15 per child.

NFB Camp will be open during general convention sessions, on division and committee meeting day, and the evening of the banquet. Plenty of teens are always available to babysit during evening and lunchtime meetings. The schedule this year will be as follows:

Wednesday, July 3,
8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.*

Thursday, July 4,
Camp is closed.

Friday, July 5,
8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.*

Saturday, July 6,
9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and
1:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.*

Sunday, July 7,
8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.*

Monday, July 8,
8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and
1:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.*

Tuesday, July 9,
8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and
1:30-5:30 p.m.*

*You are required to provide lunch for your child(ren) each day.

These times may vary, depending on the timing of the actual convention sessions. NFB Camp will open thirty minutes before the beginning gavel and close thirty minutes after session recess.

Please use the NFB Camp pre-registration form provided (see page 4).

[PHOTO] Kaitlynn Lawrence and  Alicia Jones check out the neat toys in NFB Camp.

[PHOTO] Nick Pavel trys his skill with the Bop-it game.

[PHOTO] Rebecca, Laura, and Elizabeth Prows pose in the NFB Camp nursery.


Completed form and fees must be received on or before June 15, 2002.

Parent’s Name ___________________________________________                                           

Address _________________________________________________

City _________________________State_________  Zip  __________           

Phone __________________________________________________

Child(ren)’s Name(s)

        ____________________________  Date of Birth ____  Age ___                                    

____________________________   Date of Birth  _____  Age __

____________________________   Date of Birth_____    Age __

Include description of any disabilities/allergies we should know about :

Who, other than parents, is allowed to pick up your child?

Per Week:   $80 first child;  $60 siblings,  # of children ________  $_____
(Does not include banquet)

Per Day:  $20 per child per day,   # days_______ x $20/child = $ ________
(Does not include banquet)

Banquet:   $15 per child,  # of children  _____x $15 =  $ _______

Total Due $ _________________

Make checks payable to and return forms to:

National Federation of the Blind of Oregon

5005 Main Street, Springfield, Oregon 97478

(541) 726-6924

The Serious Work of Play

Activities for Parents and Kids Sponsored by

The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children

NFB 2002 Convention

July 3 – July 9, 2002
Galt House Hotel, Louisville, Kentucky

The average person might find this title a little exaggerated. But wildlife experts and early childhood professionals know better. Those lion cubs on television, who look so cute as they ferociously stalk and pounce on Mother’s twitching tail, are developing, through play, the skills they will need for life in the wild. How well they learn these skills as they tumble, growl, and play their little cub games may mean the difference one day between a full stomach and starvation. 

Although our culture has evolved far beyond the need for children to develop hunting and gathering skills for survival, play continues to be fundamental to the normal physical, emotional, and social development of our species. Serious? You bet it is! Through play children develop strength, muscle control, and dexterity; they learn what they can (and cannot) do with their bodies. Manipulation of toys lays the foundation for the myriad of physical skills needed in everyday life and on the job—skills like zipping a coat, using a hanger, unclogging a drain, using a power drill, unlocking a door, and yes, even typing on a computer keyboard. Playing house gives children a chance to practice the roles they will someday play as moms and dads. Playing with clay, cutting, pasting, and drawing pictures stimulate the imagination and encourage creativity. Outdoor games provide a foundation for good physical health and exercise habits, and team sports teach essential skills in working with others to achieve common goals—a crucial ability in today’s business world. Blind kids need this wide range of play experiences every bit as much as sighted kids.

 They need to run; crawl; jump; climb; slug, pitch, or bounce a ball; ride a bike; karate punch; and do cartwheels too. Do art, play tug-o-war, climb a rock wall—why not? But that’s the rub. Too many times the answer to the question “Why not?” is “No, you can’t.” More often than not, that “No” is rooted in ignorance, low expectations, overprotection, misconceptions about blindness, or simply—in the face of so many educational needs—not enough time.

Well, the NOPBC will brook no why-not excuses this year at the 2002 NFB Convention. Dr. Ralph Bartley, Superintendent of the Kentucky School for the Blind, has generously offered the full use of the campus (located just minutes from the convention hotel)—including two gyms, a track, art classrooms, and a playground—for a full afternoon (2:00 to 6:00 p.m.) of play for the whole family on
Wednesday, July 3.

But, like all good recreation events this day will begin with a warm-up activity. Wednesday, July 3, Seminar Day will begin with the usual NOPBC Seminar general session at 9:00 a.m. (registration at 8:00 a.m.) in the Galt House Hotel. As was the case for the past two years, kids are invited to attend the first forty-five minutes of the general session to hear other blind youth speak about their experiences in sports or arts. At 9:45 a.m. the session will break briefly to allow children and youth ages four and up to depart for the Braille Carnival, also conducted in the hotel in a nearby meeting room.

As soon as that transition is complete, the general session will continue with lively presentations from blind adults, parents, and early childhood teachers about how to include blind and blind multiply-disabled children and youth in the full, rich range of play, recreation, and artistic activities available to their sighted peers. Among our guest speakers will be a representative from the Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS) of Louisville. Many parents will recognize the VIPS Newsletter as the source of many good articles that have been reprinted in Future Reflections over the years.

At noon the general session and the Braille Carnival will adjourn. Parents will pick up children at the Braille Carnival or child-care (NFB Camp), then gather at the hotel
entrance to board buses for the short ride—about two miles—to the Kentucky School for the Blind campus. This is not a field trip for the kids alone. The activities on the campus are for the entire family—all children, including teens, must be accompanied by a responsible adult. On campus everyone will gather in the cafeteria for a box lunch and to review the afternoon’s choices. Activities for the family are divided into four main categories: Play in Early Childhood, Recreation and Sports, Arts and Crafts, and Cooking Demonstrations.

Play in Early Childhood: Stations, everyone! “Play” stations, that is. Co-sponsored by the Louisville-based Visually Impaired Preschool (VIPS) program, this activity features interactive play-stations for parents, babies, and toddlers. Parents will also have the opportunity to discuss early movement and travel with Joe Cutter, noted pediatric O&M specialist.

 [NOTE: This is not a childcare program. However, we have arranged for volunteers to provide limited childcare services on campus for babies of parents who wish an hour or two free to enjoy the other afternoon activities with their older children.]

Recreation and Sports: Dads, this is your kind of day. There will be something fun to do for everyone—kids and adults, blind or sighted. Although there will be some lecture opportunities (discussing adaptations for PE, for example), the real emphasis is on doing. Relay races, water fights, tug-o-war, a goal-ball clinic, track events, and maybe even a rock climbing wall are just some of the many games and activities planned for the day. Oh, and to add to the fun and to create an equal playing field for all, sleepshades (blindfolds) will be provided for everyone. The events will be organized and conducted by blind adults and college students skilled in the various recreational activities. Again this activity requires that children be accompanied by a family member or other responsible adult. Debbie Bacon, a blind woman with extensive experience in organizing youth-enrichment programs for the Society for the Blind in Sacramento, will coordinate the recreation programs with assistance from Kenny Jones, former coach at the Kentucky School for the Blind, and Marla Palmer, NOPBC board member and recreation

Arts and Crafts: Coordinated by Angela Wolf, President of the National Association of Blind Students, this program is designed to provide a challenging art activity to kids approximately ages six and up. Angela Wolf, herself blind from birth, has directed art programs for blind children at the summer Buddy Program at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Unlike the recreation activities, in this activity we will ask that parents leave their kids under the direction of Angela; her assistant, art teacher Amy Rich; and other volunteers. Meanwhile, parents can participate in an art presentation conducted by Art Education for the Blind and blind artists such as sculptor Steve Handschu.

Cooking Demonstrations: An important component of play at a certain stage in a child’s development is playing house. Of course kids and parents have to believe that homemaking skills, such as cooking, are practical and possible for blind people. In these demonstrations blind homemakers (two men and two women) will cook or bake a recipe from scratch while parents and kids watch and ask questions. The best part? Everyone gets to sample the product at the end.

The activities will begin at 2:00 p.m. and conclude with a wrap-up session back in the cafeteria at 5:30 p.m. Buses will depart for the hotel at 6:00 p.m. Water, drinks, and snacks will be available for children and adults throughout the afternoon. A nurse will also be on duty throughout the afternoon, compliments of the Kentucky School for the Blind. To the greatest extent possible we want to include all children in the recreation and art activities. This means it is crucial that parents pre-register for this year’s seminar. If your child has special needs and you are not certain whether or not he or she can participate in the activities of the day, please advise us immediately. To the extent that we have the resources and volunteers to do so, we will provide alternative activities if parents have pre-registered and advised us of their child’s special needs in advance.

Full as the day has been, it’s not over yet. At 8:00 p.m. back at the hotel families can gather to talk and unwind at the NOPBC-sponsored Family Hospitality. Teens can wrap up the day with special discussion groups at 8:30 p.m. (registration at 8:00 p.m.). There will be a discussion group for blind teen women, one for blind teen men, and one for sighted siblings and children (teens) of blind parents. These kids-only—no parents allowed—groups will be led by experienced volunteer youth

NOPBC Activities Fees


$10, one adult (no children)

$15, one adult plus children

$25, two adults plus children

$35, three adults plus children If you pre-register and mail payment by June 1, 2002, you can take $5 off your fee for early registration. The fee includes NOPBC membership and all activities associated with the Family Seminar Day on July 3rd: Braille Carnival, bus transportation, box lunch, snacks, activities at the Kentucky School for the Blind campus, Family Hospitality, and the Teen Discussion Groups. It also includes all other NOPBC-sponsored workshops throughout the week. It does not include NFB Convention registration, which is $10 per person (adult or child), or NFB Camp (childcare) fees.


Wednesday, July 3
10:00 a.m. – Noon
In honor of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, all of the activities at this special carnival—games, prizes, competitions, demonstrations— have a Braille theme. NFB divisions, state affiliates, Centers, and other agencies or organizations for the blind have volunteered to set up carnival booths for this festive affair. Melody Lindsey and her carnival crew have collected lots of neat prizes—after all, what’s a carnival without prizes? But don’t worry, you don’t have to know Braille to enjoy the carnival. In fact there will be fun things to do for all children (blind or sighted, Braille literate or not) ages 4 and up.

NOPBC Schedule of Events

Wednesday, July 3

8:00 a.m. Registration for NOPBC Activities, Galt House Hotel

9:00 – 9:45 a.m. The Serious Work of Play: General Session for the family

9:45 – 10:00 a.m. Children and youth adjourn to the Braille Carnival

10:00 – Noon Braille Carnival for children and youth

10:00 – Noon The Serious Work of Play: General Session for parents

12:30 p.m. Bus departs for the Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB)

Activities from noon to 6:00 p.m. take place at the KSB campus

1:00 – 6:00 p.m. The Serious Work of Play: Activities for the family

6:00 p.m. Bus departs for the Galt House Hotel .

NOTE: All evening activities take place at the Galt House Hotel

8:00 – 10:00 p.m. NOPBC Family Hospitality. Relax and chat with other parents, teachers, and blind adults while kids roam and play around the tables.

8:00 p.m. Registration for Teen
Discussion Groups

8:30 – 9:30 p.m. Teen Discussion Groups (three groups)

Guy Stuff. Blind young men (teens) will engage in guided discussions about dating, making friends, being comfortable in social situations, relationships with parents, sports, and other topics of importance to teen men.

I Wanna Talk About Me. Blind young women, ages 13 to 18, will engage in guided discussions about dating, grooming, making friends, being comfortable in social situations, relationships with parents, and other topics of importance to teen women.

Where Do We Fit in the NFB? A guided discussion for sighted sibling teens and the sighted teen children of blind parents. The discussion will address individual issues and concerns sighted teens have about blindness and about growing up with a blind family member.

Thursday, July 4

 Cane Walk:This session is repeated twice:  9:00-10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Parents of blind kids of all ages (babies to teens), teachers, and blind kids can get hands-on experience in using a cane in the hotel under the guidance of volunteer instructors from the Louisiana Tech/Louisiana Center for the Blind O&M program and other volunteers. Joe Cutter, pediatric O&M specialist, will direct the demonstration for parents of pre-school

2:00 – 6:00 p.m. Teen Activity Room sponsored jointly by NOPBC and Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM). Teens, blind and sighted, are invited to drop-in anytime at this room for games and music, or just to hang-out with other teens. Supervised by BISM counselors.

Friday, July 5

1:00-5:00 p.m. Parent Power: NOPBC Annual Meeting. Our annual meeting includes a brief business meeting, elections, state parent division reports, updates on educational issues, and other reports on new programs and initiatives of the NOPBC. 6:30-8:30 Follow-up Discussion Group for Blind Teen Women.

Saturday, July 6 7:00-10:00 p.m. Creating the Perfect IEP: What Does the Law (IDEA) Require? An intensive workshop looking at the requirements of IDEA and how parents may use this information to write the best possible IEP for their child. There will also be some discussion about the IEP and transition planning for older youth.

Sunday, July 7

2:00-6:00 p.m. Walking the Talk: Why Blind Kids Need to Use Canes. Drop-in anytime discussion group for parents, blind kids, and teachers. Joe Cutter, instructor and  discussion leader. Videos, literature, cane demonstrations, questions and answers. .

2:00-6:00 p.m. Technology in the Classroom. This workshop will be repeated three times: 2:00-3:00, 3:30-4:30, and 5:00-6:00. Braille teachers team up with technology experts to discuss how and when to introduce various technology devices to blind and low-vision students. When should students learn to use an electronic notetaker? Computers? What is the role of low (or old) technology, such as the slate and stylus and Braille writer? When and how should students learn to use tactile graphics? How do students, teachers, and parents decide which device is best for what tasks? .

2:00-4:00 p.m. Beginning Braille for
Drop-in anytime and get a free Braille lesson or demonstration. Discuss Braille-instruction problems and solutions. Pick up literature: Braille contraction charts, sample Braille IEP goals, activities to promote Braille from the Braille Is Beautiful program, etc.

2:00-6:00 p.m. Braille Storybook Hour. This activity for blind and sighted youngsters will be repeated three times: 2:00-3:00, 3:30-4:30, and 5:00-6:00 p.m. Our storybook hour features a blind Braille reader, multiple copies of print-Braille storybooks for blind and sighted children to follow along in, Braille Buddies (Braille reading teens or adults), and an activity related to the theme of the storybook. The theme? Hats. The story time begins with a discussion of how different people read (print and Braille). Children are encouraged to read along silently or, if not yet readers, find the page numbers and turn the pages. After the story and a discussion about the story, children can look at and try on a whole table-full of different kinds of hats. This is not childcare for the afternoon. However, parents who are attending one of the above NOPBC-sponsored workshops may leave a child for one session with a responsible older sibling or a Braille Buddy, provided enough volunteers are available to assist.

NOPBC 2002 Activities Preregistration

Deadline: Must be postmarked no later than June 15, 2002 .Because of the special activities on the campus of the Kentucky School for the Blind, we strongly urge families to pre-register. We will take registrations at the door, but unless you pre-register, we cannot guarantee that you will be able to participate in the activities of your choice.

Adult Name (Please include first/last name and indicate relationship; e.g. parent, grandparent,
guardian, teacher.)




City _____________________________________State ________ Zip __________________

Telephone _____________________________E-mail ______________________________

.Please list children who will be attending NOPBC activities: 1. Braille Carnival (BC), ages 4 and up. 2. Kentucky School for the Blind activities (KSBA), all ages. Please note any special needs or accommodations. .

Example: Sally Doe Jan 4, 94 Sally has albinism. Low vision, sensitive to light. Uses sunscreen. Will attend BC and KSBA.





Fee enclosed. $ _______ (Make checks payable to NOPBC.)

$15, 1 adult plus (child)ren       

$25, 2 adults plus (child)ren

$10, 1 adult

$35, 3 adults (parents plus grandparent or other family member) plus (child)ren

$5 Discount for early registration (mail payment by June 1, 2002)

Full refund available if requested before June 28, 2002, or under special circumstances.

NFB Conventions: 2001 and 2002

by Barbara Cheadle

[PHOTO] A Mummer’s Band parade added a festive touch to the 2001 Convention. Some years it’s pretty tough to come up with a seminar theme that catches the imagination and is fresh and relevant. It’s never hard to find great speakers in the National Federation of the Blind, mind you, but themes are a different story. To my relief and delight, the 2001 and 2002 themes for the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) National Seminars practically wrote themselves. “Let Freedom Ring” was a natural for the 2001 Convention, which was held in Philadelphia last July. Most of this issue is devoted to speeches, articles, and a photographic report from that convention. Some particularly talented blind youth speak on the topic “What Freedom Means to Me.” If you were at the convention, I know you will enjoy perusing the photos and having your own copy of those inspiring speeches. If you did not attend the 2001 Convention, then I hope what you read here will motivate you to attend the 2002 Convention in Louisville,

Speaking of the 2002 Convention, if you read the article on page 5 in this issue, “The Serious Work of Play,” you know how the 2002 theme came into being. What you may not know, especially if you have never attended an NFB convention before, is that the NOPBC-sponsored activities you read about on pages  5 – 10, make up only one very modest segment of an NFB Convention. About 13,000 blind people from all occupations and walks of life come to NFB Conventions. When we say the NFB is made up of a cross-segment of society, we mean it. At the convention, you can meet blind people who are lawyers, teachers, homemakers, artists, social workers, college students, mothers, fathers, factory workers, office workers, computer programmers, ministers, senior citizens, horse lovers, science fiction fans, and gourmet cooks. Convention activities and events are as diverse as the people. You can see the newest and most interesting products for the blind in the exhibit hall; laugh and cry at a play performed by blind rehabilitation students; stick your hand in the Lion’s mouth at the Sensory Safari display; participate in serious blindness-policy debates; learn about strategies blind teachers use in a classroom; and much, much more. For more details about the 2002 Convention, please check out the April, 2002, issue of the Braille Monitor on the NFB Web site at <www.nfb.org>, or call the National NFB office at (410) 659-9314 and request a free copy of the April issue in print or Braille, or on cassette tape.

What Freedom Means To Me

by Wayne Pearcy, Laura Wolk, and Nicole White

[PHOTO]  Wayne Pearcy (center) with friends Kyle Neddo and April Jones at the 2001 convention. Editor’s Note: We are always trying something new at our NOPBC parents seminars. Last year, we decided to invite the children to stay for the first part of the seminar so they could listen to a panel of three blind youth speak about “What Freedom Means to Me.” The panelists had been asked to consider what freedom meant to them as blind people, and to reflect on the impact the NFB had on their lives, and on their understanding of freedom. It was a resounding success. The panelists were insightful, articulate, entertaining, and short – a winning combination. The kids (and adults) in the audience were delighted and impressed with the speeches and the presentors.  Reprinted below is this trio of speeches, beginning with the presentation made by Wayne Pearcy. Wayne is a high school sophomore in Austin, Texas. Wayne’s mother and father are also blind, and his mother, Zena Pearcy,  is the President of the NFB of Texas. Here is what Wayne has to say about “Freedom”:

What Freedom Means to Me

by Wayne Pearcy

Freedom. An important subject, one that we must all think about. Think about what freedom means to you while you listen to me talk about what freedom means to me.

First, freedom means independence – the ability to take care of one’s self. If you can travel by yourself, that’s part of independence. If you can fold your own clothes, that is part of independence. And if you can cook, and so on and so forth, that’s also part of independence. But you must put all of these tasks together in your day-to-day life to achieve independence, and this is part of freedom.

Secondly, free-agency is part of freedom as well. Free agency is the ability to make choices for yourself. When you can make decisions about what kind of job you want, that’s free agency. Deciding when to cross a street is free agency. When you decide what college to attend, that’s free agency. Free agency is the
ability to make good or bad choices.

Now, thirdly, independence and free agency will go together throughout your life. If you are limited in your independence, you will also be limited in your free agency. Let’s say a blind person has five choices of getting around. There’s walking, taking the bus, taking a cab, begging rides off of people, and special transit for the disabled. Now, let’s say you don’t know how to travel independently as a blind person. There goes walking and there goes the bus. You are now limited to taking a cab, begging rides from people, and special transit. But walking and taking the bus are the most independent and the cheapest ways of getting around. So now you’re limited to those three options. If you take a cab, you’ll spend a lot of money. If you beg for a ride, you have to worry about getting someone you can’t trust. If you take special transit, you have to schedule your life two weeks in advance. And so the conclusion is that free agency and independence go hand-in-hand—if you are limited in one, you are
limited in the other.

In closing, these are the things that I think make up freedom: independence, free agency, and making good choices. The NFB is trying to teach parents about the importance of these elements of freedom to blind children. We should value them and try to exercise them in our everyday lives. Now think about what freedom means to you, and see what you come up with. Thank you for your time and willingness to listen to this speech.

[PHOTO] Laura Wolk

What Freedom Means to Me

by Laura Wolk

Hello. My name is Laura Wolk. I am
14 years old and I live in Allentown,

I would like to explain how the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has given me freedom in my life. I must admit that it is a little hard to describe.  It is not as if I was a character in the Wizard of Oz, where the Scarecrow obtains brains and the Tin Man receives a heart. In many indirect ways, freedom is far more important than any possession that is just given to you.

I have always been aware that my father was in contact with the NFB before I entered elementary school.  Now I realize that, because of the NFB, my parents enrolled me into the education system with no intention of letting me fall into the category of being treated “different” and “special.” Because of the NFB’s resources, my father was able to clearly state what had to be done to ensure a fair and equal education for me.

This effort has been very successful. I have just finished the eighth grade, and I have always been treated as an equal with my peers. I continue to be an “A” student, and participate in many extra-curricular activities, such as singing in the chorus and playing the alto sax in the school band. I have also recently completed my eighth year of piano instruction. This past year I was chosen to accompany the chorus on piano. I also played a sax solo in the jazz band concert.

I maintain a stable circle of friends, who treat me so equally that they sometimes forget they have to describe movies to me. I usually go out with my friends two or three times a week to movies, dances, the mall, and the local amusement park. All things considered, this makes me very happy because I am free to do the same things my friends like to do.

My first experience with the NFB that I remember took place when I was seven years old. My father and I went to the Detroit convention in 1994. I was overwhelmed by the number of tapping canes I heard as I walked down the hall. The people I saw there were able to not only complete simple tasks, such as finding the restrooms, but more complicated things as well, such as running an entire convention.

Of course, at the age of seven, I was not remotely concerned with my future as an adult.  However, looking back, now I realize that, perhaps without intention, the NFB was showing me that I could basically become whatever I wanted to, if I worked hard enough.

People say that it’s what’s inside of a person that counts, not your outside appearance. I have learned that this is not entirely true. Blind people are sometimes improperly stereotyped as needing to be helped and guided through their entire lives. In some people’s minds, we are not supposed to be smart and self-confident. However, an independent blind person’s outside appearance really does show a lot to people. I have always felt that this characteristic of mine (a good outside appearance) has helped me to gain friends quicker, and helped people to become more comfortable around me. Being and acting independent shows people that we’re perfectly capable of being self-sufficient. They will then begin to be able to look past our different ways of seeing and realize we are just like them.

All this is very important to me. I take my freedom for granted many times. When I hear stories of other blind children’s limited lifestyles, where they cannot read, or have no technology to make their lives easier, I am surprised and disappointed. I have no doubt that, without the NFB’s help, I would certainly have had to overcome many more difficulties to get to where I am today. Every day, the NFB works to achieve this goal. Above everything else, this is what freedom means to me.

What Freedom Means to Me

by Nicole White

[PHOTO] Nicole White

Editor’s Note: I first met this young lady when she was two years old. Her parents, Joe and Loretta White, have been leaders in our Maryland Parents of Blind Children division of the NOPBC for almost the same length of time. It has been a delight to watch Nicole mature and grow in independence. That delight has been tempered, however, by the heartache of watching her parents struggle with a rigid educational bureaucracy incapable of meeting the complex needs of a blind multiply-disabled child with academic potential. Nicole is fortunate that her parents found the Federation early, and that they had the courage and capacity to find an alternative educational path for Nicole. Here now, in her own words, is what Nicole has to say about freedom:

Good morning, everyone. My name is Nicole White. I am 14 years old and I will be in the ninth grade this fall. I am blind and have a hearing impairment. I also have Asperger’s Syndrome. That’s a kind of autism. I used to have seizures a lot, but now only once in a while. I have mild cerebral palsy, but it’s not very noticeable anymore. When I was sent to public school years ago, my teachers said I am retarded and have a learning disability, too; but I disagree.

When I was about 9 months old, my family joined the NFB. They have helped us through the years to learn about blindness and to get the things I needed. Now my mom does things with the NFB to help other kids, too.

I’m pretty independent now, but not totally, at least not yet. Independence means doing things on your own without help. Sometimes it can be fun being independent, like making cookies. I also like going out to play whenever I choose, making my own meals, taking care of my sister when she is sick, and going into the store by myself to buy milk and stuff. My favorite thing to buy is Pringles. Sometimes being independent can be tiring and boring. Some examples of that are making beds, unloading the dishwasher, doing laundry, washing dishes, raking and bagging leaves in the fall, and taking care of my little brother (he’s so irritating). One of my jobs is to fold the towels and put them in the closet. My mother gets furious if I make a mess out of the closet and she make me take all the towels out and refold them.

My mom homeschools me and two of my sisters. These days, I get to do my work independently. In the morning she gives me my lessons and assignments, and then I go to my room or the dining room and spend the rest of the day getting the work done. I have to get everything I need for my work by myself and then put it away, too. That includes my notebooks, textbooks, dictionaries, and computer. Also other stuff, like a math compass, grid paper, the pushpins and rubber bands to make geometry figures, my slate and stylus, Brailler, paper, and such. Of course, everyone should have to do that. I usually make my own breakfast and lunch. I fix bagels, toast, sometimes eggs, frozen waffles; stuff like that. I don’t fix cereal much because I don’t like it, especially Trix. During the school year, it is my job to make breakfast for my younger sister and brother. I make them cereal, because they like it. I also make instant oatmeal, doughnuts, bagels, toast, fruit, and eggs for them.

For lunch, I like to make spicy food, like a sandwich with hot peppers. I also heat up leftovers, but they’re not my favorite. I like the spicy meals from Lean Cuisine. I enjoy cooking. Sometimes I cook dinner for my family. My favorite thing to cook is Hamburger Helper. Canned vegetables are easy. All you have to do is open the can, put them in a pot, and heat them up. The hardest part is the can opener. I wish we had an electric can opener.

Sometimes people try to take over and do things for me that I can do myself. Sometimes when I’m in a hurry, that’s ok. But most of the time it angers me and I wish they would stop. But since I am not a grown-up yet, that is often hard to tell them. My family are the most supportive people in my life. Most of the time, they help me and know that I can be independent. Mr. Tom is the greatest mobility teacher. Mr. Tom really knows what he’s doing because he’s blind, too. We turn mobility into fun. We go to the mall, we take buses, light-rail, and all kinds of fun things. When I am an adult, I plan to travel a lot. I want to go to Illinois, Japan, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas. And I will take these trips by myself.

This summer I am going to the Colorado Center for the Blind programs for middle schoolers. I went last year too. They teach me how to be independent. Even though I have multiple handicaps, and I sometimes have a lot of trouble understanding the world, I’m sure I can be what I wish to be if I have help and try hard enough. I am thankful for the help my friends and family have given me. I am glad I am growing up in the National Federation of the Blind. I am glad they believe in me, and I know I can succeed in my life.

The 2001 NFB Convention Offered many oppornities to learn and have fun.

[PHOTO] Nathan Clark (right) plays a Braille game with Patrick Ward at the Braille Carnival.

[PHOTO] Sighted teens have fun using a cane on the Youth Scavenger Hunt. Pictured here are (from left to right) Tracy Yeager, Michelle Povinelli, Stephanie Povinelli, Richard Solis, and Thomas Panaro.

[PHOTO] Rocco Fiorentiono examines a deer up close at the Sensory Safari.

Equal Access: Technology and the Blind

by Steve Jacobson

[PHOTO] Steve Jacobson

Editor’s Note: As the Vice President of the NFB in Computer Science Division, the father of two blind girls, and blind user of technology, Steve Jacobson was uniquely qualified to speak to the 2001 seminar participants on the topic of equal access. Here are his remarks: .

During the past thirty years technology has had a tremendous impact on our lives as blind people, yet we are finding that some of the improvements we expected would arise from advances in technology have not yet taken place. So how do we prepare our kids to be successful participants in society and what do we tell them about equal access? I’m glad to have this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you and to hear some of yours as well. As the Vice President of the NFB in Computer Science and the parent of two blind children, this subject is one that has become very important to me.

First, let’s look at what has changed dur-ing the past thirty years. And then ex-plore what kinds of things have not changed. After that, I’ll give one man’s opinion on how we take both the changes and the constants into account as we prepare our kids for the future. As the decade of the seventies began, most blind adults used canes or dog guides, but there were still many who used very short canes. It was very uncommon for children to use canes at that time. Some blind persons had begun to program computers, but it was more common for a blind person to tune pianos for a living. There were some laws that protected our rights, but much of what we accept today as common place came about during the seventies and later.

Although perhaps not complete, here are some of the other things that have happened since then.

Solid fiberglass canes became available in the early seventies. These were kind of heavy. Sometime later hollow fiberglass canes were developed that were much lighter, and, much later we began to see carbon fiber canes. The NFB played an important part in the development of each of these canes. The lighter canes made it easier to teach kids how to travel. The NFB played a major role in changing the thinking of professionals along these lines. We are no longer thought to be wild-eyed radicals for suggesting that children should be taught to use a cane.

For $2,500 in 1974 one could buy a talking scientific calculator. When a five-function talking calculator became available for only $500, we thought it was a real deal.  By the mid-80’s talking clocks and calculators were fairly cheap and common.  In 1975, the NFB assisted Dr. Raymond Kurzweil to get grants to develop a reading machine. The first units cost $50,000 each, but it was felt that before too long one could buy a reading machine for $10,000. Today many blind people use computers and scanners with OCR software to read every day. 

Although not reliable, Braille printers became a reality in the early 70’s. In the mid-70’s IBM and Maryland Computer Services led by Dean Blazie developed talking computer terminals that could be used where full screens of data had to be processed.  They only cost about $6,000 or so, which we didn’t think was too bad.  A talking phone directory became available to be used, mostly, in employment settings for $10,000, but it saved a few jobs.

Specialized computers for the blind started appearing in the late 70’s.  Some of us began to use Apple computers and Commodore computers at that time.  In the 80’s the IBM computers and soon the, so-called, clones spawned the development of more screen readers and speech synthesizers and eventually more Braille displays.  Blind people began to do many jobs with computers that we had not done before. We discovered e-mail, the Internet, electronic text, and we thought we had the world by the tail.  Then along came Microsoft Windows.  This, for a time, left blind people behind.  It is not an exaggeration to say that a substantial number of people lost their jobs or were forced into unplanned career changes because of the lack of access to Microsoft Windows.  Eventually we got things back on track, and although our access isn’t perfect, many of us use Windows every day on the job and at home.

In the 1980’s a project in Kentucky under the direction of Dr. Cranmer built a small pocket-sized device that used six keys and a space bar just like a Brailler to store information electronically and speak it on demand.  Dean Blazie successfully made this device famous as the Braille ‘n Speak.  This led to the creation of a whole new class of electronic devices for blind persons commonly described as note-takers. These devices were small and did not depend on tape cassettes or other kinds of cartridges for storing the data. 

If you’re not impressed yet by the changes consider these: talking bathroom scales, books recorded on cassette, portable cassette players, radio reading services, our own NFB – NEWSLINE®, paperless Braille displays, talking maps, and many other devices have all come about since 1970. We’re talking about only 31 years.

Yes. Things have changed a lot.  At the outset though I also noticed that some things have not changed. Probably most notable is our high rate of unemployment.  Certainly technology has opened up new opportunities for us, but some of the old opportunities, some of the traditional jobs, have disappeared.  Although we have reading machines, there are still enough things they won’t read that most of us still hire and use readers for handling professional and personal mail. We are in a constant battle to make software and Web pages accessible. But we must also carefully watch what is now accessible to make certain that it stays that way.  The law may require that a document must be provided in an accessible format, but the law can’t eliminate the extra time it takes to have that document converted, nor can it make difficult formatting problems disappear. 

And then there are the household electronic devices – televisions, stereos, even stoves – where the controls are only accessible through electronic touch panel menus with a print display. 

We are also finding there is a price for technology both in money and time.  I tell prospective buyers that the cost of the computer is just a down payment. We routinely pay $100 to buy a necessary upgrade to our screen readers so that we can use the next free version of Microsoft Internet Explorer.  We spend time making sure that our hard disks are defragmented. We want to make sure that our important documents are moved onto a floppy disk or saved in some other way in case our computer crashes. We have to make sure our Braille displays are kept clean and that our note-taker batteries are charged. We find that if we’re only going to read a document once, it may not be worth the time it takes to physically scan the document, especially if the formatting is complex. In other words, technology is not the solution to all our problems. At least not by itself and not without realizing there might be a price.

So what is the answer? How do we harness technology to get the equal access that we need and want?  I believe the answer lies in the attitude we convey about technology. If we portray technology as our salvation, it will too often become our prison. Let me show you how this can happen.

On one of the e-mail lists to which I subscribe there was a cry for help.  It seemed that a gentleman was taking a semester course in programming, and he ran into a snag. He was more than half way through his course when they began studying a program environment that his screen reader wasn’t able to handle. This part of the course was to last only about two weeks, but if he couldn’t get his screen reader working, he was going to quit the course.  What could he do?  Should he sue somebody?  I suggested that since this was only for a small part of the course he should not let his technology keep him from learning. Although it wasn’t going to be as convenient, I suggested that he hire a reader to describe what was happening on the computer screen. I received several positive comments from people who said that they hadn’t thought of using a reader like this. One person said they had the same idea, but they thought everybody would laugh at them. I didn’t tell them I thought they might laugh at me too, but I knew it would work. One couple thought that I was selling out rather than fighting for our right to full access. I don’t know if there was a legal case here or not. However, whether one decides to fight the system to make it change should be done by choice, if possible, and not because one thinks they do not have options. In this case, the technology became the limiting factor, but a little ingenuity and flexibility allowed the course to be completed.

Another gentleman once stated to me that he didn’t need a reader anymore because he had technology. Any mail that he gets that can’t be read by his scanner goes into the garbage can.  I responded that my kids would miss a lot of birthday parties if I took that approach since most of the invitations were handwritten. Often the parents didn’t know that we were blind and wouldn’t know to let us know about the party any other way.  Again, technology can be a limiting factor.  As part of my job I have been in brainstorming sessions where we discussed solutions to problems and a facilitator wrote on a blackboard. It would be difficult to get this information in an accessible format, whether required or not. But it also isn’t necessary. I can write down the ideas as they are spoken as well as the person holding the chalk or the marker. Having my own written copy I might well offer to write up the summary for the entire group, and I’ve done that on occasion.  But to do this I must be able to take good notes.  Often my notes are taken on a slate and stylus. So technology isn’t even involved at all. But certainly technology can be very useful here in note taking. But technology or not, the most important skill is that of taking good notes. It takes more than technology.

The point here isn’t that I am such a great employee. I work hard and people seem happy with the work I do, but I make my share of mistakes, and hopefully I learn from them.  Rather, the point that I hope to convey to my children is that technology is one of many tools that they need to learn to be successful. They need to be able to work with a reader sometimes. They need a way to be able to write without high tech items as long as sighted people are still using pencils. They must learn not to use their technology as an excuse.  If an important paper is swallowed up by a defective hard drive on a computer, it’s not the computer’s fault. It’s their fault because they did not create a copy on a floppy disk or someplace else.  Or at least it’s mostly their fault.  One has to have a heart. 

We know that there are laws to help us, and those laws need to be enforced. But occasionally, getting the job done is more important than making someone obey the letter of the law. In other words, we must learn to choose our battles and have options from which to choose.

This still isn’t the whole picture though.  We live in a technological world, and technology can help us. I want my kids to learn the technology that can help them as blind people and also, maybe, give them an edge on the job when it comes time to be looking for one. This is a balancing act at times, and I know it isn’t easy. However, I firmly believe that if we use technology wisely, while at the same time also using those characteristics and techniques that helped us succeed as blind people before 1970, we will see more progress in the years to come.  Maybe progress isn’t being made as fast as I would like it, but I am hoping by helping my kids see technology as one of many tools rather than the only tool, they will have more opportunities and achieve more than we dare to dream or hope for ourselves.  Let’s work together to make that happen. Thanks. [PHOTO] John Pastorus and Tommy Carrol discover a common interest in technology at the 2001 Convention

2001 Convention Exhibits: What Was New,

Interesting, or Different

by Brad Hodges

Reprinted from the August/September, 2001 issue of the Braille Monitor.

Barbara Pierce, Editor, Braille Monitor:

Hundreds, maybe thousands of people flock to the exhibit hall during our national conventions. Somehow I can never find the time I need to browse through all the displays. I am always on the run: I have to buy a cane; there’s a cameraman wanting to video people reading Braille; the Ohio table has to be set up or taken down. My intentions are always good; this year I am going to see what there is to be seen in the exhibit hall. And every year I disappoint myself. Lots of other people find themselves in the same situation, and of course many more miss the convention altogether.

So this year I asked Brad Hodges of our NFB technology staff to take a minute to tell us about some of what we missed. Here is his report:

.In addition to the familiar categories of presenters – computer and technology vendors, state and local affiliates, and service organizations – the 2001 convention saw the debut of entirely new classes of exhibitors. For the first time a bank was among the booths and tables on the exhibit floor. Bank Of America displayed its accessible automatic teller machine (ATM). The availability of instant cash in the exhibit hall was well received by conventioneers, judging from the lines at the ATM.

Continuing the cash-machine trend, Diebold, Inc., demonstrated its own accessible ATM. As a result, many federationists now recognize the convenience of having accessible ATM equipment in locations such as convenience stores.

In recent months accessible voting machines have gained much attention. Two manufacturers brought their equipment directly to the largest group of potential users. Avanti International Technology and Shoup Voting Solutions each demonstrated voting equipment designed to provide access to blind voters.

Braille paper is not a topic which generally creates much excitement, unless you happen to run out. Despite the less than glamorous nature of Braille paper, Star Continuous Card Systems (800-458-1413) scored a solid hit with its line of Braille paper and cards intended for use with the computer.

In addition to these and other newcomers many old friends and familiar faces were to be found in our 2001 exhibit Hall. Here are some

The American Printing House for the Blind displayed a take-apart map of the United States. The map, made of a plastic resin, provides exquisite topographical detail. Each state can be removed from the map, and the name of the state read in Braille on the map’s base. The Materials Center also sells the map for $250.

Enablink.com is an Internet portal designed to serve the blind computer user. The company was highly visible at this year’s convention. <www.enablelink.com>

Freedom Scientific occupied several very busy booth spaces. In addition to a preview of JAWS version 4, as expected, the company unveiled the Braille Lite Millennium-40.

GHLLC is an Indiana-based company which produces Braille and tactile graphics. The company furnished maps of the Marriott, produced using its proprietary process. Many of those who used the maps were favorably impressed by their quality.

HumanWare is the U.S. distributor for the BrailleNote family of note takers. A version of the BrailleNote with a standard typewriter-style keyboard and a thirty-two-cell display was announced and demonstrated. Kurzweil Educational Systems made what may be remembered as the most significant technology-related announcement at this year’s convention. Pending court approval, employees of the company are finalizing a plan to purchase the company. This effort, if successful, will pull Kurzweil out of the legal entanglement surrounding L&H, its current parent company. The continued operation of Kurzweil will help to maintain healthy competition in the reading system market.

Features of the Kurzweil 1000 version 6 were demonstrated. These include an enhanced voice quality, the ability to examine regions of a document, and an interesting approach to reading PDF documents, many of which are not now accessible.

Sighted Electronics announced plans to import the Braille Assistant. According to a press release circulated at the company’s booth, the note taker will be based on the Linux operating system. It will offer word processing, e-mail and full Web browsing, a database, and calendar organizer. The units are expected in early fall and will be available in both Braille-keyboard and typewriter-keyboard versions.

[PHOTO] Renee Brown and son John examine the newest Braille notetakers at the 2001 exhibit hall.

Equal Opportunities for Blind Kids: A Father’s


by Michael Wolk

[PHOTO] Michael Wolk

Editor’s Note: Michael Wolk, a former national NOPBC board member, has been a staunch parent leader within the NFB of Pennsylvania for many years. He was one of four panel members who spoke at the 2001 “Let Freedom Ring” Parents Seminar. His remarks, which follow, were a perfect compliment to the speech his daughter, Laura Wolk, made earlier in the session. .

My daughter, Laura, and I went to our first convention in 1994 when Laura was seven years old. Our experience was invaluable. The people that we met had a profound impact on how we approached life. My first NFB convention drove home a philosophy about equality and opportunity in every aspect of life. I learned that for our blind children to be equal, you have to be passionate about everything in their life so that it will be the same as their sighted friend’s and sibling’s. I learned from Joe Cutter, the 1994 Distinguished Educator of the Year, that the white cane makes our blind children the same as other sighted children, not different from those children. Likewise, I learned that Braille does not make our children different from other children. Braille makes our blind children the same as other children, because Braille makes our children literate, and literacy is the key to independence, equality, and opportunity. These points really hit home within three days of that first NFB Convention. Any stigma that I may have felt about my child’s white cane and the use of Braille was swept away forever.

Finally, I read the excellent landmark article by Dr. Ruby Ryles – which is right here in your packet – titled “Is Your Child Age Appropriate?” This article drove home the point that our children must be the same as their sighted peers beginning in kindergarten and continuing through their entire school years. If the white cane and Braille were the bricks, then Dr. Ryles article was the mortar that cemented what I call my “same as” philosophy into place.

My family’s three kids are really close in age. My son Adam is just fifteen months older than my twin girls, Sara and Laura. Adam and Sara have vision, and Laura is totally blind. I know that many parents struggle to know what their blind child should be doing at a particular age. It’s easy in our house because we have twin girls. Laura should be expected to do the same as Sara. Also, Laura should be allowed to do the “same as” Sara. You may not have twins, but I would encourage you to adopt the “same as” approach by comparing your blind child with his or her friends who are the same age.

Here are some examples from our family. We regularly go to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for our family vacation. We visited a lighthouse in that area about six years ago when Laura was eight. My wife is afraid of heights so there is no way that she was going to climb that lighthouse. It would have been so easy to rationalize that Laura should stay safe on the ground with her mother while I took the other two kids up the lighthouse. However, due to my embedded “same as” philosophy, that thought never entered my mind. So the three kids and I climbed the metal spiral staircase a couple hundred feet until we reached the top.

At first, Laura stepped tentatively out onto the platform until she reached the security of the railing. We then walked about the platform and I gave Laura an orientation to the ocean and the inland side. At about this point a mother said, “Wow, I’m impressed.” I smiled and nodded at her. To this day I remember thinking I wonder what that mother really meant. She may have simply been saying that she was impressed that a young girl could climb a lighthouse—a young blind girl. Actually, I would have preferred to interpret her remark as “I’m impressed that you have given your blind child the opportunity to experience something really unique and special just the “same as” the other kids.”

Just think about what my daughter experienced. The echo of footsteps on metal steps as she climbed inside the lighthouse. The cool, damp, musty feel and smell inside. A strong burst of wind and the warmth of the sunshine on her face as we stepped out onto the platform. The sound of the ocean out in the distance, and the hollow sound of her voice as she shouted “Hi Mommy!” to her mother on the ground.

Here are some other examples. I run a small youth baseball association in Allentown, Pennsylvania. This year a nine-year-old visually impaired boy named Chris played with us for the first time. I told the league officers before the season started that Chris would be playing baseball. The league president screwed up his face and said, “A kid who can’t see is going to play baseball?” I said “Sure, it’ll be alright. He’ll manage it just fine.” Chris has low vision in one eye and normal vision in the other. He is a great fielder and has a real strong throwing arm. He struggled at the plate a bit, but he hit the ball by the end of the season. His hitting problem had more to do with his athletic coordination, not his vision.

Jenna is a young blind woman and the daughter of Alice, one of our Pennsylvania Parents Division parents. According to Mom, Jenna had always been somewhat shy and reserved. Several years ago Alice encouraged Jenna to take karate lessons. After some hesitation, Jenna decided to give it a try, and has since gone on to earn her black belt in karate. Jenna learned a new challenging sport and her self-confidence soared. So guess what? Jenna has taken up horseback riding. She is now a fearless member of her college equestrian team at Kutztown University.

Blind kids and music may seem like a natural combination, but how do blind kids learn how to play musical instruments? My blind daughter has played the piano and alto saxophone for several years. She has learned both instruments by listening to tape recordings of the music and playing back each passage. Eventually, she puts the entire musical piece together. This spring, Laura was asked to accompany the school chorus on piano. She also played a saxophone solo during the jazz band concert. I know in my mind that she can do this. But it is still a remarkable experience to sit in the audience and watch such a self-confident blind child on stage playing music the “same as” her sighted band and chorus members.

 Going places: parents of younger blind and visually impaired kids, you should take special note – your kids should be, literally, going places the “same as” their sighted peers. Your kids should be going to the mall. They should be going shopping (especially if you have a daughter, man, she is going to go shopping). They should be going to the dance, to the party, and to the sleepover. They should be going on the roller coaster at the amusement park, and the waterslide at the water-theme park. They should be going to the beach to swim in the ocean. They should be going to the pop music concert, and away to camp. For all these things they should be able to walk out the front door with their friends and not see you for several hours, or, depending on the circumstances (like camp) for several days. But, to do this, and to be the “same as” their friends, they are going to have to be able to travel independently without your guidance.

These are the opportunities that every modern teen-ager expects to have. If you are the parent of a blind pre-teen-ager, then you need to prepare your child now with the independent travel skills and the self-confidence to participate in these activities. And, you need to prepare yourself to allow your blind child to participate in these social activities the “same as” their sighted friends.

We have a very special job to do as parents of blind children. We need to have high expectations for our kids. We should not overprotect them. We should not overcompensate, and we should not sell them short. We have to allow our kids to have the same opportunities for an equal life as sighted children.

It has been a pleasure to speak with you today. I hope that you have great experience at our convention. I hope that the NFB and NOPBC have as great a positive influence with your family as it has had with ours. Thank you.

[PHOTO] Suzanne, Micha, and Andy Heckathorne were among many young families who appreciated the opportunity the convention provided for them to learn from experienced parents, such as Michael Wolk.

My Life Outside of School

by Macy McClain

[PHOTO] Macy McClain

Editor’s Note: A popular agenda item at the NOPBC Annual Meeting, is our youth speaker. At the 2001 Annual Meeting, Macy McClain, the ten-year-old daughter of Mark and Crystal McClain of Ohio, was an instant hit with the following presentation:

Our minister always starts with a joke, so I thought I would too. Why did the kids wear bathing suits to school? They were in a car pool!

Don’t get me wrong, I like school. I like to learn new things and I love to read Braille. But, the fourth grade proficiency test stinks! I’m glad it’s over. Today I want to talk about fun and exciting things, like beeper ball, music, and church. Let’s start with church.

I have my Sunday school books in Braille, and I take them to Sunday school each week. This means I can do the same lesson as the other kids in Sunday school. I have the bulletin e-mailed to me, and my dad prints it out on our Braille Blazer embosser. That’s how I know what to say during the responsive readings in the church service. The bulletin also tells me what songs we are singing that Sunday. I look the songs up in my Braille hymnal and take only the songs for that Sunday. I also have a Braille Bible at home and one at church. My mom marked the pages in print so the people at church can help me find the right verses. I love learning about Jesus. Having things in Braille for church makes it terrific. I also participate in God’s Kid’s Choir at church. I love to sing. This brings me to my next topic, music!

Besides reading, music is my favorite thing! I was in Pizzazz during fourth grade. Pizzazz is a show choir. We sing and dance. We learn a winter show and a spring show. We only practiced once a week, but I had to practice extra to learn the steps. I even got to sing a solo in the spring show. We performed at rest homes and events in our town. I also sing in talent shows and at other churches. I play the piano and the violin. I have been playing the piano for four years. I play in the International Piano Guild competition. I just started the violin during fourth grade. I have already learned lots. I am going to start learning the flute in fifth grade. I think the flute sounds really pretty. I can’t wait to learn to play it. I like to listen to CD’s on my Discman. My favorite CD is Brittany Spears, “Oops! I did it again.”

Other things I like to do are playing with my beeper ball, riding my scooter, and dribbling a basketball. I spend lots of time swimming at YMCA or in my pool at home. I jump on my trampoline and practice my softball throw. I like to play UNO with my family. I like to cook, especially microwave cooking. I just finished my judging for 4‑H. I did excellent! I had fun at Ohio’s Family Campout Weekend and at the Ohio State School for the Blind’s track and field day.

Last summer I went to the BLIND, Inc. in Minnesota [BLIND, Inc. is one of three rehabilitation training centers run by the NFB]. I flew on an airplane by myself for the first time. I spent four weeks there. I had lots of fun. We had Braille, travel, and life-skills lessons every day. I liked riding the rides at the Mall of America. We camped out, went to pool parties, and had a dance. I was the queen of the dance. We also cooked, worked in the workshop, and rode the city buses. I had so much fun I am going back this year. This year my friend Kyle Connelly from Cincinnati is going. We are going to have a blast. My mom says the best part is how much I learn while I am there. The Minnesota accent is an added plus I get to bring home from Minnesota. I pretty much like to do the same things as other ten‑year‑old kids, including talking on the phone. Braille makes activities more fun. Sometimes I need special things to help me do something. So far I’m having a great summer.

[PHOTO] Macy plays a tactually adapted game of Twister.

[PHOTO] Macy and twin sister, Madison, take a turn on the dance floor at the 2001 convention.

The Role of the Paraeducator in the Education of Blind Children

by Denise Mackenstadt, 2001 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children

[PHOTO] Denise Mackenstadt

Editor’s Note: The Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award bestows both honor and responsibilities upon the deserving recipient. In addition to the $500 check, beautiful plaque, and all-expenses-paid trip to the NFB Convention, the award winner is asked to make a major presentation before the Annual Meeting of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children Annual Meeting. This year, NOPBC members had the pleasure of hearing an outstanding presentation from one of our own long-time members, and the first paraeducator to ever receive this award – Denise Mackenstadt of Washington State. Denise met her husband, Gary, through the NFB (she is sighted, he is blind), and they have been active members for the past 31 years. Here is what Denise had to say about The Role of the Paraeducator in the Education of Blind Children: .

I wish to thank theDistinguished Educator of Blind Children Award committee and the  National Organization of Parents of Blind Children for the opportunity to address this meeting. I am very proud to be here in this capacity. By giving this award to me, a paraeducator, you have acknowledged the importance the paraeducator plays in the educational life of blind children. It is also a great personal honor, and it is of particular significance to me as a gift from our Federation family and friends.

I have always wanted to teach. When I was a little girl we often played school. I was always the teacher. In my 9th grade year I met a blind student in my social studies class. We became friends. When I began my tenth grade year the resource teacher for the blind was recruiting student aides for his program. It was a good excuse for me to get out of study hall. Little did I know that it would also stimulate a desire to work with blind people. The blind friends I made in high school introduced me to the local chapter of the NFB.

Circumstances did not allow me to complete a formal teaching program in the education of blind children. Until our daughter was born I worked, as a volunteer or as an employee, with blind children and adults in several agencies for the blind. Early on, Gary and I decided that I should stay home and care for our children. I spent the following 15 years as an at-home mom. During that time I was active in the community as well as with the NFB. I became heavily involved in issues concerning blind children and parents of blind children. I functioned as a facilitator for parent organizations and as an advocate on behalf of families with blind children. As an advocate my contact with the educational system was mostly on the negative side. I was usually brought in when communication had already broken down. I became aware of the shocking condition of some of the programs for the blind in our state. I testified in front of the legislature on the status of Braille instruction for blind children. On the other hand, as I became more active in the schools my own children attended, I gained a new respect for the challenge public school educators meet on a daily basis. The elementary school that my children attended was adjacent to the largest self-contained program for disabled children in our community. I became acquainted with many hard-working paraeducators. I was able to see on a first hand basis the role the paraeducator plays in the school community.

Then, six years ago, I went back to work as a paraeducator for blind children. For the first time in many years my local school district was opening a program for blind children. Our district had had low vision children in the past but they usually did not require direct instruction. Blind students who had secondary disabilities had their needs addressed through a self-contained special education program. For them, the teaching of blindness skills was not the most pressing issue. However, in 1987 a totally blind student named Dan Ryles enrolled in 8th grade at our local junior high school. Up to this point, he had been educated in a comprehensive program in Alaska. He had received Braille instruction and knew how to travel with the use of a long cane. His mother was a long time educator and advocate for blind children. Our local school district needed only to provide materials. Prior to this time most Braille readers were transported to a neighboring school district or attended the school for the blind. I believe that Dan’s experience opened the door for other blind students to enter our local community schools. Also, there was a move in our state toward local educational control and the inclusion of special education children in their local communities.

So, when a newly blinded second grade student in our district needed some intensive intervention six years ago, the school decided to provide the needed services. Our district was fortunate at that time to have on staff a skilled special education instructor who happened to have training as a teacher for the blind. The only need was to hire an instructional assistant to work with this student. I was fortunate to be hired as that instructional assistant. I felt that the position of instructional assistant was a good fit. In fact, it became a rewarding and challenging new career for me. For many years I had been outside the system as an advocate. Now, I was part of the system.

I quickly became aware of the huge daily impact paraprofessionals have on blind children in school. For four hours each day I worked one-on-one with a blind child. The itinerant teacher did not have this opportunity. I became an integral part of the classroom and had to develop a trusting relationship with a teacher who was not used to having another adult in the classroom on a daily basis. Over the years our program has grown to include many children and several different schools. Although my responsibilities have been primarily tied to the same student (who is now an eighth grader), I have had the opportunity to work with a variety of students from elementary to junior high.

What I would like to do today is share with you how I think paraprofessionals impact the education of blind children, what works and what does not work, and lastly, what I would like to see for the future.

From the time that blind children first received a formal education in this country, paraeducators have been used as teacher assistants in schools for the blind, Braille transcribers, and coaches in recreational programs for blind children. These positions were not always paid. Many times volunteers were used.

With the passage of Public Law 94-142 in 1973 (now called IDEA—the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) local public schools became responsible for the education of disabled children. The law also established a preference for disabled children to be educated, whenever possible, in the regular classroom in the home school. In popular terms this was called mainstreaming (today it is called inclusion). But in legal terms it is called the “least restrictive environment.”

One result was that schools began to employ support personnel to assist in the classroom with special education students. These support personnel have many names: school assistants, teacher’s assistants, classroom aides, and instructional aides, paraprofessional, and, most recently, paraeducator. Whatever the title, the assistant’s duties are prescribed by the supervising teacher, usually a special education teacher. Her/his responsibilities are to assist the classroom and special teacher in any way needed to facilitate the integration of the special needs student in the classroom. However, the training and skills needed by these individuals are often not clearly defined, and requirements for the job are minimal. Also, these positions are not well paid. Despite these drawbacks, many of these employees are dedicated to their jobs and are essential for the integration of disabled students into the regular education system.

With more blind children being placed in the regular classrooms, regular education and special education staff asked for more support personnel. The first group of specialized paraprofessionals to work with blind children was the Braille transcriber. Because of the need for blind students to have in-class materials in Braille, it was essential that the schools employ a Braille transcriptionist dedicated to producing materials quickly. These transcriptionists were initially drawn from the ranks of volunteer transcribers who had been certified by the Library of Congress.

In subsequent years the role of the paraprofessional in the education of blind children has become even more diverse and critical. The teacher of the blind has become a supervisor of a number of support staff working with his/her students. She/he must pull these individuals from a generic pool of applicants. My background is very typical of many individuals, primarily women, who return to work after their children have become older. These applicants are usually from the local school community. Basic skills of communication, the ability to follow instructions from a supervising teacher and the ability to work with special students are many times the only requirements for the job. The supervising teacher is usually expected to train the paraeducator in any specialized skills needed for the job. With the large caseloads itinerant teachers of the blind are expected to carry, this training becomes problematic. Time is always the enemy in a school community. There is just too much to do in too little time. Oftentimes on-the-job training becomes the course taken. Many school districts do not have a full understanding of the complexity of the skills that a blind student must learn. Learning Braille often becomes a task the employee must do in her free time, even though this is one of the most vital specialized skills required of a paraeducator who works with blind children. Work-release time for training in new skills is seldom offered. A few fortunate paraeducators live in states that provide training programs for paraprofessionals during the summer or in-service training during the school year.

The use of paraeducators as instructors is controversial among the teaching professions. How paraeducators are employed vary greatly from one area to another. In some communities paraeducators, who are commonly referred to as “classified,” as opposed to “certified,” staff are respected for the essential role they play in the education of children. They are used effectively and are considered an integral part of the school staff. In some geographical areas the use of paraeducators is a new phenomena. The integration of support staff into the daily routine of these public school communities may not be smooth.

A sign of the times is that the national magazine of the National Education Association now includes a whole section devoted to the paraprofessional in the public school system. Many professional education groups are calling for core competencies for classroom assistants. These competencies will be required as a condition of future employment. However, additional skills, which may be disability specific, are not usually compensated for. As an example in Washington State the Braille Bill legislation requires all paraeducators working with blind children to pass a Braille competency examination. However, paraeductors who work hard to pass this exam do not get an increase in pay scale or grade that  reflects this added expertise.

Because of the growing caseloads of itinerant teachers of the blind, assistants are increasingly on their own for the majority of the workday or even week. We are expected to reinforce the lessons the itinerant teacher teaches. We even provide daily instruction when needed. In addition, we are often the ones who adapt and produce Braille, tactile, and large print materials for the students. As a result we are fulfilling two very demanding jobs in one. We are the school transcriptionists, and we are aides who must be available to the classroom teacher to provide whatever assistance is deemed necessary in the classroom. Many of the skills that a blind person needs to be successful are taught by paraprofessionals. We are teaching keyboarding, daily living skills, adaptive techniques for reading and math, and how to get around the environment with a cane. When the regular classroom teacher has a question relevant to blindness many times we are the people they look to for answers.

We need to be cautious about the growing influence that paraeducators are having on the education of blind students. No matter how much skill and knowledge that the paraeducator may have, she is not the teacher responsible for the education programming for that student. Both ethically and legally, the certified teacher is the person responsible for the student to meet the goals stated on an IEP. At times, administrators and other school district officials need to be reminded of this fact. The paraeducator may have some valuable technical knowledge, but the certified teacher of the blind has been trained in the educational process. She/he has attended a college training program that provides a greater understanding of the learning process and what is most useful or appropriate for a blind student’s learning environment. Paraeducators are a supplement to the educational programming of the blind student. The instructional strategies need to be prescribed by the certified teacher. Both the teacher and the paraeducator have the responsibility to communicate with each other on a frequent basis. They need to clearly define their roles in the educational process for a blind student. The paraeducator and the teacher are a team. Without a team approach the blind student is at a severe disadvantage in school. Parents need to be proactive in demanding that a certified teacher be available to work on a regular basis with their child. Only when parents demand the services and the personnel to deliver these services will blind children have a chance to be successful.

Experts are predicting a teacher shortage of staggering proportions in the next five years. We in the blindness area are already seeing this take place. Many times there are too few itinerant teachers of the blind to properly serve the students in our schools. Weekly mobility instruction for students is becoming a luxury. Daily Braille instruction for primary age blind students is in many cases rare. Anyone who learns the basic rudiments of the Braille alphabet is employed to produce materials into Braille.

But wait, I do not want to portray a totally bleak picture of the current situation. In the midst of this crisis most of the paraprofessionals in the education of blind children are dedicated and hardworking people. They take vacation and free time to learn the skills that they need to teach these children. They will do whatever it takes to give children the education they deserve. These paraeducators are your friends and neighbors. They are heavily invested in making the public schools work well. Many times their own children are the products of the local school system. Most of the paraeducators that I know are in this business because they love children. There are some lessons which cannot be “taught.” These are instinctual feelings about children that come naturally for some people.

What we need to do is to offer these important professionals the special training that will make them better paraeducators. What can we do as a community to support and improve the job which paraeducators are doing for our children? First, respect from all parties is essential. A component of this respect is the recognition that we provide a valuable service to the education of blind children. We should be compensated financially for additional training we seek out or are required to receive. Other staff members of the schools must accept us into the school community as professionals. Parents need to have a better understanding of the role we play in the education of their children. Opportunities for advancement into more responsible positions need to be made available. And more training opportunities need to be provided.

I want to speak specifically to the training needs of paraeducators working with blind children. As I said earlier, some steps are being taken to improve the basic skills of all paraeducators who work with special education students. One of those general skills is the ability to communicate effectively with other professional school staff members. This has a special application to paraeducators of blind children. Paraeducators need to be able to speak on behalf of the blind students to whom they are assigned. Typically the blind student placed into a classroom is the first blind student that this classroom teacher has dealt with in her/his career. Teaching a student in a non-visual manner can be very disorienting for a teacher who has never done it before. Our job is to make the classroom teacher comfortable enough to do her/his job. Many classrooms are already overcrowded and a typical classroom teacher will be concerned with what further burden this blind student will be for them. We (the paraeducators) are there to do wherever is called for to relieve this anxiety. As the teacher’s anxiety is lessened, then we are better able to do other tasks, such as adapting materials and
reinforcing or teaching compensatory skills.

.Paraeducators who work with blind and visually impaired students need to have additional skills. The knowledge of reading and writing Braille is essential. Braille production technology is almost essential in order to keep up with the volume of material needed. Basic knowledge of adaptive technology is of help in guiding the student into being more effective in the classroom. An understanding of how to adapt visual information to a medium understandable by the blind student is required. A basic understanding of travel with a long white cane is needed. Knowledge of the daily living compensatory skills of blindness is also required. A basic curriculum of additional study is needed to encompass the different situations in which a paraeducator may find herself on a daily basis is sorely needed.

Most important, all the training in the world goes to naught if the right philosophy of blindness is not expressed. The philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind is that if a blind person is given proper training and equal opportunities to achieve high expectations, blindness can be relegated to a nuisance. On a daily basis, blind children are exposed to pity and expectations of helplessness. To counter this, families and educators have to reinforce the opposite.

As a paraeducator my job is to have high expectations. Our blind students will only strive when we expect them to excel. I set a bar or a standard and then will raise that bar. I must instill this same attitude in all of the staff that comes into contact with my students. I must help peers understand the same philosophy. Most importantly I must help my blind student to learn an age appropriate way to articulate his or her needs in a positive and independent manner. While my student is young, he/she will need my help to articulate his/her desire to be competent and self-sufficient. As he/she grows into an adolescent, I must teach my student how to advocate for him- herself in an appropriate way. Without the desire to be a full and contributing member of society, all the skills in the world will not fulfill his/her dreams. The belief in oneself in the ultimate lesson I must leave my students.

NFB – NEWSLINE® Goes Nationwide on March 1, 2002

by Peggy Chong

Editor’s Note: Peggy Chong directs the NFB – NEWSLINE® program. Here is her exciting announcement: Developed by the National Federation of the Blind, NFB – NEWSLINE® is a free service used by blind subscribers to read newspapers through any touch-tone telephone. Thanks to a one-year grant through the Institution of Museums and Libraries, subscribers in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico will soon be able to access every newspaper that NFB – NEWSLINE® currently supports. Although NFB – NEWSLINE® has covered large population areas in over thirty states for the past few years, over half of our country has not been able to access it without calling long distance. As soon as this service is online, any blind person registered for NFB – NEWSLINE® can dial a toll-free number to access all the newspapers carried on the service.

Readers already using NFB – NEWSLINE® will find the new expanded service just as easy to use. Pick up any touch-tone phone, dial the NFB – NEWSLINE® number, listen to the menu, and choose options by tapping numbers on the phone keypad. Instead of the usual three national papers available each morning, subscribers can read over fifty newspapers across the country. Consider how interesting it will be to read the newspaper for a city in which a big story is breaking. In addition, NFB – NEWSLINE®’s non-newspaper features, which are currently available in each area, will now be available with all of the newspapers.

The toll-free number is (888) 882-1629. This number will work for you if you have signed up for this program.

Have you submitted your application to NFB – NEWSLINE® yet? If not, use the one-page form on page 36 in this issue, fill it out completely, and return it to NFB – NEWSLINE®, National Center for the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Because NFB – NEWSLINE® service requires a signature, prospective subscribers must acquire or copy a print NFB – NEWSLINE® application form.  A copy of the form may also be downloaded from <www.nfb.org> (see NFB – NEWSLINE®); those who read the Monitor on cassette or in Braille may recreate the form as long as it is complete and includes a signature. Forms are often available from public libraries, and they may be requested from local leaders of the NFB or the National Center for the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; (410) 659-9314; fax: (410) 685-5653.

One last note – this free service has been avidly received by both the newly blind and those who have been blind so long they have never before had the chance to read the newspaper independently. NFB – NEWSLINE® hereby requests all subscribers to help us to spread the word in their communities about this wonderful opportunity. Please help us announce it in church and synagogue bulletins, senior citizen centers and retirement housing, the social service offices of hospitals, public libraries, libraries for the blind, AARP meetings, and other community outlets. Let’s spread the word to special education departments, teachers or schools serving blind students, and anywhere else Americans can be found who cannot read the newspapers because of their eyesight. National headlines or local stories, sports, Ann Landers, or letters to the editor and social commentary–there is much that our sighted neighbors and coworkers are enjoying, thinking about, and talking about. Now we can too.

A Dozen Ways Students Benefit from

by Georgia Kitchen
Michigan NFB – NEWSLINE® volunteer coordinator.

With NFB – NEWSLINE® blind and visually impaired students can…

- Complete civic assignments independently

- Keep abreast of the latest in sports news

- Track the latest weather conditions around the country and around the world

- Keep informed about the most current movies and other entertainment

- Read the latest news-breaking stories

- Discover the latest in the fine arts of dance, art, music, and theater by reading up-to-date reviews

- Read articles in the Wall Street Journal concerning the latest developments in business, finance, and the stock market

- Keep up on the latest in science and health by reading these sections on Tuesday in the New York Times

- Read the Life section of USA Today and learn about the latest in fashions, movies, television specials, travel, and much more

- Keep up on the latest in computer technology by reading the Circuit section of the New York Times on Thursday

- Discover the latest in literature by reading the Book Review sections of national papers

- Read the news sections of national papers and discover what our lawmakers in Washington are doing

And much, much, more. Increase your available resources for enjoyment, learning, and studying through access to 50 newspapers on a daily basis—sign up for NFB –  NEWSLINE®!

NFB – NEWSLINE® Application/Registration Form

National Federation of the Blind

1800 Johnson Street

Baltimore, Maryland 21230

NAME__________________________________________________________ ADDRESS_______________________________________________________

CITY ___________________________ STATE__________ ZIP___________

HOME PHONE (____)_____________ WORK PHONE (____)___________

I am registered with a state or private vocational rehabilitation agency for the blind. [ ] Yes [ ] No If yes, please give name below:___________________________

I am enrolled in a public school special education program for the blind or state residential school for the blind. [ ] Yes [ ] No   If yes, please specify:__________________________

I am registered with a cooperating regional library under the program of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress.

[ ] Yes

[ ] No  If yes, please specify:_______________________________________

If you answered no to all the above questions, you must include with this application a letter from one of the following certifying that you are blind.

[ ] Your doctor

[ ] Social Security Award letter

[ ] President of a local chapter or state affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind

I certify that I am blind or visually impaired and unable to read a printed newspaper.

Signature and date: ________________________________________


ID# ______________________SEC# ___________DATE ______________

Please return the completed form to the above address.

Planning Your Child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP):

Some Suggestions to Consider

A FAPE publication

Editor’s Note: Reprinted with permission of the PACER Center, Inc. This is one of many publications available from the Families and Advocates Partnership for Education (FAPE) project. For a list of materials or more information about the project, contact the FAPE coordinating office at: PACER Center, Inc., 8161 Normandale Boulevard, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55437; (952) 838-9000; toll-free (888) 248-0822; fax: (952) 838-0199; Web site: <www.fape.org>; e-mail: <[email protected]>. The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children is a FAPE community partner.

Before the IEP team meeting:

-Consider the vision you have for your child for the future as well as for the next school year.

- List your child’s strengths, needs, and interests, and your major concerns about his or her education.

- Consider how your child’s disability affects his or her education.

- Think about your child’s education progress. What has been working and what has not?

-Request a written copy of your child’s evaluation results or a meeting with school staff to discuss the evaluation before the IEP meeting. This gives you an opportunity to understand the evaluation before the IEP team meeting for your child.

-Consider the evaluation results. Do these results fit with what you know about your child? Is the evaluation complete and accurate? If you disagree with the school’s evaluation, you may request, in writing, an independent education evaluation (IEE) at no cost to you. The school must pay for the evaluation or show the due process hearing officer that its’ evaluation is appropriate. The results of an IEE must be considered by the IEP team in planning your child’s IEP.

- Consider a variety of ways to involve your child in developing his or her IEP, starting at a young age if appropriate. Self-advocacy skills are important to develop.

- If needed, plan to bring someone with you to the meeting with knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, such as a spouse, relative, friend, related service personnel or representative from a local disability organization.

At the IEP team meeting: The IEP meeting is very important. You, the school personnel, and other IEP team members attending the meeting will review and discuss information about your child to develop the IEP. It provides an excellent opportunity to ask questions and share important insights about your child, whom you know better than anyone else does. The school needs to know what your child is like at home and in the community, as well as what your child’s interests and activities are.

- Make sure others at the IEP meeting never forget that the meeting is about a real child—your child.

- Share your visions for your child, both short-term and long-term.

- Discuss your child’s strengths and needs, and any concerns about your child’s education.

- Remember that diagnostic tests and assessments do not present the total picture.

- When you believe that the teacher and school personnel are doing a good job, tell them so. Praise, when deserved, is a great thing.

- Be a good listener. Ask questions.

- Make sure you understand. If you don’t understand something, ask to have it explained in a way that you can understand.

- Expect that what you know about your child will be used in making decisions.

- Use school data, your child’s progress reports, and other information you know about your child to make decisions.

- You may not want to agree to a proposed IEP at the end of the meeting. Review the proposed IEP document at home. If you disagree with what is being proposed in the IEP document, you must notify the school as soon as possible to resolve the disagreement.

After the IEP team meeting:

- Your child’s IEP must be reviewed at least once a year to determine whether the annual goals have been achieved and to revise the IEP if necessary.

- Your child’s school must inform you regularly about your child’s progress, at least as often as parents who have children without disabilities are informed about the progress their children are making. Schools can do this by providing periodic report cards. You will be informed about whether your child is making progress toward meeting the annual IEP goals, and whether the progress is enough to reach the goals. If your child is not making adequate progress, an IEP meeting should be held to review the IEP and make needed changes.

- You may request an IEP meeting at any time during the year if you believe it is important to consider changes in your child’s IEP.

Funding for the FAPE project comes from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (Cooperative Agreement No. H326A98004). This document was reviewed by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), the OSEP Project Office, and the FAPE Project Director for consistency with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of other organizations imply endorsement of those organizations by the U.S. Government.

The 2001 Scholarship Class of the NFB 

Editor’s Note: The following description of the 2001 NFB Scholarship Class is a modification of the article which appeared in the August/September, 2001, Braille Monitor. The introduction below is by Barbara Pierce,
Editor of the Braille Monitor.

With every passing year we recognize the increasing value of the NFB Scholarship Program to our national conventions. Members of previous scholarship classes stream back to take part in convention activities and assume responsibility, doing anything that they can see needs to be done. Everyone looks forward to meeting the new scholarship class and to hearing what its members are doing and planning to do with their lives.

On banquet evening, while we are still sky-high after listening to President Maurer’s address, Peggy Elliott, Chairman of the NFB Scholarship Committee, comes to the podium and presents the year’s winners, giving an academic and personal sketch of each, and announces which scholarship the person has been awarded. This year each winner crossed the platform and shook hands with Dr. Maurer and Dr. Raymond Kurzweil, whose foundation presented each with an additional $1,000 scholarship and the latest version of the Kurzweil 1000 reader-software. In addition, each winner received a year of AOL service from AOL, and the grand scholarship winner received a Basic-S Braille embosser from Sighted Electronics.

The final scholarship awarded in this year’s scholarship extravaganza, which took place at the banquet on July 6, was the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship of $10,000, which was presented to Michael Brands. Michael, whose wife and two children were in the audience, then spoke briefly to the group. 

Earlier in the week, at the meeting of the NFB Board of Directors, each 2001 scholarship winner came to the microphone and spoke directly to the Federation. Each speaker is introduced by Peggy Elliott saying first the student’s name and then both the home and school states. Following are photographs of each winner at the convention. Next to each photo is the name, home state, and school state of the student; the transcribed text of the remarks he/she made at the board meeting; and the name and amount of the scholarship he/she received. 

Rod Barker,
Oregon, Oregon (tenBroek

I am a law student at the University of Oregon School of Law, and my vocational goal is pretty obvious, attorney. I would like someday though to be able to present a case in front of the United States Supreme Court. Thank you very much. [$7,000 NFB Scholarship]

Michael Brands,

Thank you, Peggy and Scholarship Committee. I am working on a Ph.D. in Biblical theology. One of my research interests is the connection between the Biblical hope for justice and hopes for justice in society and culture today. I grew up in the 70’s in the “Me Generation” and always wishing that I had grown up in the 60’s because I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. I wanted to protest. For example, when I wasn’t allowed to throw my wicked curve ball in Little League baseball just because I was blind, I began to think that maybe justice and equal opportunity might be a good idea in the world. As I grew and learned of the Civil Rights Movement and the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr., a vision of deep spiritual inspiration that could really improve the lives of thousands of people, I said, “That’s the kind of thing I want to be a part of.” I want to thank the NFB Scholarship Committee and all of you for giving me a home in this movement that cares about civil rights, justice, and equal opportunity; for friends to march with and laugh with. I hope to see you all at least the next forty or fifty Washington Seminars. I’ll meet you on Capitol Hill in February. Thank you. [$10,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship]

Daniel Brown,
New Jersey, New Jersey:

My major is psychology at Kean University of New Jersey. My vocational goal is to be a rehabilitation counselor. When I was a young boy, I learned to read at an early age. I showed my father the dictionary, and I said “Daddy, look at the word ‘can’t.’” He said, “Son, there’s no such word as ‘can’t.’” I went away thinking, “Daddy doesn’t read too well.” I didn’t know that later in life his words would come to fulfill my life and help me find a home in the NFB. To me NFB means “Never felt better.” Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Rosy Carranza,

I am a junior at Louisiana Tech majoring in elementary education. I am President of the North Central Chapter of the NFB of Louisiana. I grew up feeling very ashamed of my blindness. I remember one day asking my mother, “Why me? Why do I have to be the blind one in the group?” I will never forget what she told me. She said, “Rosy, it is better to have a face with many wrinkles than to be a book without a story.” My struggle with my blindness has not always been painless or easy. Our struggle in the Federation has not always been painless or easy. But because of the Federation I am proud of my wrinkles. I am proud of our history. I am very proud to be here with all of you. Thank you. [$7,000 NFB Scholarship]

Jamie Dean,
West Virginia,
North Carolina:

Good morning. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be with you. I’m a future freshman at Wake Forest University, where I am planning to study pre-law, and eventually specialize in entertainment law. Eventually I would like to be in the field of music production. [$3,000 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship]

Romeo Edmead,
New York, New York:

 Good morning, everyone. I am truly honored and flattered to be here. The idea that I could be chosen one of thirty out of four-hundred and some odd applicants is mind-boggling. I would just like to thank a couple of people who I feel are responsible for my being here, close friends and family and all the great individuals I have met ever since I joined the Federation in 1998. You guys know that you have had as much to do with this as I have, if not more. Thanks. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Susan Feazell,
Florida, Florida:


Good morning, everybody. I just graduated from Daytona Beach Community College, and I am getting ready to go to the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. I am studying to be a math teacher. I want to teach high school math and hopefully college math some day. I have been in the NFB forever, and I’m President of the Florida student division and Secretary of the Daytona Beach Chapter. [$3,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship] 

J.T.  Fetter,

This fall I will be an entering freshman at Emory University. I plan to major in classics or philosophy. I have a goal of going on to law school and becoming an
attorney. [$3,000 NFB Humanities Scholarship] 

Cheryl Fogle,
 Arizona, New Mexico:

Good morning. I am a graduate student working on a Ph.D. in archeology and anthropology. I will be the first blind archeologist, and I would like to thank you for your support because for the first time in my life I am in a room full of people, every single one of whom believes that I can do it. This is liberating, I will tell you. Thank you. [$3,000 Frank Walton Horn Memorial Scholarship] 

Lynn Gosling,
Illinois, Illinois:

I am in my last year of a master’s-in-social-work program. I am doing an internship this fall in the police department in a town nearby. I hope to go into crisis intervention and mediation. I want to thank the NFB for allowing me to be blind; I hid for thirty years. I have a feeling that many of you know what that was like. It takes a lot of energy and a lot of memorizing, and I really didn’t fool anybody. I am proud to know that it is acceptable to be blind. My family is very thankful to you for allowing me to have this gift so that now they don’t have to pretend anymore either. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]  

Melissa Green,

Good morning, everyone. I am a master’s student at the University of Northern Colorado. So go Bears! I am a graduate of the Colorado Center for the Blind, and I am currently the President of the Northern Colorado Chapter of the NFB of Colorado. I would like to thank my family, friends, and Federation family as well as Diane and Ray McGeorge. Thank you very much. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Allison Hilliker,
(with an intermediate stop in Louisiana):

Good morning. I would like us all to think back to how we got to where we are now. When I do this, I go back to 1994, the convention in Detroit. I was eleven. I was fortunate to have been a part of the NFB that early in my life. I am where I am today because of the work of people like Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and Dr. Maurer and the efforts of countless other Federationists who constantly encouraged me to succeed and challenged me to do more. In the fall I will be a freshman at Hope College in Michigan. I will be majoring in elementary education. I am a recent graduate of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, one of our NFB training centers. I am also the current President of our newly formed Michigan Association of Blind Students, which I am very proud of, and a newly-elected Board Member of the National Association of Blind Students. Thank you. [$5,000 Jennica Ferguson Memorial Scholarship]

Jennifer Kennedy,
Ohio, Ohio:

Good morning, fellow  Federa-tionists. I would first like to thank you all for sponsoring this glorious convention and the wonderful scholarship program that you all created. A story used in the Alcoholics Anonymous program is about a tandem bike ride, which is the journey of life. I sit in the back, and the leader guides. I tell him I can’t go up the hill, and he turns around and says, “Just pedal.” We continue through the mountains and valleys, which are life’s obstacles. I tell him, “I can’t do it.” He smiles and says, “Just pedal.” We pause on the journey, and “Now it’s your turn to drive,” he tells me. “But I can’t,” I say. He looks at me and says, “Just pedal.” Now I am the driver, following my own destiny, and I discover that the driving force is behind me, and that driving force in those trying times smiles and says, “Just pedal.” I am the driver, and the NFB is the force behind me, telling me, “Just pedal.” Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship] 

Jennifer Kotaska,
North Dakota,
North Dakota:

Thank you for that wonderful cheer. I am a junior at the University of North Dakota majoring in early childhood education with a minor in special education. I never thought that I would be in an organization like this. You guys are a second family, and you allow me to be myself and have the confidence to do what I want. I really appreciate being up here. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Laura Lia,
New York,

Hi, everybody. I just finished my first year at Holy Cross, and before this week I was undecided what I wanted to do. But after a couple of conversations in the past two days, I am strongly considering education and philosophy. This is my first National Convention, and I am really excited. The past few days have been great, and I hope they only get better. [$5,000 NFB Scholarship]

Matt Lyles,
Connecticut, (with an intermediate stop in Louisiana):

Good morning, Federationists. I am currently a graduate student at Yale Divinity School, where I am earning a master’s with an emphasis in history and liturgy. I would like eventually to be a seminary professor or at some church-related school. It gives me great joy to stand here at this opportune time along with my fellow Federationists and hail your achievement, Dr. Vaughan. Speaking for all of those who will follow in your footsteps, we are forever grateful. [$5,000 NFB Scholarship]

Wes Majerus,

Currently I am a sophomore at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where I am studying computer science. Go Huskers! Yes. This is my first convention. It’s a very eye-opening experience. I have had the opportunity to learn a lot. I am also serving as the Vice President of our Nebraska student division, which has opened a lot of opportunities. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Elizabeth Medina,

Good morning, everybody. Thank you for being such a warm and huge family that welcomes me. In such a few days I have learned so much from you, and I am hoping to learn much more because I know that you have the power. I am at the University of Pennsylvania, and I am pursuing a major in international business and marketing with a minor in French. I don’t know how I’m going to do that—I’m still struggling with my English. That’s about it. Also, I am working in a local chapter at State College. It’s called the Happy Valley Chapter. We have started that chapter so they know our power. [$3,000 Michael and Marie Marucci Scholarship] 

Kate  Mendez,
New York,
New York:
 Good morning, everyone. Applying for and
receiving the phone call about this scholarship was really the first major contact I ever had with the NFB, and to tell the truth, when I found out I had to go to the convention to receive the scholarship, I had no idea what to expect. I was really nervous. I had no idea. I just want to thank everybody for making me feel so welcome and for showing me such a new and unique facet of life as a blind person. I find it really fascinating, and I just want to thank you all. This fall I will be starting as a freshman at Cornell University. I hope to major in international relations with a concentration on Southeast Asian studies, and eventually I hope to work in the foreign service. [$3,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship] 

Ronit Ovadia, California,

Thank you. I am very pleased to be here with all of you this week and to be honored as a scholarship winner. This fall I will be a freshman at Scripps College in Claremont, California. I will be majoring in biology with a minor in psychology, and I hope to eventually get my master’s degree and become a counselor. I just want to tell a small story. This year, while I was job-shadowing a group of genetic counselors for a senior project, my mentor, who was the leader of this group of genetic counselors, had a little conversation with me and asked me if I really thought I could do this kind of work. I said, “Why not?” She said, “Well, there are plenty of times when vision is required.” I said, “Well, I intend to show you that I can do it.” I intend to show her as well as everybody else who may not believe that I can do it. Thanks. [$3,000 Lora E. Dunetz Scholarship] 

Vasthi Perez,
Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico:

Good morning, everybody. My vocational goal is to become a lawyer. I have completed my first year in college in the University of Puerto Rico at the Mayaguez campus, where I am taking my bachelor’s degree in political science. This is my first time at convention, and I am very honored. I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship] 

Elizabeth Phillips,
Hi, everyone. I would just like to thank all of you for your support, and I am so honored to have received this scholarship and be up here today. I am a child advocate. I speak out for children who don’t have a voice. I am a national spokesperson for the National Center on Shaken-Baby Syndrome. Next year I am going to be a freshman at Stanford University, and I am planning to continue studying foreign policy and children’s rights, speaking out on behalf of children. I want possibly to be a bio-ethicist or a physicist. I am still a little undecided, but I know that with your help I can do anything. Thank you for believing in me even though you might not know who I am and supporting me just because I am here. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship] 

Adam Rushforth,

I kind of feel like a pioneer, the only one from my state. As we know, leaders lead by example. Through my life I am an Eagle Scout. I have competed on city swim teams, gymnastics, high school track team, and the National Honor Society. I have also participated in one of my high school plays. I graduated valedictorian of my class, and I went on a two-year mission, fully paid by myself, to Charlotte, North Carolina. Right now I am pursuing a degree in business finance. I will be at the University of Nevada as a sophomore, and I will major in finance and minor in Spanish. It is my intention to lead by example. I am currently on the board in Las Vegas of the NFB. I want to show others that just because I cannot see does not mean that I cannot accomplish ordinary things. [$3,000 E.U. Parker Scholarship] 

Summer Salz,
New York,

 Hi. I am going to Harvard in the fall to get my master’s in arts and education. My secret, not so secret right now, fantasy is to revolutionize the way we educate and the way we learn. What that means for me practically is to give individuals a voice and to give the world a receptive attitude to everything that we all have to say. [$3,000 NFB Educator of Tomorrow Award] 

Marsh Smith,

Hello. I just found out that I have something in common with Dr. Maurer because I go to Indiana University. I will be entering my senior year. I am majoring in public relations and advertising. I would just like to thank the NFB because, when I told my friends from Kentucky that I wanted to do a semester at sea, I wanted to sail around the world, they said, you can do it, you can do it. You know what, I did it, and I had the best time in my life. I just want to say thank you to them. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship] 

Al Spooner,
 Idaho, Idaho:

Thanks, Peggy. Thanks to all of you. I am currently a sophomore attending North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene. I am pursuing a master’s degree in communications. My vocational goal is to become a speech instructor. My personal goals have changed over the years. I closed a chapter in my life about two-and-a-half years ago. I am forty-two years old. I have three young, bi-racial children ages eight, six, and four, so I have a lot of things to do yet, including playing baseball. So anyway, a new chapter in my life started about a year and a half ago when I attended a state convention and I received a thousand-dollar scholarship there. I attended my first National Convention in Atlanta last year and changed a lot of things. We immediately started a local chapter in the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, area. I am currently also Second Vice President in the state, and I have spoken to numerous organizations in our community about blindness, including my school and college. It’s helping me pursue my personal goal, public speaking. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship] 

Cary Supalo,
Pennsylvania (tenBroek

Good morning  fellow Federa-tionists. As you know, I am a second-year graduate student at Penn State University working on my Ph.D. in chemistry. I hope some day to change what it means to be a blind chemist. I have had plenty of opportunities to do that with my sighted colleagues at Penn State University as well as at National American Chemical Society conferences. I hope some day to win a Nobel prize, and on that platform I’ll be glad to thank the Federation for all the support that you’ve given me up to this point and for the rest of my life. I hope to be the first blind man to go up in space and work on the new space station. Thank you very much. [$7,000 NFB Scholarship] 

Doug Trimble,

Good morning. Thank you for the past seventeen years. The Federation has changed my life, and it keeps changing. My wife and new baby daughter, Camille, are here. I am proud of that and of winning a scholarship this year. This summer I started my teaching certification program at Portland State University. I hope to be a teacher of blind children and give the children the love and support in the Federation for years to come, maybe thirty years as Mr. Harris did. Thank you. [$5,000 NFB Scholarship] 

Nicholas Truesdell,

Good morning, fellow Federa-tionists. This coming fall I will be a senior at Newport University in Newport, Virginia, studying computer engineering with a minor in leadership studies, both of which I am sure I can use somehow giving back to the NFB, so it’s going to be quite a good experience. Also, I am going to do something along the lines of adaptive technology, so I am trying to get some exposure to that field in the near future. [$3,000 NFB Computer Science Scholarship] 

Cristina Wheeler,
Texas, Texas:

Good morning. This fall I will be attending Southwest Texas State University, where I will be pursuing a business degree in management and a minor in communications. With that degree I plan to be an advocate for the blind community as well as the cancer community. I feel it’s extremely important to have a strong force behind this group, and I want to be that force. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

At the banquet on July 6, Michael Brands addressed the audience as follows:

Words could never do this justice, but maybe a preacher can find a few. President Maurer, fellow Federationists, and cherished friends of the NFB, I want to thank God and the Lord Jesus Christ for this tremendous gift, the National Federation of the Blind. I want to thank my wife and children for believing I can do it. I am privileged to be part of the heritage of Dr. tenBroek’s initiative and Dr. Jernigan’s great wisdom. I am privileged to benefit from your leadership, Dr. Maurer. Peggy and the Scholarship Committee, I want to thank you for your trust. I shall do my best to honor this, and Joyce and my teachers at BLIND, Inc., thank you. I could not be here without you.

One of my favorite proverbs was penned by C. S. Lewis: “We are often like children who think they are having fun stomping around in a mud puddle in the backyard, when all the while what is really being offered us is a grand adventure at the seashore.” I haven’t found very many mud puddles. In fact, I haven’t found any in the NFB, and it’s time that we continue to fight to end all such custodial muddles.

What I have found in the NFB is a place in a crew aboard a ship that is always sailing the high seas of hope with a compass of justice and a destination of equality and a meaningful life. The ocean coast is ours; we can reach the furthest destinations; the waves are calling us onward; and, where there is no map, we will make one. My friends, let us reach beyond the horizon. Let us chase the sunset of every good day until it becomes the glorious morning of our new day. Thank you.

Concluding the scholarship presentation ceremony, Peggy Elliott said:

Scholarship winners, we have just built up your treasury pretty effectively. We have just done a real nice job of making your wall a lot nicer with your certificates and plaques, and we’ve also given you tools and technology that will help you. We have given you a lot that you can build on. But we think that we have also given you something much greater than any of these things. During this week we have talked with you, laughed with you, cried with you, played tricks like cattle rustling, eaten ice cream with you. We’ve won or lost poker with you and hoisted a brewski every now and then. In other words, we have given to you of ourselves, of our knowledge, of our experience, of our perspective. And to us, all of that adds up to giving you the National Federation of the Blind.

We have built our own lives, and we have built our Federation on hope and trust and belief in one another, and we offer all of this to you as the greatest gift that we have to give. All we ask is that you too build, that you build with the same care and devotion to blind people that we have tried to bring to the task. We have built on the foundation of love for one another, and we ask that you do the same. The love we bear for one another is that unshakable commitment that says that we can build if we do it together; we can build an edifice that no one can destroy. Build with us, scholarship winners; build with us, and we can make the future we now dream for all blind people. Congratulations, 2001 scholarship winners!

Slate Pals slate pals

A pen pal program for blind Braille reading students who
want to write and receive Braille letters from other students.

Mail to: SLATE PALS, 5817 North Nina, Chicago, Illinois 60631 or <[email protected]>

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          (circle one)   *male      *female

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I would like (fill in the number) _______slate pal(s)

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Sponsored by the
National Organization of Parents of Blind Children

September 11, 2001: Ground Zero

By John Salka and Liz Regan

[PHOTO] Bob Regan

Editor’s Note: John Salka and Bob Regan have much in common. Hardworking family men with strong ethnic roots (John is Polish/Italian Catholic and Bob is Irish-Catholic), they love their families and take pride in their jobs as New York City firemen. When tragedy strikes, they don’t go into shock or waste time lamenting—they act. The similarities don’t end there. Both are the fathers of  blind daughters— Coleen Salka, age 8; and Kerri Regan, age 15 —and both are long-time members and staunch supporters of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). John Salka served for a time as a national board member of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), and Bob was a source of  strength and support for his wife, Liz, when she organized the NOPBC chapter in Long Island some years ago. And yes, both worked with rescue teams at Ground Zero on September 11, and in the recovery mission in the days and weeks that followed.

They are heroes. Real heroes. Not the glitzy heroes of Hollywood or fairy tales, but men who see their duty, and do it without fanfare or expectation of reward or glory. I am proud to know them, and I am grateful they were willing to share something of their personal experiences of that tragic event with us.

Here are their stories as told by John Salka and Liz ReganLiz Regan:

Liz Regan: It was my first day back to work after a month-long vacation at home with my family. This was a good time. Kerri, 14-year-old daughter, and Matt, our 11 year-old son, had started at their new schools and were happily settling in.

As for my husband Bob and I, like many couples, we have a juggling act at home. We are very fortunate to enjoy our careers and the flexibility they provide. I am a flight attendant for US Airways, and Bob is a Lieutenant for the New York Firefighters Division in the Field Communications Unit. We work around each other’s schedules to be home with our children.

September 11 was my day to return to work. After Kerri and Matt went off to school, Bob went off to his favorite pastime, GOLF. He had a beautiful day with a great vista of the New York skyline and JFK airport. It was just after 8:45 a.m., and he could see a great deal of smoke coming from the World Trade Center. He thought they had a fire.

I was on my return flight back to LaGuardia Airport in New York from Washington, D.C., and was remarking to the passengers about the beautiful day we had. Upon landing, many passengers started talking on their cell phones, exiting off the airplane in an abrupt manner, and shouting to me “The World Trade Center has been hit by an aircraft, and we saw it happen.” Before too much time, flights were cancelled, the airport closed, and then was quickly

I called my family, and they were happy to hear from me. I learned that Bob had seen the disaster and went into the site to do his job. A total recall for all emergency personal to report to the site was announced over the airwaves in New York. We did not hear from him for many hours. Early Wednesday morning Bob called. With a weak voice he said, “This is what the end of the world must look like.”

Bob did not come home for the next few days. He spent many days around the clock in helping organize the recovery at Ground Zero. His unit continued to work there for weeks after September 11. It was an extremely sad and stressful time for everyone involved and one we will never forget.

The months go by, but the loss that families feel remains. As we write this, Bob prepares for one more memorial service for a fallen firefighter. I am presently on a leave of absence from the airlines.

We grieve for those families who lost loved ones in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. They are in our prayers.

[PHOTO] John Salka (right) at Ground Zero

John Salka: On the morning of September 11th, 2001, at about 8:40 a.m., I was just arriving at an auto repair shop with my truck, a few miles from my home in Monroe, New York. A friend of mine called me on my cell phone to tell me that a plane had hit the World Trade Towers. We tuned the TV to a news channel, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The reporters were saying that possibly a small plane had hit the building, but I could tell from the fire, smoke, and amount of damage to the building that this was no small plane. As I watched the coverage on the TV, I saw another plane flying by in the distance and disappear behind the two towers. Suddenly a gigantic explosion and fireball appeared on the second tower; the second plane had struck the second World Trade Center tower.

I immediately left the repair shop and started driving toward my firehouse in New York City. I remember driving fast—really fast. As I drove, other cars driven by firefighters joined me on the road and we all sped toward New York to help. I arrived at my firehouse in the Bronx and it was empty. I immediately grabbed my firefighting clothing—helmet, boots, flashlight, and several bottles of water—and went to another firehouse where hundreds of off-duty firefighters were assembling. After documenting who was there we loaded up a city bus and several fire department vehicles and left for the site of the disaster.

By now, both towers had collapsed and the scene was one of total destruction. The air was thick with dust and smoke and with the exception of the buildings that surrounded the site; there was nothing but mountains of debris and several smaller buildings with fire raging on 3 or 4 floors. I had a radio with me so I could hear the company number of a friend of mine, Ladder 6. This is the Ladder Company that miraculously survived the collapse and was trapped inside the stairwell for 5 hours. They had slowed their escape from the building to save a woman who was unable to move as fast as they wanted, and in doing so she helped save them. Many other firefighters and I attempted to locate these firefighters via many different avenues. They were finally located and removed about two in the afternoon. What followed was almost 12 hours of continuous work: searching voids, digging through debris, and removing the injured and dead. In the course of those hours, another 30-story building collapsed, and the magnitude of the situation began to become apparent. I left that night sometime after midnight and returned every day for a good part of the first week. After the first day not many victims were removed alive, yet we have been working there around the clock since September 11 until this very moment. Several thousand civilians and 343 firefighters were killed that day. I personally knew 60 of the 343 men from the fire department who lost their lives. I was proud to be involved or present for the recovery or removal of many of my friends from that site. The support and prayers that we received from people all over the country were welcomed and needed. I would like to thank anyone who called, prayed, or sent notes, food, money, or condolences.

Editor’ Note: To the best of our knowledge, none of our NOPBC and NFB members were killed or injured physically due to the terrorists’ attacks. However, a number of blind people suffered economic hardship as a consequence. Three blind vendors had facilities in the World Trade Center, and others had businesses nearby. All were severely affected by the tragedy. The National Federation of the Blind
responded to the need, and provided disaster relief through financial assistance to the blind people who were caught up in these
life-changing events.

Future Reflections

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